“Well done United Kingdom… you’ve now added yourself to a list of great historic democratic nations such as Iran, Kazakhstan, China and North Korea, that have to regulate and monitor their citizens internet use! 😀
You couldn’t be trusted to use the world wide web, the greatest information and knowledge sharing tool ever created, without using it to spread revenge porn, cyberstalk each other, view child pornography and groom your nations children into sexual acts!
Now the Nanny Nazi Government has to control everything you see, and everything you do on it! (GCHQ have been doing it for years, don’t worry)
No more free speech! No more alternative news sources and no more alternative views… … you really have fucked yourselves right up the wrong un with this haven’t you! 😀
My solution would be to just take the internet away from them! All of it… we’ll relocate the Financial City to Paris, and just remove the internet from the British people!
And when it comes to Brexit… let’s make it a physical Brexit… just tow the British Isles right out into the Atlantic ocean… past Iceland!
(most wouldn’t even notice! They haven’t yet noticed that there hasn’t been a single piece of investigative journalism in almost three years! … ssssh! Don’t tell ’em, watching the British people enslave themselves is fucking hilarious!)
UK to introduce world first online safety laws
The Government today unveiled tough new measures to ensure the UK is the safest place in the world to be online
A new proposal trades away a lot of speech in the name of security
Last month, with the passage of the Copyright Directive, I wrote here that Europe was splitting the internet into three. On Sunday, that process took another big step forward. Colin Lecher explains in The Verge:
In a detailed proposal released today, the United Kingdom laid out a plan for more closely regulating the tech industry, which is the latest crackdown on Big Tech in Europe.
The white paper, produced by the UK’s secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the secretary of state for the Home Department, says more decisive action is needed, noting the spread of terrorist content and other growing problems online. “There is currently a range of regulatory and voluntary initiatives aimed at addressing these problems,” the authors write in a summary, “but these have not gone far or fast enough, or been consistent enough between different companies, to keep UK users safe online.”
For now, the UK proposal is simply a white paper. The department will take public comment for the next three months before drafting legislation.
But unlike in the United States, where seemingly all talk of new restrictions on tech companies fizzles into nothingness, Commonwealth countries appear to be quite serious about regulation. Australia has proposed fines and even jail time for executives at companies that fail to remove violent content promptly, as I covered here last week. New Zealand’s privacy commissioner has (ironically?) asked Facebook to hand over the names of everyone who shared video of the Christchurch massacre. (He also called the company “morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide,” for good measure.)
And now Canada is considering new regulations as well, BuzzFeed and the Toronto Star reported:
Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould told the Star and BuzzFeed News that “all options are on the table” when it comes to applying domestic rules to international social media giants like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Twitter.
“We recognize that self-regulation is not yielding the results that societies are expecting these companies to deliver,” Gould said in an interview Monday.
Of all the saber rattling to date, the UK white paper contains perhaps the most sweeping set of potential regulations to date. Lawmakers intend to establish a new regulatory agency and “code of practice” to guide internet companies on what is required of them; empower that agency to fine companies (and executives) that fail to meet its standards; and require internet service providers to block access to sites that fail do not adhere to its “code of practice.”
As the BBC notes, the new agency might dramatically chill free speech, depending on how certain terms are defined:
The plans cover a range of issues that are clearly defined in law such as spreading terrorist content, child sex abuse, so-called revenge pornography, hate crimes, harassment and the sale of illegal goods.
But it also covers harmful behaviour that has a less clear legal definition such as cyber-bullying, trolling and the spread of fake news and disinformation.
An internet that has been stripped of terrorist content, child exploitation, and revenge porn would certainly be welcome. And yet given what we know about the difficulties of content moderation at scale, it’s difficult to understand how the regulations now in development will achieve their aims without significantly undermining political speech. One person’s “trolling,” after all, is another person’s good-faith discussion — and God help the regulator tasked with drawing a line between them.
What’s more, tough new moderation requirements may prove impossible for all but the largest platforms to meet, further entrenching their power and making it more difficult for startups to challenge them. If you believe that Commonwealth countries have been more willing to regulate tech platforms in part because they resent the fact that America owns vast swathes of the internet — and I do — it’s worth considering that a primary effect of these new rules could be to dramatically increase American companies’ power.
