President Biden issued an executive order targeting entities that affect every web user, whether they realize it or not. The order aims to restrict data brokers from selling Americans’ personal data to “countries of concern” like China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Cuba.
What data brokers do: compile massive amounts of sensitive user data (browsing history, biometric scans, geolocation) and sells it to advertisers. One study showed 48,000 companies contributed to Facebook’s data stores on one single user.
Why that’s dangerous: as AI improves, bad actors’ abilities to sift through vast amounts of this data to track and pry into the personal lives of Americans—including servicemembers and government officials —will only improve. The Biden Administration is hoping to prevent “intrusive surveillance, scams, blackmail, and other violations of privacy.”
What’s missing: concrete regulations, like Europe’s GDPR framework that requires explicit documentation on how all EU citizens' data is used and stored.When it comes to data, Americans are still living in the wild wild West. While this order aims to prevent privacy violations from some of America’s adversaries, there’s nothing stopping other countries, companies, and the federal government itself from doing the exact same thing.
The “most corroborating evidence” for impeaching President Joe Biden came from a highly credible, human source, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said in January. This week, a memo filed by the US Department of Justice claims that the source has “extensive foreign ties” with an all too familiar election meddler.
Veteran informant Alexander Smirnov claimed to be in touch with four different Russian intelligence officials as recently as December, two of which are “heads of the entities they represent.” Prosecutors say Smirnov aimed to spread misinformation and “lies that could impact US elections.”
After months of investigating, the House has been unable to uncover additional bombshell evidence against Biden. So, will a crack in the central argument driving the inquiry slow the impeachment efforts ahead of November’s election? Likely not. The president’s brother still had to testify yesterday, and his son is set to testify next week.
From the right: A House Judiciary Committee spokesperson says, “Nothing has changed. We have plenty of evidence that shows impeachable conduct.”
From the left: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) says, “I hope it will be the final chapter of this ludicrous wild goose chase.”From GZERO: Smirnov should steer clear of open windows.
If the British communications regulator has its way, visiting porn sites in the UK is about to become a much more intimate process.
Responding to parliamentarians’ criticisms that those “click yes if you’re an adult” boxes do too little to shield kids from smut, a new proposal would require triple-X sites to demand users’ banking details, photo ID, credit card, or even a biometric face scan to prove they are over 18.
Proponents say users’ digital histories will be kept secure, but critics say surrendering personal data to porn sites is a privacy nightmare. The new rules would begin in 2025.
Will Brits keep calm and… give their personal data to porn sites? The UK already tops a list of the European populations most reluctant to talk about their sex lives.
The result could be to crater engagement with porn sites more broadly. In fact, that’s exactly what happened when similar ID checks were introduced in US states like Louisiana, Montana, and Arkansas: web traffic on the sites fell more than 80% because of users’ reluctance to tie their sensitive personal information to the sites.
The search is underway for representatives from each of the 37 countries participating in the 2024 Eurovision song contest. The competition’s slogan might be United by Music, but as always, politics are never far from the stage.
This year, the controversy concerns Israel. Calls are growing for the country to be kicked out over its assault on the Gaza Strip, which has drawn accusations of war crimes and genocide. Many are citing as a precedent the 2022 expulsion of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Israel’s entry: 20 year oldEden Golan was selected after performing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” to a hall of empty chairs, meant as a tribute to the Gaza hostages. Israel has been in Eurovision since the 1970s and has won four times — most recently in 2018.
Could Israel be expelled? Entries can be fined or disqualified for bringing politics onto the stage. But Israel’s expulsion is unlikely at this point. The final say rests with Eurovision officials, and so far they’re singing an evasive tune, saying, “Comparisons between wars and conflicts are complex and difficult and, as a nonpolitical media organization, not ours to make.”
It's time for TikTokers to enter their miming era. Countless videos suddenly went silent as music from top stars like Drake and Taylor Swift disappeared from the popular app on Thursday. The culprit? Universal Music Group – the world’s largest record company – could not secure a new licensing deal with the powerful information-sharing video platform.
In an open letter published by UMG, it blamed TikTok for “trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.” UMG claimed TikTok “responded first with indifference, and then with intimidation” after being pressured not only on artist royalties, but also restrictions about AI-generated content, and a push for user safety.
