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Facebook forced to limit misinformation spread via WhatsApp amid Sydney lockdown | New South Wales

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New South Wales Health has issued a warning about misinformation circulating on WhatsApp that claims Sydney supermarkets will close as part of the ongoing lockdown, with owner Facebook saying it is working to limit the spread of misinformation on its private messaging app.

On Thursday, it was reported that a screenshot purporting to be from NSW Health saying that supermarkets would close for four days as part of the Covid-19 response was circulating on WhatsApp.

Supermarkets in NSW have remained open during the greater Sydney lockdown and are considered essential retail. In a statement on Friday, the state’s health department urged people not to take advice from anywhere but the official NSW Health channels.

“NSW Health is urging people to use trusted and credible sources of information to inform them about the most up-to-date Covid-19 information in NSW,” a spokesperson said.

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A Facebook spokesperson said: “We clearly label messages that have been forwarded to help people know they’ve received something that was unlikely to have been written by friends or family. We also set limits on how messages can be forwarded to limit the spread of rumours. We encourage people to check the accuracy of messages they’ve received through authoritative sources, such as the helpline we’ve created with the Australian government that includes the latest and most accurate information about Covid-19.”

Misinformation being circulated through group chats on WhatsApp has been an ongoing issue throughout the pandemic, not just in Australia but around the world.

In Victoria’s second lockdown, messages circulated through WhatsApp falsely claimed that the state treasurer, Tim Pallas, was going to replace the premier, Daniel Andrews, to bring an end to the lockdown.

Last year the company introduced new rules to limit the spread of misinformation, including icons to note when a message is frequently forwarded and did not originate from a close contact. There is also a limit so these messages can only be sent one chat at a time.

WhatsApp has said this resulted in a 70% reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages on the app.

The head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, told an Australian Strategic Policy Institute briefing earlier this month that part of the difficulty in combatting misinformation being spread over a private messaging service like WhatsApp is that the company doesn’t have access to the messages being sent.

But he said WhatsApp was partnering with fact-checking services and embarking on public education campaigns about whether people should question rumours before they’re shared. He said in countries like Brazil it had been having an impact.

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“I would never say we’ve achieved 100% success and I would never promise that that will continue forever, because this is an adversarial space, but if you look at the more recent elections in places like Brazil, I think there’s been a huge change in people’s estimate of what WhatsApp’s role was in the information environment compared to what it was years before,” he said.

He said WhatsApp was also getting better at detecting fake accounts being created to spread misinformation.

“We’ve over the last few years significantly ramped up our capability to detect cases where people are creating lots of fake or inauthentic accounts and automatically ban them,” he said. “We now ban millions of accounts a month, proactively, and that’s had a huge shift in the ability for people to go and set up a kind of an information farm and pump out information and try to do that over messaging.”

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NFT trader OpenSea bans insider trading after employee rakes in profit | Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

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A non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace has introduced policies to ban insider trading, after an executive at the company was discovered to be buying artworks shortly before they were promoted on the site’s front page.

OpenSea, one of the leading sites for trading the digital assets, will now prevent team members buying or selling from featured collections and from using confidential information to trade NFTs. Neither practice was previously banned.

“Yesterday we learned that one of our employees purchased items that they knew were set to display on our front page before they appeared there publicly,” said Devin Finzer, the co-founder and chief executive of the site.

“This is incredibly disappointing. We want to be clear that this behaviour does not represent our values as a team. We are taking this very seriously and are conducting an immediate and thorough third-party review of this incident so that we have a full understanding of the facts and additional steps we need to take.”

NFTs are digital assets whose ownership is recorded and traced using a bitcoin-style blockchain. The NFT market boomed earlier this year as celebrities including Grimes, Andy Murray and Sir Tim Berners-Lee sold collectibles and artworks using the format. But the underlying technology has questionable utility, with some dismissing the field as a purely speculative bubble.

The insider trading came to light thanks to the public nature of the Ethereum blockchain, on which most NFT trades occur. Crypto traders noticed that an anonymous user was regularly buying items from the public marketplace shortly before they were promoted on the site’s front page, a prestigious slot that often brings significant interest from would-be buyers. The anonymous user would then sell the assets on, making vast sums in a matter of hours.

