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SCOTUS decision in Google, Twitter also considers the victory of algorithms

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In a couple of lawsuits against Twitter, Google and Facebook, the Supreme Court had the first opportunity to pass the 1996 law that helped create social networking. But instead of weighing Section 230, which protects online services from liability for what their users post, the court decided that platforms do not need special protections to avoid liability for posting terrorist content.

The finding, released Thursday, is a blow to an idea that has gained supporters in Congress and the White House that today’s social media platforms should be held accountable when their software amplifies malicious content. The Supreme Court has ruled that they should not, at least not under US terrorism law.

“Plaintiffs contend that Defendants’ ‘advise’ algorithms go beyond passive assistance and constitute active, substantial assistance” to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, wrote Judge Clarence Thomas in the court’s unanimous opinion. “We disagree.”

Two cases were Twitter v. Taamne another Gonzalez W. Google. In both cases, families of victims of ISIS terrorist attacks have sued the tech giants for their role in distributing and profiting from ISIS content. The plaintiffs argued that the algorithms that recommend content on Twitter Facebook and Google’s YouTube helped the group by actively promoting its content to users.

Many observers expected the case to allow the court to rule on section 230, a part of the Communications Decency Act passed in 1996 to protect online service providers such as CompuServe, Prodigy and AOL from prosecution as publishers when they post or moderate information posted by their users. The goal was to protect the nascent consumer internet from prosecution to the death before it could spread its wings. At the heart of the law was the fear that making online forums responsible for controlling what people might say would have a chilling effect on the Internet’s potential to become a bastion of free speech.

But in the end, the court didn’t even consider section 230. It decided it wasn’t necessary., once it concluded that social media companies did not violate US law by automatically recommending or monetizing terrorist group tweets or videos.

As social media has become the main source of news, information and opinion for billions of people around the world, lawmakers are increasingly worried that online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok are spreading lies, hate and propaganda on such a scale and at a rate that is detrimental to democracy. Today’s social media platforms have become more than just neutral channels of communication like phone systems or the US Postal Service, critics say. With their viral trends, personalized feeds, and confusing rules of what people can and cannot say, they are now actively shaping online communication.

However, the court ruled that these rulings were not sufficient to hold that the platforms aided and abetted ISIS in violation of US law.

“Of course, it can happen that bad actors like ISIS can use platforms like those of the accused for illegal and sometimes horrendous purposes,” Thomas wrote. “But the same can be said about mobile phones, e-mail or the Internet in general. However, we generally do not think that ISPs or cell service providers are solely responsible for delivering their services to the public.”

Thomas, in particular, has expressed interest in revising Section 230, which he believes gives tech companies too much leeway to suppress or remove speech they deem to violate their rules. But his apparent distaste for online content moderation also aligns with today’s sentiment, which will reassure social media companies that they don’t necessarily face legal consequences for being too lenient on malicious speech, at least not. when it comes to terrorist propaganda.

The rulings leave open the possibility that social media companies could be held liable for their recommendations in other cases and possibly under other laws. In a brief agreement, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson took care to point out that the ordinances are narrow. “Other cases that present different charges and different records may lead to different conclusions,” she wrote.

But there was no objection to Thomas’s view that recommending an algorithm is not enough to hold a social media company accountable for a terrorist attack.

Daphne Keller, director of platform regulation at the Stanford Center for Cyber ​​Policy, advised against drawing rash conclusions from them. “Gonzalez and Taamne were *extremely weak* cases for plaintiffs,” she tweeted. “They don’t demonstrate that platform immunities are limitless. They demonstrate that these cases were within fairly obvious limits of common sense.”

However, Thomas’s wording is troubling to those who would like the platforms to be held accountable in other cases, such as the Pennsylvania mother who sued TikTok after her 10-year-old died while trying to go viral.” blackout”. His comparison of social media platforms with mobile phones and email suggests a tendency to view them as passive media even when they recommend it to users.

“If someone pushed that door, it kept it pretty firmly shut,” said Evelyn Dweck, assistant professor at Stanford Law School.

