Are Tech Companies Trying to Derail Sex-Trafficking Bill?

Last month, tech companies, anti-sex-trafficking advocates, prosecutors, and legislators celebrated a hardwon compromise on a bill designed to help prosecutors and victims pursue sites such as Backpage.com that facilitate online sex trafficking. Now that consensus may be in jeopardy amid a controversial proposed amendment to the House version of the same bill, which had 170 cosponsors and was expected to sail through without incident.

Both bills had focused on altering Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants websites immunity for material posted by others. Those bills would remove the liability shield for “knowingly” publishing material related to sex trafficking.

The new proposal would only remove the shield for publishing with “reckless disregard” for sex trafficking, a tougher legal standard to prove. It would also create a new crime under the Mann Act, an infamous 1910 law also known as the White Slavery Act, for using a website to promote or facilitate prostitution. Anti-sex-trafficking advocates say looping in the Mann Act introduces a new element that could upset the delicate compromise; they also fear it will hurt the bill’s chances of becoming law, because groups like Black Lives Matter believe the Mann Act has been applied discriminatorily and should be repealed.

The advocates suspect tech-industry lobbyists are behind the new approach. In late November, more than 30 anti-sex-trafficking groups and activists, including Rights4Girls, Shared Hope International, Consumer Watchdog, and Cindy McCain sent a letter to members of the House to “express our objection to recent efforts by some in the tech sector to undermine this proposed legislation.” On Monday evening, the same group sent another letter addressed to the ranking members of the Judiciary Committee, ahead of a planned Tuesday committee meeting to mark up the new bill.

Although the new letter does not mention the tech industry’s role, some advocates point out that the language in the amendment closely mirrors a suggestion made by Chris Cox, a former congressman and lobbyist who serves as outside counsel for NetChoice, an advocacy group funded in part by Google. NetChoice declined to say whether Google was one of its larger donors, but noted that it has two dozen members. “We don’t speak for any one member, not do we represent any members,” spokesperson Carl Szabo, the group’s vice president, told WIRED.

Advocates also point to an email from a lawyer for the Judiciary Committee as another sign that that tech firms may have been involved. They believe the Nov. 8 email from Margaret Barr was intended for tech industry lobbyists, but mistakenly reached additional recipients. In the email, Barr outlines the changes to the bill, then writes that the committee believes the new language “will sufficiently protect your clients from criminal and civil liability, while permitting bad actors to be held accountable.” The advocates think Barr was addressing tech lobbyists because the initial opposition to the bill from companies like Google was driven by concerns about liability. Barr referred questions a spokesperson for the Judiciary Committee, who did not respond to a request for comment.

The new approach was introduced by Representative Ann Wagner (R-Missouri). Wagner’s office says the changes were made with the support of the Department of Justice, local district attorneys, and advocates. Her office provided a letter of endorsement from the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys and two nonprofits that support the new approach: Freedom Coalition, a right-wing Christian organization that is not focused on human trafficking, and US Institute Against Human Trafficking, another faith-based group.

In a statement to WIRED, Wagner says, “I am adamant that Congress passes legislation that will prevent victimization, not only via Backpage.com but also the hundreds of other websites that are selling America’s most vulnerable children and adults.”

Senate sponsors of the bill do not support the changes. In a statement to WIRED, Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic cosponsor of the Senate bill, says, “This legislation’s priorities are shamefully misplaced. There is no good reason to proceed with a proposal that is opposed by the very survivors it claims to support, particularly when the alternative is a carefully crafted measure supported by all major stakeholders.”

Senator Rob Portman, the Republican cosponsor, says the new proposal “ is opposed by advocates because they’re concerned it is actually worse for victims than current law.”

The Internet Association, a key tech trade group, switched its view to support the Senate bill, known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, shortly after representatives of Google, Facebook, and Twitter faced two days of criticism from lawmakers for their roles in enabling Russian meddling in 2016 election. People familiar with the matter said Facebook was central to the group switching its position, and that Google went along reluctantly.

