Hey guys, welcome back! This week’s topic was “CCC”: Cyber war, Cyber conflict and Cyber crime. But before I dive into today’s discussion, I wanted to relate some recent events to some things we studied previously. I want to talk, of course, about the American presidential elections, whose results were shocking to many. Believe me, even people back in Brazil were shocked. When I woke up the morning after the election results came out, my phone was bombarded with messages from Brazilian friends/family asking me if what happened was really true…
But, moving on, today’s seminar began with the following question: “could the election have been hacked?”. This question came up because the results in this election were different from the polls. I personally think that the election results were not hacked. Firstly, this is because most of the voting in the US is not done online, but also a possible explanation is that the polls were wrong. The polls might not have represented the population and they might have asked vague questions which then led to wrong results. It was also kind of shocking for me to find out that there was a machine (AI system) that had always predicted election results correctly, and that this machine had predicted Donald Trump’s win. Does this mean that in the future, we will be relying more on AI systems than polls/data from the population to predict certain outcomes?
Today’s guest speaker was Professor Jonathan Zittrain, founder of the Oxford Internet Institute, early founder of the Berkman Center and Professor at Harvard. The interesting part of today’s discussion, for me, was related to one of our past seminar discussions. As we discussed some weeks ago, there is no governance on the Internet. But, if there is no governance, as a lawyer, how can you deal with issues of crime on the Internet? What can you do? What is the legal framework to do that?
Professor Zittrain talked about preempting something as a possible framework – what can we do so that it doesn’t happen at all? Another way would be to let people do what they want to do, and sanction them after they do it. The problem with this is that people could be harmed/damaged. The third strategy would be “resilience” – are there ways of taking the bad thing and making it less harmful ahead of time?
A rather amusing event Professor Zittrain told us about was when a person from Qatar was vandalizing pages on Wikipedia and Wikipedia then blocked this person as a sanction. This led to a huge scandal and article saying that Wikipedia had blocked Qatar as Qatar used that same IP address for everyone!!
Apart from this, we also talked about “law and architecture”. Law is one way to influence people’s behavior, but architecture and code (using laws of physics) can also be used as a way of keeping people out. I thought it was an extremely interesting parallel to talk about code (in the cyber context) as architecture. The fourth force we also discussed were markets. The example he gave us involved tobacco usage: if you want to affect how much tobacco usage people engage in, you can tax cigarettes. Actually, this would be called a corrective tax – I studied this in Ec10 a few weeks ago! Its funny how everything, somehow, always seems to connect, even though you might take classes in diverse areas!!