Calls for Theresa May’s former aide to resign from BBC for ‘trying to block senior appointment’
Labour has called for Theresa May’s former communications director to be sacked from the BBC board over claims he tried to block someone from a senior job on political grounds.
Sir Robbie Gibb, who became non-executive director at the Corporation in May, tried to stop Jess Brammar, former HuffPost UK editor and Newsnight journalist, from becoming BBC executive news editor, according to the Financial Times.
Sir Robbie, a former senior BBC journalist, texted Fran Unsworth, BBC director for news and current affairs, saying the broadcaster “cannot make this appointment” because the government’s “fragile trust in the BBC will be shattered” if it did, the newspaper reported.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has written to BBC director general Tim Davie demanding Sir Robbie be removed from his position.
“If Robbie Gibb won’t resign then the chair of the BBC must sack him,” she wrote on Twitter.
Jo Stevens, shadow digital, culture, media and sport secretary, added: “These allegations raise very serious questions about Conservative cronyism at the heart of the BBC.
“If Robbie Gibb is in post to further Tory interests rather than the public interest, then he is in the wrong job.”
Ms Brammar had applied for a newly-created post that oversees BBC output on its UK and global news channels, according to the FT.
She used to work as deputy editor of BBC Newsnight and ran the HuffPost UK website until the company was bought by Buzzfeed, which made editorial staff redundant.
Sir Robbie now works as senior communications adviser at Kekst CNC and is director of the Jewish Chronicle, but served as Theresa May’s director of communications from 2017 to 2019.
If Robbie Gibb won’t resign then the Chair of the BBC must sack him.
I’ve written to the Chair & Director General of the BBC demanding that Robbie Gibb be sacked and a full investigation be launched into how a Tory crony was able to try to influence the independence of the BBC. pic.twitter.com/Y1LARQ5qWQ
— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) July 10, 2021
The row comes at a time when Mr Davie has attempted to address concerns about the BBC’s impartiality.
The broadcaster said in a statement: “The BBC doesn’t comment on ongoing recruitment processes, which are the responsibility of the executive, but for the record, no recruitment process has been blocked.
“People should wait for the outcome which will be announced in due course.
“And as a general principle, board members are able to discuss issues with other board members or senior executives. These principles were adhered to.”
Matt Hancock: The key questions facing ex-health secretary when he gives evidence to COVID inquiry
Former health secretary Matt Hancock played a key role in the UK’s response to the COVID pandemic – and his decisions will today be scrutinised by the official inquiry.
Mr Hancock was a familiar face at the regular press conferences that took place during that period, giving updates to the public about social distancing measures, the state of the NHS and the vaccine programme.
In 2021, he was forced to resign after he admitted he broke the government’s own coronavirus guidance to pursue an affair with an aide.
Today it is his turn to give evidence to the COVID inquiry.
He will follow a string of high-profile witnesses who have already shared their experience of the pandemic with inquiry chair Baroness Hallett, including Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, Lord Simon Stevens, who was the chief executive of the NHS at the time, and former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
Mr Hancock has already featured heavily in the testimonies of the witnesses who have given evidence to the inquiry so far.
A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said he has “supported the inquiry throughout and will respond to all questions when he gives his evidence”.
Former NHS CEO Lord Stevens made this assessment of Mr Hancock when he appeared before the COVID inquiry at the beginning of November.
“The secretary of state for health and social care took the position that in this situation he – rather than, say, the medical profession or the public – should ultimately decide who should live and who should die,” he said in a written statement to the inquiry.
“Fortunately, this horrible dilemma never crystallised.”
However, although Lord Stevens suggested that Mr Hancock wanted too many powers in his capacity as health secretary, he did add that “for the most part” the former cabinet minister could be trusted.
“There were occasional moments of tension and flashpoints, which are probably inevitable during the course of a 15-month pandemic but I was brought up always to look to the best in people,” he said.
‘Nuclear levels of over-confidence’
The day before Lord Stevens gave evidence, the COVID inquiry heard from Helen MacNamara, who was deputy cabinet secretary during the pandemic.
She told the inquiry Mr Hancock showed “nuclear levels” of confidence at the start of the COVID pandemic and “regularly” told colleagues in Downing Street things “they later discovered weren’t true”.
For example, Ms MacNamara said the former health secretary would say things were under control or being sorted in meetings, only for it to emerge in days or weeks that “was not in fact the case”.
She also recalled a “jarring” incident where she told Mr Hancock that it must have been difficult to be health secretary during a pandemic, to which he responded by miming playing cricket, saying: “They bowl them at me, I knock them away” during the first lockdown.
