Cybersecurity
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Come join The Journal of Online Trust & Safety, an open access journal for cutting-edge trust and safety scholarship, as we bring together authors published in our special issue, Uncommon yet Consequential Online Harms, for a webinar, hosted on September 1, 9:30-10:30am PT. 

The Journal of Online Trust & Safety publishes research from computer science, sociology, political science, law, and more. Journal articles have been covered in The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Platformer and cited in Senate testimony and a platform policy announcement.

Articles in this special issue will include: 

Election Fraud, YouTube, and Public Perception of the Legitimacy of President Biden by James Bisbee, Megan A. Brown, Angela Lai, Richard Bonneau, Joshua A. Tucker, and Jonathan Nagler

Predictors of Radical Intentions among Incels: A Survey of 54 Self-identified Incels by Sophia Moskalenko, Naama Kates, Juncal Fernández-Garayzábal González, and Mia Bloom

Procedural Justice and Self Governance on Twitter: Unpacking the Experience of Rule Breaking on Twitter by Matthew Katsaros, Tom Tyler, Jisu Kim, and Tracey Meares

Twitter’s Disputed Tags May Be Ineffective at Reducing Belief in Fake News and Only Reduce Intentions to Share Fake News Among Democrats and Independents by Jeffrey Lees, Abigail McCarter, and Dawn M. Sarno

To hear from the authors about their new research, please register for the webinar. To be notified about journal updates, please sign up for Stanford Internet Observatory announcements and follow @journalsafetech. Questions about the journal can be sent to trustandsafetyjournal@stanford.edu.

 

 

Panel Discussions
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Christopher Giles is a researcher and open-source investigator focusing on information operations, and monitoring conflict and human rights issues.

Prior to joining Stanford University in 2021, Christopher reported on disinformation for BBC News, covering the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 U.S. election, where his reporting was “highly commended” by the Royal Statistical Society’s Journalism Awards. Christopher is a recipient of the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship and is pursing graduate studies in international policy and journalism.

Researcher, Stanford Internet Observatory
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Tara manages communications for the Cyber Policy Center, supporting its six programs with graphic design support, social media, print and digital publishing, special events, video editing and other communication needs. Prior to the Cyber Policy Center, Tara was the Communications Manager for the MBA Program at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. Previous to that, she worked at a number of start ups around the Bay Area. She has a Masters in Creative Writing. 

As Tara Cottrell, she is the co-author of Buddha's Diet (Hachette) that has been translated into eight languages, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Czech, Vietnamese, German and Polish. Her fiction has appeared in pint in ZYZZYVA, Missouri Review, Indiana Review, Zoetrope and others. 

Communications Associate,
Cyber Policy Center, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Authors
Ben Werschkul
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The standoff between China and Taiwan (and the U.S.) has heightened tensions to their highest level in decades but — so far at least — economic observers haven’t seen a worst-case scenario.

The island’s crucial semiconductor industry has dodged a direct hit and, while China currently has Taiwan effectively blockaded, that is expected to end this weekend.

But White House officials and other observers say that doesn’t mean Taiwan’s economy and world markets are getting off scot free. There are three key economic ripples — from global shipping to cyber attacks to trade wars — that may be felt across world markets in the weeks and months to come, even if tensions don’t get any worse.

“We will not seek, nor do we want, a crisis,” NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters Thursday, but he was clear that China’s actions “erode the Cross-Strait status quo” on both economic and military issues.

Here are some of the immediate economic effects likely to be felt even if China stops short of full scale economic (or actual) warfare following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to the island.

Continue reading at finance.yahoo.com.

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The standoff between China and Taiwan (and the U.S.) has heightened tensions to their highest level in decades but — so far at least — economic observers haven’t seen a worst-case scenario.

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Suzanne Smalley
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When the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council announces it plan next week for overhauling how the agency combats the spread of disinformation online, its focus will be on “how to achieve greater transparency across our disinformation related work” and how to “increase trust with the public,” according to council meeting minutes released Monday.

Read more at Cyberscoop.com

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Herb Lin, a disinformation scholar at Stanford, said DHS will need to tread carefully moving forward. He worries “about any government involvement in this business” and whether “any mechanism that you set up can be made tamper proof.”

Authors
Gil Baram
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In late June, Iran’s state-owned Khuzestan Steel Co. and two other steel companies were forced to halt production after suffering a cyberattack. A hacking group claimed responsibility on social media, saying it targeted Iran’s three biggest steel companies in response to the “aggression of the Islamic Republic.”

Read more at The Washington Post.

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Three things to know about the not-so-covert cyber-operations between these two adversaries

Authors
Joseph Marks
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‘[We’re] less vulnerable against the threats of five years ago. But I see no evidence that the threat has stood still, and in fact, it is likely that it has grown at a faster rate than our defenses,” said Herb Lin, senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at Stanford University.

