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Ethiopia Orthodox Church split: Social media restricted



Ethiopia has restricted social media and messaging platforms ahead of rival planned rallies following a split in the popular Orthodox Church.

The row has caused deadly violence and began last month when some clerics accused the main church of ethnic discrimination, which it denies.

The authorities banned protests by both sides due to take place on Sunday.

Some supporters of the main church angrily accuse the authorities of backing the breakaway group.


They had vowed online to defy the ban and go ahead with their rally as a show of strength for the Orthodox Church, which is one of the oldest in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the few in the region to exist before the arrival of European missionaries.

There are fears of a complete internet shutdown in the coming days. It is a tactic commonly used in the country – which has a population of 115 million – though rarely in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Some areas of the northern region of Tigray, where a brutal two-year conflict came to an end in November after a peace deal brokered by the African Union (AU), remain without access to the internet.

Netblocks, an organisation that monitors internet access, said the current restrictions are affecting Facebook, Messenger, Telegram and TikTok.

Those with virtual private network (VPN) software can get on to those sites, but a total shutdown would prevent that.

London-based VPN research firm TOP10VPN said demand for VPNs in Ethiopia skyrocketed by 1,430% on Friday.

The authorities have also closed schools on Friday as tension mounts in the deeply religious society – and there are concerns the situation may escalate further.

The authorities are also preparing for the annual AU summit, which is due to be held next week.

It will be the organisation’s first meeting since the Tigray deal was signed and the government will be anxious to avoid unrest in Addis Ababa, which is where the AU’s headquarters is based.

What is behind the split?

Three archbishops from Oromia, which surrounds Addis Ababa and is the country’s most populous region, accused the leadership of the main church of discrimination and a lack of diversity.

They say for too long the Orthodox Church has been dominated culturally by other ethnic groups. Amharic, for example, is the working language of the country, and the patriarch, its influential leader, is an ethnic Tigrayan.

The dissenting clerics said services should be held in the Oromo language – and though the main church says this happens, they say not nearly enough.

The archbishops, who have been excommunicated after setting up a breakaway synod, say they have a great deal of support in Oromia and had organised a counter rally in Addis Ababa.

But in a blow for the dissenters, a court placed an injunction on them on Friday, banning them and the clergy they have recently appointed from entering churches belonging to the Orthodox Church.

The fallout may also have a political element.

Some analysts say the patriarch, Abune Mathias, has not been on good terms with the authorities since speaking out about the war in Tigray, controversially saying that a genocide was being committed there.

Its planned rally was to show off the strength of its support. It was angered after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed instructed his cabinet ministers to keep out of the matter, feeling the government should take its side.

Following the rally ban and the social media restrictions, it has been announced that Mr Abiy is meeting the patriarch, so tensions may ease over the next few days.

The state-linked Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has also stepped into the fray, releasing a statement on Friday accusing the security forces of using excessive force against followers of the main church.

It refers to extrajudicial killings, beatings, harassment and arbitrary arrests and says eight people were killed during religious clashes last Saturday in Shashamane, a town in Oromia.


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Vancouver Island couple assaulted after confronting teens performing social media stunt – Vancouver Sun



Fishing line strung across front door for late-night door kickers; householder told by police he could be charged after catching the perpetrators.


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A Courtenay man is at home recuperating from injuries after he was allegedly assaulted by a 16-year-old boy when he caught the teen kicking his door in the early hours for a social media stunt.

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But after police viewed video of Monday’s incident, Owen May, 48, was told there was a possibility he would be charged.

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For 4½ years, May and his wife Laura, 42, have had their front door kicked in the middle of the night.

“It would happen for a week or two and then stop for a while before happening again. I just wanted it to stop,” said May, a fishing guide for 22 years.

May bought a security camera to catch the perpetrator. By the next morning, he had a video showing a person kicking his door at 1 a.m. He shared the video with police. The person came back on two more nights.

May then strung fishing line across his front door. When he saw the person walk up his drive at 1:18 a.m., he and his wife jumped out of bed and went to confront their ­tormentor.

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When the person kicked the door, their foot got caught on the line.

Laura May attempted to apprehend him but another person rushed up, Owen May said.

Both strangers carried flashlights and used them to bludgeon the Mays, Owen May said.

