Twitter on Phone

Twitter Virtual Walkout In Response to Wiley’s Anti-Semitism Tweets

Social media platforms have been in the limelight in recent months, as the public highlight Facebook and Twitter inability to handle hate and offensive content. After Wiley tweeted Anti-Semitic posts, Twitter users ranging from influential actors, activists and creatives staged a 48-hour virtual walkout in protest of the way Twitter has handled the incident.

Established British Rapper Wiley has recently posted on Twitter and Instagram expressing his Anti-Semitic views. The social media platforms both acted as quickly as they could, removing a portion of the content however UK government officials have commented saying this was not quick enough. Influential figures blamed the social media platforms for the time taken as well as for not having an increasingly stricter system when it comes to Anti-Semitic content.

Wiley has an outstanding reputation in the music industry and has thousands of fans follow him, therefore the artist’s actions could be deemed unexplainable. In 2018, Wiley was credited for his work in the industry, gaining an Order of the British Empire award by Prince William for his contribution to music. This action has resulted in the global artist being blocked from using social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, one of the main communication methods he uses to connect with his followers.

To add to this, Wiley has been dropped by his management and an investigation into the reports of antisemitism has begun from Metropolitan Police. As the Independent reports, Metropolitan police have commented “The Met takes all reports of antisemitism extremely seriously, the relevant material is being assessed”.

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As CNN reports, Facebook have commented on the content expressing “There is no place for hate speech on Instagram. We have deleted content that violates our policies from this account and have blocked access to it for seven days”.

Twitter spokesperson said in a statement regarding the situation “Abuse and harassment has no place on Twitter and we strongly condemn it,” they continued “Our Hateful Conduct Policy prohibits the promotion of violence against — or threats of attack towards — people on the basis of certain categories such as religious affiliation, race and ethnic origin, and it is also against the Twitter rules to use hateful imagery”. Twitter spokesperson added “We enforce our rules judiciously and impartially for all and take action if an account violates our rules”. Twitter have expressed that they believe the platform did take action once aware of the content, blocking certain tweets and locking Wiley out of his account.

UK government officials and the general public are not satisfied with the way Twitter has handled the hateful comments. Home Secretary Priti Patel has accused the platforms for not acting quickly enough when removing the hate speech. She tweeted on Sunday 26th July “The Anti-Semitic posts from Wiley are abhorrent” she continued “They should not have been able to remain on Twitter and Instagram for so long and I have asked them for a full explanation. Social media companies must act much faster to remove such appalling hatred from their platforms”.

The political campaign group Labour Against Antisemitism decided to hold a 48-hour walkout that was held from 27th July 2020 at 9am. The group tweeted “This is in protest at Twitter’s repeated failure to tackle antisemitism on the platform #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate”.

The digitization of the protest made it extremely hard to estimate the number of people that would take part however the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate and #48HoursSilence has received a fantastic response to date. On Monday 27th July Twitter reported that it has almost 50,000 posts associated with it.

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The Jewish Leadership Council has opted to get involved in the protest expressing that the Wiley incident is not the first issue the council have witnessed. The Independent reports the Jewish Leadership Council tweet “For years we have witnessed Jews and others being victimized on social media with little or no interference from the social media companies”.

Influential organisations such as the Royal Opera House and the Royal Academy tweeted in support “We are joining the #48HoursSilence boycott of @Twitter to protest their inaction on antisemitism. We stand in solidarity with Jewish friends and colleagues against intimidation and discrimination. #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate”.

To add to this, the outstanding actor Jason Isaacs who played the famous Harry Potter character tweeted “I’m in. Or out, rather. I’m so used to antisemitic hatred, caricature and conspiracy theories from governments, looneytunes, the left, right and reasonable middle that I long ago lost hope for change online or in life. Maybe there’s a window”. His tweet suggested to users the frustration he has felt whilst witnessing other Anti-Semitic content. Jason Isaacs among other members of the public hope for a glimpse of a change in attitude.

The UK government has attempted to put in place stricter measures by instructing that media regulator Ofcom enforce a firmer regulating system for social media platforms to protest users from hateful content Ofcom have commented that it will result in “fair, proportionate and transparent” sanctions for the platforms.

