Social networks, after all, are not extensions of the United States government. They are owned by corporations seeking to maximize their growth and profitability, and many of them operate mostly outside the United States. (It’s useful to periodically recall that fewer than 10 percent of Facebook’s users are American.) The social media apparatus that Russia exploited in 2016 — feeds engineered to show users emotionally engaging content, paired with viral sharing mechanisms and self-service advertising platforms — has been enormously profitable for these companies, and remains largely intact.
To the extent that social media giants’ incentives align with America’s national security interests, it is because they fear the wrath of lawmakers and regulators, and because the reputational damage associated with Russia’s 2016 exploitation has dragged down their stock prices and made it harder to recruit.
We shouldn’t hold our breath for these companies to voluntarily self-regulate. Instead, to contain this amorphous threat, we’ll almost certainly have to look elsewhere for help.
First, while pressuring social media companies to take information warfare seriously, the public and the media will need to take steps to make ourselves less vulnerable to influence campaigns, by increasing our fluency with disinformation and media manipulation tactics. As long as tools for targeted digital mass persuasion exist, Russian-style influence operations will be with us. And any new social network competing with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will need to consider, from Day 1, how propaganda can be kept at bay. It is no longer enough to build a platform, attract millions or billions of users, and then deal with the consequences.
Second, Congress will need to act. Since the 2016 election, we have learned about Russia’s disinformation campaigns in incredible detail, but lawmakers have done virtually nothing to prevent future influence operations. Conventional economic sanctions have not deterred Russia, and efforts to address the threat through legislation — like the Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate last year that would require additional transparency from online political advertisers — have gone nowhere.
Two years after the 2016 election, there is still no single federal agency charged with securing American elections from cyberattacks and foreign influence campaigns. Mr. Trump and many other top Republicans have not formally acknowledged the extent of Russia’s 2016 campaign. And although relationships between Silicon Valley tech companies and American intelligence agencies have reportedly improved, there is still more work to be done.
If anything has changed since 2016, it’s that social media is no longer seen as just a useful tool for influencing elections. It’s the terrain on which our entire political culture rests, whose peaks and valleys shape our everyday discourse, and whose possibilities for exploitation are nearly endless. And until we either secure that ground or replace it entirely, we should expect many more attacks, each one in a slightly different form, and each leaving us with even more doubt that what we see online reflects reality, or something close to it.
More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton
OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.
The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.
The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.
The program is officially set to launch this September.
It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.
The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.
VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training
Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.
The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.
Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.
The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.
Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test
While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.
Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.
This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.
Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.