Posts Tagged Free

Instagram to crack down on spam

 Instagram announced late on Friday it planned to tackle its massive spam problem head on, devoting a number of engineers to fixing the issue inside the service.

“There’s no quick fix, but we have a team of engineers working every day to tackle the issue and we hope you’ll notice their improvements,” Instagram said, appropriately enough, in the comments section of a recent photo taken from the official Instagram account.

Take a look at the “Explore” tab inside the Instagram app, and click on any one of the pictures. They’re flooded with spammy comments, ads for promotional accounts and Web sites. Same thing with the account of any major celebrity who uses the service and has a large following.

But now that the small start-up has been acquired and folded into Facebook, CEO Kevin Systrom has the resources and experience of the world’s largest social network to help Instagram in the fight. Facebook has lots of background in this area, having fought against spammers intensely over its eight-year existence with tools like the artificially intelligent Facebook Immune System, and having even gone after some well-established spammers in court.

No word on how Instagram is going to crack down internally, but externally, Instagram wants users to help in a sort of community watch program, flagging spam by clicking through to spammers’ accounts and reporting them.

 

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Keep the Internet free

But starting in a few hours, a closed-door meeting of the world’s governments is taking place in Dubai, and regulation of the Internet is on the agenda. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is convening a conference from December 3-14 to revise a decades-old treaty. Only Governments will have a say at ITU. Some proposals could allow governments to justify the censorship of legitimate speech, or even cut off Internet access in their countries.

If you agree and want to support a free and open Internet, Google invite you to join us by signing the petition at google.com/takeaction.

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Free ‘Treasure Park’ Vita app out now

Treasure Park, one of three free apps confirmed for the Vita, is available now in the PlayStation Store in North America and Europe.

Treasure Park allows players to create their own grid-based puzzle sheets with hidden objects and bombs, and share them with friends via the Near app.

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Google, Facebook, eBay launch US Internet lobby

WASHINGTON: Big technology firms including Google, Facebook, eBay and Amazon have joined to create a new lobby group aimed at promoting “an open, innovative and free Internet.”

The Internet Association announced its formation in a statement on its website, indicating it will be headed by Michael Beckerman, a former congressional staffer.

The group, to be officially launched in September, did not name its member companies but sources familiar with the group told AFP that Google, Facebook, eBay and Amazon are among them.

“The newly formed Internet Association is comprised of some of the world’s most visible Internet companies and will be headquartered in Washington,” the statement said.

“Beckerman will lead the Internet Association’s efforts to advance public policy solutions that strengthen and protect an open, innovative and free Internet.”

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment on its participation.

But a source familiar with the lobby said it “is going to be a permanent association here in Washington and will be advocating on behalf of the Internet industry and its vast community of users.”

“The association will be advancing public policy solutions to strengthen America’s global Internet leadership,” the source told AFP, adding that the group was “the first trade association representing the Internet and Internet companies as a whole.”

Beckerman said: “I am honored to lead such an important undertaking. The Internet is the greatest engine for economic growth and prosperity the world has ever known. The Internet must have a voice in Washington.”

He added: “The Internet isn’t just Silicon Valley anymore, the Internet has moved to Main Street. Our top priority is to ensure that elected leaders in Washington understand the profound impacts of the Internet and Internet companies on jobs, economic growth and freedom.”

Beckerman was deputy staff director to the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees telecommunications and Internet policy. He previously was an aide to Representative Fred Upton.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Do computers have right to free speech?

Do machines speak? If so, do they have a constitutional right to free speech? This may sound like a fanciful question, a matter of philosophy or science fiction. But it’s become a real issue with important consequences.

In today’s world, we have delegated many of our daily decisions to computers. On the drive to work, a GPS device suggests the best route; at your desk, Microsoft Word guesses at your misspellings, and Facebook recommends new friends. In the past few years, the suggestion has been made that when computers make such choices they are “speaking,” and enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.

This is a bad idea that threatens the government’s ability to oversee companies and protect consumers. The argument that machines speak was first made in the context of Internet search. In 2003, in a civil suit brought by a firm dissatisfied with the ranking of Google’s search results, Google asserted that its search results were constitutionally protected speech. (In an unpublished opinion, the court ruled in Google’s favor.)

And this year, facing increasing federal scrutiny, Google commissioned Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, to draft a much broader and more elaborate version of the same argument. As Volokh declares in his paper: “Google, Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo! Search, and other search engines are speakers.”

To a non-lawyer the position may sound bizarre, but here is the logic. Take a newspaper advice columnist like Ann Landers: Surely her answers to readers’ questions were a form of speech. Likewise, when you turn to Google with a question, the search engine must decide, at that moment, what “answers” to give, and in what order to put those answers. If such answers are speech, then any government efforts to regulate Google, like any efforts to bowdlerize Ann Landers, must be examined as censorship.

And that’s where theory hits reality. Consider that Google has attracted attention from both antitrust and consumer protection officials after accusations that it has used its dominance in search to hinder competitors and in some instances has not made clear the line between advertisement and results.

Consider that the “decisions” made by Facebook’s computers may involve widely sharing your private information; or that the recommendations made by online markets like Amazon could one day serve as a means for disadvantaging competing publishers. Ordinarily, such practices could violate laws meant to protect consumers. But if we call computerized decisions “speech,” the judiciary must consider these laws as potential censorship, making the First Amendment, for these companies, a formidable anti-regulatory tool.

Is there a compelling argument that computerized decisions should be considered speech? As a matter of legal logic, there is some similarity among Google, Ann Landers, Socrates and other providers of answers. But if you look more closely, the comparison falters.

Socrates was a man who died for his views; computer programs are utilitarian instruments meant to serve us. Protecting a computer’s “speech” is only indirectly related to the purposes of the First Amendment, which is intended to protect actual humans against the evil of state censorship. The First Amendment has wandered far from its purposes when it is recruited to protect commercial automatons from regulatory scrutiny.

It is true that the First Amendment has been stretched to protect commercial speech (like advertisements) as well as, more controversially, political expenditures made by corporations. But commercial speech has always been granted limited protection. And while the issue of corporate speech is debatable, campaign expenditures are at least a part of the political system, the core concern of the First Amendment.

The line can be easily drawn: A, s a general rule, nonhuman or automated choices should not be granted the full protection of the First Amendment, and often should not be considered “speech” at all. (Where a human does make a specific choice about specific content, the question is different.)

Defenders of Google’s position have argued that since humans programmed the computers that are “speaking,” the computers have speech rights as if by digital inheritance. But the fact that a programmer has the First Amendment right to program pretty much anything he likes doesn’t mean his creation is thereby endowed with his constitutional rights. Doctor Frankenstein’s monster could walk and talk, but that didn’t qualify him to vote in the doctor’s place.

Computers make trillions of invisible decisions each day; the possibility that each decision could be protected speech should give us pause. To Google’s credit, while it has claimed First Amendment rights for its search results, it has never formally asserted that it has the constitutional right to ignore privacy or antitrust laws.

As a nation we must hesitate before allowing the higher principles of the Bill of Rights to become little more than lowly tools of commercial advantage. To give computers the rights intended for humans is to elevate our machines above ourselves.

, , ,

Leave a comment