Earlier today, CNN announced that they would be dropping their news anchor, Chris Cuomo, following new information bout how he aided his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, during his alleged sexual misconduct controversies. To recap, Andrew Cuomo has been under investigation by the attorney general’s office after eleven women came forward, accusing Cuomo of engaging in unwanted sexual advancements, and impropriate behavior.
It should be made clear that Chris Cuomo is not in hot water for his association with his brother. According to documents released by the New York Attorney general revealed that Chris had “a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew.” These documents included records of texts messages between Chris Cuomo and his brother’s staff members, providing private information about some of the women who have come forward with allegations of misconduct.
A CNN spokesperson said, “…he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly. But we also appreciate the unique position he was in.” So far, Chris has not commented on nor acknowledged this turn of events, but continues to defend his brother. On his SiriusXM radio show, Chris stated, “I did not want him [Andrew Cuomo] to resign in the beginning, because I believed him, and I thought that you don’t resign, you ask for due process.”
It would seem like public opinion regarding social media has certainly been on the decline in the last few years. With no shortage of platform controversies and new data about its negative impact on mental health, more and more people have been preaching the idea that the best way to set yourself free, is to just quit. Say goodbye. Log off. Go outside. But is going “cold turkey” really the solution? In a recent Forbes article, John Brandon explained why cutting all ties from social media could actually have a negative impact if not properly thought out. This article was in response to a TED Talk by Professor Cal Newport, where the professor highlighted a variety of negative effects from platform usage. Since the TED Talk was from 2016, not all the issues we’ve come to know now were covered. In the past few years, social media has been associated with causing depression and negative self-image, addiction and lessening attention spans, spreading misinformation and disinformation, selling private data, and causing further divisiveness among a society in the midst of social/political turmoil… to name just a few issues.
That list alone could be enough to make anyone want to throw in the towel on social media for good, but Brandon explained how that could be a recipe for disaster. “Quitting is not the same as controlling” he wrote. Brandon’s take on social media usage is similar to how we would talk about drinking or eating junk food in moderation. Most things that are done in excess tend to have negative side effect regardless of their original intention, and social media is no exception. As much as some of us would like to believe it, a platform is not just some wicked entity; it’s a tool (as Brandon put it), and as autonomous individuals, we have the power to decide how we utilize this tool. And similar to vices like drinking or junk food, if we feel we’ve abused it, quitting cold turkey tends to backfire.
More than anything, I worry about the “cold turkey” approach because people eventually get sucked back into using the apps. “I’m deleting my account” says the person who is not able to control usage, and hasn’t dealt with a tendency to overuse the apps. A few weeks or months later, that person is back using the app again, maybe even more than ever before.
John Brandon, Forbes Magazine 2021
This is not to say that you shouldn’t leave social media if you truly want to. Heck, I was offline for most of 2019 and have no regrets about it. It’s just important to remember all the benefits that having these accounts comes with if used responsibly and in moderation. Being connected to world means an endless stream of discovery and inspiration. It means having a direct way of communicating with friends and family that may live across the world. It means more opportunity to promote your passions. I’m not ashamed to say that I won’t leave social media out of fear of general FOMO. I understand how rapidly networking technology is accelerating, and I don’t want to miss out. Though, it does need to change for the better. It will be interesting to see what type of regulations are put in place on the web in the coming years, if any. Though until then, our best course of action to avoid the negative implications of living online is to get a better sense of ourselves, look within, and be honest about if we’re using these tools responsibly.
Disney’s “Encanto” and Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” have been box office hits- a optimistic premise for theaters trying to get back on their feet post-pandemic.
With the amount content offered throughout the various streaming services we have access to, it’s easy to forget about the theater-exclusive films that are released. But with families together for the Thanksgiving holiday, heading out to the movies is once again an activity worthwhile- and thank goodness there are two films that are neither franchised or rebooted that both adults and kids can enjoy this holiday. CNN Business reported, “Disney’s ‘Encanto,’ an animated film featuring music written by ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, is expected to have a $35 million domestic opening over the five-day holiday — enough to win the weekend. As for MGM’s ‘House of Gucci,’ a true crime film starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, that film could slide into the No. 2 spot.”
