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Sexualized Child Images “Meet Community Guidelines” on Instagram

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Instagram has come under a lot of heat, and rightly so, for not removing accounts that showed pictures of children in swimwear or partial clothing attracting loads of sexualized comments even after such accounts were reported via the in-app reporting tool. 

The above-mentioned tool allows users to flag accounts that have suspicious activity which is then reviewed by the system’s automated moderation technology, which in this case ruled such concerning accounts as “acceptable” and conforming to “community guidelines” resulting in such accounts remaining live.

An independent researcher challenged this and reported one such concerning account to Instagram using the in-app reporting tool, only to be met with a response tagged with a phrase many of us a too familiar with i.e., “due to the high volume of reports” submitted it can not view the report but the “(automated) technology has found that this account probably doesn’t go against our community guidelines”. The said account, with more than 33,000 followers remained live the whole day.

All this while Instagram’s parent company, Meta, as do other social media companies claims an approach that has zero tolerance towards child exploitation – claims that remain unsubstantiated by their actions/policies.

Instagram is not alone in failing to effectively handle this issue. Twitter has many similar accounts often known as “tribute pages”. This is evident from the example of this one account which was ruled not to be breaking twitter’s rules after being reported through the in-app reporting tool despite posting pictures of a man performing sexual acts with images of a 14-year-old TikTok underage influencer. Other tweets from the same account reading “looking to trade some younger stuff” were also seemingly not concerning enough, until it was publicly called out by a campaign group ‘Collective Shout’ at which point the account was taken down.

Should such accounts suspicious of illegal activity and clearly harmful be allowed to remain live only because they do not meet a criminal threshold, yet?

Are “Zero tolerance” claims consistent with companies allowing the content that is a threat to children to remain live despite being reported, let alone proactively moderate content?

Should the social media companies be relying on automated detections for preventing the serious risk of sexualization, harassment and exploitation of our children when such technologies have been known to have failed miserably for even keeping up with simple hate speech?

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Society

Oxfam: Billionaires $453bn richer than two years ago

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Oxfam International via Flickr.com

Oxfam is a global movement consisting of 21 independent charities that focus on global poverty. According to them, the food and energy billionaires have accumulated wealth due to the pandemic and Vladimir Putin’s war.

While the world is suffering due to inflation, new billionaires are being created every 30 hours, according to Oxfam. Moreover, the wealth of such elites is increasing by 1 billion every two days. The pandemic has helped rich people acquire as much wealth as they can as 573 new people become billionaires during the pandemic.

At the same rate that billionaires are becoming richer, nearly 263 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty which is at a rate of one person every 33 hours. The number of people living on less than $1.90 a day will be 860 million by the end of the year. All of this has been accounted for in Oxfam’s brief called “Profiting from Pain”.

Billionaires are now gathering in Davos, Switzerland in person for the first time in over two years to celebrate their wealth. After all, they have a lot to celebrate. While the poor people suffer to put food on the table, the billionaires have seen their fortunes increase as much in 24 months as they did in 23 years.

On the other hand, extreme poverty in the world has reached the highest level in over 20 years and the global community has not been able to prevent this.

One such billionaire is James Cargill II and his family that own the company, Cargill. The fortune of this family has gone up by almost $20 million USD a day during the pandemic. The family owns one of the world’s largest food companies. During the pandemic, siblings James Cargill, Austen Cargill, and Marianne Liebmann, all great-grandchildren of William Wallace Cargill joined the Bloomberg Billionaires list of the richest 500 people alive. Two of his other great-grandchildren were already on the list, Pauline Keinath, and Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer.

Now the total wealth of billionaires all over the world is equivalent to 13.9 percent of global GDP, according to the Oxfam brief.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, the UN stated that global food prices have reached a new high. According to the UN, the food price index had risen by 12.6% in March compared with February, thus, “making a giant leap to a new highest level since its inception in 1990”.

Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International stated in response to the brief, “Billionaires are arriving in Davos to celebrate an incredible surge in their fortunes. The pandemic and now the steep increases in food and energy prices have simply put, been a bonanza for them. Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive.”

Adding, “It is morally indefensible that people in east Africa are dying of hunger while the fortunes of the world’s super-rich are fuelled by skyrocketing food and energy prices.”

The solution to this problem offered by Oxfam comes in three points.

1.       An urgent pandemic excess profits tax on the world’s largest corporations

2.       Urgent one-off solidarity wealth taxes on new billionaire wealth

3.       A permanent wealth tax on the richest

Simply put, the billionaires should pay taxes just like the poor. Considering the profit that billionaires made during the pandemic, imposing a windfall tax could help people with rising energy bills. In fact, a one-off windfall tax of 99% on the wealth gains of the 10 richest men alone can make enough vaccines for the entire world, help address gender-based violence in over 80 countries, and fill financial gaps in education, social protection, and universal health.

Similarly, a permanent tax on the wealthy will help erase the inequality that is purging the world right now, by a lot. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Far-Right Extremism must also be focus of counter terrorism, say experts

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NO 10 via Flickr.com

Recent strategies from the Home Office have come under criticism after it is said that it focuses on assisting the prevent programme in tackling so called islamist extremists whilst ignoring far-right extremists. Analysts question the strategy and call for focus on far-right potential terrorism. 

