Texas Gov. Abbott Bans Vaccine Passports.
The Defender’s Big Brother NewsWatch brings you the latest headlines related to governments’ abuse of power, including attacks on democracy, civil liberties and use of mass surveillance.
Texas Gov. Abbott Bans Vaccine Passports
Gov. Greg Abbott banned government-mandated vaccine passports through executive order Tuesday, making Texas the latest state to reject proposals for a system that would require individuals to prove they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
… “Texans shouldn’t be required to show proof of vaccination & reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives,” Abbott said in a statement. “Don’t tread on our personal freedoms.”
YouTube Says It’s Getting Better at Taking Down Videos That Break Its Rules. They Still Number in the Millions
The Washington Post reported:
YouTube released data on Tuesday arguing that it is getting better at spotting and removing videos that break its rules against disinformation, hate speech and other banned content.
The Google-owned video service said 0.16 percent to 0.18 percent of all the video views on its platform during the fourth quarter of 2020 were on content that broke its rules. That’s down 70 percent from the same period in 2017, the year the company began tracking it.
… Democratic lawmakers say the company still isn’t doing enough. They have floated numerous proposals to change a decades-old law known as Section 230 to make Internet companies more liable for hate speech posted on their platforms. Republicans want to change the law too, but with the stated goal of making it harder for social media companies to ban certain accounts. The unproven idea that Big Tech is biased against conservatives is popular with Republican voters.
Justice Thomas Suggests Regulating Tech Platforms Like Utilities
While he agreed that Trump’s Twitter account did “resemble a constitutionally protected public forum” in some respects, “it seems rather odd to say that something is a government forum when a private company has unrestricted authority to do away with it,” he said, referencing Twitter’s decision to remove Trump’s account from the platform following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“Any control Mr. Trump exercised over the account greatly paled in comparison to Twitter’s authority, dictated in its terms of service, to remove the account ‘at any time for any or no reason,’” Thomas wrote.
Thomas said the solution to the unprecedented issues presented by the tech platforms could lie “in doctrines that limit the right of a private company to exclude.”
Facebook Data Leak Scrutinized by Big Tech’s Top EU Data Watchdog
The Irish Data Protection Commission is trying to “establish the full facts” since the weekend and so far “received no proactive communication from Facebook,” the regulator said in a statement on its website on Tuesday. It said the tech company assured it that “it is giving highest priority to providing firm answers” to the authority.
Personal information on 533 million Facebook users reemerged on a hacker website for free on Saturday. The information included phone numbers and email address of users, the regulator said Tuesday. Facebook has said the data is old and was already reported on in 2019.
NHS COVID-19 Contact Tracing App To Share QR Code Venue Check-Ins
England and Wales’ contact tracing app will soon ask users to share details of venues they have checked in to, if they test positive for the coronavirus.
The update to the NHS COVID-19 app will be deployed ahead of shops reopening in both nations on 12 April, as well as outdoor hospitality in England.
The authorities will be able to use the information to tell other visitors if they need to be tested for the virus.
But the system has been designed to protect users’ anonymity.
SEAS Researchers Postpone Test Flight for Controversial Geoengineering Project to Block Sun
The Crimson reported:
According to the Keutsch research group’s website, the project’s goal is to better understand solar geoengineering, a controversial strategy that could be used to curb global warming. The project is supported in part by philanthropist Bill Gates through SEAS’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program.
The Keutsch group planned its first test flight for June 2021, which would have launched a high-altitude balloon over Kiruna, Sweden, but would not have included the release of the particles. On Wednesday, however, the Swedish Space Corporation suspended the test under pressure from the Saami Council, which represents Indigenous Scandinavian peoples.
COVID Passports: Certification Is ‘One Option,’ Vaccines Minister Says
It would be “remiss” of the government not to consider COVID certification as a way of fully reopening the economy, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi says.
Amid criticism of the plans, Mr Zahawi said: “It’s only right that we look at all these options that are available to us to take our lives back.”
The government said certificates showing vaccination, test or immunity status could “provide reassurance.”
Boris Johnson said they could help signal a person is not contagious.
SHC Asks if 5g Harmful To Health
The News reported:
Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday issued a notice to the Pakistan Telecommunication Technology (PTA), asking whether 5G technology is harmful to health.
The court’s notice came during a hearing on a petition seeking a ban on the 5G technology. During the hearing, the court asked the petitioner to explain how the 5G technology could be harmful to health and whether anyone had been licensed to roll it out.
… The commission said the main effect that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields have on the human body is the increased temperature of exposed tissue. The body can handle small increases to body temperature, such as through exercising, but radiofrequency exposure and increased temperature can be dangerous above a certain threshold. “Another general characteristic of RF EMFs is that the higher the frequency, the lower the depth of penetration of the EMFs into the body. As 5G technologies can utilise higher EMF frequencies (>24 GHz) in addition to those currently used.