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TECHNOLOGY

Latest Technology Posts

 

Ransomware on the Uptick: A Clear and Present Danger

Brief #45—Technology
By Charles A Rubin
The Colonial Pipeline Company, which describes itself as “the largest refined products pipeline in the United States” transporting gas and jet fuel through a pipeline system spanning 5,500 miles between Texas and New Jersey reported on Friday May 7 that it was the victim of a ransomware cybersecurity attack. The company assured the public that the attack had only affected its information technology systems and not its operation capacity but, as a precaution, it was proactively taking certain systems offline to contain the threat.  The action temporarily halted all pipeline operations effectively cutting supplies to much of the Eastern seaboard.

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New Top Dogs, Same Old Tricks: Uncovering the Power of Big Tech, Part 1 Washington’s Biggest Influencers

Brief #44—Technology
By Scout Burchill
Move over Big Oil and Big Tobacco. According to a new report by Public Citizen, Big Tech companies now run the largest lobbying operations in Washington. For the first time ever, Facebook and Amazon topped the 2020 list of individual corporate lobbying spenders. Facebook spent close to $20 million and Amazon was not far behind spending close to $19 million, about 30% more than Comcast Corporation, the third highest spender. Since 2018, Amazon and Facebook have increased their spending by 30% and 56%, respectively.

These sums only represent reported federal lobbying dollars. Additional spending to gain influence through campaign contributions, Super Pacs, advertising campaigns, research funding, non-profits, associations, federations or trade groups, as well as state, local and international political spending are not included. Taking reported campaign contributions into account, Amazon and Facebook spent a combined $124 million in lobbying and campaign contributions during the 2020 election cycle alone.

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New Top Dogs, Same Old Tricks: Uncovering the Power of Big Tech, Part 2

Brief #45—Technology
By Scout Burchill 
What exactly does progressivism mean nowadays? This question is worth thinking about as a consortium of tech companies have recently announced the creation of a business association called the Chamber of Progress. Positioning itself as a center-left progressive organization, it is funded by tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, Doordash, Google, Grubhub, Instacart, Twitter, Uber, Zillow and a few others. Their website describes the partnership as “a new tech industry coalition devoted to a progressive society, economy, workforce, and consumer climate.”

Beyond advocating for progressive causes, the organization aims to steer the conversation around tech regulation and Section 230, of which they oppose any reform or repeal. The Chamber’s first official policy engagement is to support the passage of two recent voting rights legislation bills (the “For the People Act” and the “John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act”) and to condemn voter suppression proposals that are currently pending in 43 states.

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Is Broadband Internet Access for All Possible? Ask the Biden Administration

Brief #43—Technology
By Charles A Rubin
The Biden administration infrastructure bill will prioritize broadband expansion as a top goal. The plan earmarks $100 billion to bring affordable internet to all Americans by 2029. The plan’s goals are to reach 100% high-speed broadband coverage across the US by prioritizing broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and cooperatives. The emphasis of this plan is to not make this endeavor the province of big tech for which the Biden administration has a healthy mistrust. The scope is on a scale as such projects as rural electrification during the administration of FDR. Is it enough?

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The Google Files: How Washington’s Past Failures Paved the Way for Big Tech Dominance

Brief #42—Technology
By Scout Burchill
The loaded but unanswerable question “What if?” popped into the minds of many who follow the tech world last week when Politico published an article exposing 312 pages of confidential internal memos from an Obama-era government investigation into Google. These never-before-seen documents from 2012 raise serious questions about the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) decision not to sue Google over antitrust charges for illegally using its monopoly power to favor its own products and services over those of its competitors.

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The Five Things that Should Be On The Biden Tech Agenda

Brief #41—Technology
By Charles A. Rubin
As the Biden Administration fills out its policy teams, we at US Renew News would like to suggest an urgent technology agenda for consideration. The geometric improvements in computer processor speeds and the dramatic breakthroughs in new technologies have made the need for leadership and open discussion imperative. We call on the Biden Administration to get out in front of these issues to make these technologies available to all Americans and ensure that these technologies work in the service of all Americans.

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Biden Administration Gives the Green Light to Unionization Efforts in Amazon Warehouses

Brief #40—Technology
By Scout Burchill
By the end of the month, history may well be made in Bessemer, Alabama as workers at an Amazon warehouse there are currently voting on whether or not to unionize. If successful, it will be the first Amazon warehouse in the United States to be represented by a union and will surely send shockwaves throughout the nation, encouraging other Amazon warehouses to stand firm against the company’s notorious union busting tactics and begin the fight for their own collective bargaining rights.

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Facebook’s Supreme Court: A New Model For Online Governance?

Brief #39—Technology
By Scout Burchill
A new experiment in online moderation governance has been taking shape at Facebook over the past two years and its most consequential test is fast approaching. By the end of April Facebook’s Supreme Court, officially called the Oversight Board, will declare a ruling on the company’s permanent ban of Donald Trump from the platform. Facebook’s Oversight Board was first conceived of in 2018 as an independent quasi-legal governing body that would advise Facebook on its content moderation policies and litigate appeals of users over content moderation enforcements. In the years since, Facebook has invested considerably in developing the operational procedures, powers and composition of the Board. The Board abides by an official public charter and currently consists of 20 members from various areas of expertise as well as diverse backgrounds. By design, the Oversight Board only has the authority to review user appeals that involve ‘take-downs’ of content and can rule to either uphold or overrule them. The Board is indirectly funded by Facebook through a trust to the tune of around $130 million.

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Killer Robots are a Reality, Where Does the Biden Administration Stand?

Brief #40—Technology
By Charles A Rubin
Fully autonomous weapons, the stuff of dystopian sci-fi novels, are now approaching reality. The US, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia, and the UK are developing weapons systems with significant autonomy in their critical functions of selecting and attacking targets. If left unchecked the world could enter a destabilizing robotic arms race. These weapons include autonomous submarines, precision bombs and autonomous machine guns similar to the one that Iranians authorities claimed to have killed scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in late November. Unlike drone weapons, which have a human albeit remote handler, Fully Autonomous Weapons Systems (FAWS) decide algorithmically who lives and who dies without further human intervention. FAWS systems cross a moral threshold that lack the inherently human characteristics such as compassion that are necessary to make complex ethical decisions. With a new administration the United States must take a leadership role in banning these weapons worldwide.

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