Countries Want to Ban ‘Weaponized’ Social Media. What Would That Look Like?

“The automation is just not as advanced as these governments hope they are,” said Robyn Caplan, a researcher at Data & Society and a doctoral candidate at Rutgers University.

“It’s a mistake,” she added, “to call these things ‘artificial intelligence,’ because it makes us think they are a lot smarter than they are.”

At the same time, legitimate expressions of opinion, including a satirical magazine, have been deleted because of the law.

“We have to be incredibly careful and nuanced when we draw these lines,” Ms. Caplan said.

Even the criticism of live-streaming — which Facebook has said it is taking seriously — needs to be carefully considered, she added, because “there’s a lot of good coming out of live-streaming,” including transparency and scrutiny of the police.

Officials in Australia and New Zealand are trying to work through these issues. After meeting last week with executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter, Australian lawmakers said Saturday that the new bill would make it a criminal offense punishable by three years in prison for social media platforms not to “remove abhorrent violent material expeditiously.”

They made it clear that the tech world’s self-image of exceptionalism needed to end.

“Mainstream media that broadcast such material would be putting their license at risk, and there is no reason why social media platforms should be treated any differently,” Attorney General Christian Porter said.

John Edwards, New Zealand’s privacy commissioner, agreed but pointed to a different example: the Boeing 737 Max plane that has been grounded worldwide after two crashes believed to be tied to a software problem.

“I would say Facebook’s ability to moderate harmful content on its live-streaming service represents a software problem that means the service should be suspended,” he said. “I think that’s just the right thing to do.”


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