Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryCensorship

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China’s Internet: The Biggest Influencer Is the State

How China uses social metrics to guide its censorship strategy

The Chinese Communist Party’s response to champion doubles tennis player Peng Shuai was about more than just dismissing an accusation and protecting a high-ranking Party member. It was about silencing influencers and suppressing social mobilization. In a previous article, we looked at how Beijing’s propaganda machine used fake Twitter accounts to amplify messaging around tennis champion Peng Shuai after she disappeared from the public and was censored on the Chinese internet. Wilson Center scholar Rui Zhong writes in Wired magazine, “This is not about topics. This censorship is fundamentally about the dismantling of social resources.” Rui Zhong’s article is helpful in contextualizing the Chinese Communist Party’s targets for online censorship. She says that most analyses of Chinese internet censorship focus on specific words, phrases, or topics, rather…

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Tennis ball in net on flag China background.

Peng Shuai Backtracks Her Accusations

This comes as no surprise to anyone who knows how China's propaganda works

On December 19, Peng Shuai was stopped by a journalist with Singaporean Chinese-language state-owned newspaper Lianhe Zaobao while she was in Shanghai for the International Ski Federation’s Cross-Country Skiing China City Tour. The Wall Street Journal reports that journalist Chen Qingqing, of the Chinese state media mouthpiece Global Times, posted a short video on Twitter of Peng with former NBA and CBA basketball player and current chairman of the China Basketball Association, Yao Ming hours before the Lianhe Zaobao interview was posted. In the interview Peng said that she never said or wrote about anyone sexually assaulting her. The Wall Street Journal reports: “There’s been a lot of misunderstanding,” Ms. Peng said in an interview, describing the situation as touching on “my personal privacy.” “There shouldn’t be any distorted interpretations,” she…

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#WhereIsPengShuai: China’s Star Tennis Player Went Missing

Peng re-appeared after two weeks, but her disappearance sparked a global outcry against human rights violations under the Chinese Communist Party

On November 2, two-time tennis doubles champion, singles semifinalist, and three-time Olympian Peng Shuai posted on her Weibo account an essay accusing the former vice premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, of rape and coercion. They had an on-and-off relationship that began ten years ago and, reportedly, had a fight several days before her post. (A partial translation of her post can be found here.) In 2014 Peng was the number one tennis doubles champion, having won two Grand Slams, and has toured with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). She has also appeared in three Olympics for China. Zhang is a retired vice premier of the highest governing body in China, the Politburo Standing Committee, and unlike other government officials who have…

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Indie Social Medium Now Shows Big Gain Due to Big Tech Censorship

Rumble recently received backing from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, PayPal and Facebook co-founder

In the current issue of City Journal, Steven Malanga looks at the traffic Silicon Valley is losing. Not much was expected of Rumble, an alternative YouTube founded in 2013 by Canadian entrepreneur Chris Pavlovski. But it hung on until 2020, when YouTube stepped up its efforts to remove content inconsistent with its public-spirited values or with its parent company Google’s political alliances — depending on who you talk to. At any rate, high-profile commentators were looking fora new home. And they found one: In just ten months, Rumble’s online viewership has increased 25-fold. The company has attracted funding from prominent venture capitalists and recently completed a series of deals to bring such outspoken voices as Greenwald, Gabbard, and Joe Rogan…

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Why AI Can’t Really Filter Out “Hate News”

As Robert J. Marks explains, the No Free Lunch theorem establishes that computer programs without bias are like ice cubes without cold

In Define information before you talk about it, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed engineering prof Robert J. Marks on the way information, not matter, shapes our world (October 28, 2021). In the first portion, Egnor and Marks discussed questions like: Why do two identical snowflakes seem more meaningful than one snowflake. Then they turned to the relationship between information and creativity. Is creativity a function of more information? Or is there more to it? And human intervention make any difference? Does Mount Rushmore have no more information than Mount Fuji? Does human intervention make a measurable difference? That’s specified complexity. Putting the idea of specified complexity to work, how do we measure meaningful information? How do we know Lincoln contained more…

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George Gilder and Niall Ferguson at COSM 2021 on Doom

Historian Supports New Anti-Cancel Culture University

Niall Ferguson hopes that the new University of Austin will unite traditional wisdom with new technology in a spirit of free enquiry

At COSM 2021 yesterday, prominent historian Niall Ferguson talked about his decision to sign up with the new University of Austin, founded in explicit opposition to rampant political correctness and censorship on university campuses, which is beginning to affect quality scholarship. In response to a question from the floor, Ferguson, author of Doom: The politics of catastrophe (2021), outlined the seriousness of the problem: Well, it’s just been announced this week that we’re trying to create a new university, University of Austin, committed to the fundamental principles of, of academic freedom of free inquiry. And the reason we have to do this is that we see so many limitations on free inquiry and academic freedom at the established universities. The…

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LinkedIn Says Goodbye to China

If the blasé business world of LinkedIn cannot pass the Cyberspace Administration of China’s rules, then what platform can?

