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Older people are in grave danger of being left behind.
Many young people have embraced the convenience of digital technologies such as online shopping, car hailing, digital payments, and telemedicine. But many elderly without a grasp of the latest knowledge are at risk of being left behind.
The platform experiments with letting users decide what content needs flagging.
- Birdwatch is a new effort by Twitter to crowdsource content moderation.
- Still in testing, volunteers can comment on tweets they find problematic.
- Reactions to the new experiment are predictably colorful and bird-brained.
Test flight<p><span></span>For now, Birdwatch is being tested from <a href="https://twitter.com/i/birdwatch" target="_blank">its own site</a> — it's not something Twitter users can currently see unless they volunteer to contribute to it. When someone signs up to test Birdwatch, a new option appears among the actions available for responding to a tweet on Twitter proper. Eventually, if it works out, Birdwatch labels and comments would appear publicly affixed to tweets.</p><p>Here's how Birdwatch works once you sign up:</p><ol><li>When you click on the three-dot menu to the right of a questionable tweet, a new option appears at the bottom of the actions presented: "Contribute to Birdwatch."</li><li>If you choose this option, you're brought to a list of reasons you might have for feeling the tweet should be tagged as iffy — you check the box that reflects your opinion.</li><li>Next, you tell Twitter the damage the tweet could potentially cause if it's left unflagged.</li><li>You're asked for a comment about your objection to the tweet.</li><li>Finally, you're asked to assess the current Birdwatch consensus regarding the tweet.</li></ol><p>Twitter intends to develop an algorithmic approach to collating Birdwatch responses, and is also planning review sessions with subject-matter experts, since, as one Twitter user <a href="https://twitter.com/MaceMoneta/status/1353769684718522368" target="_blank">posted</a>, "The plural of anecdote is not fact."</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">🐦 Today we’re introducing <a href="https://twitter.com/birdwatch?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Birdwatch</a>, a community-driven approach to addressing misleading information. And we want your help. (1/3) <a href="https://t.co/aYJILZ7iKB">pic.twitter.com/aYJILZ7iKB</a></p>— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) <a href="https://twitter.com/TwitterSupport/status/1353766523664531459?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 25, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Birdwatch reactions<p>So far, the Twitter community's response to Birdwatch covers the whole spectrum, with some people hopeful and many more, this being the internet, skeptical. (We'll talk about politicians' response to Birdwatch below.)</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU0MjU5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Njc1NDM1MX0.kOou0PkKLJSpS8-OEq8Y_y9NkQbrnj0ANoCePDpyTZ0/img.jpg?width=980" id="801d7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="05da8dc53a1d945ab11befee102b661e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1193" data-height="1343" />
How Donald Trump gave Twitter its wings<p>Birdwatch, um, flies in the face of what has made Twitter so central to the U.S. politics since around 2015. Prior to the entry of Donald Trump into the 2016 presidential race, Twitter seemed to many to be on its way out, yet another discarded novelty of the internet age.</p><p>Candidate Trump changed all that and continued to use his Twitter account as his primary platform throughout his presidency. In terms of the day-to-day drama that accompanied his time in office, the president's expulsion from Twitter felt more like the end of his term than did the official transfer of power on January 20.</p><p>That expulsion itself was apparently the end result of <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/01/16/how-twitter-banned-trump/" target="_blank">considerable turmoil and discord</a> internally within Twitter. That's because Donald Trump's artful deployment of Twitter has been the primary driver behind its resurgence and the reason it continues to play a significant role in U.S. politics.</p><p>What @realDonaldTrump understood was that a deliberately outrageous tweet is an easy way to immediately grab the public's attention, either for sheer publicity value or as a means of distraction. Truth and accuracy matter far less than what social media calls "<a href="https://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-answers/what-is-social-media-engagement/" target="_blank">engagement</a>." Post-Trump, other publicity-hungry politicians continue to follow the ex-president's playbook. Some of them are even doing so as they attack Birdwatch.</p><p>And herein lies Twitter's dilemma. When provocative content draws attention to a tweet poster, it also draws attention to Twitter, and that benefits the platform by increasing the size of the audience it can sell to advertisers. At the same time, there's growing political pressure on the company to control the dissemination of content that's harmful to the public and American political process.</p><p>Birdwatch may let Twitter off the hook: Truth would be crowdsourced and enforced without Twitter, or its advertisers, having to get its hands dirty with endless controversies.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU0MjYxNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODQwMDEyMX0.x77ubxMRqLiHDKj3DAG74-21GrLCR9Ghf5UQMmcsRto/img.jpg?width=980" id="c8651" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f2970b9e1d7a791c685d04e0a8db880a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="660" data-height="367" />
The tweet that probably did it.
