Policing the Metaverse Looms as a Challenge for Tech Firms

The metaverse is in its early days, but many are already concerned as they anticipate the content moderation problems that have bedeviled traditional social media increasing exponentially in virtual worlds. The confluence of realistic immersive environments, the anonymity of avatars and potential for deepfakes is enough to give anyone pause. Throw in machine learning that will make today’s ad targeting seem primitive and it’s an even more volatile mix. Experts agree, the very qualities that make the metaverse appealing — false facades and hyperreality — make it potentially more dangerous than the digital platforms of today. Continue reading Policing the Metaverse Looms as a Challenge for Tech Firms

UK Lawmakers Are Taking Steps to Toughen Online Safety Bill

British lawmakers are seeking “major changes” to the forthcoming Online Safety Bill that cracks down on Big Tech but apparently does not go far enough. Expansions under discussion include legal consequences for tech firms and new rules for online fraud, advertising scams and deepfake (AI-generated) adult content. Comparing the Internet to the “Wild West,” Damian Collins, chairman of the joint committee that issued the report, went so far as to suggest corporate directors be subject to criminal liability if their companies withhold information or fail to comply with the act. Continue reading UK Lawmakers Are Taking Steps to Toughen Online Safety Bill

Senate Wants Social Firms to Pay for Holding Back Research

The U.S. Senate has introduced the bipartisan Platform Accountability and Transparency Act (PATA), which if passed into law would allow independent researchers to sue Big Tech for failing to provide requested data. The move follows last week’s Instagram hearing, where leaked internal research suggested the platform’s negative effects on the mental health of teens. On December 6, an international coalition of more than 300 scientists sent an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg — CEO of Meta Platforms, the company that owns Instagram and Facebook — requesting the social behemoth voluntarily share research. Continue reading Senate Wants Social Firms to Pay for Holding Back Research

Meta Reorganizes Research Team and Deploys ‘Few-Shot’ AI

Meta Platforms is restructuring its internal research department, drawing on employees from individual divisions like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to staff a centralized unit that will provide services to the entire company. The research will span everything from societal topics of politics, equity, health and climate to credibility topics like misinformation and account safety. The new division will be managed by Meta head of research Pratiti Raychoudhury. Additionally, Meta is deploying the new Few-Shot Learner artificial intelligence system to help moderate content, identify trends, monitor data and implement rules. Continue reading Meta Reorganizes Research Team and Deploys ‘Few-Shot’ AI

Government Questions Liability Shield Offered by Section 230

The U.S. House of Representatives is signaling intent to proceed with legislation to scale back the Section 230 liability shield for Big Tech. The move follows a frontal assault on Australia’s version of the law by the Parliament and global saber-rattling against protections that prevent social platforms being held legally accountable for user-posted content that harms others. At a Wednesday hearing on various Section 230 bills, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) said that while the protections were vital to Internet growth, they have resulted in anti-social behavior. Continue reading Government Questions Liability Shield Offered by Section 230

Twitter Earns Praise for Transparency in Its Research Findings

Twitter has earned praise for transparency after it published “unflattering” research findings. The company analyzed “millions of Tweets” in an attempt to measure how its recommendation algorithms handle political content, and subsequently reported that it amplifies more content from right-wing politicians and media outlets than from left-wing sources. The findings, which were released in late October, were well-received at a time when social platforms are fast to tout positive findings, but quickly discredit critical data, as was the case with Facebook and whistleblower Frances Haugen. Continue reading Twitter Earns Praise for Transparency in Its Research Findings

Facebook Is Criticized for Continuing to Collect Data of Teens

After Facebook promised in July that it would limit its algorithms that track online behavior of users under 18 as a step toward curtailing a method used by advertisers to target children and teenagers, the social giant is again being accused of collecting such data. Facebook was found harvesting data of young users through its ad delivery system, according to a report published by advocacy groups Fairplay, Global Action Plan and Reset Australia. The research suggests that Facebook is maintaining the ability to track younger users so that it can maximize engagement and increase advertising revenue. Continue reading Facebook Is Criticized for Continuing to Collect Data of Teens

