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This Week: March 15

Photo credit: Helen Quach

By Jack Garland and Lucy Netchvolodoff

April 1, 2024 6:41 p.m.

The AI Act passes the European Parliament. A bill to ban TikTok passes the House. Podcasts contributor Lucy Netchvolodoff and Podcasts Editor Jack Garland discuss these stories and more. News Editor Catherine Hamilton joins the show.

Jack Garland: Today is Friday, March 15. And you are listening to “This Week” by Daily Bruin Podcasts. Every Friday, we bring you the biggest news from around the world and across the country and we highlight a Daily Bruin news story from the week. I’m Jack Garland and I’m the Podcasts editor.

Lucy Netchvolodoff: I’m Lucy Netchvolodoff, a Podcasts contributor for the Daily Bruin and the international correspondent here today.

Catherine Hamilton: And I’m Catherine Hamilton, the News editor.

JG: So before we get to the news, let’s talk a little bit about the Oscars. That was this past Sunday. Were you guys happy with the results or what are your thoughts?

LN: I’m happy for the most part. Don’t feel a certain way about it. But I know that some people were upset that Emma Stone won Best Actress over Lily Gladstone.

JG: Well, I wanted Emma Stone. I thought she did a great job. Lily Gladstone did too, but I was happy to see Emma Stone win it.

CH: I really enjoyed Ryan Gosling’s performance of “I’m Just Ken,” but I’m also very glad that he did not win the Oscar for that song.

JG: Another “Barbie” song won the Oscar right?

LN: Yeah, beautiful song. “What was I Made For?” It also won song of the year at the Grammys.

JG: Lucy, you’re the international correspondent. So what is the biggest international story from this past week?

LN: Yeah, so this week, the EU passed the world’s first set of major regulatory rules to govern AI. It’s called the EU AI Act. The EU actually first brokered a consensus on the bill in December, but the bill was endorsed and the parliament’s Wednesday session for the first time with 523 votes in favor, 46 against and 49 votes not cast. So the Act categorizes technology based on risk levels ranging from unacceptable, which would result in that technology getting banned to high, medium and low hazard levels with the lowest hazard level meaning that the technology doesn’t need any regulation at all. The EU is expected to begin enforcing the new bill at the end of the legislature in May after it passes final checks and receives endorsement from the European Council. Implementation will then be staggered from 2025 onward.

JG: So once this bill is in place, how will the law actually be enforced?

LN: So EU governments will be responsible for evaluating and enforcing the act on their own territories. The EU has set up an office in Brussels to oversee the implementation of the bill. So it’s done in a fair way, but it will be interesting nonetheless to see how different European governments choose to regulate. Parliamentarians also said that this bill was one of the most heavily lobbied pieces of legislation in years, but tech companies will have no choice but to comply given that the fine for violating the new rules is up to 7% of the company’s annual revenue.

JG: Does this bill have any effects in the U.S.?

LN: Yeah, so many U.S. based companies will be subject to these new laws as long as they operate in the EU. Notable companies like Microsoft and Google will have to report any serious incidents, like the harm to someone’s health or property, that come as a result of using their AI technology. The companies will also have to put cybersecurity measures in place and disclose how much energy their models use. In addition, developers of general purpose models like the popular ChatGPT will also have to provide a summary of the text, pictures, videos, and all other data on the internet they use to train their AI systems. Here in the U.S., Joe Biden signed his own executive order on AI in October, and lawmakers in at least seven U.S. states are working on their own AI legislation and they will no doubt be influenced by their EU counterparts.

JG: This bill sounds very interesting, as you said, it’s the first of its kind. But this was passed in the EU. So how will it affect UCLA students?

LN: Yeah, so this bill could signal a wave of changes to the way the entire globe regulates and uses AI, which of course will affect those of us using it or even developing it here on campus. We don’t know exactly how the passage of this bill in the EU will influence U.S. policy yet. But we can hope that this bill is the first step towards protecting truth and human integrity as we enter into this new age of artificial intelligence.

JG: Last week, we talked about the unrest in Haiti. Are there any updates with that situation?

LN: Yeah, so on Tuesday, Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry actually stepped down. Stranded in Puerto Rico, he pledged to resign from his position in a video statement. Caribbean officials have now announced the creation of a transitional council to oversee the formation of a new government in Haiti. But powerful gangs now demand a seat at the table and in deciding who will take Henry’s place. This situation is nowhere near settled.

JG: And what else is going on around the world?