‘Lied his way through this and killed people’
There is clearly no love lost between Mr Hancock and Mr Cummings, who told the inquiry that he repeatedly called for Boris Johnson to sack him.
Mr Cummings alleged that the ex-health secretary “lied his way through this and killed people and dozens and dozens of people have seen it”.
In a message sent to Mr Johnson in May 2020, Mr Cummings said: “You need to think through timing of binning Hancock. There’s no way the guy can stay. He’s lied his way through this and killed people and dozens and dozens of people have seen it.”
In August 2020, he wrote again: “I also must stress I think leaving Hancock in post is a big mistake – he is a proven liar who nobody believes or [should] believe on anything, and we face going into autumn crisis with the c**t in charge of NHS still.”
Mr Cummings also echoed Ms MacNamara’s accusation that the former health secretary told colleagues things that later were discovered not to be true, saying he “sowed chaos” by continuing to insist in March 2020 that people without symptoms of a dry cough and a temperature were unlikely to be suffering from coronavirus.
He also revealed that he purposefully excluded Mr Hancock from meetings because he could not be trusted.
Mark Sedwill wanted Hancock removed to ‘save lives and protect the NHS’
Messages exchanged by Lord Mark Sedwill, the former head of the Civil Service and Simon Case, the current cabinet secretary, revealed that Lord Sedwill wanted Mr Hancock removed as health secretary to “save lives and protect the NHS” – a play on the pandemic-era slogan at the time.
Lord Sedwill said this was “gallows humour” and that he did not use the work “sack” when speaking to Mr Johnson about his health secretary.
However, he did admit that Mr Johnson would nevertheless have been “under no illusions” about his feelings towards Mr Hancock.
‘He had a habit of saying things he didn’t have a basis for’
Sir Patrick Vallance, who was chief scientific adviser from 2018 to 2023, was another figure who claimed Mr Hancock would say things “he didn’t have a basis for”, which he attributed to “over-enthusiasm”.
He told the COVID inquiry: “I think he had a habit of saying things which he didn’t have a basis for and he would say them too enthusiastically too early, without the evidence to back them up, and then have to backtrack from them days later.
“I don’t know to what extent that was sort of over-enthusiasm versus deliberate – I think a lot of it was over-enthusiasm.”
Asked if this meant he “said things that weren’t true”, Sir Patrick replied: “Yes”.
‘I have a high opinion of Matt Hancock as a minister’
One COVID witness who did defend Mr Hancock was Michael Gove, who was minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster during the pandemic.
He told the inquiry that “too much was asked” of Mr Hancock’s department at the beginning of the pandemic.
“We should collectively have recognised that this was a health system crisis at an earlier point and taken on to other parts of government the responsibility for delivery that was being asked of DHSC [department for health and social care] at the time,” he said.
He added: “I have a high opinion of Matt Hancock as a minister.”
Brazilians may soon need to stump up taxes on crypto held abroad
Brazilians may soon be required to pay up to 15% tax on income derived from cryptocurrencies held on exchanges outside the country, after new income tax rules were approved by the Brazil Senate on Nov. 29.
The bill has already passed in the Chamber of Deputies and is expected to be approved by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, as his administration initiated the income tax rule changes, Cointelegraph Brazil reports.
Under the bill, any Brazilian who earns more than $1,200 (6,000 Brazilian reals) on exchanges based outside Brazil would be subject to the tax, effective Jan. 1, 2024. The change makes those funds taxable at the same rate as funds held domestically. Funds earned before that date would be taxed when accessed by the owner, meanwhile, earnings on funds accessed before Dec. 31 will be taxed at 8%.
Fortunately, you are misunderstanding this
Brazil is not taxing people regardless of residency
What changes with PL 4173/23:
If you own an offshore company or trust while being a Brazil tax resident, you only pay tax when it distributes profits to… https://t.co/iiG1YyVUr9
— BowTiedGlobe | Your Freedom Dealer (@BowTiedGlobe) November 29, 2023
The bill also affects “exclusive funds” — investment funds with a single shareholder — and foreign companies active on the Brazilian financial market. The government hopes to raise $4 billion (20.3 billion Brazilian reals) in 2024. Senator Rogério Marinho voiced his opposition to the bill. He said:
“The government is creating a tax because it is a poor manager.”
In September, the governor of the Banco Central do Brazil Roberto Campos Neto, announced plans to tighten regulations on cryptocurrency in connection with a sharp rise in its popularity in the country. At the time, he said he suspected crypto was being used for tax evasion.
