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Kamala Harris's Indian Connections Spark a Social Media Frenzy – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — When Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris to be his running mate, it sparked a frenzy on the other side of the globe to track down her connections to Chennai, the southern Indian city where her mother was born.

On Twitter and Facebook, a flurry of users chronicled every minute link including her grandparents’ home in the Besant Nagar neighborhood, from where her mother Shyamala Gopalan set off as a teenager to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of California Berkeley. Undated photos surfaced of Kamala and younger sibling Maya in saris, smilingly posing with their grandparents during a visit. Many saw Harris a step away from the White House, and the de facto Democratic Party front-runner in four or eight years.

Writer Cauvery Madhavan captured the hysteria in a tweet: “If you’re wondering what that loud windy up sound is – it’s all of Chennai cranking the #SixDegreesOfSeparation machine!! Any moment now my mother is going to triumphantly reveal that her pharmacist’s father was @KamalaHarris’s grandma’s preferred tailor.” Another Twitter user, Priya Ravichandran, jested, “I was asked to Google and find which relative lives in besant nagar. People are this close to renting party bus and do drive by near their house and celebrate kamala.”Senator Harris is the first person of Indian descent and the first Black woman on a major ticket in a U.S. presidential election. Indian media outlets vied with American newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to analyze the geopolitical impact of her rise and what a Biden-Harris win could mean for U.S.-India relations. Local outlets and TV crews raced to hunt down an assortment of Harris’s aunts and even a great-uncle who detailed her visits to the sprawling metropolis and her strolls on its humid beaches discussing democracy and equality with her grandfather, a retired government official.

A prominent local newspaper, The Hindu BusinessLine, carried the headline: “Kamala Devi Harris and the destiny-changing coconuts from Chennai.” The story described Harris’s aunt praying for her victory in the California Senate elections nine years ago by breaking 108 coconuts, a popular religious ritual, at the local temple. The paper quoted Harris phoning her aunt to say, “Chithi (aunt), please pray for me and break coconuts at the temple.”

Twitter users highlighted her Indianness beginning with the name Kamala, which means lotus in several Indian languages. CNN’s local partner tweeted that “Kamala Harris loves idlis. And, sambhar” — fluffy rice cakes and spicy lentil stew often eaten for breakfast in India.

The fuss over Harris’s political elevation this week far outstripped the excitement over the rise of other Chennai-connected personalities such as actor Mindy Kaling and Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai.While hundreds of Twitter users in India posted laudatory messages, some rued that Harris’s nomination would inflate the already lofty expectations of Indian parents for their kids. Indian lawmaker and prominent opposition Congress Party member Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “‘Beta (son) what are you doing these days? Oh, just a Harvard Professor? Not even Mayor yet?’”

Harris, whose father is of Jamaican ancestry, has downplayed her family’s India ties although she has spoken of how the deep conversations with her grandfather during India visits helped shaped her political views. But social media users were quick to appropriate her as completely Indian. A video from last year in which she’s seen with Mindy Kaling cooking a masala dosa, a south Indian savory crepe filled with spicy potatoes, is circulating wildly on WhatsApp groups in India.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Some social media stars chafe at COVID restrictions, angering authorities – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Anthony Deutsch

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A handful of social media stars and influencers have publicly flouted rules aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic and even encouraged others to do so, and authorities from the Netherlands to the United States are not happy.

The online dissent comes as the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States passed 200,000 and many countries in Europe are grappling with a second wave of infections.

“I say ‘NO’ to all measures until the government can verifiably justify this policy,” a group of young Dutch entertainers wrote in a series of Instagram posts coordinated with organisers of protests against the restrictions.

The online celebrities have several million followers on Instagram between them.

They include 21-year-old singer and Instagram model Famke Louise, who took part in a Dutch government campaign promoting social distancing rules in the spring but has now switched sides.

“We can only get control of the government if we stick together,” she posted on Monday night. “I’m opting out.”

Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, who is battling new infections that jumped at a rate of more than 60% in the Netherlands this week to pass 100,000, criticised that attitude.

“We have to ask questions and being critical is certainly allowed, but just saying ‘I am opting out’ isn’t an option,” he said. “It’s irresponsible because they have huge influence on young people. We need our youth, we need everyone to keep the virus under control.”

The debate in the Netherlands is playing out the world over between people frustrated about restrictions on their lives and those who support governments’ attempts to stop the virus, which has infected more than 31 million people.

Popular TikTok “influencers” Bryce Hall and Blake Gray were charged in the United States for throwing parties in Los Angeles at which hundreds of revellers were pictured ignoring social distancing rules.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said that with a combined 19 million followers on TikTok, the stars should be “modelling good behaviour – not brazenly violating the law and posting videos about it.”

