An Insider's Guide To Big Tech's Role In War

Mike Leslie
April 20, 2024

Iran's state media reported explosions in the central province of Isfahan on Friday, as Israel claims retaliatory strikes on Iran.

Inputs that matter: State media reported that air defense systems over several Iranian cities were activated after the country's official broadcaster said explosions were heard near Isfahan city, but Tehran indicated it had no plans for retaliation.

  • Earlier Thursday, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, addressed the press after the G7 meeting in Capri, Italy, explaining, "We're committed to Israel's security" and "We're also committed to de-escalating."
  • Blinken concludes, "We are committed to achieving a Palestinian state with necessary guarantees for Israel."
  • Iran is a member of BRICS, the competing intergovernmental organization to the G7.

The opportunity: Earlier this month, reports revealed that Israel is using an artificial intelligence-aided system called 'Lavender' to identify suspects in the Gaza Strip before targeting them with air strikes.

  • "Formally, the Lavender system is designed to mark all suspected operatives in the military wings of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), including low-ranking ones, as potential bombing targets."
  • According to software engineer and blogger Paul Biggar, however, one key detail on the methods employed by the Lavender system is the use of data from Meta's messaging platform, WhatsApp.
  • Meta denies the allegations: "We have no information that these reports are accurate."
  • The New York Times reports that Apple is required to pull WhatsApp from its China store.

Zoom in: The Israeli Ministry of Defense has a "landing zone" in Google Cloud to process data and access AI services.

  • Project Nimbus is a cloud computing and AI agreement between the Israeli government and two tech companies: Google and Amazon.
  • Time said, "Google also gave the ministry a 15% discount on the original price of consulting fees."
  • While Google denies military use of the platform, "the Israeli Ministry of Defense is a Google Cloud customer."

Between the lines: Foreign Policy details "The United Nations (UN) adopted a U.S.-led resolution on artificial intelligence, marking what Washington says is a major step toward establishing a global baseline to regulate the rapidly developing technology."

  • The UN proclaims, "An Algorithm Must Not Be in Full Control of Decisions Involving Killing."
  • The resolution approved by the UN's first committee in November of 2023 "expresses concern about the possible negative consequences and impact of autonomous weapons systems on global security and regional and international stability, including the risk of an emerging arms race, and lowering the threshold for conflict and proliferation, including to non-State actors."

Follow the money: The Intercept confirms that Google offers advanced artificial intelligence through its controversial "Project Nimbus" contract.

  • The Israeli Finance Ministry announced in April 2021 the contract for a $1.2 billion cloud computing system jointly built by Google and Amazon.
  • "The former head of Security for Google Enterprise—who now heads Oracle's Israel branch—has publicly argued that one of Nimbus's goals is preventing the German government from requesting data on the Israel Defence Forces for the International Criminal Court," said Jack Poulson, director of the watchdog group Tech Inquiry.

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