Category: Big Tech

  • OpenAI founder Sam Altman has been embroiled in a series of controversies about the company’s decision-making. Most recently, he incorporated actress Scarlett Johansson’s voice without her permission into ChatGPT. Yet before that, Altman helped launch a cryptocurrency project in 2021 called Worldcoin that scanned people’s eyeballs and collected biometric data in exchange for digital money.

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  • The Luddites, who smashed machines in the 19th century, in an organized effort to resist automation, are often portrayed as uneducated opponents of technology. But according to Blood in the Machine author Brian Merchant, “The Luddites were incredibly educated as to the harms of technology. They were very skilled technologists. So they understood exactly how new developments in machinery would…

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  • In comedy and politics, just as in business and innovation, timing is everything. This week, Australians were reminded of the truth of this enduring axiom. News Corporation Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller fronted the National Press Club in Canberra calling for the Australian government to reign-in the monopoly power of the Big Tech giants in…

    The post Aussie fight and flight against the Big Tech flex appeared first on InnovationAus.com.

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  • The Israeli government spent millions of dollars to fund a covert, ongoing social media campaign to create an illusion of stronger pro-Israel sentiment in order to push U.S. politicians to send more military funding to bankroll the Gaza genocide and other Israeli atrocities, a new bombshell report finds. Reports published Wednesday by Haaretz and The New York Times detail how, in October…

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  • In recent months, a number of novelists, artists and newspapers have sued generative artificial intelligence (AI) companies for taking a “free ride” on their content. These suits allege that the companies, which use that content to train their machine learning models, may be breaking copyright laws. From the tech industry’s perspective, this content mining is necessary in order to build the AI…

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  • The European Commission signaled Monday that it has no intention of waiting for powerful tech companies to change their practices in order to comply with a landmark anti-monopoly law passed by the European Union earlier this month, as officials informed Apple, Facebook parent company Meta, and Google parent company Alphabet that they were being investigated for potential violations.

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  • Investigating MH17 unlocked the role of big data in assembling a criminal brief, pioneering the use of open-source intelligence.   “I became interested in how big data was being used to automate and amplify disinformation efforts,” Dr Miah Hammond-Errey, a former director at the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre, tells InnovationAus.com editorial director James…

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  • A review of Australia’s online safety laws will consider greater enforcement powers for the eSafety Commissioner and new penalties for social media giants to address the growing number harms, such as deepfakes, internet pile-on attacks and doxxing. The review will also explore whether a cost recovery model could be used to fund regulatory activities, much…

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  • It was a struggle to see how a child’s welfare was relevant in the latest, shrill debates about technology taking place on The Hill.  The Senate Judiciary Committee and the leaders of social media companies were on show to thrash out matters on technology and their threats on January 31 in a hearing titled “Big Tech and the Online Child Exploitation Crisis.”  The companies present: X Corp, represented by Linda Yaccarino; TikTok Inc, fronted by Shou Chew; Snap Inc, by Evan Spiegel; Meta and Mark Zuckerberg; and Jason Citron of Discord Inc.

    Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) got the ghoulish proceedings underway with a video featuring victims and survivors.  “I was sexually exploited on Facebook,” declares one.  “I was sexually exploited on Instagram,” comes another.  “I was sexually exploited on X.”  And so forth.

    Exploitation leads to distress and worse.  “The child that … gets exploited is never the same again,” says a parent.  One lost their son to suicide after being exploited on Facebook.  Then, the failings of indifferent Big Tech operatives are carted out.  “How many more kids will suffer and die because of social media?” goes the tune.  “We need Congress to do something for our children and protect them.”

    This supplied Durbin the ideal, moralistic (and moralising) springboard.  And nothing excites those in Congress more than a moral crisis from which much mischief can be made.  There was, he solemnly declared, a “sexual exploitation is a crisis in America.” In the decade from 2013 to 2023, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) had received and increase from 1,380 cyber tips per day to 100,000 daily reports.  The modern smartphone has become a hellish conduit of exploitation. “Discord has been used to groom, abduct and abuse children. Meta’s Instagram helped connect and promote a network of paedophiles.  Snapchat’s disappearing messages have been co-opted by criminals who financially extort young victims. TikTok has become a ‘platform of choice’ for predators to access, engage, and groom children for abuse”.

    From the Republican side, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham saw social media companies in their current design and operation as “dangerous products.  They’re destroying lives, threatening democracy itself. These companies must be reined in or the worst is yet to come.”

    The senators were ploughing familiar ground: the corrosion of mental health including instances of self-harm and suicide, the role of social media in perpetrating a number of crimes (drug dealing, sextortion) and the blissful digital heavens such companies have created for any number of unsavoury cults, ideologies and inclinations.

