Friday Roundup: A Week in Tech (14/12/18)

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Christmas is on the way! Are you feeling suitably festive? Well, let me ruin that burgeoning joy with more astronomically appalling stories from the world of big tech…

Twitter. The word has come to conjure up feelings of such…emptiness. So, what’s happened this time?

The social media network’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, has been busily promoting genocide hotspot Myanmar as a cool and groovy tourist destination.

The apparently utterly oblivious Mr Dorsey rabbited on in a series of tweets about a recent mediation retreat he attended in the country, preening that the ‘people are full of joy and the food is amazing,’ and urged his followers to pay a visit.

I know we’re all desensitised by now and nothing matters anymore, but still: Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority have been and continue to be oppressed, dispossessed, humiliated, tortured and murdered by the country’s ruling elite, with thousands killed and nearly a million driven from their homes and into neighbouring Bangladesh.

But hippyish billionaire tech lord Dorsey wouldn’t appear to be the sort of man to let a detail like a lake of human blood interfere with quality transcendental relaxation time.

And he’s got form. Last month, the tech boss complained about a new tax aimed at improving the lives of homeless people in San Francisco, claiming that the move isn’t ‘the best way’ to ‘fix the homelessness problem’.

A small note: billionaire Mr Dorsey based his firm in San Francisco because the city gave him a massive tax break.

And while we’re on the subject of social media billionaires and mass murder in Myanmar, it’s worth reminding ourselves that earlier this year Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook was exposed for hosting deeply racist and inciteful material calling for the slaughter of the Rohingya people.

Social media: bringing the world together. Pass the prozac.

***

And while the scent of Facebook is hanging in the air, let’s have a quick look at its weekly disgrace.

Journalists brought in to fact-check the drivel pulsing around the social media network are abandoning their posts, claiming that the firm is ignoring their advice on tackling fake news.

One particularly displeased fact-checker is Brooke Binkowski, former editor of excellent nonsense-quelling website Snopes, who has accused Facebook of essentially using journalists ‘for crisis PR,’ adding that ‘they’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck. They clearly don’t care’.

Making themselves look good? Clearly don’t care? Can this be the same Facebook we know and love? Of course it is!

Even more damningly, Ms Binkowski told Facebook ‘over and over and over’ about the wave of hate speech, lies and genocidal propaganda that appeared on the blue pages in connection with the oppression of Myanmar’s Rohingya people, but the network ‘were absolutely resistant’.

The company started reaching out to news outlets after the ridiculous 2016 US presidential election, which was bathed in an ocean of often bonkers fake news. Attempting to cover its ass, I mean protect democracy, Facebook asked hacks to flag drivel and stem the flow of mendacity.

But it doesn’t seem to have worked out very well, with some lie-hunters perturbed by recent revelations that the social media outfit paid a PR firm to smear its critics by erroneously linking them to billionaire George Soros – a move coincidentally used by anti-Semites the world over.

One disgruntled fact-checker said: ‘Why should we trust Facebook when it’s pushing the same rumours that its own fact-checkers are calling fake news?’

Why indeed?

But let’s leave the final word to another despairing fact-checker who, I don’t believe, could have put it any better: ‘They are a terrible company and, on a personal level, I don’t want to have anything to do with them.’

***

I was going to conclude today by covering Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s quiz session in front of the US House Judiciary Committee, in which he insisted that the search giant hadn’t ‘programmed’ its algorithms to be biased against conservative views.

Republican senators are apparently genuinely baffled/suspicious that dozens of images of President Donald Trump appear in Google Images if the word ‘idiot’ is searched for, and would seem to actually believe that Google would have to contrive such an outcome. I can’t be bothered to go into it. Read all about it here.

So, let’s wrap things up with some mild fun. A Russian ‘robot’ has been exposed as a man in a suit.

‘Robot Boris’ made an appearance at a state-sponsored tech event from whence its dance moves and vocal abilities were broadcast on Russian state TV.

However, eagle-eyed journalists began to question various aspects of the thing’s properties and it was ultimately revealed to be a man wearing a £3,000 costume called Alyosha the Robot.

What does all this mean? I dunno. But if you run through today’s roundup, you might detect a familiar pattern, or flow, or model. It goes: Twitter/Facebook > Trump/Russia > Tech/Deception.

And I can’t see any of that changing in the near future.

 

by Max Salsbury

Friday Roundup: A Week in Tech (14/12/18)

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