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February 17, 2022 T&S Newsletter

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T&S Early Warning News

Get ahead of new stories that are impacting the T&S industry.

Repeated rape threats’: Sexual violence and racist abuse in the metaverse

Independent | Feb 16, 2022

Company Listed: Meta Facebook

Sexual harassment exists in all walks of life and the 3D virtual reality simulation that is the metaverse is no exception. However, experts warn the immersive, all-consuming nature of virtual reality means sexual violence has even worse repercussions than harassment in other digital landscapes.

Nina Jane Patel, a psychotherapist who conducts research on the metaverse, has first-hand experience of sexual violence in the virtual environment. The 43-year-old mother-of-four recently revealed her “surreal nightmare” of being “gang raped” in virtual reality.

“You are literally stepping into a 360-degree digital environment,” Patel tells The Independent. “Because virtual reality has been designed to be as real as possible, it is similar to inviting someone into your living room, so the violation feels more acute than it would feel on a social media platform.”

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Facebook suspends Powerhouse Science Center’s social media account

The Durango Herald | Feb 16, 2022

Company Listed: Facebook Meta

Hours before the Powerhouse Science Center was scheduled to host a presentation about COVID-19 on Tuesday on Facebook, the nonprofit realized its social media account had been suspended.

Executive Director Jeff Susor said Facebook suspended the page based on reports that the Powerhouse was in violation of Facebook’s policies that prevent spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

The Powerhouse was scheduled to present the last of a three-part series about the virus, vaccines and misinformation surrounding the pandemic. The third session, about the current state of COVID-19, was going to feature Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health, which serves La Plata and Archuleta counties.

Susor said a small but vocal minority of people have been hounding the Powerhouse over its COVID-19 presentations. He said he has received emails – all from the same group of half a dozen people – saying that Susor and Powerhouse staff members “don’t know what science is.”

“‘You don’t understand that the COVID vaccine is killing tens of thousands of kids,’” Susor said, summarizing the messages he’s been receiving.

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Official Olympic coverage tells us who wins. TikTok tells us everything else.

The Washington Post | Feb 17, 2022

Company Listed: TikTok

The judges at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing score ice dancing pairs based on difficulty, execution and artistry. But 34-year-old TikTok user Dani Mahrer is mostly interested in whether the athletes are in love with each other.

They’re not making a lot of eye contact,” the account manager at a renewable energy company in Los Angeles comments over one clip of U.S. pair Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue performing their rhythm dance program. “Perhaps that’s because it’s just too much.”

TikTok, a Chinese social media app that shot to popularity in the United States in 2018, earned a reputation as the place for behind-the-scenes Olympic content during the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo. Now, at the Winter Olympics, viewers are flocking to watch less polished videos on the social media platform, whether that’s athletes getting their daily throat swabs for covid, robots disinfecting hallways or facial recognition technology able to identify athletes with their masks on. TikTok has plenty of glimpses into life at the Olympics — along with some weirder content from athletes and audiences.

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Online Harassment, Real Harm: Fixing the Web's Biggest Bug

US News | Feb 16, 2022

Company Listed: Social Media

It should have been a time of celebration: Brittan Heller would soon graduate from college and head to one of the nation's top law programs. But when a classmate with unrequited feelings for Heller wasn't admitted to that same school, he turned his rage on her. He wrote a manifesto titled “A Stupid B---h to Attend Yale Law School” and posted it on a site popular with anonymous trolls. The man urged them to do their worst.

Soon strangers were making derogatory, sexualized comments and posting her pictures online. They made threats. Posted her personal information. At one point, FBI agents escorted Heller to class for her protection.

“People say, ‘Oh, just log off. Don’t read it. Turn off the computer,’” said Heller, who turned her personal experience from 15 years ago into a legal specialty as a leading expert on online harassment. “This the 21st century, and people have a right to use the internet for work, for pleasure or to express themselves. Telling people not to read the comments is no longer enough. We don’t talk enough about this problem, and we need to.”

Online harassment has become such a familiar part of the internet that it can be hard to imagine the web without it. From teen cyberbullying to authoritarian governments silencing dissent, online toxicity is a fact of life for everyone, with women, teens and religious and racial minorities the most likely to be targeted.

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T&S Policies & Regulations

Regulatory news and policy decisions impacting the T&S ecosystem.

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Senators introduce bill to limit harmful effects of social media on young people

ABC News | Feb 16, 2022

Company Listed: Social Media

Legislators on Wednesday introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting children from the potentially harmful impacts of social media.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., came as Congress held five hearings on the dangers of social media for children and teens aged 16 or younger in recent months, including one at which a whistleblower who testified against Facebook -- now Meta -- about internalized documents that showed the tech giant prioritized profits over the mental well-being of children.

While the senators would not comment on the likelihood of the bill passing, they emphasized during a press conference on Wednesday that there is bipartisan support for it in the House and the Senate.

What we're doing in this bill is empowering those children and their parents to take back control," Blumenthal said. The social media platforms have proven they are not going to regulate themselves. Because of that, we have put the effort into how do we make certain that this is a safer environment," Blackburn said Wednesday.

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US Lawmakers Propose Bill To Impose Platform Content Moderation

PYMTNS | February 16, 2022

For the last few years, and after numerous events that showed the potential harmful effects that content posted on social-media platforms can have on individuals and communities, regulators around the world have been turning the spotlight on how to make sure that Meta, TikTok, Twitter and others step up their content moderation efforts.

The testimony of France Haugen against Facebook, who revealed how the company tolerated certain content even if there was evidence of the harmful effect on teenagers, was probably the trigger for policymakers to start drafting or concluding legislation.

Europe recently approved the Digital Service Act (DSA) that will hold Big Tech companies accountable for the illegal content posted in their platforms — they will be required to put in place mechanisms to ensure the content is removed in a timely fashion. Even content considered legal, but harmful, should be quickly removed.

The U.K. is also proposing new legislation, the Online Safety Bill, with similar requirements to the European DSA, but adding new criminal offences to the bill to ensure that companies do their best to guarantee that harmful content is removed.

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Georgia bill’s supporters say it targets discrimination by social media companies | Feb 16, 2022

Company Listed: Facebook Meta, Twitter

A Georgia Senate panel Tuesday passed a bill that would allow people to sue social media companies if their posts are removed or altered because of the views they express.

Supporters say Senate Bill 393 would prevent Facebook, Twitter and other companies from censoring conservative political views — a common complaint of Republicans at a time when social media platforms have deleted thousands of false or misleading posts about election fraud, COVID-19 vaccines and other topics.

Critics say the bill would make it harder for social media companies to police harmful content such as bullying, racism, hate speech and spam.

The bill, its supporters say, would treat the platforms like telephone companies, railroads and other “common carriers” whose services are so vital that they should be limited in their ability to discriminate against customers. They said the companies would still be able to ban pornography and other unlawful content.