LN: Sadly, gunmen in Nigeria kidnapped about 290 schoolchildren and are threatening to execute the students if the Nigerian government doesn’t pay a ransom. The school is located in the state of Kaduna, where similar mass kidnappings have occurred in recent years. The gunmen are demanding 1 billion naira, which is the equivalent of only around $600,000, and local authorities said they are doing everything possible to ensure the safe return of the students. This incident underscores the lingering instability in Africa’s most populous country.

In more uplifting news, Japanese High Court ruled that a ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. Out of the G7, which is a group of seven advanced economies, Japan is the only country that still excludes same sex couples from the right to legally marry. Support for marriage equality has grown among the Japanese public in recent years. But the governing Liberal Democratic Party, known for its conservative family values and reluctance to promote gender equality and sexual diversity remains opposed to the campaign. The court does not actually have the ability to overturn or change the law. But the LGBTQ+ community in Japan celebrated the ruling as a landmark decision that gives them hope for change towards marriage equality.

That’s all we have for international news updates this week. Jack, what’s the top story in the national news?

JG: So last week, we talked about a bill that was put forward on the House floor to ban Tiktok. And on Wednesday, that bill was voted on and it passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 350 to 65. Now, the bill still isn’t law yet. The Senate has to create a companion bill and pass it and President Biden will need to sign it. It does seem like many in the Senate are on board with the idea. And President Joe Biden has said that if the legislation appears on his desk, he will in fact sign it into law.

LN: Can you remind our listeners what the bill actually says?

JG: Yeah, so the bill is not an outright ban, it would require TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, which is a Chinese company, to sell TikTok within six months or face a ban in U.S. app stores. If TikTok is eventually banned, it would not be removed from devices, but it would prevent new downloads, and it would prevent software updates for people who already have the app. In light of the House passing the bill, former Treasury Secretary Steve Minuchin went on CNBC and announced that he’s assembling a group of investors with plans to buy TikTok.

LN: So why do members of Congress want ByteDance to sell off TikTok?

JG: In short, for national security concerns. The Chinese government can compel Chinese companies to assist them in intelligence gathering. And there are about 170 million TikTok users in the U.S.. So members of Congress are concerned that the Chinese government could get their hands on the data of millions of Americans. And this data would include users’ locations and their activity on the app. It’s important to note that even if this bill becomes law, it would likely get taken to court immediately, which would delay its implementation.

LN: What’s the Bruin angle here? Why should UCLA students care?

JG: This bill is significant to UCLA students for two main reasons. One is obvious. If the ban goes into effect, students would no longer be able to download or update TikTok. And a lot of people use the app to destress and relax and some even use it to promote a business. The other impact is the national security side. This bill makes us think about online privacy. And if we’re comfortable with a foreign government having access to our personal data, especially for an app like TikTok, which so closely tracks our interests and behaviors. We’re all familiar with the TikTok algorithm. It knows exactly what we want.

LN: Thanks. So what else is going on across the country?

JG: President Biden delivered his State of the Union address last Thursday. He gave what many are calling a fiery and very political speech, often drawing comparisons between himself and his familiar rival former President Donald Trump, who he referred to in his speech simply as my predecessor.

LN: Did he end up announcing the creation of a sea port to deliver aid to Gazans like we mentioned in last week’s episode?

JG: Yes, he did. He announced the sea port and an aid ship carrying 200 tons of food left for Gaza earlier this week. And it’s set to arrive any day.

LN: Any other important news that we should know?

JG: Yeah. So on Monday, President Biden announced his 2025 budget, which totals $7.3 trillion. Much of the proposal has no chance of passing the Republican-led house, but the budget represents the President’s vision for a second term. And I’ll certainly point to elements of it while on the campaign trail. The budget aims to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations. And it outlines plans to address childcare, climate change and housing.

And that’s a wrap for national news updates for this week. So now we turn to Catherine for the Daily Bruin News update of the week.

CH: I have some very exciting news to share for this week. UCLA dining announced yesterday that it will be continuing its off campus meal plan pilot program through spring quarter. It began fall quarter for a limited number of weeks and continued through winter quarter.

JG: And is anyone living off campus eligible for this program?

CH: No, only students living in UCLA off campus apartments can apply for the program. They will be purchasing 77 swipes at the upfront cost of $1,155. And the plan will only be given to the first 500 students who sign up.

JG: And where can students use their swipes?

CH: They can only use the swipes at dining locations on the Hill, including food trucks and dining halls. But they are not allowed to purchase food using the swipes at ASUCLA locations including Epic.

JG: Thanks for that update, Catherine.

CH: Thanks for having me.

LN: Thanks for listening to today’s episode of this week. We’ll be back next quarter with more.

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