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At Head Start, Federal Judge Permanently Ends COVID Vaccine Mandate for Staff
School COVID requirements and the controversies surrounding them largely feel like a thing of the past. But at the country’s Head Start and Early Head Start centers, which serve low-income children 5 and under, the debate has lingered, with lawsuits challenging the programs’ vaccine mandate.
The debate was settled on Friday, at least for now. A federal judge in Texas vacated the mandate, meaning it can’t be enforced anywhere in the U.S.
The opinion issued Friday by Judge James Wesley Hendrix of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, makes that injunction permanent and prohibits Head Start programs in any state, territory or tribal community from requiring the vaccine.
Bill Gates Dismisses Mounting Calls to Pause AI Chatbot Development
Reuters reports that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates dismissed calls to halt the development of more advanced AI chatbots more powerful than OpenAI’s GPT-4. Last week, an open letter signed by Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio called for a six-month pause in developing new AI tools. Gates stated that the proposed pause in AI chatbot development would not “solve the challenges.”
According to Gates, the focus should be on effectively integrating AI technology into society. He finds it hard to understand how a pause could work globally with so many firms working on the technology.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and more than 1,000 AI experts signed an open letter last week demanding the development of systems “more powerful” than GPT-4 to be paused for six months to weigh the risks/benefits to society.
Also, the tech ethics organization Center for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Policy filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission late last week, asserting GPT-4 violates federal consumer protection law. And Italy just banned the AI chatbot, while Germany considers banning it.
How TikTok’s Algorithm ‘Exploits the Vulnerability’ of Children
It is the home of dance tutorial videos and viral comedy sketches. But it is also host to self-harm and eating disorder content, with an algorithm that has been called the “crack cocaine of social media.”
Now, the information commissioner has concluded that up to 1.4 million children under the age of 13 have been allowed access to TikTok, with the watchdog accusing the Chinese firm of not doing enough to check underage children were not using the app.
“There is self-harm content, there is nonsensical content about cures for mental health [conditions],” said Imran Ahmed of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which produced a report last December that suggested TikTok’s algorithm was pushing harmful content to some users within minutes of their signing up.
“The algorithm recognizes vulnerability and, instead of seeing it as something it should be careful around, it sees it as a potential point of addiction — of helping to maximize time on the platform for that child by serving them up content that might trigger some of the pre-existing concerns.”
Lawmakers Are Clueless About Social Media. They’ll Regulate It Anyway.
Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox recently signed two state bills that go to enormous lengths to restrict access to social media for those under 18. While nearly everyone agrees that social media can affect young people in troubling ways, this is the most sweeping legislation the country has seen to take control away from young people and give it to their parents.
But how will young people verify their age to the app? And how will a parent verify to the app that they are indeed that minor’s parent? If you don’t like how much information tech companies have about you and your children now, how will you feel about uploading copies of your driver’s license and your 16-year-old’s birth certificate to allow them to use Snapchat?
These problems are so thorny that even Common Sense Media, as centrist and establishment an organization as you could imagine, came out against one of the Utah bills. (Though it did support the bill requiring companies to avoid features likely to cause “addiction,” which is so difficult to define that it will be impossible to implement.)
The law requires social media companies to create processes enabling young people and parents to verify their ages and identities. But Jason Kelley, the associate director of digital strategy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the directives are far too vague to be effective.
Central Bank Digital Currencies a Foundational Threat to America’s Economic Systems: Think Tank
Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) pose a foundational threat to America’s economic systems with absolutely no upsides, according to a recent analysis from the Cato Institute, which stressed that a U.S. CBDC will threaten citizens’ “core freedoms” from financial privacy to personal liberty.
Even though there are no valid reasons for the U.S. government to issue a CBDC when “the costs are so high and the benefits are so low,” significant efforts are being made by government officials and central bankers to launch the digital currency “in a bid to solidify government control over payments systems,” said the institute’s assessment report published Tuesday.
“As entrenched as this effort may already be, a U.S. CBDC would ultimately usurp the private sector and endanger Americans’ core freedoms. Therefore, it should have no place in the American economy. Congress should explicitly prohibit the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury from issuing a CBDC in any form.”
The Biden administration has thrown its support behind the CBDC project, releasing a paper last September analyzing the possibilities of introducing a digital dollar.
Italy Flocks to VPNs Amidst ChatGPT Ban
After Italy temporarily banned ChatGPT and announced an investigation into OpenAI, residents of the country apparently grew interested in VPNs. After the Italian Data Protection Authority announced the ban and investigation, search volume surrounding the VPNs reportedly spiked in Italy — likely in an attempt to research how to circumvent the AI ban.
Theoretically, those in Italy could still access ChatGPT during the ban by using a VPN to make it appear as if that user is accessing the artificial intelligence from another location on the planet. After Italian officials announced the temporary ban of ChatGPT, search volume for “VPN” spiked in Italy beginning later that day and has remained at a heightened level throughout the week.
The Italian Data Protection Authority announced its ban of OpenAI’s ChatGPT last Friday. Officials were concerned with how OpenAI and the chatbot collect and store user data, and pose that the tech company is breaking the European Union’s privacy law.