Years of inaction have justifiably led critics to complain that regulators around the world have been asleep at the switch. But if it’s true that they have historically moved too slowly, it’s also possible that in the current moment they are moving too fast. A white paper that announces its intention to ban “trolling” and “disinformation” but makes little attempt to define either gives me the shivers. (So does a strong endorsement by Theresa May.)
Some recent regulations strike me as positive on the whole — the General Data Protection Regulation seems to have galvanized a healthy amount of pro-privacy lawmaking around the world. But before we redesign the entire internet around the concept of “safety,” it’s worth having a long conversation about what we are giving up to get there.
Facebook Bans Faith Goldy After HuffPost Report On White Nationalism Content
Goldy’s posts represented a clear case of a bad actor getting “freedom of reach” on Facebook, and I’m glad she’s gone now:
Facebook announced Monday that it was banning prominent Canadian white nationalist Faith Goldy from its platform, a week after the company told HuffPost that her racist videos didn’t violate its new rules barring white nationalist content.
Anti-Semitic comments have flooded a New Jersey Facebook page. The state wants Facebook to step in.
David Uberti reports that the New Jersey attorney general sent a letter to Facebook inquiring about an anti-Semitic page:
Anti-Semitic comments, such as arguments for eradicating Jews “like Hitler did,” have flooded a New Jersey Facebook page. And the state’s attorney general wants Facebook to step up and start monitoring them.
A letter sent by the office’s Division on Civil Rights highlighted anti-Semitic comments left on a Lakewood, New Jersey, group’s page that officials say illustrates the “rising tide of hate” around the state and country. The anonymous group, called Rise Up Ocean County, allegedly promotes negative stereotypes of Orthodox Jews to discourage new residents and development. The group’s profile photo — which includes a cross, a Star of David, and the Islamic star and crescent — brands the page as “united against anti-gentilism,” or what its members consider prejudice against non-Jews.
40 teams, 30,000 people: Facebook’s army against fake news ahead of LS polls
Smriti Kak Ramachandran profiles the Facebook teams working to protect the platform against interference in the upcoming Indian election. (There’s a Facebook blog post about it as well.)
This operations centre workforce – 40 teams of 30,000 people across the globe – that includes experts from across sectors such as cyber security and engineering has been put in place after the social media giant faced heat from governments and privacy watchdogs in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica controversy, which exposed privacy lapses on the platform.
Typically, the forensic exercise – of earmarking a post or an account, handing it over to the operations teams that run 24X7, for investigation to assess if it qualifies for a take-down – is completed in hours.
Facebook Looks to Build Underwater Ring Around Africa
Tried to come up with a more meaningful accompaniment to this Drew FitzGerald story than “UMMMM” but couldn’t quite get there:
The company is in talks to develop an underwater data cable that would encircle the continent, according to people familiar with the plans, an effort aimed at driving down its bandwidth costs and making it easier for the social media giant to sign up more users.
The three-stage project, named Simba after the lead character in “The Lion King,” could link up with beachheads in several countries on the continent’s eastern, western and Mediterranean coasts, though the exact route and number of landings is in flux, the people said.
Israel Election: Meet The People Fact-Checking The Election That Makes 2016 Look Like A Walk In The Park
Israel votes tomorrow, but the only fact-checking group working with Facebook got started just days Megha Rajagopalan reports.
The Whistle, the only internationally accredited fact-checking group in Israel, is checking content that’s been flagged as possibly containing misinformation by either Facebook or users. […]
The Whistle, which was integrated into the financial newspaper Globes earlier this year, consists of just five staffers and a handful of student volunteers.
Israel Election: Twitter Suspended Dozens Of Hebrew-Language Accounts Run By A Strange Chinese Religious Sect
Meanwhile, Twitter has suspended at least 600 accounts “affiliated with the Church of Almighty God (CAG), a Christian sect that’s banned in China and which believes that Jesus Christ has been reincarnated as a Chinese woman currently living in Queens, New York.”
Airbnb Doesn’t Want White Nationalists On Its Platform—But How Hard Is It Looking for Them?