Politics and politicians<p>The pressure to do better largely comes in the form of threats to repeal <a href="https://observer.com/2020/10/tech-ceo-testify-senate-social-media-content-moderation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Section 230</a> of the Communications Decency Act. This is the regulation that absolves a social media platform from legal liability for content its users post. Though the rule's purpose is to promote the use of unfettered expression on social media, there's an inherent problem — this kind of content tends to go viral and that increases audience size, which increases a platform's advertising sales and that means more profit.</p><p>Some of the loudest voices, ironically, are politicians who themselves use Twitter for spreading this very type of content. The former president, in fact, vetoed a defense bill because it didn't contain a repeal of Section 230 — it doesn't seem to have occurred to him that his own inflammatory tweets and posts wouldn't be published if platforms were concerned about being held responsible.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Note: If you're outraged at some politician's disingenuous behavior and tweet or retweet about their hypocrisy, that's perfectly fine with them since you'd only be helping them get more attention.</p><p>It may not surprise you that some politicians who want social media to step up are up in arms over Birdwatch, accusing Silicon Valley of making a power grab that will place Truth under their control and of violating their own First Amendment right to free speech. This last charge is a Constitutional canard, even though some of these folks have a law degree — <a href="https://www.talksonlaw.com/briefs/does-the-first-amendment-require-social-media-platforms-to-grant-access-to-all-users" target="_blank">legal experts agree</a> that Free Speech is about public speech and not about the ability to say whatever you want through a private company's platform.</p><p>No one knows if Birdwatch will work in the end, but if it does, let's hope that unscrupulous politicians find it more difficult to post outrageous tweets that draw them eyeballs and campaign contributions, the country's well-being be damned. Truth is always a slippery worm. Let's hope Birdwatch bites down.</p>
Could we have predicted COVID-19 through social media trends?
- The first human cases of COVID-19 (subsequently named SARS-Cov-2) were first reported by officials in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019. The first cases of the virus in Europe were discovered at the end of January 2020.
- Although there were really no preventative measures that could have completely stopped the pandemic, a new study takes a retrospective look at the months preceding the rapid spread of this virus.
- Researchers suggest that, in a successive phase of the pandemic (or any pandemic), monitoring social media could help public health authorities mitigate the risks of a contagion resurgence.
Could social media have predicted the pandemic?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUzNDY3Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MjIxMjU0MH0.43RL-CZzhrFz0fjbw7F9oX_MJU71uhTNYuXDD5YAgvY/img.jpg?width=980" id="5bb9d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ef2a70317fd9962d3a70cf782f38bc2f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="" data-width="2006" data-height="696" />
Geo-localization of pneumonia-related tweets posted across Europe since December 2019.
Credit: Nature.com<p><em style="background-color: initial;">(A) Number of users discussing pneumonia between 15 December 2019 and 21 January 2020, after filtering out press releases and news accounts. (B) Relative variation in number of users discussing pneumonia between winter seasons 2019 and 2020.</em><br></p><p><em><br></em>Since January 2020, when the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2) began to spread from China to Europe and the United States, criticism has intensified over the ways public health authorities across the globe could have better managed the threat.</p><p>Throughout this pandemic, different surveillance strategies have been used to monitor the spread of the virus, including sentinel surveillance systems, household surveys, lab-based surveys, community-based surveys, and the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) framework. More recently, social media outlets have been used for monitoring epidemics and informing the judgments and decisions of public health officials and experts. </p><p><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-81333-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A new study</a> conducted by researchers at IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca analyzed data from Twitter to uncover early warning signs of COVID-19 outbreaks in Europe during the winter season of 2019-2020. On December 31, 2019, WHO (World Health Organization) was informed of the first "<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-81333-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology</a>." Tracking spikes in pneumonia trends was a big part of this study.</p><p><strong>Why focus on pneumonia?</strong> </p><p>Pneumonia is the most severe condition induced by COVID-19. Additionally, the flu season in 2020 was milder than in previous years, which means there were fewer cases of flu-induced pneumonia. </p><p><strong>The study used "pneumonia" as a keyword to track potential COVID-19 induced cases. </strong></p><p>The study created a unique database including all public messages posted on Twitter between December 1, 2014 and March 1, 2020. This search included the seven most commonly spoken languages: English, Germany, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, and Dutch. </p><p>There were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-81333-1#Sec4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">several adjustments</a> made to avoid overestimations on the number of tweets mentioning cases of pneumonia during this time. Most notably, the study removed the effects on posting activity of COVID-19 related news that appeared up to January 21, 2020 (the day this virus was recognized as a serious transmissible disease), due to the fact that most tweets after this date mentioning pneumonia would be related to the COVID-19 outbreak even if they did not use the word COVID in the tweet.</p><p><strong>The analysis shows an increase in tweets mentioning the keyword "pneumonia" in most of the European countries included in the study as early as January 2020.</strong> </p><p>In Italy, for example, where the first lock-down measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 were introduced on February 22, 2020 - the increase rate in mentions of the keyword during the first weeks of 2020 differs substantially from the rate observed in the same weeks of the previous years. </p><p>This could indicate that potentially hidden infection hotspots were identifiable several weeks before the announcement of the first local source of the virus in Italy (which happened on February 20, 2020, in Codogno, Italy.) France exhibited a similar pattern, whereas Spain, Poland, and the U.K. witnessed a delay of two weeks. </p><p><strong>The analysis of tweets was then correlated to the regions where the first cases of infections were later reported.