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Father of Nasu avalanche victim conflicted about media naming victims – The Japan Times

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Masaru Oku, father of one of the seven high school students killed in the March 2017 avalanche in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture, says he is torn over identifying crime and accident victims by name: He wants to grieve silently without having to deal with the media by staying autonomous, but he also feels the story will be more powerful if the victims are named.

“Our son’s name, Masaki was publicized regardless of my wishes,” Oku said, in a recent interview. “If I had been given a choice, I would have refused to agree to release his name. Losing a child is the biggest sorrow for parents. Immediately after the accident, I felt like the grief was so great that I would literally bleed when I heard even a few words mentioned about him.”

The avalanche struck on a ski slope during a mountaineering workshop for more than 40 people, mostly high school students, on the morning of March 27. Seven students and a teacher from Otawara High School were killed and many others were injured. Masaki was in his first year and a member of the school’s mountaineering club.

Three teachers leading the workshop were suspended after the accident. In March, police handed their papers to prosecutors, accusing them of professional negligence causing death and injuries.

“I had a preconception of the media as the enemy, fearing they would disrupt our lives and write half-truths about our son. It pained me to hear people who didn’t even know him say he was an unhappy and unfortunate boy,” Oku said.

But he also admitted feeling envious after reading accounts about the other families involved. He accepted what he assumed would be the first and last interview request, on Masaki’s birthday in June 2017.

“I wanted to leave something behind to prove our son had lived, just like the other students,” he said. It was the first time he had offered to disclose his son’s name.

The mountaineering club resumed activities three months after the avalanche.

Oku, who co-leads an association formed by the families of the seven dead students, agreed to be interviewed by Kyodo because he distrusts the prefectural board of education, which allowed the club to resume its activities without finding effective measures against such accidents.

“I was afraid our son’s death would be in vain. To give power to words of appeal, the names should be released,” he said.

After the accident, news reports about the character of the victims and their grief-stricken families were criticized “probably because the purpose of the news coverage wasn’t clear,” Oku said.

“I can understand how reporting aimed at asking whether mountaineering as an extracurricular activity should be permitted or if examining the accident itself could be meaningful. But it’s hard to understand the reasoning behind the need to report on the victim’s character, which won’t be that meaningful for people other than their families.”

Asked about the arson attack on the Kyoto Animation Co. studio in July, Oku felt that media outlets were focusing on how harshly they died by repeatedly showing the charred ruins on TV.

“Given the shock the families were going through, I can understand why they would refuse to let the victims’ names to go public.”

Elaborating on his perspective, Oku explained that if the majority of the media reports were critical of him or his son, he would still be highly reluctant to having his son’s name used in news coverage.

“But since speaking with reporters, I have come to trust the media.”

Publishing the names of victims is necessary as long as it is accurate, he stressed.

“But since it’s difficult for families to trust the media immediately after a tragedy, the media should make certain considerations. I think the stance of the media is being tested,” he said.

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Facebook’s safety head tells UK lawmakers it does not amplify hate

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Facebook Inc‘s https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebooks-zuckerberg-kicks-off-its-virtual-reality-event-with-metaverse-vision-2021-10-28 algorithms demote rather than promote polarising content, its global head of safety told British lawmakers on Thursday, adding that the U.S. company would welcome effective government regulation.

Governments in Europe and the United States are grappling with regulating social media platforms to reduce the spread of harmful content, particularly for young users.

Britain is leading the charge by bringing forward laws that could fine social media companies up to 10% of their turnover if they fail to remove or limit the spread of illegal content.

Secondary legislation that would make company directors liable could be proposed if the measures do not work.

Facebook https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-asks-employees-preserve-internal-documents-legal-inquiries-2021-10-27 whistleblower Frances Haugen https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-sees-safety-cost-whistleblower-says-2021-10-25 told the same committee of lawmakers on Monday that Facebook’s algorithms pushed extreme and divisive content to users.

Facebook’s Antigone Davis denied the charge.

“I don’t agree that we are amplifying hate,” Davis told the committee on Thursday, adding: “I think we try to take in signals to ensure that we demote content that is divisive for example, or polarising.”

She said she could not guarantee a user would not be recommended hateful content, but Facebook was using AI to reduce its prevalence to 0.05%.

“We have zero interest in amplifying hate on our platform and creating a bad experience for people, they won’t come back,” she said. “Our advertisers won’t let it happen either.”

Davis said Facebook, which announced on Thursday it would rebrand as Meta, wanted regulators to contribute to making social media platforms safer, for example in research into eating disorders or body image.

“Many of these are societal issues and we would like a regulator to play a role,” she said, adding Facebook would welcome a regulator with “proportionate and effective enforcement powers”.