A few days after Internet Association announced its support, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote a Facebook post in support of the bill. Facebook declined to say if it is supporting the new House approach, known as Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act.

In a statement to WIRED, Facebook said: “Facebook prohibits child exploitation of any kind, and we support giving victims of these horrible crimes more tools to fight platforms that support sex traffickers.”

After the Internet Association endorsed the bill, Google assured Senate offices that it would stop lobbying efforts to derail the bill, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“I hope Google is not working at cross purposes with the survivors who are desperately seeking redress,” says Mary Mazzio, a filmmaker who has been active in the effort to hold websites more accountable for trafficking on their pages.

The Department of Justice and Google did not respond to requests for comment.

Lauren Hersh, a former prosecutor and national director of World Without Exploitation, a national coalition of 130 groups, met with lawmakers Monday to tell them that she and other advocates do not support the House bill. “We just want to slow this process down in the House. Our ask is to not have this go to Judiciary [Tuesday]. All the steps that were taken to [achieve] compromise on SESTA, we want that to happen here.”

Employees Displaced by Automation Could Become Caregivers for Humans

Sooner or later on, the usa will face mounting work losings considering improvements in automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Automation has emerged being a larger danger to United states jobs than globalization or immigration combined. A 2015 report from Ball State University attributed 87 per cent of present production work losses to automation. In no time, the number of vehicle and taxi drivers, postal workers, and warehouse clerks will shrink. What’s going to the 60 per cent associated with the population that lacks a degree do? Just how will this vulnerable an element of the workforce find both earnings while the sense of function that work provides?

WIRED ADVICE

ABOUT

Oren Etzioni (@etzioni) is CEO of this Allen Institute for synthetic Intelligence and teacher at Allen School of Computer Science at University of Washington.

Recognizing the enormous challenge of technological jobless, Bing recently announced it is donating $1 billion to nonprofits that try to assist workers adapt to the brand new economy. But the solutions proposed by computer researchers particularly MIT’s Daniela Rus (technical training) and endeavor capitalists including Marc Andreessen (new task creation) are unlikely ahead fast enough or even to be broad enough. Honestly, it is not practical to teach many coal miners to become data miners.

Some of Silicon Valley’s leading business owners are drifting the thought of a universal basic income (UBI) as being a solution for work loss, utilizing the loves of eBay creator Pierre Omidyar and Tesla’s Elon Musk supporting this method. But as MIT economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have actually pointed out, UBI does not do nearly as good a job as other policies to keep people engaged in the workforce and supplying the feeling of function that work offers. UBI is also not likely to garner the mandatory political help.

So what might help? There is a category of jobs today which critical to our society. Many of us will use the solutions of the workers, however these jobs are all-too-often held in low esteem with poor pay and minimal a better job prospects. Some are creating alleged social robots to simply take these jobs. Yet, they’re jobs we categorically cannot wish machines doing for all of us, though devices could potentially help humans.

I will be speaking of caregiving. This broad category includes companions to your senior, house wellness aides, child sitters, special requirements aides, and more. We should uplift this category become better compensated and better regarded, though available to those without higher education. Laurie Penny highlights that numerous traditionally male vocations have been in jeopardy from automation, yet caregiving jobs are traditionally feminine; nevertheless, that gender gap can alter when caregivers are uplifted and other choices are more limited.

There is no doubting that uplifting is likely to be costly, but so are UBI and several other proposed programs. The riches caused by increased automation should be provided more broadly and might be used to assist fund caregiving programs.

Instead of anticipating vehicle motorists and warehouse workers to rapidly re-train for them to take on tireless, increasingly capable devices, let’s perform for their individual strengths and produce possibilities for workers as companions and caregivers for our elders, our kids, and our special-needs populace. With this specific one action, culture can both produce jobs for the most vulnerable portions of our work force and increase the care and connection for many.

The main element skills because of this category of jobs are empathy additionally the ability to make a human being connection. Ab muscles concept of empathy is feeling somebody else’s feelings; a machine cannot do that as well as a person. Individuals thrive on genuine connections, perhaps not with machines, however with one another. You don’t want a robot looking after your infant; an ailing elder must be liked, become heard, fed, and sung to. This is one job category that people are—and continues to be—best at.