Review of the Home Office’s counter-terrorism programme advocated a crackdown on Daesh inspired extremists rather than the threat of the far right. Analysts, who are Government advisers on extremism have openly questioned the direction.

Analysts noted that the most recent Prevent data reveals that the cases referred to the counter-terrorism Prevent program includes 22% of so called-Muslim extremists while 25% of the cases are of far right extremists. More than half of all referrals to the anti-radicalisation strategy are of “mixed, unstable or unclear” ideologies. 

William Shawcross carried out the review of the Prevent strategy at the instructions of the home secretary, Priti Patel.

The advisor of the government on extremism, Lewys Brace said that the Shawcross recommendations did not “reflect what’s going on at all, in any way. Mixed ideologies is where it’s all heading.”

Brace said that Shawcross is considering 2004-2007 situation but terrorism landscape has evolved significantly since then. In August 2021, Jake Davison killed five people. He expressed misogynistic views on online forums used by “incels” – men who describe themselves as “involuntarily celibate”.

“Since Plymouth they [counter-extremism officials] have been a lot more concerned about that sort of amorphous ideology,” Brace added.

Florence Keen is an expert of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation based in London. She led Home Office studies into the far right and is currently investigating misogyny and extremism. She explained that it is easier for the Prevent to define Islamic extremism than other types of extremisms.  

She said “when it comes to Islamic terrorism (a term AnalystNews disagrees with), it’s maybe easier for governments to say this is exactly what it is. With far-right ideologies it can be so broad that it often evades definition.”

Shawcross’s review says that the Prevent is currently treating “mainstream, rightwing-leaning commentary” as far-right, while Islamist propaganda is ignored.

The Home Office said, “Prevent remains a vital tool for early intervention and safeguarding. We will not allow extremists or terrorists to spread hate or sow division and Prevent remains an important driver to help divert people away from harm.”

“The review, led by William Shawcross, will ensure we continue to improve our response and better protect people from being drawn into poisonous and dangerous ideologies. The report is being finalised and, once formally received and after full consideration, the report and the government’s response to it will be published.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

‘Hero’ Rideshare Driver Refuses Passengers After Racist Comments 

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This would not be the first time an incident in a rideshare vehicle has gone viral. Back in 2017, the then Uber CEO was caught on camera having a heated argument with a driver from his own company, eventually leading to the CEO’s resignation. This time, however, a Pennsylvanian driver from the ridesharing service Lyft has reached Internet stardom after footage of him refusing to drive a couple for making racist comments went viral. 

The incident began when a woman named Jackie Harford entered the vehicle and after seeing the driver exclaim “You’re like a white guy” and then ask, “Are you, like, a white guy?” followed by “You’re like, a normal guy?” and finally “You speak English?”. The driver, James Bode, is taken aback and asks in return, “If somebody was not white, sitting in this seat, what would be the difference?” before informing the couple that he refuses to drive them and that he would be making a police complaint. The police chief of Catasauqua Police confirmed that a complaint concerning the couple had been made and that the matter is still under investigation.

What is rather ironic in this encounter is that the woman sounded relieved that a white driver showed up. In contrast, according to data on the ethnicity of Uber drivers by Statista, almost 45% of all drivers in 2020 were white making them the biggest ethnicity challenging this implied notion from Harford that white drivers are a minority demographic in the rideshare workforce.

The next biggest ethnicity was Asian drivers at just over 37%. Data for Uber is used as they hold the largest market share in the United States at approximately 70%. Even for taxi drivers in the US, the most common ethnicity in 2019 was white (non-Hispanic). Hence, against such evidence, it becomes compelling to label this as a racist incident.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Baby Formula Shortage: White House Announces it Will Try to Increase the Supply of Formula, But No Quick Relief in Sight

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After a voluntary recall of several lines of powdered formula in February, the country’s largest manufacturer of infant formula, Abbott Nutrition had to close its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, USA because of concerns about bacterial contamination after four infants became sick – of whom two died. 

The shortage has the potential to impact many children across the country. Only about a quarter of infants born in the U.S. in 2017 were fed exclusively through breastfeeding in their first six months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

On Thursday, The White House said it had taken steps to address the shortage, “including working with other infant formula manufacturers to increase production, expediting the import of infant formula from abroad, and calling on both online and in-store retailers to establish purchasing limits to prevent the possibility of hoarding.” 

The White House announced additional steps it will take to solve the issue of baby formula shortage. Listing Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands as the key sources of such imports, the administration said that in the coming days, the Food and Drug Administration will announce that the United States will begin importing more formula from these countries.

The President said that had they been “better mind readers,” they could have acted on the shortage earlier. Margaret Brennan from CBS pressed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the ongoing baby formula shortage on Sunday quoting President Biden’s comments from May 13 – “I know the president said more action is coming, but this has been ongoing for months. There were supply chain issues already, then you have issues with this one plant, Abbott. Whistleblower in September, February the recall. It’s May, why has it taken so long and why did the president on Friday seem to say it was new information to him?” 

