Big Brother News Watch
A 16-Year-Old Girl Is Suing Snap, Google and Apple After a Marine Sexually Exploited Her on Snapchat Starting at Age 12
A 16-year-old girl and her mother filed a class-action lawsuit in a California federal court this week against Snap, Apple and Google, claiming the platforms fail to protect teen users from “egregious harm” and the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Materials (CSAM).
In the lawsuit, lawyers for the girl, who is identified as L.W., argue that Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, takes a reactive approach to protect teens from abuse, requiring children to report their own abuse after it has occurred.
“The claims alleged in this case are not against the adult perpetrator — they are against three major technology companies who enable him and others to commit these crimes,” the lawyers wrote in the suit, which Insider viewed.
Her lawyers argued that the “tools and policies” of Snap, Apple, and Google, are designed to increase their wealth rather than protect the minors who use their products and apps.
Clearview AI to Stop Selling Facial Recognition Tool to Private Firms
The facial recognition company Clearview AI will be banned from working with private companies in the United States as part of a landmark settlement reining in a technology criticized as threatening Americans’ privacy rights.
The settlement, filed Monday in federal court in Illinois, marks the most significant court action yet against a company known for downloading billions of people’s photos from social networks and other websites to build a face-search database sold to law enforcement.
It also highlights how a single state privacy law can have nationwide ramifications for Americans’ civil rights protections. The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2020, accused Clearview of violating an Illinois law banning companies from sharing people’s face photos, fingerprints and other biometric information without their consent.
COVID Mask Mandates and Vaccine Checks Won’t Fly Anymore in NYC
Good luck. Fewer and fewer New Yorkers are likely to comply. Mayor Eric Adams should know as much and tell Vasan to stand down.
The COVID-19 infection numbers have been climbing recently, leading the city to raise its alert level from low to medium. Whatever that means in real terms. But despite the increasing numbers, hospitalizations and deaths have not followed suit. Those are the key metrics.
Even Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, has finally acknowledged that keeping students home to learn remotely for two years was detrimental to kids.
FCC Commissioner Says Biden’s ‘Disinformation Board’ Is ‘Unconstitutional’
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr blasted the Department of Homeland Security’s new Disinformation Governance Board to combat online disinformation on Monday, calling it “Orwellian,” “un-American” and “unconstitutional.”
Carr made the argument on “Mornings with Maria” on Monday, stressing that the disinformation board should be shut down. He also argued that “there is a broader game afoot.”
Carr provided an example: “You have [White House press secretary] Jen Psaki from the White House podium saying they are coordinating with Big Tech to take down posts, flagging posts for them.”
Federal and state lawmakers, constitutional scholars and other experts are expressing concerns with the Department of Homeland Security’s new misinformation board, which they argue is the Biden administration’s attempt to stifle free speech.
Committee Passes Bill to Block Social Media From ‘Censoring’ Users
The legislation would block the companies from removing posts or expelling people from their platforms based on the “viewpoint” of users or ideas expressed in their posts. It wouldn’t apply to speech already illegal under federal law like harassment or inciting violence.
The Ohio legislation, House Bill 441, would allow private citizens to sue social media companies and win judgments if their views are “censored.” This includes blocking, banning, de-monetizing, de-platforming, removing, denying “equal access or visibility to” or otherwise “discriminating” against the user based on what they post.
The bill prohibits the companies from creating any kind of waiver for users to sign to circumvent the censorship law. It only applies to companies with at least 50 million users.
Sweeping, Limited or No Powers at All? What’s at Stake in the Mask Mandate Appeal
The definition of “sanitation.” An old court case that involves an underwear manufacturer. Whether people had a fair chance to express their opinions about wearing masks on planes.
These disparate factors are in the spotlight as the Biden administration challenges a U.S. District Court ruling that overturned a federal mask mandate on public transportation. The outcome could determine the limits of federal public health officials’ power not only during the COVID-19 crisis but also when the next pandemic hits.
Sound complicated? It is.
About the only thing that’s clear so far is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask requirement for people traveling on planes, trains, and buses is not likely to make a comeback anytime soon. The Department of Justice’s appeal of the Florida judge’s decision to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could take weeks or months.
