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The Brexit vortex has seen a once-proud country tear itself apart pitting nation against nation, region against region and class against class Most Members of Parliament, including Theresa May, backed the Remain campaign in 2016. Why did they not stick to their guns? On the surface, according to the government of soon-not-to-be Prime Minister Theresa May, the United Kingdom has everything going for it - good employment figures (inside the European Union), a stable economy (inside the European Union), good Universities, a strong technological sector, an inventive workforce, competence, reliability. A collection of three countries (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland) a principate (Wales), and three Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey), brimming with good music, a healthy cultural scene, great ideas, a large internal population (66.5 million). Peoples with an admirable focus on the community and voluntary work, nations of animal lovers which gave the world cricket, fish and chips, James Bond and the British Gentleman.

The future may be private, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared on Tuesday, but experts are divided on whether the social media giant’s new redesign will help the company move beyond the security and misinformation issues that have plagued it in recent years.

The redesign was “a masterstroke by Facebook,” BizMetrics chief technology officer Dennis Yu said, because “they a) addressed much of the privacy concerns that have been nailing them and b) they’re also able to grow their business.”

But Jen King, director of consumer privacy at The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University, said she remains “fairly skeptical” because the site’s facelift fails to tackle the “fundamental question of who can access your profile data.”

Also Read: Why Facebook's Stories Feature Is Critical to Company's Long-Term Success

This was the issue that rocked Facebook during the spring of 2018, when the company admitted political data firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal information of 87 million users. Several other embarrassing privacy concerns were unearthed in the months to follow; Facebook said in December it had given major tech platforms like Spotify and Netflix access to millions of private user messages, confirming key details from an illuminating report from The New York Times.

“Most of the problems we’ve seen on the privacy front were not so much from users invading other users’ privacy,” King said. “It was about the company and the third-party relationships it’s been enabling.”

Still, many see a positive in Facebook shifting its emphasis from its News Feed to groups since that should help address a major headache: fake news. “This is the most difficult problem on the internet, which is being able to spot and moderate fake news,” Yu said. “No one has solved this, and I don’t think Facebook will be able to solve this.”

But now Facebook users are being encouraged to discuss topics within dedicated groups rather than having bogus articles circulate on their News Feed. The company will even begin to recommend groups for users to join based on subjects in which they’ve shown an interest. The shift should add another level of protection, quarantining users inside communities and letting them decide if they’re comfortable with what is and isn’t being shared. And, conveniently for Facebook, it allows the company to take less of an active role in policing content.

Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg Says Facebook Could Pay for 'High-Quality News' - Should It?

“One of the underlying aspects of this is the content moderation problem is huge. However many people they’ve hired, it’ll never be enough,” King said.

After initially shrugging off how Russian trolls leveraged Facebook to spread misinformation before and after the 2016 U.S. election, Facebook has spent the last two years hiring thousands of moderators and developing internal tools to combat fake news. The company has since thumped its chest on several occasions in the last year after removing Russian and Iranian misinformation efforts. Still, this has become a game of whack-a-mole for Facebook.

“They need orders of magnitude more if they’re going to be much more proactive and timely in trying to assess content,” King continued. “It’s not just a problem saying ‘Oh, we’ll throw it all in front of the AI and let it solve this.’ AI can’t solve this problem. It may be able to help escalate things for humans to check, but ultimately it’s a huge mess.”

Also Read: Fox News, Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire Dominate Facebook's Most Popular Stories of 2019

Then there’s the matter of Facebook’s inconsistent track record in addressing privacy concerns. While Zuckerberg announced end-to-end encryption across all messaging platforms and other new privacy protections, many see the shift as a cynical, preemptive strike against government regulation.

“There are looming threats that are existential to (Facebook), just as in the same way there were for Microsoft,” Alexander Howard, a D.C.-based digital governance expert, said. “Everything Facebook is doing as a company should be interpreted in the context of its own survival and self-interest.”

