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India's media is failing in its democratic duty – Al Jazeera English

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The protests in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which grants a fast track to citizenship for certain religious-minority immigrants, have underlined the importance of not just the democratic process, which includes the right to peaceful protest, but also the role of the media in covering the government’s response to the protesters.

I work as a journalist in India and am happy and proud to be part of what I regard as a free press in the country. The website I helped found four years ago, The Wire, shines a critical light – a pretty harsh one – on the government, on politics and on big business. And there are others like us.

Sure, the politicians and ministers and captains of industry do not like what we do and have made their displeasure known in various ways; but show me a democracy where the government loves the media and chances are the media is not doing its job.

So why is it then that India – a country with a free press and an independent judiciary – does so badly on global indices measuring media freedom? In 2019, the country slipped two places down to 140 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. How do we reconcile the fact that there is a constitution, laws guaranteeing press freedom, and media platforms fiercely doing their job, with India’s falling rank?

What has happened over the past few years is that a major section of the media has crossed over to the dark side.

Without being formally censored or compelled by other means to comply with official diktats, these media houses have simply stopped doing their job. They have stopped asking difficult questions about the government and its policies. They are in awe of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his senior ministers and are reluctant to be critical of them.

Many, sadly, have become mouthpieces of official propaganda. Some do not think twice about promoting religious polarisation and even hatred in pursuit of the political agenda of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

There is also a major section of the media which is reluctant to be seen rocking the boat mainly because their proprietors have business interests that could be jeopardised. It is commonplace for governments at the central and state level to use official advertising as a lever of influence on the media. But there is also a darker side: With most investigative agencies functioning at the beck and call of ruling politicians, proprietors fear becoming the target of a vendetta if their reporters are seen as taking on the establishment.

For those of us still willing to do our job, there are indirect financial pressures, of course, but also legal tactics aimed at silencing critical coverage. Defamation laws are misused to embroil editors and reporters in frivolous cases that can take us years to shake off. At one time, The Wire was facing 14 defamation suits filed by governing party politicians and their family members, businessmen and even a godman – a high-profile guru – known to be close to the establishment. Total damages currently being sought in these bogus cases against us run to over one billion dollars.

In the past few months, the government has sought new ways to get a grip on the country’s scrappy digital media. It has announced new restrictions on foreign investment in digital media, including approval on a case-by-case basis, and is also proposing to introduce a compulsory registration process for news and current affairs websites.

A new tactic, which affects not just media freedom but the freedom of speech and communication of ordinary citizens, is the imposition of bans on the usage of the internet and social media. In Jammu and Kashmir, a “temporary” ban on social media has lasted more than 200 days now.

Broadband internet remains banned and limited data internet access was permitted after a two-month hiatus but only for low-speed access to “whitelisted” sites.

The latest assault on freedom of speech is the government’s decision to charge Kashmiris who access the internet via VPNs under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Given the growing interface between social media and news media, this clampdown can only have a further chilling effect on press freedom.

While the media in India has always had to contend with unfriendly politicians in the past, they could, with the exception of the 1975-1977 Emergency, at least count on the support of the country’s judges if the going got tough. What makes the current phase so dangerous is both the Modi government’s level of intolerance and the reluctance of the courts to defend free speech and press freedom.

The press freedom we have in India should no longer be taken for granted. And it is only if we use our freedom – fiercely and fearlessly – that we can stave off future assaults on it.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance

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Social media is polluting society. Moderation alone won’t fix the problem – MIT Technology Review

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We all want to be able to speak our minds online—to be heard by our friends and talk (back) to our opponents. At the same time, we don’t want to be exposed to speech that is inappropriate or crosses a line. Technology companies address this conundrum by setting standards for free speech, a practice protected under federal law. They hire in-house moderators to examine individual pieces of content and remove them if posts violate predefined rules set by the platforms.

The approach clearly has problems: harassment, misinformation about topics like public health, and false descriptions of legitimate elections run rampant. But even if content moderation were implemented perfectly, it would still miss a whole host of issues that are often portrayed  as moderation problems but really are not. To address those non-speech issues, we need a new strategy: treat social media companies as potential polluters of the social fabric, and directly measure and mitigate the effects their choices have on human populations. That means establishing a policy framework—perhaps through something akin to an Environmental Protection Agency or Food and Drug Administration for social media—that can be used to identify and evaluate the societal harms generated by these platforms. If those harms persist, that group could be endowed with the ability to enforce those policies. But to transcend the limitations of content moderation, such regulation would have to be motivated by clear evidence and be able to have a demonstrable impact on the problems it purports to solve.

