The Good, the Bad, and the…Dirty? How the Internet Took Down an Obscure Multi Level Marketing Plan that Sold Bags of Soil for Health

What is an MLM?

Multi-Level Marketing Plans, commonly known on the internet as MLM’s, are nothing new to frequent users of Instagram and Facebook. Certain savvy users with a business idea can consistently utilize their platform to influence others to buy in to a product and sell it to others. The catch is that these products cannot be bought in-store- you must purchase them from a “friend”, or someone who already works for the business. This process ultimately makes the person at the top richer by leveraging field sales and marketing to the likely naive end of the line customer.

Images of creating an empire, working from home, and “being your own boss” are built around successful clients-turned-salespeople. The technique of roping internet users in can cause tremendous financial, emotional, and social damage in the long run. Whether it is hair products, clothing, or weight loss shakes, we have all been witness or potentially fallen victim to buying into an MLM. The most obscure scheme yet has been a business that sells bags of dirt for $110 each, claiming that they “cure” cancer and autism.

Getting Their Hands Dirty

Black Oxygen Organics, otherwise known as “BOO”, encouraged its users to bathe, wear, and even drink the dirt that they were somehow successfully selling. The dirt, or “magic mud”, was sold in capsules, powder and liquid through users who claimed its magical benefits. Claims were made that the substance from a trench in Ontario could potentially cure all known ailments. Tests were run on this soil through The Ohio State University’s labs in which high levels of lead and arsenic were found, leading to FDA investigation of the product. These elements are not rare to find in soil, which is a valid reason that we should not consume such a substance.

The Downfall of BOO

Groups of anti-MLM enthusiasts banded together through the internet and conducted an insider investigation in order to shut the brand down. Some members of these internet forums attempted to join the group in efforts to gather information that would help their case in spreading awareness of the harmful product. The group gained the attention of the FDA, FTC, and Health Canada, resulting in a recall of the product.

This story proves the power of the internet for uses that are both harmful and productive. The psychologically manipulative tactics that MLMs use to prey on consumers were shut down by regular people against such organizations. Without the internet this surely would not have happened, but there would have been less of a chance of it ending as well.


Representation in Media- Its Rise and What it Can Mean

Television and film have shown a significant increase in black and nonbinary representation over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Variety. In efforts to create an unbiased database tracking diversity and inclusivity in the entertainment industry, the “Entertainment Diversity Progress Report” is released.

  • Black talent logged the highest rate of representation gains in episodic TV and film across racial and ethnic lines.
  • Among the gender and LGBTQ breakdowns examined, nonbinary talent logged the biggest overall gains.
The Stars of One Night in Miami, courtesy of The Independent

Representation in media such as television and film have a large, hard-hitting impact when done correctly. A PBS News Hour article on the matter notes, “For some young students, portrayals of minorities in the media not only affect how others see them, but it affects how they see themselves” (2019). Seeing people on screen who look and act like oneself can serve as inspiration. If the representation is negative, that may have a negative impact on one’s perception of themself. Positive portrayal creates a productive correlation in the brain between identity and potential roles it creates.

With a direct correlation between social media usage in youth and mental health decline, representation in media is needed now more than ever. Positive trends seen over the course of the pandemic will hopefully continue in the same direction in the future, inspiring newer generations.

Facebook’s Failure to Launch Cryptocurrency leads to Lift on Crypto Ad Ban

Facebook began Wednesday, December 1st by announcing that they will reverse their long-standing decision to block advertisements for cryptocurrency on their services. This ban was put in place in January of 2018 as Facebook worked aimlessly to create their own currency to be used within the platform. Former employee and head of cryptocurrency efforts David Marcus recently announced that he was leaving the company at the end of the year.

Facebook has seen a significant amount of maturation in the cryptocurrency industry. This landmark of noting government regulations and stability establishes their decision to allow for the industry to prosper on their site.

The lift of this ban is a huge opportunity for allowing retail investors to access cryptocurrency. The emergence of Meta and its “metaverse” will see an integration of the two new technologies.

