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.

The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

It's been two months since President Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, paving the way for a bloody Turkish offensive in that region. (See our earlier coverage here.) What's happened since? A guide for the puzzled:

No "end date" for US troops in Syria – US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said this week that the United States has completed its military pullback in northeastern Syria. Back in October, President Trump pledged to withdraw the roughly 1,000 American troops deployed there. Since then, some American troops have left Syria altogether, while others were redeployed to defend nearby oil fields from ISIS, as well as from Syrian government troops and Russia. Now, there are roughly 600 American troops dispersed around Syria, and the remainder have been deployed in Iraq to stave off a potential ISIS resurgence. It's not clear if any troops have returned to the US. When asked about the chaotic comings and goings of US troops in Syria in recent months, the commander of US Central Command said frankly: there's no "end date" for American troops stationed there.

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Turkey's government has captured many thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its operations in northern Syria. Many of these prisoners have already been deported to some of the more than 100 countries they come from, and Ankara says it intends to send more. There are also more than 10,000 women and children – family members of ISIS fighters – still living in camps inside Syria.

These facts create a dilemma for the governments of countries where the ISIS detainees are still citizens: Should these terrorist fighters and their families be allowed to return, in many cases to face trial back home? Or should countries refuse to allow them back?

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What's the difference between Alphabet and Google?

Well, Google is the search engine, YouTube, all the stuff you probably think of as Google. Alphabet is the parent company that was created four or five years ago. And it contains a whole bunch of other entities like Jigsaw, Verily - the health care company that Google runs, Waymo - the self-driving car unit. Also, it's important to know Google makes tons of money. Alphabet, all that other stuff loses tons of money.

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The collapse of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria has given rise to a host of new challenges for governments around the world. Turkey has captured thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its offensive in northern Syria, many of whom are foreign nationals who left their home countries to fight with the Islamic State. To date, non-Middle East countries have mostly opposed ISIS fighters returning home, leaving them, and their spouses and children, in legal limbo. Here's a look at where these foreign fighters come from.