Moderation (whether automated or human) can potentially work for what we call “acute” harms: those caused directly by individual pieces of content. But we need this new approach because there are also a host of “structural” problems—issues such as discrimination, reductions in mental health, and declining civic trust—that manifest in broad ways across the product rather than through any individual piece of content. A famous example of this kind of structural issue is Facebook’s 2012 “emotional contagion” experiment, which showed that users’ affect (their mood as measured by their behavior on the platform) shifted measurably depending on which version of the product they were exposed to. 

In the blowback that ensued after the results became public, Facebook (now Meta) ended this type of deliberate experimentation. But just because they stopped measuring such effects does not mean product decisions don’t continue to have them.

Structural problems are direct outcomes of product choices. Product managers at technology companies like Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok are incentivized to focus overwhelmingly on maximizing time and engagement on the platforms. And experimentation is still very much alive there: almost every product change is deployed to small test audiences via randomized controlled trials. To assess progress, companies implement rigorous management processes to foster their central missions (known as Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs), even using these outcomes to determine bonuses and promotions. The responsibility for addressing the consequences of product decisions is often placed on other teams that are usually downstream and have less authority to address root causes. Those teams are generally capable of responding to acute harms—but often cannot address problems caused by the products themselves.

With attention and focus, this same product development structure could be turned to the question of societal harms. Consider Frances Haugen’s congressional testimony last year, along with media revelations about Facebook’s alleged impact on the mental health of teens. Facebook responded to criticism by explaining that it had studied whether teens felt that the product had a negative effect on their mental health and whether that perception caused them to use the product less, and not whether the product actually had a detrimental effect. While the response may have addressed that particular controversy, it illustrated that a study aiming directly at the question of mental health—rather than its impact on user engagement—would not be a big stretch. 

Incorporating evaluations of systemic harm won’t be easy. We would have to sort out what we can actually measure rigorously and systematically, what we would require of companies, and what issues to prioritize in any such assessments. 

Companies could implement protocols themselves, but their financial interests too often run counter to meaningful limitations on product development and growth. That reality is a standard case for regulation that operates on behalf of the public. Whether through a new legal mandate from the Federal Trade Commission or harm mitigation guidelines from a new governmental agency, the regulator’s job would be to work with technology companies’ product development teams to design implementable protocols measurable during the course of product development to assess meaningful signals of harm. 

That approach may sound cumbersome, but adding these types of protocols should be straightforward for the largest companies (the only ones to which regulation should apply), because they have already built randomized controlled trials into their development process to measure their efficacy. The more time-consuming and complex part would be defining the standards; the actual execution of the testing would not require regulatory participation at all. It would only require asking diagnostic questions alongside normal growth-related questions and then making that data accessible to external reviewers. Our forthcoming paper at the 2022 ACM Conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms, and Optimization will explain this procedure in more detail and outline how it could effectively be established.

When products that reach tens of millions are tested for their ability to boost engagement, companies would need to ensure that those products—at least in aggregate—also abide by a “don’t make the problem worse” principle. Over time, more aggressive standards could be established to roll back existing effects of already-approved products.

There are many methods that might be suitable for this type of process. These include protocols like the photographic affect meter, which has been used diagnostically to assess how exposure to products and services affects mood. Technology platforms are already using surveys to assess product changes; according to reporters Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frankel, Mark Zuckerberg looks at survey-based growth metrics for most every product decision, the results of which were part of his choice to roll back the “nicer” version of Facebook’s news feed algorithm after the 2020 election. 

It would be reasonable to ask whether the technology industry sees this approach as feasible and whether companies would fight against it. While any potential regulation might engender such a response, we have received positive feedback from early conversations about this framework—perhaps because under our approach, most product decisions would pass muster. (Causing measureable harms of the sort described here is a very high bar, one that most product choices would clear.) And unlike other proposals, this strategy sidesteps direct regulation of speech, at least outside the most extreme cases.

At the same time, we don’t have to wait for regulators to take action. Companies could readily implement these procedures on their own. Establishing the case for change, however, is difficult without first starting to collect the sort of high-quality data we’re describing here. That is because one cannot prove the existence of these types of harms without real-time measurement, creating a chicken-and-egg challenge. Proactively monitoring structural harms won’t resolve platforms’ content issues. But it could allow us to meaningfully and continuously verify whether the public interest is being subverted. 

The US Environmental Protection Agency is an apt analogy. The original purpose of the agency was not to legislate environmental policy, but to enact standards and protocols so that policies with actionable outcomes could be made. From that point of view, the EPA’s lasting impact was not to resolve environmental policy debates (it hasn’t), but to make them possible. Likewise, the first step for fixing social media is to create the infrastructure that we’ll need in order to examine outcomes in speech, mental well-being, and civic trust in real time. Without that, we will be prevented from addressing many of the most pressing problems these platforms create.