‘Like a Prison’: Shanghai, Beijing Ratchet up COVID Restrictions
China’s two largest cities tightened COVID-19 curbs on Monday, fuelling public angst and even questions about the legality of its uncompromising battle with the virus that has battered the world’s second-largest economy.
While there has been no official announcement, residents in at least four of Shanghai’s 16 districts received notices at the weekend saying they wouldn’t be allowed to leave their homes or receive deliveries, prompting a scramble to stock up on food.
“It was like a prison,” said Coco Wang, a Shanghai resident living under the new restrictions. “We are not afraid of the virus. We are afraid of this policy.”
Tim Hortons Faces Boycott Calls Over Requiring Vaccination for Summer Camp
The #BoycottTimHortons hashtag has been trending on Twitter Saturday in response to the mandatory vaccine policy after a petition was launched late last month against it. The petition was launched by Tamara Ugolini, a parent whose children were not accepted into the camp for not being vaccinated.
Ugolini, who claims to be a rights activist according to her online profile, aims to gather 25,000 signatures to pressure the foundation to drop its mandate. Over 19,000 people signed the petition as of Saturday afternoon.
Sweden Pandemic Deaths Among Lowest in Europe — All While Avoiding Strict Lockdowns
Sweden logged one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in Europe, all while avoiding strict economy-killing lockdowns that led to economic chaos across the world, the Telegraph reports, citing new figures from the World Health Organization.
Sweden, which was criticized in the early stages of the pandemic for resisting a mandatory lockdown, had fewer deaths per capita than much of Europe. As the Telegraph delicately notes, “Experts said the difference demonstrated stringent lockdowns alone did not determine success when battling COVID-19.”
So what’s Sweden’s secret? The Telegraph suggests that things such as lower obesity and better general health played a factor — which is certainly true. “The lesson from Sweden is to invest in your population’s health and have less inequality,” said Prof Devi Sridhar, the chairman of global public health at the University of Edinburgh.
Israel to End Mandatory COVID Tests for Arrivals at Tel Aviv Airport
Israel said on Sunday it was ending mandatory COVID-19 testing for arrivals at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, but foreigners would still have to test negative overseas before boarding a flight to the country.
As of Tuesday, foreigners can opt to take a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of departure for Israel, rather than a PCR test, within 72 hours of travel, as currently required, the ministry said in a statement.
The government has been under public pressure to end the airport testing, which has added to passengers’ travel costs and limited check-in space, causing long lines.
Face up to It — This Surveillance of Kids in School Is Creepy
Defend Digital Me’s report, The State of Biometrics 2022: A Review of Policy and Practice in UK Education, was published last week, and introduced by Fraser Sampson, the UK’s biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner. It is essential reading for anyone who cares about children.
First, it reminds us that the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which protects children’s biometrics (such as face and fingerprints), applies only in England and Wales. Second, it reveals that the information commissioner’s office has still not ruled on the use of facial recognition technology in nine schools in Ayrshire, which was reported in the media in October 2021, much less the legality of the other 70 schools known to be using the technology across the country.
Third, it notes that the suppliers of the technology are private companies based in the UK, the US, Canada and Israel. The report also highlights some gaping holes in our knowledge about the use of facial recognition technology in British schools.
Elon Musk’s Plan for Twitter: Massive Increase of Users and Revenue
A few days ago, soon-to-be Twitter owner Elon Musk (should the deal go through) casually tweeted about introducing a fee for some users of the service. “Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users,” he wrote.
It sounds almost inconsequential, but it appears that Musk’s plans for that future arm of Twitter’s business are bigger than it seems. According to The New York Times, which has obtained Musk’s pitch deck for investors, Musk has an incredibly ambitious plan for Twitter’s next couple of years, and that plan doesn’t rely on advertising revenue.
Here’s the rundown: Musk plans to increase Twitter’s annual revenue to a whopping $26.4 billion by 2028, up from $5 billion in 2021. By then, he also plans to reach 931 million users, up from 217 million at the end of 2021, with average revenue per user also increasing to $30.22, up from $24.83 last year.
