Hashtag Trending – Big banks join Facebook boycott; MIT pulls plug on racist AI; What’s your Zoom shirt?

Canada’s big banks are joining the Facebook boycott, Tesla is now worth more than Toyota, and everyone is suddenly talking about their personal “Zoom shirts”.

It’s all the tech news that’s popular right now. Welcome to Hashtag Trending and Happy Canada Day! It’s Friday, July 3, and I’m your host, Alex Coop.

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Scotiabank, RBC, CIBC, BMO and TD Bank say they will stop buying Facebook ads in July. The banks join other Canadian companies, including Lululemon Athletica and Mountain Equipment Co-op, that are taking part in the StopHateForProfit campaign. More than 300 companies have joined the boycott. Recently Facebook has repeatedly said that it will crackdown on hate speech in its advertisements. However, many people are skeptical of those claims and question whether the campaign will have any lasting impacts. A spokesman for RBC told Bloomberg that the company understands that systemic racism has disadvantaged Black, Indigenous and People of Colour and the bank intends to fight that.

MIT apologizes, permanently pulls offline huge dataset that taught AI systems to use racist, misogynistic slurs from technology

MIT has taken its highly cited dataset that trained AI systems to potentially describe people using racist, misogynistic, and other problematic terms, offline. The database was removed this week after The Register alerted the American university. MIT even urged researchers and developers to stop using the training library and to delete any copies. “We sincerely apologize,” a professor told the publication. The training set, built by the university, has been used to teach machine-learning models to automatically identify and list the people and objects depicted in still images. The key problem is that the dataset includes, for example, pictures of Black people and monkeys labelled with the N-word; women in bikinis, or holding their children, labelled as one of several derogatory terms. This needlessly linked everyday imagery to slurs and offensive language, and baking prejudice and bias into future AI models.

And lastly, With video calls the new norm, workers are confessing to what the New York Times calls the “Zoom Shirt”. Everyone’s Zoom shirt is different – for some, it’s a top that can be hastily pulled on just before the camera turns on to help maintain a corporate image. Some have a one-off Zoom Shirt, while others say they rotate their Zoom Shirts. Retailers have already jumped on the trend, along with its variants Zoom Scarf and Zoom Sweater, filling consumers’ inboxes with “video call-ready” tops.

That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now. Hashtag Trending is a part of the ITWC Podcast network. Add us to your Alexa Flash Briefing or your Google Home daily briefing. I’m Alex Coop, thanks for listening.

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