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Twitter CEO Takes Some Responsibility for Stop the Steal Spread

(Bloomberg) — Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said he takes some responsibility for online organizing that led to the Jan. 6 riot at Capitol Hill, while the leaders of Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc. deflected blame during a Congressional hearing that focused on social media disinformation.Representative Mike Doyle, a Pennsylvania Democrat, asked Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the head of Google and its parent Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, if their platforms bear any responsibility for disseminating “Stop the Steal” disinformation alleging the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. Doyle demanded a yes or no answer.“Yes, but you also have to take into consideration a broader ecosystem,” Dorsey said. “It’s not just about the technology platforms we use.”Doyle cut off Zuckerberg when he responded that Facebook’s responsibility is to “build effective systems,” and said individuals who organized the events and those who questioned the election’s outcome, including Trump, deserved blame. When Doyle asked Pichai if his statement that “we always feel a deep sense of responsibility” amounted to a yes, the CEO said it was a “complex question.”This exchange set the tone for a tense back and forth between the leaders of the world’s most powerful social media networks and lawmakers eager to hold them accountable over how they police falsehoods on Covid-19, vaccines and the election on their internet services. Many committee members also pressed the executives on the negative impact of their products on children and teenagers.The executives appeared on Thursday before members of two U.S. House Energy and Commerce subcommittees during a virtual hearing examining social media’s role in promoting extremism and disinformation.While some lawmakers have been seeking tighter regulations of online content for years, pressure is increasing on tech companies to more aggressively curtail violent and misleading material on their platforms following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead and many more injured.“People died that day, and hundreds were seriously injured,” Doyle said on Thursday. “That attack and the movement that motivated it started and was nourished on your platforms. Your platforms suggested groups people should join, videos they should view, and posts they should like.”Trump’s supporters used social media sites — particularly alternative platforms such as Parler and Gab, but also larger services — to organize the riot, which was held in protest of Trump’s loss to President Joseph Biden in the November election.In recent months, Democrats have been pushing the tech giants to do more to rid conspiracy theories about Covid-19 and the vaccine that prevents its symptoms from their websites.“The witnesses here today have demonstrated time and again that promises to self-regulate don’t work,” said Jan Schakowsky, chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, in an opening statement. “They must be held accountable for allowing disinformation and misinformation to spread across their platforms, infect our public discourse, and threaten our democracy.”Thursday’s hearing is sparking renewed debate in Washington over whether Congress should weaken or even revoke a decades-old legal shield that protects social media companies from liability for user-generated content posted on their sites, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.While both parties have proposed bills to reform the law, they have sparred over how tech companies should change their content moderation practices. Republicans have threatened to weaken the legal protection for tech companies over unfounded accusations that social media firms are systematically censoring conservative viewpoints. Democrats want internet companies to do more to curb the spread of misinformation, hate speech and offensive content.“Given your promises in the fall, the events that transpired on January 6 and your true incentive that you yourself admit, I find it really difficult to take some of these assurances you are trying to give us today seriously,” Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said.Dingell followed up by asking Zuckerberg if he would be opposed to a law to enable regulators’ access to tech companies’ algorithms that promote disinformation and extremism.“I don’t agree with your characterization,” Zuckerberg said. “I do think giving more transparency into the system is an important thing.” He added it might be hard to separate the algorithms and people’s data, arguing such a proposal might risk users’ privacy.Representative Robin Kelly, an Illinois Democrat, said the companies’ business models to promote engagement on their platforms come at the cost of spreading disinformation.“To build that engagement, social media platforms amplify content that gets attention — that can be cat videos or vacation pictures — but too often it means content that’s incendiary, contains conspiracy theories or violence,” she said. “This is a fundamental flaw in your business model.”The tech executives also differed in their support for making changes to the legal shield. Before the hearing, Zuckerberg told the committee he supports making the liability protection conditional on having systems in place for identifying and removing unlawful material. Under Zuckerberg’s proposal, a third party would determine whether a company’s systems are adequate.Google’s Pichai, whose company owns the most popular video website, YouTube, signaled that he was more skeptical of making changes to the law. Reforming it or repealing it altogether “would have unintended consequences — harming both free expression and the ability of platforms to take responsible action to protect users in the face of constantly evolving challenges,” he said in prepared testimony.Later, under questioning, Pichai said he was open to Zuckerberg’s approach.“There are definitely good proposals around transparency and accountability, which I’ve seen in various legislative proposals as well, which I think are important principles,” Pichai said. “We would certainly welcome legislative approaches in that area.”Dorsey said he supported the idea of encouraging tech companies to be more transparent about their practices.Several bills being considered by Congress seek to weaken the legal shield in an effort to encourage the platforms to bolster their content moderation practices. Democratic senators, led by Mark Warner of Virginia, introduced the SAFE TECH Act, which would hold companies liable for content violating laws pertaining to civil rights, international human rights, stalking, harassment or intimidation.And a bipartisan bill — the PACT Act — from Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota would require large tech companies to remove content within four days if notified by a court order that the content is illegal.Several members of the subcommittees used the hearing to ask pointed questions about how the companies’ products affect children, amid Facebook’s push to make a version of Instagram for kids under age 13.Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington Republican, criticized the power of tech companies’ algorithms to determine what children see online.“Over 20 years ago, before we knew what Big Tech would become, Congress gave you liability protections. I want to know, why do you think you still deserve those protections today?” said McMorris Rodgers, the committee’s top Republican. “What will it take for your business model to stop harming children?”Representative Bob Latta, an Ohio Republican, asked Zuckerberg whether Facebook shoulders part of the blame for an underage girl’s suicide after a man showed a compromising photo of her to her peers on the social network.Zuckerberg said it was “an incredibly sad story,” and said his company bears responsibility to build systems to remove that kind of content.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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COVID-19: Ottawa adult vaccinations at 69 per cent; Ontario reports 192 new cases – Ottawa Citizen

