California Lawmakers Want To Make Tech Companies Subsidize News Media

California lawmakers are moving ahead with plans to make Google and Facebook subsidize traditional media. Legislation from state Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D–Oakland) would require some digital platforms “to remit a journalism usage fee payment…equal to a percentage…of the covered platform’s advertising revenue generated during that month multiplied by the eligible digital journalism provider’s allocation share.”

Essentially, A.B. 886—dubbed the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA)—would make entities like Google and Facebook pay to link and send traffic to media websites, despite the fact that media outlets get as much if not more out of this arrangement.

This sort of “link tax” not only makes no sense but is “actively harmful to the open web” and “based on a ridiculously confused understanding of basically everything,” writes Techdirt‘s Mike Masnick. More:

In short form: if any website does not want to get traffic from Google or Facebook, they have the power to control that by using robots.txt or redirects. It’s easy.

The problem is that they want the traffic. They want it so bad that they hire “search engine optimization” experts to help them get more traffic.

The problem is that they don’t just want the traffic, they also want to get paid for that traffic.

This is backwards in so many ways. It’s basically saying that they should get paid to have other companies send them traffic.

It also breaks the most fundamental concept of the open web — the link — by saying that the government can force some websites to pay for linking to other websites (and, on top of that, force the paying websites to have to host those links, even if they don’t want to).

Everything about this is filthy and corrupt. It’s literally Rep. Buffy Wicks and others in the California legislature saying “we’re forcing companies we dislike to give money to companies we like.”

Under the CJPA’s terms, online platforms would be subject to the link tax if they have at least 50,000,000 monthly active users or subscribers in the U.S. or are owned or controlled “by a person with either…United States net annual sales or a market capitalization greater than five hundred fifty billion dollars ($550,000,000,000), adjusted annually for inflation” or “at least 1,000,000,000 worldwide monthly active users on the online platform.”

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Smartphones With Popular Qualcomm Chip Secretly Share Private Information With US Chip-Maker

During our security research we found that smart phones with Qualcomm chip secretly send personal data to Qualcomm. This data is sent without user consent, unencrypted, and even when using a Google-free Android distribution. This is possible because of proprietary Qualcomm software which provides hardware support also sends the data. Affected smart phones are Sony Xperia XA2 and likely the Fairphone and many more Android phones which use popular Qualcomm chips.

The smartphone is a device we entrust with practically all of our secrets. After all, this is the most ubiquitous device we carry with us 24 hours per day. Both Apple and Android with their App Store and Google Play Store are spying on its paying customers. As a private alternative some tech-savy people install a Google-free version of Android on their ordinary smartphone. As an example we analyzed such setup with a Sony Xperia XA2 and found that this may not protect sufficiently because proprietary vendor software, different from the (open source) operating system, sends private information to the chip maker Qualcomm. This finding also applies to other smartphone with a Qualcomm chip such as the Fairphone.

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“Consider it a fake, even if it’s not” – FBI accused of assisting Ukraine with Facebook censorship

The FBI has been pressuring Facebook and other platforms to censor misinformation on behalf of Ukraine, even when the information is not necessarily untrue, according to a report by independent journalist Lee Fang.

Fang learned about the FBI’s alleged role in the censorship after interviewing the head of the Department of Cyber Information Security of Ukraine, Illia Vitiuk.

“Once we have a trace or evidence of disinformation campaigns via Facebook or other resources that are from the US, we pass this information to the FBI, along with writing directly to Facebook,” said Vitiuk.

“We asked FBI for support to help us with Meta, to help us with others, and sometimes we get good results with that.”

They also flag information that might be true.

“When people ask me, ‘How do you differentiate whether it is fake or true?’ Indeed it is very difficult in such an informational flow,” said Vitiuk. “I say, ‘Everything that is against our country, consider it a fake, even if it’s not.’ Right now, for our victory, it is important to have that kind of understanding, not to be fooled.”

