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Meta slammed with lawsuits claiming social media hurts kids • The Register

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In brief Facebook and Instagram’s parent biz, Meta, was hit with not one, not two, but eight different lawsuits accusing its social media algorithm of causing real harm to young users across the US. 

The complaints filed over the last week claim Meta’s social media platforms have been designed to be dangerously addictive, driving children and teenagers to view content that increases the risk of eating disorders, suicide, depression, and sleep disorders. 

“Social media use among young people should be viewed as a major contributor to the mental health crisis we face in the country,” said Andy Birchfield, an attorney representing the Beasley Allen Law Firm, leading the cases, in a statement.

“These applications could have been designed to minimize any potential harm, but instead, a decision was made to aggressively addict adolescents in the name of corporate profits. It’s time for this company to acknowledge the growing concerns around the impact of social media on the mental health and well-being of this most vulnerable portion of our society and alter the algorithms and business objectives that have caused so much damage.”

The lawsuits have been filed in federal courts in Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri, according to Bloomberg. 

How safe are autonomous vehicles really?

The safety of self-driving car software like Tesla’s Autopilot is difficult to assess, considering there’s little data made public and the metrics used for such assessments are misleading. 

Companies developing autonomous vehicles typically report the number of miles driven by self-driving technology before human drivers have to take over to prevent errors or crashes. The data, for example, shows fewer accidents occur when Tesla’s Autopilot mode is activated. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safer, experts argue. 

Autopilot is more likely to be tuned for driving on the highway, where conditions are less complex for software to deal with than getting around a busy city. Tesla and other auto businesses don’t share data for driving down specific roads for better comparison. 

“We know cars using Autopilot are crashing less often than when Autopilot is not used,” Noah Goodall, a researcher at the Virginia Transportation Research Council, told the New York Times. “But are they being driven in the same way, on the same roads, at the same time of day, by the same drivers?.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ordered companies to report serious crashes involving self-driving cars within 24 hours of the accident occurring, last year. But no information has been made public yet.

AI upstart accused of sneakily using human labor behind autonomous technology

Nate, a startup valued at over $300 million which claims to use AI to automatically fill shoppers’ payment information on retail websites, actually pays workers to manually enter the data for $1.

Buying stuff on the internet can be tedious. You have to type in your name, address, credit card details if a website hasn’t saved the information. Nate was built to help netizens avoid having to do this every time they visited an online store. Described as an AI app, Nate claimed it used automated methods to fill personal data after a consumer placed an order.

But the software was tricky to develop, considering the various combinations of buttons the algorithms need to press and the precautions in place on websites to stop bots and scalpers. To try and attract more consumers to the app, Nate offered folks $50 to spend online at shops like Best Buy and Walmart. But the upstart struggled to get its technology working to fulfil them properly. 

The best way to make it? Fake it. Instead, Nate turned to hiring workers in the Philippines to manually enter consumer’s private information; orders were sometimes completed hours after they were placed, according to The Information. Some 60 to 100 percent of orders were processed manually, it was alleged. A spokesperson for the upstart said the report was “incorrect and the claims questioning our proprietary technology are completely baseless.”

DARPA wants AI to be more trustworthy

US military research arm, DARPA, launched a new program to fund development into hybrid neuro-symbolic AI algorithms in the hopes that the technology will lead to more trustworthy systems.

Modern deep learning is often referred to as a “black box,” its inner-workings are opaque and experts often don’t understand how neural networks arrive at an output given a specific input. The lack of transparency means the results are difficult to interpret, making it risky to deploy in some scenarios. Some believe incorporating more traditional old-fashioned symbolic reasoning techniques could make models more trustworthy. 

“Motivating new thinking and approaches in this space will help assure that autonomous systems will operate safely and perform as intended,” said Sandeep Neema, program manager of DARPA’s new Assured Neuro Symbolic Learning and Reasoning program. “This will be integral to trust, which is key to the Department of Defense’s successful adoption of autonomy.”

The initiative will fund research into hybrid architectures that are a mixture of symbolic systems and modern AI. DARPA is particularly interested in applications that are relevant to the military, such as a model that could detect whether entities were friendly, adversarial, or neutral, for example, as well as detecting dangerous or safe areas in combat. ®

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Linux 6.0 debuts, missing some Rusty bits • The Register

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Emperor Penguin Linus Torvalds has released the first release candidate for Linux 6.0, but doesn’t mind what you call it.