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Ottawa Public Health reported Friday that 69 per cent of adults in the capital are fully vaccinated.

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According to the OPH vaccination dashboard, updated Friday morning, 591,639 people aged 18 and over have the two shots.

In all, 83 per cent of the population 12 years and older has received one dose.

Seven new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Ottawa on Friday, bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 27,268.

The death toll remains unchanged at 593.

Ottawa Public Health knows of 41 active cases in the region. However, there are no COVID-19 patients in hospital.

In indicators of interest, the rolling seven-day average of cases per 100,000 residents is 3.9, while the populations per cent positivity in testing is 0.5.

The reproductive number, the average number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, is 1.28.

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Latest COVID-19 news in Ottawa

Ontario reported 192 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Friday.

While it’s the second week the province’s numbers have been below 200, confirmed cases have climbed significantly from Monday, when 130 new cases were reported.

Currently, there are 137 people in hospital in Ontario, with 136 in ICU due to COVID-related illness and 84 on a ventilator. (Ontario Public Health statistics of ICU hospitalizations and ventilator cases contain some patients who no longer test positive for COVID-19 but who are being treated for conditions caused by the virus.)

There have been 548,986 confirmed cases and 9,308 deaths since the pandemic began.

In health regions in the Ottawa area, Renfrew and District reported three new cases. There were no new cases reported in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Kingston or Leeds, Grenville and Lanark units.

Latest COVID-19 news in Quebec

Quebec reported 101 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death Friday morning.

Hospitalizations in the province declined by four patients, for a total of 67. The number of cases in ICU were unchanged at 21.

The province administered 94,624 additional vaccine doses were administered over the previous 24 hours.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 376,530 cases and 11,239 deaths linked to COVID-19.

Latest COVID-19 news in Canada

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam reported Friday that 46.7 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Canada, and more than 60 per cent of people over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated.

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Dutch Teen Who Went to Space With Jeff Bezos Told Him He’s Never Bought Anything on Amazon – Gizmodo

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New Shepard lifts off from Launch Site One in West Texas with four humans on board. (July 20, 2021)

The award for “Best Small Talk on a Flight to Space” goes to Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old from the Netherlands who was part of Blue Origin’s inaugural crewed flight to space earlier this week. On the roughly 10-minute flight, Daemon told Amazon founder Jeff Bezos what probably sounded like blasphemy to his billionaire ears: He had never bought anything on Amazon.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Daemen recounted his first flight to space, from when he got the call asking him if he was interested to the conversations he had with his crewmates, which included Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk. Daemen, whose father is the CEO of a private equity firm in the Netherlands, became the youngest person to ever fly to space, while Funk became the oldest.

The teen also holds the distinction of surprising Bezos, whose Amazon empire has made him one of the richest men in the world.

“I told Jeff, like, I’ve actually never bought something from Amazon,” Daemen told Reuters. “And he was like, ‘oh, wow, it’s [been] a long time [since] I heard someone say that.’”

Considering that Bezos thanked “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer” for making the flight possible after he and the crew returned to Earth, Daemen’s comments may have been a little awkward. However, it’s nice (and kind of funny) to hear that someone was frank with him. Bezos no doubt has enough people telling him that Amazon is God’s gift to humanity, so it’s cool to see one of the youths set him straight.

Daemen wasn’t originally supposed to go on the flight with Bezos and crew. He was offered the opportunity after the winner of the online auction for the seat, whose identity is still unknown and who paid a whopping $28 million for it, said they couldn’t go because of “scheduling conflicts.” Daemen, who was a participant in the auction and had already secured a spot on the second flight, was then moved up on the list. His father, Joes Daemen, paid for the seat.

