Family sues Meta over daughter’s eating disorder, addiction to Facebook and Instagram

A Meta spokesperson said on Wednesday that its platforms now had features to allow parents to monitor their children's usage. (Shutterstock image)
A Meta spokesperson said on Wednesday that its platforms now had features to allow parents to monitor their children's usage. (Shutterstock image)
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Updated 09 June 2022

Family sues Meta over daughter’s eating disorder, addiction to Facebook and Instagram

Family sues Meta over daughter’s eating disorder, addiction to Facebook and Instagram

LONDON: A family sued Meta on Wednesday over their daughter’s eating disorder, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide due to her “addictive” use of Instagram.

The lawsuit stated that 19-year-old Alexis first set up an Instagram account when she was 11, despite the platform’s age of use being 13.

The family claimed that “Alexis was addicted to Meta's product and spent increasing amounts of time on social media, specifically, perusing content recommended and/or made available to her by Meta, which increasingly included underweight models, unhealthy eating, and eating disorder content.”

Court papers showed that Alexis was hospitalized with depression, anxiety, and anorexia and was in recovery because of the harmful content that Instagram promoted.

The lawsuit follows seven other similar lawsuits filed against Meta, saying that excessive exposure to social media platforms had led to attempted or actual suicide, eating disorders, sleeplessness, and other issues.

“These applications could have been designed to minimize potential harm, but instead, a decision was made to aggressively addict adolescents in the name of corporate profits,” said lawyer Andy Birchfield from Beasley Allen, the law firm drafting the lawsuits.

Another lawsuit claimed that the “addictive” use of Instagram had made a woman develop an eating disorder. Another lawsuit said a user was driven to recurring suicidal thoughts and a negative body image.

In response to the lawsuits, a Meta spokesperson said on Wednesday that its platforms now had features to allow parents to monitor their children's usage.

The platforms also offered notifications to remind users to take a break from their apps.

“You look at the extensive research that it (Meta) performed, they knew exactly what they were doing to kids, and they kept doing it,” said the founder of the Social Media Victims Law Center, Matthew P. Bergman, who represents one of the families. “I wish I could say that Alexis’ case is aberrational. It’s not. The only aberration is that she survived.”

In September last year, leaked internal documents revealed that Meta had been aware that its platforms could be harmful to the mental and physical health of its young users.

Since at least 2019, staff at the company have been studying the impact of their product on the mental well-being of its younger users.

Their research has repeatedly found it is harmful for a large proportion of them, particularly teenage girls.


Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists

Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists
Updated 06 August 2022

Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists

Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists
  • Amer Abu Arafa detained while Majdoleen Hassouna blocked from travel
  • Committee to Protect Journalists: ‘Israeli authorities are showing their determination to clamp down on the Palestinian press’

LONDON: Israel must release Palestinian journalist Amer Abu Arafa, who was ordered on Aug. 1 to be detained for four months, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Friday.

The reporter for the London-based Quds Press News Agency was under investigation for alleged membership of a terrorist organization, an Israel Defense Forces official told the CPJ. Abu Arafa’s home was raided by Israeli authorities on July 19.

Meanwhile, Israel reportedly prevented Palestinian journalist Majdoleen Hassouna from leaving the occupied West Bank in July.

Border guards are said to have blocked the reporter for Turkey’s TRT from crossing into Jordan. Hassouna was previously blocked from travel in 2020 and 2021.

Justin Shilad, the CPJ’s senior Middle East and North Africa researcher, said: “Whether they use prison walls or travel bans, Israeli authorities are showing their determination to clamp down on the Palestinian press.

“Israeli authorities should immediately release all detained journalists including Amer Abu Arafa, and end the use of arbitrary detention and travel bans against the press.”


Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service

Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service
Updated 06 August 2022

Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service

Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service
  • Company will offer free, paid service from next summer

LONDON: Executives at HBO Max and Discovery+ have revealed their plans to launch a new streaming service next summer that combines the two platforms’ offerings.
From a meeting with investors on Thursday, it emerged that the two companies have set out the scope and strategy of their streaming ambitions, announcing that they will offer free and paid services.
The platform, which aims to reach 130 million paying subscribers by 2025, will offer content that is currently distributed on HBO Max and Discovery+. 
The parent companies of HBO and Animal Planet merged together to form Warner Bros. Discovery earlier this year.
David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, praised the new company’s “bouquet of owned content,” and said it will offer a single paid subscription product and a free service supported by the advertisement-based revenue model.
“The fact is there are only a handful of companies globally that can do what we do,” he said. “And putting it all together, we believe no one does it better than us.”
The name of the service was not disclosed, but executives said it will launch next year in the US and then expand worldwide in the following years.
Zaslav said Warner Bros. Discovery will adopt a “disciplined strategy,” highlighting the company’s intention to steer away from the growth-at-any-cost tactics that became common in the streaming business.
“Owning the content that really resonates with people is much more important than just having lots of content,” he added. 
“In other words, at a time when almost every piece of content ever made is available to consumers across any number of free and paid services, curation, quality and brand have never been more important.”
After the boom of the pandemic era, the streaming service market has not performed well in recent months. 
Fierce competition and the fear of a looming recession have pushed many users to cancel their subscriptions. 
Earlier this week, Warner Bros. canceled the release of the $90 million DC superhero movie “Batgirl,” which was expected to be distributed through HBO Max as part of a broader plan to increase subscribers, reiterating the company’s intention to prioritize quality over quantity.


Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK

Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK
The individuals will be required to scan their faces using the smartwatches up to five times a day. (Shutterstock/File)
Updated 05 August 2022

Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK

Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK
  • The scheme will require migrant offenders to scan their faces using a smartwatch fitted with facial recognition technology up to five times daily

LONDON: The UK Home Office and Ministry of Justice announced on Friday that migrants who have been convicted of a criminal offense will soon be required to scan their faces using facial recognition technology.

The Home Office said that the scheme will involve “daily monitoring of individuals subject to immigration control,” with the requirement to wear either a fitted ankle tag or a smartwatch at all times. 

The individuals will be required to scan their faces using the smartwatches up to five times a day. Information including their names, date of birth, nationality and photographs will be stored for up to six years.

Locations of migrant offenders will also be tracked 24/7. 

The data will be shared with the Home Office, MoJ and the police, with Home Office officials stressing: “The sharing of this data (to) police colleagues is not new.”

The Home Office added that the smartwatch scheme will be for foreign-national offenders who have been convicted of a criminal offense, rather than other groups such as asylum seekers.

Critics highlighted that the surveillance scheme is a clear breach of human rights, and is likely to impact asylum seekers’ mental health.

“Facial recognition is known to be an imperfect and dangerous technology that tends to discriminate against people of color and marginalized communities,” said Lucie Audibert, a lawyer and legal officer for Privacy International.

“These ‘innovations’ in policing and surveillance are often driven by private companies, who profit from governments’ race toward total surveillance and control of populations.”

“Through their opaque technologies and algorithms, they facilitate government discrimination and human rights abuses without any accountability. No other country in Europe has deployed this dehumanizing and invasive technology against migrants,” she said.

According to the UK government website, the Ministry of Justice had awarded a £6 million contract to British technology company ‘Buddi Limited’ in May to supply electronic monitoring non-fitted devices “to support implementation of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service for specific cohorts.”

This service, introduced in 2018, uses satellite technology to monitor foreign offenders awaiting deportation. 

“A non-fitted device solution will provide a more proportionate way of monitoring specific cohorts over extended periods of time than fitted tags,” the statement on the website reads. 

“These devices will utilize periodic biometric verification as an alternative to being fitted to an individual.”


Instagram announces expansion into NFT market

Instagram announces expansion into NFT market
Updated 05 August 2022

Instagram announces expansion into NFT market

Instagram announces expansion into NFT market
  • Users in more than 100 countries across the world are now able to share their NFTs on the platform

LONDON: Meta, Instagram’s parent company, announced on Thursday the international expansion of its non-fungible token support across its platforms, namely Instagram.

Users in more than a hundred countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas will now be able to use the new feature, which allows them to share their NFTs on the platform.

“Today we’re starting international expansion to 100 countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and the Americas. Additionally, we now support wallet connections with the Coinbase Wallet and Dapper, as well as the ability to post digital collectibles minted on the Flow blockchain,” Meta said in a statement.

The tech giant announced the integration of Coinbase and Dapper, as well as other third-party wallets such as Rainbow, MetaMask and Trust Wallet, which are required to access and purchase NFTs assets.

“In order to post a digital collectible, all you need to do is connect your digital wallet to Instagram,” the statement continued.

Meta first announced its test launch in May, with the feature initially rolled out to selected creators and collectors.

Instagram users can now include NFTs in their feed and messages, as well as in augmented reality stickers in Stories. When tapped, it would reveal information about the creator of the work, as well as the owner of that digital item.

“Every day, creators inspire people and push culture forward around the world. With the incredible opportunity of blockchain technology, they can now leverage new tools to earn income, and fans can support their favorite creators by purchasing digital collectibles — art, images and videos, music or trading cards — as non-fungible tokens (NFTs),” Meta highlighted.

Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of the new feature in an Instagram post featuring a signed baseball card of himself as a kid, which will soon become an NFT, he pointed out.

Meta’s move into the NFT market is considered by some to be ill-timed, but experts speculate that Instagram could soon start monetizing the new feature by introducing its own marketplace.


Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube
Updated 05 August 2022

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube
  • Google said it already has measures to address the Nigerian government’s concerns including a system for trained users to flag troublesome content

ABUJA: Nigeria asked Google to block the use of YouTube channels and livestreams by banned groups and terrorist organizations in the country, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said on Thursday.
Nigeria has been exploring ways to regulate social media usage in the country, Africa’s most populous. The country is home to millions of Internet users and platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Tiktok are popular. YouTube “channels and emails containing names of banned groups and their affiliates should not be allowed on Google platforms,” Mohammed said he told Google executives in Abuja, the country’s capital.
Charles Murito, Google’s sub-Saharan African director for government affairs and public policy, in a statement said the company already has measures to address the Nigerian government’s concerns.
Those measures include a system for trained users to flag troublesome content, he added. “We share the same goals and objectives,” Murito said. “We do not want our platform to be used for ill purposes.”
The minister said the government was particularly concerned with online activities by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The government has labeled IPOB, a group campaigning for the secession of a southeastern region of Nigeria, a “terrorist organization.”
The YouTube concerns are part of an effort by the government, the minister said, to protect Nigerian Internet users from harmful effects of social media, especially ahead of a presidential election next year.
Nigeria suspended Twitter in June 2021 and blocked access to users after the social media giant removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari threatening to punish regional secessionists.
The government lifted the Twitter ban six months later.