In Britain, Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher has voiced doubts about the effectiveness of wearing masks, while Van Morrison is releasing three songs to protest against “the way the government has taken away personal freedoms,” his website said.

He is donating profits from the tracks to musicians who have suffered financial hardship because of the coronavirus, according to the BBC.

But flouting government rules faces a backlash of its own, and social media campaigns including the #WearADamnMask hashtag have attracted support from major stars.

U.S. actors Bryan Cranston and Tom Hanks, both of whom contracted the virus and recovered, have also made public appeals for people to wear masks as a courtesy to others.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Advertisers agree deal with social media on steps to curb harmful content – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Martinne Geller

LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have agreed with big advertisers on first steps to curb harmful content online, following boycotts of social media platforms that advertisers had accused of tolerating hate speech.

The agreement comes three months after Facebook was hit by a boycott from major advertisers in the wake of anti-racism demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd, an American Black man, in police custody.

Advertisers have complained for years that big social media companies do too little to prevent ads from appearing alongside hate speech, fake news and other harmful content. Big tech companies, meanwhile, want to be seen as taking action on the issue to fend off calls for more regulation.

Under the deal, announced on Wednesday by the World Federation of Advertisers, common definitions would be adopted for forms of harmful content such as hate speech and bullying, and platforms would adopt harmonised reporting standards.

The platforms agreed to have some practices reviewed by external auditors, and to give advertisers more control of what content is displayed alongside their ads. The deal comes less than six weeks before a polarising U.S. presidential election.

“This is a significant milestone in the journey to rebuild trust online,” said Luis Di Como, executive vice president of global media at Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers. “…Whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction.”

Carolyn Everson, Vice President for Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, said the agreement “has aligned the industry on the brand safety floor and suitability framework, giving us all a unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online.”

SCEPTICAL

Campaigners who want more regulation of social media companies have been sceptical of voluntary measures such as those announced on Wednesday.

“Any progress in reducing harmful online content is to be welcomed. However, up to now voluntary action from social media companies has rarely lived up to its initial promises. So time will tell how much of a difference this latest industry-led initiative will make,” David Babbs of UK-based group Clean Up the Internet told Reuters by email.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign behind the Facebook boycott is backed by the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP, two of the oldest and biggest anti-racism campaign groups in the United States. The campaign did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In a statement last week, it said: “Facebook’s failures lead to real-life violence and sow division, and we’re calling on the company to improve its policies. We need to urge people to vote and demand Facebook stop undermining our democracy. Enough is enough.”

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Advertisers agree deal with social media on steps to curb harmful content – Reuters Canada

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LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have agreed with big advertisers on first steps to curb harmful content online, following boycotts of social media platforms that advertisers had accused of tolerating hate speech.

FILE PHOTO: Dozens of cardboard cut-outs of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sit outside of the U.S. Capitol Building as part of an Avaaz.org protest in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

The agreement comes three months after Facebook was hit by a boycott from major advertisers in the wake of anti-racism demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd, an American Black man, in police custody.

Advertisers have complained for years that big social media companies do too little to prevent ads from appearing alongside hate speech, fake news and other harmful content. Big tech companies, meanwhile, want to be seen as taking action on the issue to fend off calls for more regulation.

Under the deal, announced on Wednesday by the World Federation of Advertisers, common definitions would be adopted for forms of harmful content such as hate speech and bullying, and platforms would adopt harmonised reporting standards.

The platforms agreed to have some practices reviewed by external auditors, and to give advertisers more control of what content is displayed alongside their ads. The deal comes less than six weeks before a polarising U.S. presidential election.

“This is a significant milestone in the journey to rebuild trust online,” said Luis Di Como, executive vice president of global media at Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers. “…Whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction.”

Carolyn Everson, Vice President for Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, said the agreement “has aligned the industry on the brand safety floor and suitability framework, giving us all a unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online.”

SCEPTICAL

Campaigners who want more regulation of social media companies have been sceptical of voluntary measures such as those announced on Wednesday.

“Any progress in reducing harmful online content is to be welcomed. However, up to now voluntary action from social media companies has rarely lived up to its initial promises. So time will tell how much of a difference this latest industry-led initiative will make,” David Babbs of UK-based group Clean Up the Internet told Reuters by email.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign behind the Facebook boycott is backed by the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP, two of the oldest and biggest anti-racism campaign groups in the United States. The campaign did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In a statement last week, it said: “Facebook’s failures lead to real-life violence and sow division, and we’re calling on the company to improve its policies. We need to urge people to vote and demand Facebook stop undermining our democracy. Enough is enough.”

Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Peter Graff

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