Facebook increases censorship while delving further into AI. Who will monitor the monitors? Talk Liberation - Your Worldwide INTERNET REPORT (Issue 10, 2021)

Facial recognition tech - crime fighting or just mass surveillance?

We will be publishing Part Two of our popular #WLDragnet investigation very soon. In the meantime, enjoy our regular rundown of vitally important news in this edition of Your Worldwide Internet Report!

Facebook censors speech critical of public figures

Facebook announced that the social media site will now consider journalists and activists on the platform “involuntary public figures” according to Facebook Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis. Facebook currently allows more criticism of public figures than private individuals, but the social media site is changing its rules ensuring protections to individuals who have a public presence due to their work and not their personas. According to the report, involuntary public figures will be assessed on an individual basis.

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Davis claims the company will no longer allow certain attacks on public figures in an effort to reduce invective leveled at women, people of color and the LGBTQ community.

Facebook has been under scrutiny for its policies on how it regulates speech, and in particular for its “cross check system,” which allowed for some high profile individuals to bypass basic Facebook rules, according to The Wall Street Journal. And now Facebook is adopting a stricter policy over harassment of 'involuntary public figures’ on the platform.

Award-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald weighed in on Facebook’s new approach. In a series of tweets, Greenwald was critical of this new policy stating:

To appease the endless campaigns of journalists to pressure Facebook to censor more, Facebook is now removing journalists from the "public figure" category, meaning the freedom to criticize journalists and engage in activism against their work will be sharply curtailed.

Greenwald went on to state that “of course” journalists are public figures and to shield them from public critique is deranged.

Google rallies tech giants to stop ePrivacy

An unsealed US anti-trust lawsuit alleges that Google covertly attempted to waylay EU privacy legislation. The legislation posed a threat to the behavioral advertising model at the core of Google’s business.

As TechCrunch reports, the suit alleges that Google was allied with other Big Tech firms to undermine consumer privacy:

“Google secretly met with competitors to discuss competition and forestall consumer privacy efforts. The manner in which Google has actively worked with Big Tech competitors to undermine users’ privacy further illustrates Google’s pretextual privacy concerns. For example, in a closed-door meeting on August 6, 2019 between the five Big Tech companies — including Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft — Google discussed forestalling consumer privacy efforts.”

In preparation for that 2019 meeting, Google wrote about its success in stalling EU privacy regulation, saying, “we have been successful in slowing down and delaying the [ePrivacy Regulation] process and have been working behind the scenes hand in hand with the other companies.”

This echoes past comments by Big Tech giant Amazon which described its success ensuring “that the ePrivacy proposal will not get broad support in the European Parliament” in an internal document from 2017.

The proposed update to ePrivacy would broaden the scope of existing regulation, perhaps even reviving a “Do Not Track” system.

These revelations concerning Google’s rallying of tech giants to undermine EU legislation come at the same time that the company is ramping up lobbying in the US. In an email disclosed by Zach Edwards of the firm Victory Medium, Google implores business owners to oppose Big Tech legislation, saying its public policy team is “working with members of Congress" to "share concerns" and prepare for upcoming US proposals.

Facebook announces research project training AI models

Facebook announced it collected 2,200 hours of first-person video footage in a new research project called Ego4D to train artificial intelligence models. According to CNBC, Facebook’s Reality Labs Division is already working on a number of projects that may benefit from AI models that are trained using video footage filmed from a first-person perspective. AI could learn to better understand and identify something in the real world and virtual world through the use of footage taken by a human being.

The research project consists of 13 university partners including the University of Bristol, Carnegie Mellon, the National University of Singapore and the University of Tokyo, among others. Ego4D relied on more than 700 participants from nine different countries to provide the video footage, which was captured from GoPro cameras and Vuzix smart glasses.

Facebook claims to have more than 20 times the hours of footage compared to any other similar dataset. Additionally, the company seeks to expand the project to countries including Colombia and Rwanda.

Experts urge ban of UK police use facial recognition technology

Experts have provided evidence to the UK House of Lords in an effort to ban the police from using facial recognition technology claiming the use of such technology is disproportionate, and ineffective and has no clear legal basis. The experts questioned the “efficacy” and “proportionality” of the use of advanced algorithmic tools by law enforcement, in evidence provided to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee.

According to Computer Weekly, Director of Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, said in the five years of the trial phase of the technology, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) only had 11 matches using live facial recognition (LFR) technology. Despite this, the system has now been fully implemented since January 2020.

Karen Yeung of Birmingham Law School said the science behind the technology was “very unrigorous.” Further expanding on the ineffectiveness of this technology, Yeung said:

“In those 11 trials, 500,000 faces were scanned to produce nine to 10 arrests, and many of those were individuals who were wanted for very trivial offenses. All of this means the real-time location tracking of many, many hundreds of thousands of British people going about their lawful business, not bothering anyone.”

