Three senators introduce bill to protect artists and journalists from unauthorized AI use

Three US Senators introduced a bill that aims to rein in the rise and use of AI generated content and deepfakes by protecting the work of artists, songwriters and journalists.

The Content Original Protection and Integrity from Edited and Deepfaked Media (COPIED) Act was introduced to the Senate Friday morning. The bill is a bipartisan effort authorized by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), according to a press alert issued by Blackburn’s office.

The COPIED ACT would, if enacted, create transparency standards through the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) to set guidelines for “content provenance information, watermarking, and synthetic content detection,” according to the press release.

The bill would also prohibit the unauthorized use of creative or journalistic content to train AI models or created AI content. The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general would also gain the authority to enforce these guidelines and individuals who had their legally created content used by AI to create new content without their consent or proper compensation would also have the right to take those companies or entities to court.

The bill would even expand the prohibition of tampering or removing content provenance information by internet platforms, search engines and social media companies.

A slew of content and journalism advocacy groups are already voicing their support for the COPIED Act to become law. They include groups like SAG-AFTRA, the Recording Industry Association of America, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Songwriters Guild of America and the National Newspaper Association.

This is not the Senate’s first attempt to create guidelines and laws for the rising use of AI content and it certainly won’t be the last. In April, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) submitted a bill called the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act that would force AI companies to list their copyrighted sources in their datasets. The bill has not moved out of the House Committee on the Judiciary since its introduction, according to Senate records.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/three-senators-introduce-bill-to-protect-artists-and-journalists-from-unauthorized-ai-use-205603263.html?src=rss

Texas court blocks the FTC’s ban on noncompete agreements

The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) ban on noncompete agreements was supposed to take effect on September 4, but a Texan court has postponed its implementation by siding with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that seeks to block the rule. Back in April, the FTC banned noncompetes, which have been widely used in the tech industry for years, to drive innovation and protect workers' rights and wages. A lot of companies are unsurprisingly unhappy with the agency's rule — as NPR notes, Dallas tax services firm Ryan LLC sued the FTC hours after its announcement. The US Chamber of Commerce and other groups of American businesses eventually joined the lawsuit. 

"Noncompete clauses keep wages low, suppress new ideas, and rob the American economy of dynamism," FTC Chair Lina M. Khan said when the rule was announced. They prevent employees from moving to another company or from building businesses of their own in the same industry, so they may be stuck working in a job with lower pay or in an environment they don't like. But the Chamber of Commerce’s chief counsel Daryl Joseffer called the ban an attempt by the government to micromanage business decisions in a statement sent to Bloomberg

"The FTC’s blanket ban on noncompetes is an unlawful power grab that defies the agency’s constitutional and statutory authority and sets a dangerous precedent where the government knows better than the markets," Joseffer said. The FTC disagrees and told NPR that its "authority is supported by both statute and precedent."

US District Judge Ada Brown, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, wrote in her decision that "the text, structure, and history of the FTC Act reveal that the FTC lacks substantive rulemaking authority with respect to unfair methods of competition." Brown also said that the plaintiffs are "likely to succeed" in getting the rule struck down and that it's in the public's best interest to grant the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. The judge added that the court will make a decision "on the ultimate merits of this action on or before August 30."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/texas-court-blocks-the-ftcs-ban-on-noncompete-agreements-150020601.html?src=rss

Texas age-verification law for pornography websites is going to the Supreme Court

Texas will be the main battleground for a case about porn websites that is now headed to the Supreme Court. The Free Speech Coalition, a nonprofit group that represents the adult industry, petitioned the top court in April to review a state law that requires websites with explicit material to collect proof of users' ages. SCOTUS today agreed to take on the case challenging a previous ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit as a part of its next term beginning in October.

Texas was one of many states over the last year to pass this type of age-verification legislation aimed at porn websites. While supporters of these bills have said they are intended to protect minors from seeing inappropriate content, their critics have called the laws an overreach that could create new privacy risks. In response to the laws, Pornhub ended its operation in those states, a move that attracted public attention to the situation.

"While purportedly seeking to limit minors' access to online sexual content, the Act imposes significant burdens on adults' access to constitutionally protected expression," the FSC petition says. "Of central relevance here, it requires every user, including adults, to submit personally identifying information to access sensitive, intimate content over a medium — the internet — that poses unique security and privacy concerns."

This case is one of the latest First Amendment rights questions to go before the Supreme Court. Earlier this month, the court remanded a case about social media content moderation back to lower courts and passed judgment on how closely social media companies can engage with federal officials about misinformation.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/texas-age-verification-law-for-pornography-websites-is-going-to-the-supreme-court-233511418.html?src=rss

Supreme Court ruling may allow officials to coordinate with social platforms again

The US Supreme Court has ruled on controversial attempt by two states, Missouri and Louisiana, to limit Biden Administration officials and other government agencies from engaging with workers at social media companies about misinformation, election interference and other policies. Rather than set new guidelines on acceptable communication between these parties, the Court held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the issue at all. 

