Protego Press Weekly Round Up (August 14th, 2019)

It’s the dog days of summer, and just like the weather, the tech policy world continues to run hot.  From Africa’s issues with new media, to Fellowships bridging DC and Silicon Valley, to White House plans to hold tech accountable and tech’s response, election security and privacy concerns, all in this week’s Protego Press Weekly Round Up.

In Case You Missed It: Any country would be left aside if it tried to ignore the global force of new technology, including new media. It makes communication faster, easier and often more personal. It reaches a wider audience. These forms of communication are already part of daily activities in most African countries, though people are largely consuming content produced elsewhere instead of producing their own. But is it a strong tool for women or is it working against them? Dr. Sharon Adetutu Omotoso explores this in NEW MEDIA IS MISREPRESENTING WOMEN IN AFRICA: WHAT FEMINISTS CAN DO.

In Case You Missed It II: Betsy Cooper, the founding Director of the Aspen Tech Policy Hub, writes about their new program, the Aspen Institute’s Tech Policy Hub. The Hub is a West Coast-based policy incubator, focused on training a new generation of tech policy entrepreneurs. The Hub takes technical experts, teaches them the policy process through a paid in-residence fellowship program, and encourages them to develop outside-the-box solutions to society’s problems. And, now the Aspen Tech Hub is looking for the next class of amazing leaders to help us build Policy at the Speed of Tech.

In Case You Missed It III:  Section 230 has become a flashpoint in the “techlash” against the power of dominant technology firms. Critics of all political stripes want to reform or repeal the law. For example, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff have said that Section 230 effectively functions as a grant of power without responsibility. They have suggested that platforms need to perform more moderation to reduce harmful speech. Lawmakers on the right, including Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, have argued that platforms should maintain neutrality and prove that any moderation is non-discriminatory and unbiased. Ellen Goodman and Ryan Wittington of Georgetown Law, in collaboration with Karen Kornbluh at the German Marshall Fund have the background info you didn’t know you needed.

Tech Held “Accountable”: The White House hosted an event to explore the rise of violent online extremism, one of the White House’s first endeavors to try to combat the global digital scourge. Administration officials convened the meeting — attended by representatives from Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, as well as their main lobbying group — days after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 people dead.

Also this week, the White House has prepared an executive order called “Protecting Americans from Online Censorship” that would give the Federal Communications Commission oversight of how Facebook,  Twitter and other tech companies monitor and manage their social networks. The draft order calls for the FCC to develop new regulations clarifying how and when the law protects social media websites when they decide to remove or suppress content on their platforms. Although still in its early stages and subject to change, the Trump administration’s draft order also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to take those new policies into account when it investigates or files lawsuits against misbehaving companies.

Tech Leaders Push Back: A collective of prominent tech leaders that calls itself Build Tech We Trust signed a letter Tuesday demanding that the tech industry stop the spread of hate and terrorism on digital platforms.  “We are a collective of tech CEOs, activists, changemakers, and workers who believe the time to act to counter the hate and terrorism is now,” stated the letter, which was signed by over 20 notable figures in the tech industry, including Ellen Pao, ReadySet CEO Y-Vonne Hutchinson, and Code2040 CEO Karla Monterroso.

Tech and the Red Privacy Line: Police forces in England and Wales are experimenting with algorithmic technology to predict where and when crimes are likely to occur, helping authorities decide whether someone should be granted bail or qualify for rehabilitation as an alternative to prosecution. And, at least one force is looking to install microphones on “smart lamp-posts” to gather intelligence in crowds.

US Voting Security: Top election officials were at DEFCON this past weekend, and the feedback was not rosy.  The top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security said Friday that backup paper ballots would be a necessary part of 2020 election security.  “Ultimately when I look at 2020, the top priority for me is engaging as far and wide as possible, touching as many stakeholders as possible, and making sure we have auditability in the system,” Chris Krebs, DHS’ top cyber official, said at a DEFCON cyber conference Friday when discussing election security.

Meanwhile, election officials have long claimed that crucial voting systems never connect to the internet—and, therefore, they’re safe from hacking. But a group of security researchers told Motherboard this week they found what look like election infrastructure online in 10 states, including swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida. The voting systems are made by Election Systems & Software, the top voting machine company in the US. 

Quick Hits:

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is experimenting with using a swarm of autonomous drones and ground robots to assist with military missions.

FCC approves another $137 million to expand rural broadband access.

AI researchers have a plan to pay patients for data and then store it in a blockchain-protected system.