“After I had already decided to call this kernel 6.0, a few Chinese developers piped up and pointed out that ‘5.20’ is a more wholesome version of the Western ‘4.20’ internet-famous number,” he wrote in his announcement that Linux 6.0 rc1 has been released.

“4.20” is a reference to a day on which some celebrate marijuana, while “5.20” does likewise for magic mushrooms.

“So if you want to call this ‘Linux 5.20’, go right ahead,” Torvalds wrote.

“Because the kernel version numbers really are entirely made up and have no intrinsic meaning.”

That this week’s release has the 6.0 label is still nice to know, as discussion on the Linux kernel mailing list in recent weeks used 5.20 and 6.0 interchangeably.

As The Register has already reported, the release does not make major changes to the kernel but does include many useful updates – such as more RISC-V support, code to drive Intel’s Gaudi accelerators, and improved ACPI handling.

Torvalds lamented some Rust-enabling code didn’t make it into the release.

“I actually was hoping that we’d get some of the first rust infrastructure, and the multi-gen LRU VM, but neither of them happened this time around,” he mused, before observing “There’s always more releases.”

“This is one of those releases where you should not look at the diffstat too closely, because more than half of it is yet another AMD GPU register dump,” he added, noting that Intel’s Gaudi2 Ai processors are also likely to produce plenty of similar kernel additions.

“The CPU people also show up in the JSON files that describe the perf events, but they look absolutely tiny compared to the ‘asic_reg’ auto-generated GPU and AI hardware definitions,” he added.

The release includes 13,099 changed files, 1,280,295 insertions and 341,210 deletions. Torvalds calculated those numbers “just because I was curious and looked.”

He wants you to be curious too – or at least curious enough to test the kernel, because that’s what release candidates are for and this one contains at least one active bug. ®

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Tinder is the most hated app in Ireland

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Ireland is one of 19 countries worldwide that strongly dislikes Tinder. One in five Tweets by Irish people about all apps are negative.

According to Electronics Hub’s analysis of the most hated apps in the world, Tinder is the most loathed app in Ireland.

Irish people are not alone in their hatred for the dating app. Tinder was the most hated app in 19 countries in total, with Canadians, Americans, Nigerians, Kenyans and our neighbours in the UK also singling it out as their least favourite.

Electronics Hub determined the most hated apps in each country by analysing Twitter data. It processed more than 3m geotagged tweets related to 87 social media, dating, mobile games, entertainment, cryptocurrency and money transfer apps.

Researchers calculated the percentage of tweets about each app that were negative using a sentiment analysis tool which identifies whether a tweet has positive, negative or neutral sentiment.

Infographic of the most hated apps in the world by country.

Click to enlarge and see the most hated apps in the world by country. Infographic: Electronics Hub

Ireland was found to be one of the most negative countries when it came to attitudes towards apps. One in five Tweets posted by Irish people about apps were negative, Electronics Hub found.

Despite Irish people’s professed loathing for Tinder, the dating platform tried to play a role in keeping daters safe in the pandemic. It hooked up with the HSE to promote vaccines by adding badges to users’ profiles.

Tinder was only the second-most hated app in the world, with Roblox taking first place. More than 20 countries said the child-targeted gaming app was their most hated app. Other unpopular apps include Snapchat, Disney and Reddit.

Neighbouring countries tend to dislike similar apps, with the Scandinavians professing a dislike for Reddit and South Americans hating e-commerce apps.

Dating apps, meanwhile, are disliked the world over. In Iraq, 71.4pc of all tweets about Tinder are negative, which is the highest out of any country. A state-by-state breakdown of the most hated apps in North America also found Tinder took the top spot in 21 states.

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‘A sweatshop in the UK’: how the cost of living crisis triggered walkouts at Amazon | Industrial action

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Amazon workers say they are working in a “sweatshop” as safety concerns and worries about the cost of living crisis have triggered walkouts at warehouses around the country.

The Observer has spoken to four staff involved in the walkouts, who work at three Amazon warehouses, including Tilbury in Essex, where protests began on 4 August. All say they will struggle to survive this winter with pay rise offers between 35p and 50p an hour – far less than the rate of inflation, which is currently at 9.4%.