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Montana Governor Bans TikTok: What It Really Means For You

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tik tak allows people to create and share short videos covering everything from beauty products and British royalty to more serious social issues, and its users range from celebrities students. But TikTok has been in the news lately not for its content, but for concerns about its Chinese parent company ByteDance. This controversy has just heated up. On Wednesday, the governor of Montana. Greg Gianforte signed Senate Bill 419making Montana the first state in the country to ban TikTok.

“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy and collect their personal, private and sensitive information is well documented.” Gianforte said in a press release. “Today, Montana is taking the strongest action of any state to protect Montana residents’ personal data and sensitive personal information from being collected by the Chinese Communist Party.”

TikTok reports that it has over 150 million monthly active users in the US. And Pew study 2022 found that 67% of American teens aged 13 to 17 said they use the app, and 16% of all teens say they use it almost “all the time”. So can Montana, the eighth largest state in the US, really ban the population just over 1 million people from use? It’s Complicated.

To learn more about data privacy, check out CNET’s list of the best VPNs and learn how to stop iPhone apps from tracking you.

Why is Montana banning TikTok?

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in Beijing. Some fear that data obtained through the app could be exposed to the Chinese Communist Party and could pose a national security threat to the United States if the company is forced to share US user data with the Chinese government.

In November, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the app could be used to “manage the collection of data on millions of users, or manage a recommendation algorithm that can be used (to) influence operations if they so desire, or manage software on millions of users.” devices.” FCC Commissioner Brian Carr called the app a “complex surveillance tool” last year.

The ban will not take effect if TikTok is sold to a company not located in “any country designated by the US government as a foreign adversary.”

Montana’s ban is the first of its kind in the state, but in December, US lawmakers banned the app on government devices and other countries also restricted the app.

What does TikTok say about the ban?

TikTok has denied that it is passing information to the Chinese government.

“The Governor’s (Montana) claim that TikTok is affiliated with the Chinese government is not true,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement sent to CNET. “The Chinese Communist Party has no direct or indirect control over ByteDance or TikTok. ByteDance is a privately held global company roughly 60 percent owned by global institutional investors, 20 percent owned by the company’s founders, and 20 percent owned by employees. including thousands of Americans.”

TikTok’s statement goes on to say that the bill is unconstitutional and that Montana residents should continue to use the app.

“Gov. Gianforte has signed a bill that violates Montana’s First Amendment rights by illegally banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state,” the statement said. “We want to reassure Montana residents that they can continue to use TikTok to express themselves, earn money, and find community as we continue to work to protect the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”

TikTok CEO Show Chu conducted a test before Congress back in March. He said TikTok is working on an initiative called Project Texas, which he says will create “a firewall that isolates protected user data in the US from outside unauthorized access” and will include oversight by a US company.

What does a TikTok ban in Montana include?

The Montana police are not going to break down the doors of citizens and prevent teenagers from Billings or Butte from downloading or watching bizarre dances or funny cat videos. Instead of going after individual users, the state is trying to ban mobile app stores from offering TikTok within the state.

So while the law technically bans downloading TikTok, it doesn’t mention penalties for ordinary citizens, just TikTok itself or any other app store, Apple for iOS devices or Google for Android devices, allows Montana residents to access it. The proposed penalties are huge – $10,000 a day for every time someone accesses TikTok, “offers the opportunity” to access it, or downloads it. Again, these penalties will not apply to users, but to companies that allow them to get TikTok.

However, the bill also includes even stricter rules for civil servants using government devices. It states that “as of June 1, no executive agency, council, commission or other executive agency, officer or employee of the State of Montana shall download or access social media applications that provide personal information or government data to foreign adversaries.” . released devices or when connected to the public network. And third-party firms doing business in or on behalf of the state of Montana are now prohibited from “using applications that have ties to foreign adversaries.”

How will Montana enforce the TikTok ban?

It’s not clear. The bans for civil servants and departments will come into force on June 1, but the main part of the ban will come into force no earlier than January 1, 2024. there will certainly be lawsuits, probably from TikTok itself and possibly organizations like the ACLU.

