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Facebook and Austrian Censorship, Qualcomm Sells 4G Chips to Huawei, Giving Artificial Intelligence Legal Rights

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Photo courtesy the Register

A ruling by the high court in Austria, in line with local defamation policy, ordered Facebook to remove a post insulting a former Green Party leader, and demanded that all similar posts be removed on a global scale.

This case has been going on since 2016 when a Facebook user shared a photo of Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, chair of Austria’s Green Party at the time.

The user labeled her a “lousy traitor,” “corrupt oaf,” and member of a “fascist party,” evidently in response to her immigration policies. While this kind of speech is protected in the United States, under Austrian law it was considered defamation.

While Facebook agreed to remove the post, they did not agree to remove all others like it, nor do so on a global scale. They argued doing so would violate the EU’s e-Commerce Directive, which prohibits EU member states from imposing general monitoring regulations on tech companies.

The EU court ended up siding with Austria in October of 2019, saying the e-Commerce Directive did not prevent them from enforcing their local defamation standards.

There were two limits set by the EU court ruling on EU member state courts. First that they were obligations to look for and take down equivalent content must be issued with enough specificity so that independent providers don’t need to assess the content, and second, that worldwide injunctions must comport with “relevant international law.”

This precedent has potentially far-reaching effects and could create, wrote Slate’s Jennifer Daskal, a “race to the bottom, with the most censor-prone nation setting global speech rules.”

Although the Austrian court ruling was final, it was issued with provisional proceedings. Therefore, there is a chance that the injunction could be lifted as part of the main proceedings.

Qualcomm approved to sell 4G chips to Huawei despite U.S. restrictions

Qualcomm has been granted a license by the US government to sell 4G mobile chips to Huawei, in the face of an otherwise-present ban on U.S. sales with the company.

The company received a license to sell several products, including 4G chips, and they have other licensing applications pending, said a Qualcomm spokeswoman at a Reuters event on Saturday.

Restrictions on Huawei equipment in the United States began in May after President Trump issued an executive order banning the equipment in the U.S. In August, the Commerce Department expanded the regulations to limit Huawei’s access to chips that were made using American equipment.

Reuters said the impact of this license is limited, as many are opting for 5G phones now. It is unclear whether the company will be granted a license to sell 5G chips to Huawei.

How legal neutrality for artificial intelligence would benefit everyone

When the law draws distinctions between human behavior and the behavior are artificially intelligent machines, there tend to be negative outcomes, argued Ryan Abbott, author of The Reasonable Robot: Artificial Intelligence and the Law.

Morally, AI doesn’t have rights, he said in a virtual book discussion hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. While we sometimes treat corporations as if they have rights, but only because such a presumption encourages commerce and entrepreneurship, he said.

That said, there might be some circumstances in which it made sense to treat a machine as if it did have rights.

For instance, with a fully-autonomous self-driving car, the owner of the vehicle may need to hold an insurance policy for the AV to potentially compensate victims. But that wouldn’t be because it was morally deserving of rights.

He also suggested that it might make sense to have a more legal neutral tax system between humans and machines. Businesses are taxed differently depending on the kind of job the AI is doing, he explained.

McDonald’s, for instance, could realize a lot of tax benefits from having a machine do a job instead of a human because the company wouldn’t have to worry about payroll or other taxes for the robot.

In the industrial revolution, many people worried that they would lose their jobs to up and coming technology. In fact, many did, said Abbott.

But the industrial revolution proved that increasing automation doesn’t take humans out of the equation entirely, it just forces them to adapt. Having a legal neutral tax system for automation could allow us to reap the convenience and precision of automation while having enough revenue to compensate individuals who are negatively affected by the transition.

Reporter Liana Sowa grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. She studied editing and publishing as a writing fellow at Brigham Young University, where she mentored upperclassmen on neuroscience research papers. She enjoys reading and journaling, and marathon-runnning and stilt-walking.

Broadband Roundup

CHIPS Act Rules Against China, Idaho State Broadband Funds, FCC Combats Hidden Fees

Commerce Department’s new proposal would limit CHIPS Act recipients from investing in other countries

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Photo of Brad Little from his website

March 23, 2023 – The Department of Commerce released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to limit recipients of the CHIPS and Science Act from investing in the expansion of semiconductor manufacturing in foreign countries of concern such as People’s Republic of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, according to Commerce department press release Tuesday.

