Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryCensorship

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cyber bullying concept. people using notebook computer laptop for social media interactions with notification icons of hate speech and mean comment in social network

When Half Our Time Is Spent Online, We Live in a Delusional World

A historian warns that many of us now live in bubbles where we need interact only with people who agree with us

Historian Adam Seagrave (pictured) reflects on the finding that more than half of Americans spend more than half of their waking time in “virtual worlds”: Living through electronic media, especially social media, causes us to live in entirely different worlds even from near neighbors: “The 50 percent threshold represents a tipping point that renders dialogue, deliberation, civic friendship, and compromise extraordinarily difficult in any society.” According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, roughly eight in ten Americans go online at least daily. Almost three in ten American adults say they are “almost constantly” online. According to a 2019 Digital Information World report, internet users in the United States spend an average of 6 hours and 31 minutes online every…

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Bündel roher Baumwolle (Gossypium arboreum), Südindien

Clothing Retailer H&M Canceled for Revealing China’s Forced Labor

About a fifth of the world’s cotton is grown in Xinjiang, for which Uyghur labor is conscripted, partly through the detention camps complex

Recently, I wrote about the fact that many fashionable products consumed in the West are produced by forced Uyghur labor. Those who speak out pay a steep price, as Swedish clothing retailer H&M can attest. Two weeks ago, H&M was Canceled in China after the Communist Youth League decried the company’s comments on forced labor in Xinjiang on Weibo, China’s biggest social media platform. The comments themselves dated from last year (March 2020). The online vitriol is likely in response to sanctions recently imposed by the European Union, the U.S., the U.K., and Canada on Chinese officials for human rights abuses. Earlier in March (2021), Newslines Institute for Strategy and Policy, an international independent organization, published a report showing that…

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What Your News Feed Will Look Like If Big Tech Runs It

Reading Elkus’s essay, one wants to ask, “Who is the collective ‘we’ who are supposed to be out of control?”

In an essay at The New Atlantis, Adam Elkus, a graduate student in computational social science at George Mason University, reflects on a curious change in public panics in recent years: Pundits’ obsession with AI doom has given way to “primal fear of primates posting,” with demands that top government or Big Tech crack down on social media: Once upon a time — just a few years ago, actually — it was not uncommon to see headlines about prominent scientists, tech executives, and engineers warning portentously that the revolt of the robots was nigh. The mechanism varied, but the result was always the same: Uncontrollable machine self-improvement would one day overcome humanity. A dismal fate awaited us. We would be…

Texas State Capitol Rotunda
Texas State Capitol Rotunda

Texas Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Big Tech Censorship

The bill seeks to reign in Big Tech power and protect the principle of free speech for Texas citizens

Last week, the Texas Senate passed a measure that would prohibit large social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from censoring political and religious viewpoints of Texas citizens. The bill now awaits a vote in the Texas House. Senate Bill 12 was introduced in March by State Senator Bryan Hughes. Titled “Relating to the censorship of users’ expressions by an interactive computer service,” the bill would not only prohibit censorship, but would require social media companies to disclose their moderation policies, publish reports about any blocked content, and create a legal route for people to appeal any censoring or deplatforming decisions. Social media companies currently enjoy legal protections against lawsuit under Section 230 of the U.S. Code, which on the…

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Parler vs. Amazon: Amazon Strikes Back!

Amazon is trying to avoid a state lawsuit through a hardball legal maneuver
Parler, an alternative social networking site, has been in a fierce legal battle with AWS/Amazon since it was removed from Amazon's platforms on January 10. Read More ›
Heritage-Building
Heritage Building

Influential Think Tank Declines Big Tech Donations

The Heritage Foundation declined six-figure donations from Big Tech companies Facebook and Google in 2020, citing repeated censorship of conservative views

News website Axios obtained letters signed by Heritage Foundation‘s departing President Kay Coles James (pictured), addressed to the CEOs of both Facebook and Google in October 2020, explaining why Heritage felt compelled to decline the six-figure contributions from the companies. “We cannot in good conscience take money from a company that repeatedly, and blatantly, suppresses conservative speech on your platforms,” reads the letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.  A similar statement is made in the letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  Heritage declined $225,000 from Google, and returned $150,000 that came from Facebook. The Heritage Foundation made several accusations against the companies in its letters, including: that Facebook suppressed their reach by blocking referral traffic; that Facebook targeted Heritage with third-party fact-checkers; and that Google…

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Information censorship - Typewriter locked with a chain

Columbia Professor Wants Government to Regulate News Media

The journalism professor argued before a government regulatory committee that "an open market without regulation will always favor bad actors over good"