Read the rest at The Washington Post

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Network experts, including Herb Lin, say the U.S. is just as vulnerable – or even more vulnerable – to cyber attacks.

Authors
Melissa De Witte, Taylor Kubota, Ker Than
Taylor Kubota
Ker Than
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During a speech at Stanford University on Thursday, April 21, 2022, former U.S. President Barack Obama presented his audience with a stark choice: “Do we allow our democracy to wither, or do we make it better?”

Over the course of an hour-long address, Obama outlined the threat that disinformation online, including deepfake technology powered by AI, poses to democracy as well as ways he thought the problems might be addressed in the United States and abroad.

“This is an opportunity, it’s a chance that we should welcome for governments to take on a big important problem and prove that democracy and innovation can coexist,” Obama said.

Obama, who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017, was the keynote speaker at a one-day symposium, titled “Challenges to Democracy in the Digital Information Realm,” co-hosted by the Stanford Cyber Policy Center and the Obama Foundation on the Stanford campus on April 21.

The event brought together people working in technology, policy, and academia for panel discussions on topics ranging from the role of government in establishing online trust, the relationship between democracy and tech companies, and the threat of digital authoritarians.

Obama told a packed audience of more than 600 people in CEMEX auditorium – as well as more than 250,000 viewers tuning in online – that everyone is part of the solution to make democracy stronger in the digital age and that all of us – from technology companies and their employees to students and ordinary citizens – must work together to adapt old institutions and values to a new era of information. “If we do nothing, I’m convinced the trends that we’re seeing will get worse,” he said.

Introducing the former president was Michael McFaul, director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama, and Stanford alum and Obama Foundation fellow, Tiana Epps-Johnson, BA ’08.

Epps-Johnson, who is the founder and executive director of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, recalled her time answering calls to an election protection hotline during the 2006 midterm election. She said the experience taught her an important lesson, which was that “the overall health of our democracy, whether we have a voting process that is fair and trustworthy, is more important than any one election outcome.”

Stanford freshman Evan Jackson said afterward that Obama’s speech resonated with him. “I use social media a lot, every day, and I’m always seeing all the fake news that can be spread easily. And I do understand that when you have controversy attached to what you’re saying, it can reach larger crowds,” Jackson said. “So if we do find a way to better contain the controversy and the fake news, it can definitely help our democracy stay powerful for our nation.”

The Promise and Perils Technology Poses to Democracy


In his keynote, Obama reflected on how technology has transformed the way people create and consume media. Digital and social media companies have upended traditional media – from local newspapers to broadcast television, as well as the role these outlets played in society at large.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the American public tuned in to one of three major networks, and while media from those earlier eras had their own set of problems – such as excluding women and people of color – they did provide people with a shared culture, Obama said.

Moreover, these media institutions, with established journalistic best practices for accuracy and accountability, also provided people with similar information: “When it came to the news, at least, citizens across the political spectrum tended to operate using a shared set of facts – what they saw or what they heard from Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley.”

Fast forward to today, where everyone has access to individualized news feeds that are fed by algorithms that reward the loudest and angriest voices (and which technology companies profit from). “You have the sheer proliferation of content, and the splintering of information and audiences,” Obama observed. “That’s made democracy more complicated.”

Facts are competing with opinions, conspiracy theories, and fiction. “For more and more of us, search and social media platforms aren’t just our window into the internet. They serve as our primary source of news and information,” Obama said. “No one tells us that the window is blurred, subject to unseen distortions, and subtle manipulations.”

The splintering of news sources has also made all of us more prone to what psychologists call “confirmation bias,” Obama said. “Inside our personal information bubbles, our assumptions, our blind spots, our prejudices aren’t challenged, they are reinforced and naturally, we’re more likely to react negatively to those consuming different facts and opinions – all of which deepens existing racial and religious and cultural divides.”

But the problem is not just that our brains can’t keep up with the growing amount of information online, Obama argued. “They’re also the result of very specific choices made by the companies that have come to dominate the internet generally, and social media platforms in particular.”

The former president also made clear that he did not think technology was to blame for many of our social ills. Racism, sexism, and misogyny, all predate the internet, but technology has helped amplify them.

“Solving the disinformation problem won’t cure all that ails our democracies or tears at the fabric of our world, but it can help tamp down divisions and let us rebuild the trust and solidarity needed to make our democracy stronger,” Obama said.

He gave examples of how social media has fueled violence and extremism around the world. For example, leaders from countries such as Russia to China, Hungary, the Philippines, and Brazil have harnessed social media platforms to manipulate their populations. “Autocrats like Putin have used these platforms as a strategic weapon against democratic countries that they consider a threat,” Obama said.

