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TECHNOLOGY

What’s Wrong with the Algorithms?

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What's Wrong with the Algorithms?

Social media algorithms have become a source of concern due to the spread of misinformation, echo chambers, and political polarization.

The main purpose of social media algorithms is to personalize and optimize user experience on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Most social media algorithms sort, filter, and prioritize content based on a user’s individual preferences and behaviors. Social media algorithms have come under scrutiny in recent years for contributing to the spread of misinformation, echo chambers, and political polarization.

Facebook’s news feed algorithm has been criticized for spreading misinformation, creating echo chambers, and reinforcing political polarization. In 2016, the algorithm was found to have played a role in the spread of false information related to the U.S. Presidential election, including the promotion of fake news stories and propaganda. Facebook has since made changes to its algorithm to reduce the spread of misinformation, but concerns about bias and polarization persist.

Twitter’s trending topics algorithm has also been criticized for perpetuating bias and spreading misinformation. In 2016, it was revealed that the algorithm was prioritizing trending topics based on popularity, rather than accuracy or relevance. This led to the promotion of false and misleading information, including conspiracy theories and propaganda. Twitter has since made changes to its algorithm to reduce the spread of misinformation and improve the quality of public discourse.

YouTube’s recommendation algorithm has been criticized for spreading conspiracy theories and promoting extremist content. In 2019, it was revealed that the algorithm was recommending conspiracy theory videos related to the moon landing, 9/11, and other historical events. Additionally, the algorithm was found to be promoting extremist content, including white nationalist propaganda and hate speech. YouTube has since made changes to its algorithm to reduce the spread of misinformation and extremist content, but concerns about bias and polarization persist.

In this article, we’ll examine the problem with social media algorithms including the impact they’re having on society as well as some possible solutions.

1. Spread of Misinformation

Spread_of_Information.jpg

Source: Scientific American

One of the biggest problems with social media algorithms is their tendency to spread misinformation. This can occur when algorithms prioritize sensational or controversial content, regardless of its accuracy, in order to keep users engaged and on the platform longer. This can lead to the spread of false or misleading information, which can have serious consequences for public health, national security, and democracy.

2. Echo Chambers and Political Polarization

Political_Polarization.jpg

Source: PEW Research Center

Another issue with social media algorithms is that they can create echo chambers and reinforce political polarization. This happens when algorithms only show users content that aligns with their existing beliefs and values, and filter out information that challenges those beliefs. As a result, users can become trapped in a self-reinforcing bubble of misinformation and propaganda, leading to a further division of society and a decline in the quality of public discourse.

3. Bias in Algorithm Design and Data Collection

Bias_in_Algorithm_Design.png

Source: Springer Link

There are also concerns about bias in the design and implementation of social media algorithms. The data used to train these algorithms is often collected from users in a biased manner, which can perpetuate existing inequalities and reinforce existing power structures. Additionally, the designers and developers of these algorithms may hold their own biases, which can be reflected in the algorithms they create. This can result in discriminatory outcomes and perpetuate social injustices.

4. Democracy in Retreat

Derosion_of_Democracy.jpeg

Source: Freedom House

Social media algorithms are vulnerable to manipulation and can spread false or misleading information, which can be used to manipulate public opinion and undermine democratic institutions. The dominance of a few large social media companies has led to a concentration of power in the hands of a small number of organizations, which can undermine the diversity and competitiveness of the marketplace of ideas, a key principle of democratic societies.

How to Improve Social Media Algorithms?

Boost_Social_Media_Posts.jpeg

Source: Tech Xplore

Governments and regulatory bodies have a role to play in holding technology companies accountable for the algorithms they create and their impact on society. This could involve enforcing laws and regulations to prevent the spread of misinformation and extremist content, and holding companies responsible for their algorithms’ biases.

There are several possible solutions that can be implemented to improve social media algorithms and reduce their impact on democracy. Some of these solutions include:

  • Increased transparency and accountability: Social media companies should be more transparent about their algorithms and data practices, and they should be held accountable for the impact of their algorithms on society. This can include regular audits and public reporting on algorithmic biases and their impact on society.

  • Regulation and standards: Governments can play a role in ensuring that social media algorithms are designed and operated in a way that is consistent with democratic values and principles. This can include setting standards for algorithmic transparency, accountability, and fairness, and enforcing penalties for violations of these standards.

  • Diversification of ownership: Encouraging a more diverse and competitive landscape of social media companies can reduce the concentration of power in the hands of a few dominant players and promote innovation and diversity in the marketplace of ideas.

