Start Up No.1919: EU rules for accuracy on Google, spot the chatbot!, Dyson’s ear cleaners, BBC considers online-only, and more


Why exactly do nuclear power stations take longer to construct, even though we know more about how to build them? CC-licensed photo by IAEA Imagebank on Flickr.

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There’s another Social Warming Substack post, from 0845 GMT, about Google, ChatGPT and accuracy.

A selection of 10 links for you. Neutral on neutrons. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.


Google must delete search results about you if they’re fake, EU court rules • POLITICO

Vincent Manancourt:

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People in Europe can get Google to delete search results about them if they prove the information is “manifestly inaccurate,” the EU’s top court ruled Thursday.

The case kicked off when two investment managers requested Google to dereference results of a search made on the basis of their names, which provided links to certain articles criticising that group’s investment model. They say those articles contain inaccurate claims.

Google refused to comply, arguing that it was unaware whether the information contained in the articles was accurate or not.

But in a ruling Thursday, the Court of Justice of the European Union opened the door to the investment managers being able to successfully trigger the so-called “right to be forgotten” under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

“The right to freedom of expression and information cannot be taken into account where, at the very least, a part – which is not of minor importance – of the information found in the referenced content proves to be inaccurate,” the court said in a press release accompanying the ruling.

People who want to scrub inaccurate results from search engines have to provide sufficient proof that what is said about them is false. But it doesn’t have to come from a court case against a publisher, for instance. They have “to provide only evidence that can reasonably be required of [them] to try to find,” the court said.

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Predictably, American onlookers are utterly furious about this: how dare the EU decide what Google can include in its links! Except the principle of the “right to be forgotten” is that Google has chosen to be classified in Europe as a “data processor”, not a media company (which wouldn’t have to delete links or, indeed, content), and data processors – such as credit reference agencies – have to make sure their information is right, and correct it if it’s pointed out that it’s wrong. Same principle here.
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ChatGPT: can you tell a real tweet from one written by an AI chatbot? • WSJ

Brian Whitton:

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Are you ready for a world where super-intelligent robots faithfully impersonate people? To help see what that might look like, The Wall Street Journal deployed ChatGPT, a free (for now) Artificial Intelligence trained on a huge dataset researchers gathered through 2021, which recently became a viral hit. We asked it to compose tweets in the style of public figures and institutions to see if anyone could distinguish them from the real thing.

We included specifics in our prompts to the AI: write a tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson about the universe. The topics we picked were based on the author’s previous tweets.

The quiz that follows is designed to look like it includes real tweets from verified accounts, but only one is actually written by a person. Can you spot the genuine tweet?

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I got 7/11, “spend more time with your fellow humans”. Only slightly better than chance.
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Dyson Zone futuristic air-purifying headphones launch in March for $949 • PC Mag

Angela Moscaritolo:

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Intrigued by the upcoming Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones? You’ll have to remain patient, because they won’t be available in the US for a few more months. 

The futuristic device, which marks Dyson’s first venture into both audio and wearable technology, will first hit the market in China in January before launching in the US, UK, Hong Kong, and Singapore in March, the company announced today. First announced earlier this year, the Zone was originally slated to go on sale at some point this fall. 

In the US, the Zone will initially be available for pre-order “by appointment only,” Dyson said. The company expects to start selling the Zone online, and in its Dyson Demo stores “shortly after” US pre-orders begin. 

Nobody expected the Zone to be cheap, and they’re not. Pricing starts at $949, Dyson announced today. In the US, they will be available in two colorways: the Ultra Blue/Prussian Blue that Dyson previously showed off and a premium Prussian Blue/Bright Copper version. Dyson has also revealed a third colorway, Satin Silver/ Ultra Blue, but that version won’t be available in the US. 

In the box, you get the headphones, a removable face visor for air purification, an extra set of electrostatic carbon filters, a visor cleaning brush, a USB-C charging cable, and a hard case. The Prussian Blue/Bright Copper variant will come with a premium protective case and additional accessories, including two sets of replacement filters, an in-flight adapter kit, and a soft pouch.

