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Russian election meddlers hurting Biden, helping Trump, US intelligence warns

WASHINGTON — Russia is turning to a familiar playbook in its attempt to sway the outcome of the upcoming U.S. presidential election, looking for ways to boost the candidacy of former President Donald Trump by disparaging the campaign of incumbent President Joe Biden, according to American intelligence officials. 

A new assessment of threats to the November election, shared Tuesday, does not mention either candidate by name. But an intelligence official told reporters that the Kremlin view of the U.S. political landscape has not changed from previous election cycles.

“We have not observed a shift in Russia’s preferences for the presidential race from past elections,” the official told reporters, agreeing to discuss the intelligence only on the condition of anonymity.

The official said that preference has been further cemented by “the role the U.S. is playing with regard to Ukraine and broader policy toward Russia.”

The caution from U.S. intelligence officials comes nearly four years after it issued a similar warning about the 2020 presidential elections, which pitted then-President Trump against Biden.

Moscow was using “a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment,’” William Evanina, the then-head of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said at the time.

“Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television,” he added. 

A declassified post-election assessment, released in March 2021, reaffirmed the initial findings. Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized “influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party” while offering support for Trump, the report said. 

U.S. intelligence officials said they have been in contact with both presidential campaigns and the candidates but declined to share what sort of information may have been shared.

Trump pushback

The Trump campaign Tuesday rejected the U.S. intelligence assessment as backward.

“Vladimir Putin endorsed Joe Biden for President because he knows Biden is weak and can easily be bullied, as evidenced by Putin’s years-long invasion of Ukraine,” national press secretary Karoline Leavitt told VOA in an email.

“When President Trump was in the Oval Office, Russia and all of America’s adversaries were deterred, because they feared how the United States would respond,” she said.

“The only people in America who don’t see this clear contrast between Biden’s ineffective weakness versus Trump’s effective peace through strength approach are the left-wing stenographers in the mainstream media who write false narratives about Donald Trump for a living,” she added.

The Biden campaign has so far not responded to questions from VOA about the new U.S. assessment.

Russian sophistication

Russian officials also have not yet responded to requests for comment on the latest allegations, which accuse the Kremlin of using a “whole of government” approach to see Trump and other American candidates perceived as favorable to Moscow win in November.

“Moscow is using a variety of approaches to bolster its messaging and lend an air of authenticity to its efforts,” the U.S. intelligence official said. “This includes outsourcing its efforts to commercial firms to hide its hand and laundering narratives through influential U.S. voices.”

Russia’s efforts also appear focused on targeting U.S. voters in so-called swing states, states most likely to impact the outcome of the presidential election, officials said.

Some of those efforts have already come to light.

Russia and AI

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the seizure of two internet domains and of another 968 accounts on the X social media platform, part of what officials described an artificial intelligence-driven venture by Russian intelligence and Russia’s state-run RT news network.

A Justice Department statement said Russian intelligence and RT used specific AI software to create authentic-looking social media accounts to mimic U.S. individuals, “which the operators then used to promote messages in support of Russian government objectives.”

A joint advisory, issued simultaneously by the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands, warned Russia was in the process of expanding the AI-fueled influence operation to other social media platforms.

The U.S. intelligence official who spoke to reporters Tuesday described such use of AI as a “malign influence accelerant,” and warned the technology had already been deployed, likely by China, in the run-up to Taiwan’s elections this past January.

China waiting

For now, though, U.S. intelligence officials see few indications Beijing is seeking to interfere in U.S. elections, as it did in 2020 and 2022. 

China “sees little gain in choosing between two parties that are perceived as both seeking to contain Beijing,” said the U.S. intelligence official, noting things could change.

“The PRC is seeking to expand its ability to collect and monitor data on U.S. social media platforms, probably to better understand and eventually manipulate public opinion,” the official said. “In addition, we are watching for whether China might seek to influence select down-ballot races as it did in the 2022 midterm elections.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington, which has denied previous U.S. allegations, responded by calling the U.S. “the biggest disseminator of disinformation.”

“China has no intention and will not interfere in the US election, and we hope that the US side will not make an issue of China in the election,” spokesperson Liu Pengyu told VOA in an email.

‘Chaos agent’

The new U.S. election threat assessment warns that in addition to concerns about Russia and China, there is growing evidence Iran is seeking to play the role of a “chaos agent” in the upcoming U.S. vote.

“Iran seeks to stoke social divisions and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions around the elections,” according to an unclassified version of the assessment. 

It also warned that Tehran “has demonstrated a long-standing interest in exploiting U.S. political and societal tensions through various means, including social media.”

As an example, officials Tuesday pointed to newly declassified intelligence showing Iran trying to exploit pro-Gaza protests across the U.S.

“We have observed actors tied to Iran’s government posing as activists online, seeking to encourage protests, and even providing financial support to protesters,” said National Intelligence Director Avril Haines.

Haines cautioned, though, that Americans who interacted with the Iranian actors “may not be aware that they are interacting with or receiving support from a foreign government.”

Iranian officials have not yet responded to VOA’s request for comment.

 

LogOn: Unfired earth blocks surpass modern building codes

 A new homebuilding method with ancient roots in adobe offers protection from wildfires, earthquakes, high winds and floods, while being climate friendly and sustainable. The secret ingredient: compressed earth blocks made from mud. Shelley Schlender has the story in this week’s episode of LogOn from Superior, Colorado.

TikTok has launched tons of trends. Will its influence last?

new york — TikTok and its bite-sized videos arrived in the United States as a global version of the Chinese app Douyin in 2018. Less than six years later, the social media platform is deeply woven into the fabric of American consumerism, having shortened the shelf life of trends and revamped how people engage with food and fashion. 

The popularity of TikTok — coupled with its roots in Beijing — led the U.S. Congress — citing national security concerns, to pass a law that would ban the video-sharing app unless its Chinese parent company sells its stake. Both the company, ByteDance, and TikTok have sued on First Amendment grounds. 

But while the platform faces uncertain times, its influence remains undisputed. 

Interest in bright pink blush and brown lipstick soared last year, for example, after the cosmetics were featured in TikTok videos with looks labeled as “cold girl” and “latte” makeup. An abundance of clothing fads with quirky names, from “cottagecore” to “coastal grandma,” similarly owe their pervasiveness to TikTok.   

