The DOJ makes its first known arrest for AI-generated CSAM

The US Department of Justice arrested a Wisconsin man last week for generating and distributing AI-generated child sexual abuse material (CSAM). As far as we know, this is the first case of its kind as the DOJ looks to establish a judicial precedent that exploitative materials are still illegal even when no children were used to create them. “Put simply, CSAM generated by AI is still CSAM,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco wrote in a press release.

The DOJ says 42-year-old software engineer Steven Anderegg of Holmen, WI, used a fork of the open-source AI image generator Stable Diffusion to make the images, which he then used to try to lure an underage boy into sexual situations. The latter will likely play a central role in the eventual trial for the four counts of “producing, distributing, and possessing obscene visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and transferring obscene material to a minor under the age of 16.”

The government says Anderegg’s images showed “nude or partially clothed minors lasciviously displaying or touching their genitals or engaging in sexual intercourse with men.” The DOJ claims he used specific prompts, including negative prompts (extra guidance for the AI model, telling it what not to produce) to spur the generator into making the CSAM.

Cloud-based image generators like Midjourney and DALL-E 3 have safeguards against this type of activity, but Ars Technica reports that Anderegg allegedly used Stable Diffusion 1.5, a variant with fewer boundaries. Stability AI told the publication that fork was produced by Runway ML.

According to the DOJ, Anderegg communicated online with the 15-year-old boy, describing how he used the AI model to create the images. The agency says the accused sent the teen direct messages on Instagram, including several AI images of “minors lasciviously displaying their genitals.” To its credit, Instagram reported the images to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which alerted law enforcement.

Anderegg could face five to 70 years in prison if convicted on all four counts. He’s currently in federal custody before a hearing scheduled for May 22.

The case will challenge the notion some may hold that CSAM’s illegal nature is based exclusively on the children exploited in their creation. Although AI-generated digital CSAM doesn’t involve any live humans (other than the one entering the prompts), it could still normalize and encourage the material, or be used to lure children into predatory situations. This appears to be something the feds want to clarify as the technology rapidly advances and grows in popularity.

“Technology may change, but our commitment to protecting children will not,” Deputy AG Monaco wrote. “The Justice Department will aggressively pursue those who produce and distribute child sexual abuse material—or CSAM—no matter how that material was created. Put simply, CSAM generated by AI is still CSAM, and we will hold accountable those who exploit AI to create obscene, abusive, and increasingly photorealistic images of children.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-doj-makes-its-first-known-arrest-for-ai-generated-csam-201740996.html?src=rss

Amazon workers become the first to unionize at one of the company’s Canadian warehouses

A group of Amazon workers in Quebec have formed the first union at one of the company's Canadian warehouses. On Friday, the province's labor tribunal granted union accreditation to workers at the DXT4 warehouse in Laval, a Montreal suburb. It determined that a majority had opted to unionize after signing union cards.

A group of some 200 workers are organizing as the Laval Amazon Workers Union under the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), which represents around 330,000 people across a variety of industries in Canada. A general assembly to decide on a constitution, bylaws and representatives will take place in the coming days. A consultation with union members will then take place to agree on a list of demands.

The union says Amazon is legally required to come to the negotiation table to hash out a contract. However, it expects Amazon to appeal the labor tribunal’s decision after allegedly attempting to stop the unionization efforts.

“First and foremost, this is a great victory for the men and women from Latin America, Chad, the Maghreb and Asia who were not afraid to stand up for their rights,” CSN president Caroline Senneville said in a statement. “Over the past few months, Amazon has pulled out all the stops to block our unionization campaign, flooding the workplace with scaremongering messages. DXT4 workers have given us all a lesson in courage. Of course, we hope it spreads.”

Amazon claimed in a letter to the labor tribunal on May 6 that the accreditation would not "respect the interests of its employees." The company argued that some workers signed union cards after being misled and that some aspects of the Quebec labor code run contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"We believe that all people should have the right to inform themselves and to vote according to their situation and convictions at the time," Amazon spokesperson Barbara M. Agrait told the CBC. "If a simple majority of people at an employer have joined a union at any point, then there's no vote and representation is automatic for all employees — including maybe dozens or hundreds of employees who didn't even know it was being considered."