As culture many years, interest in caregivers will increase. Based on the UN, how many individuals aged 60 years and older has tripled since 1950, while the combined senior and geriatric populace is projected to achieve 2.1 billion by 2050.

Rising work for caregivers is element of a broader multi-decade shift inside our economy from agriculture and manufacturing to delivering solutions. A significant change to more caregiving may require us to re-consider some of our values—rather than buying fancier and more costly gadgets every year, can consumers spot more value on community, companionship, and connection?

Exactly what are the making this vision a real possibility? Society should discover a way to significantly increase the payment for caregivers that assistance elders and special-needs populations. Realistically, uplifting caregiving will demand federal government programs and capital. The expense of these programs can be defrayed by increased economic growth and productivity as a result of automation. The numerous employees who’re not enthusiastic about, or with the capacity of, technical work could as an alternative get training and certification in many different caregiving occupations. Although some will simply be companions, other people can obtain certification as teachers, nurses, and much more.

Caregiving is just a practical selection for numerous displaced workers, plus one which both humane and uniquely peoples.

WIRED advice publishes pieces compiled by outside contributors and represents a wide range of viewpoints. Read more opinions right here.

How Moneyball Tactics Built a Basketball Juggernaut

As a longtime partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Joe Lacob had a reputation for backing high-risk, high-reward startups. But when he paid $450 million in 2010 for the Golden State Warriors—then valued at a measly $315 million and considered the worst team in the NBA—even die-hard fans scoffed.

Seven years later, the Warriors are two-time champs worth a reported $2.6 billion. In his new book, Betaball, Erik Malinowski (a former WIRED staffer) credits the slingshot turnaround not to Steph Curry’s swishing three-pointers but to Lacob’s application of Silicon Valley strategies to revitalize a sluggish team.

First off, Lacob used his newcomer status to build a thriving corporate culture. He paid a reported $1.6 million for a flashy, startup-style open office that encouraged collaboration. Then he set up an email account where fans could submit feedback—and actually get a response.

As the first in his family to go to college, Lacob was a firm believer in hiring based on potential, not experience. He appointed Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr as head coach and former sports agent Bob Myers as general manager. Neither had ever formally wielded an NBA clipboard, but their passion for the game swayed the new owners. On and off the court, Lacob emphasized character. He signed upstanding players like Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes, and he traded Monta Ellis, who had been sued by a staff member for sexual harassment. (The case was settled.) The message: zero tolerance for brilliant jerks.

Having spent decades investing in experimental technologies, Lacob was one of the first NBA execs to see potential in SportVU, a motion-capture camera system. Another company, MOCAP Analytics, used AI and machine learning to turn the raw SportVU data into play simulations. Like big-­data-obsessed startups, the War­riors began quantifying everything, from players’ sleep schedules to their shooting accuracy.

Coming from the land of nap rooms and Soylent, Lacob embraced Jobsian mindful­ness. His team experimented with meditation, sensory-deprivation pods, and electricity-transmitting headphones. Turns out ballers like butter coffee too.

Before pouring millions into a startup, investors set clear performance goals. Lacob’s target was ambitious: to win a championship within five years. His team clinched the title in four years, seven months. A Golden unicorn was born.


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The Risks of Demonizing Silicon Valley

for decades, the ascent of technology has broadly been regarded as positive, heralding an era of increased productivity and greater interaction. But recently, the litany of business missteps and a general feeling of energy accreting to a few extraordinarily rich and powerful businesses as well as the men–yes, mainly men–who lead them has triggered a wave of criticisms of once-Teflon tradition of this Valley.

With this thought, 2-3 weeks ago we proposed to my editors at WIRED we write an item in regards to the notable change in public attitudes towards Silicon Valley within the last year, from mainly laudatory to increasingly damning. I thought to write an essay that cautioned against having the pendulum swing too much from adulation toward condemnation, that cautioned against lumping Silicon Valley in with Washington and Wall Street as exemplars maybe not of United states exceptionalism but of venality. In this piece, i’d argue that individuals have actually spiraled too far in to a maelstrom of cynicism about Washington and Wall Street in the last few years, and now we do ourselves no favors tearing straight down Silicon Valley plus an industry that seemed to be the very last bastion of positive change.