One trade, for instance, saw an artwork called Spectrum of a Ramenification Theory bought for about £600. It was then advertised on the front page and sold on for $4,000 a few hours later.

One Twitter user, ZuwuTV, linked the transactions to the public wallet of Nate Chastain, OpenSea’s head of product, demonstrating, using public records, that the profits from the trades were sent back to a wallet owned by Chastain.

While some, including ZuwuTV, described the process as “insider trading”, the loosely regulated market for NFTs has few restrictions on what participants can do. Some critics argue that even that terminology demonstrates that the sector is more about speculation than creativity.

“The fact that people are responding to this as insider trading shows that this is securities trading (or just gambling), not something designed to support artists,” said Anil Dash, the chief executive of the software company Glitch. “There are no similar public statements when artists get ripped off on the platform.

“If Etsy employees bought featured products from creators on their platform (or Patreon or Kickstarter workers backed new creators etc) that’d be great! Nobody would balk. Because they’d be supporting their goal,” Dash added.



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British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81 • The Register

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Sir Clive Sinclair died on Thursday at home in London after a long illness, his family said today. He was 81.

The British entrepreneur is perhaps best known for launching the ZX range of 8-bit microcomputers, which helped bring computing, games, and programming into UK homes in the 1980s, at least. This included the ZX80, said to be the UK’s first mass-market home computer for under £100, the ZX81, and the trusty ZX Spectrum. A whole generation grew up in Britain mastering coding on these kinds of systems in their bedrooms.

And before all that, Sir Clive founded Sinclair Radionics, which produced amplifiers, calculators, and watches, and was a forerunner to his Spectrum-making Sinclair Research. The tech pioneer, who eventually sold his computing biz to Amstrad, was knighted during his computing heyday, in 1983.

“He was a rather amazing person,” his daughter, Belinda Sinclair, 57, told The Guardian this evening. “Of course, he was so clever and he was always interested in everything. My daughter and her husband are engineers so he’d be chatting engineering with them.”

Sir Clive is survived by Belinda, his sons, Crispin and Bartholomew, aged 55 and 52 respectively, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. ®

A full obit will follow on The Register.

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UN human rights chief raises concerns over AI privacy violations in report

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‘AI tech can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights.’

The UN’s human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for a moratorium on the sale and use of artificial intelligence technology until safeguards are put in place to prevent potential human rights violations.

Bachelet made the appeal on Wednesday (15 September) to accompany a report released by the UN’s Human Rights Office, which analysed how AI systems affect people’s right to privacy. The violation of their privacy rights had knock-on impacts on other rights such as rights to health, education and freedom of movement, the report found.

“Artificial intelligence can be a force for good, helping societies overcome some of the great challenges of our times. But AI technologies can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights,” Bachelet said.

“Artificial intelligence now reaches into almost every corner of our physical and mental lives and even emotional states,” Bachelet added.

Japanese multinational Fujitsu caused a stir when it announced plans to implement AI facial recognition technology to monitor employees’ concentration levels during meetings.

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The report was critical of justice systems which had made wrongful arrests because of flawed facial recognition tools. It appealed to countries to ban any AI tools which did not meet international human rights standards. A 2019 study from the UK found that 81pc of suspects flagged by the facial recognition technology used by London’s Metropolitan Police force were innocent.

Earlier this year, Canada banned Clearview’s AI facial recognition technology after the company violated Canadian privacy laws by collecting facial images of Canadians without their consent.

Bachelet also highlighted the report’s concerns on the future use of data once it has been collected and stored, calling it “one of the most urgent human rights questions we face.”

The UN’s report echoes previous appeals made by European data protection regulators.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) called for a ban on facial recognition in public places in June. They urged EU lawmakers to consider banning the use of such technology in public spaces, after the European Commission released its proposed regulations on the matter.

The EU’s proposed regulations did not recommend an outright ban. The commission instead emphasised the importance of creating “trustworthy AI.”

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