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Munk Debates – Noam Cohen: Social media is dangerous and it needs to be regulated – National Post

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The following was adapted from remarks recently delivered on a Munk Debates podcast: “Be it resolved, social media is a force for good in the world.”

Social media is not a force for good in society. That doesn’t mean that communicating is bad and being connected is bad. It means the way social communication is being run by a handful of companies has been bad for society. Recently, there was a memo that came out that was written by one of Mark Zuckerberg’s top deputies, Andy Bosworth, where he tried to defend Facebook against recent criticisms. The best he came up with was “it’s no worse than a company that uses sugar to get people to buy their product.” He also says in the same memo that Facebook got Donald Trump elected.

If Jeff Jarvis were to concede that one point which Facebook itself claims, that Facebook got Donald Trump elected, wouldn’t that be an argument that Facebook is one example of social media in our society that is a force for bad? Facebook has an algorithm that encourages Fox News to be read by people who made it clear they want Fox News’ lies to be what they read; is that not an indictment of Facebook? Would that be something that would be a social negative? If they did something by design that let more Fox News be read by people who are primed to believe it, wouldn’t you agree that is a bad thing?


A Facebook sign is seen at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Nov. 6, 2019.

Aly Song/Reuters

These companies have chosen not to engage. They’ve chosen not to make tough decisions about how to run their companies well. They’ve chosen to say that they don’t care about the social impact. There are companies that care about social impact, who care about whether Donald Trump is lying in his ads, whether he is suppressing the black vote. Yet social media companies are saying, “we’re not going to engage.” That’s too dangerous. We’ve always believed the companies should have a social role in our society and they should not be making up the rules. Now we find ourselves in a situation where we have entrusted this vitally important tool to a bunch of inept people who care more about making money than social responsibility.

The social network platforms grew without any kind of thought towards regulation. They have gained unprecedented power and control and chosen to behave in a laissez-faire libertarian approach. I don’t want to live in a world that is so libertarian, that is extreme in its idea of freedom, that no one should care what you’re doing. You should care what your neighbour is doing. We all have a stake in each other. I’m arguing for a company that cares about society and social good.

They have gained unprecedented power and control

The U.S. government has failed to break up these monopolies. If we were to implement a regulated social network system with genuine competition, if we could break up Silicon Valley and bring them into line, if people could own their own data, I believe social media would be transformed into a force for good in the world. We can choose to have a decent internet with rules and smaller companies. Yet right now the opposite is happening. We as a society have allowed this miserable system to take over because we fetishize the idea of not having any rules. And that is a recipe for disaster.

Noam Cohen is a journalist and the author of “The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball.” He is an Ideas columnist for Wired magazine. Before that, he wrote the Link by Link column for The New York Times, producing some of the earliest articles about Wikipedia, Bitcoin, Wikileaks and Twitter.

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Quebec City police arrest man after social media threats targeting mayor – Global News

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Quebec City police arrested a man Wednesday in connection with online threats made toward the mayor.

The 41-year-old suspect was arrested shortly after 11 a.m. after an investigation led police to his home.

Police say the man is facing charges of criminal harassment. He was questioned by investigators and released on the promise to appear.

READ MORE: Quebec City police investigating online threats targeting mayor

Mayor Régis Labeaume filed a complaint with the local police department earlier this week, saying he was the target of threats on social media. The police launched an investigation Monday.

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At a press conference Tuesday, Labeaume confirmed the messages were related to the city’s decision to pull advertising from a local radio station.

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Officials claimed CHOI Radio X is promoting “opposition” to sanitary measures implemented by the provincial government to limit the spread of COVID-19. Several companies have followed suit, including Hydro-Quebec and Desjardins.

READ MORE: Quebec City yanks advertising at local radio station over opposition to coronavirus measures

RNC media, the owner of the radio station, issued a statement Monday saying that it wants to continue to inform listeners while maintaining a critical sense of the news.

Quebec City is set to enter the provincial government’s red zone of its coronavirus alert system after cases and outbreaks spiked in recent weeks. The designation calls for tighter restrictions for a 28-day period in the region.


