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Internet freedom on the decline in US and globally, study finds

The study cited a lack of regulation in the domestic tech industry, and the rise of authoritarian agencies abroad



Internet freedom on the decline in US and globally, study finds

Online freedom is continuing to decline globally, according to a new study, with governments increasingly cracking down on user speech and misinformation on the rise.

The report from Freedom House, a Washington DC-based democracy advocacy group, found internet freedom declined for the fifth year in a row in the US and the 11th year internationally – for two distinct reasons.

Domestically, the lack of regulation in the tech industry has allowed companies to grow beyond reproach and misinformation to flourish online. Abroad, authoritarian governments have harnessed their tight control of the internet to subdue free expression.

Freedom House cited a growing lack of diversity among sources of online information in the US that allowed conspiracies and misinformation to rise, an issue that was gravely underscored during the 2020 elections and the 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol.

“The spread of false and conspiracist content about the November 2020 elections shook the foundations of the American political system,” the report said.

The yearly study, which has been published since 1973, uses a standard index to measure internet freedom by country on a 100-point scale. It asks questions about internet infrastructure, government control and obstacles to access, and content regulation. Countries are scored on a scale of 100 points with higher numbers considered more “free”.

Read more on The Guardian…

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Drones deliver sushi, ice cream above Tel Aviv

As part of the National Drone Initiative test operation, drones will bring sushi deliveries ordered by customers via a dedicated app and will deliver them to Tzuk beach in Herzliya.



Drones deliver sushi, ice cream above Tel Aviv

The reality of sushi, ice cream and medicine deliveries by drones moved a step closer on Monday, as Israel’s National Drone Initiative launched its third phase.

Flying over residential areas in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ramat Hasharon, Herzliya and Hadera, the pilot program conducted the third stage of eight tests it will run as it moves forward with its mission to create a national drone network.

Over the course of the test, drones operated by the five companies participating in the program will carry out around 300 flights per day above open areas, conducting different kinds of tasks on flight paths assigned by the joint control system.

Among the challenges, drones operated by Cando and High-Lander will bring sushi deliveries ordered by customers via a dedicated app and will deliver them to Tzuk Beach in Herzliya. The companies will also have a drone performing autonomous security missions for an emergency facility (Reading Fire Station) so that the drone located at the charging station is activated autonomously.

In addition, SkyLinx and FlyTech will conduct a pilot program in which customers will be able to enter their order via a dedicated app and receive their ice cream via drones at Charles Clore Park (next to the Manta Ray restaurant).

All participating companies, including Simplex and DownWind, will perform flights over urban areas in the center of Tel Aviv. HarTech Technologies Ltd. and Airwayz will perform flights over the Hadera urban area.

Flights will also deliver donated blood, platelets and plasma from the Magen David Adom blood bank to Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, with the goal of verifying the method of packaging, flying and procedures so that they meet Health Ministry regulations.

At this stage, the goal is to consolidate the procedures so that other companies will be able to offer similar services at every blood bank and hospital in Israel when required.

Read more on JPost

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China has won AI battle with USA, Pentagon’s ex-software chief says



China has won AI battle with USA, Pentagon’s ex-software chief says

Reuters – China has won the artificial intelligence battle with the United States and is heading towards global dominance because of its technological advances, the Pentagon’s former software chief told the Financial Times.

China, the world’s second largest economy, is likely to dominate many of the key emerging technologies, particularly artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and genetics within a decade or so, according to Western intelligence assessments.

Nicolas Chaillan, the Pentagon’s first chief software officer who resigned in protest against the slow pace of technological transformation in the U.S. military, said the failure to respond was putting the United States at risk.

“We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion,” he told the newspaper. “Whether it takes a war or not is kind of anecdotal.”

China was set to dominate the future of the world, controlling everything from media narratives to geopolitics, he said.

Chaillan blamed sluggish innovation, the reluctance of U.S. companies such as Google to work with the state on AI and extensive ethical debates over the technology.

Google was not immediately available for comment outside business hours.

Chinese companies, Chaillan said, were obliged to work with their government and were making “massive investment” in AI without regard to ethics.

He said U.S. cyber defences in some government departments were at “kindergarten level”.

Chaillan announced his resignation at the beginning of September, saying military officials were repeatedly put in charge of cyber initiatives for which they lacked experience.

A spokesperson for the Department of the Air Force said Frank Kendall, secretary of the U.S. Air Force, had discussed with Chaillan his recommendations for the department’s future software development following his resignation and thanked him for his contributions, the FT said.

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Tesla moves from California to Texas



Tesla moves from California to Texas
  • Tesla officially moved its headquarters from Palo Alto, California to Austin, Texas CEO Elon Musk announced at the company’s 2021 annual shareholder meeting.
  • In April 2020, on a Tesla earnings call, Musk lashed out at California government officials calling their temporary Covid-related health orders “fascist” in an expletive-laced rant.
  • In 2020, Musk personally relocated to the Austin area from Los Angeles where he had lived for two decades.

Tesla is moving its headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Austin, Texas, CEO Elon Musk announced at the company’s shareholder meeting on Thursday.

The meeting took place at Tesla’s vehicle assembly plant under construction outside of Austin on a property that borders the Colorado River, near the city’s airport. 

However, the company plans to increase production in its California plant regardless of the headquarters move.

“To be clear we will be continuing to expand our activities in California,” Musk said. “Our intention is to increase output from Fremont and Giga Nevada by 50%. If you go to our Fremont factory it’s jammed.”

But, he added, “It’s tough for people to afford houses, and people have to come in from far away….There’s a limit to how big you can scale in the Bay Area.”

Regarding the plant underway in Austin, he noted that it would take some time to reach full production even after it’s completed.

It takes Tesla less time to build a factory than to reach high-volume production, Musk said. For example, Tesla’s Shanghai plant was built in 11 months, but took a year to reach high-volume production. He expects Tesla’s new plant near Austin will follow Shanghai’s example.

Musk’s growing dissatisfaction with California has been apparent for some time. In April 2020, on a Tesla earnings call, Musk lashed out at California government officials calling their temporary Covid-related health orders “fascist” in an expletive-laced rant.

Later, Musk personally relocated to the Austin area from Los Angeles, where he had lived for two decades.

Doing so enabled Musk, who is also CEO of aerospace company SpaceX, to reduce his personal tax burden and be closer to a SpaceX launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.

Tesla’s board granted Musk an executive compensation package that can earn him massive stock awards based on the automaker’s market cap increases and some other financial targets. If he sells options set to expire in 2021, he could generate proceeds of more than $20 billion this year, according to InsiderScore.

California levies some of the highest personal income taxes in the country on its wealthy residents, but Texas has no personal income tax.

Tesla is not the first company to move its headquarters out of California to Texas. Oracle and Hewlett Packard are among the tech giants who decided to make that move last year, for example.

Texas has been actively recruiting companies via its Texas Economic Development Act offering tax breaks to put new facilities in the state. Austin, with a top tech university and cultural events like South by Southwest, is a draw for tech employers.

Read more on CNBC

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