“The innovation and technology funded in the CHIPS Act is how we plan to expand the technological and national security advantages of America and our allies; these guardrails will help ensure we stay ahead of adversaries for decades to come,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

“CHIPS for America is fundamentally a national security initiative and these guardrails will help ensure malign actors do not have access to the cutting-edge technology that can be used against America and our allies.”

In addition to the national security guardrails the CHIPS and Science Act already included, these new proposed rules would prohibit significant transactions for leading-edge and advanced facilities in foreign countries of concern for 10 years from the date of award; limit the expansion of existing legacy facilities and prohibit recipients from adding new production lines or expanding a facility’s production capacity beyond 10 percent; classify semiconductors as critical to national security; and impose restrictions on joint research and technology licensing efforts with foreign entities of concern.

The Commerce Department is now seeking comments for 60 days.

Idaho invests $125 million in state funds for broadband deployment

Idaho on Monday passed legislation to spend $125 million in state funds on broadband deployments as a part of it’s “Idaho First” plan, according to a statement from the governor’s office. The state plans to spend an additional $100 million is nearing legislative approval.

“In a data-driven society, connectivity is imperative for a strong economy. Improved broadband infrastructure means both urban and rural Idaho will be connected and well-positioned to attract business and enhance our citizens’ quality of life,” said Idaho Gov. Brad Little.

“I appreciate my legislative partners for prioritizing these new ‘Idaho First’ investments in broadband expansion,” said Little. “Together, we are ensuring a kid in Pierce can learn online with a kid from Pocatello and a senior citizen in Challis can connect to her doctor in Chubbuck. This is about all about connecting Idaho and improving lives.”

Both of these two states could receive millions more in broadband funding through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program.

Cable and broadcast satellite providers must offer customers what they charge and why they charge

A new proposal introduced by Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel would require cable operators and direct broadcast satellite providers to specify their prices for video programming service in both their promotional materials and on subscribers’ bills, so that customers will not be confused, according to a Wednesday press release.

According to the proposal, cable and DBS providers need to include separate lines on each payment bill and promotional material for broadcast retransmission consent, regional sports programming, and fees for other programs that customers might sign up but without clear understanding.

“Consumers deserve to know what exactly they are paying for when they sign up for a cable or broadcast satellite subscription. No one likes surprises on their bill, especially families on tight budgets,” Rosenworcel said in the statement.

“We’re working to make it so the advertised price for a service is the price you pay when your bill arrives and isn’t littered with anything that resembles junk fees.”

This proposal of consumer protection is “latest in the Commission’s price transparency and increased competitiveness initiatives” which also includes the nation’s first Broadband Nutrition Label, that requires broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels to allow consumers to compare broadband service shop and choose for their own, according to the press release.

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Broadband Roundup

Space Bills Get Markup, Cybersecurity Reserve Bills Introduced, Gigabit Center Opens in Crown Heights, NY

The Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act are scheduled for mark-up on Thursday.

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Photo of Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2015 by Gage Skidmore

March 23, 2023 – The House Energy and Commerce Committee will host a mark-up meeting on Thursday to consider pieces of legislation that will “keep America at the forefront of next-generation communications technology,” according to a press release.

The Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act introduced by Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. in December last year will be among those going through the line-by-line process on Thursday.

The Secure Space Act prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from issuing satellite licenses or other related authorizations to untrusted actors, based on the framework adopted in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act.

The Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act clarifies FCC authority with the goal of promoting responsible use of space, incentivizing investment and innovation, and advancing U.S. leadership.

“America is leading the way in next-generation satellite technologies, which are contributing to a revolution in the communications marketplace,” the representatives said in a statement. “To make sure the U.S. – not China – continues to lead this global industry, we must streamline our regulatory processes to unleash innovation while also ensuring our laws fully protect the American public.”

Bills to ensure cybersecurity reserves in government introduced

Two bills introduced Tuesday by Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., would establish pilot programs that would hire civilian cybersecurity personnel in reserve to “ensure the U.S. government has the talent needed to defeat, deter, or respond to malicious cyber activity, especially at times of greatest need.”

