The War on Encryption

Last week, I described how Russia’s attempt to ban Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app, had devolved into a game of whack-a-mole, one that had little effect on the app itself but knocked many other Russian websites offline. Apparently undaunted by Russia’s failure (and the Moscow protests that followed), Iran has launched its own ban on the secure messenger, which it has accused of fomenting armed uprising and social unrest.


Telegram is even more popular in Iran than in Russia. Although it’s too early to be sure, media reports suggest a similar farce may already be playing out there.

In Iran’s case, the brouhaha reflects the ongoing political tussle between reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani and more hardline voices within the Islamic Republic. Rouhani says that apps like Telegram create economic opportunities for Iranians, while hardliners see the firm’s growing ambitions — not just in secure messaging, but in news, anonymous web browsing, and online payments — as a threat. For now, hardliners may be winning the argument, not that it appears to be doing them much good.

There’s a broader power struggle going on here, between governments and technologies that undermine their authority. Russia and Iran aren’t the only countries that fear encrypted apps. A group of US senators has reportedly been laying the groundwork for a new bill that would give law enforcement access to encrypted communications, to prevent criminals and terrorists from “going dark” — something that the UK, Germany, and France have also advocated.

The big picture: Forced to make a tradeoff between individual privacy and collective security, many governments will feel political pressure to choose the latter. That’s an issue not just for Russia and Iran, but for democracies, too.

How much material do we use to send a package? Too much. Does recycling help? Yes – but not really. Packaging material often accumulates as waste, contributing to its own "polluting weight." To solve our packaging dilemma, Finland came up with RePack: a "circular" solution for the reuse of material.

Learn more about RePack in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

A steady increase of violence in the Sahel region of Africa over the past eight years has imposed fear and hardship on millions of the people who live there. It has also pushed the governments of Sahel countries to work together to fight terrorists.

The region's troubles have also captured the attention of European leaders, who worry that if instability there continues, it could generate a movement of migrants that might well dwarf the EU refugee crisis of 2015-2016.

But is Europe helping to make things better?

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Donald J. Trump and CorOnaVirus decide to hit the road together across the USA. Will DJT and COV discover they are more alike than different? Will their interests diverge? #PUPPETREGIME

Jon Lieber, Managing Director for the United States at the Eurasia Group, shares his perspective on US politics.

Where are US-China relations in this battle over TikTok and what is happening?

Well, this may seem like a minor deal. It's a video sharing app that the president has given 45 days to sell to a US entity or get banned in the United States. But along with WeChat, these are two of China's most successful technology companies that the US has now banned from entry into the United States and potentially banned from being used on operating systems that rely on US software inside China. So, this is a huge escalation in the geotech war between the United States and China. China for a long time has not allowed Google and Facebook and other American applications to be fully operative inside their borders. And now the US is stepping up against Chinese technology companies. The reason is that there's concerns among the US government about these tech, these apps data security practices. Members of the military, high ranking government officials aren't allowed to have these on their phones because there's concern about what China does with the data that they can harvest from those phones. This is a real warning sign to other Chinese technology companies that they may not be welcome inside the American market unless they can prove in some way, they are totally independent from the Chinese government and the Chinese military. Expect a lot of escalation in this area over the coming months and years.

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In a new interview with Ian Bremmer for GZERO World, former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says that the single most important step to reopening schools in the fall is to control infection in the community. But as of now, too many communities across the United States have lost control of the Covid-19 virus. Opening schools will only become a possibility once a majority of people start practicing the "Three 'W's" ("Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance") and local and federal governments enforce stricter protective policies. The full episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television on Friday, August 7, 2020. Check local listings.