At a glance.
- Elon Musk’s recent decisions at Twitter could violate EU regulations.
- Public and private action against spyware firms.
- NDAA could lead to changes in partnership between NSA and Cyber Command.
Elon Musk’s recent decisions at Twitter could violate EU regulations.
American billionaire Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has shaken up the social media world, and it appears government action could be on the horizon. The EU has threatened Musk with sanctions due to reports that he suspended the accounts of nearly a dozen well-known journalists. The reporters, who are employed by leading media outlets like The New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post, recently covered the story of @ElonJet, a Twitter account that Musk recently shut down for using public data to track his real-time location. The Telegraph reports that the journalists found their accounts suddenly locked on Thursday evening, with Musk explaining that linking to @ElonJet was tantamount to doxxing. Věra Jourová, vice-president for values and transparency at the European Union Commission, posted on Twitter that “arbitrary suspension of journalists from Twitter was worrying…There are red lines. And sanctions, soon.” EU regulations require social media companies to explain account suspensions to European users and allow them the opportunity to challenge the decision. Violations can lead to fines of up to 6% of global revenue or, if repeated, a Europe-wide operating ban.
CNN reports that among the recently suspended accounts was also the official handle of Twitter competitor Mastodon, which had tweeted about the @ElonJet controversy. After Twitter users began posting links to Mastodon’s social media platform as an alternative for users who might be opposed to Twitter’s new policies, Twitter began labeling links to Mastodon as “unsafe.” Experts say this could be a violation of anticompetitive regulations. Bill Baer, the former top antitrust official at the Justice Department, weighed in, “You could see all sorts of problems, both from a competition and a consumer protection standpoint.”
Public and private action against spyware firms.
In the midst of investigations regarding the use of commercial spyware to track Greek citizens, Greek police on Tuesday raided the Athens offices of Intellexa, the Israeli company that provides Predator spyware. They also searched company executives’ homes and the offices of five other firms. OCCRP recounts that earlier this year Predator was found on the devices of dozens of prominent politicians, journalists, and businesspeople in Greece, including the phone of opposition leader Nikos Androulakis. In August, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis admitted that the surveillance was carried out by Greece’s intelligence services, and last week, the Greek government passed an intelligence bill criminalizing the sale or possession of spyware.
Meanwhile, a report released on Thursday revealed that over the last year Facebook parent company Meta deleted hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts connected to spyware and surveillance-for-hire vendors including Candiru, Quadream, and CyberGlobes. Axios reports that the accounts were believed to be used to test the company’s products or scrape user data. “This demonstrates just how important a whole-of-society response is to tackling this growing malicious industry," the report reads. It’s worth noting that Google released a report last month exposing Spanish company Variston IT as a spyware maker, and Apple and Meta-owned WhatsApp are currently suing NSO Group, maker of Pegasus spyware.
NDAA could lead to changes in partnership between NSA and Cyber Command.
The US Senate recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense policy bill that would require the defense secretary to give Congress an annual briefing about the relationship between the National Security Agency (NSA) and Cyber Command. As Axios explains, the bill could mean big changes for how the two agencies work together. Both under the auspices of the Department of Defense, the two agencies are led by the same person, but since 2016 they have been separating their most critical operations, and in recent years officials have signaled that agencies should have two individual heads. Proponents of the dual-hat structure say Cyber Command and the NSA rely on the same intelligence skill sets and talent, and having one head helps them share intel and coordinate operations. Retired Lt. Gen. Charles Moore, who recently resigned from his role as deputy commander of Cyber Command, stated, "The ability to effectively accomplish both missions continues to benefit from a single commander/director.” However, opponents say the difference lies in how the agencies use resources, with NSA focused on clandestine intel-gathering operations and Cyber Command conducting offensive and defensive military cyber missions.