</strong> </p><p>The authors discovered through geo-localization that over 13,000 tweets in this same period came from the regions where the first cases of COVID-19 were later reported. </p><p>"Our study adds on to the existing evidence that social media can be a useful tool of epidemiological surveillance. They can help intercept the first signs of a new disease, before it proliferates undetected, and also track its spread," explains Massimo Riccaboni, full professor of Economics at the IMT School, to <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/isfa-cww012221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Eurekalert</a>. Massimo coordinated the large-scale research effort. </p><p><strong>How could this help in the future?</strong> </p><p>Researchers suggest that, in a successive phase of the pandemic (or any pandemic), monitoring social media could help public health authorities mitigate the risks of a contagion resurgence. For example, by adopting stricter measures of social distancing where the infections appear to be increasing. The researchers of the study suggest that these tools could also be a way forward to an integrated epidemiological surveillance system that is globally managed by international health organizations.</p>
The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.
- SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) and FOSTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) started as two separate bills that were both created with a singular goal: curb online sex trafficking. They were signed into law by former President Trump in 2018.
- The implementation of this law in America has left an international impact, as websites attempt to protect themselves from liability by closing down the sections of their sites that sex workers use to arrange safe meetings with clientele.
- While supporters of this bill have framed FOSTA-SESTA as a vital tool that could prevent sex trafficking and allow sex trafficking survivors to sue those websites for facilitating their victimization, many other people are strictly against the bill and hope it will be reversed.
What is FOSTA-SESTA?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="723125b44601d565a7c671c7523b6452"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WBaqDjPCH8k?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) and FOSTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) were signed into law by former President Trump in 2018. There was some argument that this law may be unconstitutional as it could potentially violate the <a href="https://constitution.congress.gov/constitution/amendment-1/" target="_blank">first amendment</a>. A criminal defense lawyer explains this law in-depth in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoWx2hYg5uo&t=38s" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">this video</a>. </p><p><strong>What did FOSTA-SESTA aim to accomplish?</strong></p><p>The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims. FOSTA-SESTA started as two separate bills that were both created with a singular goal: curb online sex trafficking. Targeting websites like Backpage and Craigslist, where sex workers would often arrange meetings with their clientele, FOSTA-SESTA aimed to stop the illegal sex-trafficking activity being conducted online. While the aim of FOSTA-SESTA was to keep people safer, these laws have garnered international speculation and have become quite controversial. </p><p><a href="https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180321006214/en/National-Anti-Trafficking-Coalition-Celebrates-Survivors-Senate-Passes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to BusinessWire</a>, many people are in support of this bill, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and World Without Exploitation (WorldWE). </p><p>"With the growth of the Internet, human trafficking that once happened mainly on street corners has largely shifted online. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 73 percent of the 10,000 child sex trafficking reports it receives from the public each year involve ads on the website Backpage.com."</p><p>As soon as this bill was <a href="https://www.pivotlegal.org/sesta_fosta_censoring_sex_workers_from_websites_sets_a_dangerous_precedent" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">signed into law</a>, websites where sex workers often vetted and arranged meetings with their clients could now be held liable for the actions of the millions of people that used their sites. This meant websites could be prosecuted if they engaged in "the promotion or facilitation of prostitution" or "facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims." </p><p><strong>The bill's effects were felt around the world — from Canadians being unhappy with the impact of this American bill to U.K. politicians considering the implementation of similar laws in the future.</strong> </p><p>Heather Jarvis, the program coordinator of the Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP), which supports sex workers in the St. John's area, <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/heather-jarvis-website-shutdown-1.4667018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">explained to CBC in an interview</a> that the American bill is impacting everyone, everywhere: "When laws impact the internet — the internet is often borderless — it often expands across different countries. So although these are laws in the United States, what we've seen is they've been shutting down websites in Canada and other countries as well."</p><p>Jarvis suggests in her interview that instead of doing what they aimed to do with the bill and improving the safety of victims of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation, the website shutdowns are actually making sex workers less safe. </p><p>While <a href="https://gizmodo.com/the-uk-wants-its-own-version-of-fosta-sesta-that-could-1827420794" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one U.K. publication</a> refers to FOSTA-SESTA as "well-intentioned but ultimately deeply-flawed laws," it also mentions that politicians in the United Kingdom are hoping to pursue similar laws in the near future. </p>
Has FOSTA-SESTA done more harm than good?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUxMzY5Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2ODUyNDc4OX0.dSEEzcflJJUTnUCFmuwmPAIA0f754eW7rN8x6L7fcCc/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=-68%2C595%2C68%2C5&height=700" id="31739" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="734759fa254b5a33777536e0b4d7b511" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="sex worker looking online for a job" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Is this really going to help, or is this bill simply pushing sex work and sex-related content further into the dark?
