government

Facebook and Airbnb told to change their ToS to fix EU consumer rights issues by year’s end

Facebook has been singled out for censure by the European Commission’s head of consumer affairs who has warned she’s running out of patience and said the company needs to make additional changes to its terms of service before the end of the year to bring them into line with the bloc’s consumer rules. The Commission also said today that Airbnb has agreed to make additional changes to its ToS by December. The EU’s executive body has been sounding off about tech and social media platforms’ terms of service impinging on citizens’ consumer rights for almost two years. In February it warned a raft of companies they needed to do more to respect consumer rights. In July the Commission joined with EU consumer authorities to push Airbnb to make changes. At the same time the Commission is pushing for...

This is what Americans think about the state of election security right now

A wide-ranging new poll yields some useful insight into how worried the average American feels about election threats as the country barrels toward midterms. The survey, conducted by NPR and researchers with Marist College, polled 949 adult US residents in early September across regions of the country, contacting participants through both landlines and mobile devices. The results are a significant glimpse into current attitudes around the likelihood of foreign election interference, election security measures and how well social media companies have rebounded in the public eye. Attitudes toward Facebook and Twitter As the most recent dust settles around revelations that Russia ran influence campaigns targeting Americans on social media platforms, just how much do US voters trust that Faceb...

Facebook is hiring a director of human rights policy to work on “conflict prevention” and “peace-building”

Facebook is advertising for a human rights policy director to join its business, located either at its Menlo Park HQ or in Washington DC — with “conflict prevention” and “peace-building” among the listed responsibilities. In the job ad, Facebook writes that as the reach and impact of its various products continues to grow “so does the responsibility we have to respect the individual and human rights of the members of our diverse global community”, saying it’s: … looking for a Director of Human Rights Policy to coordinate our company-wide effort to address human rights abuses, including by both state and non-state actors. This role will be responsible for: (1) Working with product teams to ensure that Facebook is a positive force for human rights and apply the lessons we learn from our inve...

Senator claps back after Ajit Pai calls California’s net neutrality bill ‘radical’ and ‘illegal’

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has provoked a biting senatorial response from California after calling the “nanny state’s” new net neutrality legislation “radical,” “anti-consumer,” “illegal” and “burdensome.” Senator Scott Wiener (D-CA), in response, said Pai has “abdicated his responsibility to ensure an open internet” and that the FCC lacks the authority to intervene. The political flame war was kicked off this morning in Pai’s remarks at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market think tank. You can read them in full here, but I’ve quoted the relevant part below: Of course, those who demand greater government control of the Internet haven’t given up. Their latest tactic is pushing state governments to regulate the Internet. The most egregious example of this comes from California. Last mon...

Why the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI deal has cloud companies going nuts

By now you’ve probably heard of the Defense Department’s massive winner-take-all $10 billion cloud contract dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or JEDI for short).Star Wars references aside, this contract is huge, even by government standards.The Pentagon would like a single cloud vendor to build out its enterprise cloud, believing rightly or wrongly that this is the best approach to maintain focus and control of their cloud strategy. Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson Heather Babb tells TechCrunch the department sees a lot of upside by going this route. “Single award is advantageous because, among other things, it improves security, improves data accessibility and simplifies the Department’s ability to adopt and use cloud services,” she said. Whatever company they ch...

California is ‘launching our own damn satellite’ to track pollution, with help from Planet

California plans to launch a satellite to monitor pollution in the state and contribute to climate science, Governor Jerry Brown announced today. The state is partnering with satellite imagery purveyor Planet to create a custom craft to “pinpoint – and stop – destructive emissions with unprecedented precision, on a scale that’s never been done before.” Governor Brown made the announcement in the closing remarks of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, echoing a pledge made two years ago to scientists at the American Geophysical Union’s 2016 meeting. “With science still under attack and the climate threat growing, we’re launching our own damn satellite,” Brown said today. Planet, which has launched hundreds of satellites in the last few years in order to provide near-real-time ...

