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Culture war games: the seductive evils of totalitarianism

Social Media and Censorship
By Francis Fukuyama

Traditional media companies curate the material they publish. They do this by setting certain standards for fact-checking and journalistic quality. But some of the most important decisions they make regard what information they deem fit to publish in the first place. They can decide to place stories about desperate Syrian refugees, transgender discrimination, or the travails of Central American mothers above the fold, or alternatively they can emphasize crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, Hillary Clinton’s email server, or political correctness on university campuses. Indeed, conservative complaints about bias in the mainstream media are less about deliberately faked news than about selective reporting that reflects the ideological preferences of media companies like the New York Times.

This is the most important sense in which the big internet platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have become media companies: They craft algorithms that determine what their users’ limited attention will focus on, driven (at least up to now) not by any broad vision of public responsibility but rather by profit maximization, which leads them to privilege virality. This has produced a huge backlash that came to a head this spring after the revelations of the role that Facebook played in allowing Cambridge Analytica to access its data to help the Trump campaign. By the time Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress in April, there had been a dramatic shift in public approval of his company and of the broader industry. The most visible consequence of this shift in political climate has been this week’s banning of Alex Jones.

Jones and his supporters have immediately responded to the ban by charging the platforms with censorship. In one sense this charge is misplaced: We worry most about censorship when it is done by powerful, centralized states. Private actors can and do censor material all the time, and the platforms in question are not acting on behalf of the U.S. government.

But Jones has a point with regard to scale. Facebook is not just another social media company; it has become a worldwide behemoth that in many countries (including the United States) has become something like a monopoly supplier of social media services. There are many countries in which Facebook has displaced email as the central channel of communication, and where it functions much like a public utility. Jones will not be able to reach nearly as wide an audience moving to different platforms as he can on YouTube and Facebook.

This then points directly to the other big problem with today’s social media universe, which is the size of the dominant platforms. Facebook today exercises government-like powers of censorship despite the fact that it is a private company. The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal can in effect censor Alex Jones by refusing to carry his content. But because there is a pluralistic and competitive market in traditional print media, this doesn’t matter; Jones’s followers can simply choose different media outlets. The same is not true in today’s social media space. I personally find Alex Jones completely toxic and am not unhappy to see his visibility reduced; that will be good for our democracy. But I am also very uncomfortable with a private quasi-monopoly like Facebook making this kind of decision.

Facebook, Apple and YouTube remove pages and podcasts from Alex Jones for hate speech, policy violations
By Ryan Browne

“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

“Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”

Twitter will not ban InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones
By BBC News

He is currently being sued for defamation by the parents of two children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which he has repeatedly claimed was a “giant hoax”. Twenty children under the age of seven and six adults died in the attack.

Mr Jones mostly uses his Twitter account to share content and videos from InfoWars with his 850,000 followers, and promotes conspiracy theories against liberals, Muslims and migrants.

  1. In July, he said that Democrats planned to launch a civil war on 4 July or US Independence Day
  2. Last year, he tweeted that Muslims in England were demanding that the Queen either convert to Islam or leave the country. However, the CNN clip Infowars based its article on dates back to 2009 and features a group led by radical preacher Anjem Choudary, who by 2017 was already serving a five-and-a-half-year sentence for inviting support for the Islamic State group (IS)
  3. He has previously said that “transgenderism” is a CIA “plan to depopulate humanity” and that the normalisation of mental illness is an “evil paedophile plot to sexualise and destroy children”
  4. In 2013, he described then President Barack Obama as the “global head of al-Qaeda”, and later accused him of arming IS

Twitter Finally Bans Alex Jones—Over a Publicity Stunt
By Issie Lapowsky

… it was the initial CNN story—or rather, Jones’ unhinged response to it—that proved his eventual undoing. On Wednesday, just before Dorsey was set to testify at his second congressional hearing of the day, Jones approached Darcy as he waited in line with media colleagues to be let into the hearing room. Jones, flanked by his entourage, cornered Darcy, jabbed a phone in his face, and harassed the reporter for more than 10 minutes about his work, his employer, and his looks, saying he has the “eyes of a rat.” The entire ordeal streamed on Periscope, which is owned by Twitter.

That this particular broadside was the last straw for Twitter seems curious. Yes, Twitter had plenty of reason to suspend Jones on Thursday. But it had just as many reasons a week ago and the week before that, and in early August when all of its contemporaries jumped ship. Compared to Jones’ long trail of misdeeds on Twitter—claiming that no one was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, and comparing Parkland shooting survivors to Nazis, to name a few—his rant against Darcy seems tame. Certainly a CNN reporter who covers Jones for a living is better equipped to handle his ravings than a mass shooting victim would be, and insulting a person’s looks hardly compares to claiming a parent’s dead child never really existed.

But ultimately, the tirade against Darcy was too public for Twitter to ignore. Standing there, in the halls of Congress, outside the room where Twitter’s CEO sat, and in front of nearly every tech reporter in the industry, Jones tested the limits of what he could get away with until suddenly he couldn’t get away with it anymore.

How Twitter’s Ban on ‘Deadnaming’ Promotes Free Speech
By Parker Molloy

In September, Twitter announced changes to its “hateful conduct” policy, violations of which can get users temporarily or permanently barred from the site. The updates, an entry on Twitter’s blog explained, would expand its existing rules “to include content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target.” A little more than a month later, the company quietly rolled out the update, expanding the conduct page from 374 to 1,226 words, which went largely unnoticed until this past week.

While much of the basic framework stayed the same, the latest version leaves much less up for interpretation. Its ban on “repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone” was expanded to read: “We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”

The final sentence, paired with the fact that the site appeared poised to actually enforce its rules, sent a rumble through certain vocal corners of the internet. To trans people, it represented a recognition that our identity is an accepted fact and that to suggest otherwise is a slur. But to many on the right, it reeked of censorship and “political correctness.”