This is welcome news for The Motion Picture Association. The 2020 global pandemic hit the entertainment industry particularly hard. According to Forbes, movie theater turnout had dropped from the billions in yearly attendance to only about 240 million in 2020- an all-time low. Now that businesses are back open and much of the country is fully vaccinated, people are flocking back to theaters for the full over-priced experience. Alright, alright- that may have been a little cynical, but I’ve never gotten over the fact that I had to pay $6 for Milk Duds when I went out to see the Dune reboot. Speaking of reboots (smooth transition), it’s theorized that both “Encanto” and “House of Gucci” have been so successful for not being connected to any other films. In the past decade, viewers have been bombarded with films that further a story; Star Wars, Marvel, James Bond, and even a live action Clifford the Big Red Dog has it the big screen. However, “Encanto” and “House of Gucci” are giving audiences a breath of fresh air by having their story stand on their own, and the impressive box office numbers should serve as a lesson for film executives- originality is key! That’s not to say that those are the only two movies worth watching in theaters right now. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” have both been commercial and critical success in the mainstream thus far.
With so much content striving for our attention right now, as well as aspects of the lockdown still impacting business, it’s easy to see how movie theaters have struggled. Though, these box office numbers are promising in getting back to that normality that we all crave. So now may be the perfect time to grab your friends, hide some snacks in your bag, and enjoy a film on the big screen again! (Not Clifford though, no one needs to see that.)
Will their business plan start a trend among others?
While many companies are ramping up their social media presence this Black Friday, Lush Cosmetics has removed their Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok accounts. According to Lush’s official site, this change is a result of the revelations from the Facebook’s whistleblower, Frances Haugen, who exposed how Facebook prioritized profit over the safety of their users.
This was no doubt a difficult decision for the cosmetic company- they even admitted that they have attempted to remove themselves from social media before, but were held back by FOMO. Though at the end of the day, they want their customers to know that all their business decisions are in line with their mission. A statement from Lush’s Chief Financial Officer read,
“As an inventor of bath bombs, I pour all my efforts into creating products that help people switch off, relax and pay attention to their wellbeing. Social media platforms have become the antithesis of this aim, with algorithms designed to keep people scrolling and stop them from switching off and relaxing.”
Lush has vowed not to return to these platforms until they address and resolve all the issues with their users. The question that’s on everyone’s minds: Will Lush continue to be successful despite the change? Well, so far the news of their leaving social media has created a lot of positive buzz for the company’s reputation. And it is worth mentioning that they will still have a small presence on Twitter and YouTube as they explore healthier ways to connect with their audience. According to ABC News, Lush is planning to invest more into opening stores in more locations, hosting physical events, community activation, and more traditional forms of marketing; that means you may star seeing those paper catalogs in your mail.
In 2017, Amazon bought the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings- a fantasy book series turn movie trilogy with a massive critical and commercial success that continues to be rampant in nerd culture to this day. Scheduled to air in September of next year, this series will take place thousands of years prior to the events in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies. Like the prior movies, this series is being filmed in New Zealand. Though, a recent release from the country’s government’s official information act revealed the staggering costs behind the show. Production costs alone have reach up to 650 New Zealand Dollars, which converts to about $465 USD. But that’s just production. After factoring in costs like marketing, distribution, and merchandising, the projected cost may be closer to $1 billion USD. To put that in perspective, one season of HBO’s Game of Thrones costed around $100 million to produce.
With such large budget, naturally, expectations among the public are high, but some more dedicated fans of Middle Earth (including yours truly) are a bit skeptical to assume that budget size will equate to quality and success. There’s no doubt that the production team will be adding all the bells and whistles to the show’s special effects. It will likely be a visual masterpiece. However, it was a comment made by Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos that he wanted The Lord of the Rings TV series to be the next Game of Thrones. On the outside, that comment could make sense, with Game of Thrones being a fantasy series with success in a global market, why not attempt to make the new The Lord of the Rings TV series similar in style? It’s been reported that Amazon will be adding more violence and nudity to their new series in the hopes to gain the interest of the same demographic as Game of Thrones. However, this is where some fans started to criticize Amazon executives for not acknowledging the key differences in the two shows that made them successful in their own rights.