“I think criminal liability for directors is a pretty serious step and I’m not sure we need it to take action.”

 

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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Facebook to be called Meta in nod to its ‘metaverse’ vision

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Facebook Inc is now called Meta, the company said on Thursday, in a rebrand that focuses on its ambitions building the “metaverse,” a shared virtual environment that it bets will be the next big computing platform.

The rebrand comes as the world’s largest social media company battles criticisms from lawmakers and regulators over its market power, algorithmic decisions and the policing of abuses on its platforms.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at the company’s live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference, said the new name reflected its ambitions to build the metaverse, rather than its namesake social media service.

The metaverse, a term first coined in a dystopian novel three decades ago and now attracting buzz in Silicon Valley, refers broadly to the idea of a shared virtual environment which can be accessed by people using different devices.

“Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” said Zuckerberg.

The company, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, said the change would bring together its different apps and technologies under one new brand. It said it would not change its corporate structure.

The tech giant, which reports about 2.9 billion monthly users, has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from global lawmakers and regulators.

In the latest controversy, whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-sees-safety-cost-whistleblower-says-2021-10-25 leaked documents which she said showed the company chose profit over user safety. Zuckerberg earlier this week said the documents were being used to paint a “false picture.”

The company said in a blog post that it intends to start trading under the new stock ticker it has reserved, MVRS, on Dec. 1. On Thursday, it unveiled a new sign at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, replacing its thumbs-up “Like” logo with a blue infinity shape.

Facebook said this week that its hardware division Facebook Reality Labs, which is responsible for AR and VR efforts, would become a separate reporting unit and that its investment in it would reduce this year’s total operating profit by about $10 billion. The unit will now be called Reality Labs, its head Andrew “Boz” Bosworth tweeted on Thursday.

Zuckerberg said the new name also reflects that over time, users will not need to use Facebook to use the company’s other services.

This year, the company created a product team focused on the metaverse and it recently announced plans to hire 10,000 employees in Europe over the next five years to work on the effort.

Facebook shares were up 3.7% at $323.81 on Thursday afternoon.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York and Sheila Dang in DallasEditing by Ken Li and Matthew Lewis)

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg lays out ‘metaverse’ vision at developers event

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Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg said privacy and safety would need to be built into the metaverse, as he opened the company’s annual conference on virtual and augmented reality on Thursday.

Facebook continues to battle criticism over its market power, its content moderation practices and harms linked to its social media platforms. The tech giant, which reports about 2.9 billion monthly users, has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from global lawmakers and regulators.

In the latest controversy, whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-sees-safety-cost-whistleblower-says-2021-10-25 leaked documents which she said showed the company chose profit over user safety. Zuckerberg earlier this week said the documents were being used to paint a “false picture.”

The metaverse, a term first coined in a dystopian novel three decades ago and now attracting buzz in Silicon Valley, refers broadly to the idea of a shared virtual environment which can be accessed by people using different devices.

Zuckerberg has increasingly been promoting the idea of Facebook, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, as a “metaverse” company https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-sets-up-new-team-work-metaverse-2021-07-26 rather than a social media one.

The CEO, speaking during the live-streamed Facebook Connect event, gave examples of privacy and safety controls that would be needed in the metaverse, such as the ability to block someone from appearing in your space. Zuckerberg is betting that the metaverse will be the next big computing platform, calling it “the successor to the mobile internet.”

The whistleblower documents, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, show internal research and employee discussions on Instagram’s effects on the mental health of teens and whether Facebook stokes divisions, as well as its handling of activity around the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and inconsistencies in content moderation for users around the globe.

The company gave a slew of updates for its VR and AR products. It said it would this year launch a way for people using its Oculus VR headset to call friends using Facebook Messenger and for people to invite others to a social version of their home, dubbed “Horizon Home,” to talk and play games as avatars.

Facebook also said it would introduce a way for Oculus Quest users to use different 2D apps like Slack, Dropbox and Facebook while in this “Horizon Home” VR space.

The company, which began a beta test of its virtual meeting spaces “Horizon Workrooms” earlier this year, said it was working on ways of customizing these with company logos and designs and said it would be bringing more work capabilities into consumer Quest devices. It also announced new fitness offerings for Oculus Quest users.

Facebook said this week that its hardware division Facebook Reality Labs, which is responsible for AR and VR efforts, would become a separate reporting unit and that its investment in it would reduce this year’s total operating profit by about $10 billion.

This year, Facebook created a product team focused on the metaverse and it recently announced plans to hire 10,000 employees in Europe over the next five years to work on the effort.

Facebook also said it would run a $150 million education program aimed at helping AR and VR creators and developers.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York and Sheila Dang in DallasEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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