Michigan school shooter posted a threat on social media the day before the shooting

OXFORD, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 01: People embrace as they visit a makeshift memorial outside of Oxford High School on December 01, 2021 in Oxford, Michigan. On Tuesday, three students were killed and eight injured when a gunman opened fire at the school. A fourth student died on Wednesday. The suspect, identified as 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, has been charged as an adult with terrorism and first-degree murder. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Michigan school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley posted a Tweet saying “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. See you tomorrow Oxford,” on November 29. The next day, he shot and killed 4 people at Oxford High School, injuring 7 others.

The parents of shooting survivor Riley Franz are suing the Oxford, Michigan school district and officials for $100 million, after ignoring several warning signs leading up to the shooting, NPR reported.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Geoffrey Fieger, accuses school officials of failing to acknowledge direct threats from Crumbley within the weeks leading up to the tragedy, as well as ignoring the concerns from students and parents. The lawsuit states that the school had been notified of Crumbley’s social media threats since mid-November.

The lawsuit tells the account of the school’s response after a parent notified Oxford Principal Steven Wolf of their child’s fears on November 16, Wolf wrote back saying “I know I’m being redundant here, but there is absolutely no threat at the HS…large assumptions were made from a few social media posts, then the assumptions evolved into exaggerated rumors.”

According to the lawsuit, the district superintendent made an announcement over the loudspeaker to the student body, telling them to stop spreading information on social media and relying on it, and that there were no actual threats posed towards the school.

The suit detailed the days leading up to the shooting, stating that Crumbley was posting countdowns on his social media accounts, which were all public.

Crumbley’s parents also provided warning signs on their social media. According to the Washington Post, Ethan’s mother, Jennifer Crumbley, posted that she and Ethan were at the gun range just three days before the shooting, “testing out his new Christmas present.”

The school also failed to remove Crumbley from school the day of the shooting, despite a teacher finding a drawing he made that was so violent it prompted a call home to his parents, who refused to come to the school for a meeting. The Washington Post reported that his “rampage” started only three hours after this.

This is likely only the first of many lawsuits, as Fieger already plans on taking it to the state level.


A kid’s version of Instagram is in the works

Source: Buzzfeed

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri testified before Congress this morning, CNBC reports. Mosseri refused to cancel the plans to create a kid-friendly version of Instagram for users under the age of 13.

CNBC stated that “Mosseri told the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection that he is the ultimate decision-maker on the matter.” His plan is to create this version of Instagram to keep children under the age of 13 from downloading Instagram without their parent’s permission.

The day before this testimony, the company announced that it will be making new teen safety adjustments to the app, such as a “Take a Break” notifications, removing users’ ability to tag teens that do not follow them, and eventually options to allow parents to monitor teens’ Instagram usage.

The Congress hearing was about online child safety and protection, as too many underaged users have created Instagram accounts due to issues with age verification. Lawmakers have been unhappy with the speed of the plaform’s implementation of safety measures, feeling as if Instagram is not committed to the safety of children.

Instagram’s commitment to safety has been a hot topic since whistleblower Frances Haugen released documents from Facebook and Instagram, exposing Meta‘s tendency to ignore negative data. According to The Washington Post, data shows that Instagram negatively affects young users’ mental health and body image, with “17% of teen girls [saying] that their eating disorders got worse after Instagram use.”

The subcomittee now lacks trust in Instagram and Facebook, seeing how they ignored and hid negative data, rather than building solutions and implementing safety measures.

The day before this testimony, the company announced that it will be making new teen safety adjustments to the app, such as a “Take a Break” notifications, removing users’ ability to tag teens that do not follow them, and eventually options to allow parents to monitor teens’ Instagram usage.

With all of this new information about how Instagram plans to improve its safety measures, it leaves people wondering about the effectiveness and if something like a kid-friendly Instagram should even be created. Though it seems like a safer option at first, it could pose a new set of safety issues that could have been avoided.

