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Javier E

Thieves of experience: On the rise of surveillance capitalism - 0 views

  • n the choices we make as consumers and private citizens, we have always traded some of our autonomy to gain other rewards. Many people, it seems clear, experience surveillance capitalism less as a prison, where their agency is restricted in a noxious way, than as an all-inclusive resort, where their agency is restricted in a pleasing way
  • Zuboff makes a convincing case that this is a short-sighted and dangerous view — that the bargain we’ve struck with the internet giants is a Faustian one
  • but her case would have been stronger still had she more fully addressed the benefits side of the ledger.
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  • there’s a piece missing. While Zuboff’s assessment of the costs that people incur under surveillance capitalism is exhaustive, she largely ignores the benefits people receive in return — convenience, customization, savings, entertainment, social connection, and so on
  • hat the industries of the future will seek to manufacture is the self.
  • Behavior modification is the thread that ties today’s search engines, social networks, and smartphone trackers to tomorrow’s facial-recognition systems, emotion-detection sensors, and artificial-intelligence bots.
  • All of Facebook’s information wrangling and algorithmic fine-tuning, she writes, “is aimed at solving one problem: how and when to intervene in the state of play that is your daily life in order to modify your behavior and thus sharply increase the predictability of your actions now, soon, and later.”
  • “The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale,” a top Silicon Valley data scientist told her in an interview. “We can test how actionable our cues are for them and how profitable certain behaviors are for us.”
  • This goal, she suggests, is not limited to Facebook. It is coming to guide much of the economy, as financial and social power shifts to the surveillance capitalists
  • Combining rich information on individuals’ behavioral triggers with the ability to deliver precisely tailored and timed messages turns out to be a recipe for behavior modification on an unprecedented scale.
  • it was Facebook, with its incredibly detailed data on people’s social lives, that grasped digital media’s full potential for behavior modification. By using what it called its “social graph” to map the intentions, desires, and interactions of literally billions of individuals, it saw that it could turn its network into a worldwide Skinner box, employing psychological triggers and rewards to program not only what people see but how they react.
  • spying on the populace is not the end game. The real prize lies in figuring out ways to use the data to shape how people think and act. “The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” the computer scientist Alan Kay once observed. And the best way to predict behavior is to script it.
  • competition for personal data intensified. It was no longer enough to monitor people online; making better predictions required that surveillance be extended into homes, stores, schools, workplaces, and the public squares of cities and towns. Much of the recent innovation in the tech industry has entailed the creation of products and services designed to vacuum up data from every corner of our lives
  • “The typical complaint is that privacy is eroded, but that is misleading,” Zuboff writes. “In the larger societal pattern, privacy is not eroded but redistributed . . . . Instead of people having the rights to decide how and what they will disclose, these rights are concentrated within the domain of surveillance capitalism.” The transfer of decision rights is also a transfer of autonomy and agency, from the citizen to the corporation.
  • What we lose under this regime is something more fundamental than privacy. It’s the right to make our own decisions about privacy — to draw our own lines between those aspects of our lives we are comfortable sharing and those we are not
  • Other possible ways of organizing online markets, such as through paid subscriptions for apps and services, never even got a chance to be tested.
  • Online surveillance came to be viewed as normal and even necessary by politicians, government bureaucrats, and the general public
  • Google and other Silicon Valley companies benefited directly from the government’s new stress on digital surveillance. They earned millions through contracts to share their data collection and analysis techniques with the National Security Agenc
  • As much as the dot-com crash, the horrors of 9/11 set the stage for the rise of surveillance capitalism. Zuboff notes that, in 2000, members of the Federal Trade Commission, frustrated by internet companies’ lack of progress in adopting privacy protections, began formulating legislation to secure people’s control over their online information and severely restrict the companies’ ability to collect and store it. It seemed obvious to the regulators that ownership of personal data should by default lie in the hands of private citizens, not corporations.
  • The 9/11 attacks changed the calculus. The centralized collection and analysis of online data, on a vast scale, came to be seen as essential to national security. “The privacy provisions debated just months earlier vanished from the conversation more or less overnight,”

Opinion | Carmen Maria Machado: Banning My Book Won't Protect Your Child - The New York... - 0 views

  • So I wrote into that silence: a memoir, “In the Dream House,” which describes that relationship and my struggle to leave it.
  • This year, a parent in Leander, Texas — livid that “In the Dream House” appeared on high school classes’ recommended reading lists — brought a pink strap-on dildo to a school board meeting. Voice trembling with disgust, she read excerpts from my book — including one where I referred to a dildo, inspiring the prop — before arguing that letting a student read my book could be considered child abuse.
  • She, and the other parents like her, demanded the removal of my book and several others from district reading lists for high school English class book clubs, from which students were allowed to select one of 15 titles. The school board ultimately decided to remove a number of books, including “V for Vendetta” and a graphic novel version of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and is currently considering whether it should remove more, including mine.
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  • Schools rarely provide education about relationships. Teenagers aren’t often taught that extreme jealousy is not romantic, but is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
  • As anyone can tell you — as history can tell you — this is ultimately a fool’s errand. Ideas don’t disappear when they’re challenged; banned books have a funny way of enduring. But that doesn’t mean these efforts are without consequences.
  • Today in the United States, books that feature characters who are Black, Latinx, Indigenous, queer or trans — or are written by authors who identify that way — frequently make up a majority of the American Library Association’s annual list of the top 10 books most often censored in libraries and schools. These book bans deprive students of a better understanding of themselves and each other. As a writer, I believe in the power of words to cross boundaries at a time of deep division. Now more than ever, literature matters.
  • Now that it’s out in the world, I receive easily a dozen messages a week from readers. They thank me; they open up to me; they describe the life-changing experience of feeling seen. More than one person has told me my book gave them the clarity and strength to leave an unhealthy relationship.
  • I understand that for a parent, it’s almost unthinkable to imagine that your child could experience such trauma. But preventing children from reading my book, or any book, won’t protect them. On the contrary, it may rob them of ways to understand the world they’ll encounter, or even the lives they’re already living. You can’t recognize what you’ve never been taught to see. You can’t put language to something for which you’ve been given no language.