Amazon has long been accused of attempting to upend unionization efforts at warehouses in the US and Europe. In 2022, workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, became the first in the company to form a union. But the Amazon Labor Union does not yet have a contract with Amazon, and reports suggest it's running low on funds ahead of a leadership election.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-workers-become-the-first-to-unionize-at-one-of-the-companys-canadian-warehouses-180447875.html?src=rss

Apple Store workers in Maryland have voted to authorize a strike

Apple's first unionized Store in Towson, Maryland has now authorized the first strike against the retail giant. That follows what the union called "over a year of negotiations with Apple management that yielded unsatisfactory outcomes," according to a press release from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers' retail coalition (IAM CORE). 

The Maryland store located in a Baltimore mall represents around 100 employees and unionized in 2022, becoming the first Apple Store to do so. The vote concluded last weekend and allows workers to walk out at any time, but no date has been set yet. 

While the sides have agreed on principle in 25 areas, other key matters remain unresolved. "The issues at the forefront of this action include concerns over work-life balance, unpredictable scheduling practices disrupting personal lives and wages failing to align with the area’s cost of living," the union wrote. 

"We deeply value our team members and we’re proud to provide them with industry leading compensation and exceptional benefits. As always, we will engage with the union representing our team in Towson respectfully and in good faith," Apple said in a statement.

The union previously accused Apple of illegally withholding new benefits including healthcare and other perks from workers at the Towson Store. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said Apple violated federal law with anti-union meetings in Atlanta. A New York judge also issued a cease-and-desist order against Apple for abusing employee's rights. 

Apple and IAM CORE will return to the negotiating table on May 21, according to the union. "This vote today is the first step in demonstrating our solidarity and sends a clear message to Apple," the union said in a statement. "As discussions with Apple management continue, we remain committed to securing tangible improvements that benefit all employees." 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-store-workers-in-maryland-have-voted-to-authorize-a-strike-091428890.html?src=rss

Amazon CEO’s anti-union comments broke federal laws, labor judge rules

Continuing the long American tradition of wealthy corporate overlords making union-busting comments, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy went on a media blitz in 2022 to warn of the workplace-altering terrors of labor unions. (Surely, it’s an unfortunate happenstance that his urgent PSA coincided with an uptick in organizing efforts at Amazon.) Sadly for Mr. Jassy, the US still has a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and CNBC reports that the board ruled Wednesday that his anti-union comments broke federal labor laws.

Jassy popped up on CNBC in April 2022 to say that if employees voted for and joined a union, they would become less empowered and could expect things to become “much slower” and “more bureaucratic.” In an interview with Bloomberg, he added, “If you see something on the line that you think could be better for your team or you or your customers, you can’t just go to your manager and say, ‘Let’s change it.’”

He capped off his union-busting trifecta at The New York Times DealBook conference, where the CEO said that a workplace without unions isn’t “bureaucratic, it’s not slow.”

It’s the latest in Amazon’s long history of union-busting behavior.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy gestures toward the audience as part of an onstage talk. Black backdrop.
Amazon

NLRB Judge Brian Gee said Jassy violated labor laws by suggesting employees would be less empowered or “better off” without a union. However, Gee said the CEO’s other comments about worker-employer relationships changing were lawful. According to the judge, the difference is that the more aggressive quotes “went beyond merely commenting on the employee-employer relationship.”

Gee added that the comments “threatened employees that, if they selected a union, they would become less empowered and find it harder to get things done quickly.” The judge recommends that Amazon “cease and desist” from making similar comments in the future. The company is also required to post and share a note about the judge’s order with all of its US employees.

In December, Jassy’s Amazon shares were valued at $328 million, making him one of America’s wealthiest CEOs.

In a statement to CNBC, an Amazon spokesperson said the judge’s ruling “reflects poorly on the state of free speech rights today.” Because, hey, what kind of free country do we even have if a retail magnate can’t tell low-income workers scary bedtime stories about the perils of voting to empower themselves in the workplace?

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-ceos-anti-union-comments-broke-federal-laws-labor-judge-rules-171809699.html?src=rss

Binance founder Changpeng Zhao sentenced to four months in prison

A federal judge has sentenced Binance founder Changpeng Zhao (often known as “CZ”) to four months in prison, as first reported by The New York Times. Prosecutors had recommended three years. Zhao pleaded guilty in November to violating the Bank Secrecy Act by failing to set up an anti-money-laundering program.