Plenty of TikTok-spawned crazes last only a week or two before losing steam. Yet even mini trends have challenged businesses to decipher which ones are worth stocking up for. A majority of the more than 170 million Americans who use TikTok belong to the under-30 age group coveted by retailers, according to the Pew Research Center. Whether fans of the platform or not, shoppers may have a #tiktokmademebuyit moment without knowing the origin story behind an eye-catching product. 

Platform’s algorithm is ‘secret sauce’

What made TikTok such a trendsetter compared to predecessor platforms? Researchers and marketing analysts have often described the platform’s personalized recommendation algorithm as the “secret sauce” of TikTok’s success. The company has disclosed little about the technology it employs to populate users’ “For You” feeds.   

Jake Bjorseth, founder of the advertising agency Trndsttrs, which specializes in Generation Z, thinks the app’s use of an interest-based algorithm instead of personal contacts to connect like-minded people is what gave TikTok the edge. 

TikTok also changed the standard for what was considered desirable in social media content. The beginner-friendly platform featured videos made without filters, lighting setups or production-level audio. TikTok creators could develop more intimate relationships with their followers because they appeared more authentic, Bjorseth said. 

The platform has plenty of critics. Some experts argue that TikTok, like other social media sites, can be addictive and promote unnecessary spending. Others accuse TikTok of encouraging harmful behavior, like girls engaging in skin care rituals intended for older women. 

Yet for all the detractors who won’t mourn TikTok if it goes away, a vocal base of fans hopes it doesn’t come to that. 

Influencing fashion, accessories

Casey Lewis, a trend analyst based in New York, said TikTok’s clout in the fashion arena first became apparent to her when videos about Birkenstock’s Boston clogs overtook her “For You” feed in 2022.   

As the number of TikTok videos exploded, creators advised their followers where they could find the suddenly sold-out clogs. Lewis thought it was odd since her brother, whom she described as a “frat boy” and not a fashionista, wore the cork-soled comfort shoes in college.   

“I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure there’s some psychology where your brain goes from thinking like, ‘How weird? Is that fashion?’ And then suddenly you’re obsessed with it,” she said.   

The pace with which TikTok-shaped trends pop can be dizzying. In the last year, the hot pink ensembles of “Barbiecore” coexisted with the deliberately unsexy looks of “dadcore” — think chunky white sneakers, baggy jeans and polo shirts. The linen-draped “coastal grandma” aesthetic gave way to “eclectic grandpa.”   

While the rotating cast of “cores” may not drive their adherents to buy entire wardrobes, they’re “influencing spending in small ways, and that adds up,” Lewis said.   

Influencers provide tips, tricks

Daniella Lopez White, 21, a recent college graduate on a tight budget, said TikTok influencers provided tips on finding affordable clothes but also connected her to plus-size creators featuring fashions for larger-bodied women, which made her more confident. 

“Those TikTok trends really helped me figure out what parts of my body I want to accentuate and feel cute in, and still incorporate my sense of style,” she said. 

A go-to spot

With easy-to-follow cooking videos and clever hacks, TikTok became a go-to spot for home cooks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The platform made humble ingredients a star and earned endorsements from some of the stars of the food world.   

“Every day, honestly, I am blown away by the creativity from the FoodTok community,” restaurateur and chef Gordon Ramsay said in a TikTok video late last year.   

Like the clothing styles of earlier eras, foods that had fallen out of fashion were resurrected via TikTok. U.S. sales of cottage cheese jumped 34% between April 2022 and April 2024 after videos promoting cottage cheese ice cream, cottage cheese toast and other recipes racked up millions of views. 

Ben Sokolsky, the general manager of sales and marketing for Dallas-based dairy company Daisy Brand, said cottage cheese is seeing its highest sustained growth in nearly 50 years. The curdled milk product used to be a “secret sensation,” but social media helped expose new customers to its benefits, Sokolsky said. 

Topics that went viral on TikTok have even spawned analog equivalents. Last summer, TikToker Olivia Maher posted what she called her “girl dinner” of bread, cheese, pickles and grapes. It was a hit, with more than 1.6 million views. A handful of “girl dinner” cookbooks soon followed.   

But the eagerness to try trendy foods had a downside. A 14-year-old in Massachusetts died after trying a challenge involving an extremely spicy tortilla chip that appeared on TikTok and other social media sites. An autopsy of the boy, who had a congenital heart defect, found that eating a large quantity of chile pepper extract caused his death. Paqui, the maker of the chip, pulled it off the market. 

Upending cosmetic industry

TikTok has upended the cosmetics industry by causing ingredients to get labeled as the next miracle cure or to be avoided and featuring videos of people gleefully applying or panning the contents of their latest shopping hauls. 

Influencers on TikTok and elsewhere have made freckles an asset with clips showing how to add faux ones with eyebrow pencils or broccoli florets. The “clean girl” aesthetic, a renamed version of the no-makeup makeup look, prompted both luxury and drugstore brands to rush out their own versions of skin tints and lip oils. 

Some veteran users of TikTok have noted the platform is almost too good in its role as both a tastemaker and a shopping search engine. A popular category of beauty videos shows influencers “decluttering” drawers filled with piles of barely used lipsticks, blushes and eyeshadow palettes. 

Though the desire for clicks can encourage creators to follow the same hair and makeup trends, TikTok’s defenders credit the platform with forcing brands to create products for a wider range of skin tones and hair types. 

Tiffany Watson, who currently has more than 31,00 followers on TikTok and has done paid partnerships with brands like Colourpop Cosmetics, said the platform has promoted a more inclusive image of beauty compared to other sites. 

“I see more diversity on TikTok because (with) every video you’re swiping, you’re seeing somebody new,” she said. 

Russian-linked cybercampaigns focus on Olympics, French elections

paris — Photos of blood-red hands on a Holocaust memorial. Caskets at the Eiffel Tower. A fake French military recruitment drive calling for soldiers in Ukraine, and major French news sites improbably registered in an obscure Pacific territory, population 15,000.

All are part of disinformation campaigns orchestrated out of Russia and targeting France, according to French officials and cybersecurity experts in Europe and the United States. France’s legislative elections and the Paris Olympics sent them into overdrive.

