Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Could a Seattle Law Hobble Amazon’s Unaccountable Censorship?

John West discusses Amazon’s vulnerability in Seattle with Kara McKinney at Tipping Point

Recently, John West, Managing Director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, offered some thoughts at Tipping Point about Seattle legislation that could stymie Big Tech’s growing tendency toward viewpoint discrimination: Everyone is wondering what we can do about Big Tech censorship and it turns out there is a law on the books in progressive Seattle just waiting to be used. John West, “Big Tech Discrimination with John West” at Tipping Point (February 25, 2021) He’s referring to this law which forbids discrimination on the basis of, among other things, political ideology, seen 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…

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newspaper on brown wooden table

Facebook Unfriends Australia, Blacks Out Critical News

It started as a trade dispute but the growing power of Big Social Media to impose news blackouts threatens freedom of information, even safety

Last week, in a business dispute with the government of Australia, Facebook wiped news from Australia from its 2.6 billion users’ feeds. Michael Cook (pictured), editor of Australia-based MercatorNet, explains what that meant: So when you checked your Facebook feed on February 18, you didn’t see anything from The Australian, The Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph or, initially, the Bureau of Meteorology, Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Western Sydney Health, South Australia Health, various state health services and some state Governments. This is in the middle of the fire season and a Covid-19 pandemic, for which many people rely on Facebook for updates. You also didn’t see anything from MercatorNet or BioEdge,…

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wooden toy model sitting on a bench

Sci-Fi Saturday: When Virtual Friends Are a Real Addiction

This animated short begins with the thirtieth birthday party of a rather glum young man

“Best Friend” at DUST by Nicholas Olivieri, Shen Yi, Juliana De Lucca, Varun Nair, David Feliu (Feb 16, 2021, 5:31) “In a near future, a lonely man is addicted to a product called Best Friend which offers him perfect virtual friends.” As is hinted in the title (so this is not a spoiler), we suddenly learn — via an effective plot maneuver — that all of the partying friends are virtual realities. I had already begun to wonder about the animated objects cheering along with the crowd but then maybe in the future our kitchenware will have enthusiasms … But no. It’s all in his head, as long as he keeps replenishing the supply of a chemical cocktail to a…

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Like facebook 3d box with white background. 3d rendering

Who’s Afraid of Facebook? Maybe We Should All Be More Wary

A whistleblower showed that rules are enforced very unevenly. Facebook allows extremist language to flourish in some venues and censors mainstream speech in others

Facebook is, according to Fortune Magazine, the “dominant social media app,” with $84.2 billion in revenue in 2019, especially after acquiring Instagram. So dominant that government hearings into questionable activities offer mere slaps on the wrist. There is a reason for that, as we shall soon see. Facebook is, of course, a censor but at best a clumsy one. It removed a page by international disease experts critical of the COVID lockdowns, as if they were mere health cranks. Recently, Facebook announced that it plans to continue to take down posts whose claims its fact checkers “deem false” (February 8, 2021). To get some sense of what that means, Facebook censored an article at UnHerd that was critical of the…

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…

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Smart digital city with globalization abstract graphic showing connection network . Concept of future 5G smart wireless digital city and social media networking systems .

Florida Governor, Nation States, Take On Big Tech

Rattled by censorship and deplatforming, many jurisdictions are looking at ways to make Silicon Valley respect citizens’ rights. Florida’s Governor DeSantis may be the most colorful

At a press conference on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis offered a look at new legislation that forms part of his initiative to reduce the power of Big Social Media to harvest and sell data on users: The act, should it pass muster in the state House and Senate, would force tech platforms to disclose what data they have on Floridians to those users and delete that information if requested. The law would also ask companies not to sell the data and would create legal avenues to sue for noncompliance. Whether one state will be able to regulate such massive companies that operate on a global scale remains to be seen — likely in a court of law. Emily Jacobs,…

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All seeing eye

The Illuminati and How Science Now Fuels Anti-Science

Like Frankenstein's monster, technology aided by science has become a monster fueling anti-scientific theories

The advice column in the April 1969 issue of Playboy included the usual questions about broads, beers, and baldness, followed by an unusually long (300-word) letter that began: I recently heard an old man of right-wing views—a friend of my grandparents—assert that the current wave of assassinations in America is the work of a secret society called the Illuminati. He said that the Illuminati have existed throughout history, own the international banking cartels, have all been 32nd-degree Masons and were known to Ian Fleming, who portrayed them as SPECTRE in his James Bond books—for which the Illuminati did away with Mr. Fleming. The letter ended with two questions: Do they really own all the banks and TV stations? And who have they killed lately? Playboy gave…

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Get Out of Jail Board Game Prison Free Escape

