April 18, 2022
Image: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today, we’re talking about the U.S. gun violence epidemic and YouTube’s role in it. Plus: NSO Group’s got a sense of humor, and Gigi Sohn’s FCC nomination is imperiled.
When I began writing this newsletter last week, it started with a reference to the recent shooting on a New York City subway. But another three mass shootings took place over Easter weekend — two in South Carolina alone — so I had to rewrite it.
We live in a country where the shelf life on a sentence describing the most recent mass shooting is a matter of days, where more than 45,000 people died from gun-related injuries in 2020 and where the 2021 stats look poised to beat that record.
With substantive gun control a pipe dream, government officials are tinkering along the edges of the problem: President Biden recently announced a ban on ghost guns, which Republicans are now trying to block. Mayor Eric Adams has begun pushing for firearm detection tools on the subways in the wake of the attack in Sunset Park.
One gun control group, Guns Down America, is focused on a different target: YouTube.
Gun review videos draw a huge crowd on YouTube, with the platform’s top firearm influencers collectively attracting billions of views. Those reviews play a big role in influencing people’s buying decisions, said Igor Volsky, executive director of Guns Down America, but YouTube does little to warn its users of the risks involved.
Now, Volsky’s group is using YouTube to send a message to … YouTube. In a new video campaign called Guns That Work, shooting survivors give their honest reviews of the firearms their attackers used.
The goal is to convince YouTube to add disclaimers to gun review videos, warning viewers of the increased risks of dying by suicide or homicide that coincide with gun ownership.
This isn’t the first time Guns Down America has engaged in a pressure campaign against a corporate giant.
YouTube has been open to change in the past when it comes to gun-related content, particularly in the aftermath of major tragedies.
But YouTube didn’t respond to direct questions about whether it has considered disclaimers on reviews in the past or whether it might consider them in the future. YouTube spokesperson Jack Malon said that the company does allow gun reviews and demonstrations “if firearms are shown in a safe environment, like a shooting range or a clear, open area.”
Despite the progress YouTube has made, Volsky said the company still needs to take responsibility for the role that reviews play in the proliferation of guns in America — and the subsequent destruction they can cause.
Gigi Sohn’s seat on the FCC still hangs in the balance, and some Democrats are facing increasing pressure to vote against her confirmation as Republicans turn the nomination into a midterm campaign issue. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal accused Sohn’s critics, who have cast her as radical, of “creat[ing] a caricature of the real person.”
Apple workers at Grand Central Terminal are collecting signatures to form a union. If the organizers are successful, it would be the first Apple retail store union. According to The Washington Post, at least three other stores are also working on unionizing.
Tech industry lobbyists have had a heavy hand in writing state privacy laws over the last year. The State Privacy and Security Coalition, in particular, has been involved in bills in Utah, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Many of these bills, critics say, are weaker and more industry-friendly than the California privacy law that started the domino effect.
Net zero. Carbon offsets. Scope 3 emissions. These are just some of the terms you’ll find in Big Tech’s climate plans. Understanding what they actually mean is vital to ensuring the industry is meeting its goals — and understanding whether those goals are the right ones. We’ll talk with some of the people responsible for setting those goals as well as the experts who are monitoring them to find out what tech companies are really doing. RSVP here.
In a complex technological environment, when a business needs to pivot quickly in reaction to external forces, the “as-a-service” model of delivery for IT hardware, software and services offers companies of all sizes the ultimate flexibility to stay competitive with a scalable, cloud-like consumption model and predictable payment options for hardware and service inclusions.
Intel’s “emotion AI,” which is attempting to predict whether students are bored or distracted in school, is triggering backlash. “Students shouldn’t have to police how they look in the classroom,” Nandita Sampath, a policy analyst with Consumer Reports, told Protocol’s Kate Kaye.
States are where the action is in crypto regulation, said David London, Coinbase’s head of State and Local Public Policy. He added: “It wouldn't surprise me if you start seeing more states introduce things themselves to lean more into crypto in the coming months and years.”
Mentions of Fox News have skyrocketed in Russian media as Russian officials echo conservative criticism of the Biden administration’s response to the war. One Russian media company pointed to a Tucker Carlson segment as evidence that “the average U.S. citizen is simply horrified by what is happening.”
NATO’s annual cyber defense exercise, Locked Shields, kicks off Tuesday in Estonia. Participants from NATO member countries will attempt to fend off fictional cyberattacks during an event that has taken on new urgency against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and the threat of Russian cyberattacks.
You can now read a tranche of documents from the Facebook Papers, which Gizmodo has reviewed and redacted. The documents, shared by Frances Haugen with the SEC and Congress, cover the Jan. 6 attack, election research and more. Gizmodo plans to continue releasing additional documents.
Infowars and other businesses owned by Alex Jones filed for bankruptcyafter Jones and his companies lost defamation suits in Connecticut and Texas brought by relatives of children killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.
Lenovo’s broad portfolio of end-to-end solutions provide organizations with the breadth and depth of services that empower CIOs to leverage new IT to achieve their strategic outcomes. Organizations also have the flexibility to scale and invest in new technology solutions as they need them.
NSO Group “Rickrolled” WhatsApp engineers while they were scrambling to fix a flaw that the Israeli spyware company was exploiting. “There was a message in it. They were saying, ‘We know what you did, we see you,’” WhatsApp head Will Cathcart told The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow. This is just one detail in Farrow’s years-long investigation into the spyware industry, which you should absolutely read.
Thanks for reading — see you Wedneday!