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Coronavirus: Quebec City pulls advertising from controversial FM radio station


Coronavirus: Quebec City pulls advertising from controversial FM radio station

With files from the Canadian Press

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Social media helping First Nations push moderate livelihood – SaltWire Network

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When Alexander MacDonald headed up to Burnt Church in 1999, he didn’t bring a smartphone.

They didn’t exist yet.

As lobster traps were being cut and boats and trucks were getting rammed around the northern New Brunswick First Nation, then 15-year-old Mark Zuckerberg was still learning Atari BASIC programming from his dentist father in their Dobbs Ferry, NY, home.

“We didn’t have Facebook at Burnt Church,” said MacDonald, a member of the Sipekne’katik First Nation who now fishes commercially out of Digby.

“What social media does today is gives us more support. It shows our side. It shows what the non-natives are doing to us.”

A citizenry who didn’t have the time or interest to read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions or the 250 year old treaties on which they’re based, looked at their phones last week and for a few minutes at a time were transported to St. Mary’s Bay where the large Cape Islanders of commercial fishermen came right at them.

Unlike in 1999 on Miramichi Bay, everyone on St. Mary’s Bay over the past two weeks was a potential publisher.

The Mi’kmaw got that.

“’Ninety-Six, ’97, ’98, ’99, we had all these fights – it didn’t start at Burnt Church, this was an every year thing,” said MacDonald.

“I can remember when I was a kid fishing in a brook, DNR coming at me telling me I’m not allowed to practice my right. So we knew that with them having H-Division, SWAT, Coast Guard, DFO, they had an army down there ready to put the Indian down if he tried to push back.”

Law and order was represented by two helicopters (one RCMP, one Coast Guard), Fisheries and Oceans enforcement boats, RCMP boats staged in Meteghan, an armoured vehicle and a Coast Guard Cutter.

But institutions and individuals all found themselves taking new roles this time around.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan didn’t return to Nova Scotia, and, unlike her predecessor during the Burnt Church crisis, didn’t direct federal authorities to intervene.

In the vacuum left by the federal government and a battle playing out on the water, the Nova Scotia Assembly of Mi’kmaw Chiefs took on the role of governing body.

They declared a state of emergency, set up a command centre, and along with the Sipekne’katik First Nation seized control of the Lower Saulnierville Wharf, provided regular public updates and media access.

Meanwhile, traditional media outlets coming out of Halifax were supplanted as the prime explainers of the local reality by a bearded Hants County weir fishermen who got 50,000 plus views on each of the unedited videos of him looking down at his cellphone and explaining both the Mi’kmaw and commercial fishermen’s perspectives.

Darren Porter assessed that the parties had been pitted against one another by Fisheries and Oceans – first by the federal government’s refusal to negotiate the implementation of a moderate livelihood fishery and then by its declaration that traps set by the Sipekne’katik First Nation were “unauthorized.”

“Fishing without a license is a violation under the Fisheries Act and anyone fishing outside the activities authorized under a license may be subject to enforcement action,” read a statement put out by the minister’s office on Sept 17.

“When (Bernadette Jordan) came out and said it was ‘unauthorized,’ she incited those (commercial) fishermen to believe they were doing the right thing in hauling the First Nations traps and that they had the moral high ground and the backing of Fisheries and Oceans,” said Porter.

“Which was incorrect. (First Nations) had a right to set those traps. Then she quickly changed her position to the opposite side. It was very craftily done.”

Asked if it was unfair to label the impact of the minister’s shifting positions as intentional, Porter responded, “Does it matter? The result is the same.”

On Tuesday, Porter, who is also spokesman for the Fundy United Fishermen’s Association, was in his open aluminum boat researching marine life in the Minas Passage with two Mi’kmaw representatives and a scientist.

He warned the real damage done by the recent conflict was to relations between two communities who will be sharing St. Mary’s Bay.

“All the parties need to get to a point of respectful dialogue. Once (they) get to that point – they can say ‘let’s do something together,’” said Porter.

“The answer is joint science – send out representatives working together to answer the core questions about the resource and the fishery that both sides believe they are right on. While they are doing that and coming to conclusions they can both agree on because they worked together, they will also be building relationships.”

The Sipekne’katik First Nation issued a press release Tuesday saying a “respectful” dialogue had begun in the negotiations with Fisheries and Oceans Canada over the implementation of its moderate livelihood fishery.

