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Paul Merrell

Explainer: What Google, Facebook could face in U.S. antitrust probe - Reuters - 0 views

  • The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether big technology companies are engaged in anticompetitive behavior, addressing a rising tide of criticism they have become too powerful to the detriment of consumers.
  • The Justice Department has said it will investigate “whether and how” online platforms in “search, social media, and some retail services online” are engaging in behavior that stifles competition and harms consumers. While the Justice Department did not name any targets in announcing the probe on Tuesday, sources have indicated Alphabet Inc’s Google, social media giant Facebook Inc, online retailer Amazon.com Inc and possibly Apple Inc will likely be reviewed. Here’s what regulators could focus on at the big technology companies:
Paul Merrell

Can Dweb Save The Internet? 06/03/2019 - 0 views

  • On a mysterious farm just above the Pacific Ocean, the group who built the internet is inviting a small number of friends to a semi-secret gathering. They describe it as a camp "where diverse people can freely exchange ideas about the technologies, laws, markets, and agreements we need to move forward.” Forward indeed.It wasn’t that long ago that the internet was an open network of computers, blogs, sites, and posts.But then something happened -- and the open web was taken over by private, for-profit, closed networks. Facebook isn’t the web. YouTube isn’t the web. Google isn’t the web. They’re for-profit businesses that are looking to sell audiences to advertisers.Brewster Kahle is one of the early web innovators who built the Internet Archive as a public storehouse to protect the web’s history. Along with web luminaries such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf, he is working to protect and rebuild the open nature of the web.advertisementadvertisement“We demonstrated that the web had failed instead of served humanity, as it was supposed to have done,” Berners-Lee told Vanity Fair. The web has “ended up producing -- [through] no deliberate action of the people who designed the platform -- a large-scale emergent phenomenon which is anti-human.”
  • o, they’re out to fix it, working on what they call the Dweb. The “d” in Dweb stands for distributed. In distributed systems, no one entity has control over the participation of any other entity.Berners-Lee is building a platform called Solid, designed to give people control over their own data. Other global projects also have the goal of taking take back the public web. Mastodon is decentralized Twitter. Peertube is a decentralized alternative to YouTube.This July 18 - 21, web activists plan to convene at the Decentralized Web Summit in San Francisco. Back in 2016, Kahle convened an early group of builders, archivists, policymaker, and journalists. He issued a challenge to  use decentralized technologies to “Lock the Web Open.” It’s hard to imagine he knew then how quickly the web would become a closed network.Last year's Dweb gathering convened more than 900 developers, activists, artists, researchers, lawyers, and students. Kahle opened the gathering by reminding attendees that the web used to be a place where everyone could play. "Today, I no longer feel like a player, I feel like I’m being played. Let’s build a decentralized web, let’s build a system we can depend on, a system that doesn’t feel creepy” he said, according to IEEE Spectrum.With the rising tide of concerns about how social networks have hacked our democracy, Kahle and his Dweb community will gather with increasing urgency around their mission.The internet began with an idealist mission to connect people and information for good. Today's web has yet to achieve that goal, but just maybe Dweb will build an internet more robust and open than the current infrastructure allows. That’s a mission worth fighting for.
Paul Merrell

Shocking Leak Reveals Facebook Leveraged User Data To Reward Friends, Punish Enemies | Zero Hedge - 0 views

  • As traders focused on bank earnings and the outlook for global growth, NBC News wrested the market's attention back toward Facebook by publishing a report on what appears to be the largest leak of internal documents since the data privacy scandal that has dogged the company for more than a year erupted with the first reports about Cambridge Analytica's 'improper' leveraging of Facebook user data to influence elections.
  • Some 4,000 pages of documents shared with the network news organization by a journalist affiliated with the ICIJ, the same organization that helped bring us the Panama Papers leaks, revealed that Facebook had employed sensitive user data as a bargaining chip to attract major advertisers and close other deals between 2011 and 2015, when the company was struggling to cement its business model following its botched 2012 IPO.
  • Facebook essentially offered companies like Amazon unfettered access to its data in exchange for agreeing to advertise on Facebook's platform, according to the documents, only a small fraction of which have been previously reported on. All of this was happening at a time when the company publicly professed to bee safeguarding user data.
Paul Merrell

