An independent UN human rights expert called for greater scrutiny of emerging digital technologies which she said are being used to uphold racial inequality, discrimination and intolerance.
Special Rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, presented her concerns in a report delivered on Wednesday to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, reports UN News.
“Technology is not neutral or objective,” said Achiume, who was appointed by the Council and is neither a UN staff member nor paid by the Organization.
“It is fundamentally shaped by the racial, ethnic, gender and other inequalities prevalent in society, and typically makes these inequalities worse. It is resulting in discrimination and unequal treatment in all areas of life, from education and employment to healthcare and criminal justice.”
“Corporations such as Facebook, have economic and business models that mean they actively profit from misinformation, discrimination and intolerance”, she said, adding that many governments have adopted algorithms which discriminate against marginalised groups.
In addition to pressing for reparations for those affected by entrenched racism, Achiume also called for possibly banning some technologies.
“Part of the human rights response must include greater scrutiny of how the design and use of digital technologies is further entrenching this systemic racism.”
With her report released against the backdrop of the covid-19 pandemic, which has hit racial and ethnic minorities the hardest, Achiume warned that technology deployed to combat spread of the disease “is the same type that has been used to exclude these communities from full enjoyment of their human rights in the past”.
To prevent and eliminate racial discrimination in technological design will require having more racial and ethnic minorities in decision-making in the industry, Adichie said.
“States must also provide the full spectrum of effective remedies for those against whom emerging digital technologies have racially discriminated,” she added.
Google has announced to invest $10 billion to help gear up India’s transition to a digital economy in the next five to seven years, reports AP.
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google, said the project will focus on building products that are relevant to India’s needs and empowering businesses for their “digital transformation”.
“Our goal is to ensure India not only benefits from the next wave of innovation, but leads it,” Pichai said in a digital keynote at a Google for India event on Monday.
The tech giant also declared to invest $1 million to support digital education in India. The fund aims at enabling 1 million teachers of 22,000 Indian schools across the country to use Google services that can facilitate online learning.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, styles himself as a leader in touch with technology, has made digitisation a major priority for India and envisions a “Digital India”.
Modi who has nearly 60 million followers on Twitter, wrote that he and Pichai met and discussed a wide range of subjects, “particularly leveraging the power of technology to transform the lives of India’s farmers, youngsters and entrepreneurs.”
“I was delighted to know more about the efforts of @Google in several sectors, be it in education, learning, @_DigitalIndia, furthering digital payments and more,” he said.
The United Kingdom on Tuesday decided to exclude all 5G equipment of Huawei from the country by 2027 over security concerns.
Besides, British telecom operators have been directed to stop buying 5G equipment from Huawei by the end of this year.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden revealed the decision and said “this has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one,″ reports AP.
The decision would delay the 5G rollout, and cost millions of pounds, but that it had to be done, the secretary added.
The British government backtracked on plans to give Huawei a limited role in the UK’s new high-speed mobile phone network in a decision with broad implications for relations between London and Beijing. Britain said it imposed the ban after US sanctions made it impossible to ensure the security of Huawei equipment, forcing it to start turning to other suppliers for components.
Earlier, the US threatened to sever an intelligence-sharing arrangement with the UK because of concerns Huawei equipment could allow the Chinese government to infiltrate UK networks. The decision gives British telecoms operators until 2027 to remove Huawei equipment already in Britain's 5G network. The operators must stop buying 5G equipment from Huawei by the end of the year.
Critically for telecoms operators, the government opted not to order firms to rip out legacy equipment manufactured by Huawei in earlier systems, like 4G. Such a decision might have caused havoc in UK telecoms systems.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was under pressure from within his own Conservative Party who criticised China’s new Hong Kong security law and its treatment of ethnic Uighurs, as well as Huawei’s links to the Chinese government.
Ten Conservative lawmakers sent a letter to Johnson demanding that he remove Huawei from “the UK’s critical national infrastructure.”
Johnson in January sought to balance economic and security pressures by agreeing to give Huawei a limited role in Britain’s so-called 5G network, excluding the company from core components of the system and restricting its involvement to 35 percent of the overall project.
But the move set up a diplomatic clash with the Americans, who threatened to cut off security cooperation unless Britain dumped Huawei. Amid continued pressure to remove Huawei from communication networks entirely, the US in May imposed new sanctions that will bar companies around the world from using American-made machinery or software to produce chips for the Chinese company.
The Labour Party's spokeswoman on communications issues, Chi Omwurah, decried the government's flip-flop approach and said it would have a dire impact on the future. “This is a car crash for our digital economy, but one that could have been visible from space," she said.
Meanwhile, Huawei expressed disappointment and said the decision threatens to move “Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide.''
"Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicized, this is about US trade policy and not security,'' said Ed Brewster, a spokesman for Huawei UK.
Over the past 20 years, Huawei has focused on building a better connected UK. “As a responsible business, we will continue to support our customers as we have always done,” he added.
Amazon has said an internal email went out Friday to its employees asking them to delete the popular video app TikTok from their phones, was sent mistakenly
The online retailing giant appeared to backtrack roughly five hours after sending the message.
“This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error," Amazon emailed reporters just before 5 p.m. Eastern time.
“There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”
Company spokeswoman Jaci Anderson declined to answer questions about what caused the confounding turnaround or error.
The initial internal email, which was disseminated widely online, told employees to delete TikTok, a video app increasingly popular with young people but also the focus of intensifying national-security and geopolitical concerns because of its Chinese ownership.
The email cited the app's “security risks.”
An Amazon employee who confirmed receipt of the initial email but was not authorized to speak publicly had not seen a retraction at the time of Amazon's backtrack.
Amazon is the second-largest U.S. private employer after Walmart.
Moving against TikTok could have escalated pressure on the app in a big way, particularly if other companies did the same.
The U.S. military already bans TikTok on employee phones and the company is subject to a national-security review of its merger history.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week that the government was “certainly looking” at banning the app, setting off confused and irritated posts as well as jokes by TikTok users.
Chinese internet company ByteDance owns TikTok, which is designed for users outside of China; it also makes a Chinese version called Douyin. Like YouTube, TikTok relies on its users for the videos that populate its app.
It has a reputation for fun, goofy videos and is popular with young people, including millions of Americans.
But critics have cited concerns, including the possibility of TikTok censoring videos, such as those critical of the Chinese government, sharing user data with Chinese officials, and violating kids’ privacy.
TikTok has said it doesn’t censor videos based on topics sensitive to China and it would not give the Chinese government access to U.S. user data even if asked.
Laying emphasis on the need for digital transformation of education from primary school to higher education, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar said that digital devices and the Internet are vital tools for students.
“In this case, it is not the cost but the right investment to create skilled human resources,” said the minister while speaking as the chief guest at the online seminar on 'Digital Education for Better Bangladesh' and 'Northern Digital Campaign 2020' organised by Northern University Bangladesh in the capital on Wednesday.
Building a prosperous Bangladesh will never be hampered if artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, IoT, etc can spread digital technology education in educational institutions, said Jabbar.
Aiming to achieve this goal, he emphasised on the need for digital transformation of education from primary school to higher education.
The minister said 65 percent of the total population of the country is young. There are 40 to 50 million students among them. In order to accelerate the ongoing progress of building the golden Bengal of Bangabandhu's dream, the students must be developed as useful digital human resources.