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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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How AI Could Accidentally Extinguish Humankind + More • Children’s Health Defense

The Defender’s Big Brother NewsWatch brings you the latest headlines related to governments’ abuse of power, including attacks on democracy, civil liberties and use of mass surveillance.

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How AI Could Accidentally Extinguish Humankind

The Washington Post reported:

People are bad at predicting the future. Where are our flying cars? Why are there no robot butlers? And why can’t I take a vacation on Mars?

But we haven’t just been wrong about things we thought would come to pass; humanity also has a long history of incorrectly assuring ourselves that certain now-inescapable realities wouldn’t. The day before Leo Szilard devised the nuclear chain reaction in 1933, the great physicist Ernest Rutherford proclaimed that anyone who propounded atomic power was “talking moonshine.” Even computer industry pioneer Ken Olsen in 1977 supposedly said he didn’t foresee individuals having any use for a computer in their home.

Obviously, we live in a nuclear world, and you probably have a computer or two within arm’s reach right now. In fact, it’s those computers — and the exponential advances in computing generally — that are now the subject of some of society’s most high-stakes forecasting.

The conventional expectation is that ever-growing computing power will be a boon for humanity. But what if we’re wrong again? Could artificial superintelligence instead cause us great harm? Our extinction? As history teaches, never say never.

California Passes Bill Requiring Social Media Companies to Consider Children’s Mental Health

The Hill reported:

California’s legislature has passed legislation that will require social media companies to consider the physical and mental health of minors who use their platforms.

Senate Bill AB 2273 passed in the state’s Senate chamber in a 75-0 vote on Tuesday. The proposed legislation is headed to the desk of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), though it is unclear whether Newsom will sign the legislation into law, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act’s requirements include configuring all default privacy settings offered by the social media platform unless the platform can demonstrate a reason why its setting is suited for children and provide information about privacy information, terms and conditions, policies and community standards, all using clear language suited to the age of children likely to access their platform.

The proposed bill will also prohibit social media platforms from using the child user’s information for any purpose other than intended and ban platforms that use children’s information that could be detrimental to their health.

Social media platforms that violate the rules in the bill will be fined up to $2,500 per affected child for each violation and more than $7,500 per affected child for each intentional violation, the bill’s text said.

Over 50 Biden Administration Employees, 12 U.S. Agencies Involved in Social Media Censorship Push: Documents

The Epoch Times reported:

Over 50 officials in President Joe Biden’s administration across a dozen agencies have been involved with efforts to pressure Big Tech companies to crack down on alleged misinformation, according to documents released on Sept. 1.

Senior officials in the U.S. government, including White House lawyer Dana Remus, deputy assistant to the president Rob Flaherty, and onetime White House senior COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt, have been in touch with one or more major social media companies to try to get the companies to tighten rules on allegedly false and misleading information on COVID-19, and take action against users who violate the rules, the documents show.

The documents were part of a preliminary production in a lawsuit levied against the government by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, later joined by experts maligned by federal officials. Plaintiffs said the massive pressure campaign amounted to a “Censorship Enterprise” because it involved so many officials and agencies.

Meta has disclosed that at least 32 federal officials, including top officials at the White House and the Food and Drug Administration, were in communication with it about content moderation. Many of the officials were not identified in the response by the government.

Tech Tool Offers Police ‘Mass Surveillance on a Budget’

Associated Press reported:

Local law enforcement agencies from suburban Southern California to rural North Carolina have been using an obscure cellphone tracking tool, at times without search warrants, that gives them the power to follow people’s movements months back in time, according to public records and internal emails obtained by The Associated Press.

Police have used “Fog Reveal” to search hundreds of billions of records from 250 million mobile devices, and harnessed the data to create location analyses known among law enforcement as “patterns of life,” according to thousands of pages of records about the company.

The company was developed by two former high-ranking Department of Homeland Security officials under ex-President George W. Bush. It relies on advertising identification numbers, which Fog officials say are culled from popular cellphone apps such as Waze, Starbucks and hundreds of others that target ads based on a person’s movements and interests, according to police emails. That information is then sold to companies like Fog.

“It’s sort of a mass surveillance program on a budget,” said Bennett Cyphers, a special advisor at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital privacy rights advocacy group.

Dissenting Voices Must Speak out to Extricate Society From the Grip of Mass Formation: Clinical Psychologist

The Epoch Times reported:

Speaking out to articulate sincere and honest belief is the best way to break the social phenomenon known as mass formation, whereby many individuals believe in an unreasonable narrative but are unable to think critically of it, said Mattias Desmet, a professor of clinical psychology at Ghent University in Belgium.

The phenomenon of mass formation has existed in society since ancient times and manifested itself in the Crusades, the French Revolution, and on a large scale in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, said Desmet, a leading expert on mass formation.

The first time a worldwide mass formation emerged was during the coronavirus crisis, Desmet said. “That’s never happened before in history.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, two new groups emerged in the society: the mass and a group of people that do not go along with the masses, he continued.

