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Pfizer CEO, Who Said Online ‘Misinformation’ Is Criminal, Is Found Guilty of ‘Misleading’ Vaccine Statements

Reclaim the Net reported:

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, last year at the Atlantic Council, called people who spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation “criminals,” in his calls for censorship of misinformation online. However, this year, Dr. Bourla is himself found responsible by the U.K.’s pharmaceutical regulator for making “misleading” statements about the vaccination of children.

Last December, in an interview with the BBC, Dr. Bourla said that “there is no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favor of” vaccinating children between the ages of five and 11. He continued to say that “COVID in schools is thriving.”

After the interview was published, the parent campaign group UsForThem filed a complaint with the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA). The complaint accused Dr. Bourla of making “disgracefully misleading” comments about vaccinating children and that the comments were “extremely promotional in nature,” and that he violated several clauses of the code of practice by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

The Telegraph reported Pfizer appealed against the findings of the panel and strongly disagreed with UsForThem’s claims that the CEO violated the code of practice. An appeal board upheld that Dr. Bourla misled the public, made claims that were unbalanced and made unsubstantiated claims.

AI Experts Are Increasingly Afraid of What They’re Creating

Vox reported:

In 2018 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Google CEO Sundar Pichai had something to say: “AI is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on. I think of it as something more profound than electricity or fire.” Pichai’s comment was met with a healthy dose of skepticism. But nearly five years later, it’s looking more and more prescient.

Of course, handing over huge sectors of our society to black-box algorithms that we barely understand creates a lot of problems, which has already begun to help spark a regulatory response around the current challenges of AI discrimination and bias. But given the speed of development in the field, it’s long past time to move beyond a reactive mode, one where we only address AI’s downsides once they’re clear and present. We can’t only think about today’s systems, but where the entire enterprise is headed.

The systems we’re designing are increasingly powerful and increasingly general, with many tech companies explicitly naming their target as artificial general intelligence (AGI) — systems that can do everything a human can do.

But creating something smarter than us, which may have the ability to deceive and mislead us — and then just hoping it doesn’t want to hurt us — is a terrible plan. We need to design systems whose internals we understand and whose goals we are able to shape to be safe ones. However, we currently don’t understand the systems we’re building well enough to know if we’ve designed them safely before it’s too late.

Meta Fined $276 Million Over Facebook Data Leak Involving More Than 533 Million Users

The Verge reported:

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission hit Meta with a €265 million fine (about $276 million USD) after an April 2021 data leak exposed the information of more than 533 million users. The DPC started the investigation shortly after news of the leak broke and involved an examination into whether Facebook complied with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws.

This marks the third fine the DPC imposed on Meta this year. In March, the DPC fined Meta $18.6 million USD for bad record-keeping in relation to a series of 2018 data breaches that exposed the information of up to 30 million Facebook users. The European regulator also slapped Meta with a $402 million fine in September following an investigation into Instagram’s handling of teenagers’ data.

Meta has been fined nearly $700 million by the DPC in 2022 — and that doesn’t include the $267 million fine WhatsApp incurred for violating Europe’s data privacy laws last year.

Fauci Defended Lockdowns During Deposition, Said China Was the Inspiration: Lawyer

The Epoch Times reported:

A top U.S. health official who publicly backed lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic defended his position during a deposition on Nov. 23, according to people who were present for the questioning. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, also said the inspiration for the lockdowns was communist-run China, one of the people said.

Fauci sat for the seven-hour deposition in Bethesda, Maryland, where the headquarters for the institute’s parent agency is located. He was forced to answer questions under oath on orders from a federal judge who is set to decide whether the government should be blocked from pressuring Big Tech firms into censoring posts and users.

While Fauci often could not recall actions he took during the pandemic, he did talk about his role in advocating for lockdowns. Fauci said that Dr. Clifford Lane, a deputy director at the NIAID, reported back to him after Lane went to China soon in early 2020, a few months after the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Wuhan.

