Diversity and Netflix dominate Golden Globes

In this video grab issued Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, by NBC, Anya Taylor-Joy accepts the award for best actress in a television motion picture for "The Queen's Gambit" at the Golden Globe Awards. (NBC via AP)
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Updated 01 March 2021

Diversity and Netflix dominate Golden Globes

  • ‘Nomadland’ wins best drama movie at mainly virtual Hollywood ceremony

LOS ANGELES: Drama “Nomadland” and satire “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” won movie honors at the Golden Globes on Sunday in a mostly virtual bicoastal ceremony that was marked by impassioned calls for more diversity and the dominance of Netflix.

“Nomadland,” a moving drama about van dwellers in recession-hit America from Searchlight Pictures, also took the best director prize for Chinese-born Chloe Zhao. It made Zhao only the second woman to win at the Globes in that category, and the first woman director of Asian descent to win.

“For everyone who has gone through this difficult and beautiful journey at some point in their lives, this is for you,” said Zhao.

“We don’t say goodbye, we say see you down the road,” she said, quoting a line from the movie.

The two wins for “Nomadland” increased the profile of the film ahead of nominations in March for the Oscars.

Sacha Baron Cohen, the creator of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” from Amazon Studios was named best comedy movie actor, while singer Andra Day was a surprise winner for her lead role in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”

“Donald Trump is contesting the result!” Baron Cohen joked about the win for the “Borat” sequel, which was a satire on the America of the former US president.

Netflix’s period drama “Mank,” about “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, had gone into Sunday’s show with a leading six nods but ended the night empty-handed.

Nevertheless, the streaming service was the biggest winner on Sunday, with four wins in the movie field and six for television, including best TV drama series “The Crown” and limited series chess saga “The Queen’s Gambit.”

The usual chummy gathering of A-listers at a gala dinner in Beverly Hills, California, was replaced by webcams in the homes of celebrities that were either dressed up or, like “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis, in casual garb.

Hosted by Tina Fey in New York and Amy Poehler in Beverly Hills, the small physical audiences were made up of masked frontline workers.

Peter Morgan, creator of “The Crown” said he missed being together. “I’m just sorry I am sitting here in my tragic little office and not surrounded by the people who make this show such a pleasure,” Morgan said, appearing by video.

However, Jodie Foster, a best supporting actress winner for the Guantanamo prison legal drama “The Mauritanian,” told reporters backstage that she felt it was one of the best Golden Globe shows ever. “It didn’t feel like it was filled with so much artifice,” said Foster.

Emotional high points included a posthumous best actor award for Chadwick Boseman, who died at age 43 last August from an undisclosed battle with cancer. “He would say something beautiful,” said his widow Simone Ledward Boseman, as she fought back tears. “I don’t have his words.”

British actors Daniel Kaluuya and John Boyega were among other Black winners chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which has been lambasted in recent days for having no Black people among its 87 members.

“Soul,” the first Pixar movie to have a Black character in the lead, was named best animated movie and won best score.

The HFPA was the target of jokes and comments throughout the night. “We all know awards shows are stupid,” said Fey. “Even in stupid things, inclusivity is important and there are no Black members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).”

Members of the HFPA appeared briefly on Sunday’s show and pledged to do better.

Jane Fonda, 83, used her lifetime achievement acceptance speech to make the case for elevating all voices in Hollywood, saying that stories “really can change people.”


Study: Facebook delivers biased job ads, skewed by gender

Updated 09 April 2021

Study: Facebook delivers biased job ads, skewed by gender

  • Facebook ads were skewed by gender beyond what can be legally justified by differences in job qualifications, says University of Southern California researchers