Dhruv Mehrotra and Kashmir Hill report that while Airbnb has come out against the use of its platform by white nationalists, organized hate groups still use it:
A Gizmodo investigation found that 87 Airbnb listings in the immediate area around the Montgomery Bell Inn and Conference Center had been booked for the weekend of the hate group’s conference. Though it was impossible to know how many of those reservations were made by white nationalists attending AmRen, the possibility that Airbnb hosts were unknowingly inviting extremists in their homes is alarming.
Poll: Americans give social media a clear thumbs-down
An NBC poll found widespread dissatisfaction with social media. Mark Murray:
The American public holds negative views of social-media giants like Facebook and Twitter, with sizable majorities saying these sites do more to divide the country than unite it and spread falsehoods rather than news, according to results from the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
What’s more, six in 10 Americans say they don’t trust Facebook at all to protect their personal information, the poll finds.
Facebook still has a big problem with cybercrime groups
Facebook groups are popular among criminals, Adi Robertson reports:
Forgers, identity thieves, spammers, and scammers have been using Facebook to hawk their services, even after a crackdown last year, according to a new report. Cisco cybersecurity research division Talos says it found dozens of Facebook groups that were “shady (at best) and illegal (at worst)”, with names like “Facebook hack (Phishing)” and “Spammer & Hacker Professional.” The groups have been shut down, but Talos is calling on Facebook to police shady groups more proactively, complaining that it’s “apparently relied on these communities to police themselves.”
What Are Instagram Class Accounts?
Taylor Lorenz profiles college students who are getting to know each other via dedicated accounts created for their classes:
These accounts have names such as @penn2023_and @AUclassof2023, and they typically feature user-submitted photos and paragraph-long biographies of incoming students, often including their intended major, whether they’re looking for a roommate, and their personal Instagram handle. “Hey!” the caption on one recent class page reads. “I am from Overland Park, Kansas and plan to major in environmental and natural resources. I love anything outdoors (hiking, kayaking, hammocking) and i’m always down to get food!!! I am definitely interested in rushing! I would love to talk to you guys, (i need a roommate!!) so please DM me about anything!:)”
Instagram’s New Stars: Crime Scene Cleanup Specialists
Blake Montgomery reports that the hot new thing on Instagram is blood and guts from crime scenes:
“People love to see the aftermath,” said Neal Smither, 52, proprietor of Crime Scene Cleaners, Inc, based in Richmond, California, and its Instagram page @crimescenecleanersinc. “They’re gore freaks… They have a certain curiosity we just seem to fit.”
Smither’s page has grown to 378,000 followers since 2014 on the viral success of pictures of bloody floors, the residue of gunshots, and maggots. He said he started it because “what I do is really fucking interesting. Death is the last mystery. It’s unsolvable. There’s a human need to explain death,” though he doesn’t consider himself a priest or a therapist, just a janitor.
In San Francisco, Making a Living From Your Billionaire Neighbor’s Trash
Thomas Fuller spends time with a man who scavenges for hidden valuables in the trash of wealthy San Franciscans, including Mark Zuckerberg.
Buyers say Snap’s latest announcements may allay audience growth concerns
Tim Peterson talks to ad buyers who are impressed with Snap’s announcements from last week.
Pinterest sets IPO range at $15-17, valuing it at $10.6B vs previous valuation of $12.3B
Ingrid Lunden reports that Pinterest plans to make its initial public offering at a price beneath its last valuation — an indication of the tough ad market and Pinterest’s slowness in developing revenue products.
The People Behind ByteDance’s App Factory ($)
Yunan Zhang has a nice primer on the rapid growth of TikTok parent ByteDance:
ByteDance, the Chinese company behind TikTok, the viral short video app that has taken the world’s teenagers by storm, has gone on a massive hiring spree in the past year. Its headcount has roughly doubled to 40,000—more than Facebook, which had 35,600 at Dec. 31—as it has diversified beyond its early success, newsfeed app Toutiao. ByteDance now operates more than 20 apps, including Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, fast-growing social network Helo in India as well as a business messaging app, and apps for online learning, jokes, literature and selfies.
TikTok launches a new talent show inside its app looking for the next Blackpink
Shouldn’t there be a mobile version of American Idol that lands with similar cultural impact? ByteDance is trying one, Shannon Liao reports:
TikTok wants to put together the next Asian boy band or girl group. The short-video app announced today that it’s starting the search for talented young dancers and singers in a new program called TikTok Spotlight. TikTok users in Japan and Korea can compete for a chance to win a record deal by uploading original music videos.