From the report:

“During the panel, Vitiuk thanked the Ukrainian government’s many public and private sector allies in the United States, including Mandiant, Cisco, CrowdStrike, Clearview, Google, Amazon, and Starlink, among others. Cyber security support from American partners has helped thwart Russian cyber attacks on civilian and military infrastructure and have been a “psychological game changer,” Vitiuk said. He emphasized that the FBI has been his agency’s ‘top partner.’”

While such tactics are a common, but controversial, warfare practice, the FBI is supposed to have the First Amendment to think about.

The allegations that the FBI continue to be involved in online censorship is concerning, especially given that the FBI’s censorship efforts have already been exposed by Matt Taibbi and other journalists who released the Twitter Files.

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‘Godfather of AI’ quits Google — and says he regrets life’s work due to risks to humanity

A prominent artificial intelligence researcher known as the “Godfather of AI” has quit his job at Google – and says he now partly regrets his work advancing the burgeoning technology because of the risks it poses to society.

Dr. Geoffrey Hinton is a renowned computer scientist who is widely credited with laying the AI groundwork that eventually led to the creation of popular chatbots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and other advanced systems.

The 75-year-old told the New York Times that he left Google so that he can speak openly about the risks of unrestrained AI development – including the spread of misinformation, upheaval in the jobs market and other, more nefarious possibilities.

“I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” Hinton said in an interview published on Monday.

“Look at how it was five years ago and how it is now,” Hinton added later in the interview. “Take the difference and propagate it forwards. That’s scary.”

Hinton fears that AI will only become more dangerous in the future — with “bad actors” potentially exploiting advanced systems “for bad things” that will be difficult to prevent.

Hinton informed Google of his plans to resign last month and personally spoke last Thursday with company CEO Sundar Pichai, according to the report. The computer scientist did not reveal what he and Pichai discussed during the phone call.

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How The FBI Helps Ukrainian Intelligence Hunt ‘Disinformation’ On Social Media

The Federal Bureau of Investigation pressures Facebook to take down alleged Russian “disinformation” at the behest of Ukrainian intelligence, according to a senior Ukrainian official who corresponds regularly with the FBI. The same official said that Ukrainian authorities define “disinformation” broadly, flagging many social media accounts and posts that he suggested may simply contradict the Ukrainian government’s narrative.

“Once we have a trace or evidence of disinformation campaigns via Facebook or other resources that are from the U.S., we pass this information to the FBI, along with writing directly to Facebook,” said llia Vitiuk, head of the Department of Cyber Information Security in the Security Service of Ukraine.

“We asked FBI for support to help us with Meta, to help us with others, and sometimes we get good results with that,” noted Vitiuk. “We say, ‘Okay, this was the person who was probably Russia’s influence.'”

Vitiuk, in an interview, said that he is a proponent of free speech and understands concerns around social media censorship. But he also admitted that he and his colleagues take a deliberately expansive view of what counts as “Russian disinformation.”

“When people ask me, ‘How do you differentiate whether it is fake or true?’ Indeed it is very difficult in such an informational flow,” said Vitiuk. “I say, ‘Everything that is against our country, consider it a fake, even if it’s not.’ Right now, for our victory, it is important to have that kind of understanding, not to be fooled.”

In recent weeks, Vitiuk said, Russian forces have used various forms of disinformation to manufacture fake tension between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the four-star general who serves as commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s military.

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Democrats Threaten Matt Taibbi With Jail Time Over Twitter Files Testimony

Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat, is the delegate from the Virgin Islands to the U.S. Congress. Last month, when independent writers Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger testified before the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, she described them as “so-called journalists” and sought to undermine their testimony about government pressure to restrict speech on Twitter.

She has now gone much further.

Plaskett recently sent a letter to Taibbi accusing him of perjury and suggesting that he could face up to five years in jail. The letter was obtained by Lee Fang, a writer who works with Taibbi and publishes on Substack. In it, Plaskett notes that providing false testimony to Congress “is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.”

