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social

Children In Australia To Potentially Be Blocked From Social Media As A Part Of New Pilot Trial 

In May, Australia’s federal government announced a $6.5 million pilot trial regarding “age assurance technology” as a means of preventing children from accessing harmful and adult content online. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese initially announced that the pilot would work to “identify available age assurance products to protect children from online harm, and test the efficacy, including in relation to privacy and security.”

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“The outcomes will inform the existing work of Australia’s eSafety Commissioner under the Online Safety Act – including through the development of industry codes or standards – to reduce children’s exposure to age-inappropriate material,” he stated

Now, the Australian government has expanded the trial program to look into potentially blocking children from accessing social media altogether. They’re currently in discussions with Meta, who owns Facebook and Instagram. 

Multiple campaigns have started with the launch of this trial which worked to push the government to look into banning children under the age of 16 from social media. The government is now looking into how this could potentially be possible and what it would truly look like if it occurred, according to reports.

Communications department acting secretary for online safety, Bridget Gannon, stated that the government will be “consulting with experts, with children, with parents, to understand their concerns and their interests on this issue, and really pulling it together with some policy advice to the government on possible ways forward.”

“We want to understand how different technologies work at those younger ages for that social media work,” she said as reported by the Guardian

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Gannon also stated that the department has been speaking with multiple social media platforms like Meta, however, none of those companies are legally required to take part in the trial. In fact, Meta has already hinted that they are reluctant to take on the requirement of verifying the age of all of their users across their platforms. 

Instead, Meta believes that age verification should be the responsibility of app stores like Apple and Google. 

While individuals involved in the trial and within the committee have made the argument that these companies should feel obligated to comply with the trial, regardless of legal responsibility.

Gannon said it would be in these companies best interest to be involved in the trial as it will be informing them on how new codes will be developed and enforced as well. 

She also stated that the department will be working with technology experts to accurately assess how effective various technologies will work and what their impact may be. They will also work to analyze how easy it would be to regulate and distribute that technology over private networks.

protest

Iranians Navigate Internet Blackout Following Human Rights Protests In Response To Death Of Mahsa Amino

Following the death in detention of Mahsa Amino, a 22-year-old woman apprehended by morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly, activists have flooded the streets in Iran to protest the human rights violations and violence against women in the nation.

pride

Far-Right 4channers Launch Attack on the Trevor Project’s Suicide Hotline

The far-right website 4chan launched a coordinated attack against The Trevor Project—a nonprofit organization focusing on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth.

A post on the website called for users to inundate The Trevor Project’s hotlines with false phone calls for help and inaccurate location information. In a collective effort to use up as many of the organization’s resources as possible, users aimed to prevent at-risk LGBTQ youth from receiving assistance in their most critical moments.

The Trevor Project’s website lists grim statistics on suicide rates among LGBTQ youth. Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-24. At least one young person in the LGBTQ community attempts suicide every 45 seconds.

“The Trevor Project’s 2022 Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.”

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 4chan began as a messaging board in 2003 and quickly became known for its population of internet “trolls.” In recent years, the “alt-right” movement has taken over the website. The original post to mobilize was made on its most active board, “/pol/,” which stands for politically incorrect. In 2022 “/pol/” was the most active board on the website, serving as a primary platform for far-right extremists.

Real-world violence has been linked to the board. Racist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynistic and anti-LGBTQ commentary riddles its front page. In April, the gunman who shot four people in Washington D.C. posted a video of the shooting on 4chan. The perpetrator of the mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket in May released a 180-page manifesto with language lifted directly from the website’s boards.

Users of the board referred to The Trevor Project as an organization of “groomers,” a term frequently used by the far right to equate the LGBTQ community and their advocacy with pedophilia.

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Due to the influx of calls, the nonprofit had to place a banner atop its website that listed there would be delayed wait times as they struggled to maintain the demand for assistance.

In a statement to The Daily Dot, the nonprofit spoke on the morality of this coordinated attack.