TikTok is creating a new channel on its app for artists to upload their songs, which will then be featured on a playlist for the public to listen to. TikTok will measure the number of song plays to gauge each song’s popularity. Audience preferences play a major role, as artists can get a leg up if their songs get a lot of play time on TikTok. The Spotlight program is similar to one that already exists in China, launched by TikTok’s parent company ByteDance.
British officials took a swipe at global internet giants Monday, suggesting rules that would require the companies to proactively remove content the government views as illegal or “harmful,” and giving the government the right to shut down offending sites.
The proposals, contained in a 102-page white paper, are aimed at combating the spread of disinformation, hate speech, online extremism, and child exploitation. If enacted as described, they would constitute some of the most stringent and far-reaching restrictions on internet speech by a major western democracy. But critics said the proposals fail to balance curbing harmful speech with free expression.
Under current UK law, social media platforms and other online companies are shielded from liability for potentially illegal content posted by users until they’re notified of it. Monday’s proposals, drafted by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Home Office, and backed by Prime Minister Theresa May, aim to change that. They would penalize companies like Facebook and Google that UK lawmakers believe have turned a blind eye to the spread of harmful content in favor of maximizing growth, by making companies more responsible for the content on their platforms.
Companies that allow users to post or share content online will be required to proactively police content that the UK government deems illegal—like child sexual exploitation and abuse, the sale of illegal goods, or terrorist activity—as well as legal activity that the government has categorized as harmful, such as disinformation, promotion of serious violence, harassment, and hateful extremist content, among many others.
An as-yet undefined internet regulator would be created to enforce the rules, with tools that go beyond the typical fines. The regulator could block offending sites from being accessed in the UK, and force other companies—like app stores, social media sites, and search engines—to stop doing business with offenders. The regulator could even hold executives personally accountable for offenses, which could mean civil fines or criminal liability.
Among the new requirements, the regulator would be expected to specify “an expedient timeframe for the removal of terrorist content” in cases like the Christchurch, New Zealand shootings, and outline steps for companies “to prevent searches which lead to terrorist activity and/or content.” There would be similar rules for dealing with hate crimes. The rules also would require that companies “ensure that algorithms selecting content do not skew towards extreme and unreliable material in the pursuit of sustained user engagement.”
Critics, while endorsing some of the goals of the proposals, say they may be unattainable in practice. Among other things, they pointed to the lack of specifics in the definition of “harmful.” In a statement, Jim Killock, executive director of the UK’s Open Rights Group, a nonprofit that advocates for privacy and free speech online, said the proposal would unfairly regulate “the speech of millions of British citizens” and would have “serious implications for legal content that is deemed potentially risky, whether it really is or not.”
“Establishing a relationship between harm and content is in practice incredibly difficult. Assumptions abound. If the evidence standard is low, we get over-reaction. If it is set reasonably, it may be impossible for the regulator to require action despite public demand,” Killock continued on Twitter.
Privacy International cautioned against any quick decision making on the matter, which it said would “introduce, rather than reduce, online harms.” The group suggested that lawmakers assess the privacy implications of proactively monitoring user content, and think carefully before giving companies more responsibility for policing the internet. “This would empower corporate judgment over content, [which] would have implications for human rights, particularly freedom of expression and privacy,” said the statement.
Monday’s report was the first stage in a process. The proposals must be turned into legislation, which would have to be approved by Parliament. The government said it would seek advice over the next 12 weeks from “legal, regulatory, technical, online safety and law enforcement experts,” and run a series of workshops with civil society organizations users historically subject to increased online abuse.
The proposals would apply to a wide swath of tech companies, but the report suggests enforcing them most stringently against bigger companies, to avoid imposing undue burdens on burgodenging startups. The first order of business for the internet regulator, the report says, will be to take on “those companies which pose the biggest and most obvious risk of harm to users, either because of the scale of the service’s size or because of known issues with serious harms.”
Facebook and Google did not respond to inquiries regarding whether they intend to challenge the proposed regulations or submit a public comment. Twitter said that it “will continue to engage in the discussion between industry and the UK government, as well as work to strike an appropriate balance between keeping users safe and preserving the internet’s open, free nature.”