Millennials lead the mass Facebook exodus | Daily Mail Online - 0 views

  • In 2017, 67 per cent of the total US population over the age of 12 used FacebookThis has dropped to 62 per cent and 61 per cent in 2018 and 2019, respectively The drop-off has been more pronounced in people aged between 12 and 34Sister app Instagram has seen a boost in users who have dropped FacebookThe findings come from a survey of 1,500 social media users in the US
Paul Merrell

Israel eyes world coalition to force social media platforms to block incitement | The Times of Israel - 2 views

  • Israel is aiming to build an international coalition to force the world’s leading social media giants to prevent their platforms from being abused to peddle incitement to terrorism. The move, which was unveiled by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, aims at requiring Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and other social networks to take greater responsibility for such content.
  • While some experts consider the idea unworkable — arguing that the terms of service of such platforms protect them from any legal threat, and that the preventative measures Erdan wants to see introduced are not possible technologically, others say a coalition pushing for change could be effective, and certainly stands more of a chance than an effort led by Israel alone.
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    With social media censorship ramping up in the West, it's good to keep in mind who started it. From 2016.
Paul Merrell

Sick Of Facebook? Read This. - 2 views

  • In 2012, The Guardian reported on Facebook’s arbitrary and ridiculous nudity and violence guidelines which allow images of crushed limbs but – dear god spare us the image of a woman breastfeeding. Still, people stayed – and Facebook grew. In 2014, Facebook admitted to mind control games via positive or negative emotional content tests on unknowing and unwilling platform users. Still, people stayed – and Facebook grew. Following the 2016 election, Facebook responded to the Harpie shrieks from the corporate Democrats bysetting up a so-called “fake news” task force to weed out those dastardly commies (or socialists or anarchists or leftists or libertarians or dissidents or…). And since then, I’ve watched my reach on Facebook drain like water in a bathtub – hard to notice at first and then a spastic swirl while people bicker about how to plug the drain. And still, we stayed – and the censorship tightened. Roughly a year ago, my show Act Out! reported on both the censorship we were experiencing but also the cramped filter bubbling that Facebook employs in order to keep the undesirables out of everyone’s news feed. Still, I stayed – and the censorship tightened. 2017 into 2018 saw more and more activist organizers, particularly black and brown, thrown into Facebook jail for questioning systemic violence and demanding better. In August, puss bag ass hat in a human suit Alex Jones was banned from Facebook – YouTube, Apple and Twitter followed suit shortly thereafter. Some folks celebrated. Some others of us skipped the party because we could feel what was coming.
  • On Thursday, October 11th of this year, Facebook purged more than 800 pages including The Anti-Media, Police the Police, Free Thought Project and many other social justice and alternative media pages. Their explanation rested on the painfully flimsy foundation of “inauthentic behavior.” Meanwhile, their fake-news checking team is stacked with the likes of the Atlantic Council and the Weekly Standard, neocon junk organizations that peddle such drivel as “The Character Assassination of Brett Kavanaugh.” Soon after, on the Monday before the Midterm elections, Facebook blocked another 115 accounts citing once again, “inauthentic behavior.” Then, in mid November, a massive New York Times piece chronicled Facebook’s long road to not only save its image amid rising authoritarian behavior, but “to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros.” (I consistently find myself waiting for those Soros and Putin checks in the mail that just never appear.)
  • What we need is an open source, non-surveillance platform. And right now, that platform is Minds. Before you ask, I’m not being paid to write that.
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  • Fashioned as an alternative to the closed and creepy Facebook behemoth, Minds advertises itself as “an open source and decentralized social network for Internet freedom.” Minds prides itself on being hands-off with regards to any content that falls in line with what’s permitted by law, which has elicited critiques from some on the left who say Minds is a safe haven for fascists and right-wing extremists. Yet, Ottman has himself stated openly that he wants ideas on content moderation and ways to make Minds a better place for social network users as well as radical content creators. What a few fellow journos and I are calling #MindsShift is an important step in not only moving away from our gagged existence on Facebook but in building a social network that can serve up the real news folks are now aching for.
  • To be clear, we aren’t advocating that you delete your Facebook account – unless you want to. For many, Facebook is still an important tool and our goal is to add to the outreach toolkit, not suppress it. We have set January 1st, 2019 as the ultimate date for this #MindsShift. Several outlets with a combined reach of millions of users will be making the move – and asking their readerships/viewerships to move with them. Along with fellow journalists, I am working with Minds to brainstorm new user-friendly functions and ways to make this #MindsShift a loud and powerful move. We ask that you, the reader, add to the conversation by joining the #MindsShift and spreading the word to your friends and family. (Join Minds via this link) We have created the #MindsShift open group on Minds.com so that you can join and offer up suggestions and ideas to make this platform a new home for radical and progressive media.
Paul Merrell

