The Lawfare Podcast


How Can Congress Take on the Ransomware Problem?

The United States government has been wrestling with what to do about a particular type of cyber threat—ransomware—that holds a victim's data and computer systems hostage until they pay, usually in the form of cryptocurrency, to an anonymous recipient. Recent ransomware attacks have threatened everything from hospitals to the media industry, with payment being the main way that most companies are choosing to get back online. But what does giving into such demands mean for broader U.S. efforts to prevent and deter ransomware attacks? Scott R. Anderson sat down on Lawfare Live with Lawfare editor-in-chief Benjamin Wittes and Lawfare fellow in cybersecurity law Alvaro Marañon, who together recently authored a piece for Lawfare entitled, “Ransomware Payments and the Law.” They argue that stemming the flow of payments is essential to deterring ransomware attacks and argue that the United States should adopt a policy banning such payments in all but the most serious cases. They discussed the threat that ransomware poses to the U.S. economy, how payments should be dealt with, and what Congress and the Biden administration seem to be doing about it.

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The Platforms versus Texas in the Supreme Court

On May 12,the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed an aggressive new Texas law regulating social media to go into effect. The law, known as HB20, seeks to restrict large social media platforms from taking down content on the basis of viewpoint—effectively restricting companies from engaging in a great deal of the content moderation that they currently perform. It also imposes a range of transparency and due process requirements on platforms with respect to their content moderation. A group of technology companies challenging the law have filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court seeking to put HB20 back on hold while they continue to litigate the law’s constitutionality under the First Amendment.This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Alex Abdo, litigation director at the Knight First Amendment Institute, and Scott Wilkens, senior staff attorney at Knight. The Institute, where Evelyn is a senior research fellow, filed an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit, taking a middle ground between Texas—which argues that the First Amendment poses no bar to HB20—and the plaintiffs—who argue that the First Amendment prohibits this regulation and many other types of social media regulation besides. So what does the Texas law actually do? Where does the litigation stand—and what will the impact of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling be? And how does the Knight First Amendment Institute interpret, well, the First Amendment?