Blockchain Tech

New Technology Will Alter The Way We Stay In Hotels Post-Pandemic

The hotel and travel industry has been scrambling within the past few months of the pandemic to not only adjust their schedules to accommodate the many cancellations and rescheduling of individuals who can no longer travel, but also to figure out ways in which new technology can be implemented into hotels to ensure all guests/staff remain healthy and safe. 

Many major hotel chain’s are offering a combination of new health and safety procedures and technologies that are specifically designed to make staying at a hotel during the pandemic easy and safe. These new technologies work to take the extra step beyond just wearing a mask and sanitizing to really make guests and employees feel secure. 

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Compliance Monitoring is a new policy many hotels are undertaking to ensure that every guest and staff member is wearing their mask at all times when in common spaces. Tech company Cyberlink recently released a new product known as FaceMe. FaceMe is a facial-recognition engine that has the ability to detect if an individual is wearing their mask or not, and can identify an individual’s face through their mask as well; something many iPhone users have complained about. 

The purpose of this technology in hotels specifically is to notify management when someone enters the building without a facial covering. The technology can also be used to take an individual’s temperature from a distance.

Global tech provider, Nevotek is giving their new “Grace” platform to hotels as a way to easily get hotel staff and guests to communicate without any in-person interactions. “Grace” essentially allows guests to message hotel staff through an app of their choice (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat), making it so guests don’t need to download an extra app just for their visit. This way, guests can simply text the front desk “need more towels,” and a fresh set will be delivered to their room’s door without any person-to-person interaction. 

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Radar Labs is another tech giant that specializes in building geofences and geo-based apps. Essentially they provide location detection services for a multitude of companies. For hotels specifically, geofences can be used to notify management when a guest is about to arrive for check-in, which can then be completed remotely. This technology can also be used when guests want to check-out, so instead of going to the front desk they can view their bill on their phone and pay it easily before leaving. 

Hotels have already begun implementing more sanitation stations, technologies, and procedures to make guests feel comfortable, as well as staff. Many chains have taken to hiring “hygiene managers” that hold an executive position specifically for enforcing proper health and safety measures in every hotel. 

Beyond the managers, many hotels are also implementing advanced air purifiers and filters in their common spaces that literally clean the air. HEPA filters have been some of the most popular, as they are capable of filtering out 99.9% of all airborne viruses and bacteria. Electrostatic disinfectant sprayers have been used in combination with these filters to make common spaces as sterile as possible throughout the day. 

Finally, many hotels in Asia specifically have begun using robotic maids to minimize the amount of time hotel staff spends going to occupied rooms. The KT Corporation specifically released their second generation of what they call the GiGA Genie hotel robot. This robot can deliver water, fresh towels, and many other amenities directly to guests doors. The artificial intelligence software within the Genie also equips it with communication technology and advanced information allowing it to easily move throughout the hotel and even speak to guests about certain offers and accommodations. 

Ubisoft

From Sexual Harassment To Diminished Female Leads, How Ubisoft’s Toxic Machismo Culture Seeped Into Gameplay

Gaming giant, Ubisoft is currently facing a wave of sexual misconduct allegations, investigations into which are slowly revealing a toxic workplace culture which sexism and machismo even altered gameplay. The allegations, mostly made anonymously online, have already led to three high-profile members resigning from their positions, part of the “the comprehensive work the company is doing to improve and strengthen its workplace culture” Ubisoft said in a statement. Ubisoft has produced many highly-popular and award-winning games, including the ongoing series’ Far Cry and Assassins Creed. New investigations have revealed a toxic work culture in many of its global offices which promoted misogyny and racism and how even early proposals for the award-winning Assassins Creed franchise were repeatedly altered to avoid female leads.

Part of a broader #MeToo movement in the gaming industry, Ubisoft has been facing months of sexual harassment allegations, prompting further and ongoing investigations into staff members and the overarching toxic workplace culture. According to an investigation published by Bloomberg Businessweek on 21st July, over a dozen employees have made claims of harassment and abuse with over three dozen former and current employees backing up these claims and indicating that many more have not come to light. Outlining that Ubisoft acted rarely, complaints were more likely to be ‘ignored, mishandled, or undermined.’ Accusations range from subtle sexism to sexual assault and many employees describe a hostile work environment towards women and minorities.

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Bloomberg reports: ‘Staff openly made misogynist or racist comments across the publisher’s various offices, and senior executives took part and escalated the misconduct in the form of inappropriate touching or other sexual advances, current and former employees say.’

