Disinfo Update 29/07/2019

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Return of the Hack

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal dominated the headlines last week and now there’s so much to report on…

  • Facebook accepted the U.S. FTC’s $5 billion fine and was ordered to establish an independent privacy committee. Such actions have been designed ‘to change Facebook’s entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations’. Facebook’s Head of Global Affairs – Sir Nick Clegg – noted that ‘Facebook was rocked to its very foundations’ by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and since then, ‘Facebook has been trying to strike a better balance’. 
  • Boris Johnson, the new UK prime minister, has appointed Dominic Cummings as his de facto chief of staff. Cummings was head of the VoteLeave campaign and the brains behind the ‘£350 million a week to the NHS’ slogan in the 2016 Brexit Referendum. Earlier this year, Cummings was found in contempt of parliament for failing to contribute to a disinformation inquiry. Alongside this, PM Johnson avoided answering an MP’s question on his reasons for meeting Cambridge-Analytica in December 2016.
  • Finally, Carole Cadwalladr, the journalist who broke the scandal, summarised the Netflix documentary released last Wednesday, which details the scandal in its entirety.

A moment of introspection?

In light of the threat of deepfakes on the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, researchers have developed AI that can accurately spot manipulated images. Conversely, an article on the ethics of deepfakes affirmed that ‘in asking for a technological fix for deepfakes, we’re fueling the same logic that brought us here’. Instead, we should reflect on the ‘values, goals, and moral commitments built into the technology’. Similarly, in reference to the controversy surrounding the AI fake text generator (GPT-2), Data & Society’s Britt Paris urged us to ‘not accept fast and easy technological solutions for these problems without pushing for social, cultural, legal, and historical explanations’.

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