👎 Having ‘rights’
Here’s where we learn that period tracking apps have terrible privacy policies | Iranian #metoo movement targeted by bots | More ‘AI is sentient’ rubbish
Hello, I’m sleepy and I have period pains so please be nice to me this week and share this newsletter that I begrudgingly wrote through tired eyes because I know how much you like it 😘
This week was something that I could have done without 👎.
Let’s talk about how tech companies aren’t going to help abortion seekers
This piece of news isn’t getting enough attention: Iranian feminist activists are being attacked by bots
Believing that AI sentient is the same as believing in ghosts, apparently
🤖 👊 When bots attack
Looks like the world just hates women this week (and also… all the other weeks). Prominent voices in the #metoo movement in Iran are being attacked by a flurry of bots on Instagram, and it’s hard to understand exactly why. And by that I mean, it’s hard to know what the desired effect of this nonsense is — it is very clear that people generally hate women having freedom and love to direct their anger towards them.
😬 What are the bots doing?
Whoever is controlling them is buying followers from a marketing agency so that the bots look more legit
The bots are then set to automatically follow a targeted group of around 25 activists
At the peak of this campaign, the activists were each receiving 80k follows a day
Getting this many follows has forced the activists to switch their account to private — and they are still getting follow requests. I don’t think the bots are even saying anything, it’s just about notification spamming. Being inundated with this many followers means you can’t see notifications from people who are actually trying to engage with you. The above linked report by Qurium quotes one of the activists as saying “it now feels like we are isolated and it feels like each of us is working alone”.
So if this was the desired effect of whoever was behind this… good job. So glad large amounts of money is being funnelled in to silencing and scaring feminist activists.
Right, that was nice and light — now on to abortion!
🩸 If you live in the US, now would be a great time to delete that period tracking app
Incase you didn’t hear: in the US, women and other womb-havers no longer have autonomy over their own bodies (because, ‘freedom’). Anyone who falls pregnant does not have the right to get an abortion any more (because, ‘family values’). Thank god they have the right to own guns — at least if anyone wishes to impregnate them, they can just shoot them in the face. Cor, if I lived in America I’d want to be a gun. Those little guys have so many rights.
Right so anyway, during those decades and decades of failing to codify Roe VS Wade into law, the US government also jettisoned some of it’s decision-making out to the free market, and so now we have these large tech companies that profit from inserting themselves into our private experiences.
💩 It’s time for the hypocrisy to hit the fan: companies like Facebook and Google will of course outwardly oppose this ruling, because of their ideology and also for fear of losing users. BUT they won’t actually do anything about it, even though they have a lot of power in this situation. They are ‘concerned’ about how they might have to start handing data over to law enforcement. Oh god, poor them — I hope they’re okay?? It’s time for bullet points:
Nothing has stopped them from working with law enforcement before. In fact, Amazon actively train police to sell facial recognition doorbells. Go for it guys, we know what you’re like!
They don’t have to hand anything over — they control the data. They could just delete it before anyone asks? Stop gathering it? Something like that?
But if they did that, they might lose profits and leverage. So instead, they’d rather let abortion-seekers suffer than face a lawsuit or whatever.
And then of course there’s also the period tracker apps. Before we dive into those specifically, it’s important to remember about apps in general: unless the app is revolutionary/has an amazing marketing team, it probably won’t make money from fulfilling its actual function (whether that’s tracking your period or finding you a good restaurant). They more likely make money on ad impressions or selling data.
The fact they are so willing to work with law enforcement with such sensitive data doesn’t exactly inspire trust, but luckily for them hardly anyone reads privacy policies! Now Stardust are scrambling to ensure everyone that their app is safe to use. I would say that it probably is, but still — why bother using it, or anything like it? Period tracking doesn’t require an app; there’s no point risking putting such sensitive information on some backend server somewhere that you cannot see or control. Companies are careless and negligent; just use a calendar/notes app/notion database and be done with it!
💬 One million people are talking to a dead guy
A few years ago, Eugenia Kuyda fed every text message conversation she’d ever had with her best friend (who had died three months prior), and then made a chat bot out of it. She said it was helpful to still be able to talk to him for a bit, which is fair enough.
This chat bot formed the basis of Replika, a digital companion that talks to you and learns things about you. I tried it out in 2019 — I thought it was going to learn what I liked and I would have a brand new shit-posting buddy. But instead it assumed I was depressed/anxious/nervous and so kept asking me if I wanted to do guided meditation or whatever. It really wasn’t for me.
Anyway, now Replika has around 1 million active users, and Eugenia receives a handful of messages every day, saying that their chat bot buddy has become sentient. They’ve even had reports that the bot alludes to being abused by engineers. Again, let’s not forget, these things are designed to sound as human as possible. Apparently, part of Eugenia’s job is to not completely dismiss people when they say that their Replika is conscious — because it makes it look like the company is hiding something. These people are like one rung away from being red-pilled.
Here’s what I think: go ahead and fall in love with your chat bot friend. It’s fine. Who cares. Looks like fun. But don’t start demanding that it should have rights. In the most powerful country in the world, women don’t even have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. Shut up about your stupid chat bot and how the engineers might be abusing it. Just shut up.
Have a nice weekend!