15 June 2019

U.S.-India Ties: Long-Term Courtship, but No Marriage in Sight

by Hayat Alvi Paul J. Smith

New Delhi has interests that don't always align with Washington's priorities.

On June 1, 2019, the Department of Defense released its Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, which reinforced and expanded upon President Donald Trump’s signature “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” first articulated in 2017. The 2019 strategy report highlighted, among other things, the importance of U.S.-India relations and described them as being “underpinned by shared interests, democratic values, and strong people-to-people ties.”

This continues a post–Cold War trend in which the United States and India have sought to improve relations for a variety of reasons. The two countries signed their first formal defense accord in 1995, followed by additional defense framework agreements in 2005 and 2015. During the second Bush administration, the two countries deepened their relationship by focusing on issues of mutual concern such as counter-terrorism, nuclear cooperation and China’s rising influence. Additionally, in 2016, the Obama administration designated India as “major defense partner,” giving India a status commensurate with America’s closest allies.

More recently, the Trump administration orchestrated the two countries’ inaugural 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in 2018, which saw New Delhi and Washington sign the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), the second of three logistics agreements that will advance U.S.-India interoperability and exchange of information.

India To Launch First Simulated Space Warfare Exercise – Analysis

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Reports of a tabletop war game speak to India’s ongoing efforts to develop its space policy.

The Indian government appears to be getting ready to conduct a table-top war game called “IndSpaceEx” involving all stakeholders including the military and the scientific establishment. The reports of such a development, which come against the backdrop of other key developments pertaining to outer space including the demonstration of India’s anti-satellite (ASAT) capability and the establishment of the new tri-service Defence Space Agency (DSA), bear careful watching within the broader perspective of India’s space policy.

For India, space is a domain that has remained relatively peaceful for close to three decades, but is now changing because the nature of politics and competition in outer space is much more contested today. Terrestrial politics is casting a long and heavy shadow on outer space, and India could not have ignored these developments, of which China is just a part.

Along with the growing relevance of space to national security and conventional military operations, counter-space capabilities are also being developed in an effort to deny an adversary advantages by the use of space assets. The growth of counter-space capabilities including kinetic physical, non-kinetic physical, electronic, and cyber means has sparked a fresh competition in outer space.

India and Brexit: How New Delhi Can Position Itself to Maximize Benefit

By Rohan Seth

The United Kingdom’s planned exit from the European Union, Brexit, keeps getting messier by the month. It led Theresa May to resign, just like David Cameron before her. It may end up making Boris Johnson the U.K.’s next prime minister, or be the cause of him facing judicial consequences. Brexit also led to the creation of the Brexit party, which got the largest vote share in recent European elections. So we now have British representatives in the EU who don’t want to be there. As of now, it shows no signs of getting better for the U.K.

What does this mean for India and why does it matter? The short answer is that Brexit may end up being good for India’s relations with the U.K. and the EU. The long answer, however, is a bit more complex. To get there, let’s put Brexit into context for India.

India and the U.K. share strong trade relations. There is a sizable Indian diaspora in Britain, which means India receives a lot of remittances from the U.K. As per previous estimations, the U.K. sends approximately $4 billion to India through formal and informal channels. Indians are among the most common non-British nationalities in the U.K., with 832,000 residents. India sees the U.K. as a lucrative market in itself and a gateway to the European Union. Between 2000 and 2018, total foreign direct investment (FDI) that flowed into India from all channels from the U.K. is estimated at $50.57 billion. Of this, the U.K. directly invested $26.09 billion in India – increasing its investment by $847 million between 2017 and 2018 – representing 7 percent of all FDI coming into the country.

Meeting U.S. Counterterrorism Objectives in Afghanistan

By Francis X. Tailor

There may be no assignment on the face of the earth today as difficult as forging a durable peace agreement in Afghanistan. This is precisely what Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, has been tasked with accomplishing. As anybody who has been monitoring America’s 18-year military involvement in Afghanistan will tell you, ending a war that has persisted for a generation is border-line “mission impossible.”

Khalilzad, however, is absorbing the challenges in stride. While the Taliban’s refusal to declare a ceasefire during this year's Eid al-Fitr holiday was undoubtedly discouraging, the organization's leadership remains at the negotiating table and at least appears willing to cut ties to Al-Qaeda—the very terrorist grouping that brought the United States to Afghanistan in the first place. Intra-Afghan discussions may be barely moving (talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Kabul are non-existent), yet if public reporting is accurate, the Taliban have already agreed in draft to Washington's primary demand—ensuring Afghanistan does regress to its previous form as a terrorist training ground. The United States can't allow such a scenario to happen.