More than a dozen reports issued in the past year point to an intensifying effort from Russia to undermine France, particularly the upcoming Games, and President Emmanuel Macron, who is one of Ukraine’s most vocal supporters in Europe.

The Russian campaigns sowing anti-French disinformation began online in early summer 2023, but first became tangible in October, when more than 1,000 bots linked to Russia relayed photos of graffitied Stars of David in Paris and its suburbs.

A French intelligence report said the Russian intelligence agency FSB ordered the tagging, as well as subsequent vandalism of a memorial to those who helped rescue Jews from the Holocaust.

Photos from each event were amplified on social media by fake accounts linked to the Russian disinformation site RRN, according to cybersecurity experts. Russia denies any such campaigns. The French intelligence report says RRN is part of a larger operation orchestrated by Sergei Kiriyenko, a ranking Kremlin official.

“You have to see this as an ecosystem,” said a French military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal information about the Russian effort. “It’s a hybrid strategy.”

The tags and the vandalism had no direct link to Russia’s war in Ukraine, but they provoked a strong reaction from the French political class, with denunciations in the legislature and public debate. Antisemitic attacks are on the rise in France, and the war in Gaza has proven divisive.

The Stars of David could be interpreted either as support for Israel or as opposition. The effect was to sow division and unease. French Jews in particular have found themselves unwittingly thrust into the political fray despite, at just 500,000 people, making up a small proportion of the French population.

In March, just after Macron discussed the possibility of mobilizing the French military in Ukraine, a fake recruitment drive went up for the French army in Ukraine, spawning a series of posts in Russian- and French-language Telegram channels that got picked up in Russian and Belarusian media, according to a separate French government report seen by The Associated Press. On June 1, caskets appeared outside the Eiffel Tower, bearing the inscription “French soldiers in Ukraine.”

The larger disinformation efforts show little traction in France, but the Russian audience may have been the real target, officials said, by showing that Russia’s war in Ukraine is, as Putin has said, really a war with the West.

Among the broader goals, the French military official said, was a long-term and steady effort to sow social discord, erode faith in the media and democratic governments, undermine NATO, and sap Western support for Ukraine. Denigrating the Olympics, from which most Russian athletes are banned, is a bonus, according to French officials monitoring the increasingly strident posts warning of imminent unrest ahead of the Games.

On June 9, the French far-right National Rally trounced Macron’s party in elections for the European Parliament. The party has historically been close to Russia: One of its leading figures, Marine Le Pen, cultivated ties to Putin for many years and supported Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. And its leading contender for prime minister, Jordan Bardella, has said he opposes sending long-range weapons to Kyiv.

In more than 4,400 posts gathered since mid-November by antibot4navalny, a collective that analyzes Russian bot behavior, those targeting audiences in France and Germany predominated. The number of weekly posts ranged from 100 to 200 except for the week of May 5, when it dropped near zero, the data showed. That week, as it happens, was a holiday in Russia.

Many of the posts redirect either to RRN or to sites that appear identical to major French media, but with the domain — and content — changed. At least two of the more recent mirrored sites are registered in Wallis and Futuna, a French Pacific territory 10 time zones from Paris. A click on the top of the fake page redirects back to the real news sites themselves to give the impression of authenticity. Other posts redirect to original sites controlled by the campaign itself, dubbed Doppelganger.

The redirects shifted focus for the European elections and continued after Macron called the surprise legislative elections with just three weeks to spare. Three-quarters of posts from the week ahead of the June 30 first-round legislative vote that were directed toward a French audience focused on either criticizing Macron or boosting the National Rally, antibot4navalny found in data shared with The Associated Press.

One post on a fake site purported to be from Le Point, a current affairs magazine, and the French news agency AFP, criticizing Macron.

“Our leaders have no idea how ordinary French people live but are ready to destroy France in the name of aid for Ukraine,” read the headline on June 25.

Another site falsely claimed to be from Macron’s party, offering to pay 100 euros for a vote for him — and linking back to the party’s true website. And still another inadvertently left a generative artificial intelligence prompt calling for the rewrite of an article “taking a conservative stance against the liberal policies of the Macron administration,” according to findings last week from Insikt Group, the threat research division of the cybersecurity consultancy Recorded Future.

“They’re scraping automatically, sending the text to the AI and asking the AI to introduce bias or slants into the article and rewrite it,” said Clément Briens, an analyst for Recorded Future.

Briens said metrics tools embedded within the site are likely intended to prove that the campaigns were money well-spent for “whoever is doing the payouts for these operations.”

The French government cybersecurity watchdog, Viginum, has published multiple reports since June 2023 singling out Russian efforts to sow divisions in France and elsewhere. That was around the time that pro-Kremlin Telegram feeds started promoting Olympics has Fallen — a full-length fake Netflix film featuring an AI-generated voice resembling Tom Cruise that criticized the International Olympic Committee, according to the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center.

Microsoft said this campaign, which it dubbed Storm-1679, is fanning fears of violence at the Games and last fall disseminated digitally generated photos referring, among other things, to the attacks on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

The latest effort, which started just after the first round of the elections on June 30, merges fears of violence related to both the Olympics and the risk of protests after the decisive second round, antibot4navalny found. Viginum released a new report Tuesday detailing the risks ahead for the Games — not for violence but for disinformation.

“Digital information manipulation campaigns have become a veritable instrument of destabilization of democracies,” Viginum said. “This global event will give untold informational exposure to malevolent foreign actors.” The word Russia appears nowhere.

Baptiste Robert, a French cybersecurity expert who ran unsuccessfully as an unaffiliated centrist in the legislative elections, called on his government — and especially lawmakers — to prepare for the digital threats to come.

“This is a global policy of Russia: They really want to push people into the extremes,” he said before the first-round vote. “It’s working perfectly right now.”

Australia plans to build secret data centers with Amazon

SYDNEY — Australia said Thursday a $1.35 billion deal with U.S. technology giant Amazon to build three secure data centers for top-secret information will increase its military’s “war-fighting capacity.”

The data centers are to be built in secret locations in Australia and be run by an Australian subsidiary of the U.S. technology company Amazon Web Service, the government said.

