BBC uses unproven claims by U.S. gov agents

Nokia is scrambling not to lose US$2 billion a year of sales in China. CTO Marcus Weldon stuck his foot in his mouth at the BBC, making much of an obviously biased report about Huawei security.

The claim, “In virtually all categories we studied, we found Huawei devices to be less secure than comparable devices from other vendors,” was made by an outfit called Finite State. They are contractors to the U.S. security forces and some are former employees.

Marcus piled on thoroughly unproven claims of Huawei security problems. Huawei’s software has some problems. So does all software, including that of the U.S. National Security Agency.

Once the U.S. decided to go to war against Huawei, of course a massive propaganda and disinformation campaign began. Truth is always the first casualty of any war, and the CIA has specialized since 1947 in “presenting the U.S. position in a form that is most convincing.”

I hope Nokia doesn’t make Marcus a scapegoat. His mistake was saying publicly what so many other Nokia execs have been saying privately. He’s been generous with me and other reporters and is a good guy in other ways.

Marcus knows better than I that all software has bugs. My guess is that Huawei is actually producing some of the most secure code in the industry because it is being watched so carefully.

I can’t confirm that, partly because Nokia and Ericsson refuse to submit their software source to government security inspection, even by friendly European governments. Nokia is struggling, losing money each of the last three years, but needs to adapt to social norms.

My headline focuses on the BBC failings, not Weldon’s. Rory Cellan-Jones should not have presented a statement from Finite State as though it were the truth. Cellan-Jones and the producers behind him know there is a great deal of misinformation circulating.

A statement from a Huawei competitor and a U.S. government connected source at a minimum should have been countered by a neutral expert. That’s especially true when little evidence is presented; Finite State’s data is not public.

The best practice when a partisan makes a claim, of course, is to research whether or not it’s true. Sometimes on deadline, that’s impractical. But when possible, journalists don’t want to repeat lies without making that clear.

The NY Times prints lies on a regular basis, such as that the Sprint-T-Mobile merger would significantly improve U.S. 5G deployment. For example

Executives at Sprint and T-Mobile argue that the companies need to merge to compete with their bigger rivals, and to afford investments in the next generation of wireless technology, known as 5G.

It’s easy to see those execs are lying. T-Mobile has been massively winning customers from AT&T and Verizon for several years. There’s no reason that can’t go on, especially because it has committed to 5G across the U.S. in 2020 in 600 MHz. It’s very profitable and is part of Deutsche Telekom, an US$80 billion company.

Sprint is part of the US$100 billion Softbank, whose Chairman, Masayoshi Son, has committed the funds to improve the Sprint network. Sprint at the moment has the most extensive 5G network in the U.S.

Nokia execs will do what they think they must to save the company, which has lost money in each of the last three years.

A reporter’s job is to get as close to the truth as one can. Even at the BBC and NY Times.

Nokia statement on recent comments made by Nokia executive on the BBC

June 28, 2019

Nokia notes the comments made by a Nokia executive to the BBC on 27 June 2019 regarding the possible impact of the use of a competitor’s products on the security of UK telecom networks. These comments do not reflect the official position of Nokia. Nokia is focused on the integrity of its own products and services and does not have its own assessment of any potential vulnerabilities associated with its competitors.

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