The DOJ accused Zhao of allowing criminal activity to flourish on the crypto exchange. “Binance turned a blind eye to its legal obligations in the pursuit of profit. Its willful failures allowed money to flow to terrorists, cybercriminals, and child abusers through its platform,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in November.

The government accused Binance of refusing to comply with American sanctions and failing to report suspicious transactions related to drugs and child sexual abuse materials. Prosecutors said in court that Zhao had told Binance employees it was “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” while bragging that if Binance had obeyed the law, it wouldn’t be “as big as we are today.”

Under the plea deal’s terms, Binance agreed to forfeit $2.5 billion and pay a $1.8 billion fine. Zhao personally paid $50 million as part of the settlement.

Although the charges differed, Zhao’s sentence is dramatically shorter than the 25 years fellow crypto figurehead Sam Bankman-Fried received in March. SBF, as he’s often known, was convicted on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy for his role at the helm of the crypto platform FTX.

Zhao played an integral role in Bankman-Fried’s downfall — and the crypto industry’s broader decline in the last 18 months. The Binance founder tweeted in November 2022 that his company would liquidate its holdings in FTX’s de facto token. He said “recent revelations that have came[sic] to light” while citing “ethical concerns” and “regulatory risks.” The posts not only crushed FTX but the crypto world at large. (They likely helped attract the government’s attention as well.) When FTX’s wells dried up following the platform’s rapid collapse, Zhao briefly agreed to buy the company but quickly backed out.

Prosecutors said Zhao’s crime carried a standard federal sentence of 12 to 18 months but argued for a three-year term, describing his crimes as being “on an unprecedented scale.” But Judge Richard A. Jones saw it differently, sentencing him to a measly one-twelfth of the government’s suggested term.

“This wasn’t a mistake — it wasn’t a regulatory oops,” Kevin Mosley, a DOJ lawyer, reportedly said in court on Tuesday. “Breaking U.S. law was not incidental to his plan to make as much money as possible. Violating the law was integral to that endeavor.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/binance-founder-changpeng-zhao-sentenced-to-four-months-in-prison-205550299.html?src=rss

Binance founder Changpeng Zhao sentenced to four months in prison

A federal judge has sentenced Binance founder Changpeng Zhao (often known as “CZ”) to four months in prison, as first reported by The New York Times. Prosecutors had recommended three years. Zhao pleaded guilty in November to violating the Bank Secrecy Act by failing to set up an anti-money-laundering program.

The DOJ accused Zhao of allowing criminal activity to flourish on the crypto exchange. “Binance turned a blind eye to its legal obligations in the pursuit of profit. Its willful failures allowed money to flow to terrorists, cybercriminals, and child abusers through its platform,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in November.

The government accused Binance of refusing to comply with American sanctions and failing to report suspicious transactions related to drugs and child sexual abuse materials. Prosecutors said in court that Zhao had told Binance employees it was “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” while bragging that if Binance had obeyed the law, it wouldn’t be “as big as we are today.”

Under the plea deal’s terms, Binance agreed to forfeit $2.5 billion and pay a $1.8 billion fine. Zhao personally paid $50 million as part of the settlement.

Although the charges differed, Zhao’s sentence is dramatically shorter than the 25 years fellow crypto figurehead Sam Bankman-Fried received in March. SBF, as he’s often known, was convicted on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy for his role at the helm of the crypto platform FTX.

Zhao played an integral role in Bankman-Fried’s downfall — and the crypto industry’s broader decline in the last 18 months. The Binance founder tweeted in November 2022 that his company would liquidate its holdings in FTX’s de facto token. He said “recent revelations that have came[sic] to light” while citing “ethical concerns” and “regulatory risks.” The posts not only crushed FTX but the crypto world at large. (They likely helped attract the government’s attention as well.) When FTX’s wells dried up following the platform’s rapid collapse, Zhao briefly agreed to buy the company but quickly backed out.

Prosecutors said Zhao’s crime carried a standard federal sentence of 12 to 18 months but argued for a three-year term, describing his crimes as being “on an unprecedented scale.” But Judge Richard A. Jones saw it differently, sentencing him to a measly one-twelfth of the government’s suggested term.