“The act of attacking a crisis services line intended to prevent suicide among young people is egregious. Our crisis counselors work around the clock to be there for LGBTQ youth who feel like they have nowhere to turn, and it’s harrowing that anybody would attempt to compromise our lifeline or encourage suicide.”

The Trevor Project intends to continue its advocacy work despite the attacks, vowing to protect its counselors and people seeking its service. It is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis organization for LGBTQ youth.

Internet Explorer

Microsoft Officially Retires Internet Explorer Web Browser 

This past week Microsoft confirmed that its well-known web browser, Internet Explorer, would be retired after years of declining user engagement. Initially launched in 1995, Internet Explorer was the standard for web browsing on all Windows computers. 

More often than not, Windows users opted not to upgrade from the traditional IE browsing format, but security researchers are emphasizing that IE and its many security vulnerabilities, that also contributed to its shut down, were still existent. 

Microsoft will begin disabling the IE application on all Windows 10 devices, prompting users to instead download its next-generation Edge web browser, which was initially released back in 2015. The original IE icon will remain on user devices, and Edge will be incorporating a service called “IE Mode” so users can preserve access to old websites that were specifically made for Internet Explorer. 

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Microsoft says it will support “IE mode through at least 2029. Additionally, IE will still work for now on all supported versions of Windows 8.1, Windows 7 with Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates, and Windows Server.”

Industry analysis shows that more than half a percent of total global browser market shares are held by Internet Explorer. 

“I do think we’ve made progress, and we probably won’t see as many exploits against IE in the future, but we will still have remnants of Internet Explorer for a long time that scammers can take advantage of,” says Ronnie Tokazowski, an independent malware researcher and principal threat advisor at the cybersecurity firm Cofense.

“Internet Explorer as the browser will be gone, but there are still pieces that exist.”

“We haven’t forgotten that some parts of the web still rely on Internet Explorer’s specific behaviors and features,” Sean Lyndersay, the general manager of Microsoft Edge Enterprise, wrote.

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“There was a real need to start over with Edge rather than trying to salvage IE. The web has evolved and so have browsers. Incremental improvements to Internet Explorer couldn’t match the general improvements to the web at large, so we started fresh,” he stated. 

Maddie Stone, a researcher for Google’s Project Zero vulnerability hunting team, wrote that hackers are still able to exploit vulnerabilities within the IE application, which is a problem, referring to previously unknown vulnerabilities as “zero-days.” 

“Since we began tracking in-the-wild 0-days, Internet Explorer has had a pretty consistent number of 0-days each year. 2021 actually tied 2016 for the most in-the-wild Internet Explorer 0-days we’ve ever tracked, even though Internet Explorer’s market share of web browser users continues to decrease. Internet Explorer is still a ripe attack surface for initial entry into Windows machines, even if the user doesn’t use Internet Explorer as their internet browser,” she wrote.

IE will begin to be phased out of Windows devices in the coming months, but its legacy will live on for the standard it set for optimal web browsing.

Internet

Microsoft And Land O’Lakes Are Teaming Up To Provide Internet Access To Rural Communities

The CEO’s of Microsoft and Land O’Lakes are trying to bridge the gap among Americans with internet access and those without it.

Internet

Sir Timothy Berners-Lee: Father of the World Wide Web

While there are countless computer scientists to credit for developing the infrastructure that makes the Internet possible, one British scientist named Sir Timothy Berners-Lee is to thank for creating the World Wide Web, the foundation upon which much of our online activity is built.

Hammock with Laptop

The Digital Nomad Lifestyle is Growing in Popularity

Thanks to the widespread availability of high-speed Internet access, millions of Americans participate in a lifestyle that would have been impossible just a few years ago. So-called “digital nomads” make a living online, as their work requires only a computer and an internet connection, allowing them to travel for extended periods of time while supporting themselves financially. Although the lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, it is growing in popularity, as it becomes possible to do more work from a virtual office and people seek to reconcile their desires to travel the country, or indeed even the world, with the reality of having to work. According to MBO Partners, 7.3 million Americans described themselves as digital nomads in 2019, which is 2.5 million more people than the previous year. As time goes on, employers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of hiring remote workers, and technological advancements have vastly improved the efficiency with which remote work can be performed.