Prof: America Now Has Two Constitutions — Yours and Big Tech’s

People who are being debanked, depublished, and deplatformed are discovering that, whatever the Constitution says, they don’t have rights if Big Tech says they don’t

University of Texas prof Michael Lind (pictured), asks us to think about the growing problem of Big Tech power as if we were living in an old time film about a corrupt county: Imagine that you are a resident in a low-population county in 1950. You run afoul of the small group of families who are effectively in charge. Your political and legal rights are unimpaired. You are free to vote and you are free to sue in municipal and county and state courts. The police treat you with unfailing courtesy and respect. But strange things start to happen. The only newspaper in the county refuses to take ads for your business. The only bank in the county announces that…

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Courthouse with judge's gavel and sign NO. concept of censorship and the production of restrictions and laws on restriction. Anti-popular laws, usurpation of power, conservative views. Lack of justice

“Disinformation”: Do We Really Need a “Reality Czar”?

Canada dodged a bullet in 2014. The United States will not be so lucky if it adopts Big Tech's new proposals against “disinformation” online

Recently, a New York Times technology columnist, back from a consult with Big Tech in Silicon Valley, urged U.S. President to appoint a “reality czar” to go after people who provide “disinformation” online. He concedes, “It sounds a little dystopian, I’ll grant.” Well yes, rather. And the czar would probably soon find himself in conflict with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But Kevin Roose (pictured), who says he has spent several years tackling “our national reality crisis”, begs us to hear the czar’s supporters out: This task force could also meet regularly with tech platforms, and push for structural changes that could help those companies tackle their own extremism and misinformation problems. (For example, it could formulate “safe…

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Cell phone with blue thumbs-up icons and red heart icons rising out of bright screen 3D illustrationCell phone with blue thumbs-up icons and red heart icons rising out of bright screen

Not Conspiracy Theory: How Online Trolls Can Control Your News

The way the internet works makes that possible

In last Thursday’s podcast, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks hosted intelligence analyst Denise Simon, talking about the way hostile foreign powers can use AI to generate false information: A partial transcript follows. This portion begins at 00.33. Show notes and links follow. Robert J. Marks: Before we talk about some of the psychological aspects of something you taught me, which was the Gerasimov doctrine, there was recently a four day drill held in December 2019 in the Gulf of Oman in the Indian Ocean. The participants in these war games, I believe you can call them war games, were not exactly friends to the United States. They included Russia, Iran and China, and since Mind Matters and our…

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What We Can Do To Prevent More Online Censorship

Encrypted email can be an end-around social media companies' monopoly of free speech

With all the concern about major social media companies deplatforming those they disagree with, there is a concern that these companies’ monopoly on social media will eliminate free speech. New social media platforms such as Gab, Parler and MeWe have popped up to offer freer alternatives. Yet even that is not without peril, as deplatforming can happen lower down the technology stack. Parler was recently kicked off AWS (Amazon Web Services). However, in the midst of all the hubbub we’ve forgotten the original social network: email. Email is still here. The distance between email and modern social media may be smaller than it first appears. Lets make a short list of the perceived differences between social media and email, and…

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Silhouette of one hand desire to Dove carrying olive leaf branch

Poland’s Free Speech Champion Speaks Out!

Poland has been drafting laws that would hold Big Social Media accountable

A month after Poland announced drafted legislation that would hold social media companies accountable for their censorship activities, the author of the widely discussed law has spoken out on why he felt the need to get the state involved. In an article published to Newsweek on January 21, Sebastian Kaleta (pictured) called on “democratic governments all over the globe” to defend the free speech rights of their citizens against the censorship efforts of social media companies. “Two thousand years ago, the Roman comedian Juvenal asked, ‘Who will watch the watchers?’” Kaleta wrote. “In the case of Big Tech, I believe that the answer lies with the people – not nameless moderators operating with no transparency and no ability for recourse.”…

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Hand painting over the words

Mexican President Wants Free Speech Coalition Re Social Media

“How can a company act as if it was all powerful, omnipotent, as a sort of Spanish Inquisition on what is expressed?” he asked.

In response to the recent banning of former United States President Donald Trump from Facebook and Twitter, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced last week that he is organizing a coalition of global leaders to seek solutions to the power currently wielded by social media giants. “I can tell you that at the first G20 meeting we have, I am going to make a proposal on this issue,” he said on Thursday. “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression.” According to the Washington Post, one of his proposed solutions is a “state-run social network” that would exist “without censorship” as…

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Legal law concept image, scales of justice

Finally, Someone Is Seriously Suing Twitter

Twitter is now being sued in Canada because Canada does not offer the protections accorded to the social medium that it has enjoyed in the United States

