14.2 C
London
Sunday, May 9, 2021

Update COVID-19 19 October 2020

19 October 2020 — Eighteen (18) new COVID-19 cases were identified out of 1373 samples tested today. This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases to four thousand, nine hundred, and ninety-two (4992). To date, four thousand, seven hundred, and ninety-seven (4797) patients have recovered and been discharged, including fourteen (14) in the past 24…
More

    Latest Posts

    SpaceX launches and lands a Falcon 9 rocket booster a record 10th time

    SpaceX has launched another 60 Starlink satellites — making 180 delivered to orbit in under two weeks — but the launch early Sunday morning was more notable because it set a new, key record for Falcon 9 rocket reusability. This marked the 10th flight of the first-stage rocket booster used for the launch, which sets…

    How Duolingo became a $2.4B language unicorn

    At the heart of Duolingo is its mission: to scale free education and increase income potential through language learning. However, the same mission that has helped it grow to a business valued at $2.4 billion with over 500 million registered learners, has led to tensions that continue to define the business. How do you survive…

    How one founder realized the potential of sustainable energy stored deep below our feet

    On this week’s Found podcast, we sat down with Dandelion co-founder and President Kathy Hannun. Kathy came up with the idea for Dandelion while working at Google X, tackling some of the world’s most intractable problems, and making them tractable through the application of technology. Kathy realized that harnessing geothermal energy was a way to…

    This Week in Apps: App Store advertising expands, Google Play plans for safety, Epic v. Apple trial begins

    Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices…

    At social media hearing, lawmakers circle algorithm-focused Section 230 reform

    Rather than a CEO-slamming sound bite free-for-all, Tuesday’s big tech hearing on algorithms aimed for more of a listening session vibe — and in that sense it mostly succeeded.

    The hearing centered on testimony from the policy leads at Facebook, YouTube and Twitter rather than the chief executives of those companies for a change. The resulting few hours didn’t offer any massive revelations but was still probably more productive than squeezing some of the world’s most powerful men for their commitments to “get back to you on that.”

    In the hearing, lawmakers bemoaned social media echo chambers and the ways that the algorithms pumping content through platforms are capable of completely reshaping human behavior.

    “… This advanced technology is harnessed into algorithms designed to attract our time and attention on social media, and the results can be harmful to our kids’ attention spans, to the quality of our public discourse, to our public health, and even to our democracy itself,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), chair of the Senate Judiciary’s subcommittee on privacy and tech, which held the hearing.

    Coons struck a cooperative note, observing that algorithms drive innovation but that their dark side comes with considerable costs

    None of this is new, of course. But Congress is crawling closer to solutions, one repetitive tech hearing at a time. The Tuesday hearing highlighted some zones of bipartisan agreement that could determine the chances of a tech reform bill passing the Senate, which is narrowly controlled by Democrats. Coons expressed optimism that a “broadly bipartisan solution” could be reached.

    What would that look like? Probably changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which we’ve written about extensively over the years. That law protects social media companies from liability for user-created content and it’s been a major nexus of tech regulation talk, both in the newly Democratic Senate under Biden and the previous Republican-led Senate that took its cues from Trump.

    Lauren Culbertson, head of U.S. public policy at Twitter

    Lauren Culbertson, head of U.S. public policy at Twitter Inc., speaks remotely during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Image Credits: Al Drago/Bloomberg / Getty Images

    A broken business model

    In the hearing, lawmakers pointed to flaws inherent to how major social media companies make money as the heart of the problem. Rather than criticizing companies for specific failings, they mostly focused on the core business model from which social media’s many ills spring forth.

    “I think it’s very important for us to push back on the idea that really complicated, qualitative problems have easy quantitative solutions,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said. He argued that because social media companies make money by keeping users hooked to their products, any real solution would have to upend that business model altogether.

    “The business model of these companies is addiction,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) echoed, calling social media an “attention treadmill” by design.

    Ex-Googler and frequent tech critic Tristan Harris didn’t mince words about how tech companies talk around that central design tenet in his own testimony. “It’s almost like listening to a hostage in a hostage video,” Harris said, likening the engagement-seeking business model to a gun just offstage.

    Spotlight on Section 230

    One big way lawmakers propose to disrupt those deeply entrenched incentives? Adding algorithm-focused exceptions to the Section 230 protections that social media companies enjoy. A few bills floating around take that approach.

    One bill introduced in 2020 from Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) would require platforms with 10 million or more users to obtain consent before serving users content based on their behavior or demographic data if they want to keep Section 230 protections. The idea is to revoke 230 immunity from platforms that boost engagement by “funneling information to users that polarizes their views” unless a user specifically opts in.