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As these trends are likely to continue, the digital nomad lifestyle is all but certain to keep growing in popularity, as this unique way of living allows for a degree of freedom that most Americans can only dream of. More than half of digital nomads are millennials, and most are male, though all genders and age groups participate in the lifestyle to some extent. One of the advantages of the digital nomad lifestyle is the flexibility it affords. Accordingly, digital nomads differ greatly in income, as some work part-time while others work full-time, and the type of work digital nomads do varies in earning potential. One distinct advantage of the digital nomad lifestyle is the money-saving opportunities it enables; while most of us think of travel as an expensive luxury, digital nomads can keep costs down by living in areas with a low cost of living while working for customers in high-wage labor markets, in a practice called “geoarbitrage.” In this way, digital nomads can spend less time working than they otherwise would have to, allowing them to greater immerse themselves in the environments they come across in their travels.

Given the opportunities for adventure and money-saving the lifestyle provides, it’s no wonder why almost 4 out of 5 digital nomads report being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their work and income. To better accommodate the millions of people who choose to live as digital nomads, an entire industry has sprung up to offer products and services to this unique demographic. This includes companies like Roam and Hubud, which provide working and living spaces that cater specifically to digital nomads, offering temporary housing, a professional environment to work in, and an opportunity to network with a local community of like-minded individuals. Additionally, online services and marketplaces make it easier for digital nomads to find work, and tour services designed specifically around the digital nomad lifestyle have emerged to help people work and explore without worrying too much about the logistics.

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While the digital nomad lifestyle is attractive to a large number of people, it’s not a realistic option for most. For one, if you are married or have kids, it can be impossible to manage participating in family obligations with a nomadic lifestyle. Additionally, the type of work that can be performed remotely tends to be high-skilled, intellectual labor, making the lifestyle difficult to adopt for people who don’t have a college degree or other specialized training. That being said, the lifestyle can be appealing to young people, who are not yet tied down with obligations, and older people, whose children are adults and who wish to continue working past retirement age while seeing the world. 

Streaming Services

The 5 Top Free Movie Streaming Services

There’s no question that streaming video technology has fundamentally changed the world of entertainment, as physical entertainment media has all but disappeared in favor of on-demand content delivered over the Internet in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. Subscriptions for these services can add up, however, particularly during a time when content is made exclusive to competing services like Hulu, Amazon Prime, and now Disney Plus, requiring pop culture aficionados to subscribe to multiple platforms to keep up with the most-talked-about stories of the moment. That being said, a tremendous amount of content can now also be found on free, legal, ad-supported services which provide valuable alternatives for those who don’t mind ads but want more out of their television-watching experience. While these platforms won’t host the most recent, blockbuster productions, they often include classics from the history of cinema, making them a valuable resource for fans of the storytelling medium.

Plex, for instance, has recently expanded its business to include free access to stream a wide selection of content. While Plex has long been well-known as a platform for streaming media hosted on one’s desktop computer or server to any number of other devices, the service now also grants access to a wide variety of classics such as Rain Man and The Terminator. Considering the fact that accessing these critically-acclaimed titles from the 20th century requires only that users sign up for an account, taking advantage of Plex can enable hours of entertainment without spending a dime.

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Another service, Crackle, offers a similarly impressive collection of titles and doesn’t even require users to make an account, though the option is available for those who wish to sync their watching history across multiple devices. In addition to classic titles, Crackle includes some recent movies as well, such as Captain Phillips and Whiplash as well as several popular TV shows. As the service is broadly compatible with a wide range of devices, requiring little more than a modern web browser to function, it’s likely worth checking out.