Nathaniel Lubin is a fellow at the Digital Life Initiative at Cornell Tech and the former director of the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House under President Barack Obama. Thomas Krendl Gilbert is a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell Tech and received an interdisciplinary PhD in machine ethics and epistemology at UC Berkeley.

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Cineplex Digital Media Selected by Primaris REIT for New In-Mall Digital Media and Directory Signage Network – Canada NewsWire

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Digital Signage Solutions Planned for 19 Shopping Centres Across Canada including Dufferin Mall in Toronto and Orchard Park in Kelowna

TORONTO, Aug. 9, 2022 /CNW/ – (TSX: CGX) – Today, Cineplex Digital Media (CDM), a division of Cineplex, announced that it has been selected to develop, install, and maintain a state-of-the-art digital signage network in Primaris REIT (Primaris) managed shopping centres in markets across Canada, including Toronto, Calgary, and Kelowna. CDM was selected for its extensive experience in the creation and management of innovative digital networks as well as its ability to offer a solution that includes revenue generation, content development, and advertising media sales through Cineplex Media.

As part of the partnership, CDM will operate a network of nearly 70 digital displays at 19 Primaris owned and managed retail properties in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Each property will receive a custom display solution consisting of large double-sided portrait screens for media advertising, mall directories, and maps. The new network of digital displays is expected to be fully deployed nationally this fall.

“We are thrilled that Primaris selected CDM for this exciting project. Our experience-first approach and data-driven audience targeting will enable Primaris to engage shoppers during their mall visits, as well as provide our media partners with the ability to reach even more of Canada’s mall consumers in additional key markets,” said Fab Stanghieri, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Media, Cineplex. “Our shopping network that includes 69 centres with over 700 million visitors yearly, combined with our Primaris partnership, will now allow us to reach 13 new population centres with more than 1.4 million local residents.”

“Primaris’ ongoing commitment to our consumers and retail partners is exemplified through our continuous efforts to increase traffic to our shopping centres with memorable and meaningful experiences,” said Jasleen Bhinder, Director, Marketing, Primaris REIT. “We are excited to work with CDM’s strategic customer-centric and robust in-house team of experts and look forward to CDM’s strategy-focused programs including creative playlists, optimization, specialty tenant branding opportunities, and innovative technology solutions.”

As a one-stop digital signage solution provider, CDM offers end-to-end services that drive results. Making a name for itself in the Digital Out-of-Home, Retail, Financial, Grocery, and Quick Service Restaurant industries, CDM provides innovative, data-led digital signage network solutions for clients, including Primaris. CDM is not only about hanging screens, but its industry leadership also stems from its expertise in creative and experience design, data & analytics services, installation and operational excellence, and media sales. CDM makes impressions worth more, do more, and deliver more. For more information on Cineplex Digital Media, visit CDMExperiences.com.

About Cineplex

Cineplex (TSX: CGX) is a top-tier Canadian brand that operates in the Film Entertainment and Content, Amusement and Leisure, and Media sectors. Cineplex offers a unique escape from the everyday to millions of guests through its circuit of over 170 movie theatres and location-based entertainment venues. In addition to being Canada’s largest and most innovative film exhibitor, the company operates Canada’s favourite destination for ‘Eats & Entertainment’ (The Rec Room) and complexes specially designed for teens and families (Playdium). It also operates successful businesses in digital commerce (CineplexStore.com), alternative programming (Cineplex Events), cinema media (Cineplex Media), digital place-based media (Cineplex Digital Media) and amusement solutions (Player One Amusement Group). Providing even more value for its guests, Cineplex is a joint venture partner in Scene+, Canada’s largest entertainment loyalty program.

Proudly recognized as having one of the country’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures, Cineplex employs over 10,000 people in its offices and venues across Canada and the United States. To learn more, visit Cineplex.com.

About Primaris

Primaris REIT (TSX: PMZ.UN) owns and manages 35 retail properties aggregating approximately 11.4 million square feet, at Primaris REIT’s ownership share valued at approximately $3.3B, including 22 enclosed shopping centres totaling approximately 9.8 million square feet and 13 unenclosed shopping centre and mixed-use properties aggregating approximately 1.6 million square feet. Primaris REIT is one of the largest owners and managers of enclosed shopping centres in Canada, and one of the largest owners and operators of retail property of all formats across Canada.

SOURCE Cineplex

For further information: Cineplex Media Relations: Judy Lung, Director, Communications, Cineplex, [email protected]; Primaris Media Relations: Jasleen Bhinder, Director, Marketing, Primaris REIT, [email protected]

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How to shop on social media (and not get scammed) – Alaska Highway News

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From latte kits to collagen supplements, social media feeds are filled with “you need to buy this right now!” products that are fed to a target market. Pastel sauté pans, custom dog beds, monogrammed luggage — there’s no end to a tantalizing selection of stuff at our fingertips.

