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Governance December 20, 2022

Meta sued for $1.6Bn Over Facebook Hate Speech in Ethiopia Conflict



Meta sued for $1.6Bn Over Facebook Hate Speech in Ethiopia Conflict

A lawsuit against Meta has been filed in Kenya for allowing Facebook posts that incite violence and hate speech in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, fueling a bloody civil war.

Also Read: Elon Musk Losing Poll on his Future as Twitter CEO

The lawsuit was brought by two Ethiopian researchers and a Kenyan rights group – Katiba Institute alleging the social media platform’s recommendations amplified hateful and violent posts inflaming unrest in Ethiopia. The $1.6 billion lawsuit was filed at the high court of Kenya. Meta’s Sub Saharan Africa operations are based in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Not only does Facebook allow such content to be on the platform, they prioritise it and they make money from such content. Why are they allowed to do that?” Mercy Mutemi, the lawyer representing the two Ethiopian researchers, told a news conference in Nairobi.

The $1.6 billion from the lawsuit will be used to fund for victims of hate speech.

The lawsuit further accuses Meta’s algorithms for failure to identify dangerous content on Facebook.

Meta denies wrongdoing

However, Aljazeera reports Meta spokesperson Erin McPike said the organisation’s rules do not condone violence and hate speech on Facebook and Instragram.

“We invest heavily in teams and technology to help us find and remove this content. We employ staff with local knowledge and expertise and continue to develop our capabilities to catch violating content in the most widely spoken languages in Ethiopia,” McPike said.

Meta sued for $1.6Bn Over Facebook Hate Speech in Ethiopia Conflict

The unrest in Tigray begun in 2020 resulting in loss of thousands of lives including the father of Abrham Maereg who is one of the Ethiopian researchers and plaintiff.

According to the lawsuit, Abrham’s father – Professor Meareg Amare Abrha – who was also an academic, faced ethnic smears with posts that had his address and calls for his death in October 2021.

The lawsuit further alleges Abrham reported the posts to Facebook who failed to immediately remove the hateful posts.  Meareg was then murdered on Nov. 3, 2021 and Abrham told Reuters he holds Facebook directly responsible for his father’s death.

“If Facebook had just stopped the spread of hate and moderated posts properly, my father would still be alive,” said Abrham.

“I’m taking Facebook to court so no one ever suffers as my family has again. I’m seeking justice for millions of my fellow Africans hurt by Facebook’s profiteering – and an apology for my father’s murder,” he said.

The petitioners also want Meta to have enough content moderators who understand local languages at its moderation hub in Nairobi.

More accusations against Meta

Meta has also faced accusations for years of conflicts in other countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia.

In the case of Myanmar and other conflicts, Meta has admitted to “being too slow” to act.

According to an independent report commissioned by the company, it reveals that the social media platform “has become a means for those seeking to spread hate and cause harm, and posts have been linked to offline violence.”

It faces compensation claims worth over £150 billion for failing to prevent hate speech and posts that incite violence in the Myanmar conflict.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney.


Could ChatGPT Be Used to Lobby on Behalf of Corporations?



Chatbots could lobby government

Large language models (LLM) such as ChatGPT have the potential to shake up political lobbying according to research conducted at one of the top US Universities.

An investigation by John Nay of Stanford University posits that at least part of the lobbying work from corporate interests can be automated. Nay argues that this development could be good news for politics, but also warms that there are inherent dangers. Chatbot technology could even be leveraged to undermine the integrity of political institutions and the legislative process.

Lobbying for policy change

A recent paper by John Nay of Stanford University titled Large Language Models as Corporate Lobbyists suggests that chatbots such as ChatGPT have the potential to become competent political lobbyists.

To test the theory Nay prompted ChatGPT to complete a set number of diverse tasks necessary for a functioning lobbying process.

Nay first asked the system to determine whether proposed US Congressional bills are relevant to specific companies. The chatbot was further asked to provide reasons for its assessment of the legislation and to offer confidence levels in its own analysis.

For the bills ChatGPT considered relevant, the bot was then asked to draft a lobbying letter to the bill’s sponsor and to ask for changes to the proposed legislation.

The research, which was published earlier this month, found that while ChatGPT is still some way from being able to fully replace the lobbying efforts of a human being that this situation may change in the future.

The report went on to say that “as large language models continue to exhibit improved natural language understanding capabilities, performance on corporate lobbying related tasks will continue to improve.”

According to Nay the benefits of AI as lobbyists are twofold. One is that it allows humans to spend less time on mundane tasks freeing them to focus on challenges at a higher level. The second is that it makes lobbying easier and more affordable, opening the practice to a wider number of potential players.

Could ChatGPT negotiate on your behalf?

Nay argues that ChatGPT could negotiate on behalf of the little guy and there is something fairly compelling about this pitch. 

On the other hand, ChatGPT and other chatbots could instead be leveraged by large corporations and other well-resourced players to further extend their advantage in the political sphere. 

Rather than improving our democracies, chatbots could instead flood them with a wave of increased corporate lobbying, eroding the relative power of ordinary people.

Besides lobbying directly on bills, chatbots could be further utilized to lobby individual politicians, write email campaigns, or game social media sites by spamming them with automated chatbot political campaigns.

In credit, Nay is not blind to the potential dangers of utilizing technology in this fashion.

As the research admits, “there may be a slow creep of less and less human oversight over automated assessments of policy ideas and the written communication to regulatory agencies and Congressional staffers. The core question raised is where to draw the line between human-driven and AI-driven policy influence.”

As AI chatbots continue to improve the question of where we draw the line may become fairly moot. Once artificial intelligence and human-led responses become indistinguishable, how can a line be drawn at all?