Right now, Twitter makes 90% of its money from advertising. But Musk plans to reduce the company’s reliance on ads, and this is where that “slight cost for commercial users” comes in – by 2028, Musk plans to generate $12 billion in revenue from advertising, and $10 billion from subscriptions, with the rest of the revenue coming from payments, data licensing, etc.
Lawsuit Filed Against Biden, Top Officials for ‘Colluding’ With Big Tech to Censor Speech on Hunter, COVID
Two GOP-led states filed a lawsuit against President Biden, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top administration officials alleging that they “pressured and colluded” with Big Tech social media companies to censor and suppress information on the Hunter Biden laptop story, COVID-19 origins and security of voting by mail during the pandemic.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. The suit accuses top-ranking government officials of working with the giant social media companies Meta, Twitter and YouTube “under the guise of combating misinformation” in order to achieve greater censorship.
Senator Johnson Demands CDC Explain Why It Tracked Movements of Americans During Pandemic
Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address why it tracked Americans throughout the coronavirus pandemic — and what other departments may have tracked the movements of United States citizens as well.
“It remains unclear why the CDC tracked millions of Americans during the pandemic and whether it continues to do so,” Johnson told the CDC in a Thursday letter first obtained by The Daily Wire. “In response to COVID-19, the CDC should have been prioritizing the development of treatments, effective testing, and vaccine safety rather than tracking Americans’ daily lives.”
Johnson called on the CDC to explain if its use of location data was “the only mechanism it employed to monitor Americans during the pandemic,” which official or officials at the CDC approved the “use and subsequent purchase of location data,” what companies supplied the CDC with this data and whether the CDC shared this location data with any other federal, state, or local agencies.
Over 260 Travel, Business Groups Urge White House to End COVID Testing for U.S. Entry
“Given the slow economic recovery of the business and international travel sectors, and in light of medical advancements and the improved public health metrics in the U.S., we encourage you to immediately remove the inbound testing requirement for vaccinated air travelers,” said the letter addressed to incoming White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha.
“While there is no longer a need for an inbound testing requirement for vaccinated travelers, the economic costs associated with maintaining the measure are significant.”
Bearing the Brunt of Inconsistent Mandates
As the country slowly bounces back from COVID-19, vaccine restrictions in restaurants and other indoor activities are lifting across the country. Beginning on March 7, the Key to NYC was discontinued, meaning that by law, residents and tourists alike no longer have to provide vaccine proof and ID to enjoy their favorite restaurants again.
Yet businesses are still permitted to continue checking vaccines at their own discretion. This isn’t easy on staff like me.
Whispers of the mandate lift spread around the restaurant, but management ensured that vaccines and ID would continue to be required for indoor eating. I was given a script on how to respond to questions regarding our continued checking: “Although the state has lifted the mandate, per NYC guidelines, our company still holds the right to ask for proof of vaccination.”
20 GOP Attorneys General Threaten Legal Action Over ‘Un-American’ Disinformation Board
Virginia Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares sent a letter signed by 20 GOP attorneys general on Thursday to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas threatening legal action against its ‘un-American’ Disinformation Governance Board.
The letter claims that the new board violates the constitutional freedoms that attorneys general are called to defend.
“Today we write you to insist that you immediately cease taking action that appears designed exclusively for the purpose of suppressing the exercise of constitutional rights,” they added.
The letter also condemned the chilling impact the board would have on the free speech rights of Americans.
Here’s How Many San Francisco Police Officers Have Been Fired for Refusing to Get COVID Vaccines
Ten San Francisco police officers have been fired to date for failing to receive their COVID-19 vaccines, and 13 others soon follow, according to records provided by the city’s Department of Human Resources.
The potential 23 firings represent only about 1% of the department’s roughly 1,723 sworn members but come at a time when police officials say they’re facing staffing shortages.
“Officers who are not fully vaccinated are in various stages of the administrative review process, including termination hearings in front of the San Francisco Police Commission,” said Sgt. Adam Lobsinger, a spokesman for the department.
Police are not required to receive a COVID-19 booster shot, according to a March Department of Public Health order that reversed an earlier mandate. San Francisco still requires boosters for city workers who regularly work in high-risk settings, which include jails, hospitals and nursing homes. City employees including firefighters, paramedics and EMTs have until June 30 to get boosted, according to the most recent health order.