During a subcommittee hearing on misinformation, disinformation, and extremism in journalism, a Columbia University professor advocated for the regulation of news media to create “a more vibrant, truthful news environment.”  Emily Bell (pictured) is a professor of journalism at Columbia University, and founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Prior to her appointment at Columbia, she was an award-winning writer and editor at Guardian News and Media in London. She offered her comments at a February 24 hearing titled, “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media”, hosted by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House’s Committee on Energy and Commerce. Bell testified as a witness. She sees a “policy role” for government to play in…

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a man using digital tablet with building hologram and internet media icons. Smart city, 5g, internet and networking technology concept

Nevada Announces New Cities in State To Be Run By Big Tech

The zones promise technological freedom, but what are the dangers to handing so much political power to big corporations?

Nevada is courting technological business by offering them the opportunity to develop cities independent of government regulation. In his State of the State address on January 19th, Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak announced proposed legislation to create “Innovation Zones” in order “to jumpstart the state’s economy by attracting technology firms.” The long-term vision for these Innovation Zones is a county independent of local government, run solely by a technological corporation for the purpose of pursuing advanced technology without the red tape of bureaucracy. The proposed legislation draft calls “traditional forms of local government” “inadequate” in their ability “to provide the flexibility and resources conducive to making the State a leader in attracting and retaining new forms and types of businesses…”…

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Details of diversity used horse reins

Can Big Tech and Big Social Media Be Reined In?

A number of strategies to limit their power or make them share the wealth are being evaluated, both among governments and private think tanks

Big Tech’s recent censorship moves have revived the debate about what, exactly, the new social media are? Are they publishers like HarperCollins or carriers like Ma Bell? Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act exempts the Bigs from liability as publishers. But, unlike carriers, they can act against messages in their system that they don’t like. Generally, they benefit from a fuzziness that is not granted to other institutions. It’s probably not accidental that most Big Social Media are domiciled in the United States. Canada, to name just one other country, does not offer Twitter that protection. The scale of the conflict is expected to grow and a number of strategies to limit the Big Social Media’s power or…

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The concept of building a business network Businessmen experience a global network and global online trading development system exchange.

Wikipedia’s Bias Meets a Free-Speech Alternative

The famously free encyclopedia’s pages on abortion, communism, and historical figures reveal a left-leaning bias

Last December, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger announced that he would be launching a free speech alternative to Wikipedia, a website that Sanger believes has lost its credibility as a neutral source of information. Sanger’s Encyclosphere is meant to be “an open encyclopedia network” (Sanger compares it to “the blogosphere”) with the goal of “build(ing) a network that … all of humanity owns and no one exclusively controls.”  One of Wikipedia’s declared “fundamental principle(s)” is NPOV – neutral point of view. Wikipedia defines NPOV as “representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.”  “This policy is non-negotiable,” the website states. But according to Sanger, “Wikipedia’s ‘NPOV’ is dead.” …

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Beginning of the game, Two chess teams in front of different color white and black on the chessboard

AI Flags “Black” and “White” Language of Chess as Racist

New research shows the weakness of depending on AI to accurately flag racist online content

Last summer, artificial intelligence algorithms took down a video on YouTube’s most popular chess channel mid-livestream and flagged it as containing “harmful and dangerous” content. New research into the incident indicates that artificial intelligence algorithms programmed to scan for racist and other hateful speech online may be to blame. On June 27, 2020, the host of the most popular chess chanel on YouTube, Antonio Radić, Croatian chess player, was conducting a livestream with chess Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. Around the one-hour-and-twenty-minute mark of the discussion of chess, the video was cut off and removed from Radić’s channel. When Radić (or anyone else) tried to access the video, they were met with a message from YouTube: “We’ve removed this video because it…

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Social Media Censorship

Texas Joins Fight Against Big Tech Censorship

Nearly two dozen states have proposed similar legislation in response to the increase of online censorship during the 2020 election period

Last week, Texas joined the growing pushback against Big Tech censorship when Governor Greg Abbott announced his support for a Texas bill that would prohibit the online censorship of political and religious viewpoints. “Silencing conservative views is un-American, it’s un-Texan and it’s about to be illegal in Texas,” Abbott wrote on Twitter last week ahead of a Friday press conference. Speaking alongside Abbott at the press conference was the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Bryan Hughes. Both figures made strong statements about free speech, the current threat of Big Tech, and their understanding of Texas’s role in this national struggle. “Texas is standing against big tech political censorship,” Abbott said. “We’re not going to allow it in the Lone Star State.”…

