Category: Cyber Bullism

Facebook deepfake ban

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Notre Dame Expert: Host of problems with Facebook deepfake ban

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
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Tim Weninger, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, says Facebook’s newly announced ban on deepfakes is good news for democracy but presents a number of challenges in the fight against the spread of misinformation.

Weninger is an expert in disinformation and fake news, web and social media, data mining and machine learning.

“This is good news for democracy and a good business policy for Facebook, whose users don’t want to be lied to by the content they see,” Weninger said. “If Facebook becomes flooded by fake or misleading content, then users will abandon the site.”

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But, Weninger adds, the policy presents a host of problems and challenges.

“Most obvious is the technological question of how will Facebook determine which content is AI faked and which is not. It’s clear that deepfake technology will soon be usable by the masses. And when that happens, Facebook won’t have the capacity to filter fake videos manually. Notre Dame and others are working on deepfake detectors, but these automatic detectors won’t catch everything. 

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“Second is the actual effect that this deepfake ban will have on the actual problem. It’s often said that ‘a lie can travel around the world before the truth can get its pants on.’ So, if a deepfake is created, shared and quickly taken down, the damage is done — it will live forever. And there is little that a maligned political candidate or brand can do to fix it.

“In my opinion, deepfakes are some mix of identity theft and slander. And there ought to be a legal remedy or judicial recourse available to the victims of deepfakes.”

Autism Study Stresses Importance of Communicating with All Infants

Photo by Zoltan Tasi

Language Skills Can Benefit from Parents’ Early Support, Interactions.

University of Texas at Dallas

Dr. Meghan Swanson, assistant professor at The University of Texas at Dallas, is the corresponding author of the study, published online June 28 in Autism Research. It is the first to extend research about the relationship between caregiver speech and infant language development from typically developing children to those with autism. The findings could inform guidelines for earlier action in cases of developmental difficulties.

A new language-skills study that included infants later diagnosed with autism suggests that all children can benefit from exposure to more speech from their caregivers.

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“You can diagnose autism at 24 months at the earliest; most people are diagnosed much later. Early intervention, from birth to age 3, has shown to be effective at supporting development in various cohorts of children,” said Swanson, who joined the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences in January as the director of the Infant Neurodevelopment & Language Research Lab, known as the Baby Brain Lab.

She said there has been a push to identify autism earlier or demonstrate that the same techniques that help most children develop language skills also benefit those eventually diagnosed with autism.

The study involved 96 babies, 60 of whom had an older sibling with autism. Swanson said that this “baby-sibling” research design was necessary.

“How do you study autism in infancy when you can’t diagnose it until the kids are age 2 at least?” she asked. “The answer relies on the fact that autism tends to run in families. These younger siblings have about a 20% chance of being diagnosed eventually with autism.”

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Indeed, 14 children from the high-risk subset of 60 were diagnosed with autism at 24 months.

The study results directly tied the number of words an infant hears, as well as the conversational turns he or she takes, to the performance on the 24-month language evaluation — both for typical children and those with autism.

“One conclusion we’ve come to is that parents should be persistent in talking with their babies even if they aren’t getting responses,” Swanson said.

Swanson emphasized how important large, longitudinal studies — tracking the same individuals across an extended period — like this one are in her field.

“You have to follow the same children for years to learn anything conclusive about development,” she said. “You can’t simply shift from a group of 2-year-olds to a different group of 3-year-olds and so on.”

Correcting the misunderstanding of parents’ influence in autism has been a gradual fight against outdated conceptions, Swanson said.

“When parents receive an autism diagnosis for a child, some might wonder, ‘What could I have done differently?’” she said. “There is no scientific backing for them to think in these terms. But there is a dark history in autism where parents were wrongly blamed, which reinforced these thoughts. To do research involving mothers as we have, you must approach that topic with sensitivity but also firmly reinforce that the logic that parenting style can cause autism is flawed.”

The children’s interactions with caregivers were recorded over two days — once at nine months and again at 15 months — via a LENA (Language Environment Analysis) audio recorder. The children’s language skills were then assessed at 24 months.

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“The LENA software counts conversational turns anytime an adult vocalizes and the infant responds, or vice versa,” Swanson said. “The definition is not related to the content of the speech, just that the conversation partner responds. We believe that responding to infants when they talk supports infant development, regardless of eventual autism diagnosis.”

The project was undertaken by the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) network, a consortium of eight universities in the United States and Canada funded by the National Institutes of Health as an Autism Center of Excellence. Before joining UT Dallas, Swanson was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of IBIS’ study sites. The other study sites are Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.

Dr. Joseph Piven, the IBIS network’s principal investigator, is the director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC-Chapel Hill. For parents, the results should highlight the long-term effect of initiating conversations from an early age, he said.

“Talking to your kids makes a big difference,” Piven said. “Any impact on early language skills will almost certainly have an impact on a wide range of later abilities in school-age children and significantly enhance their probability of success.”

Swanson said the most important takeaway from this work is that parents can make a significant difference in language development, even in children who are eventually diagnosed with autism.

“Parents can be amazing agents of change in their infants’ lives from as early as 9 months old,” she said. “If we teach parents how to provide their children with a rich communication environment, it helps support their children’s development. I find that incredibly hopeful — the power that parents have to be these positive role models.”

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In addition to UT Dallas and the IBIS study sites, researchers from Temple University, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, McGill University and the University of Alberta contributed to this study. The Simons Foundation also supported the research.

Bullying Worsens Sleep and Depression

BUFFALO, N.Y.

Teens who experience cyber bullying are more likely to suffer from poor sleep, which in turn raises levels of depression, found a University at Buffalo study.

Although research has examined the relationship between online bullying and depression, the UB study is one of few to explore the connection between cyber victimization and sleep quality.

The study surveyed more than 800 adolescents for sleep quality, cyber aggression and depression.

The research will be presented by Misol Kwon, first author and doctoral student in the UB School of Nursing, at SLEEP 2019, the 33rd annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in San Antonio, Texas from June 8-12.

“Cyber victimization on the internet and social media is a unique form of peer victimization and an emerging mental health concern among teens who are digital natives,” said Kwon. “Understanding these associations supports the need to provide sleep hygiene education and risk prevention and interventions to mistreated kids who show signs and symptoms of depression.”

Nearly one third of teens have experienced symptoms of depression, which, in addition to changes in sleep pattern, include persistent irritability, anger and social withdrawal, according to the U.S. Office of Adolescent Health.

And nearly 15 percent of U.S. high school students report being bullied electronically, says Kwon. At severe levels, depression may lead to disrupted school performance, harmed relationships or suicide.

The risks of allowing depression to worsen highlight the need for researchers and clinicians to understand and target sleep quality and other risk factors that have the potential to exacerbate the disorder.

The research was supported by a $1.8 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the National Institutes of Health awarded to Jennifer Livingston, PhD, principal investigator and associate professor in the UB School of Nursing.

Additional UB School of Nursing investigators include Suzanne Dickerson, DNS, professor and chair of the Department of Biobehavioral Health and Clinical Sciences; and Eunhee Park, PhD, assistant professor. Young Seo, doctoral candidate in the UB Graduate School of Education, is also an investigator.