Facebook is showing different job ads to women and men in a way that might run afoul of anti-discrimination laws, according to a new study.
University of Southern California researchers who examined the ad-delivery algorithms of Facebook and LinkedIn found that Facebook’s were skewed by gender beyond what can be legally justified by differences in job qualifications.
Men were more likely to see Domino’s pizza delivery driver job ads on Facebook, while women were more likely to see Instacart shopper ads.
The trend also held in higher-paying engineering jobs at tech firms like Netflix and chipmaker Nvidia. A higher fraction of women saw the Netflix ads than the Nvidia ads, which parallels the gender breakdown in each company’s workforce.
No evidence was found of similar bias in the job ads delivered by LinkedIn.
Study author Aleksandra Korolova, an assistant professor of computer science at USC, said it might be that LinkedIn is doing a better job at deliberately tamping down bias, or it might be that Facebook is simply better at picking up real-world cues from its users about gender imbalances and perpetuating them.
“It’s not that the user is saying, ‘Oh, I’m interested in this.’ Facebook has decided on behalf of the user whether they are likely to engage,” she said. “And just because historically a certain group wasn’t interested in engaging in something, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have an opportunity to pursue it, especially in the job category.”
Facebook said in a statement Friday it has been taking meaningful steps to address issues of discrimination in ads.
“Our system takes into account many signals to try and serve people ads they will be most interested in, but we understand the concerns raised in the report,” it said.
Facebook promised to overhaul its ad targeting system in 2019 as part of a legal settlement.
The social network said then it would no longer allow housing, employment or credit ads that target people by age, gender or zip code. It also limited other targeting options so these ads don’t exclude people on the basis of race, ethnicity and other legally protected categories in the US, including national origin and sexual orientation.
Endlessly customizable ad targeting is Facebook’s bread and butter, so any limits placed on its process could hurt the company’s revenue. The ads users see can be tailored down to the most granular details — not just where people live and what websites they visited recently, but whether they’ve gotten engaged in the past six months or share characteristics with people who have recently bought new sneakers, even if they have never expressed interest in doing so themselves.
But even if advertisers can’t do the targeting themselves, the study shows what critics have stressed for years — that Facebook’s own algorithms can discriminate, even if there is no intent from the job advertisers themselves.
“We haven’t seen any public evidence that they are working on the issues related to their algorithms creating discrimination,” Korolova said.
Since it isn’t possible to show every user every advertisement that is targeted at them, Facebook’s software picks what it deems relevant. If more women show interest in certain jobs, the software learns it should show women more of these sorts of ads.
LinkedIn said the study’s findings align with its internal review of job ads targeting.
“However, we recognize that systemic change takes time, and we are at the beginning of a very long journey,” the company said in a statement.
US laws allow for ads to be targeted based on qualifications but not on protected categories such as race, gender and age. But anti-discrimination laws are largely complaint-driven, and no one can complain about being deprived of a job opportunity if they didn’t know it happened to them, said Sandra Wachter, a professor at Oxford University focused on technology law.
“The tools we have developed to prevent discrimination had a human perpetrator in mind,” said Wachter, who was not involved in the USC study. “An algorithm is discriminating very differently, grouping people differently and doing it in a very subtle way. Algorithms discriminate behind your back, basically.”
While Domino’s and Instacart have similar job requirements for their drivers, Domino’s delivery workforce is predominantly male, while Instacart’s is more than half female. The study, which looked at driver ads run in North Carolina compared to demographic data from voter records, found that Facebook’s algorithms appeared to be learning from those gender disparities and perpetuating them.
The same trend also occurred with sales jobs at retailer Reeds Jewelers, which more women saw, and the Leith Automotive dealership, which more men saw.
The researchers call for more rigorous auditing of such algorithms and to look at other factors such as racial bias. Korolova said external audits such as the USC study can only do so much without getting access to Facebook’s proprietary algorithms, but regulators could require some form of independent review to check for discrimination.
“We’ve seen that platforms are not so good at self-policing their algorithms for undesired societal consequences, especially when their business is at stake,” she said.