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Reflections of buildings in the window of other buildings on Skyscrapers in Seattle Washington

Parler Drops Federal Suit; Now Suing Amazon in Washington State

Amazon, which was, according to Parler’s suit, about to sign an agreement with rival Twitter when it suddenly cut Parler’s services, may find Washington's state court a tougher sell

Recently, Amazon Web Services suddenly cut servers to social media site Parler, leaving it scrambling offline for a month. Parler, now back on line, has been suing Amazon in federal court. However, the social media site has abruptly changed tactics, according to a Hill report. It has dropped the federal suit. It is now suing Amazon in Washington State instead. It’s possible that Parler’s choice of venue in which to sue was motivated by the fact that Amazon is Seattle-based. Seattle passed a law in 1999 against viewpoint discrimination: “Seattle’s sweeping ban on discrimination based on political ideology doesn’t just apply to employment or public accommodations. It also includes a “Fair Contracting Practices Ordinance” banning discrimination in contracting.” (Mind Matters…

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Promising Covid-19 Vaccine concept. Hand of a researcher take a 2019-nCov vaccine vial with wooden alphabet letters

Consultant MD Shows, Amazon Markets COVID-19 Vax Misinformation

As a recent research study showed, while Amazon acts as a censor when it chooses, its basic algorithms would frustrate any real effort to deal with misinformation

Yesterday, we looked at the way Amazon can use its near-monopoly position (83% of the market) to prevent both the publication and distribution of books. It can, as we saw, pick sides in a controversy and tag material that was previously only controversial as “hate speech.” But anyone who thinks that this corporate power is wisely used may wish to consider hospital consultant M.D. Chuck Dinerstein’s comments on the algorithm Amazon uses to decide on the science value of material on the COVID-19 vaccine. Amazon markets information for profit. It does not act, like Twitter and Facebook, primarily as a platform or carrier. It’s algorithms are designed to sell the products. So Amazon keeps track of what you like, what…

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Does Amazon’s Near-Monopoly Justify Its Use of Censorship?

Caitlin Basset looks at the little-known Seattle law that might make Amazon’s censorship much more costly

Recently, Caitlin Basset told Stream readers about the Seattle law that could give Amazon — currently big on censorship — pause for thought: Last week Amazon spiked a [2018] book critical of transgender policy. The book — When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement, by Ryan T. Anderson. Amazon removed it without warning or explanation. “I hope you’ve already bought your copy,” Anderson wrote on Twitter, “cause Amazon just removed my book.” Amazon has breached free speech principles before. In the past two years, they banned products, films and ad campaigns for ideas it deems “objectionable.” Caitlin Bassett, “Could an Obscure Seattle Law Be Big Tech’s Undoing?” at Stream (February 28, 2021) Under an apparent new rule, Amazon…

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Cancel Culture Symbol

How an AI Giant Beat Cancel Culture (You Can Too!)

A Twitter mob led by an AI industry bully made a mistake when it came for University of Washington's Pedro Domingos

These days Cancel culture can descend suddenly on anyone who doesn’t think the way a Twitter mob likes about one or another issue. For example: ➤ Celebrity atheist scientist Richard Dawkins was Canceled from speaking at Trinity College in Ireland because he has said critical things about Islam and about some claims of sexual assault. Note: Dawkins says critical things about all religions but Cancel mobs focus narrowly. ➤ The enforcement is irrational. Antiracist author Ibrahim X. Kendi can make negative statements about transgender culture comparatively safely but J. K. Rowlings, in a similar circumstance, became the target of a vicious “deplatform” campaign, against which she ably defended herself. However, people who cannot write like Rowlings have not nearly been…

Seattle, Washington - November 22, 2019: General view of Amazon office building in Seattle, Washington

Little-Known Civil Rights Law Could Bring Big Tech to Its Knees

Many tech giants have considerable assets and many employees in Seattle's jurisdiction

SEATTLE—As state and federal lawmakers consider drafting new legislation to counter big tech censorship of dissenting political voices, few seem to realize that an anti-discrimination law already on the books could spell big trouble for big tech companies that engage in political censorship.  Ironically, the law was enacted by one of the most politically progressive cities in the country: Seattle.  Unlike most political jurisdictions in the United States, Seattle expressly forbids discrimination on the basis of “political ideology.” Seattle defines political ideology expansively as any idea or belief, or coordinated body of ideas or beliefs, relating to the purpose, conduct, organization, function or basis of government and related institutions and activities, whether or not characteristic of any political party or group. This…