Hashtag Trending Sep.29-Meta announces new chatbot with “personality”; Reddit to force users to see personalized ads; X disables feature to report electoral misinformation

Meta announces new chatbot with personality, Reddit starts forcing users to see personalized ads, X scraps feature to report electoral misinformation and Google asks its chatbot to take a deep breath to do better at Math.

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These stories and a lot more as we bring you the top tech news on today’s Hashtag Trending.  

I’m your host James Roy. Happy Friday!

Meta is the newest competitor in the chatbot arms race. The company announced a series of new chatbots, which it says, have personality.

To be used in its Messenger service, the chatbots will specialize in certain subjects like holidays and cooking.

The main chatbot will be called Meta AI and can be asked to settle arguments or answer queries.

But Zuckerberg affirmed, “This isn’t just going to be about answering queries. This is about entertainment”.

According to Meta, NFL star Tom Brady will play an AI character called ‘Bru’, “a wisecracking sports debater” and YouTube star MrBeast will play ‘Zach’, a big brother “who will roast you”.

There were still “a lot of limitations” around what the bots could answer.

Meta AI has been trained on public Facebook and Instagram posts, but the company’s top policy executive, Nick Clegg told Reuters that the training excluded private posts shared only with family and friends in a bid to respect consumer’s privacy.

Reportedly, the company also did not use private chats from its messaging platforms as training data and took steps to filter private details from public datasets.

Clegg cited LinkedIn as an example of a website whose content Meta deliberately chose not to use because of privacy concerns.

Meta’s chatbots will be rolled out in the coming days and only in the U.S. initially.

Source: BBC, Reuters

Reddit announced that users will be unable to opt out of activity-based ads, meaning that they’ll be forced to see personalized ads, except in some unspecified countries.

The company indicated that advertisers will be able to target users based on “what communities you join, leave, upvotes, downvotes, and other signals.

 However,  Reddit also announced changes that will, in fact, enable users to limit certain types of ads from appearing.

For instance, opt-out buttons for “sensitive advertising categories” including Alcohol, Dating, Gambling, Pregnancy & Parenting, and Weight Loss, will be available.

But, with the new updates, users are still wary of possible changes in the company’s data collection policies.

The company clarified that this update does not change how the platform collects or shares data and that it does not share user information or activity with third parties for advertising outside Reddit.

The update is expected to take effect in the next few days.

Source: Engadget

Epic Games, the maker of  the wildly popular video game Fortnite, announced that it is cutting 870 jobs or 16 per cent of its workforce.

In a memo to staff, Epic said it had tried to cut costs but was still spending way more money than it earns, and concluded layoffs were the only way to stabilize finances.

The layoffs, the company said, were outside of core development and core lines of businesses. 

Epic has offices around the world but it is not yet known where the job cuts will fall. 

The company is also selling Bandcamp, the online music site it acquired just last year.

Source: BBC News

Cloudflare announced that it is collaborating with Meta. 

Under this partnership, Meta’s Llama 2 open source large language model (LLM) available to developers building AI applications on Cloudflare’s developer platform called Workers.

Matthew Prince, CEO and co-founder of Cloudflare said, “Giving every developer access to Llama 2, one of the most robust LLMs to date, no configuration required, is going to propel generative AI forward in ways we’ve only imagined so far.”

Meta’s release of Llama 2 did represent a major shift in how it allowed developers to access LLMs. 

However, the challenge of accessing and managing the infrastructure to run the LLM remained.

And that’s where Cloudflare comes into play. So in that case, the company’s hyper-distributed edge network will enable developers anywhere to build applications with Llama  And with its Data Localization Suite, they will be able to do this while controlling where their data is handled.

The company also touts a privacy-first approach to application development, ensuring that customers’ data is not being used for training or improving the LLM.

Source: Business Wire

Over the past week, reports have poured in that X, formerly Twitter, is not doing the best job at managing soaring information pollution or foreign propaganda on the platform.

Researchers in Australia have now revealed that X has disabled a feature that lets users report misinformation about elections.

The feature, which allowed users to select “Report Content”, then “It’s misleading”, and then “Politics”, had reportedly been removed in recent weeks, except in the European Union. 

In the EU, only Spain had the feature. But now it’s available to the whole EU albeit slightly differently, allowing users to report a post for “Negative effects on civic disorders or elections”.

Users can still report posts that they consider to be hateful, abusive or spam.

But alarms are flaring that the removal of this feature will further contribute to misinformation, especially ahead of the 2024 US presidential elections.

Source: BBC News 

Math’s been a real torment for large language models. Turns out all they needed was some good old human style encouragement in the likes of “take a deep breath” and “think step by step”

Google DeepMind researchers developed a prompting technique to improve math ability, sidestepping the limitations of traditional math-based optimizers and instead using natural language to guide LLMs in problem-solving.

Previous research has shown that prefixing a math problem with phrases like “let’s think step by step” prompted each AI model to produce more accurate results.

But DeepMind, found the most effective prefix to be, “Take a deep breath and work on this problem step by step” when used with Google’s PaLM 2 language model.

How’s that possible? The models do not have lungs to take breaths and they do not reason like us.

Those prompting phrases may, in fact, help the LLM tap into better answers or produce better examples of reasoning or problem-solving from the data set it absorbed into its neural network during training.

DeepMind researchers say that the biggest win for the prompting technique is its ability to sift through many possible prompts to find the one that gives the best results for a specific problem. This could allow people to produce far more useful or accurate results from LLMs in the future.

Source: Ars Technica

That’s the top tech news stories for today.  Hashtag Trending goes to air 5 days a week with a special weekend interview show we call “the Weekend Edition.”

You can get us anywhere you get audio podcasts and there is a copy of the show notes at itworldcanada.com/podcasts where you can find links and more.

If you want to catch up on these and other news quickly, you can read these stories and more at TechNewsDay.com and ITWorldCanada.com on the home page.

I’m your host, James Roy. Have a Fantastic Friday!

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