December 3, 2023

It’s clearer than ever that governments will no longer ignore technology.

Europe mandates standard cell phone chargers for portable electronics, while Texas passed a controversial law to limit social media companies’ regulation of online speech. Tech companies can count on more changes, such as government managers getting involved in how they conduct business and how we use their products.

This will likely mean that new technologies such as driverless cars and facial recognition systems will take longer to spread to the world than they might. For many tech proponents, more deliberation and oversight slows down invention. For others, that’s exactly the point.

I wanted to discuss this in today’s newsletter because it’s easy to get overwhelmed (or ignored) by all the government regulation that’s tried.Just in the past few weeks, journalists have written about pending Congressional bills involving data privacy and Technology Antitrust; Classification of driver employment for companies like Uber; multiple countries set standards for how data moves and doesn’t move around the world; the Netherlands force apple Modifying payment methods for dating apps; and two state Laws on social media speech.

These are the result of a rethinking of the relatively laissez-faire approach to technology since the 1990s. With exceptions, the prevailing attitude is that new internet technologies, including digital advertising, e-commerce, social media and “gig” employment through apps, are too novel, marginal and useful for governments to limit them with many rules .

As TV and radio did when these mediums were new, many tech companies encouraged light regulation, saying they were bringing about better change, elected officials were too tedious and incompetent to monitor them effectively, and government interference would get in the way progress.

Case in point: A decade ago, Facebook said U.S. regulations would require TV and radio to disclose who pays for election-related ads should not apply to that companyA lawyer for Facebook said at the time that the U.S. election agency “should not hinder innovation.”

These ad disclosures aren’t always effective, but Facebook has voluntarily started offering more transparency about political ads after Russian-backed propagandists spread social media ads and free posts in 2016 to foment political divisions in the United States.

Better laws or ad disclosures probably won’t stop hostile foreign actors from abusing Facebook to wage information warfare in the U.S. or other countries. But the conventional wisdom of hands-off has likely contributed to a feeling that those in charge of technology should be left to do what they want.

“We realized that we were unleashing these powerful forces without putting in place the proper safeguards,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. “We can say from the start that every technology needs to be regulated in a common-sense way.”

Regulators now feel empowered. Lawmakers have stepped in to create rules for law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology. There will be more laws like the one in Texas to disenfranchise the few tech executives who set free speech rules for billions of people. More countries will force Apple and Google to reshape the app economy. More regulation is already changing the way children use technology.

Again, not all of these are good government interventions. But there are more signs that those who create the technology also want more government oversight — or at least rhetorically.Any discussion of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence Illustration software Dall-E and cryptocurrencies, often including consideration of potential harm and how regulation can minimize it.

That doesn’t mean people agree on what government oversight should look like. But the answer is almost never government intervention. This is different.

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  • Over 10 months, nearly 400 crashes in the U.S. involve advanced driver-assistance technology, according to federal data reported by my colleagues Neal Boudette and Cade Metz. As I wrote above, federal regulators are trying to better understand the real-world safety of technologies like Tesla’s Autopilot as they become more commonplace.

  • What is lost in the debate on artificial intelligence and human intelligence: A Google employee worries that AI software has gained awareness — it hasn’t — Get distracted from pressing worries Bloomberg News writes about AI, including the bias built into the technology and all the people needed for so-called automated systems. (Subscription may be required.)

  • Sports Streaming Scramble: Apple paid $2.5 billion for the rights to stream Major League Soccer games in the TV app on Apple devices, known as Athletic report. In India, the two companies will pay $3 billion to broadcast a cricket match. The deals are another sign that companies are betting on sports to convince people to pay for video-streaming services.

I would watch every video of kittens playing poker, like this.

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