Is Apple Helping the Chinese Government #1636

Has Apple helped suppress the Chinese people and, in turn, helped the Chinese Government in recent crackdowns? By limiting certain functions of the Apple phone. One has to begin to wonder if they only like controlled speech when there are rumors that they may remove support for Twitter on the iPhone. One may start to question the value of the iOS ecosphere when one starts to hear this combined with the actions in China.

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Continue reading Is Apple Helping the Chinese Government #1636

Stability.AI Released Stable Diffusion 2.0

articulated figure looking at a tablet by Brent Jordan on UnsplashStability.AI announced its open-source release of Stable Diffusion Version 2. According to Stability.AI, the original Stable Diffusion V1 led by CompVis changed the nature of open source AI models and spawned hundreds of other models and innovations worldwide. It had one of the fastest climbs to 10K Github stars of any software, rocketing through 33K stars in less than two months.

Stable Diffusion 2.0 delivers a number of big improvements and features versus the original V1 release. Features and Improvements include:

New Text-to-Image Diffusion Models

The Stable Diffusion 2.0 release includes robust text-to-image models trained using a brand new encoder (OpenCLIP), developed by LAION with support from Stability AI, which greatly improves the quality of the generated images compared to earlier V1 releases. The text-to-image models in this release can generate images with default resolutions of both 512×512 pixels and 768×768 pixels.

These models are trained on an aesthetic subset of LAION-5B dataset created by the DeepFloyd team at StabilityAI, which is then filtered to remove adult content using LAION’s NSFW filter.

Super-resolution Upscaler Diffusion Models

Stable Diffusion 2.0 also includes an Upscaler Diffusion model that enhances the resolution of images by a factor of 4. Combined with their text-to-image models, Stable Diffusion 2.0 can now generate images with resolutions of 2048×2048 – or even higher.

Other new features and improvements include: Depth-to-Image Diffusion Model and an Updated Inpainting Diffusion Model.

The Verge reported that users of the AI image generator Stable Diffusion are angry about an update to the software that “nerfs” its ability to generate NSFW output and pictures in the style of specific artists.

StabilityAI, the company that funds and disseminates the software, announced its update. It re-engineers key components of the model and improves certain features like upscaling (the ability to increase the resolution of images) and in-painting (context-aware editing). But, the changes also make it harder for Stable Diffusion to generate certain types of images that have attracted both controversy and criticism. These include nude and pornographic output, photorealistic pictures of celebrities, and images that mimic the artwork of specific artists.

According to The Verge, unlike rival models like OpenAI’s DALL-E, Stable Diffusion is open source. This allows the community to quickly improve on the tool and for developers to integrate it into their products free of charge. But it also means Stable Diffusion has fewer constraints in how its used, and as a consequence, has attracted criticism. Some artists are upset that an AI was trained on their artwork without their consent and can now reproduce their styles.

The Verge also reported that nude and pornographic images have been removed from Stable Diffusion’s training data. AI image generators are already being used to generate NSFW output, including both photorealistic and anime-style pictures. However, these models can also be used to generate NSFW imagery resembling specific individuals (known as non-consensual pornography) and images of child abuse.

CNET reported that AI-art technology creates images based on text prompts. It then feeds those prompts into a program that’s designed to recognize patterns in immense quantities of real-world data. The result is upending the art and tech worlds, where AI-generated imagery and videos have raised questions about what constitutes art and who should own a copyright to it.

Overall, I think AI-generated art is bad for artists. It means that people will immediately go to one of the many AI-art models, type in what they are looking for, and use the generated image that they prefer from what the AI shows them. People will take the lazy way out and grab something from an AI when they could be getting better work from real-world, human, artists, who deserve payment for their work.

Elon Musk To Launch New Blue, Gold, and Grey Twitter Check Marks

Elon Musk has said Twitter verification will return next week with color-coded categories for individuals, government accounts, and companies, The Guardian reported.

According to The Guardian, Musk said the platform would launch a new verification service on Friday next week, having pulled an earlier attempt at a revamp that gave blue ticks to accounts paying $7.99 (£6.60) a month after it triggered a flood of imposter accounts.