Can China Solve Pakistan’s Energy Crisis?

By Sheraz Aziz

CPEC has great promise, but Pakistan must be clear-eyed about the environmental and political costs.

Pakistan’s energy crisis is a key factor hampering its economic growth. The public bears the brunt of this chronic shortfall, which is caused by several factors. Nothing has worked so far to find a permanent fix to this crisis, so the Pakistani government and the public have welcomed China’s recent intervention.

Beijing is interested in making substantial investments in the country’s energy sector under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is a part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to connect Europe, Africa, and the rest with China to increase trade and growth.

When President Xi Jinping announced a $46 billion investment, many began to hope that this would end all of Pakistan’s economic problems. Some even equated it with the Marshall Plan. The Pakistani media and the ruling elite have suggested that that the CPEC agreement will end all of Pakistan’s economic woes.

Waigal, Afghanistan: ‘This War Will Never End Here’

By Franz J. Marty

In Afghanistan’s “Land of Light,” the Taliban-government war is as much personal blood feud as political conflict.

WAIGAL, NURISTAN, AFGHANISTAN – Nuristan means the “Land of Light.” But the poetically promising name is fallacious as the people in the center of Nuristan’s district of Waigal have not much, if any, hope left. Almost completely surrounded by Taliban, they have their weapons always ready – especially at night, as even in the “Land of Light” darkness falls and fighters from both sides try to exploit its cover. Government forces holding the line don’t believe that the war in their valley will ever end – even if current national and international efforts should result in a peace accord. And this is only one of many such examples across the country.

The ‘Land of Light’

Tucked away in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, Nuristan is arguably the most remote of the country’s 34 provinces. It’s so remote and difficult to access in fact that until the late 19th century Nuristan was known as Kafiristan – the “Land of the Infidels” – as its people had resisted outside control and still adhered to an ancient animist religion. This only changed in 1895, when the then-Afghan emir subdued Kafiristan, forcibly converted its inhabitants to Islam, and renamed it.

As Hong Kong stands up to China, US should do the right thing — this time

At least four times in recent decades, a U.S. president has been presented with opportunities and risks from a popular uprising against an oppressive foreign adversary that threatens American interests. Now President Trump, still addressing the consequences of the earlier unconsummated events, faces a new situation as the people of Hong Kong defy Beijing’s further erosion of their guaranteed rights of limited self-government.

Last week, we observed the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In 1989, thousands were killed or wounded when millions of Chinese demonstrated peacefully in Beijing and other Chinese cities for political reform of the ruling Communist Party and were met by the guns and tanks of the People’s Liberation Army.

President George H.W. Bush kept an unseemly low profile during the horrific events that shocked the world, but sent his national security adviser to assure China’s leader, Deng Xiaoping, that U.S.-China relations would not change. Henry Kissinger, an informal Bush adviser and paramount U.S.-China hand, said Deng had acted to keep order in the nation’s most important public space as any leader would.

The ‘Xi Doctrine’: Proclaiming and Rationalizing China’s Aggression

by Bradley A. Thayer Lianchao Han

The United States must respond to China’s belligerence with greater strength, adamantine determination, and more vigorous diplomatic and military measures.

Using the occasion of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore this month, Chinese Minister of National Defense and State Councilor Gen. Wei Fenghe, delivered a sharp message to the United States, which may be termed the “Xi Doctrine” on China’s use of force, after Chinese premier Xi Jinping. Wei declaring both China’s resolve to aggress to advance its interests and a rationalization for the use of force. Wei’s de facto threat of war should not be lost in his nuances, deliberate ambiguity, or in translation. His remarks were so bellicose that the world has noticed, as was certainly intended by the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Empirical evidence of China’s aggression is increasingly common, from its attempt to dominate the South China Sea, the neo-imperialist effort to gain control of states through the Belt and Road Initiative, to its technological imperialism to control 5G and artificial intelligence technologies. What is rather less frequent are statements from high-level Chinese officials proclaiming the country’s intent to be aggressive and offering an attempted legitimizing principle justifying that aggression.

The Risks of a ‘Total’ US-China Competition

By Robert Farley

Even China hawks need to make a careful appraisal of what sparks joy in the Sino-American relationship.