Excessive sex and gore do not have to be present in a story to make it successful. The Lord of the Rings was wildly successful without a major dark undertone in the narrative. You didn’t need to see two characters like Aragorn and Arwen getting intimate to understand their strong romantic chemistry. By using elements from other shows as a template for success, its easy to overlook the characteristics that make the original so iconic and popular. However, there is cautionary tale that they should be following from the progression of Game of Thrones: Game of Thrones season 8 is known in the mainstream as being a critical failure. Without getting into a rabbit hole of details, season 8 of the show presented issues when the show writers were left without any new material from the author of the Song of Ice & Fire author, George R. R. Martin. In lieu of that material, season 8 was written by a team that seemingly missed the mark on a lot of the story structure and narratives that Game of Throne fans loved from Martin’s Novels. The Lord of the Rings TV series will not be based on any existing stories from J.R.R. Tolkien, but writers employed by Amazon. Many fans have claimed that one of the major reasons for Lord of the Ring’s past success was because the stories remained so faithful to the source material, so Lord of the Rings TV show will have a lot to live up to.
Earlier this month, YouTube officially removed the dislike counter on every video on their platform. The dislike button will still be active, but the number of dislikes on a video will be private, only to be viewed by the creator through the YouTube analytics tab. YouTube’s publicly stated reasoning for this change was the result of an experiment performed back in March of 2021. “…we experimented with the dislike button to see whether or not changes could help better protect our creators from harassment, and reduce dislike attacks — where people work to drive up the number of dislikes on a creator’s videos” From the experiment they concluded that, “they [creators] were less likely to target a video’s dislike button to drive up the count. In short, our experiment data showed a reduction in dislike attacking behavior.” Matt Koval, head creator liaison at YouTube, released a video addressing the change, explaining that the removal of the dislike counter was necessary to combat creator harassment since, “half of YouTube’s mission is to give everyone a voice”. But it’s statements like that, that a majority of the YouTube community feels that the company’s decision was both tone-deaf and inauthentic.
YouTube claims that this meant to help out the smaller creators, but a quick glance at the comment section on Matt Koval’s announcement video reveals that almost every creator, regardless of audience size, is against this change… everyone except for the most powerful. The majority of YouTube videos that have a massive ratio of dislikes to likes tend to be mega corporations and brands, political press conferences and news networks, and somewhat ironically, YouTube’s own official content. In fact, the most disliked video on the platform to date was YouTube Rewind 2018.
It is key to remember that the reactionary functions on a YouTube video (the comment section and like/dislike buttons), are a form of the public sphere; a space that can be metaphysical, where people can come together and exchange options and ideas. Any comment section or online forum is a public sphere, but by removing the dislike button, YouTube is removing a tool of expression that helps the public communicate in this metaphysical sphere. By limiting access within this sphere, we have less of an authentic understanding of public opinion. Matt Koval briefly stated towards the end of his announcement video that many other platforms don’t even have a dislike button, therefor we’ll probably all get used to this change in no time. Right?
Well, take a look a video on Instagram that a majority of viewers didn’t enjoy. It’s very likely that the top pinned comments from users that read something along the line of “use me as the dislike button”, are overwhelmed with upvotes. When in doubt, we want our opinions to be heard, so we’ll always find ways to communicate that within the public sphere. I predict that it won’t be long before pinned comments take the place of the dislike button, and YouTube either has to reassess their decision to remove the dislike counter, or decide to disable comments altogether.
For the last couple months, Ozy Media has been the center of a variety of scandals relating to the validity of their business practices and claims. The digital entertainment company was founded in 2013 by Samir Rao. The aim of Ozy media was to cover trends and topics in entertainment that were both appealing to a young adult demographic, as well as new and fresh in terms of coverage. Their varied programming includes podcasts, digital courses, and some Emmy Award-winning TV shows. Though, it was not their content that landed them in hot water, but rather false claims to investors that garnered financial support under false pretenses. It was a series of articles by The New York Times that began with reporting that Rao was falsely claiming to be a YouTube executive. His impersonation was meant to convince investors that Ozy media was very successful on YouTube, having a wide, dedicated fanbase on the platform.
This was followed by false claims made by Ozy’s co-founder and producer for The Carlos Watson Show; Carlos Watson claimed that the show was scheduled to air on A&E, when in fact, no such agreement has ever been made by the network. After that, a 2019 interview with Watson resurfaced, where he had claimed that celebrities, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, were investors in Ozy Media. Another lie that was publicly debunked by the Osbourne family as reported by CNBC. What could be described as a slow-motion car crash eventually caused Ozy’s investors, including one of their chairmen, Marc Lasry, as well as key investor, SV Angel, to give up their shares and step away from the company. BBC anchor, Katty Kay, who had worked for Ozy for the last year had also decided to resign.