The Guardian also reported the Musk said verified accounts under the new system would carry a blue tick – or checkmark – for individuals, a grey tick for “government” and a gold tick for companies.

Elon Musk tweeted (responding to two other accounts): “Sorry for the delay, we’re tentatively launching Verified on Friday next week. Gold check for companies, grey check for governments, blue for individuals (celebrity or not) and all verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates. Painful, but necessary”

The Verge reported: As it turns out, offering so-called verified check marks for an $8 monthly subscription without actually verifying identities wasn’t a brilliant idea. After Musk ignored warnings from Twitter’s own trust and safety staff, the platform’s paid Twitter Blue subscriptions rolled out quickly and resulted in some ‘verified’ accounts impersonating notable public figures and brands, driving away advertisers from the “high-risk” platform. Musk has since said the company wouldn’t relaunch Twitter Blue until “we’re confident about significant impersonations not happening.”

CNBC reported that Elon Musk was forced to pause the $8 per month Twitter Blue service, which allowed anyone to pay the subscription for the blue verification tick, after users abused the system by impersonating brands and famous people.

According to CNBC, on Monday, Mr. Musk said that Twitter would delay the relaunch of its $8 per month Blue Verified service. At the time, Musk said Twitter will “probably use a different color check for organizations than individuals.”

CNBC reported that Musk had earlier said he planned to relaunch Twitter Blue on Nov. 29. Musk’s latest timeline puts the relaunch on Dec. 2. The subscription service is Musk’s attempt to find new revenue stream at Twitter as part of the billionaire’s controversial shakeup at the social media firm.

The Hill reported that Mr. Musk said that paid users will have the same blue check as those previously given to verified accounts, which were given to signify a “notable” account. Musk has previously said those verified users will eventually lose their checkmarks.

“All verified individual humans will have the same blue check, as boundary of what constitutes ‘notable’ is otherwise too subjective,” Musk tweeted: “Individuals can have secondary tiny logo showing they belong to an org if verified as such by that org. Longer explanation next week.”

It is unclear to me whether or not the blue checkmarks (and the other ones) will actually appear in the timeframe that Elon Musk appears to think it will. Hopefully, he’s learned something after those problems appeared. I think it would be good for Mr. Musk to be less impulsive when it comes to making decisions regarding Twitter.

FCC Bans U.S. Sales Of Huawei And ZTE Over Security Concerns

Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Hytera and Dahua all sell telecommunications equipment and video surveillance technology into the United States, but many of their future security cams and radio hardware will no longer be welcome, The Verge reported.

According to The Verge, the Federal Communications Commission has just announced it will no longer authorize some of their equipment – which is a big deal, because companies can’t legally import or sell anything with a radio in the US without authorization.

The FCC posted news (in the form of a PDF, Docx, or Txt) titled: “FCC Bans Equipment Authorizations For Chinese Telecommunications And Video Surveillance Equipment Deemed To Pose A Threat To National Security”.

From the news:

The Federal Communications Commission adopted new rules prohibiting communications equipment deemed to pose an unacceptable risk to national security from being authorized for importation or sale in the United States. This is the latest step by the Commission to protect our nation’s communications networks. In recent years, the Commission, Congress, and the Executive Branch have taken multiple actions to build a more secure and resilient supply chain for communications equipment and services within the United States.

“The FCC is committed to protecting our national security by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorized for use within our borders, and we are continuing that work here,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “These new rules are an important part of our ongoing actions to protect the American people from national security threats involving telecommunications.”…

… The new rules prohibit the authorization of equipment through the FCC’s Certification process, and makes clear that such equipment cannot be authorized under the Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity process or be imported or marketed under rules that allow exemptions from an equipment authorization. The Covered List (which includes both equipment and services) currently includes communications equipment produced by Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corporation, Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, and Dahua Technology (and their subsidiaries and affiliates). The new rules implement the directive in the Secure Equipment Act of 2021, signed into law by President Biden last November, the requires the Commission to adopt such rules…

Brendan Carr, the FCC’s commissioner tweeted: “Today the FCC takes an unprecedented step to safeguard our networks and strengthen America’s national security. Our unanimous decision represents the first time in FCC history that we have voted to prohibit the authorization of new equipment based on national security concerns.”