    What, then, of it?  For one thing, Zuckerberg, who was making his eighth appearance at such a hearing, was hardly going to offer anything constructive – at least in a binding sense.  In the month just passed, internal Meta documents revealed a number of concerns from employees that the company’s messaging apps had featured in various instances of child exploitation.  Little was done about it, which was precisely to be expected.

    As a useful whipping boy of Congressional outrage, Meta’s CEO provided the perfect platform for senatorial outrage.  Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) could spice the airwaves (and the global social media universe) with his righteous display: “There’s families of victims here today.  Have you apologised to the victims?  Would you like to do so now?”  Zuckerberg, reminded that he was on national television, did the performing seal act, turning around and facing the audience.  A number of photos of deceased children were helpfully offered to torment the guilty soul.  “I’m sorry,” Zuckerberg responded.  “Everything that you all have gone through, it’s terrible.  No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered and this is why we invest so much and are going to continue doing industry leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things your families have had to suffer.”

    It was a fantastically bloodless response, filled with the usual Big Tech baubles: industry standards would be met, innovations would be made, investments would follow, and new products of sterling safety engineered.  As Zuckerberg went on to explain to Hawley, “I view my job and the job of our company is building the best tools that we can keep our community safe.”  But the model as to how such companies extract, use, and monetise information – surveillance capitalism – is left untouched.  Hawley’s cosmetic suggestion is to create a compensation fund for victims; the social media business model can continue to operate untrammelled because no member of Congress wants to be tarnished with the anti-corporation brush.  Money always comes first.

    Another great threat was also being teased out in the combative questions posed to the social media CEOs.  Their companies have produced hideous, wounding and in some cases lethal products, all of which continue being used by billions, including haranguing, morally indignant politicians and unsuspecting children.  But Congress also showed why it is also a problem to the very people it claims to be protecting.

    The form this takes is the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), a co-sponsored initiative from Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).  KOSA ostensibly deals with child safety, intended to empower the attorney general of every state, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to file lawsuits against apps or websites for failing to “prevent or mitigate” the various harms that supposedly affect children.  Its effect, far from protecting children, will be something quite different, elevating the “duty of care” principle to scrub content that might cause “anxiety”, “depression” and any other number of undesirable behaviours.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation describes KOSA as a censorship bill.  And it is easy to see why, with any item of information or news shared susceptible to being banned or modified for causing distress to children.  “Ultimately,” writes the EFF’s Jason Kelley, “no amendment will change the basic fact that KOSA’s duty of care turns what is meant to be a bill about child safety into a censorship bill that will harm the rights of both adult and minor uses.”

    Fight for the Future Director Evan Greer was also deeply unimpressed, telling TechCrunch that, “Dozens of human rights, civil liberties, LGBTQ+ and racial justice groups oppose the reckless legislation being proposed at today’s hearing.”

    In an attempt to stream roll the CEOs into supporting the bill, Senator Blumenthal asked where they stood on its merits.  Spiegel and Yaccarino expressed support for KOSA.  Those from TikTok, Meta and Discord dithered and expressed reservations.  Citron was diplomatic.  “We very much think that a national privacy standard would be great.” Chew noted that “some groups have raised some concerns”.  Zuckerberg blandly stated that, “These are nuanced things.”

    The hearing of January 31 ended with an open conspiracy against genuine change in the social media ecosystem.  Instead of focusing on privacy and surveillance capitalism, the senators were more interested in the regulation of outrage over undesirable content.  Instead of considering genuine reform, the CEOs made non-binding promises about cosmetic adjustments and fictional industry standards.  Along the way, the children were well and truly forgotten.

    The post Forget the Kids: Social Media, Congress and Child Safety first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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  • Treasury will soon open a consultation process on the government’s plan to crack down on anti-competitive conduct by digital platforms with what is expected to be an ex ante regime. A similar approach in Europe last week started bearing fruit and is being closely watched by Australian banks that will stand to save millions almost…

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  • Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, has been censoring posts from pro-Palestine voices, a new analysis from Human Rights Watch finds, lending evidence to what many advocates for Palestinian rights have suspected since Israel’s current assault began. Human Rights Watch analyzed posts on Facebook and Instagram from over 60 countries and found that the platforms have been taking down…

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    This post was originally published on Latest – Truthout.