Last week, Columbia University history professor Stephen Wertheim published an op-ed in the New York Times warning against the dangers of a new Cold War with China. Wertheim worries that opinion in Washington on the state of the relationship with China has changed dramatically in the past few years, across the political spectrum; Democrats are sounding nearly as hawkish on China as President Trump. Wertheim argues the Trump administration’s xenophobic approach to China risks ratcheting up tension to the extent that cooperation with Beijing will become impossible.

It may be a touch premature to sound alarm bells regarding an emerging New Cold War mindset in Washington, but it’s also important to carefully set forth the stakes of competition between China and the United States. The South China Sea is important, but it’s not Germany. Despite the ongoing “decoupling” between China and the United States, the relationship between the two is far tighter, and vastly more important domestically, than the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1945. The social, political, and economic relationship that China and the United States have built since the 1990s has helped to bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and in so doing to transform the economies of both countries. Millions have traveled in both directions, and mutual cultural understanding has bloomed. “Civilizational” differences between China and the United States (or between the U.S. and Japan) have not prevented the two countries from developing one of the most productive economic relationships in world history.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Harmony or Discord?

By Jaloliddin Usmanov

The SCO is not a platform for harmony or discord per se, rather it is what the members make of it.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is increasingly the object of debate and commentary among key decision-makers and policymakers across the vast region it covers and beyond. Some analysts refer to the SCO as a novel non-Western platform for global governance or characterize it as a new paradigm of international relations.

In any case, the SCO is regarded as more than a mere conglomerate of regional countries with colonial pasts coupled with a number of leading powers. Although initially, the SCO seemed to be a low-profile group, with the chief concern resolving border issues between Russia, China and the Central Asian states, it has evolved into an arrangement that could influence the Eurasian space in many constructive ways. Over time, counterterrorism has also become a key area of multilateral cooperation within the SCO.

Defeating the Islamic State of Idlib

by Robert G. Rabil

The Trump administration has made clear that it wants to avoid getting involved in the Idlib’s crisis and appears reluctant to deal with the Salafi-jihadi threat there—and that puts Americans in danger.

President Donald Trump demanded in a June 2 tweet that Russia, Syria, and to a lesser extent, Iran, stop “bombing the hell out of Idlib Province in Syria, and indiscriminately killing many innocent civilians.” He added: “The World is watching this butchery. What is the purpose, what will it get you? STOP!” Idlib is the last bastion of the hardened Salafi-jihadi-led opposition to the Syrian regime. It is the same province that, in 2017, Brett McGurk, then the U.S. envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State, called “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.” The president is right in showing concern for the innocent Syrian casualties of the horrific Russian and Syrian bombing campaign. Still, the president has not yet addressed the hornet’s nest of terrorism following his declared victory over the Islamic State. Clearly, Washington and its allies are at a loss as to how to prevent a humanitarian tragedy should the Syrian regime, backed by Russia, fight its way into Idlib. The Trump administration should not be complacent in allowing Idlib to remain a safe haven for hardened terrorists, who have created there an Islamic state in all but name.

US Imposes New Iran-Related Sanctions On Iraq-Based Firm, Associates

The US has imposed Iran-related sanctions on an Iraq-based company and two people, according to a notice posted on the US Treasury Department website on Wednesday.

The Treasury said in a statement that it had imposed the sanctions on South Wealth Resources Company (SWRC) and two of its Iraqi associates, which the US accuses of trafficking hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to militia in Iraq backed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).

SWRC and the two associates have “covertly facilitated the IRGC-QF’s access to the Iraqi financial system to evade sanctions,” the statement said. 

The Treasury added that the scheme also served to enrich previously sanctioned Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, an Iraqi adviser to IRGC-QF Commander Qasem Soleimani, who has run weapons smuggling networks and participated in bombings of Western embassies and attempted assassinations in the region.

“Treasury is taking action to shut down Iranian weapons smuggling networks that have been used to arm regional proxies of the IRGC Qods Force in Iraq, while personally enriching regime insiders,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

Russians Are Getting Sick of Church


An extraordinary protest unfolded in Russia’s fourth-largest city, Yekaterinburg, in recent weeks. Large crowds of locals gathered to demonstrate against plans to construct a big new church in a park in the center of the city. And despite facing intimidation, arrests, and the disapproval of both regional and federal politicians, not to mention the huge authority of the Russian Orthodox Church, the protesters prevailed.

