It’s the first week of November, and while the end of the year may be in sight, issues in tech policy continue to expand. From vaccine misinformation to Twitter’s announcement to block political ads, Goggle’s Fitbit gambit and countering deep fakes – it’s all in this week’s Protego Press Weekly Round Up.
In Case You Missed It: Ana Santos Rutschman writes that, at a time when vaccine-preventable diseases like measles are making a comeback, misinformation spread through social media can have devastating consequences. And, that in addition to the limitations inherent to industry responses to misinformation problems, we cannot afford congressional policy and lawmaking based on false dichotomies and spurious inquiries into private views on vaccination. Read more in Zuckerberg on Vaccines, or The Shortcomings of Our Responses to Vaccine Misinformation.
Twitter’s Political Ads Ban: On Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made a surprise announcement, announcing that as of the middle of November, the company would stop selling political advertising. The policy change made significant news, not only for what the impact might be for Twitter, but perhaps also serving as a harbinger of paid ads on the Internet, building pressure on other internet companies, including Facebook and Google.
They weren’t the only one’s with thoughts on Twitter’s proposal. Ellen L. Weintraub, the chair of the Federal Election Commission had the following proposal: “Here’s a move that would allow political ads while deterring disinformation campaigns, restoring transparency and protecting the robust marketplace of ideas: Sell political ads, but stop the practice of microtargeting those ads.”
And, flaws in the Twitter’s strategy already seem to be showing. One example is highlighted by Emily Atkin in her Heated.World round up, where she writes: “But in recent days, it’s become clear that there are some problems with Twitter’s new policy. For example: It’s easy to determine which ads are about specific candidates. But what is Twitter’s definition of a political “issue ad,” exactly? How does Twitter plan to enforce what is one, and isn’t one?
These questions have serious implications for the climate fight. For example, a HEATED investigation identified more than a dozen tweets from ExxonMobil related to climate change that are not currently labelled by Twitter as political “issue” ads. Under the new policy, these ads will be permitted to run after November 22, while environmental groups’ climate-related ads will be banned.”
Big Tech & Big Data: Last week, Google announced that it was acquiring Fitbit for about $2.1 billion, moving Google into the hardware arms race for smartwatches and health and fitness trackers. But, the deal also raises concerns about what the search engine giant may do with the consumer data collected by Fitbit. As PBS noted: “Google appeared to anticipate the fears, noting in its announcement Friday that “privacy and security are paramount” to the company. Google promised to be transparent about the data it collects and to “never sell personal information to anyone.” Google also said it will not use the health data for its own ads, and will give users the choice to “review, move or delete their data.” And, the deal is getting the attention of elected officials in DC. “Google is under anti-trust investigation and is gobbling up Fitbit–a company that stores some of our most private health data,” tweeted Representative Katie Porter, a Democrat from California. “It’s time for anti-trust enforcers to do their jobs instead of keeping us all under the rule of monopolies.”
Fighting Back Against Deep Fakes: Evan Halper with the LA Times broke news about how ‘Deep fake’ videos could upend an election — but Silicon Valley may have a way to combat them. On Tuesday, leaders in artificial intelligence plan to unveil a tool to push back — it includes scanning software that UC Berkeley has been developing in partnership with the U.S. military, which the industry will start providing to journalists and political operatives. The goal is to give the media and campaigns a chance to screen possible fake videos before they could throw an election into chaos.