Despite all of this, development of the app has been paused and there is no projected release date at this time.

The Algorithm Trick

Social media sites are known for having their algorithms. Algorithms are key to each app, including Instagram, TikTok, and more, as they figure out your interests and show users material that will keep their attention and make them want to stay on the app and continue using it. Michelle Drouin is a professor of Psychology at Purdue Fort Wayne who has studied social media and how it impacts humans and relationships. When discussing algorithms, she tells how certain components, such as fear, anger, happiness, and catastrophic events cause attention and can make things become viral. Social media algorithms tend to the general public, as well as each person’s interests.

            This article interests me because social media sites try to keep their algorithms secretive, but people feel that they have somewhat figured out aspects of each algorithm. People know what others want to see and they make their content based on what emotions appeal to other viewers. Algorithms are interesting and a tricky subject because I do not believe they work if you do not let them. When I use apps, I try not to fall into the algorithm trap. I will mute things I do not want to see so that my feed is tailored to me by what I deem interesting. The algorithm is interesting, but I suggest that people try and stay focused and not spend too much time on social media apps because they want you to fall into that trap and get sucked into their algorithms.

Jack Dorsey Steps Down as Twitter CEO

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down from his role with the company. The company’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, will take over the position. Dorsey will not be leaving the company, as he will remain a member of the board, but believes it is time for the company to move on from its founders. Agrawal takes over a company with some lofty goals, as they have said they want to have 315 million active users by the end of 2023. Agrawal has been with Twitter for more than 10 years, which means he is familiar with how the company does things and their goals. The company is trying to increase their reach and value and hope to take that step soon, now with new leadership.

            This move interests me because I use Twitter daily and it is an entertaining social media app. I have been using Twitter for about five years now and they have not changed much, which is good, in my opinion, as it has kept me on the app. I get a great deal of information from the app, as well as many laughs because some content on the app is funny. Overall, I am interested to see what advancements and changes are made on the app and what direction they go in with new leadership.

Social Media and Mental Health Correlation in Adults

Mental Health Awareness Month is May, but should be prioritized every day of the year.

Social media usage and mental health are two topics that have gained much more attention over the last few years and are now often linked to each other. Researchers have investigated the toll social media use can have on adults and whether it correlates to depression. Within their research, they found that using social media can have an effect on an increase in risk of depressive symptoms, but it is not always the case. Social media does have more effects on adolescents and young adults when it comes to anxiety and depression, but this research was focused more on older adults. One finding from the research is that it is often difficult to tell if social media usage or depression came first in each person’s situation. A large aspect of depression and social media being linked is because of social comparison, where people see others “living their best life” and compare their own life to what they see.

            I believe that social media usage and mental health topics, such as depression, are definitely correlated in adults, or A person of any age for that matter. As noted in the article, people often post their achievements on social media, and while they do not actually represent their whole lives, they can seem like it. People can see others’ “living their best life” on social media and can feel like a failure because they are not able to do the same, which can lead to depression.

Snapchat Makes Licensing Deal With Sony

Photo Via: musicbusinessworldwide.com

Snapchat has made a licensing deal with Sony Music Entertainment, permitting the use of the record company’s artists’ music on the app. This will grant Snapchat access to music from Sony’s three major labels Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Snapchat’s existing music partners include MERLIN Members, major publishers Sony Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group and Warner Chappell, Kobalt, BMG, NMPA, and DistroKid. Ben Schwerin, Head of Content and Partnerships at Snapchat commented, “Our new deal with Sony Music marks a major milestone as Snap now has partnerships with all the major labels, in addition to networks of independent labels and emerging artists.”

All music from these labels will be available in the music catalogue of Snapchat’s Sound Feature. This feature permits its 200 million users to add music to their Snapchats. Since the feature has been added in 2020, it has been used nearly 1.2 billion times. 

