Facebook’s toll, drone failures in Europe and more


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This week, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook data scientist, went public as a whistleblower behind the company’s internal document cache leak known as “Facebook Files.” Originally published in the Wall Street Journal, the documents would prove that internal company research had shown the negative effects of Facebook and Instagram on their users. But despite public statements of concern, often fueled by Congressional hearings and bad publicity, the company has done nothing about it.

Among the accusations made by Haugen while testifying before a U.S. Senate committee and in a lawsuit filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Facebook executives knew Instagram was having a detrimental impact on young girls and women when it came to their life. body image, but did nothing to address this concern. She also revealed the existence of a so-called white list of high profile VIP users who are exempt from the platform’s moderation policies.

The disclosures come at a bad time for the company and social media platforms in general. Amid broader debates about the role they have played in the political polarization and militarization of disinformation in democracies, social media platforms are currently in the crosshairs of government regulators in the United States and Europe. But they are also the target of authoritarian governments seeking to suppress free speech and political dissent.

Caught between arguments for free speech on the one hand and their willingness to limit speech to continue operating in authoritarian countries on the other, the leeway of social media companies in the face of growing calls to braking them already seemed to be shrinking. . This can only accelerate now that their platforms are presented as a threat to public health.

Here is recent coverage from WPR on the challenges of social media regulation to put this week’s events in context:

Highlights of this week

International institutions must exclude politics from their data. In a guest column on Monday, Richard Gowan wrote about the potential fallout for international institutions of a World Bank scandal, in which senior officials pressured analysts to falsify data in his report annual Doing Business.

  • Richard writes that collecting and providing Member States with impartial and accurate data has long been a central function of international institutions like the United Nations, going back even to its predecessor, the League of Nations.
  • Over the past century, the United Nations and other agencies have broadened the range and depth of the data they collect and distribute. And for all their perceived shortcomings, data from international institutions has often been the cornerstone of international policy making and diplomacy.
  • In recent years, major power rivalries in the UN Security Council have increasingly involved disputes over allegedly factual relationships, for example between the United States and Russia over the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria, and the United States and China on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. In other cases, member states often pressure the UN and its organizations to tip the scales in their favor on reporting on sensitive issues, such as human rights reviews.
  • Richard argues that for the UN and other international institutions to maintain their credibility as collectors and providers of data, they must demonstrate that “teams that collect and publish key data are as safe as possible from the pressures. policies ”.

The future of the global drone market will not be “made in Europe”. In a briefing Monday, Dominika Kunertova discussed the inability of European countries to develop indigenous long-endurance drone capability, and the implications of their failure to do so.

  • Despite an increase in funding announced this summer, the Eurodrone surveillance drone will not be available for delivery until 2029, almost 35 years after the first appearance of the American-made Predator drone. The $ 8.2 billion project suffered repeated delays and cost overruns due to disagreements over technical requirements, particularly over whether or not to arm drones, as well as the distribution of project shares among its members. main French, German, Italian and Spanish contractors.
  • Until the Eurodrone goes live, the five European countries that currently operate long-endurance drone fleets, and all the others that hope to do so, will continue to depend on drones and support systems provided by the Eurodrone. foreigner. But even when it is finally operational, the Eurodrone risks being doomed to obsolescence due to the competitiveness of the global drone market.
  • China and Turkey, in particular, have been successful in finding customers, including Poland, for their cheaper versions of armed drones, which have proven successful in non-permissive conflict environments, most recently during the War of the United States. Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • As a result, the Eurodrone, when brought online, “will find it difficult to compete with more established and combat-proven platforms”, meaning that it is doubtful that “all new generation drones carry the “Made in Europe” label. “

Burmese opposition should focus on diplomacy, not war. In a briefing on Wednesday, Joshua Kurlantzick wrote about the efforts of Myanmar’s opposition national unity government to convince the international community that it is both legitimate and capable of governing, even as it has begun to resort to to violence in its resistance to the military junta which took power in February.

  • NUG has managed to establish itself and forge links with the international community, while raising $ 700 million through donations from the Burmese diaspora. He used some of that funding to distribute humanitarian aid around the country, with plans to similarly purchase and distribute 6 million doses of coronavirus vaccine.
  • NUG has also assembled a more inclusive team than previous civilian governments, which have been criticized for primarily representing the Bamar ethnic group. In addition to representing more of the country’s ethnic minorities, NUG has taken a stronger stance in defending their rights, especially in the case of the Rohingya. And he drafted a constitution that would establish a federal system to protect the interests of ethnic minorities.
  • But in the absence of international support, the NUG has also relaunched efforts to step up what it calls the People’s Defense Forces engaged in a “people’s defensive war” against the junta. The partisans trained in military tactics, in some cases with armed militias belonging to ethnic minorities, and began to carry out blitz attacks to harass the Burmese armed forces.
  • While the tactics frustrated the military, they are unlikely to be successful in the long run against a better equipped and cohesive Burmese force. Josh argues that “NUG would be wise to focus its resources on showing that it can govern. The more effectively it does and the more professional it looks, the easier it will be for NUG representatives to be recognized.

The story on the front page of this week

The main story this week by number of pageviews was Rachel Cheung’s China Note newsletter, which examined the causes of China’s power shortage, as well as its domestic and international implications:

[T]The ripple effect of power cuts in China will likely extend beyond its national economy. The sharp increase in Chinese demand for natural gas could exacerbate the global gas crisis and push up electricity prices elsewhere. As the slowdown in manufacturing output will strain global supply chains and hamper post-pandemic recovery, the electricity crisis will also test China’s climate commitments.

What’s on the tap

We’ll be off Monday for the Columbus Day vacation in the US, but coming up for the rest of the week we’ll have:

  • A briefing by Daniel Eizenga on the stalemated political transition in Chad, six months after the death of longtime leader Idriss Deby.
  • A briefing by Sydney Nash on the causes and implications of recent fuel shortages in the UK
  • And an in-depth article by Jennifer Piscopo on why governments have failed to address the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on women, and what they need to do to put women at the forefront of health plans. relaunch.

Judah Grunstein is the editor of World Politics Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @Judah_Grunstein.

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