To Vaccinate Younger Teens, States and Cities Look to Schools, Camps, Even Beaches - Th... - 0 views

  • Hundreds of high school seniors rode in bus caravans recently to a mass vaccination site outside Hartford, Conn., where they got Covid-19 shots as a D.J. played Lady Gaga and a selfie backdrop awaited.
  • The F.D.A.’s decision, announced Monday afternoon, presents a bright new opportunity in the push for broad immunity against the coronavirus in the United States, but the challenges are more daunting than for immunizing older, more independent teenagers.
  • But with the school year ending soon, many health officials are racing against the academic clock to schedule both recommended doses, seeing schools as the best place to reach many students at once.
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  • A number of places are revving up vaccination efforts in schools. In Colorado, Denver Health will expand clinics it operates in six public schools to middle school students. For the last few weeks, it has provided 150 to 400 vaccines every Saturday and Sunday, reaching not just high school juniors and seniors but sometimes their parents and older siblings, too.
  • President Biden announced plans last week to ship doses of the Pfizer vaccine directly to pediatricians’ offices, and he said that about 20,000 pharmacy sites were also ready to administer the vaccine to younger adolescents.
  • We have to validate parental anxiety and mistrust of medicine and be very open to listening to what their experiences have been,
  • Staggering Covid shots around the routine vaccines required for school in September — which many children are behind on because of the pandemic — will be complicated.
  • My immune system is stronger than the kids’. I don’t know if they could shake off those effects as quickly as mine.
  • Within months, eligibility for the vaccines is expected to expand to even younger children. Pfizer expects to seek emergency authorization in September to administer its vaccine to children between the ages of 2 and 11. Moderna’s clinical trial results for its vaccine in 12- to 17-year-olds are expected in the next few weeks, and those from a trial of its vaccine in children 6 months to 12 years old in the second half of this year.
  • All 50 states require certain vaccines for children who attend school, but those mandates apply only to vaccines that have been fully approved by the F.D.A., a status the Covid shots have not yet achieved. And even when the F.D.A. approves the vaccines, any state-legislated mandates would most likely allow students to opt out for medical, religious and sometimes even philosophical reasons, as they do for other childhood shots.
Javier E

Why Does the Myth of the Confederate Lost Cause Persist? - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • A few years ago, I decided to travel around America visiting sites that are grappling—or refusing to grapple—with America’s history of slavery. I went to plantations, prisons, cemeteries, museums, memorials, houses, and historical landmarks. As I traveled, I was moved by the people who have committed their lives to telling the story of slavery in all its fullness and humanity. And I was struck by the many people I met who believe a version of history that rests on well-documented falsehoods.
  • For so many of them, history isn’t the story of what actually happened; it is just the story they want to believe. It is not a public story we all share, but an intimate one, passed down like an heirloom, that shapes their sense of who they are. Confederate history is family history, history as eulogy, in which loyalty takes precedence over truth.
  • “I don’t mind that they come on Memorial Day and put Confederate flags on Confederate graves. That’s okay,” she said. “But as far as I’m concerned, you don’t need a Confederate flag on—” She stumbled over a series of sentences I couldn’t follow. Then she collected herself and took a deep breath. “If you’re just talking about history, it’s great, but these folks are like, ‘The South shall rise again.’ It’s very bothersome.”
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  • She told me that she’d attended a Sons of Confederate Veterans event once but wouldn’t again. “These folks can’t let things go. I mean, it’s not like they want people enslaved again, but they can’t get over the fact that history is history.”
  • I thought about friends of mine who have spent years fighting to have Confederate monuments removed. Many of them are teachers committed to showing their students that we don’t have to accept the status quo. Others are parents who don’t want their kids to grow up in a world where enslavers loom on pedestals. And many are veterans of the civil-rights movement who laid their bodies on the line, fighting against what these statues represented. None of them, I thought as I looked at the smile on Gramling’s face, is a terrorist.
  • Gramling then turned his attention to the present-day controversy about Confederate monuments—to the people who are “trying to take away our symbols.” In 2019, according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were nearly 2,000 Confederate monuments, place names, and other symbols in public spaces across the country. A follow-up report after last summer’s racial-justice protests found that more than 160 of those symbols had been removed or renamed in 2020.
  • Gramling said that this was the work of “the American ISIS.” He looked delighted as the crowd murmured its affirmation. “They are nothing better than ISIS in the Middle East. They are trying to destroy history they don’t like.”
  • Founded in 1896, the Sons of Confederate Veterans describes itself as an organization of about 30,000 that aims to preserve “the history and legacy of these heroes, so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause.” It is the oldest hereditary organization for men who are descendants of Confederate soldiers. I was wary of going to the celebration alone, so I asked my friend William, who is white, to come with me.
  • That myth tried to rewrite U.S. history, and my visit to Blandford showed how, in so many ways, it had succeeded.
  • It was then, in the late 1800s, that the myth of the Lost Cause began to take hold. The myth was an attempt to recast the Confederacy as something predicated on family and heritage rather than what it was: a traitorous effort to extend the bondage of millions of Black people. The myth asserts that the Civil War was fought by honorable men protecting their communities, and not about slavery at all.
  • The early 1900s saw a boom in Confederate-monument building. The monuments were meant to reinforce white supremacy in an era when Black communities were being terrorized and Black social and political mobility impeded. They were also intended to teach new generations of white southerners that the cause their ancestors had fought for was just.
  • “I think everybody should learn the truth,” Jeff said, wiping the sweat from his forehead.“What is that truth?” I asked.
  • The Louisville Daily Courier, for example, warned nonslaveholding white southerners about the slippery slope of abolition: “Do they wish to send their children to schools in which the negro children of the vicinity are taught? Do they wish to give the negro the right to appear in the witness box to testify against them?” The paper threatened that Black men would sleep with white women and “amalgamate together the two races in violation of God’s will.”
  • “Everybody always hears the same things: ‘It’s all about slavery.’ And it wasn’t,” he said. “It was about the fact that each state had the right to govern itself.”He pointed to a tombstone about 20 yards away, telling me it belonged to a “Black gentleman” named Richard Poplar. Jeff said Poplar was a Confederate officer who was captured by the Union and told he would be freed if he admitted that he’d been forced to fight for the South. But he refused.
