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What's New in Civic Tech: Experts Warn of Ukraine Misinformation

Plus, the Colorado Broadband Office is planning to connect more than 99 percent of households in the state, Arizona is investing $68.1 million in connectivity, and lawmakers ask the FCC to translate broadband labels.

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Shutterstock/Alexander Supertramp
As news broke this week about Russia attacking Ukraine, experts warned social media users and journalists to be mindful of spreading misinformation and also to practice heightened cybersecurity etiquette.

These warnings — which came from academics and researchers — cautioned against inadvertently spreading false information, videos that are not what they present themselves to be and any reports from unconfirmed sources. At the same time, media experts also warned newsrooms to bolster usual cybersecurity practice by varying passwords, requiring two-factor authentication and watching out for phishing attacks.

Kate Starbird is an associate professor of human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington and studies information amid crises. Starbird advised the following:



And the thread continues with more actionable advice from the first tweet.

John Scott-Railton is a senior researcher at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, and he underscored the prominence of dubious information during this crisis, as well as the importance of doing due diligence before sharing anything related to what's happening in Ukraine. He wrote:



Jane Lytvynenko is a senior research fellow for the Technology and Social Change Project at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University. She specifically cautioned reporters and news organizations to take stock of cybersecurity practices during this moment, writing:



These warnings came alongside reports from major U.S. news outlets that Russia's aggression against Ukraine would unfold essentially in two theaters: on the ground and in cyberspace. With U.S. leadership pledging repercussions in the form of sanctions, government agencies in this country may become targets of cyber attacks. In fact, an advisory was issued earlier this month via the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

That warning — released with joint backing from CISA, the FBI and the National Security Agency — highlighted regular targeting of U.S. defense contractors by Russian state-sponsored aggressors. Concerned parties were subsequently urged to review the federal government's Russian Cyber Threat Overview and Advisories page. (Zack Quaintance)

EXECUTIVE ORDER AIMS TO EXPAND COLORADO BROADBAND


The Colorado Broadband Office is aiming to develop a plan to connect more than 99 percent of households in the state to high-speed broadband by 2027. Dubbed the Colorado Broadband Strategic Plan, it will be published later this year.

The plan will address broadband needs through the state for K-12 distance learning, telemedicine, challenges faced by rural communities and more. The state will leverage funding opportunities at the local, state and federal levels.

The plan comes after Gov. Jared Polis recently signed an executive order directing its creation, with Polis noting that closing the digital divide will help Colorado create a stronger economy by providing students and businesses with the digital tools to succeed. With the executive order, Polis aims to remove some of the barriers that slow broadband expansion efforts. (Julia Edinger)

ARIZONA TO INVEST $68.1 MILLION IN BROADBAND ALONG I-40 WEST


Arizona is investing $68.1 million to expand broadband connectivity along Interstate 40 West from the city of Flagstaff to the California border, according to an announcement from the governor's office. The effort will be led by a partnership between the Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Commerce Authority and Sun Corridor Network.

The expansion builds on the progress of the Statewide Middle-Mile Network underway along I-17 and I-19. The Arizona Broadband Statewide Middle-Mile Strategic Plan released last month identified households that are unserved or underserved and deemed I-40 West a priority corridor. The plan found that 91 percent of unserved and underserved households are within a five-mile radius of the state’s interstates and state routes.

This effort will build on previous broadband expansion efforts, such as the state's $100 million commitment from November 2021 and the establishment of the Rural Broadband Development Grant Program in 2020. (Edinger)

LAWMAKERS ASK FCC TO MAKE BROADBAND CONSUMER LABELS AVAILABLE IN OTHER LANGUAGES


A group of 29 members of the U.S. Congress have requested in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel that broadband consumer labels be made available in Spanish and Asian and Pacific Island languages. The languages include Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Bengali, as well as other languages deemed necessary.

In the announcement, Rep. Marc Veasey stated that such consumer labels ensure customers have clear and accurate information about broadband services and the payments required. The establishment of the labels is something the FCC was directed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to consider. The next step is to make this information accessible to those who don't speak English.

“We urge that the commission require ISPs to make these labels available in multiple languages to ensure our diverse communities are equally informed about their Internet options,” the letter states. (Edinger)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.