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Dr Thomas Bowles

Protected: The Importance of Questioning: Thinking Critically in a Complex World | Dr. Thomas Bowles

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Children In Australia To Potentially Be Blocked From Social Media As A Part Of New Pilot Trial 

In May, Australia’s federal government announced a $6.5 million pilot trial regarding “age assurance technology” as a means of preventing children from accessing harmful and adult content online. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese initially announced that the pilot would work to “identify available age assurance products to protect children from online harm, and test the efficacy, including in relation to privacy and security.”

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“The outcomes will inform the existing work of Australia’s eSafety Commissioner under the Online Safety Act – including through the development of industry codes or standards – to reduce children’s exposure to age-inappropriate material,” he stated

Now, the Australian government has expanded the trial program to look into potentially blocking children from accessing social media altogether. They’re currently in discussions with Meta, who owns Facebook and Instagram. 

Multiple campaigns have started with the launch of this trial which worked to push the government to look into banning children under the age of 16 from social media. The government is now looking into how this could potentially be possible and what it would truly look like if it occurred, according to reports.

Communications department acting secretary for online safety, Bridget Gannon, stated that the government will be “consulting with experts, with children, with parents, to understand their concerns and their interests on this issue, and really pulling it together with some policy advice to the government on possible ways forward.”

“We want to understand how different technologies work at those younger ages for that social media work,” she said as reported by the Guardian

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Gannon also stated that the department has been speaking with multiple social media platforms like Meta, however, none of those companies are legally required to take part in the trial. In fact, Meta has already hinted that they are reluctant to take on the requirement of verifying the age of all of their users across their platforms. 

Instead, Meta believes that age verification should be the responsibility of app stores like Apple and Google. 

While individuals involved in the trial and within the committee have made the argument that these companies should feel obligated to comply with the trial, regardless of legal responsibility.

Gannon said it would be in these companies best interest to be involved in the trial as it will be informing them on how new codes will be developed and enforced as well. 

She also stated that the department will be working with technology experts to accurately assess how effective various technologies will work and what their impact may be. They will also work to analyze how easy it would be to regulate and distribute that technology over private networks.

US Government Issues Proposal To Boost Electric Vehicle Sales And Change Auto Emissions Standards

The US government is trying to change auto emissions standards so that automakers sell more electric vehicles, combatting the high levels of fossil fuel emissions in our atmosphere. With this new plan, the government is hoping that electric vehicles will make up two-thirds of all new car sales by 2032. 

Meta Approved AI-Manipulated Political Ads In India That Spread Misinformation And Incited Violence

In a new report, it’s been revealed that Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, approved a series of AI-manipulated political advertisements in India during its election period that not only spread misinformation, but incited violence.

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EU Launching Formal Investigation Into Meta Regarding Election Misinformation Before June Polls Open 

The European Union (EU) is set to launch a formal investigation into Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. The investigation was prompted over the EU’s concerns that the tech giant isn’t doing enough to counter Russian disinformation ahead of the EU elections in June, according to reports

The EU is also likely to express their concerns regarding the lack of effective monitoring of election content, and the inadequate tools they use for flagging illegal content. 

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Lisa O’Carroll, a correspondent for The Guardian, wrote that the European Commission is worried about Meta’s moderation system, claiming that it is not extensive enough to combat the presence of misinformation, and even suppresses voting. 

The Financial Times revealed that government officials are worried about how Meta is handling Russia’s specific efforts to undermine the upcoming elections. 

Meta’s plan to discontinue its CrowdTangle tool also has officials concerned. CrowdTangle is a public insights tool that allows researchers, journalists, and others within the EU to monitor in real time the spread of misinformation and any attempts to suppress voting. 

The EU currently has new laws in place that require tech companies to regulate their content and have systems in place to guard against any and all systemic risks involving election interference. 