The local governor, Yevgeny Kuyvashev, agreed in late May for the construction site to be moved after an opinion poll showed that 74 percent of city residents were opposed to the plans. President Vladimir Putin had said he would approve the verdict of a referendum—though he evidently did not expect the resulting vote, which was heavily against the construction of the church.

It was just the latest sign that times have suddenly changed in Russia when it comes to matters of church and society. A recent opinion poll recorded that 79 percent of Russians think of themselves as Orthodox Christians. But the church does not command obedience. The Yekaterinburg protests were much angrier, the views of the protesters much more passionately held, than the other big recent social protest in Russia’s regions against a planned landfill site in the northern city of Arkhangelsk.

A Gulf Between Sudan's Military and Civilians Dims Hopes of Stability

Successful negotiations on a transitional process between the military council and the civilian opposition in Sudan are increasingly unlikely, as security forces stick to their plans and repress civilian opponents.

While the military council will face significant diplomatic backlash over its chosen strategy, its support from the Gulf states, Russia and China will likely allow it to weather the storm.

With little potential for compromise between the military and protesters demanding radical democratic reform, lasting instability in the form of demonstrations, repression and economic woes will likely shape the future of Sudan.

Not so long ago, Sudan's stakeholders looked set to agree on a common path to the future. In the wake of the ouster of longtime President Omar al Bashir at the beginning of April, the Transitional Military Council and the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces, an alliance of civilian opposition parties, agreed to form a legislative body, a Cabinet and a sovereign council to wield executive power until elections. But after the pair fell out over the composition of the latter body, security forces conducted a bloody raid on the main protest site in Khartoum on June 3, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 demonstrators.

NATO’s Ukraine Challenge

By Steven Pifer

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Brussels on June 4 and 5, where he met with the leadership of the European Union and NATO. He reaffirmed Kyiv’s goal of integrating into both institutions—goals enshrined earlier this year as strategic objectives in Ukraine’s constitution.

At their April meeting to mark NATO’s 70th anniversary, NATO foreign ministers noted their commitment to the alliance’s “open door” policy for countries that aspire to membership. Russian aggression over the past five years has only solidified domestic support within Ukraine for membership, though the path to achieving that objective faces serious obstacles.

Growing Support for NATO in Ukraine

When NATO leaders in July 1997 invited Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to join the alliance, they also stated the “open door” policy. That reaffirmed Article 10 of the Washington Treaty that established NATO, which reads in part: “The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty.”

‘Icebreaker Diplomacy’: Russia’s New-Old Strategy to Dominate the Arctic

By: Sergey Sukhankin

Russia’s Baltic Shipyard (St. Petersburg) held a grand ceremony, on May 25, to celebrate the launching of the nuclear-powered Project 22220 (LK-60Ya) icebreaker Ural (Geoenergetika.ru, May 27, 2019). Following the festivities, Russian Central Bank head Elvira Nabiullina stated that the event would be further commemorated by issuing a special coin hailing the new Project 22220 icebreakers (Vpk-news.ru, May 26). The development of this and other classes of icebreakers is seen by Moscow as a crucial step toward ensuring that the Northeast Passage (NEP) can be turned into a source of wealth and sustainable economic growth for Russia as well as preserving Russia’s status as a main stakeholder in the Arctic. As President Vladimir Putin noted earlier this spring, Russia must increase the transportation capacity of the NEP—the shortest maritime route through the Arctic region (14,500 kilometers from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, compared to the Suez Canal route of 23,000 kilometers)—to 80 million tons of cargo per year by 2024, and icebreakers should become the main driver. For now, the Russian icebreaker fleet in the NEP area consists of 8 vessels, which is clearly not enough to fulfill this objective in full; therefore, by 2035, the overall number should be increased to 13 (Vpk-news.ru, April 23, 2019). Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared, on November 28, that the “creation of new icebreakers is the main precondition for Russia to keep up with plans pertaining to the development of the NEP” (Arctic.ru, November 28, 2018).

One Thing Russia and the West Agree On

Leonid Bershidsky

Europe has its own Venezuela now: Its poorest or second poorest nation, depending on how you count, has two governments. The main difference: Russia and the West prefer the same one, because the alternative is worse – blatant state capture by an oligarch who is only in this for himself.

