Weekly Roundup - September 15

By Sarah Jacob | September 15, 2022

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Image credit: Sefa Ozel via Getty Images

Security firm Cloudflare has dropped its client Kiwi Farms, a site known for organizing online and real-world harassment and abuse. Cloudflare cut ties with Kiwi Farms after a digital campaign led by Clara Sorrenti, a trans-Canadian Twitch streamer who was targeted on Kiwi Farms forums for months. The digital harassment she faced as a result of Kiwi Farms included doxing (of herself, her family, and police officers investigating the case), and email impersonation which resulted in police raids of her home. Cloudflare has historically been very reluctant to cut ties with clients on its principal belief that “cyberattacks, in any form, should be relegated to the dustbin of history.” The company has faced controversy regarding how it protects clients who enable harassment and violent extremism. This latest decision has raised questions about the role that internet infrastructure companies like Cloudflare play in content moderation.

 

Platform Accountability 

  • Mailchimp is under fire for its lack of action to reinstate the accounts of independent news and civil rights groups in Russia. Reinstating these accounts is important to ensure that pro-democracy and anti-war activists in the region are able to stay connected, given the recent invasion of Ukraine. 
  • The White House recently led a session on the harms of technology platforms and the need for greater accountability. In tandem with the session, the Biden-Harris Administration released core principles for reform. The reforms ranged from promoting competition, providing federal protection for privacy, and holding big tech responsible by removing legal protections and stopping algorithmic decision-making by increasing transparency over algorithm and content moderation. 

 

Disinformation

  • The Stanford Internet Observatory, in collaboration with Graphika, uncovered a network of accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that were promoting United States interests in the Middle East and Central Asia. These accounts used deceptive tactics, such as posing as independent media outlets and employing fake personas, in an attempt to employ pro-Western influence in the regions.
  • Rouzed, Argentina's 4chan equivalent, has been shut down following an attempted assassination of the vice president by a prominent user of the site's extremist forums. Prior to the assassination attempt, activists labeled Rouzed as a hub for extremism, given the unmoderated and anonymous structure of the platform. The assassination attempt was also met with disinformation across multiple social media platforms. Claims circulated that the assassination was ‘staged,’ and began to discredit outlets that had reported the attack. 

 

Cybersecurity

  • Former Google manager Meredith Whittaker is now Signal’s first president. Whittaker is a vocal critic of Big Tech and is known for her research into the social implications of artificial intelligence. This leadership change comes as Signal grapples with their business model and the financial challenges of developing and maintaining their app as a nonprofit. 
  • A state-sponsored cyber attack by Iran has resulted in Albania cutting off diplomatic ties with the nation. This is the first known cyber attack in which a country has responded in such an assertive manner.
  • Members of Greece’s government have used spyware to spy on the phones of journalists and opposition politicians. The country’s top spy chief and one of the prime minister’s top aides have already resigned, and the European Parliament is investigating. 

 

Other Tech News

  • Google and Amazon employees across the U.S. took to the streets in protest of their company’s contracts with the Israeli government. The tech giants have recently signed a $1.2 billion contract with Israel that would provide the government with technology that could be used to surveil Palestinians. 

The Carter Center recently produced a report on the deployment of new technology utilized in Kenya elections to improve transparency. After Kenya’s August 9th election, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission reports that the new tech created significant progress in transparency and accountability during the election.

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