The congresswoman’s basis for accusing Taibbi of perjury is a handful of errors that he made during the publication of the Twitter Files. These mistakes caught the attention of MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan, who skewered Taibbi in an interview and suggested the entire Twitter Files project rested upon a house of cards.

It is true that Taibbi made some errors: In one of his tweets about the web of organizations engaged in identifying so-called misinformation on Twitter, he confused CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency—an organ of the federal government—with CIS, the Center for Internet Security—a nonprofit. Hasan has never sufficiently explained why this mistake would render the Twitter Files obsolete; in fact, both organizations participated in the Election Integrity Partnership, a Stanford University project that sought to monitor the election-related discourse on social media. Taibbi pointed out this fact in a tweet admitting to the mistake.

Regardless, it is obviously not the case that Taibbi committed perjury. Plaskett’s letter describes the CISA/CIS mistake as an “intentional” one; this is simply false. Taibbi did not willfully mischaracterize the two organizations; when he rewrote “CIS” as “CISA,” he honestly thought the tweet in question had referred to the government agency rather than the nonprofit.

Aaron Terr, director of public advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), described Plaskett’s letter as shocking.

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Facebook Censors Seymour Hersh’s Article About US Involvement In Nord Stream Pipeline Attack

Facebook is censoring Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s story about US involvement in the destruction of Russia’s Nord Stream pipelines using a ‘fact checker’ with links to the Norwegian government in what represents a clear conflict of interest.

Earlier this year, Hersh published a report asserting that the pipelines were destroyed by the US as part of a covert operation which was organized with the aid of the Norwegian government, Norwegian Secret Service and Navy.

Journalist Michael Shellenberger first noticed the issue when he tried to post Hersh’s article to Facebook, but saw the social media giant had slapped a warning label on the link stating, “False information. Checked by independent fact-checkers.”

Except the ‘fact-checkers’ in question aren’t independent at all.

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Why Renee DiResta Leads The Censorship Industry

Since the 2016 elections, politicians, journalists, and many others have raised the alarm about “foreign election influence” and “disinformation,” demanding greater “content moderation” by social media platforms. It is too easy, they argued, for foreign and malign actors to quickly “go viral” at low cost, leaving the good guys unable to correct bad information. We must become more “resilient” to disinformation.

It’s now clear that all of that rhetoric was cover for a sweeping censorship effort by the federal government and government contractors.

Since December, a small but growing group of journalistsanalysts, and researchers have documented the rise of a “Censorship Industrial Complex”, a network of U.S. government agencies, and government-funded think tanks. Over the last six years, these entities have coordinated their efforts to both spread disinformation and to censor journalists, politicians, and ordinary Americans. They have done so directly and indirectly, including by playing good cop/bad cop with Twitter and Facebook. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of people have been involved in these censorship and disinformation campaigns in the U.S., Canada, and the UK.

We now know, thanks to the Twitter Files, emails released by the Attorney Generals of Missouri and Louisiana, and research by others, that the Censorship Industrial Complex is violating the First Amendment by coordinating with government agencies and receiving government funding to pressure and help social media companies to both censor information, including accurate information, while spreading disinformation, including conspiracy theories.

And such efforts are continuing if not accelerating. At Biden’s “Summit for Democracy” last week, US allies in Europe demanded that Facebook censor “false narratives” and news that would “weaken our support to Ukraine.” Facebook agreed.

One of the most intelligent, influential, and fascinating public-facing leaders of the Censorship Industrial Complex is Renee DiResta, Research Manager of the Stanford Internet Observatory. Diresta has, more than anyone else, made the public case for greater government-led and government-funded censorship, writing for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Wired, and other major publications, and through public speaking, including on podcasts with Joe Rogan and Sam Harris.

To many journalists and policymakers, DiResta is one of the good guys, advocating as a citizen and hobbyist for greater U.S. government action to fight disinformation. DiResta has argued that the U.S. has been unprepared to fight the “information war” with Russia and other nations in her bylined articles for the New York Times, Washington Post, Wired, and many others. And in her 2018 Senate testimony DiResta advocated “legislation that defines and criminalizes foreign propaganda” and for allowing law enforcement to “prosecute foreign propaganda.”

