Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagBig Tech

puppet-hands-from-leadership-controlling-our-lives-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock
Puppet hands from leadership controlling our lives. Concept

How to Sever Big Tech’s Strings

Doug Smith, author of [Un]Intentional: How Screens Secretly Shape Your Desires and How You Can Break Free, explains to Andrew McDiarmid how we can escape the subtle influence of Big Tech. He also emphasizes the importance of removing ourselves from our screens so we can enjoy the outside world and recapture our creativity. Show Notes 00:38 | Introducing Doug Smith…

ella-don-0oqMvhc1ntw-unsplash

The Secret Scheme of Screens

Our obsession today with screens is, often unintentionally, taking us to places we regret. We use these windows into the world for hours every day, often unaware how intentional content creators and app designers are in shaping our decisions and forming harmful habits. Andrew McDiarmid interviews Doug Smith, author of the book [Un]Intentional: How Screens Secretly Shape Your Desires and…

House_Speaker_Pelosi,_along_with_Vice_President_Harris,_welcomed_President_Biden_to_deliver_the_2022_State_of_the_Union

In State of the Union, Biden Vows to Curb Social Media Harms

Biden addressed the mental health harms of social media use on children and teens

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden referred to the harms of social media in his State of the Union address, announcing policy proposals to curb those harms. In response, however, some have been critical of the president’s remarks, accusing him of ignoring social media’s deeper dangers. Over an hour into his speech, President Biden turned to mental health and the emotional toll the pandemic has had, especially on children. Then he turned to the emotional health toll exacted by social media, long before the first COVID-19 lockdowns. “Children were also struggling before the pandemic – bullying, violence, trauma, and the harms of social media,” he said. “It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop…

Truth Social - Social network launched by former President of th

Trump Releases Truth Social, Users Run Into Errors

The jury is out on whether this will stand as a true rival to Twitter

Last week, former President Trump unveiled his new social media app: Truth Social, a free-speech alternative to Twitter. It immediately became the number one free app on Apple’s App Store and boasted half a million users within its first forty-eight hours. But hiccups soon followed, including error messages and long wait times for access to the platform. The app went live on February 21, which was (perhaps not coincidentally) President’s Day. But those who signed up to join were automatically placed on a waitlist, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. When a Post reporter tried to sign up for a Truth social account on Tuesday morning, he was told that he was number 387,392 on a waitlist. “We love you, and you’re…

block users
Hand adding a new team member to a group. Business management concept

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…

Texas_state_capitol_rotunda

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…

-stockpack-adobe-stock
グローバルネットワーク デジタルコンテンツ

Peter Thiel Speaking in Person at COSM, Seattle, November 10

As a world class venture capitalist, he is known for bluntness about what works and what doesn’t

COSM 2021 is the place to be, November 10–12, to get the inside track on the converging technologies remaking the world as we know it. This year, iconic Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel will be speaking in person, addressing the question “Is Technology Soaring or Slumping?” At the first COSM in October 2019, Peter Thiel spoke by interactive video. Not one to mince words, he told the attendees bluntly that Silicon Valley is losing its touch and compared universities today to the Catholic Church at its worst. He has a remarkable history in both areas. He has been a prime mover in PayPal, Facebook, Palantir, Airbnb, Lyft, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. And he had intended to found a university. But,…

china-from-space-on-realistic-model-of-planet-earth-with-network-concept-of-digital-technology-connectivity-and-travel-stockpack-adobe-stock
China from space on realistic model of planet Earth with network. Concept of digital technology, connectivity and travel.

What’s Behind China’s Crackdown on Big Tech?

Both China and the U.S. are treating big tech with a heavy hand, but under different motivations

In a previous article I looked at Chinese regulators’ crackdown on Didi Global, China’s ride-hailing service. Didi is one of several Chinese tech giants that have been tamed in the past nine months. Prior to Didi, Ant Group, Tencent, Meituan, and Pinduoduo were all quelled by regulators. After Didi, regulators targeted Full Truck Alliance and Kanzhun. They recently shut down online for-profit tutoring and have banned mining cryptocurrencies in China.  Thus far, the Chinese government’s actions have resulted in almost $1 trillion net losses for the Chinese tech sector.  The two big questions are, Why now? and, relatedly, Who’s next? SupChina has a well-organized explainer on China’s Big Tech Crackdown here. Another helpful resource is this video from DW, “How China is tightening control of its tech companies”: According to SupChina, China’s…

law book pen
Justice and law concept. Gavel on sounding block in hand's Male judge at a courtroom, working with document law books, report the case on table in modern office.

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…

AdobeStock_155565861

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…

parthenon-temple-athens-stockpack-adobe-stock
Parthenon temple, Athens

Paul Werbos: Can the NSF Return to Its Former Glory?

