Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Facebook built censorship tool to get into China despite human rights risks

Facebook wants to be unbanned in China, so it’s built a censorship tool that could hide posts about prohibited topics from people in China, according to The New York Times‘ Mike Isaac. Rather than censor posts itself, Facebook would potentially provide the tool to a third-party in China such as a local partner company that could use it to prevent users in China from seeing content that breaks the government’s rules.
While China could unlock huge amounts of users and ad revenue for Facebook, the censorship tool could also be used to enact human rights abuse. If China could track which local users are trying to protest or bad-mouth the government, they could face persecution.
Perhaps that’s why The New York Times says several Facebook staffers who worked on the product have left the company. So far, there are no signs that Facebook has offered the tool to Chinese authorities. We don’t have details on the specifics of how it would work. It’s apparently only one of several ideas Facebook has explored for getting access to China, and they might never be launched.
But the existence of the tool brings up strong concerns about what’s best and safest for Chinese citizens.
Mark Zuckerberg has held in the past that some Facebook access could benefit them. The New York Times reports that at an internal Q&A about its intentions in China, Zuckerberg said, “It’s better for Facebook to be a part of enabling conversation, even if it’s not yet the full conversation.”
That mirrors Facebook’s stance about internet access, where it’s pushed the idea that limited free access to the web is better than none at all for those who can’t afford it. Facebook already allows Chinese companies to buy ads that run in places where it isn’t banned.
In a statement to TechCrunch, a Facebook spokesperson wrote: “We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time unders
tanding and learning more about the country. However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China. Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”
Over time, the interpersonal connection via Facebook could strengthen communities who might be able to organize and protest the government outside of the app. Yet the censorship tool’s potential to be used to round up dissidents looms over any long-term benefit for citizens, or profit for Facebook.

Trump Mentions Cyber in 100-Day Plan

In a Monday evening video message, Donald Trump discussed how he intends to address trade, energy, regulation, national security, immigration and ethics-related issues during the first 100 days of his presidency—and he also addressed cybersecurity, very briefly.
Characterizing his agenda as "putting America first," the president-elect said that cyber-attacks from foreign governments and non-state terrorist actors is "one of our most critical national security concerns.”
Details were few, but the Republican pledged to create a Cyber Review Team to provide safeguarding recommendations and establish protocols and awareness training for government employees. He also said that he would direct the Department of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a comprehensive plan to protect the United States' infrastructure from cyber-attacks, as well as all other forms of attacks, during his first 100 days in office.
Rick Hanson, the executive vice president at Skyport Systems, said via email that “It’s not enough for a president to ask the DoD and JCS to develop a comprehensive cyber-plan, that has nothing new. We as a country need a clear focus from the top of the food chain down. A cabinet position that focuses on cyber as well as a strong focus and knowledge of the implications by the president himself. We can no longer rely on other agencies to build a plan."
Lastly Hanson added, "A plan must be built and executed by those who have an intimate knowledge of cyber-infrastructure and the threat landscape that not only exists but is possible. The sooner we secure our infrastructure from the core, the more efficient we will be in maintaining the security of our cyber-infrastructure. Regulations and guidelines must exist that define what our core infrastructure looks like from the bare metal. Security at the hardware level is essential for a truly secure infrastructure."