Microsoft: Becoming a Socially Focused Giant

September 6, 2018

US citizens have a love-hate relationship with Microsoft.  Microsoft’s technology powers most of the country’s infrastructures, businesses, personal lives, and more.  At the same time, however, Microsoft’s technology is prone to problems, causing an endless amount of headaches.  Microsoft also has a reputation about caring more about a profit than its customers.  Has it suddenly had a change of heart?  According to a new post on Microsoft’s blog, the company is now interested in participating and/or protecting democracy, “We Are Taking New Steps Against Broadening Threats To Democracy.”

Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote the post about how the Internet is being used by foreign entities to disrupt governments, steal information, and spread disinformation.  Smith cites the 2016 US election and the 2017 French elections.  Smith and by proxy Microsoft says that the tech sector has a responsibility to defend democracy against further security threats:

“We’re concerned that these and other attempts pose security threats to a broadening array of groups connected with both American political parties in the run-up to the 2018 elections. That’s why today we are expanding Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program with a new initiative called Microsoft AccountGuard. This initiative will provide state-of-the-art cybersecurity protection at no extra cost to all candidates and campaign offices at the federal, state and local level, as well as think tanks and political organizations we now believe are under attack. The technology is free of charge to candidates, campaigns and related political institutions using Office 365.”

The post goes on to explain how Microsoft’s crime unit tracked six web sites associated with Strontium, a group associated with the Russian government and known for interference.  These web sites were designed to mimic real US non-profit political organizations and other political groups with the goal to spread disinformation.  The blog post also advertises Microsoft’s new AccountGuard and advocates its Microsoft Defending Democracy Program started in 2018.

Microsoft is interested in protecting the US electrons from interference, but it also interested in protecting its reputation and political supporters. Does Microsoft have stakes in social media companies? Facebook, maybe?

Whitney Grace, September 6, 2018

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