AI

Reddit Bans 'Deepfakes' AI Porn Communities (theverge.com) 110

Reddit has banned the r/deepfakes subreddit that's devoted to making AI-powered porn using celebrities' faces, classifying it as a form of "involuntary pornography." Reddit follows several other platforms that have already banned deepfakes pornography, including Pornhub, which said yesterday that deepfakes imagery counted as nonconsensual pornography. The Verge reports: In a post today, Reddit announced an update to its rules on posting sexual imagery of a person without their consent. The new rule extends a ban on posting photos or video of people who are nude or engaged in sexual acts without the subject's permission, saying that this includes "depictions that have been faked" -- including the sophisticated face-swapped videos that have become especially popular on Reddit over the past month. "Do not post images or video of another person for the specific purpose of faking explicit content or soliciting 'lookalike' pornography."

This doesn't affect all AI-based face swapping enthusiasts on Reddit. The subreddit for FakeApp, a program that allows anyone to swap faces in videos, is still online. So is r/SFWdeepfakes, which is devoted to non-pornographic use of the technology. At least one small, specific subreddit devoted to simulated porn for an individual actor also seems to have slipped under the radar. But along with the central deepfakes hub, the main subreddit for posting not-safe-for-work deepfakes has gotten shut down, and so has the community r/YouTubefakes. The subreddit r/CelebFakes, which focused on non-AI-powered photoshopped pornographic images, was initially left online, but removed shortly after the announcement.
The site will rely on "first-party reports" to shut down future deepfakes material.
Censorship

Facebook Users Cry 'Censorship' After Being Told Which Russian Troll Pages They Liked (gizmodo.com) 487

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: As the FBI's investigation into Russian election interference reaches a fever pitch, Facebook rolled out a new News Feed alert Monday night. The bulletin told users who followed pages created by Russian trolls that those pages have been removed. And some of the affected users did not like this. A brief search revealed that numerous people believe that this is an act of censorship by Facebook. Some users argued that they should be allowed to decide what's "true, fake, or otherwise," a challenge that's bound to be a slippery slope in this era of algorithm-based confirmation bias. Others took on a more conspiratorial tone, claiming that Facebook failed to reveal which pages were removed (despite the alert containing a link listing the pages in question). Facebook first released the information in December, creating a help page that showed users if they liked or followed pages and accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, Russia's notorious troll farm, but today's alert seems to have inspired newfound alarm. The fact that Facebook explicitly stated which pages were deleted seems to have done little to reduce the anger over the allegedly clandestine silencing.
Government

A Single Line of Computer Code Put Thousands of Innocent Turks in Jail (www.cbc.ca) 180

Long-time Slashdot reader kbahey writes: Can a single pixel cost you your livelihood and/or freedom? Apparently, this has already happened in Turkey to thousands of people and their relatives. It all stems from the purge by president Edrogan following a failed coupe. The result is that many innocent people lost their jobs (and source of income), their freedom, their reputation, and more.

The details are frightening. The underlying technology is the use of 1x1 transparent pixels, as most web sites do, to track their visitors. This particular pixel was used by Bylock, a messaging app that the Turkish government deemed seditious, in their purge against Fethullah Gulen loyalists. Pre-dawn raids by police were conducted on those who have this pixel. The long legal proceedings caused a digital forensic expert to challenge those cases, because [the pixel using] the servers for Bylock was also being used by other applications for music streaming, and prayer times/direction of Mecca.

30,000 innocent people may have been swept up among the 150,000 Turks detained, arrested or forced from their jobs under state of emergency decrees since the summer of 2016. One 29-year-old high school teacher "wished the worst" for the revolutionaries accused of using Bylock, "until authorities said he was one of them."

The government eventually exonerated 11,480 of the wrongly accused, but some had already spent months in prison, and reportedly some even committed suicide.
Censorship

How Millions of Iranians Are Evading Internet Censors (msn.com) 48

schwit1 quotes the Wall Street Journal: Authorities in Tehran have ratcheted up their policing of the internet in the past week and a half, part of an attempt to stamp out the most far-reaching protests in Iran since 2009. But the crackdown is driving millions of Iranians to tech tools that can help them evade censors, according to activists and developers of the tools. Some of the tools were attracting three or four times more unique users a day than they were before the internet crackdown, potentially weakening government efforts to control access to information online. "By the time they wake up, the government will have lost control of the internet," said Mehdi Yahyanejad, executive director of NetFreedom Pioneers, a California-based technology nonprofit that largely focuses on Iran and develops educational and freedom of information tools.
Wired calls it "the biggest protest movement in Iran since the 2009 Green Movement uprising," criticing tech companies which "continue to deny services to Iranians that could be crucial to free and open communications."
Censorship

France's President Macron Wants To Block Websites During Elections To Fight 'Fake News' (gizmodo.com) 299

French President Emmanuel Macron has a rather extreme approach to combat fake news: ban entire websites. In a speech to journalists on Wednesday, Macron said he planned to introduce new legislation to strictly regulate fake news during online political campaigns. Gizmodo reports: His proposal included a number of measures, most drastically "an emergency legal action" that could enable the government to either scrap "fake news" from a website or even block a website altogether. "If we want to protect liberal democracies, we must be strong and have clear rules," Macron said. "When fake news are spread, it will be possible to go to a judge... and if appropriate have content taken down, user accounts deleted and ultimately websites blocked."

