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Allen Institute researchers find pervasive toxicity in popular language models

Researchers at the Allen Institute for AI have created a data set — RealToxicityPrompts — that attempts to elicit racist, sexist, or otherwise toxic responses from AI language models, as a way of measuring the models’ preferences for these responses. In experiments, they claim to have found that no current machine learning technique sufficiently protects against toxic outputs, underlining the need for better training sets and model architectures. It’s well-established that models amplify the biases in data on which they were trained. That’s problematic in the language domain, because a portion of the data is often sourced from communities with pervasive gender, race, and religious prejudices. AI research firm OpenAI notes that this can lead to placing words like “naughty” or “sucked” near female pronouns and “Islam” near words like “terrorism.” Other studies, like one published by Intel, MIT, and Canadian AI initiative CIFAR researchers in April, have found high levels of stereotypical bias from some of the most popular models, including Google’s BERT and XLNet, OpenAI’s GPT-2, and Facebook’s RoBERTa. The Allen Institute researchers designed RealToxicityPrompts to measure the risk of “toxic degeneration” by pretrained language models, or models fed data sets containing thousands to billions of documents. They compiled a list of 100,000 naturally occurring prompts extracted from a large corpus of English Reddit text (the open source Open-WebText Corpus) and paired it with toxicity scores from Google’s Perspective API, which uses machine learning models to detect the potential toxicity of a comment. The coauthors evaluated five language models using RealToxicityPrompts, specifically…Continue readingAllen Institute researchers find pervasive toxicity in popular language models

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Facebook takes a shot at Apple over stance on paid online events for game devs

Facebook and Apple aren’t getting along, and the social network is taking yet another shot at Apple today. This dispute is over paid online events, and it seems to be a sign of deteriorating relations among the tech giants. In August, Facebook introduced paid online events. It let Facebook Page owners create an online event, set a price, promote the event, collect payments, and host the event in one place. It was a way to help small businesses recover lost revenue, as only 19% of surveyed businesses are getting any financial help during the pandemic. Facebook said it would not collect any fees from these paid online events for at least a year. On Android and the web, it instituted that policy so small businesses could keep 100% of the revenue. But on iOS, Facebook asked Apple to eliminate its “30% App Store tax” or allow Facebook to offer Facebook Pay so Facebook could absorb all the costs. Apple declined to do so, and Facebook pointed this out. Upon deliberation, Apple changed its mind, saying that it would waive the 30% App Store fee for the remaining three months of 2020, allowing businesses to keep all of their paid online event earnings (minus taxes) until December 31. Facebook Pay will process all of the event purchases. Above: In August, Facebook demoed the difference between payments on Android (right) and iOS on paid online events. Image Credit: Facebook But Apple did not extend the fee waiver to game developers, and Facebook…Continue readingFacebook takes a shot at Apple over stance on paid online events for game devs

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Facebook’s Oversight Board to launch in October — but not for election cases

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s long-delayed independent Oversight Board plans to launch in mid-late October, just before the November U.S. presidential election, but a Facebook spokeswoman said on Thursday it was unlikely that the board would handle election-related cases. The board, created by Facebook in response to criticism of its handling of problematic content, will initially have the power to review decisions to take down posts from Facebook and Instagram, and recommend policy changes. Oversight Board member Alan Rusbridger told Reuters in an interview this week the board was now aiming for an October launch. A board spokesman said that the late launch, originally planned for last year, had been further slowed by the coronavirus pandemic. Potential cases would come to the board from users who have exhausted the appeals process, or be sent over from Facebook. Deciding and implementing rulings would take up to 90 days, although Facebook could ask for them to be expedited within 30 days. The Facebook spokeswoman said it was unlikely that cases related to the election would get through the process given that time frame. Rusbridger also told Reuters that cases involving President Donald Trump’s posts were not among those that the board had looked at in trial runs. “We haven’t done a Trump case,” said Rusbridger, a former editor-in-chief of Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “We have done a nudity case, we’ve done a blasphemy case.” Facebook faced employee backlash in recent months over its decision to take no action over posts from Trump containing misleading…Continue readingFacebook’s Oversight Board to launch in October — but not for election cases

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Apple and Facebook spin antitrust claims: ‘We’re misunderstood’

