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    Yes, Virginia, there is AI joy in seeing fake Will Smith ravenously eat spaghetti / ArsTechnica · 2 days ago - 21:02

Stills from an AI-generated video of Will Smith eating spaghetti.

Enlarge / Stills from an AI-generated video of Will Smith eating spaghetti that has been heating up the Internet. (credit: chaindrop / Reddit )

Amid this past week's controversies in AI over regulation , fears of world-ending doom , and job disruption , the clouds have briefly parted. For a brief and shining moment, we can enjoy an absolutely ridiculous AI-generated video of Will Smith eating spaghetti that is now lighting up our lives with its terrible glory.

On Monday, a Reddit user named "chaindrop" shared the AI-generated video on the r/StableDiffusion subreddit. It quickly spread to other forms of social media and inspired mixed ruminations in the press. For example, Vice said the video will "haunt you for the rest of your life," while the AV Club called it the "natural end point for AI development."

We're somewhere in between. The 20-second silent video consists of 10 independently generated two-second segments stitched together. Each one shows different angles of a simulated Will Smith (at one point, even two Will Smiths) ravenously gobbling up spaghetti. It's entirely computer-generated, thanks to AI.

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    Meta wants EU users to apply for permission to opt out of data collection / ArsTechnica · 2 days ago - 17:32 · 1 minute

Meta wants EU users to apply for permission to opt out of data collection

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

Meta announced that starting next Wednesday, some Facebook and Instagram users in the European Union will for the first time be able to opt out of sharing first-party data used to serve highly personalized ads, The Wall Street Journal reported . The move marks a big change from Meta's current business model, where every video and piece of content clicked on its platforms provides a data point for its online advertisers.

People “familiar with the matter” told the Journal that Facebook and Instagram users will soon be able to access a form that can be submitted to Meta to object to sweeping data collection. If those requests are approved, those users will only allow Meta to target ads based on broader categories of data collection, like age range or general location.

This is different from efforts by other major tech companies like Apple and Google, which prompt users to opt in or out of highly personalized ads with the click of a button. Instead, Meta will review objection forms to evaluate reasons provided by individual users to end such data collection before it will approve any opt-outs. It's unclear what cause Meta may have to deny requests.

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    Meta slams telco fee proposal, says ISPs should pay their own network costs / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 23 March - 20:53

Illustration of fiber cables with colored lights on the ends.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | MirageC)

Proposals to pay for broadband networks by imposing new fees on Big Tech companies "are built on a false premise," Meta executives wrote in a blog post today.

"Network fee proposals do not recognize that our investments in content drive the business model of telecom operators," Meta executives Kevin Salvadori and Bruno Cendon Martin wrote. Meta's comments came a few weeks after Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters spoke out against the proposal being reviewed by European regulators .

Meta executives said telecom operators and content application providers (CAPs) "are symbiotic businesses, occupying different but complementary roles in the digital ecosystem. Every year, Meta invests tens of billions of euros in our apps and platforms—such as Facebook, Instagram, and Quest—to facilitate the hosting of content. Billions of people go online every day to access this content, creating the demand that allows telecom operators to charge people for Internet access. Our investment in content literally drives the revenue and business model of telecom operators."

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    Fighting VPN criminalization should be Big Tech’s top priority, activists say / ArsTechnica · Monday, 20 March - 11:00 · 1 minute

Fighting VPN criminalization should be Big Tech’s top priority, activists say

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

“Women, life, freedom” became the protest chant of a revolution still raging in Iran months after a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died while in custody of morality police. Amini was arrested last September for “improperly” wearing a hijab and violating the Islamic Republic's mandatory dress code laws. Since then, her name has become a viral hashtag invoked by millions of online activists protesting authoritarian regimes around the globe.

In response to Iran's ongoing protests—mostly led by women and young people—Iranian authorities have increasingly restricted Internet access. First, they temporarily blocked popular app stores and indefinitely blocked social media apps like WhatsApp and Instagram. They then implemented sporadic mobile shutdowns wherever protests flared up. Perhaps most extreme, authorities responded to protests in southeast Iran in February by blocking the Internet outright, Al Arabiya reported . Digital and human rights experts say motivations include controlling information, keeping protestors offline, and forcing protestors to use state services where their online activities can be more easily tracked—and sometimes trigger arrests.