High-ranking resignations include Chief creative officer Serge Hascoët, human resources director, Cecile Corne and the managing director of the Canadian branch, Yannis Mallat. Hascoët, a major cog, has been accused of sexual misconduct and predatory behaviours. According to Eurogamer ‘Hascoët is alleged to have regularly held company meetings in strip clubs, to have made sexually explicit comments to staff and to have given colleagues weed-laced cakes without their knowledge.’

Accusations extended beyond just high-ranking officials, revealing an insidious web of abusers, from Hascoët’s ‘boys club’ to a more widespread and general culture that allowed for racism, homophobia, misogyny, sexual assault, physical abuse among more. Uncovered accounts reveal how this culture seeped into game narrative, passing subtle prejudice paradigms into the hands of gamers worldwide.

The award winning and popular Ubisoft game series, Assassins Creed, currently consists of eleven main games, several spin offs, transmedia projects and even a led to a major motion picture starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. The series, through a range of different historical settings depicts an ongoing battle between two ancient secret societies – the Assassins and the Templars. Covering historical periods such as the Third Crusade, American Frontier, Ancient Greece and much more.

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Previously unreported accounts show how original gameplay plans were repeatedly altered to diminish or remove female leads. In 2014 Assassin’s Creed Unity did not provide playable female characters online, because “it was really a lot of extra production work” to add women’s clothing and animations to the game,’ the Bloomberg investigation reported. According to three people working on Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, an early script gave equal screen time to the twin protagonists, Jacob and Evie, but Jacob soon became the dominant protagonist. 2017’s Assassin’s Creed Origins, male hero Bayek was set for an early demise, passing the torch to his wife, Aya. Aya’s role surprisingly shrank to make way for leading figure, Bayek, according to two creators. The latest release, 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey follows siblings Kassandra and Alexios, several members of the team report that the sister was intended to be the only playable character but were told that it was not an option. ‘All of the directives came from Ubisoft’s marketing department or from Hascoët, both of whom suggested female protagonists wouldn’t sell, the developers say.’

According to TechRadar: ‘Following the report, former Ubisoft employees took to Twitter to back the claims. One former female employee claims she was told on many occasions that “women don’t sell”, while another said she was told that “the protagonist must be a straight, white, alpha male”.’

The reluctance to utilise female leads is a widespread issue, despite such hits as the Tomb Rader series and Horizon Zero Dawn. The gaming industry as a whole has been repeatedly under-fire for its representation and treatment of women. Not only is there a definite gender imbalance within the gaming industry as a whole (often going hand-in-hand with a sexist work environment and regressive representations of women in gameplay) the 2014 gamergate controversy brought to light the insidious peak of the culture where some women within the gaming industry were targeted, harassed and even recieved death and rape threats.

Promising change, in a statement in Paris on the 12th of July, CEO Yves Guillemot stated: “Ubisoft has fallen short in its obligation to guarantee a safe and inclusive workplace environment for its employees, this is unacceptable, as toxic behaviors are in direct contrast to values on which I have never compromised—and never will. I am committed to implementing profound changes across the company to improve and strengthen our workplace culture.”

Facebook on Screen

Facebook Begins Labelling Posts From Trump and Biden

In recent months, Facebook has been subject to a growing boycott from brands that share their concern with Facebook’s ability to combat hate speech on its platform. As election campaigns in the US move forward, many have raised the rumor that Facebook could be working with Donald Trump. This assumption has come from Facebook’s earlier decision to allow Donald Trump, current president of the United States, to post unobstructed content. Whereas, Facebook’s competitor Twitter has labelled the president’s tweets from the beginning.

As Facebook began to put in place the labeling of content over recent days, it has become clear that Facebook has now changed their standpoint compared to the beginning. As the CNN reports, Andy Stone Facebook’s spokespersons explains, the decision has been made because employees of Facebook and civil rights leaders were deeply concerned about the decision not to take action on earlier posts from Donald Trump. To add to this, the decision follows a promise made to begin labeling posts about voting in the 2020 election from any politician. Donald Trump’s earlier post included one on mall-in ballots and another during the Black Lives Matter protests where Trump refers to “looting” would lead to “shooting”. Facebook’s main rival Twitter has flagged this content to users as the US President from an earlier date.