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“We have a well-established process for identifying and mitigating risks on our platforms. We look forward to continuing our cooperations with the European Commission and providing them with further details of this work,” a spokesperson for Meta stated

The commission recently carried out “stress tests” on all the major social media platforms as a means of determining if there were proper safeguards in place to prevent the spreading of misinformation. The tests involved a series of made-up scenarios that are based on past attempts at election manipulation, such as using deep fakes and speech suppression.

“The aim was to test platforms’ readiness to address manipulative behavior that could occur in the run-up to the elections, in particular the different manipulative tactics, techniques and procedures,” the commission stated.

This past Monday, parliament released official tips for voters in the upcoming elections, which will be taking place between June 6th and 9th. They cited previous voting issues such as the specific pen colors needed for a ballot to be valid, and warned citizens to be diligent about spotting disinformation. 

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Underwater Drones To Be Used To Monitor Data In Earth’s Waters Amid Climate Change 

The company Aquaai has used its underwater drone technology to monitor water quality, fish health, and more in fresh and saltwater resources throughout California and Norway. Now, it’s hoping to utilize similar technology to take in water data in the Middle East amid the ongoing impacts of climate change on our planet and its vast water supply.

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Facebook And Instagram To Start Labeling Digitally Altered Content ‘Made With AI,’ Meta Says

Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, announced that they would be making major changes to its policies on digitally created and/or altered media. 

Meta will start adding “Made with AI” labels to posts that use artificial intelligence to create photos, videos, and audio published on Facebook and Instagram. The apps will begin adding this label in May. 

Vice president of content policy, Monika Bickert, stated in a blogpost that Meta would “apply separate and more prominent labels to digitally altered media that poses a particularly high risk of materially deceiving the public on a matter of importance, regardless of whether the content was created using AI or other tools,” according to the Guardian

A spokesperson also stated that Meta will begin applying more prominent high-risk labels immediately. 

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This approach will overall shift the way Meta treats manipulated content. Instead of removing the content altogether, posts made to Facebook and Instagram will not provide viewers with the information about how the image was edited.

A company spokesperson said the “labeling approach would apply to content posted on Facebook, Instagram and Threads. Its other services, including WhatsApp and Quest virtual-reality headsets, are covered by different rules.”

In February, Meta’s oversight board said the company’s existing rules on manipulated media were “incoherent” after reviewing a video of President Joe Biden posted on Facebook last year that had been digitally altered to make it seem as though the president was acting inappropriately.

The board said the “policy should also apply to non-AI content, which is not necessarily any less misleading than content generated by AI, as well as to audio-only content and videos depicting people doing things they never actually said or did,” according to the Guardian.

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Scientists In Belgium Are Using AI To Make Their Beer Taste Better 

Researchers in Belgium are currently exploring how AI can be used to improve the taste of their beer, which is known for its high quality and long history.

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America’s Still Moving To Ban TikTok 

Last week, a key house committee introduced and approved a bill that is targeting the social media platform TikTok. The full House is set to vote this week potentially, and the White House has stated that President Joe Biden is also prepared to sign it, according to reports from CNN.

The bill itself, if fully approved, would give TikTok about five months to separate from its Chinese parent company ByteDance. If they refuse, app stores in the US will be prohibited from hosting the app on their platforms. 

Besides TikTok, the bill will also restrict other apps that are allegedly controlled by foreign adversaries like China, Iran, Russia, or North Korea. The bill would also set up a process for Biden, and future presidents to identify apps that should be banned under the specific legislation. 

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Any app store that violates said legislation could be fined based on the number of users of the banned apps; specifically a fine of $5,000 per user of the banned app. For example, if the bill passes and Apple or Google decide to keep TikTok on its app stores, they could face fines up to $850 billion. 

One of the bill’s lead cosponsors, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, says “the bill does not ban TikTok; it simply offers TikTok the choice to be divested.”

TikTok has responded to this recent bill’s momentum, stating that it’s an attack on the First Amendment rights of its users, according to CNN. It’s even launched a call-to-action campaign within the app itself, urging users to call their states representatives in Washington to oppose the bill. Multiple congressional offices have already stated that they’ve been “flooded” with calls. 

