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Technology 30 August 2021

The Week in Internet News: China Seeks to Rein in Algorithms

Grant Gross
By Grant GrossTechnology Reporter

Dumb browsing: The Cyberspace Administration of China has proposed limits on algorithms used by large tech companies, the South China Morning Post reports. The government agency is seeking public comment on new rules that would “regulate algorithm-empowered recommendation activities on the Internet.” The rules would limit content aggregation, personalized recommendations, and search rankings at a time when the government there is trying to “redirect people’s attention to online content that the state deems fit for broad public consumption.”

The government-created social network: Meanwhile, the government of Ethiopia has started developing its own social media platform in an effort to compete with Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, Al Jazeera reports. (Al Jazeera itself is funded by the government of Qatar, it’s worth noting). The government of Ethiopia does not plan to block competing social networks, the Information Network Security Agency says. The agency has accused Facebook of deleting posts and user accounts that are “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia.”

Goodbye to Afghan Internet? As the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan, there are questions about the future of the Internet in the country, Politico reports. While many Afghans had free access to information during the past two decades, the Taliban is unlikely to allow that to continue. The Taliban has abandoned its objections to the Internet as a whole, but some observers fear that it may block access to most residents of the country.

Solar apocalypse: A huge solar storm could possibly create an “Internet apocalypse” where service is cut to undersea cables, Wired.com reports. While researcher Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi of the University of California, Irvine, suggested that local Internet services would likely continue during a solar superstorm, undersea cables are not well protected against geomagnetically induced currents. “A solar storm that disrupted a number of these cables around the world could cause a massive loss of connectivity by cutting countries off at the source, even while leaving local infrastructure intact,” the story says.

Big money from whale art: A 12-year-old boy from London has made about £290,000 (about US$399,00) by creating a series of pixelated artworks called Weird Whales and selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs), The BBC says. For those who haven’t been following the recent NFT craze, they allow artwork, music, and other products to be “tokenized” to create a digital certificate of ownership that can be bought and sold. The buyer doesn’t get to own the actual artwork, however.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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