Industrial Policy & International Security
The United States and the United Kingdom signed an energy deal to boost American natural gas exports to the UK. The US agreed to send up to ten billion cubic meters of liquified natural gas to UK terminals in 2023. This year, the US has already shipped 7.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas to the UK, around 2.1 billion cubic meters more than in 2019. The countries also committed to cooperating in areas of energy policy, like energy efficiency and nuclear energy, and in emerging technologies, like hydrogen and carbon capture. These countries hope to stabilize global energy markets and reduce long-term carbon emissions through this partnership.
Iran carried out the first known execution tied to recent anti-government protests. The state hung Mohsen Shekari on Monday after a revolutionary court convicted him of “waging war against God.” Shekari was accused of blocking a street in Tehran and of wounding a member of the pro-regime Basij militia. Rights groups have called for a strong international reaction to what has been criticized as a show trial without any due process. Some Western governments have also condemned the Iranian government for its inhumane treatment of protestors. Since mid-September, protests have spread across Iran after Mahsa Amini died in custody. As many as 21 other individuals have been charged with capital crimes, while hundreds more have been killed during the protests.
Indiana Sues TikTok for Security and Child Safety Violations | The New York Times
The Indiana Attorney General has filed the first lawsuit from a US state against the Chinese-owned video app TikTok. The Attorney General alleges that TikTok violated state consumer protection laws by failing to disclose the Chinese government’s ability to access user data. The complaint also charged TikTok with deceiving young users and their parents by giving itself a “12-plus” age rating on app stores despite containing inappropriate content for children. Indiana is seeking penalties of up to $5,000 per violation and has asked the court to order TikTok to stop “false and misleading claims” about its data handling and marketing. These efforts are part of the larger U.S. scrutiny of TikTok’s rising popularity and ties to China for more than two years. In response to these accusations, TikTok has denied sending data belonging to Americans to the Chinese government and has sought to distance itself from its parent company, ByteDance.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a legal challenge against Microsoft’s proposed $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The challenge comes after weeks of negotiations between Microsoft, Sony, and regulators over competition concerns. The FTC argued that the acquisition would “enable Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles and its growing subscription content and cloud-gaming business”. The European Union and UK regulators are also scrutinizing the acquisition. Both Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick and Microsoft’s President Brad Smith stated they are confident the deal will be finalized and believe the acquisition can expand competition and open opportunities for more game developers.
DNA that was frozen for 2 million years has been sequenced | MIT Technology Review
Danish researchers have sequenced gene fragments from ancient plants and fish, and even a mastodon that lived two million years ago. The DNA from Greenland’s frozen interior is the oldest recovered, beating the record set last year when a different team recovered genetic material from a million-year-old mammoth tooth. The fragments revealed a forested ecosystem with flowering plants and trees that are no longer found in present-day Greenland. The findings provide clues to how ecosystems adapted to warmer climates in the past. Some researchers have also proposed using this DNA to recreate extinct mammals and plants. While innovation in DNA recovery has advanced significantly, researchers believe they may soon reach the limit of how far back in time DNA can be sequenced.
The Department of Defense intends to eliminate its technical debt to deploy a zero trust strategy by 2027. Technical debt is defined as the accumulation of older software and infrastructure whose resource-intensive maintenance burdens cybersecurity and other enterprise functions. These older technologies impede the implementation of a zero trust methodology called for by the Biden administration’s Executive Order on Cybersecurity in May 2021. A zero trust architecture relies on continuous access validation for specific functions at every stage of digital interactions. However, legacy systems do not support the innovation necessary to combat adversarial cyber attacks threatening the Pentagon. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 authorizes the DoD to study technical debt and its implications on software-intensive systems to implement a zero trust methodology. To reach its full cybersecurity potential, the DOD must address a broader paradigm shift in user cyber behavior in addition to the elimination of technical debt.
State & Local Tech Ecosystems
Venture capital firm Atomico reported that the European tech industry experienced a loss of $400 billion in aggregate value and an 18 percent decline in venture capital funding. The tech ecosystem faces the most challenging macroeconomic conditions with high-interest rates, the war in Ukraine, and a shrinking talent pool. Market pressures have forced some of Europe’s best-known companies to raise funds at lower valuations. Additionally, the number of “unicorns” -new companies valued at $1 billion or more- fell from 105 in 2021 to 31 this year. Nevertheless, industry insiders remained enthusiastic, with as many as 77 percent of European founders and investors enthusiastic about the future of European tech now compared to 2021.
Google's Jigsaw subsidiary launches a new anti-misinformation project in India to prevent misleading information blamed for inciting violence. The Indian government officials have called on tech companies such as Google, Meta, and Twitter to take stronger action against the spread of fake news. Jigsaw’s efforts in India follow a recent experiment in Europe where Google sought to counter anti-refugee narratives online. The initiative shows Indian viewers “pre-bunking” videos in three local languages to counter false claims on Youtube and other social media platforms. Early research findings indicate that readers are five percent more likely to identify misinformation after watching these videos. Jigsaw expects to publish the results of this initiative in the summer of 2023.