It’s the middle of September, and this week’s tech policy news features a heavy dose of social media, from perceived bias to the impact on elections around the world, as well as rogue AI. We cover all of this and more in this week’s Protego Press Weekly Round Up.
In Case You Missed It: Last week during an interview with Yahoo News, a Facebook executive admitted what the rest of us have known all along: Facebook does not, in fact, have an anti-conservative bias. Yet, the Trump administration is seeking to regulate the social media companies against bias that doesn’t exist and has drafted an executive order compelling the “Federal Communications Commission to regulate how social media sites Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube moderate the content that users put on their platforms.” Melisa Ryan writes what this means moving forward in Facebook Admits Conservative Bias Doesn’t Exist But Continues to Cave to Republicans Anyway
Hearings Being Held: On Tuesday, scholars, policymakers and representatives from major social media platforms met at the Federal Election Commission’s headquarters in Washington to discuss how best to combat digital disinformation in the run-up to the 2020 election season. According to a press release issued by PEN America, the daylong symposium – hosted by FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub, PEN America, and Stanford’s Global Digital Policy Incubator – was designed to frame and understand the risks and challenges posed by misleading ads, posts, and messages and how that disinformation could impact the upcoming campaign and election. Yet, according to Vice, Facebook and Twitter provided more proof that Big Tech isn’t afraid of government regulators, with representatives for both companies ghosting the conference, sitting in the audience rather than participating.
Zuckerberg in DC: According to Axios, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is visiting Washington this week to meet with lawmakers, including at least one of his company’s biggest critics. “Mark will be in Washington, D.C., to meet with policymakers and talk about future internet regulation,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told The Hill. “There are no public events planned.” Among those Zuckerberg will be meeting with, according to The Hill, will be with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), a source familiar confirmed. Cantwell is the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which is leading the stalled efforts to draw up federal privacy legislation.
And, it’s not just in the United States: The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently recommended new codes of practice to ensure fairness and transparency in the digital ad market and to govern handling of complaints about inaccurate information, to be enforced by an independent regulator such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority. However, as The Guardian reported, this week the industry body representing Google, Facebook and Twitter, The Digital Industry Group Inc., rejected eight of its 23 recommendations proposals, warning that the recommendation would turn Australia’s media regulator into the truth police in a submission to the competition regulator’s digital platforms review, arguing against.
What happens when AI goes rouge: Julia Carrie Wong with The Guardian wrote about what happens when a fun viral selfie app turned racist. ImageNet Roulette, a project developed by the artificial intelligence researcher Kate Crawford and the artist Trevor Paglen, founds itself in the news this week. The app goal, built in concert with their new exhibition, Training Humans, at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, is not to use technology to help us see ourselves, but to use ourselves to see technology for what it actually is. But, the app is based on a severely flawed dataset labeled by fallible and underpaid humans that shows us its limitations, leading to a real world example of all the ways things can go wrong.