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Google gets Accused of Funding Groups that Defy Climate Change

According to a report in The Guardian, Google contributes heavily to conservative groups that defys Climate Change

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Google gets accused of making "substantial" donations to Washington-based think tanks that defy climate change. Pixabay

Google has been accused of making “substantial” donations to at least a dozen Washington-based think tanks that deny climate change and are actively campaigning against stricter climate legislation.

This is in stark contrast to Google CEO Sundar Pichai who has taken a public pledge to take urgent action against the climate crisis.

According to a report in The Guardian, Google contributed heavily to conservative groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the American Conservative Union that are in support of regulatory efforts that benefit tech companies.

The CEI is a strong proponent of the idea that climate change is a myth. In the past, the group has taken tough stances in opposition to tech regulation and antitrust enforcement.

According to reports, Google is “trying to appease conservatives so it can retain important protections under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act a” a law that protects Google from being responsible for third-parties”.

A company spokesperson said that it might not endorse every policy position of an organization when it makes a contribution.

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Google tries to appease conservatives so it can retain important protections under a law that protects Google from being responsible for third-parties: Report. Pixabay

“We’re hardly alone among companies that contribute to organisations while strongly disagreeing with them on climate policy,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge.

Pichai last month announced the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history — made up of a 1,600-megawatt (MW) package of agreements that includes 18 new energy deals.

“These deals will increase our worldwide portfolio of wind and solar agreements by more than 40 per cent, to 5,500 MW equivalent to the capacity of a million solar rooftops,” Pichai said in a statement.

“Once all these projects come online, our carbon-free energy portfolio will produce more electricity than places like Washington D.C. or entire countries like Lithuania or Uruguay use each year,” he added.

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The issue is in stark contrast to Google CEO Sundar Pichai who has taken a public pledge to take urgent action against the climate crisis. Pixabay

The announcement came as hundreds of Google employees participated in the “Global Climate Strike” during the United Nation’s climate summit on September 23.

In a blog post, the Google Workers for Action on Climate group highlighted some of the funding that the company was involved with that contradicted its public stance on climate change.

ALSO READ: Government Plans Slew of Reforms in Mining Sector

“Google Cloud makes significant revenue licensing infrastructure, machine learning, and engineering talent to fossil fuel companies, promising to help them extract fuel reserves faster,” the group said. (IANS)

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“Should Online Platforms Be Liable for User Posts?”, Asks U.S Attorney General William Barr

Barr Asks: Should Facebook, Google Be Liable for User Posts?

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This photo combo of images shows, clockwise, from upper left: a Google sign, the Twitter app, YouTube TV logo and the Facebook app. VOA

U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday questioned whether Facebook, Google and other major online platforms still need the immunity from legal liability that has prevented them from being sued over material their users post.

“No longer are tech companies the underdog upstarts. They have become titans,” Barr said at a public meeting held by the Justice Department to examine the future of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

“Given this changing technological landscape, valid questions have been raised about whether Section 230’s broad immunity is necessary, at least in its current form,” he said.

Section 230 says online companies such as Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc. cannot be treated as the publisher or speaker of information they provide. This largely exempts them from liability involving content posted by users, although they can be held liable for content that violates criminal or intellectual property law.

Barr’s comments offered insight into how regulators in Washington are reconsidering the need for incentives that once helped online companies grow but are increasingly viewed as impediments to curbing online crime, hate speech and extremism.

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U.S. Attorney General William Barr arrives for U.S. President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. VOA

The increased size and power of online platforms has also left consumers with fewer options, and the lack of feasible alternatives is a relevant discussion, Barr said, adding that the Section 230 review came out of the Justice Department’s broader look at potential anticompetitive practices at tech companies.

Lawmakers from both major political parties have called for Congress to change Section 230 in ways that could expose tech companies to more lawsuits or significantly increase their costs.

Lawmakers’ concerns

Some Republicans have expressed concern that Section 230 prevents them from taking action against internet services that remove conservative political content, while a few Democratic leaders have said the law allows the services to escape punishment for harboring misinformation and extremist content.

Barr said the department would not advocate a position at the meeting. But he hinted at the idea of allowing the U.S. government to act against recalcitrant platforms, saying it was “questionable” whether Section 230 should prevent the American government from suing platforms when it is “acting to protect American citizens.”

Others at the meeting floated different ideas.

The attorney general of Nebraska, Doug Peterson, noted that the law does not shield platforms from federal criminal prosecution; the immunity helps protect against civil claims or a state-level prosecution. Peterson said the exception should be widened to allow state-level action as well. Addressing the tech industry, he called it a “pretty simple solution” that would allow local officials “to clean up your industry instead of waiting for your industry to clean up itself.”

Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which counts Google and Facebook among its members, said such a solution would result in tech giants having to obey 50 separate sets of laws governing user content.

He suggested law enforcement’s energies might be better spent pursuing the millions of tips that the tech industry sent over every year, only a small fraction of which, he noted, resulted in investigations.

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Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson with a bipartisan group of state attorneys general speaks to reporters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. VOA

“There appears to be some asymmetry there,” he said.

Others argued that different rules should apply to different platforms, with larger websites enjoying fewer protections than internet upstarts.

“With great scale comes great responsibility,” said David Chavern, of the News Media Alliance, whose members have bristled as Google and Facebook have gutted journalism’s business model.

How to distinguish

But other panelists argued that distinguishing one site from another might be tricky. For example, would platforms like Reddit or Wikipedia, which have large reach but shoestring staffs, be counted as big sites or small ones?

The panelists also briefly debated encryption, another area over which Barr has pressed the tech industry to change its modus operandi. Facebook in particular has drawn the ire of U.S. officials over its plans to secure its popular messaging platform.

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Kate Klonick, a law professor at St. John’s University in New York, urged caution.

“This is a massive norm-setting period,” she said, with any alterations to one of the internet’s key legal frameworks likely to draw unexpected consequences. “It’s hard to know exactly what the ramifications might be.”  (VOA)