On 21st July 2020, Facebook allowed Donald Trump to post on their platform expressing that a mail-in voting system could lead to a corrupt election. Donald Trump tweeted “Mail-In Voting, unless changed by the courts, will lead to the most CORRUPT ELECTION in our Nation’s History! #RIGGEDELECTION”. Facebook have not attempted to comment on the truth or falseness of the post but have now decided to place a label on Donald Trump’s post for users. The label below the posts directs users to get official voting information of how to vote.

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In light of the labelling of President Trump’s post, Facebook have now decided to place the same label, directing users to a voting information website to find out more, to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The label has also been attached to former vice president expressing to “vote Donald Trump out this November” as this does not make any factual assertions about voting.

Although some argue that the content Joe Biden is posting does not have the same tone as Donald Trump therefore the labeling should be different for both politicians. On 21st July, the same day that Trump expressed his opinion on mail in ballots, Biden posted asking for campaign donations. As the Washington Post reports, Roger McNamee expressed “Rather than call out the falsehood, the label is worded so that some will read it as an endorsement of a false statement”. McNamee believes the method Facebook is using is an irresponsible way to tackle misinformation.

Law and political professionals are sharing their concern on the labeling decision though, as Rick Hasen Professor at University of California tweets, “This warning seems pretty useless — it might even seem that Facebook is endorsing what Trump is saying and providing a path for more information”. Whilst some are concerned, others are surprised that Facebook have decided to tackle political posts. In the past, Facebook has been reluctant to combat controversial posts by President Donald Trump. It has been rumored that there must be a reason behind this.

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg is concerned that Facebook will attempt to label posts that mention voting however the task is larger than people may think. As BBC News reports “Because of the difficulty of judging this at scale, we are adopting a policy of attaching a link to our Voting Information Centre for posts that discuss voting, including from politicians. This isn’t a judgement of whether the posts themselves are accurate, but we want people to have access to authoritative information either way”. This approach has been criticized for not having the ability to distinguish between legitimate and misinformation shared about the election.

Critics have compared Twitter’s approach to Facebook in the labeling of information and found that although Twitter does successfully label false tweets about mail in ballots, it does not label content from the President that makes claims mail in voting as a wider subject. The Twitter spokesman explained to CNN that Trump’s tweet referring to mail in ballots leading to a corrupt election is not a violation of their policies however the reference to mail in ballots in California specifically is.

Even though Donald Trump is clearly demonstrating his opinion on mail in ballots, it has to be stated that the claims are false. There are measures put in place to protect the security of mail in ballots. In the United States in the 2016 elections, 1 in 4 voters casted their vote using the mail in method.

Girl with Face Mask in Shop

Facemasks Now Compulsory in UK Shops

The UK has seemed relatively behind other countries when it comes to adopting facemasks or coverings in public settings. Many countries have already adopted mandatory face coverings in public areas such as shops. Initially the World Health Organization ‘only recommend[ed] face masks for people who are coughing or sneezing, or for those who are caring for people who are suspected to have covid-19’ according to the New Scientist. At the start of the pandemic the UK government followed advice insisting that there was little evidence that face coverings were effective. In comparison, the US Centres for Disease Control recommended the widespread use of facemasks in early April. When lockdown restrictions began to lift, facemasks were initially introduced on public transport only. Recently, the government announced that it was mandatory to wear facemasks in shops and supermarkets, else pay a hefty fine.

The new UK law making it compulsory to wear facemasks in UK shops and supermarkets will come into effect on the 24th of July. Those who do not comply can be fined up to £100 by the police – reducing to £50 if the fine is paid promptly. Those who are exempt include children under 11, shop workers and those with certain disabilities.

When enquiries into whether facemasks would be required in office settings, health secretary Matt Hancock rejected the idea, stating to the BBC: ‘”It is something we’ve looked at and rejected,” he said, but added masks would be worn elsewhere by the public “for the foreseeable future”’

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Cloth facemasks attempt to trap the droplets released when a wearer talks, coughs or sneezes. Facemasks should reduce the risk of the wearer spreading COVID-19 to others. Making facemasks mandatory for all, lowers the risk of coronavirus spread by those who have the virus but do not realize it. Despite the UK governments prior insistence that facemasks would not be mandatory in many settings, they are slowly creeping into daily life.

Elsewhere in Europe: ‘Face masks are already obligatory in shops in Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Bulgaria and Belgium. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has said he also wants to toughen up the rules,’ the Guardian reported.

Findings from the reputable medical journal, The Lancet in a study entitled: ‘Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, found that ‘Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection with stronger associations with N95 or similar respirators compared with disposable surgical masks or similar.’