According to Daemen, his family didn’t pay anything near what the mysterious bidder paid for the opportunity.

“We didn’t pay even close to $28 million, but they chose me because I was the youngest and I was also a pilot and I also knew quite a lot about it already,” he said.

The teen, who will begin his studies at Utrecht University in September, said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do professionally, but would consider focusing on space travel. He also told the outlet that his fellow travelers were “super fun and all down to Earth.” Well, considering Daemen’s referring to a man that wants to stupidly move all polluting industry into space, I’m not sure I’m sold on that.

Congratulations on the award for that great small talk, though.

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Several Ontario mass vaccination clinics wind down as focus shifts to smaller sites – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Canadian Press


Published Friday, July 23, 2021 1:37PM EDT


Last Updated Friday, July 23, 2021 1:37PM EDT

Several mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics across Ontario are winding down as first-dose registrations wane and communities shift their focus to smaller venues.

The large clinics held in local arenas, hospitals and recreation centres across the province have been a key part of the vaccine rollout that began in the winter.

Now that first-dose vaccination coverage has hovered at around 80 per cent for adults provincewide, many health units are beginning the transition to smaller, more targeted vaccination approaches.

“Our large-scale clinics are ending because they are no longer filling up,” the Northwestern Health Unit, which covers the city of Kenora, Ont., and surrounding communities, said in a statement this week as its mass clinics wrapped up operations. “Once they are over, we will provide the vaccine in our offices and at smaller clinics in the community.”

Grey Bruce, a current hot spot for the more infectious Delta COVID-19 variant, is also shutting down its mass clinics at the end of the month to return the large sites for community use.

The health unit is advising people with shots booked for August and beyond to reschedule, and is offering smaller clinics across the region that includes several rural areas.

People living in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region were urged this week to seek out their shots before the local health unit starts closing mass clinics the week of Aug. 6.

“I encourage people to take advantage of the thousands of available appointments at our clinics before we move to the next phase,” Rita Isley, director of community health for the region, said in a statement. “These last few weeks of our mass clinics are the easiest way to get your shot.”

The health unit said it will shift to small clinics and pop-ups “into the fall” after the last of the large clinics close on Aug. 20.

Larger cities are also following the trend, with Mississauga, Ont., aiming to close a convention centre used as a vaccination site on Monday, with another hospital clinic closing the next day.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the transition away from mass clinics is part of the city’s focus on bringing vaccines to the least-immunized communities, with more emphasis planned on pop-ups, drive-thru clinics and primary care sites.

“This is a good news story and it shows that our mass vaccination clinics have done their job getting the majority of our people vaccinated,” Crombie told reporters on Thursday.

“We can now look at this period as the home stretch of our initial vaccine rollout to get to that final 10 to 20 per cent of our population and ensure that they, too, are vaccinated.”

​Kingston, Ont.’s health unit announced last week that it would enter a “new phase” of its vaccination effort, with plans to shut down mass clinics beginning in August and shift to pharmacy, mobile and primary care sites.

Mass clinics in the London, Ont., will see reduced hours in the coming weeks amid dwindling demand, the health unit announced this week. It said immunizations have sped up and many people have moved up their second-dose appointments that were scheduled for the fall, meaning the large sites won’t be needed.

“As the health unit turns its focus to individuals in the community, the vaccination effort will rely on mobile and walk-in pop-up clinics, as well as providing opportunities to be vaccinated at community events,” the Middlesex-London Heath Unit said in a statement.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said earlier this month that primary care sites would become more essential to the province’s vaccination plan as mass clinics at hospitals, stadiums and other large venues wind down and resume their old uses.

A spokeswoman for Elliott said targeted vaccination strategies will play a greater role going forward as the province aims to reach vaccine hesitant communities.

“The province is working with the public health units to improve vaccination rates through mobile clinics and community-based pop-ups, dedicated clinic days for people with disabilities, holding townhall meetings in multiple languages, and providing services such as transportation, translation services, and drive-through clinics,” Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement on Friday.

The Grey Bruce health unit noted this week that its local COVID-19 situation is now a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” a trend documented around the world.

The health unit says 95 per cent of cases reported in the first two weeks of July were among people not fully vaccinated, and encouraged people to get their shots, noting that it’s likely that vaccinated people may be subject to fewer restrictions such as isolation rules in the event of future outbreaks.

“Vaccinating the majority of people sets us on the road to return to normal,” it said.

Ontario reported 192 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and one death from the virus. Sixty-six per cent of Ontario adults are now fully vaccinated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2021.

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