China Builds Permanent COVID Testing Stations for Life After Lockdown
China is setting up thousands of permanent PCR testing stations, with 9,000 already completed in Shanghai alone, as authorities seek to “normalize” tough pandemic controls even after the current round of lockdowns end.
At present, nearly 25 million residents in the eastern financial hub of Shanghai remain under some form of lockdown as the city battles China’s biggest-ever coronavirus outbreak.
But in a bid to head off future flare-ups, municipal authorities have been setting up a system that will make regular COVID-19 testing a permanent feature of everyday life, with other cities taking similar steps.
A Week off Social Media Reduces Depression and Anxiety: Research
Taking a break from social media for as little as a week can reduce depression and anxiety, according to new research. People who took a break from platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for seven days reported an increased sense of well-being, a study by the University of Bath found.
Researchers split a sample of 154 people aged 18 to 72 into two groups — one of which was banned from social media while the other was not.
On average, participants used social media for eight hours a week. Participants were quizzed on their baseline levels of anxiety and depression, and their sense of well-being, using three recognized tests.
In the future, the researchers hope to study the impact of pausing social-media use on specific segments of the population, such as younger people and those with physical and mental health conditions.
The WWII Writer Who Forecast 2022
“1984” and the term “Orwellian” have been used (and abused) for decades, but our current moment arguably is genuinely “Orwellian.” Much of Orwell’s writing, and particularly his final novel “1984,” was preoccupied with the importance of speaking the truth and the risk to both individuals and societies when states attempt to censor and manipulate speech.
Truth, Orwell worried, could not exist in a vacuum. If the state were able to completely control what could be said and written, it could effectively control reality.
“1984” is a totalitarian dystopia in which Big Brother’s ruling party controls reality through their complete control of language. Through a combination of propaganda and censorship, the party remolds what truth means for the citizens of Oceania.
Facebook Doesn’t Know What It’s Doing With Your Data
But now a slew of regulations across the globe are looking to crack down on the social media site and, according to leaked documents, Facebook has no idea how to get compliant. Worse, the social media giant has no idea where any given piece of data goes once it enters its ecosystem.
Lack of a Federal Privacy Law Opens the Door to Dystopia
Imagine every one of us could be located using only a photograph, or identified based on the way we walk — that our fingerprints could be scanned from afar, and our productivity assessed remotely as we work. This might sound like a dystopia, but at least one technological juggernaut thinks the vision will sell.
Clearview, a facial recognition company, says its client roster has expanded to more than 3,100 law enforcement agencies — but despite past promises to restrict its work to crime-fighting, the company dreams in its presentation of “limitless future applications” outside government. These include tackling “tough physical security problems” in retail, screening gig economy laborers and sizing up potential dates on smartphone apps.
The nation desperately needs a federal privacy law: a framework that dictates not merely what companies are permitted to do with specific types of technology, but also how and when they can collect, process and use all the personal data that flows through the Internet.
One key to Clearview’s apparent eminence in the realm of facial recognition is how little restraint it has espoused compared with its more mainstream peers in Silicon Valley and Seattle that have limited sales of their technology until risks are reduced.
10 Ways Information Shapers Have Infiltrated Our Institutions
Few matters are so important as the integrity of the information we receive and the recent degradation in its reliability. The recent leak of a Supreme Court draft related to the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case underscores how corrupted so many of our important institutions have become by those dedicated to shaping public opinion in a sometimes-dishonest way.
Nearly every facet of our American institutions has been infiltrated by activists, corporate and political propagandists and even criminals.
Here are 10 key institutions that have been successfully infiltrated by information shapers:
U.K. Regulator Will Have the Power to Impose Steep Fines on Big Tech
The U.K.’s recently established Big Tech regulator will have extensive authority to punish giant companies it deems anti-competitive. As TechCrunch notes, the country’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has revealed that the Digital Markets Unit will have the power to levy fines of up to 10% of a company’s worldwide annual turnover if it doesn’t honor codes of conduct, plus up to 5% of daily turnover for each day the violations continue.