The bills, some versions of which were previously introduced but did not pass, would establish the Civilian Cybersecurity Reserve pilot programs within the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

“Cybersecurity threats targeting the United States continue to grow in scale and scope, demonstrating the urgent need for robust civilian cyber reserves capable of addressing these threats and protecting our nation,”  Rosen said in a press release on Tuesday“Our bipartisan legislation will help ensure the U.S. government can leverage existing cybersecurity talent from the private sector to help our nation deter and swiftly respond to cyberattacks.”

The bills comes at a time when federal agencies are “experiencing a growing shortage of cybersecurity talent,” the release said.

“As the cyber domain continues to expand in size and complexity, so should our cyber workforce,” Blackburn said. “By creating a reserve corps similar to our National Guard or Army Reserve, we can ensure the U.S. has qualified, capable, and service-oriented American talent that is necessary to address cyber vulnerabilities and keep our nation secure.”

Gigabit Center to provide free internet to students in Crown Heights, NY

The Brooklyn Gigabit Center, which will provide free internet resources for students, opened in Crown Heights, New York on Wednesday.

The center will provide free high-speed Wi-Fi, technology, education and school supplies to Crown Height, New York, an area where 36 percent of households lack broadband, according to the press release.

The center opened with a press conference hosted by the administration of Mayor Eric Adams, LinkNYC, the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation, digital infrastructure company ZenFi Networks, and tech education non-profit Digital Girl, according to a ZenFi Networks press release.

ZenFi Networks has previously opened centers in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens to help the local communities to learn and adopt to modern technologies.

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Broadband Roundup

DOJ Investigates TikTok, Google’s Generative AI Tool, Charter Counsel Retiring

An internal TikTok investigation found employees had allegedly spied on journalists, the Times reported.

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Photo of Sundar Pichai from 2021 by World Economic Forum used with permission

March 21 – Federal authorities are investigating Chinese-owned video sharing app TikTok over allegations its spying over journalists, reported The New York Times on Friday.

Three people familiar with the case told the Times that the Department of Justice has been investigating the company ByteDance after internal emails showed the company had conducted an internal investigation and “found employees gained access to data from two journalists and people associated with them,” the Times said.

According to the Times, a spokesperson said the company “strongly” condemns the actions of the four employees who obtained the data on the journalists and are no longer working for the company.

The investigation comes during a time Washington and state governments are on heightened alert of the app they say is a national security risk. A new memorandum by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget published in February outlines how agencies are to identify and ban problematic software, like TikTok, from government devices and networks.

Senators have also introduced the RESTRICT Act to further strength national cybersecurity by empowering the Department of Commerce to examine critical infrastructure products and ensure “comprehensive actions to address risks of untrusted foreign information communications and technology products.”

Google releases new Bard generative AI tool for trialing  

Google has released an artificial intelligence tool intended to assist users in daily tasks, the search engine giant’s attempt to enter the generative AI space shared by the popular ChatGPT application.

Called Bard, the tool allows users to use the generative AI software as a personal assistant to ask the machine to come up with ways to accomplish tasks. The tool presents a chat box that the user inputs questions into, with the “large language model” generating tips automatically.

Google said the machine is in “experiment” mode and is asking users to contribute to its refinement.

Bard comes a week after OpenAI, the company behind generative AI tool ChatGPT, announced the latest version of the tool that has been able to craft novels using basic prompts. In the latest version, the tool has been able to create websites and versions of 2D video games.

Its power has concerned lawmakers and has sparked calls by experts for its regulation.

Aleksander Mądry, professor of Cadence Design Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a recent subcommittee hearing that generative AI is a very fast moving technology, meaning the government needs to step in to confirm the objectives of the companies and whether the algorithms match the societal benefits and values.

In January, ChatGPT eclipsed 100 million monthly users.

Charter’s executive vice president is retiring

Richard Dykhouse, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Charter Communications, is set to retire from his position, but will remain until the company picks a successor, the cable company announced Monday.

“Rick has played a significant role in Charter’s transformation and growth story – including its reorganization in 2009, the acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, and the largest-ever integration of cable companies,” Chris Winfrey, Charter’s president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “I am grateful for Rick’s leadership, advice and sound judgment over the years and pleased that he will continue to assist us throughout the transition to his successor.”

Once the company finds the right person, Dykhouse will remain as executive counsel to support the transition, the release said.

Dykhouse joined Charter in 2006.

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