Al Franken condemns big tech for failure ‘to prevent spread of propaganda’

Senator calls for greater scrutiny of companies such as Facebook and Amazon, warning of companies’ control over ‘so many aspects of our lives’

Senator Al Franken renewed his calls for increased scrutiny of the role of major tech companies such as Facebook and Amazon on Wednesday, charging that they had “failed to take commonsense precautions to prevent the spread of propaganda, misinformation, and hate speech”.

Speaking to the Open Markets Institute in Washington, the Minnesota Democrat and former comedian said: “It is incumbent upon us to ask the broader questions. How did big tech come to control so many aspects of our lives? How is it using our personal information to strengthen its reach and its bottom line? Are these companies engaging in anticompetitive behavior that restricts the free flow of information and commerce?”

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‘Incel’: Reddit bans misogynist men’s group blaming women for their celibacy

The 40,000-strong ‘support group’ was largely populated by men who appear to hate women and in some cases advocate rape

Reddit has banned a community dedicated to the “involuntarily celibate” that was largely populated by men who appear to hate women and in some cases advocate rape.

The 40,000-strong community was nominally a “support group” for people who lack romantic relationships and sex. “They are involuntarily celibate or ‘incel’.” However, popular posts from the last few months include ones titled “all women are sluts”; “proof that girls are nothing but trash that use men” and “reasons why women are the embodiment of evil”.

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We must not let Big Tech threaten our security, freedoms and democracy | Al Franken

The dominance of these companies requires that the government consider their role in the integrity of our democracy, writes Senator Al Franken

As lawmakers grapple with the revelations regarding Russia’s manipulation of social media during the 2016 election, many are shocked to learn the outsized role that the major tech companies play in so many aspects of our lives. Not only do they guide what we see, read, and buy on a regular basis, but their dominance – specifically in the market of information – now requires that we consider their role in the integrity of our democracy.

Last week’s hearings demonstrated that these companies may not be up to the challenge that they’ve created for themselves. In some instances, it seems that they’ve failed to take common sense precautions to prevent the spread of propaganda, misinformation, and hate speech.

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Geoff Tootill obituary

Computer engineer who developed ‘Baby’, the world’s first stored-program computer

In 1998 Manchester University and the City of Manchester celebrated the 50th anniversary of one of the scientific breakthroughs that define the modern era – the world’s first electronic stored-program computer. For the occasion, a team of volunteer engineers had built a working replica of that original computer. The replica was inaugurated by Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill, its two surviving creators, and is now a permanent exhibit in the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. Tootill has died aged 95.

The original developed from second world war radar work done at the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) at Malvern, Worcestershire, where Tootill was involved in installing and trouble-shooting airborne radar systems. In another laboratory at TRE, a rising academic star, Frederic Calland Williams, and Kilburn, his assistant, were working on an electronic data storage system intended for use in radar. The system used a conventional cathode ray tube to store the data.

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