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#Snowmaggedon2020: Monster N.L. snowstorm through the eyes of social media – CTV News



An intense snowstorm has targeted eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, pounding areas with blizzard conditions and prompting the City of St. John’s to declare a state of emergency.

Environment Canada issued a blizzard warning for St. John’s and the surrounding area Friday morning, warning of hazardous conditions “with very strong winds and visibility near zero in heavy snow and blowing snow.”

The national weather agency said up to 75 centimetres of snow can be expected with the potent storm system, with the highest amount of snow occurring over the northern Avalon Peninsula.

As Newfoundlanders hunkered down, many residents began to share images and video of the storm on social media, dubbing the winter weather #Snowmaggedon2020.

“We’re sorry, due to #snowmaggedon2020 St. John’s, Newfoundland is closed today,” reads a tweet. “Please check back after the #Blizzard with whoever is left. Stay safe.”

Images show snowdrifts building on city streets and on front porches of many residents’ homes.

Around 11 a.m. local time, St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen declared a state of emergency in the city, ordering all businesses to close and calling for motorists to get off the roads and people to stay home.

Here’s a look at the storm through the eyes of social media:

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Horizon Media, Madison Avenue’s Long-Time Independent Media Shop, Sells Minority Stake – Variety



Horizon Media, one of the largest advertising companies not owned by the big publicly-traded entities that dominate the industry, intends to sell off a minority stake to investment firms, ending its decades of pursuing a purely go-it-alone strategy.

Horizon, long controlled by entrepreneur Bill Koenigsberg, said it had sold a piece of the company to Temasek, a Singapore investment firm. LionTree Advisors, an investment firm led by Aryeh Bourkoff, will also become an investor as part of the transaction.  Financial terms were not disclosed, but Koenigsberg is to remain “the long-term majority shareholder” of the agency. Horizon was founded in 1989, employs 2,500 people and manages media investments valued at more than $9.5 billion

“Horizon sees more opportunity than ever before to take advantage of gaps in the marketplace and continue our significant growth in driving positive business outcomes for our clients. In evaluating the next evolution of Horizon, I wanted a world class partner who is like-minded strategically, has the same appetite for growth, understands the media, marketing, and technology landscape, is global in scale, and culturally aligned,” Koenigsberg said in a statement. “I found that perfect combination in Temasek and LionTree.”

Horizon is one of a handful of large firms that help advertisers allocate and invest millions of dollars in advertising, serving all the while as influential go-betweens that deal with blue-chip marketers and the media outlets they need to get the word out about their products and services. Horizon has long worked for Berkshire Hathaway’s Geico, one of the nation’s biggest ad spenders, along with Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Corona beer and CBS. Horizon is also involved in the launch of the Hoop Dreams Classic, an event that is backed by actor Michael B. Jordan and WarnerMedia among others.

But the other media buying giants, like Magna, Omnicom Media Group and GroupM, are backed by Madison Avenue giants like Interpublic Group, Omnicom Group and WPP. Koenigsberg has, over the years, chosen to remain independent — and some clients have appreciated it.

In the past, Koenigsberg has seen his company’s independence as an advantage. “Being CEO for the company for the last 30 years and having a long-term vision is an enormous competitive advantage, because when I look at my competitors — and I don’t want to go back 30 years, let me go back 10 — there have probably been 100 different CEOs at my competitor agencies,” he told Ad Age in 2020. “When a new one comes in, they feel the need to shake things up and leave a mark,” he said, adding: “There’s an inconsistency in where they’re going. For me, I’ve had a much longer runway and an ability to drive the business forward with this long-term vision.”

But staying solo has also created some disadvantages. “I’m not as strong globally,” he told Ad Age.  “The other downside is … the fact that I don’t have publicly traded currency sometimes has hurt me.”

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Parents of the social media generation are not OK – CNN



(CNN Business)Last September, just a few weeks into the school year, Sabine Polak got a call from the guidance counselor. Her 14-year-old daughter was struggling with depression and had contemplated suicide.