LinkedIn announced that it will no longer host social media and content sharing in China. Instead, it’s China-only app will be a job-board site. This comes after LinkedIn received criticism for blocking certain researcher profiles in China as well as human rights advocates and journalists who write on China. LinkedIn, which was bought by Microsoft in 2016, was one of the only U.S.-based social media outlets still operating within China. Twitter, Facebook (including Instagram, WhatsApp), and YouTube (owned by Alphabet, Inc.) are banned. Google (also owned by Alphabet, Inc.) left in 2010. Signal and Clubhouse were banned in 2021. Other apps, such as TikTok (owned by ByteDance, Inc.) have their own Chinese version that complies with censors and data regulators.…

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Google and YouTube Demonetize Climate Change Skeptics

But how did Google acquire the authority to declare what is "misinformation" or "scientific consensus"?

The Google Ads team announced a new policy last week banning the monetization of content critical of a current consensus around climate change. Beginning in November, both Google and YouTube will: …prohibit ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change. This includes content referring to climate change as a hoax or a scam, claims denying that long-term trends show the global climate is warming, and claims denying that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change. Google Ads team, “Updating our ads and monetization policies on climate change,” posted October 7, 2021 This does not mean that Google and YouTube will block any and all content that denies…

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Can Texas Win Its Fight With Big Social Media Censorship?

Engineering prof Karl D. Stephan notes that, currently, if a user is de-platformed from a large site such as Facebook, there are, famously, not a lot of alternatives

(This article by Karl D. Stephan originally appeared at Engineering Ethics Blog September 27, 2021, and is reprinted with permission.) On September 9, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 20, a law designed to keep social media companies with more than 50 million subscribers from blocking users whose viewpoints the company disapproves of. Scheduled to take effect in December, the law has already attracted controversy and threats of lawsuits to keep it from going into effect. Currently, if a user is de-platformed from a large site such as Facebook, there are not a lot of alternatives. The overarching law in the US pertaining to such situations is Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which prevails if there is a conflict between…

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If Google Thinks For You, Use THEIR Search Engine. Otherwise…

Google’s monopoly affects the free exchange of ideas in the public square and our electoral process

For years, the internet has been dominated by the all-seeing Google. Google has been so successful in its execution and protection of its brand that we culturally understand that to “Google” something is to conduct an internet search, despite the existence of alternative search engines. Google holds a massive advantage over all other search engines. More than 88% of all web searches are conducted through Google while the second-largest web browser, Bing, claims not quite 6% of all web searches. While alternative search services have existed for years (such as DuckDuckGo, Ask, and Startpage), only two English language indexes exist – Google’s and Bing’s. Most of the familiar search “alternatives” pull from those two datasets. Alternative search engines, then, aren’t all that…

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Texas Governor Signs Law Curbing Big Tech Censorship

A similar law in Florida was halted by a federal judge. Will Texas's law face the same legal battle?

Last Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 20 into law, legislation that would prohibit social media companies from banning users for their political beliefs and provide users with a legal remedy for unfair discriminatory behavior. The law is very similar to legislation passed earlier this year in Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7072 into law at the end of May. Within days, technology trade groups had filed a lawsuit, and on June 30, a federal judge stopped the bill in its tracks with a preliminary injunction. For the bill’s proponents, the law’s intention is to protect the free speech rights of state citizens when using social media. “Freedom of speech is under attack in Texas,” said…

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The New Internet: Reclassify Political Opponents as “Hate Groups”

Maybe this is something to talk to legislators about

You don’t want your tax money spent in a certain way? Maybe you are a “hater.” Increasingly, bad things can happen as a result. Even from corporations you trust. A friend has pointed out that many American corporations are not nearly so interested in making money these days as they are in politically correct positioning. Consider the current trend toward depublishing books the public wants to read and “de-newsing” news stories people want to hear. But the trend is growing beyond books and news. It could affect your right to bank and use credit institutions. Successful entrepreneur David Sacks has the story at Substack about how concerns about “hate speech” can further an agenda: Just as there is no set…

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Section 230: What Is It and Why the Controversy?

Does Section 230 provide Big Tech too much power, or is it necessary for the moderation of misinformation and inappropriate content?