In Murthy, the states (as well as five individual social media users) alleged that, in the midst of the COVID pandemic and the 2020 election, officials at the CDC, FBI and other government agencies "pressured" Meta, Twitter and Google "to censor their speech in violation of the First Amendment."

The Court wrote, in an opinion authored by Justice Barrett, that "the plaintiffs must show a substantial risk that, in the near future, at least one platform will restrict the speech of at least one plaintiff in response to the actions of at least one Government defendant. Here, at the preliminary injunction stage, they must show that they are likely to succeed in carrying that burden." She went on to describe this as "a tall order." 

Though a Louisiana District Court order blocking contact between social media companies and Biden Administration officials has been on hold, the case has still had a significant impact on relationships between these parties. Last year, Meta revealed that its security researchers were no longer receiving their usual briefings from the FBI or CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) regarding foreign election interference. FBI officials had also warned that there were instances in which they discovered election interference attempts but didn’t warn social media companies due to additional layers of legal scrutiny implemented following the lawsuit. With today's ruling it seems possible such contact might now be allowed to continue. 

In part, it seems the Court was reluctant to rule on the case because of the potential for far-reaching First Amendment implications. Among the arguments made by the Plaintiffs was an assertion of a "right to listen" theory, that social media users have a Constitutional right to engage with content. "This theory is startlingly broad," Barrett wrote, "as it would grant all social-media users the right to sue over someone else’s censorship." The opinion was joined by Justices Roberts, Sotomayor, Kagan, Kavanaugh and Jackson. Justice Alito dissented, and was joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch. 

The case was one of a handful involving free speech and social media to come before the Supreme Court this term. The court is also set to rule on two linked cases involving state laws from Texas and Florida that could upend the way social media companies handle content moderation.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/supreme-court-ruling-may-allow-officials-to-coordinate-with-social-platforms-again-144045052.html?src=rss

New York Governor signs two new bills into law protecting kids from social media

New York has passed two new laws restricting how social media companies interact with and collect data from users under the age of 18.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed two bills into law on Thursday including the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act.

SAFE requires social media companies like Facebook and X to restrict addictive feeds to minors on its platforms. These include feeds that are “algorithmically driven” to prevent “unhealthy levels of engagement,” according to a press release.

The New York Child Data Protection Act also prevents online sites and devices from collecting, sharing or selling the personal data of anyone under the age of 18.

Both laws require companies to obtain consent from parents before allowing kids to access feeds driven by algorithms or collecting data from them. The new laws also require social media companies to create age verification and parental consent controls for its platforms based on guidelines set by New York’s Attorney General.

New York passed two new laws restricting how social media companies interact with and collect data from users under the age of 18. Governor Hochul said in a released statement that these new policies will “provide a safer digital environment, give parents more peace of mind and create a brighter future for young people across New York.”

Other parts of the country have passed laws restricting or limiting children’s access to phones and online platforms. The California State Senate approved a bill similar to New York’s SAFE Act that would also prevent social media apps from sending notifications to minors during school hours and from midnight to 6 a.m. throughout the year. The Los Angeles Unified School District instituted a ban that restricts students’ phone usage during school hours. California Governor Gavin Newson responded to the decision by promising to work with lawmakers on a similar statewide law.

These new policies and laws aren’t just about keeping kids off of their phone while they’re in school. They are designed to address mental health issues caused by social media platforms. The New York Times published an op-ed on Monday from US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy calling social media an “important contributor” to the detriment of mental health in teenagers and called for social media companies to post a warning label for adolescents on its platforms and apps.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/new-york-governor-signs-two-new-bills-into-law-protecting-kids-from-social-media-211935749.html?src=rss

EU delays decision over scanning encrypted messages for CSAM

European Union officials have delayed talks over proposed legislation that could lead to messaging services having to scan photos and links to detect possible child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Were the proposal to become law, it may require the likes of WhatsApp, Messenger and Signal to scan all images that users upload — which would essentially force them to break encryption.

For the measure to pass, it would need to have the backing of at least 15 of the member states representing at least 65 percent of the bloc's entire population. However, countries including Germany, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic were expected to abstain from the vote or oppose the plan due to cybersecurity and privacy concerns, Politico reports. If EU members come to an agreement on a joint position, they'll have to hash out a final version of the law with the European Commission and European Parliament.