Following the partnership with Sony, Snapchat also announced it will be releasing a two new features, ‘Sound Lenses’ and ‘Cameo Sound Lenses’.  Described by Snapchat as “a Lens that transforms pictures of anyone to appear as if they are singing a song”, and “apply visual effects to put you and a friend as the stars of your own animated music video”.

The social media platform says these new features will create a more immersive experience for its users as well as provide another platform for artists to their share music. Dennis Krooker from Sony Music Entertainment shared, “We are pleased to be expanding our relationship with Snap to develop new commercial opportunities for our artists around short form video and augmented reality experiences.”  

Youtube’s Removing The Dislike Counter From Videos

https://kotaku.com/youtube-has-removed-the-dislike-counter-1848036246, Luke Plunkett

Youtube was launched in 2005 and has since come to be one of the internet’s defining websites. In its 16 years of existing Youtube has gone through a number of notable changes. Youtube’s team has announced one such change recently that’s set to alter the platform forever. Dislikes on a given Youtube video will soon only be visible to the creators of said video.

Youtube announced this upcoming change to the platform on November 10th 2021. Their decision to go forward with this alteration to the platform was coloured by their recently implementing this alteration with a test group of users. Proceeding the test run of the new way the dislike button functions the company voiced its contentment with how it altered how users engaged with content stating:

“Based on what we learned, we’re making the dislike counts private across YouTube,”

The like button and the dislike button on Youtube serve to inform the algorithm what it is people do and don’t want to see. Youtube’s opting to hide the number of dislikes videos receive came as a result of the platform wanting to dissuade users from disliking videos in mass to the ends of causing problems for the video’s creator. What this change to the platform won’t do is take away the ability of users to dislike videos altogether.

This article interests me because I frequently use Youtube and thus have a strong opinion about any alteration to the platform. The opinion I have is that I think this change is both good and bad. This change is good so far as it makes negative sentiment harder to provoke on the platform generally. Meanwhile, I believe this change to be bad for the reason that it could be viewed as a type of censorship.

Erskine, Donovan. “YouTube to Make Dislike Counts Private on All Videos.” Shacknews, Shacknews, 10 Nov. 2021, https://www.shacknews.com/article/127617/youtube-to-make-dislike-counts-private-on-all-videos.

Plunkett, Luke. “YouTube Has Removed the Dislike Counter.” Kotaku, Kotaku, 11 Nov. 2021, https://kotaku.com/youtube-has-removed-the-dislike-counter-1848036246.

Meta Announces Removal Of Targeted Advertising Tools

Photo Via The New York Times

Facebook, now known as Meta, announced its plans to remove advertisers’ ability to create targeted ads and promotions based on data including race, religion, sexual orientation, geographical location, gender, and political affiliation. These changes will also be implemented in Meta’s apps including Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. 

The removal of data based advertising is planned to take effect on January 19th. Meta explained the changes to its targeting tools are to limit targeted advertisement abuse. In the past, there has been huge controversy surrounding abuse of data by advertisers. 

In one case, advertisers were using Facebook’s ad targeting tools to market body armor, gun accessories and rile enhancements to far-right militia groups on the platform. 

In another instance, Department of Housing and Urban Development sued Facebook in 2019 for permitting landlords and property sellers to restrict certain demographics from viewing their property postings based on users’ data like race, religion and ethnicity. 

Meta vowed to involve outside parties who took part in the legal settlement, including the American Civil Liberties Union, to test its ad systems to ensure the removal of ad based housing discrimination. They have also agreed to meet with groups and experts every six months over the next three years to continue testing. 

In response to complaints surrounding its ad targeting tools back in 2018, Facebook removed 5,000 ad targeting classifications to prevent advertisers from excluding certain demographics. 

Graham Mudd, a vice president of product marketing for Meta, announced, “We’ve heard concerns from experts that targeting options like these could be used in ways that lead to negative experiences for people in underrepresented groups.”