Twitter is already putting the policy into effect. Last week, it booted Meghan Murphy, a Canadian feminist who runs the website Feminist Current. Ms. Murphy hasn’t exactly supported trans people — especially trans women. She regularly calls trans women “he” and “him,” as she did referring to the journalist and trans woman Shon Faye in a 2017 article. In the run-up to her suspension, Ms. Murphy tweeted that “men aren’t women.” While this is a seeming innocuous phrase when considered without context, the “men” she was referring to were trans women.

As a transgender woman, I find it degrading to be constantly reminded that I am trans and that large segments of the population will forever see me as a delusional freak. Things like deadnaming, or purposely referring to a trans person by their former name, and misgendering — calling someone by a pronoun they don’t use — are used to express disagreement with the legitimacy of trans lives and identities.

Defenders of these practices claim that they’re doing this not out of malice but out of honesty and, perhaps, even a twisted sort of love. They surely see themselves as truth-tellers fighting against political correctness run amok. But sometimes, voicing one’s personal “truth” does just one thing: It shuts down conversation.

Saudis’ Image Makers: A Troll Army and a Twitter Insider
By Katie Benner, Mark Mazzetti, Ben Hubbard and Mike Isaac

Many Saudis had hoped that Twitter would democratize discourse by giving everyday citizens a voice, but Saudi Arabia has instead become an illustration of how authoritarian governments can manipulate social media to silence or drown out critical voices while spreading their own version of reality.

“In the Gulf, the stakes are so high for those who engage in dissent that the benefits of using social media are outweighed by the negatives, and in Saudi Arabia in particular,” said Marc Owen Jones, a lecturer in the history of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula at Exeter University in Britain.

Twitter executives first became aware of a possible plot to infiltrate user accounts at the end of 2015, when Western intelligence officials told them that the Saudis were grooming an employee, Ali Alzabarah, to spy on the accounts of dissidents and others, according to five people briefed on the matter. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

On Dec. 11, 2015, Twitter sent out safety notices to the owners of a few dozen accounts Mr. Alzabarah had accessed. Among them were security and privacy researchers, surveillance specialists, policy academics and journalists. A number of them worked for the Tor project, an organization that trains activists and reporters on how to protect their privacy. Citizens in countries with repressive governments have long used Tor to circumvent firewalls and evade government surveillance.

“As a precaution, we are alerting you that your Twitter account is one of a small group of accounts that may have been targeted by state-sponsored actors,” the emails from Twitter said.

FUREY: The Pakistan government is accusing me of a crime – and Twitter is acting as its messenger
By Anthony Furey

So why would the Pakistan government seek out a four-year-old tweet from me? Did I show up randomly during one of its searches? Or was I targeted? And who else is it keeping tabs on? And why would Twitter help them out? It all seemed too much to be true.

Then I headed over to Twitter’s Legal FAQs page and found to my surprise that it does this sort of stuff all the time. “Twitter may notify you of the existence of a legal request pertaining to your account,” it states. “We understand that receiving this type of notice can be an unsettling experience. We have notified you so that you can avail yourself of the rights available for your particular situation in your specific jurisdiction.”

Unsettling? I’ll say. A powerful global tech giant has just told me the Pakistan government has its eye on me for an offence punishable by death.

France’s censorship demands to Twitter are more dangerous than ‘hate speech’
By Glenn Greenwald

… I simply do not understand how someone who decides to become a journalist then devotes his energy to urging that the government be empowered to ban and criminalize certain ideas and imprison those who express them. Of all people who would want the state empowered to criminalize ideas, wouldn’t you think people who enter journalism would be the last ones advocating that?

I’ve written many, many times about the odiousness and dangers of empowering the state to criminalize ideas – including the progressive version of that quest, especially in Europe and Canada but also (less so) in the US – and won’t rehash all those arguments here. But there is a glaring omission in Farago’s column that I do want to highlight because it underscores one key point: as always, it is overwhelming hubris and self-love that drives this desire for state suppression of ideas.

Nowhere in Farago’s pro-censorship argument does he address, or even fleetingly consider, the possibility that the ideas that the state will forcibly suppress will be ideas that he likes, rather than ideas that he dislikes. People who want the state to punish the expression of certain ideas are so convinced of their core goodness, the unchallengeable rightness of their views, that they cannot even conceive that the ideas they like will, at some point, end up on the Prohibited List.

That’s what always astounds and bothers me most about censorship advocates: their unbelievable hubris. There are all sorts of views I hold that I am absolutely convinced I am right about, and even many that I believe cannot be reasonably challenged.

But there are no views that I hold which I think are so sacred, so objectively superior, that I would want the state to bar any challenge to them and put in prison those who express dissent. How do people get so convinced of their own infallibility that they want to arrogate to themselves the power not merely to decree which views are wrong, but to use the force of the state to suppress those views and punish people for expressing them?

The history of human knowledge is nothing more than the realization that yesterday’s pieties are actually shameful errors. It is constantly the case that human beings of the prior generation enshrined a belief as objectively, unchallengably true which the current generation came to see as wildly irrational or worse. All of the most cherished human dogmas – deemed so true and undeniable that dissent should be barred by the force of law – have been subsequently debunked, or at least discredited.

How do you get yourself to believe that you’re exempt from this evolutionary process, that you reside so far above it that your ideas are entitled to be shielded from contradiction upon pain of imprisonment? The amount of self-regard required for that is staggering to me.

Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech
By Max Fisher

How can Facebook monitor billions of posts per day in over 100 languages, all without disturbing the endless expansion that is core to its business? The company’s solution: a network of workers using a maze of PowerPoint slides spelling out what’s forbidden.

Every other Tuesday morning, several dozen Facebook employees gather over breakfast to come up with the rules, hashing out what the site’s two billion users should be allowed to say. The guidelines that emerge from these meetings are sent out to 7,500-plus moderators around the world.

The closely held rules are extensive, and they make the company a far more powerful arbiter of global speech than has been publicly recognized or acknowledged by the company itself, The New York Times has found.

The Times was provided with more than 1,400 pages from the rulebooks by an employee who said he feared that the company was exercising too much power, with too little oversight — and making too many mistakes.