The legislation was first proposed in 2022 and it could result in messaging services having to scan all images and links with the aim of detecting CSAM and communications between minors and potential offenders. Under the proposal, users would be informed about the link and image scans in services' terms and conditions. If they refused, they would be blocked from sharing links and images on those platforms. However, as Politico notes, the draft proposal includes an exemption for “accounts used by the State for national security purposes."

EU Council leaders are said to have been trying for six months to break the impasse and move forward negotiations to finalize the law. Belgium's presidency of the Council is set to end on June 30, and it's unclear if the incoming leadership will continue to prioritize the proposal.

Patrick Breyer, a digital rights activist who was a member of the previous European Parliament before this month's elections, has argued that proponents of the so-called "chat control" plan aimed to take advantage of a power vacuum before the next parliament is constituted. Breyer says that the delay of the vote, prompted in part by campaigners, "should be celebrated," but warned that "surveillance extremists among the EU governments" could again attempt to advance chat control in the coming days.

Other critics and privacy advocates have slammed the proposal. Signal president Meredith Whittaker said in a statement that "mass scanning of private communications fundamentally undermines encryption," while Edward Snowden described it as a "terrifying mass surveillance measure."

Advocates, on the other hand, have suggested that breaking encryption would be acceptable in order to tackle CSAM. "The Commission proposed the method or the rule that even encrypted messaging can be broken for the sake of better protecting children," Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová said on Thursday, per EuroNews.

The EU is not the only entity to attempt such a move. In 2021, Apple revealed a plan to scan iCloud Photos for known CSAM. However, it scrapped that controversial effort following criticism from the likes of customers, advocacy groups and researchers.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/eu-delays-decision-over-scanning-encrypted-messages-for-csam-142208548.html?src=rss

The Morning After: Congress’ clean energy bill passes with major focus on nuclear

The Senate has passed a sweeping bill that includes a lot of incentives for nuclear energy. The Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act passed in a vote, 88 to 2. The earlier version of the bill also garnered bipartisan support in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

Those incentives will include financial awards for the first companies to upcycle recycled nuclear waste. The bill will change the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, streamlining the application and regulatory process for new reactors. Following the bill's passage, US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works chairman Tom Carper said in a statement: "The ADVANCE Act will provide the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with the tools and workforce it needs to review new nuclear technologies efficiently while maintaining the NRC's critical safety mission and creating thousands of jobs."

Senators Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey were the two opposing votes, with the latter arguing that the ADVANCE Act turns the NRC into a facilitator rather than a regulator. "This bill puts promotion over protection, and corporate profits over community clean-up," Markey stated.

Environmental groups have reacted strongly both for and against the bill. Dr. Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said in a statement: “Make no mistake: This is not about making the reactor licensing process more efficient, but about weakening safety and security oversight across the board, a longstanding industry goal.”

— Mat Smith

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Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, has issued a statement supporting efforts to restrict the use of smartphones in schools within the state. He did so mere hours before board members of Los Angeles’ school district voted to pass a proposal for a school phone ban. Newsom said he will work with lawmakers "to restrict the use of smartphones during the school day" this summer, because children and teens "should be focused on their studies — not their screens." While LA's board members ultimately passed the proposal for a phone ban, two members voted against it. One told The New York Times that he voted no because teachers are already having difficulties imposing existing restrictions. He added that parents need to be able to contact their children during emergencies, like school shootings. And that is bleak.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-congress-clean-energy-bill-passes-with-major-focus-on-nuclear-111554248.html?src=rss

Congress passes sweeping pro-nuclear energy bill

The United States has taken a significant step towards becoming a nuclear reactor hub. On Tuesday, June 18, the Senate passed the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act in an 88 to 2 vote. A version also garnered bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, passing 365 to 33 earlier this year, leaving the path clear for the bill to reach President Biden's desk. 

The past decade has seen over a dozen reactor closures and only two new ones open — a pair that launched last month in Georgia to the tune of over $30 billion in expenses. The ADVANCE Act aims to expand the nation's nuclear energy industry by creating incentives and reducing the time and cost of building nuclear reactors. These attempts include financial awards for the first companies to reach certain goals, such as implementing upcycling of recycled nuclear waste. 

Much of the ADVANCE Act centers on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), an independent government agency that monitors nuclear use, including commercial nuclear power plants. The bill shifts the NRC's role, requiring it to create a new mission statement that states "licensing and regulation of the civilian use of radioactive materials and nuclear energy be conducted in a manner that is efficient and does not unnecessarily limit the benefits of civilian use of radioactive materials and nuclear energy technology to society." It further instructs the NRC to accelerate its licensing review process and hiring of staff, along with improving "its process for approving the export of American technology to international markets."

