Worried about an onslaught of hateful comments directed at UK footballers after the Euro 2020 final, Instagram has begun new measures to curb abusive and racist content on the image-centric social network.
The Facebook-owned platform said on Wednesday that it would start using “stronger warnings” when people post potentially offensive comments, and a new “hidden words” feature that enables users to filter abusive messages.
Instagram will also allow users to limit comments and message requests during “spikes of increased attention.”
The move comes weeks after social platforms scrambled to take down racially abusive comments directed at members of the England football team following a heartbreaking loss in the Euro 2020 final, which was played last month after a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The racist and hateful content, which had prompted condemnation from British political leaders and the public, also led to pressure on the large US social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said the new measures were designed to reduce the spread of racist, sexist and homophobic content.
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“Our research shows that a lot of negativity towards public figures comes from people who don’t actually follow them, or who have only recently followed them, and who simply pile on in the moment,” Mosseri said in a blog post.
“We saw this after the recent Euro 2020 final, which resulted in a significant — and unacceptable — spike in racist abuse towards players.”
Mosseri said users “tell us they don’t want to switch off comments and messages completely; they still want to hear from their community and build those relationships,” and that the new policy “allows you to hear from your long-standing followers while limiting contact from people who might only be coming to your account to target you.”
Mosseri said the warnings already in place reduce the frequency of abusive comments by as much as 50 per cent.
“We already show a warning when someone tries to post a potentially offensive comment,” he wrote.
“And if they try to post potentially offensive comments multiple times, we show an even stronger warning… Now, rather than waiting for the second or third comment, we’ll show this stronger message the first time.”
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Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Is Launching William Shatner On October Tourist Spaceflight
Science fiction will soon become reality, as William Shatner is scheduled to launch on the next crewed spaceflight of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
The company plans to fly the Canadian actor, who famously played Capt. Kirk in the original “Star Trek” television series, as one of the passengers on the company’s New Shepard rocket.
The launch is planned for Oct. 12. Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, Audrey Powers, is joining the flight, with the crew of four rounded out by previously announced members Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen and Medidata co-founder Glen de Vries.
Blue Origin will host a live webcast of the mission, called NS-18, with coverage set to begin at 8 a.m. ET on Oct. 12.
Shatner’s trip would be the second human spaceflight for Blue Origin’s tourism and research rocket New Shepard, which successfully launched Bezos, founder and executive chairman of Amazon, to space in the inaugural crew of four in July.
At 90, Shatner would become the oldest person to fly to space, topping aerospace pioneer Wally Funk — who, at 82, flew on Blue Origin’s first launch.
A trip on Blue Origin’s New Shepard lasts about 10 minutes from liftoff to landing. The reusable rocket carries the capsule up past the U.S. boundary of space at 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) altitude, with the spacecraft and crew floating in microgravity for a couple of minutes before returning to land under a set of parachutes.
Bezos said after his own spaceflight that the company has sold nearly $100 million worth of tickets to future passengers. He also noted that Blue Origin plans to fly three crewed missions in 2021, with Shatner’s spaceflight representing the second of those three.
TMZ first reported that Shatner was joining the flight.
The company’s announcement to launch the next crewed spaceflight comes as the Federal Aviation Administration reviews safety concerns raised by current and former employees in an essay published last week. Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith, in an email obtained by CNBC, responded to the safety allegations by saying the company’s New Shepard program “went through a methodical and pain-staking process to certify” the rocket to carry people, adding that “anyone that claims otherwise is uninformed and simply incorrect.”
Blue Origin is suffering from escalating employee attrition, CNBC reported Friday, including the departure of the New Shepard program’s senior vice president in August.
Mark Zuckerberg Loses $7B After Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram Suffer Global Outage
Social media mogul Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personal wealth slipped as he lost nearly $7 billion in a few hours after Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram suffered a global outage on Monday.
Zuckerberg also slipped to the 5th spot in the billionaires’ list after facebook stocks plunged due to the global outage.
Zuckerberg, with a total wealth of $121.6 billion, has fallen behind Bill Gates, according to a Bloomberg report.
Interestingly, some companies pulled advertising from Facebook Inc.’s network after the social media giant apps like WhatsApp, Instagram and messenger suffered a major global outage yesterday, the report added.
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg has apologised for the disruption and stated that services are returning online on Tuesday.
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In its Facebook post, Zuckerberg said, “Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger are coming back online now,”
“Sorry for the disruption today — I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about,” he said.
Similarly, WhatsApp, in its Twitter handle, said, “Apologies to everyone who hasn’t been able to use WhatsApp today. We’re starting to slowly and carefully get WhatsApp working again. Thank you so much for your patience. We will continue to keep you updated when we have more information to share.”
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Elon Musk’s Tesla Bot Raises Serious Concerns – But Probably Not The Ones You Think
Elon Musk announced a humanoid robot designed to help with those repetitive, boring tasks people hate doing. Musk suggested it could run to the grocery store for you, but presumably it would handle any number of tasks involving manual labor.
Predictably, social media filled with references to a string of dystopian sci-fi movies about robots where everything goes horribly wrong.
As troubling as the robot futures in movies like I, Robot, The Terminator and others are, it’s the underlying technologies of real humanoid robots – and the intent behind them – that should be cause for concern.
A humanoid robot with a black head and shoulders and white body with the name Tesla across its chest
Musk’s robot is being developed by Tesla. It’s a seeming departure from the company’s car-making business, until you consider that Tesla isn’t a typical automotive manufacturer. The so-called “Tesla Bot” is a concept for a sleek, 125-pound humanlike robot that will incorporate Tesla’s automotive artificial intelligence and autopilot technologies to plan and follow routes, navigate traffic – in this case, pedestrians – and avoid obstacles.