The workers, who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals from Amazon, said they were speaking out to highlight how the firm’s ultra-cheap, ultra-convenient, super-fast delivery model works.

Amazon employs more than 70,000 people in the UK, adding 25,000 staff in 2021 alone. Many work at the company’s 21 fulfilment centres, where some workers say they are asked to carry out long, physical shifts, with difficult targets, for low pay.

Starting pay in Amazon warehouses will shortly be increasing to between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on location. An Amazon spokesperson said this was a 29% increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to staff since 2018. They said it is also augmented by a comprehensive benefits package worth thousands of pounds a year, and a company pension plan.

But staff say it is too low for the type of work being done and given the current economic crisis, especially at a company that just posted $121bn (£100bn) in revenues in the second quarter of 2022 alone.

“When we heard the news, it was shocking,” said one worker at Amazon’s warehouse in Tilbury. “It’s ridiculous. Inflation is [forecast to reach] 13%, and our salary increases barely 3%.” The worker rents a house with her husband for £1,350 a month without bills. “My salary is £1,600. … I’m lucky I’m married, otherwise I’d be homeless.”

Some staff are seeking a pay rise of £2 an hour from the tech giant.

Hundreds of Amazon employees stop working over disputed pay rise – video

Another worker at Amazon’s warehouse in Tilbury said they were “petrified” about how they would survive this winter. “We had a scenario recently where someone was living in [an] Amazon [warehouse],” he said. “If I’m honest, I can probably see that happening again.

“I can see people staying in the canteen all the time because they can’t afford to go home.”

The worker is protesting against the poor pay offer, as well as conditions that lock staff in cages for entire shifts at the warehouses, from where they pick items to be delivered to customers. (Amazon says the workstations are to protect workers from moving robotics.)

“It’s a Chinese sweatshop in the UK,” said the second worker at Tilbury. “It’s how they set up their model.”

The worker has struggled with his mental health while working for the company. “I’ve realised how bad Amazon is for my mental health,” he said. “The anxiety of going into work, knowing you’ve got to do the same stuff day in, day out, is horrible.”

That concern is echoed by a worker at an Amazon facility near Bristol, who has worked there with his wife for three years. “It was good initially,” the worker said. “There was a lot of safety consciousness, and the targets were pretty reasonable. But now they’re just pushing it higher and higher, and exploiting people.”

Around 100 Amazon staff at Bristol staged a sit-in at the company canteen on 10 August – action for which they say they were docked pay by management at the site. “The vast majority of people went back to work at that point, because at the end of the day, as much as they want to fight for it, they have to think about themselves financially.”

The Bristol warehouse worker says that managers used to stop employees from lifting heavy items from bins on high shelves in the warehouse without a ladder. “If you overstretched yourself for 10 hours, you’d end up with a bad neck and a bad back,” he said.

That has subsequently changed as staff said they felt pressured to meet ever-escalating demand. Staff pushing carts around the warehouse used to be limited to using one cart at a time for safety reasons; now it is claimed managers turn a blind eye to staff pulling two carts at once. “They don’t say nothing because all they care about is getting the work done as fast as possible,” he said. “Safety just goes out the window.”

He says he has personally lifted items weighing up to 25kg by himself, despite rules saying anything heavier than 15kg should be lifted by two people.

A worker at an Amazon facility in the north-west of England said that managers at his warehouse similarly ignored rules around not running on site and lifting down heavy items from high areas in an attempt to meet targets, which at his site require two items to be picked every minute.

Amazon declined to respond to specific claims.

Martha Dark, director at Foxglove, a non-profit organisation working to highlight issues within tech companies that supports Amazon workers, said: “None of the workers we’re supporting wanted to protest.

“They’re desperate and can’t survive on these wages. Meanwhile, Amazon threatens to dock pay and send workers to HR for revealing the truth about life in the warehouse.”

She added: “Amazon needs to respect workers’ rights to organise, stop penalising people who are fighting to survive and provide a real pay rise now.”

Two workers said they plan to leave the company because of the conditions and pay. However, some hope to stay put – to change things.

“If a lot of us who are experienced leave Amazon at this point they’ll get a new group of people in who they can mould into this depressing way of work,” said the Bristol worker. “That’s the problem.”

This article was amended on 14 August 2022. Inflation is at 9.4%, not 13% as stated in an earlier version; the latter is a forecast rate.

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