Zuckerberg Defends Facebook’s Approach to Free Speech, Draws Line on China

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Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday defended the social media company’s light regulation of speech and lack of fact checking on political advertising, while citing China’s censorship as a roadblock to operating in the country.Facebook has been under fire in recent years for its lax approach to fake news reports, state-backed disinformation campaigns and violent content spread on its services, prompting calls for new regulations around the world.In a speech at Georgetown University filled with references to the First Amendment and the fight for democracy, Zuckerberg stood his ground, saying social media had introduced transformative avenues for speech that should not be shut down.Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University in Washington, Oct. 17, 2019.”People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world. It is a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.Zuckerberg framed the company’s decisions around that concept, including its recent retreat from years of aggressive courtship of China, an obstacle to his vision of connecting the world’s population.He attacked the rapidly growing Chinese-owned app TikTok, saying the short video platform censored political protest, including in the United States — a charge the company denies.In leaked audio of an address to Facebook employees weeks earlier, Zuckerberg spoke about TikTok as a formidable competitor, calling it the first consumer internet product built by a Chinese tech giant to find global success, but did not mention its approach to speech.FILE – Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, talks with Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg at Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond, Wash., Sept. 23, 2015.Over the course of Facebook’s charm offensive, Zuckerberg met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, learned Mandarin and posted a photo of himself running through Tiananmen Square.Facebook briefly won a license to open an “innovation hub” in Hangzhou last year, but it was later revoked.Zuckerberg effectively closed the door to China in March, when he announced his plan to pivot Facebook toward more private forms of communication and pledged not to build data centers in countries with “a track record of violating human rights like privacy or freedom of expression.”He repeated his concern about data centers on Thursday, this time specifically naming China.”I wanted our services in China because I believe in connecting the whole world and I thought we might help create a more open society,” Zuckerberg said. “I worked hard to make this happen. But we could never come to agreement on what it would take for us to operate there, and they never let us in.”He received a question from the audience about what conditions or assurances he would need to enter the Chinese market, but did not address them in his response.’Feigned concern for free expression’Zuckerberg also defended the company’s political advertising policies on similar grounds, saying Facebook had at one time considered banning all political ads but decided against it, erring on the side of greater expression.That assertion was immediately panned by critics, among them candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination who have asserted the company should do more to address disinformation and abuse ahead of the November 2020 election.Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign quickly accused Zuckerberg of using “the Constitution as a shield” for Facebook’s bottom line.”His choice to cloak Facebook’s policy in a feigned concern for free expression demonstrates how unprepared his company is for this unique moment in our history and how little it has learned over the past few years,” said spokesman Bill Russo.FILE – Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during the fourth U.S. Democratic presidential candidates 2020 election debate in Westerville, Ohio, Oct. 15, 2019.U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, another leading contender for the Democratic nomination, has been especially vocal about her critiques of Facebook, bashing its advertising policy and calling for the company to be broken up on antitrust grounds.She recently challenged Facebook’s policy that exempts politicians’ ads from fact-checking, running ads on the social media platform containing the false claim that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump’s re-election bid.But the focus on free speech is likely to win Zuckerberg some friends on the right, whom he has been courting aggressively in a recent visit to Washington and dinners at his home in California.Republican lawmakers routinely accuse the company of showing “anti-conservative bias” in its content moderation, without offering evidence. The company denies any favoritism.Facebook has been under scrutiny after finding Russian propaganda on its platform which many believe affected the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, won by Donald Trump.Trump has disputed claims that Russia has attempted to interfere in U.S. elections. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied it.
 

Poor Posture Linked to Chronic Pain

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Cellphones and computers are everywhere in almost every country across the globe, and it is common to see people hunched over these devices.When Dr. Lushantha Gunasekera at Orlando Health began feeling back pain, he thought he needed strength training.  “It was mainly pain in my upper back and neck and shoulder area,” he said. “It was just on the one side.”Nathaniel Melendez, a fitness specialist at the Orlando Health gym, was certain the doctor’s pain was from poor posture.”The internally rotated shoulders, the rounded back, head is down, neck is down,” he said, describing what he saw in Gunasekera.Hunching over a computer screen or cellphone compresses the neck muscles, which causes fatigue, muscle tension and headaches, and can injure vertebrae, Melendez says, but adds that it can be prevented and corrected.”You’d be surprised what strengthening your core and doing postural corrective exercises can do for your body,” he said.Melendez says even a slight misalignment can cause major strain, but researchers at Orlando Health found that less than half the Americans they surveyed seemed to care — until the pain sets in.As for Gunasekera, he says changing his posture made a huge difference.”It’s really helped out,” he said. “Now, I don’t have pain there anymore.”Experts advise computer users who are seated to be at eye level with the screen. Cellphone and computer users are encouraged to take frequent breaks and to remain aware of their posture.  
 