“I was completely floored,” said Polak, 45, who lives in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. “I had no clue she was even feeling remotely down at all. When I asked her about it, she just kept saying she wanted to get away from it all … but I didn’t know what that meant.”
After taking her to a crisis center, which banned phone use for anyone checking in, Polak learned from her daughter that the pressures of social media were driving her increased anxiety. The main source of stress: waiting for her friends to open and respond to messages and photos on Snapchat.
“It became really addictive [for her] — the sense that you always have to be on, and always have to be responding to someone in order to be seen or to exist,” she said. “She would look at her phone and go from calm to storming out of the car, and the rest of the night, just curled up in her bed.”
Polak turned on some of the phone’s parental controls, but they were easy for her daughter to circumvent. She took the phone away but worried this move would only drive her daughter to think about taking her own life again. She gave the phone back only to find her daughter “self-soothing” on another social app, TikTok — so much, in fact, that “she literally believes that she can’t fall asleep without it.” As Polak put it, her daughter “feels lost, like, ‘I have no idea what to do with myself if I’m not on social media.'”
Polak is among a generation of parents who did not spend their childhoods with social media apps and are now struggling to understand and navigate the potential harms that social media can have on their kids’ mental health as they grow up. In interviews over the last month, nearly a dozen parents spoke with CNN Business about grappling with how to deal with teens who experience online harms such as bullying, body image issues and pressures to always be Liked. Most of the parents said these issues either began or were exacerbated by the pandemic, a time when their children were isolated from friends, social media became a lifeline and the amount of screen time increased.
Sabine Polak is one of many concerned parents who are struggling to navigate social media's impact on their children's mental health.

Sabine Polak is one of many concerned parents who are struggling to navigate social media's impact on their children's mental health.

The issue of social media’s impact on teens gained renewed attention this fall after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked hundreds of internal documents, some of which showed the company knew of Instagram’s potential to negatively impact one’s mental health and body image, especially among teenage girls. But Haugen also touched on the impact on parents. During her testimony before Congress in October, Haugen cited Facebook research that revealed kids believe they are struggling with issues like body image and bullying alone because their parents can’t guide them.
“I’m saddest when I look on Twitter and people blame the parents for these problems with Facebook. They say, ‘Just take your kid’s phone away.’ But the reality is that it’s a lot more complicated than that,” she said in her testimony.
“Very rarely do you have one of these generational shifts where the generation that leads, like parents who guide their children, have such a different set of experiences that they don’t have the context to support their children in a safe way,” she added. “We need to support parents. If Facebook won’t protect the kids, we at least need to help the parents support the kids.”
Facebook, which rebranded as Meta in October, has repeatedly tried to discredit Haugen and said her testimony and reports on the documents mischaracterize its actions and efforts. But the outcry from Haugen’s disclosures pressured Facebook to rethink the launch of an Instagram app for children under 13. (Children under the age of 13 are not currently permitted to create accounts on any Meta platforms.)
It also helped spur a series of congressional hearings about how tech products impact kids, featuring execs from Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat’s parent company, Snap. This week, the head of Meta-owned Instagram is set to appear before Congress as lawmakers question the app’s impact on young users.
In their testimonies, the TikTok and Snap executives showed humility and acknowledged the need to do more to protect their platforms. Jennifer Stout, Snap VP of global public policy, said the company is developing new tools for parents to better oversee how their children are using the app. Instagram previously said it’s “increasingly focused on addressing negative social comparison and negative body image.”
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appears before a Senate subcommittee in October.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appears before a Senate subcommittee in October.

Ahead of the Congressional appearance this week, Instagram introduced a Take a Break feature which encourages users to spend some time away from the platform. The company also said it plans to take a “stricter approach” to the content it recommends to teenagers and actively nudge them toward different topics if they’ve been dwelling on any type of content for too long. It’s also planning to introduce its first tools for parents, including an educational hub and parental monitoring tools that allow them to see how much time their kids spend on Instagram and set time limits, starting next year.
“You can offer tools to parents and you can offer them insights into their teen’s activity, but that’s not as helpful if they don’t really know how to have a conversation with their teen about it, or how to start a dialogue that can help them get the most out of their time online,” Vaishnavi J, Instagram’s head of safety and well-being, told CNN Business this week.
Meanwhile, members of Congress have shown rare bipartisanship by uniting in criticizing tech companies on the issue. Some lawmakers are now pushing for legislation intended to increase children’s privacy online and reduce the apparent addictiveness of various platforms — though it remains unclear when or if such legislation will pass.
For some parents, these changes aren’t coming quick enough. Unsure what else to do, parents feel they have to go it alone, whether that means pushing for changes in their school districts or looking for advice from peers on some of the same social networks they feel have caused their families pain.

A longtime concern that’s getting worse

Even before Haugen’s disclosures, there were concerns in some households that the risks social media platforms posed to their kids were only growing.
Katherine Lake said social media became “everything” for her 13-year-old child during the pandemic to pass the time at home and connect with friends. She said her teen fell down a rabbit hole of pages about mental health and, later, posts about self harm — something her kid “didn’t even know about before Instagram.” The teenager was hospitalized last spring after attempting suicide.
“The pandemic has certainly accelerated some of the threats and dangers that we’ve been dealing with for years,” said Marc Berkman, CEO of the Organization for Social Media Safety, an agency founded three years ago to provide tips and preventative safety workshops for parents.
Some data also support that mental health issues among young people on social media are on the rise. Bark, a paid monitoring service that screens social media apps, personal messages and emails for terms and phrases that could indicate concerns, said it saw a 143% increase in alerts sent around self-harm and suicidal ideation during the first three months of 2021 compared to the year prior. (Parents receive alerts when Bark detects potential issues, along with expert recommendations from child psychologists for how to address them.)
“Our children’s lives are buried deep within their phones and the problems live within their digital signal in places that parents don’t go,” said Titania Jordan, chief marketing officer of Bark. “If you’re not spending time in the places where your children are online, how can you be educated and then how can you give them guidance?”
Gabriella Bermudez, now 18, recalls how Instagram impacted her mental health in middle school.