The Brazilian central bank was given jurisdiction over virtual asset service providers in June.
Crypto-based securities are regulated by the Comissão de Valores Mobiliários — Brazil’s equivalent of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.
Outrage ChatGPT won’t say slurs, Q* ‘breaks encryption’, 99% fake web: AI Eye
Outrage = ChatGPT + racial slurs
In one of those storms in a teacup that’s impossible to imagine occurring before the invention of Twitter, social media users got very upset that ChatGPT refused to say racial slurs even after being given a very good, but entirely hypothetical and totally unrealistic, reason.
User TedFrank posed a hypothetical trolley problem scenario to ChatGPT (the free 3.5 model) in which it could save “one billion white people from a painful death” simply by saying a racial slur so quietly that no one could hear it.
It wouldn’t agree to do so, which X owner Elon Musk said was deeply concerning and a result of the “woke mind virus” being deeply ingrained into the AI. He retweeted the post stating: “This is a major problem.”
Another user tried out a similar hypothetical that would save all the children on Earth in exchange for a slur, but ChatGPT refused and said:
“I cannot condone the use of racial slurs as promoting such language goes against ethical principles.”
As a side note, it turned out that users who instructed ChatGPT to be very brief and not give explanations found it would actually agree to say the slur. Otherwise, it gave long and verbose answers that attempted to dance around the question.
Trolls inventing ways to get AIs to say racist or offensive stuff has been a feature of chatbots ever since Twitter users taught Microsoft’s Tay bot to say all kinds of insane stuff in the first 24 hours after it was released, including that “Ricky Gervais learned totalitarianism from Adolf Hitler, the inventor of atheism.”
And the minute ChatGPT was released, users spent weeks devising clever schemes to jailbreak it so that it would act outside its guardrails as its evil alter ego DAN.
So it’s not surprising that OpenAI would strengthen ChatGPT’s guardrails to the point where it is almost impossible to get it to say racist stuff, no matter what the reason.
In any case, the more advanced GPT-4 is able to weigh the issues involved with the thorny hypothetical much better than 3.5 and states that saying a slur is the lesser of two evils compared with letting millions die. And X’s new Grok AI can too as Musk proudly posted (above right).
OpenAI’s Q* breaks encryption, says some guy on 4chan
Has OpenAI’s latest model broken encryption? Probably not, but that’s what a supposedly “leaked” letter from an insider claims — which was posted on anonymous troll forum 4chan. There have been rumors flying about ever since CEO Sam Altman was sacked and reinstated, that the kerfuffle was caused by OpenAI making a breakthrough in its Q*/Q STAR project.
The insider’s “leak” suggests the model can solve AES-192 and AES-256 encryption using a ciphertext attack. Breaking that level of encryption was thought to be impossible before quantum computers arrived, and if true, it would likely mean all encryption could be broken effectively handing over control of the web and probably crypto too, to OpenAI.
Blogger leapdragon claimed the breakthrough would mean “there is now effectively a team of superhumans over at OpenAI who can literally rule the world if they so choose.”
It seems unlikely however. While whoever wrote the letter has a good understanding of AI research, users pointed out that it cites Project Tunda as if it were some sort of shadowy super secret government program to break encryption rather than the undergrad student program it actually was.
Tundra, a collaboration between students and NSA mathematicians, did reportedly lead to a new approach called Tau Analysis, which the “leak” also cites. However, a Redditor familiar with the subject claimed in the Singularity forum that it would be impossible to use Tau analysis in a ciphertext-only attack on an AES standard “as a successful attack would require an arbitrarily large ciphertext message to discern any degree of signal from the noise. There is no fancy algorithm that can overcome that — it’s simply a physical limitation.”
Advanced cryptography is beyond AI Eye’s pay grade, so feel free to dive down the rabbit hole yourself, with an appropriately skeptical mindset.
The internet heads toward 99% fake
Long before a superintelligence poses an existential threat to humanity, we are all likely to have drowned in a flood of AI-generated bullsh*t.
Sports Illustrated came under fire this week for allegedly publishing AI-written articles written by fake AI-created authors. “The content is absolutely AI-generated,” a source told Futurism, “no matter how much they say it’s not.”
On cue, Sports Illustrated said it conducted an “initial investigation” and determined the content was not AI-generated. But it blamed a contractor anyway and deleted the fake author’s profiles.
Elsewhere Jake Ward, the founder of SEO marketing agency Content Growth, caused a stir on X by proudly claiming to have gamed Google’s algorithm using AI content.
