Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Tagcensorship

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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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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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COVID-19 coronavirus in China, renminbi yuan money bill with face mask. COVID global stock market. World economy hit by corona virus outbreak. Financial crisis and coronavirus pandemic concept.

Lawyer Turned Citizen Journalist in China Turns Up Again—in Jail

She has been sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a crime in China

Lawyer-turned-citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, went missing on May 15 after documenting on Youtube, Twitter, and WeChat what she saw in Wuhan during the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic. She has now been sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” Zhang had already been detained for supporting the 2019 Hong Kong protests, which likely played into her harsh sentence. So far, 47 journalists have been jailed for reporting on COVID-19 in China. YouTube and Twitter are inaccessible within China because of the Great Firewall which allows the Communist Party of China (CCP) to control the information that comes into and goes out of the country. Within the Great Firewall journalists must adhere…

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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: COVID-19’s True History Finds an Unlikely Home — GitHub

The Chinese Communist party, rewriting the COVID-19 story with itself as the hero, must reckon with truthful techies

For a brief window of time at the beginning of 2020, China’s internet censors didn’t block stories about Wuhan and COVID-19, the coronavirus. Caixin, a widely-read news magazine, published a multi-page investigative report on everything leading up to the outbreak, including the way in which the provincial authorities in Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital, suppressed knowledge of the virus. Fang Fang, an award-winning novelist, kept a Wuhan diary online on Weibo, which was recently published as a book in the U.S. (HarperCollins 2020). For that short time, comments on the coronavirus were not being censored (Wired) at WeChat. Many people were thus able to vent their frustrations and pay their respects when 32-year-old ophthalmologist and whistleblower Li Wenliang…

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Mulan: Disney Talks Freedom at Home, Toes the Line in China

Films we see get altered in subtle and not-so-subtle ways to conform to the requirements of CCP propaganda

China’s government allows only about thirty-four Hollywood movies to be shown in Chinese theaters. As a result, entertainment companies like Disney go out of their way to make sure a film appeals to both North American crowds and Chinese Communist Party’s censors. Of course, what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) allows and doesn’t allow in films is vague and subject to change, which keeps foreign film-makers guessing. Mulan, Disney’s latest attempt to please both the North American and the Chinese market, has failed to do either, for a number of reasons. Financially, Disney is already hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Theaters in the U.S. either remain closed or permit only limited-capacity seating. In response, Disney released Mulan on its streaming…

The concept of planet Earth similar to the COVID-19 virus
The concept of planet Earth similar to the COVID-19 virus

Twenty Years on, Aliens Still Cause Global Warming

Over the years, the Jurassic Park creator observed, science has drifted from its foundation as an objective search for truth toward political power games

In 2003, author and filmmaker Michael Crichton (1942–2008), best known for Jurassic Park, made a now-famous speech at Caltech, titled “Aliens Cause Global Warming.” The title was humorous but the content was serious. He was not addressing some strange theory of global warming; he was warning about the politicization of science. Crichton (left, in 2002, courtesy Jon Chase, Harvard CC 3.0), noted that, over the years, science has drifted away from its foundation as an objective search for truth and given itself over to political power games. The first time that he witnessed that was with the famous Drake Equation, used to turn SETI speculations about space aliens into a science. The Drake equation was a series of probabilities multiplied…

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AI Is Not Ready to Moderate Content!

In the face of COVID-19 quarantines for human moderators, some look to AI to keep the bad stuff off social media

Big social media companies have long wanted to replace human content moderators with AI. COVID-19 quarantines have only intensified that discussion. But AI is far, far from ready to successfully moderate content in an age of where virtual monopolies make single point failure a frequent risk.

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Coronavirus in a World Without Trust

In China, medical heroism thrives despite both paranoia and justified mistrust of authorities

While China’s citizens are living in an information vacuum, the government has stepped up its surveillance strategies in order to track people who have been near someone infected with the coronavirus. Some commentators consider these measures disproportionate to the actual risk posed to others and in violation of human rights. Others see them as necessary.

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Rest in Peace Posters of Dr Li Wenliang, who warned authorities about the coronovirus outbreak seen at Hosier Lane in Melbourne, Australia. Hosier Lane is known for its street art.

Censorship? But Coronavirus Doesn’t Care!

Back when SARS was a threat, social media wasn’t the giant it is today. Censorship, secrecy, and detention are less effective tools of control now

Coronavirus provides a test. The Chinese Communist Party offers mainland Chinese people security and prosperity in exchange for the sacrifice of personal freedom. But when the government cannot uphold its end of the agreement—security—the people may become less tolerant of the human rights violations. And the age of information makes it much easier to discover them.

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Photo by Wherda Arsianto

Serious Media In China Have Gone Strangely Silent

With a compulsory new app, the government can potentially access journalists’ phones, both for surveillance and capturing data

Liu Hu sums up the scene in a few words: “Outside of China, journalists are fired for writing false reports… Inside China, they are fired for telling the truth.”

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China Button

The Unadvertised Cost of Doing Business with China

It’s a big market, with one Big Player, and some strange rules
In China, censorship includes democracy, human rights, sex, George Orwell’s 1984, and Winnie-the-Pooh (because the stuffed literary bear has been compared by some Chinese bloggers to their President). Such censorship, say many, minimizes the value of the internet. Read More ›
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Jordan Peterson’s New “Thinkspot” Takes Shape

Analysts ask, can his proposed rules work?

What about the problem of expecting people to pay? Perhaps most people are so used to getting their social media for free for the same reasons as turkeys get their feed for free—because they’re the product—that they willingly submit to censorship?

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Social Media Censorship? Governments Weigh the Options

The United States may be going in the opposite direction from other Western countries
Social media monopolies may welcome an opportunity to avoid difficult issues by tacitly encouraging strict censorship of national platforms, along whatever lines a government prefers (the China model, if you like). Read More ›
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Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Expose a Key Problem

Most moderators are not skilled and have only a few seconds to decide on a post
Censorship is part of the larger question of whether social media are the telephone company (a communications platform), the newspaper (a publisher), or unregulated private klatsches. Or something else altogether? Read More ›
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5: AI Can Fight Hate Speech!

AI can carry out its programmers’ biases and that’s all
Putting these kinds of decisions in the hands of software programs is not likely to promote vigorous and healthy debate. Read More ›
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A chilling snippet from mass surveillance in China

China is helping other countries restrict their citizens’ internet, while shunning the U.S.
Overall, governments worldwide are restricting the freedom of the internet, especially around election times, and the big social media companies are conspicuous by their silence.   Read More ›
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Would Google be happier if America were run more like China?

This might be a good time to ask
A leaked internal discussion document, the “Cultural Context Report” (March 2018), admits a “shift toward censorship.” It characterizes free speech as a “utopian narrative,” pointing out that “As the tech companies have grown more dominant on the global stage, their intrinsically American values have come into conflict with some of the values and norms of other countries.” Read More ›