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo to join Fox News

Fox has hired other members of the Trump orbit in recent months. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 April 2021

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo to join Fox News

  • “I intend to give viewers a candid, no-nonsense look at geopolitics, international relations and the America First policies,” the former secretary of state said
  • Fox has hired other members of the Trump orbit in recent months

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s top diplomat Mike Pompeo has been hired to appear on Fox News as a “contributor,” the conservative cable news channel said Thursday.
“I intend to give viewers a candid, no-nonsense look at geopolitics, international relations and the America First policies that helped chart the course for unprecedented American prosperity and security,” the former secretary of state and member of Congress said in a statement released by Fox.
“Mike Pompeo is one of America’s most recognized and respected voices on foreign policy and national security issues,” Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said. “I look forward to his contributions across our range of platforms to share his distinct perspective with our millions of viewers.”
Pompeo took up the post of secretary of state from his predecessor Rex Tillerson in April 2018 until the end of the Trump administration in January 2021. He was previously director of the CIA.
Recently, Pompeo has joined calls for the United States to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and has called the expert report on the origins of the Covid-19 virus a “sham” as part of a “disinformation campaign” from the World Health Organization and the Chinese Communist Party.
He was on the front lines of the Trump administration’s standoff with China.
Fox has hired other members of the Trump orbit in recent months, including his daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
The network has found itself embroiled in controversies over Trump’s untrue allegations of election rigging in 2020, with voting machine maker Dominion seeking more than $1 billion in a lawsuit over allegations Fox implicated the company in the false claims.

Muslim civil rights group sues Facebook over hate speech

Updated 08 April 2021

Muslim civil rights group sues Facebook over hate speech

  • Lawsuit alleges Facebook was repeatedly alerted to hate speech and calls to violence on its platform and done nothing or very little
  • “Hateful, anti-Muslim attacks are especially pervasive on Facebook” says lawsuit

WASHINGOTN — A civil rights group is suing Facebook and its executives, saying CEO Mark Zuckerberg made “false and deceptive” statements to Congress.
Zuckerberg told Congress the giant social network removes hate speech and other material that violates its rules.
The lawsuit, filed by Muslim Advocates in Washington, Superior Court on Thursday, claims Zuckerberg and other senior executives “have engaged in a coordinated campaign to convince the public, elected representatives, federal officials, and non-profit leaders in the nation’s capital that Facebook is a safe product.”
Facebook, the lawsuit alleges, has been repeatedly alerted to hate speech and calls to violence on its platform and done nothing or very little.
Making false and deceptive statements about removing hateful and harmful content violates the District of Columbia’s consumer-protection law and its bar on fraud, the lawsuit says.
“Every day, ordinary people are bombarded with harmful content in violation of Facebook’s own policies on hate speech, bullying, harassment, dangerous organizations, and violence,” the lawsuit says. “Hateful, anti-Muslim attacks are especially pervasive on Facebook.”
In a statement, Facebook said it does not allow hate speech on its platform and said it regularly works with “experts, non-profits, and stakeholders to help make sure Facebook is a safe place for everyone, recognizing anti-Muslim rhetoric can take different forms.
The company based in Menlo Park, California, said it has invested in artificial intelligence technologies aimed at removing hate speech and proactively detects 97% of what it removes.
Facebook declined to comment beyond the statement, which did not address the lawsuit’s allegations that it has not removed hate speech and anti-Muslim networks from its platform even after it was notified of their existence.
The plaintiffs seek a jury trial and damages of $1,500 per violation.
For example, the lawsuit cites research by Elon University professor Megan Squire, who published research about anti-Muslim groups on Facebook and alerted the company.
According to the lawsuit, Facebook did not remove the groups — but it did change how outside academics can access its platform so that the kind of research Squire did would be “impossible other than if done by Facebook employees.”
Facebook’s hate speech policy prohibits targeting a person or group with “dehumanizing speech or imagery,” calls for violence, references to subhumanity and inferiority as well as generalizations that state inferiority.
The policy applies to attacks on the basis of race, religion, national origin, disability, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity and serious disease.
But in one example from April 25, 2018, Squire reported to Facebook a group called “Purge Worldwide,” according to the lawsuit. The group’s description reads: “This is an anti-Islamic group A Place to share information about what is happening in your part of the world.”
Facebook responded that it would not remove the group or the content. The lawsuit cites other examples of groups with names like “Death to Murdering Islamic Muslim Cult Members” and “Filth of Islam” that Facebook did not remove despite being notified, even though Facebook policy prohibits “reference or comparison to filth” on the basis of religion. In the latter case Facebook did remove some posts from the group, but not the group itself.
The lawsuit also cites an exception Facebook made to its policy for former President Donald Trump, for whom Facebook made an exception to its rules when he posted as a candidate in 2016 about banning all Muslims from entering the US
Zuckerberg and other social media executives have repeatedly testified before Congress about how they combat extremism, hate and misinformation on their platforms. Zuckerberg told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the issue is “nuanced.”