“This wasn’t a mistake — it wasn’t a regulatory oops,” Kevin Mosley, a DOJ lawyer, reportedly said in court on Tuesday. “Breaking U.S. law was not incidental to his plan to make as much money as possible. Violating the law was integral to that endeavor.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/binance-founder-changpeng-zhao-sentenced-to-four-months-in-prison-205550299.html?src=rss

Avalanche Studios devs have reached a contract agreement in bid to unionize

Late last year, over 100 employees of Avalanche Studios, the makers of Just Cause, announced an intent to unionize. The workers have officially ironed out a collective bargaining agreement with the Swedish labor unions Unionen and Engineers of Sweden. The agreement goes into effect during the second quarter of 2025.

While specifics of the agreement remain unknown, Avalanche said that it “will help standardize frameworks around essential areas such as salaries, benefits, employee influence, and career support.” The company says it’s working closely with both unions to ensure a smooth implementation of these frameworks.

Avalanche was founded in Sweden, but has since become a global entity. With this in mind, the move to unionize only impacts workers located in Sweden, which amounts to around 100 people. The company employs more than 500 workers globally.

Despite that caveat, this is still another high-profile move toward improving the rights of workers in the gaming industry. Avalanche joins several other companies that recently organized under collective labor contracts. Sega of America workers overwhelmingly voted to unionize last year, a move that impacted 200 employees. Over 300 ZeniMax Studios quality assurance workers voted to unionize last year, and parent company Microsoft didn’t stand in the way. Activision, another Microsoft company, boasts a union with over 600 members, which is the largest one in the entire industry.

This is all good news for workers, but there’s also a dark cloud floating around the industry. There have been a boatload of layoffs throughout the past several months. As a matter of fact, over 6,000 people lost their jobs in January alone. Impacted workers hail from many of the companies mentioned above, like Sega of America, Activision Blizzard and ZeniMax.

As for Avalanche, it’s continuing work on the forthcoming Xbox exclusive Contraband. The game’s been in the pipeline since 2021 and it looks to be an open-world co-op adventure set in the 1970s.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/avalanche-studios-devs-have-reached-a-contract-agreement-in-bid-to-unionize-183645291.html?src=rss

Sam Bankman-Fried just got sentenced to 25 years in prison

Disgraced former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was just sentenced to 25 years behind bars in a ruling handed forth New York's Southern District Court. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan announced the decision this morning.

As posted by CNN, Bankman-Fried expressed regret for his actions and the people he harmed. "It's been excruciating to watch," he said. "Customers don't deserve any of that pain." He also acknowledged the serious time he was likely to spend behind bars. "My useful life is probably over," he said. "It's been over for a while now."

Judge Kaplan laid out his reasoning for delivering such a harsh sentence to the one-time golden boy of the crypto community, suggesting that Bankman-Fried could be in "position to do something very bad in the future." The sentence was issued "for the purpose of disabling him to the extend that can appropriately be done for a significant period of time."

Bankman-Fried is expected to appeal the decision. His defense team asked for a sentence of five to 6.5 years, citing his “charitable works and demonstrated commitment to others.” The team also suggested lenience on the grounds that victims would be made whole, referring to a January bankruptcy court hearing showing that customers and creditors will get their money back. Prosecutors, on the other hand, wanted something much harsher. They asked for a sentence of 40 to 50 years "to reflect the seriousness of the defendant's crimes," US Attorney Damian Williams told the court earlier this month. The maximum possible sentence was 110 years.

SBF, as he's now infamously known, was arrested in the Bahamas back in December of 2022. He faced seven charges, including wire fraud against FTX customers, wire fraud against Alameda Research lenders, conspiracy to commit wire fraud against both entities, conspiracy to commit securities and commodities fraud on FTX customers and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was found guilty of all charges.

The trial lasted one month, with prosecutors arguing that he used FTX funds to keep sibling company Alameda Research afloat. Caroline Ellison, his one-time girlfriend and CEO of Alameda, confirmed this to be true and admitted that she committed fraud on behalf of Bankman-Fried. The defendant’s lawyers, on the other hand, tried to portray him as a hapless math nerd who wrestled with “forces largely outside of his control.”

Alameda borrowed more than $8 billion from FTX, money that was taken from accounts belonging to FTX customers. Bankman-Fried claims he only learned of this in 2020 but performed no actions to safeguard the funds. He took the stand during the trial and said that he deeply regrets “not taking a deeper look into" what was going on with both companies. FTX collapsed and filed for bankruptcy in 2022. 

