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International press review Extrema Ratio May 3, 2023

Extrema Ratio focuses on the topics we work on, including geopolitcs, cybersecurity, critical technologies, foreign interference, disinformation, international law & national security.


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China

  • China’s Foreign Minister Visits Myanmar. Foreign Minister Qin Gang touted the two countries’ “friendship” yesterday as he became the most senior Chinese official (Al Jazeera) to visit Myanmar’s military leader. China is a major ally and arms supplier to Myanmar and has refused to condemn the country’s 2021 coup.

  • China’s government has revised its conscription laws to allow retired service people to re-enlist and to increase recruitment focused on expertise in space and cyberwarfare. The amended regulations, approved by the state council and the central military commission that came into force on Monday, aim to provide “institutional guarantees for consolidating national defense and building strong armed forces,” state media reported. Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian.

  • China backs UN resolution that explicitly acknowledges ‘the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.’ Prior to this, China has consistently abstained from any resolutions that condemn Russia. The reference is found in just one paragraph of a broader resolution that calls for closer cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe, a Strasbourg-based human rights organisation. Euronews

  • China caught testing spy balloons at remote desert base. Images of a large blimp were taken by US satellite imaging company BlackSky in the desert of north-western China. The images are reported to have been taken three months before a spy balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina. Nicola Smith and Verity Bowman. The Telegraph

  • Shanghai police building surveillance system to track Uyghurs and foreign journalists visiting Xinjiang. The system will automatically flag when a Uyghur arrives in Shanghai, as well as monitor any foreign journalists with travel records to the region in northwestern China. IPVM

  • Democratically-elected seats to be slashed to 20 percent for local Hong Kong elections. Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee has announced that the number of District Council seats democratically chosen by the public will drop to around 20 per cent. Pending legislative approval, candidates will also be put through national security background checks and a new nomination system. Hong Kong Free Press

  • Covid whistleblower Fang Bin released from jail after three years. The so-called citizen activist was sentenced during a secret trial in Wuhan at the height of the pandemic. Grace Tsoi.BBC

  • Cyberspace Administration of China has closed over 4000 websites and removed 55 apps in last three months. The announcement of its first-quarter crackdown came two weeks after Zhuang Rongwen, the director of the top internet regulator, pledged to clean up politically related content and ‘safeguard’ the security of online opinion. William Zheng. South China Morning Post

  • Raids on consultancies reveal mounting risks for due diligence companies. Corporate investigators say stricter regulations are drastically narrowing their space to operate in China. Financial Times

  • China still a ‘huge market’ for US chip companies. American chip makers still want access to Chinese market despite national security concerns. US Semiconductor Industry Association calls for ‘clear rules’ from the Biden administration ahead of implementation of the CHIPS Act. Daniel Flatley.Bloomberg

  • Jack Ma returns to public life with professorships in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Tel Aviv and Kigali. Ma has kept a low profile since his controversial speech in Shanghai in late 2020. The founder of Alibaba Group has stepped down from his corporate roles and ceded control of Ant Group, the fintech group affiliated with Ali Baba. Zhou Xin.South China Morning Post

  • TikTok’s US trust and safety head departs role amidst growing scrutiny. Eric Han was promoted to lead trust and safety at the company’s US data operations in December. Han has been one of the most prominent officials in TikTok's effort to convince lawmakers that the app is safe for US users and shouldn't be banned. Bloomberg

  • Huawei goes local in response to US sanctions. Huawei, helped by government grants and funding from Beijing, has tried to lead the way for Chinese companies eager to reduce their reliance on western technology as geopolitical tensions rise. Qianer Liu.Financial Times

  • The Renminbi’s New Role: Sanctions Busting. After the US effectively shut Russia off from the dollar-dominated global financial system, China has stepped in. Grady McGregor.The Wire China

  • China Locks Information on the Country Inside a Black Box -- Wall St. Journal

  • China’s ‘men in black’ step up scrutiny of foreign corporate sleuths -- FT

  • U.S. Chamber Statement on Concerns Over PRC Investment Climate -- U.S. Chamber of Commerce

  • China's exit bans multiply as political control tightens under Xi -- Reuters

  • New Report: Trapped - China’s Expanding Use of Exit Bans -- Safeguard Defenders

Chinese online brokerage tests first AI chatbot for stock trading as it talks to regulators about compliance South China Morning Post Ben Jiang Tiger Brokers, an online brokerage, has created a trade bot powered by generative artificial intelligence technology, similar to what powers OpenAI’s ChatGPT, to test how smart machines can replace humans in bonds and stock trading. “We’re keeping a close eye on AI and industry advancement since November last year,” Jacques Li, head of global communications at the Xiaomi-backed brokerage, told the Post in an interview on Wednesday.