  • User education and awareness: Social media users can be educated and empowered to make informed decisions about their usage of social media, including recognizing and avoiding disinformation and biased content.

  • Encouragement of responsible content creation: Social media companies can work to encourage the creation of high-quality and responsible content by prioritizing accurate information and rewarding creators who produce this content.

  • Collaboration between industry, government, and civil society: Addressing the challenges posed by social media algorithms will require collaboration between social media companies, governments, and civil society organizations. This collaboration can involve the sharing of data and best practices, the development of common standards and regulations, and the implementation of public education and awareness programs.

Conclusion

Social media companies have the power to censor and suppress speech, which can undermine the right to free expression and the democratic principle of an open and inclusive public discourse. It is crucial for technology companies and policymakers to address these issues and work to reduce the potential for harm from these algorithms. Social media platforms need to actively encourage and facilitate community participation in the development and improvement of their algorithms. This would involve setting up forums for discussion and collaboration, providing documentation and support for developers, and engaging with the community to address their concerns and ideas. In order to ensure that the algorithms are fair and unbiased, tech companies need to be transparent about the data they collect and use to train their algorithms. This would involve releasing the data sets used to train the algorithms, along with information about how the data was collected, what it represents, and any limitations or biases it may contain.

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TECHNOLOGY

Next-gen chips, Amazon Q, and speedy S3

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AWS re:Invent, which has been taking place from November 27 and runs to December 1, has had its usual plethora of announcements: a total of 21 at time of print.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the huge potential impact of generative AI – ChatGPT officially turns one year old today – a lot of focus has been on the AI side for AWS’ announcements, including a major partnership inked with NVIDIA across infrastructure, software, and services.

Yet there has been plenty more announced at the Las Vegas jamboree besides. Here, CloudTech rounds up the best of the rest:

Next-generation chips

This was the other major AI-focused announcement at re:Invent: the launch of two new chips, AWS Graviton4 and AWS Trainium2, for training and running AI and machine learning (ML) models, among other customer workloads. Graviton4 shapes up against its predecessor with 30% better compute performance, 50% more cores and 75% more memory bandwidth, while Trainium2 delivers up to four times faster training than before and will be able to be deployed in EC2 UltraClusters of up to 100,000 chips.

The EC2 UltraClusters are designed to ‘deliver the highest performance, most energy efficient AI model training infrastructure in the cloud’, as AWS puts it. With it, customers will be able to train large language models in ‘a fraction of the time’, as well as double energy efficiency.

As ever, AWS offers customers who are already utilising these tools. Databricks, Epic and SAP are among the companies cited as using the new AWS-designed chips.

Zero-ETL integrations

AWS announced new Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Relational Database Services (Amazon RDS) for MySQL integrations with Amazon Redshift, AWS’ cloud data warehouse. The zero-ETL integrations – eliminating the need to build ETL (extract, transform, load) data pipelines – make it easier to connect and analyse transactional data across various relational and non-relational databases in Amazon Redshift.

A simple example of how zero-ETL functions can be seen is in a hypothetical company which stores transactional data – time of transaction, items bought, where the transaction occurred – in a relational database, but use another analytics tool to analyse data in a non-relational database. To connect it all up, companies would previously have to construct ETL data pipelines which are a time and money sink.

The latest integrations “build on AWS’s zero-ETL foundation… so customers can quickly and easily connect all of their data, no matter where it lives,” the company said.

Amazon S3 Express One Zone

AWS announced the general availability of Amazon S3 Express One Zone, a new storage class purpose-built for customers’ most frequently-accessed data. Data access speed is up to 10 times faster and request costs up to 50% lower than standard S3. Companies can also opt to collocate their Amazon S3 Express One Zone data in the same availability zone as their compute resources.  

Companies and partners who are using Amazon S3 Express One Zone include ChaosSearch, Cloudera, and Pinterest.

Amazon Q

A new product, and an interesting pivot, again with generative AI at its core. Amazon Q was announced as a ‘new type of generative AI-powered assistant’ which can be tailored to a customer’s business. “Customers can get fast, relevant answers to pressing questions, generate content, and take actions – all informed by a customer’s information repositories, code, and enterprise systems,” AWS added. The service also can assist companies building on AWS, as well as companies using AWS applications for business intelligence, contact centres, and supply chain management.

Customers cited as early adopters include Accenture, BMW and Wunderkind.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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TECHNOLOGY

HCLTech and Cisco create collaborative hybrid workplaces

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Digital comms specialist Cisco and global tech firm HCLTech have teamed up to launch Meeting-Rooms-as-a-Service (MRaaS).