  • But the reality is that Black men couldn’t serve in the Confederate Army. And an 1886 obituary suggests that Poplar was a cook for the soldiers, not someone engaged in combat.
  • Some people say that up to 100,000 Black soldiers fought for the Confederate Army, in racially integrated regiments. No evidence supports these claims, as the historian Kevin M. Levin has pointed out, but appropriating the stories of men like Poplar is a way to protect the Confederacy’s legacy. If Black soldiers fought for the South, how could the war have been about slavery? How could it be considered racist now to fly the Dixie flag?
  • I asked Jeff whether he thought slavery had played a role in the start of the Civil War. “Oh, just a very small part. I mean, we can’t deny it was there. We know slave blocks existed.” But only a small number of plantations even had slaves, he said.It was a remarkable contortion of history, reflecting a century of Lost Cause propaganda.
  • Two children ran behind me, chasing a ball. Jeff smiled. He told me that he doesn’t call it the “Civil War,” because that distorts the truth. “We call it the ‘War Between the States’ or ‘of Northern Aggression’ against us,” he said. “Southern people don’t call it the Civil War, because they know it was an invasion … If you stayed up north, ain’t nothing would’ve happened.”
  • I asked him what he believed the cause of the Civil War had been. “How do I put this gently?” he said. “People are not as educated as they should be.” They’re taught that “these men were fighting to keep slavery legal, and if that’s what you grow up believing, you’re looking at people like me wearing this uniform: ‘Oh, he’s a racist.’ ” He said he’d done a lot of research and decided the war was much more complicated.
  • I thought that scenario was unlikely; cities have spent millions of dollars on police protection for white nationalists and neo-Nazis, people far more extreme than the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I found it a little ironic that these monuments had been erected in part to instill fear in Black communities, and now Jason was the one who felt scared.
  • The typical Confederate soldier hadn’t been fighting for slavery, he argued. “The average age was 17 to 22 for a Civil War soldier. Many of them had never even seen a Black man. The rich were the ones who had slaves. They didn’t have to fight. They were draft-exempt. So these men are going to be out here and they’re going to be laying down their lives and fighting and going through the hell of camp life—the lice, the rats, and everything else—just so this rich dude in Richmond, Virginia, or Atlanta, Georgia, or Memphis, Tennessee, can have some slaves? That doesn’t make sense … No man would do that.”
  • But the historian Joseph T. Glatthaar has challenged that argument. He analyzed the makeup of the unit that would become Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and pointed out that “the vast majority of the volunteers of 1861 had a direct connection to slavery.” Almost half either owned enslaved people or lived with a head of household who did, and many more worked for slaveholders, rented land from them, or had business relationships with them.
  • Many white southerners who did not own enslaved people were deeply committed to preserving the institution. The historian James Oliver Horton wrote about how the press inundated white southerners with warnings that, without slavery, they would be forced to live, work, and inevitably procreate with their free Black neighbors.
  • I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I like it”—I kept coming back to Gramling’s words. That comment was revealing. Many places in the South claim to be the originator of Memorial Day, and the story is at least as much a matter of interpretation as of fact. According to the historian David Blight, the first Memorial Day ceremony was held in Charleston, South Carolina, in May 1865, when Black workmen, most of them formerly enslaved, buried and commemorated fallen Union soldiers.
  • The proposition of equality with Black people was one that millions of southern white people were unwilling to accept. The existence of slavery meant that, no matter your socioeconomic status, there were always millions of people beneath you. As the historian Charles Dew put it, “You don’t have to be actively involved in the system to derive at least the psychological benefits of the system.”
  • Once one of the most successful sugarcane enterprises in all of Louisiana, the Whitney is surrounded by a constellation of former plantations that host lavish events—bridal parties dancing the night away on land where people were tortured, taking selfies in front of the homes where enslavers lived. Visitors bask in nostalgia, enjoying the antiques and the scenery. But the Whitney is different. It is the only plantation museum in Louisiana with an exclusive focus on enslaved people. The old plantation house still stands—alluring in its decadence—but it’s not there to be admired. The house is a reminder of what slavery built, and the grounds are a reminder of what slavery really meant for the men, women, and children held in its grip.
  • Like Blandford, the Whitney also has a cemetery, of a kind. A small courtyard called the Field of Angels memorializes the 2,200 enslaved children who died in St. John the Baptist Parish from 1823 to 1863. Their names are carved into granite slabs that encircle the space. My tour guide, Yvonne, the site’s director of operations, explained that most had died of malnutrition or disease. Yvonne, who is Black, added that there were stories of some enslaved mothers killing their own babies, rather than sentencing them to a life of slavery.
  • Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Whitney was getting more than 100,000 visitors a year. I asked Yvonne if they were different from the people who might typically visit a plantation. She looked down at the names of the dead inscribed in stone. “No one is coming to the Whitney thinking they’re only coming to admire the architecture,” she said.
  • Did the white visitors, I asked her, experience the space differently from the Black visitors? She told me that the most common question she gets from white visitors is “I know slavery was bad … I don’t mean it this way, but … Were there any good slave owners?”
  • “I really give a short but nuanced answer to that,” she said. “Regardless of how these individuals fed the people that they owned, regardless of how they clothed them, regardless of if they never laid a hand on them, they were still sanctioning the system … You can’t say, ‘Hey, this person kidnapped your child, but they fed them well. They were a good person.’ How absurd does that sound?”
  • But so many Americans simply don’t want to hear this, and if they do hear it, they refuse to accept it. After the 2015 massacre of Black churchgoers in Charleston led to renewed questions about the memory and iconography of the Confederacy, Greg Stewart, another member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told The New York Times, “You’re asking me to agree that my great-grandparent and great-great-grandparents were monsters.”
  • So much of the story we tell about history is really the story we tell about ourselves. It is the story of our mothers and fathers and their mothers and fathers, as far back as our lineages will take us. They are the stories Jeff tells as he sits watching the deer scamper among the Blandford tombstones at dusk. The stories he wants to tell his granddaughters when he holds their hands as they walk over the land. But just because someone tells you a story doesn’t make that story true.
  • Would Jeff’s story change, I wonder, if he went to the Whitney? Would his sense of what slavery was, and what his ancestors fought for, survive his coming face-to-face with the Whitney’s murdered rebels and lost children? Would he still be proud?

