Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.

Teens Carry a Threat to Mental Health in Their Pockets

The Seattle Times reported:

Unlike the profanity or racy lyrics that were supposedly corrupting young minds when I was a child, today’s fears over social media have a much stronger basis in reality.

The Seattle Public Schools jumped deep into the middle of this debate a few weeks ago when the district sued social media giants Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and others, arguing the companies were contributing to the youth mental health crisis. The Kent school district followed suit shortly after.

In an interview last week, San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, the author of “iGen,” which focused on Gen Z and the impact of social media on young people, said there is much reason for concern.

She said beginning in the early 2010s, we began to see some alarming trends in mental health for teen girls, in particular. Hospital admissions for self-harm in 10- to 14-year-old girls tripled over the following decade and suicide rates among that age group doubled. Twenge’s research showed major depressive episodes among 12- to 17-year-old girls increased by 52% as well. There was not a correlating increase in other age groups.

Learning to Lie: AI Tools Adept at Creating Disinformation

Associated Press reported:

Artificial intelligence is writing fiction, making images inspired by Van Gogh and fighting wildfires. Now it’s competing in another endeavor once limited to humans — creating propaganda and disinformation.

Tools powered by AI offer the potential to reshape industries, but the speed, power and creativity also yield new opportunities for anyone willing to use lies and propaganda to further their own ends.

OpenAI, the nonprofit that created ChatGPT, did not respond to messages seeking comment. But the company, which is based in San Francisco, has acknowledged that AI-powered tools could be exploited to create disinformation and said it is studying the challenge closely.

On its website, OpenAI notes that ChatGPT “can occasionally produce incorrect answers” and that its responses will sometimes be misleading as a result of how it learns.

U.S. Officially Sues Google, Claiming It Has a Digital Ad Monopoly

TechCrunch reported:

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against Google over alleged antitrust issues, claiming the search giant has monopoly control of the digital ad market. The DOJ is joined by eight states in its complaint, including New York, California, Colorado and more. This action was tipped as early as late 2021 and has clearly been in the works for quite a while.

The DOJ bases its argument around perceived ill intent by Google in architecting the digital ad market in a way that unfairly favors its own products.

For its part, Google has frequently reiterated that the digital ad market is healthy and competitive, citing strong competitors including Meta, Amazon and Microsoft, to name a few. The company is also likely to point to growing competition from platforms including TikTok and Instacart, which have cut into the significant market share owned by Alphabet and Meta for most of recent history.

Service Members Forced to Pay Back Signing Bonuses After Being Fired Over COVID Vax: ‘Kick in the Face’

Fox News reported:

U.S. service members who were fired for refusing to comply with the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate are now being forced to pay back their original recruitment bonuses, which they tell Fox News Digital is a “kick in the face” after years of dedicating their lives to protecting the country.

One former Army soldier who was fired for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine last May told Fox News Digital that he would have to pay back his original signing bonus upon his termination from the military because he did not complete the commitment in his contract.

“The Department of Defense continues to fall short on reestablishing trust for wrongdoings, and this is yet another example of that,” another service member told Fox News Digital, who said the recoupment of signing bonuses is the “icing on the cake” of the Pentagon’s recent treatment of troops.

Lawmakers are pressuring the Pentagon to do more and provide back pay for the roughly 8,400 U.S. troops fired after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the Pentagon has said back pay for troops fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine is not an issue the DOD is “pursuing.”

Mississippi Doctor Against Vaccine Mandate Runs for Governor

Associated Press reported:

A Mississippi doctor who leads a group of physicians opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates has filed paperwork to challenge Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves in the state’s Republican primary.

Dr. John Witcher is the only Republican other than Reeves who has entered the gubernatorial primary so far. He’s best known for founding Mississippi Against Mandates, a group of doctors opposed to requiring COVID-19 vaccines.

Witcher has said he was fired from a Mississippi hospital in 2021 after switching patients’ COVID-19 medication to ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug that is not authorized by the FDA for use against the novel coronavirus and which research shows doesn’t work.

Chicken Fried Data: Chick-Fil-A Hit With Class-Action Privacy Lawsuit Over Video Data Collection

Gizmodo reported:

While Chick-fil-A was serving you sandwiches, it was also serving up data to Facebook’s parent company Meta. According to a new lawsuit filed Sunday, the fast food chain did that in a way that violated one of the only federal privacy laws in the United States.

Like hundreds of millions of other websites, evergreenhills.com has an embedded Meta pixel, a tracker that sends the social media company data about who’s visiting the site. Companies like Chick-fil-A use that information to retarget people with ads and measure how well ad campaigns are working. The plaintiffs allege that Chick-fil-A broke a law called the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), which says you can’t share personally identifiable information about people’s video viewership without their consent.

Contrary to popular belief, there are basically no privacy laws in the United States, especially at the federal level. The few state laws related to data privacy, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act, give you some rights after the data is collected, but they generally require companies to get your consent. But when there’s video involved, you step into a legal gray area.