  • Privacy advocates on Saturday said the AI Act, a sweeping proposed law to regulate artificial intelligence in the European Union whose language was finalized Friday, appeared likely to fail at protecting the public from one of AI’s greatest threats: live facial recognition. Representatives of the European Commission spent 37 hours this week negotiating provisions in the AI Act with the European…

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  • Amazon, Apple, Google and other Big Tech companies face the prospect of an EU-style ex ante digital competition regime in Australia after the federal government agreed to progress work on a new regulatory framework. The framework could see the creation of mandatory service-specific codes for designated digital platforms to prevent anti-competitive conduct like self-preferencing. Ex…

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  • A digital platforms coordination body should be created by the federal government to address the competition concerns presented by Big Tech companies like Google, Meta, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, a Senate committee has recommended. The finding is contained in an Senate inquiry’s report into the influence of international digital platforms, which also urged the government…

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  • Big tech merger proposals that “entrench, materially increase, or materially extend a firm’s position to substantial market power” could soon be grounds for rejection, as the federal government releases options for merger control reform partly in response to the growing consolidation of digital platform operators. Among several competition issues highlighted in a consultation paper released on Monday,…

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  • Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, has removed headlines from article previews in posts on the platform, placing a huge barrier on access to news and information from media outlets in the right-wing billionaire’s latest attack on journalism. For many users, links to news articles on the website now look similar to a post with an image attached, but with small text showing the domain of the…

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  • Tech giants are unwilling or unable to provide lawmakers with figures on their local market share despite facing new codes of conduct designed to protect competition and consumers. Representatives from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Apple and Google on Tuesday either declined to reveal their local market shares or underestimated them compared market research in evidence…

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  • “If you’ve never tried to organize a movement without the internet, I’m here to tell you, it’s really hard. We need to seize the means of computation, because while the internet isn’t the most important thing that we have to worry about right now, all the things that are more important, gender and racial justice, inequality, the climate emergency, those are struggles that we’re going to win or…

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  • Amazon’s local policy leaders could not name a single use of generative AI by the company in Australia or what datasets it would be trained on, despite its global chief claiming the technology is a focus of every part of its business just weeks earlier. Fronting the Parliament’s inquiry into the influence of international digital…

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  • Cryptocurrency brokers are skipping out on at least half of their tax obligations, experts have estimated — and a group of senators is urging federal officials to crack down on what analysts say is an at least $50 billion tax gap caused by crypto tax evaders. Four senators, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), sent a letter on Tuesday to federal regulators urging them to swiftly…

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  • Microsoft caused the government “billions of dollars of damage” when it pulled out of defence and national security work last year but faced no consequences, a Senate inquiry has heard. At an inquiry into the influence of international digital platforms, Big Tech companies were also accused of exploiting a “rigged game” of low taxes helped…

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  • Instead of banning neo-Nazis and white supremacists who have overrun Twitter (recently renamed X) and caused concerns for advertisers on the platform, the company is threatening advertisers, saying that if they don’t spend a certain amount of money each quarter, they could risk losing their verification and being impersonated on the platform. According to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal…

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  • “It’s really important for people to understand what this bundle of ideologies is, because it’s become so hugely influential, and is shaping our world right now, and will continue to shape it for the foreseeable future,” says philosopher and historian Émile P. Torres. In this episode of “Movement Memos,” host Kelly Hayes and Torres discuss what activists should know about longtermism and TESCREAL.

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  • A new lawsuit filed against Twitter claims that the company has refused to pay out severance payments after it laid off thousands of workers when right-wing billionaire Elon Musk took over. The proposed class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of former employee Courtney McMillian in a federal district court in California on Wednesday, claims that the company has failed to pay at least $500 million…

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  • Tax preparation companies have for years been freely sharing millions of taxpayers’ sensitive data, which is supposed to be closely guarded, with Meta to use in advertising and for other purposes with “stunning disregard” for user privacy, a new report by congressional Democrats has found. The report, released Wednesday, found that TaxAct, TaxSlayer and H&R Block have been using a line of code on…

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  • Twitter has been ordered to detail efforts to prevent online hate on its social media platform in Australia or face fines after a surge in cyber abuse complaints to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. The social media giant was issued with a legal notice on Wednesday, with civil penalties of nearly $700,000-a-day available to…

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  • Elon Musk, who once vowed to make Twitter the “most respected advertising platform,” has only owned Twitter for a little over half a year. But his time at the helm as owner and CEO has already created a huge crater in the company’s ad sales, new reporting finds, as staff fear that changes like allowing more hate speech to flourish on the platform may be impacting company finances.

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  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb has called for an overhaul of the country’s merger laws, arguing they are currently unfit to deal with today’s issues, including the increasing market power of technology companies. In her address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Ms Cass-Gottlieb proposed a move to “a formal clearance…

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  • A new report by Stanford University researchers finds that just training the model behind the popular artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT released emissions equivalent to those of 9 cars over the course of their lifetimes, adding another layer of scrutiny regarding the future of humanity on Earth to technocrats’ promised AI revolution. According to Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Index…

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  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) has condemned congressional conservatives’ recent efforts to ban TikTok in the U.S., saying that a ban wouldn’t come close to addressing real problems of data privacy risks. On Friday, in her first ever video posted to TikTok, Ocasio-Cortez said that TikTok shouldn’t be banned and that Congress should instead focus on the threat that tech companies like…

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    This post was originally published on Latest – Truthout.