    In another bill, the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) propose suspending Section 230 protections and making companies liable “if their algorithms amplify misinformation that leads to offline violence.” That bill would amend Section 230 to reference existing civil rights laws.

    Section 230’s defenders argue that any insufficiently targeted changes to the law could disrupt the modern internet as we know it, resulting in cascading negative impacts well beyond the intended scope of reform efforts. An outright repeal of the law is almost certainly off the table, but even small tweaks could completely realign internet businesses, for better or worse.

    During the hearing, Hawley made a broader suggestion for companies that use algorithms to chase profits. “Why shouldn’t we just remove Section 230 protection from any platform that engages in behavioral advertising or algorithmic amplification?” he asked, adding that he wasn’t opposed to an outright repeal of the law.

    Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who leads the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, connected the algorithmic concerns to anti-competitive behavior in the tech industry. “If you have a company that buys out everyone from under them … we’re never going to know if they could have developed the bells and whistles to help us with misinformation because there is no competition,” Klobuchar said.

    Subcommittee members Klobuchar and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) have their own major Section 230 reform bill, the Safe Tech Act, but that legislation is less concerned with algorithms than ads and paid content.

    At least one more major bill looking at Section 230 through the lens of algorithms is still on the way. Prominent Big Tech critic House Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) is due to propose a Section 230 bill soon that could suspend liability protections for companies that rely on algorithms to boost engagement and line their pockets.

    “That’s a very complicated algorithm that is designed to maximize engagement to drive up advertising prices to produce greater profits for the company,” Cicilline told Axios last month. ” … That’s a set of business decisions for which, it might be quite easy to argue, that a company should be liable for.”

    Latest Posts

    SpaceX launches and lands a Falcon 9 rocket booster a record 10th time

    SpaceX has launched another 60 Starlink satellites — making 180 delivered to orbit in under two weeks — but the launch early Sunday morning was more notable because it set a new, key record for Falcon 9 rocket reusability. This marked the 10th flight of the first-stage rocket booster used for the launch, which sets…

    How Duolingo became a $2.4B language unicorn

    At the heart of Duolingo is its mission: to scale free education and increase income potential through language learning. However, the same mission that has helped it grow to a business valued at $2.4 billion with over 500 million registered learners, has led to tensions that continue to define the business. How do you survive…

    How one founder realized the potential of sustainable energy stored deep below our feet

    On this week’s Found podcast, we sat down with Dandelion co-founder and President Kathy Hannun. Kathy came up with the idea for Dandelion while working at Google X, tackling some of the world’s most intractable problems, and making them tractable through the application of technology. Kathy realized that harnessing geothermal energy was a way to…

    This Week in Apps: App Store advertising expands, Google Play plans for safety, Epic v. Apple trial begins

    Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices…

    Don't Miss

    Incendiary balloons cause fires in eight southern Israel locations

    Numerous fires broke out throughout the weekend in southern Israel, mostly along the Gaza border and in the Eshkol Regional Council, amid heightened tensions in the region. Balloon units prepare incendiary and explosive balloons to launch towards Israel, August 12, 2020 (photo credit: SONS OF AL-ZAWARI BALLOON UNIT/TELEGRAM) Incendiary balloons launched from Gaza caused numerous…

    Dinosaur skull scans reveal clues about flight—and communication

    ByRiley BlackPublished May 6, 2021• 7 min readIt’s a golden age for paleontology: In recent years, scientists have gathered all kinds of clues about the way dinosaurs looked and lived, from awe-inspiring fossil reconstructions to preserved footprints and bite marks on bones. Now, paleontologists are showing that some of the most tantalizing indications of how…

    Woman who matched with Matthew Perry on dating app at age 19 claims age gap made her uncomfortable

    Matthew Perry appears to be the latest celebrity called out by a woman he allegedly met on a dating app.Tik Tok user Kate Haralson spoke out in an interview this week, claiming she was just 19 years old when the "Friends" alum, now 51, matched with her on the dating app Raya last May.It's the…

    Chris Cornell’s family settles lawsuit with doctor over rocker’s death

    Chris Cornell's family and a doctor who they alleged over-prescribed him drugs before he died have agreed to settle a lawsuit.Court documents filed by attorneys for the rock singer's widow, Vicky Cornell, and their children, Toni and Christopher Nicholas Cornell, said a confidential settlement had been reached. The documents were filed in April, but they…

    Giant sequoia tree found still smoking from 2020 California wildfire

    A giant sequoia has been found smoldering and smoking in a part of Sequoia National Park that burned in one of California’s huge wildfires last year, the National Park Service said Wednesday."The fact areas are still smoldering and smoking from the 2020 Castle Fire demonstrates how dry the park is," said Leif Mathiesen, assistant fire…

    Stay in touch

    To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.

    × Share your content