Four revelations from the Facebook Papers

According to one document, the company allocated 87 percent of its budget for developing its misinformation detection algorithms to the US in 2020, versus 13 percent to the rest of the world.

I’m thoroughly surprised this counts as a surprise when it’s the norm for every company with global reach that regards the US as its home base. To an extent (not to that extent though) it makes sense. But you don’t get to be surprised this is the case when the simple fact that the US is some kind of modern empire just can’t enter neither public nor private enterprise consciousness. It’s like accusing an American of being socialist (as it’s now well understood one only hears “communist” in the US).

According to a March 2021 note by a group of researchers, the company takes action on only as little as 3 to 5 percent of hate speech and 0.6 percent of violent content. Another memo suggests that it may never manage to get beyond 10 to 20 percent, because of it is “extraordinarily challenging” for AI to understand the context in which language is used.

Nevertheless, Facebook had already decided to rely more on AI and to cut the money it was spending on human moderation in 2019 when it came to hate speech. In particular, the company made it harder to report and appeal against decisions on hate speech.

Other than that though, it’s hardly a surprise that tech companies that constantly insist that automation and machine learning is the answer to every question already (when it’s empirically evident it’s not) —to then use that excuse to remove as many bodies as possible from any solution to any problem— don’t have enough people to serve international audiences beyond their home and same-language-speaking turfs.

Really. You don’t get to be surprised. No.

Rust shooting sparks fresh debate over gun violence on screen

The continuing presence of guns on sets has also reopened the wider debate over the prevalence of gun violence on our screens, and its potentially harmful effects.

No, it didn’t. But some people are really trying it seems.

Data on the effects of screen violence is not easy to come by. A much-cited study from 2013 concluded that violence in US films had more than doubled since 1950, and gun violence in films rated PG-13 (equivalent to a 12A in the UK) had more than tripled since 1985. In 2017, another study conducted an experiment that indicated that children who watched a film containing guns were more likely to play aggressively with and try and shoot real-seeming guns than those who had watched a film without any guns. As long ago as 1993, the American Psychological Association reported in its Commission on Violence and Youth that “there is absolutely no doubt that higher levels of viewing violence … are correlated with increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and increased aggressive behaviour”. The same has been reported of video games. A 2001 study concluded that “exposure to violent video games increases physiological arousal and aggression-related thoughts and feelings”. Conversely, a study in 2019 failed to find a correlation between the rise in violence in PG-13 films and real-world violence over the same time period.

That’s some powerful cherry picking right there. The “conversely” in that last sentence is doing some very heavy lifting indeed as none of the other studies cited, that just so happen to imply there’s correlation between violent entertainment and real life violence, is the only one that looks for correlation. The rest are focused on violent thoughts and thought of violence does not equal active violence, not by a long shot. There are enough studies out there by now that reach similar conclusions about lack of causality between on-screen and real-life violence but they’re usually too inconvenient to cite when the point of the writer is to support a certain viewpoint based on politics and some irrational conviction in the universality of morals. The study centred on children in particular doesn’t deal with a child’s capacity to distinguish right from wrong and the gravity of once actions. Lots of items can be turned into fantastical weapons in a child’s hands, but we’re not after all those items.

But never mine me. I think it’s quite telling that the quoted paragraph starts with the declaration that data on the effects of on-screen violence is hard to come by. Maybe there’s no discernible effect. Maybe there is but not enough research has been funded, due to circumstance or by design. This does not change the fact that the data isn’t there. And it just highlights the stupidity of the following sentence that treats statistics on on-screen violence as data relevant to the debate, when it’s mostly about catering to increasing demand. The implied connection to the child study is amazingly flimsy.

And lest we forget: video games. No moral panic infused debate over violence in entertainment and real crime is worth its salt if it doesn’t bring up video games as a probable corruptor of humanity. The same humanity that is going through the most peaceful part of its history the world has ever seen. Back when video games weren’t a thing, cinema didn’t exist and everyone was introduced to violence through sports, spring and summer seasons were war seasons.

John Carmack issues some words of warning for Meta and its metaverse plans

“I really do care about [the metaverse], and I buy into the vision,” Carmack said, before quickly adding, “I have been pretty actively arguing against every single metaverse effort that we have tried to spin up internally in the company from even pre-acquisition times.” The reason for that seeming contradiction is a somewhat ironic one, as Carmack puts it: “I have pretty good reasons to believe that setting out to build the metaverse is not actually the best way to wind up with the metaverse.”

Today, Carmack said, “The most obvious path to the metaverse is that you have one single universal app, something like Roblox.” That said, Carmack added, “I doubt a single application will get to that level of taking over everything.” That’s because a single bad decision by the creators of that walled-garden metaverse can cut off too many possibilities for users and makers. “I just don’t believe that one player—one company—winds up making all the right decisions for this,” he said.

You can watch Carmack whole speech if you like and go through his speech notes In any case, this is someone who cares and also knows what’s what. He doesn’t just want to metaverse to arrive but he wants it to be done right so that it attains value that can endure. Contrast this with Meta’s keynote that goes full tilt with pie-in-the-sky vibes, despite being a company that relies on products actually being successful, while also saying that every metaverse promise in this video is years away and snug on multiple technological breakthroughs being made in time. Shipping a product that people care for isn’t just proof one has good management and money-making skills. It shows goals have been set, a way to navigate our way to them has been chosen and progress of import has been made. Otherwise we’re stuck with an ad. Fittingly, Meta is a company that lives off of ad revenue.

Filmmaker Mode now supports auto-switching on LG TVs

Filmmaker Mode deactivates enhancement systems like motion smoothing and sharpness. Viewers have the option to confirm or decline Filmmaker Mode via a pop-up window. LG said that “Filmmaker Mode can be manually turned off in the settings menu” but it is a little unclear if the TV automatically switches out of Filmmaker Mode after the movie.

This is a great move and I really hope every other TV manufacturer follows suit, much like most implement the so called “Filmmaker Mode”. With any luck the irony will be complete. First manufacturers went nuts trying to sup up any image the way they saw fit ignoring original artistic intent, neutrality and authenticity, much to the chagrin of every director of photography in existence. But their shenanigans collided with gamers, since all that superfluous post-processing, other than messing with the original image, also introduced more latency at every point, messing with gameplay.

Gamers whined loudly enough for “Game Mode” to become a thing. Manufacturers, moaned but eventually game modes became a widespread thing, HDMI Forum made the auto-detection of game input (and auto enabling of the game mode) part of the HDMI spec and TVs started being monitors again. Filmmaker modes do essentially the same thing for film and TV but has to be enabled. You can’t rely on many consumers to care enough to know it’s even there, let alone turn it on. Automating the process is the best way to go about it. In an ideal world, all fancy “contrast enhancers”, “motion compensating” and whatnot will become a thing of the past, people won’t have to do much to make the most of their TVs and manufacturers will have to compete fairly, based on how accurate image reproduction is, not how much it pops under the harsh lighting of a retail store.

Fingers crossed, everyone. Fingers crossed.