Bombing Near School Kills At Least 50 In Afghanistan, Many Of Them Girls : NPR - 0 views

  • A bombing near a school in Kabul on Saturday killed at least 50 people, many of them young students.
  • At least 100 people were wounded in the attack, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian, the Associated Press reports. He told the AP that casualties could continue to rise
  • Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban, but a Taliban spokesperson condemned the attack and denied responsibility. Islamic State militants have also carried out attacks in the area in the past.
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  • The New York Times reports that for the week ending May 6, "at least 140 pro-government forces and 44 civilians were killed in Afghanistan ... the highest death toll in a single week since October."
Javier E

When Covid Hit, China Was Ready to Tell Its Version of the Story - The New York Times - 0 views

  • In the fall of 2019, just before global borders closed, an international journalists’ association decided to canvass its members about a subject that kept coming up in informal conversations: What is China doing?
  • What it found was astonishing in its scope. Journalists from countries as tiny as Guinea-Bissau had been invited to sign agreements with their Chinese counterparts. The Chinese government was distributing versions of its propaganda newspaper China Daily in English — and also Serbian. A Filipino journalist estimated that more than half of the stories on a Philippines newswire came from the Chinese state agency Xinhua. A Kenyan media group raised money from Chinese investors, then fired a columnist who wrote about China’s suppression of its Uyghur minority. Journalists in Peru faced intense social media criticism from combative Chinese government officials.
  • What is China planning to do with this new power?
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  • The answer comes in a second report, which is set to be released on Wednesday by the International Federation of Journalists, a Brussels-based union of journalism unions whose mission gives it a global bird's-eye view into news media almost everywhere. The group, which shared a copy with me, hired an author of the first report, Louisa Lim, to canvass journalists in 54 countries
  • The interviews “reveal an activation of the existing media infrastructure China has put in place globally,” Ms. Lim, a former NPR bureau chief in Beijing who is now a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne, wrote in the report. “As the pandemic started to spread, Beijing used its media infrastructure globally to seed positive narratives about China in national media, as well as mobilizing more novel tactics such as disinformation.”
  • China is fighting what is in some ways an uphill battle
  • “The accusation on China is what the U.S. has been doing all along,”
  • The report found that a new media push accompanied the intense round of Chinese diplomacy in the pandemic, providing protective equipment initially and then vaccines to countries around the world, all the while scrambling to ensure that things as varied as the pandemic’s origin and China’s diplomacy was portrayed in the best possible light.
  • Both the media and vaccine campaigns are intertwined with China’s “Belt and Road” global investment campaign, in which Chinese support comes with strings attached, including debt and expectations of support in key votes at the United Nations.
  • Instead, the cultural power represented by companies like Netflix and Disney — vastly more powerful and better funded than any government effort — has been doing the work.
  • Its growing authoritarianism, its treatment of the Uyghurs and its crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong damaged global views of China, according to other surveys, even before the pandemic began in Wuhan.
  • it is less the exposure of a secret plot than it is documentation of a continuing global power shift. China’s media strategy is no secret, and the Chinese government says its campaign is no different from what powerful global players have done for more than a century.
  • I spoke to journalists on five continents who participated in the report. Their attitudes ranged from alarm at overt Chinese government pressure to confidence that they could handle what amounted to one more interest group in a messy and complex media landscape.
  • the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, Anthony Bellanger, said in an email that his view of the report is that while “China is a growing force in the information war, it is also vital to resist such pressures exerted by the U.S., Russia and other governments around the world.”
  • there’s little question of which government is more committed to this campaign right now. A report last year by Sarah Cook for the Freedom House, an American nonprofit group that advocates political freedom, found that Beijing was spending “hundreds of millions of dollars a year to spread their messages to audiences around the world.”
  • The United States may have pioneered the tools of covert and overt influence during the Cold War, but the government’s official channels have withered
  • Trump sought to turn those outlets into blunter propaganda tools, and Democrats and their own journalists resisted. That lack of an American domestic consensus on how to use its own media outlets has left the American government unable to project much of anything.
  • much of China’s diplomacy is focused on places that, while they may not have the cultural or financial power of European countries, do have a vote at the U.N. And while they appear often to be improvisational and run out of local embassies, China’s efforts are having a global impact.
  • Erin Baggott Carter, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Southern California, said her research has found that American news organizations whose journalists accepted official trips to China subsequently “made a pivot from covering military competition to covering economic cooperation.”
  • In talking to journalists around the world last week about Chinese influence, I was also struck by what they didn’t talk about: the United States. Here, when we write and talk about Chinese influence, it’s often in the context of an imagined titanic global struggle between two great nations and two systems of government
  • from Indonesia to Peru to Kenya, journalists described something much more one-sided: a determined Chinese effort to build influence and tell China’s story.
  • “Americans are quite insular and always think everything is about the U.S.,” Ms. Lim said. “Americans and the Western world are often not looking at what is happening in other languages outside English, and tend to believe that these Western-centric values apply everywhere.”
Javier E

Democrats Should Worry about British Labour's Collapse | Talking Points Memo - 0 views

  • With the rise of Momentum, what had been implicit in Blair and Brown’s politics — the parties’ identification with London and the university towns — became codified in the group’s support for a cultural politics that broke with Labour’s historical commitments to family, community, and nation
  • This politics consisted of enthusiastic support for Remain.  In the runup to the 2019 vote, the activists joined hands with the pro-Blair MPs to favor a second referendum, a “people’s vote,” which they assumed would repudiate the 2016 results
  • They championed “open borders,” immediate eligibility for migrants to Britain’s extensive social services, including its free National Health Services, and voting rights for migrants, regardless of their citizenship, in national elections. They extolled “diversity” and condemned supporters of Leave as bigots and xenophobes.  Patriotism itself was identified with xenophobia.
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  • At the pre-election Labour Conference in Brighton in September 2019, which I attended, speakers called on Britain to provide reparations to make amends for its imperial past and even condemned Britain for global warming — presumably, by initiating the industrial revolution.
  • The young activists also espoused controversial views on family and gender
  • Prior to the 2019 election, an ad hoc group, the Labour Committee for Trans Rights, called for the expulsion from the party of two longstanding feminist organizations that restricted membership in their rape shelters to biological women
  • But Labour’s equivocal stand on Brexit and its identification with the cultural views of young, urban, college-educated activists overrode any appeal that its economic platform might have had.
  • In a post-election study, Paula Surridge, Matthew Goodwin, Oliver Heath, and David Cutts found the that support for Brexit was “strongly associated with cultural values.”  These values “cut across the traditional left-right divide” and undermined Labour’s historic identification with the economic left. 
  • After the election, trade unionist Paul Embery, a member of the group, wrote in his book Despised, “Labour today has virtually nothing to say to the small town and post-industrial Britain, the kind of places out there in the provinces which were once its mainstay.  It is no longer the ‘people’s party’, but the party for the woke, the Toytown revolutionary and Twitter.”
  • The other factor in Labour’s defeat in 2019 and on Thursday was Boris Johnson’s ability to get a deal on Brexit and his  move leftward on economic policy.
  • Johnson, who replaced May in July 2019,  made none of those mistakes. He got parliament to endorse the outlines of a Brexit deal, and he pledged to increase funding for the NHS and to initiate an industrial policy to “level up” Britain’s deindustrialized regions. Johnson’s politics hit the sweet spot in the British electorate: social democratic on economics, but conservative (although not in the American sense of the religious right) on social and cultural policy.  That’s the magic formula that allowed the Tories to lay siege to Labour’s Red Wall.
  • Johnson’s success with the vaccine and his budget boosted his popularity and laid the basis for the Tories’ success in Thursday’s election.
  • Starmer tried to distance Labour from Momentum, Corbyn, and the cultural left.  He declared that he was “proud to be patriotic” and advised Labour officials to display the Union Jack at their appearances.  He opposed the demand to expel the feminist groups and called on the party to “put family first.”  But as Thursday’s results showed, the damage was already done.  Barring a major misstep by Johnson and the Tories, Labour could be out of power for the rest of the decade.
  • the Democrats’ success in 2020 could prove fleeting.  In 2020, they were blessed with a candidate who was able to stem, and in a few instances slightly reverse, the flight of working class voters in middle America from the Democratic Party. That was critical to Biden’s success in a state like Pennsylvania.
  • But Biden is a 78-year-old relic who in his person and in his emphasis on economics reflects an older labor-oriented Democratic party that is being replaced by a party preoccupied with culture and identity.
  • Many of the young Democrats elevate racial issues above those of class — framing what could be universal appeals to national betterment in racial terms; they want to increase immigration and grant citizenship to unauthorized immigrants, but appear indifferent to securing America’s borders
  • they justifiably champion the rights of transgender women —  biological men who identify as women — to be free from discrimination in employment or housing, but dismiss concerns that a blanket identification of sex with declared gender could threaten rights specific to biological women;
  • and as homicides rise, and as justifiable protests against police brutality turned into mayhem and looting, they have advocated defunding  rather than reforming the police.
  • Democrats’ identification with these kind of views played a role in Democratic losses in Congressional races in 2020.
  • Democrats in 2020 were also blessed with a perfect opponent in Donald Trump.  Trump’s bigotry and corruption turned off far more voters than it attracted.
  • If Trump continues to be the poster-boy for the Republican Party, Democrats will benefit in 2022 and 2024, but if he recedes, and his most ardent followers fade into the background, the Democrats could suffer defeat in Congressional elections and in the presidential election of 2024
Javier E

