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Broadband Roundup: IBM Pulls Facial Recognition, Public Knowledge Says No to Facebook, Comcast Pledges to Diversity

Elijah Labby

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Photo of protesters on June 6, 2020 by Joshua Santos used with permission

June 10, 2020 — IBM CEO Arvind Krishna announced Monday that the company would end its facial recognition development programs, CNBC reported

 

Amid nationwide protests surrounding police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, some tech privacy advocates say the police can use the technology to restrict the rights of protestors. Additionally, studies have shown that existing facial recognition technologies lack accuracy when detecting women and racial minorities, leading to considerable potential for wrongful apprehension.

 

In a letter to Congress on Monday, Krishna wrote that “IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology... for mass surveillance, racial profiling, [or] violations of basic human rights and freedoms.”

 

The letter comes as big tech companies like Amazon are scrambling to advertise themselves as proponents of cultural change, while protestors are pressuring them to explain business actions they see as antithetical to their movement.

 

Public Knowledge refuses Facebook funding

 

Public Knowledge, a communications think tank, announced Tuesday that it would not accept Facebook funding for any of the organization’s programs.

 

Citing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to leave several controversial posts from President Donald Trump online and untouched, the organization said that Facebook had been derelict in its duty to facilitate helpful discussions online.

 

“Platforms shouldn’t hide behind the First Amendment as an excuse to allow hate, misinformation, and abuse to run rampant on their services, particularly when they hold such a dominant position in the marketplace,” said Public Knowledge CEO Chris Lewis.

 

Lewis said Facebook’s inaction was harmful to discourse on the platform and called on its leaders to change course.

 

“We believe Facebook can do better, and we call upon the company to play a constructive role in allowing a civil discourse online,” he said. “That does not include turning a blind eye to messages that intimidate or suppress voters, spread misinformation, or endanger individuals and democracy.”

 

Comcast pledges $100 million to fight inequality

 

Comcast has committed to spending $100 million to fight racism in the U.S., The Hill reported.

 

Comcast will distribute $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years. The company will allocate the funds to organizations fighting injustice and inequality, as well as producing content that “amplifies Black voices and Black stories.”

 

The company also committed to fighting the digital divide, which disproportionately affects minority communities. 

 

“We know that Comcast alone can’t remedy this complex issue,” said Comcast’s Executive Vice President Craig Robinson. “But you have my commitment that our company will try to play an integral role in driving lasting reform. Together, we hope to help create a more equitable, just and inclusive society.”

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