Feb. 6: Democracy hacked, French elections and fake news

Democracy, Hacked: a Security Argument for Data Protection

I published a blog post on Lawfare warning against a new kind of threat that’s being under-discussed in my opinion. I explain that “targeting-and-convincing infrastructures” first developed for business models relying on Newsfeed algorithms rest on the ability to target and convince citizens for advertising purposes. This infrastructure can then be free-rided on for political purposes to win elections (Motherboard) or for terrorist purposes to identify potential recruits (a NYT article today insists on remotely-controlled terrorist operations, see also War On The Rocks). Since this infrastructure relies on the collection and use of personal data, I strongly believe that “data protection is about security, not just privacy.”


Bracing for the French elections in April/May

The campaign for the French elections has started and there’s a couple of cyber-relevant news there. First, at the International Forum on Cybersecurity last month, the French Defence Minister discussed influence operations through cyber means in the US elections and announced the creation of a French Cyber Command before claiming that cyber operations against French interests could be considered “armed attacks” – the outline of a policy of deterrence-by-punishment (Le Monde, in French). Meanwhile, one of the candidates, Emmanuel Macron, has already been targeted bySputnik (equivalent of RT in France) and accused of being a “US Agent Lobbying Banks’ Interests” while François Fillon was the target of Wikileaks that highlighted the documents they’ve already published on him – it doesn’t appear that they have much (The Independent).


More on fake new

Meanwhile, Le Monde has launched a controversial tool assessing the reliability of news sources as a whole, not article by article (the Decodex, see criticisms in Libération, in French). Facebook has also launched an initiative in France with 8 news sources to display in the Newsfeed whether news are being contested by 3rd parties fact-checkers, a move that, crucially, could impact whether they are promoted or not by the algorithm (NextInpact, Le Monde, in French, Reuters). This tweet from Morozov on the inherent weakness in that project is devastating. CJR has already published a couple of articles on why fake news is not a very productive framing for this debate (here and here). The article asking the most relevant questions I’ve found on this topic was in The Guardian. I am convinced that focusing less on the news and more on the infrastructure being deployed to spread them is a more difficult but potentially more productive debate to have.


Have a “bad-polls-are-fake-news” Monday,

Hugo

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