Weekly Roundup 18 March, 2022
Cryptocurrency, like other online platforms that have become increasingly mainstreamed in the digital era, provides both opportunities for and threats to democracy. A core value of advocates for cryptocurrency is the “freedom to transact,” a tenet that has become increasingly pertinent as crypto companies have resolutely refused to withdraw their services from Russia, even as mainstream financial systems have done so in protest over the war. Cryptocurrencies have prevented starvation, been utilized by humanitarian aid organizations, and funded escape from authoritarian regimes in places like Afghanistan, where sanctions against the Taliban have had a devastating effect on civilians suffering under the collapse of the banking system and loss of foreign humanitarian aid.
Advocates of the freedom to transact consider it a right similar to that of freedom of expression, but it is not currently enshrined in any international treaty, and some experts don’t think it should be. While Ukraine has legalized cryptocurrency, creating a domestic market in response to the outpouring of international crypto support, the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, has also called for Russia to be cut off from crypto. Cryptocurrencies have been used to undermine democracy and support extremists, as was the case when the trucker convoy in Canada was cut off from GoFundMe donations. Just as social media companies have had to find a balance between freedom of expression and misinformation, cryptocurrency will have to take responsibility for the consequences of unregulated funding.
Russian Invasion of Ukraine
- International banks fear an impending Russian cyberattack on SWIFT in retaliation for being excluded from the financial messaging system. An attack on SWIFT would disrupt every major global economic network, causing widespread damage irrespective of allegiances to Russia or Ukraine.
- Touted for swaying elections and causing internal dissent in foreign countries, Russia’s famed disinformation apparatus seems to be deteriorating as the war rages on in Ukraine. Experts attribute this to the West growing wise to the Kremlin’s antics and Russia’s failure to prepare for a new disinformation campaign in Ukraine.
- In the face of a brutal crackdown on independent media and platforms, Russian dissidents are turning to Clubhouse to engage in illegal anti-war discussion. The app, which was heralded as the next great social media outlet some months ago, has become a relative safe haven for Russians opposed to Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, criticism of which now carries a 15 year prison sentence.
- Tik Tok is under criticism for allowing pro-Kremlin accounts to post disinformation and outright propaganda. The report also accused the app of shielding Russian users from content posted outside the country, much of which is opposed to the current war in Ukraine.
Global Tech Policy
- Facebook parent-company Meta announced that it would train Australian political candidates in cybersecurity best practices ahead of an upcoming election in May. Meta’s partnership with Australia is likely a response to increased scrutiny placed on tech giants, which have been accused of doing the bare minimum to avert malignant activity on their platforms.
- Intel announced that it plans to invest $90 billion in Europe’s semiconductor industry, including the construction of two chip factories in Germany. The announcement is the latest development in the West’s long-term “decoupling” strategy, seeking to end its economic and technological dependence on China.
Data Privacy and Protection
- U.S. immigration authorities are requiring migrants stopped at the southern border to install the Smartlink app on their smartphones. While the app is meant to ensure that migrants attend court-ordered hearings upon release, immigration advocates say the app violates privacy and civil protections.
- The notorious Chinese hacking group APT41 recently breached a livestock tracking app to hack into 6 separate U.S. state governments. APT41 is gradually gaining the reputation as the most aggressive team in the larger Winnti hacking network, having hacked hundreds of systems in Asia and the West in recent years.
- After recent criticism, Meta has agreed to allow parents the ability to limit the content teenagers can view while using virtual reality. The new changes will let parents lock specific apps and create a “Parent Dashboard”, enabling them to link into their child’s account.
Other Tech News
- Eccentric tech mogul Elon Musk recently engaged in a Twitter spat with Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov over the former’s chances of beating Russian President Vladimir Putin in single combat.