The deal is part of Australia’s National Defense Strategy, outlining its commitment to Indo-Pacific security and maintaining “the global rules-based order.” The country has a long-standing military alliance with the United States and is a member, with the United Kingdom, U.S., Canada and New Zealand, of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

Australian officials said the project would create a “state-of-the-art collaborative space” for intelligence and defense agencies to store and gain access to sensitive information in a centralized network.

Andrew Shearer, director-general of Australia’s Office of National Intelligence, said in a statement that the project would allow “greater interoperability with our most important international intelligence partners.”

Similar data clouds have been set up in the United States and Britain, allowing the sharing of information among agencies and departments.

Richard Marles, Australia’s deputy prime minister and defense minister, told reporters that highly sensitive national security data will be safely secured in the new system.

“If you consider that any sensor which is on a defense platform, which in turn feeds that data to a high tech capability, such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which will use that to engage in targeting or perhaps to defend itself from an in-coming threat, or … to defend another asset, such as a ship — all of that is top secret data,” Marles said.

The government said the Amazon Web Services storage system will use artificial intelligence to detect suspected intrusions and to retrieve data.

Richard Buckland, a professor in CyberCrime, Cyberwar and Cyberterror at the University of New South Wales, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the storage plan has risks.

“Putting more data together in a central spot and sharing it widely as people intend to do obviously increases the risk of a data breach,” he said.

In a statement, Amazon Web Services’ managing director in Australia, Iain Rouse, said the system would “enable the seamless sharing of classified data between Australia’s National Intelligence Community and the Australian Defense Force.”

The so-called top-secret cloud is scheduled to be in operation by 2027.

Silicon Valley steps up screening on Chinese employees to counter espionage

Washington — Leading U.S. technology companies reportedly have increased security screening of employees and job applicants, which experts say is necessary to counter the cyber espionage threat from China.

While the enhanced screening is being applied to employees and applicants of all races, those with family or other ties to China are thought to be particularly vulnerable to pressure from the Beijing government.

But at least one Chinese computer science graduate student at a U.S. university is hoping to make his ties to China an asset. Zheng, who does not want to reveal his first name for fear of retaliation from the Chinese government, says he recently changed his focus to cybersecurity in hopes of improving his job prospects in the United States.

“The goal is a bit high, but I think I know more about China as a person born and raised in China. I hope to become a force with my own characteristics in cybersecurity and a role in fighting against Chinese cyber-attacks,” said Zheng, who is seeking political asylum in the United States.

While Zheng said he is not very worried that increased security checks will affect his job prospects, he said many international students in his class worry that they will be shut out from cybersecurity jobs.

Google, OpenAI and Sequoia Capital are among a number of technology and venture capital firms that have stepped up security checks on employees and potential recruits, according to a recent report by The Financial Times.

The newspaper cited sources at those companies saying they were responding to warnings from the U.S. government about a growing threat from Chinese espionage over the past two years.

Chinese cyber espionage concerns

FBI Director Christopher Wray delivered one such message in a speech in April, saying the Chinese government has tried to steal “intellectual property, technology and research” from American industries.

In response, the U.S. government has stepped up security measures over the last two years, including updating its export control regulations to restrict China’s ability to obtain advanced computing chips and artificial intelligence. The strengthened warnings to U.S. companies are part of that response.

Ivan Kanapathy, senior vice president with Beacon Global Strategies, told VOA that Silicon Valley executives share the U.S. government’s concern. “In recent years, emerging technology companies have become more wary; they don’t want to fall victim to China’s technology absorption strategy,” he said.

“Companies can’t afford to help a competitor that will put them out of business. We’ve seen that happen across many industries already. It’s only natural for American and other allied cutting-edge companies to be concerned and take steps to mitigate the risks of PRC state-sponsored espionage,” he said.

Ray Wang, CEO of Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research Inc., said that the theft of American intellectual property has become more rampant since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and that people with ties to China were often targeted.

“During COVID, many folks with relatives in China were put in compromising positions where they were asked to do things for the Chinese government, or one’s relatives would be put at risk,” Wang said. “China has infiltrated almost every aspect of the U.S., and the U.S. is facing systemic problems.”

Kanapathy said China might also obtain American technology through talent poaching, meaning they recruit someone with experience in a particular technology and ask the person to take the technology to start a new company in China. Although it is ethically questionable, it is sometimes legal.

“China likely also tries to place its own people, including engineers, into certain companies that have desirable technologies. It’s a multipronged strategy,” he said.

In a statement to VOA, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu acknowledged the accusations but said the U.S. government “is short on delivering solid evidence.”

“We firmly oppose to the groundless accusations and smears towards China and hope the relevant parties can view China’s development objectively and fairly,” he wrote.

Liu also pointed out that the World Intellectual Property Organization last year named China as the world’s highest ranking middle-income economy and 12th overall in terms of independently creating intellectual property rights.

“China’s scientific and technological achievements are never made through ‘stealing.’ The Chinese people, including our intellectuals, made such achievements with our talent and hard work,” he wrote.

Security screening concerns

While the enhanced security reviews usually apply to all employees, Wang said. Google and OpenAI have imposed stricter reviews for Chinese employees, and Microsoft is transferring some of its most important Chinese engineers from China to other regions of the world; NVIDIA has also been highly vigilant in screening.

Microsoft employees in China, mostly involved with cloud computing, were recently offered the opportunity to work in the United States, Australia or Ireland, among other countries, state-run outlet said in a report. The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft asked as many as 800 employees, mostly engineers with Chinese nationality working on cloud computing and AI, to consider relocating.

He said companies should exercise caution to avoid triggering xenophobia.

“So almost every new worker, not just Chinese nationals, should undergo the same vetting process. I think it’s really important. As Asian Americans, we have to be very careful about those implications,” he said.

So far, that has not been a problem for Joey Wu, a Chinese software engineer in California. Wu told VOA he has not seen stringent measures exercised against Chinese people, nor has he been treated differently due to his Chinese citizenship.

“I think the U.S. is relatively tolerant and open,” Wu said. “It is not easy for a large technology company to have so many foreign employees. Chinese companies, such as Huawei, are full of Chinese faces, with very few foreigners, and it is unlikely that Americans will be hired to play a more important role.”

Kanapathy pointed out that the founders of many technology companies are from China or India themselves, and these are the people who request security checks on Chinese citizens.