As getting online has become increasingly challenging for everyone in Iran—not just protestors—millions have learned to rely on virtual private networks (VPNs) to hide Internet activity, circumvent blocks, and access accurate information beyond state propaganda. Simply put, VPNs work by masking a user's IP address so that governments have a much more difficult time monitoring activity or detecting a user's location. They do this by routing the user's data to the VPN provider's remote servers, making it much harder for an ISP (or a government) to correlate the Internet activity of the VPN provider's servers with the individual users actually engaging in that activity.

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    Large language models also work for protein structures / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 16 March - 19:01 · 1 minute

Artist's rendering of a collection of protein structures floating in space


The success of ChatGPT and its competitors is based on what's termed emergent behaviors. These systems, called large language models (LLMs), weren't trained to output natural-sounding language (or effective malware ); they were simply tasked with tracking the statistics of word usage. But, given a large enough training set of language samples and a sufficiently complex neural network, their training resulted in an internal representation that "understood" English usage and a large compendium of facts. Their complex behavior emerged from a far simpler training.

A team at Meta has now reasoned that this sort of emergent understanding shouldn't be limited to languages. So it has trained an LLM on the statistics of the appearance of amino acids within proteins and used the system's internal representation of what it learned to extract information about the structure of those proteins. The result is not quite as good as the best competing AI systems for predicting protein structures, but it's considerably faster and still getting better.

LLMs: Not just for language

The first thing you need to know to understand this work is that, while the term "language" in the name "LLM" refers to their original development for language processing tasks, they can potentially be used for a variety of purposes. So, while language processing is a common use case for LLMs, these models have other capabilities as well. In fact, the term "Large" is far more informative, in that all LLMs have a large number of nodes—the "neurons" in a neural network—and an even larger number of values that describe the weights of the connections among those nodes. While they were first developed to process language, they can potentially be used for a variety of tasks.

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    Meta to lay off another 10,000 as Zuckerberg celebrates “year of efficiency” / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 14 March - 15:32

Mark Zuckerberg walks away from a courthouse while wearing a suit; he carries a phone in his left hand and a mask in his right hand.

Enlarge / Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg (right) leaves federal court in San Jose, California, on Dec. 20, 2022, after testifying in an antitrust case brought by the Federal Trade Commission. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Meta plans to lay off another 10,000 employees and will stop trying to fill 5,000 open roles, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told staff in a memo today .

Zuckerberg titled the memo "Update on Meta's Year of Efficiency" and used the first two paragraphs to tout improvements to the Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp owner's operations. In the third paragraph, employees reading the memo found out that 10,000 of them will lose their jobs in the coming months.

"Overall, we expect to reduce our team size by around 10,000 people and to close around 5,000 additional open roles that we haven't yet hired," Zuckerberg wrote.

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    You can now run a GPT-3 level AI model on your laptop, phone, and Raspberry Pi / ArsTechnica · Monday, 13 March - 23:16

An AI-generated abstract image suggesting the silhouette of a figure.

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Things are moving at lighting speed in AI Land. On Friday, a software developer named Georgi Gerganov created a tool called "llama.cpp" that can run Meta's new GPT-3-class AI large language model, LLaMA , locally on a Mac laptop. Soon thereafter, people worked out how to run LLaMA on Windows as well. Then someone showed in running on a Pixel 6 phone. Next came a Raspberry Pi (albeit very slowly).

If this keeps up, we may be looking at a pocket-sized ChatGPT competitor before we know it.

But let's back up a minute, because we're not quite there yet. (At least not today—as in literally today, March 13, 2023.) But what will arrive next week, no one knows.

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    Meta threatens to restrict news in Canada if it’s forced to pay publishers / ArsTechnica · Monday, 13 March - 16:32

Meta threatens to restrict news in Canada if it’s forced to pay publishers

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

After losing a similar battle in Australia , Meta continues to resist efforts by a growing number of countries to require the social media company to pay for news linked on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. On Saturday, Meta announced that it would end news access for Canadian Facebook and Instagram users if the country’s Online News Act is passed, Reuters reported .

A Meta spokesperson told Ars that the online advertising giant contends that laws like Canada’s proposed legislation “misrepresents” the relationship between its platforms and news publishers. According to Meta spokesperson Lisa Laventure, the company’s stance in Canada is the same as its stance protesting the United States’ Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA).

“A legislative framework that compels us to pay for links or content that we do not post, and which are not the reason the vast majority of people use our platforms, is neither sustainable nor workable,” Laventure said.

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