In a statement, TikTok said: 

“The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression. This will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country.”

Lawmakers have long been alleging that TikTok poses a national security threat because the government in China can use its intelligence laws against ByteDance to force them to hand over the data of US TikTok users. If done, that information can then be potentially used to identify intelligence targets or enable disinformation or propaganda campaigns. 

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The US government has not yet presented any evidence that China has accessed user data from TikTok, and according to reports, cybersecurity experts have stated that it still remains a hypothetical scenario. 

During the Trump administration, there was a major effort to ban TikTok, however, others debated whether or not the president had the power to ban a foreign-owned social media app. With this new congressional legislation, the president would have clear, new authorities to do that. 

With the speed in which House leaders are promising a floor vote, it can be assumed that they’re confident in the bill’s clearance. There is still not a lot of information regarding if the bill will have a chance in the Senate. 

Gallagher stated that the bill will likely fall to the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Commerce Committee, told CNN that she will be talking to her “Senate and House colleagues to try to find a path forward that is constitutional and protects civil liberties.”

Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said that “passing a nationwide privacy law regulating how all companies, not just TikTok, handle Americans’ data would lead to the same result without raising First Amendment concerns.” 

“By that precedent, it would be unconstitutional for the government to ban TikTok even if it were blatantly a direct mouthpiece for the Chinese government,” Jaffer said.

“If you give the government the power to restrict Americans’ access to propaganda, then you’ve given the government the power to restrict Americans’ access to anything the government deems to be propaganda.”

Scientists In The UK Working On A Bra That Can Detect And Monitor Breast Cancer 

Scientists in the UK are currently developing a device that would fit inside of a bra to monitor whether or not a breast cancer tumor is growing. 

The researchers behind the device are hoping that the device will ideally provide a new non-invasive method of detecting tumor growth so patients can get the information in their own home. 

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The device itself is being developed by Nottingham Trent University’s medical technologies innovation facility. According to the Guardian, the device will use an electrical current to “scan and detect tiny changes in fluids inside and outside cells in the breast.”

Tumor tissues are more dense than healthy tissue, and they contain less water. This is why the device will be able to measure changes in the growth of the tumor in real time, and can detect tumors as little as 2 millimeters. 

The researchers are also stating that the device could be inserted into a patient’s bra that they already own. Additionally, they’re developing a new bra that would have the device already incorporated into it. The device will be able to record and send data to the individual wearing it and their medical team via smartphone. 

Researchers are hoping to get the device in a clinical trial within the next few years. 

“The technology would measure changes in breast tissue and help improve a patient’s chance of survival. Breast cancer can grow so quickly; it could be 1mm in six months or 2mm in six weeks. This would be an additional measure to see how fast the tumor grows.” said Dr Yang Wei, an expert in electronic engineering at NTU. 

“We are opening the door to the investigation of an alternative breast cancer detection that could be done in the comfort of a patient’s home, conserving essential hospital resources whilst still providing a viable solution to detect early signs of cancer.”

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Cancer Research UK released data that showed there are more than 55,000 new cases of breast cancer in the UK alone every year, and more than 11,000 deaths. Of all those new cases, about 23% are completely preventable. 

The research team is hoping that the device will improve the vitals work of monitoring tumors. MRI scans in breast cancer patients can sometimes occur months apart from each other, which could lead to significant growth in the tumor itself. The device will ideally simplify this process and give the patient the opportunity to monitor their cancer themselves. 

Dr Simon Vincent, the director of research, said this “research on improved detection and treatment of breast cancer is urgently needed.”

“While this new technology could offer a new way to monitor the growth of breast cancer tumors and we look forward to seeing the final results, the device has not yet been tested on people and there’s a lot more we need to understand before we can consider whether or not it could be used in medical settings,” he said.

“Anyone affected by breast cancer can speak to Breast Cancer Now’s expert nurses by calling our free helpline on 0808 800 6000 for information and support.”