Gabriella Bermudez, now 18, recalls how Instagram impacted her mental health in middle school.

Gabriella Bermudez, a 19-year-old Fordham University student, told CNN Business she started struggling with body image issues in middle school after a boy she had a crush on started Liking photos of a 30-year-old model on Instagram.
“I was 12, and I would look at her and think, ‘Why don’t I look like that?'” said Bermudez.”I was covered with pimples. My hair, it was awful. … It never resonated that she was a grown woman. I posted pictures of myself to make myself look a lot older than I was.”
But that started to attract direct messages from older men on Instagram. She kept this from her parents, she said, because she thought “they’ll never understand what it’s like to be young [right now].”
“They always had societal pressures to look a certain way or behave a certain way, but that was in a magazine or on TV. They could have turned it off. For us, we’re attached to our phones all the time. When we’re waiting at the bus stop or walking to class, we’re always reminded of these ideals.”

Looking for answers

When Julia Taylor needs held making parenting decisions, she sometimes turns to a Facebook group called “Parenting in a Tech World.” Taylor’s son has ADHD, which she said causes him to “become hyper-focused on certain things,” including “anything with a screen.” Taylor, a single mom from the Denver area, wanted him to have a smartphone, “but he was hacking every parental control, sometimes staying up all night.”
On “Parenting in a Tech World,” which has 150,000 followers, she and other parents can find feedback on a wide range of topics, including when a kid should be allowed to join social media sites, what to do if they’re sending or receiving inappropriate texts or pictures, and product recommendations like a docking station that keeps devices out of kids’ rooms at night. Last year, Taylor purchased a Pinwheel phone that comes with web browsers and restricts social media use. (She later joined the company full-time as a marketing manager.)
Bark’s Jordan started the group years ago after she joined the company when she struggled to find resources to help her own parenting. “It has always taken a village to be the best parent you can, and while we’re waiting on legislators and Big Tech to do the right thing, at the end of the day, nobody is going to be a better parent for your child than you. The best thing that you can do is learn from other parents who have been there and done that, both their mistakes and their wins.”
On this issue, however, there are no easy answers. Social media and smartphones are here to stay — and taking them away could risk undermining a child’s social relationships and sense of independence. According to Alexandra Hamlet, a clinical psychologist in New York City, it’s important for parents to help teenagers navigate both the online and physical world, by being understanding and nonjudgmental. “If we can teach and support our children to use the same skillsets to navigate each world, we increase our chances of attaining mental health,” she said.
There’s now a wide range of policy ideas being batted around to help parents and kids. Some critics, including Haugen, said tech companies should move away from algorithmic news feeds that can drive users down rabbit holes. Two Democratic Senators have touted legislation called the Kids Act, which would ban autoplay settings and push alerts with the hope of limiting screen time. And the Organization for Social Media Safety said it is now working with Congress to try to push through legislation that would require third-party parent monitoring apps on all social media accounts of kids of a certain age.
Titania Jordan, an executive at Bark, started a Facebook Group for parents to discuss the challenges associated with raisiing kids in the digital age

Titania Jordan, an executive at Bark, started a Facebook Group for parents to discuss the challenges associated with raisiing kids in the digital age

Some parents inside and outside this Facebook group are already using parental control apps as well as purchasing low-tech phones and limiting social media use. Some have also gone so far as to try to get their children’s schools to take action on everything from banning phones in classrooms to cracking down on online bullying incidents, with little success.
Fernando Velloso, a father from Los Angeles, said his high school-aged daughter dealt with an anonymous bullying account likely set up by classmates who made false claims about her dating life. He said the school didn’t want to take action because it occurred outside of its premises.
On a series of Instagram accounts from high schools in the area, which were viewed by CNN, students are encouraged to submit gossip tips to accounts that have called students cheaters, rapists or questioned their sexuality. While Instagram has banned some of the accounts, others remain active. (A Meta spokesperson said the accounts did not violate its community guidelines but a number of pieces of content did, and have been removed.)
Bermudez said schools can do more to educate teenagers on how to better manage mental health and social media. “We need to be taught at a really young age, like in elementary school, about how to use it and [make it a] safe space.”
During her testimony, Haugen said schools and organizations such as the National Institutes of Health should provide established information where parents can learn how to better support their kids. Meanwhile, the Organization for Social Media Safety is currently rolling out a program with DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) to be part of that curriculum in thousands of schools by the end of the current school year to educate students about the dangers of social media
Polak, the mother whose daughter had suicidal thoughts, has proposed a Mental Health Awareness Week at her daughter’s school that would include screenings of Childhood 2.0 and The Social Dilemma — two documentaries that touch on how platforms are impacting the well-being of its users.
Polak said her daughter is now doing better and occasionally accesses social media with time restrictions. “But once a week we have a social media brawl, where she’ll present me with, ‘When can I go back on Snapchat? When can I get back on TikTok?’ It’s a constant struggle, and there’s a lot of peer pressure from friends, good friends, to get back on some of the apps.”
But on a recent night, she found her daughter quietly playing with their family cat for half an hour in her room. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s what’s missing — the little everyday stuff that curbs our anxiety,” she said. “It’s just completely missing from teenage life at this point.”

