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Lawmakers From Both Parties Express Concern Over Facial Recognition Software

Both Republicans and Democrats expressed major concerns about facial recognition software during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday.

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Both Republicans and Democrats expressed major concerns about facial recognition software during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday.

In a rare bipartisan effort, Congress made plans to draft legislation that will address the privacy rights that could potentially be infringed upon by the technology.

“You’ve hit the sweet spot that brings progressives and conservatives together,” Rep. Mark Meadows said during the hearing. “When you have a diverse group on this committee, as diverse as you might see on the polar ends, I’m here to tell you we’re serious about this, and let’s get together and work on legislation. The time is now before it gets out of control.”

Republican representative Jim Jordan also called for a “time out” on the technology, at least until it can be properly regulated.

“It seems to me it’s time for a time out,” House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said. “[This technology] is virtually unregulated — but I think that frankly needs to change.”

As the committee hearing was underway, Amazon shareholders voted not to halt the sale of their facial recognition software, Rekognition, to governments. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) responded to the news by saying that this means it is more important that Congress acts.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) argued that she is concerned about racial issues that the software might run into. Her point was based on a study of the Rekognition software by M.I.T. Media Lab that found it is less likely to recognize people with dark skin, especially if they are women.

“We have a technology that was created and designed by one demographic, that is mostly effective on one demographic, and they’re trying to sell it and impose it on the entirety of the country,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Last year, Rekognition misidentified 28 members of Congress as people who had been arrested for various crimes, matching them with the mugshots. “The false matches were disproportionately of people of color, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus, among them civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.),” the ACLU reported.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) called the bipartisan agreement that something must be done, “music to my ears.”

Watch the full hearing:

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War is Peace: Twitter Trending Page Features Live Video of Portland Burning Under ‘Peaceful Protest’ Headline

Portland has been dealing with riots and aggressive protests for seven days.

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The Twitter trending tab went full Orwellian on Thursday evening while featuring the Portland “protests.”

The trending page was showing a live video with the headline “US Protests:  Thousands march in peaceful demonstrations through Portland.” The footage, contrary to the title, was a large fire just blocks away from the Justice Center, where mobs had gathered.

Multiple dumpsters and other structures were reportedly lit ablaze in the city around this time.

Shortly after a screen grab of the bizarre headline choice was tweeted by District Herald founder Cassandra Fairbanks, it was changed to “US protests: Thousands march in demonstrations through Portland.”

“A tow truck drives by with a wounded police vehicle, and people cheer raucously. One person shouts ‘burn that car,'” a journalist named Robert Evans tweeted from the protest.

Protests, riots, and general crime have taken over the United States for the last nine days following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody last week. There have been reported kidnappings, murders, attacks on police, widespread looting, arson and countless businesses vandalized and destroyed.

Portland has been dealing with riots and aggressive protests for seven of those days.

On Thursday, thousands of people gathered in Tom McCall Waterfront Park for what was largely a peaceful protest until nightfall.

“We’re going to be here every day. We don’t have an end date,” one of the speakers told the crowd at the park, according to a report from the Oregonian.

Around 9 p.m. local time, rumors began circulating of a confrontation between protesters and police, causing the crowd to disperse in different directions. Many headed to the Burnside Bridge or the Chapman Square park across the street from the Multnomah County Justice Center.

By 9:30 p.m., the Portland Police were reporting that they were seeing “criminal activity” with one of the groups of protesters.

The department repeatedly Tweeted throughout the night that “we support everyone’s First Amendment rights and want this to stay peaceful.”

“Those handing out fireworks, this is a peaceful crowd. We want it to remain peaceful. Do not throw fireworks at the crowd or officers. We have children in the crowd,” the department tweeted around 11:30 p.m.

 

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German Official Invites Twitter to Move to Germany Following Trump’s Executive Order

Germany, of course, is not exactly known for their respect for free speech.

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A German official has invited Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to move his company there following President Donald Trump’s executive order aimed at protecting free speech on social media.

Germany, of course, is not exactly known for their respect for free speech, as they ban anything “capable of inciting popular hatred.” It actually sounds like a perfect match for a platform that arbitrarily bans accounts for edgy banter.

Thomas Jarzombek of Germany’s Economic Affairs Ministry tweeted on Thursday, “Hey @Twitter & @jack, this is an invitation to move to Germany! Here you are free to criticize the government as well as to fight fake news. We have a great startup and tech ecosystem, your company would be a perfect fit and I will open any doors for you!”