Dystopian sci-fi overtones aside, the plan makes sense, albeit within Musk’s business strategy. The built environment is made by humans, for humans. And as Musk argued at the Tesla Bot’s announcement, successful advanced technologies are going to have to learn to navigate it in the same ways people do.
Yet Tesla’s cars and robots are merely the visible products of a much broader plan aimed at creating a future where advanced technologies liberate humans from our biological roots by blending biology and technology. As a researcher who studies the ethical and socially responsible development and use of emerging technologies, I find that this plan raises concerns that transcend speculative sci-fi fears of super-smart robots.
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A man with big plans
Self-driving cars, interplanetary rockets and brain-machine interfaces are steps toward the future Musk envisions where technology is humanity’s savior. In this future, energy will be cheap, abundant and sustainable; people will work in harmony with intelligent machines and even merge with them; and humans will become an interplanetary species.
It’s a future that, judging by Musk’s various endeavors, will be built on a set of underlying interconnected technologies that include sensors, actuators, energy and data infrastructures, systems integration and substantial advances in computer power. Together, these make a formidable toolbox for creating transformative technologies.
Musk imagines humans ultimately transcending our evolutionary heritage through technologies that are beyond-human, or “super” human. But before technology can become superhuman, it first needs to be human – or at least be designed to thrive in a human-designed world.
This make-tech-more-human approach to innovation is what’s underpinning the technologies in Tesla’s cars, including the extensive use of optical cameras. These, when connected to an AI “brain,” are intended to help the vehicles autonomously navigate road systems that are, in Musk’s words, “designed for biological neural nets with optical imagers” – in other words, people. In Musk’s telling, it’s a small step from human-inspired “robots on wheels” to humanlike robots on legs.
Easier said than done
Tesla’s “full self-driving” technology, which includes the dubiously named Autopilot, is a starting point for the developers of the Tesla Bot. Impressive as this technology is, it’s proving to be less than fully reliable. Crashes and fatalities associated with Tesla’s Autopilot mode – the latest having to do with the algorithms struggling to recognize parked emergency vehicles — are calling into question the wisdom of releasing the tech into the wild so soon.
This track record doesn’t bode well for humanlike robots that rely on the same technology. Yet this isn’t just a case of getting the technology right. Tesla’s Autopilot glitches are exacerbated by human behavior. For example, some Tesla drivers have treated their tech-enhanced cars as though they are fully autonomous vehicles and failed to pay sufficient attention to driving. Could something similar happen with the Tesla Bot?
Tesla Bot’s ‘orphan risks’
In my work on socially beneficial technology innovation, I’m especially interested in orphan risks – risks that are hard to quantify and easy to overlook and yet inevitably end up tripping up innovators. My colleagues and I work with entrepreneurs and others on navigating these types of challenges through the Risk Innovation Nexus, an initiative of the Arizona State University Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute and Global Futures Laboratory.
The Tesla Bot comes with a whole portfolio of orphan risks. These include possible threats to privacy and autonomy as the bot collects, shares and acts on potentially sensitive information; challenges associated with how people are likely to think about and respond to humanoid robots; potential misalignments between ethical or ideological perspectives – for example, in crime control or policing civil protests; and more. These are challenges that are rarely covered in the training that engineers receive, and yet overlooking them can spell disaster.
While the Tesla Bot may seem benign – or even a bit of a joke – if it’s to be beneficial as well as commercially successful, its developers, investors, future consumers and others need to be asking tough questions about how it might threaten what’s important to them and how to navigate these threats.
These threats may be as specific as people making unauthorized modifications that increase the robot’s performance – making it move faster than its designers intended, for example – without thinking about the risks, or as general as the technology being weaponized in novel ways. They are also as subtle as how a humanoid robot could threaten job security, or how a robot that includes advanced surveillance systems could undermine privacy.
Then there are the challenges of technological bias that have been plaguing AI for some time, especially where it leads to learned behavior that turn out to be highly discriminatory. For example, AI algorithms have produced sexist and racist results.
Just because we can, should we?
The Tesla Bot may seem like a small step toward Musk’s vision of superhuman technologies, and one that’s easy to write off as little more than hubristic showmanship. But the audacious plans underpinning it are serious — and they raise equally serious questions.
For instance, how responsible is Musk’s vision? Just because he can work toward creating the future of his dreams, who’s to say that he should? Is the future that Musk is striving to bring about the best one for humankind, or even a good one? And who will suffer the consequences if things go wrong?
These are the deeper concerns that the Tesla Bot raises for me as someone who studies and writes about the future and how our actions impact it. This is not to say that Tesla Bot isn’t a good idea, or that Elon Musk shouldn’t be able to flex his future-building muscles. Used in the right way, these are transformative ideas and technologies that could open up a future full of promise for billions of people.
But if consumers, investors and others are bedazzled by the glitz of new tech or dismissive of the hype and fail to see the bigger picture, society risks handing the future to wealthy innovators whose vision exceeds their understanding. If their visions of the future don’t align with what most people aspire to, or are catastrophically flawed, they are in danger of standing in the way of building a just and equitable future.
Maybe this is the abiding lesson from dystopian robot-future sci-fi movies that people should be taking away as the Tesla Bot moves from idea to reality — not the more obvious concerns of creating humanoid robots that run amok, but the far larger challenge of deciding who gets to imagine the future and be a part of building it.
This article by Prof. Maynard, Associate Dean, College of Global Futures, Arizona State University, was first published in The Conversation.
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