TSA Seizes Passport of Turning Point USA Journalist Returning From Davos

Technocracy News reported:

Morgonn McMichael is a full-time journalist and Ambassador with Turning Point USA in Tempe, Arizona. She traveled to Davos, Switzerland to cover the World Economic Forum (WEF), but on her return trip, she learned that her name had been added to a TSA list that resulted in her being detained and searched at five different security checkpoints, including her destination at Phoenix International Airport.

There will undoubtedly be more details on her story, but she has clearly been targeted by some Technocrat within the government who wants to send a message to all journalists who would dare to be critical of the WEF’s narrative. This is one of the most egregious violations of First Amendment rights in recent times.

EU Technocrat Threatens Musk With ‘Sanctions’ Unless He Stamps Out Free Speech on Twitter

ZeroHedge reported:

The battle over Twitter is often made to appear complex and chaotic, but it can all be boiled down to a simple dichotomy — it’s about the people who demand censorship in favor of the establishment narrative vs. the people who want free speech and fair rules applied to everyone equally. Everything else is noise and distraction.

Complications arise when we try to define free speech when it comes to social media. Private companies are not subject to many legal boundaries related to free speech rights. This is an argument that the political left and government representatives made constantly during the massive purge of conservative and liberty-oriented accounts by Big Tech companies since 2016. And, as we saw with Twitter previous to Elon Musk‘s takeover, governments took full advantage of this legal loophole in order to silence people using social media websites as middlemen.

The ongoing release of the Twitter Files proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that collusion between Big Tech and governments for the sake of censorship is a reality. In America, at least, this is a constitutional no-no. The fact that politicians and agencies like the FBI were actively seeking out and targeting ideological opponents and having them silenced on Twitter is a direct violation of the 1st Amendment and these people should be subject to prosecution (the FBI even shelled out at least $3 million to Twitter for services rendered).

The reality that Twitter was acting as an enforcement agent for government censorship around the world tells us exactly why so many establishment officials have been up in arms over Musk’s purchase of the platform. Until now, every single major Big Tech company has been operating in lock-step with the establishment narrative. People couldn’t even talk about Hunter Biden’s laptop, let alone talk about the inconvenient facts surrounding “climate change” or the COVID mandates and vaccines.

This is a dynamic that elitists would still like to keep in place, and they are looking to use international trade rules as a means to pressure Musk into conforming. EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová makes a statement from the frozen doorstep of Davos arguing that Twitter is subject to EU rules for preventing “harm to society.”

China Is the World’s Biggest Face Recognition Dealer

Wired reported:

Early last year, the government of Bangladesh began weighing an offer from an unnamed Chinese company to build a smart city on the Bay of Bengal with infrastructure enhanced by artificial intelligence. Construction of the high-tech metropolis has yet to begin, but if it proceeds it may include face recognition software that can use public cameras to identify missing persons or track criminals in a crowd — capabilities already standard in many Chinese cities.

The project is among those that make China the world leader in exporting face recognition, according to a study by academics at Harvard and MIT published last week by the Brookings Institution, a prominent think tank.

The report finds that Chinese companies lead the world in exporting face recognition, accounting for 201 export deals involving the technology, followed by U.S. firms with 128 deals. China also has a lead in AI generally, with 250 out of a total of 1,636 export deals involving some form of AI to 136 importing countries. The second biggest exporter was the U.S., with 215 AI deals.

The fact that the U.S. is the world’s second-largest exporter of face recognition technology risks undermining the idea — promoted by the U.S. government — that American technology naturally embodies values of freedom and democracy.

French Privacy Chief Warns Against Using Facial Recognition for 2024 Olympics

Politico reported:

The French data protection authority’s president Marie-Laure Denis warned Tuesday against using facial recognition as part of the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics security toolkit.

The French government is seeking to ramp up France’s arsenal of surveillance powers to ensure the safety of the millions of tourists expected for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. The plans include AI-powered cameras for the first time — but not facial recognition.

Civil liberties NGOs such as La Quadrature du Net and the Human Rights League are currently campaigning against experimental AI-powered surveillance cameras. Denis however tried to assuage concerns.

Jarring Photos Show Difference Between China’s COVID Lockdown and Today

Newsweek reported:

Monday marked the three-year anniversary of when the Chinese city of Wuhan was placed under a lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19 in early 2020, weeks before other nations throughout the world would start to impose their own measures.

Though major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing may have outpaced the city in terms of name recognition throughout the world years ago, Wuhan gained international attention on January 23, 2020, when it was placed under a 76-day lockdown to curb a COVID-19 outbreak.

Photos of Wuhan at the time showed a reality likely unfamiliar to many in the world up until that point: medical staff covered head to toe in hazmat suits and other protective gear, face mask-wearing civilians queuing to have their temperatures checked, crowds of people waiting for medical treatment in hospitals and the sick laid out on stretchers.

Pictures of the city in the present day, three years after the fact, seem to show at least a slight return to normalcy for residents who began to experience life in a pandemic before much of the rest of the world.