Caitlin Bassett

Caitlin Bassett is the Assistant to the Managing and Associate Directors at the Center for Science & Culture. Her interests are in political philosophy and current events, and she enjoys attempting to understand physics and cosmology. She graduated from Liberty University in 2017 with her Bachelor’s in Politics and Policy.

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U.S. Postal Service Secretly Monitoring Social Media Posts

Legal experts don't understand why the Post Office is involved in online government surveillance
According to a government document obtained by Yahoo News, the U.S. Postal Service has been secretly monitoring the social media posts of American citizens. The covert operation, conspicuously known as the Internet Covert Operations Program (or iCOP), has been conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service. Normally, USPIS is responsible for protecting the functions of USPS as well as its employees. Branching out into online surveillance is both unexpected and surprising to many experts. “It’s a mystery,” University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone told Yahoo. “I don’t understand why the government would go to the Postal Service for examining the internet for security issues.” Likewise, Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy…

Canada Orders Facial Recognition App to Cease and Desist

Your face is likely already stored in this app's database
In February, Canada released the findings of a year-long investigation into the US-based facial recognition app, Clearview AI. The investigation declared Clearview’s actions illegal within Canada and ordered the company to cease operations within the country and to remove all Canadian citizens from its database. “What Clearview does is mass surveillance, and it is illegal,” said Canadian Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien. So what is Clearview AI? And why has it raised the ire of our neighbors to the North? Clearview AI, Inc. Clearview AI is a facial recognition company marketed primarily to law enforcement agencies. It boasts a database of over 3 billion facial images “scraped” from public sources online such as news articles and social media sites. In other…

Texas Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Big Tech Censorship

The bill seeks to reign in Big Tech power and protect the principle of free speech for Texas citizens
Last week, the Texas Senate passed a measure that would prohibit large social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from censoring political and religious viewpoints of Texas citizens. The bill now awaits a vote in the Texas House. Senate Bill 12 was introduced in March by State Senator Bryan Hughes. Titled “Relating to the censorship of users’ expressions by an interactive computer service,” the bill would not only prohibit censorship, but would require social media companies to disclose their moderation policies, publish reports about any blocked content, and create a legal route for people to appeal any censoring or deplatforming decisions. Social media companies currently enjoy legal protections against lawsuit under Section 230 of the U.S. Code, which on the…

Parler vs. Amazon: Amazon Strikes Back!

Amazon is trying to avoid a state lawsuit through a hardball legal maneuver
Parler, an alternative social networking site, has been in a fierce legal battle with AWS/Amazon since it was removed from Amazon's platforms on January 10.

Influential Think Tank Declines Big Tech Donations

The Heritage Foundation declined six-figure donations from Big Tech companies Facebook and Google in 2020, citing repeated censorship of conservative views
News website Axios obtained letters signed by Heritage Foundation‘s departing President Kay Coles James (pictured), addressed to the CEOs of both Facebook and Google in October 2020, explaining why Heritage felt compelled to decline the six-figure contributions from the companies. “We cannot in good conscience take money from a company that repeatedly, and blatantly, suppresses conservative speech on your platforms,” reads the letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.  A similar statement is made in the letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  Heritage declined $225,000 from Google, and returned $150,000 that came from Facebook. The Heritage Foundation made several accusations against the companies in its letters, including: that Facebook suppressed their reach by blocking referral traffic; that Facebook targeted Heritage with third-party fact-checkers; and that Google…

Columbia Professor Wants Government to Regulate News Media

The journalism professor argued before a government regulatory committee that "an open market without regulation will always favor bad actors over good"
During a subcommittee hearing on misinformation, disinformation, and extremism in journalism, a Columbia University professor advocated for the regulation of news media to create “a more vibrant, truthful news environment.”  Emily Bell (pictured) is a professor of journalism at Columbia University, and founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Prior to her appointment at Columbia, she was an award-winning writer and editor at Guardian News and Media in London. She offered her comments at a February 24 hearing titled, “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media”, hosted by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House’s Committee on Energy and Commerce. Bell testified as a witness. She sees a “policy role” for government to play in…

Nevada Announces New Cities in State To Be Run By Big Tech

The zones promise technological freedom, but what are the dangers to handing so much political power to big corporations?
Nevada is courting technological business by offering them the opportunity to develop cities independent of government regulation. In his State of the State address on January 19th, Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak announced proposed legislation to create “Innovation Zones” in order “to jumpstart the state’s economy by attracting technology firms.” The long-term vision for these Innovation Zones is a county independent of local government, run solely by a technological corporation for the purpose of pursuing advanced technology without the red tape of bureaucracy. The proposed legislation draft calls “traditional forms of local government” “inadequate” in their ability “to provide the flexibility and resources conducive to making the State a leader in attracting and retaining new forms and types of businesses…”…

Wikipedia’s Bias Meets a Free-Speech Alternative

The famously free encyclopedia’s pages on abortion, communism, and historical figures reveal a left-leaning bias
Last December, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger announced that he would be launching a free speech alternative to Wikipedia, a website that Sanger believes has lost its credibility as a neutral source of information. Sanger’s Encyclosphere is meant to be “an open encyclopedia network” (Sanger compares it to “the blogosphere”) with the goal of “build(ing) a network that … all of humanity owns and no one exclusively controls.”  One of Wikipedia’s declared “fundamental principle(s)” is NPOV – neutral point of view. Wikipedia defines NPOV as “representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.”  “This policy is non-negotiable,” the website states. But according to Sanger, “Wikipedia’s ‘NPOV’ is dead.” …

AI Flags “Black” and “White” Language of Chess as Racist

New research shows the weakness of depending on AI to accurately flag racist online content
Last summer, artificial intelligence algorithms took down a video on YouTube’s most popular chess channel mid-livestream and flagged it as containing “harmful and dangerous” content. New research into the incident indicates that artificial intelligence algorithms programmed to scan for racist and other hateful speech online may be to blame. On June 27, 2020, the host of the most popular chess chanel on YouTube, Antonio Radić, Croatian chess player, was conducting a livestream with chess Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. Around the one-hour-and-twenty-minute mark of the discussion of chess, the video was cut off and removed from Radić’s channel. When Radić (or anyone else) tried to access the video, they were met with a message from YouTube: “We’ve removed this video because it…

Texas Joins Fight Against Big Tech Censorship

Nearly two dozen states have proposed similar legislation in response to the increase of online censorship during the 2020 election period
Last week, Texas joined the growing pushback against Big Tech censorship when Governor Greg Abbott announced his support for a Texas bill that would prohibit the online censorship of political and religious viewpoints. “Silencing conservative views is un-American, it’s un-Texan and it’s about to be illegal in Texas,” Abbott wrote on Twitter last week ahead of a Friday press conference. Speaking alongside Abbott at the press conference was the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Bryan Hughes. Both figures made strong statements about free speech, the current threat of Big Tech, and their understanding of Texas’s role in this national struggle. “Texas is standing against big tech political censorship,” Abbott said. “We’re not going to allow it in the Lone Star State.”…