In a statement following the bill's passage, US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works chairman Tom Carper stated, "The ADVANCE Act will provide the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with the tools and workforce it needs to review new nuclear technologies efficiently, while maintaining the NRC's critical safety mission and creating thousands of jobs."

However, not everyone is in favor of the bill, with critics warning it comprises safety. Senators Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey were the two opposing votes, with the latter arguing that the ADVANCE Act turns the NRC into a facilitator rather than a regulator. "This bill puts promotion over protection, and corporate profits over community clean-up," Markey stated. "The ADVANCE Act, as attached to the Fire Grants and Safety Act, includes language that would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to rewrite its mission to state that its regulation and oversight should 'not unnecessarily limit' civilian nuclear activity, regardless of whether it is beneficial or detrimental to public safety and national security. The NRC shouldn't be the Nuclear Retail Commission."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/congress-passes-sweeping-pro-nuclear-energy-bill-140035295.html?src=rss

California Governor Gavin Newsom wants to restrict phone use in schools

Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, has issued a statement in support of efforts aiming to restrict the use of smartphones in schools within the state. As The New York Times reports, the governor aired his stance merely hours before board members at the Los Angeles Unified School District voted to pass a proposal for a school phone ban. Newsom said he will work with lawmakers "to restrict the use of smartphones during the school day" this summer, because children and teens "should be focused on their studies — not their screens."

The governor also mentioned and agreed with the US Surgeon General's op-ed published by The Times, wherein he said that social media platforms should be required to display warning labels from his office because they can significantly harm teenagers' mental health. In his piece, Vivek Murthy explained that the label "which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe."

Newsom said the rules he develops will build upon the directive he signed in 2019, which authorizes (but doesn't require) districts to adopt phone bans. If California does pass a law to ban the use of phone during school hours, it'll join Florida and Indiana in the list of states with similar legislation. Florida's schools are required to prevent their students from using their phones during class time, and some districts even require them to ban phone use until it's time for the students to go home. Other states are poised to follow suit. New York City designated social media as a public health hazard earlier this year, and Governor Kathy Hochul previously said that she would pursue phone restrictions for schools in the New York state next year.

While LA's board members ultimately passed the proposal for a phone ban, two members voted against it. One told The Times that he voted no because teachers are already having difficulties imposing existing restrictions in schools. Perhaps more importantly, he said that parents need to be able to contact their children during emergencies, like school shootings, echoing the concerns of parents who opposed phone bans in the past. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/california-governor-gavin-newsom-wants-to-restrict-phone-use-in-schools-120012532.html?src=rss

Amazon faces nearly $6 million in fines over California labor law violations

The California Labor Commissioner's office has fined Amazon $5,901,700 for infractions related to a law designed to protect warehouse workers. Under the state's AB-701 law, large companies are required to tell warehouse or distribution center workers in writing what their expected quotas are, including how often they should perform particular tasks, and what consequences they may face for failing to meet those quotas.

This law was a reaction to stories from Amazon workers who said they would skip bathroom breaks or risk injury in order to maximize their output. "The hardworking warehouse employees who have helped sustain us during these unprecedented times should not have to risk injury or face punishment as a result of exploitative quotas that violate basic health and safety," Governor Gavin Newsom said when he signed the bill in 2021.

According to the California Labor Commissioner, Amazon failed to meet those rules at two of its facilities in the cities of Moreno Valley and Redlands, with 59,017 violations logged during the labor office's inspections. It's one of the first big fines levied thanks to AB-701, which took effect in January 2022. The tech giant claimed it did not need to provide written information because it uses a "peer-to-peer system."

"The peer-to-peer system that Amazon was using in these two warehouses is exactly the kind of system that the Warehouse Quotas law was put in place to prevent," Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said in an official statement. "Undisclosed quotas expose workers to increased pressure to work faster and can lead to higher injury rates and other violations by forcing workers to skip breaks."

The AB701 bill was passed by the state in September 2021, headed up by State Assembly rep Lorena Gonzalez. She was also a part of passing California's AB-5 bill in 2019 to seek better protections for gig workers at companies such as Uber and Lyft.

Amazon spokesperson Maureen Lynch Vogel told Engadget, however, that the company disagrees with the allegations made in the citations and have already appealed the fines. "The truth is, we don't have fixed quotas," Vogel continued. "At Amazon, individual performance is evaluated over a long period of time, in relation to how the entire site’s team is performing. Employees can — and are encouraged to — review their performance whenever they wish. They can always talk to a manager if they’re having trouble finding the information."

Update, June 18, 2024, 8:48PM ET: We've updated this post's headline to correct the fine Amazon is facing. We regret the error. We've also added a statement from Amazon. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-faces-nearly-6b-in-fines-over-california-labor-law-violations-203238513.html?src=rss