Yeung reiterated that law enforcement is using the new technology ‘just because they can,’ including prediction tools, without properly assessing their impact or efficacy.

Data privacy to become a human right in Brazil

The Brazilian Senate passed a proposal which would add personal data protection to the list of fundamental rights and guarantees for Brazilians. The bill would amend the Brazilian Constitution, so that data protection “becomes an unchangeable clause,” and that if changed in the future, it must expand to protect the rights of Brazilian citizens. In addition, it “establishes” that the federal government is responsible for the “protection and processing of personal data.”

According to a survey by Datafolha Institute carried out in January 2021, Brazilians generally fear for the protection of their data and privacy security. The research demonstrates that 92% of participants said that they are aware that companies retain their data and only 13% feel that their data is very secure.

Senator Simone Tebet, the creator of the proposal, says the bill incorporates the General Data Protection Regulations (LGPD) into the Constitution. The LGPD was established in September 2020 and regulates the processing of personal data of individuals, private and public enterprises to ensure privacy. Non-compliance can result in fines of up to 2% of a company’s revenue. Board members of the National Data Protection Authority (ANPD) were appointed to enforce the regulations.

British MP censored on YouTube

Conservative Member of Parliament David Davis accused YouTube of censoring his video critical of vaccine passports after it was removed from the website. The video posted by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch included MP Davis’ speech at a Conservative Party Conference where he said Covid passports were “illiberal.”

The video was reportedly removed for containing what YouTube deems “medical information.” According to the Daily Mail, Big Brother Watch received an email from the platform about the removal, which read: “YouTube doesn't allow claims about COVID-19 vaccinations that contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization (WHO).”

MP Davis went to Twitter to state that the censoring of his comments was an “outrageous attack on free speech” and that his speech was “thoroughly researched” and “wholly accurate.”

MP Davis warned of the UK’s Online Safety Bill, which he says is a harmful proposal that “hands more power to these unaccountable Silicon Valley giants.” The politician reiterated the idea that if Google-owned YouTube can censor a sitting MP, it can censor anyone uploading to the platform.

A spokesperson for Google admitted that sometimes the company makes mistakes. The video has since been re-uploaded to the platform.

Talk Liberation #WLDragnet

The groundbreaking new series #WLDragnet was recently released, launching Talk Liberation’s new deep dive investigative section, Talk Liberation Investigates. The #WLDragnet series exposes a ‘sinister and for-profit modern day mass surveillance on social media’ targeting Julian Assange supporters, whistleblowers, Medicare For All and Force the Vote activists, among others. The report reveals “a new facet of the public surveillance operation against WikiLeaks,” and “how data sciences and social media monitoring coalesce to identify and compile” the most effective online supporters of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

The report focuses on a unique dataset which indicates which WikiLeaks supporters and commentators have been subject to the social media dragnet, the entities producing the datasets and how the information is used by intelligence agencies, corporations and governments.

Comedian Jimmy Dore of The Jimmy Dore Show said, “This is important confirmation of my worst fears... the surveillance state is now following your every move on social media and using it against you.”

Additionally, comedian and host of The Political Vigilante Graham Elwood reiterated a similar sentiment stating, “#WLDragnet is proof that private intelligence went after people for tweeting pro-Julian Assange messages. If we do nothing, they win.”

Talk Liberation Investigates interviewed WikiLeaks supporters on the list who shared similar experiences of interference on social media including shadow banning, account lockouts and suspensions. However, the interference went beyond just social media with several subjects reporting instances of physical surveillance including being photographed, tailed on the streets and monitored by “military types.”

Part Two of the #WLDragnet series promises to be equally significant and is expected to be released soon.

Panquake Delivery Update

Next generation social media site Panquake held its monthly delivery meeting for October presented by Panquake CPO Suzie Dawson and Panquake CSO Sean O’Brien. The event started with an acknowledgement that the Panquake community had experienced a devastating loss during the month of October with the passing of Panquake Relationship Manager Eynelys Garcia.

A GoFundMe page has been established to support Eynelys’s family at this link.

During the delivery meeting, Dawson announced that Panquake developers had completed new authentication service functionality including new user types and a handle lookup function as well as subscription and payment options.

A press release on the Panquake website states, “We now have the ability for users to be anonymous/unregistered guests on our network, or registered and authenticated, which fulfills a fundamental promise we made from the outset.”

Phase Two funding for the project is at 86% and developers will now begin the blockchain build which is expected to take the next several months to complete. The next Panquake delivery meeting will be held on Saturday November 27.

That concludes Your Worldwide INTERNET REPORT for this week! 

That concludes Your Worldwide INTERNET REPORT for this week! 

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This issue of Your Worldwide INTERNET REPORT was written by Taylor Hudak; Edited by Suzie Dawson and Sean O’Brien; Graphics by Kimber Maddox; with production support by David Sutton.

Talk Liberation - Your Worldwide INTERNET REPORT was brought to you by Panquake.com. We Don’t Hope, We Build! 

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