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You have to see the pictures. With the “visor” on, you’ll look like Bane from Dark Knight Rises. With the visor off (it’s detachable), you’ll look like you’re wearing the biggest and most pointless (purify the air going into your ears? Were the designers trolling James Dyson?) headphones ever. Even with China’s love of “air purification”, I can’t see this working.
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Why is Marjorie Taylor Greene like this? • The Atlantic

Elaina Plott Calabro has done a deep dive on the runaway bonkers Republican Congresswoman:

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Greene has said that her father once fired her from a job she held at the company as a teenager. But now the girl in the photograph was chief financial officer of Taylor Commercial; her college sweetheart was its president; her family was by that point living in a tract mansion in Milton, which borders Alpharetta. Who could say, of course, how regularly she made use of the indoor pool, or marveled at the built-in aquarium on the terrace level—two features of this “smart-home luxury estate,” in the words of a recent listing. But she could at least enjoy the fact of them.

Another thing I do not know about Marjorie Taylor Greene: I do not know precisely how long it was before the shape of her life—the quiet, the respectability, the cadence of carpooling and root touch-ups—began to assume the dull cast of malaise. Perhaps it was during one of the many softball tournaments, another weekend spent crushed against the corner of an elevator at the Hilton Garden Inn by grass-stained girls and monogrammed bat bags. Perhaps her Age of Anxiety arrived instead on a quiet Tuesday in the office of her multimillion-dollar company, when it occurred to her that running this multimillion-dollar company just might not be her purpose after all.

What I do know, after dozens of conversations with Greene’s classmates and teachers, friends and associates, is that by the time she reached her late 30s, something in her had started to break.

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This is something that Tom Nichols (who wrote “The Death of Expertise”, and is an ex-Republican due to Trump’s bonkersness) agrees with: that a huge amount of all the QAnon, Trumpist, civil war-seeking behaviour is out of a sort of boredom.
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Tesla on self-driving claims: ‘failure to realize long-term, aspirational goal is not fraud’ • Electrek

Fred Lambert:

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Since 2016, Tesla has claimed that all its vehicles produced going forward have “all the needed hardware” to become self-driving with future software updates.

However, the automaker has yet to deliver on the promise, and over the last few years, some owners have started to doubt Tesla’s ability to deliver at all – leading to the [class action] lawsuit now.

Last week, Tesla filed to have the lawsuit dismissed, which resulted in a rare comment from the automaker about not having delivered on self-driving yet.

In the motion to dismiss obtained by Electrek, Tesla argues that its failure to deliver on the goal doesn’t constitute fraud: “Mere failure to realize a long-term, aspirational goal is not fraud.” 

Calling Tesla’s advertisement that its vehicles will become self-driving a “long-term, aspirational goal” is the most cautious description of the goal from the automaker to date. But the approach will make it difficult for the plaintiffs.

They need to prove that Tesla intentionally misled customers into thinking they were buying vehicles that would become self-driving. They would need to prove that Tesla knew it couldn’t deliver on the promise, which could be difficult to do.

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Probably a lot more to come on the discovery side of this, if the suit isn’t dismissed, so let’s see what the internal emails and notes say.
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‘Drunk on success’: Inside Liz Truss’s chaotic 45-day ‘libertarian free-for-all’ that nearly crashed Britain • The i

Francis Elliott:

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“We weren’t going to wait around 10 weeks for the OBR to do its forecast – that was the first major error,” said one close observer.

[New PM Liz] Truss, however, was forced to wait – not because of financial prudence but something far bigger. The death of Queen Elizabeth II created a pause in No 10 as normal politics shut down during a fortnight of national mourning – and it was that space that did more than anything to derail the fledgling regime, say observers.

“What happened in that two weeks was a lot of thinking time, and with thinking time comes policy ideas,” they said. “So what happened is that it expanded quite aggressively as the government wasn’t allowed to do anything. It expanded and expanded and expanded as ideas were going in left, right and centre.”