Schools Are Open, but Many Families Remain Hesitant to Return - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Even though the pandemic appears to be coming under control in the United States as vaccinations continue, many superintendents say fear of the coronavirus itself is no longer the primary reason their students are opting out. Nor are many families expressing a strong preference for remote learning.
  • for every child and parent who has leaped at the opportunity to return to the classroom, others changed their lives over the past year in ways that make going back to school difficult.
  • Teenagers from low-income families have taken on heavy loads of paid work, especially because so many parents lost jobs. Parents made new child care arrangements to get through the long months of school closures and part-time hours, and are now loath to disrupt established routines.
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  • An added complication is continued opposition to full-time, in-person learning from some teachers and district officials, with unions arguing that widespread vaccination of educators, and soon teenagers as well, does not eliminate the need for physical distancing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to advise three to six feet of distancing in schools. In that context, students who opt out create the space necessary to serve students who prefer to be in person.
Javier E

Fight the Future - The Triad - 0 views

  • In large part because our major tech platforms reduced the coefficient of friction (μ for my mechanics nerd posse) to basically zero. QAnons crept out of the dark corners of the web—obscure boards like 4chan and 8kun—and got into the mainstream platforms YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Why did QAnon spread like wildfire in America?
  • These platforms not only made it easy for conspiracy nuts to share their crazy, but they used algorithms that actually boosted the spread of crazy, acting as a force multiplier.
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  • So it sounds like a simple fix: Impose more friction at the major platform level and you’ll clean up the public square.
  • But it’s not actually that simple because friction runs counter to the very idea of the internet.
  • The fundamental precept of the internet is that it reduces marginal costs to zero. And this fact is why the design paradigm of the internet is to continually reduce friction experienced by users to zero, too. Because if the second unit of everything is free, then the internet has a vested interest in pushing that unit in front of your eyeballs as smoothly as possible.
  • the internet is “broken,” but rather it’s been functioning exactly as it was designed to:
  • Perhaps more than any other job in the world, you do not want the President of the United States to live in a frictionless state of posting. The Presidency is not meant to be a frictionless position, and the United States government is not a frictionless entity, much to the chagrin of many who have tried to change it. Prior to this administration, decisions were closely scrutinized for, at the very least, legality, along with the impact on diplomacy, general norms, and basic grammar. This kind of legal scrutiny and due diligence is also a kind of friction--one that we now see has a lot of benefits. 
  • The deep lesson here isn’t about Donald Trump. It’s about the collision between the digital world and the real world.
  • In the real world, marginal costs are not zero. And so friction is a desirable element in helping to get to the optimal state. You want people to pause before making decisions.
  • described friction this summer as: “anything that inhibits user action within a digital interface, particularly anything that requires an additional click or screen.” For much of my time in the technology sector, friction was almost always seen as the enemy, a force to be vanquished. A “frictionless” experience was generally held up as the ideal state, the optimal product state.
  • Trump was riding the ultimate frictionless optimized engagement Twitter experience: he rode it all the way to the presidency, and then he crashed the presidency into the ground.
  • From a metrics and user point of view, the abstract notion of the President himself tweeting was exactly what Twitter wanted in its original platonic ideal. Twitter has been built to incentivize someone like Trump to engage and post
  • The other day we talked a little bit about how fighting disinformation, extremism, and online cults is like fighting a virus: There is no “cure.” Instead, what you have to do is create enough friction that the rate of spread becomes slow.
  • Our challenge is that when human and digital design comes into conflict, the artificial constraints we impose should be on the digital world to become more in service to us. Instead, we’ve let the digital world do as it will and tried to reconcile ourselves to the havoc it wreaks.
  • And one of the lessons of the last four years is that when you prize the digital design imperatives—lack of friction—over the human design imperatives—a need for friction—then bad things can happen.
  • We have an ongoing conflict between the design precepts of humans and the design precepts of computers.
  • Anyone who works with computers learns to fear their capacity to forget. Like so many things with computers, memory is strictly binary. There is either perfect recall or total oblivion, with nothing in between. It doesn't matter how important or trivial the information is. The computer can forget anything in an instant. If it remembers, it remembers for keeps.
  • This doesn't map well onto human experience of memory, which is fuzzy. We don't remember anything with perfect fidelity, but we're also not at risk of waking up having forgotten our own name. Memories tend to fade with time, and we remember only the more salient events.
  • And because we live in a time when storage grows ever cheaper, we learn to save everything, log everything, and keep it forever. You never know what will come in useful. Deleting is dangerous.
  • Our lives have become split between two worlds with two very different norms around memory.
  • [A] lot of what's wrong with the Internet has to do with memory. The Internet somehow contrives to remember too much and too little at the same time, and it maps poorly on our concepts of how memory should work.
  • The digital world is designed to never forget anything. It has perfect memory. Forever. So that one time you made a crude joke 20 years ago? It can now ruin your life.
  • Memory in the carbon-based world is imperfect. People forget things. That can be annoying if you’re looking for your keys but helpful if you’re trying to broker peace between two cultures. Or simply become a better person than you were 20 years ago.
  • The digital and carbon-based worlds have different design parameters. Marginal cost is one of them. Memory is another.
  • 2. Forget Me Now
  • 1. Fix Tech, Fix America
Javier E

