The Labor Day weekend signals that the first full week of September is finally here. While many had a 3 day weekend, the tech policy world continues to work overtime. Be it technology and democracy, deep fakes, YouTube, and the gig economy, it’s all in this week’s Protego Press Weekly Round Up.
In Case You Missed It: From information operations to cyberattacks, the methods deployed by the Chinese Communist Party to suppress Hong Kong protesters are analogous to those it and other authoritarian states use to interfere in democracies around the world. Etienne Soula with the Alliance for Securing Democracy writes how Democracies have the means to fight back but must be prepared to make some hard choices in Fighting For Democracy in a Techno-Authoritarian State
In Case You Missed It II: Iowa Dems had proposed holding in 2020 six “virtual caucuses.” with the goal to “increase caucus participation.” Yet the potential for cyber-enabled distortion and disruption appeared, at least from the outside, insufficiently addressed. Yet last week, the DNC reportedly decided to suspend the implementation of Iowa’s virtual caucuses. Joshua Geltzer writes that action deserves our collective applause for erring on the side of caution in Lessons in Taking Cybersecurity Concerns Seriously
In Case You Missed It III: It’s often difficult to find the origin of a story after partisan groups, social media bots and friends of friends have shared it thousands of times. Yet the Discourse Processing Lab at Simon Fraser University has done research that identifies linguistic characteristics might be used to detect fake news using machine learning and natural language processing technology. We republished Fatemeh Torabi Asr’s article The language gives it away: How an algorithm can help us detect fake news here.
YouTube In The News: YouTube was in the news quite a bit this week. First, the company announced that it had removed more than 17,000 channels and 100,000 videos, along with at least 500 million comments, since the company announced a broad crackdown on hate speech in June. In a corporate blog post, the platform shared how “technology deployed over the last several years has helped us to remove harmful content from YouTube more quickly than ever before.”
Yet, in a letter addressed to creators on YouTube, CEO Susan Wojcicki says the platform is committed to remaining open because she thinks the upside of that approach very much outweighs the downside. In recent months, that scrutiny has been particularly directed at YouTube over content uploaded to its platform that spreads harassment, hateful ideologies, and misinformation.
And, today authorities announced that Google has agreed to pay a $170 million fine for allowing YouTube to profit by breaking child privacy laws. Regulators said the video site, which was bought by Google in 2006, illegally gathered children’s data without their parents’ consent and then made millions by targeting them with ads.
DARPA Launching Deep Fake Project: According to a Bloomberg report, “Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” as the top Republican in Congress blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips. If successful, the system after four years of trials may expand to detect malicious intent and prevent viral fake news from polarizing society.”
Facebook and Brazil’s Elections: The WSJ investigative team of Deepa Seetharaman and Jeff Horwitz looked into the reports around Facebook’s involvement in the recent elections in Brazil: “Facebook Inc. executives last year publicly touted their efforts ahead of Brazil’s presidential election as evidence of the company’s progress in combating misinformation on its platforms. Inside Facebook, the picture was more complicated. Facebook’s own analysis found the social-media giant wasn’t able to uncover and stamp out suspicious behavior or misinformation on a large scale after the assassination of Brazilian politician Marielle Franco in March 2018, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.”
The Fight Over The Gig Economy: California’s push to recognize gig economy workers as employees rather than contractors continues to escalate. The LA Times reported that: “Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. are throwing new weight and tens of millions of dollars behind their fight to keep treating drivers as independent contractors in California. The ride-hailing companies said Thursday they will commit $60 million to fund a statewide initiative aimed at the 2020 ballot to create an alternate classification for drivers that would include some employee protections and a guaranteed minimum pay. Later, delivery service DoorDash said it would commit an additional $30 million. The money would be more than enough to qualify an initiative and mount a substantial campaign in fall 2020.”