Longreads: Technology Is as Biased as Its Makers. “Professor Latanya Sweeney of Harvard University typed her name into Google; she was searching quickly for an old paper she had written. She was shocked to see an ad pop up with the headline ‘Latanya Sweeney–Arrested?’ Sweeney does not have a criminal record. She clicked on the ad link and was taken to a company website selling access to public records. She paid the sum to access the material, which confirmed she had no criminal history. When her colleague Adam Tanner did a similar search, the same ad for a public records search company appeared, but without the inflammatory headline. Tanner is white; Sweeney is African American.”
Slate: Breaking Up Facebook Won’t Fix Its Speech Problems. “We may, as a society, decide that the lack of competition and invasions of privacy might make breaking up big tech worth it. But it’s unlikely that such an approach would solve the speech-related issues. In some cases, it may actually make them worse. [Chris] Hughes appears to fall prey to what’s known as the ‘streetlight effect’: the tendency to search for answers where it’s easiest to look, named after an old joke about a drunk man looking for his keys under a streetlight not because he lost them there but because that’s where the light is.”
Vox: The push to break up Big Tech, explained. “Technology companies based in Seattle or Silicon Valley now account for five out of the five most valuable companies in America, leading to a spate of commentary last year from lawyers like Columbia’s Tim Wu to economists like Harvard’s Kenneth Rogoff arguing that Big Tech has, in some sense, gotten ‘too big.’ And in 2019, politicians are starting to listen.” Deep but informative dive.
New York Times: Facebook Faces a Big Penalty, but Regulators Are Split Over How Big. “Facebook’s announcement in late April that it had set aside $3 billion to $5 billion to settle claims that it mishandled users’ personal data suggested a strong consensus by federal regulators that the social media giant needed to be held accountable. But the reality behind the scenes at the Federal Trade Commission is far more complicated, reflecting the politics and give-and-take of the negotiations.”
New York Times: Regulators Around the World Are Circling Facebook. “Regulators on four continents are preparing for a long-awaited showdown with Facebook, after years of disinterest and half-steps. They largely have the same goal: changing the social media company’s behavior. Figuring out how is the hard part.”
New York Times: Free Speech Puts U.S. on ‘a Collision Course’ With Global Limits on Big Tech. “When Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook called for regulating harmful internet content in an opinion column last month, Republicans in Washington expressed outrage that he was calling on the government to regulate speech. Within hours, the company’s top lobbyists started spreading another message to conservatives: Don’t take his suggestion too seriously.”
Techdirt: Don’t Force Web Platforms To Silence Innocent People. “The U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week to discuss the spread of white nationalism, online and offline. The hearing tackled hard questions about how online platforms respond to extremism online and what role, if any, lawmakers should play. The desire for more aggressive moderation policies in the face of horrifying crimes is understandable, particularly in the wake of the recent massacre in New Zealand. But unfortunately, looking to Silicon Valley to be the speech police may do more harm than good.”