Firms will also have to make it easier to switch between platforms (such as mobile devices and social networks), break away from default apps (including search) and take more control of data sharing.
Rand Paul Grills Mayorkas on Disinformation: ‘I Don’t Trust Government to Figure out What the Truth Is’ + More
Rand Paul Grills Mayorkas on Disinformation: ‘I Don’t Trust Government to Figure out What the Truth Is’
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., challenged Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his department’s newly-announced Disinformation Governance Board, asserting that the American people do not need the federal government to tell them what the truth is. Paul specifically pointed to claims that he has made about the COVID-19 pandemic that has not been in line with administration policies.
“I’ve said a million times that cloth masks don’t work. YouTube takes me down. They’re a private company I can have that beef with them. What about you? You’re going to look at that? I often say that natural immunity from having had the infection is equal to the vaccine or better. You’re going to take that down?”
In recent months, experts have said cloth masks were not very effective in combating COVID-19, yet mask mandates continued in many schools, and until recently on public transportation, with cloth masks being acceptable coverings. Other policies that have required vaccination or testing have failed to account for immunity from a previous infection.
Do you know who the greatest propagator of disinformation in the history of the world is? The U.S. government,” Paul said.
Kyrie Irving Reflects on Heavy Criticism for Refusing the Vaccine: ‘the Life of a Martyr’
Irving’s anti-vaccination stance initially prompted the Nets to remove the point guard from all games and practices, claiming it unfeasible to have a part-time player for only away contests. GM Sean Marks quickly backtracked and Irving debuted on Jan. 5 in Indiana.
Still, the New York City mandate kept Irving from playing home games until April, leaving the 30-year-old with just 29 appearances during the regular season. The Nets flamed out in the playoffs and Irving, who struggled in that first-round sweep to the Celtics, acknowledged his absences were a hindrance.
Irving, who still hasn’t explained his reason for rejecting the vaccine beyond “a personal decision,” clearly doesn’t regret his decision.
New York City Could Bring Back COVID Mask Mandate, Vaccine Checks if Hospitals Come Under Pressure
New York City could bring back mask mandates and proof of vaccination status to go to restaurants, bars and other venues if COVID hospitalizations rise to a concerning level, according to the city’s top health official.
The city increased its COVID alert level from low to medium earlier this week as infections surpassed a rate of 200 per 100,000 people, driven by the more contagious Omicron BA.2 subvariant. For now, health officials are asking residents to exercise increased caution by voluntarily masking indoors and getting tested before and after gatherings.
However, Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said New York might reinstate mandatory masking and vaccine checks if the city raises its COVID alert level to high.
Army Officer Convicted in First Known COVID Court-Martial
An officer who formerly served as the Army Public Health Center’s headquarters company commander was convicted by a special court-martial Friday of two specifications of violating lawful orders to comply with COVID-19 mitigation measures at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
1st Lt. Mark Bashaw was found guilty of refusing an order to telework and reporting to his office without submitting to a COVID-19 test or otherwise furnishing a negative test result, according to installation spokesperson Amburr Reese. Those mitigation measures were required of unvaccinated troops at Aberdeen.
Bashaw, a former Air Force NCO and father of three, was also found guilty of failing to wear a mask indoors. The trial concluded Friday. His listed attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via social media.
The military judge who oversaw Bashaw’s trial opted not to punish him. However, the conviction gives Bashaw a criminal record that may impede future employment opportunities.
From Estee Lauder to Apple, Big Companies Say China’s COVID Restrictions Are Hitting Business
Several international corporations warned in the last week the drag from China’s COVID controls will hit their entire business.
Since March, mainland China has battled an outbreak of the highly transmissible Omicron variant by using swift lockdowns and travel restrictions. The same strategy had helped the country quickly return to growth in 2020 while the rest of the world struggled to contain the virus.
Now the latest lockdown in Shanghai has lasted for more than a month with only slight progress toward resuming full production, while Beijing has temporarily closed some service businesses to control a recent spike in COVID cases.