Lane reported China appeared to be controlling the COVID-19 virus through harsh lockdowns, and Fauci soon decided the United States needed to emulate China, at least to an extent, according to Jenin Younes, one of the lawyers present for the deposition.

“The question of human rights didn’t factor in” to Fauci’s mindset, according to Younes, a lawyer with the New Civil Liberties Alliance who is representing some of the plaintiffs in the case.

Kids Online Safety Act May Harm Minors, Civil Society Groups Warn Lawmakers

CNBC reported:

Dozens of civil society groups urged lawmakers in a letter Monday against passing a bill that aims to protect children from online harm, warning the bill itself could actually pose further danger to kids and teens.

The bipartisan bill, led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., would establish responsibilities for sites that are likely to be accessed by kids to act in the best interest of users who are 16 or younger. That means the platforms would be responsible for mitigating the risk of physical or emotional harm to young users, including through the promotion of self-harm or suicide, encouragement of addictive behavior, enabling of online bullying or predatory marketing.

Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) risks subjecting teens who are experiencing domestic violence and parental abuse to additional forms of digital surveillance and control that could prevent these vulnerable youth from reaching out for help or support,” the groups wrote. “And by creating strong incentives to filter and enable parental control over the content minors can access, KOSA could also jeopardize young people’s access to end-to-end encrypted technologies, which they depend on to access resources related to mental health and to keep their data safe from bad actors.”

The groups also fear that the bill would incentivize sites to collect even more information about children to verify their ages and place further restrictions on minors’ accounts. The groups called the goals of the legislation “laudable,” but said KOSA would ultimately fall flat in its aims to protect children.

Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of UC Irvine Professor’s COVID Vaccination Challenge

The Orange County Register reported:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week upheld the dismissal of a federal lawsuit brought by a former UC Irvine professor who lost his job after refusing to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

Dr. Aaron Kheriaty — a former professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the UC Irvine School of Medicine and former director of the medical ethics program at UCI Health — argued that he already has a “natural immunity” to the coronavirus and alleged that the university’s policy violated his constitutional rights.

But a panel of appellate judges in a written opinion released on Wednesday found that there is no “fundamental right” to be free from a vaccine mandate at a workplace, and upheld a district court judge’s earlier decision to throw out the lawsuit.

Blank Sheets of Paper Become Symbol of Defiance in China Protests

Reuters reported:

Chinese protesters have turned to blank sheets of paper to express their anger over COVID-19 restrictions in a rare, widespread outpouring of public dissent that has gone beyond social media to some of China’s streets and top universities.

Images and videos circulated online showed students at universities in cities including Nanjing and Beijing holding up blank sheets of paper in silent protest, a tactic used in part to evade censorship or arrest.

The latest wave of anger was triggered by an apartment fire that killed 10 people on Thursday in Urumqi, a far western city where some people had been locked down for as long as 100 days, fueling speculation that COVID lockdown measures may have impeded residents’ escape.

BBC Says Reporter Arrested, Beaten at Shanghai COVID Protest

The Hill reported:

The BBC said Sunday that one of its reporters was arrested and beaten by Chinese authorities while covering protests in Shanghai over COVID-19 restrictions.

China is seeing rare outpourings of public frustration in recent days in response to strict COVID lockdowns meant to curb the spread of the virus.

In a statement on Sunday, the BBC said journalist Ed Lawrence was kicked and handcuffed for hours after being arrested while covering demonstrations in the country’s economic hub.

Uganda’s President Extends Ebola Epicenter’s Quarantine for 21 Days

Reuters reported:

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has extended a quarantine placed on two districts that are the epicenter of the country’s Ebola outbreak by 21 days, adding that his government’s response to the disease was succeeding.

Movement into and out of Mubende and Kassanda districts in central Uganda will be restricted up to Dec. 17, the presidency said late on Saturday. It was originally imposed for 21 days on Oct. 15, then extended for the same period on Nov. 5.

The extension was “to further sustain the gains in control of Ebola that we have made, and to protect the rest of the country from continued exposure.”