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Facebook whistleblower Haugen urges lawmakers to avert impasse on social media laws – NBC News

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WASHINGTON — Ex-Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen implored lawmakers Wednesday to avert the usual congressional stalemates as they weigh proposals to curb abuses on social media platforms by limiting the companies’ free-speech protections against legal liability.

“Facebook wants you to get caught up in a long, drawn out debate over the minutiae of different legislative approaches. Please don’t fall into that trap,” Haugen testified at a hearing by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. “Time is of the essence. There is a lot at stake here. You have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create new rules for our online world. I came forward, at great personal risk, because I believe we still have time to act. But we must act now.”

Lawmakers brought forward proposals after Haugen presented a case in October that Facebook’s systems amplify online hate and extremism and fail to protect young users from harmful content.

Oct. 5, 202105:40

Her previous disclosures have energized legislative and regulatory efforts around the world aimed at cracking down on Big Tech, and she made a series of appearances recently before European lawmakers and officials who are drawing up rules for social media companies.

Haugen, a data scientist who worked as a product manager in Facebook’s civic integrity unit, buttressed her assertions with a massive trove of internal company documents she secretly copied and provided to federal securities regulators and Congress.

When she made her first public appearance this fall, laying out a far-reaching condemnation of the social network giant before a Senate Commerce subcommittee, she shared how she believes Facebook’s platforms could be made safer and offered prescriptions for action by Congress. She rejected the idea of breaking up the tech giant as many lawmakers are calling for, favoring instead targeted legislative remedies.

Most notably, they include new curbs on the long-standing legal protections for speech posted on social media platforms. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have called for stripping away some of the protections granted by a provision in a 25-year-old law — generally known as Section 230 — that shields internet companies from liability for what users post.

“Let’s work together on bipartisan legislation because we can’t continue to wait,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., the chairman of the communications and technology subcommittee. The tech giants want nothing more than partisan division and dithering over the legislation, he said.

Facebook and other social media companies use computer algorithms to rank and recommend content. They govern what shows up on users’ news feeds. Haugen’s idea is to remove the protections in cases where dominant content driven by algorithms favors massive engagement by users over public safety.

“Facebook will not change until the incentives change,” Haugen told the House panel. “I hope that you guys act because our children deserve much better.”

That’s the thought behind the Justice Against Malicious Algorithms Act, which was introduced by senior House Democrats about a week after Haugen testified to the Senate panel in October. The bill would hold social media companies responsible by removing their protection under Section 230 for tailored recommendations to users that are deemed to cause harm. A platform would lose the immunity in cases where it “knowingly or recklessly” promoted harmful content.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who heads the full Energy and Commerce committee, said a proposal from its senior Republican, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, isn’t identical to the Democrats’ bill but represents a good start for potential compromise.

“Big Tech should not be the arbiter of truth,” Rodgers said, renewing conservatives’ assertions that social media platforms censor those viewpoints. Rodgers’ proposal would allow conservatives to challenge the platforms’ content decisions.

All of the legislative proposals face a heavy lift toward final enactment by Congress.

Some experts who support stricter regulation of social media say the Democrats’ legislation as written could have unintended consequences. It doesn’t make clear enough which specific algorithmic behaviors would lead to loss of the liability protection, they suggest, making it hard to see how it would work in practice and leading to wide disagreement over what it might actually do.

Meta Platforms, the new name of Facebook’s parent company, has declined to comment on specific legislative proposals. The company says it has long advocated for updated regulations.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has suggested changes that would only give internet platforms legal protection if they can prove that their systems for identifying illegal content are up to snuff. That requirement, however, might be more difficult for smaller tech companies and startups to meet, leading critics to charge that it would ultimately favor Facebook.

Other social media companies have urged caution in any legislative changes to Section 230.

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Book the lynching and alert the media!: Sally Barnes | Commentary – Huntsville Doppler – Huntsville Doppler

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I’ve changed during and because of this pandemic. Sadly, so has my country.