IMdB TV, a service owned by Amazon and previously called FreeDrive, makes for another worthy Netflix alternative. The platform gives access to a number of titles that may be difficult to find elsewhere, particularly for free, including David Fincher’s excellent The Social Network and classics like The Shining and Groundhog day. However, the service only works on Windows and Fire TV devices and requires users to create an IMdB account.

Though its library of content is not as impressive as others on this list, Tubi offers a polished and streamlined interface as well as access to thousands of movies and TV shows, which include critically-acclaimed selections like Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Nightcrawler. Similarly, the Walmart-owned Vudu lets users stream a selection of titles, but also gives users the option of renting or buying films from the service directly for a small fee. While the platform’s selection of ad-supported content is understandably less than stellar, the option to rent or buy recent hits like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood makes Vudu an attractive option, particularly because the first rental on Vudu is only 99 cents.

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Lastly, Hoopla is a service that, in coordination with your local library, allows you to digitally “borrow” films as well as other media like music and eBooks using your library card. There are some obvious drawbacks to this service; not everyone has a library card, and not every public library works with Hoopla to enable access to content. That being said, Hoopla is the only service on this list not to serve ads, as the business is funded by library systems. Also, its selection of content is unique relative to other platforms, particularly when it comes to audiobooks and eBooks, which may in fact be the most valuable aspect of the service. Public libraries are an under-utilized free knowledge resource, but with services like Hoopla that enable easy and free access to library materials, that could soon change.

The variety of streaming media services, both free and paid, can be overwhelming, especially because navigating the enormous selection of (mostly mediocre) titles available on each platform can be tiring. That being said, free, legal access to media of all sorts via the Internet has never been greater, and many hidden gems await those who are willing to navigate various services and libraries.

Google Maps

Google Travel Poses Major Threat to Online Travel Agencies

When you think of the top travel sites, you likely imagine companies like Expedia, Orbitz, and Kayak.com, which have long been used by travellers looking to book airline tickets, make hotel reservations, rent cars, and more. However, in recent months Google has entered the travel industry in a much more significant way with the launch of Google Travel, a service that leverages the company’s vast network of information to compete directly with Expedia and the like. Google, however, has a distinct advantage over other travel companies by virtue of the fact that it provides by far the most popular search engine in the world, accounting for 81.5% of all search engine traffic on the Internet. As people generally use search engines to find information to help them plan their travels, this fact gives Google a distinct advantage over rival companies, posing a potentially-existential threat to their businesses.

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Google Flights, is a service that allows people to search various airlines to facilitate the purchase of tickets through third-party suppliers, launched eight years ago in September 2011. This year, however, the company expanded their ambition in the travel industry by combining Google Flights with services allowing users to search for hotels and vacation packages with the May launch of Google Travels. What’s more, Google Travels also offers travel guides for locations around the world, presenting users with suggestions on things to do, recommended day plans, travel videos, and more. While rival services include similar functionality, Google Travel’s attractive, minimalist aesthetic is more likely to engage users, particularly those who are already entrenched in the Google ecosystem. As Google Travels integrates with other services like Google Maps and Android, it can offer customers a more streamlined, straightforward, and comprehensive approach to organizing information relating to travel.

Google’s efforts to rise to the top of the travel industry have directly resulted in shrinking traffic from Google to websites like Expedia and TripAdvisor, causing them to grow at a worryingly slow pace.

Crucially, however, Google also prioritizes search results relating to its own business over competitors. As such, when you search for the word “flight,” for example, the first result links to Google Flights, with competing services found lower on the list of results. As people most often click one of the top three links that appear in the results of a Google search, customers are naturally drawn to choosing Google’s services over their competitors, even in cases where competitors might offer a better option. Understandably, this has led to complaints from competing services, who blame the search giant for revenue slowdowns, as top travel companies struggle to figure out how to maintain dominance when faced with such a powerful competitor. Google’s entry into the business of travel coordination, and its practice of promoting its own services through its massive search engine, stings particularly because travel companies pay Google billions of dollars in advertising money to prioritize links to their websites in search results.

