2020 Election Puts Focus on Twitter, Facebook Content Moderation

The nation’s top technology leaders urged U.S. lawmakers Wednesday to keep content moderation protections in place, despite growing calls from Republicans to address perceived bias in the way social media companies handle free speech online.  Online companies are shielded from liability for content on their sites under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.  Those protections apply to companies of all sizes operating online that use third-party content. But some Republicans contend Section 230 is a “carve-out” for larger companies such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing them to censor content based on political viewpoints and use their considerable reach to influence public discourse.  U.S. President Donald Trump called for an end to Section 230 in a Tweet Wednesday, saying “The USA doesn’t have Freedom of the Press, we have Suppression of the Story, or just plain Fake News. So much has been learned in the last two weeks about how corrupt our Media is, and now Big Tech, maybe even worse. Repeal Section 230!”  President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at MotorSports Management Company, in West Salem, Wis., Oct. 27, 2020.At issue is whether or not a company that moderates content is a publisher instead of a platform and if the reach of companies such Facebook, Google and Twitter constitutes a monopoly.  “Companies are actively blocking and throttling the distribution of content on their own platforms and are using protections under Section 230 to do it. Is it any surprise that voices on the right are complaining about hypocrisy, or even worse?” Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker said Wednesday.  Section 230 has received renewed attention during the 2020 presidential election cycle due to online companies’ new approaches to content moderation in response to foreign interference on online platforms during the 2016 elections cycle.  Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pushed back against that in prepared testimony Wednesday, saying, “We should remember that Section 230 has enabled new companies—small ones seeded with an idea—to build and compete with established companies globally. Eroding the foundation of Section 230 could collapse how we communicate on the Internet, leaving only a small number of giant and well-funded technology companies.”  Dorsey told lawmakers one possible approach that is “within reach” would allow users to choose between Twitter’s own algorithm that determines what content is viewable, and algorithms developed by third parties.Wicker said his staff had collected “dozens and dozens” of examples of conservative content that he says has been censored and suppressed over the past four years by Twitter. He alleged the social media company had allowed Chinese Communist propaganda about COVID-19 to remain up for two months while President Donald Trump’s claims about mail-in ballots were immediately taken down.  Earlier this month, Twitter blocked users from sharing a link to a news story on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Twitter also locked the accounts of President Trump and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany for sharing the story, citing its policies for how hacked materials are shared on its website. Based on these actions, Republican Senator Ted Cruz accused Twitter of attempting to influence U.S. elections.  “Your position is that that you can sit in Silicon Valley and demand of the media that you can tell them what stories they can publish; you can tell the American people what reporting they can hear,” Cruz said to Dorsey Wednesday.  The Twitter CEO has apologized for the decision, tweeting, “Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix. Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that.”  Facebook also restricted sharing of the Hunter Biden story, saying it would first need a third-party fact check.  The social media company had allowed Russian disinformation to flood the site during the 2016 election, but Facebook instituted new policies this election cycle. According to its website, Facebook’s response includes the removal of 6.5 billion fake accounts in 2019, adding third-party factcheckers to go over content posted on the site as well as removing 30 networks engaged in coordinated, inauthentic behavior.  “Without Section 230, platforms could potentially be held liable for everything people say. Platforms would likely censor more content to avoid legal risk and would be less likely to invest in technologies that enable people to express themselves in new ways,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told lawmakers Wednesday.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, Oct. 28, 2020, in Washington.Congressional Democrats expressed concern about the growth of extremist groups online as well as continuing attempts at foreign election interference on social media platforms, questioning the timing of the hearing.“I am appalled that my Republican colleagues are holding this hearing literally days before an election, when they seem to want to bully and browbeat the platforms here to try to tilt toward President Trump’s favor. The timing seems inexplicable except to game the referee,” said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. “President Trump has broken all the norms. And he has put on your platforms, potentially dangerous and lethal misinformation and disinformation.”  In an earlier line of questioning, Dorsey told lawmakers Twitter does not maintain lists of accounts to watch, but bases content moderation based on algorithms and service user requests.   Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer at Google, also stated the company’s commitment toward independence, telling lawmakers, “We approach our work without political bias, full stop. To do otherwise would be contrary to both our business interests and our mission, which compels us to make information accessible to every type of person, no matter where they live or what they believe.” 