Hong Kong presses banks to provide services for crypto companies Nikkei Asia Pak Yiu Hong Kong regulators are urging banks to provide services to virtual asset companies as the city pushes to establish itself as a hub of the crypto industry. The regulators stopped short of telling banks themselves to trade cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but told them to allow crypto-related companies to open accounts to facilitate normal business operations, such as paying salaries and rent.

China’s answers to ChatGPT have a censorship problem Bloomberg Sarah Zheng The government’s already said AI chat services will have to pass a security review before rolling out, and companies are showing little appetite to test Beijing’s boundaries. China’s AI upstarts face an uphill climb trying to balance improving their product with keeping tight control on what it actually says. These AI systems are by design creative and experimental, and there’s only so much companies can do to filter out sensitive keywords or topics of discussion — or train their models to speak only positively of the country’s leaders.

Reuters

U.S. microchip export controls imposed last year to freeze China's development of supercomputers used to develop nuclear weapons and artificial-intelligence systems like ChatGPT are having only minimal effects on China's tech sector.

The rules restricted shipments of Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) and Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD.O) chips that have become the global technology industry's standard for developing chatbots and other AI systems.

USA

  • The Biden administration is sending 1,500 troops to bolster resources at its southern border ahead of an expected surge of migrants, the Department of Defense said. The troops will join the 2,500 National Guard members already in place to support the work of border agents. Holly Honderich reports for BBC News.

  • Taiwan is seeking United States cooperation to make the island’s next domestically developed fighter jet, the head of Taiwanese defense contractor Aerospace Industrial Development Corp said today. Taiwan, in 2017, announced the next generation fighter program to include stealth capabilities but has given few details since. Reuters reports.

  • A delegation of United States defense contractors pledged the beginning of deeper cooperation with Taiwan today. Retired Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, who spoke at today’s public forum, assured Taipei, “We want to be part of the self-defense capabilities of Taiwan.” Huizhong Wu and Johnson Lai report for AP News.

  • Clearing America’s mind on Taiwan. Leading experts call for the US to resist fatalistic assumptions about the inevitability of conflict. Ryan Hass, Bonnie Glaser and Richard Bush.The Wire China

  • Vice President Kamala Harris and other senior U.S. officials will meet with the heads of companies (Axios) developing artificial intelligence (AI) to discuss actions to mitigate risks associated with the technology.

Google, Microsoft CEOs called to AI meeting at White House Reuters Nandita Bose and David Shepardson The chief executives of Alphabet Inc's Google, Microsoft, OpenAI and Anthropic will meet with Vice President Kamala Harris and top administration officials to discuss key artificial intelligence issues on Thursday, said a White House official. The invitation seen by Reuters to the CEOs noted President Joe Biden's "expectation that companies like yours must make sure their products are safe before making them available to the public." In April, Biden said it remains to be seen whether AI is dangerous but underscored that technology companies had a responsibility to ensure their products were safe.

Jeb Bush’s private equity group held talks over selling NSO technology in US Financial Times Kaye Wiggins and Mehul Srivastava Jeb Bush’s private equity firm held talks with the owners of Israeli spyware company NSO Group over a deal that would have seen the former Florida governor sell its products in the US, according to people familiar with the matter.The discussions between Bush’s firm Finback Investment Partners and NSO’s owners Novalpina Capital took place in 2020 as NSO was being linked to the silencing of dissent around the world.

White House to study employer tools that monitor workers Reuters Diane Bartz The Biden administration plans to study companies' use of technology to monitor and manage workers, which it said on Monday is becoming increasingly common and can cause "serious risks to workers." The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in a blog post, sought comments from employees about their experience with surveillance technology, and asked employers and software vendors how they develop and use them.

