Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryCensorship

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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…

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Why Did the Publishing Industry Go To War Against Books?

Readers need to know how things have changed

For many reasons, traditional publishers are trying to dump controversial books. In this series we will try to unpack some of them. First, let’s look at what happens when otherwise Correct people are not the favorites of the Cancel mob. Bari Weiss, formerly of the New York Times, asks us to look at a science teacher couple at a regional U.S. university: Do you remember the names Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying? I wrote one of my earliest New York Times columns about the bravery they displayed as tenured professors — words that do not typically appear in the same sentence — at Evergreen State College. It was 2017 and the professors, both evolutionary biologists, opposed the school’s “Day of…

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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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Will Florida’s Law for Diversity of Thought at Universities Work?

In an internet-linked global society, protecting diversity of thought becomes even more important

A new Florida law, which took effect July 1, asks universities to survey “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” annually on their campuses, to find out how free students, faculty, and staff feel “to express their beliefs and viewpoints.” Ohio Northern University law professor Scott Gerber explains, The problem DeSantis has identified is not unique to Florida — Indiana’s Republican governor signed a similar bill last month — and it traces directly to the political biases of the processes by which faculty are hired. Many of the same colleges and universities that tout tenure as a way to encourage free thought censor it by not allowing conservative and libertarian faculty candidates who think freely to get in the door. I once…

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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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Monument Of Chinese Communist Party At Tiananmen Square

Chinese Communist Party: 100 Years of Erasing, Rewriting History

Tiananmen Square: Anyone born after 1980 has no idea that the People’s Liberation Army turned against the demonstrators in front of a gate whose name is “Heavenly Peace.”

“The regime wants us to forget. I hope to use my camera to remember…We are resisting in our memories. We are resisting forgetfulness.” – Kiwi Chow, documentary filmmaker in Hong Kong, referring to the events in Hong Kong in 2019, “In a Scarred Hong Kong, ‘Beautiful Things Are Gone’” Reuters, June 29, 2021 The centenary commemoration of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under Mao Zedong in 1921 commemorates a myth. The party was founded on July 23, but this year’s celebrations commenced July 1, which coincides with the date of the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997. According to China Digital Times, July 1 has a nice symmetry to the dates of the founding of the…

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A Book Review: The Tyranny of Big Tech

A beautiful defense of the common man and woman against a technological elite

“Our republic has never been more hierarchical, more riven by class, more managed by an elite than it is today,” writes Josh Hawley in The Tyranny of Big Tech. Who might that elite be? According to Hawley, it’s not our politicians, our lawyers, our Ivy League graduates, or our Hollywood celebrities. It’s Big Tech – those big names like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, and Google that have embedded themselves in our lives to an almost irreversible degree. Hawley has spent his career as a U.S. Senator, and formerly as Missouri’s Attorney General, holding Big Tech accountable where others don’t dare tread. In investigations, in legislation, and now in this book, Hawley has confronted the antitrust and privacy violations committed by…

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Warning, cancel culture spreading fast

Black American Conservatives Lead Fight Against Cancel Culture

They “trigger” bullies when they say what they think needs to be said, not what the Cancel mob insists on hearing

British writer Douglas Murray dissects social media’s Cancel Culture, in a typically unsparing fashion: 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. Douglas Murray, “How to fight back against ‘cancel culture’” at Spectator (January 24, 2020) Black American conservatives “trigger” Cancel Culture when…