DiResta, as much as any other public person in the Western world, has sounded the alarm, repeatedly and loudly, for stronger governmental and non-governmental coordination to get social media platforms to censor more information. “The Russian disinformation operations that affected the 2016 United States presidential election are by no means over,” wrote DiResta in the New York Times in December 2018. “Russian interference through social media is a chronic, widespread, and identifiable condition that we must now aggressively manage.”

In 2021, DiResta advocated for creating a government censorship center, which she euphemistically referred to as a “Center of Excellence,” within the federal government. “Creation of a ‘Center of Excellence’ within the federal government,” she said, “could tie in a federal lead with platforms, academics, and nonprofits to stay ahead of these emerging narratives and trends.” DiResta argued that her censorship center could also help spread propaganda. “As narratives emerge,” she explained, “the Center of Excellence could deploy experts to relevant federal agencies to help prepare pre-bunking and messaging, to identify trusted voices in communities, and to build coalitions to respond.”

Did the Department of Homeland Security act on DiResta’s proposal to create a censorship center? It did. But DHS didn’t call it a “Center of Excellence.” Instead, it called it a “Disinformation Governance Board,” which the agency announced publicly in April 2022.

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OpenAI co-founder creates digital ID protocol

Digital ID company World ID, created by OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman, claims to offer a “privacy-first” solution to the problem of verifiable identification. The project was created by OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman.

However, many remain skeptical about the overall idea of digital ID, and therefore about World ID as well.

The company claims that more than half of the global population lacks legally verifiable identification and wants to be the provider of that.

World ID describes itself as a self-sovereign and decentralized protocol that provides “proof of personhood” without putting any sensitive information of the holder at risk of being compromised.

The platform says it’s powered by zero-knowledge cryptography, an open protocol that provides developers with a software developer kit (SDK) to leverage the innovative digital identity solution.

Moreover, World ID claims it will become the largest network of authentic humans on the internet.

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Craigslist Craig Funded The Censorship-Industrial Complex To Silence Dissent Online

The billionaire founder of Craigslist, Craig Newmark, is using his fortune to further shape journalism into partisan activism to help Democrats win elections. He is the nation’s leading financier of the “mis”- and “disinformation” industries and is now the largest private stakeholder in America’s legacy journalism schools.

The most recent Twitter Files released by Matt Taibbi add a deeply disturbing new layer to the story. They show Newmark is at the very heart of an incestuous web of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporate media institutions operating in concert to censor political opponents on social media. Newmark is financing the largest coordinated assault on American free speech in living memory.  

On March 9, journalist Matt Taibbi outlined how pre-Elon Musk Twitter acted as “a partner to government,” working in concert with the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury, the National Security Agency, and local police. An elaborate system for reporting hundreds of thousands of accounts was set up, and Twitter obliged by deleting thousands of accounts on demand.

According to Taibbi, the grounds for reporting and deleting many accounts were “shaky.” He pointed to examples of several legitimate journalists and even leftist news outlet TruthOut appearing on internal “disinformation” lists.

However, Taibbi states the majority of requests for censorship did not come from government agencies. Instead, Twitter relied upon a coalition of machine learning, internal human review, and outside “partnerships” to detect “misinformation” on the site.

These outside partnerships played an aggressive role in pushing Twitter censorship. Taibbi calls this group the “Censorship-Industrial Complex.” A 2020 internal email from Nick Pickles, then public policy director at Twitter, set up a working group with nine disinformation non-governmental organizations (NGOs): First Draft, Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), International Republican Institute (IRI), Atlantic Council/DFRLab, Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), Brookings, National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). 

As Taibbi points out, the NGOs should have checked the power wielded by government agencies within Twitter. In reality, members of the Censorship-Industrial Complex entered into an incestuous working relationship in which it became difficult to disentangle one from the other due to their shared drive for censorship to further leftist political goals.

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