Then an account broke about a noted Washington think tank, brand new America. The inspiration, which includes gotten millions of dollars in financing from Bing through the years, decided to part ways having a noted thought-leader, Barry Lynn, who’s got always been warning associated with the monopolistic risks in tech behemoths like Bing amassing excessively innovation, way too much money, and an excessive amount of the web. Lynn’s ouster ended up being commonly, though in my own view, maybe not correctly, characterized as “Google Pushes Out Critics at Google-Funded Think Tank.”

It takes place that I am regarding the board of the latest America and also been for several years. Therefore while I’d in the pipeline to publish a tale about the threats of an American tradition fast to tear down heroes and seek villains, an ultimately self-defeating vortex, this brand new America episode makes the conundrum here more sharp and painful for me, but more crucial, for all those.

Just what happened between brand new America, Google as well as the Open Markets Program that Lynn led certainly does touch on thorny issues of cash, power, and get a handle on both. In many ways, accurate or perhaps not, it feeds the new narrative Silicon Valley isn’t any longer the golden youngster and/or social exclusion. Bing went from the business understood for “do no evil” to 1 which charged with being evil, its leaders, and the ones of other Valley behemoths, treated as latter-day Robber Barons and monopolists looking for trust-busting and legislation and break the rules. Headlines particularly “Echoes of Wall Street in Silicon Valley’s hold on money and energy” and “Too Much energy is based on Tech businesses’ Hands” proliferate. Thus the recent improvement in tone.

And scrutiny of Valley and its particular issues is long overdue. People should push against the arrogance that “our way may be the right method and the only way” plus the intolerance of some ideas that don’t accord utilizing the Valley’s groupthink. Individuals ought to be alarmed that incredible wealth is targeted in several arms. They should question the’s sexism. They need to pay attention to the industry’s a few ideas on social dilemmas including privacy to regulation plus the government’s part.

The task is how to balance legitimate criticisms without descending into demonization. It is not challenging unique to Silicon Valley. Exactly the same argument might be made about federal government together with monetary world. Washington might be corrupt and dysfunctional, but relentlessly tearing it down makes it that much harder for people allowing federal government to accomplish just what many of us expect and want it to; Wall Street might have been infected with greed, but we truly need a well balanced and revolutionary economic climate to facilitate a captivating financial system.

We people have a tendency to fail at stability. We either adore or revile; trust or suspect. Keeping two or more contradictory truths is normally beyond our collective capabilities. So it’s a tall order to ask (need?) we view the existing status quo in Silicon Valley as both in deep need of reform plus in deep need of respect. Technology has assisted resolve some of the elemental dilemmas of humanity, from food supply to disease eradication to connectivity and reducing the price of lots of life’s essentials. Technology reaches the epicenter of whether we shall effectively handle and mitigate climate change, how living standards globally and domestically continues to enhance, and whether we become an ever-more connected collective or an increasingly divided one. Silicon Valley is hardly the only real center of technological innovation, any longer than downtown New York and/or D.C Beltway will be the only centers of federal government and finance. Nonetheless they set the tone, and how we understand them issues.

Pessimism and cynicism corrode our capacity to harness our energies to reform and build. Nobody besides a greedy few invests in an organization, raises money, strives to make a new services or products, or works hard if they’re convinced your system is rigged, the long term is grim, therefore the nation is screwed. And until a heartbeat ago, Silicon Valley remained mostly of the engines that most individuals actually thought had been shaping a better future. That consequently formed a virtuous circle of cash, customers and innovation, with services and products that hundreds of millions of people celebrated.

That which we don’t want is copy the unceasing demonization of Washington. We’ve got a government so torn and split, led by way of a populist fueled almost entirely by anger and id, that it is extremely hard to see a great deal good from the sector of our communities that employs several million individuals and views trillions of bucks flowing through it.

