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QUIZ INTERLUDE: SPOT THE AUTHORITARIAN COUNTRY

QUIZ INTERLUDE: SPOT THE AUTHORITARIAN COUNTRY

Kevin is out this week, but he sent in this quiz to help shed some counterintuitive light on the increasingly fraught relationship between tech companies, governments, and consumers.


Imagine two countries:

Country A: In recent months, the government has reprimanded internet giants for “inadequate” privacy policies and forced the boss of one company to apologize for trawling users’ shopping histories for clues about credit-worthiness without their consent. Meanwhile, the CEO of a large search engine caught public flak for saying that customers were willing to trade privacy for convenience.

Country B: An unelected leader worried about keeping his grip on power already employs tens of thousands of censors to police what people are saying online. Now he’s instructed his technocrats to build an artificial intelligence technology that will automatically detect and delete banned speech.

Can you guess which countries these are?

ANSWERS: DID YOU NAIL IT?

Country A is . . . China, where internet giants Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu have been hit for mishandling mountains of user data. Make no mistake, China’s Great Firewall remains solid as ever, the Social Credit System is developing, and Xinjiang may be the most developed experiment in tech-totalitarianism on earth. But the fact that officials and executives are moved to respond to rising privacy concerns shows the Chinese population isn’t just meekly accepting it all.

Country B isn’t a country at all, folks — it’s . . . Facebook! Mark Zuckerberg is stepping up internal policing of extremist content and “fake news” to keep US and European regulators at bay. At last count, over two billion people log into Facebook each month — more people than live in the US, Europe, and China combined. Facebook is distinctly *not* a democracy and, for better or worse, it’s beginning to exercise ever-more control over what people see, hear, and think.

A decade ago, Bank of America established the Global Ambassadors Program with Vital Voices, and the results are phenomenal. We've provided 8,000 hours of training and mentoring, engaging 400 women from 85 countries and helping women around the world build their businesses.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.

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Less than a week before the US election, President Donald Trump is repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of the vote (if he doesn't win) over largely unsubstantiated claims of potential fraud in universal mail-in voting. But with absentee ballots coming in all-time highs in all states due to the coronavirus pandemic, some Americans worry that the system itself may not be able to handle such an influx of ballots, including those already cast by a record number of early voters. Whether or not you agree, Gallup data show that US citizens are now less confident that the election will be conducted accurately — and more concerned about election irregularities and voter suppression — than they were four years ago. We take a look at how Americans' views on these electoral integrity issues have changed from 2016 to 2020.

Belarus on strike: In recent days, the Belarusian streets have turned up the heat on strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, as thousands of state factory workers and students in Belarus heeded a call from opposition leader Svyatlana Tikhanouskaya to join a general strike. Protests have roiled the country since August, when Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won a presidential election widely regarded as rigged. Last Sunday, 100,000 people turned up in Minsk, the capital. Tikhanouskaya — who ran against Lukashenko in that election and is currently exiled in neighboring Lithuania — had demanded the president resign by October 26. When he didn't, the walkout began. In one of the most iconic moments of protest so far, a striking worker at a refrigerator factory climbed the plant's tower to record a dramatic call for Lukashenko to step down. Belarus has been hit with sanctions from the US and EU, both of which are calling on him to hold new elections, but so far he has shown no signs of backing down, deploying his riot police with the usual fury. Something's got to give, soon.

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Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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