The Wires of War: Technology and the Global Struggle for Power

Jacob Helberg. Avid Reader, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-982144-43-2
Helberg, the former global lead for news policy at Google, debuts with a chilling study of how “techno-totalitarian” regimes are seeking to control the hardware and software of the internet. He documents the spread of fake news by Russia’s Internet Research Agency during the 2016 presidential election, and explains how advances in artificial intelligence, data collection, and “synthetic media,” or “deepfakes,” could make similar propaganda campaigns more disruptive and harder to spot. Even more threatening, in Helberg’s view, are China’s efforts to gain “back-end” control of the internet by manufacturing cellphones, building 5G networks, and influencing international standards and regulations. He also alleges that the Chinese company that owns TikTok has helped repress the country’s Uyghur Muslims, notes that TikTok videos could be used to refine facial recognition algorithms to better surveil non-Asians, and cites researchers who believe the app is collecting an “abnormal” amount of data from its users. Though Helberg’s call for democratic nations to form a “compact to resist authoritarian aggression and subversion” is on-point, his argument that breaking up Big Tech would threaten U.S. national security is less persuasive. Still, this is an informative and often harrowing wake-up call. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/23/2021
Release date: 10/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-3272-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-7971-3274-7
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