An examination of the files revealed numerous gaps, biases and outright errors. As Facebook employees grope for the right answers, they have allowed extremist language to flourish in some countries while censoring mainstream speech in others.

Google Is So Big, It Is Now Shaping Policy to Combat the Opioid Epidemic. And It’s Screwing It Up.
By David Dayen

Unethical organizations are forever on the lookout for ways to exploit cracks in the system. The discovery of Russian agents purchasing presidential election ads at Facebook and now Google has created the impression that the problem with tech monopolies is inadequate self-policing leading to an exploitable Wild West online. But that’s not quite right. The size and influence of these platforms means that any decision they make carries large ripple effects and unintended consequences. Facebook and Google’s sheer size gives them the ability to influence a presidential election whether they choose to act or not — far too much power for a company to have.

So if Google wants all that power — and whether it does or not, it has it for now — then with it comes public responsibility. Hood said he sympathizes with Google’s dilemma. “It’s hard to play God when there are 15 or 16,000 data points,” he said.

It might be hard but, when it comes to the lives of people seeking help for a potentially fatal disorder, Google is now God. So they better figure it out fast.

Google’s Pichai Faces Privacy and Bias Questions in Congress
By Daisuke Wakabayashi and Cecilia Kang

Republican and Democratic lawmakers focused on whether Google tracks a user’s location without obtaining consent. Some cited an article by The New York Times, published on Monday, that showed how easily supposedly anonymous information can be linked to a person.

The sharpest exchange involved Representative Ted Poe, Republican of Texas, who held up his smartphone and asked Mr. Pichai whether Google was tracking his whereabouts if he walked to the other side of the room.

“Not by default,” Mr. Pichai said, meaning it depended on the settings on the apps that Mr. Poe had installed on the phone.

When Mr. Pichai wouldn’t respond with a definitive yes or no, Mr. Poe raised his voice and interrupted.

“You make $100 million a year. You should be able to answer that question,” he said. “I’m shocked you don’t know. I think Google obviously does.”

Mr. Pichai said Google offered users controls for limiting the collection of location data and did not sell user data, though he avoided saying whether the company uses location data when it sells advertising.

As Facebook Raised a Privacy Wall, It Carved an Opening for Tech Giants
By Gabriel J.X. Dance, Michael LaForgia and Nicholas Confessore

For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews.

The exchange was intended to benefit everyone. Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.

The social network allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.

Facebook has been reeling from a series of privacy scandals, set off by revelations in March that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, improperly used Facebook data to build tools that aided President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Acknowledging that it had breached users’ trust, Facebook insisted that it had instituted stricter privacy protections long ago. Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, assured lawmakers in April that people “have complete control” over everything they share on Facebook.

But the documents, as well as interviews with about 50 former employees of Facebook and its corporate partners, reveal that Facebook allowed certain companies access to data despite those protections. They also raise questions about whether Facebook ran afoul of a 2011 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that barred the social network from sharing user data without explicit permission.

Privacy … LOL
By David Auerbach

Google and Facebook dominate not only because of their ubiquitous platforms and economies of scale, but because they are hoarders of personal data as much as they are brokers of it. What you provide to Facebook, Google, Amazon, Mastercard, or any other large company is only one facet of the data that comes to be collected and used to profile you. Traditional antitrust remedies, such as breakups, are unlikely to improve the fundamental problem, when data is liberally shuffled back and forth between the major players to everyone’s benefit save the consumers. Two Facebooks will not be any more privacy-friendly or competition-friendly than one Facebook.

Any prospective solution to the unethical promiscuity of data must factor in the discrepancy of the value of data to its nominal owners (the consumers) and the companies collecting and exploiting it, as well as the fundamental and ubiquitous lack of consent in the collection of the data. This collection is unlikely to stop, so regulatory efforts could focus instead on providing more meaningful compensation to those whose information is collected.

One principle to start with should be the radical idea that the use of information about you, provided you are not a public figure, constitutes a use of your actual labor, that is, the life which you have been living. If your personal data is valuable to companies, then the generators of that data should be compensated as well as the collectors, on negotiated terms. The exact mechanism of compensation, whether a tax or a dividend or something else, may vary, but it will be more than merely free internet services that snoop even further into your life. Since the data genie will not be put back in the bottle, the most realistic privacy backstop that now exists is to require that the original sources of so much of data’s data—people and the lives they live—be recognized as sources of economic value in and of themselves.

PewDiePie’s Battle for the Soul of the Internet
By Allen Farrington

Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya once recalled his work with Facebook this way: “We trumpeted [our platform] like it was some hot-shit big deal. And I remember when we raised money from Bill Gates…And Gates said something along the lines of, ‘That’s a crock of shit. This isn’t a ‘platform.’ A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it exceeds the value of the company that creates it. Then it’s a platform.’” The brilliant Microsoft founder knew that his own Windows operating system was a true platform because, as Microsoft openly bragged, the company itself captured only a minority of the value created through the Windows ecosystem. Facebook, YouTube and Google are in a completely different category—because the vast majority of the wealth they generate is controlled by the social-media oligopolies themselves. They aren’t platforms so much as rent-seeking agents that oversee a set of critical economic protocols.

Here, I am getting into an argument that is made better elsewhere—specifically, that this kind of power hoarding exists only because of insufficiently farsighted design of the early web. Were there a public protocol that allowed video to be shared as easily as hypertext, there would be no need for YouTube. Were HTTP sufficiently robust to handle two-way links, there might not be a need for Google. Were there a public protocol for identity, Facebook might be extraneous. And were there a public protocol for value exchange, there would be no need for content that is almost exclusively monetized by advertising—a development that has ushered in a risk-averse ad-driven corporate culture with its attendant censorship and house politics.

“I Was Devastated”: The Man Who Created the World Wide Web Has Some Regrets
By Katrina Brooker

When it first appeared in an academic chat room, in August of 1991, the significance of the moment wasn’t immediately obvious. “No one paid much attention,” recalls Vinton Cerf, who is recognized as being a co-inventor of the Internet—atop which the Web sits—and is now chief Internet evangelist at Google. It was an information system that used an older software known as Hypertext to link to data and documents over the Internet. There were other information systems at the time. What made the Web powerful, and ultimately dominant, however, would also one day prove to be its greatest vulnerability: Berners-Lee gave it away for free; anyone with a computer and an Internet connection could not only access it but also build off it. Berners-Lee understood that the Web needed to be unfettered by patents, fees, royalties, or any other controls in order to thrive. This way, millions of innovators could design their own products to take advantage of it.