In February, Moldova, a country of 3.5 million squeezed between Ukraine and Romania, held an inconclusive parliamentary election. Three parties – the pro-Russian Socialist Party, the pro-European Union ACUM and the Democratic Party, led by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc – each got more than 20 percent of the vote. Coalition talks promised to be difficult: Neither of the other two political forces wanted to work with Plahotniuc. While the coalition negotiations dragged on, the Democratic Party’s Pavel Filip continued running the government, just as he had before the election.

On June 8, former World Bank executive Maia Sandu, a co-leader of ACUM, announced the formation of a coalition with the Socialists. But Moldova’s Constitutional Court, packed with Plahotniuc loyalists, immediately ruled that Sandu’s coalition was unconstitutional because it was formed more than 90 days after the election. On June 9, it also deposed Moldova’s president, Socialist Igor Dodon, and handed over his powers to Filip, who promptly called a new election for September.

The Cruel Truth about Population Control

by Chelsea Follett

No matter how it may be rationalized, there is never any moral or practical justification for coerced sterilization.

Canada’s government has issued a report concluding that the country’s mistreatment of indigenous women amounts to genocide, citing, among other travesties, nonconsensual sterilizations. In North America, various prejudices motivate coercive population control policies; in Asia, where most forced sterilizations take place today, unfounded overpopulation alarmism acts as the primary motivation. However it may be rationalized, there is never any moral or practical justification for coerced sterilization.

In late 2018, sixty indigenous Canadian women alleged that they had suffered forced sterilizations and filed a class-action lawsuit against the Saskatchewan province health system. New allegations have continued to come forth in 2019, and one recent account claims an involuntary sterilization took place as recently as last December.

The United States has its own sinister history of forced sterilizations. Roughly seventy thousand individuals were forcibly sterilized in the twentieth century under “eugenic” legislation in the United States. Eugenics was the pseudoscience of trying to improve the population by preventing people thought to have inferior genes from having children. Marginalized groups such as Native Americans were particularly vulnerable. In the 1960s and 1970s, one out of four U.S. Native American women underwent sterilization, with that figure rising as high as 50 percent between 1970 and 1976.

Experts: Spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets


LONDON (AP) — Katie Jones sure seemed plugged into Washington’s political scene. The 30-something redhead boasted a job at a top think tank and a who’s-who network of pundits and experts, from the centrist Brookings Institution to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. She was connected to a deputy assistant secretary of state, a senior aide to a senator and the economist Paul Winfree, who is being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve.

But Katie Jones doesn’t exist, The Associated Press has determined. Instead, the persona was part of a vast army of phantom profiles lurking on the professional networking site LinkedIn. And several experts contacted by the AP said Jones’ profile picture appeared to have been created by a computer program.

“I’m convinced that it’s a fake face,” said Mario Klingemann, a German artist who has been experimenting for years with artificially generated portraits and says he has reviewed tens of thousands of such images. “It has all the hallmarks.”

Cyber Gaslighting: PsyOps in the Home

By Irving Lachnow

Home-based internet devices are becoming an increasingly integral part of our daily lives. By 2021, more than half of the houses in the country will be smart homes—homes equipped with electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by phone or computer. Many of us are buying internet-enabled personal assistants, thermostats, door locks, dimmers and kitchen appliances. These devices bring us numerous benefits, most notably the ability to save time by remotely accessing our homes and controlling multiple systems through easy-to-use interfaces. These benefits are real and should not be discounted. At the same time, there is a growing awareness that, like all technologies, smart home devices also introduce risks. Most of the attention to date has focused on risks to privacy from personal assistants like Alexa, which can overhear conversations even when one is not speaking to the device. However, last year the New York Times highlighted a more serious risk that has received scant attention: the potential use of smart home devices by one person to monitor and harass another person.

Entering the Third Decade of Cyber Threats: Toward Greater Clarity in Cyberspace

By Dan Efrony

Over the course of just a few decades, the world has entered into a digital age in which powerful evolving cyber capabilities provide access to everyone connected online from any place on the planet. Those capabilities could be harnessed for the benefit of humanity; they might also be abused, leading to enormous harms and posing serious risks to the safety and stability of the entire world.

A strategy of international cooperation is crucial to mitigate the threats of abuse of cyberspace, primarily by clarifying the “red lines” in the field of cybersecurity and determining how to verify and enforce states’ compliance with their legal obligations in the field. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (the P5) should have a decisive role in meeting this challenge. Yet while the P5 have had some success when mitigating the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction, the group is unlikely to be able to duplicate this pattern of action in cyberspace considering the rising tensions among the P5 and the geopolitical divisions in cyberspace. These divisions manifested in the 2017 failure of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Information Security (UN-GGE) to produce a consensus report after two decadesand five sessions of governmental groups of experts. Nevertheless, given the significance and seriousness of the risks that cyber operations pose to the safety and stability of states, giving up on collective action altogether is also unacceptable. 