VOA contacted Google, OpenAI and Sequoia Capital for comments but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

VOA’s Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.

Alliance sets sights on minerals needed for global shift to green energy

The U.S. government’s representative to the Minerals Security Partnership, an alliance of mostly Western countries that aims to speed the development of energy mineral supply chains, said last month that a Chinese company was using “predatory” tactics to hold down the price of cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Henry Wilkins looks at what this means for Africa.

Russian satellite breaks up, forces space station astronauts to shelter

WASHINGTON — A defunct Russian satellite has broken up into more than 100 pieces of debris in orbit, forcing astronauts on the International Space Station to take shelter for about an hour and adding to the mass of space junk already in orbit, U.S. space agencies said. 

There were no immediate details on what caused the breakup of the RESURS-P1 Russian Earth observation satellite, which Russia declared dead in 2022. 

U.S. Space Command, tracking the debris swarm, said there was no immediate threat to other satellites. 

The event took place about noon EDT (1600 GMT) Wednesday, Space Command said. It occurred in an orbit near the space station, prompting U.S. astronauts on board to shelter in their spacecraft for roughly an hour, NASA’s Space Station office said. 

Russian space agency Roscosmos, which operated the satellite, did not respond to a request for comment or publicly acknowledge the event on its social media channels. 

U.S. Space Command, which has a global network of space-tracking radars, said the satellite immediately created “over 100 pieces of trackable debris.” 

By Thursday afternoon, radars from U.S. space-tracking firm LeoLabs had detected at least 180 pieces, the company said.  

Large debris-generating events in orbit are rare but of increasing concern as space becomes crowded with satellite networks vital to everyday life on Earth, from broadband internet and communications to basic navigation services, as well as satellites no longer in use. 

The satellite’s breakup was at an altitude of roughly 355 km (220 miles) in low-Earth orbit, a popular region where thousands of small to large satellites operate, including SpaceX’s vast Starlink network and China’s station that houses three of its astronauts. 

“Due to the low orbit of this debris cloud, we estimate it’ll be weeks to months before the hazard has passed,” LeoLabs said in a statement to Reuters. 

The some 25,000 pieces of debris bigger than 10 cm (4 inches) in space caused by satellite explosions or collisions have raised concerns about the prospect of a Kessler effect — a phenomenon in which satellite collisions with debris can create a cascading field of more hazardous junk and exponentially increase crash risks. 

Russia sparked strong criticism from the U.S. and other Western countries in 2021 when it struck one of its defunct satellites in orbit with a ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) missile launched from its Plesetsk rocket site. The blast, testing a weapon system ahead of Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, created thousands of pieces of orbital debris. 

In the roughly 88-minute window of RESURS-P1’s initial breakup, the Plesetsk site was one of many locations on Earth it passed over, but there was no immediate indication from airspace or maritime alerts that Russia had launched a missile to strike the satellite, space tracker and Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell said. 

“I find it hard to believe they would use such a big satellite as an ASAT target,” McDowell said. “But, with the Russians these days, who knows.” 

He and other analysts speculated the breakup more likely could have been caused by a problem with the satellite, such as leftover fuel onboard causing an explosion. 

What happens to old satellites?  

Dead satellites either remain in orbit until they descend into Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery demise years later, or in widely preferred — but less common — circumstances, they fly to a “graveyard orbit” some 36,000 km (22,400 miles) from Earth to lower the risk of crashing into active satellites. 

Roscosmos decommissioned RESURS-P1 over onboard equipment failures in 2021, announcing the decision the following year. The satellite has since appeared to be lowering its altitude through layers of other active satellites for an eventual atmospheric reentry. 

The six U.S. astronauts currently on the space station were alerted by NASA mission control in Houston late Wednesday evening to execute “safe haven” procedures, where each crew member rushes into the spacecraft they arrived in, in case an emergency departure is required. 

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams boarded their Starliner spacecraft, the Boeing-built capsule that has been docked since June 6 in its first crewed test mission on the station. 

Three of the other U.S. astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut went into SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule that flew them to the station in March, while the sixth U.S. astronaut joined the two remaining cosmonauts in their Russian Soyuz capsule that ferried them there in September last year. 

The astronauts emerged from their spacecraft roughly an hour later and resumed their normal work on the station, NASA said. 

The prospects of satellite collisions and space warfare have added urgency to calls from space advocates and lawyers to have countries establish an international mechanism of managing space traffic, which does not currently exist.

Chinese hackers have stepped up attacks on Taiwanese organizations, cybersecurity firm says

Hong Kong — A suspected Chinese state-sponsored hacking group has stepped up its targeting of Taiwanese organizations, particularly those in sectors such as government, education, technology and diplomacy, according to cybersecurity intelligence company Recorded Future. 

In recent years, relations between China and Taiwan, a self-governed island across the Taiwan Strait that Beijing claims as its territory, have deteriorated. The cyberattacks by the group known as RedJulliett were observed between November 2023 and April 2024, during the lead up to Taiwan’s presidential elections in January and the subsequent change in administration. 

RedJuliett has targeted Taiwanese organizations in the past, but this is the first time that activity was seen at such a scale, a Recorded Future analyst said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of safety concerns. 

The report said RedJuliett attacked 24 organizations, including government agencies in places like Laos, Kenya and Rwanda, as well as Taiwan. 

It also hacked into websites of religious organizations in Hong Kong and South Korea, a U.S university and a Djiboutian university. The report did not identify the organizations. 

Recorded Future said RedJuliett accessed the servers of those places via a vulnerability in their SoftEther enterprise virtual private network, or VPN software, an open-source VPN that allows remote connections to an organization’s networks. 

RedJuliett has been observed attempting to break into systems of more than 70 Taiwanese organizations including three universities, an optoelectronics company and a facial recognition company that has contracts with the government. 

It was unclear if RedJuliett managed to break into those organizations: Recorded Future only said it observed the attempts to identify vulnerabilities in their networks. 

RedJuliett’s hacking patterns match those of Chinese state-sponsored groups, according to Recorded Future. 

It said that based on the geolocations of IP addresses, RedJulliett is likely based out of the city of Fuzhou, in China’s southern Fujian province, whose coast faces Taiwan. 