He also called out emerging technologies such as AI for their potential to sow further discord online. “I’ve already seen demonstrations of deep fake technology that show what looks like me on a screen, saying stuff I did not say. It’s a strange experience people,” Obama said. “Without some standards, implications of this technology – for our elections, for our legal system, for our democracy, for rules of evidence, for our entire social order – are frightening and profound.”

‘Regulation Has to Be Part of the Answer’


Obama discussed potential solutions for addressing some of the problems he viewed as contributing to a backsliding of democracy in the second half of his talk.

In an apt metaphor for a speech delivered in Silicon Valley, Obama compared the U.S. Constitution to software for running society. It had “a really innovative design,” Obama said, but also significant bugs. “Slavery. You can discriminate against entire classes of people. Women couldn’t vote. Even white men without property couldn’t vote, couldn’t participate, weren’t part of ‘We the People.’”

The amendments to the Constitution were akin to software patches, the former president said, that allowed us to “continue to perfect our union.”

Similarly, governments and technology companies should be willing to introduce changes aimed at improving civil discourse online and reducing the amount of disinformation on the internet, Obama said.

“The internet is a tool. Social media is a tool. At the end of the day, tools don’t control us. We control them. And we can remake them. It’s up to each of us to decide what we value and then use the tools we’ve been given to advance those values,” he said.

The former president put forth various solutions for combating online disinformation, including regulation, which many tech companies fiercely oppose.

“Here in the United States, we have a long history of regulating new technologies in the name of public safety, from cars and airplanes to prescription drugs to appliances,” Obama said. “And while companies initially always complain that the rules are going to stifle innovation and destroy the industry, the truth is that a good regulatory environment usually ends up spurring innovation, because it raises the bar on safety and quality. And it turns out that innovation can meet that higher bar.”

In particular, Obama urged policymakers to rethink Section 230, enacted as part of the United States Communications Decency Act in 1996, which ​​stipulates that generally, online platforms cannot be held liable for content that other people post on their website.

But technology has changed dramatically over the past two decades since Section 230 was enacted, Obama said. “These platforms are not like the old phone company.”

He added: “In some cases, industry standards may replace or substitute for regulation, but regulation has to be part of the answer.”

Obama also urged technology companies to be more transparent in how they operate and “at minimum” should share with researchers and regulators how some of their products and services are designed so there is some accountability.

The responsibility also lies with ordinary citizens, the former president said. “We have to take it upon ourselves to become better consumers of news – looking at sources, thinking before we share, and teaching our kids to become critical thinkers who know how to evaluate sources and separate opinion from fact.”

Obama warned that if the U.S. does not act on these issues, it risks being eclipsed in this arena by other countries. “As the world’s leading democracy, we have to set a better example. We should be able to lead on these discussions internationally, not [be] in the rear. Right now, Europe is forging ahead with some of the most sweeping legislation in years to regulate the abuses that are seen in big tech companies,” Obama said. “Their approach may not be exactly right for the United States, but it points to the need for us to coordinate with other democracies. We need to find our voice in this global conversation.”

 

Transcript of President Obama's Keynote

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Full-Spectrum Pro-Kremlin Online Propaganda about Ukraine

Narratives from overt propaganda, unattributed Telegram channels, and inauthentic social media accounts
Full-Spectrum Pro-Kremlin Online Propaganda about Ukraine
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At a conference hosted by the Cyber Policy Center and Obama Foundation, former U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the keynote address about how information is created and consumed, and the threat that disinformation poses to democracy.

Authors
Gil Baram
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On February 24, the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, large parts of American satellite company Viasat’s KA-SAT network of high speed satellite services experienced disruptions resulting in partial network outages throughout Ukraine and several European countries. Tens of thousands of terminals suffered permanent damage and many were still offline more than two weeks later. Viktor Zhora, deputy chief of Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection, described the satellite outage as “a really huge loss in communications in the very beginning of war.” Among others relying on KA-SAT are Ukraine’s military, intelligence, and police units.

Read the rest at The National Interest

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Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine demonstrates that hypothetical scenarios of cyberattacks paralyzing satellite communications are already taking place.

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CDDRL Honors Student, 2021-22
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Major: Political Science
Minor: Computer Science; Ethics and Technology 
Hometown: Fort Worth, TX
Thesis Advisor: Francis Fukuyama

Tentative Thesis Title: Examining Why Countries With Little Histories of Privacy Enact Data Privacy Laws

Future aspirations post-Stanford: I'm not sure precisely what I want to do after college, but I hope to work at the intersection of technology and law/policy.

A fun fact about yourself: I'm a vegetarian from Texas (and my hometown is actually referred to as Cowtown).

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