Engadget reported that this latest move follows years of conflict between the US and companies closely tied to Chinese governments. That’s included placing several notable Chinese companies, including DJI, on the Department of Commerce’s “Entity List,” which prohibits US firms from selling equipment to them.

According to Engadget, the FCC is also calling for $5 billion to help US carriers with the massive task of replacing equipment from Huawei and ZTE.

In my opinion, it seems like a good idea for the United States to try and protect itself from products and services that “could pose a threat to national security”. I think the FCC is right to request $5 billion to help US carriers remove equipment from Huawei and ZTE, and I hope the money will also enable the carriers to install equipment made in the United States.

Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving” Beta Is Now Available

Teslarati reported that an increasing number of Tesla owners who purchased the Full Self-Driving suite for their vehicles have reported receiving access to FSD Beta. This was despite some of the owners claiming that their cars have garnered less than 100 Autopilot miles and that their Safety Score was less than 80.

According to Teslarati, some Tesla owners remarked that even vehicles that are not used much, or cars that have a safety score below 80, have received FSD Beta This included a driver who regularly drives his race-spec Model 3 Performance on the track, and whose safety score is at a modest 62. A number of Tesla owners who bought FSD several years ago also reported receiving the update recently.

The Verge reported. Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” Beta, which as been gradually rolling out over the past couple of years, is now available to anyone who’s paid for the feature in North America, CEO Elon Musk has announced.

Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta is now available to anyone in North America who requests it from the car screen, assuming you have bought this option. Congrats to Tesla Autopilot/AI team on achieving a major milestone!”

According to The Verge, the rollout of the beta software kicked off in 2020 with a small number of customers and has since gradually expanded to be available to around 160,000 drivers as of October this year. Getting access to the beta has typically required that drivers hit a minimum safety threshold with Tesla’s built-in Safety Score feature as well as logging 100 miles using the company’s advanced driver-assist feature Autopilot.

The Verge also reported that Tesla’s driver-assist technology, not to mention the company’s marketing of it, are facing heavy scrutiny from regulators. The US’s National Highway Traffic Administration is investigating incidents of Tesla vehicles crashing into stationary emergency vehicles while using Autopilot.

CNBC previously reported that the Department of Justice has launched an undisclosed probe of Tesla last year following more than a dozen crashes, some of them fatal, involving Tesla’s driver assistance system Autopilot, which was activated during the accidents.

The Los Angeles Times previously reported that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has accused Tesla of false advertising in its promotion of the company’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technologies. The agency alleges the electric-car maker misled customers with advertising language on its website describing Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technologies as more capable than they actually are.

Engadget reported that Tesla first promised to launch full self-driving features in 2018, but they only finally appeared in July 2021 to a small number of “expert and careful drivers.” It was released more widely in the version 9.0 beta, but testers were limited to an early access program. On the last FSD release, Tesla dropped the requirement for at least 100 Autopilot miles and an 80 safety score, and now anyone who wants it can have it.

In my opinion, any company facing that many probes by governmental regulators should be extremely wary about what it chooses to do. It appears that Elon Musk is more interested in starting the beta test than he is concerned about consumer safety. That’s unfortunate, and could potentially result in legal problems.

Elon Musk Will Grant “Amnesty” To Banned Accounts Next Week

Elon Musk says Twitter will enact a general amnesty for suspended accounts next week, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter wrote: The billionaire continued his ad hoc strategy of making policy by Twitter poll, asking users Wednesday, “Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?” He did not specify which laws.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a majority (72 percent) of the 3.1 million users voted in favor of the amnesty for blocked accounts, a group that includes former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, former Trump advisors Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, right wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, singer Azalea Banks, Pharma bro Martin Shkreli and neo-fascist group the Proud Boys.