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Google’s efforts to rise to the top of the travel industry have directly resulted in shrinking traffic from Google to websites like Expedia and TripAdvisor, causing them to grow at a worryingly slow pace. According to Stephen McBride, writing for Forbes, Google earned around $18 billion from online travel agents that paid for advertising on their search engine last year, whereas the largest online travel agent, Booking.com, only earned $14.5 billion. To make matters worse, Google is charging these companies an increasing amount of money to appear near the top of search results as time goes on, further compounding their financial difficulties. However, as these companies’ advertising purchases are tremendously profitable for the search engine giant, Google is unlikely to deliberately drive them out of business, even though they could potentially do so with ease. As such, the company has developed a strange type of relationship with online travel agencies; though Google directly competes with them by offering the same services, their existence also helps them make money, meaning the massively powerful Google is incentivized to keep rival travel agencies in business while simultaneously cutting deeply into their profits. As a massively profitable technology company, Google is evidently finding it increasingly difficult to live up to their own standard of “don’t be evil,” which was once incorporated into its corporate code of conduct before being removed.

Baby Chicks

Indonesia Is Giving Kids Baby Chicks To Combat Internet Addiction

As this decade comes to a close and we begin a new one, it’s safe to say a lot has changed within the past 10 years. What’s been the most significant and obvious transformation is how much technological advances have been made. We now have phones that we unlock using our faces or fingerprints, headsets that let us enter the world’s that video games create, cars that drive for us, and an endless stream of social media posts and notifications. While this new technology has advanced us as a society, it also has its major drawbacks, one of the biggest being how dependent we all are on it, especially the younger generation. 

Kids are becoming more addicted to social media and the internet every year, and a huge part of that has to do with how accessible personal internet devices have now become. More parents are allowing their children to own either a tablet, phone, laptop, etc. whatever is easiest and can work as the best distraction for them. While this practice may be quite common here in America, other parts of the world are putting great efforts into preventing their children from becoming overly dependent on these devices. 

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Specifically, a city in Indonesia is combating internet addiction in kids with trees, and chicks. Bandung, Indonesia has launched a new program in which students are given both a baby chicken and chili seeds in an attempt to get their eyes off the screen, and onto the process of growth in the natural world. Kids ranging from elementary school to junior high school are being given the responsibility of caring for their new “exotic” pets and plants to grow. According to CNN, The Bandung government backed the pilot program and has provided 2,000 chicks and 1,500 chili seeds to 12 schools in the Bandung districts (10 elementary schools and two junior high schools). 

As stated above this program is still in its “pilot” phase, meaning the results in regards to internet use is unconfirmed, however, educators have high hopes that growing trees and caring for young chicks will help motivate the kids to focus on what’s real. CNN reports that the Mayor of Bandung, Mayor Oded Danial, kicked off the program by holding a “symbolic hand-over ceremony” in which the chicks were handed off to the kids as their new caregivers. 

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This program is happening in Indonesia specifically due to increased smartphone addiction rate which is growing concerns amongst many parents in the country.  According to the Global Digital Report for 2019, South Asia has one of the highest online presence globally, and the average Indonesian internet user spends an average of nine hours a day online! For reference, that’s two hours more than the GLOBAL average. 

Several parents in Bandung appeared supportive of the program dubbed ‘chickenization.’”It’s good to increase the discipline of children. Caring for trees is better than playing with cell phones,” local parent Elis Puri said to CNN.

The children themselves are just as excited, local accounts for the program showed off several plans that all the kids had for the baby chicks. Some said they would like to begin breeding chickens in general to create a constant source of eggs and protein for his family, others had a little more morbid of a plan and want to raise the chick until they’re big enough to eat. At least they have a solid plan for raising the babies.  

Local government officials and school officials plan on monitoring the program for the next year. They plan on recording data on both how successful every child is at maintenance care for their pets and plants, as well as their average internet use in comparison to before the program was implemented into their lives.