Here is a selection of what some of the companies have told investors about China in the last week:
Millions In Beijing Urged to Work From Home to Fight COVID
The streets of Beijing’s business district were deserted on Thursday as the government called for people to return to work remotely, with scores of subway stations shut after a national holiday muted by coronavirus curbs.
Chinese authorities have stuck to their zero-COVID policy of lockdowns and mass testing as they battle the biggest outbreak since the early days of the pandemic, with entire neighborhoods in the capital sealed over handfuls of infections.
SA’s New COVID Rules: Masks Stay on Until the Minister of Health Says Otherwise
Masks are still required in publicly accessible buildings and on public transport, after a late-night update to COVID-19 rules on Wednesday.
Health minister Joe Phaahla published amendments to health regulations on Wednesday night, just hours before a 30-day set of transitional rules — put in place after the end of the national state of disaster on COVID-19 — automatically lapsed.
Nearly a Third of U.S. Adults Are More ‘Scared’ of the Metaverse Than ‘Excited’
If you’re looking forward to a future spent working and playing in the virtual realms of the metaverse, you’re currently in the minority.
According to a recent survey of more than 2,500 U.S. adults, people are currently more likely to fear the metaverse than be excited about it. The survey, which ran from March 23-25 and was conducted by Axios and market research software company Momentive, asked respondents if the idea of the metaverse made them “more excited or scared about the future.”
Only 7% of respondents said the idea of a metaverse — virtual worlds where you can interact with friends and coworkers, play games and watch live events, all with a VR headset — made them “more excited” about the future. Almost one-third of respondents said it made them “more scared.”
Elon Musk Expected to Serve as Temporary Twitter CEO After Deal Closes
An SEC filing on Thursday revealed Musk secured approximately $7.14 billion in equity commitments from friends and other investors to buy Twitter. Faber said Musk handpicked the investors. Commitments range from $1 billion from Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison to $5 million from Honeycomb Asset Management, which invested in SpaceX.
Faber added that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey may back it, and Musk is talking to him about the possibility of contributing shares immediately or before the closing of the merger.
Facebook Is Freezing Hiring. Here’s Why, Who It Impacts and When It’s Happening.
Facebook is pausing on hiring and scaling back plans to acquire new talent across the company.
CFO David Wehner said the company, which has rebranded to Meta, is doing so as part of its “reprioritization” as it tackles challenges that caused it to miss revenue targets, according to an internal memo shared on Wednesday seen by Insider. Insider’s Kali Hays and Rob Price were the first to report Facebook’s hiring freeze.
In a separate memo, Facebook’s global head of recruiting, Miranda Kalinowski, said the company’s engineering team would be first to be impacted by these hiring decisions while management continues to adjust hiring targets elsewhere.
It’s rare for Facebook to freeze hiring. The last time they did so was at the start of the pandemic as the company scrambled to put in place processes to onboard new hires, a worker there at the time told Insider.
Meta, TikTok and YouTube May Finally Have to Start Sharing Data With Researchers
On Wednesday, Congress was treated to the unfamiliar spectacle of highly intelligent people, talking with nuance, about platform regulation. The occasion was a hearing, titled “Platform Transparency: Understanding the Impact of Social Media,” and it served as a chance for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to consider the necessity of legislation that would require big tech platforms to make themselves available for study by qualified researchers and members of the public.
Brandon Silverman, who left the company now known as Meta in October, is co-founder of the transparency tool CrowdTangle. “YouTube, TikTok, Telegram, and Snapchat represent some of the largest and most influential platforms in the United States, and they provide almost no functional transparency into their systems. And as a result, they avoid nearly all of the scrutiny and criticism that comes with it,” said Silverman.
He continued: “That reality has industry-wide implications, and it frequently led to conversations inside Facebook about whether or not it was better to simply do nothing, since you could easily get away with it.”
Broke: Breaking up Big Tech. Woke: Breaking up Big Ads.
This week, Bloomberg reported that a bipartisan group of lawmakers is inching closer to another big plan to break up big tech. But unlike grandiloquent calls for Meta to divest Instagram or for Google to divest Chrome, this new legislation would force both companies to divest the heart of their money-making machinery: their ads business.