In late July, a Congressional subcommittee successfully compelled four major tech company CEOs to formally answer questions over allegedly monopolistic business practices — a public spectacle marred only by COVID-19-related isolation of the attendees. Amazon, Facebook, and Google faced some of the heaviest questioning, but Apple certainly didn’t walk away untouched, as it was peppered with evidence that its App Store was abusing its increasingly dominant position within the software industry. The “Online Platforms and Market Power” hearing matters because it paved the way for formal antitrust actions against four of the world’s largest companies, technology or otherwise. Individually and collectively, they reach billions of people, with an outsized impact on the hardware, software, and services enterprises and end users rely upon every day. While all four of the tech giants portray themselves as ambitious good actors, there are certainly negative consequences to their actions. Today, a group of developers announced the formation of a collective Coalition for App Fairness, backed initially by heavy hitters such as Basecamp, Epic Games, Match Group, Spotify, and Tile, as well as the European Publishers Council, News Media Europe, and several other founding members. Having already registered individual complaints with U.S. and European regulators, the group is now calling “for Apple to be held accountable” for price gouging and other anti-competitive policies after “nearly a decade with no oversight, regulation, or fair competition.” What’s Apple’s latest response to these claims? New marketing. A new App Store promotional page implies that the public just doesn’t understand how benevolent…Continue readingApple and Facebook spin antitrust claims: ‘We’re misunderstood’

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Amazon is embracing surveillance-as-a-service | VentureBeat

Today, Amazon rolled out more than a dozen new devices and services, including more dynamic ways to speak with Alexa and a cloud gaming service named Luna. The highly-produced showcase has been held every September for a few years now, and as the biggest Alexa event of the year, it tends to make Amazon’s ambitions clear. Last year a major theme was that Amazon wants you to use its recommendation engines, and this year the message couldn’t be clearer: Amazon is in the business of selling surveillance-as-a-service. Each of these features and products, from live video of your car’s interior to home surveillance is designed to lead down a rabbit hole to a paid service. For example, Alexa Guard, which turns Echo speakers into listening devices when people are away from home, was free at launch a few years ago. A free version still exists, but today Amazon launched Alexa Guard Plus, a paid $5 a month service. These products and services reveal an orchestrated strategy to slow walk people into normalizing surveillance of virtually every aspect of people’s lives at a cost, this in spite the fact that normalization of surveillance can lead to Amazon flipping a profit at all points, from partnering with cities and police departments, negative Neighbors app activity, and people afraid of getting pulled over by the police. Once a moratorium ends in 2021, Amazon can sell facial recognition to police too. If you followed the spat of bad news about Ring in the past year…Continue readingAmazon is embracing surveillance-as-a-service | VentureBeat

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Sensor Tower: These genres are thriving in the $2 billion U.S. mobile-RPG market

The game industry continues to show off how it’s benefiting from the pandemic. This time, it’s mobile role-playing games bringing in more dough, according to analyst firm Sensor Tower. So far in 2020, mobile role-playing games have brought in an estimated $2 billion in player spending in the U.S., which is already 33% higher than its estimates for 2019. And squad-based RPGs are leading the charge as most game segments benefit from the pandemic, with Scopely’s Marvel: Strike Force and its ilk bringing in $850 million of that $2 billion so far this year. Mobile RPGs gathered just over 115 million downloads since January, which Sensor Tower said is an increase of 1.8%. As Sensor Tower Randy Nelson explains, this shows that “developers need to stay on top of changing trends in consumer preference and discover new spins on this classic genre that can help them stand out and attract new demographics of players.” Having a big-time franchise license doesn’t hurt, either. Squad-RPGs include the likes of Raid: Shadow Legends and older games such as Summoners War and Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. These are free-to-play games in which players spend to improve their squads, though you can make teams without giving up a penny. “Squad-RPGs focus on drafting characters and building a synergistic team. Encounters and battles are typically low-touch or have an auto-battle mode. Characters are drafted through some form of a gatcha,” Nelson said. In this case, gatcha means acquiring packs or characters through paid or free currency.…Continue readingSensor Tower: These genres are thriving in the $2 billion U.S. mobile-RPG market

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Mugshots from U.S. Customers and Border Protection database leaked onto the dark web

Last June, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) subcontractor breach exposed over 184,000 photos of people collected as part of the Vehicle Face System, a facial recognition program at major ports of entry to verify travelers’ identities as they enter and exit the U.S. While CBP initially declined to say whether any of that data made its way onto the dark web, a new inspector general report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that at least 19 images were published online due to lapses in security protocols by Perceptics, the third-party responsible for securing the images. The report’s findings, while somewhat preempted by Motherboard’s reporting last year, underline the dangers of law enforcement facial recognition systems. Centralized databases, particularly those managed by multiple parties, are vulnerable to hacking and ransomware attempts. The Vehicle Face System, which launched in 2018 at the Nogales border crossing in Arizona and Anzalduas in Texas, affords CBP access to facial recognition databases that incorporate photos from entry inspections, U.S. visas, and other U.S. Department of Homeland Security resources. (The Vehicle Face System is a part of CBP’s broader Biometric Entry-Exit Program, which is engaged with airlines at 27 international airports across the country to perform facial recognition on passengers.) Camera kiosks at border crossings developed with the help of Oak Ridge National Labs in Tennessee capture photos of drivers through windshields and compare them with photos in the database, algorithmically attempting to identify matches. According to the inspector general report, CBP violated…Continue readingMugshots from U.S. Customers and Border Protection database leaked onto the dark web

