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Last Week Online #17 – Who is responsible when Facebook is used to live stream a mass murder?

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
3 min read

Australia takes on the “weaponisation” of social media, heavy critique against biased Amazon technology, and TikTok is on the hunt for new stars.

The Christchurch attack was live-streamed on Facebook, now Australia want to prevent the “weaponisation” of social media

Australia is considering a bill designed to prevent the “weaponisation” of social media, i.e. the kind of activity the Christchurch terrorist engaged in before an attack that killed 50 people in New Zealand on March 15.

“We will not allow social media platforms to be weaponised by terrorists and violent extremists who seek to harm and kill,” Australia’s Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield said in a press release announcing the bill, “and nor would we allow a situation that a young Australian child could log onto social media and watch a mass murder take place.”

When a white nationalist attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, live streaming the first 17 minutes of the shooting on Facebook Live. Once police alerted them to it, Facebook removed the video and the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, according to a tweet from Facebook’s newsroom.

However, the fact that the live stream went on for 17 minutes, and that Facebook had to find this out from a third party, confirms that its team of human moderators and artificial intelligence software is not enough to prevent the platform from being used during terrorist attacks and similar events.

Amazon's facial recognition technology is heavily criticised by researchers for being biased

More than 25 leading AI researchers, including experts at Google, Facebook and Microsoft have signed a letter telling Amazon to stop selling its facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies since it is biased against women and people of colour. The letter was released on Wednesday and reflects a growing concern in academia and the tech industry that bias in facial-recognition technology is very problematic.

Amazon sells a product called Rekognition through Amazon Web Services, and early customers – Amazon said last year – included the Orlando Police Department in Florida and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon.

In January, two researchers from MIT published a peer-reviewed study showing how Amazon Rekognition had more trouble identifying the gender of female and darker-skinned faces in photos compared with services from IBM and Microsoft. It mistook women for men 19% of the time, and misidentified darker-skinned women for men 31% of the time – the study showed.

TikTok launches new digital scouting program to find musical talent in Asia

TikTok, a short-form video service that began life as a lip-synching app in China (where it’s called Douyin), has gathered about 1 billion downloads around the world. The company are now getting serious about securing good music - a key component in the app - for its content creators with a newly launched initiative to scout music talents.

Called Spotlight, auditions will take place digitally via TikTok. Artists submit their work to the app, and winners will eventually get introduced to the company’s 21 label partners and publishers, which could lead to recording opportunities. In turn, TikTok users can pick from the fresh batch of music to spice up their work.

The initiative is launching in Japan and South Korea after a similar program kicked off in China, where its parent, the world’s most valuable startup, ByteDance, is based. TikTok says Spotlight is a program that will “discover and support the growth of independent artists.” But beyond marketing aid and access to music execs, it’s unclear how the platform plans to share with the artists any financial gains they help to produce.

Tool of the week: Spectrum

Spectrum calls themselves the community platform for the future. By trying to become a platform similar to Slack, but for forums – with chat-like features to make interactions more instant, and one login that let you pick and choose from a variety of communities to be part of – they innovate in one of the oldest niches of Internet technology.

Most forums look almost the same today as they did 20 years ago. But Spectrum now lowers the bar to start, moderate and participate in community communication in a way that is handy for everyone trying to structure many-to-many conversations.

You can set up your forum in minutes, or join forums that you find interesting. It's just a couple of clicks away.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.


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