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Mueller Indictment Puts Spotlight On Social Media As Tool Of Russian Disinformation Efforts
While there may be some debate as to whether the 13 individuals and 3 organizations named in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Fri 2/16/18 indictment will ever be brought to trial, it is nevertheless incontrovertible that the 37-page document spelled out in exacting detail the essential facilitating role that U.S. social media companies – Alphabet (GOOGL), Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) – played in allowing a Russian government-sponsored entity, the Internet Research Agency, to establish and operate thousands of fake accounts from which to engage in what the Russian government terms, “active measures”, otherwise known as propaganda. The indictment indicates the Internet Research Agency began its planning efforts for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election in 2014, shortly after the overthrow of the Ukrainian government wherein Russia lost a valuable client in President Victor Yanukovych, and as indicated elsewhere these efforts continue to the present following the recent Parkland, FL school mass-shooting. State-sponsored propaganda is nothing new as a means to prosecute conflict by non-violent means. However, the extent to which U.S. social media companies have disclaimed any legal, moral or social responsibility in asserting they have no obligation to police their platforms and user base for fraudulent content or fake users makes them at a minimum tools to Russian disinformation and as such complicit in undermining the liberal democratic system that has nurtured them. Social media, it is quite clear, acts a force multiplier for Russian active measure campaigns, putting propaganda on steroids.
With Individual Identities Increasingly Subject To Misappropriation, New Cybersecurity Paradigm Needed
As one of the measures necessary to combat disinformation campaigns, U.S. social media companies should be required to know their customers (“KYC”) in the same way that financial institutions do in their efforts to combat money laundering (“AML”). Requiring verifiable identification from users to set up an account would allow U.S. social media companies to not only be certain as to who is on their network, but also facilitate content policing when & if questionable content were to originate from a specific account. This a matter of not only public interest, but also commercial interest as advertisers have complained of digital advertising fraud, a problem that is estimated to be at $16bn annually and growing. However, reliance on verifiable identification raises the need for personal information to be secure. In this regard, we are daily confronted with the failings of the existing cybersecurity paradigm to secure vital personal information, something the 2017 Equifax hacking made abundantly clear. With growing conviction, one may reasonably state that the existing cybersecurity paradigm is broken and profits only the IT vendors who argue that fixes can be found. The expected advent of quantum computing will only lead to a further unravelling of the existing cybersecurity paradigm. To this end, it is important to consider that in order to secure personal information and protect our daily communications, policy makers need to consider the desirability of moving towards a quantum encryption cybersecurity paradigm. With this shift, the security of personal identities and related information will be materially enhanced, a state that will serve to preserve the integrity of both political systems, such as liberal democracy, and commerce alike. In this regard, we would draw attention to efforts presently underway by Quantum1Net, a start-up company that will launch quantum encryption services in 2018. A better cybersecurity paradigm is rising, one based on quantum computing principles, and our society needs to move towards it.