Social Media Giants Choking Independent News Site Traffic to a Trickle - 0 views

  • Several prominent figures, including Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, warned the EU Parliament that its proposed censorship measure would begin transforming the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.
  • For much of the year, independent media has felt the sting of increased social media censorship, as the “revolving door” between U.S. intelligence agencies and social-media companies has manifested in a crackdown on news that challenges official government narratives. With many notable independent news websites having shut down since then as a result, those that remain afloat are being censored like never before, with social media traffic from Facebook and Twitter completely cut off in some cases. Among such websites, social media censorship by the most popular social networks is now widely regarded to be the worst it has ever been – a chilling reality for any who seek fact-based perspectives on major world events that differ from those to be found on well-known corporate-media outlets that consistently toe the government line. Last August, MintPress reported that a new Google algorithm targeting “fake news” had quashed traffic to many independent news and advocacy sites, with sites such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Democracy Now, and WikiLeaks, seeing their returns from Google searches experience massive drops. The World socialist Website, one of the affected pages, reported a 67 percent decrease in Google returns while MintPress experienced an even larger decrease of 76 percent in Google search returns. The new algorithm targeted online publications on both sides of the political spectrum critical of U.S. imperialism, foreign wars, and other long-standing government policies. Now, less than a year later, the situation has become even more dire. Several independent media pages have reported that their social media traffic has sharply declined since March and – in some cases – stopped almost entirely since June began. For instance, independent media website Antimedia – a page with over 2 million likes and follows – saw its traffic drop from around 150,000 page views per day earlier this month to around 12,000 as of this week. As a reference, this time last year Antimedia’s traffic stood at nearly 300,000 a day.
Paul Merrell

The De-Americanization of Internet Freedom - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Why did the internet freedom agenda fail? Goldsmith’s essay tees up, but does not fully explore, a range of explanatory hypotheses. The most straightforward have to do with unrealistic expectations and unintended consequences. The idea that a minimally regulated internet would usher in an era of global peace, prosperity, and mutual understanding, Goldsmith tells us, was always a fantasy. As a project of democracy and human rights promotion, the internet freedom agenda was premised on a wildly overoptimistic view about the capacity of information flows, on their own, to empower oppressed groups and effect social change. Embracing this market-utopian view led the United States to underinvest in cybersecurity, social media oversight, and any number of other regulatory tools. In suggesting this interpretation of where U.S. policymakers and their civil society partners went wrong, Goldsmith’s essay complements recent critiques of the neoliberal strains in the broader human rights and transparency movements. Perhaps, however, the internet freedom agenda has faltered not because it was so naïve and unrealistic, but because it was so effective at achieving its realist goals. The seeds of this alternative account can be found in Goldsmith’s concession that the commercial non-regulation principle helped companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon grab “huge market share globally.” The internet became an increasingly valuable cash cow for U.S. firms and an increasingly potent instrument of U.S. soft power over the past two decades; foreign governments, in due course, felt compelled to fight back. If the internet freedom agenda is understood as fundamentally a national economic project, rather than an international political or moral crusade, then we might say that its remarkable early success created the conditions for its eventual failure. Goldsmith’s essay also points to a third set of possible explanations for the collapse of the internet freedom agenda, involving its internal contradictions. Magaziner’s notion of a completely deregulated marketplace, if taken seriously, is incoherent. As Goldsmith and Tim Wu have discussed elsewhere, it takes quite a bit of regulation for any market, including markets related to the internet, to exist and to work. And indeed, even as Magaziner proposed “complete deregulation” of the internet, he simultaneously called for new legal protections against computer fraud and copyright infringement, which were soon followed by extensive U.S. efforts to penetrate foreign networks and to militarize cyberspace. Such internal dissonance was bound to invite charges of opportunism, and to render the American agenda unstable.
Paul Merrell