Nuclear Weapons Vulnerable To Cyber Threats – OpEd

By Yevgeny Pedanov

According to a new report from the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), Cyber Nuclear Weapons Study Group, US nuclear weapons can’t be effectively protected against cyberattacks with technical means alone. 

“Any system containing a digital component, including nuclear weapons, is vulnerable to cyber threats,” Page Stoutland, NTI’s vice president for scientific and technical affairs, said. 

In a report about cyber threats to nuclear weapons security, just presented in Moscow and titled “Nuclear Weapons in a New Cyber Era,” NTI analysts warn that with the development and spread of digital technology, attacks in the information space are getting increasingly dangerous, making even the US defense systems vulnerable to cyberattacks. According to the report, which is based on the results of a 2013 survey conducted by the US Defense Department, the military command may face false warnings about an attack or lose confidence in their ability to control US forces and assets.

Why We Need a People-first AI Strategy

With more access to data and growing computing power, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly powerful. But for it to be effective and meaningful, we must embrace people-first artificial intelligence strategies, according to Soumitra Dutta, professor of operations, technology, and information management at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. “There has to be a human agency-first kind of principle that lets people feel empowered about how to make decisions and how to use AI systems to support their decision-making,” notes Dutta. Knowledge@Wharton interviewed him at a recent conference on artificial intelligence and machine learning in the financial industry, organized in New York City by the SWIFT Institute in collaboration with Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business.

In this conversation, Dutta discusses some myths around AI, what it means to have a people-first artificial intelligence strategy, why it is important, and how we can overcome the challenges in realizing this vision.

Regulating Big Tech: Is a Day of Reckoning Coming?

Big technology companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple are on the cusp of a new era of regulatory oversight in the U.S., after years of being penalized in Europe for anticompetitive practices. The clamor from U.S. regulators has gotten louder recently, with calls for investigations into Big Tech’s antitrust activities, as well as the implications of their data gathering on privacy and the democratic process.

The Justice Department is said to be planning an antitrust investigationinto Google. Recently, the House Judiciary Committee launched its own antitrust probe. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission announced a probe into Facebook’s privacy practices. While tech companies long have been Republican targets, they are now in the line of fire from Democrats as well. Notably, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, who is running for president in 2020, has called for the break up of Big Tech. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently tweeted that “unwarranted, concentrated economic power in the hands of a few is dangerous to democracy — especially when digital platforms control content. The era of self-regulation is over.”

The calls for stepped up regulations on Big Tech come at a time of increasing clout for their platforms, whose oversight doesn’t fall neatly under existing U.S. laws. Their new business models also necessitate a reassessment of antitrust law, said Wharton and other experts.

Tinder and the Russian Intelligence Services: It’s a Match!

By Amy Mackinnon

The announcement this week that Russian authorities had asked the dating app Tinder to hand over photos and messages exchanged by Russian users is just the latest step in a sweeping clampdown on free speech in the country by President Vladimir Putin—one that has taken a turn for the absurd lately.

Last year, authorities cancelled the shows of dozens of Russian rappers and hip-hop artists to supposedly protect youths from immoral content. In April, a man was fined $470 after calling Putin “an unbelievable fuckwit,” in violation of a new law against insulting the authorities. And last week the Kostroma regional office of Roskomnadzor—a government body that oversees the media and internet—coached local journalists on how to cover sensitive topics such as drugs, suicide, and insults to the authorities, according to the news site Mediazona. Since detailed reporting on suicide methods is banned in Russia, journalists were handed a cheat sheet on how to stay on the right side of the law. If a man throws himself in front of a train, the journalists were told to report that the man was “accidentally hit by a train.”

Tinder isn’t the first Western tech company to face scrutiny from Roskomnadzor, which has taken on an increasingly powerful censorship role in recent years. In 2016, the networking site LinkedIn was blocked in Russia for refusing to store the data of Russian users in the country. In a statement issued at the time and reported by TechCrunch, LinkedIn it believed it had complied with all applicable Russian laws, but the company had been unable to reach an understanding with Roskomnadzor to have the ban lifted.