your ad here

Army of Robots Uses Light to Fight Coronavirus at Airports, Offices and Hospitals

Disinfecting public spaces is a major undertaking but it is essential for a safe return to normal activity. Now an army of robots that uses ultra-violet light to disinfect surfaces and the air, as Matt Dibble reports.
Camera, Producer: Matt Dibble

your ad here

Army of Robots Use Light to Fight Coronavirus at Airports, Offices and Hospitals

Disinfecting public spaces is a major undertaking but it is essential for a safe return to normal activity. Now an army of robots that uses ultra-violet light to disinfect surfaces and the air, as Matt Dibble reports.
Camera, Producer: Matt Dibble

your ad here

Lee Kun-Hee, Force Behind Samsung’s Rise, Dies at 78

Lee Kun-hee, the ailing Samsung Electronics chairman who transformed the small television maker into a global giant of consumer electronics, has died. He was 78.A Samsung statement said Lee died Sunday with his family members, including his son and de facto company chief Lee Jae-yong, by his side.Lee Kun-hee had been hospitalized since May 2014 after suffering a heart attack, and the younger Lee has run Samsung, the biggest company in South Korea.“All of us at Samsung will cherish his memory and are grateful for the journey we shared with him,” the Samsung statement said. “Our deepest sympathies are with his family, relatives and those nearest. His legacy will be everlasting.”Lee Kun-hee inherited control from his father and during his nearly 30 years of leadership, Samsung Electronics Co. became a global brand and the world’s largest maker of smartphones, televisions and memory chips. Samsung sells Galaxy phones while also making the screens and microchips that power its rivals, Apple’s iPhones and Google Android phones.Samsung helped make the nation’s economy, Asia’s fourth largest. Its businesses encompass shipbuilding, life insurance, construction, hotels, amusement park operation and more. Samsung Electronics alone accounts for 20% of the market capital on South Korea’s main stock market.Lee leaves behind immense wealth, with Forbes estimating his fortune at $16 billion as of January 2017.His death comes during a complex time for Samsung.A stern, terse leaderWhen he was hospitalized, Samsung’s once-lucrative mobile business faced threats from upstart makers in China and other emerging markets. Pressure was high to innovate its traditionally strong hardware business, to reform a stifling hierarchical culture and to improve its corporate governance and transparency.Samsung was ensnared in the 2016-17 corruption scandal that led to then-President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and imprisonment. Its executives, including the younger Lee, were investigated by prosecutors who believed Samsung executives bribed Park to secure the government’s backing for a smooth leadership transition from father to son.In a previous scandal, Lee Kun-hee was convicted in 2008 for illegal share dealings, tax evasion and bribery designed to pass his wealth and corporate control to his three children.The late Lee was a stern, terse leader who focused on big-picture strategies, leaving details and daily management to executives.His near-absolute authority allowed the company to make bold decisions in the fast-changing technology industry, such as shelling out billions to build new production lines for memory chips and display panels even as the 2008 global financial crisis unfolded.Those risky moves fueled Samsung’s rise.Lee was born Jan. 9, 1942, in the southeastern city of Daegu during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. His father Lee Byung-chull had founded an export business there in 1938 and following the 1950-53 Korean War, he rebuilt the company into an electronics and home appliance manufacturer and the country’s first major trading company.Lee Byung-chull was often called one of the fathers of modern industrial South Korea. Lee Kun-hee was the third son and his inheritance of his father’s businesses bucked the tradition of family wealth going to the eldest. One of Lee Kun-hee’s brothers sued for a bigger part of Samsung but lost the case.When Lee Kun-hee inherited control from his father in 1987, Samsung was relying on Japanese technology to produce TVs and was making its first steps into exporting microwaves and refrigerators.The company was expanding its semiconductor factories after entering the business in 1974 by acquiring a near-bankrupt firm.‘Let’s change everything’A decisive moment came in 1993. Lee Kun-hee made sweeping changes to Samsung after a two-month trip abroad convinced him the company needed to improve the quality of its products.In a speech to Samsung executives, he famously urged, “Let’s change everything except our wives and children.”Not all his moves succeeded.A notable failure was the group’s expansion into the auto industry in the 1990s, in part driven by Lee Kun-hee’s passion for luxury cars. Samsung later sold near-bankrupt Samsung Motor to Renault. The company also was frequently criticized for disrespecting labor rights. Cancer cases among workers at its semiconductor factories were ignored for years.In 2020, Lee Jae-yong declared heredity transfers at Samsung would end, promising the management rights he inherited wouldn’t pass to his children. He also said Samsung would stop suppressing employee attempts to organize unions, although labor activists questioned his sincerity.South Koreans are both proud of Samsung’s global success and concerned the company and Lee family are above the law and influence over almost every corner of society.Critics particularly note how Lee Kun-hee’s only son gained immense wealth through unlisted shares of Samsung firms that later went public.In 2007, a former company lawyer accused Samsung of wrongdoing in a book that became a best seller in South Korea. Lee Kun-hee was subsequently indicted on tax evasion and other charges.Lee resigned as chairman of Samsung Electronics and was convicted and sentenced to a suspended three-year prison term. He received a presidential pardon in 2009 and returned to Samsung’s management in 2010.