Like so many others, thanks to a throng of scientific experts and lawmakers, I have become a recluse.

Our dining room—the scene of so many wonderful gatherings of family and friends over the years—is deserted. Candles remain unlit. Cherished dishes haven’t seen the light of day in months. Silverware cries out for polishing but who’s to see it or use it? Nobody. 

With the odd visitor we’re allowed, we eat at the kitchen table.

If this continues much longer I fear we will become “sink eaters”. I first heard that expression from a Maritime friend to describe how, following the death of her husband, she found herself skipping meals and eating at the sink as she mindlessly stared out the window.  

In my new life as a hermit, I ration my intake of news coverage and its endless account of death, destruction, and despotism. I avoid social media and its reminder of how bat-ass crazy some have become and the venom and hatred that skulks in the hearts and minds of many.  

Once an avid shopper, I have adopted a “grab and run” policy. Any necessities that can’t be delivered to my door, I gather by running into a shop, grabbing what we need, and getting out of there as quickly as I can. 

Sometimes, on my rare venture into the real world, I am approached by someone who greets me like a lifelong friend or associate and wants to chat. Damned if I can recognize them because of their mask. Some days I think they are maybe just lonely people hanging out in public places anxious to talk to anyone.

Here in Canada, because we are blessed with such resources, we will survive this pandemic. But I fear we will never be the same. Our weaknesses and failures as a society have been exposed, public confidence in our leaders and governments has been shaken, and you can cut with a knife the cynicism that exists about almost everything.

Every day we are reminded what a botch-up we’ve made of many of our democratic institutions and essential services.

The pandemic has exposed the fragility and shortcomings of our “world class” healthcare system and that it was a straw house just waiting to collapse under major pressure.

Overnight, so-called experts were brought in to respond to a pandemic, scrambled to do their best but neglected to consider what would happen if our schools were shut down or if we didn’t have the workers to staff the hospitals and stores and public services.    

The system for recruiting and training health care professionals is faulty and our immigration and regulatory policies are partly to blame. Thousands of additional nurses are needed while thousands of young people can’t get into nursing programs or others have foreign credentials ensnared in our bulging bureaucracies.

Education? Starved of funds for repair or replacement of crumbling infrastructure and the lack of measures like ventilation. Demand for reform and the new challenge of repairing the carnage of two years of online learning at all levels from kindergarten to our colleges and universities. 

Programs and facilities for the elderly are pathetic. Whom to blame?

The tsunami known as the Baby Boomers has had a major impact on society since the day this post-war generation came into the world. They have turned 75 and bring with them huge demand for costly health care and other social programs. 

Warnings that we were unprepared for the demands and needs of the aging population went unheeded and the first wave of the pandemic took a cruel toll on our seniors. Families stood by helplessly as parents and grandparents died isolated and afraid.

The pandemic has wrecked our economy, created a mountain of public debt, and exacerbated countless social problems such as addictions, family breakdown, mental health issues, joblessness, bankruptcies, domestic abuse, and criminal behaviour. It will take years to assess the damage caused by closing our schools.

The pandemic has left many of us scared and angry and seeking revenge.

It has set neighbour against neighbour and caused major rifts in families and workplaces.

Many of the rich got richer during this pandemic while most of the poor got poorer. People working for governments and their agencies kept their jobs and worked at home while family-owned businesses closed and many will never reopen.

We know that the pandemic has increased the spread of racism, misogyny, corporate greed, and lack of respect for our laws and standards of civility, the importance of public discourse, freedom of speech, and tolerance.

There is growing public anger with those who choose to remain unvaccinated and are driving virus-induced hospitalization all across Canada, holding the rest of us hostage in the battle to control and survive this pandemic.

Many of us know those whose diagnosis or treatment for serious illnesses have been postponed or cancelled because the unvaccinated have selfishly monopolized limited health care resources.  

