Section 230 Is a Government License to Build Rage Machines

from Wired Facebook has been called the “ largest piece of the QAnon infrastructure.” The app has not only hosted plenty of the conspiracy group’s dark and dangerous content, it has also promoted and expanded its audience. QAnon is hardly the only beneficiary: Facebook promotes and expands the audience of militia organizers, racists, those who seek to spread disinformation to voters, and a host of other serious troublemakers. The platform’s basic business, after all, is deciding which content keeps people most engaged, even if it undermines civil society. But unlike most other businesses, Facebook’s most profitable operations benefit from a […]

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Why This Author Is Taking A Stand Against Amazon’s Audiobook Monopoly

from Fast Company When science fiction writer and activist Cory Doctorow releases his new novel, Attack Surface, next month, you’ll be able to pick up a physical copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local independent bookstore. If you’d prefer an e-book, you’ll be able to download it on Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and other mainstream digital book platforms. But if you’re someone who prefers an audiobook, you’ll find the novel, which deals with a corporate cybersecurity expert struggling with the morality of her work, absent from one of the biggest audiobook stores on the internet: Amazon’s […]

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EU Launching Deep Probe Into Google’s Planned $2.1 Billion Fitbit Buy

from ars technica Regulators in the European Union are launching a deep investigation into Google’s proposed acquisition of wearables maker Fitbit after expressing concerns that giving Google access to Fitbit’s user data could “distort competition.” The Commission’s in-depth investigation will examine not only the potential outcomes for the advertising market if the transaction goes through, but it will also look at the effects of the deal on the digital healthcare sector and the potential for Google to lock competitors out of access to Android users. More here.

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What’s This? A Bipartisan Plan For AI And National Security

from ars technica US Reps. Will Hurd and Robin Kelly are from opposite sides of the ever-widening aisle, but they share a concern that the United States may lose its grip on artificial intelligence, threatening the American economy and the balance of world power. On Thursday, Hurd (R-Tex.) and Kelly (D-Ill.) offered suggestions to prevent the US from falling behind China, especially, on applications of AI to defense and national security. They want to cut off China’s access to AI-specific silicon chips and push Congress and federal agencies to devote more resources to advancing and safely deploying AI technology. Although […]

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Think You Can’t Escape Google? You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet

from Fast Company More than any designer this side of Cupertino, Matias Duarte has made phones easy to use. During his tenure at Google — first overseeing the design of Android — the vice president of design watched Google’s operating system capture more than 85% of the global smartphone market. Duarte has likened his own work in mainstreaming these addictive devices to that of an arms dealer — “I just make the guns! I didn’t make you guys shoot each other!” — but he’s also not slowing down. After pioneering Material Design — a user interface metaphor that’s helped de-uglify […]

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Google Fires Four Employees At Center Of Worker Organization Efforts

from ars technica Tensions between Google parent company Alphabet and its workers are again on the rise, as four employees at the forefront of an organization movement within Google have been fired. The firings came Monday in the wake of an employee rally at Google’s San Francisco office that took place last Friday. The rally was in support of employees Rebecca Rivers and Laurence Berland, both of whom had been placed on administrative leave in the wake of their previous protests against the company. Bloomberg obtained a memo sent to all Google employees on Monday about the firings, which described […]

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Building a World Where Data Privacy Exists Online

from NYTs Data is valuable — something that companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon realized far earlier than most consumers did. But computer scientists have been working on alternative models, even as the public has grown weary of having their data used and abused. Dawn Song, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the world’s foremost experts in computer security and trustworthy artificial intelligence, envisions a new paradigm in which people control their data and are compensated for its use by corporations. While there have been many proposals for such a system, Professor Song is one […]

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The Google Tax

from Seth’s Blog Actually, there are two. The first is the tax we each pay so that companies can bid against each other to buy traffic from Google. Because their revenue model is (cleverly) built on both direct marketing and an auction, they are able to keep a significant portion of the margin from many industries. They’ve become the internet’s landlord. The difference between a successful business in New York and an unsuccessful one is just a few percentage points–the successful ones pay 95% of their profit to landlords, while the unsuccessful ones pay 105%. More here.

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There’s Another Big Reason Why You Should Ditch Chrome For Firefox

from Fast Company It’s not paranoia: You are being followed. Marketers are embedding dozens of trackers per website to follow your online wanderings and build up ad-targeting profiles. While the dominant browser, Google Chrome, takes a timid approach to these trackers, Apple and now Mozilla are attacking them head on. Firefox first started blocking all trackers by default in its experimental browsers in July and in a wide release in September. Since then, Firefox has blocked 450 billion tracking attempts, says Selena Deckelmann, the senior director of Firefox browser engineering at Mozilla. That comes out to 175 trackers per Firefox […]

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Google Antitrust Investigation Outlined by State Attorneys General

from NYTs The state attorneys general from four dozen states officially declared on Monday that they were beginning investigations into the market power and corporate behavior of big tech companies. The formal declaration, delivered from the steps of the United States Supreme Court by a bipartisan group of state officials, adds investigative muscle and political momentum to the intensifying scrutiny of the tech giants by federal watchdog agencies and Congress. The states are focusing on two targets: Facebook and Google. More here.