Currently, Facebook is staring at a potential $5 billion in fines from the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy issues. It also faces stricter rules recently enacted by the European Union. American politicians, so far, have shown a reluctance towards hammering Facebook, but that may be changing, too. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to breakup tech giants could impact Facebook — which also owns Facebook and WhatsApp — in the same way antitrust regulations hit Microsoft in the late ’90s.

Facebook’s renewed emphasis on user privacy is, in-part, an effort to “appease” government officials before they bring the pain, Yu said. Regulate yourself so the government doesn’t do it for you. Facebook likely sees this as just as big of a threat to its bottom line as a user exodus; indeed, even with a string of ugly headlines in the last year, Facebook continued to add users at a healthy clip, hitting 2.38 billion monthly users during the first quarter of 2019.

Also Read: Is Facebook Stuck in a No-Win Position When It Comes to Moderating Content?

“Facebook appears to be preparing for a future where its vast ability to mine user data is reined in by greater data protection laws, and platforms lose their safe harbor for the content they feature,” tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar said. “Right now there is a drum beat that much of the business model of Facebook crosses ethical boundaries, but the law has not caught up. Eventually it will, and tech companies know this.”

And beyond the threat of government fines and regulation, Facebook has given its critics reason to question its newfound privacy-first mantra. Most glaringly, the company has failed to release its “Clear History” feature, allowing users to delete information the company collects from their visits to other websites and apps, a year after announcing it.

“If the icy relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev was noted for Reagan’s famous ‘Trust but verify’ quip, users’ frosty relationship with Facebook has evolved into a ‘Verify before trusting’ mentality,” Polgar said.

Howard echoed his sentiment. “The most important rule with this company, as it is with most others, is to listen to what they have to say and judge how likely it is to be accurate based on their past statements,” he said. “And then watch really closely what they do.”

Also Read: Google and Facebook's Complete and Total Digital Ad Domination Explained in 1 Chart

The shift toward groups could also be critical for Facebook’s bottom line, Yu said, noting that Facebook now has 2.38 billion monthly users worldwide and could simply be running out of new ones to add. The company is already scrambling to bring high-speed internet to every corner of the world, including Africa and India. “The only way to grow is to get deeper in those relationships,” Yu said.

By fostering group conversations, while safeguarding those messages, Facebook aims to give its users a reason to spend more time on the platform. That, in turn, will allow Facebook to hit its users with more ads and keep the ad revenue rolling in.

“I’m cynical about the whole thing. That said, I do believe most of what they’re doing is legitimately good,” Yu said. “But I believe it’s because they’re being forced. It’s like the kid saying ‘Sorry, I hit my brother.’ No, you’re sorry because you got caught and are being forced to apologize.”

But at least the little brother might not have a sore arm tonight.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Facebook Gets a Facelift, Launches Redesigned App and Website

Why Facebook's Stories Feature Is Critical to Company's Long-Term Success

Facebook Expects Potential $5 Billion in FTC Fines, Stock Still Soars 5 Percent on Q1 User Growth

www.thewrap.com | 5/2/19
The chancellor of the Exchequer promised more money for health, education and even fixing potholes. But worry remains about the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.
www.nytimes.com | 10/30/18

This blog by Ira Magaziner, often called the "the father of ICANN," is part of a series of posts CircleID will be hosting from the ICANN community to commemorate ICANN's 20th anniversary. CircleID collaborated with ICANN to spread the word and to encourage participation. We invite you to submit your essays to us in consideration for posting. (You can watch the video interview of Magaziner done for ICANN’s History Project here.)

* * *

My story begins in ancient times when dinosaurs ruled the earth. It was a time when you could download a movie onto your desktop computer through your 56k dial-up connection if you had a few days. It was a time when more people were on the Minitel in France than on the Internet globally and when the Republic of Korea could fit all of its internet users into one small hotel room. I know because I met them all in that room.

In early 1995, then United States President Bill Clinton asked me, as his senior advisor for policy development, to help recommend what steps he could take if re-elected in 1996 to accelerate the long-term growth of the US economy. I suggested that we set a policy environment in the U.S. and globally that could accelerate the growth of the newly developed Internet, we could help fuel a global economic transformation.