But for his part, MacDonald remains skeptical.

He expects to the federal government to try and buy the First Nations off from pursuing a moderate livelihood fishery by offering up more commercial licenses. Sipekne’katik currently has 15 licenses in lobster fishing areas 33, 34 and 35. Provided by Fisheries and Oceans, the band leases the majority out to non-aboriginal fishermen. So while they provide revenue, they don’t provide the access to the fishery for individual members acknowledged as a right by the Supreme Court.

After Burnt Church, MacDonald went to work on commercial fishing boats on the South Shore.

He got his captain’s papers, built an enterprise and his own lobster pound.

Even fishing commercial licenses, he says he’s had his traps cut and no help from Fisheries and Oceans.

“The difference between 1999 and today is that because of social media, because of cell phones, we share our story with the world and we can reach one another quickly and shut this country down,”said MacDonald, referring to blockades of railways and roadways across Canada earlier this year.

“We’re connected right across Canada. You can’t ignore us anymore.”

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Feeling Overwhelmed and Depressed? Could be Too Much Social Media – Net Newsledger

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – LIVING – Can’t stop checking social media for the latest COVID-19 health information? You might want to take a break, according to researchers at Penn State and Jinan University who discovered that excessive use of social media for COVID-19 health information is related to both depression and secondary trauma.

“We found that social media use was rewarding up to a point, as it provided informational, emotional and peer support related to COVID-19 health topics,” said Bu Zhong, associate professor of journalism, Penn State. “However, excessive use of social media led to mental health issues. The results imply that taking a social media break may promote well-being during the pandemic, which is crucial to mitigating mental health harm inflicted by the pandemic.”

The study, which published online on August 15, 2020 in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, included 320 participants living in urban districts of Wuhan, China. In February 2020, the team gave the participants an online survey that investigated how they accessed and shared health information with family members, friends and colleagues on social media, specifically WeChat, China’s most popular social media mobile app.

The team used an instrument created to measure Facebook addiction to assess participants’ use of WeChat. Using a 5-point Likert-type scale, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree, the survey assessed participants’ views of WeChat in providing them with informational, emotional and peer support. The survey also assessed participants’ health behavior changes as a result of using social media.

Statements related to informational support included, “I use WeChat to gain information about how to manage the coronavirus epidemic,” and “If I have a question or need help related to the coronavirus epidemic, I can usually find the answers on WeChat.” Statements related to emotional support included, “My stress levels go down while I’m engaging with others on WeChat,” and “The health information on WeChat helps me alleviate feelings of loneliness.” Statements related to peer support included, “I use WeChat to share practical advice and suggestions about managing the coronavirus epidemic,” and “I have used some of the information I learned from WeChat friends as part of my management strategies for coping with the coronavirus epidemic.”

The survey also investigated participants’ health behavior changes related to the use of WeChat, asking them to rate statements such as, “The health information on WeChat has changed many of my health behaviors, such as but not limited to wearing face masks, using sanitizer, or washing hands.”

To assess depression, the researchers used a 21-item Depression Anxiety Stress Scale in which participants rated statements such as, “I couldn’t seem to experience any positive feeling at all,” and “I felt that life was meaningless.”

According to Zhong, secondary trauma refers to the behaviors and emotions resulting from knowledge about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other. Using the Secondary Trauma Stress Scale, the researchers asked respondents to rate statements such as, “My heart started pounding when I thought about the coronavirus epidemic,” and “I had disturbing dreams about the coronavirus epidemic.”

“We found that the Wuhan residents obtained tremendous informational and peer support but slightly less emotional support when they accessed and shared health information about COVID-on WeChat,” said Zhong. “The participants also reported a series of health behavior changes, such as increased hand washing and use of face masks.

More than half of the respondents reported some level of depression, with nearly 20% of them suffering moderate or severe depression. Among the respondents who reported secondary trauma, the majority reported a low (80%) level of trauma, while fewer reported moderate (13%) and high (7%) levels of trauma. None of the participants reported having any depressive or traumatic disorders before the survey was conducted.

“Our results show that social media usage was related to both depression and secondary trauma during the early part of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan,” said Zhong. “The findings suggest that taking a social media break from time to time may help to improve people’s mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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