Owen May bought a security camera to catch the perpetrator.
Owen May bought a security camera to catch the perpetrator. Photo by Times Colonist

“I was on my knees with one of them ­bashing my head and I saw the other ripping my wife’s pyjamas off,” said May. “There she was, naked, in our front yard.”
The two, who the Mays later discovered were both 16, made their escape.

Owen May was left with lacerations and bruises to his arms and legs. “Chunks” of his toenail were ripped off, he said. Laura May required stitches to close up a wound to her eyelid.

Police were called and were shown video of the violent encounter.

But Own May was shocked to discover that police consider his use of the fishing line a possible crime.

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“We’re actively investigating this ­matter,” RCMP Insp. Mike Kurvers told Glacier Media. Crown prosecutors will decide whether charges are warranted, he said.

He said while charges of assault are pending against the two youths, no charges have been recommended against Owen May.

Owen May faces the loss of up to two weeks work due to leg injuries.

He is hopeful that the tormenting will end.

“One of the boys’ father came over to ­apologize — his wife was too upset,” said May. “He had tears in his eyes when he saw how beat-up Laura was. …

“I didn’t intend to hurt or trap anyone with my fishing line. I just wanted to catch the person.”

“When the boy’s father suggested his son perform some yard work as a form of ­restorative justice, I just told him to keep his son and his friends out of my neighbourhood.”

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The boy’s family live a five-minute walk from the Mays’ home, along a bike trail. Owen May said there were always two people involved, one kicking the door while the other filmed the act.

“It’s some sort of TikTok challenge, I believe,” Owen May said.

“When I looked it up, I saw dozens of it [doors being kicked in] happening to other houses.”

Neighbours have since contacted May to offer words of encouragement and share their stories of strangers in the night doing to same thing to them.

“Most of the people here as in their 60s and 70s — one of my neighbours is 82-years-old,” said Owen May, who has lived in the neighbourhood for six-and-a-half years.

Most of the people who he talked to had bought security cameras because of the harassment.

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That has resulted in videos circulating on social media, including one from Campbell River of a person knocking on a front door in the middle of the night dressed up as a cow.

A spokesperson for TikTok, the social media platform where many of the videos turn up, said it tries to do everything in its power to discourage such activity.

“To be clear, we are not seeing this as a trend on our platform and the footage being referenced is not from TikTok,” said a spokesperson for the social media platform.

“Content that promotes illegal activities, dangerous behaviour or challenges is a violation of TikTok’s community guidelines, which apply to all content on TikTok, and will be removed from our platform.

“We use a combination of technology and human moderation teams to identify, review and, where appropriate, remove content or accounts that violate our community guidelines.”


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Utah’s ambitious social media law



Utah’s sweeping social media legislation passed this week is an ambitious attempt to shield children and teens from the ill effects of social media and empower parents to decide whether their kids should be using apps like TikTok or Instagram.

What’s not clear is if — and how — the new rules can be enforced and whether they will create unintended consequences for kids and teens already coping with a mental health crisis. And while parental rights are a central theme of Utah’s new laws, experts point out that the rights of parents and the best interests of children are not always aligned.

For instance, allowing parents to read their kids’ private messages may be harmful to some children, and age verification requirements could give tech companies access to kids’ personal information, including biometric data, if they use tools such as facial recognition to check ages.

“Children may be put at increased risk if these laws are enforced in such a way that they’re not allowed to some privacy, if they are not allowed some ability for freedom of speech or autonomy,” said Kris Perry, executive director of the nonprofit Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development.


The laws, which will go into effect in a year, impose a digital curfew on people under 18, require minors to get parental consent to sign up for social media apps and force companies to verify the ages of all their Utah users. They also require tech companies to give parents access to their kids’ accounts and private messages, which has raised alarms for child advocates who say this could further harm children’s mental health by depriving them of their right to privacy. This is especially true for LGBTQ2S+ kids whose parents are not accepting of their identity.

The rules could drastically transform how people in this conservative state access social media and the internet, and if successful, serve as a model for other states to enact similar legislation. But even if the laws clear the inevitable lawsuits from tech giants, it’s not clear how Utah will be able to enforce them.

Take age verification, for instance. Various measures exist that can verify a person’s age online. Someone could upload a government ID, consent to the use facial recognition software to prove they are the age they say they are.