FBI adapting to 'growing' threat from Chinese cyber activity, senior official says The Record by Recorded Future Martin Matishak The threat posed by malicious Chinese cyber activities is “absolutely a growing problem” as the U.S. tracks Beijing’s designs on Taiwan and prepares for the 2024 presidential election, according to a senior FBI official. “We know more than we used to know, but that probably just makes it all the more concerning,” Cynthia Kaiser, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, told The Record during an interview at the RSA Conference. “We see China using cyber operations at the same time they're using intelligence operations. They're blending their operations to go after what they want to go after. And we don't see a slowing down of those efforts,” she added.

Colleges and schools across US dealing with ransomware incidents, cyberattacks The Record by Recorded Future Jonathan Greig Thousands of students at several U.S. schools started the week feeling the impact of ransomware attacks and other cybersecurity incidents. Bluefield University — a private Baptist school in Bluefield, Virginia serving about 1,000 students – published a statement on Sunday announcing that their systems “have been shut down for an unknown period of time due to a recent cybersecurity attack.” Two hours away across the border in West Virginia, BridgeValley Community and Technical College said it continued to deal with a ransomware attack that is now believed to be the work of the Akira cybercrime gang. Meanwhile, Penncrest School District — which serves thousands of students in Crawford County, Pennsylvania — announced a ransomware attack over the weekend that disrupted their systems, while Nashua School District in New Hampshire said it was investigating a cyberattack.

Computer system used to hunt fugitives is still down 10 weeks after hack The Washington Post Devlin Barrett A key law enforcement computer network has been down for 10 weeks, the victim of a ransomware attack that has frustrated efforts by senior officials to get the system back up and running — raising concerns about how to secure critical crime-fighting operations. A secretive technology arm that the U.S. Marshals Service uses to find suspects has struggled to get back up and running.

The most popular app in the U.S. deleted mentions of its Chinese owner The Washington Post Shira Ovide Four of the five most-downloaded apps in the United States are from China. But in the iPhone and Google Play app stores, the developers behind two of those apps — TikTok and the video editing app CapCut — are listed as two different companies in Singapore. They’re both owned by China’s ByteDance. The United States’ most popular app, the low-price shopping service Temu, recently removed from its website several references to its owner, the Chinese e-commerce giant PDD Holdings. So how do you make a personal risk assessment when it’s not necessarily clear that apps are Chinese? Mostly, you’ll have to do legwork online, sift through business incorporation and securities filings or rely on trusted sources to clue you in. It’s not ideal.

Americas

  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service report details Chinese foreign interference. Top secret report prepared in July 2021 reveals how MP Michael Chong and his family were targeted by the Chinese government after he sponsored a parliamentary motion condemning Beijing’s conduct in Xinjiang as genocide. Steven Chase and Robert Fife.The Globe and Mail

  • Reuters: Brazilian Police Raid Former President’s Home. Police raided the home of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during an investigation into a group accused of falsifying government records of COVID-19 vaccinations, two unnamed sources told Reuters.

Asia

  • Nato plans Japan office to coordinate with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Nato’s planned new liaison office in Tokyo – to open next year – will be the first of its kind in Asia and is likely to attract criticism from the Chinese government. Daniel Hurst.The Guardian

  • NATO is planning to open a liaison office in Japan, its first in Asia, to facilitate regional consultations. The office will allow NATO to conduct periodic consultations with Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand as China emerges as a growing challenge. Ken Moriyasu, Rieko Miki, and Takashi Tsuji report for Nikkei Asia. This Backgrounder looks at NATO.

  • Japan/Peru: Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa is visiting Peru today (Andina) for the latest in a series of bilateral visits aimed at increasing cooperation with countries in the Amerias.

  • South Korea: At least six South Korean women who were forced to become sex slaves for American-led UN troops during the Korean War aim to file legal charges in the United States regarding their treatment, the New York Times reported.

  • Afghanistan: Taliban officials are harassing humanitarian workers (AP) in the country and interfering with their operations, a U.S. government watchdog said in a new report.

EU, US warns Malaysia over Huawei 5G bid Capacity Media Saf Malik According to a report from the Financial Times, envoys to Malaysia from the US and EU wrote to the government in April after it decided to review a decision to award Ericsson a US2.5 billion tender to build the state-owned 5G network. Malaysia’s 5G rollout has suffered numerous setbacks as concerns were raised over pricing and transparency. Huawei was long considered to be the frontrunner for the contract, with the Malaysian government previously dismissing US concerns. The Chinese vendor is thought to be battling back in the competition to build 5G networks in south-east Asia, having been blacklisted from several countries in the West.

