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Zuckerberg deflects questions about vaccine disinformation on Facebook | Facebook

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg skirted a question on Thursday about coronavirus vaccine disinformation on the social network, choosing to phrase the problem instead as primarily one of “vaccine hesitancy” among the US public.

In an interview with CBS, which was released on Thursday morning, TV anchor Gayle King pressed Zuckerberg to release information on how many people have viewed and shared Facebook posts containing misinformation about the Covid vaccine.

Zuckerberg said that Facebook has removed more than 18m posts containing misinformation from their website, but failed to answer when pressed by King on how many people viewed or shared these posts.

He deflected the question to focus on so-called vaccine literacy, touting the platform’s vaccine finder tool that he said has prompted millions to take their first steps towards getting vaccinated.

He said a lot of the misinformation conversation is really about “vaccine hesitancy” and that content should not be banned.

“I think, to some degree, there are also different definitions that people have over what misinformation is,” he said. “A lot of the stuff that’s actually the hardest for us to really address is not what I would call ‘misinformation’ but instead another category that I would call ‘hesitancy.’”

He attributed questions about which vaccine is safe, or which vaccine is effective to the “vaccine hesitancy” category, which he said is “a big part” of the whole conversation.

“That’s not misinformation, but it’s certainly contributing to an environment where people are asking questions about the safety of vaccines,” he added. “I don’t think we should ban it.”

Facebook has been accused of perpetuating and allowing misinformation about the pandemic and the vaccine to proliferate on its platform.

In July, Joe Biden said social media platforms like Facebook are “killing people” because of it.

The White House has also zeroed in on a clutch of accounts dubbed the “disinformation dozen” – Facebook accounts that have been shown to be responsible for the bulk of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.

Thursday’s developments came as the Federal Trade Commission filed an amended complaint in federal court to continue pursuing its claims against Facebook, saying the online platform maintains monopoly power.

The complaint filed is a partially redacted version, which the FTC has requested must be under seal for 10 days.

The FTC said that Facebook since 2011 “has had monopoly power in the US with respect to personal social networking”.

While Facebook continues to defend itself and cites numbers of accounts and posts it has removed, misinformation experts have pointed out that people such as Robert F Kennedy Jr, a staunch anti-vaccine campaigner, are allowed to remain on the platform.

A Northwestern University study released in July stated that the vaccination rate among those who used only Facebook as a source for information is 40% lower than for those who use multiple sources for information on Covid-19.

Facebook told Guardian US on Thursday that it has removed 20m posts containing misinformation about the pandemic and closed 3,000 accounts, pages and groups for their content between the beginning of the pandemic and June.

Zuckerberg and King also discussed Facebook’s launch of a virtual workspace that gives its users numerous options, from switching conference rooms to presentation settings, as well as creating their own avatars.

The “horizon workrooms” is an app built off his idea for a “metaverse” which he said is a version of the internet “we can be inside of”.

Users can use hand gestures to interact with their colleagues, move about their virtual space as though in an office, and sit around the table as though in an in-person 3-D meeting room.

Users need to buy a special virtual reality headset to pair with the app.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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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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