“Calling Ozy Media a Dumpster Fire is an Insult to Dumpsters and Fires”
Colby Hall- Mediaite Founding Editor
With the number of reports regarding Ozy’s deception stacking up, both the Securities Exchange Commission and Department of Justice have began investigating for more instances of Fraud. What they uncover could potentially lead to criminal charges. In the meantime, this is an important reminder that nothing ruins the truth like stretching it. Ozy Media was more focused on the perception of success, rather than taking the steps to achieve it. The amount of time that was spent fabricating the lies making Ozy Media seem popular among their demographic, could have actually been spent doing market research to understand the audience that they claimed to have.
How two of YouTube’s most popular content creators are utilizing their massive fanbase to clean up the ocean.
While most influencers with over a million followers may be trying to sell makeup or weightless shakes, two of YouTube’s most influential creators, Mark Rober (20.3 million subscribers) and Mr. Beast (74.1 million subscribers) are calling upon their viewers to aid in a mission to remove 30 million pounds of garbage from the ocean by the new year. This global campaign, named #TeamSeas, was launched on October 29th, with the promise to remove one pound of trash from the ocean for every one dollar that was donated to the campaign. As of now, they have amassed over $15 million in donations. Barely a couple weeks in, #TeamSeas is already halfway to their goal. So how did they do it? Well, let’s start with who these two guys actually are.
Rober and Mr. Beast are no strangers to charity, in fact, this isn’t even their first rodeo together. Back in 2020, they launched a similar campaign to raise $20 million to plant 20 million trees. With the success of #TeamTrees, they decided set a higher goal for #TeamSeas. These are the ways in which they spread awareness so efficiently. First, they teamed up with over a hundred influential YouTubers. #TeamSeas is not only backed by famous creators that include Hank Green, Physics Girl, MKBHD, Colin and Samir, and Safiya Nygaard, but every creator has made their own video, in their own signature style, to raise awareness for the campaign. Rober and Mr. Beast have also partnered with The Ocean Cleanup, where half of the donations will be allocated to. Rober featured their non-profit in his campaign’s announcement video titled, “This Robot Eats Trash”, to show off the company’s invention called, FRED, a solar-powered, semi-autonomous marine robot capable of collecting marine plastic pollution without the need for fossil fuels or a human crew. It can optimized to clean trash from any type of water, and #TeamSeas are hoping the success of their campaign will also bring these inventions to the forefront of environmental activism.
In these past couple weeks after whistleblower, Frances Haugen, testified before congress regarding how Facebook’s algorithm has been feeding harmful content and misinformation to the masses, the topic of how social media perpetuates eating disorder-related content has reached the mainstream. Internal documents revealed how Instagram’s algorithm has perpetuated content that is normally associated with the more toxic realm of body, weight, and health related material. This has resulted in “proana” (short for pro-anorexia) as well as other disorder eating related content being exposed to users. This has been incredibly problematic for younger demographics whose sense of self and esteem are so vulnerable.
For many people reading this, this is old news. Content that glamorizes eating disorders have been prevalent on social media platforms long before the birth of Facebook and Instagram. Myspace and Tumblr were especially notorious hotbeds for all things “thinspiration” in the early to mid-2010s. As the years went on, tech companies have been more proactive in taking down profiles and posts that included any keywords associated with eating disorders, while subsequently making sure that anyone who searched up these terms was given direct access to helplines and psychiatric support. Facebook has been slammed in the last month with outrage from a public demanding to know why these algorithms would continue to promote content so dangerous to young people. Is it a shameless cash-grab within the weight loss industry? A miscalculation in a technical code? How could they let this continue to happen? Well, while those questions are still valid to ask, its important to note that identifying harmful content is not as simple as it may seem. In a New York Times article, authors Kate Conger, Kellen Browning and Erin Woo referenced an important quote about this topic:
“Social media in general does not cause an eating disorder. However, it can contribute to an eating disorder,” said Chelsea Kronengold, a spokeswoman for the National Eating Disorders Association. “There are certain posts and certain content that may trigger one person and not another person. From the social media platform’s perspective, how do you moderate that gray area content?”
