Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategorySocial Media

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Group young people using mobile smartphone outdoor - Millennial generation having fun with new trends social media apps - Youth technology addicted - Red background

Are We Really Luddites Just for Logging Off?

We can be wiser about boundaries for technology

(This piece is reprinted with permission from the Houston Chronicle, October 7, 2021.) Have you ever been called a Luddite? If so, you were probably not being credited with fueling a skilled labor movement in 19th century England. You were being jabbed for your relationship to technology. Today, the term is largely pejorative and can be directed at anyone who questions, rejects or even fumbles with technology. If you resist a new technology in favor of an old one, you’re a Luddite. If the recent testimony from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen persuaded you to quit social media, you’re a Luddite. If you don’t know how to use a newer technology efficiently, you’re a Luddite. You’re swimming upstream down the river…

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Group of demonstrators on road, young people from different culture and race fight for climate change - Global warming and enviroment concept - Focus on banners

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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Ageing society concept with Asian elderly senior adult women sisters using mobile digital smart phone application technology for social media network among friends community via internet communication

Need Help With Today’s Technology? Ask Your Elders!

Until you place technology in its larger context, you won’t fully understand or appreciate it.

(This story originally appeared at Newsmax and is reprinted with the author’s permission.) I made a new friend recently in an unlikely place—the comments section of Newsmax.com. In response to a recent post for my Newsmax column, Dorothy shared of her experience as a telephone company switchboard operator from 1949 to 1952. In her initial comments, she recalled a nugget of wisdom she’d once heard from someone: change is not always progress. We got to talking. Born in 1932, Dorothy has lived in several states in America and held jobs at a telephone company, the U.S. Air Force, American Airlines, a travel agency, a Tupperware sales agency, and more. She’s lived through countless technological developments in every area of life.…

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Influencer Marketing, Concept of Information and Influence Propagation in Social Networks

Erik Larson To Speak at COSM 2021, Puncturing AI Myths

A programmer himself, he is honest about what AI can and can’t do

If you’ve ever got the sense that we are all being played by the people marketing “Soon AI will think just like you or me!”, you may want to catch Erik J. Larson’s talk at COSM 2021 (November 10–12). Larson, author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do (Harvard University Press, 2021), is a computer scientist and tech entrepreneur. The founder of two DARPA-funded AI startups, we are told that he is currently working on core issues in natural language processing and machine learning. He has written for The Atlantic and for professional journals and has tested the technical boundaries of artificial intelligence through his work with the IC2 tech incubator at the…

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Hand adding a new team member to a group. Business management concept

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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Cancel Culture Symbol

Database! One Stop Shop for Tracking Attacks by Cancel Culture

Looking at a number of entries at once helps us grasp the extent of the takeover of our culture, especially at universities, by grievance mobs

One used to hear many people say “Cancel Culture is so ridiculous, it will go away soon.” Well, that’s not happening. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, who usually writes about other matters, discusses two representative incidents: The removal of a book review at Science-Based Medicine written by one of its own editors because it was deemed too friendly to Abigail Shrier’s book, Irreversible Damage (2021), on the 4,400% rise from from 2008 to 2018 of teenage females seeking to transition to males — and the curious absence of rigorous studies that might account for the astounding increase. Coyne notes I read Shrier’s book and thought it was fair, empathic, and certainly not transphobic. But because Shrier was unfairly accused of transphobia…

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children's sorter with geometric shapes on a white background selective focus

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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Holograms of masks, Hackers hiding behind digital anonymous masks, fake accounts. Concept for internet crime, fraud, cyber attack, spam, electronic theft. 3D illustration, 3D render

China Manipulates Social Media to Spark Protests in the U.S.

Cybersecurity firm FireEye and Google Threat Analysis have fingered a campaign against the Hong Kong democracy movement, as well as claims that COVID started in the U.S.

Both a September report by cybersecurity firm FireEye and a threat assessment post by Google highlight the scope of China’s current global propaganda campaign. According to FireEye’s Threat Research Blog, thousands of “inauthentic accounts” — across dozens of social media platforms and websites around the world — amplify the Chinese government’s messaging. While several non-government organizations, cybersecurity firms, and media outlets have reported on the way China’s Twitter network manipulates social medial platforms, FireEye and Alphabet say the breadth and scope of the propaganda campaign is much greater than previously thought: Most reporting has highlighted English and Chinese-language activity occurring on the social media giants Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. However, we have now observed this pro-PRC activity taking place on…

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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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Social media concept.