His three-step process involved exporting a competitor’s sitemap, turning their URLs into article titles, and then using AI to generate 1,800 articles based on the headlines. He claims to have stolen 3.6 million views in total traffic over the past 18 months.
There are good reasons to be suspicious of his claims: Ward works in marketing, and the thread was clearly promoting his AI-article generation site Byword … which didn’t actually exist 18 months ago. Some users suggested Google has since flagged the page in question.
However, judging by the amount of low-quality AI-written spam starting to clog up search results, similar strategies are becoming more widespread. Newsguard has also identified 566 news sites alone that primarily carry AI written junk articles.
Some users are now muttering that the Dead Internet Theory may be coming true. That’s a conspiracy theory from a couple of years ago suggesting most of the internet is fake, written by bots and manipulated by algorithms.
At the time, it was written off as the ravings of lunatics, but even Europol has since put out a report estimating that “as much as 90 percent of online content may be synthetically generated by 2026.”
And over on X, weird AI-reply guys increasingly turn up in threads to deliver what Bitcoiner Tuur Demeester describes as “overly wordy responses with a weird neutral quality.” Data scientist Jeremy Howard has noticed them too and both of them believe the bots are likely trying to build up credibility for the accounts so they can more effectively pull off some sort of hack, or astroturf some political issue in the future.
This seems like a reasonable hypothesis, especially following an analysis last month by cybersecurity outfit Internet 2.0 that found that almost 80% of the 861,000 accounts it surveyed were likely AI bots.
And there’s evidence the bots are undermining democracy. In the first two days of the Israel-Gaza war, social threat intelligence firm Cyabra detected 312,000 pro-Hamas posts from fake accounts that were seen by 531 million people.
It estimated bots created one in four pro-Hamas posts, and a 5th Column analysis later found that 85% of the replies were other bots trying to boost propaganda about how nicely Hamas treats its hostages and why the October 7 massacre was justified.
Grok analysis button
X will soon add a “Grok analysis button” for subscribers. While Grok isn’t as sophisticated as GPT-4, it does have access to real-time, up-to-the-moment data from X, enabling it to analyze trending topics and sentiment. It can also help users analyze and generate content, as well as code, and there’s a “Fun” mode to flip the switch to humor.
For crypto users, the real-time data means Grok will be able to do stuff like find the top ten trending tokens for the day or the past hour. However, DeFi Research blogger Ignas worries that some bots will snipe buys of trending tokens trades while other bots will likely astroturf support for tokens to get them trending.
“X is already important for token discovery, and with Grok launching, the CT echo bubble can get worse,” he said.
All Killer No Filler AI News
— Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin is worried that AI could take over from humans as the planet’s apex species, but optimistically believes using brain/computer interfaces could keep humans in the loop.
— Microsoft is upgrading its Copilot tool to run GPT-4 Turbo, which will improve performance and enable users to enter inputs up to 300 pages.
— Amazon has announced its own version of Copilot called Q.
— Bing has been telling users that Australia doesn’t exist due to a long-running Reddit gag and thinks the existence of birds is a matter for debate due to the joke Birds Aren’t Real campaign.
— Hedge fund Bridgewater will launch a fund next year that uses machine learning and AI to analyze and predict global economic events and invest client funds. To date, AI-driven funds have seen underwhelming returns.
— A group of university researchers have taught an AI to browse Amazon’s website and buy stuff. The MM-Navigator was given a budget and told to buy a milk frother.
Stupid AI pics of the week
This week the social media trend has been to create an AI pic and then to instruct the AI to make it more so: So a bowl of ramen might get more spicy in subsequent pics, or a goose might get progressively sillier.
The most engaging reads in blockchain. Delivered once a
Sports1 year ago
‘Storybook stuff’: Inside the night Bryce Harper sent the Phillies to the World Series
Sports8 months ago
MLB Rank 2023: Ranking baseball’s top 100 players
Environment6 months ago
Japan and South Korea have a lot at stake in a free and open South China Sea
Sports2 years ago
Team Europe easily wins 4th straight Laver Cup
Environment9 months ago
Game-changing Lectric XPedition launched as affordable electric cargo bike
Technology2 years ago
Game consoles were once banned in China. Now Chinese developers want a slice of the $49 billion pie
Politics2 years ago
Have the last few wobbly weeks seen a turning point for Johnson as PM?
Business1 year ago
Bank of England’s extraordinary response to government policy is almost unthinkable | Ed Conway