Available on a subscription model, this solution modernises legacy meeting rooms and enables users to join meetings from any meeting solution provider using Webex devices.

The MRaaS solution helps enterprises simplify the design, implementation and maintenance of integrated meeting rooms, enabling seamless collaboration for their globally distributed hybrid workforces.

Rakshit Ghura, senior VP and Global head of digital workplace services, HCLTech, said: “MRaaS combines our consulting and managed services expertise with Cisco’s proficiency in Webex devices to change the way employees conceptualise, organise and interact in a collaborative environment for a modern hybrid work model.

“The common vision of our partnership is to elevate the collaboration experience at work and drive productivity through modern meeting rooms.”

Alexandra Zagury, VP of partner managed and as-a-Service Sales at Cisco, said: “Our partnership with HCLTech helps our clients transform their offices through cost-effective managed services that support the ongoing evolution of workspaces.

“As we reimagine the modern office, we are making it easier to support collaboration and productivity among workers, whether they are in the office or elsewhere.”

Cisco’s Webex collaboration devices harness the power of artificial intelligence to offer intuitive, seamless collaboration experiences, enabling meeting rooms with smart features such as meeting zones, intelligent people framing, optimised attendee audio and background noise removal, among others.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: Cisco, collaboration, HCLTech, Hybrid, meetings

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TECHNOLOGY

Canonical releases low-touch private cloud MicroCloud

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Canonical has announced the general availability of MicroCloud, a low-touch, open source cloud solution. MicroCloud is part of Canonical’s growing cloud infrastructure portfolio.

It is purpose-built for scalable clusters and edge deployments for all types of enterprises. It is designed with simplicity, security and automation in mind, minimising the time and effort to both deploy and maintain it. Conveniently, enterprise support for MicroCloud is offered as part of Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro subscription, with several support tiers available, and priced per node.

MicroClouds are optimised for repeatable and reliable remote deployments. A single command initiates the orchestration and clustering of various components with minimal involvement by the user, resulting in a fully functional cloud within minutes. This simplified deployment process significantly reduces the barrier to entry, putting a production-grade cloud at everyone’s fingertips.

Juan Manuel Ventura, head of architectures & technologies at Spindox, said: “Cloud computing is not only about technology, it’s the beating heart of any modern industrial transformation, driving agility and innovation. Our mission is to provide our customers with the most effective ways to innovate and bring value; having a complexity-free cloud infrastructure is one important piece of that puzzle. With MicroCloud, the focus shifts away from struggling with cloud operations to solving real business challenges” says

In addition to seamless deployment, MicroCloud prioritises security and ease of maintenance. All MicroCloud components are built with strict confinement for increased security, with over-the-air transactional updates that preserve data and roll back on errors automatically. Upgrades to newer versions are handled automatically and without downtime, with the mechanisms to hold or schedule them as needed.

With this approach, MicroCloud caters to both on-premise clouds but also edge deployments at remote locations, allowing organisations to use the same infrastructure primitives and services wherever they are needed. It is suitable for business-in-branch office locations or industrial use inside a factory, as well as distributed locations where the focus is on replicability and unattended operations.

Cedric Gegout, VP of product at Canonical, said: “As data becomes more distributed, the infrastructure has to follow. Cloud computing is now distributed, spanning across data centres, far and near edge computing appliances. MicroCloud is our answer to that.

“By packaging known infrastructure primitives in a portable and unattended way, we are delivering a simpler, more prescriptive cloud experience that makes zero-ops a reality for many Industries.“

MicroCloud’s lightweight architecture makes it usable on both commodity and high-end hardware, with several ways to further reduce its footprint depending on your workload needs. In addition to the standard Ubuntu Server or Desktop, MicroClouds can be run on Ubuntu Core – a lightweight OS optimised for the edge. With Ubuntu Core, MicroClouds are a perfect solution for far-edge locations with limited computing capabilities. Users can choose to run their workloads using Kubernetes or via system containers. System containers based on LXD behave similarly to traditional VMs but consume fewer resources while providing bare-metal performance.

Coupled with Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro + Support subscription, MicroCloud users can benefit from an enterprise-grade open source cloud solution that is fully supported and with better economics. An Ubuntu Pro subscription offers security maintenance for the broadest collection of open-source software available from a single vendor today. It covers over 30k packages with a consistent security maintenance commitment, and additional features such as kernel livepatch, systems management at scale, certified compliance and hardening profiles enabling easy adoption for enterprises. With per-node pricing and no hidden fees, customers can rest assured that their environment is secure and supported without the expensive price tag typically associated with cloud solutions.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: automation, Canonical, MicroCloud, private cloud

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