Australia

Why Australia is investing in this ‘game-changing’ futuristic tech The Australian Financial Review Paul Smith and Phillip Coorey Industry Minister Ed Husic has flagged federal budget funding and investment from the government’s $1 billion critical technology fund to support a new national quantum computing strategy, saying a global race is under way to create the next era of technology. Speaking to The Australian Financial Review ahead of the launch of the quantum strategy on Wednesday, Mr Husic said Australia was well positioned to compete with much larger nations such as the US, China, the UK and the European Union.

Europe

  • At least eight students and a security guard are dead after a shooting at a school in Serbia’s capital Belgrade. Another six pupils and a teacher were injured in the attack and have been taken to hospital, the interior ministry said in a statement. Police arrested a 14-year-old student suspected of using his father’s gun to carry out the attack. An investigation into the motives behind the incident is underway. James Gregory reports for BBC News.

  • Group of EU states seeks to reduce dependency on China for pharmaceuticals. A position paper reveals group of 19 European Union member states - including Belgium, France, Spain and Germany - are pushing for measures to shore up Europe’s supply of vital pharmaceutical ingredients. Julia Payne. Reuters

  • China backs UN resolution that explicitly acknowledges ‘the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.’ Prior to this, China has consistently abstained from any resolutions that condemn Russia. The reference is found in just one paragraph of a broader resolution that calls for closer cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe, a Strasbourg-based human rights organisation. Euronews

Ukraine - Russia

Reuters

Russia accused Ukraine on Wednesday of attacking the Kremlin with drones overnight in a failed attempt to kill President Vladimir Putin.

A senior Ukrainian presidential official denied the accusation - the most serious that Moscow has levelled at Kyiv in more than 14 months of war - and said it indicated Moscow was preparing a major "terrorist provocation". The Kremlin said Russia reserved the right to retaliate, and hardliners demanded swift retribution against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

  • Kremlin Accuses Ukraine of Attacking Moscow. The Kremlin believes a foiled drone attack in Moscow last night was a Kyiv-orchestrated assassination attempt (BBC) on President Vladimir Putin and reserves the right to respond, Russia’s state news agency said. Ukraine did not immediately comment on the accusation.

  • Russian ships able to perform underwater operations were present near where explosions later took place on the Nord Stream pipelines, according to a documentary series Putin’s Shadow War made by Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish broadcasters. Formal investigations remain ongoing in countries close to the blast site. Gordon Corera reports for BBC News.

  • A second train was derailed by an explosion yesterday in the Russian region of Bryansk, on the border with Ukraine, according to regional governor Aleksandr Bogomaz. The governor did not cast specific blame for the two train derailments. Nor did Ukraine claim the blasts. Neil MacFarquhar reports for the New York Times.

  • A fuel depot was on fire early today near a crucial bridge linking Russia’s mainland with Crimea, governor of the Krasnodar region Veniamin Kondratyev said. The fire erupted days after Moscow blamed Ukraine for an attack that set fire to an oil depot in Sevastopol. Reuters reports.

  • Several Russian cities have announced they will scale back this year’s Victory Day celebrations, citing security reasons and attacks from pro-Ukrainian forces for the changes. These changes could also indicate the Kremlin’s nervousness about celebrations turning into shows of dissent against its invasion of Ukraine. Laura Gozzi reports for BBC News.

  • Germany’s expulsion of Russian diplomats, exposed by Russia late last month, is a rare sign of a subdued but growing counterintelligence effort that Berlin is now belatedly undertaking, security analysts say. Russian intelligence operations on German soil have become increasingly bold over the years. Germany’s slow response contrasts with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts, who has long made Germany a top target for espionage. Erika Solomon reports for the New York Times.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he learned about the Pentagon leak through news coverage and claimed he “did not receive information from the White House or the Pentagon beforehand.” Isabelle Khurshudyan reports for the Washington Post.

Russia's APT28 targets Ukraine government with bogus Windows updates The Register Jeff Burt The Kremlin-backed threat group APT28 is flooding Ukrainian government agencies with email messages about bogus Windows updates in the hope of dropping malware that will exfiltrate system data. According to the Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine, the advanced persistent threat group – which also is known as Fancy Bear, Strontium, and Sofacy, among other names – sent emails throughout April with "Windows Update" in the subject line. The messages appeared to have been sent by system administrators of government agencies.