HART: Homeland Security's Massive New Database Will Include Face Recognition, DNA, and Peoples' "Non-Obvious Relationships" | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is quietly building what will likely become the largest database of biometric and biographic data on citizens and foreigners in the United States. The agency’s new Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) database will include multiple forms of biometrics—from face recognition to DNA, data from questionable sources, and highly personal data on innocent people. It will be shared with federal agencies outside of DHS as well as state and local law enforcement and foreign governments. And yet, we still know very little about it.The records DHS plans to include in HART will chill and deter people from exercising their First Amendment protected rights to speak, assemble, and associate. Data like face recognition makes it possible to identify and track people in real time, including at lawful political protests and other gatherings. Other data DHS is planning to collect—including information about people’s “relationship patterns” and from officer “encounters” with the public—can be used to identify political affiliations, religious activities, and familial and friendly relationships. These data points are also frequently colored by conjecture and bias.
  • DHS currently collects a lot of data. Its legacy IDENT fingerprint database contains information on 220-million unique individuals and processes 350,000 fingerprint transactions every day. This is an exponential increase from 20 years ago when IDENT only contained information on 1.8-million people. Between IDENT and other DHS-managed databases, the agency manages over 10-billion biographic records and adds 10-15 million more each week.
  • DHS’s new HART database will allow the agency to vastly expand the types of records it can collect and store. HART will support at least seven types of biometric identifiers, including face and voice data, DNA, scars and tattoos, and a blanket category for “other modalities.” It will also include biographic information, like name, date of birth, physical descriptors, country of origin, and government ID numbers. And it will include data we know to by highly subjective, including information collected from officer “encounters” with the public and information about people’s “relationship patterns.”
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  • DHS’s face recognition roll-out is especially concerning. The agency uses mobile biometric devices that can identify faces and capture face data in the field, allowing its ICE (immigration) and CBP (customs) officers to scan everyone with whom they come into contact, whether or not those people are suspected of any criminal activity or an immigration violation. DHS is also partnering with airlines and other third parties to collect face images from travelers entering and leaving the U.S. When combined with data from other government agencies, these troubling collection practices will allow DHS to build a database large enough to identify and track all people in public places, without their knowledge—not just in places the agency oversees, like airports, but anywhere there are cameras.Police abuse of facial recognition technology is not a theoretical issue: it’s happening today. Law enforcement has already used face recognition on public streets and at political protests. During the protests surrounding the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, Baltimore Police ran social media photos against a face recognition database to identify protesters and arrest them. Recent Amazon promotional videos encourage police agencies to acquire that company’s face “Rekognition” capabilities and use them with body cameras and smart cameras to track people throughout cities. At least two U.S. cities are already using Rekognition.DHS compounds face recognition’s threat to anonymity and free speech by planning to include “records related to the analysis of relationship patterns among individuals.” We don’t know where DHS or its external partners will be getting these “relationship pattern” records, but they could come from social media profiles and posts, which the government plans to track by collecting social media user names from all foreign travelers entering the country.
Paul Merrell

Facebook plans to build huge Utah data center | Fox Business - 0 views

  • acebook plans to build a data center in Utah on a 490-acre site, the social media company and government officials announced on Wednesday.Continue Reading BelowThe Eagle Mountain, Utah, facility will be 970,000 square feet and located about 15 miles south of a National Security Agency data center in Bluffdale, Utah.
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    15 miles from the NSA's Bluffdale facility. An amazing coincidence or something more sinister?
Paul Merrell

Zuckerberg set up fraudulent scheme to 'weaponise' data, court case alleges | Technology | The Guardian - 1 views

