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Exclusive: Automated Fact-Checking Won't Stop The Social Media Infodemic



Automated Fact-Checking Won't Stop The Social Media Infodemic

#Automated #FactChecking #Won039t #Stop #Social #Media #Infodemic

The coronavirus pandemic, protests over police killings and systemic racism, and a contentious election have created the perfect storm for on social media

But don’t expect AI to save us.

Twitter’s recent decision to red-flag President Donald Trump’s false claims about mail-in ballots has reinvigorated the debate on whether social media platforms should fact-check posts. 

The president suggested Twitter was “interfering” in the 2020 election by adding a label that encouraged readers to “get the facts about mail-in ballots.”

In response, tech leaders explored the idea of using open-source, fully automated fact-checking technology to solve the problem. 

Not everyone, however, was so enthusiastic. 

“I’m sorry to sound boring and non–science fiction about this, but I feel like that is just a very difficult future for me to be able to see,” Andrew Dudfield, head of automated fact-checking at the UK-based independent nonprofit Full Fact, said. “It requires so much nuance and so much sophistication that I think the technology is not really able to do that at this stage.”

At Full Fact, a grant recipient of Google AI for social good, automation supplements — but doesn’t replace — the traditional fact-checking process. 

Automation’s ability to synthesize large amounts of information has helped fact-checkers adapt to the breadth and depth of the online information environment, Dudfield said. But some tasks — like interpreting verified facts in context, or accounting for different caveats and linguistic subtleties — are currently better served with human oversight.

“We’re using the power of some AI … with enough confidence that we can put that in front of a fact-checker and say, ‘This appears to be a match,’” Dudfield said. “I think taking that to the extreme of automating that work — that’s really pushing things at the moment.”

Mona Sloane, a sociologist who researches inequalities in AI design at New York University, also worries that fully automated fact-checking will help reinforce biases. She points to Black Twitter for example, where colloquial language is often disproportionately flagged as potentially offensive by AI.

To that end, both Sloane and Dudfield said it’s important to consider the nature of the data referenced by an algorithm.

“AI is codifying information that you give it, so if you give the system biased information, the output it generates will be biased,” Dudfield added. “But the inputs are coming from humans. So the problem in these things, ultimately, is making sure that you have the right data that goes in, and that you’re constantly checking these things.”

“If you give the system biased information, the output it generates will be biased.”

If those nuances go unaccounted for in fully automated systems, developers could create engineered inequalities that “explicitly work to amplify social hierarchies that are based in race, class, and gender,” Ruha Benjamin, African American studies professor at Princeton University, writes in her book Race after Technology. “Default discrimination grows out of design process that ignore social cleavages.”

But what happens when business gets in the way of the design process? What happens when social media platforms choose only to employ these technologies selectively to serve the interest of its clients?

Katy Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, said  the economic incentives to boost users and engagement often inform how companies approach corporate social responsibility.

“If you had the top 100 spending advertisers in the world say, ‘We’re sick of myths and disinformation on your platform and we refuse to run our content alongside it,’ you can bet those platforms would do something about it,” Culver said. 


But the problem is that advertisers are often the ones spreading disinformation. Take Facebook, one of Full Fact’s partners, for example. Facebook’s policies exempt some of its biggest advertisers — politicians and political organizations — from fact-checking. 

And Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite defense against critics? The ethics of the marketplace of ideas — the belief that the truth and the most widely accepted ideas will win out in a free competition of information.

But “power is not evenly distributed” in the marketplace, Culver said. 

A Facebook internal finding saw “a larger infrastructure of accounts and publishers on the far right than on the far left,” even though Americans lean to the left than to the right. 

And time and time again, Facebook has amplified content that’s paid for — even when the information is deliberately misleading, or when it targets Black Americans. 

“Ethics have been used as a smokescreen,” Sloane said. “Because ethics are not enforceable by law… They are not attuned to the wider political, social, and economic contexts. It’s a deliberately vague term that sustains systems of power because what is ethical is defined by those in power.”

Facebook knows that its algorithm is polarizing users and amplifying bad actors. But it also knows that tackling these issues could sacrifice user engagement — and therefore ad revenue, which makes up 98 percent of the company’s global revenue and totaled to almost $69.7 billion in just 2019 alone. 

So it chose to do nothing.

Ultimately, combating disinformation and bias demands more than just performative concerns about sensationalism and defensive commitments to build “products that advance racial justice.” And it takes more than promises that AI will eventually fix everything. 

It requires a genuine commitment to understanding and addressing how existing designs, products, and incentives perpetuate harmful misinformation — and the moral courage to do something about it in the face of political opposition. 

“Products and services that offer fixes for social bias … may still end up reproducing, or even deepening, discriminatory processes because of the narrow ways in which ‘fairness’ is defined and operationalized,” Benjamin writes.


Whose interests are represented from the inception of the design process, and whose interests does it suppress? Who gets to sit at the table, and how transparently can social media companies communicate those processes? 

Until social media companies commit to correcting existing biases, developing fully automated fact-checking technologies don’t seem like the answer to the infodemic. 