A new poll out last week shows Canadians are in favour of harsh punishment for the unvaccinated. Maru Public Opinion found 37 per cent support denying them publicly funded health care and another 27 per cent say it’s okay to go as far as a short jail sentence.

C’mon people!  At the rate we’re going, can it be far off when lynching in the public square replaces movies on Netflix?

We need to distinguish between those who are vaccine hesitant and/or simply refuse the vaccinations and those who actively campaign against it, spread lies and conspiracy theories, threaten vaccine proponents and their families, harass politicians, media commentators and health care workers, and use other illegal means to further their selfish and deadly cause.

Extreme proposals like imposing special taxes on the non-vaccinated and denying them health care end up hurting the most vulnerable and will only widen prospects for opportunistic politicians to feed off public rancor.  

Every political party has its base of support and extreme measures are red meat for some politicians—especially those preparing for upcoming elections. 

Make no mistake—vaccine policy is a wedge issue that can win votes as it divides people and foments social unrest and loss of confidence in our democratic institutions. 

Here in this country, our political extremists are not as numerous, visible or obviously mad as in the U.S. but they are out there and influencing public policy.

Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s statement that the unvaccinated should be “reasonably accommodated” was at best a poor choice of words and at worst political stupidity. Laws, civility, and tolerance preserve our freedom to hold different opinions and to make different choices. But that freedom does not extend to endangering the health and well-being of others. Our courts seem to agree.

Rather than O’Toole’s appeasement and Justin Trudeau’s bad-mouthing of the unvaccinated, we need leaders who will do the heavier lifting of devising programs that actually work to get people vaccinated. 

Thanks to media coverage of our pandemic failings and high-profile issues such as residential schools, the world knows that we Canadians are not the ideal, polite and apology-seeking people as we were once known. 

But we remain a good people and a good country. A beacon of hope in a world gone mad.

The challenge is to learn from our mistakes and preserve our civility despite the challenges and pressure this damnable pandemic has imposed on us and our way of life.

It would be sad to win this battle but wake up from our hermit state to realize we are no longer the kind of society we and others thought we were.

That truly would be winning the battle and losing the war.

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Media availability following Council meeting – ottawa.ca

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Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Keith Egli, Chair, Ottawa Board of Health, Steve Kanellakos, City Manager, Kim Ayotte, General Manager, Emergency and Protective Services, and Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health, will respond to media questions after today’s Council meeting.

Residents will be able to watch the media availability on the City’s YouTube channel, rogerstv.com or RogersTV Cable 22.

When: Wednesday, January 26

Time: 15 minutes after Council adjourns

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NDP MPs criticized for ‘terrible’ social media comments on Ukraine-Russia crisis – Global News

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Three sitting New Democrat MPs are being criticized for posting “terrible” comments about the escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia on social media, some of which questioned Canada’s support for Ukraine in the face of Moscow’s aggression.

Winnipeg Centre MP Leah Gazan has since apologized for sharing an article on Twitter over the weekend criticizing Canada’s “hawkish” stance on the crisis while accusing the federal government of supporting “an anti-Semitic, neo-nazi (sic) & fascist militia.”

“As a descendent of a holocaust (sic) survivor,” Gazan wrote, such support was “horrifying” to her.

Gazan said in a later statement that she was referring to far-right militias and members of the Ukrainian military that have fought Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea.

“I did not equate the situation in Ukraine to the Holocaust and I do not believe that the vast majority of Ukrainian people or its democratically elected leaders share the beliefs espoused by far-right militias,” Gazan said.

“I sincerely regret that my tweet did not include this important context and may have resulted in harm.”

Read more:

Ukraine-Russia crisis is ongoing. How did we get here, and what’s happening?

Orest Zakydalsky, senior policy advisor for the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, told Global News Tuesday that Gazan’s comments were “ignorant, inaccurate and hurtful.”

“The UCC has called on NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to disavow these comments,” he said in a statement.

Gazan’s tweet was also criticized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which accused Gazan of being uninformed.