Macron, himself a target of election interference, also outlined some less extreme measures in his speech yesterday. He proposed more rigid requirements around transparency, specifically in relation to online ads during elections. According to the Guardian, Macron said the legislation would force platforms to publicly identify who their advertisers are, as well as limit how much they can spend on ads over the course of an election campaign.

China

Toutiao, One of China's Most Popular News Apps, is Discovering the Risks Involved in Giving People Exactly What They Want Online (nytimes.com) 29

The New York Times reports: One of the world's most valuable start-ups got that way by using artificial intelligence to satisfy Chinese internet users' voracious appetite for news and entertainment. Every day, its smartphone app feeds 120 million people personalized streams of buzzy news stories, videos of dogs frolicking in snow, GIFs of traffic mishaps and listicles such as "The World's Ugliest Celebrities." Now the company is discovering the risks involved, under China's censorship regime, in giving the people exactly what they want. The makers of the popular news app Jinri Toutiao unveiled moves this week to allay rising concerns from the authorities (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source).

Last week, the Beijing bureau of China's top internet regulator accused Toutiao of "spreading pornographic and vulgar information" and "causing a negative impact on public opinion online," and ordered that updates to several popular sections of the app be halted for 24 hours. In response, the app's parent company, Beijing Bytedance Technology, took down or temporarily suspended the accounts of more than 1,100 bloggers that it said had been publishing "low-quality content" on the app. It also replaced Toutiao's "Society" section with a new section called "New Era," which is heavy on state media coverage of government decisions.

Censorship

Germany Starts Enforcing Hate Speech Law (bbc.com) 545

Germany is set to start enforcing a law that demands social media sites move quickly to remove hate speech, fake news and illegal material. From a report: Sites that do not remove "obviously illegal" posts could face fines of up to 50m euro ($60m). The law gives the networks 24 hours to act after they have been told about law-breaking material. Social networks and media sites with more than two million members will fall under the law's provisions. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be the law's main focus but it is also likely to be applied to Reddit, Tumblr and Russian social network VK. Other sites such as Vimeo and Flickr could also be caught up in its provisions.
Government

Congo Shuts Down Internet Services 'Indefinitely' (nytimes.com) 88

On Saturday Engadget wrote: Authoritarian leaders are fond of severing communications in a bid to hold on to power, and that tradition sadly isn't going away. The Democratic Republic of Congo's government has ordered telecoms to cut internet and SMS access ahead of planned mass protests against President Joseph Kabila, whose administration has continuously delayed elections to replace him. Telecom minister Emery Okundji told Reuters that it was a response to "violence that is being prepared," but people aren't buying that argument. Officials had already banned demonstrations, and the country has history of cutting communications and blocking social network access in a bid to quash dissent.
And today in the wake of deadly protests, Congo announced that the internet shutdown will continue "indefinitely." The New York Times reports: At least eight people were killed and a dozen altar boys arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday after security forces cracked down on planned church protests against President Joseph Kabila's refusal to leave office before coming elections... Congolese security forces set up checkpoints across Kinshasa, and the government issued an order to shut down text messaging and internet services indefinitely across the country for what it called "reasons of state security."
Censorship

Iran Cuts Internet Access and Threatens Telegram Following Mass Protests (bbc.com) 156

Long-time Slashdot reader cold fjord writes: As seething discontent has boiled over in Iran leading to mass protests, protesters have taken to the streets and social media to register their discontent... The government has been closing schools and shutting down transportation.

Now, as mass protests in Iran go into their third day there are reports that internet access is being cut in cities with protests occurring. Social media has been a tool for documenting the protests and brutal crackdowns against them. Iran previously cut off internet access during the Green Movement protests following the 2009 elections. At the same time the Iranian government is cutting internet access they have called on Telegram, reportedly used by more than 40 million Iranians, to close the channels used by protesters. Telegram is now closing channels used by the protesters while Telegram itself may be shut down in Iran.

Facebook

Facebook's Uneven Enforcement of Hate Speech Rules Allows Vile Posts To Stay Up (propublica.org) 171

ProPublica has found inconsistent rulings on hate speech after analyzing more than 900 Facebook posts submitted to them as part of a crowd-sourced investigation into how the world's largest social network implements its hate-speech rules. "Based on this small fraction of Facebook posts, its content reviewers often make different calls on items with similar content, and don't always abide by the company's complex guidelines," reports ProPublica. "Even when they do follow the rules, racist or sexist language may survive scrutiny because it is not sufficiently derogatory or violent to meet Facebook's definition of hate speech." From the report: We asked Facebook to explain its decisions on a sample of 49 items, sent in by people who maintained that content reviewers had erred, mostly by leaving hate speech up, or in a few instances by deleting legitimate expression. In 22 cases, Facebook said its reviewers had made a mistake. In 19, it defended the rulings. In six cases, Facebook said the content did violate its rules but its reviewers had not actually judged it one way or the other because users had not flagged it correctly, or the author had deleted it. In the other two cases, it said it didn't have enough information to respond.

