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Oct 8, 2019

Understanding Technochauvinism with Meredith Broussard (Ep. 204)



Data journalist Meredith Broussard (@merbroussard) is an associate professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University and the author of “Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World.”. Her academic research focuses on artificial intelligence in investigative reporting, with a particular interest in using data analysis for social good. She is also interested in reproducible research issues and is developing methods for preserving innovative digital journalism projects in scholarly archives so that we can read today’s news on tomorrow’s computers. She is an affiliate faculty member at the Moore Sloan Data Science Environment at the NYU Center for Data Science, a 2019 Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow, and her work has been supported by the Institute of Museum & Library Services as well as the Tow Center at Columbia Journalism School. A former features editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, she has also worked as a software developer at AT&T Bell Labs and the MIT Media Lab. Her features and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, and other outlets. 


Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World (MIT Press, 2018)


News Roundup

New York Daily News: Google trained facial recognition on ‘dark skinned’ homeless people

The New York Daily News reports that Google apparently sent out contractors to pay homeless people $5 gift cards to train facial recognition on ‘dark skinned’ homeless people. The revelation comes after several former Google temp workers came forward. Google has acknowledged the program, though, and said its primary goal is to have a diverse and inclusive data set. Better security is also a goal, said the Google spokesperson, because the company is seeking to protect as many people as possible. But the workers took issue with some of the specific tactics they were asked to employ via their staffing agency, Randstad, under the direction of Google. 

DNC goes after Facebook for enabling Trump

The CEO of the Democratic National Committee, Seema Nanda, went on CNN last week and accused Facebook of catering to Trump by allowing him to “mislead the American people”. The previous week, Facebook refused to remove posts and ads from politicians even if they violate Facebook’s community rules.

Also, Scott Lucas of BuzzFeed wrote a piece on Facebook’s growing popularity among older and more conservative voters, and whether Facebook may in fact be Trump’s secret weapon against Democrats in the 2020 election.

Sen. Kamala Harris calls on Twitter to suspend Trump

In a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Senator Kamala Harris, who is running for president, called on Twitter to suspend Trump’s Twitter account, citing the president’s attempts to “target, harass, and attempt to out” the first Ukraine whistleblower. She also referred to the president’s tweet stating that there would be a Civil War-like fracture, if he’s impeached, saying it was an incitement to violence. The president also referred to the impeachment investigation as a “coup” to which Harris retweeted with a comment saying “Hey Jack … time to do something about this.” But Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, both of whom are also running for president, disagreed that Twitter should suspend the president’s Twitter account. The two lawmakers said that “we can’t just cancel or shutdown or silence those who we disagree with or who hold different views or who say things even that we strongly disagree with or abhor.”

Court of Appeals upholds the FCC’s net neutrality repeal

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the FCC’s 2017 repeal of the 2015 net neutrality rules. The court sided with the FCC in saying that the internet isn’t a “telecommunications service”. But the court did say, however, that the FCC didn’t make a compelling argument that the FCC preempts state law, clearing the way for states to enact their own net neutrality rules, provided that they don’t undermine the repeal order. The court also said the FCC failed to properly consider the effect the rules would have on public safety, serving the underserved, and a wonky area of telecom law that deals with regulations around how ISPs should attach telecom equipment to existing telephone poles.

DHS proposes rule to collect DNA evidence from detained migrants

The Department of Homeland Security has proposed a rule that would allow the widespread collection of DNA from detained migrants. The Trump administration argues that the effort would aid the U.S. in identifying undocumented individuals. But policy experts cited in Roll Call are concerned that the program is just another way to target people of color. 

Tim Cook urges Supreme Court to preserve DACA

Tim Cook filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court urging the Court to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood (DACA) arrival program. If the Supreme Court rules against the program, hundreds of thousands of individuals who arrived in the U.S. as children, some of which work at Apple, could face deportation.

Google can now recognize 9 “data-scarce” Indian languages

Google researchers presented a model that recognizes speech in 9 “data scarce” Indian languages at Interspeech 2019 last week. The researches say the model allows for real-time speech recognition of all of the languages and does so better than other models. The languages include Hindi, Marathi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Gujarati.

Rep. Maxine Waters and House Finance Committee press Zuckerberg to testify

The House Financial Services Committee, for which California Representative Maxine Waters serves as chair, is demanding that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify regarding its plan to introduce its Libra cryptocurrency. The company has planned to send COO Sheryl Sandberg, but the Committee indicated that sending Sandberg is insufficient. Waters has called for Zuckerberg to testify by January.

Microsoft reports hacking attempts linked to Iran

Microsoft reported a hacking attempt linked to Iran on 2,700 email accounts, of which 241 were successful. Some of the accounts included presidential candidates, according to the Hill, which also noted that an undisclosed source indicated that the Trump campaign was among the targets. The Trump campaign has said that it does not have any evidence of an attack.

UPS gets FAA approval for a drone fleet

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved UPS’ plan to operate an unlimited fleet of drones nationwide. The drones are permitted to operate at night, but not yet in populated areas. UPS has not announced plans to train existing drivers to pilot the drones.