- YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has defended the removal of videos by Russian activist Alexey Navalny.
- Putin’s most prominent critic, Navalny has criticized tech platforms’ ‘obedience’ from jail.
- Wojcicki insisted the company remained committed to the ‘core value’ of free speech.
The chief executive of YouTube defended the company’s apparent acquiescence towards the Russian government, claiming free speech remains its “core value.”
Last week, Russian news service Interfax reported that Vladimir Putin’s regime had ordered YouTube’s parent company, Google, and Apple to remove access to a voting app run by jailed opposition activist Alexey Navalny. The app disappeared from both app stores, sparking criticism among both the public and Google’s own employees.
In an interview with Bloomberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said free speech remained a “core value” at the company, but added that there were “multiple considerations” to take into account when dealing with a country like Russia.
The company has removed videos featuring Navalny in the past, citing Russian censorship laws, and reportedly took down another of his group’s campaign ads ahead of the country’s parliamentary election.
Wojcicki did not give a direct answer when asked if the latest video had been removed at the Russian government’s request.
“One of the things that is important to us at YouTube is the fact that we do enable so many voices, and that we do enable people to express themselves, and really celebrate the freedom of speech,” she said. “That’s a core value of ours.”
“But when we work with governments, there are many things that we have to take in consideration, whether it’s local laws or what’s happening on the ground,” she added. “So there’s always going to be multiple considerations.”
When pressed on who ordered the takedowns, Wojcicki said: “We certainly get requests from governments, and we look and consider why are we getting the request? What’s actually happening on the ground? And based on a whole bunch of different factors, we make a decision.”
Navalny is currently in a Russian prison after returning to the country from Germany, where he recovered from being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok during an internal Russian flight last August. The Russian government claims he is guilty of embezzlement.
On Friday, Navalny tweeted that he was surprised “how obediently the almighty Big Tech” had acted as Putin’s “accomplices” in censoring him.
“The giants Apple and Google have complied with the Kremlin’s demands and removed our app from their stores. My beloved YouTube has deleted our video, and the Telegram messenger has blocked our bot,” he wrote.
“These programs, which Putin calls ‘extremist’, only contained information about opposition candidates in your constituency,” he added.
Buried deep in Biden Infrastructure Law: mandatory kill switches on all new cars by 2026
Remember that 2700-page, $1 trillion dollar infrastructure bill that the US government passed back in August? Well, have you read it? Of course we’re joking — we know you haven’t read it. Most of the legislators who voted on it probably haven’t either. Some folks have, though, and they’re finding some pretty alarming things buried in that bill.
One of the most concerning things we’ve heard so far is the revelation that this “infrastructure” bill includes a measure mandating vehicle backdoor kill-switches in every car by 2026. The clause is intended to increase vehicle safety by “passively monitoring the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired,” and if that sentence doesn’t make your hair stand on end, you’re not thinking about the implications.
Let us spell it out for you: by 2026, vehicles sold in the US will be required to automatically and silently record various metrics of driver performance, and then make a decision, absent any human oversight, whether the owner will be allowed to use their own vehicle. Even worse, the measure goes on to require that the system be “open” to remote access by “authorized” third parties at any time.
The passage in the bill was unearthed by former Georgia Representative Bob Barr, writing over at the Daily Caller. Barr notes correctly that this is a privacy disaster in the making. Not only does it make every vehicle a potential tattletale (possibly reporting minor traffic infractions, like slight speeding or forgetting your seat-belt, to authorities or insurance companies), but tracking that data also makes it possible for bad actors to retrieve it.
More pressing than the privacy concerns, though, are the safety issues. Including an automatic kill switch of this sort in a machine with internet access presents the obvious scenario that a malicious agent could disable your vehicle remotely with no warning. Outside that possible-but-admittedly-unlikely idea, there are all kinds of other reasons that someone might need to drive or use their vehicle while “impaired”, such as in the case of emergency, or while injured.
Even if the remote access part of the mandate doesn’t come to pass, the measure is still astonishingly short-sighted. As Barr says, “the choice as to whether a vehicle can or cannot be driven … will rest in the hands of an algorithm over which the car’s owner or driver have neither knowledge or control.” Barr, a lawyer himself, points out that there are legal issues with this whole concept, too. He anticipates challenges to the measure on both 5th Amendment (right to not self-incriminate) and 6th Amendment (right to face one’s accuser) grounds. He also goes on to comment on the vagueness of the legislation. What exactly is “impaired driving”? Every state and many municipalities have differing definitions of “driving while intoxicated.”
Furthermore, there’s also no detail in the legislation about who should have access to the data collected by the system. Would police need a warrant to access the recorded data? Would it be available to insurance companies or medical professionals? If someone is late on their car payment, can the lender remotely disable the vehicle? Certainly beyond concerns of who would be allowed official access, there’s also once again the ever-present fear of hackers gaining access to the data—which security professionals well know, absolutely will happen, sooner or later. As Barr says, the collected data would be a treasure trove of data to “all manner of entities … none of which have our best interests at heart.”
Microsoft employees say hello by pronouns and race
Facebook plans to shut down its facial recognition program
- Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, on Tuesday announced it will be putting an end to its face recognition system.
- The company said it will delete more than 1 billion people’s individual facial recognition templates as a result of this change.
- Facebook services that rely on the face recognition systems will be removed over the coming weeks, Meta said.
Facebook on Tuesday announced it will be putting an end to its facial recognition system amid growing concern from users and regulators.
The social network, whose parent company is now named Meta, said it will delete more than 1 billion people’s individual facial recognition templates as a result of this change. The company said in a blog post that more than a third of Facebook’s daily active users, or over 600 million accounts, had opted into the use of the face recognition technology.
Facebook will no longer automatically recognize people’s faces in photos or videos, the post said. The change, however, will also impact the automatic alt text technology that the company uses to describe images for people who are blind or visually impaired. Facebook services that rely on the face recognition systems will be removed over the coming weeks.
“There are many concerns about the place of facial recognition technology in society, and regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use,” the company said. “Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”
Ending the use of the face recognition system is part of “a company-wide move away from this kind of broad identification,” the post said.
Meta, which laid out its road map last week for the creation of a massive virtual world, said it will still consider facial recognition technology for instances where people need to verify their identity or to prevent fraud and impersonation. For future uses of facial recognition technology, Meta will “continue to be public about intended use, how people can have control over these systems and their personal data.”
The decision to shut down the system on Facebook comes amid a barrage of news reports over the past month after Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistleblower, released a trove of internal company documents to news outlets, lawmakers and regulators.