It’s been a rough week for CEO Shou Zi Chew. He joined CEOs from Meta, X, and Discord for a grilling on Capitol Hill this week over the dangers of abuse and exploitation children are facing on their platforms. Sen. Lindsey Graham went so far as to say these companies have “blood on their hands.” The hearing followed last year’s public health advisory released by the Surgeon General that argued social media presents “a risk of harm” to youth mental health and called for “urgent action” from these companies.The big takeaway: It appears social media companies are quite agile when under pressure and can change the user experience for billions of people at the drop of a hat, especially when profit margins are involved. Imagine what these companies could do if they put that energy into the health of their users instead.
Some conservative commentators likeJesse Watters, Laura Loomer, Benny Johnson — and even former presidential candidateVivek Ramaswamy — are peddling theories that Taylor Swift is the mastermind behind Joe Biden’s reelection campaign and is helping rig the results of Super Bowl LVIII.
Long story short: Across the political spectrum, some would rather worship outlandish theories like a False God than believe their politicized narrative is wrong.
What’s true: Thousands of articles are written about Swift every day. A recent Newsweek poll found that almost a fifth of respondents were likely to vote for a candidate Swift endorsed – and she endorsed Joe Biden in 2020. Plus, Swift says Scooter Braun’s infamous 2019 deal to buy her back catalog of music was funded partially by the Soros family, which provided additional fodder for the alt-right crowd, even though she opposed the deal.
What’s not true: The Pentagon and NATO planned to use her to battle online disinformation, as Fox News’ Jesse Watters suggested. The video used as evidence (and subsequently seen by millions across social media) was from a conference organized by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, and it merely used her as an example of how powerful celebrity status can influence the flow of information online. The presentation was given by an academic with no known ties to the US military.
What’s inconclusive: Whether her and Travis Kelce’s love story is genuine. All signs point to legitimate happiness between the two, but haters gonna hate, and speculators gonna speculate.What to watch: Algorithmically promoted clickbait (nefariously edited videos as well as AI-generated content) taking on a life of its own after being regurgitated and distorted by millions online — and having legitimate real-world consequences. Trust in American institutions is at an all-time low, which ensures The Great War of 2024 won’t be between Biden and Trump but between what combatting narratives can prevail online in the battle for truth.
If someone takes your stuff and only returns it with conditions attached, you might be the victim of a mafia swindling. Or British imperialism.
The looted “crown jewels” of Ghana are being returned to the country by two prominent British museums on a three-year loan agreement, with an option to extend for another three years.
What was taken: 32 gold and silver items from the former Asante Empire — located in modern-day Ghana — many of which haven’t been back there in 150 years.
When they were taken: During British incursions against the Asante Empire in the 1800s, before the kingdom was fully annexed by the British in 1901. The modern Ghanaian government has sought their return for years.
Why it matters: The agreement might be seen as a blueprint for future deals in which museums return items taken from abroad under suspect or coercive circumstances. The deal was struck between the current ceremonial Asante king and the museums directly. Its terms get around British laws that prevent UK museums from unilaterally returning artifacts — like the Parthenon Marbles to Greece or the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria (and the list goes on).
But don’t expect UK museum wings to empty out anytime soon. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak assured that Britain “would expect the items to be returned at the end of that loan period.”
For more on the highly charged identity politics of art, see our recent special on the 200-year-old fight over Parthenon Marbles here.
Almost two years after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s existential battle continues. The static frontlines look a lot like a stalemate, and US public and political opinions toward further funding for Ukraine are in doubt, but fears of regional escalation remain. Just this week, for example, the Belarusian defense minister said he would put forward a new military doctrine allowing for the use of nuclear weapons.
In response to possible aggression falling into NATO territory, the alliance is hellbent on preparedness. Addressing fellow NATO leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, Admiral Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO Military Committee, warned of the need to prepare for an era “in which anything can happen at any time. An era in which we need to expect the unexpected.” Bauer and his colleagues are meeting to discuss attempts to do just that with Steadfast Defender, the largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War.
Showing off friendly muscle. The NATO training exercises, to be held from February to June in Germany, Poland, and the Baltics, will involve more than 40,000 troops from across the 31-nation alliance (plus pending member Sweden). The work will test the troops’ ability to quickly mobilize in case of a Russian attack while showing off the alliance’s strength and unity.
Not to be outdone, Russia will also host military drills this year with “Ocean-2024,” bringing together all branches of the Russian Armed Forces and units of “foreign states,” according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.