“Clearly, I made a lot of mistakes. There are things I would give anything to be able to do over again,” he told the New York Times before the trial started.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sam-bankman-fried-just-got-sentenced-to-25-years-in-prison-155021840.html?src=rss

Sam Bankman-Fried just got sentenced to 25 years in prison

Disgraced former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was just sentenced to 25 years behind bars in a ruling handed forth New York's Southern District Court. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan announced the decision this morning.

As posted by CNN, Bankman-Fried expressed regret for his actions and the people he harmed. "It's been excruciating to watch," he said. "Customers don't deserve any of that pain." He also acknowledged the serious time he was likely to spend behind bars. "My useful life is probably over," he said. "It's been over for a while now."

Judge Kaplan laid out his reasoning for delivering such a harsh sentence to the one-time golden boy of the crypto community, suggesting that Bankman-Fried could be in "position to do something very bad in the future." The sentence was issued "for the purpose of disabling him to the extend that can appropriately be done for a significant period of time."

Bankman-Fried is expected to appeal the decision. His defense team asked for a sentence of five to 6.5 years, citing his “charitable works and demonstrated commitment to others.” The team also suggested lenience on the grounds that victims would be made whole, referring to a January bankruptcy court hearing showing that customers and creditors will get their money back. Prosecutors, on the other hand, wanted something much harsher. They asked for a sentence of 40 to 50 years "to reflect the seriousness of the defendant's crimes," US Attorney Damian Williams told the court earlier this month. The maximum possible sentence was 110 years.

SBF, as he's now infamously known, was arrested in the Bahamas back in December of 2022. He faced seven charges, including wire fraud against FTX customers, wire fraud against Alameda Research lenders, conspiracy to commit wire fraud against both entities, conspiracy to commit securities and commodities fraud on FTX customers and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was found guilty of all charges.

The trial lasted one month, with prosecutors arguing that he used FTX funds to keep sibling company Alameda Research afloat. Caroline Ellison, his one-time girlfriend and CEO of Alameda, confirmed this to be true and admitted that she committed fraud on behalf of Bankman-Fried. The defendant’s lawyers, on the other hand, tried to portray him as a hapless math nerd who wrestled with “forces largely outside of his control.”

Alameda borrowed more than $8 billion from FTX, money that was taken from accounts belonging to FTX customers. Bankman-Fried claims he only learned of this in 2020 but performed no actions to safeguard the funds. He took the stand during the trial and said that he deeply regrets “not taking a deeper look into" what was going on with both companies. FTX collapsed and filed for bankruptcy in 2022. 

“Clearly, I made a lot of mistakes. There are things I would give anything to be able to do over again,” he told the New York Times before the trial started.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sam-bankman-fried-just-got-sentenced-to-25-years-in-prison-155021840.html?src=rss

Sega of America workers have ratified their union contract

Workers at Sega of America, a division of Sega Sammy Holdings Inc., have officially ratified their union contract, as reported by Bloomberg. This makes it one of the first major North American video-game companies to take this step, which could bode well for future organized labor pushes in the industry.

The contract was ratified after workers overwhelmingly voted to unionize last year. It covers around 150 people working in various departments throughout the company, including brand marketing, games as a service, localization, sales and quality assurance. The union is called the Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega (AEGIS-CWA) and it organizes with the Communications Workers of America.

There are already some provisions in place for workers as part of the contract, including a minimum pay increase of 4 percent in 2024, 3 percent in 2025 and 2.5 percent in 2026. There are also layoff protections, codified benefits like health insurance, a severance inclusion and a commitment to credit all workers on games.

“We’re hopeful that in the midst of extensive layoffs, workers across the video game industry will see organizing as a pathway to improve working conditions for all of us,” wrote Jasmin Hernandez, a member of AEGIS-CWA, in a statement provided to Engadget.

Sega wasn’t exactly happy about the push toward labor rights and unionization. The company faced an unfair labor practice complaint after it announced plans to lay off 40 percent of the union's bargaining unit. The company did lay off some of these people, as promised, but the union was able to reach an agreement to keep many workers employed. 

Labor is having a moment in the games industry. ZeniMax Workers United joined with the CWA last year to offer union protection to 300 quality assurance workers. Over 600 Activision QA testers have joined a union, making it the biggest worker-formed organization in video games. Avalanche Studios, Raven Software and several small development studios have all also unionized in the past year or so.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sega-of-america-workers-have-ratified-their-union-contract-185906593.html?src=rss