your ad here

US Judge Denies New Government Bid to Remove China’s WeChat From App Stores

A U.S. judge in San Francisco on Friday rejected a Justice Department request to reverse a decision that allowed Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to continue to offer Chinese-owned WeChat for download in U.S. app stores.U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said the government’s new evidence did not change her opinion about the Tencent app. As it has with Chinese video app TikTok, the Justice Department has argued WeChat threatens national security.WeChat has an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.The Justice Department has appealed Beeler’s decision permitting the continued use of the Chinese mobile app to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but no ruling is likely before December.In a suit brought by WeChat users, Beeler last month blocked a U.S. Commerce Department order set to take effect September 20 that would have required the app to be removed from U.S. app stores.The Commerce Department order would also bar other U.S. transactions with WeChat, potentially making the app unusable in the United States.”The record does not support the conclusion that the government has ‘narrowly tailored’ the prohibited transactions to protect its national-security interests,” Beeler wrote on Friday.She said the evidence “supports the conclusion that the restrictions ‘burden substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s legitimate interests.'”WeChat users argued the government sought “an unprecedented ban of an entire medium of communication” and offered only “speculation” of harm from Americans’ use of WeChat.In a similar case, a U.S. appeals court agreed to fast-track a government appeal of a ruling blocking the government from banning new downloads from U.S. app stores of Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok.

