A Murdochized internet?

Cyberlaw Podcast Episode 58: “Be cautious what you wish to get.”  All over the world, techlash regulation remains a hot topic.  Mark MacCarthy  takes us through a week’s worth of regulatory enthusiasm.  Canada will force Google and Facebook Canada to pay Canadian news media links. It sounds simple, but arriving at the right price – and the right recipients — will require a hefty dose of discretionary government intervention. While South Korea’s attempt to regulate Google Android’s app store policies sounds simple, it is rapidly becoming a complex effort in price regulation. Mark observes that this movement persists even in China. China used to seem to be less hostile to tech platforms but the Chinese government recently announced an algorithm compliance audit for TenCent, ByteDance.

Nobody is weeping for Big Tech, but anybody who thinks this kind of thing will really hurt the tech giants has never studied the history of AT&T – or of Rupert Murdoch for that matter. Incumbent tech companies have the resources to protect themselves from undue regulatory burdens – and to make sure competitors will be crushed by them. The one missing chapter in a story of gradual mutual accommodation between Big Tech and Big Government, I argue, is a Rupert Murdoch figure – someone who will use his platform unabashedly to curry favor not from the left but from the right. The niche is unfilled and profitable. It will be a good opportunity for any moderately conservative Big Tech firm to receive all of the regulatory favors once the GOP gains power. It’s not likely, but you haven’t seen the latest tech news. Elon Musk has been rumored to be interested in a Silicon Valley Rupert Murdoch-style position. He bought nearly 10% Twitter, an opening move likely to position him as a conservative antidote for Silicon Valley’s monoculture. Although recent claims that the internet has become more politically fragmented are not true, they could be true in the future.

Nick Weaver brings us back to earth with a review of the FBI’s successful (for now) takedown of the Cyclops Blink botnet – a Russian cyber weapon that was disabled before it could be fired. Nick reminds us of the fact that this operation could only have been possible because search and seizure protocols were changed, something that friends and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), condemned as absurd a decade back. He also reports that the Hydra dark markets were broken by Western law enforcement. Nick shares more positive news by describing how bitcoin traceability allows authorities to uncover child sex rings all over the world.

Nick also brings us This Week in Bad News for Surveillance Software: FinFisher is bankrupt. EU investigators are looking into Israeli surveillance software installed on the phones of its ministers. Google banned applications that collect data in intrusive ways, which Nick and his colleagues from the International Computer Science Institute had exposed.

Europe is finally building an extensive network for face recognition on the continent. The likely victory of the ideologues trying to toxify facial recognition over many years is something I am happy about. It is interesting to note that the Department of Homeland Security’s last campaign was an international agreement that obligated European law enforcement to share such data with the United States. The State Department’s cyber bureau, which is on-again-off-again and now again, must make it a top priority to defend these agreements.

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