Tag Archives: technology

Will Facebook respect international rights or the whims of angry rulers?

A muddle of decisions indicates that Facebook and its ‘Supreme Court’ are making little progress towards a consistent policy on human rights

By Linda Bonyo   Published 10-18-2021 by openDemocracy

Photo: Louis Jadwong/Twitter

Facebook’s ‘Trump ban’ received breathless coverage earlier this year, when the Facebook Oversight Board (FOB) – the supposedly independent entity established by the tech giant to adjudicate its content decisions – ‘ruled’ that the former president’s ban from the social media site should be upheld.

Experts from WIRED’s Gilad Edelman to scholar Kate Klonick have used the Trump decision to argue that the FOB is working.

But buried amidst that coverage – and that surrounding Facebook’s botched handling of COVID disinformation – are a muddle of decisions indicating that Facebook and its Oversight Board are making little progress towards a consistent policy on human rights. In fact, they may be headed towards a showdown. Continue reading

Share Button

Exposed: How Pfizer Exploits Secretive Vaccine Contracts to Strong-Arm Governments

“Pfizer has used its monopoly on a lifesaving vaccine to extract concessions from desperate governments,” said the report’s author, urging action from the Biden administration.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10=19-2021

Pfizer is under fire for secretive contracts with countries buying its Covid-19 vaccines. Screenshot: ABC News

Pfizer has used its position as a producer of one of the leading Covid-19 vaccines to “silence governments, throttle supply, shift risk, and maximize profits” through secret contracts with countries around the world, according to a Public Citizen report published Tuesday.

“Behind closed doors, Pfizer wields its power to extract a series of concerning concessions from governments,” report author Zain Rizvi, law and policy researcher at Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, said in a statement. “The global community cannot allow pharmaceutical corporations to keep calling the shots.” Continue reading

Share Button

A Quarter of All ‘Critical’ US Infrastructure at Risk From Flooding: Report

“Our nation’s infrastructure is not built to a standard that protects against the level of flood risk we face today, let alone how those risks will grow over the next 30 years as the climate changes,” said one expert.

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 10-11-2021

Long Island Expressway in New York City shut down due to flash flooding from Post-Tropical Storm Ida’s landfall. Photo: Tommy Gao/Wikimedia Commons/CC

Underscoring the need to slash greenhouse gas emissions and invest in public goods to better prepare communities across the United States for escalating extreme weather, a new report released Monday finds that one-quarter of the nation’s “critical” infrastructure is already susceptible to flooding that renders it inaccessible, with risks projected to increase in the coming decades.

Described as the first-ever nationwide evaluation of community-level vulnerability to flooding, the report—Infrastructure on the Brink, compiled by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group that specializes in environmental risk assessment—highlights localities where housing, commercial real estate, transportation networks, schools, hospitals, power plants, and other pieces of infrastructure face operational flood risk in 2021. Continue reading

Share Button

As CBO Shows How to Cut $1 Trillion From Pentagon, Progressives Urge Spending on ‘True Security’

“Saving a trillion dollars that could be devoted to preventing pandemics, addressing climate change, or reducing racial and economic injustice is no small matter.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-7-2021

Progressive foreign policy experts say a new Congressional Budget Office report offering three options for slashing Pentagon spending by $1 trillion over the next decade underscores the imperative to invest in programs of social uplift and climate action. Photo: Peg Hunter/flickr/CC

Progressive foreign policy experts on Thursday pointed to a new Congressional Budget Office report that concludes it is possible to slash a trillion dollars in military spending over the coming decade without reducing force effectiveness as further proof that the United States can and should prioritize investments in tackling pandemics, inequality, and the climate crisis.

“The U.S. military budget is now higher than it was at the peak of the Vietnam War, the Korean War, or the Cold War,” said Lindsay Koshgarian, program director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). “This report shows that there are viable options for immediate, substantial reductions to the Pentagon budget.” Continue reading

Share Button

‘Historic Moment’: EU Approves Call for Sweeping Ban on Facial Recognition Surveillance

“This is a huge win for all European citizens.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 10-6-2021

The European Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a call to ban facial recognition surveillance—a development heralded by the technology’s foes as a “big win for human rights.”