And so far, things are not looking so good.


Exclusive: Biden opens the possibility of more offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico –




Biden opens the possibility of more offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

#Biden #opens #possibility #offshore #oil #drilling #Gulf #Mexico

An oil and gas drilling platform stands offshore as waves churned from Tropical Storm Karen come ashore in Dauphin Island, Alabama, October 5, 2013.

Steve Nesius | Reuters

The Biden administration released a five-year offshore oil and gas drilling development plan on Friday that would block all new drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans within U.S. waters, but would allow some lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and the south coast of Alaska.

The proposed plan, which has not been finalized, could allow up to 11 lease sales over the next five years. It also includes an option for the administration to conduct no sales. The Department of the Interior is inviting the public to comment on the program.

Biden had vowed to suspend all new federal drilling on public lands and waters, but that position resulted in legal challenges from several Republican-led states and the oil sector.

As U.S. energy prices rise, the fossil fuel sector has urged the administration to increase offshore drilling in an effort to lower gas prices at the pump. But climate groups have argued that new lease sales would exacerbate climate change while doing nothing to bring down prices.

A recent report published by Apogee Economics and Policy said that a temporary suspension in new offshore oil and gas sales would have minimal impact on gas prices for consumers — with prices edging up by less than 1 cent per gallon over the next nearly two decades.

“From Day One, President Biden and I have made clear our commitment to transition to a clean energy economy,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement on Friday. “Today, we put forward an opportunity for the American people to consider and provide input on the future of offshore oil and gas leasing.”


The Interior’s most recent offshore oil and gas auction was in November in the Gulf of Mexico. A court order later vacated the sale, arguing the administration didn’t adequately account for the harm to the environment and impact on climate change.

Nearly 95% of U.S. offshore oil production and 71% of offshore natural gas production occurs in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Roughly 15% of oil production in the U.S. comes from offshore drilling.

Environmental groups on Friday condemned the administration for proposing limited new lease sales instead of announcing a ban on all new drilling.

“The Biden administration had an opportunity to meet the moment on climate and end new offshore oil leasing in Interior’s five-year program,” said Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation at Earthjustice. “Instead, its proposal to serve up a bunch of new offshore oil lease sales is a failure of climate leadership and a breach of their climate promises.”

Environmental groups have also argued that new leasing would impede the White House’s goal to slash carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030 in an effort to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“This draft plan falls short of what we desperately need: an end to new oil and gas drilling in federal waters,” Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement. “President Biden has called the climate crisis the existential threat of our time, but the administration continues to pursue policies that will only make it worse.”

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Exclusive: This Simple Exercise Will Help You Turn Failure Into Success –




This Simple Exercise Will Help You Turn Failure Into Success

#Simple #Exercise #Turn #Failure #Success

If you want your business or your career to be a big success, rather than focusing only on the positive, you should also look closely at your failures. In fact, you should write those failures up and create a “rejection resume.” That advice comes from Eli Joseph, Ph.D., faculty member at Columbia University and Queens College and author of The Perfect Rejection Resume.

A rejection resume is straightforward to create, as he explains in his book. Ask yourself the same questions you’d answer in a traditional resume–but in reverse. Instead of saying where you graduated from, list the schools you applied to but didn’t get into, or the ones you dropped out of, or the courses you failed. Instead of listing the jobs you succeeded at, describe the ones you were fired from, the projects that crashed and burned, and the biggest mistakes you made. The result will be a brief document, a few pages long or maybe just one page, that contains a record of your biggest disappointments, and the biggest mistakes you’ve made.

What’s the purpose of the rejection resume? “Most people do not like to talk about their failures and how many organizations rejected them or how many venture capitalists rejected their proposals,” Joseph explains. “So it’s just a conversation starter.” That is, it can help you start a conversation with yourself. “To say, hey I have this document, and I can take advantage of these lessons.”

Here are some ways a rejection resume can benefit you.

1. It can help you turn current failures into future successes.

“As you’re building a business, you can write down, ‘I failed today at this task, and it was partially detrimental for now, but I’ve learned from my mistake.’ And look around as you go along.” With this approach, the rejection resume can become a powerful motivational tool, he says, because if you look at your failure, you may be able to see the mistakes that led you there. And you can choose not to make those mistakes in the future.

2. It can let you see how far you’ve come.

Anytime is a great time to create a rejection resume, Joseph says, but it’s an especially useful thing to do if you’ve suffered a disheartening setback. “It’s the one that stings a little bit, and you know, that’s what we need to harp on and focus on. So we can bookmark that time that we felt down from a particular failure, but we’ve rebounded.”

His comment makes me think about my attempt, decades ago, to work as a business reporter for a daily newspaper, the only job from which I’ve ever been fired. I hated the job and was actually delighted to leave it, but it also felt like a colossal failure. With hindsight I can see that it was completely the wrong fit for me and how losing that job was in many ways a piece of very good luck.


3. It will help you connect with others.

“People always love a comeback story,” Joseph says. You may prefer to focus on your successes, but in fact, you almost certainly have your own comeback story and your own history of failure before success, he says. “And people always love that. They love the underdog.”