  • Mark Zuckerberg faces allegations that he developed a “malicious and fraudulent scheme” to exploit vast amounts of private data to earn Facebook billions and force rivals out of business. A company suing Facebook in a California court claims the social network’s chief executive “weaponised” the ability to access data from any user’s network of friends – the feature at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. A legal motion filed last week in the superior court of San Mateo draws upon extensive confidential emails and messages between Facebook senior executives including Mark Zuckerberg. He is named individually in the case and, it is claimed, had personal oversight of the scheme. Facebook rejects all claims, and has made a motion to have the case dismissed using a free speech defence.
  • It claims the first amendment protects its right to make “editorial decisions” as it sees fit. Zuckerberg and other senior executives have asserted that Facebook is a platform not a publisher, most recently in testimony to Congress.
  • Heather Whitney, a legal scholar who has written about social media companies for the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said, in her opinion, this exposed a potential tension for Facebook. “Facebook’s claims in court that it is an editor for first amendment purposes and thus free to censor and alter the content available on its site is in tension with their, especially recent, claims before the public and US Congress to be neutral platforms.” The company that has filed the case, a former startup called Six4Three, is now trying to stop Facebook from having the case thrown out and has submitted legal arguments that draw on thousands of emails, the details of which are currently redacted. Facebook has until next Tuesday to file a motion requesting that the evidence remains sealed, otherwise the documents will be made public.
Paul Merrell

Trump's Blocking of Twitter Users Is Unconstitutional, Judge Says - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Apart from the man himself, perhaps nothing has defined President Trump’s political persona more than Twitter.But on Wednesday, one of Mr. Trump’s Twitter habits — his practice of blocking critics on the service, preventing them from engaging with his account — was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in Manhattan.Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, addressing a novel issue about how the Constitution applies to social media platforms and public officials, found that the president’s Twitter feed is a public forum. As a result, she ruled that when Mr. Trump or an aide blocked seven plaintiffs from viewing and replying to his posts, he violated the First Amendment.If the principle undergirding Wednesday’s ruling in Federal District Court stands, it is likely to have implications far beyond Mr. Trump’s feed and its 52 million followers, said Jameel Jaffer, the Knight First Amendment Institute’s executive director and the counsel for the plaintiffs. Public officials throughout the country, from local politicians to governors and members of Congress, regularly use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to interact with the public about government business.
Paul Merrell

"Alarming": Facebook Teams Up With Think-Tank Funded by Saudi Arabia and Military Contractors to "Protect" Democracy - 0 views

  • n a new project Facebook insists is a completely objective and nonpartisan effort to root out what it deems "disinformation," the social media giant announced on Thursday that it is partnering with the Atlantic Council—a prominent Washington-based think-tank funded by Saudi Arabia, major oil companies, defense contractors, and Charles Koch—to prevent its platform from "being abused during elections." "This is alarming," independent journalist Rania Khalek concluded in a tweet on Thursday. "The Atlantic Council—which is funded by gulf monarchies, western governments, NATO, oil and weapons companies, etc.—will now assist Facebook in suppressing what they decide is disinformation." According to its statement announcing the initiative, Facebook will "use the Atlantic Council's Digital Research Unit Monitoring Missions during elections and other highly sensitive moments."
  • While Facebook's statement fawned over the Atlantic Council's "stellar reputation," critics argued that the organization's reliance on donations from foreign oil monarchies and American plutocrats puts the lie to the project's stated mission of shielding the democratic process from manipulation and abuse. "Monopoly social media corporations teaming up with [the] pro-U.S. NatSec blob to determine truth was always the logical end of 'fake news' panic," Adam Johnson, a contributor at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), argued on Twitter in response to Facebook's announcement.
  • According to a New York Times report from 2014, the Atlantic Council has received donations from at least 25 foreign nations since 2008, including the United Kingdom, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
Paul Merrell

"In 10 Years, the Surveillance Business Model Will Have Been Made Illegal" - - 1 views