“Given the close geographical proximity between Fuzhou and Taiwan, Chinese intelligence services operating in Fuzhou are likely tasked with intelligence collection against Taiwanese targets,” the report said. 

“RedJuliett is likely targeting Taiwan to collect intelligence and support Beijing’s policy-making on cross-strait relations,” the Recorded Future report said.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately comment.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson dismissed the allegations.

“I don’t know the specifics of what you mentioned, but I can tell you that it’s not the first time the company you mentioned has fabricated disinformation on so-called Chinese hacking operations. There is absolutely no professionalism or credibility to speak of in what the company does,” the spokesperson, Mao Ning, said.

Microsoft reported in August last year that RedJuliett, which Microsoft tracks under the name Flax Typhoon, was targeting Taiwanese organizations. 

China has in recent years stepped up military drills around Taiwan and imposed economic and diplomatic pressure on the island. 

Relations between Taiwan and Beijing worsened further after the election in January of Taiwan’s new president Lai Ching-te, who China has deemed a “separatist,” after he said in his inauguration speech that Taiwan and China were not subordinate to each other. Like his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen, Lai has said that there is no need to declare Taiwanese independence because it is already an independent sovereign state. 

Like many other countries including the U.S., China has been known to engage in cyberespionage. Earlier this year, the U.S. and Britain accused China of a sweeping cyberespionage campaign that allegedly hit millions of people. 

Beijing has consistently denied engaging in any form of state-sponsored hacking, instead saying that China itself is a major target of cyberattacks. 

According to Recorded Future, Chinese state-sponsored groups will likely continue to target Taiwanese government agencies, universities and critical technology companies via “public-facing” devices such as open-source VPN software, which provide limited visibility and logging capabilities. 

Companies and organizations can best protect themselves by prioritizing and patching vulnerabilities once they become known, Recorded Future’s threat intelligence analyst said.

Trump, Biden woo voters on TikTok. Will it make a difference?

President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump agree on few things, but a ban of the Beijing-based social network TikTok is one of them. Now with a presidential election at stake, both are joining the platform they previously attempted to take down. Will it make a difference on Election Day? Tina Trinh reports.

India, US to strengthen high technology cooperation 

New Delhi — Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his third term in office, India and the United States agreed to strengthen cooperation in high technology areas during a visit by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan to New Delhi.

Sullivan met Modi, the Indian foreign minister and his Indian counterpart during the visit that reaffirmed both countries will pursue closer ties.

“India is committed to further strengthen the India-US comprehensive global strategic partnership for global good,” Modi wrote on X after meeting Sullivan on Monday.

The main focus of Sullivan’s visit was to hold discussion with Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on a landmark initiative launched by the two countries in January last year to collaborate more closely in high-technology areas including defense, semiconductors, 5G wireless networks and artificial intelligence.

The initiative, launched with an eye to countering China, marks a significant push in tightening the strategic partnership between the two countries.

“The visit by Sullivan in the early days of Modi’s new administration signals that the U.S. wants to maintain the momentum in the high technology partnership between the two countries,” according to Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

A joint fact sheet by the two countries following Sullivan’s meeting with Doval said that they launched a new strategic semiconductor partnership between U.S. and Indian companies for precision-guided ammunition and other national security-focused electronics platforms.

They also agreed to co-invest in a lithium resource project in South America and a rare earths deposit in Africa “to diversify critical mineral supply chains” and discussed possible co-production of land warfare systems, according to the fact sheet.

Growing the domestic defense manufacturing sector remains a top focus for the Modi administration as it looks to lower its dependence on imported arms. Although India has diversified its imports of military equipment, it is still heavily reliant on Russia.

For India, the technology initiative is a top priority as it looks to strengthen the country’s security and build its capabilities in high technology areas.

“India wants to become one of the leading countries in cutting edge technologies and it is of great benefit for New Delhi to partner the U.S. which is the leader in these areas,” said Joshi. “The idea is to get into co-production, co-development, innovation and attract American companies to set up bases here.”

Sullivan also met Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyan Jaishankar, who has been retained as the external affairs minister in Modi’s new administration, signaling a continuation in the country’s foreign policy. “Confident that India-US strategic partnership will continue to advance strongly in our new term,” Jaishankar wrote on X.

In Washington, White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby told reporters Monday that India and the U.S. “share a unique bond of friendship and Mr. Sullivan’s trip to India will further deepen the already strong U.S.-India partnership to create a safer and more prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

New Delhi’s ties with Washington have expanded in recent years amid mutual concerns in both countries about an assertive China — India’s military standoff with Beijing along their disputed Himalayan borders remains unresolved four years after a clash between their troops.

As Sullivan visited India, an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, charged with trying to hire a hitman to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader in the U.S., appeared in court in New York Monday following his extradition from the Czech Republic. The alleged plan was foiled.

Allegations by U.S. prosecutors of the involvement of an Indian government official in the plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a dual US-Canadian citizen, have raised concerns about a strain in bilateral ties.

The U.S. allegations followed accusations leveled by Canada in September of involvement of Indian nationals in the killing of a Canadian Sikh leader.

India, which views Sikh separatist groups overseas as security threats, has denied its involvement in both the killing in Canada and the alleged plot in the U.S. But it said it has set up an inquiry committee to examine the information provided by Washington.

Analysts in New Delhi say ties are unlikely to be adversely impacted by the alleged murder plot. “The U.S. is quite pragmatic on these matters. They are continuing to stress that ties with India are important, so I don’t think a failed conspiracy will derail ties,” Joshi said.

Smartphone stroke detection breakthrough announced by Australian team

SYDNEY — A new technology that allows smartphones to identify strokes far quicker than existing methods has been developed by researchers in Australia.

The new technology uses artificial intelligence as it scans a patient’s face for symmetry and certain muscle movements, which are called action units. People who have suffered a stroke often have one side of their face looking different from the other.  

The biomedical engineers at Melbourne’s RMIT University say the smartphone technology can detect facial asymmetry, potentially identifying strokes within seconds – much sooner and more precisely than current technologies.

Professor Dinesh Kumar, who led the research team, explained to Australian Broadcasting Corp. how the AI-driven device works.