“Comparing the Holocaust with the situation unfolding between Ukraine & Russia suggests ignorance of both,” the group said on Twitter.


Click to play video: 'Ukraine crisis intensifies as Russia launches new military drills'



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Ukraine crisis intensifies as Russia launches new military drills


Ukraine crisis intensifies as Russia launches new military drills

Moscow has denied it is planning an assault, but it has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine in recent weeks and is holding military drills at multiple locations in Russia. That has led the United States and its NATO allies — including Canada — to rush to prepare for a possible war.

Canada has loaned Ukraine $120 million to help bolster the country’s economy in the wake of the Russian threat. Government sources have also told Global News the Liberal cabinet is currently discussing sending small weapons and ammunition to the country during its three-day cabinet retreat.

The NDP’s official position on what it calls a “looming crisis” says it supports the people of Ukraine and is concerned about Russia’s increased hostility, but says Canada should focus on non-lethal assistance and diplomatic solutions.

Read more:

Canada criticized for ‘soft, tentative language’ amid Ukraine-Russia crisis

The party also expresses concern towards far-right elements within the Ukrainian military, some of whom have boasted of being trained by Canada and other NATO allies, according to a recent report from George Washington University.

While extremist groups have long targeted military members in countries around the world — including Canada — Russia has been accused of weaponizing accusations of Nazism in Ukraine’s military and government for political gain.

In September 2021, Ukraine passed a law that defines and bans anti-Semitism in the country, including harbouring anti-Semitic sentiments — although it does not stipulate any punishments for breaking the law. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and former prime minister Volodymyr Groysman are Jewish, making Ukraine the only country besides Israel to have had two Jewish heads of state.

In an emailed response to Global News Tuesday, an NDP spokesperson pointed to the party’s official position when asked about Gazan and other MP’s recent comments, and did not say if Singh will address the tweets.


Click to play video: '‘Nobody knows what’s going to happen’: Ukrainian-Canadians anxious as Russian threat looms'



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‘Nobody knows what’s going to happen’: Ukrainian-Canadians anxious as Russian threat looms


‘Nobody knows what’s going to happen’: Ukrainian-Canadians anxious as Russian threat looms

Other tweets criticized

Zakydalsky also criticized fellow Manitoba MP Niki Ashton for promoting similar views. Ashton on Tuesday retweeted a link to a podcast episode that questioned Canada’s “march to war” with Russia and suggested Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s “Nazi past” was contributing to Canada’s support for Ukraine.

Freeland’s maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the editor of a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda during the Second World War, a fact first revealed in 2017. Freeland has accused Russian disinformation agents for using the story to sow division in the West, and has not directly addressed her grandfather’s history.

Yet the podcast hosts openly asked whether Canada’s support for Ukraine was based on democratic values or “returning to the glory of (expletive) Freeland’s grandfather.”

They also address far-right elements in the Ukrainian military and criticizes Canada’s support of them.

Read more:

Canada orders families of diplomats out of Ukraine as fears mount over Russian threat

The Liberal Party did not directly address the accusations in the podcast episode retweeted by Ashton.

The podcast hosts also ask if Canada is simply seeking to justify the building of an ammunition factory in Ukraine — a project Kyiv has been lobbying Canada to help build since 2017 and was confirmed by the Ottawa Citizen this month.

Meanwhile, Vancouver Kingsway MP Don Davies on Sunday tweeted a link to an article that openly questions if Russia will ever invade Ukraine, calling it a “very helpful discussion.”

“I am certain that the vast majority of the New Democratic Party’s membership and NDP Members of Parliament support the Ukrainian peoples’ defence of their independence and territorial integrity, the views of Ms. Gazan, Mr. Davies and Ms. Ashton notwithstanding,” Zakydalsky of the UCC said in his statement.

“The UCC calls on Mr. Singh to disavow their terrible comments.”

–With files from Mercedes Stephenson, Amanda Connolly and the Associated Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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