  • The opening panel of the Stigler Center’s annual antitrust conference discussed the source of digital platforms’ power and what, if anything, can be done to address the numerous challenges their ability to shape opinions and outcomes present. 
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai caused a worldwide sensation earlier this week when he unveiled Duplex, an AI-driven digital assistant able to mimic human speech patterns (complete with vocal tics) to such a convincing degree that it managed to have real conversations with ordinary people without them realizing they were actually talking to a robot.   While Google presented Duplex as an exciting technological breakthrough, others saw something else: a system able to deceive people into believing they were talking to a human being, an ethical red flag (and a surefire way to get to robocall hell). Following the backlash, Google announced on Thursday that the new service will be designed “with disclosure built-in.” Nevertheless, the episode created the impression that ethical concerns were an “after-the-fact consideration” for Google, despite the fierce public scrutiny it and other tech giants faced over the past two months. “Silicon Valley is ethically lost, rudderless and has not learned a thing,” tweeted Zeynep Tufekci, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a prominent critic of tech firms.   The controversial demonstration was not the only sign that the global outrage has yet to inspire the profound rethinking critics hoped it would bring to Silicon Valley firms. In Pichai’s speech at Google’s annual I/O developer conference, the ethical concerns regarding the company’s data mining, business model, and political influence were briefly addressed with a general, laconic statement: “The path ahead needs to be navigated carefully and deliberately and we feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right.”
  • Google’s fellow FAANGs also seem eager to put the “techlash” of the past two years behind them. Facebook, its shares now fully recovered from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is already charging full-steam ahead into new areas like dating and blockchain.   But the techlash likely isn’t going away soon. The rise of digital platforms has had profound political, economic, and social effects, many of which are only now becoming apparent, and their sheer size and power makes it virtually impossible to exist on the Internet without using their services. As Stratechery’s Ben Thompson noted in the opening panel of the Stigler Center’s annual antitrust conference last month, Google and Facebook—already dominating search and social media and enjoying a duopoly in digital advertising—own many of the world’s top mobile apps. Amazon has more than 100 million Prime members, for whom it is usually the first and last stop for shopping online.   Many of the mechanisms that allowed for this growth are opaque and rooted in manipulation. What are those mechanisms, and how should policymakers and antitrust enforcers address them? These questions, and others, were the focus of the Stigler Center panel, which was moderated by the Economist’s New York bureau chief, Patrick Foulis.
Paul Merrell

Tripling Its Collection, NSA Sucked Up Over 530 Million US Phone Records in 2017 - 0 views

  • he National Security Agency (NSA) collected over 530 million phone records of Americans in 2017—that's three times the amount the spy agency sucked up in 2016. The figures were released Friday in an annual report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). It shows that the number of "call detail records" the agency collected from telecommunications providers during Trump's first year in office was 534 million, compared to 151 million the year prior. "The intelligence community's transparency has yet to extend to explaining dramatic increases in their collection," said Robyn Greene, policy counsel at the Open Technology Institute. The content of the calls itself is not collected but so-called "metadata," which, as Gizmodo notes, "is supposedly anonymous, but it can easily be used to identify an individual. The information can also be paired with other publicly available information from social media and other sources to paint a surprisingly detailed picture of a person's life." The report also revealed that the agency, using its controversial Section 702 authority, increased the number of foreign targets of warrantless surveillance. It was 129,080 in 2017 compared to 106,469 in 2016. As digital rights group EFF noted earlier this year, Under Section 702, the NSA collects billions of communications, including those belonging to innocent Americans who are not actually targeted. These communications are then placed in databases that other intelligence and law enforcement agencies can access—for purposes unrelated to national security—without a warrant or any judicial review. "Overall," Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Project On Government Oversight, said to ZDNet, "the numbers show that the scale of warrantless surveillance is growing at a significant rate, but ODNI still won't tell Americans how much it affects them."
Paul Merrell

Theresa May to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government | The Independent - 1 views