COVID Vaccine Drive for Youngest Kids off to Underwhelming Start, Data Shows

Politico reported:

Ten weeks after the FDA and CDC opened the door for children under 5 years old to receive COVID-19 vaccines, the national drive to get the youngest children protected is off to an underwhelming and uneven start.

Just over 5% of eligible babies and toddlers nationwide have received their first dose at this point, a significantly slower pace than older kids and teenagers, CDC data shows. And there’s a growing political divide, including a swath of Republican-controlled states hovering at less than 2% even as concerns mount that there may be a COVID infection surge this fall.

But even in the most enthusiastic states, the vast majority of young children have not yet received their first dose. A mix of parental hesitance, more limited opportunities for vaccine administration and unique logistical challenges for the youngest age group have slowed the flow of shots to a trickle.

In some ways, this slower launch was by design. Unlike previous vaccination drives, the federal government’s strategy focused more narrowly on getting most doses into the hands of pediatricians and family doctors. Officials hope that encouraging parents to have conversations with medical providers they already trust will build confidence over time, convincing more parents to get their kids vaccinated.

Google Releases Details on How It Will Combat Misinformation in Advance of Midterm Elections

CNN Business reported:

Google is preparing for a wave of misinformation surrounding the U.S. midterm elections by elevating trustworthy information and displaying it more prominently across services including search and YouTube, the company said Thursday.

As part of the effort, Google plans to launch a new tool in the coming weeks that highlights local and regional journalism about campaigns and races, the company said in a blog post. Searches for “how to vote,” in both English and Spanish, will soon return highlighted information sourced from state election officials, including important dates and deadlines based on users’ location as well as instructions on acceptable ways to cast a ballot.

Meanwhile, YouTube said it will highlight mainstream news sources and show labels beneath videos in English and Spanish that provide accurate election information. YouTube said it is also working to prevent “harmful election misinformation” from being recommended to viewers algorithmically.

Chengdu Locks Down 21.2 Million as Chinese Cities Battle COVID

Reuters reported:

The southwestern Chinese metropolis of Chengdu announced a lockdown of its 21.2 million residents as it launched four days of citywide COVID-19 testing, as some of the country’s most populous and economically important cities battle outbreaks.

Residents of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, were ordered to stay home from 6 p.m. on Thursday, with households allowed to send one person per day to shop for necessities, the city government said in a statement.

Chengdu, which reported 157 domestically transmitted infections on Wednesday, is the largest Chinese city to be locked down since Shanghai in April and May. It remained unclear whether the lockdown would be lifted after the mass testing ends on Sunday.

Tech’s Newest Giant Is Also an Outcast

Axios reported:

The phenomenal and speedy rise of TikTok has made the short-video-sharing platform the latest and most likely-to-succeed front-runner in the race to join tech’s inner corporate circle.

Why it matters: TikTok’s vast pool of users, fine-tuned content algorithm and accelerating cash machine have made it the upstart that most spooks Facebook, which started copycatting TikTok’s format in 2020.

Yes, but: Tiktok’s arrival as a competitive challenger to tech’s incumbent giants comes with a colossal asterisk — it’s owned by a private Chinese company, ByteDance.

TikTok surpassed 1 billion users in just over 5 years last year, achieving that milestone many years faster than Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. TikTok was once again the most downloaded app globally last quarter, the eighth quarter in a row it’s held that position, per Sensor Tower, an apps analytics firm.

U.S. Export Ban on Some Advanced AI Chips to Hit China Tech Majors

Reuters reported:

A U.S. order to ban exports of some advanced chips to China is likely to hit almost any major tech company running public clouds or advanced artificial intelligence training modules in the country, experts said.

Chip designer Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) said on Wednesday that U.S. officials told it to stop exporting two top computing chips for AI work to China.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD.O) also said it had received new license requirements that will stop its advanced AI chip called MI250 from being exported to China.

The orders underscore deepening U.S.-China tensions over access to advanced chip technology.

Twitter Starts Testing an Edit Button, but You Have to Pay for It

The Verge reported:

Twitter is now testing its highly requested Edit Tweet feature. After years of memes and jokes, editable tweets will be available to some Twitter Blue subscribers later this month. The feature is currently undergoing “internal testing” and appears to mimic Facebook in its edit style, with a linked edit history for tweets that we saw in leaks earlier this year.

“Tweets will be able to be edited a few times in the 30 minutes following their publication,” according to a Twitter blog post. “Edited Tweets will appear with an icon, timestamp, and label so it’s clear to readers that the original Tweet has been modified.”

Twitter is only talking about editable tweets for its Blue subscription, which recently raised its price in the U.S. to $4.99 per month from $2.99. That means we probably won’t see an edit button for regular users any time soon.

Google Workers Protest $1.2 Billion Project Nimbus Contract With Israeli Military

TechCrunch reported:

A group of Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim and Arab Google employees is speaking out against the tech giant’s Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract involving Google, Amazon and the Israeli government and military.

According to a report from The Intercept, Google is offering advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning to the Israeli government, which could augment the country’s use of digital surveillance in occupied Palestinian territories. The contract also reportedly prevents Google from denying services to specific Israeli government entities, such as the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

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