Saturday, October 7, 2023

Last Call For The Big Lie, Alexa Edition

The thing with AI is that as with any computer database, if you feed it garbage input, it'll give you garbage output, and that applies to Amazon's Alexa digital assistant just like any other search engine or social media outlet.
Amid concerns the rise of artificial intelligence will supercharge the spread of misinformation comes a wild fabrication from a more prosaic source: Amazon’s Alexa, which declared that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Asked about fraud in the race — in which President Biden defeated former president Donald Trump with 306 electoral college votes — the popular voice assistant said it was “stolen by a massive amount of election fraud,” citing Rumble, a video-streaming service favored by conservatives.

The 2020 races were “notorious for many incidents of irregularities and indications pointing to electoral fraud taking place in major metro centers,” according to Alexa, referencing Substack, a subscription newsletter service. Alexa contended that Trump won Pennsylvania, citing “an Alexa answers contributor.”

Multiple investigations into the 2020 election have revealed no evidence of fraud, and Trump faces federal criminal charges connected to his efforts to overturn the election. Yet Alexa disseminates misinformation about the race, even as parent company Amazon promotes the tool as a reliable election news source to more than 70 million estimated users.

Amazon declined to explain why its voice assistant draws 2020 election answers from unvetted sources.

“These responses were errors that were delivered a small number of times, and quickly fixed when brought to our attention,” Amazon spokeswoman Lauren Raemhild said in a statement. “We continually audit and improve the systems we have in place for detecting and blocking inaccurate content.”

Raemhild said that during elections, Alexa works with “credible sources” like Reuters, Ballotpedia and RealClearPolitics to provide real-time information.

After The Washington Post reached out to Amazon for comment, Alexa’s responses changed.

To questions The Post had flagged to the company, Alexa answered, “I’m sorry, I’m not able to answer that.” Other questions still prompt the device to say there was election fraud in 2020.

Jacob Glick, who served as investigative counsel on the Jan. 6 committee, called Alexa’s assertions nearly three years after the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol “alarming.”

“If major corporations are helping to give life to the ‘big lie’ years after the fact, they’re enabling the animating narrative of American domestic extremism to endure,” said Glick, who now serves as a policy counsel at the Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection. “They should be doing everything they can to stop the ‘big lie’ in its tracks, lest we see history repeat itself.”

They should be, but why would they bother when the Biden administration is suing the pants off of Amazon over antitrust violations? If I'm an evil tech billionaire like Bezos or Musk or Zuckerberg, I'm putting my thumb on the scale to turn the country over to Trump and the fascists in order to get a better deal.

The point is that nobody should be surprised that three years later that Alexa is drawing on Big Lie bullshit and spreading it to tens of millions. We're at the point where The Big Lie has been "fact" to a majority of the GOP since November 2020.

Why wouldn't Big Tech look the other way?

School Daze: SWAT Team Edition

Over the last year, more than 500 schools have been subjected to faked shooting hoax calls to police in dozens of states and DC, and the coordinated effort is only getting worse now that school is back in session for tens of millions of kids.
Over the past year, more than 500 schools in the United States have been subjected to a coordinated campaign of fear that exploits the all-too-real American danger of school shootings, according to a review of media reports and dozens of public records requests. The Washington Post examined police reports, emergency call recordings, body-camera footage or call logs in connection with incidents in 24 states.

The calls are being investigated by the FBI and have generated an aggressive response by local law enforcement — particularly after officers in Uvalde, Tex., came under criticism for waiting more than an hour to confront the gunman during the May 2022 elementary school massacre.

In state after state, heavily armed officers have entered schools prepared for the worst. Students have hidden in toilets, closets, nurse’s offices. They’ve barricaded doors with desks and refrigerators. Medical helicopters have been placed on standby while trauma centers have paused surgeries, anticipating possible victims. Terrified parents have converged on schools, not knowing if their children are safe.

The wave of school shooting hoaxes is without precedent, education safety experts and law enforcement officials say. It’s part of a larger phenomenon known as “swatting,” where callers report nonexistent crimes with the goal of triggering a police response — preferably by SWAT teams — at the homes of enemies or celebrities.

The shooting hoax calls often come in waves, with multiple schools in a state targeted on the same day, and most are “remarkably similar,” said Drew Evans, the superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. More than 20 schools in the state were targeted in two separate incidents, one in September of last year and another this February.

“This is a really serious crime,” Evans said. “It places everybody in a situation of potential danger to have police officers rushing into a school.”

Many of the calls have followed a distinct pattern, according to police reports and recordings reviewed by The Post.

A male voice says that he is inside a school and that multiple students are shot. Many times, he claims to be a teacher. He says he is in a particular classroom or a bathroom, and tells the police to hurry.

He speaks with a heavy accent, police reports note. The calls first come in on non-emergency lines and are not recordings: The speaker interacts with dispatchers and responds to their questions.

When local authorities tried to trace the fake school shooting calls, they quickly ran into obstacles. Police reports show that the caller used free internet-calling services that allow anyone with an email address to make calls that appear to be coming from a U.S. number.

In incidents in at least 12 states, The Post found, the numbers were provided by TextNow, a Canadian company that offers free calls using voice over internet protocol, or VoIP.

TextNow says it works proactively to prevent bad actors from using its service while also keeping it free and accessible. The company “does not condone the use of our platform for harassment, fraud or other illegal activity that jeopardizes public safety,” said Derek Ting, TextNow’s co-founder, in a blog post in August. “However, when serving millions of people of various backgrounds and needs, you cannot solve every challenge with the biggest hammer you can find.”
The FBI continues to investigate, meanwhile, schools are getting invaded by armed SWAT teams looking for non-existent shooters, because Gunmerica. 

We would rather puts kids at risk than do something about guns.

Israeli Getting Serious Out There

Apparently today is the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War and Hamas marked the occasion with a massive rocket attack from Gaza into Israel, the thousands of rockets overwhelming Israel's Iron Dome defense system and killing dozens as a new uprising is underway. Needless to say, the Israeli counterstrike into Gaza is unprecedented as PM Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that Israel is now at war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hopes Israel's response to the Hamas incursion on Saturday will "exact a huge price" from the militant group.

Speaking at the beginning of a political-security cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the following:

"Since this morning, the State of Israel has been at war. Our first goal is first of all to cleanse the area of the enemy forces that have infiltrated and restore security and peace to the towns that were attacked.

The second goal, at the same time, is to exact a huge price from the enemy, also in the Gaza Strip. The third goal is to fortify other arenas so that no one makes the mistake of joining this war.

We are at war, in war you have to keep calm. I call on all citizens of Israel to unite, to achieve our highest goal -- victory in the war.'

Netanyahu may have survived scandal after scandal that divided the nation but Israel will 100% rally around hum and the flag while pounding Gaza into ash this weekend. 

More on this as it develops, but this is the strongest attack from Hamas in decades, and Israel's response is going to be bloody as all hell.
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