Google exec to UN: Ukraine ‘a crystal ball’ for info warfare

Jared Cohen, founder and CEO of Jigsaw at Alphabet Inc and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, speaks during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on maintenance of peace and security in Ukraine, Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A Google executive warned the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that cyberattacks, disinformation and other forms of information warfare being waged in Ukraine are a “crystal ball” for future problems elsewhere.

“States must find a way to turn the volume down and settle on some kind of deterrence doctrine for the cyber domain,” Jared Cohen said at a council meeting on hate speech, incitement and atrocities in Ukraine.

He argued that while tech companies have needed expertise, “there is no magical algorithm or single fix for this,” and finding a solution will take a lot of experimentation.

Cohen heads Jigsaw, a part of Google that aims to build technology to combat disinformation, censorship and extremism online.

He said Ukraine “has been disproportionately targeted” by advanced cyberattacks since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, adding: “It is essentially our crystal ball for what is likely to come.”

The war in Ukraine upped pressure on tech companies to work harder to combat hate speech, disinformation and other harmful content online. The European Union is working on sweeping new rules that would require Google, Facebook parent Meta and other tech giants to police their platforms more strictly.

Western powers on the Security Council have accused Russia of a campaign of propaganda, disinformation and hate directed at undermining Ukraine. A recent report from Mandiant, a cyber security firm, found that Russia used disinformation, fear and propaganda to demoralize Ukraine and divide its allies.

“Hate speech can also be a war crime,” British deputy U.N. Ambassador James Kariuki said Tuesday, calling on Russia to “stop making such statements.”

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia repeated his country’s counterclaims that Ukrainian authorities’ rhetoric has poisoned citizens against Russia and Russian-speaking populations in Ukraine, with Western encouragement.

“We see, from our side, a real incitement to violence and Russophobia in Ukraine,” he said.

Albania, which currently holds the council’s rotating presidency, called for Tuesday’s meeting.