WeeklyTech #98

The Dehumanizing Irony of the Digital Age: Planned Parenthood, technology, and the longing for community

In January 2019, Planned Parenthood announced the launch of a sexual health chatbot named Roo, which is designed to help answer some of the most awkward or intimate questions that teenagers may have about their body, sex, relationships, and a host of other related issues. The chatbot is built on artificial intelligence (AI) and is available 24/7. It functions like text messaging a trusted friend, but with supposed expert advice coming from a host of medical professionals and adults. The bot’s sleek design and social media-like interface learns as it goes, providing more personalized answers, and does all of this in a private, isolated environment. 

It should come as no surprise that Planned Parenthood is pioneering this type of technology as part of its arsenal of cutting edge products, all designed to provide medical care and abortions nationwide. The goal is to make this kind of information easy and accessible for teenagers in a convenient and efficient packet. While the system will normally answer whatever questions one might ask, it regularly counsels users to connect with Planned Parenthood staff or medical teams, especially when it comes to issues of abortion or pregnancy care.

The Rundown

If You Don’t Wear Glasses Now, You Probably Will Soon – Therese Raphael | Bloomberg Opinion

The pandemic will almost certainly exacerbate this trend. William T. Reynolds, president of the American Optometric Association, notes that the increased use of digital devices is likely to result in a surge in eye strain or other ocular complications. In March, the AOA held an emergency summit to raise the alarm over children’s eye health.

The next big social network: Nextdoor – Kim Hart | Axios

Nextdoor, the neighborhood social network, has seen explosive growth over the past two years as homebound users became more fixated on what was happening on a hyper-local level.

Ransomware is the top cybersecurity threat we face, warns cyber chief – Danny Palmer | ZDNet

Recent incidents like ransomware attacks against Colonial Pipeline and meat processor JBS, as well as the ransomware attack against the Irish healthcare service, have demonstrated how disruptive these cyber-criminal campaigns can be to critical services.

Scoop: YouTube to ban some ad verticals from buying masthead ads – Sara Fischer | Axios

YouTube will stop accepting ads for its masthead ad unit from certain verticals, including alcohol sales, gambling, prescription drugs, and election and political ads, Axios has learned.

Twitter is eyeing new anti-abuse tools to give users more control over mentions – Natasha Lomas | TechCrunch

Twitter is looking at adding new features that could help users who are facing abusive situations on its platform as a result of unwanted attention pile-ons, such as when a tweet goes viral for a reason they didn’t expect and a full firehose of counter tweets get blasted their way.

Big Tech Needs Better Judgement – Jim Geraghty | National Review

It’s tough to summarize how all conservatives think about any topic. But generally speaking, conservatives just want Big Tech to demonstrate better judgment, and for social-media companies and online retailers to exhibit one consistent and fair standard. They can’t stand the arbitrary, vague, and ever-shifting standard for whose YouTube channel gets demonetized, whose Twitter account gets shut down, whose Facebook account gets suspended, whose pages get prioritized or deprioritized on Google, and whose books can be sold on Amazon.

The Morning Dispatch: Big Tech – The Dispatch Staff | The Dispatch

After months of hearings and investigations, that shared enmity is inching closer and closer to becoming federal policy. Lawmakers’ efforts took a huge step toward that goal when the House Antitrust Subcommittee introduced a series of five bills—each with support from both Democrats and Republicans—aimed at, in their words, “holding unregulated Big Tech monopolies accountable for anti-competitive conduct.”