Monday 18 Oct 2021 | 02:12 | SYDNEY
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Technology

Digital authoritarianism not just a China problem

According to 2019 data from the World Trade Organisation, China is the largest global supplier of telecommunications equipment (generating US$296 billion compared to US$169 billion for the whole of the European Union) as well as office and telecom equipment (US$633 billion compared to US$363 billion

Semiconductors: the skills shortage

Semiconductors are foundational to the digital revolution. A global chip shortage – accentuated by US-China tensions, Covid-19, extreme weather events, as well as industry consolidation over the last decade – has galvanized attention around supply chain security. But alongside multilateral

Risks versus opportunities in national security thinking

National security thinkers follow a distinct pattern when they consider Australia’s future defence requirements. For most, the preferred point of view is risk-based. A policy response is framed in military-diplomatic terms, generally a proposal for increased capability and support for the ANZUS

China’s forced invisibility of LGBTQ communities on social media

This week, Chinese multinational technology giant Tencent shut down hundreds of accounts on WeChat linked to LGBTQ groups. Suddenly millions of queer people in China were confronted by a blunt message on their favourite social media accounts: In response to related complaints, all content has been

Staying ahead in global tech leadership

On the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, President Xi Jinping reiterated the longstanding Chinese goal of strengthening science and technology to help achieve national rejuvenation. China’s advances in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition have already

Gab’s gift to the far right

As major social-networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have increased their efforts at moderation to crack down on hateful and extremist content, they have become less attractive to adherents of the far right. In response, new platforms belonging to the right-wing alternative-technology

Is Southeast Asia ready for a US-China tech decoupling?

Recent developments suggest that both China and the United States are taking steps towards unravelling or “decoupling” their technology ecosystems. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the semiconductor industry, which manufactures the chips allowing everything from smartphones to cars to

Violent extremism: The ghost or the machine?

The Australian parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is currently holding an inquiry into extremist movements and radicalism in Australia. It is only the second issues-based inquiry that this particular committee has conducted; the first was into the politically charged

Economic diplomacy: Patent politics and trade deal twists

Biden’s jab First it was new carbon emission cuts, and then a global minimum corporate tax. But it is hard to beat the Biden administration’s move to shaft the pharmaceutical industry lobby over vaccine patents for putting the US back at the heart of global public policy. The devil will be in

Taiwan: Renewing a southbound vision

For all the talk of cross-Strait military tensions – which are real – in the economic realm, Taiwan’s fortunes have been bound to those of China. Recognising the need to diversify, when Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016, she initiated what was dubbed a “New Southbound Policy”, with the

China’s leap into space

China has launched a new space station, the most ambitious project it has ever undertaken in spaceflight. Right now, the station is just a cylindrical module without a crew, but it will grow over time as more components are added. Although some media reports will cite this as China’s first space

In Singapore, Covid vs privacy is no contest

Life in Singapore during the pandemic has become about tracking, tracking, tracking. Wherever one goes, one has to scan QR codes that log entry into malls, restaurants, shops and office buildings. For those who have just arrived on the island, it might seem like an uncomfortable intrusion into

Facebook’s monopoly danger in the Pacific

The recent stoush between the Australian government and social media giant Facebook, with its eight-day-long ban of local news from its platform, had results that were not confined to Australia. Facebook’s block of Australian news also highlighted the vulnerability of information security in the

The greening of Bill Gates

Book review: Bill Gates How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (Penguin 2021) One of the more significant aspects of Bill Gates’ How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is the simple fact that he wrote it. After all, amid all of the significant work done by the Gates Foundation, it is hard not to

Unpacking vaccine passports

Vaccine passports are attracting a lot of buzz despite the World Health Organisation having repeatedly advised against them. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) hopes that blockchain-based digital apps will get people flying again. Tourism groups see them as a possible foundation for

India’s Koo plots a digital coup

Facebook might be a social media behemoth, its reach and power made apparent when Australian users saw local news rubbed off their screens from Thursday in response to new media laws, but the platform is also just one among an ever-growing online milieu. China has WeChat, the world has Twitter, and

Why Twitter was right to dump Trump

President Donald Trump’s social media ban (aka de-platforming) has had some free speech advocates in conniptions, not just in America but across the world. In an ironic twist, China’s censored netizens have, with official support, also fancifully railed against the ban, suggesting that Weibo is

The modern sharing of Pacific “public goods”

The Covid-19 crisis has made the importance of data sharing more urgent than ever. For the island nations of the Pacific, ensuring a ready flow of information to support decision-making is critical. Robust data-sharing systems will be instrumental in helping countries collaborate with one another,

How extremist messaging co-opts emergency events

Australia experienced two major emergency events in 2020 – the summer bushfires followed shortly after by the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout these events, social media played a critical role in providing information, facilitating social connection and public discussions. However, there

China’s online meddling goes beyond the Great Firewall

Last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian posted on Twitter a fake image which portrayed an Australian soldier with a bloody knife next to a child holding a lamb. The Australian government was outraged, describing it as “disinformation”. This is just the latest episode of the

The case for going all-in on renewables

Current perceptions of renewables have been driven by the need to address climate change, a narrow view that overlooks benefits such as reducing our reliance on imported energy and creating thousands of high-tech jobs. As countries grapple with the outwardly ineffective efforts to pass climate

Gauge-changing train is no game changer for China

Railways are a natural pillar of overland transport for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, given their large capacity. But there is an obstacle to getting direct services across the borders and into neighbouring countries: different rail gauges. With the exception of North Korea, which uses

Pakistan gets on the TikTok ban wagon

Pakistan has become the second South Asian nation after India to ban Chinese video-sharing app TikTok.  The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on 9 October banned TikTok in the country after  ByteDance, the Chinese tech giant that owns TikTok, failed to “put in place effective

The many trails of Ant Group

When the last of the big four state-owned Chinese banks listed a decade ago, one could be forgiven for thinking that the age of mega Chinese financial listings was over. After all, with financial services being such a strategic sector for the Chinese Communist Party, who would have thought that the

The unique power of TikTok’s algorithm

Most people know TikTok as an entertaining app with an endless stream of snappy, addictive short videos that make them smile after a long day. Kids jiggle away in cute dance routines, while US comic Sarah Cooper rose to “TikTok fame” with her lip-synching impressions of US President Donald Trump

Who’s watching the algorithms?

Just like the enigmatic algorithms behind popular social media platforms, facial recognition algorithms are unleashing their own share of social problems. Machine-learning systems, the bedrock of artificial intelligence, or AI, use data to learn who you are, where you go, what you do, and what

Understanding the full spectrum of hate

What is the relationship between online and offline extremism? What types of data should be examined in order to understand this relationship? What is the full scope of violent extremist actions? These are all key questions that extremism researchers are trying to answer. Part of the answer may

Cyber sovereignty cuts both ways

The White House's approach to managing the potential security threats posed by TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese-owned apps is hardly a model of procedural justice. Without a clear legal or regulatory framework, the Trump Administration has issued executive orders banning transactions with the

Defending Australia in a high-tech future

The recently announced $270 billion commitment to expand Australia’s military capability sets the tone for a deteriorating strategic environment. The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan are only part of the answer in aligning Australia’s response to this challenging future. It

Under the influence: Peddling conspiracy in a pandemic

Celebrity sells – it always has. But in the digital age, the boundaries of celebrity have changed. Once it was the prerogative of movie, sports or music stars to front a fashion label or promote perfume. But nowadays the marketplace is saturated with any number of online lifestyle and wellness “

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