Elon Musk States CEO is a “Made-Up Title”

The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit met this past Monday, where Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was a prominent participant. When asked if he would consider stepping into a new role at Tesla, Musk offered an unprompted response. He noted that titles are only prominent at large companies for International Revenue Services paperwork. Among these are secretary, president, and treasurer.

Avoiding the initial question, Musk noted that all other titles, regardless of their category, are essentially made up. In a joking manner, Musk recently repositioned himself to “Technoking” of the company, reinforcing the lack of title importance.

This does not discredit the countless hours that Musk puts into his company from sunrise to sunset. His complaints cover the rigor that being a CEO requires, creating a compulsive mindset and resorting to sleeping on the factory’s floors to meet deadlines.

Perhaps he is facing CEO-related burnout and does not know what to make of his title. Regardless, he has not shown any indication of stepping down or passing the role off any time soon.

Zendaya to Bring Representation to Film in Aspiring Career Change

In a recent sit-down with Interview Magazine, actress and model Zendaya Coleman opens up about what inspires her while being surrounded by other creatives. The Euphoria actress has been in the industry since she was young, earning her title as the youngest woman to ever win an Emmy for best actress in a drama series.

She speaks of her creative energy that is ignited while working with photographers such as Marcell Rev on the set of Euphoria, noting that he is a master of his craft. Interviewer Colman Domingo transitions into film by asking if Zendaya is interested in directing. Her answer reveals her curious and laid-back nature surrounding the path that she is willing to follow.

The idea of trying to direct in the future excites me. That’s why I’m on set so much. When I’m not in it, I’m right there trying to learn. I go around and I ask our crew members, “What are you doing today? Can you explain it to me?”

The genre that Zendaya is interested in directing is a story about two black girls in love. She adds that it should not be rooted in anything other than two people falling in love, noting that she has not seen such work done without a traumatic aspect. The tie between making an eye-catching story that links under-represented people to traumatic experiences is extremely evident in film today.

It would be interesting to see a film that, as Zendaya describes, encapsulates the expansive and beautiful emotional experience of a black woman coming of age.

Splendour in the Grass Among Many Music Festivals to Return to Australia after lockdowns

The music festival and performance scene has taken notable hits since COVID-19 entered the picture in March 2020. The industry itself was almost completely shut out, leaving artists to resort to virtual concerts to connect to fans and supporters. Hope may have been lost for a stretch of time, but it is certainly returning after some canceled festivals have recently been scheduled.

Splendour in the Grass is a popular festival that takes place in the North Byron Parklands that is set to take place in July of 2022. Established and emerging artists such as Gorillaz, The Strokes, Kacey Musgraves, Glass Animals, and Triple J are highly anticipated among fans. The lineup drop last week has energized the music scene in Australia.

The rise of new COVID variants such as Omicron has shaken a few nerves, but music fans hold on to the hope that festivals such as Splendour will stay on track to take place.

Media Censorship Is Everywhere, But Why Not Podcasting?

Social media platforms have a history of censoring or preventing the spread of misinformation. YouTube tends to demonetize certain videos, and platforms like Instagram and Facebook have a fact-check pop-up that appears on suspicious posts claiming to be true. However, podcasting platforms such as Apple, Spotify, and iHeart Radio lack in censorship. The consequences are starting to creep in, but have not yet fully unfolded.

In the wake of COVID-19, on-air topics of importance have been its spread, its implications, protection, and most importantly, the vaccine. Prominent conservative podcasters have openly criticized the vaccine, spreading fear throughout their audiences. Hosts such as Jimmy De Young Sr. and Marc Bernier have stated that it is a “permanent altering of the immune system” and “not a vaccine”. Both hosts passed away from COVID-related complications a few months following.

Talk show hosts and podcasters with wide ranges of opinions often defend their claims from censorship with the freedom of speech. Granted, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, when information has the potential to harm others, critics look to the streaming platforms for action. A possible step that these platforms could take is demonetizing portions of the advertising that the content creators use. Of course, advertisers and the creators have immediately opposed this proposition.

