from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: November 3, 2017

This week: Russia, more Russia, and Canada.

November 03, 2017

From left to right, the general counsels of Facebook, Twitter, and Google testify before Congress on October 31, 2017. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
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Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:

1.  We demand you do something now! Representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google were grilled by three different congressional committees this week. The hearings were highly anticipated given that it was the first time they were questioned in public by Congress over Russia's use of their platforms in the run-up to the 2016 election. Twitter seemed to catch the most flak over the fact that it allows automated--or bot--accounts on its platform, which help spread misinformation. Facebook took heat for the plethora of polarizing, Kremlin-backed ads that appeared on its platform, some of which were recently made public. Google attempted to distance itself from Facebook and Twitter on the grounds that it is not a social network, though it does still own YouTube, where Russia-backed groups uploaded videos with polarizing messages. Although many in Congress found the testimonies less than satisfactory and demanded action, the solutions to fixing the problem are fraught with challenges. Stanford's Daphne Keller lays out them out nicely in this Twitter thread

2. When bears go phishing. Fancy Bear, the Kremlin-sponsored cyber espionage group that participated in last year's compromise of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), seems to have had more than just the DNC in its sights. Secureworks, a cybersecurity firm, followed a trail of Bitly links used in Fancy Bear’s phishing emails to compile a list of the group’s targets between March 2015 and May 2016. Fancy Bear sent over 4,700 emails to individuals and organizations other than the DNC, including Ukrainian politicians, Russian opposition leaders and journalists, targets in Georgia and Syria, and U.S. defense contractors. The data compiled by Secureworks suggest a clear connection between Fancy Bear and the Kremlin, as the emails were all sent during Moscow working hours and the targets were consistent with Russian intelligence requirements. 

3. Neighborly dispute. A U.S. federal court has issued an injunction blocking the implementation of a Canadian Supreme Court decision that orders Google to remove search results on a global basis, not just on country-versions of the site. Critics of the Canadian ruling argue that it has problematic implications, opening the door for countries like Iran or China or order global takedowns of any disparaging political or social content. As a result of the Canadian decision, Google filed suit in the United States and successfully argued that the Canadian court’s ruling cannot be enforced in United States, as it violates the First Amendment and “threatens free speech on the global internet.”

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