These Smart Technologies Might Land in Your Home in 2030

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The future was here at a recent marquee tech show in Japan.  The Consumer Exhibition of Advanced Technology, or CEATEC, showcased technologies that may simplify our lives … or rapidly bring them to an end. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi takes us back to the future!

Smart Tech for the City of 2030

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The future was here at a recent marquee tech show in Japan.  The Consumer Exhibition of Advanced Technology, or CEATEC, showcased technologies that may simplify our lives … or rapidly bring them to an end. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi takes us back to the future!

Chinese Snooping Tech Spreads to Nations Vulnerable to Abuse

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When hundreds of video cameras with the power to identify and track individuals started appearing in the streets of Belgrade, some protesters began having second thoughts about joining anti-government demonstrations in the Serbian capital.Local authorities assert the system, created by Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, helps reduce crime. Critics contend it erodes personal freedoms and exposes citizens to snooping by the Chinese government.The cameras, equipped with facial recognition technology, are being rolled out across cities around the world, particularly in poorer countries with weak track records on human rights where Beijing has increased its influence through big business deals. With the United States claiming that Chinese state can get backdoor access to Huawei data, the rollout is raising concerns about the privacy of millions of people. 

German 5G Rules Avoid Huawei Ban; US Warns on Intel Sharing

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Germany has released draft security guidelines for next generation wireless networks that stop short of banning Huawei, as the U.S. warned again it would reconsider intelligence sharing with allies that use the Chinese company’s equipment.The Federal Network Agency issued rules on Tuesday laying out conditions for suppliers for new 5G networks.They include certifying critical components and ensuring trustworthiness of manufacturers, without singling out Huawei for exclusion.The U.S. has been lobbying allies in Europe to shun Huawei over worries its equipment might aid Chinese electronic spying, claims the company has repeatedly denied.The top U.S. cybersecurity diplomat, Rob Strayer, told reporters the U.S. government would have to reassess how it shares intelligence with countries like Germany if they use untrusted technology in the new networks. 

US Tech Firms Drawn Into Hong Kong Protesters Standoff With China

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With Hong Kong anti-government protests ongoing, tech companies in the U.S. are being drawn into the crisis. The standoff between China and protesters has led some U.S. tech firms to curtail services. Michelle Quinn reports

On Amazon’s List of Principles: Regulate Facial Recognition Tech

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Amazon is endorsing the idea of government regulation of facial recognition technology, as part of a wide-ranging statement of its principles on a range of social and political issues.The U.S. tech giant, which has come under scrutiny by antitrust enforcers and has been criticized over its use of facial recognition software, set out its positions in a statement posted late Thursday on its corporate website.Some of those stances, such as its endorsement of a raise in the federal minimum wage, were previously disclosed by Amazon.The statement also reiterated recent comments by Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos on efforts to battle climate change.Facial recognitionOn facial recognition, Amazon said it believes that “governments should act to regulate the use of this technology to ensure it’s used appropriately.”The company noted that it offered its own set of guidelines for facial recognition that “protects individual civil rights and ensures that governments are transparent in their application of the technology.”Thursday’s statement said governments “should work quickly to put in place a regulatory framework” for the technology, which has been used increasingly around the world amid criticism on privacy and civil liberties concerns.Human rights, privacyAmazon also said it supports diversity and rights of persons of any gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion and sexual orientation and “strongly” endorses immigrant rights and immigration reform.The company said it will back U.S. federal privacy legislation “that requires transparency, access to personal information, ability to delete personal information, and that prohibits the sale of personal data without consent.”Minimum wage, taxesThe federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour in the U.S. “is too low and should be raised,” Amazon said, noting that it has promised to pay a minimum of $15 an hour and has encouraged others to follow suit.Amazon, which critics say has paid little or no income taxes in recent years, said it endorses a review of the international tax system.“Corporate tax codes in any country should incentivize investment in the economy and job creation,” the company said.“In addition, tax codes, particularly between countries, should be coordinated to have neither loopholes that permit artificially lower tax rates nor overlaps that cause higher tax rates or redundant taxation, because these distort company behavior in ways that don’t benefit consumers or the economy.”