One of the main reasons people listen to podcasts is to feel as though they are having a conversation with someone about something important, informative, or entertaining. Through this listening the audience maintains a dynamic with the podcaster that can potentially develop into a parasocial relationship. The voice of humans has a strong and lasting impact on listeners. If nothing is done to mitigate misinformation spread, then these close relationships can further harm listeners’ already worsening methods of determining truth.

Diverse Media Outlets Appear in U.S. “News Deserts”

A culmination of issues such as an economic downfall in newspapers and lack of access to digital news have caused efforts from emerging ethnic news outlets to fill the void. This void is known as a news desert, a term defined by Axios as an area where local newspapers have folded and communities have no coverage. These areas endanger the critical role that the press plays in dispersing accurate news coverage and encouraging a democracy.

There are many consequences of a news desert. Communities whose voices are less amplified are only reported on when something worthy of negative press occurs. In the past, systemic racism has played a strong role in prominent media organizations with the leverage to control the narrative.  Cheryl Thompson-Morton, director of CUNY’s Black Media Initiative expands on the documented history of news discrimination.

Some news organizations simply refused to cover most of the civil rights movement or didn’t run that news on the front page — so many readers didn’t know what was happening.

Ethnic news publishers have slowly appeared over time since the 1800’s in efforts to counter the status quo. Despite historically facing backlash, there has been an increase in new ethnic outlets, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Emerging digital technologies provide access and ease for new publishers seeking to found their own channels for news. These upstarts cater to communities that are often neglected in media, and are growing with friction. Yet, the need for community support is evident being that the news desert remains in many underserved areas.

Alex Jones Guilty by Default in Sandy Hook Defamation Suits

On the morning of November 15th, right-wing extremist media star Alex Jones was named liable in a lawsuit involving the Sandy Hook Shootings. Jones had previously spread false theories about the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The tragedy was a grave landmark in history, killing twenty first-graders and six teachers. Jones utilized his media platform popularly known as Infowars to spread conspiracies that the event was a hoax. He insisted that the parents of the victims were performing as paid actors in a scenario promoting gun control.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jones fought to deny the allegations and argued that his claims were protected under first amendment rights. The families initiating the lawsuits have since claimed that fans of Jones have been subjecting them to harassment and death threats.

Extreme, time-consuming efforts to get Jones to comply have granted multiple family members of the victims reward in lawsuits against both Jones and Infowars. Judge Barbara Bellis ultimately issued a default ruling due to Jones’ inability to produce documents that show how he had profited from spreading misinformation. The amount owed to the families of the victims is in the hands of the jury.

Shortly after the Judge’s decision, Jones went on Infowars with claims that he was deprived of a fair trial.

Illinois is the First State to Pass a Media Literacy Bill

Beginning in the fall of 2022, every Illinois student will be undergoing a unit of media literacy in classrooms across the state. Civil rights attorney Maaria Mozafaar was approached by Media Literacy Now to address her concerns and organize them to be proposed to lawmakers. Media Literacy Now is a non-profit devoted to “creating a public education system that ensures all students learn the 21st-century literacy skills they need for health, well-being, economic participation and citizenship.” Illinois State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez took on the proposition that the two introduced and created House Bill 234.

A recent interview done by NPR illustrates the need for such implementation in the classroom. Peter Medling of WNIJ investigates current tactics in place that are meant to help students identify useful and truthful information. He gathers from the students that many of the methods are seen as dated, and not up to standards in today’s digital world of information overload.

For this to work, teachers also have to be media savvy. Students say they often struggle because the strategies teachers provide for evaluating sources can be outdated.

The reason why these implementations are so significant today is because of the role that targeted algorithms play in replacing searching for books and articles online. It is a new reality that did not exist less than 15 years ago. This bill is an important step toward making these educational tools and resources publicly available and shaping our future.