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Google Reportedly Attains ‘Quantum Supremacy’

from c|net Google has reportedly built a quantum computer more powerful than the world’s top supercomputers. A Google research paper was temporarily posted online this week, the Financial Times reported Friday, and said the quantum computer’s processor allowed a calculation to be performed in just over 3 minutes. That calculation would take 10,000 years on IBM’s Summit, the world’s most powerful commercial computer, Google reportedly said. Google researchers are throwing around the term “quantum supremacy” as a result, the FT said, because their quantum computer can solve tasks that can’t otherwise be solved. “To our knowledge, this experiment marks the […]

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Google Knows Everywhere You Go — Here’s How To Stop It From Tracking You And Delete The Logs

from CNBC Google knows a lot about you and, if you use Google Maps or other Google apps, it stores a copy of everywhere you go. I recently performed Google’s “Privacy Checkup” to learn a bit more about what it knows about me, and was pretty surprised at the level of detail it had on my exact locations. I picked a random date: April 16, 2019. It knew everywhere I went, including that I took Interstate 95 to our office in northern New Jersey and that I arrived at 7:58 a.m. It knew that at 1:02 p.m. I drove to […]

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The Only Way To Rein In Big Tech Is To Treat Them As A Public Service

from The Guardian After years of praising their virtues, governments across the world are belatedly waking up to the problems posed by big tech. From India and Australia to France and America – and now the UK, with its report from the Digital Competition Expert Panel – politicians have been reckoning with how to mitigate the harms of the world’s largest technology platforms. And they all seem to arrive at the same answer: competition is the magic mechanism that will somehow tame the giants, unleash innovation and fix our digital world. But what if competition is the problem rather than […]

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15 Months Of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook

from Wired THE STREETS OF Davos, Switzerland, were iced over on the night of January 25, 2018, which added a slight element of danger to the prospect of trekking to the Hotel Seehof for George Soros’ annual banquet. The aged financier has a tradition of hosting a dinner at the World Economic Forum, where he regales tycoons, ministers, and journalists with his thoughts about the state of the world. That night he began by warning in his quiet, shaking Hungarian accent about nuclear war and climate change. Then he shifted to his next idea of a global menace: Google and […]

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Legal Scholar Tim Wu Says The US Must Enforce Antitrust Laws

from Wired LAST WEEK, PRESIDENTIAL candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) announced an ambitious plan to break up big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon and block them from selling their own products on their platforms. Warren called out Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp and Google’s acquisition of online advertising giant DoubleClick as examples of the deals she’d like to see reversed. But why were these companies allowed to grow so big—and these purchases allowed—in the first place? In his book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, published in November, legal scholar Tim Wu explains […]

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The Media’s Post-Advertising Future Is Also Its Past

from The Atlantic It’s my holiday tradition to bring tidings of discomfort and sorrow to my colleagues in the news business. One year ago, I described the media apocalypse coming for both digital upstarts and legacy brands. Vice and BuzzFeed had slashed their revenue projections by hundreds of millions of dollars, while TheNew York Times had announced a steep decline in advertising. Twelve months later, it’s end times all over again. There have been layoffs across Vox Media, Vice, and BuzzFeed (and dubious talk of an emergency merger). Mic, once valued at $100 million, fired most of its staff and sold for $5 million. Verizon took a nearly $5 billion write-down on its digital media unit, which […]

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The Privacy Battle To Save Google From Itself

From Wired OVER TWO DAYS during the summer of 2009, experts from inside and outside Google met to forge a roadmap for how the company would approach user privacy. At the time, Google was under fire for its data collection practices and user tracking. The summit was designed to codify ways that users could feel more in control. Engineer Amanda Walker, then in her third year at Google and now the company’s software engineering manager of privacy infrastructure, jotted down notes on a paper worksheet during one of the summit’s sessions. “HMW: Mitigate Impact of bad Gov’t + 3rd party […]

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Google’s New Tool to Fight Climate Change

from The Atlantic In the next decade or so, more than 6,000 cities, states, and provinces around the world will try to do something that has eluded humanity for 25 years: reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, which warm the atmosphere and cause climate change. The city-level leaders overseeing this task won’t have the same tools available to their national peers. Most of them won’t have an Environmental Protection Agency (or its equivalent), a meteorological bureau, a team of military engineers, or NASA. So where will they start? Never mind how to reduce their city’s greenhouse-gas emissions; how will they […]

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