  • Theresa May is planning to introduce huge regulations on the way the internet works, allowing the government to decide what is said online. Particular focus has been drawn to the end of the manifesto, which makes clear that the Tories want to introduce huge changes to the way the internet works. "Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet," it states. "We disagree." Senior Tories confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the phrasing indicates that the government intends to introduce huge restrictions on what people can post, share and publish online. The plans will allow Britain to become "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet", the manifesto claims. It comes just soon after the Investigatory Powers Act came into law. That legislation allowed the government to force internet companies to keep records on their customers' browsing histories, as well as giving ministers the power to break apps like WhatsApp so that messages can be read. The manifesto makes reference to those increased powers, saying that the government will work even harder to ensure there is no "safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online". That is apparently a reference in part to its work to encourage technology companies to build backdoors into their encrypted messaging services – which gives the government the ability to read terrorists' messages, but also weakens the security of everyone else's messages, technology companies have warned.
  • The government now appears to be launching a similarly radical change in the way that social networks and internet companies work. While much of the internet is currently controlled by private businesses like Google and Facebook, Theresa May intends to allow government to decide what is and isn't published, the manifesto suggests. The new rules would include laws that make it harder than ever to access pornographic and other websites. The government will be able to place restrictions on seeing adult content and any exceptions would have to be justified to ministers, the manifesto suggests. The manifesto even suggests that the government might stop search engines like Google from directing people to pornographic websites. "We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm," the Conservatives write.
  • The laws would also force technology companies to delete anything that a person posted when they were under 18. But perhaps most unusually they would be forced to help controversial government schemes like its Prevent strategy, by promoting counter-extremist narratives. "In harnessing the digital revolution, we must take steps to protect the vulnerable and give people confidence to use the internet without fear of abuse, criminality or exposure to horrific content", the manifesto claims in a section called 'the safest place to be online'. The plans are in keeping with the Tories' commitment that the online world must be regulated as strongly as the offline one, and that the same rules should apply in both. "Our starting point is that online rules should reflect those that govern our lives offline," the Conservatives' manifesto says, explaining this justification for a new level of regulation. "It should be as unacceptable to bully online as it is in the playground, as difficult to groom a young child on the internet as it is in a community, as hard for children to access violent and degrading pornography online as it is in the high street, and as difficult to commit a crime digitally as it is physically."
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  • The manifesto also proposes that internet companies will have to pay a levy, like the one currently paid by gambling firms. Just like with gambling, that money will be used to pay for advertising schemes to tell people about the dangers of the internet, in particular being used to "support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms", according to the manifesto. The Conservatives will also seek to regulate the kind of news that is posted online and how companies are paid for it. If elected, Theresa May will "take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy" – and crack down on Facebook and Google to ensure that news companies get enough advertising money. If internet companies refuse to comply with the rulings – a suggestion that some have already made about the powers in the Investigatory Powers Act – then there will be a strict and strong set of ways to punish them. "We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law," the manifesto reads. In laying out its plan for increased regulation, the Tories anticipate and reject potential criticism that such rules could put people at risk.
  • "While we cannot create this framework alone, it is for government, not private companies, to protect the security of people and ensure the fairness of the rules by which people and businesses abide," the document reads. "Nor do we agree that the risks of such an approach outweigh the potential benefits."
Paul Merrell

US spy lab hopes to geotag every outdoor photo on social media | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Imagine if someone could scan every image on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, then instantly determine where each was taken. The ability to combine this location data with information about who appears in those photos—and any social media contacts tied to them—would make it possible for government agencies to quickly track terrorist groups posting propaganda photos. (And, really, just about anyone else.) That's precisely the goal of Finder, a research program of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's dedicated research organization. For many photos taken with smartphones (and with some consumer cameras), geolocation information is saved with the image by default. The location is stored in the Exif (Exchangable Image File Format) data of the photo itself unless geolocation services are turned off. If you have used Apple's iCloud photo store or Google Photos, you've probably created a rich map of your pattern of life through geotagged metadata. However, this location data is pruned off for privacy reasons when images are uploaded to some social media services, and privacy-conscious photographers (particularly those concerned about potential drone strikes) will purposely disable geotagging on their devices and social media accounts.
Paul Merrell

Facebook blasted by US and UK lawmakers - nsnbc international | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • Lawmakers in the United States and the United Kingdom are calling on Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to explain how the names, preferences and other information from tens of millions of users ended up in the hands of the Cambridge Analytica data analysis firm.
  • After Facebook cited data privacy policies violations and announced that it was suspending the Cambridge Analytica data analytics firm also tied to the Trump campaign, new revelations have emerged. On Saturday, reports revealed that Cambridge Analytica, used a feature once available to Facebook app developers to collect information on some 270,000 people. In the process, the company, which was, at the time, handling U.S. President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, gained access to data on tens of millions of their Facebook “friends” and that it wasn’t clear at all if any of these people had given explicit permission for this kind of sharing. Facebook’s Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal said in a statement, “We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior.”
  • The social media giant also added that it was continuing to investigate the claims. According to reports, Cambridge Analytica worked for the failed presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and then for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Federal Election Commission records reportedly show that Trump’s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 and paid it more than $6.2 million. On its website, the company says that it “provided the Donald J. Trump for President campaign with the expertise and insights that helped win the White House.” Cambridge Analytica also mentions that it uses “behavioral microtargeting,” or combining analysis of people’s personalities with demographics, to predict and influence mass behavior.  According to the company, it has data on 220 million Americans, two thirds of the U.S. population. Cambridge Analytica says it has worked on other campaigns in the United States and other countries, and it is funded by Robert Mercer, a prominent supporter of politically conservative groups.
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  • Facebook stated that it suspended Cambridge Analytica and its parent group Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) after receiving reports that they did not delete information about Facebook users that had been inappropriately shared. For months now, both the companies have been embroiled in investigations in Washington and London but the recent demands made by lawmakers focused explicitly on Zuckerberg, who has not testified publicly on these matters in either nation.
Paul Merrell