Reuters reported last week that Musk reinstated some previously suspended accounts, including U.S. President Donald Trump, satirical website Babylon Bee and comedian Kathy Griffin.

According to Reuters, in October, Musk said Twitter would form a content moderation council “with widely diverse viewpoints.” Musk said no major content decisions or account reinstatements would happen before the council convened.

The Verge reported that the Musk’s decision to reverse years of moderation work at Twitter effectively trashes Musk’s original promise: to create a diverse council that would adjudicate serious moderation decisions.

According to The Verge, the decision to reverse years of moderation work at Twitter effectively trashes Musk’s original promise: to create a diverse council that would help adjudicate serious moderation decisions. Musk backed away from that idea later by blaming “political/social activist groups” for breaking an alleged “deal” – claim that nobody has verified and that advertisers deny.

Reclaim The Net reported that Musk has reinstated a number of accounts, including Donald Trump, The Babylon Bee, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, Kathy Griffin, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Kanye West. According to Reclaim The Net, the only account Musk has said will not be reinstated is Alex Jones.

The Hill reported the return of suspended accounts heightens concerns about content moderation on the platform, which had already been exacerbated by Musk’s mass layoffs at Twitter earlier this month.

It is unclear to me why Mr. Musk appears to prefer to make decisions based on how Twitter users vote on a poll that he posted. Every poll done through social media can be manipulated with by people who want to push the results one way or another. I think decision making on Twitter should be done by a group of content moderators before changes are made.

Twitter Purges Workers Tasked With Regulatory And Content Issues

Elon Musk’s move to purge Twitter Inc. employees who don’t embrace his vision has led to a wave departures among policy and safety-issue staffers around the globe, sparking questions from regulators in key jurisdictions about the site’s continued compliance efforts, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to The Wall Street Journal, scrutiny has been particularly close in Europe, where officials have in recent years assumed a greater role in regulating big tech companies.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that staff departures in recent days include dozens of people spread across units such as governmental policy, legal affairs, and Twitter’s “trust and safety” division, which is responsible for functions like drafting content-moderation rules, according to current and former employees, postings on social media, and emails sent to work addresses of people who had worked at Twitter that recently bounced back. They have left from hubs including Dublin, Singapore and San Francisco.

The staff departures come as Twitter holds talks with the EU about the bloc’s new social-media law, dubbed the Digital Services Act, which will apply tougher rules on bigger platforms like Twitter by the middle of next year.

The Guardian reported that Twitter has disbanded its entire Brussels office, according to media reports, raising questions about the social media’s compliance with new EU laws to control big tech.

According to The Guardian, Julia Mozer and Dario La Nasa were in charge of Twitter’s digital policy in Europe left the company last week. The pair had survived an initial cut when Elon Musk laid off thousands of employees following his takeover last month. It is unclear whether Mozer and La Nasa were made redundant or chose to leave in response to Musk’s ultimatum to commit to working long “extremely hardcore” hours or quit.

Engadget also reported that Mozer and La Nasa oversaw public policy for Twitter in Europe. They were in charge of efforts to make sure Twitter complies with the EU’s disinformation code as well as the Digital Services Act. The DSA came into force last week and will apply to companies starting in February of 2024.

According to Engadget, the DSA gives EU governments more power over how platforms moderate content and when tech companies have to take down illegal content. Platforms will need to be transparent about the reasons for content moderation decisions. Affected users will have at the right to challenge moderation decisions if their content is removed or access to it is restricted.

Engadget also reported that if Twitter fails to comply with the DSA’s rules, it faces potentially heavy penalties. Regulators could fine Twitter up to six percent of its global turnover or even ban the platform. EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton has warned Musk that Twitter needs to abide by the bloc’s content regulations.

To put things in perspective, since Elon Musk took over Twitter, he has reinstated controversial accounts that had been previously suspended, he appears to have chosen to ignore the EU’s DSA, and Twitter’s communications department no longer exists. It appears that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission might be looking into the situation. In general, it is unwise to make changes to your newly purchased social media company that quickly attract the attention of regulators.