“It takes a video of a person who is doing a smile, and the model determines whether this particular smile is indicative of (a) person who has had a stroke,” Kumar said. “We then inform the paramedic or the clinician who is aware of the very high risk of this person having a stroke and, thus, can be treated immediately.”

Strokes affect millions of people around the world.  They occur when the supply of blood to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, which stops brain tissue from receiving oxygen and nutrients.  Experts say that if treatment is delayed by even a few minutes, the brain can suffer permanent damage. 

Symptoms of stroke include confusion, speech impairments and reduced facial expressions.

The RMIT team reports that the smartphone tool has an accuracy rating of 82% for detecting stroke. They stress that it would not replace comprehensive medical diagnostic tests for stroke, but instead would guide initial treatment by first responders by quickly identifying patients who need urgent care.  

The Australian study, which was a collaboration with São Paulo State University in Brazil, is published in the journal, Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine.

A year after the Titan’s tragic dive, deep-sea explorers vow to pursue ocean’s mysteries

PORTLAND, Maine — The deadly implosion of an experimental submersible en route to the deep-sea grave of the Titanic last June has not dulled the desire for further ocean exploration, despite lingering questions about the disaster.

Tuesday marks one year since the Titan vanished on its way to the historic wreckage site in the North Atlantic Ocean. After a five-day search that captured attention around the world, authorities said the vessel had been destroyed and all five people on board had died.

Concerns have been raised about whether the Titan was destined for disaster because of its unconventional design and its creator’s refusal to submit to independent checks that are standard in the industry. The U.S. Coast Guard quickly convened a high-level investigation into what happened, but officials said the inquiry is taking longer than the initial 12-month time frame, and a planned public hearing to discuss their findings won’t happen for at least another two months.

Meanwhile, deep-sea exploration continues. The Georgia-based company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic plans to visit the sunken ocean liner in July using remotely operated vehicles, and a real estate billionaire from Ohio has said he plans a voyage to the shipwreck in a two-person submersible in 2026.

The Titan dove southeast of Newfoundland. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Monday that there are other submersibles operating within Canadian waters, some of which are not registered with the country or any other.

Numerous ocean explorers told The Associated Press they are confident undersea exploration can continue safely in a post-Titan world.

“It’s been a desire of the scientific community to get down into the ocean,” said Greg Stone, a veteran ocean explorer and friend of Titan operator Stockton Rush, who died in the implosion. “I have not noticed any difference in the desire to go into the ocean, exploring.”

OceanGate, a company co-founded by Rush that owned the submersible, suspended operations in early July following the implosion. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment.

David Concannon, a former adviser to OceanGate, said he will mark the anniversary privately with a group of people who were involved with the company or the submersible’s expeditions over the years, including scientists, volunteers and mission specialists. Many of them, including those who were on the Titan support ship Polar Prince, have not been interviewed by the Coast Guard, he said.

“The fact is, they are isolated and in a liminal space,” he said in an email last week. “Stockton Rush has been vilified and so has everyone associated with OceanGate. I wasn’t even there and I have gotten death threats. We support each other and just wait to be interviewed. The world has moved on … but the families and those most affected are still living with this tragedy every day.”

The Titan had been chronicling the Titanic’s decay and the underwater ecosystem around the sunken ocean liner in yearly voyages since 2021.

The craft made its last dive on June 18, 2023, a Sunday morning, and lost contact with its support vessel about two hours later. When it was reported overdue that afternoon, rescuers rushed ships, planes and other equipment to the area, about 700 kilometers south of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The U.S. Navy notified the Coast Guard that day of an anomaly in its acoustic data that was “consistent with an implosion or explosion” at the time communications between the Polar Prince and the Titan were lost, a senior Navy official later told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive technology.

Any sliver of hope that remained for finding the crew alive was wiped away on June 22, when the Coast Guard announced that debris had been found near the Titanic on the ocean floor. Authorities have since recovered the submersible’s intact endcap, debris and presumed human remains from the site.

In addition to Rush, the implosion killed two members of a prominent Pakistani family, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood; British adventurer Hamish Harding; and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

Harding and Nargeolet were members of The Explorers Club, a professional society dedicated to research, exploration and resource conservation.

“Then, as now, it hit us on a personal level very deeply,” the group’s president, Richard Garriott, said in an interview last week. “We knew not only all the people involved, but even all the previous divers, support teams, people working on all these vessels — those were all either members of this club or well within our network.”

Garriott believes even if the Titan hadn’t imploded, the correct rescue equipment didn’t get to the site fast enough. The tragedy caught everyone from the Coast Guard to the ships on-site off guard, underscoring the importance of developing detailed search and rescue plans ahead of any expedition, he said. His organization has since created a task force to help others do just that.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to really correct, to make sure that we know exactly who to call and exactly what materials need to be mustered,” he said.

Myanmar cracks down on flow of information by blocking VPNs

BANGKOK — Myanmar’s military government has launched a major effort to block free communication on the internet, shutting off access to virtual private networks — known as VPNs — which can be used to circumvent blockages of banned websites and services. 

The attempt to restrict access to information began at the end of May, according to mobile phone operators, internet service providers, a major opposition group, and media reports. 

The military government that took power in February 2021 after ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi has made several attempts to throttle traffic on the internet, especially in the months immediately after their takeover. 

Reports in local media say the attack on internet usage includes random street searches of people’s mobile phones to check for VPN applications, with a fine if any are found. It is unclear if payments are an official measure. 

25 arrested for having VPNs

On Friday, the Burmese-language service of U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia reported about 25 people from Myanmar’s central coastal Ayeyarwady region were arrested and fined by security forces this week after VPN apps were found on their mobile phones. Radio Free Asia is a sister news outlet to Voice of America. 

As the army faces strong challenges from pro-democracy guerrillas across the country in what amounts to a civil war, it has also made a regular practice of shutting down civilian communications in areas where fighting is taking place. While this may serve tactical purposes, it also makes it hard for evidence of alleged human rights abuses to become public. 

According to a report released last month by Athan, a freedom of expression advocacy group in Myanmar, nearly 90 of 330 townships across the country have had internet access or phone service — or both — cut off by authorities. 

Resistance that arose to the 2021 army takeover relied heavily on social media, especially Facebook, to organize street protests. As nonviolent resistance escalated into armed struggle and other independent media were shut down or forced underground, the need for online information increased. 

