Weekly Roundup 13 June, 2022

By Cat Ramsey | June 13, 2022

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An open laptop sits on a black background, pop up purple error messages cover the screen of the laptop and spill over onto the background behind the laptop. Below the horizon, where the laptop would be sitting on a table if the background weren't black, the error messages appear upside down, like they are mirrored from the upper two-thirds of the background
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Image credit: Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
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Hackers linked to the Chinese Communist Party are exploiting a recently discovered Microsoft vulnerability to target external dissident groups, most notably the Tibetan government in exile. The exploit was discovered in late May and flagged by a research group called Nao Sec, who noted its potential to disrupt the PowerShell administration tool for Windows. Though Microsoft has now acknowledged the vulnerability, there are reports that the tech company had dismissed earlier notifications of its existence.

The hacker group, known in Western circles as TA413, has repeatedly attacked Tibetan organizations in the past prior to this incident. The CCP is notorious for aggressively targeting external groups and dissidents critical of the regime, especially if they represent an ethnic minority in the country. Last year saw a coordinated attempt to hack and monitor Uighur journalists and activists in the US.

 

Gender and Inclusion

  • Being out online in Malaysia increases threats against LGBTQ people, but social media platforms also provide opportunities. Though hate speech, threats, and doxxing are common, safe and supportive communities can be found online, and social media algorithms even help users find information and support to feel comfortable as themselves.

 

Global Tech Policy

  • The EU is close to coming to an agreement on a new deal which would unify cryptocurrencies laws across the EU, Markets in Crypto-Assets. The legislation would instigate measures to protect investors and the stability of the market and preserve the value of the euro, as well as limit the environmental impacts of crypto mining.   
  • A bill to counter the effects of disinformation in Brazil includes a provision requiring social media companies to pay journalists for the content they create. Journalists in the country are divided on whether the bill would protect democracy or simply enrich media executives and create an ambiguous division of accountability between platforms and journalists, while giving the notoriously anti-independent media President Bolsonaro the power to define what constitutes “professional journalism.”

 

Disinformation

  • Meta's content moderation has failed a test posed by a nonprofit group which submitted advertisements including obvious violent hate speech against each of the three largest ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The group informed Meta that it had failed to flag the advertisements, but when another organization submitted similar advertisements in Amharic a week later, they, too, were approved.
  • Yandex, the largest Russian tech platform, has announced that its map feature will stop showing national borders. Kremlin authorities have historically put pressure on Yandex to support state narratives, and the announcement coincides with Russian officials discussing annexing the areas of Ukraine currently occupied by Russian troops, suggesting that this move is intended to support accompanying imperialist narratives.
  • The culture and incentives of scientific institutions are a contributing factor to misinformation, rewarding juicy titles, political spin, and pioneering research, rather than replication of important conclusions and cautious publication. Online publication has intensified these issues with download, reading, and impact factor data creating metrics which many experts are required to keep up in order to keep their jobs.

 

Data and Privacy

 

Blockchain

  • Blockchain technology is harder to hack or manipulate due to the fact that data is distributed across a network of computers. These characteristics have led investigators to use the technology to verify and maintain evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, much of which has been gathered from unregulated and easily manipulated online sources.

 

Other Tech News

  • The Internet Watch Foundation, which finds and removes child sexual abuse material online, has announced that it has created hashes, or digital fingerprints, for one million child harm images from the UK government’s Child Abuse Image Database, which will help to prevent the reuse of the images.
  • CGI-generated virtual influencers are entering the Metaverse, bringing with them opportunities for advertisers, as they are even more effective than human influencers. Virtual influencers can tailor their personalities to the products they promote. However, like with photoshopped images of human influencers, they also contribute to intensifying body image issues.
  • Ben Tarnoff, author of the upcoming book Internet for the People, believes that online harms are driven by the profit structure of the internet and technology companies. He advocates for a publicly owned internet to address the root of the online harms.
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