Anyone who has succumbed to the late-night Instagram purchase knows what happens next: a few weeks (or months) later, a nondescript package shows up at the door and is a reminder of a late night moment of weakness. Best-case scenario is that it works, but more often than not it’s a “online vs. real life” fail and that means tracking down return details and a trip to the post office or eating the cost and waste.

We did a deep dive on five popular products we’ve seen on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to ask a few key questions: do we need it? Will we use it? Is it worth the cost? And what can we learn from verified third-party reviews?

Before you click “check out” on an avocado saver or a miracle mop, read on for more.

Does the Dyson mop attachment work?

The product: Mop head attachment for the Dyson stick vacuums.

The claim: Dyson owners are a loyal bunch because the vacuums last forever and live up to the hype, with top-notch innovation, design and customer service. That’s what makes the mop attachment so tempting: can it turn an excellent vacuum into an excellent mop?

The unbiased reviews: We took our research off Instagram and the first video tutorial (there are multiple YouTube accounts dedicated to vacuum testing) is this “Do Not Buy” warning. The reason? According to multiple reviews, the water attachment is thin, cheaply made and water drips everywhere. Also, these attachments are made for Dyson but not by Dyson, so it could void the vacuum’s warranty if something goes awry.

What to buy instead: Keep it low-tech with the effective and well-designed Vileda spin mop ($38.64 at Amazon or $41.97 at Walmart.)

Do sticky cleaning balls work?

The product: Sticky cleaning ball (like this one).

The claim: Roll this golf ball-size contraption around at the bottom of a bag or purse to clean up dirt and dust.

The unbiased reviews: The cutesy neon vacuum balls featured by influencers on social media need to be taken apart and rinsed after use, which seems like messy business. And though there are a few options to purchase on Amazon, there are zero user reviews (which is pretty unusual).

What to buy instead: For small spaces, Starfrit has a line of mini vacuums (two AA batteries are required). $10.50 on Amazon.

Do silicone heel protectors work?

The product: Silicone heel protectors.

The claim: These stretchy, slip-on contraptions claim to soften calluses, protect heels from blisters and provide extra cushion support.

The unbiased reviews: This is a product that reviewers either absolutely love or loathe: some swear it helps break in new shoes and protect heels, while others lament the one-size-fits-all sizing leads to slips and tears, along with stretching.

What to buy instead: For treating dry feet (particularly heels), Flexitol heel balm is inexpensive and really effective when used consistently. $10 at Amazon or $13.97 at Walmart.

For extra support around the heels, Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel Advanced Cushions are available in different sizes for men and women. From $11 at Amazon and $12.66 at Walmart.

Do wireless hair curlers work?

The product: Wireless hair curler with USB charger.

The claim: Inventive and “easy to use” hair tools are big business on social media. This tool combines the technology of a suction curl machine and the convenience of USB charging and wireless handling.

The unbiased reviews: In 2020, beauty vlogger Julissa Guillen gave a very helpful tutorial on the first-ever version of the wireless hair curler. She liked the look of the curls but didn’t love a lot of things: the machine had a short battery life and in two hours, she only managed to curl half of her hair because it only takes very small sections.

What to buy instead: Since 2020, reputable hair tool company Conair has released its Unbound Cordless Auto Curler, but many of the issues Guillen mentioned in her review seem to persist: charging life, curl quality and hair getting twisted in the machine. Verified reviewers who did love it note that it’s great for travel and works well on short hair. For those interested, it’s best to buy from a retailer with a solid return policy rather than an account on social media. Unbound Cordless Curler, $69.97 at Amazon and $69.97 at Walmart.

Do avocado savers work?

The product: Avocado saver.

The claim: There are multiple versions of the avocado saver on Instagram — the silicone sleeve, the pod (with a hardshell case) and the stretchy “hugger.”

The unbiased reviews: Avocados are expensive and it’s no wonder there are so many inventions to try to save a ripe avocado from turning brown. (The shelf life of a cut avocado feels like it’s about 10 minutes.) Despite multiple inventions, it seems like no one has been able to trick Mother Nature. None of these savers, from slip-on silicone to avocado-shaped storage containers, have consistently high reviews from users.

What to buy instead: The key to saving an avocado from browning instantly is to protect the outer green layer (brush on a citric juice, like lemon or lime) and then store it in any airtight container. This also eliminates having a single-use kitchen item, which is a waste of space. Bentgo small glass container with leak-proof lid, $24.97 at Well.ca.

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