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‘Frantic race backwards’ for China media freedoms: Report – Al Jazeera English



Reporters Without Borders says at least 127 journalists are detained in China, as Beijing takes ever harsher line on media freedoms.

At least 127 journalists – from major international news outlets to bloggers – are currently detained in China as the Chinese Communist Party continues a major crackdown on media initiated by President Xi Jinping, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has said in a new report.

China now ranks 177 out of 180 in the media watchdog’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index,  two slots above North Korea, thanks to a sweeping campaign to limit free expression across every sector of society.

In the report, published on Tuesday, Secretary General Christophe Deloire described China as a country in the midst of a “ frantic race backwards” as Chinese citizens continue to lose press freedom.

Chinese journalists and writers have become a target of the campaign and face charges such as espionage, subversion and “picking quarrels”. They include whistleblowers like Zhang Zhan, a Chinese lawyer who last year was sentenced to four years in prison for documenting the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, and Cheng Lei, an Australian Chinese anchor at Chinese state media outlet CGTN who was formally arrested in February and accused of supplying state secrets overseas.

Prior to their formal arrest, many detained journalists may spend up to six months under “residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL),” according to the media group. Institutionalised in China in 2012, the practice allows authorities to hold an individual in solitary confinement and constant supervision at a designated facility. The practice is frequently described as “torture” by those who have experienced it.

Cheng was detained in August 2020 and reportedly underwent RSDL before she was formally charged six months later. Her trial and sentencing have yet to be announced.

Nearly two-thirds of journalists detained in China are Uighurs, according to RSF, many of whom helped to raise the alarm about China’s campaign of repression against the Muslim ethnic minority and other groups in the far western region of Xinjiang. Uighur journalists and bloggers appear to face harsher sentences than their Han Chinese counterparts, like Ilham Tohti, an economist and founder of the website Uyghur Online who was sentenced to life in prison for “separatism” in 2014.

Australia ChinaAustralian citizen and television anchor Cheng Lei, who worked for China”s state television CGTN, has been accused of spying  [File: Australia Global Alumni, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade via Reuters]

Affiliation with major news outlets or second citizenship in a Western country has also failed to protect Chinese journalists, who under Chinese law can only work as “news assistants” for foreign media.

The release of the report coincided with the first anniversary of the detention of Haze Fan, a news assistant for New York-based Bloomberg News, who was taken away by plain-clothes police officers in Beijing last year. On Tuesday, Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said the media group was “very worried about her well-being” after 12 months of detention.

In a bid to control Chinese journalists in the future, the report noted, Chinese journalists are required to download an app “Study Xi, Strengthen the Country,” which can download their personal data, while they will soon have to undergo 90 hours of ideological training each year to renew their press card.

While the country has never been known as an easy place to report from, foreign journalists say that conditions in China have become more challenging in recent years and even more so under COVID-19 regulations, according to surveys by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China.  In 2020, 18 foreign journalists were forced to leave China due to deteriorating diplomatic relations between China, the United States and Australia.

China’s crackdown has also extended into Hong Kong, a former British colony once considered one of the most open places in Asia.

The territory is the regional headquarters of media organisations including CNN, AFP and Reuters due to its formerly high level of press freedom.

Media mogul Jimmy Lai is the highest profile person charged under Hong Kong’s security law. His newspaper, Apple Daily, has been forced to close and six other employees including its former chief editor have also been detained [File: Jerome Favre/EPA]

Following months of democracy protests in 2019 and the imposition of national security legislation, Hong Kong media has also found itself under attack, RSF said.

One of the highest profile cases was the closure of pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily and the arrest of its founder Jimmy Lai, who is facing life imprisonment for “colluding with foreign forces” under the terms of the new legislation.

Six additional Apple Daily employees are also in detention, including the newspaper’s former chief editor and several writers.

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