And, of course, millions did. Computer scientists and academics picked it up first, building applications that then drew others. Within a year of the Web’s release, nascent developers were already conceiving of ways to draw more and more users. From browsers to blogs to e-commerce sites, the Web’s eco-system exploded. In the beginning it was truly open, free, controlled by no one company or group. “We were in that first phase of what the Internet could do,” recalls Brewster Kahle, an early Internet pioneer who in 1996 built the original system for Alexa, later acquired by Amazon. “Tim and Vint made the system so that there could be many players that didn’t have an advantage over each other.” Berners-Lee, too, remembers the quixotism of the era. “The spirit there was very decentralized. The individual was incredibly empowered. It was all based on there being no central authority that you had to go to to ask permission,” he said. “That feeling of individual control, that empowerment, is something we’ve lost.”

The power of the Web wasn’t taken or stolen. We, collectively, by the billions, gave it away with every signed user agreement and intimate moment shared with technology. Facebook, Google, and Amazon now monopolize almost everything that happens online, from what we buy to the news we read to who we like. Along with a handful of powerful government agencies, they are able to monitor, manipulate, and spy in once unimaginable ways.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai: Fears about artificial intelligence are ‘very legitimate,’ he says in Post interview
By Tony Romm, Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg

Pichai, who joined Google in 2004 and became chief executive 11 years later, in January called AI “one of the most important things that humanity is working on.” He said it could prove to be “more profound” for human society than “electricity or fire.” But the race to perfect machines that can operate on their own has rekindled familiar fears that Silicon Valley’s corporate ethos – “move fast and break things,” as Facebook once put it – could result in powerful, imperfect technology eliminating jobs and harming average people.

Within Google, its AI efforts also have created controversy: The company faced heavy criticism earlier this year due to its work on a Defense Department contract involving AI that could automatically tag cars, buildings and other objects for use in military drones. Some employees resigned due to what they called Google’s profiting off the “business of war.”

Asked about the employee backlash, Pichai told The Post that his workers were “an important part of our culture.” “They definitely have an input, and it’s an important input; it’s something I cherish,” he said.

‘F— you leakers’: A former senior Google employee says a frantic quest to stop internal info getting out is now management’s ‘number one priority’
By Kieran Corcoran

A lawsuit filed against the company in late 2016 alleged that employees have to sign a confidentiality agreement which even prevents them talking to a lawyer about what goes on at Google.

It describes an internal program, called “stopleaks”, to which it says employees are encouraged to report their own leaks, and those of colleagues.

“Stopleaks” was referenced again in an internal email that was made public in May 2017 as part of the same lawsuit , this time in an email from the head of Google’s internal investigations unit.

Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans To Closely Track Search Users in China
By Ryan Gallagher and Lee Fang

The Dragonfly memo reveals that a prototype of the censored search engine was being developed as an app for both Android and iOS devices, and would force users to sign in so they could use the service. The memo confirms, as The Intercept first reported last week, that users’ searches would be associated with their personal phone number. The memo adds that Chinese users’ movements would also be stored, along with the IP address of their device and links they clicked on. It accuses developers working on the project of creating “spying tools” for the Chinese government to monitor its citizens.

People’s search histories, location information, and other private data would be sent out of China to a database in Taiwan, the memo states. But the data would also be provided to employees of a Chinese company who would be granted “unilateral access” to the system.

To launch the censored search engine, Google set up a “joint venture” partnership with an unnamed Chinese company. The search engine will “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to documents seen by The Intercept. Blacklisted search terms on a prototype of the search engine include “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize” in Mandarin, said sources familiar with the project.

According to the memo, aside from being able to access users’ search data, the Chinese partner company could add to the censorship blacklists: It would be able to “selectively edit search result pages … unilaterally, and with few controls seemingly in place.”

That a Chinese company would maintain a copy of users’ search data means that, by extension, the data would be accessible to Chinese authorities, who have broad powers to obtain information that is held or processed on the country’s mainland. A central concern human rights groups have expressed about Dragonfly is that it could place users at risk of Chinese government surveillance — and any person in China searching for blacklisted words or phrases could find themselves interrogated or detained. Chinese authorities are well-known for routinely targeting critics, activists, and journalists.

Google’s Secret China Project “Effectively Ended” After Internal Confrontation
By Ryan Gallagher

According to two Google sources, engineers working on Dragonfly obtained large datasets showing queries that Chinese people were entering into the search engine. At least one of the engineers obtained a key needed to access an “application programming interface,” or API, associated with, and used it to harvest search data from the site. Members of Google’s privacy team, however, were kept in the dark about the use of — a serious breach of company protocol.

Under normal company procedure, analysis of people’s search queries is subject to tight constraints and should be reviewed by the company’s privacy staff, whose job is to safeguard user rights. But the privacy team only found out about the data access after The Intercept revealed it, and were “really pissed,” according to one Google source. Members of the privacy team confronted the executives responsible for managing Dragonfly. Following a series of discussions, two sources said, Google engineers were told that they were no longer permitted to continue using the data to help develop Dragonfly, which has since had severe consequences for the project.

“The 265 data was integral to Dragonfly,” said one source. “Access to the data has been suspended now, which has stopped progress.”

Last week, Pichai, Google’s CEO, appeared before Congress, where he faced questions on Dragonfly. Pichai stated that “right now” there were no plans to launch the search engine, though refused to rule it out in the future. Google had originally aimed to launch Dragonfly between January and April 2019. Leaks about the plan and the extraordinary backlash that ensued both internally and externally appear to have forced company executives to shelve it at least in the short term, two sources familiar with the project said.