Social Media Is the Problem - The Bulwark - 0 views

  • It’s 1995. A man stands on a busy street corner yelling vaguely incoherent things at the passersby. He’s holding a placard that says “THE END IS NIGH. REPENT.”
  • No reasonable person would think of convincing this man that his point of view is incorrect. This isn’t an opportunity for an engaging debate.
  • Now fast forward to 2020.
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  • In terms of who this guy is and who you are absolutely nothing has changed. And yet here you are—arguing with him on Twitter or Facebook. And you, yourself, are being brought to the brink of insanity. But you can’t seem to stop. You have to respond or read the comments of the other people responding and your cortisol and adrenaline levels are spiking and your blood pressure is rising and you’re suddenly at risk of a heart attack
  • And the ugly truth is that you’ve become addicted to arguing with the “End Is Nigh” sandwich board guy
  • Anti-vaccers, anti-maskers, Qanon, cancel-culture, Alex Jones, flat-earthers, racists, anti-racists, anti-anti-racists, and of course the Twitter stylings of our Dear Leader.
  • Back in 2011 Chamath Palihapitiya left Facebook and said of his former company, “It literally is a point now where I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
  • I’m here to make the case that all modern social, political, and sociological ills can be traced to social media. It is single-handedly responsible for the tearing apart of our social fabric which Palihapitiya so presciently predicted
  • It’s not “part of” the problem. It is the problem: An insidious malware slowly corrupting our society in ways that are extremely difficult to quantify, but the effects of which are evident all around us.
  • maybe you don’t even know why you’re doing it. But you can’t stop, won’t stop.
  • (2) The unfortunate reality that media organizations are so starved for content that every time something outrageous garners a small buzz on social media they immediately project and amplify it out to the masses.
  • (1) The fact that your phone in your pocket guarantees that you can get your fix at every minute of every day.
  • Before the internet people socialized in relatively small, geographically constrained groups. They had friends and colleagues and relatives and they communicated with these people largely in person or via the phone using the rules of engagement that have been evolving generations.
  • Of course, these are patently insane ideas that don’t deserve consideration. But there you are considering them
  • These include facial movements, and vocal intonation or more global cues such as “does this person look and smell like they haven’t showered for a week?” These are tried and true and essential components to a healthy social “network.”
  • In such an environment the only place for the “End Is Nigh” guy to get an audience is on the street corner
  • But along came the internet and the EIN guy became an anonymous Internet denizen who could insert himself into conversations across the globe. First he did this on listservs and chat rooms and message boards. Then he did it in the comments sections. And with the advent of social media, he did it right in your face, courtesy of The Algorithm
  • EIN guy is now just part of the crowd. And what’s worse, while every town has one EIN guy, the internet has allowed all of the EIN guys to find each other so that now they think they’re just as normal as everyone else.
  • Now you’re doubting yourself, too, because it’s one thing to ignore one crazy guy—but a crazy movement?
  • No—you can’t ignore that—it’s your duty as a responsible citizen to quash it before it gets out of control and you don’t even realize that instead of quashing it, you’re now part of it.
  • Because what EIN guy always wanted—more than anything—was for the normies to stop walking past him. He wanted them to notice him and argue with him because that would be a sign that what he had to say was important and legitimate.
  • Social media has made it possible for deranged people to break through what I think of as the holistic herd immunity of sanity which geography has traditionally conferred
  • And once they broke through, thanks to social media, the traditional media decided to start elevating them.
  • journalistic outlets now rush out to broadcast anything weird enough to draw an audience
  • Maybe the earth is flat?! Maybe Qanon is right?! Maybe vaccines are super dangerous ?!
  • it’s all brought to you exclusively and specifically by social media. It is exacerbated by two things:
  • So what’s the answer? It’s shockingly simple. Leave all social media. Try it for one month.
  • There are very real actions that social media companies can take to help move things back towards sanity. People like Tristan Harris and Jaron Lanier and Roger McNamee have been discussing this for years. But social media companies aren’t going to do anything helpful so long as the incentive structure is what it is today.
  • Like most evil things that are bad for you, social media has enough attractive, useful, and even beneficial components to give you the false impression that it’s actually a good thing. Or at least harmless
  • In the future, we may be able to defang and declaw it and everyone can have it as a pet. But that’s somewhere down the road when Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the most powerful man in the world.
Javier E

The GOP's 'Critical Race Theory' Fixation, Explained - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • Keith Ammon, a Republican member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, introduced a bill that would bar schools as well as organizations that have entered into a contract or subcontract with the state from endorsing “divisive concepts.” Specifically, the measure would forbid “race or sex scapegoating,” questioning the value of meritocracy, and suggesting that New Hampshire—or the United States—is “fundamentally racist.”
  • “The vagueness of the language is really the point,” Leah Cohen, an organizer with Granite State Progress, a liberal nonprofit based in Concord, told me. “With this really broad brushstroke, we anticipate that that will be used more to censor conversations about race and equity.”
  • Most legal scholars say that these bills impinge on the right to free speech and will likely be dismissed in court.
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  • This does not appear to concern the bills’ sponsors, though. The larger purpose, it seems, is to rally the Republican base—to push back against the recent reexaminations of the role that slavery and segregation have played in American history and the attempts to redress those historical offenses.
  • the Republicans’ bogeyman is an idea that has until now mostly lived in academia: critical race theory.
  • he theory’s proponents argue that the nation’s sordid history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination is embedded in our laws, and continues to play a central role in preventing Black Americans and other marginalized groups from living lives untouched by racism.
  • in 2020, after Derek Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, and the United States became awash in anti-racist reading lists—some of which included books and articles that discussed critical race theory—Fox suddenly took a great interest in the idea. It became the latest in a long line of racialized topics (affirmative action perhaps being the most prominent) that the network has jumped on
  • Others, perhaps most prominently Randall Kennedy, who joined the Harvard Law faculty a few years after Bell left, questioned how widely the theory could be applied. In a paper titled “Racial Critiques of Legal Academia,” Kennedy argued that white racism was not the only reason so few “minority scholars” were members of law-school faculties. Conservative scholars argued that critical race theory is reductive—that it treats race as the only factor in social identity.
  • As with other academic frameworks before it, the nuances of critical race theory—and the debate around it—were obscured when it escaped the ivory tower.
  • The theory soon stood in for anything resembling an examination of America’s history with race. Conservatives would boil it down further: Critical race theory taught Americans to hate America.
  • oday, across the country, school curricula and workplace trainings include materials that defenders and opponents alike insist are inspired by critical race theory but that academic critical race theorists do not characterize as such.  
  • For some, the theory was a revelatory way to understand inequality.
  • Since June 5, 2020, the phrase has been invoked during 150 broadcasts.
  • Rufo employed the term for the first time in an article. “Critical race theory—the academic discourse centered on the concepts of ‘whiteness,’ ‘white fragility,’ and ‘white privilege’—is spreading rapidly through the federal government,” he wrote.
  • In early September, Tucker Carlson invited him on his Fox News show during which Rufo warned viewers that critical race theory had pervaded every institution of the federal government and was being “weaponized” against Americans.
  • Within three weeks, Trump had signed an executive order banning the use of critical race theory by federal departments and contractors in diversity training
  • Trump’s executive order was immediately challenged in court. Nonprofit organizations that provide these training sessions argued that the order violated their free-speech rights and hampered their ability to conduct their business. In December, a federal judge agreed; President Joe Biden rescinded the order the day he took office
  • Although free-speech advocates are confident that bills like Ammon’s will not survive challenges in court, they believe the real point is to scare off companies, schools, and government agencies from discussing systemic racism
  • Conservatives are not the only critics of diversity training. For years, some progressives, including critical race theorists, have questioned its value: Is it performative? Is it the most effective way to move toward equity or is it simply an effective way of restating the obvious and stalling meaningful action?
  • For Republicans, the end goal of all these bills is clear: initiating another battle in the culture wars and holding on to some threadbare mythology of the nation that has been challenged in recent years
  • a strong majority of Americans, 78 percent, either had not heard of critical race theory or were unsure whether they had.
  • “Senator Tim Scott denounces critical race theory in his response to Biden’s speech tonight,” he tweeted. “We have turned critical race theory into a national issue and conservative political leaders are starting to fight.”
Javier E

