Mozilla News Beat, February 19, 2021
Welcome to the Mozilla News Beat, a glance at the internet news of the week in order of best-to-worst. Enjoy!
A picture is worth a thousand words, and no picture is more verbose than this one of a dog concluding its time in the mud. Looking like some sort of swamp thing, we can tell this dog spent hours doing its best hippo impression. No judgement here. In fact, we’re jealous.
Dispelling COVID Lies
Who is fighting coronavirus misinformation? WHO, that’s who! As the global pandemic rages on, it sometimes feels like misleading information about COVID-19 spreads as quickly as the virus itself. But not if the World Health Organization has anything to say about it. NPR details how the WHO has worked to combat misinfo, even as far back as February 2020. The organization teamed up with 40 tech companies to get the right information out there across Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and more. Kudos to you, WHO.
File this one under online life is real life. Here’s the GameStop brouhaha in a nutshell: Reddit users bought lots of GameStop stock in hopes of increasing the stock’s price and bringing down wealthy hedge funds that placed bets against it. Here’s the murky part: mid-frenzy, as the plan was working, Robinhood removed the ability to buy more shares. Why did they do that? Isn’t that illegal? All good questions. Robinhood execs went to Congress this week to discuss exactly this, alongside Melvin Capital — a hedge fund that lost billions — and Citadel — Robinhood’s business partner that bailed them out.
Misinformation — Texas Edition
Arctic blasts of weather rarely reach as far south as Texas, but that’s what’s happening this week, resulting in water pipe bursts, deadly driving conditions and power outages affecting millions. It’s bad over there, but if you see a meme going around about helicopters sent out to de-ice giant wind turbines, just know you’re being misled. According to Gizmodo, the image is actually from 2014 and was taken in Sweden. Some of Texas’s wind turbines are offline but an even bigger segment of its grid powered by gas, coal and nuclear went offline too. Be wary of misinfo, folks!
Cook Vs. Zuck
Sometimes the drama between Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg feels like a rap beef between billionaires. Previously on News Byte, we detailed Apple’s new ad tracking prevention feature and Facebook’s response. The Wall Street Journal chronicles the beef in a recent article, detailing how the companies turn a profit, how they use and/or protect your data and how much is really at stake here.
The Old Days
Google removed a Donald Trump app from the Android app store, not because it helped incite a riot or spread lies about election results, but for the good old reasons we used to take apps down: it was buggy and didn’t meet Google’s minimum usability requirements. Ah, remember how simple life used to be? Maybe 2021 will be different from 2020 after all.
Imagine finding out your face was superimposed onto someone else’s body in an X-rated video online and you had no idea. There are very few laws governing the creation of deepfakes, but that may change soon. The U.K.’s Law Commission plans to publish draft recommendations as a starting point. Best case scenario? A well written law that sets a precedent for other countries to follow suit.
We’ve criticized Amazon Ring’s partnership with law enforcement in the past (really folks, facial recognition, networked surveillance and policing don’t mix) but this latest news involves police going straight to Ring users. In emails obtained by EFF, the Los Angeles Police Department put in numerous requests to Ring owners, asking for footage from Black Lives Matter protests from summer 2020. EFF notes how this could pose a risk to free speech rights going forward — people may be less likely to protest in the future if they know police will retain footage of them after the fact.
Should tech companies pay news publications for their content? That’s at the heart of Australia’s competition commission's proposed law. Google agreed to start paying for some news content with more partnerships coming soon. Facebook took a different approach. The social network is now blocking its users and publications within Australia from sharing news posts. Facebook users outside the country will not be able to share content that hails from Australia (for the time being).
In just a year and a half, at least 17 teenagers in the U.K. have been arrested on terrorism charges. The stat highlights a growing problem: groups on Facebook are radicalizing a subsection of teens in the U.K. with far right, neo-Nazi beliefs. Chatter in these groups are leading to real-world threats — one user offered to become Britain’s “first white suicide bomber.” Another, one group’s leader, became the youngest in the U.K. to be sentenced with a terrorism offense. He was 13 years old.
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