Learning China’s Forbidden History, So They Can Censor It
By Li Yuan

According to Beyondsoft’s website, its content monitoring service, called Rainbow Shield, has compiled over 100,000 basic sensitive words and over three million derivative words. Politically sensitive words make up one-third of the total, followed by words related to pornography, prostitution, gambling and knives.

Workers like Mr. Li make $350 to $500 a month, about average pay in Chengdu. Each worker is expected to review 1,000 to 2,000 articles during a shift. Articles uploaded to the news app must be approved or rejected within an hour. Unlike Foxconn workers, they don’t work much overtime because longer hours could hurt accuracy, said Mr. Yang, the executive.

It’s easy to make mistakes. One article about Peng Liyuan, China’s first lady, mistakenly used the photo of a famous singer rumored to be linked to another leader. It was caught by someone else before it went out, Mr. Yang said.

Mr. Li, the young censor, said the worst mistakes were almost all related to senior leaders. He once missed a tiny photo of Mr. Xi on a website not on the whitelist because he was tired. He still kicks himself for it.

When asked whether he had shared with family and friends what he learned at work, such as the Tiananmen crackdown, Mr. Li vehemently said no.

“This information is not for people outside to know,” he said. “Once many people know about it, it could generate rumors.”

But the crackdown was history. It wasn’t a rumor. How would he reconcile that?

“For certain things,” he said, “one just has to obey the rules.”

Beijing to Judge Every Resident Based on Behavior by End of 2020
By Bloomberg News

The tracking of individual behavior in China has become easier as economic life moves online, with apps such as Tencent’s WeChat and Ant Financial’s Alipay a central node for making payments, getting loans and organizing transport. Accounts are generally linked to mobile phone numbers, which in turn require government IDs.

The final version of China’s national social credit system remains uncertain. But as rules forcing social networks and internet providers to remove anonymity get increasingly enforced and facial recognition systems become more popular with policing bodies, authorities are likely to find everyone from internet dissenters to train-fare skippers easier to catch — and punish — than ever before.

Leave no dark corner
By Matthew Carney

Already, about 10 million people have been punished in the trial areas of social credit.

Liu Hu is just one of them.

In many societies, he would be celebrated. Not in China.

Liu Hu is an investigative journalist who has uncovered corruption at the top levels of the Party and solved serial murder cases.

He says the government considers him an enemy.

Hu lost his social credit when he was charged with a speech crime and now finds himself locked out of society due to his low score.

In 2015, Hu lost a defamation case after he accused an official of extortion.

He was made to publish an apology and pay a fine but when the court demanded an additional fee, he refused.

Last year, the 43-year-old found himself blacklisted as “dishonest” under a pilot social credit scheme.

“There are a lot of people who are on the blacklist wrongly, but they can’t get off it,” says Hu.

It’s destroyed his career and isolated him, and he now fears for his family’s future.

The social credit system has closed down his travel options and kept him under effective house arrest in his hometown of Chongqing.

In an apartment above the streets of Chongqing city, Hu tries to use a phone app to book train tickets to Xi’an. The attempt is rejected.

“[The app] says it fails to make a booking and my access to high-speed rail is legally restricted,” he explains.

Hu’s social media accounts, where he published much of his investigative journalism, have also been shut down.

Hu claims his combined Wechat and Weibo accounts had two million followers at their peak but are now censored.

Hu believes his blacklisting is political and has tried to appeal to authorities. So far he has been met with silence.

Hu wants to warn the world of the nightmare of social credit.

Doing so could put his friends and family at risk of reprisals from the state, but Hu believes most Chinese don’t yet understand what’s to come under the digital totalitarian state.

U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps
By Stephanie Nebehay

A United Nations human rights panel said on Friday that it had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities were forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the western Xinjiang autonomous region.

“We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone’,” she told the start of a two-day regular review of China’s record, including Hong Kong and Macao.

China’s Detention Camps for Muslims Turn to Forced Labor
By Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy

China’s ruling Communist Party has said in a surge of upbeat propaganda that a sprawling network of camps in the Xinjiang region is providing job training and putting detainees on production lines for their own good, offering an escape from poverty, backwardness and the temptations of radical Islam.

But mounting evidence suggests a system of forced labor is emerging from the camps, a development likely to intensify international condemnation of China’s drastic efforts to control and indoctrinate a Muslim ethnic minority population of more than 12 million in Xinjiang.

Accounts from the region, satellite images and previously unreported official documents indicate that growing numbers of detainees are being sent to new factories, built inside or near the camps, where inmates have little choice but to accept jobs and follow orders.

China commits a disgusting self-own while defending its crackdown on Muslims
By Alex Lockie

Amid the rising tide of western countries calling accountability for the treatment of the minority in an authoritarian state, The Global Times sought to fight back, and made a telling blunder in the process.

“The West should be consistent over its own value system. How can it be fine to kill terrorists with missiles, but a humanitarian crisis when #Xinjiang attempts to turn them into normal people?” the newspaper tweeted.

Bonnie Glaser, the head of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic International Studies tweeted in response: “Quite revealing, GT’s statement that the PRC [acronym for the People’s Republic of China] is trying to turn Uighurs into ‘normal people.’ Why are they considered to be abnormal?”

How ZTE helps Venezuela create China-style social control
By Angus Berwick

As part of a $70 million government effort to bolster “national security,” Venezuela last year hired ZTE to build a fatherland database and create a mobile payment system for use with the card, according to contracts reviewed by Reuters. A team of ZTE employees is now embedded in a special unit within Cantv, the Venezuelan state telecommunications company that manages the database, according to four current and former Cantv employees.

The fatherland card is troubling some citizens and human-rights groups who believe it is a tool for Chávez’s successor, President Nicolás Maduro, to monitor the populace and allocate scarce resources to his loyalists.

“It’s blackmail,” Héctor Navarro, one of the founders of the ruling Socialist Party and a former minister under Chávez, said of the fatherland program. “Venezuelans with the cards now have more rights than those without.”