The vote on the resolution was 377-248. While the measure is nonbinding, the EUObserver reported Wednesday that its passsage means “Parliament now has for the first time an official position advocating for a ban on biometric mass surveillance, which sends a strong signal for negotiations of the first-ever EU rules on AI systems.”

“Fundamental rights are unconditional,” MEP Petar Vitanov, a member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party who backed the resolution, said in a statement. Continue reading

Share Button

An autonomous robot may have already killed people – here’s how the weapons could be more destabilizing than nukes

The term ‘killer robot’ often conjures images of Terminator-like humanoid robots. Militaries around the world are working on autonomous machines that are less scary looking but no less lethal.
John F. Williams/U.S. Navy

James Dawes, Macalester College

Autonomous weapon systems – commonly known as killer robots – may have killed human beings for the first time ever last year, according to a recent United Nations Security Council report on the Libyan civil war. History could well identify this as the starting point of the next major arms race, one that has the potential to be humanity’s final one.

Autonomous weapon systems are robots with lethal weapons that can operate independently, selecting and attacking targets without a human weighing in on those decisions. Militaries around the world are investing heavily in autonomous weapons research and development. The U.S. alone budgeted US$18 billion for autonomous weapons between 2016 and 2020. Continue reading

Share Button

UN Chief Warns Humanity Is ‘Unacceptably Close to Nuclear Annihilation’

“Now is the time to lift the cloud of nuclear conflict for good,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said ahead of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-26=2021

ICAN campaigners protest outside the permanent mission of Japan to the United Nations at Geneva, during the May session of the UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament in May 2016. Photo: ICAN/flickr/CC

In remarks ahead of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on Sunday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that humankind remains “unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation,” with roughly 14,000 atomic bombs stockpiled across the globe.

“Now is the time to lift the cloud of nuclear conflict for good, eliminate nuclear weapons from our world, and usher in a new era of trust and peace,” said Guterres, who observed in a statement last week that hundreds of nuclear bombs are just a “pushed button away from being launched.” Continue reading

Share Button

‘This Is Big’: House Passes Amendment to Cut US Complicity in Saudi Bombing of Yemen

The vote, said Rep. Ro Khanna, “sent a clear message to the Saudis: end the bombing in Yemen and lift the blockade.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 9-23-2021

Ro Khanna at a symposium at the Brookings Institute in 2019. Photo: Paul Morigi/flickr/CC

Anti-war groups on Thursday welcomed the U.S. House’s passage of an amendment to the annual defense bill that would cut off the flow to Saudi Arabia of U.S. logistical support and weapons “that are bombing civilians” in Yemen.

“This is BIG,” tweeted the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) following the afternoon 219-207 vote, which fell largely along party lines, with just 11 Democrats voting “no.” Continue reading

Share Button

‘Dismaying’: Human Rights Groups Blast Biden Plan to OK Millions in Military Aid for Egypt

A coalition of 18 organizations called the administration’s decision “a terrible blow to its stated commitment to human rights and to the rule of law.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 9-14-2021

Members of the women-led peace group CodePink, including co-founder Medea Benjamin (center), protest against Egyptian human rights abuses in this undated photo. Photo: CodePink

Left-leaning Democratic lawmakers joined human rights groups Tuesday in decrying the Biden administration’s reported decision to withhold a small portion of the $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Egypt over human rights crimes perpetrated by the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity—the administration’s decision had not yet been announced—told multiple media outlets Tuesday that of the $300 million in military aid to Egypt that is subject to human rights conditions, $170 million will be initially authorized. Continue reading

Share Button

How social media – aided by bots – amplifies Islamophobia online

Islamophobia has changed in the 20 years since Sept. 11. Now, much of it plays out on social media.
Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Saif Shahin, American University

In August 2021, a Facebook ad campaign criticizing Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the United States’ first Muslim congresswomen, came under intense scrutiny. Critics charged that the ads linked the congresswomen with terrorism, and some faith leaders condemned the campaign as “Islamophobic” – that is, spreading fear of Islam and hatred against Muslims.

This was hardly the first time the pair faced Islamophobic or racist abuse, especially on the internet. As a communications professor who studies the politics of race and identity online, I have seen that Omar is often a target of white nationalist attacks on Twitter. Continue reading

Share Button