A training, then, the Valley today is need greater accountability and transparency, and to flake out control and concentration of wide range and power. Idols are really easy to tear straight down, but every culture which has done this will be left within the place of now just what? We now have already unleashed the wrecking ball on Washington and Wall Street, with lower than optimal results. Let’s not decrease equivalent course utilizing the Valley.

Google Wants You to Help Fix the Fake-Fact Problem It Created

Barack Obama is the king of the United States. Republicans are Nazis who clearly hate the Constitution. Dinosaurs are being used to indoctrinate both children and adults into believing that the earth is millions of years old. Women can’t love men. Fire trucks are red because Russians are red.

If you took Google for its word, you’d believe all of these “facts” as truth. Each absurd claim has appeared as a “snippet” on a Google search result—you know, those boxes above the lists of links that try to answer your questions so that you don’t have to actually click through to a website.

Thankfully, Google has changed or removed all of these snippets once they became widely known. But high-profile misfires like these have put pressure on Google to seek new ways to curb inaccurate or offensive snippets before they poison credulous minds—or embarrass the company. Many of these measures, such as algorithm tweaks or new guidelines for the workers who evaluate search results, will happen behind the scenes. But the company will also roll out an expanded feedback form for reporting inappropriate snippets, search results, and autocomplete suggestions.

There’s a lot to like about this plan. It shows that Google is taking the problem of misinformation seriously while offering up a new level of transparency in making public some criteria for removing or changing search suggestions. But these fixes only solve one part of the problem with snippets. Improving snippet accuracy does nothing to address the problem of Google cannibalizing traffic from the sources from which it strips these answers. Nor does it resolve the underlying philosophical question: When should Google try to provide “one true answer” to a question versus just delivering a list of links? After all, the easiest way to get rid of misinformation in snippets is to get rid of snippets altogether, right?

But for the future of Google’s business, the answer is not that simple. Having an authoritative answer to as many search queries as possible is increasingly important to the company as it extends its reach beyond traditional, text-based search results into the world of voice-based personal assistants. When you ask your phone or your web-connected speaker a question, you want an answer, not a list of webpages. Even in the text-based world, you often want a quick answer to settle an argument.

But it turns out that turning search results into pat answers has a cost. Last week, The Outline reported that CelebrityNetWorth.com lost about 65 percent of its traffic after Google started including its data in snippets instead of leaving it to users to click through to the site. Site founder Brian Warner said he had to lay off half his staff. This undermining isn’t just a problem for the sites that Google scrapes for information. It’s a problem for Google itself, because if the companies that gather and publish this data can’t make money and have to close, Google loses its source of data.

Meanwhile, there are some questions Google clearly shouldn’t even try to answer. For example, as of now it doesn’t show a snippet for the query, “Does God exist?” But it also stays out of questions like, “Did the Holocaust actually happen?” and “Is climate change real?”

So where should Google draw the line? Conspiracy theorists claim that because jet fuel doesn’t burn hot enough to melt steel beams, 9/11 was an inside job. When you search “can jet fuel melt steel beams,” as The Outline points out, Google displays an excerpt from a Popular Mechanics article pointing out that although it’s technically true that burning jet fuel won’t melt steel, the beams that held up the World Trade Center buildings didn’t need to melt in order to collapse.

That’s useful information, but why is Google willing to combat 9/11 conspiracy theories but not Holocaust denialism? Perhaps the company would argue that explaining the historical evidence of the Holocaust is too complex to fit into a snippet (and indeed, Google doesn’t try to provide a definitive answer to the broader question “was 9/11 an inside job”). But if Google is going to position itself as the arbiter of truth, it should be willing to state the facts on climate change and the Holocaust.

The feedback it gathers from users may help Google decide when to stay out of a debate entirely, but the questions the company now faces don’t have snippet-sized answers. To succeed on new computing platforms where conventional search results don’t make sense, Google has put itself in the position of becoming an arbiter of facts. That’s not a simple job, nor one it can expect to succeed at doing simply by offloading the work on you.

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