The resistance scored a victory in cybersphere when Facebook and other major social media platforms banned members of the Myanmar military because of their alleged violations of human and civil rights, and blocked ads from most military-linked commercial entities. 

Users unable to connect

This year, widely used free VPN services started failing at the end of May, with users getting messages that they could not be connected, keeping them from social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp and some websites.

VPNs connect users to their desired sites through third-party computers, making it almost impossible for internet service providers and snooping governments to see what the users are actually connecting to. 

Internet users, including online retail sellers, have been complaining for the past two weeks about slowdowns, saying they were not able to watch or upload videos and posts or send messages easily. 

Operators of Myanmar’s top telecom companies MPT, Ooredoo, Atom and the military-backed Mytel, as well as fiber internet services, told The Associated Press on Friday that access to Facebook, Instagram, X, WhatsApp and VPN services was banned nationwide at the end of May on the order of the Transport and Communications Ministry. 

The AP tried to contact a spokesperson for the Transport and Communications Ministry for comment but received no response. 

The operators said VPNs are not currently authorized for use, but suggested users try rotating through different services to see if any work. 

A test by the AP of more than two dozen VPN apps found that only one could hold a connection, and it was slow. 

The military government has not yet publicly announced the ban on VPNs. 

World leaders discuss AI as China’s digital influence in Latin America grows  

washington — Pope Francis, originally from Argentina, spoke Friday about the ethics of artificial intelligence at the G7 summit at a time when China has been rolling out its own AI standards and building technological infrastructure in developing nations, including Latin America.

The annual meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations held in the Puglia region of Italy this week focused on topics that included economic security and artificial intelligence.

On Friday, Francis became the first pope to speak at a G7 summit. He spoke about AI and its ethical implications and the need to balance technological progress with values.

“Artificial intelligence could enable a democratization of access to knowledge, the exponential advancement of scientific research, and the possibility of giving demanding and arduous work to machines,” he said.

But Francis also warned that AI “could bring with it a greater injustice between advanced and developing nations, or between dominant and oppressed social classes.”

Technology and security experts have noted that AI is becoming an increasingly geopolitical issue, particularly as the U.S. and China compete in regions such as Latin America.

“There will be the promotion of [China’s] standards for AI in other countries and the U.S. will be doing the same thing, so we will have bifurcation, decoupling of these standards,” Handel Jones, the chief executive of International Business Strategies Inc. told VOA.

To decrease reliance on China, U.S. tech companies are looking to Mexico to buy AI-related hardware, and Taiwan-based Foxconn has been investing hundreds of millions of dollars in building manufacturing facilities in Mexico to meet that need.

Huawei’s projects

At the same time, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has been implementing telecommunications and cloud infrastructure in Latin America. The company recently reported a 10.9% increase in revenue in that region in 2023. The United States has sanctioned Huawei because of national security concerns.

“I would argue that Huawei is developing the infrastructure in the region [Latin America] in which it can deploy its type of AI solutions,” said Evan Ellis, Latin American studies research professor at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute.

Ellis elaborated on the potential security concerns with Huawei’s AI solutions, explaining to VOA how China may be able use integrated AI solutions such as facial recognition for potentially “nefarious purposes,” such as recognizing consumer behavioral patterns.

Jones emphasized the potential security threat to the West of China implementing AI in Latin America.

“The negative [side] of AI is that you can get control, and you can also influence, so how you control thought processes and media, and so on … that’s something which is very much a part of the philosophy of the China government,” Jones said.

Jones added that China is moving rapidly to build up its AI capabilities.

“Now, they claim it’s defensive. But again, who knows what’s going to happen five years from now? But if you’ve got the strength, would you use it? And how would you use it? And of course, AI is going to be a critical part of any future military activities,” he said.

In May, China launched a three-year action plan to set standards in AI and to position itself as a global leader in the emerging tech space.

‘Rig the game’

“Once you can set standards, you rig the game to lock in basically your own way of doing things, and so it becomes a mutually reinforcing thing,” Ellis said.

“In some ways you can argue that the advance of AI in the hands of countries that are not democratic helps to enable the apparent success of statist solution,” he added. “It strengthens the allure of autocratic systems and taking out protections and privacy away from the individual that at the end of the day pose fundamental threats to the human rights and democracy.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to VOA’s request for comment about analysts’ concerns related to security as China’s digital influence grows in Latin America.

But in a previous statement to VOA about AI, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said, “The Global AI Governance Initiative launched by President Xi Jinping puts forward that we should uphold the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit in AI development, and oppose drawing ideological lines.”

Liu said China supports “efforts to develop AI governance frameworks, norms and standards based on broad consensus and with full respect for policies and practices among countries.”

Parsifal D’Sola, founder and executive director of the Andres Bello Foundation’s China Latin America Research Center, said Huawei has been transparent with how it “manipulates information, [and] what it shares back with China.”

“The way Huawei operates does pose certain risks even for national security, but on the other hand … it’s cheaper, it has great service … [and it provides] infrastructure in areas of the [countries] that do not have access,” D’Sola said.

Experts said countries in Latin America seem less worried about the geopolitical battle between the United States and China and more concerned about efficiency.

“Security is part of the conversation, but development is much more important,” D’Sola said. “Economic development, infrastructure development, is a key priority for – I don’t want to say every country, but I would say most countries in the region.”

As China and countries in the West continue to discuss the implications of AI, Chinasa T. Okolo, expert in AI and fellow from the Brookings Institution, said one of the challenges of creating regulatory guidelines for this emerging technology is whether lawmakers can keep up with the speed of technological advancement.

“We don’t necessarily know its full capacity, and so it’s kind of hard to predict,” Okolo said, “and so by the time that, you know, regulators or policymakers have drafted up some sort of legal framework, it could already be outdated, and so governments have to kind of be aware of this and move quickly in terms of implementing effective and robust AI regulations.”

Pope Francis, in his speech, acknowledged the rapid technological advancement of AI.

“It is precisely this powerful technological progress that makes artificial intelligence at the same time an exciting and fearsome tool and demands a reflection that is up to the challenge it presents,” he said, adding that it goes without saying that the benefits or harm that AI will bring depends on how it is used.

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