Instead of Blaming Facebook for Our Problems, We Should Look Inward

Since a whistleblower went public with details about how Facebook chose to ignore various findings about the deleterious effects of its websites, various criticisms of the social-media pioneer have been in the news. In particular, Facebook’s detractors argue that its algorithms tend to show users misleading and inaccurate information, as well as messages that harm children’s self-esteem. Francis Nataf suggests that Facebook might not really be the problem:

The cries for more responsibility are all aimed at government or industry. Yet as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (whose first yahrzeit we are now marking) repeatedly pointed out, in a liberal state, these institutions are not primarily designed to promote morality or to enforce it. Of course, they have a role to play: industry should understand that the legitimate desire for profits does not make everything legitimate; and government needs to support whatever basic moral consensus still exists. But as Sacks wrote in his last major book, aptly titled Morality, morality’s home is primarily in the third sector—voluntary communities that are formed around tighter and more rigorous definitions of what we should be doing to maximize who we are as human beings.

Drawing on a verse from Proverbs, and a rabbinic commentary thereon, Nataf adds that algorithms

don’t make up anything on their own. Their output—like the reflection of our face in the water—is completely responsive to our input. In this respect, then, the blame society is aiming at social-media algorithms is like throwing a rock at the water reflecting the ugliness of our own face.

For if we are allowing ourselves to wallow in partisan hate and never looking at the other side, it means that on some level this is what we prefer. If we are willing to read things of questionable reliability, it means that this is what we want. If we let ourselves be drawn to the bizarre, the silly, and the sexually enticing, this too is what we are ultimately choosing. As in real life, knowing that any of these practices is not optimal is not the same as deciding to live otherwise. No doubt, others, including Mark Zuckerberg, have a part in the blame. But what about ourselves?

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Facebook, Jonathan Sacks, Judaism, Morality, Social media

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security