I realized that the Internet had great potential, but that its future was very precarious, balanced on a knife’s edge between two extremes that could delay it or even destroy it. On the one side, if the Internet was too anarchic with no publicly accepted guidelines, it could engender constant lawsuits, scaring away investors and people who wanted to help build it. On the other side, if typical forces of bureaucracy took over with a mass of government regulations and slow intergovernmental governing bodies, the creativity and growth of the internet would be stifled.

We formed an inter-departmental task force and over the next few years: passed legislation and negotiated international treaties with other countries that kept Internet commerce free of tariffs and taxation; recognized the legality of digital signatures and contracts; protected Internet intellectual property; allowed the market to set standards rather than regulators; kept Internet telephony and transmission in general free from burdensome regulation; and empowered consumers to use the Internet affordably, among other measures. We aimed to establish the Internet as a global medium of communication and commerce that could allow any individual to participate.

As we did all of this, there was one problem that concerned us deeply: how could the technical coordination of the Internet succeed and scale in the face of the complex political and legal challenges that were already beginning to undermine the legitimacy of the Internet as it then existed?

At that time, IANA was housed in a small office at the University of Southern California (USC) and run by Jon Postel under a contract the University had with the U.S. Department of Defense/Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

From a small office filled with large stacks of paper and books on the floor, on tables, and hanging off of shelves on the walls, it was Jon who decided what the top-level prefixes were for each country, and who in each country should be responsible for administering the Internet.

The A-root server was run by a company called Network Solutions in Virginia under a contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce. It had a virtual monopoly to sell domain names. It worked with Jon to synch up numbers with names.

But, Jon and the leadership of Network Solutions did not get along. There were constant disputes. They were so frustrated with each other that on more than one occasion I found myself trying to referee disputes between them at the request of the Department of Commerce and DARPA who, as administrators of the contracts, were often caught in the middle.

Internet infrastructure was also insecure. I went on a tour to visit some of the servers that ran the Internet. Some were in university basements where I literally could have walked in and pulled the plugs on the servers. There was no security.

The tenuous nature of these arrangements led to significant concerns which came to a head one fateful week in early January 1996. During this week, the following events occurred:

  • The head of DARPA called me saying that it would no longer oversee the contract for IANA when it expired because there was too much controversy.
  • The President of USC called saying that they could not take the lawsuits being directed against them and wanted out of their contract.
  • Our legal counsel visited and described more than fifty lawsuits around the world challenging the validity of the Internet technical governance that could tear the Internet apart.
  • The International Telecommunication Union approached me demanding to take over the Internet after a decade of opposing the adoption of the Internet protocols.
  • A delegation of U.S. Congressmen and Senators visited and insisted that the U.S. Government had created the Internet and should never give up control of it.
  • Several delegations of representatives from over 100 leading IT and media companies, and 10 trade associations visited saying that Internet technical coordination and security had to be brought into a more predictable global environment before they would invest any further in it.
  • A European Union delegation spent two hours telling me that they would pursue their own regulation of the Internet routing system for Europe.
  • Representatives from the Internet Society told me that the Internet Society governed the Internet and they would resist any attempts by others to take control.
  • The US government security task force on the internet delivered a report saying that the internet was in danger of fracturing from the lawsuits and lack of agreed upon coordination mechanisms.

It was quite a week. We clearly had to do something.

I went home that Sunday, and while watching my favorite U.S. football team lose terribly on the television, I drafted the first concept memo of what an organization could look like that could successfully solve the current and potential challenges.

The idea of setting up a global, private, non-profit, apolitical institution, staffed by technical experts, that would be a grassroots organization accountable to Internet users and constituencies, while also being recognized by governments, was unprecedented and risky. When I discussed it with my interdepartmental taskforce, we knew it would be difficult and somewhat messy to implement, but we felt it offered the best chance to allow the Internet to grow and flourish.

