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Friday Cyber News, March 3 2017

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 2/25 - 3/3:

1. Will democracy survive AI? Narrowly-defined policing and financial algorithms in Singapore and China have found expanded uses, and it's a short jump from using algorithms to streamline processes to using algorithms to streamline human behavior. Cyber Initiative researcher Nate Persily has found that unmediated, populist sentiment on the internet has risen to fill the void left by eroding democratic institutions in the US. The use of digital technology in the 2016 US election was a case study of a phenomenon occurring in Europe as well. [Scientific American; NY Times]

2. AI bots at Facebook hit a 70% failure rate (only 30% of requests could be addressed without human assistance) and are being scaled back. Compare with the bold ambitions of Facebook's AI division, softly profiled by Steven Levy. Also, Alphabet's AI designed to identify hate speech on the internet gives the highest (worst; most hateful) score to the comment "hate is stupid". Twitter has added new protections against abuse on its platform as well, giving users the option to mute specific words or phrases from their timeline, and mute 'egg' accounts that have not added a profile picture. [The Register; Backchannel; Quartz; Recode]

3. Contemporary networked propaganda takes different tactics than traditional propaganda, having access to more arms of communication than state-owned newspapers and radio. Cyber Initiative researcher Jennifer Pan and others explore the new ways restrictive regimes are disseminating their versions of the facts. The latest episode of the Initiative-supported podcast Raw Data also covers propaganda armies, and their tactics online. As another example, coordinated troll networks are attacking journalists in Mexico to intimidate them away from reporting on certain stories. [Jonathan Stray; Raw Data; Medium Amnesty International]

4. Problems at Amazon cloud services brought down many websites on Tuesday, for approximately three hours. The problem was essentially a typo; a command to remove a small number of servers from an S3 subsystem was entered incorrectly, and many more servers than intended were removed. The centralization of internet services (what Dan Geer has referred to as a software monoculture) means a mistake at S3 has broader ripple effects than it should. [The Hill; Amazon; Lawfare]

5. Though the appropriate units of comparison are unclear, the price of one Bitcoin has exceeded the price of an ounce of gold. [Engadget]

6. The FCC and commissioner Ajit Pai is at the center of two consumer-privacy issues this week: removing security provisions to allow ISPs to sell customers' information without their consent, and removing called ID privacy protections to identify who has called in fake bomb threats to Jewish community centers across the country. [Wired; Ars Technica]

7. A case before the Supreme Court this week examines whether access to social media platforms like Facebook is part of the first amendment; the North Carolina law in question denies convicted sex offenders access to platforms where children can post messages. [Wired]

8. The final report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Cyber Deterrence warns that the US is vulnerable to cyber attacks against which it cannot adequately defend, and that this offense-defense gap is likely to persist for ten years, even if their recommendations are adopted. The report warns that rather than one or two devastating, large incidents, a "death by 1,000 hacks" involving many small disruptions is more likely. [Cyberscoop] 

9. New UK legislation makes insurers responsible for damages caused by automated vehicles. [The Register]

10. An IoT teddy bear manufacturer was storing its customers' credentials and childrens' messages recorded by the bears in an unsecured MongoDB database that was recently hacked and ransomed. And Norwegian media platforms have found a way to make online comments productive: require readers take a short quiz on the article they've read before they're allowed to comment. [Motherboard; Nieman]

Thanks for reading,

Stanford Cyber Initiative

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