Category Archives: Emerging Technology

A Multiverse of Metaverses

By Sadev Parikh

Eric Ravenscraft’s Wired article shows us the difficulty of defining the “metaverse,” which may be better understood through the lens of Wittgenstein’s idea of family resemblances than through any attempt at clear-cut definition. Metaverse can be seen as a concept made up of family resemblances that include elements of virtual reality, augmented reality, and haptic feedback. While these technical elements may ground the concept, various metaverses could vary along parameters such as the centralization of power, financialization, and degree of anonymity for users. Armed with this framework, we might predict how the metaverse may manifest in the United States.

Considering centralization of power, we see two competing visions: one concentrated around Facebook (i.e., Meta), and the vision of a “Web 3” that might include worlds like Decentraland built around principles of decentralized decision-making and power enabled by blockchain technology.

A Facebook-driven metaverse could become the dominant mode, simply through its incumbent network effects and persistence as a premier destination for advertisers, as well as customer lock-in stemming from adjacent services (such as Messenger, Groups) that are increasingly essential to participating in modern life. The “Future Threats to Digital Democracy” report captures internet harms directly tied to the influence of Facebook and its business model on the internet.

Digitally impaired cognition is driven by social media content algorithms “engineered for virality, sensationalism, provocation and increased attention.” Reality apathy comes from the diffusion of re-shared negative content that is upranked by Facebook’s algorithms. It’s easy to imagine that a Facebook-driven metaverse is therefore likely to replicate the same features given Facebook’s need to monetize.

Only now, Facebook’s paradigm may disintermediate not only our cognitive lives via smartphones but also our physical interactions, from the mundane like work meetings to even intimate moments like hugging enabled by haptic feedback suits. That said, perhaps Libra’s failure and Facebook’s February stock plummet portend a future where Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams no longer translate inevitably to our reality.

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Outsourcing the Cyber Kill Chain: Reinforcing the Cyber Mission Force and Allowing Increased Contractor Support of Cyber Operations

The United States is under a growing and constant threat of cyberattack. US cybersecurity strategy has evolved in response, adapting to the new threat climate by committing US Cyber Command to more aggressive and persistent peacetime cyber operations. However, the Department of Defense Cyber Mission Force (CMF) has been stretched thin attempting to carry out its new mission, requiring additional commitments to resourcing, force size, and capabilities.

Homer A. La Rue argues that increased participation of private contractors in US cyber operations is the best way to bolster the CMF’s capabilities, at least in the short term. Contractors may be particularly useful in “gray-zone” operations, that is, operation in the area that exists beyond the threshold of conventional diplomacy but falls short of conventional war.

Although there are challenges and risks to increased contractor participation in cyber operations—particularly related to command and control—La Rue argues that methods of managing these risks already exist and that the benefits of outsourcing cyber operations outweighs the risks.

Deepfakes Perpetuating Disinformation in America

By Ruhi Kumar

In the report Deepfake, Cheapfake: The Internet’s Next Earthquake? DeepTrust Alliance describes the ‘portending serious consequences’ deepfakes have for society by highlighting the social, political and emotional toll deepfakes place on individuals, corporations and governments. As the issue of deepfakes permeates many aspects of society, legislators and policymakers have long struggled to come up with appropriate solutions and safeguards. Id.

Given the vast scope of this issue, it is pertinent that stakeholders adopt a collaborative and holistic solution be adopted to curb the use of deepfakes, only then will the deepfake misinformation be addressed in a meaningful way. To ensure long-term success in curbing deepfake misinformation a combination of technological tools and processes, legislative policy and consumer education campaigns should be adopted.

Deepfakes are a “potential new frontier of disinformation warfare” and misinformation that requires prompt policy action. Tom Dobber & Nadia Metoui, Do (Microtargeted) Deepfakes Have Real Effects on Political Attitudes?, 26 The Int’l J. of Press/Pol. 71 (2020).  This has been particularly evident in political elections, since to an untrained eye, a deepfake may be difficult to distinguish from a legitimate video. For instance, in the 2020 Indian elections, the Delhi BJP partnered with a political communications firm to create campaigns utilizing deepfakes to sway a large Haryanvi-speaking migrant worker population in Delhi from voting for the rival political party. These deepfakes were distributed across 5,800 WhatsApp groups in Delhi and reached approximately 15 million people. Id. Circumstances like this and many others prompt questions about the “legitimacy of democratic elections, the quality of public debate and the power of citizens”. Dobber & Metoui.

As such, in order to remedy the potential corrosive impact deepfakes could have on an already fragile political landscape governments should adopt legislation that aims to curb potential misinformation and ensure the safety of their citizens. Several states in the United States such as California and Texas have passed laws that criminalize the publishing and distributing of a deepfake videos that intend to influence the outcome of an election. While the enactment of these laws is a step in the right direction, it does little to create long term change given the vast and cross boarder nature of online platforms. Even with this newly enacted state legislation, victims continue to encounter hurdles in identifying the exact location of the deepfake creator.

Additionally, in many cases the creator of the deepfake may be located outside of the state’s jurisdiction making the legislation inapplicable, leaving consumers susceptible to misinformation and victims lacking adequate redress. In order to tackle this issue, legislators should adopt a federal approach which would allow for a more cohesive handling of deepfake cases and facilitate more impactful remedies for victims.

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