Tinder owner Match Group swipes left on Russia, pledging exit by June 30 Reuters Alexander Marrow Tinder owner Match Group has said it will quit Russia by June 30, citing the need to protect human rights, one of many Western firms to leave since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine last year. "We are committed to protecting human rights," Match said in an annual impact report published on Monday. "Our brands are taking steps to restrict access to their services in Russia and will complete their withdrawal from the Russian market by June 30, 2023."

Europe

Space rivals join up to bid for EU’s $6.6 billion satellite plan Bloomberg Thomas Seal Europe’s top satellite and aerospace companies have teamed up to bid for the European Union’s €6 billion ($6.6 billion) satellite project known as IRIS², aimed at beaming internet across the continent and giving the bloc its own fleet to keep up with constellations deployed by governments and businesses around the world. The consortium will be run by aerospace manufacturers Airbus SE and Thales Alenia Space SAS along with satellite operators Eutelsat Communications SA, SES SA, and Hispasat SA, the companies said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

UK

UK locks horns with WhatsApp over threat to break encryption POLITICO Annabelle Dickson, Mark Scott and Tom Bristow Britain’s tough new plan to police the internet has left politicians in a stand-off with WhatsApp and other popular encrypted messaging services. Deescalating that row will be easier said than done. The Online Safety Bill, the United Kingdom’s landmark effort to regulate social media giants, gives regulator Ofcom the power to require tech companies to identify child sex abuse material in private messages. But the proposals have prompted Will Cathcart, boss of the Meta-owned messaging app, whose encrypted service is widely-used in Westminster’s own corridors of power, to claim it would rather be blocked in the U.K. than compromise on privacy.

UK government to water down fraud proposals for tech groups Financial Times Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan and Jim Pickard UK ministers are poised to water down proposals to force tech companies to pay compensation to victims of online financial scams, after concerns at the Treasury and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology about their impact on the sector. The government is set to announce a new national fraud strategy as early as Wednesday. It is meant to provide a co-ordinated approach between the government, law enforcement and the private sector.

UK pension funds warned to check on clients’ data after Capita breach The Record by Recorded Future Alexander Martin Hundreds of pension funds in the United Kingdom have been told to check whether their clients’ data had been stolen as a result of the Capita hack in March. Capita, the country’s largest outsourcing company, holds contracts to administer the payment systems for pension funds used by more than 4 million individuals in Britain. The company confirmed two weeks ago that it was investigating the publication of data apparently stolen by a ransomware group, following the Black Basta gang publishing sensitive data referencing home addresses and passport images.

Middle East

  • Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza reportedly agreed to a ceasefire after a Palestinian hunger striker, Khader Adnan, died in an Israeli jail yesterday, leading to a flare-up in violence. More than 100 Palestinian rockets and mortars were fired into Israel, while Israeli warplanes struck sites said to be linked to Hamas, which governs Gaza. Khader Adnan was a senior figure in Islamic Jihad. Israeli authorities said he had refused medical care during his 87-day hunger strike, which he began after being detained in the occupied West Bank on terrorism charges. David Gritten reports for BBC News

  • Raisi Becomes First Iranian President to Visit Syria in Thirteen Years. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is on a two-day state visit to Damascus (AP), making him the first Iranian president to travel to Syria since before the country’s civil war broke out in 2011. Raisi’s trip follows a string of visits to Damascus by Arab leaders in recent weeks and comes amid Iran’s China-mediated rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, which backed Syria’s rebel forces in the war. Iran is a major military supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has helped him win back control of most of the country.

  • Syrian state media said Raisi’s visit will focus on boosting bilateral economic ties; Assad and Raisi are expected to sign several agreements to that end. Iran’s central bank chief and officials in the country’s oil and infrastructure sectors are traveling alongside Raisi (Al Jazeera).

  • Israel, Gaza Militants Agree to Cease-Fire After Hostilities. Efforts by Egyptian, Qatari, and UN officials resulted in a cease-fire (Haaretz, AP, Reuters) between Israel and armed groups in the Gaza Strip following a night of hostilities. Tensions had flared yesterday after a prominent Palestinian militant died while on hunger strike in an Israeli prison, prompting Palestinian groups to fire rockets at Israeli communities near Gaza. Israel then responded with air strikes of its own.