your ad here

New Huawei Phone Comes at Crucial Time for Chinese Company

Huawei’s new smartphone has an upgraded camera, its latest advanced chipset and a better battery. What it may not have outside the Chinese tech giant’s home market is very many buyers.
Huawei, which recently became the world’s No. 1 smartphone maker, on Thursday unveiled its Mate 40 line of premium phones, a product release that comes at a crucial moment for the company as it runs out of room to maneuver around U.S. sanctions squeezing its ability to source components and software.
The Mate 40 could be the last one powered by the company’s homegrown Kirin chipsets because of U.S. restrictions in May barring non-American companies from using U.S. technology in manufacturing without a license.
Analysts say the company had been stockpiling chips before the ban but its supply won’t last forever.
“This is a major challenge to Huawei and it’s really losing its market outside of China,” said Mo Jia, an analyst at independent research firm Canalys. The latest U.S. restrictions mean it “100% has closed doors for Huawei to secure its future components.”
Executives said this summer that production of Kirin chips would end in mid-September because they’re made by contractors that need U.S. manufacturing technology. In a press preview this week ahead of the Mate 40’s launch, staff declined to answer questions on Huawei’s ability to source chips. The head of Huawei’s consumer business, Richard Yu, referred only briefly to the issue at the end of  a virtual launch event Thursday.
“For Huawei, nowadays we are in a very difficult time. We are suffering from the U.S.
government’s third round ban. It’s an unfair ban. It makes (the situation) extremely difficult,” Yu said.
Huawei, which is also a major supplier of wireless network gear, is facing pressure in a wider global battle waged between the U.S. and China over trade and technological supremacy. The U.S. government’s efforts to lobby allies in Europe to not give it a role in new high-speed 5G wireless networks over cybersecurity concerns has been paying off, with countries including Sweden and Britain blocking its gear.
Huawei phones are not widely available in the U.S., but they’re sold in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The company climbed to the top of the global smartphone rankings this summer, knocking Samsung off top spot by shipping 55.8 million devices in the second quarter to gain a 20% share of the market, according to research firms Canalys and International Data Corp. But the performance was driven by strong growth in China while smartphone sales in the rest of the world tumbled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Analysts say it will be hard for Huawei to remain No. 1.
“Huawei’s in a tight spot,” said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight. Along with the U.S. sanctions, it’s also hurt by slumping confidence in the brand that makes retailers less keen to stock its phones. “And sadly, I don’t think you’re going to see the Mate 40 performing particularly well outside of China.”
Huawei has a small but enthusiastic fan base in Europe, its biggest market outside China. But some users are turned off by the idea of sticking with the brand because of a related problem: recent models like the Mate 40, priced at 899 euros ($1,070) and up, can’t run Google’s full Android operating system because of an earlier round of U.S. sanctions.
Instead, they come with a stripped down open source version of Android, which doesn’t have Google’s Play Store and can’t run popular apps like Chrome, YouTube and Search.
Mark Osten, a 29-year-old architect in Preston, England, bought a Huawei P30 last year when the contract on his previous Samsung phone ended.
He says the camera is great but hesitates to recommend the brand to others because of the uncertainty.
“I just can’t imagine life without YouTube or Google,” said Osten.
To make up for losing Google services, Huawei has built its own app store and has been paying developers to create apps for it. Users can request apps that aren’t yet available, but it’s not something that appeals to Chloe Hetelle, a 35-year-old events organizer in Toulouse, France, who bought a Huawei P20 model two years ago after switching from an iPhone.
“I don’t want to request apps, I just want to have YouTube,” said Hetelle. “I’m not really keen on struggling to get something that I would have easily with another phone.”

your ad here

Facebook Launches Dating Service in Europe

Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it is launching its dating service in 32 European countries after the rollout was delayed earlier this year due to regulatory concerns.The social media company had postponed the rollout of Facebook Dating in Europe in February after concerns were raised by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), the main regulator in the European Union for a number of the world’s biggest technology firms, including Facebook.The DPC had said it was told about the Feb. 13 launch date on Feb. 3 and was very concerned about being given such short notice.It also said it was not given documentation regarding data protection impact assessments or decision-making processes that had been undertaken by Facebook.Facebook Dating, a dedicated, opt-in space within the Facebook app, was launched in the United States in September last year. It is currently available in 20 other countries.In a blog post on Wednesday, Kate Orseth, Facebook Dating’s product manager, said users can choose to create a dating profile, and can delete it at any time without deleting their Facebook accounts.The first names and ages of users in their dating profiles will be taken from their Facebook profiles and cannot be edited in the dating service, Orseth said, adding that users’ last names will not be displayed and that they can choose whether to share other personal information on their profiles.

your ad here

US 2020 Election Carries High Stakes for Twitter, Facebook

Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies are rolling out new policies on controversial content during the U.S. presidential campaign. Michelle Quinn reports.
Camera: Deana Mitchell

your ad here