Credit: Евгений Вершинин on Adobe Stock<p>While <a href="https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180321006214/en/National-Anti-Trafficking-Coalition-Celebrates-Survivors-Senate-Passes" target="_blank">supporters of this bill</a> have framed FOSTA-SESTA as a vital tool that could prevent sex trafficking and allow sex trafficking survivors to sue those websites for facilitating their victimization, many other people are strictly against the bill and hope it will be reversed.</p><p><strong>One of the biggest problems many people have with this bill is that it forces sex workers into an even more dangerous situation, which is quite the opposite of what the bill had intended to do.</strong> </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-anti-trafficking-activists-cheer-but-sex-workers-bemoan-shutdown-of/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Globe and Mail</a>, there has been an upswing in pimps sending sex workers messages that promise work - which puts sex workers on the losing end of a skewed power-dynamic, when before they could attempt to safely arrange their own meetings online. </p><p><strong>How dangerous was online sex work before FOSTA-SESTA? </strong></p><p><a href="https://www.beyond-the-gaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/BtGbriefingsummaryoverview.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The University of Leicester Department of Criminology</a> conducted an online survey that focused on the relative safety of internet-based sex work compared with outdoor sex work. According to the results, 91.6 percent of participants had not experienced a burglary in the past 5 years, 84.4 percent had not experienced physical assault in the same period, and only 5 percent had experienced physical assault in the last 12 months. </p><p><a href="https://www.pivotlegal.org/sesta_fosta_censoring_sex_workers_from_websites_sets_a_dangerous_precedent" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PivotLegal</a> expresses concerns about this: "It is resoundingly clear, both from personal testimony and data, that attacking online sex work is an assault on the health and safety of people in the real world. In a darkly ironic twist, SESTA/FOSTA, legislation aimed at protecting victims of and preventing human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, will do the exact opposite."</p><p><strong>Websites are also being hypervigilant (and censoring more content than needed) because they can't possibly police every single user's activity on their platform.</strong> </p><p>Passing this bill meant any website (not just the ones that are commonly used by sex traffickers) could be held liable for their user's posts. Naturally, this saw a general "tightening of the belt" when it came to what was allowed on various platforms. In late 2018, shortly after the FOSTA-SESTA bill was passed, companies like Facebook slowly began to alter their terms and conditions to protect themselves. </p><p>Facebook notably added sections that express prohibited certain sexual content and messages:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Content that includes an implicit invitation for sexual intercourse, which can be described as naming a sexual act and other suggestive elements including (but not limited to):</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>– vague suggestive statements such as: 'looking forward to an enjoyable evening'</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>– sexual use of language […]</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>– content (self-made, digital or existing) that possibly portrays explicit sexual acts or a suggestively positioned person/suggestively positioned persons."<br><br> </em></p><p>Additionally, sections like this were also added, prohibiting things that could allude to sexual activity: </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Content in which other acts committed by adults are requested or offered, such as:</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>– commercial pornography</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>– partners that share fetishes or sexual interests"</em></p><p>Facebook wasn't the only website to crack down on their policies — the Craigslist classifieds section being removed and Reddit banned quite a large number of sex-worker related subreddits. </p><p><strong>Is FOSTA-SESTA really helpful?</strong> </p><p>This is the question many people are facing with the FOSTA-SESTA acts being passed just a few years ago. Is this really going to help, or is this bill simply pushing sex work and sex-related content further into the dark? Opinions seem to be split down the middle on this — what do you think?</p>