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    Meta sues FTC, hoping to block ban on monetizing kids’ Facebook data / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 30 November - 18:50

Photo illustration in which the Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a Meta logo

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Chesnot)

Meta sued the Federal Trade Commission yesterday in a lawsuit that challenges the FTC's authority to impose new privacy obligations on the social media firm.

The complaint stems from the FTC's May 2023 allegation that Meta-owned Facebook violated a 2020 privacy settlement and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. The FTC proposed changes to the 2020 privacy order that would, among other things, prohibit Facebook from monetizing data it collects from users under 18.

Meta's lawsuit against the FTC challenges what it calls "the structurally unconstitutional authority exercised by the FTC through its Commissioners in an administrative reopening proceeding against Meta." It was filed against the FTC, Chair Lina Khan, and other commissioners in US District Court for the District of Columbia. Meta is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the FTC proceeding pending resolution of the lawsuit.

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    Meta’s “overpriced” ad-free subscriptions make privacy a “luxury good”: EU suit / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 30 November - 18:37

Meta’s “overpriced” ad-free subscriptions make privacy a “luxury good”: EU suit

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

Backlash over Meta's ad-free subscription model in the European Union has begun just one month into its launch.

On Thursday, Europe's largest consumer group, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), filed a complaint with the network of consumer protection authorities. In a press release , BEUC alleges that Meta's subscription fees for ad-free access to Facebook and Instagram are so unreasonably high that they breach laws designed to protect user privacy as a fundamental right.

"Meta has been rolling out changes to its service in the EU in November 2023, which require Facebook and Instagram users to either consent to the processing of their data for advertising purposes by the company or pay in order not to be shown advertisements," BEUC's press release said. "The tech giant’s pay-or-consent approach is unfair and must be stopped."

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    ChatGPT is one year old. Here’s how it changed the world. / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 30 November - 17:01 · 1 minute

A toy tin robot blowing out a birthday candle.

Enlarge / An artist's interpretation of what ChatGPT might look like if embodied in the form of a robot toy blowing out a birthday candle. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

One year ago today, on November 30, 2022, OpenAI released ChatGPT . It's uncommon for a single tech product to create as much global impact as ChatGPT in just one year.

Imagine a computer that can talk to you. Nothing new, right? Those have been around since the 1960s . But ChatGPT, the application that first bought large language models (LLMs) to a wide audience, felt different. It could compose poetry, seemingly understand the context of your questions and your conversation, and help you solve problems. Within a few months, it became the fastest-growing consumer application of all time. And it created a frenzy.

During these 365 days, ChatGPT has broadened the public perception of AI, captured imaginations, attracted critics , and stoked existential angst. It emboldened and reoriented Microsoft, made Google dance , spurred fears of AGI taking over the world, captivated world leaders , prompted attempts at government regulation , helped add words to dictionaries , inspired conferences and copycats , led to a crisis for educators, hyper-charged automated defamation , embarrassed lawyers by hallucinating, prompted lawsuits over training data, and much more.

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    Amazon unleashes Q, an AI assistant for the workplace / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 29 November - 17:13

The Amazon Q logo.

Enlarge / The Amazon Q logo. (credit: Amazon)

On Tuesday, Amazon unveiled Amazon Q , an AI chatbot similar to ChatGPT that is tailored for corporate environments. Developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS), Q is designed to assist employees with tasks like summarizing documents, managing internal support tickets, and providing policy guidance, differentiating itself from consumer-focused chatbots. It also serves as a programming assistant.

According to The New York Times , the name "Q" is a play on the word “question" and a reference to the character Q in the James Bond novels, who makes helpful tools. (And there's apparently a little bit of Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation thrown in, although hopefully the new bot won't cause mischief on that scale.)

Amazon Q's launch positions it against existing corporate AI tools like Microsoft's Copilot , Google's Duet AI , and ChatGPT Enterprise . Unlike some of its competitors, Amazon Q isn't built on a singular AI large language model (LLM). Instead, it uses a platform called Bedrock, integrating multiple AI systems, including Amazon's Titan and models from Anthropic and Meta .

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    Meta routinely ignored reports of kids under 13 on Instagram, states allege / ArsTechnica · Monday, 27 November - 18:35

In this photo illustration, the icons of WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and Facebook are displayed on an iPhone in front of a Meta logo

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Chesnot )

It has never been a big secret that underage kids use social networks like Instagram and Facebook despite the Meta-owned platforms' rule that every user be at least 13 years old. But while the company says publicly that it does what it can to remove kids' accounts, US states suing Meta say they have evidence that the company routinely ignores reports of underage users.

"Within the company, Meta's actual knowledge that millions of Instagram users are under the age of 13 is an open secret that is routinely documented, rigorously analyzed and confirmed, and zealously protected from disclosure to the public," said a newly unredacted complaint released last week.

Meta received 1.1 million reports of under-13 users on Instagram between 2019 and the first half of 2023, but "disabled only a fraction of those accounts and routinely continued to collect children's data without parental consent," the complaint said. In 2021, Meta received over 402,000 reports of under-13 Instagram users through its website and app reporting systems, but its "records show that fewer than 164,000—far fewer than half of the reported accounts—were 'disabled for potentially being under the age of 13' that year," the lawsuit said.

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    Meta’s “massively multilingual” AI model translates up to 100 languages, speech or text / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 22 August - 19:57 · 1 minute

An illustration of a person holding up a megaphone to a head silhouette that says

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Meta announced SeamlessM4T , a multimodal AI model for speech and text translations. As a neural network that can process both text and audio, it can perform text-to-speech, speech-to-text, speech-to-speech, and text-to-text translations for "up to 100 languages," according to Meta. Its goal is to help people who speak different languages communicate with each other more effectively.

Continuing Meta's relatively open approach to AI, Meta is releasing SeamlessM4T under a research license (CC BY-NC 4.0) that allows developers to build on the work. They're also releasing SeamlessAlign, which Meta calls "the biggest open multimodal translation dataset to date, totaling 270,000 hours of mined speech and text alignments." That will likely kick-start the training of future translation AI models from other researchers.

Among the features of SeamlessM4T touted on Meta's promotional blog, the company says that the model can perform speech recognition (you give it audio of speech, and it converts it to text), speech-to-text translation (it translates spoken audio to a different language in text), speech-to-speech translation (you feed it speech audio, and it outputs translated speech audio), text-to-text translation (similar to how Google Translate functions), and text-to-speech translation (feed it text and it will translate and speak it out in another language). Each of the text translation functions supports nearly 100 languages, and the speech output functions support about 36 output languages.

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    Banks fined $549M after senior execs found secretly texting on Signal, WhatsApp / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 8 August - 19:22

Banks fined $549M after senior execs found secretly texting on Signal, WhatsApp

Enlarge (credit: SOPA Images / Contributor | LightRocket )

Banks with employees covertly texting about official business on apps like Signal, WhatsApp, and iMessage have been caught red-handed. Now federal agencies are charging banks with violating laws requiring recordkeeping on all business matters.

Today, the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) fined 11 firms a combined $549 million for what the SEC described as "widespread and longstanding failures by the firms and their employees to maintain and preserve electronic communications."

Wells Fargo was hit with the biggest fines, agreeing to pay the SEC a $125 million penalty and the CFTC another $75 million. Fines for other firms—including Bank of Montreal, BMO Capital Markets Corp., BNP Paribas, Houlihan Lokey Capital, Inc., Mizuho Securities USA, Moelis & Company LLC, SMBC Nikko Securities America, Inc., Société Générale, and Wedbush Securities Inc.—ranged between $9 million and $75 million.

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