Other studies have found that facemasks are beneficial, The University of Edinburgh found that masks can limit the reach of exhaled breath by up to 90%. Another study in Germany found that the after masks were made compulsory in Jena, the daily growth rate of infections fell by 40%.

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According to Mayo Clinic: ‘Masks can be made from common materials, such as sheets made of tightly woven cotton. Instructions are easy to find online. Cloth masks should include multiple layers of fabric. The CDC website even includes directions for no-sew masks made from bandannas and T-shirts.’ The CDC advises that you should wash your hands before putting on the facemask and after taking it off, they should be treated like socks and washed after every use (if they are re-usable), and you should avoid touching them throughout their use. They need to fit over your nose and mouth and securely under the chin, there should be no gaps but you still should be able to breath easily.

A face covering should still be used in conjunction with consistent handwashing and social distancing measures of 1-2 metres. In the aforementioned study The Lancet also reported that: ‘. Transmission of viruses was lower with physical distancing of 1 m or more, compared with a distance of less than 1 m protection was increased as distance was lengthened.’

For many countries therefore, facemask are here to stay, establishing themselves as a stable facet of pandemic society. Fashion retailers are offering an array of different styles and transparent facemasks are even available to make communication easier. Both for those who are hard of hearing and rely on lip-reading to our programmed reliance on non-verbal cues. Bhismadev Chakrabarti, professor of neuroscience at the University of Reading stated to Wired: “With disgust or anger, for example, a lot of the information comes from the mouth region. It might be the tiniest twitch in the levator muscles, the muscles that draw the lip corners back and down, that might reflect my mental state but if you were just looking at my eyes, I might be looking straight at you and you might not be able to guess the emotion just looking at the eyes.” Transparent masks therefore, may make this new all-important accessory a little friendlier.

Huawei

UK Bans Huawei From 5G Network

The UK government has made the decision to reverse its January decision regarding Huawei market share and ban the company from benefiting from the newly developed 5G telecom network. Two popular providers in the UK, Vodafone and BT, have been instructed by the government that they have until 2027 to remove Huawei technology from their 5G network and are banned from purchasing new Huawei equipment after 31st December. This decision was announced on Tuesday 14th July. Oliver Dowden, Digital and Culture Minister has expressed that the US sanctions imposed on the company widened the government outlook on the risk Huawei could uphold.

To those who are not familiar with Huawei, here is a basic summary of the business. Huawei was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former technical officer in the People Liberation Army. The business specializes in creating mobile phones, base stations and routers that can help with the ease of communication around the world. It employees around 194,000 people. It can be debated that Huawei is one of the first technological businesses to become global from China. It has faced controversial views from some of the world’s largest nations. The US argues that Huawei has links with the Chinese Communist Party and has the ability to engage covert surveillance equipment if it is needed.

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In the early years of launching the business, Huawei ensured they targeted the UK correctly. They secured themselves the contract to supply BT from 2003 and since its success has opened a special unit in Banbury. This unit is named the Cell, where the spy agency GCHQ can review and monitor software code. The UK government announced in January that the risk Huawei could potentially have on the nation could be managed, if the business agreed they would not be able to have a monopoly. Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, announced that Huawei market share should be capped at 35% of 5G networks, to avoid the risk of Huawei holding the majority market share in 5G. In recent days, the decision has been changed after new information has come to light. Tory rebel MPs and Donald Trump’s White House were concerned about the decision made in January.

Digital and Culture Minister Oliver Dowden expressed the reasoning behind the new decision to ban Huawei in the UK from its 5G infrastructure. As CNN reports “Given the uncertainty this creates around Huawei’s supply chain, the UK can no longer be confident it will be able to guarantee the security of future Huawei 5G equipment”. However, citizens must realise this decision has not been an easy one for the UK government. As the BBC News “This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run”.

The US applauded the decision made by the UK government as the US has been attempting to influence allies into excluding Huawei from their 5G Networks. Influential figure, Mike Pompeo US Secretary shares with CNN his relief regarding the UK banning Huawei, “the tide is turning against Huawei as citizens around the world are waking up to the danger of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state”. However, Brexit could mean consequences for the UK when attempting to find trading opportunities therefore the decision to ban Huawei could mean a level of backlash the UK needs to be prepared for.