Federal Trade Commission Takes Facebook to Court… Again

The FTC hopes to prove in an 80-page complaint that Facebook holds damaging monopoly power over competitors

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed an amended complaint against Facebook, trying again for an antitrust lawsuit after a federal judge dismissed their original complaint earlier this summer. The updated complaint alleges that Facebook has violated antitrust laws and garnered monopoly power, namely by buying up rival companies and imposing unfair policies that “neutralize perceived competitive threats.” Facebook is the world’s dominant online social network, with a purported three billion-plus regular users. Facebook has maintained its monopoly position in significant part by pursuing Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) Mark Zuckerberg’s strategy, expressed in 2008: “it is better to buy than compete.” True to that maxim, Facebook has systematically tracked potential rivals and acquired companies that it viewed as serious competitive…

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A cuban flag with holes waves over a street in Central Havana. La Habana, as the locals call it, is the capital city of Cuba

Social Media Was Instrumental in Recent Cuba Protests

Social media broke down barriers and helped galvanize the Cuban people against their Communist government

One month after protests broke out across Cuba, the island’s Communist government has released a new set of internet and social media regulations specifically aimed at cracking down on anti-government activity. The Cuban government released the new regulations on Tuesday, forbidding internet content that is critical of the state’s policies, specifically on “constitutional, social and economic” matters, as well as content that could incite actions “that alter public order.” In addition, Cubans are now encouraged to report any content violating the new regulations, using a government-created form. Penalties for violating the new internet use decrees will be determined by legislation at a later date. Why such a crackdown on internet content? It’s because social media was essential to the widespread…

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Justice and law concept. Gavel on sounding block in hand's Male judge at a courtroom, working with document law books, report the case on table in modern office.

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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An internet email symbol and a group of people are separated by a red prohibitory symbol No. restrictions on access to the global Internet. Censorship. Information control, society isolation policy

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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Hand with microphone tied with rope, depicting the idea of freedom of the press, idea of the repression of the mass media or freedom of expression

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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Governments Worldwide Pressured Twitter to Censor in 2020

World governments demanded the removal of content from 199 journalist sources

Twitter released its latest Transparency Report on Wednesday, revealing that in the latter half of 2020, there was a 26% increase in requests from international governments to remove posts from verified journalists. The report tracks various data from July 1 to December 31, 2020, including global legal requests and Twitter Rules enforcement. Global legal requests are divided between information requests and removal requests. Twitter received over 14,500 global government information requests, and over 38,500 global legal demands to remove content. According to the report, “94% of the total global volume of legal demands originated from only five countries (in decreasing order): Japan, India, Russia, Turkey, and South Korea.” Of the information requests received, Twitter announced that they “produced some or…

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The Most “Woke” Company Could Contribute Most to Online Bias

Google has got to be one of the "Wokest" companies but there is a lesson in how Timnit Gebru got fired

Here’s a paper worth revisiting, “On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?” (March 3, 2021), if only for the principal author’s trouble associated with publishing it. Although Google had hired Timnit Gebru to do ethics consultation, an executive, Megan Kacholia demanded that she remove all suggestion of her affiliation. In the ensuing uproar, Gebru ended up no longer employed there. The paper in question was, in Gebru’s mind, pretty unobjectionable. It surveyed the known pitfalls of so-called large language models, a type of AI software — most famously exemplified by a system called GPT-3 — that was stoking excitement in the tech industry. Google’s own version of the technology was now helping to power the…

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Laptop computer displaying 'we control' sign

Is Facebook Anti-Science or Was That Just a Bad Mood It Was In?

The curious case of the scientist who spoke up about possible misrepresentations of research points up the problem with Big Tech social media today

University of Florida geneticist Kevin Folta recently learned the hard way about the imbalancesof Facebook censorship. On June 19, the company flagged a 2015 post written by University of Florida geneticist Kevin Folta. What was his offense? Folta took two anti-pesticide activists to task for making misleading statements about the weed killer glyphosate. They falsely claimed the herbicide causes cancer and alleged that the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) acknowledged the causal link between the two. Cameron English, “Social Media Censorship: Scientist Corrects Anti-GMO Silliness, Facebook Threatens To Ban Him” at American Council on Science and Health (June 22, 2021) Folta, Cameron tells us, was informed that “his post violated Facebook’s ‘community standards’ and warned that his account may…

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Bottom view close-up of four white surveillance cameras

What We Lose When We Stop Losing Things

What do we lose when we stop losing things? Amidst all this finding, do we risk losing part of ourselves?

To live is to lose. We’ve all felt the anguish of losing something important — keys, wallet, phone, bags, money, opportunities, loved ones. Loss is part of the human condition. Some things we find again, some we don’t. It has been this way throughout history. But the development of Bluetooth technology in the 1990s forever changed the way we interacted with our possessions. The wireless standard — developed by a consortium of early tech companies — uses low-power short-range radio waves to connect our gear to personal-area networks known as piconets. It got its name rather serendipitously from the medieval Scandinavian king Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson. And just as his rule united Scandinavia, so Bluetooth networking has united our favorite tech…