from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: September 14, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration policy in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2018. Leah Millis/Reuters

This week: an executive order to deter election interference, Google and France go to Europe's Highest Court, and the European Commission wants to legislate terrorism off social media. 

September 14, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration policy in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2018. Leah Millis/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. Influence first, sanction later. President Trump signed an executive order giving the U.S. government the ability to sanction individuals and companies involved in elections interference. The order requires the intelligence community to assess whether a U.S. election was subject to foreign interference within forty-five days of the vote. If interference was found, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security would then have forty-five days to determine whether to apply the sanctions listed in the order, which include asset freezes and prohibitions from doing business with sanctioned entities. The order defines foreign interference as efforts to "influence, undermine confidence in, or alter the result or reported result" of an election or "undermine public confidence in election processes or institutions." That broad definition would cover anything from state-sponsored social media campaigns to altering vote tallies. The move is widely seen as a response to criticisms over the president’s handling of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Some members of Congress deemed the order insufficient, and called for mandatory sanctions against Russia. 

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2. Ghosted. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) heard arguments in a fight between Google and France over the scope of the "right to be forgotten." As a result of a 2014 CJEU decision, individuals in Europe have a right to request that links containing information that is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive” be removed from Google's search results. At issue in the current court case is how Google removes the disputed links from its results. Google has offered to remove them from its European search engines (e.g. google.fr; google.de) and to use other geo-blocking tools to ensure that "forgotten" links are inaccessible in Europe. That does not satisfy France's data protection agency, CNIL, which argues that the links should be removed from Google search results worldwide to ensure that a French citizen's right to be forgotten is respected. France's position has drawn criticism from both Google and free speech advocates, who worry that such a decision would threaten freedom of expression, “set a global precedent for censorship” that would allow governments to police their citizens and control the availability of information beyond their borders, and create a massive conflict of laws problem. A decision is expected in 2019.

3. And you thought the tech companies loved GDPR. The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has proposed new legislation requiring internet platforms such as Google and Facebook to remove terrorist content within one hour of being notified by authorities, or face penalties of up to 4 percent of their global revenues. The proposal, which still has a long way to go before it becomes European law, is a departure from the Commission's previous approach, which emphasized a voluntary approach to the removal of terrorist propaganda online. Although Google and Facebook have both reiterated their commitment to using artificial intelligence-based tools to tackle the problem of terrorist content online, the EU has deemed their current efforts as having “not been enough.” This legislation is part of a broader trend in Europe that holds technology platforms increasingly legally responsible for some of the content they host. Last year, Germany enacted legislation that requires tech platforms to remove "evidently unlawful" content from their platforms within 24 hours. That law was criticized for putting the onus on tech companies for determining what was legal or not. 

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