Deep Fakes: A Looming Crisis for National Security, Democracy and Privacy? - Lawfare - 1 views

  • “We are truly fucked.” That was Motherboard’s spot-on reaction to deep fake sex videos (realistic-looking videos that swap a person’s face into sex scenes actually involving other people). And that sleazy application is just the tip of the iceberg. As Julian Sanchez tweeted, “The prospect of any Internet rando being able to swap anyone’s face into porn is incredibly creepy. But my first thought is that we have not even scratched the surface of how bad ‘fake news’ is going to get.” Indeed. Recent events amply demonstrate that false claims—even preposterous ones—can be peddled with unprecedented success today thanks to a combination of social media ubiquity and virality, cognitive biases, filter bubbles, and group polarization. The resulting harms are significant for individuals, businesses, and democracy. Belated recognition of the problem has spurred a variety of efforts to address this most recent illustration of truth decay, and at first blush there seems to be reason for optimism. Alas, the problem may soon take a significant turn for the worse thanks to deep fakes. Get used to hearing that phrase. It refers to digital manipulation of sound, images, or video to impersonate someone or make it appear that a person did something—and to do so in a manner that is increasingly realistic, to the point that the unaided observer cannot detect the fake. Think of it as a destructive variation of the Turing test: imitation designed to mislead and deceive rather than to emulate and iterate.
  • Fueled by artificial intelligence, digital impersonation is on the rise. Machine-learning algorithms (often neural networks) combined with facial-mapping software enable the cheap and easy fabrication of content that hijacks one’s identity—voice, face, body. Deep fake technology inserts individuals’ faces into videos without their permission. The result is “believable videos of people doing and saying things they never did.” Not surprisingly, this concept has been quickly leveraged to sleazy ends. The latest craze is fake sex videos featuring celebrities like Gal Gadot and Emma Watson. Although the sex scenes look realistic, they are not consensual cyber porn. Conscripting individuals (more often women) into fake porn undermines their agency, reduces them to sexual objects, engenders feeling of embarrassment and shame, and inflicts reputational harm that can devastate careers (especially for everyday people). Regrettably, cyber stalkers are sure to use fake sex videos to torment victims. What comes next? We can expect to see deep fakes used in other abusive, individually-targeted ways, such as undermining a rival’s relationship with fake evidence of an affair or an enemy’s career with fake evidence of a racist comment.
Paul Merrell

Belgian court finds Facebook guilty of breaching privacy laws - nsnbc international | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • A court in the Belgian capital Brussels, on Friday, found the social media company Facebook guilty of breaching Belgian privacy laws. Belgium’s Privacy Commission had taken Facebook to court and the judge agreed with the Commission’s view that Facebook had flouted the country’s privacy legislation. The company has been ordered to correct its practice right away of face fines. Facebook has lodged an appeal.
  • Facebook follows its users activities by means of so-called social plug-ins, cookies, and pixels. These digital technologies enable Facebook to follow users’ behavior when online. Cookies, for example, are small files that are attached to your internet browser when you go online and visit a particular site. They are used to collect information about the kind of things you like to read or look at while surfing the web. Facebook uses the data both for its own ends, but also to help advertisers send tailor made advertising. In so doing Facebook also uses certain cookies to follow people that don’t even have a Facebook profile. The court ruled that it is “unclear what information Facebook is collecting about us” and “what it uses the information for”. Moreover, Facebook has not been given permission to keep tabs on internet-users by a court of law.
  • he court has ordered Facebook to stop the practice straight away and to delete any data that it has obtained by means contrary to Belgian privacy legislation. If Facebook fails to comply it will face a penalty payment of 250,000 euro/day.
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  • Facebook, for its part, has said that it is to appeal against the verdict.
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