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Media Executive Warns Big Tech Is Secretively Seizing “All The Power” Over Information

Testifies that Google and Facebook are trying to have a monopoly on news with ‘black box’ algorithms.

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Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images

Newspaper executive Peter Wright has slammed big tech for secretively developing and changing algorithms for news distribution without giving the industry any indication whatsoever of what they are doing.

Wright of DMG Media, which is the parent company of The Daily Mail, was testifying before the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee Tuesday.

He accused companies like Google and Facebook of ‘monopoly behaviour’ as they seek to seize ‘all the power’ in online news and advertising.

Wright claims that the Mail’s online daily traffic from Google searches has been diminished by 50 per cent in just one year after the company changed the algorithm for news content in 2019.

“Google and Facebook in our view are market dominant companies and they behave in the way that market dominant companies do,” Wright stated, noting that it is significantly impacting journalism.

“Google and Facebook both distribute our content via algorithm. Those algorithms are what is known in the digital world as a ‘black box’ – they are secret, you have no idea how they work. But we can see and measure the results,” Wright said.

Wright also implied that the Mail’s pro Brexit stance led to it being targeted by big tech for diminished online distribution.

He noted that last June “over the space of three days, our search visibility, which is the measure of how often your content is appearing against a basket of search terms, dropped by 50 per cent, and it was particularly marked against some particular terms. One of them for instance was ‘Brexit’.”

Wright noted that after his group protested, normality eventually returned.

“But this is monopoly behaviour. You can’t do this if you’re in a business relationship with someone where there’s any semblance of equality of power,” he urged.

Wright noted that Google and Facebook are not regulated and so they are getting away with a secretive takeover of content.

“As far as the commercial relationship between news publishers and the platforms is concerned, it’s a business relationship between two partners in which one partner has all the power,” Wright declared.

He described Google as “completely dominant” in search and digital marketing, the two main avenues for distributing news content, and Facebook (which also owns instagram) as “dominant in social media”, pointing out that they make “more money out of advertising than our newspapers do.”

Despite the vast power that these companies have in such areas, Wright noted that their terms of service are completely “opaque”.

“Even the contracts that we sign to use their services are often presented to us on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. So what we’re asking for here is for regulation, and the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) are about to report on a massive piece of work they’ve been doing, to address the complete imbalance in the business relationship,” Wright asserted.

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Science & Tech

Twitter Says It Will Remove Any Tweets ‘Claiming Victory Before Election Results Have Been Certified’

“Starting next week, we will label or remove false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence.”

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Steve Watson

Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Twitter further extended its censorship policy Thursday, announcing that it will label as ‘false information’ or remove any posts claiming an election victory before results have been officially certified.

In a blog post, Twitter wrote:

In recognition of the changing circumstances of how people will vote in 2020, and in line with our commitment to protecting the integrity of the election conversation, we’re expanding this existing framework. The goal is to further protect against content that could suppress the vote and help stop the spread of harmful misinformation that could compromise the integrity of an election or other civic process.

The post continued:

Starting next week, we will label or remove false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election or other civic process. This includes but is not limited to:

False or misleading information that causes confusion about the laws and regulations of a civic process, or officials and institutions executing those civic processes.
Disputed claims that could undermine faith in the process itself, e.g. unverified information about election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying, or certification of election results.
Misleading claims about the results or outcome of a civic process which calls for or could lead to interference with the implementation of the results of the process, e.g. claiming victory before election results have been certified, inciting unlawful conduct to prevent a peaceful transfer of power or orderly succession.

The move is seemingly part of the ongoing narrative that Americans will have to wait weeks for the results of the election to be announced, as mail in ballots, which are speculated to be open to corruption, are tallied.

The move also means that any post by President Trump hinting that he has garnered enough votes to secure a second term could be removed by Twitter, which has censored Trump several times over the past few months.

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Why Has Amazon Just Appointed The Former Director of The NSA To Its Board?

“Nothing nefarious about that at all”

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Steve Watson

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Amazon has appointed former NSA head General Keith Alexander to its board of directors, prompting privacy advocates to suggest the move could be connected to Alexander’s previous experience in overseeing mass surveillance operations.

“We’re thrilled to elect a new member to our Board of Directors this month. Welcome, General Keith Alexander!” Amazon announced in a tweet:

Alexander served as NSA director from 2005 until he retired in March 2014. He oversaw the agency’s monolithic program, encompassing illegal mass spying on Americans, which officials lied about.

Under Alexander, the NSA deployed the PRISM tool to sweep up vast amounts of data from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook to name a few.

Edward Snowden, who exposed the NSA activity, had some choice words about Amazon’s appointment:

Amazon hosts a massive amount of web traffic, so it figures:

Glen Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist who reported exclusively on Snowden’s leaks, also chimed in:

Others speculated that Alexander’s hiring has more to do with Amazon going after lucrative Pentagon contracts:

Zero Hedge points out the deep state angle of all this, noting that last week, “Amazon literally accused Trump of unprecedented corruption in a public letter and less than a week later it effectively brings the NSA on board.”

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Science & Tech

The New Normal: UNC Develops “Health Greeter Kiosk” To Enforce Mask Wearing

Will also trigger if students fail to comply with social distancing.

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Steve Watson

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In a story that flew under the radar last month, the University of North Carolina unveiled a system that will enforce the wearing of face masks by using facial recognition cameras to track all students entering campus facilities.

CBS News reported that the UNC developed the “Health Greeter Kiosk” to display an alert every time a student passed through without wearing a mask and ask them to comply with the mandate.

Steven King, an associate professor at the UNC School of Media and Journalism told CBS that the university teamed up with Hong Kong-based Lenovo’s artificial intelligence department to develop the system.

The system was also designed to trigger if students fail to comply with social distancing measures.

“It uses computer vision to see if there is a person there, and if that person is wearing a mask or not and if they are outside of six feet of another person,” King said.

King told the Daily Tar Heel that a trial of six kiosks will be placed in different schools and areas on campus.

“There will be a sign in 20 feet in front of each kiosk notifying students of its presence, and the kiosk will be placed in areas where students can take alternate routes to avoid them,” King said.

Campus Reform notes that UNC has since decided to shift exclusively to remote learning for the fall semester, so the Kiosk system is presumably technology to be used at a later time, yet another indication that mask mandates and social distancing rules are here to stay.

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