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It has been reported that Huawei will suffer largely from this decision, as they have been operating business in the UK for over 20 years. Last year the sales figures show that 24% of its sales came from Europe alone. In the US, the business has been hit hard too as a decline in smartphone sales has become more prominent. This has been the impact from the decision Washington made to decline Huawei technology from accessing popular Google apps.

China’s Foreign Ministry emphasized on Tuesday 14th July that the decision the UK has made will bring consequences that will influence its wider relationship between the two countries. The Foreign Ministry spokesperson expressed “Whether the UK can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies … is a litmus test for British markets after Brexit, and it is also an indicator for China’s investment in the UK”.

Oliver Dowden has not yet clarified whether existing Huawei equipment in the 4G infrastructure will be affected. However, major provider BT has faced concerns about the decision the UK has made. CEO Philip Johnson has expressed that stripping Huawei technology out of the UK telecom networks could take up to 10 years. If there was the ability to do it faster, it would only happen as a result of negative complaints from customers.

Tiktok on Phone

House Of Representatives Votes To Ban Federal Employees From Downloading TikTok

The House of Representatives voted yesterday to pass a proposal that bars all federal employees from downloading video-sharing social media app TikTok on government-issued devices. The proposal, which passed with a vote of 336-71, is a part of a much larger $741 billion defense policy bill.

In general, National security concerns about TikTok have risen within the past few weeks. The concerns stem from the fact that the app is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, and like with most social media apps, many are concerned that their personal information is falling into the wrong hands. TikTok has made countless statements refuting that any users personal information from the US is sent to where the apps headquarters are based in Beijing, and even claimed that for US users TikTok has their own CEO based in America. 

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“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US,” one spokesperson said.

The initial proposal was brought to the table by Republican Colorado Representative Ken Buck as a part of other “bipartisan amendments to be made to the National Defense Authorization Act.” The proposal would ban TikTok on government-issued devices for employees that extend into Congress as well as congressional staff. 

Despite TikTok’s claims that they haven’t given any user information to the Chinese government, and would refute if asked to do so, federal government workers in Washington aren’t so convinced, and have continued to push for the app, along with other Chinese run social media apps, to be banned in the US completely. 

Buck made a floor speech before the House voted on the proposal where he expressed his major concerns over the app especially in regards to government employees who have sensitive and classified information on their devices. 

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“TikTok is a serious national security threat…the data the company collects from US consumers could be used in a cyber attack against our republic.” 

The US is not alone in their security concerns over TikTok specifically either. India recently announced they would be banning the app along with 58 other apps that are developed by Chinese firms. The banning comes after similar concerns arose among the federal government in India, claiming that the apps “threatened the national security and defense of India.”

As previously mentioned this proposal is just one of many amendments that will be made to the National Defense Authorization Act. The next step will be the House passing their new version of the NDAA with the new amendments implemented. Once passed, the Senate will then decide whether or not to pass it along further later this week; it’s expected that both groups will approve of the new amendments. 

Beyond the NDAA, the Senate of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is expected to consider new legislation that will be presented by Senators Rick Scott and Josh Hawley this Wednesday. This new legislation is similar to the proposal that was passed yesterday, barring federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices, but if passed by both federal groups, the prohibition could soon become law in the US. 

Even further, the Trump administration has been very public about their consideration of a national ban on TikTok and other Chinese-linked social media apps. However, only time will tell how easy that would actually be for the administration to accomplish. 

Tiktok App on Phone

Could Tiktok in The US Be Banned?

Tiktok, the app that has risen to fame in the last two years with new social media stars making a career on the app, could be banned in the US. The secretary of state Mike Pompeo has expressed that the United States is ‘looking at’ banning Chinese social media apps including Tiktok.

On Monday 6th July, secretary of state Mike Pompeo was asked on Fox News, would you recommend downloading Tiktok? A relatively strange question for the secretary of state. As the BBC News reports he replied “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party”.

The state secretary continued to explain “With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too” he continued “I don’t want to get out in front of the President [Donald Trump], but it’s something we’re looking at”. It has been highlighted that this comment could be in response to the tensions between the US and China, over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, China’s actions in Hong Kong and a two-year trade war.

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Tiktok has acted concerned about this statement. As reported by CNN a Tiktok spokesperson commented in response to the state secretary’s comments “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US,” they continued “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

Even though this comment has been made, the app is still experiencing phenomenal growth in the US and around the world. It has been downloaded more than two billion times, and has been one of the most downloaded apps this year. It has become the first Chinese social media platform to experience significant usage outside of its home country. Tiktok is not available to download in China, which some believe has been done purposely to appeal to a global audience.

