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Enjoy this newsletter? Forward it to a friend or get them to sign up. I’m David Meyer, aka @superglaze on Twitter and @davidmeyerwrites on Facebook. Don’t forget to check out the Connected Rights website and download a copy of my book, Control Shift: How Technology Affects You and Your Rights. Welkam!
FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE HAVE BEEN HEAVILY CRITICISED for the role their platforms played in spreading the video of the Christchurch killer murdering Muslims at Friday prayers last week. For once, I’m not sure all the criticism is fair.
Facebook removed 1.5 million clips from the video within 24 hours of the attack – 1.2 million were blocked at upload. YouTube was having to fight an upload every second at one point. A lot of people were clearly trying to force the video past the platforms’ filters, and they had some success in doing so, even if just for a while.
Politicians around the world have chastised Facebook in particular for not investing enough in fixing this sort of problem. But what exactly is the company supposed to have done? Human moderators cannot deal with this volume of upload, which leaves algorithms that everyone but politicians know to be imperfect, sometimes dangerously so.
Mark Zuckerberg frequently says how much he wants AI-based moderation, but the technology just isn’t there yet. And when it is there, we will rightly fear the potential for over-effective censorship of things that should remain available online. These companies really are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
However, there is plenty of valid criticism to be made when it comes to the platforms’ utility for radicalisation, in particular YouTube’s dreadful recommendation engine, which seems determined to steer people toward the far right and conspiracy-land.
VLADIMIR PUTIN HAS SIGNED Russia’s new laws forbidding the spread of fake news and online insults against Russian authorities. His human rights advisors said the new laws were too vague and should be sent back for alteration, but what the heck, Putin signed them anyway.
PRIVACY ADVOCATES IN THE US ARE TARGETING THE FTC over its failure to crack down on Facebook, despite the many privacy boo-boos the company has made after its 2011 consent order with the regulator. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has lodged a freedom of information request with the FTC, demanding to see all pending complaints against Facebook.
GOOGLE’S TRACKERS CAN BE FOUND on the government websites of all but three EU member states, according to a new report by EDRi and Cookiebot. The three are Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. France’s government websites were carrying trackers from a whopping 52 companies, and the UK’s were carrying 20 Google cookies. EDRi’s Diego Naranjo says this proves the need for the currently-stalled ePrivacy reform.
GOOGLE EMPLOYEES’ PUSHBACK AGAINST MILITARY use of their work is praiseworthy, but does it only apply to work done for the US military? The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff claims the company is indirectly helping China’s People’s Liberation Army by working with Chinese companies that take its intellectual property and pass it on.
THE US GOVERNMENT AND COMPANIES HAVE REPORTEDLY trained facial recognition systems on pictures of immigrants and abused children, without their consent.
From Slate’s report: “The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a part of the US Department of Commerce, maintains the Facial Recognition Verification Testing program, the gold standard test for facial recognition technology… Through a mix of publicly released documents and materials obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, we’ve found that the Facial Recognition Verification Testing program depends on images of children who have been exploited for child pornography; US visa applicants, especially those from Mexico; and people who have been arrested and are now deceased. Additional images are drawn from the Department of Homeland Security documentation of travelers boarding aircraft in the US and individuals booked on suspicion of criminal activity…
“NIST actively releases some of those data sets for public consumption, allowing any private citizen or corporation to download, store, and use them to build facial recognition systems, with the photographic subjects none the wiser.”
THE BBC HAS A REPORT ON HOW DOMESTIC ABUSERS are using technology to stalk and torment their victims.
From the piece: “Louise Ashwell, a caseworker from [Refuge’s] tech abuse unit, helps people who think their partners are using technology to monitor them. ‘We had loads of women who were telling us, ‘I’m going to the police, I’m going to these agencies and people think I’m crazy,” she says. ‘It sounds like something out of a thriller or a crime film, he keeps turning up.'”
“The abuse can get very sinister – with people even using GPS trackers to monitor ex-partners. ‘The kids would come back from having seen their parent and those little location trackers might have been sewed into the lining of their coat, they might have been sewn into the lining of a toy, their teddy bears,’ Ms Ashwell says.”