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Alex Stamos on the security problems of the platforms' content moderation, and what to do about them

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Alex Stamos (previously) is the former Chief Security Officer of Yahoo and Facebook. I've jokingly called him a "human warrant canary" because it seems that whenever he leaves a job, we later learn that his departure was precipitated by some terrible compromise the company was making -- he says that he prefers to be thought of as "the Forrest Gump of infosec" because whenever there is a terrible geopolitical information warfare crisis, he's in the background, playing ping-pong. After departing Facebook, Stamos started as new phase of his career as an academic in Stanford's information warfare group, and in that capacity, he recently presented at UC Berkeley's School of Information with a talk called "The Platform Challenge: Balancing Safety, Privacy and Freedom" at the schoo's Dataedge 2019 conference. The talk is an absolute must-watch: Stamos describes the crisis that giant platforms face in trying to balance out anti-abuse (which benefits from spying on users) with privacy and compliance with government regulation, and how they game those contradictions to let them do a terrible job on every front while sidestepping blame. Stamos reveals the internal debate about moderation and bad speech -- harassment, extremist recruiting, disinformation -- at the platforms, and blames the platforms' unwillingness to make this dialog public for their crisis of credibility. Stamos also identifies bigness as a source of the problem, making an analogy between Microsoft's security crisis in the 1990s and Facebook's crisis of today. Stamos says that Microsoft's security was terrible, but not necessarily worse than anyone else's. Read the rest

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