The organization would have a government advisory group that could ensure the views of the collective governments were at the forefront, but that the governments would not control it. The organization would provide a strong focal point recognized by governments to combat any lawsuits. It would be flexible enough to evolve as the Internet evolved. It would generate its own independent funding by a small fee on each domain name registration, but it should never get too big. It would be stakeholder-based, and its legitimacy would have to be renewed regularly by its ability to persuade the various Internet constituency groups that it remained the best solution.

After two years of consultation, vigorous debate and many helpful suggestions and excellent modifications, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was born in 1998.

Grassroots democracy is by its nature contentious and there have been bumps along the way. Overall, thanks to the efforts of many people who have played pivotal roles like Becky Burr and Andy Pincus who worked with me in the U.S. Government to establish ICANN, Esther Dyson, Vint Cerf, Mike Roberts and Steve Crocker who guided ICANN at key points, and the efforts of many others too numerous to mention who did the hard work of building the organization, ICANN has succeeded.

The political, policy and technical controversies that threatened to stifle or even destroy the Internet in its infancy in the late 1990s did not do so. The Internet is alive and well.

Billions of people now use the Internet. It accommodates a myriad of languages and alphabets. Wi-Fi, mobile devices, applications, and the “Internet of Things,” have all been incorporated. Despite almost unimaginable amounts of data and more addresses and domain names than we ever contemplated, one never reads about technical or legal problems that caused the Internet to break down.

While serious issues of privacy, security and equity must be addressed, no one can doubt that the Internet has created a positive transformation in the way the world communicates and does business. The Internet economy has grown at ten times the rate of the regular economy for more than twenty years now.

Congratulations to all of the people who have made ICANN a success over the past twenty years and to those of you working with ICANN today who will ensure its success over the next twenty years.