Last week, a Canadian judge ruled that the Supreme Court of British Columbia has the right to hear the claims of Canadian billionaire philanthropist Frank Giustra against Twitter about the defamation he says he was subjected to on its platform. Giustra filed a lawsuit against Twitter in April 2019 in the Canadian province of British Columbia, claiming that he was the target of defamatory posts that harmed his reputation and community standing. According to his claim, people began making politically-motivated, false accusations against him via Twitter in 2015, ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The posts allege that Giustra was involved in “Pizzagate,” a conspiracy theory according to which the Democrats were operating a child sex trafficking ring out…

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Old city center view in Krakow

Poland Strikes a Blow for Free Speech Against Big Tech

The new law would limit the authority of social media platforms to censor posts or suspend accounts

In December, Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro announced that the nation would pursue legislation to hold social media companies accountable for violating free speech rights. The new law would limit the authority of social media platforms to censor posts or suspend accounts, allowing them to take such measures only when Polish law has been broken. The law would also provide citizens a legal remedy when they feel they have been censored without just cause by appealing to a special court. The announcement was made in response to growing concerns that technological giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are squashing free speech rights. Ziobro called the blocking and removal of online content an act of “ideological censorship,” whereby people are silenced…

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Social media concept.

Many are questioning the sudden shutdown of Parler

Opponents see the move as an attempt to enforce a social media monopoly

Recently, an alternative social media platform, roughly equivalent to Twitter, was forced offline after Amazon terminated it services: “Without AWS, Parler is finished as it has no way to get online,” the complaint said. “And a delay of granting this TRO by even one day could also sound Parler’s death knell as President Trump and others move on to other platforms.”Parler’s lawsuit argues that Amazon has unlawfully sought to restrain competition by eliminating a player from the market.It also claims Amazon breached its contract with Parler by not providing Parler 30 days’ notice of termination — and that its actions interfere with Parler’s relationships with current and future users. Brian Fung, “Parler sues Amazon for cutting off its services” at…

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Social media facebook dis-like

Facebook Goes After Research Group Studying Its Ad Policies

The researchers received information from volunteers in order to study apparent violations of ad policies during the recent U.S. election

Facebook, one of the most ambitious companies in modern history—it is, after all, contemplating its own currency—is also trying to shut down an academic research group it doesn’t Like. The Ad Observatory, a project of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, monitors ads on Facebook. In the most recent American election, they studied “Which candidates, super PACS, and dark money groups are spending most on Facebook advertising nationwide? What topics do they emphasize and what objectives do they seek to achieve with ads?” The project asked volunteers to install a plugin, Ad Observer, that automatically scrapes ads presented on Facebook and sends them in. Why does it matter? Because most of us see only a small proportion of the ads that…

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Global virus and disease spread, coronavirus

Did Social Media Panic Drive Up the Damage from COVID-19?

Richards: It was, honestly, terrifying to watch important stories and studies get buried in real time on Google searches.

Last month, business studies prof Jay Richards, along with co-authors Douglas Axe and William M. Briggs, published a book with some controversial premises: One of them is that many popular COVID-19 fears are the overblown outcome of paying too much attention to social media as opposed to the facts that got lost in the uproar. And that we are paying the price now in human, as well as financial, costs. The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Catastrophe (October 2020) assembles a massive statistical case. But in this interview with Mind Matters News, Richards focuses on how it affected us: What we all thought was happening and why we thought so—a different story…

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Blue bird

Twitter Twitted Over Clumsy Political Censorship

Getting the algorithm to censor users can backfire and sometimes the results are funny

I once wrote an online forum system called Areopagus. It had a simple “bad words” (profanities, etc.) filter. It looked for common bad words and common variations of those words and automatically prevented any post containing those words or their variations from being posted. This is called “mechanical censorship” and, on its own, it is nothing new. Some users came up with cleverer variations of the bad words than the filter was set for and then moderators had to spot and remove the posts. During the recent presidential election campaign, Twitter has taken mechanical censorship to new levels. Instead of censoring ways of speaking, Twitter has decided to censor specific ideas and thoughts. Automatic censorship of ideas is a problematic…

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China flag and praying patriot man with crossed hands. Holding cross, hoping and wishing.

How China’s Technocracy Uses the Pandemic to Suppress Religion

The pandemic provided a pretext to install surveillance equipment in churches and surveil believers online

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the ways that technology can lead either to greater accessibility or greater oppression. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now using the same technologies that have given many people around the world access to religious materials and church services during the pandemic to forcibly stop religious gatherings and restrict the distribution of religious materials within China. Although the CCP is officially atheist, over 60% of the population adheres to a recognized religion; 30.8% practice Chinese folk religions, 16.6% Buddhism, 7.4% Christianity, 4.2% ethnic religion, and 1.8% Islam. Authentic numbers may be higher, given the risk of punishment for practicing certain religions in China. The Chinese government has persecuted, tortured, and imprisoned Falun Gong members…