China’s ZTE taps Joe Lieberman for D.C. damage control
By Daniel Lippman and Steven Overly

U.S. officials have ramped up warnings that ZTE, which produces networking equipment as well as smartphones and tablet computers, provides opportunities for Chinese cyber espionage, given its ties to the Chinese government. Key lawmakers this summer sought to block the company from doing business in the U.S., but Congress later settled for a ban on ZTE entering into U.S. government contracts, following intervention by President Donald Trump.

Still, U.S. suspicion of ZTE and another Chinese telecom company, Huawei, is widespread. Canada arrested the chief financial officer of Huawei this month at the request of American officials who contend she violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. The action strained relations between the U.S. and China at a time when the countries are trying to de-escalate their trade war.

Lieberman is the third former U.S. lawmaker working on ZTE’s behalf in Washington. The company has retained the lobbying services of two other former lawmakers, former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman and former Nebraska Rep. Jon Christensen. Bryan Lanza, a former deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, also did work for ZTE earlier this year through Mercury Public Affairs.

ZTE paid the Washington, D.C., law firm Hogan Lovells nearly $2 million during the second and third quarters of the year.

China specialists who long supported engagement are now warning of Beijing’s efforts to influence American society
By Ellen Nakashima

The report said China’s main channel for identifying such collectors is the “Thousand Talents Program,” an effort launched in 2008 to recruit experts overseas and pay them to aid China’s modernization. Official Chinese websites list more than 300 U.S. government researchers and more than 600 individuals with U.S. corporations who have accepted TTP money in recent years, the report said.

In many cases, these recruits do not disclose receipt of the Chinese funds to their U.S. employers, which for government employees is illegal and for corporate personnel probably represents a conflict of interest that violates their contracts, the report stated.

To address the problem, the report said, recipients of TTP funds should be required to register with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The working group urged more-aggressive enforcement of FARA, a recommendation that dovetails with a recent Justice Department initiative to combat Chinese economic espionage.

U. S. charges Chinese hackers in alleged theft of vast trove of confidential data in 12 countries
By Ellen Nakashima and David J. Lynch

The hackers named in the indictment presided over a state-backed campaign of cybertheft that targeted advanced technologies with commercial and military applications. They also hacked into companies called “managed service providers,” which act as gatekeepers to computer networks serving scores of corporate clients.

The Chinese targeted companies in the finance, telecommunications, consumer electronics and medical industries, along with U.S. government laboratories operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the military, the indictment alleges.

Along with the United States and the United Kingdom, countries targeted by China include Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland.

“The list of victim companies reads like a who’s who of the global economy,” said Wray.

The Stone Panda team made off with personal information, including Social Security numbers belonging to more than 100,000 U.S. Navy personnel, prosecutors said.

The hackers employed a technique known as “spear-phishing,” tricking computer users at the business and government offices into opening malware-infected emails giving them access to log-in and password details.

China Is Now the Greatest Threat to Americans’ Privacy
By Eli Lake

Until recently, most Americans have understood that the biggest threats to their privacy came from their own government. The FBI can compel internet companies to provide it with almost anyone’s search history; the National Security Agency can tap into the backbone of the world’s fiber-optic network. For several decades now, Big Brother has flown an American flag.

Now, with reports that the U.S. believes China is behind the breach of the Marriott Corp.’s customer database, this paradigm is beginning to change.

China’s hack of Marriott is part of a larger project. To understand it, go back to 2014, when the Marriott operation is alleged to have begun. That’s the same year China is alleged to have hacked the government’s Office of Personnel Management database, giving its intelligence ministry access to extensive files on every U.S. official with a security clearance. In early 2015 there was the Anthem insurance breach, which reportedly gave China the Social Security numbers of 80 million Americans. Now add Marriott to the list, with its database of millions of hotel guests, including credit card and passport information.

These hacks provide raw data for China’s Ministry of State Security to build “data sets on U.S. and other citizens that have been amassed for years,” one U.S. official told the Washington Post. I talked to a senior U.S. national security official who concurred, noting that China now can not only build dossiers on U.S. citizens of interest, but can also spoof their identities in cyberspace.

Facebook’s trust rankings can’t be trusted
By Onora O’Neill

Facebook has now introduced a reputational metric to help detect and then limit fake, false and flaky content. This metric assigns Facebook users a secret “reputation score” based on the trustworthiness that other users ascribe to them. These reputational scores are not evidence-based assessments of trustworthiness or untrustworthiness. Reputation is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. While the judgment of others’ trustworthiness can either be sound or unsound, we often get it wrong. Some people thought Bernie Madoff was trustworthy and entrusted their savings to him — but then he made off with their money. Other people mistakenly judge vaccine conspiracy theorists as trustworthy, needlessly putting their children’s health at risk.

Reputational evidence is not enough to support well-placed trust or well-placed mistrust because it need not track factual claims, available evidence or trustworthy undertakings. Reputations, as all of us know, can be unearned and undeserved. Facebook has rightly been careful to indicate that its reputation scores are not intended to be considered the final word on someone’s credibility. It has not published details of the metric’s methodology or its limitations, however.

How social-media platforms dispense justice
By The Economist

When Facebook posted disappointing quarterly results in July, causing its market capitalisation to drop by over $100bn, higher costs for moderation were partly implicated. Mark Zuckerberg, the firm’s chief executive, has said that in the long run the problem of content moderation will have to be solved with artificial intelligence (AI). In the first three months of 2018 Facebook took some form of action on 7.8m pieces of content that included graphic violence, hate speech or terrorist propaganda, twice as many as in the previous three months (see chart), mostly owing to improvements in automated detection. But moderating content requires wisdom, and an algorithm is only as judicious as the principles with which it is programmed.

Why your AI might be racist
By Jerry Kaplan

As we delegate more of our decision-making to machines, we run the risk of enshrining all sorts of injustices into computer programs, where they could fester undetected in perpetuity. Addressing this critical risk should be an urgent social priority. We need to educate the public to understand that computers are not infallible mechanical sages incapable of malice and bias. Rather, in our increasingly data-driven world, they are mirrors of ourselves — reflecting both our best and worst tendencies, whether or not we wish to acknowledge the flaws. Like the Evil Queen in the legend of Snow White, how we react to this new mirror on the wall might say more about us than any computer program ever can.

