At a glance.
- FCC asked to ban China Telecom Americas.
- Governments ambivalent about Zoom.
- Disinformation as an operational challenge.
- Content moderation as public policy?
FCC asked to ban China Telecom from operating in the US.
The US Executive Branch has sent the Federal Communications Commission a recommendation that China Telecom's International Section 214 Common Carrier Authorizations be "revoked and terminated." Bleeping Computer explains that the grounds for the revocation are concerns about the cybersecurity risks the company is said to present. The recommendation is a joint one formulated by the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State, and Commerce, as well as by the United States Trade Representative.
Official ambivalence about Zoom.
Teleconferencing specialist Zoom, of course, has been prominent in the current discussion of remote work. Its ease and reliable availability made it a popular choice for enterprises of all kinds and sizes, from storefront churches to the US Department of Defense (the Voice of America points out that FBI warnings haven't affected use by US Government agencies as much as one might expect), but its dramatically increased use exposed troubling privacy and security issues (which Diginomica reviews harshly). Both the German Government and the US Senate have told their people not to use Zoom, ZDNet reports. The US Department of Homeland Security has issued various less stringent cautions, and Federal News Network says these are being received differently by various agencies, many of whom weren't that invested in Zoom to begin with.
But concerns about the security and privacy of telework may have shaped a sources-sought announcement from the US Senate's Sergeant-at-Arms (replies are due this coming Wednesday). The Senate is interested in "Cybersecurity Information Assurance Support."
Disinformation is a challenge the US military may have trouble meeting.
State actors, notably China (defensively), Russia (disruptively), and to a lesser extent Iran (with conspiracy-mongering whacks at its two bêtes noires, the United States and Israel), have actively pushed various lines of disinformation about COVID-19's origins and propagation. A Military Times op-ed wonders how well prepared the US Department of Defense is to parry large-scale disinformation campaigns and concludes that the answer is "not very." The op-ed's authors see doctrinal confusion as presenting an obstacle to clarity (and to the assignment of roles and missions) in ways that make operational sense.
Looking ahead, some advocate a post-pandemic content moderation regime.
In fairness it's a tough and unfamiliar problem, and there's no easy list of best practices to inform effective counter-messaging. Some of the difficulty in handling disinformation may be seen in the speed with which misinformation spreads, and the surprising reach even implausible memes can have. WIRED traces the strange conviction that COVID-19 is somehow related to 5G, and that such relationship has been created by some conspiracy or other, to a January interview in a Belgian publication. (It’s a Flemish publication, by the way, so one would expect even more reach had it appeared in Francophone media, there being many more speakers of French in the world than there are speakers of Dutch.) It's since been picked up by the dreary and tiresome celebrity tribes of slacktivists and influencers, with regrettably but predictably far-reaching effects. Some of those effects have even been kinetic, as cell towers in the English midlands have been vandalized and telecommunications workers threatened.
Another essay in WIRED offers a public health case for post-crisis regulation of political discourse. "We must recognize that political discourse is public health," is how it closes. How such content control might be accomplished isn't entirely clear, but the author's preferred solutions seem to run along corporatist lines. As an earlier communitarian slogan had it, the personal is political, and the argument in WIRED clearly asserts that rights reside in communities, not individuals. In some communities, that is: some communities appear to be more equal than others.