Citing two people familiar with the forthcoming bill, Bloomberg reports that the bill would bar any company with more than $20 billion in digital ad revenue from owning the tech needed to both buy ads and sell ads as well as the online marketplace where those transactions happen — digital vertical integration, in other words.
For a company like Google, which does all three of those things, is valued at $1.6 trillion, and earns more than $20 billion in a single quarter, that would spell trouble. The bill’s impending appearance on the Senate floor was first leaked in January. Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee is reportedly spearheading the legislation.
Vaccine Mandates at Work Part of ‘New Normal,’ Employers Say
About four in 10 employers have some type of COVID-19 vaccine mandate for their workers, according to a survey by Littler Mendelson P.C., marking a huge increase from the last time the management-side law firm polled companies on the issue.
The share of employers reporting they have inoculation requirements jumped eightfold from the percentage who said they had adopted such mandates in Littler’s August 2021 survey report. Less than 1% of companies reported having vaccine requirements in the firm’s survey report issued in February 2021.
The report released Wednesday shows employers increasingly have turned to vaccine mandates as the pandemic has dragged on for more than two years, killing nearly 1 million Americans and infecting more than 81 million.
U.S. CDC Says Travelers Should Still Wear Masks on Airplanes
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday recommended travelers continue to wear masks in airplanes, trains and airports despite a judge’s April 18 order declaring the 14-month-old transportation mask mandate unlawful.
The CDC said it based its recommendation on current COVID-19 conditions and spread as well as the protective value of masks.
The Justice Department last month filed notice it will appeal the ruling and it has until May 31 to do so. But the government has made no effort to seek immediate court action to reinstate the mandate.
The mask mandate had been due to expire on Tuesday just before midnight unless the CDC sought an extension of a Transportation Security Administration directive.
Even as COVID Cases Rise, Mask Mandates Stay Shelved
An increase in COVID-19 infections around the U.S. has sent more cities into new high-risk categories that are supposed to trigger indoor mask-wearing, but much of the country is stopping short of bringing back restrictions amid deep pandemic fatigue.
For weeks, much of upstate New York has been in the high-alert orange zone, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designation that reflects serious community spread. The CDC urges people to mask up in indoor public places, including schools, regardless of vaccination status. But few, if any, local jurisdictions in the region brought back a mask requirement despite rising case counts.
“I don’t anticipate many places, if any, going back to mask mandates unless we see overflowing hospitals — that’s what would drive mask mandates,” said Professor David Larsen, a public health expert at Syracuse University in upstate New York, whose own county is currently an orange zone.
Mandates Disappear, but Mask Detection Tech Has Left Its Mark
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when mask mandates became commonplace both in public and in private, tech vendors began selling products they claimed could detect whether someone was wearing a mask — or not.
With press releases and flashy demonstrations, the vendors attracted the attention of critics skeptical about the solutions’ capabilities and potential surveillance applications. Allied Market Research optimistically predicted that the market would be worth over $1 billion by 2027.
While the demand for mask detection technologies is steadily declining, the products have had far-reaching effects with implications for privacy and security, interviews with vendors suggest.
As regular readers of this site are well aware, facial recognition is a flashpoint for controversy. While companies like Trueface claim that they engage only in “responsible” deployments of the technology, recent history is filled with examples of facial recognition abuse, such as software developed by Huawei and others to recognize members of the targeted Uyghur minority group.
California Pushes Ahead With Kids’ Online Safety Proposals as Washington Stalls
A California state panel advanced a proposal that would hold tech companies responsible for features that can be addictive and harmful, a measure that, if passed, could put California at the forefront of the fight for kids’ online safety as Washington stalls.
The bill would impose a duty for tech companies not to addict users 17 and younger and would make them liable for damages and civil penalties if they knowingly or negligently addict children to their products or services.
The bill is one of two Assemblymembers Jordan Cunningham (R) and Buffy Wicks (D) have put forward to push for kids’ safety regulation online. Earlier this year, they introduced the California Age Appropriate Design Code Bill, which would add further privacy and safety regulations for children online. That bill also advanced out of a committee with broad bipartisan support.
As Broadway Drops Audience Vaccine Mandate, Job Cuts Hit COVID Safety Workers
Starting this May, vaccination checks for audience members on Broadway will largely be a thing of the past.
