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:
Twitter’s Comms Director — Kamala Harris’ Former Press Secretary — Says Platform Has Ordered Trump Campaign to Delete Tweet
The communications director for Twitter, who happens to be Kamala Harris’ former press secretary, tweeted on Wednesday that the platform has required President Donald Trump’s campaign delete a tweet containing an interview with the president from their official account.
Communications Director Nick Pacilio wrote that “the original Tweet from @TeamTrump is in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation, and we’ve required removal.”
The removal order comes after President Donald Trump quote tweeted their post, which was a video that they say contained “coronavirus misinformation.” During the interview, President Trump stated that kids are “almost immune” to Covid-19.
“The Tweet you referenced is in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation. The account owner will be required to remove the tweet before they can tweet again,” Twitter said in a statement to USA TODAY.
Facebook has also removed the video, citing a similar reason.
“This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation,” Facebook said in a statement.
The interview in question was with Fox & Friends and aired Wednesday morning.
When asked during the White House briefing later that day about his assertion, Trump said: “If you look at children, they are able to throw it off very easily and it’s an amazing thing, because some flus they don’t, they get very sick. … They seem to be able to handle it very well, and that’s according to every statistic.”
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.
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.
This is so Orwellian. The Twitter headline in the trending tab is “peaceful demonstrations through Portland” over a live video of a fire raging. pic.twitter.com/7AP9yfKiN1
— Cassandra Fairbanks (@CassandraRules) June 4, 2020
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.
A tow truck drives by with a wounded police vehicle, and people cheer raucously. One person shouts "burn that car". pic.twitter.com/rBVkfzU4mJ
— Robert Evans (The Only Robert Evans) (@IwriteOK) June 4, 2020
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.
— KBOO Community Radio (@KBOO) June 4, 2020
By 9:30 p.m., the Portland Police were reporting that they were seeing “criminal activity” with one of the groups of protesters.
The march headed northbound on Naito is still peaceful. Thank you! However, criminal activity is now occurring with the second group which is on 3rd between Main and Jefferson. We are warning them to not tamper with fence and to not shine lasers at officers.
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) June 4, 2020
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.
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) June 4, 2020
“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.
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.
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!”
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! @realDonaldTrump
— Thomas Jarzombek (@tj_tweets) May 28, 2020
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.”