Opinion | Was Nazi Germany Defeated or Liberated? Germans Can't Decide. - The New York ... - 0 views

  • the discussion of May 8 as a day of liberation, however well intentioned, does not just challenge the far-right narrative. It also muddies historical reality and could contribute exactly to what many of those who embrace it wish to avoid: a shunning of historical responsibility.
  • At a time when living memories are disappearing, some Germans — now and in future generations — will take the talk of liberation literally, glossing over the complicity of the masses in Nazi crimes.
  • It was in an effort to oppose this mentality that on V-E Day in 1985, the president of West Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, gave a speech that is now considered one of the most important in the country’s postwar history. Germans at the end of the war, he said, felt “exhaustion, despair and new anxiety.” Yet, he went on, “with every day something became clearer, and this must be stated on behalf of all of us today: The 8th of May was a day of liberation. It liberated all of us from the inhumanity and tyranny of the National Socialist regime.”
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  • While the impulse today to interpret May 8 as a day of liberation — if only through a retrospective lens — is understandable, few seem to have taken into account the danger that many Germans will take the term at face value, as historical reality. But as generations pass, and as the last victims and perpetrators perish, keeping the facts straight becomes even more important.
  • In a poll commissioned by the German weekly Die Zeit before the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, 53 percent of respondents agreed with the false statement that “it was just a few criminals who instigated the war and killed the Jews.” In another poll commissioned by a German public broadcaster, 23 percent didn’t even have a grasp of what the Holocaust was.
  • To be clear, German leaders today employ the notion of liberation to embrace their historical responsibility, not to deny it. This was clear when President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke on the 75th anniversary of V-E Day. It had taken three generations “for us to wholeheartedly admit” that May 8 is “a day of liberation,” he said.
  • Though the liberation was “imposed from outside,” he said, Germans subsequently played a part in “our internal liberation.” This was a “long and painful process which involved facing up to the past,” he said, and “fighting to stop silence and denial from prevailing.” The process of internal liberation, in other words, meant rejection of a Schlussstrich.
  • The point is not to saddle current and future generations with guilt, but to ensure that the unvarnished truth remains clear. No good lesson can be drawn from history without a full understanding that the guilty were all around, and that they fought to the end.
Javier E

China's Sinopharm Vaccine Approved for Emergency Use By W.H.O. - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Developing countries racing for coronavirus vaccines now have another dependable option — and China’s reputation as a rising scientific superpower just got a big boost.
  • The World Health Organization on Friday declared a vaccine made by a Chinese company, Sinopharm, as a safe and reliable way to fight the virus. The declaration marks a significant step toward clearing up doubts about the vaccine, after little late-phase clinical trial data was disclosed by the Chinese government and the company.
  • “The addition of this vaccine has the potential to rapidly accelerate Covid-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk,”
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  • The W.H.O. emergency use approval allows the Sinopharm vaccine to be included in Covax, a global initiative to provide free vaccines to poor countries. The possible inclusion in Covax raises hopes that more people — especially those in developing nations — will get access to shots at a crucial moment.
  • “The situation right now is just so desperate for low and lower middle income countries that any doses we can get out are worth mobilizing,” Ms. Taylor said. “Having potentially two options coming from China could really change the landscape of what’s possible over the next few months.”
  • “The whole world is short of this vaccine,” said a Sinovac spokesman, Pearson Liu. “The demand is just too great.”
  • Andrea Taylor, who analyzes global data on vaccines at the Duke Global Health Institute, called the potential addition of two Chinese vaccines into the Covax program a “game changer.”
  • “This should be the golden time for China to practice its vaccine diplomacy. The problem is, at the same time, China itself is facing a shortage,”
  • China’s vaccines have been rolled out to more than 80 countries, but they have faced significant skepticism, in part because the companies have not released Phase 3 clinical trial data for scientists to independently assess the vaccines’ efficacy rates. An advisory group to the W.H.O. published the data this week.
  • The Sinopharm vaccine developed with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products has an efficacy rate of 78.1 percent, according to the W.H.O. advisory group.
  • The Sinovac vaccine has varying efficacy rates of between 50 percent to 84 percent, depending on the country where Phase 3 trials were conducted.
  • for China’s leaders, the W.H.O. approval can still be seen as a badge of honor. Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, has pledged to make a Covid-19 vaccine a “global public good.”
  • After India announced export restrictions on vaccines last month, Indonesia and the Philippines said they would turn to China for help. Last week, China’s foreign minister offered to help South Asian nations get access to vaccines.
  • Indonesia said it would get additional doses from Sinovac after President Joko Widodo held talks with Mr. Xi. In a speech the same week, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said he owed “a debt of gratitude” to China for its vaccines.
  • “They don’t like to subsume their generosity in their products under some U.N. brand,” said J. Stephen Morrison, director of the global health policy center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They are in a historic phase,” he said. “They want the recipients to know that this is China delivering.”
Javier E

Facebook's problem isn't Trump - it's the algorithm - Popular Information - 0 views

