Data, Disinformation and Money-Pits

Californians take a step closer to online privacy, X faces the possibility of an EU blackout, and big tech keeps hemorrhaging money

Californian? You can now delete your online data

It’s been a tough year for online privacy. Sweeping new legislation such as the UK’s online safety bill seems hell-bent on removing online anonymity (under the facade of protecting children, of course), and countries such as France are even looking to go so far as to outlaw VPNs:

With that in mind, it’s good to celebrate wins when they occur. And privacy advocates finally have something to celebrate thanks to the Delete Act signed by Californian governor Gavin Newsom:

In short, the bill will allow Californian residents to request their personal information be deleted from all data brokers in the state. To be clear, Californians have had the right to request data removal for a while now. But the difference now is that while previously, Californians would have to send requests to each company that held their information, data brokers must now register with the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA), which in turn must provide a quick, free, and easy way for residents to remove all their data in one request. And if the brokers don’t comply? They are liable to suffer some hefty penalties.

So yeah, some pretty great news. Hopefully, we might see similar legislation rolled out in other US states and beyond soon.

Israel, Hamas and the War of Disinformation on X

Less than two months after the introduction of new laws designed to regulate social media content, the EU has officially issued a warning to Elon Musk regarding the rampant disinformation on his platform X/Twitter. In particular, the bloc is taking issue with the sheer amount of “fake news” relating to coverage of the current war unfolding between Hamas and Israel.

If Musk doesn’t respond with suitable changes within the next two weeks, he may face a fine of up to 6% of his revenues from the social media platform or even a complete blackout of X in Europe:

Thierry Breton, the commissioner responsible for the act, wrote to Musk saying the platform needed “proportionate and effective mitigation measures to tackle the risks to public security and civic discourse stemming from disinformation”.

“Following the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel, we have indications your platform is being used to disseminate illegal content and disinformation in the EU,” the letter continued.

“Public media and civil society organisations widely report instances of fake and manipulated images and facts circulating on your platform in the EU, such as repurposed old images of unrelated armed conflicts or military footage that actually originated from video games. This appears to be manifestly false or misleading information.”

You can download and view the full letter here:

This warning comes after Musk recommended known antisemitic accounts for up-to-date war coverage:

Whatever your politics surrounding the awful situation currently unfolding in the Middle East, or regarding state intervention on social platforms, X is clearly struggling (or not trying) to be up to the task of keeping people informed of what’s happening on the ground. If anything, it may be stoking the flames of further division.

Speaking of X, David Lee recently wrote a fantastic article for Bloomberg titled ‘The Moral Case for No Longer Engaging With Elon Musk’s X’, that takes a deep dive into the platform’s fall from grace, looking at how it creates incentives for violent and controversial content in particular (note that it may now be paywalled).

AI Continues to be a Money-Pit

Silicon Valley has gone all in on betting that AI is the future. But though every startup and tech company in the world has seemingly embraced the technology, it’s not so certain that this bet is going to pay off in the long run.

A recent report from the Wall Street Journal claims that, as of right now, big tech is struggling to make AI profitable.

One of the examples they note is how Microsoft, who have invested billions into its partner, OpenAI (the people behind ChatGPT), has found its Github Copilot project to be a serious financial burden on the company (a real “Money Loser” according to the WSJ). The service, designed to automate coder workflows is a popular one, and it costs $10 a month to use, but Microsoft is said to be losing between $20-$80 a month on each user.

Speaking of OpenAI, the company is seeing its user base rapidly shrink now that the AIhype is settling down, but running costs remain as high as ever. An analysis by Reuters claims that each ChatGPT query costs around 4 cents.

The problems are many, but they come down to the fact that currently, AI models are expensive to operate, using up massive amounts of computational power and requiring expensive, energy-draining infrastructure, including high-priced computer chips and data centers. The result also means that AI has a big carbon footprint.

Another problem is that, despite everyone wanting in on the fancy new tech, actual AI use cases remain limited and misunderstood. Of course, there are obvious uses in fields such as medicine. But for consumers, AI is more of a toy than anything solving real issues. Lucas Ropek of Gizmodo sums the issue up nicely:

“Not only is AI a solution in search of a problem, but it’s also swiftly becoming something of a problem in search of a solution. Companies need to figure out how these tools make both economic and strategic sense—something that probably should have been ironed out before they were launched.”

Just as was the case with Cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and Web 3 technologies, a reality check might be right around the corner.

Here’s a rather old but no less interesting essay on navigating discussion surrounding politics and religion, and the role of identity in those discussions:


I got ill, and then I was on the road for a bit. So yeah, been a bit quiet on the writing front.

I did manage to make some tweaks to the website so now that if you’re viewing my site on a browser using light mode, it should appear with black text on a white background.

in the margins cc-4 license

In The Margins is written by Mike Grindle. It is and always will be cost-free, ad-free and sponsor-free. If you wish to support its existence, consider sharing it with your friends.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Please note that quotations and images are not included in this license.

← Linkblog Archive