Truss’s chief economics advisor Matt Sinclair, a former executive at the right wing Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), has been blamed for allowing what one former advisor called a “libertarian free-for-all”. Others insist, however, that Truss herself needed no persuading.

All sides agree that in that period she felt all-powerful. One former ally described her “high after the leadership win”, another said she was “drunk on success”.

Her desire to make progress on a pro-enterprise and small-state agenda must also have been intensified by the fact that her first major announcement – huge subsidies for household energy bills – was the opposite.

During the leadership campaign she had rejected talk of “handouts” insisting instead that there would be “targeted support’. Truss was then persuaded that unless she took decisive action to limit bills she would be hobbled by the issue from the start. Some have speculated that the mini-Budget was an over-correction as she sought to tilt back to her ideological instincts.

The prime minister had become isolated as she made the decisions that were to doom her. She was spending her time on official mourning duties, often with King Charles, and had changed her phone number several times during the previous few months.

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That last detail, about the phone number, needs explaining. Her phone was hacked remotely – twice at least. Having been international trade secretary and then foreign secretary, she (or her phone) became a huge target. So her circle of advisers, already small, shrank further.
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Nuclear power is too slow to build? Says who? • Gordian Knot News

Jack Devanney:

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There is nothing inherent in the technology that says a nuclear plant should require any more time than a coal plant to build. In both cases, the critical path is dominated by the turbogenerator. The reactor pressure vessel, steam generators, and pressurizer are all far more compact than a coal plant boiler, and can be manufactured in less time than the turbine. In the right environment, nuclear power can be deployed as quickly as coal, as the French proved. Sweden also completely decarbonized her grid between 1970 and 1986.

On the other hand, the whole learning curve concept for power plants appears to be over-rated. Coal plants show little sign of a learning curve. Rather we see slow, incremental, technological improvements, that over time add up. The French did not see much of a learning curve during the period in which EDF was in total control. Nor did the Japanese ever. If there is a learning curve in on site construction projects, it is largely exhausted in a unit or two. Those who are betting on the learning curve to markedly reduce current exorbitant nuclear costs and interminable build times, are very likely to be disappointed. What’s required is regulatory stability and competition.

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Devanney illustrates this with a fantastic set of graphs and explanations, all easily digestible. Nuclear is easy to build. What’s difficult is getting it built.
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BBC preparing to go online-only over next decade, says director general • The Guardian

Jim Waterson:

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“Imagine a world that is internet-only, where broadcast TV and radio are being switched off and choice is infinite,” [director-general Tim Davie] said. “A switch-off of broadcast will and should happen over time, and we should be active in planning for it.”

Davie said the BBC was committed to live broadcasting but Britons should prepare for the closure of many standalone channels and radio stations by the 2030s: “Over time this will mean fewer linear broadcast services and a more tailored joined-up online offer.”

The future will involve “bringing the BBC together in a single offer”, possibly in the form of one app combining everything from television programmes to local news coverage and educational material. This could ultimately see the end of distinct brands such as BBC One or BBC Radio 4, although the programmes they currently air could continue online.

The director general accepted there was a risk that the BBC becomes just another online content provider in a crowded marketplace by abandoning its traditional broadcast slots on services such as Freeview or DAB radio: “Moving to digital is not the challenge in and of itself, moving to digital while not losing most of your audience and burning millions of pounds unnecessarily is the challenge.”

Although the BBC’s television and radio channels continue to reach tens of millions of Britons a month, almost all of its outlets are seeing long-term declines in their live audiences. Davie has already announced plans to shift CBBC and BBC Four to online-only, with other channels expected to follow suit in the coming years. Traditional television audience numbers remain high among older people but the average BBC One viewer is in their 60s and younger viewers are drifting off completely.