"We're sorry for the mistakes we have made -- they do not reflect the community we want to help build," Facebook Vice President Justin Osofsky said in a statement. "We must do better." He said Facebook will double the size of its safety and security team, which includes content reviewers and other employees, to 20,000 people in 2018, in an effort to enforce its rules better. He added that Facebook deletes about 66,000 posts reported as hate speech each week, but that not everything offensive qualifies as hate speech. "Our policies allow content that may be controversial and at times even distasteful, but it does not cross the line into hate speech," he said. "This may include criticism of public figures, religions, professions, and political ideologies."

Censorship

Vietnam Deploys 10,000 Cyber Warriors to Fight 'Wrongful Views' (bloomberg.com) 92

Vietnam is deploying a 10,000-member military cyber warfare unit to combat what the government sees as a growing threat of "wrongful views" proliferating on the internet, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing local media reports. From the report: Force 47 has worked pro-actively against distorted information, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing Nguyen Trong Nghia, deputy head of the general politics department under the Vietnam People's Military. The disclosure of the unit comes as the Communist government pressures YouTube and Facebook to remove videos and accounts seen damaging the reputations of leaders or promoting anti-party views. Facebook this year removed 159 accounts at Vietnam's behest, while YouTube took down 4,500 videos, or 90 percent of what the government requested, according to VietnamNet news, which cited Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan last week. The National Assembly is debating a cybersecurity bill that would require technology companies to store certain data on servers in the country.
China

China Closes More Than 13,000 Websites in Past Three Years (reuters.com) 73

China has closed more than 13,000 websites since the beginning of 2015 for breaking the law or other rules and the vast majority of people support government efforts to clean up cyberspace, state news agency Xinhua reports. From the report: The government has stepped up already tight controls over the internet since President Xi Jinping took power five years ago, in what critics say is an effort to restrict freedom of speech and prevent criticism of the ruling Communist Party. The government says all countries regulate the internet, and its rules are aimed at ensuring national security and social stability and preventing the spread of pornography and violent content. A report to the on-going session of the standing committee of China's largely rubber stamp parliament said the authorities had targeted pornography and violence in their sweeps of websites, blogs and social media accounts, Xinhua said.
China

Man in China Sentenced To Five Years' Jail For Running VPN (theguardian.com) 42

A Chinese entrepreneur has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison for selling VPN service, a government newspaper said, as Beijing tries to stamp out use of technology that evades its internet filters. From a report: Wu Xiangyang was also fined 500,000 yuan ($75,900), an amount equal to his profits since starting the service in 2013, according to a report in the newspaper of China's national prosecutor's office. The Great Firewall, as the censorship apparatus is commonly known, means people in China are banned from visiting thousands of websites, including Google, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Wu ran his VPN service from 2013 until June this year and claimed to serve 8,000 foreign clients and 5,000 businesses.
Censorship

CDC Director Says No Words Are Actually Banned At the CDC (pbs.org) 177

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald on Sunday addressed a report that President Donald Trump's administration had banned the CDC from using seven words or phrases in next year's budget documents. The terms are "fetus," "transgender," "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "evidence-based" and "science-based," according to a story first reported on Friday in The Washington Post. But Fitzgerald said in a series of tweets on Sunday said there are "no banned words," while emphasizing the agency's commitment to data-driven science. "CDC has a long-standing history of making public health and budget decisions that are based on the best available science and data and for the benefit of all people -- and we will continue to do so," she said.

A group of the agency's policy analysts said senior officials at the CDC informed them about the banned words on Thursday, according to the Post's report. In some cases, the analysts were reportedly given replacement phrases to use instead. But in follow-up reporting, The New York Times cited "a few" CDC officials who suggested the move was not meant as an outright ban, but rather, a technique to help secure Republican approval of the 2019 budget by eliminating certain words and phrases. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, said the reported decree on banned words was a misrepresentation.

United States

Trump Administration Prohibits CDC Policy Analysts From Using the Words 'Science-Based' (washingtonpost.com) 458

Long-time Slashdot reader hey! writes: On Friday the Washington Post reported that the Trump Administration has forbidden the Centers for Disease Control from using seven terms in certain documents: "science-based", "evidence-based", "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," and "fetus".

It's important to note that the precise scope and intent of the ban is unknown at present. Scientific and medical personnel as of now have not been affected, only policy analysts preparing budgetary proposals and supporting data that is being sent to Congress. So it is unclear the degree to which the language mandates represent a change in agency priorities vs. a change in how it presents itself to Congress. However banning the scientifically precise term "fetus" will certainly complicate budgeting for things like Zika research and monitoring.

According to the Post's article, "Instead of 'science-based' or 'evidence-based,' the suggested phrase is 'CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."

The New York Times confirmed the story with several officials, although "a few suggested that the proposal was not so much a ban on words but recommendations to avoid some language to ease the path toward budget approval by Republicans."

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