He also tagged President Trump in the tweet in an attempt to make sure that his dig would be noticed.

Earlier in the day, President Trump signed an executive order that aims to increase government regulation of the “new public square” by challenging their Section 230 protection from being held liable for content posted by users

Under Section 230, platforms that are not publishers cannot be held liable for most posts by users on their sites. By censoring certain opinions, the platform has crossed the line into acting as a publisher with an editorial line, which is not protected.

“Trump’s directive now could set the stage for federal regulators to write new rules and issue new punishments for companies deemed to exhibit political bias,” the Washington Post explained.

The order also established a council to probe allegations of censorship of users based on their political views and asked the Federal Trade Commission to probe whether or not content-moderation is falling in line with their pledges of neutrality to users.

“In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet.  This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic.  When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power.  They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators,” the order read.

“The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology.  Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms.  As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.”

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Wikipedia Founder Says the Project Has Abandoned Neutrality Policy, is ‘Badly Biased’

“Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy is dead.”

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Larry Sanger, the founder of Wikipedia says that the project has abandoned neutrality and is now “badly biased.”

Sanger is no longer involved with Wikipedia, and his co-founder, Jimmy Wales, is a far-left activist.

In a blog post on Thursday, Sanger wrote a scathing critique of the bias at his former website.

“Wikipedia’s ‘NPOV’ is dead,” Sanger began, referring to the site’s neutral point of view policy.

He specifically pointed to the entries for former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump as examples.

“The Barack Obama article completely fails to mention many well-known scandals: Benghazi, the IRS scandal, the AP phone records scandal, and Fast and Furious, to say nothing of Solyndra or the Hillary Clinton email server scandal—or, of course, the developing ‘Obamagate’ story in which Obama was personally involved in surveilling Donald Trump,” Sanger explained. “A fair article about a major political figure certainly must include the bad with the good. The only scandals that I could find that were mentioned were a few that the left finds at least a little scandalous, such as Snowden’s revelations about NSA activities under Obama. In short, the article is almost a total whitewash.”

The founder points out that the entry for President Trump, on the other hand, is “unrelentingly negative.”

“Meanwhile, as you can imagine, the idea that the Donald Trump article is neutral is a joke. Just for example, there are 5,224 none-too-flattering words in the ‘Presidency’ section. By contrast, the following ‘Public Profile’ (which the Obama article entirely lacks), ‘Investigations,’ and ‘Impeachment’ sections are unrelentingly negative, and together add up to some 4,545 words—in other words, the controversy sections are almost as long as the sections about his presidency,” Sanger explains. “Common words in the article are ‘false’ and ‘falsely’ (46 instances): Wikipedia frequently asserts, in its own voice, that many of Trump’s statements are ‘false.’ Well, perhaps they are. But even if they are, it is not exactly neutral for an encyclopedia article to say so, especially without attribution. You might approve of Wikipedia describing Trump’s incorrect statements as ‘false,’ very well; but then you must admit that you no longer support a policy of neutrality on Wikipedia.”

Sanger explains that articles on religious topics show a similar pattern of bias and used the entry on Jesus as a particularly egregious example.

Likewise, scientific articles, he explained, are filled with liberal bias and “unscientific views.” He wrote that “when the Establishment (or maybe just the Establishment left) is unified on a certain view of a scientific controversy, then that is the view that is taken for granted, and often aggressively asserted, by Wikipedia.”

The pages for global warming and the MMR vaccine show particularly strong examples of the bias in this area, he explained.

“It is time for Wikipedia to come clean and admit that it has abandoned NPOV (i.e., neutrality as a policy). At the very least they should admit that that they have redefined the term in a way that makes it utterly incompatible with its original notion of neutrality, which is the ordinary and common one,” Sanger stated.

However, he concluded by acknowledging that “Wikipedians are unlikely to concede any such thing; they live in a fantasy world of their own making. This might finally be having an effect, as Wikipedia’s Alexa ranking has dropped within the last year from five to 12 or 13.”

Sanger has now proposed an entirely new and independent decentralized encyclopedia network called “The Encylosphere.”

In a speech given at TheNextWeb’s Hard Fork Summit, MRC reports, Sanger explained that, “The Encyclosphere would give everyone an equal voice in expressing knowledge (or claims to knowledge), and in rating those expressions of knowledge. There would be no single, central knowledge repository or authority.”

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