But as far as law enforcement itself is concerned, there are some ideas. The Associated Press reports that the Attorney General of Montana suggested that technology used to restrict online gambling applications could be exploited. Anyone can report violations, after which the state sends a letter to the company to stop illegal actions.

Does banning TikTok really protect data privacy?

V Electronic Frontier Foundationa non-profit digital rights group called the ban “unconstitutional.” Thread on Twitter.

And a March article published on the EFF website pointed out that almost all social media platforms and online businesses collect large amounts of users’ personal data, noting that surveillance and censorship practices in China make TikTok a special case.

“However, the best solution to these problems is not to single out one business or country for a ban,” writes EFF. “Rather, we should enact comprehensive consumer privacy legislation. By reducing the massive repositories of personal data collected by all businesses, including TikTok, we will reduce the ability for all governments, including China, to buy or steal this data.

Jason Kelly, EFF’s acting director of activism, told CNET in a phone interview that the ban violates the First Amendment and won’t protect data privacy, but would place a “huge burden” on Montana as it tries to enforce the law. But he doesn’t think it matters.

“This is not a law that is meant to be implemented,” he said. “This will spend a lot of taxpayer money and will be taken to court.”

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Rumored Google products we’re still waiting for in 2023

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Google has announced a ton of new gadgets and services at its I/O Developers Conference, from the Pixel Fold to the Pixel Tablet, Android 14 and other AI features for its search engine. But judging by Google’s history, there are likely to be even more devices this year.

The most significant product we didn’t hear about at Google I/O was the upcoming Pixel 8 lineup, which will serve as Google’s answer to rumors about the iPhone 15 and the Samsung Galaxy S23 family. We also didn’t hear much about the Pixel Watch at I/O, although the company usually introduces its new mobile products in the fall. There’s also a chance Google can reveal more about the mixed reality platform it’s developing in partnership with Samsung and Qualcomm.

While Google has largely laid out the vision for its I/O approach to new products, at the Fall Pixel event we’ll take a closer look at how the company is implementing this approach with new hardware. Here’s a look at what we’ll be seeing later this year based on rumors and the company’s previous product launches.

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Look: Pixel 7 vs Pixel 7A: how do the specs stack up?

Pixel 8 and 8 Pro

pixels 7

James Martin/CNET

Google usually releases new flagship Pixel phones in the fall, and we expect the company to follow the same pattern in 2023. We won’t know what’s in store for the Google Pixel 8 and 8 Pro until the company announces these devices.

However, Google’s updates have been very camera-focused in recent years, with the Pixel 7 line getting improved zoom and the Pixel 7 Pro getting a new macro mode. In the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which were the first pixels to run on Google Tensor chips, we saw new features like Magic Eraser, Face Unblur, and Real Tone. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising if Google pushed the camera even further on the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, though we don’t know exactly what that looks like just yet. Both phones will likely feature the new Tensor processor as well.

There have been few leaks so far, but there have been several reports claiming to provide details on the next pair of Google Pixels. The most recent message comes from Cuba’s leader Wojciechowski, who shared a video with the blog. 91mobiles claims to show the Pixel 8 Pro. The video suggests that the phone will have a thermometer to measure body temperature. WinFuture reports that the new phones will run Android 14 and have 12GB of RAM. Well-known gadget information source Steve Hemmerstoffer has also collaborated with the blogs. MySmartPrice another SmartPrix publish so-called renders of the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.

Pixel Clock 2

Google Pixel Clock

James Martin/CNET

Google hasn’t discussed plans for a future Pixel Watch, and there haven’t been many leaks or rumors about what’s next for Google smartwatches. But since Google’s Pixel phones follow a yearly schedule — as do the Pixel Watch’s biggest rivals like the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch — it’s no surprise that the Pixel Watch will follow suit. blog 9to5Google also reports that Google is indeed planning to announce a new Pixel Watch in the fall along with the Pixel 8 lineup.