From an outsider’s perspective, it may be easy to look at one profile and categorize it as “harmful” while viewing another as “health-related”. However, that perspective can differ drastically depending on the individual. There is a plethora of content that was never intended to be viewed as “proana”, but, unfortunately, is worshipped that way. Think models, influencers, or fitness gurus. How is an algorithm meant to understand what reaction a user will gauge? It becomes even more difficult when we look at how many people use social media as a place to tell their story about their eating disorder recovery. One of the most beautiful aspects of the modern age is how we can use these platforms to connect with other people who are struggling and offer them support. Unfortunately, like influencers, accounts meant to promote recovery can also be viewed in a toxic mentality that further perpetuates disordered thinking. Is Instagram supposed to shut down these survivors’ accounts as well? The accounts that really perpetuate these toxic ideologies are often hard for social media to identify; the hashtags will normally be one letter off from the keyword that would get them shut down, while any wording in posts is carefully crafted as to avoid them as well.
Instagram and Facebook have made a lot of progress in taking these accounts down compared to the past. However, these new reports have also exposed the flaws in their system. They are not without fault, but it is important to remember how difficult paroling this type of evading is on a scale of over a billion users. No one (not just girls) should be exposed to accounts that promote EDs, but for those who wish to seek it out, can always find a way to hide in the shadows. It will be interesting to see how Facebook address this situation, and whether or not they will make changes in their technology and AI to more accurately identify the nature of these accounts. Though, they may want to consider that the best course of action, for vulnerable people to truly avoid coming across these triggers to their mental health, is to denounce their platform; to not assume that everything can be fixed from within, and for once, just suggest that their platform is not suitable for some people to use.
Famous comedian, Dave Chappelle, is no stranger to controversy. In fact, it’s to be expected, at this point, for any new stand up special of his to be met with a certain amount of blowback. It has been nearly been two weeks since the release of his new Netflix special, The Closer, and it has already climbed in viewership, currently making it Netflix’s most popular release just below Squid Game.
In the special, Chappelle talks about a variety of controversial issues, but primarily talks about his experience and perspective on the LGBTQ community. To report that his entire rhetoric was an offensive attack would be inaccurate as well as subjective. It is true that he makes a variety of jokes that would be considered taboo in our Western society’s vision of political correctness compliance. However, every joke is accompanied by a message of empathy; in his special, Chappelle stresses the importance of having compassion for your fellow human, and how as a black man, can relate to the struggle of minority groups including the trans community that he pokes fun at. At the end of the special he addresses the LGBTQ community: “I am not telling another joke about you until I am sure that we are both laughing together.”
Whether or not you agree with his message, or consider his comedy valid is completely up to you as the viewer. Comedy, like all forms of art, is subjective. However, many viewers, media outlets, and employees within Netflix found The Closer to not only be of poor taste, but harmful to the progress of the LGBTQ community. As a result, Netflix CEO, Ted Sarandos, put out a memo to his staff, acquired by Variety that read, “you should be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do.” The memo continued, “As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom—even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.”
While the notion of creative freedom, as well as first amendment rights are typically supported by the general public, the blowback from people who found the Closer offensive, site Netflix allowing Chappelle such a large reaching platform to express these ideologies as the main problem. In a Wired article, Angela Watercutter, stated “The reason a show like The Closer can grab as much attention as a show like Squid Game is simple: People sometimes like content that is harmful to others. Thousands, if not millions, will vote for anti-LGBTQ candidates, and the same amount of them will watch content with similar viewpoints.”
The comparison of The Closer to Squid Game is interesting; sure, they’re both surging in popularity on Netflix, but does that really mean that we’re only watching them to fulfil a desire to see harm come to others? If this was the case, why is there no call to pull the South Korean TV show from the platform? Many would argue that, with Squid Game, there is so much more to flesh out from the narrative and characters; a variety of social political commentary that shines a light on corporate corruption that lives between the lines of these characters’ partaking in gory children’s games. The same could be argued about Dave Chappelle’s special: That within the jokes regarding the LGBTQ community, people of color, women, white people, law enforcement, and all the other people he joked about (including himself in the acknowledgement of his own privilege) there is an accompanying message of unity, humility, harmony, and humanity.