  • Facebook is in the business of making money. And it's very good at it. In the first three months of 2021, Facebook raked in over $11 billion in profits, almost entirely from displaying targeted advertising to its billions of users. 
  • In order to keep the money flowing, Facebook also needs to moderate content. When people use Facebook to livestream a murder, incite a genocide, or plan a white supremacist rally, it is not a good look.
  • But content moderation is a tricky business. This is especially true on Facebook where billions of pieces of content are posted every day. In a lot of cases, it is difficult to determine what content is truly harmful. No matter what you do, someone is unhappy. And it's a distraction from Facebook's core business of selling ads.
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  • In 2019, Facebook came up with a solution to offload the most difficult content moderation decisions. The company created the "Oversight Board," a quasi-judicial body that Facebook claims is independent. The Board, stocked with impressive thinkers from around the world, would issue "rulings" about whether certain Facebook content moderation decisions were correct.
  • the decision, which is nearly 12,000 words long, illustrates that whether Trump is ultimately allowed to return to Facebook is of limited significance. The more important questions are about the nature of the algorithm that gives people with views like Trump such a powerful voice on Facebook. 
  • The Oversight Board was Facebook's idea. It spent years constructing the organization, selected its chairs, and funded its endowment. But now that the Oversight Board is finally up and running and taking on high-profile cases, Facebook is choosing to ignore questions that the Oversight Board believes are essential to doing its job.
  • This is a key passage (emphasis added): 
  • duces no original reporting. But, on Facebook in April, The Daily Wire received more than double the distribution of the Washington Post and the New York Times combined:
  • A critical issue, as the Oversight Board suggests, is not simply Trump's posts but how those kinds of posts are amplified by Facebook's algorithms. Equally important is how Facebook's algorithms amplify false, paranoid, violent, right-wing content from people other than Trump — including those that follow Trump on Facebook.
  • The jurisdiction of the Oversight Board excludes both the algorithm and Facebook's business practices.
  • Facebook stated to the Board that it considered Mr. Trump’s “repeated use of Facebook and other platforms to undermine confidence in the integrity of the election (necessitating repeated application by Facebook of authoritative labels correcting the misinformation) represented an extraordinary abuse of the platform.” The Board sought clarification from Facebook about the extent to which the platform’s design decisions, including algorithms, policies, procedures and technical features, amplified Mr. Trump’s posts after the election and whether Facebook had conducted any internal analysis of whether such design decisions may have contributed to the events of January 6. Facebook declined to answer these questions. This makes it difficult for the Board to assess whether less severe measures, taken earlier, may have been sufficient to protect the rights of others.
  • Donald Trump's Facebook page is a symptom, not the cause, of the problem. Its algorithm favors low-quality, far-right content. Trump is just one of many beneficiaries.
  • NewsWhip is a social media analytics service which tracks which websites get the most engagement on Facebook. It just released its analysis for April and it shows low-quality right-wing aggregation sites dominate major news organizations.
  • The Oversight Board has no power to compel Facebook to answer. It's an important reminder that, for all the pomp and circumstance, the Oversight Board is not a court. The scope of its authority is limited by Facebook executives' willingness to play along. 
  • This actually understates how much better The Daily Wire's content performs on Facebook than the Washington Post and the New York Times. The Daily Wire published just 1,385 pieces of content in April compared to over 6,000 by the Washington Post and the New York Times. Each piece of content The Daily Wire published in April received 54,084 engagements on Facebook, compared to 2,943 for the New York Times and 1,973 for the Washington Post. 
  • It's important to note here that Facebook's algorithm is not reflecting reality — it's creating a reality that doesn't exist anywhere else. In the rest of the world, Western Journal is not more popular than the New York Times, NBC News, the BBC, and the Washington Post. That's only true on Facebook.
  • Facebook has made a conscious decision to surface low-quality content and recognizes its dangers.
  • Shortly after the November election, Facebook temporarily tweaked its algorithm to emphasize "'news ecosystem quality' scores, or N.E.Q., a secret internal ranking it assigns to news publishers based on signals about the quality of their journalism." The purpose was to attempt to cut down on election misinformation being spread on the platform by Trump and his allies. The result was "a spike in visibility for big, mainstream publishers like CNN, The New York Times and NPR, while posts from highly engaged hyperpartisan pages, such as Breitbart and Occupy Democrats, became less visible." 
  • BuzzFeed reported that some Facebook staff members wanted to make the change permanent. But that suggestion was opposed by Joel Kaplan, a top Facebook executive and Republican operative who frequently intervenes on behalf of right-wing publishers. The algorithm change was quickly rolled back.
  • Other proposed changes to the Facebook algorithm over the years have been rejected or altered because of their potential negative impact on right-wing sites like The Daily Wire. 

Opinion | Will the Supreme Court Write Guantánamo's Final Chapter? - The New ... - 0 views

  • The Guantánamo story may finally be coming to an end, and as the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, the question is who will write the last chapter, the White House or the Supreme Court?
  • President Biden has vowed to close the island detention center, through which nearly 800 detainees have passed since it opened in early 2002 to house some of the “worst of the worst,” in the words of the Pentagon at the time
  • President Barack Obama also wanted to close Guantánamo but couldn’t manage to do it. Circumstances are different now
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  • One of the court’s newest judges, Gregory Katsas, is recused, presumably because he worked on Guantánamo matters while serving as deputy White House counsel in the Trump administration. The two other Trump-appointed judges are Neomi Rao, who wrote the panel opinion, and Justin Walker, who was not yet on the court when the case was first heard. The appeals court’s longest serving judge still in active service is Karen LeCraft Henderson, appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990
  • “The majority reads our precedent as foreclosing any argument that substantive due process extends to Guantánamo Bay. But we have never made such a far-reaching statement about the clause’s extraterritorial application. If we had, we would not have repeatedly assumed without deciding that detainees could bring substantive due process claims.”
  • especially the 2008 decision in Boumediene v. Bush that gave the detainees a constitutional right of access to a federal court, enabling them to seek release by means of petitions for habeas corpus. In a speech to the Heritage Foundation in 2010, Judge Randolph compared the five justices in the Boumediene majority to the characters in “The Great Gatsby,” Tom and Daisy Buchanan, “careless people who smashed things up” and “let other people clean up the mess they made.”
  • The case in which Judge Randolph forcefully presented his argument against due process on Guantánamo, now titled Ali v. Biden, has already reached the Supreme Court in an appeal filed by the detainee, Abdul Razak Ali, in January. The justices are scheduled to consider whether to grant the petition later this month, but last week, Mr. Ali’s lawyers asked the justices to defer acting on the petition until the appeals court decides the al-Hela case. Clearly, the lawyers’ calculation is that a favorable opinion by the full United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit would put the issue in a better light.
  • It’s a safe bet that there are not five justices on the court today who would have joined the Boumediene majority. The only member of that majority still serving is Justice Stephen Breyer. Three of the four dissenters, all but Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016 (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito), are still there.

The Robot Surgeon Will See You Now - The New York Times - 0 views

  • As he moved the handles — up and down, left and right — the robot mimicked each small motion with its own two arms. Then, when he pinched his thumb and forefinger together, one of the robot’s tiny claws did much the same. This is how surgeons like Dr. Fer have long used robots when operating on patients. They can remove a prostate from a patient while sitting at a computer console across the room.
  • The aim is not to remove surgeons from the operating room but to ease their load and perhaps even raise success rates — where there is room for improvement — by automating particular phases of surgery.
  • Robots can already exceed human accuracy on some surgical tasks, like placing a pin into a bone (a particularly risky task during knee and hip replacements). The hope is that automated robots can bring greater accuracy to other tasks, like incisions or suturing, and reduce the risks that come with overworked surgeons.
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  • Five years ago, researchers with the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., designed a robot that could automatically suture the intestines of a pig during surgery.
  • Surgical robots are equipped with cameras that record three-dimensional video of each operation. The video streams into a viewfinder that surgeons peer into while guiding the operation, watching from the robot’s point of view.
  • But this process came with its own asterisk. When the system told the robot where to move, the robot often missed the spot by millimeters. Over months and years of use, the many metal cables inside the robot’s twin arms have stretched and bent in small ways, so its movements were not as precise as they needed to be.
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