Buttegieg replied that America was a “capitalist country” and that “the government does not make baby formula, nor should it. Companies make formula.”

“This issue has been compounded by supply chain challenges, product recalls and historic inflation,” Datasembly CEO Ben Reich said in a statement. 

White House says they’re unsure when parents could see relief. For the past three months, Chloe Banks and her husband have been struggling to buy formula for their 11-month-old son, Teddy. “It’s incredibly stressful,” she told NPR. “It’s endless, where you don’t know where your next can of formula is going to come from.”

Perhaps, the benefits of breastfeeding need to be encouraged – albeit it’s a mother’s personal choice to do so, and in many cases formula remains the only option to feed the baby, but the long-term health benefits must be emphasized for those that are capable. The government should incentivize breastfeeding, especially at the current moment whilst facing a national shortage crisis on baby formula. 

“Breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits for babies and mothers. It is the clinical gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition, with breast milk uniquely tailored to meet the health needs of a growing baby. We must do more to create supportive and safe environments for mothers who choose to breastfeed.”

Dr. Ruth Petersen, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity –

While Spain allows women medical leave who experience severe menstrual pain, in the United States women face a lot of stress returning back to work due to short-term maternity leave. The added burden on new mothers to go back into the workforce without fully bonding with their baby and the lack of healing from postpartum disorders, makes for a very regressive society – whereas European countries offer long-term maternity leave with medical benefits and mental health support. This shows how the American government is light years behind Europe’s maternity care. If a European country can progress into understanding the many challenges women face due to menstrual pain, then surely, the American government can perhaps get out of its capitalist mindset and start looking into more holistic approaches in bringing change to women’s health. 

Alas, that might take another era to resolve as right now we’re unfortunately trying to retrieve baby formula to help our babies survive.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Global Pandemic Accord Set to Extend WHO Powers during Pandemic

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Paul Kagame via Flickr.com

The World Health Assembly in which all countries of the world are invited, has “pandemic accord” on its agenda. Accord will expand the WHO’s powers in the event of a future outbreak.

A world “treaty” would give a much stronger legal binding but that may not be possible. The European Union is pushing for a treaty but the USA needs two third majority to approve such authority and the Chinese government would not allow an international agency to dictate it in any situation. 

Even if not a world treaty, an accord will be strong enough to force governments to impose domestic lockdowns or travel bans. Some have argued that lockdowns have not been shown to work in terms of death rates even based on WHO’s own figures. 

Lockdowns are not the only power, the proposal includes power like sharing of vaccines with other countries. Proposed accord is based on learning during the COVID pandemic.

Overall there are six “action tracks” set to be focused in the accord. These include healthcare systems; zoonotic outbreaks; endemic tropical diseases; food safety; antimicrobial resistance; and protecting the environment. 

Some have objected that the agenda does not include preventing the start or leak from labs or experiments or samples going wrong. These accidents can happen but the idea is to prevent a future pandemic. 

William Gates, a former software developer has written a book called “How to prevent the next pandemic”. It says that we can prevent the next pandemic by “doing all of the things that did not stop the last pandemic event, only more, faster and harder”. But even Mr Gates does allow that “regardless of how COVID started, even the remote possibility of lab-related pathogen releases should inspire governments and scientists to redouble their efforts on lab safety, creating global standards”.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Nebraska GOP Governor Threatens Total Abortion Ban if Roe V. Wade Is Overturned

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Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Nebraska governor, Pete Ricketts said on Sunday that he will call a special session to ban all abortions with no exceptions for rape and incest in case Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The draft to overturn Roe v. Wade was circulated in early February but the final document will not be published till June. 

Roe v. Wade was a famous legal case in which the US Supreme Court in 1973 ruled that “unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.” Now the abortion rights granted then are in danger. 

On Sunday, Ricketts appeared on a show on CNN “State of the Union” to share his opinion on the recent transformation happening in women’s reproductive rights in America. 

“If Roe v. Wade, which is a horrible constitutional decision, gets overturned by the Supreme Court, which we’re hopeful of, here in Nebraska, we’re going to take further steps to protect those preborn babies,” he said in the show. 

When asked, “Including in the case of rape or incest?” he replied, “They’re still babies, too. Yes.”

This will make Nebraska one of many states ready to ban abortion as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned. So far the Conservative party seems to be winning in trying to ban abortions. Until now, 23 states have laws that could be used to restrict abortion access. Similarly, there are some “trigger laws” that will be enacted as soon as Roe v. Ward is overturned. 

“I will work with our speaker of the legislature to work on a special session and do more to protect preborn babies. We’ll have to wait and see what that decision is before we can take further steps, but that would certainly be my intention,” states Ricketts, as soon as the case Roe falls. 

Under the current law, the government cannot interfere in women having abortions before about 23 weeks. However, Mississippi is the only state that has an abortion ban at 15 weeks of pregnancy. If abortion rights are taken away, Nebraska would pass the Human Life Protection Act which will not only ban abortions but there would also be criminal penalties for physicians who violate the law. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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