Written by Ira Magaziner

www.circleid.com | 10/25/18
Foreign companies will be able to access the Russian equivalent of the SWIFT payment system. The State Duma is preparing a bill designed to protect the companies that have fallen under Western sanctions in order to give them a possibility to conduct mutual settlements with foreign counterparties. Russian MPs believe that the system will function most effectively if the BRICS countries, as well as Iran and Turkey, join it. "Although they plan to use national currencies in settlements with Russia, but they do not exclude that settlements can be conducted through the Russian equivalent of SWIFT," Anatoly Aksakov, the head of the State Duma Committee on Financial Markets said. Earlier, first deputy chairman of the Central Bank, Olga Skorobogatova, said that connecting foreign companies to the financial messaging system would expand possibilities for mutual exchange of messages and settlements between sanctioned companies that do not have access to making payments through the original SWIFT system, and foreign contractors.The Russian equivalent to SWIFT is a financial messaging system known for the Russian initials as SPFS. The bill stipulates for direct messaging between both Russian and foreign legal entities.According to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, there are more than 400 participants in the SPFS system, including banks, the federal treasury, legal entities, and corporate clients. "Inside the country, our system covers the exchange in financial messages completely," a source at the Central Bank of Russia said. "If we talk about cross-border operations, they can be implemented only on the basis of the agreement between several countries. There are such discussions happening already on the level of both the Eurasian Economic Union and BRICS."In the near future, SWIFT may have another competitor in Europe. The head of the German Foreign Ministry, Heiko Maas, said in August that the European Union was in need of its own and independent SWIFT system to protect the financial stability of European companies from US sanctions. Russia found such an intention of European partners quite natural. After the appearance of the European SWIFT system, Russia intends to offer European companies to incorporate a Russian analogue to SWIFT."The possibility to connect foreign countries to the Russian system depends on a number of factors. As for Iran, a lot depends on the volume of economic cooperation that is going to happen. So far, it has not been large at all, but there are reasons for it to grow, especially in the oil and gas sector," Nikolai Kozhanov, a researcher at the European University at St. Petersburg Energy Policy Research Center said. Turkey is already showing willingness to cooperate with the Russian SWIFT. "The Russian equivalent to SWIFT is a revolutionary innovation in the digital world. The possibility of its use by Turkish companies can provide an important development of trade relations between our countries," Mehmet Yolcu, chairman of the board of directors of FinExpertiza Turkey said.According to Dmitry Mosyakov, director of the Center for Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, China's position on the matter will depend on its relations with the United States. The worse China's relationship with the States goes, the better it is for the Russian SWIFT system. "The relations between China and the USA have been quite intense lately, but if the United States shows positive signs to China, then taking into account the volume of their trade ($500-600 billion) and China's trade volume with Russia ($100 billion as of 2018), China will demonstrate loyalty to the United States and will not connect to the Russian project," the expert said. SWIFT is an international interbank system for transmitting information and making payments. The system incorporates more than 11,000 financial institutions in 200 countries of the world. After 9/11 attacks, the United States gained access to SWIFT network in order to track possible transactions between terrorist groups. Thus, US authorities have access to information related to any payment that goes through SWIFT. Russia launched its own version of SWIFT - SPFS - for domestic financial operations in December 2014. Also read: SWIFT refuses to cut Russia off
Foreign companies will be able to access the Russian equivalent of the SWIFT payment system. The State Duma is preparing a bill designed to protect the companies that have fallen under Western sanctions in order to give them a possibility to conduct mutual settlements with foreign counterparties. Russian MPs believe that the system will function most effectively if the BRICS countries, as well as Iran and Turkey, join it. "Although they plan to use national currencies in settlements with Russia, but they do not exclude that settlements can be conducted through the Russian equivalent of SWIFT," Anatoly Aksakov, the head of the State Duma Committee on Financial Markets said. Earlier, first deputy chairman of the Central Bank, Olga Skorobogatova, said that connecting foreign companies to the financial messaging system would expand possibilities for mutual exchange of messages and settlements between sanctioned companies that do not have access to making payments through the original SWIFT system, and foreign contractors.The Russian equivalent to SWIFT is a financial messaging system known for the Russian initials as SPFS. The bill stipulates for direct messaging between both Russian and foreign legal entities.According to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, there are more than 400 participants in the SPFS system, including banks, the federal treasury, legal entities, and corporate clients. "Inside the country, our system covers the exchange in financial messages completely," a source at the Central Bank of Russia said. "If we talk about cross-border operations, they can be implemented only on the basis of the agreement between several countries. There are such discussions happening already on the level of both the Eurasian Economic Union and BRICS."In the near future, SWIFT may have another competitor in Europe. The head of the German Foreign Ministry, Heiko Maas, said in August that the European Union was in need of its own and independent SWIFT system to protect the financial stability of European companies from US sanctions. Russia found such an intention of European partners quite natural. After the appearance of the European SWIFT system, Russia intends to offer European companies to incorporate a Russian analogue to SWIFT."The possibility to connect foreign countries to the Russian system depends on a number of factors. As for Iran, a lot depends on the volume of economic cooperation that is going to happen. So far, it has not been large at all, but there are reasons for it to grow, especially in the oil and gas sector," Nikolai Kozhanov, a researcher at the European University at St. Petersburg Energy Policy Research Center said. Turkey is already showing willingness to cooperate with the Russian SWIFT. "The Russian equivalent to SWIFT is a revolutionary innovation in the digital world. The possibility of its use by Turkish companies can provide an important development of trade relations between our countries," Mehmet Yolcu, chairman of the board of directors of FinExpertiza Turkey said.According to Dmitry Mosyakov, director of the Center for Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, China's position on the matter will depend on its relations with the United States. The worse China's relationship with the States goes, the better it is for the Russian SWIFT system. "The relations between China and the USA have been quite intense lately, but if the United States shows positive signs to China, then taking into account the volume of their trade ($500-600 billion) and China's trade volume with Russia ($100 billion as of 2018), China will demonstrate loyalty to the United States and will not connect to the Russian project," the expert said. SWIFT is an international interbank system for transmitting information and making payments. The system incorporates more than 11,000 financial institutions in 200 countries of the world. After 9/11 attacks, the United States gained access to SWIFT network in order to track possible transactions between terrorist groups. Thus, US authorities have access to information related to any payment that goes through SWIFT. Russia launched its own version of SWIFT - SPFS - for domestic financial operations in December 2014. Also read: SWIFT refuses to cut Russia off