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It’s hard to hear if you’ve grown up with terrestrial TV, but my children could not tell you what the difference between BBC1 and 2 and ITV and Channel 4 is. Or possibly where to find them. It’s iPlayer, the Netflixen (ie all the streaming services), and of course YouTube.
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Elon Musk wanted Twitter to encrypt messages. His new safety chief says it’s on hold • Forbes

Thomas Brewster:

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Before his official takeover of Twitter, in April, Elon Musk declared that the company should roll out end-to-end encrypted messages, “so no one can spy on or hack your messages.”

There was some more hope for the pro-encryption community when mobile security researcher Jane Manchun Wong discovered Twitter had been testing out the Signal protocol, used by the eponymous app and WhatsApp to secure comms (she has since left Twitter because of mass trolling). Musk, this time as Twitter CEO, even responded with a wink emoji.

But, according to new trust and safety lead Ella Irwin, there are no immediate plans to roll out encrypted messages in Twitter DMs. Indeed, there’s no guarantee it will ever be deployed, she told Forbes in an interview from Twitter’s San Francisco HQ on Tuesday.

The company currently relies on being able to see into users’ direct messages to scan for things like child exploitation material, Irwin said. Since Musk arrived, she claimed the team has been given license to be more aggressive in hunting down child exploitation on Twitter (something experts have questioned), but encrypted messages would make that task more difficult.

“Encryption makes the job harder in general in the space, so we do need to think through that before we move to encryption,” she said. While end-to-end encrypted DMs is a “strong consideration,” Irwin said her team is still in conversations with the wider Twitter enterprise to find the balance between Musk’s desire to prioritize safety on the platform and his eagerness to push out encryption. “It will delay the launch of things if we need to do more to protect users. . . . I’m not going to say we have this all solved and we’re ready to go on encrypted DMs.”

That stance has disappointed those who were hoping Musk would quickly move to protect Twitter direct messages.

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Not sure where this is on Mike Masnick’s Content Moderation Speed Run. Interesting to note that Apple has chosen a slightly different path between “stop CSAM” and “encrypt private stuff”.

Also, Jane Manchun Wong, an actually helpful user, hounded off Twitter. Never change, internet.
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What are the Twitter Files, and do you need to care about them? • Defector

Tom Ley:

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Musk personally orchestrated the delivery of the Twitter Files to [Matt] Taibbi (and Bari Weiss), but sent them with some strings attached. Before firing off his Twitter thread, Taibbi posted a brief note on his blog, which thousands of people pay money to read, apologizing for the fact that he was about to publish a big scoop on Twitter instead of sharing it with his dedicated subscribers first. Taibbi wrote that he had to agree to “certain conditions” in order to gain the opportunity to “cover a unique and explosive story.” It seems pretty clear that one of those conditions was that Taibbi would only publish whatever documents he was given from Twitter on Twitter, which is a platform completely unsuited for sharing information in a coherent fashion but which Musk—who, again, does not know or care about any of that—fancies to be an open-source news service in its own right.

Q: That seems pretty embarrassing for Matt Taibbi.

Yeah, it’s extremely embarrassing. It is embarrassing on its own for Taibbi to agree to spend his Friday night doing a little dance for the world’s most grating rich boy. Worse, though, is that Taibbi’s willingness to caper about while Musk clapped his hands, in itself, instantly recreated the very power structure that his reporting was supposedly meant to assail. If the value in publishing the Twitter Files is to demonstrate how powerful and connected people control the flow of information to suit their own agendas, then the secret conditions that Taibbi (and Weiss) agreed to with Musk only serve to conceal the ways in which powerful and connected people control the flow of information to suit their agenda. It’s just a different powerful and connected person, with a different agenda, clapping out the tune.

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Very astute. Sure, it was a week ago, but: necessary.
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• Why do social networks drive us a little mad?
• Why does angry content seem to dominate what we see?
• How much of a role do algorithms play in affecting what we see and do online?
• What can we do about it?
• Did Facebook have any inkling of what was coming in Myanmar in 2016?

Read Social Warming, my latest book, and find answers – and more.


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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