Tiktok has experienced frequent backlash from the US, who has accused the app of being a threat because of its ties to China through its ownership, a Beijing based company Bytedance. The US have previously accused the app of supporting intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. However, Tiktok has repeatedly said it operates separately from ByteDance, collecting data in locations outside of China. Tiktok has ensured that none of its data is subject to Chinese law. As reported by CNN, a Tiktok spokesperson believes the security concerns are “unfounded”.

The United States have banned the app through some mediums. For example, the Transportation Security Administration Department of Homeland Security has banned the use of Tiktok on government mobile devices issued by the US Army and Navy.

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India is another country that has felt Tiktok poses security concerns. A concerning fact to be found as Indian was one of Tiktok’s largest audiences, the Indian government made the decision to ban the app from the country and 58 other Chinese apps because of their threat. Especially in light of recent events on the border in which sadly twenty Indian soldiers lost their lives.

As the Daily Mail reports, the Indian government has discovered the apps to be “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting user’s data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India”. Tiktok has strongly denied this allegation and confirms it does not share Indian user’s data with the Chinese government.

As Nikhil Gandi, one of the leadership team for India Tiktok has stated “TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and have not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government”.

On Monday 6th July 2020, Tiktok announced it would quit Hong Kong after a National Security Law was approved. They were not the only social media platform to announce this, as Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp made the same decision, all agreeing they would not hand over data to the Hong Kong government. Google and Telegram have also joined the social media platforms and have explained they will change their operations in Hong Kong. Some have suggested that Tiktok has done this in an attempt to show the global market that as a business they are not connected to the Chinese government. This strategy is one that Tiktok has been trying to implement for a long period of time, even though countries around the world continue to accuse the business of its controversial connections. The business has even hired former Walt Disney Executive Kevin Mayer, in an attempt to restore trust with its Western users.

Man Reading E-Book

Has The Coronavirus Pandemic Aided the E-Book Market?

The steadily growing popularity of audiobooks and podcasts is not exactly new, but for many the ability to borrow or download digital books during the coronavirus pandemic has been a happy and helpful occurrence. Some have sought solace in e-books on iPad or phones whilst bookstores and libraries have been closed. Yet as the coronavirus pandemic has meant that we may be spending increased amount of time looking at screens, audiobooks and podcasts can be a welcoming relief to eyestrain. Not to mention entertaining whilst you busy yourself with other tasks like chores, or even fall asleep at night to a story. Audiobooks and podcasts have a unique ability to fit into a busy schedule, perhaps on a drive to work, whilst relaxing in the bath or organizing your new work space.

Audiobooks and Podcasts have seen a rapid growth for some time, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, BBC culture reported in January 2020: ‘Audiobooks are in the midst of a boom, with Deloitte predicting that the global market will grow by 25 per cent in 2020 to US$3.5 billion (£2.6 billion). Compared with physical book sales, audio is the baby of the publishing world, but it is growing up fast. Gone are the days of dusty cassette box-sets and stuffily-read versions of the classics. Now audiobooks draw A-list talent – think Elisabeth Moss reading The Handmaid’s Tale, Meryl Streep narrating Charlotte’s Web or Michelle Obama reading all 19 hours of her own memoir, Becoming.’

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During the coronavirus crisis, technologies such as popular audiobook apps such as Audible, alongside and library apps including Libby and Overdrive have made titles easily and instantly accessible for those in lockdown. In England the first month of lockdown saw a boom in e-book borrows from libraries, ‘Loans of online e-books, e-magazines and audiobooks were up an average of 63% in March compared with last year. And 120,000 people joined libraries in the three weeks after lockdown began, Libraries Connected said,’ the BBC reported in April.

In the USA, Fortune reported: ‘OverDrive, which helps 90% of libraries in North America offer e-books to their patrons, e-book loans have jumped 53% on average since before mid-March. Kids, or grownups checking out kids’ books, have increased their e-book reading the most, the company says. Young adult nonfiction e-book checkouts are up 122%, and juvenile fiction is up 93%. The system has also seen 343,000 people create new digital library cards since the beginning of March, more than double the number created in all of last year. OverDrive’s catalog includes more than 4 million digital offerings, counting both e-books and downloadable audio books.’