Dr. Robert J. Marks and Dr. Paul Werbos pick up where they left off: the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its research in machine intelligence. Dr. Werbos praises the NSF as “the greatest temple of truth in human history” – that is, until recently. What happened? Who is responsible for its recent failings? And is there hope for return to…

judge-holding-documents-stockpack-adobe-stock
Judge Holding Documents

Big Tech Sues Florida Over New Censorship Law

Facebook, Twitter, and Google are fighting back against a Florida law that seeks to reign them in

Technology trade companies representing Facebook, Twitter, and Google are suing Florida over its new law regulating the editorial and censorship powers of large social media platforms. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7072 into law on May 24, the first of its kind in the nation to curb the powers of online companies to remove and censor content and users. NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) – technology trade groups that have been vocal about their opposition to the law – filed the lawsuit against Florida the following Thursday in Tallahassee federal court. DeSantis and other supporters of the new law argue that its purpose is to safeguard the First Amendment rights of ordinary Florida citizens…

mobile-connect-with-security-camera-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
mobile connect with security camera

How Much of Your Income — and Life — Does Big Tech Control?

Erik J. Larson reviews the groundbreaking book Surveillance Capitalism, on how big corporations make money out of tracking your every move

In a review of Shoshana Zuboff’s groundbreaking Surveillance Capitalism (2019), computer science historian Erik J. Larson recounts a 1950s conflict of ideas between two pioneers, Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) and John McCarthy (1927–2011). Wiener warned, in his largely forgotten book The Human Use of Human Beings (1950), about “new forms of control made possible by the development of advancing technologies.” McCarthy, by contrast, coined the term “artificial intelligence” (1956), implying his belief in “the official effort to program computers to exhibit human-like intelligence.” His “AI Rules” view came to be expressed not in a mere book but in — probably — hundreds of thousands of media articles warning about or celebrating the triumph of AI over humanity. If you are skeptical…

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…

cell-phone-addiction-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Cell phone addiction.

Getting Used to Liquid Modernity

The only constant of liquid modernity is change, chiefly of the self, but also of the self's surroundings

(Reprinted with permission from the Engineering Ethics Blog of Karl Stephan (pictured) of the Ingram School of Engineering at Texas State University) I do not own a conventional smart phone.  Instead, I intentionally use a style of flip phone whose rugged case and physical numeric keypad buttons won’t be injured by a drop of three or four feet to a concrete surface.  It can receive some texts on its small screen, and I can even send texts after a fashion with the twelve numeric keys, tapping them rapidly one to four times to select the correct letter or punctuation mark.  It won’t do capitals, but you can read texts from me without capitals and still get the message.  It took me a while to…

details-of-diversity-used-horse-reins-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
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…

finger-touching-phone-with-social-media-concept-and-dark-background-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Finger touching phone with social media concept and dark background

Why Do Some People Try To Poison Big Tech’s Data Well?

Some social media users confuse Big Tech about their interests so as to preserve privacy and rein in relentless marketing campaigns

Here’s an article on a theme you probably didn’t expect to read about in a top tier tech magazine: How to poison the data Big Tech collects about you. It’s certainly evidence of the growing discontent with Monopoly Power and Big Surveillance: Now researchers at Northwestern University are suggesting new ways to redress this power imbalance by treating our collective data as a bargaining chip. Tech giants may have fancy algorithms at their disposal, but they are meaningless without enough of the right data to train on. Karen Hao, “How to poison the data that Big Tech uses to surveil you” at Technology Review (March 5, 2021) Researchers Nicholas Vincent and Hanlin Li presented a paper at the recent Association…

beginning-of-the-game-two-chess-teams-in-front-of-different-color-white-and-black-on-the-chessboard-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
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…

hand-holding-smartphone-with-media-icons-and-symbol-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Hand holding smartphone with media icons and symbol

Arizona Fights Back Against Big Tech App Store Monopoly

North Dakota’s anti-monopoly legislation was defeated but Arizona’s passed

Big tech, flexing political muscles, is starting to get pushback at the state level. Political analyst Matt Stoller tells us a tale of two states: A loser and a winner: Two weeks ago, Apple and Google managed to defeat a major bill in North Dakota to force competition in app stores. This week, the Arizona House of Representatives defied the tech giants and passed the very same bill… Matt Stoller, “Apple Threatens North Dakota, Suffers Crushing Loss in Arizona: “A Lot of It is Just Fear”” at Substack Even sovereign states like Australia have felt the heat from pushing back against the likes of Facebook. Facebook blocked access to the Australian government’s Facebook pages during the forest fire season, due…