Biden Calls on Congress to Cease Immunity for Social Media

President Biden welcomed guests to the White House last week for the inaugural United We Stand Summit, an event to combat hate speech and violence. “There are core values that should bring us together as Americans, and one of them is standing together against hate, racism, bigotry, and violence that have long haunted and plagued our nation,” Biden told the bipartisan group. Participants gave the president a standing ovation when he specified that he will work to “hold social media companies accountable for spreading hate.” “I’m calling on Congress to get rid of special immunity for social media companies and impose much stronger transparency requirements,” Biden said. Continue reading Biden Calls on Congress to Cease Immunity for Social Media

Google Debuts AI Test Kitchen, LaMDA Language Generator

Google has launched an AI Test Kitchen and is inviting users to sign up to test experimental AI-powered systems and provide feedback before the applications are deployed for commercial use. First up is the Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), which has shown promising early results. The AI Test Kitchen has begun a gradual rollout to small groups of U.S. on Android with plans to include iOS in the coming weeks. According to Google, “as we move ahead with development, we feel a great responsibility to get this right.”  Continue reading Google Debuts AI Test Kitchen, LaMDA Language Generator

Legislators Continue Their Scrutiny of Big Tech, Social Media

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) has introduced a new bill, the Digital Platform Commission Act, which proposes the establishment of a five-person commission to protect consumers in the Big Tech era. This, even as attorneys for groups representing Facebook and Twitter on Friday filed with the U.S. Supreme Court an emergency request to block Texas House Bill 20. The companies argue the law compels social platforms to disseminate propaganda and misinformation, including racist and pro-Nazi screeds. Calling HB 20 “an assault on the First Amendment,” the companies claim its implementation could undo billions in development. Continue reading Legislators Continue Their Scrutiny of Big Tech, Social Media

Lowered Expectations Drive Meta Stock Rise on Q1 Earnings

Meta Platforms’ stock price jumped 18 percent Wednesday on Q1 results that while not great were better than expected. Revenue was up 7 percent, to $27.9 billion, the most listless growth rate since Facebook’s May 2012 IPO. Reality Labs, the division driving the company’s metaverse ambitions, beat analysts’ expectations with revenue of $695 million, but the unit lost about $3 billion. Reality Labs is a large investment in a next-generation platform “comparable in value to the leading mobile platforms today,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. Continue reading Lowered Expectations Drive Meta Stock Rise on Q1 Earnings

Elon Musk Makes ‘Best and Final’ $43B Offer to Buy Twitter

Less than two weeks after announcing he had built up a 9.2 percent stake in Twitter (and more recently turning down an offer to join its board of directors), billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors Elon Musk has made a cash offer of $54.20 a share to purchase the popular social networking service, valuing the company at about $43 billion. “Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company,” Musk wrote in a letter to Twitter chairman Bret Taylor disclosed in an SEC filing. “My offer is my best and final offer and if it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder. Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.” Continue reading Elon Musk Makes ‘Best and Final’ $43B Offer to Buy Twitter

Investors Plan Changes for Vote at Meta Shareholder Meeting

Meta Platforms shareholders are pressing for changes that address allegations of harm caused by its social platforms, which include Facebook and Instagram, as well as overall governance reforms. An investor group that includes the New York State Common Retirement Fund and Illinois State Treasurer filed eight resolutions to be considered at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, which is expected to be held in May. The proposals include board oversight in reducing harmful content, analysis of the company’s metaverse investment and a review of audit and risk committee, according to public reports. Continue reading Investors Plan Changes for Vote at Meta Shareholder Meeting

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

EU Report Tracks Decline in Voluntary Hate-Speech Removal

A voluntary hate-speech removal agreement among tech platforms in the European Union is trending in the opposite direction, according to the sixth evaluation report of the EU’s Code of Conduct, which produced a mixed picture. Social networks reviewing 81 percent of notifications within 24 hours removed an average of 62.5 percent of content flagged as hate speech, which is lower than the averages recorded in 2019 and 2020, according to the European Commission. The self-regulation policy was begun in 2016 with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube agreeing to remove speech that falls outside their community guidelines in under 24 hours.  Continue reading EU Report Tracks Decline in Voluntary Hate-Speech Removal

Google AI-Enabled MUM Aims to Reinvent, Empower Search

Google revealed its work on a new AI-enabled Internet search tool dubbed MUM (Multitask Unified Model), which can “read” the nuances globally of human language. The company says that users will be able to find information more readily and be able to ask abstract questions. MUM is not yet publicly available but Google independently used it for a COVID-19 related project. Vice president of search Pandu Nayak and a colleague designed an “experience” that gave in-depth information on vaccines when users searched for them. Continue reading Google AI-Enabled MUM Aims to Reinvent, Empower Search

Twitter Chooses Crypto Developer to Lead Its Bluesky Project

Twitter has selected startup founder and cryptocurrency developer Jay Graber to head up its open-source project Bluesky. Although Twitter funds Bluesky, it will operate independently of the social giant. Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey stated that Bluesky is his “biggest focus right now,” and Graber explained that she is “excited to take on this role and build the future of social media.” Dorsey established Bluesky to create protocol technology that would break down the boundaries between various social media services. Continue reading Twitter Chooses Crypto Developer to Lead Its Bluesky Project

Justice Thomas Argues Big Tech Be Regulated Like Utilities

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that tech platforms be regulated like utilities, in a concurrence he wrote to a decision to vacate a lower court’s ruling about former President Trump’s Twitter account. “There is a fair argument that some digital platforms are sufficiently akin to common carriers or places of accommodation to be regulated in this manner,” he wrote. Regulating such platforms like utilities could force them to make changes to current moderation policies against hate speech and harassment. Continue reading Justice Thomas Argues Big Tech Be Regulated Like Utilities

Creators Launch Audio Collective to Support New Community

Clubhouse, the popular audio chat app, has inspired other social media platforms to follow in its footsteps. In the process, the nascent audio creation space now has its own influencers. In response, 40 audio creators have established the Audio Collective to serve this cohort. The Collective has positioned itself as a one-stop shop for event planning, brand consulting, support and community. The founders also plan to ask Clubhouse for better moderation policies, insights and performance metrics as well as monetization tools. Continue reading Creators Launch Audio Collective to Support New Community

Twitch Report Details the Challenges of Curbing Toxic Speech

Video live-streaming service Twitch, which saw a 40 percent increase in channels in 2020, released its first transparency report featuring details on how it provides security for its 26 million daily users. The Amazon-owned company has always struggled to control harassment and hate speech but even more so during its meteoric growth spurt, especially since live content is harder to control. The new report acknowledges that challenge, noting it’s relied on volunteer moderators and user reports as well as its AutoMod tool, introduced in 2016. Continue reading Twitch Report Details the Challenges of Curbing Toxic Speech