Daily Archives: November 5, 2019

The Crisis of Social Media

By Adrian Shahbaz and Allie Funk – Internet freedom is increasingly imperiled by the tools and tactics of digital authoritarianism, which have spread rapidly around the globe. Repressive regimes, elected incumbents with authoritarian ambitions, and unscrupulous partisan operatives have exploited the unregulated spaces of social media platforms, converting them into instruments for political distortion and societal control.

While social media have at times served as a level playing field for civic discussion, they are now tilting dangerously toward illiberalism, exposing citizens to an unprecedented crackdown on their fundamental freedoms. Moreover, a startling variety of governments are deploying advanced tools to identify and monitor users on an immense scale.

As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2019.

Social media allow ordinary people, civic groups, and journalists to reach a vast audience at little or no cost, but they have also provided an extremely useful and inexpensive platform for malign influence operations by foreign and domestic actors alike.

Political leaders employed individuals to surreptitiously shape online opinions in 38 of the 65 countries covered in this report—a new high.

In many countries, the rise of populism and far-right extremism has coincided with the growth of hyperpartisan online mobs that include both authentic users and fraudulent or automated accounts. They build large audiences around similar interests, lace their political messaging with false or inflammatory content, and coordinate its dissemination across multiple platforms.

Cross-border influence operations, which first drew widespread attention as a result of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential contest, are also an increasingly common problem.

Authorities in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and a growing list of other countries have expanded their efforts to manipulate the online environment and influence foreign political outcomes over the past year. Malicious actors are no doubt emboldened by the failure of democratic states to update transparency and financing rules that are vital to free and fair elections, and apply them effectively to the online sphere. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

How multinational companies help spread recessions
By Bob Simison – The Great Recession a decade ago was one example of how economic cycles across the world can move in parallel, a phenomenon that economists don’t fully understand. It could be that a common event, such as a surge in oil prices, affects many economies at the same time—or perhaps linkages between countries transmit economic shocks from one country to the world economy.

One such linkage is multinational corporations,  according to Marcus Biermann, a postdoctoral scholar at the Catholic University of Louvain, and Chicago Booth’s Kilian Huber, who explore the role of multinationals in spreading the global recession by analyzing the ripple effects of one German bank’s struggles during the 2008–09 financial crisis.

Commerzbank was Germany’s second-biggest commercial lender behind Deutsche Bank. Losses on trading and investments abroad hammered the bank, especially after Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008. Commerzbank’s capital fell by 68 percent between December 2007 and December 2009, which forced the bank to reduce its aggregate lending stock by 17 percent. Biermann and Huber find that this pullback in credit available to German parent companies affected subsidiaries in other countries, thus helping to transmit the economic contraction. more>

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Updates from Ciena

To repeat, or not repeat, that is the question
Are you familiar with unrepeatered submarine cables? As Ciena’s Brian Lavallée often gets asked about this lesser-known technology, he took some time to explain what they are, when to use them, and why they’re important.

By Brian Lavallée – Many new submarine cables have been announced by major Internet Content Providers, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, to interconnect data centers. These high-capacity submarine cables traverse oceans by leveraging the latest in wet plant and Submarine Line Terminating Equipment (SLTE) coherent modem technology… but what about the lesser known counterpart of these submarine cable designs, the unamplified submarine cables? I often get asked about unamplified submarine cable networks, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts in this blog.

Due to the distances and capacities associated with transoceanic submarine cables, optical amplifiers are spaced at regular intervals along the cable to amplify information-carrying wavelengths. Undersea optical amplifiers are similar to their terrestrial counterparts, at least from an optoelectronic perspective, but are installed in one of the harshest telecom operating environments on Earth – the ocean floors, and sometimes several kilometers deep. Amplified submarine cables are more commonly referred to as “repeatered” cables, but this is actually a misnomer.

A traditional optical communications “repeater” regenerates a received optical signal by performing 3Rs – Reamplify, Reshape, and Retime – to restore the quality of received optical signals, which involves OEO (Optical-Electrical-Optical) conversion. Repeaters, also referred to as “regenerators, or “regens” for short, were expensive and power-hungry devices, but were absolutely necessary for the proper transmission of information across great distances. more>

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Why digital strategies fail

By Jacques Bughin, Tanguy Catlin, Martin Hirt, and Paul Willmott – Most digital strategies don’t reflect how digital is changing economic fundamentals, industry dynamics, or what it means to compete. Companies should watch out for five pitfalls.

We find that a surprisingly large number underestimate the increasing momentum of digitization, the behavioral changes and technology driving it, and, perhaps most of all, the scale of the disruption bearing down on them. Many companies are still locked into strategy-development processes that churn along on annual cycles. Only 8 percent of companies we surveyed recently said their current business model would remain economically viable if their industry keeps digitizing at its current course and speed.

How can this be, at a moment when virtually every company in the world is worried about its digital future? In other words, why are so many digital strategies failing?

The answer has to do with the magnitude of the disruptive economic force digital has become and its incompatibility with traditional economic, strategic, and operating models. This article unpacks five issues that, in our experience, are particularly problematic. We hope they will awaken a sense of urgency and point toward how to do better. more>