At the center of the controversy between free speech and the rights of private companies lies Section 230, the controversial U.S. code dating back to 1996. Toward the end of his term in 2020, former President Donald Trump famously tweeted that Section 230 should be “completely terminated.” Sen. Josh Hawley, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voiced their support, but by and large, the sentiment was met with fierce resistance. Advocates for the reform (or complete repeal) of Section 230 argue that it shields Big Tech companies from accountability when they engage in politically-motivated censorship and content moderation. Supporters of Section 230 argue that it is essential to keep the internet free of misinformation and vile or obscene material. Section 230…

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Is “Misinformation” Another Way to Say “Unwelcome Information”?

Cameron English notes that, on social media, major media outlets can botch the science with impunity but the slightest offenses, real or imagined, get others silenced

At American Council on Science and Health (“promoting science and debunking junk since 1978”), Cameron English reflects on the handwringing among social media companies about how to crack down on “misinformation” on COVID-19. Given the number of authoritative statements made and suddenly reversed, tt seems that any such crackdown would largely be driven by politics. For example: Facebook recently announced that it would “no longer take down posts claiming that Covid-19 was man-made or manufactured,” and the company’s new policy nicely underscores this point about credibility. What was the social media platform’s justification for allowing users to discuss the lab-spillover hypothesis? It didn’t hire a team of virologists and foreign policy experts to assess the viability of competing explanations for…

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Florida Big Tech Law

The judge ruled that the law violates the First Amendment rights of social media companies

A federal judge struck down the recent Florida legislation aimed at reigning in the censorship powers of Big Tech, hours before it was set to go into effect. Within days of Governor DeSantis signing the bill into law in May, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) filed a lawsuit, representing the biggest names in social media (such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon). They argued that the new law is a violation of their First Amendment rights as private companies. On June 30, Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled in favor of NetChoice and CCIA, issuing a preliminary injunction on the law after determining that it violates the First Amendment…

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Newsletter Group Creates Alarm Plus Demands for Censorship

Substack is getting a lot of ink these days — raising both hope from readers and hand wringing from old media

The traditional media our parents grew up with are slowly dying in a chronic low-ratings crises — but surprising new media are being born. Substack is getting a lot of ink these days — raising both hope and handwringing. Its very existence shows how information is rapidly changing. At Substack, an online subscription newsletter system founded in 2017, tech guys Chris Best and Hamish McKenzie point out bluntly that the “New York Times” model of information is doomed: Today, as a result of a mass shift of advertising revenue to Google and Facebook, the news business is in crisis. The great journalistic totems of the last century are dying. News organizations—and other entities that masquerade as them—are turning to increasingly…

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But Why Is “Depublishing” Cool Among Publishers Now?

Publishers now Cancel their own books in a righteous fury!

Withdrawing books instead of defending them is now “cool” because the industry has changed. Now, often, it’s about currying favor with government and powerful people, not with helping readers understand the world around us. To consider what’s changed, take one uproar around a biography of novelist Philip Roth (1933–2018) by a U.S. author Bill Bailey: Several women accused Bailey of predatory behavior. At a Louisiana private school where he had once taught English, he was said to have “groomed” eighth-graders for later of-age seductions to rape. And a woman said that Bailey had raped her at the home of a mutual friend who—in one of the scandal’s myriad ironies—was a book reviewer for the New York Times. In no time,…

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When Universities No Longer Want You To Know Controversial Ideas

Perhaps The Economist might wish to consider whether reality matters

Yesterday, we looked at why the publishing industry has gone to war against books. In that case, it’s an economic decision, really. The industry no longer benefits from championing books that the establishment would rather you did not read — a major change from centuries of publishing history. Why it happened? Well, mainly, there are lots of other ways to get the news. And there are ways to make money from publishing without risking controversial books. The tendency has, of course, infected universities as well. The Economist has the story: What aren’t you allowed to know more about gender ideology?: Hours before Jo Phoenix, a professor of criminology at Britain’s Open University, was due to give a talk at Essex…

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Fighting Back Against Cancel Culture With Douglas Murray

We may need to start asking ourselves some hard questions

Journalist and author Douglas Murray’s piece is over a year old but it has aged well. He focuses on the silence from the institutions that we might reasonably expect to speak up: All ages have their orthodoxies. And if writers, artists, thinkers and comedians do not occasionally tread on them, then they are not doing their jobs. Meanwhile human nature remains what it is. And just as some children will always pull the wings off flies and fry small ants with their toy magnifying glasses, so a certain number of adult inadequates will find meaning in their lives by sniffing around the seats in the public square until they find an aroma they can claim offends them. Which brings us…