FB Whistleblower Testimony Accelerates EU Regulatory Push

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s meetings with European Union officials have accelerated the lawmakers’ plans to tamp down Big Tech. Officials are calling for quick action to strengthen and enact measures of a 2020 bill that would impose strict obligations on social media companies. As currently drafted the bill would require technology platforms to monitor and mitigate risks from illegal content or suffer stiff fines. Likening Europe to “a digital Wild West,” EU digital commissioner Thierry Breton said, “Speed is everything” and EU members must pass the new tech legislation in the first half of 2022. Continue reading FB Whistleblower Testimony Accelerates EU Regulatory Push

Social Platforms Face Government Questions on Teen Safety

Executives from Snap, TikTok and YouTube tried to distance themselves from Facebook and one another in a Tuesday Senate hearing about online safety for young users. In a combative exchange lasting nearly four hours, the participating social platforms tried to make the case they are already taking steps to protect minors, while lawmakers countered that their staff was able to find posts featuring inappropriate content on their sites, sometimes while logged in as teens. “Being different from Facebook is not a defense,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). Continue reading Social Platforms Face Government Questions on Teen Safety

Bipartisan Congressional Effort Afoot for Tougher Tech Laws

Riding the momentum of Washington hearings and media criticism, legislators are pushing forward various bills to regulate Big Tech. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) led fellow Senators in pushing legislation that would prevent tech platforms from favoring their own products and services, lending weight to efforts already progressing in the House. House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders have put forward their own proposal to prevent social-media companies from boosting circulation of harmful content. At the forefront are initiatives to limit the collection of personal info from minors, as well as restrictions on marketing to children. Continue reading Bipartisan Congressional Effort Afoot for Tougher Tech Laws

Facebook Said to Inflate AI Takedown Rates for Hate Speech

Although Facebook leadership has suggested that artificial intelligence will solve the company’s challenge to keep hate speech and violent content at bay, AI may not be a thoroughly effective near-term solution. That evaluation comes as part of a new examination of internal Facebook documents that allegedly indicate the social media company removes only a small percentage — quantified as low-single-digits — of posts deemed to violate its hate-speech rules. Algorithmic uncertainty as to whether content violates the rules results only in that it is fed to users less frequently, rather than flagged for further scrutiny. Continue reading Facebook Said to Inflate AI Takedown Rates for Hate Speech

Lawmakers See Solution in Regulating Facebook’s Algorithm

U.S. lawmakers agitated by the recent testimony of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen and related media reports are homing in on the social network’s News Feed algorithm as ripe for regulation, although First Amendment questions loom. The past year has seen Congress introduce or reintroduce no fewer than five bills that expressly focus on software coding that decides who sees what content on social media platforms. In addition to the U.S., laws advancing the idea of regulating such algorithms are gaining momentum in the European Union, Britain and China. Continue reading Lawmakers See Solution in Regulating Facebook’s Algorithm

Facebook Vies with Whistleblower to Spin Latest News Cycle

Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg in a round of Sunday morning news appearances advocated his company’s position in the midst of senatorial attack, discussing new safety tools and emphasizing the company’s repeated requests for congressional guidelines. Means to deflect users from harmful content, curb political content and put programming power in the hands of parents were among the new measures by which to impede vulnerabilities. Instagram in particular will invite adult supervision over accounts belonging to minors. Clegg stressed Instagram Kids for 13-and-under as part of the solution. Continue reading Facebook Vies with Whistleblower to Spin Latest News Cycle

Facebook Whistleblower Fuels Interest in Tougher Tech Laws

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s Senate testimony Tuesday appears to have fueled congressional desire to pass new regulations on Big Tech. At a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online,” the inquiry expanded well beyond teens’ mental health, ranging from obsequious algorithms to Chinese surveillance of Uyghur populations, COVID-19 vaccine disinformation and speech leading to January’s Capitol insurrection. Calling Facebook “morally bankrupt,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said “Big Tech is facing its Big Tobacco moment,” and urged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify. Continue reading Facebook Whistleblower Fuels Interest in Tougher Tech Laws

Whistleblower Contends Facebook Values Profits Over Safety

Whistleblower Frances Haugen said on “60 Minutes” Sunday night that Facebook was cognizant of problems with apps, including Instagram, that allowed misinformation to be spread and caused societal harm, especially among young girls. Haugen revealed on the CBS news show to be the source of documents leaked to The Wall Street Journal that led to congressional inquiry. She also filed eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging Facebook hid research from investors and the public. The former product manager worked for nearly two years on the civic integrity team before exiting the social network in May. Continue reading Whistleblower Contends Facebook Values Profits Over Safety