Russia warns it could block Zoom if it prohibits government use

Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov said that Russia’s schools would not be affected by a potential Zoom ban. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 April 2021

Russia warns it could block Zoom if it prohibits government use

  • Russian media reported Wednesday that Zoom had banned its distributors from selling to government agencies and companies
  • Russia has previously blocked Western online platforms such as LinkedIn, and in March began slowing down the speeds of Twitter’s services

MOSCOW: Russia on Wednesday warned Zoom that it could be completely blocked in the country after local media reported that it had restricted access to government agencies and state-owned companies.
The US company has emerged as the global leader in video-conferencing applications, becoming ubiquitous as companies and schools moved online after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Russian media reported Wednesday that Zoom had banned its distributors from selling to government agencies and companies in Russia and a number of post-Soviet countries known as the Commonwealth of Independent States over concerns of new US sanctions against Moscow.
Alexander Bashkin, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that Moscow could be forced to respond.
“Russia is not a supporter of sanctions, but if Zoom takes such a decision with respect to government agencies and state-owned companies, then it is possible to block this service in our country as a reciprocal, symmetrical measure,” the Federation Council lawmaker was cited as saying.
Russia has previously blocked Western online platforms such as LinkedIn, and in March began slowing down the speeds of Twitter’s services in the country in an attempt to force the US social media giant to remove what it says is “illegal content.”
President Vladimir Putin has complained that large tech companies are competing with states and authorities are aiming to build up local competitors that can replace Western platforms.
Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov said that Russia’s schools would not be affected by a potential Zoom ban, adding that the country’s new video-conferencing system Sferum could serve as a replacement.
“We are ready for any situation. And of course we will focus more on our own software,” he was cited by the state-run TASS news agency as saying.
Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom said it would likewise have no problem with Zoom being banned.
“The Russian nuclear industry uses its own internal closed platform for communications,” a spokesperson was cited by RIA Novosti as saying.

Dubai-based reality TV show sparks anger in Algeria

Le DZ à Dubaï. (Screenshot)
Updated 07 April 2021

Dubai-based reality TV show sparks anger in Algeria

  • The program is already the target of a campaign under the hashtag #boycottlesdzindubai

ALGIERS: An Algerian reality TV show filmed in Dubai is causing a backlash even before hitting the airwaves, with social media users demanding a boycott and accusing participants of bringing “shame” on the country.
“Le DZ à Dubaï” — DZ being shorthand for Algeria or Algerian in Arabic — brings together a group of Algerian social media influencers, former models and rappers in a format based on a French show similar to Big Brother.
But the show, presented by a Tunisian Instagram star and starring several Algerians from the diaspora in France, has already sparked rage in Algeria itself.
“You’re nothing to do with DZ, you’re taking over our identity, you’re just French — please stop surfing on our backs just to make a buzz,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Algerians, the heirs of martyrs, would never show themselves off like this, which contradicts our values.”
Set to air in June, the program is already the target of a campaign under the hashtag #boycottlesdzindubai and has laid bare the divisions between Algerians and the diaspora.
One comment on Twitter showed the level of anger: “To all Algerians who refuse to respect our country, you will officially be placed in the category of Harkis,” Algerians who served in the French army in during the 1954-1962 war of independence and are seen as traitors.
Presenter Sarah Fraisou, who has two million followers on Instagram, took to the social network to defend the show.
“You know nothing about what’s been shot,” she wrote. “There are no women in swimming costumes, no stories of couples. Stop freaking out and talking without even seeing the thing.”
But another Twitter user had already made up his mind:
“The DZ in Dubai, but no Algerians?”