Editor’s Note – As the technological realm becomes more pervasive, whom can we trust? Each week, Liberty Nation brings new insight into the fraudulent use of personal data, breaches of privacy, and attempts to filter our perception.
How can it be that, on the one hand, we are implored on many fronts to cut back on consuming resources to prepare for the environmental devastation of “climate change” while, on the other, we are pushed by the elite technocracy toward ever-increasing use of energy through an electronically connected Internet of Things or Smart Grid? The Green New Deal demands we curtail airline flights, while we are force-marched toward a “smart” revolution, whereby almost every device we own – and even entire cities – will be connected and reliant not only on electricity but also on power-hungry servers and data-storage machines.
Google recently launched a program to help start-up businesses working toward a “sustainable” future. Google’s Chief Sustainability Officer Kate Brandt wrote in a blog post announcing the Google for Startups Accelerator, for which Google staff will mentor start-ups seeking to deal with “poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice” – an agenda based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Over the next few weeks, eight to ten start-up businesses from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa will be selected for the service, with a second intake to follow.
It seems not all are impressed with the company’s environmental and social efforts. The announcement comes shortly after a petition was signed by 1,137 employees urging Google to up its game on the “climate disaster” with the following demands:
- Zero emissions by 2030.
- Zero contracts to enable or accelerate the extraction of fossil fuels.
- Zero funding for climate-denying or -delaying think tanks, lobbyists, and politicians.
- Zero collaboration with entities enabling the incarceration, surveillance, displacement, or oppression of refugees or frontline communities.
While these workers may be annoyed that Google has proved willing to contribute funds to the Competitive Enterprise Institute and State Policy Network lobbying groups in Washington, D.C. — or climate-change deniers as The Guardian termed them – why have they missed the real stories behind big tech’s environmental damage?
Liberty Nation’s Onar Åm recently reported on research showing that climate-change skeptics often are kinder to the environment than those obsessed with the idea that the world will end in 12 years. Climate-change activism seems to boil down to the word “emissions,” and while many voices clamor for carbon neutrality, real waste goes almost unnoticed by the same campaigners.
One battle over resources was recently held in South Carolina, a state that gave Google the go-ahead to extract water from its underground drinking water reserves for the purpose of cooling computer servers. The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control permits the tech company to pump 549 million gallons of water out of aquifers to cool machines at a Goose Creek plant in Berkeley County. The license, valid until 2023, could be canceled if Google exceeds its limits.
Google said in a statement:
“We strive to build sustainability into everything that we do, and our data centers are no different. We’ve been proud to call South Carolina home for more than ten years, and we’re proud of the investments that we’ve made here, including more than $2 billion in capital investment, supporting employment opportunities, municipal improvements, educational programs and local nonprofits.’’
However, critics suggest this is a wasteful endeavor, especially in a location with increasing water demands; instead, the water could come from other sources, including rivers or even gray water, rather than fresh drinking water.
Clay Duffie, manager of the Mount Pleasant Waterworks, opposed the move. “I don’t have a beef against Google itself, but I don’t think it is appropriate to use pristine groundwater for cooling computers, versus providing that water for people,’’ he told The State. “We are obviously concerned about the long term, safe sustainable yield of that aquifer.’’
So much for Google making the sustainable choice. The world’s No. 1 search engine isn’t the only entity feuding over resources: The National Security Agency has butted heads with state authorities. States that house NSA facilities, including Utah and Maryland, have threatened to slash the agency’s immense energy and water demands as a way to fight back against encroaching surveillance.
Online discussion is infamous for its often abusive nature; with no personal accountability or contact, internet users are free to default to baser natures when faced with a point of view they dislike. Researchers also have observed an increase in racist slurs in the lead-up to genocides. Put these two phenomena together, in a politically correct and data-hungry world, and we have Hatebase, a company that detects and monitors hate speech across the world. According to the Hatebase website, “Hate speech degrades public conversation and silences diverse viewpoints, and can be an early warning indicator of violence.”
Founder Timothy Quinn teamed up with non-profit group The Sentinel Project, which seeks to prevent atrocities around the world by detecting early-warning signs. “What Sentinel discovered was that hate speech tends to precede escalation of these conflicts,” Quinn told TechCrunch. “I partnered with them to build Hatebase as a pilot project — basically a lexicon of multilingual hate speech. What surprised us was that a lot of other NGOs [non-governmental organizations] started using our data for the same purpose. Then we started getting a lot of commercial entities using our data. So last year we decided to spin it out as a startup.”
The company’s algorithm scrapes the internet – particularly social media sites like Twitter – for hateful language, which then is collated into a database. According to Quinn, some human input also is required, with help from other non-profit groups and members of the public who volunteer. “ML [machine learning] is great when you have an unambiguous training set, but with human speech, and hate speech, which can be so nuanced, that’s when you get bias floating in. We just don’t have a massive corpus of hate speech, because no one can agree on what hate speech is.”
According to Quinn, clients include the Los Angeles Police Department, the United Nations, various NGOs in conflict zones, almost 300 universities, and four of the ten largest social networks.
That’s all for this week from You’re Never Alone. Check back in next Monday to find out what’s happening in the digital realm and how it impacts you.
Read more from Laura Valkovic.