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During the coronavirus crisis many audiobook providers have made many audiobooks free to users to keep them entertained, digitising stories on a number of different apps. Often these free e-books have been directed at children, in order to encourage reading and keep them entertained in such an unprecedented and scary time. Many kids throughout the world have had to be home-schooled as schools have been closed to prevent the spread of the virus, so parents have been able to access free books for their kids. Business Insider reported: Bob Carrigan, Audible’s CEO, told Business Insider that “As the world grapples with new challenges, Audible’s younger listeners in particular have an immediate need. That’s why we launched Audible Stories, so anyone, anywhere can stream hundreds of our titles for kids and families, no strings attached. Our intent is that Stories will offer parents, educators, and caregivers a screen-free experience to look forward to each day, while keeping young minds engaged.” Other acts of story philanthropy have been seen throughout the pandemic, Author JK Rowling made the highly sought after, first audiobook book of the Harry Potter Series Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone available for free (no wait) in several different languages on audiobook apps such as Overdrive.

It is certainly true that for many, audiobooks have had a bad reputation in the past and the market has not always been as lucrative as many had anticipated. Yet, the revamped market is steadily growing in popularity, helped by the increasing availability of a range of popular books. The rapid changes to daily life due to the coronavirus outbreak has led to an increased use of digital platforms – streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ saw an expected boom. Perhaps an increased access to e-books may change the way readers access their favorite stories in the future.

iPhone

iPhone 12 To Potentially Feature 5G Capability, And Other Rumors

Despite the current coronavirus pandemic, major tech companies are continuing to roll out new projects on schedule in order to create a sense of encouragement and something to look forward to for tech lovers everywhere. Apple, being the most prominent, recently held a virtual Keynote conference where they announced a multitude of new products and software. Now, fans of Apple know that next up is their September Keynote presentation where they, typically, announce the year’s newest iPhone upgrade. 

While there’s no real word on how or when this Keynote presentation will take place, based on the release of iOS 14, many tech experts are gearing up for an iPhone update right on schedule this year. Here’s some of the most anticipated/rumored features that Apple fans are predicting the company will implement in the new upgrade. 

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Disclaimer: These are all rumors/predictions based on what experts typically look for in Apple’s annual conference, none of these features have been confirmed or denied from Apple. 

Typically, the newest iPhone is announced in the beginning of September and released by the end of the month, however, based on trading discrepancies with China, the coronavirus pandemic, and exporting issues in general, experts are predicting the new iPhone will more likely be released in October. 

The iPhone 12 will possibly be cheaper than the iPhone 11, as Apple has been releasing their newer models at cheaper prices and payment plans to appeal to more audiences who miss having the two-year upgrade fee of just $200 whenever they would want a new phone. The iPhone 11 itself was $50 cheaper than it’s previous counterpart, so many are predicting Apple will continue this trend. 

The design is always what fans look forward to seeing every year, however, many are predicting that the exterior of the iPhone 12 won’t be that different from the 11. Tech rumor blogs that are in coordination with Apple factory workers in China claim that so far the only major physical difference in the 12 is a slightly thinner body, however, Apple tends to love to shock their audiences with dramatic physical changes to their devices; for example the removal of the home button and headphone jack from all iPhone models. 

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It’s also been rumored that as a means to promote wireless charging products, the new iPhone may not even have a charging port to plug into. This would further push individuals to buy the company’s wireless headphones, Airpods, as well, as many can still use plug-in headphones through an adapter that goes in the charging port. 

With the iPhone 11 Pro, Apple announced a new dark green color that was widely popular among consumers. Now, it’s rumored that the Pro version of the 12 will also include a dark navy blue shade to choose from as well. 

Many are also predicting that size wise the iPhone 12 will come with options just like the 11 and 11 Pro Max. The screen quality will also have a higher resolution and refresh rate; meaning it’ll be able to switch from screen-to-screen much easier. 

Finally, like most new phone models it’s predicted that the newest iPhone will include 5G connectivity and Apple may even release their own 5G antennas. 5G is a relatively new concept in the tech world but it’s one that all major company’s (Samsung, Google, Sony etc.) are beginning to implement into their personal devices. 

Only time will tell how valid these rumors are, however, Apple fans are notorious for their predictions/source information when it comes to device features and release dates, so it’s more of just a waiting game now.