The Welfare State Is Committing Suicide by Artificial Intelligence
By Jacob Mchangama and Hin-Yan Liu

It may be tempting to dismiss algorithmic governance, or algocracy, as a mere continuation of authoritarianism, as represented by China’s notorious social credit systems, which have often been described as the 21st-century manifestation of Orwellian dystopia. And one-party states do indeed find obvious comfort in using new technologies like AI to consolidate the power of the party and its interests. This conforms to historical examples of dictatorships using newspapers, radio, television, and other media for propaganda purposes while suppressing critical journalism and political pluralism.

But algocracy is not a matter of ideology, but rather technology and its inherently attractive potential. As Denmark makes clear, there are strong temptations for liberal democracies to govern with algorithmic tools that promise huge rewards in terms of efficiency, consistency and precision. Algocracies are likely to emerge as by-products of governments seeking to better deliver benefits to citizens. And despite the fundamental differences between China’s one-party state and Danish liberal democracy, the very democratic infrastructure that distinguishes the latter from the former might not be able to fulfil that role into the future.

There are good reasons to think judicial procedures would not be able to serve as a check on the growth of public-service algorithms. Consider the Danish case: the civil servants working to detect child abuse and social fraud will be largely unable to understand and explain why the algorithm identified a family for early intervention or individual for control. As deep learning progresses, algorithmic processes will only become more incomprehensible to human beings, who will be relegated to merely relying on the outcomes of these processes, without having meaningful access to the data or its processing that these algorithmic systems rely upon to produce specific outcomes. But in the absence of government actors making clear and reasoned decisions, it will be impossible for courts to hold them accountable for their actions.

Thus, algorithms designed with the sole purpose of eliminating social welfare free-riding will almost inevitably lead to increasingly draconian measures to police individual behavior. To prevent AI from serving as a tool toward this dystopian end, the West must focus more on algorithmic governance—regulations to ensure meaningful democratic participation and legitimacy in the production of the algorithms themselves. There is little doubt that this would reduce the efficiency of algorithmic processes. But such a compromise would be worthwhile, given the way that algocracy will otherwise involve the sacrifice of democracy.

How Did We Become Post-Liberal?
By Russell Blackford

In recent decades, we have, indeed, seen many efforts to suppress ideas and expression identified by one or another participant in public discussion as too dangerous to tolerate. In some cases, this has involved stigmatizing disliked speech as similar to that of Nazis and fascists. In other cases, novel arguments have been introduced, as with feminist arguments against pornography.

Notwithstanding outliers such as the Beauharnais case, liberal ideas about freedom of speech retained considerable prestige in Anglophone democracies through the 1950s and 60s, and, indeed, well into the 70s. Laws against victimless crimes were pushed back during this time, as was literary and artistic censorship. During the second half of the 1970s, however, and increasingly in the 80s, liberal ideas of freedom came under attack from elements of the political Left to such an extent that they now retain little prestige in left-wing circles.

As a result, twenty-first-century Western politics is largely a clash of authoritarianisms. It is fought out between social conservatives—many of whom still wish to impose Christian sexual morality to whatever extent they can—and left-wing authoritarians who view liberalism with contempt. This is the sense in which we, in the West, have become post-liberal.

The Gods That Will Fail
By Graeme Wood

Does tribalism feed a deep human hunger that liberalism does not? Liberals, I think, give up too easily on this point. Defenders of the old liberal order are tired and jaded, it’s true—who can observe the iniquities and false promises of modernity without a loss of faith? But the contention that Enlightenment liberalism’s mojo has natural limits, and that illiberalism’s mojo is inexhaustible, seems to me at best debatable, with the evidence pointing away from Sullivan’s conclusion. He is older than I am, and no doubt remembers the thrill of the collapse of Communism, of the rapid metastasis of democracy across Europe and the rest of the world. These were thrills of liberalism, and I dare say they matched any ecstasies witnessed at a Trump rally.

No thrill lasts forever. The thrill of Nazism lasted perhaps ten years for a significant portion of the German public. What Sullivan calls “the banality of the god of progress” is the state of liberalism after decades of astonishing success—long enough for any system to get creaky, and for its formerly excited beneficiaries to forget their gratitude. If you want to see the victims of real banality, look in the punished faces of those who have been subjected to illiberalism for a generation.

A Cool Kid Communist Comeback
By Cathy Young

The social justice movement in America in 2018 has abandoned most of communism’s materialist basis but embraces some of its hallmarks. Within progressive social justice movements, you find the quasi-totalitarian politicization of everything from personal relationships to the arts; suppression of wrongthink and public shaming of ideological deviants; the idea that compassion for the “class enemy” is treason; and, above all, the belief that it’s possible to build a perfect egalitarian society in which all vestiges of oppression have been eradicated.

In a sense then the legacy of communism is resurgent along two axes: within the social justice movements that have adopted features of repressive police states and, even more clearly, in the growing popularity of explicitly socialist and communist politics. Perhaps, we have reached a point where a real, non-whitewashed accounting of utopia’s human toll in the 20th Century is sorely needed.

The Anti-Fascist Boomerang
By Branko Marcetic

… Congressional liberals supported the Smith Act of 1940, also known as the Alien Registration Act, which made it a crime to advocate the overthrow of the US government, or be part of a group that did. Dickstein believed it could be used against the far right. The first prosecutions under the law, however, ended up being against twenty-three members of a Minnesota branch of the Socialist Workers’ Party.

But the most high profile pre-Cold War case under the Smith Act didn’t involve the Left. Rather, it was directed at thirty alleged Nazi sympathizers in what would become the largest sedition trial in US history. The case, known as United States vs. McWilliams, saw vague, unconvincing charges of conspiracy and weak evidence mobilized against political enemies, in this case, a collection of right-wing antisemites. It quickly devolved into a farce, and the charges were eventually dismissed in 1946.

