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Zuckerberg sees ‘progress’ for Facebook after tumultuous year

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Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said Friday the world’s biggest social network has “fundamentally” changed to focus on securing its systems against manipulation and misinformation.

Capping a tumultuous year marked by data protection scandals and government probes, Zuckerberg said he was “proud of the progress we’ve made” in addressing Facebook’s problems.

“For 2018, my personal challenge has been to focus on addressing some of the most important issues facing our community — whether that’s preventing election interference, stopping the spread of hate speech and misinformation, making sure people have control of their information, and ensuring our services improve people’s well-being,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“We’re a very different company today than we were in 2016, or even a year ago. We’ve fundamentally altered our DNA to focus more on preventing harm in all our services, and we’ve systematically shifted a large portion of our company to work on preventing harm.”

He said Facebook now has more than 30,000 people “working on safety” and invests billions of dollars in security.

Zuckerberg’s comments come at the close of a year when Facebook was roiled by revelations about the misuse of personal data by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 U.S. election and on data sharing with business partners.

But he said the questions around Facebook are “more than a one-year challenge” and that the California giant was in the process of “multi-year plans to overhaul our systems.”

“In the past we didn’t focus as much on these issues as we needed to, but we’re now much more proactive,” he said.

The comments follow a message from Zuckerberg in January, before many of Facebook’s troubles emerged, when he outlined his goals of stemming abuse and hate and foreign interference, among other things, on the network used by more than two billion people.

“My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues,” Zuckerberg said in January.

In Friday’s message, Zuckerberg enumerated a series of steps taken over the past year, including fact-checking partnerships, advertising transparency and artificial intelligence to remove harmful content.

He added that Facebook’s systems were also being retooled with the aim of helping “improve people’s well-being,” based on research it conducted.

The research, he said, “found that when people use the internet to interact with others, that’s associated with all the positive aspects of well-being… But when you just use the internet to consume content passively, that’s not associated with those same positive effects.”

One of the changes aims to reduce “viral videos” that are shared across the Facebook platform.

“These changes intentionally reduced engagement and revenue in the near term, although we believe they’ll help us build a stronger community and business over the long term,” Zuckerberg said.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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