Facial recognition powers ‘automated apartheid’ in Israel, report says The New York Times Adam Satariano and Paul Mozur The Israeli government is using computer vision to monitor Palestinian travel across checkpoints, according to the report. Israel is increasingly relying on facial recognition in the occupied West Bank to track Palestinians and restrict their passage through key checkpoints, according to a new report, a sign of how artificial-intelligence-powered surveillance can be used against an ethnic group. Israel has long restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, but technological advances are giving the authorities powerful new tools. It is the latest example of the global spread of mass surveillance systems, which rely on A.I. to learn to identify the faces of people based on large stores of images.

Africa

  • Sudan’s warring military factions agreed to a new, longer seven-day ceasefire from tomorrow, yet air strikes and shooting in the Khartoum capital region undercut the latest supposed truce. South Sudan’s foreign ministry said yesterday that mediation championed by its president, Salva Kiir, had led both sides to agree to a weeklong truce from tomorrow and to name envoys for peace talks. Mohamed Noureldin reports for Reuters.

  • Warring Sudanese Factions Agree to Fresh Truce Attempt. South Sudan’s foreign ministry said Sudan’s warring military factions will begin a weeklong truce (NYT) tomorrow and name representatives for peace talks, though there was no immediate confirmation of the deal from either party.

  • Rwanda: Flooding triggered by heavy rains in northern and western Rwanda has killed at least 109 people (AFP), the country’s state-run broadcaster reported.

Big Tech

TikTok’s head of US trust and safety is leaving The Verge Alex Heath TikTok’s head of trust and safety for the US, Eric Han, is leaving the company on May 12th, according to two people familiar with the matter and an internal memo to employees I’ve seen. His departure comes as TikTok is still trying to clench a deal to avoid a ban by the US government. Han has been leading TikTok’s safety teams in the US for several years, and in December, he was named the head of trust and safety for TikTok US Data Security, a separate entity created to convince the government that the app shouldn’t be banned.

Analysis: Companies wary as Twitter checkmark policy fuels imposter accounts Reuters Hardik Vyas and Sheila Dang Twitter's attempt to implement a paid account verification service has attracted imposters spreading misinformation, which experts said could lead major brands to further pull back from the social media platform owned by billionaire Elon Musk. On April 20, Twitter moved to boost profits by removing the once-coveted blue check marks from accounts and charging $8 a month to users who wish to buy a Twitter Blue subscription to retain their verified status.

Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky emerges as latest challenger to Elon Musk’s Twitter Financial Times Hannah Murphy Over the past month, Bluesky — an independent project that was initially funded by Twitter when Dorsey was chief executive — has rapidly gained traction among journalists and some famous names, billing itself as a fresh alternative to the chaos of Musk’s Twitter. Dorsey sits on Bluesky’s board along with two others. The company has said(opens a new window) it is “owned by the team itself”, and Twitter no longer has a stake.

Elon Musk rolls out paywall for Twitter’s data Financial Times Hannah Murphy Elon Musk’s move to introduce a pricey paywall to access Twitter’s data is set to upend thousands of academic and developer projects, in his latest controversial attempt to generate new revenues to turn round the business. Twitter has laid out plans to this weekend push developers over to a new monthly pricing structure for its API, a tool for them to access the company’s data, having previously offered it for free or for minimal sums.

Google’s DeepMind-Brain merger: tech giant regroups for AI battle Financial Times Madhumita Murgia Google founder Larry Page convinced Demis Hassabis to sell his artificial intelligence company DeepMind with a promise. The London-based start-up would be shielded from pressure to make money in order to focus on a single goal: creating computer software that equals or surpasses human intelligence. Since the £400mn deal in 2014, Hassabis has fought to maintain Page’s pledge and according to three people with knowledge of the efforts, has gone further still.

Apple ships mini-patch under Rapid Security Response program iTnews Apple has shipped the first set of patches offered under the Rapid Security Response program it announced last year – but some users have reported the install failing on iPhones. The company explained in a blog post that Rapid Security Responses "are a new type of software release for iPhone, iPad, and Mac." "They deliver important security improvements between software updates — for example, improvements to the Safari web browser, the WebKit framework stack, or other critical system libraries," the company said. “They may also be used to mitigate some security issues more quickly, such as issues that might have been exploited or reported to exist ‘in the wild.’