“Some of these verification measures are wonderful, but then also require the collection of sensitive data. And those can pose new risks, especially for marginalized youth,” Perry said. “And it also puts a new kind of burden on parents to monitor their children. These things seem simple and straightforward on their face, but in reality, there are new risks that may emerge in terms of that that collection of additional data on children.”

Just as teens have managed to obtain fake IDs to drink, they are also savvy at skirting online age regulations.

“In Southeast Asia they’ve been trying this for years, for decades, and kids always get around it,” said Gaia Bernstein, author of “Unwired,” a book on how to fight technology addiction.

The problem, she said, is that the Utah rules don’t require social networks to prevent kids from going online. Instead, they are making the parents responsible.

“I think that’s going to be the weak link in the whole thing, because kids drive their parents insane,” Bernstein said.

There is no precedent in the United States for such drastic regulation of social media, although several states have similar rules in the works.

On the federal level, companies are already prohibited from collecting data on children under 13 without parental consent under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. For this reason, social media platforms already ban kids under 13 from signing up to their sites — but children can easily skirt the rules, both with and without their parents’ consent.

Perry suggests that instead of age verification, there are steps tech companies could take to make their platforms less harmful, less addictive, across the board. For instance, Instagram and TikTok could slow down all users’ ability to mindlessly scroll on their platforms for hours on end.

The laws are the latest effort from Utah lawmakers focused on children and the information they can access online. Two years ago, Gov. Spencer Cox signed legislation that called on tech companies to automatically block porn on cell phones and tablets sold, citing the dangers it posed to children. Amid concerns about enforcement, lawmakers in the deeply religious state revised the bill to prevent it from taking effect unless five other states passed similar laws — which has not happened.

Still, child development experts are generally hopeful about the growing push to regulate social media and its effects on children.

“Children have specific developmental needs, and we want to protect them at the same time that we’re trying to push back on Big Tech,” Perry said. “It’s a two-part effort. You have to really put your arm around the kids while you’re pushing Big Tech away.”


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Trans Flight Attendant Famed For United Airlines Ad Found Dead After Emotional Social Media Post





Trans Flight Attendant Famed For United Airlines Ad Found Dead After Emotional Social Media Post

The Denver Police Department is investigating Scott’s death.

Kayleigh Scott, a transgender flight attendant who gained fame after appearing in a United Airlines commercial, has died after posting an emotional note to her social media channels. According to The Independent, the 25-year-old was found dead on Monday in her Colorado home. In her Instagram and Facebook posts, she penned a heartbreaking letter to her friends and family that asked them to remember the “good memories we have shared”.


“As I take my final breaths and exit this living earth, I would like to apologize to everyone I let down,” Scott wrote. “I am so sorry I could not be better. To those that I love, I am sorry I could not be stronger. To those that gave me their everything, I am sorry my effort was not reciprocated. Please understand that me leaving is not a reflection on you, but the result of my own inability to turn myself for the better,” the flight attendant added.

In her post, Scott also named a few of her loved ones and apologised saying, “I will see you all again on the other side”.

Scott’s mother, Andrea Sylvestro, confirmed her daughter died after posting the letter. In a Facebook post, Ms Sylvestro wrote, “Kayleigh Scott…I am so unbelievably proud to have you as my daughter, proud and amazed by everything that you have done in your life, your smile was absolutely beautiful, your laughter was unbelievably contagious, your heart was bigger than any of us could have ever understood.”

As per The Independent, the Denver Police Department is now investigating Scott’s death. The cops stated that a final determination as to the cause of death will be made by the Denver Medical Examiner’s office.

Separately, United Airlines said it was saddened by the loss of Scott. “We are incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Kayleigh Scott and extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends and coworkers,” the company stated.

Notably, Kayleigh Scott made headlines in 2020 when United featured her as a part of its diversity campaign. In the clip for Trans Day of Visibility, she spoke about the importance of coming out and living authentically. “I used to be so embarrassed about being trans,” she said, adding, “All I wanted was to blend in.”

The following year, Ms Scott also spoke about her progress since publicly coming out as transgender. She had alluded to battling depression. ” I’m really struggling to find happiness and hope. I’m begging 2023 to be better to me. Please,” she wrote, as per the outlet.


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