Apart from a few exceptions, the Left either stayed silent or cheered the prosecutors. Prominent left-wing figures like George Seldes and Michael Sayers supported the case, and the Daily Worker urged prosecutors to go further. In the New Republic, Heinz Eulau wrote that the case would be “one of the most sensational, but salutary, trials in the history of American civil liberties.” The ACLU declined to get involved, over the vehement objections of its executive director.

Despite its failure, the case lived on as a model for future prosecutions of communists during the Red Scare. “Despite fading public recall,” wrote sociologists Gary Alan Fine and Terence McDonnell, “the memory of the trial as a ‘dry run’ had not faded at the Department of Justice between 1946, when the case was finally dismissed, and 1948 when the Dennis case charged leaders of the Communist Party with sedition under the same law and using similar forms of evidence, and in that case led to convictions and imprisonment.”

Well-meaning laws that vest the authorities with the power to cleanse public discourse of speech we don’t care for have a way of coming back to bite us. Hate speech laws around the world are used to criminalize legitimate dissent and criticism. Anti-fake news measures have in many cases silenced marginal voices, including even those combating bigotry.

And more often than not, the voices silenced end up being those on the Left. It figures — after all, left-wing viewpoints and activism tend to be anti-authority and challenge deep-seated power structures, making them a clear target for repression.

The new autocrats
By Griff Witte

Autocracy is making a comeback, seeping into parts of the world where it once appeared to have been vanquished.

But it is a sleeker, subtler and, ultimately, more sophisticated version than its authoritarian forebears, twisting democratic structures and principles into tools of oppression and state control. It is also, quite possibly, far more potent and enduring than autocracies of old.

After decades of steady expansion of rights and liberties, the pro-democracy watchdog Freedom House has recorded sharp reversals, with the share of nations dubbed “free” declining since 2007. Countries in every region of the world have suffered setbacks, in areas such as free and fair elections, the independence of the press, the rights of minorities and the rule of law.

As Americans worry about the health of their own democracy, the lesson from abroad is that the decline can come bracingly fast.

It has in Central and Eastern Europe, a region that, three decades ago, was at the vanguard of the last great act of the 20th century: the triumph of liberal democracy over dictatorship behind the Iron Curtain. Led by young activists like Frasyniuk, Poland and its neighbors ushered in the supposed end of history.

Today, the region is on the front lines of history’s march in reverse. The democratic society that Frasyniuk fought for is in retreat, while a new breed of autocrat advances.

“It’s not autocracy. It’s neo-autocracy,” said Cristian Parvulescu, dean of the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration in Romania, a country that critics fear is trending away from the rule of law. “It’s not democracy. It’s post-democracy.”

Analysis: In democracies’ political chaos, new model emerges
By Niko Price

Across the world, politicians are reading from a new playbook. From the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte to Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, candidates are winning elections despite — or perhaps because of — statements and actions so politically incorrect that until recently they would have guaranteed defeat. And the newly jumbled landscape provides openings for nations like China, which are looking to extend their influences into fresh corners of the planet.

Is this a pivot point in modern political history? Western liberal democracy seems almost quaint now, loitering quietly in the corner as its most prominent standing proponent, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, steps slowly out of the limelight.

The themes of Western democratic revolutions remain more relevant than ever, even in new forms. Whether these sharp new voices represent new paths to liberty remains an open question, as does whether the result will be the greater equality that so many say they crave.

And beyond those two questions hangs another, perhaps even more of the moment: At this inflection point of tumultuous transformation, does fraternity — the postwar glue that long held together a collage of nations — stand any chance of surviving?

2018’s Biggest Loser Was the Liberal International Order
By Walter Russell Mead

The biggest loser of 2018 was the post-Cold War system that the U.S. and its closest allies hoped would shape global politics. The idea was that liberal democracy, market-based economic systems and the rule of law would spread from the West into the postcommunist East as well as into the Global South. International institutions would increasingly replace the anarchic competition of states by developing rules-based approaches to issues from trade to climate change.

Great powers like Russia and China never liked this approach, seeing it as a thinly disguised form of U.S. hegemony and a threat to their illiberal political systems. The aspiration for a liberal world system has faced growing headwinds for many years; in 2018 it buckled further under stress.

Even Japan, long a zealous upholder of the rules-based order, exited the International Whaling Commission; Russia solidified its hold on southeastern Ukraine; China fortified its artificial islands in the South China Sea; the U.S. flouted WTO procedures in pursuit of what the Trump administration calls “fair trade”; and one country after another failed to comply with its commitments under the Paris climate agreement. A modern Voltaire might quip that the old system was neither liberal nor international nor an order, but its absence will be felt if it disintegrates.

The ideas of liberalism’s greatest thinkers
By The Economist

Were the great minds still humming today, three things would trouble them. The first is the steady erosion of truth by “fake news”, Twitter storms and viral postings. Liberalism thrives on conflict. But for argument to be constructive, it must be founded on good faith and reason. Today both sides talk past each other. The idea has become common, on both right and left, that when people put forward an argument you cannot separate what they say from who they are.

The second worry is the erosion of individual freedom. Mill popularised the term “the tyranny of the majority”. He supported democracy, including women’s suffrage, but warned how, as now in Turkey and the Philippines, it could turn into mob rule. Separately, Isaiah Berlin, an Oxford academic, would have seen that “no platforming” in order to protect minority groups comes at the cost of individual speech.

Last, the great thinkers would have lamented liberals’ faltering faith in progress. New technology and open markets were supposed to spread enlightenment and prosperity, but many people no longer expect to live better than their parents did. As democracies drift towards xenophobic nationalism, universal values are in retreat. And for the first time since the heyday of the Soviet Union, liberalism faces the challenge of a powerful alternative, in the form of Chinese state-capitalism.

Today’s liberals like to think that they are grappling with uniquely difficult issues. They should consider their forerunners. Mill and Tocqueville had to make sense of revolution and war. Keynes, Berlin, Karl Popper and the Austrians confronted the seductive evils of totalitarianism. Today’s challenges are real. But far from shrinking from the task, the liberal thinkers of yesteryear would have rolled up their sleeves and got down to making the world a better place.

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