10 critical points from Zuckerberg’s epic security manifesto

Mark Zuckerberg wants you to know he’s trying his damnedest to fix Facebook before it breaks democracy. Tonight he posted a 3,260-word battle plan for fighting election interference. Amidst drilling through Facebook’s strategy and progress, he slips in several notable passages revealing his own philosophy. Zuckerberg has cast off his premature skepticism and is ready to command the troops. He sees Facebook’s real identity policy as a powerful weapon for truth other social networks lack, but that would be weakened if Instagram and WhatsApp were split off by regulators. He’s done with the finger-pointing and wants everyone to work together on solutions. And he’s adopted a touch of cynicism that could open his eyes and help him predict how people will misuse his creation. Here are the most im...

Interview with Priscilla Chan: Her super-donor origin story

Priscilla Chan is so much more than Mark Zuckerberg’s wife. A teacher, doctor, and now one of the world’s top philanthropists, she’s a dexterous empath determined to help. We’ve all heard Facebook’s dorm-room origin story, but Chan’s epiphany of impact came on a playground. In this touching interview this week at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, Chan reveals how a child too embarrassed to go to class because of their broken front teeth inspired her to tackle healthcare. “How could I have prevented it? Who hurt her? And has she gotten healthcare, has she gotten the right dental care to prevent infection and treat pain? That moment compelled me, like, ‘I need more skills to fight these problems.’” That’s led to a $3 billion pledge towards curing all disease from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s ...

Hate speech, collusion, and the constitution

Half an hour into their two-hour testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were asked about collaboration between social media companies. “Our collaboration has greatly increased,” Sandberg stated before turning to Dorsey and adding that Facebook has “always shared information with other companies.” Dorsey nodded in response, and noted for his part that he’s very open to establishing “a regular cadence with our industry peers.” Social media companies have established extensive policies on what constitutes “hate speech” on their platforms. But discrepancies between these policies open the possibility for propagators of hate to game the platforms and still get their vitriol out to a large audience. Collaboration ...

Twitter is a Nazi haven for the same reason its CEO claims no bias

“From a simple business perspective and to serve the public, Twitter is incentivized to keep all voices on the platform”. That’s Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s argument for why “Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions” according to his prepared statement for his appearance at tomorrow’s hearing with the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce. But it’s also validates criticism of why Twitter is reluctant to ban Nazis, hate-mongers, and other trolls that harass people on the service: It makes money off of them. Twitter has been long-known to ignore reports of threats or abuse. It’s common to see people posting the screenshots of the messages they get back from Twitter saying that sexist, racist, homophobic, and violent remarks don’t violate its policies. Only when they ge...

When battery life saves human life

Few would equate human life with battery life, but for many migrants escaping war or famine, a single percentage point of battery can mean getting the right information at the right time – or not surviving at all. Smartphones today have become an integral part of a forced migrant’s journey. From navigating mountains in Central Asia using Google Maps to staying connected with family back home via WhatsApp, smartphones have transformed the migrant experience – though not always for the better. No electron spared In Eastern Europe, many migrants pushed back from Hungary stay along the border on the Serbian side in abandoned buildings. Volunteers visit these sites to bring supplies, including repurposed car batteries that migrants use to charge their phones. At one abandoned building less than...

It’s time for Facebook and Twitter to coordinate efforts on hate speech

Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, there has been burgeoning awareness of the hate speech on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. While activists have pressured these companies to improve their content moderation, few groups (outside of the German government) have outright sued the platforms for their actions. That’s because of a legal distinction between media publications and media platforms that has made solving hate speech online a vexing problem. Take, for instance, an op-ed published in the New York Times calling for the slaughter of an entire minority group.  The Times would likely be sued for publishing hate speech, and the plaintiffs may well be victorious in their case. Yet, if that op-ed were published in a Facebook post, a suit against Facebook would likel...