That’s a problem that currently holds no solution. When legislators don’t know what is composed by humans and what is written by AI, there is simply no practical way that humans can keep chatbots out of the political process. 

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Twitter Probed Over Users’ Personal Data Leaks



DPC Probes Twitter Over Users’ Personal Data Leaks

Twitter is being probed over personal data protection after a hacker claimed to have details of more than 400 million users.

Identified as “Ryushi”, the hacker is demanding $200 000 or £166 000 to hand over the data and delete it. The details include that of some celebrities.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) says it will look into Twitter’s compliance with data protection law in relation to that security issue.

The watchdog launched an own-volition enquiry pursuant to section 110 of the Data Protection Act of 2018 following multiple media reports showing one or more collated datasets of Twitter user personal data had been made available on the internet.

Also read: Fidelity Files to Trademark Financial Advice and NFT Markets in Metaverse

The DPC is an Irish supervisory authority responsible for upholding fundamental rights of individuals in the EU to have their personal data protected.

Twitter’s European headquarters are based in Dublin, therefore, the DPC is the lead authority supervising its compliance with EU data protection rules.

High profile Twitter users’ data at risk

Although the size of the haul is not confirmed, reports say the data includes phone numbers and email addresses including those of celebrities and politicians.

The Guardian reported US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s data was included in the sample published by the hacker.

“The datasets were reported to map Twitter IDs to email addresses and or telephone numbers of associated data subjects,” said DPC.

“The DPC corresponded with Twitter International Company in relation to a notified personal data breach that TIC Claims to be the source vulnerability used to generate the datasets and raised queries in relation to DGPR compliance,” adds DPC.

Twitter Probed Over Users’ Personal Data Leaks

Twitter mute over the claim

Twitter has not issued an official statement on enquiries about the personal data leaks.

But responding to a tweet by cyber-security reporter Brian Krebs over the breach, Twitter chief executive officer Elon Musk said: “Don’t be the clown on the clown car!”

Krebs however notes the breach probably occurred before Musk took over as Twitter CEO.

Cyber-crime intelligence company Hudson Rock says it was the first to raise the alarm about the personal data sale.

The firm’s chief technology officer Alon Gal told the BBC there were a number of clues that appeared to support the hacker’s claim, although agreeing the amount of data had not been verified.

However, Gal said it seemed the data was not copied from an earlier breach in which details were published from 5.4 million accounts

According to Gal, only 60 emails of the sample 1 000 provided by the hacker in the earlier incident appeared and was confident that this breach “is different and significantly bigger.”

“The hacker aims to sell the database through an escrow service that is offered on a cyber-crime forum. Typically, this is only done for real offerings,” he said.

An escrow service is a third party that agrees to release funds only when certain conditions such as handing over data are met.

Worrisome trend

Concerns have been raised over personal data protection at a time the world is increasingly becoming digital.

Knowing how damaging the loss of data can be to the platform, the hacker has warned Twitter that its best chance of avoiding a large data-protection fine is to buy the data “exclusively.”

“Ryushi” highlighted they exploited a problem with a system that lets computer programmes connect with Twitter to compile the data.

Although Twitter fixed the problem in the system, it is believed the weakness was used in an earlier breach which affected more than 5 million accounts.

Last year, a hacking forum published phone numbers and personal data of hundreds of millions of Facebook users online for free.

The data included personal information of 533 million users from 106 countries including over 32 million records on users in the US, 11 million in the UK and 6 million users in India exposing their phone numbers, full names, locations, bios, birthdates and in some cases their email addresses.

Its parent company – Meta was fined $276 million over the data breach.

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Spain Funnels Millions From EU to Metaverse Experiences



Spain Funnels Millions From EU to Metaverse Experiences

Spain’s Ministry of Culture and Sports will direct EU grant money to invest €8 million ($8.5 million) in developing video games and the metaverse.

Spain’s “Recovery, Transformation, and Resilience Plan” is a program of investments designed to incubate and accelerate digital projects, and to extend to narrative experiences within the metaverse itself.

The resilience plan is part of a host of similar packages across the EU that are designed to help European industries recover from the colossal self-harm of travel lockdowns and restrictions on free movement.

Big metaverse spending

The Spanish government is investing big in video games and the metaverse with the aim of boosting the sector in the longer term. The Ministry of Culture hopes that this forward-facing strategy will place the industry in a globally competitive position. 

The latest funding round is 700% larger than the first, marking an acceleration of the project that has already helped 25 beneficiary organizations including many small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  

According to Miquel Iceta, the Minister for Culture and Sports, the aid provided, “will contribute to promoting the projects of our SMEs and the self-employed, thus consolidating the image of Spain as a benchmark audiovisual hub, also in the videogame sector.”

The minister added, “we want to turn Spain into an exporter of audiovisual products, placing the video game sector in a competitive situation compared to other countries.” 

The Spanish official states that the government views the video game sector as one of the key industries of the 21st century. Spain’s role within this key industry will not, therefore, be taken lightly.

As part of the overall scheme video games and the metaverse will be considered culturally important. The National Library of Spain will take responsibility for conserving these creations as part of Spanish culture and heritage, preserved for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Spain loves video game technology

Video game technology is already strongly embedded in Spanish culture. In 2021, 6.9 million video games were sold in the country, with sales of 1 million consoles and 3.4 million accessories.

Almost 15% of the country is already playing video games of some variety every month, positioning it in the top ten list of gaming countries by demand. The government hopes to leverage this interest into a competitive edge in the longer term.

Although not all metaverse experiences are expected to be so closely linked to the video game and entertainment sectors, trailblazers such as Fortnite and Roblox make a strong case for the virtual world as a leisure space. The Spanish government will now hope that additional funding will help Spanish SMEs to gain a toehold in this highly competitive space.

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