Google promised to defund climate lies, but the ads keep coming The New York Times Nico Grant and Steven Lee Myers In October 2021, Google promised to stop placing ads alongside content that denied the existence and causes of climate change, so that purveyors of the false claims could no longer make money on its platforms, including YouTube. And yet if you recently clicked on a YouTube video titled “who is Leonardo DiCaprio,” you might have found a ramble of claims that climate change is a hoax and the world is cooling after a Paramount+ ad for the film “80 for Brady,” starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno. In a report released on Tuesday, researchers from the organizations accused YouTube of continuing to profit from videos that portrayed the changing climate as a hoax or exaggeration.

Artificial Intelligence

Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build MIT Technology Review Will Douglas Heaven Hinton is a pioneer of deep learning who helped develop some of the most important techniques at the heart of modern artificial intelligence, but after a decade at Google, he is stepping down to focus on new concerns he now has about AI. Stunned by the capabilities of new large language models like GPT-4, Hinton wants to raise public awareness of the serious risks that he now believes may accompany the technology he ushered in.

  • AI pioneer quits Google to warn humanity of the tech’s existential threat The Washington Post Victoria Bisset Google computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton, who has made significant contributions to the development of artificial intelligence, has left the technology giant to warn the world of the “existential risk” posed by AI systems to humans. The British-Canadian scientist, 75, wrote on Twitter that he quit “so that I could talk about the dangers of AI without considering how this impacts Google.”

IBM to pause hiring for jobs that artificial intelligence could do South China Morning Post International Business Machines Corp chief executive Arvind Krishna said the company expects to pause hiring for roles it thinks could be replaced with artificial intelligence in the coming years. Hiring in back-office functions – such as human resources – will be suspended or slowed, Krishna said in an interview. These non-customer-facing roles amount to roughly 26,000 workers, Krishna said. “I could easily see 30 per cent of that getting replaced by AI and automation over a five-year period. ”That would mean roughly 7,800 jobs lost.”

AI chatbots have been used to create dozens of news content farms Bloomberg Davey Alba The news-rating group NewsGuard has found dozens of news websites generated by AI chatbots proliferating online, according to a report published Monday, raising questions about how the technology may supercharge established fraud techniques.The 49 websites, which were independently reviewed by Bloomberg, run the gamut. Some are dressed up as breaking news sites with generic-sounding names like News Live 79 and Daily Business Post, while others share lifestyle tips, celebrity news or publish sponsored content. But none disclose they’re populated using AI chatbots such as OpenAI Inc.’s ChatGPT and potentially Alphabet Inc.’s Google Bard, which can generate detailed text based on simple user prompts. Many of the websites began publishing this year as the AI tools began to be widely used by the public.

Samsung bans staff’s AI use after spotting ChatGPT data leak Bloomberg Mark Gurman Samsung Electronics Co. is banning employee use of popular generative AI tools like ChatGPT after discovering staff uploaded sensitive code to the platform, dealing a setback to the spread of such technology in the workplace. The Suwon, South Korea-based company notified staff at one of its biggest divisions on Monday about the new policy via a memo reviewed by Bloomberg News. The company is concerned that data transmitted to such artificial intelligence platforms including Google Bard and Bing is stored on external servers, making it difficult to retrieve and delete, and could end up being disclosed to other users, according to the document.

Regulating AI will put companies and governments at loggerheads Financial Times Marietje Schaake Suddenly, everyone wants to regulate AI. Open letters have been written and legislative proposals discussed. Unfortunately, the mismatches between the characteristics of AI and the solutions offered betray a deep misunderstanding between the people developing and selling AI and those making policy and voting on new laws. What excites engineers worries regulators. The risks of AI systems lie not only in their specific applications, but also in the question of who has agency over them at all. At the moment, companies run the show and that is a danger to democracy.

Research

U.S. tech companies and their contributions in Ukraine Center for Security and Emerging Technology Christine H. Fox and Emelia Probasco U.S. tech companies have played a critical role in the international effort to support and defend Ukraine against Russia. To better understand and envision how these companies can help U.S. strategic interests, CSET convened a group of industry experts and former government leaders to discuss lessons learned from the ongoing war in Ukraine and what those lessons might mean for the future. The workshop’s discussion and this accompanying report expand on the themes explored in the October 2022 "Foreign Affairs" article "Big Tech Goes to War."


Photo: La Cina di Xi Jinping - Verso un nuovo ordine mondiale sinocentrico? (Italian)

Gabriele and Nicola Iuvinale

ASE 2023

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