This is why, he says, if you share part of your rejection resume story on social media, it’s likely to get a lot of attention. “It’s a good marketing tool,” he says. “People who do speaking engagements and keynotes tend to reel the audience in through their personal endeavors and how they’ve overcome failure.” The rejection resume can help you organize that information so you can help others learn from your experiences, he said.

There’s a growing audience of readers who receive a daily text from me with a self-care or motivational micro-challenge or tip. (Interested in joining? Here’s more information and an invitation to an extended free trial.) Many are entrepreneurs or business leaders and many have told me about how even devastating failures have helped lead them build bigger, more meaningful successes. Seeing your failures as something to be commemorated in a rejection resume can be a great start.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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Exclusive: Mystery rocket makes moonfall –




Mystery rocket makes moonfall

#Mystery #rocket #moonfall

Hello and welcome back to Week in Review, where we recap the biggest stories from the week. If you want this in your inbox every Saturday, sign up here.

Greg Kumparak is still on vacation, but not to worry! He’ll be back at the helm next week to bring you our biggest stories. Until then, I’ve got you covered.

First for some quick business. TechCrunch+ is having an Independence Day sale, which gets you 50% off on an annual subscription. Need more? TC+ Editor-in-Chief Alex Wilhelm gives you all the reasons to take the plunge here.

Okay let’s go to the moon! Yes, the moon. Some space junk crashed to the lunar surface this week, causing some enthusiastic observers to scratch their heads. Was it from SpaceX? Was it from a rocket launched in 2014 by the China National Space Administration? We still don’t know, but Devin Coldewey had a chat with Darren McKnight from LeoLabs, which has built a network of debris-tracking radar, to get some more insight.

Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

other stuff

Speaking of space: Ever want to stare longingly into the depths of the universe and actually have something stare back? This is supposed to happen in two weeks when the James Webb Space Telescope will release its first images. “This is farther than humanity has ever looked before,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said during a media briefing this week. Maybe the truth is out there.

Tesla Autopilot layoffs: The automaker this week laid off 195 employees across two offices in its Autopilot division. Those who were laid off filled supervisor, labeler and data analyst roles. Questions persist about what impact the layoffs will have on Tesla’s wider advanced driver assistance system. The remaining 81 staffers on the Autopilot team will be relocated to another office, as the San Mateo office will be shuttered.

SPAC subpoenas: A New York-based federal grand jury sent subpoenas to the board of Digital World, which is preparing to acquire Trump Media & Technology Group, Donald Trump’s media group responsible for Truth Social. According to an SEC filing, the subpoenas are an effort to gather more information about “Digital World’s S-1 filings, communications with or about multiple individuals, and information regarding Rocket One Capital.”


Deepfake job apps: The FBI this week issued a warning that deepfakes are being used along with stolen information to apply for jobs. A part of this even involves video interviews. “In these interviews, the actions and lip movement of the person seen interviewed on-camera do not completely coordinate with the audio of the person speaking. At times, actions such as coughing, sneezing, or other auditory actions are not aligned with what is presented visually,” the FBI said in a statement announcing the disturbing news.

Party pooper: Welp, that 2020-era indefinite ban on unauthorized parties at Airbnbs is now permanent. This means no open-invitation parties and no parties whose attendance exceeds 16. The company said in a blog post that since they instituted the ban 2 years ago, there was a 44% year-over-year decrease in the rate of party reports. There will be no partying on, Garth.

Human And Artificial Intelligence Cooperating Concept

Image Credits: DrAfter123 / Getty Images

audio stuff

Over on the TechCrunch Podcast Network, Christine Tao, founder of Sounding Board, joined Darrell and Jordan on Found to talk about difficulties she and her co-founder faced while fundraising and how they established the customer type that made scaling possible.

And on the Wednesday episode of Equity, Natasha Mascarenhas asked a question inspired by a recent post penned by TC’s own Rebecca Szkutak: What’s in the fine print for term sheets these days, and what does that tell us about who is going to be in control during the downturn?

Check out our full roundup.

added stuff

Want even more TechCrunch? Head on over to the aptly named TechCrunch+, where we get to go a bit deeper on the topics our subscribers tell us they care about. Some of the good stuff from this week includes:

The SEC rejected bitcoin spot ETFs again. Now what?
The SEC’s decisions aren’t a first for the industry; the government agency has denied over a dozen bitcoin spot ETFs in the past year alone while approving several bitcoin future-based ETFs, Jacquelyn Melinek reports.

Disclose your Scope 3 emissions, you cowards
Tim De Chant takes on the companies that claim they’re serious about carbon emissions. In short, if they’re serious, then they’ll estimate their Scope 3 emissions and not undermine attempts to make Scope 3 disclosures standard.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Wilco’s $7 million seed deck
Haje’s back with another pitch deck teardown, this week from Wilco, a company whose funding he covered last week. He is pretty excited about Wilco’s deck, as, he says, it’s 19 slides that tick all of the boxes.

Image Credits: Wilco (opens in a new window)


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