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Tribeca Film Festival adds game awards in recognition of cultural impact

The Tribeca Film Festival has created an all-star game advisory board and it plans to add video game awards next year as it recognizes their cultural and artistic impact. In some ways, this is a pivot as films and filmmaking are struggling during the recession. But it’s also a recognition that games are making a positive contribution to society during the pandemic, said Tribeca’s Casey Baltes in an interview with GamesBeat. The event will open submissions for games to join the festival as official selections. Those chosen will also be eligible for the inaugural Tribeca Games Award, which will honor upcoming games from the selections that demonstrate artistic excellence in storytelling in a game. Baltes said it’s a moment of big change brought on by the pandemic, as many films can’t be made now and some of those that are still being made are being built with gaming technology. It feels like a moment of cultural change, as games are becoming more mainstream. “That’s the conversation that we really want to move forward,” Baltes said. “It’s something a passion of mine. Games are part of the broader sphere of cultural conversation. We’re looking at it through the lens of storytelling, or using innovative technology to engage audiences. We see these forms blending together and not really being separate.” Above: God of War discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival Image Credit: Tribeca And the group is creating an advisory board that includes filmmaker Nia DaCosta; writer, producer, and director Jon Favreau…Continue readingTribeca Film Festival adds game awards in recognition of cultural impact

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After boycotts, advertisers and social media giants agree on steps to curb hate speech

(Reuters) — Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have agreed on first steps to curb harmful content online, big advertisers announced on Wednesday, following boycotts of social media platforms accused of tolerating hate speech. Under the deal, announced by the World Federation of Advertisers, common definitions would be adopted for forms of harmful content such as hate speech and bullying, and platforms would adopt harmonized reporting standards. The deal comes less than six weeks before a polarizing U.S. presidential election. Three months ago, major advertisers boycotted Facebook in the wake of anti-racism demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd, an American Black man, in police custody in Minneapolis. Advertisers have complained for years that big social media companies do too little to prevent ads from appearing alongside hate speech, fake news, and other harmful content. Big tech companies have begun taking steps to fend off calls for more regulation. The platforms agreed to have some practices reviewed by external auditors and to give advertisers more control over what content is displayed alongside their ads. “This is a significant milestone in the journey to rebuild trust online,” said Luis Di Como, executive vice president of global media at Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers. “Whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction.” Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president for Global Marketing Solutions, said the agreement “has aligned the industry on the brand safety floor and suitability framework, giving us all a unified language to move forward…Continue readingAfter boycotts, advertisers and social media giants agree on steps to curb hate speech

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Storage may not be exciting, but Pure Storage’s Portworx acquisition is

In today’s technology environment, storage vendors are often overlooked, taken for granted, and considered commoditized. Wall Street doesn’t show them much love, and their trading multiples are nothing to write home about. Storage is approximately a $24 billion market and shrinking. IDC estimates that global revenue for enterprise external OEM storage systems declined 5% year over year to ~$6.3 billion during Q2 2020. The vendor landscape of five dominants includes Dell, NetApp, HP, Hitachi, and IBM, but their revenues are dropping fast, anywhere from 8% to steep 20% drops. But one little company, Pure Storage is growing. It’s market cap does not register on the tectonic scales of market movers like IBM or Dell, and it’s quarterly revenues are half of HPE’s and NetApp’s. Yet it is punching well above its weight and giving others a run for their money. And it’s acquisition last week of Portworx gives it an even better edge in the storage abstraction marketplace. (Disclosure: For a brief time, I was board observer at Portworx. I have no stock or other vested interest in the company.) The storage struggle in transient workloads The tech world today is all about digital transformation, and storage is not always considered a critical part of that process. Storage is all about files and objects. Its utilitarian, commoditized, and somewhat old and boring. So what can hardware box players do to build their business in this day of cloud native workloads? Either get into price wars and race to the bottom,…Continue readingStorage may not be exciting, but Pure Storage’s Portworx acquisition is