Based on Google’s current direction for the Pixel Watch, we can probably expect to see the same circular design in its sequel. The latest version of Wear OS is also likely to arrive. I also hope to see longer battery life and a few more health and fitness tracking features like automatic workout detection.

Mixed reality platform

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The Samsung Gear VR headset pictured above was released in 2015. At the Unpacked event, the company announced a partnership with Google and Qualcomm on a new mixed reality initiative.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Google, Samsung and Qualcomm have teamed up to create a new mixed reality platform, which Samsung announced in February. However, we haven’t heard much about it since.

“We’re working to build next-generation computing systems that deliver immersive experiences in completely new form factors that will further expand Google’s capabilities,” said Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior vice president of platforms and ecosystems, speaking at the Samsung event. .

Neither company has yet revealed details of the partnership, meaning it’s still unclear what types of products the collaboration will bring or what the software will look like. T. M. Ro, head of Samsung’s mobile division, called the announcement a “declarative” moment demonstrating the company’s commitment to building the XR ecosystem when he spoke to CNET in February.

But Sameer Samat, Google’s vice president of product management for Android, said during I/O 2023 that the company will reveal more about its partnership with “immersive XR” later this year. The announcement also comes as Apple is expected to unveil its first mixed reality headset during the Worldwide Developers Conference starting June 5th.

New Pixel Buds A Series Headphones

The yellow background shows three Google Pixel Buds A-series and charging cases.

Google/CNET

It’s been a long time since Google released a new pair of Pixel Buds. If the company has a new pair of wireless earbuds on its 2023 roadmap, there’s a chance we’ll hear about them in the fall. Google’s $99 A-series Pixel Buds are in particular need of an update as the company hasn’t released a new version since June 2021 except for new color options. Amazon has just launched a new budget version of its Echo Buds at a competitive price of just $50, giving Google more competition in the cheaper wireless earbuds market. While we haven’t heard many rumors yet, we hope Google will address some of our criticisms of the current Pixel Buds A series, such as the lack of touch volume controls.

Fitbit charging 6

Fitbit charges 5 on shoes displaying September 20th at 8:59am

Lexi Savidis/CNET

The Google Fitbit brand also typically releases new products in late summer or early fall. One of the major upgrades we expect this year is the Fitbit Charge 6, given that the Fitbit Charge 5 will be released in 2021. Fitbit’s next mainstream fitness tracker will look almost identical to the Charge 5, according to data 9to5Google. It’s also not surprising that the Charge 6 will inherit some of the features from the Sense 2, such as Google Wallet support and the ability to continuously track signs of stress throughout the day.

If the rumors are true and Google maintains its previous product launch models, the fall could be a big moment for the company’s wearables division. As fall approaches, we’ll also get a better idea of ​​how Google’s new devices compare to those from Samsung and Apple. Samsung usually releases new foldable phones and wearables in August, while Apple usually releases new iPhones and Apple Watches in September.

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Clearing your Google account will keep YouTube channels with videos

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Google recently announced that it will begin deleting accounts that have been inactive for two years from December of this year. The move was to cover all of its products, including Gmail, Drive, Docs, YouTube, Google Photos, Meet and Calendar. But now the tech giant updated his blog post (as noted TechCrunch), announcing the cleanup, stating that it “does not currently plan to remove accounts from YouTube videos.”

The tech giant cited security as the main reason for deleting inactive accounts. An internal analysis showed that old, abandoned accounts are about 10 times less likely to use two-factor authentication. This makes them vulnerable to attackers who can use them for identity theft and other nefarious purposes. However, you can also conclude that deleting old accounts will free up space on Google’s servers.

After the announcement went live, critics raised concerns that the move could erase some important parts of internet history. Old YouTube videos, including the very first one, will disappear along with videos uploaded by deceased users. Google didn’t say why it ended up changing its mind, but the YouTube video is safe. For now.

For the rest of its products, the company intends to send warning emails to accounts at risk of being deleted and their recovery emails by the end of 2023. These accounts will be deactivated within 60 days if their owners do not sign in. after receiving a warning email, although users will have another 60 days (four months in total) to recover their accounts before they disappear forever.

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