And with the policy change, some positions within the theater industry will be mostly eliminated, including that of the workers checking patrons’ vaccination cards outside many of the theaters. The change comes after many Broadway theater owners elected to drop the vaccine mandate for audience members starting May 1.
Broadway’s mask mandate for audience members remains in place through at least May 31.
The vaccine requirement was put in place at all Broadway theaters in July 2021, ahead of the industry’s fall reopening and before New York’s citywide mandate. Now, almost all Broadway theaters have done away with that requirement — it remains in place at three theaters owned by nonprofit organizations — as the industry becomes one of the last in New York to ease pandemic safety measures.
Chicago Expected to Reach ‘Medium’ COVID Risk Soon; City’s Top Doctor Says Mask Rules Could Return if ‘High’ Level Reached
Chicago’s public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday that she anticipates the city’s COVID-19 risk could jump from “low” to “medium” levels as early as Friday, following the raised risk levels in suburban Cook County last week.
But the increased risk level is not enough to trigger any new citywide mask mandates, she said. Last month, she suggested a medium-level designation could lead to a reinstated mask mandate at Chicago Public Schools, but on Tuesday, said masks would be “strongly recommended” in schools, as well as around the city.
“If we move to medium, it’s not like the sky is falling,” Arwady said during her weekly Facebook live streaming Q&A event.
‘This Board Is Unconstitutional and Un-American’: Sen. Cotton Leads GOP Lawmakers in Effort to Defund Biden’s ‘Disinformation Board’
Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton introduced a bill on Tuesday that would ban federal funding from being used to launch President Joe Biden’s Disinformation Governance Board within the Department of Homeland Security.
Cotton was joined in the legislation with support from a team of 18 co-sponsors among the Senate’s Republicans.
“The Biden administration wants a government agency dedicated to cracking down on what its subjects can say, an idea popular with Orwellian governments everywhere. This board is unconstitutional and un-American — my bill puts a stop to it,” Cotton said in a statement.
Bill Gates Says Elon Musk Could Make Twitter ‘Worse’ — but That People Should Never Underestimate Him
The Microsoft founder expressed concern over how Musk may address misinformation on the social media platform, especially considering his emphasis on promoting “free speech.” Last week, Musk said that he defines free speech as “that which matches the law.”
Facebook, Google Face Regulatory Reckoning That May End Big Tech Dominance
In February, the company formerly known as Facebook lost $232 billion in value in the stock market — the biggest loss ever suffered by a U.S. company in a single day, a plunge equal to the combined market values of Netflix and FedEx. By the end of April, the stock had lost another fifth of its value.
Meta Platforms, as the company is now formally known, can only wish that a brutal stock beating is its only problem. Meta faces serious threats on several fronts, and any one of them might prove existential. For the first time in its 18-year history, the number of people who use the once-ubiquitous-seeming Facebook social network has been dropping.
Privacy protections added by Apple last year to its phone software are hobbling Facebook‘s bread-and-butter ad business, which depends on keeping tabs on what users are up to. And the all-important youth market is shunning Facebook in favor of TikTok.
Meta is also facing a daunting level of ire, which is splashing over onto the rest of Big Tech — that is, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. These tech giants and Meta are facing scrutiny from regulators and legislators both in the U.S. and Europe.
Europe’s New Law Will Force Secretive TikTok to Open Up
Social networks grow up faster these days. It took Facebook eight years to reach 1 billion users, but TikTok got there in just five. The fast-growing short-video app also got squeezed by political and regulatory concerns at a younger age over its Chinese ownership and influence on teen mental health.
The pressure on TikTok is now set to jump higher still. The European Union’s recently agreed-upon Digital Services Act (DSA) places new restrictions on the largest platforms.
To date, TikTok has been less transparent and less thoroughly studied than Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. That’s partly because it is a much younger service, and fewer researchers and journalists have scrutinized its workings.
But TikTok has also not provided tools to enable researchers to study how content circulates on its platform, as Facebook and Twitter have done. When Europe’s new rules force all large social platforms to open up their data and even algorithms to outside scrutiny, our understanding of TikTok may change most of all.