This is a drastic change to Meta’s business model as advertising accounts for $86 billion in annual revenue. This change is widely controversial as millions of businesses use the social network’s marketing and advertising tools to promote their businesses and expand their audience reach. Meta’s advertising technologies have proven more effective and affordable than traditional television commercials. 

Barstool Sports Founder Dave Portnoy Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Source: Variety

Dave Portnoy, founder of the well-known sports and pop culture blog, Barstool Sports, has been accused of sexual misconduct. In an article published by Insider on Thursday, two women, whose identities have been protected, allege that Portnoy sexually assaulted them in the summer of 2020.

One of the women, under the alias “Madison,” described her experience with Portnoy, stating that he began messaging her on Instagram when she was 20 and he was 43. Madison told Insider that when she met Portnoy in his Nantucket home, he filmed her during sexual acts without her consent.

From here, her description of Portnoy’s acts became more violent, with Madison even comparing her experience to “being raped.” She alleged that Portnoy ignored her pain and choked her until she couldn’t breathe. He also ignored her revocation of consent.

The second woman who told her story to Insider went under by name “Allison.” Due to Portnoy’s popularity, Allison wanted to be invited to Portnoy’s home for a party after graduating high school. She claims that Portnoy invited her alone to his home, which she rejected the first time as she was uncomfortable going alone. This did not deter Portnoy, as he invited her again weeks later.

After being nudged by friends, Allison went to Portnoy’s home, where they engaged in rough sexual activity that left her feeling scared and uncomfortable. Allison described that she “didn’t want to disappoint” Portnoy. Afterward, Portnoy kicked Allison out.

Just three nights later, Allison was admitted into the hospital for suicidal thoughts. Her mother contacted the police, but Allison was not comfortable pressing charges.

Portnoy wasted no time responding to these allegations, posting two Twitter videos on Thursday, denying that he is guilty of sexual misconduct. He stated that he feels the author of the Insider article, Julia Black, had a bias against him, calling the article a “hit piece.”

He claims that though he did meet Madison, everything that happened sexually was “100 percent consensual.” Though he did not deny having sex with Allison, he claims that he thought she was older than 21, due to her asking to meet at a bar. He also stated that though it was “awful” that she felt suicidal after their interaction, that she was “continually hitting [him] up to hang out.”

According to NBC, Barstool Sports posted a statement, stating that “This recent news does not involve any workplace behavior.” The company also stated that though they do not usually comment on the private lives of employees, that it will be monitoring this situation closely.

Though no police reports have been filed at this point, many have decided to side with the accusers, as Barstool Sports and Portnoy already have a negative reputation. On the other hand, some believe these allegations were made because of the negative reputation associated with Portnoy and his company. Likely, more will come to the surface regarding Portnoy now that these first allegations have been made. As new information comes in, there will be more substance for observers to decide their stance on the topic.


Facebook and Facial Recognition

Source: The New York Times

Facebook has been making headlines all October long in lieu of leaked reports from former employee, Frances Haugen. On November 2nd, Facebook’s parent company, newly coined ‘meta’, announced that it would be terminating their decade old facial recognition software and all the data that came with it. Facebook may be cutting their losses with this elimination, as the technology has sparked many conversations about privacy concerns.

Vice President of Artificial Intelligence at Meta, Jerome Peseti, attributed the change to “many concerns about the place of facial recognition software in society because every new technology brings with it potential for both benefit and concern and we want to find the right balance.”

The introduction of this technology came in 2010 and satiated people’s obsession with time saving features. The application could automatically identify friends and family in photos using facial geometrics and link all the photos to their personal account. “Facebook now has built one of the largest repositories of digital photos in the world, partly thanks to this software.” Questions have come up in recent months, wondering what exactly Facebook is doing with all this information.

A decade later, and many are more concerned about their privacy being infringed upon then they are about saving time. Similar technologies have been recently misused in countries like China to control minorities. In the United States, the government employs this technology to help with policing, but many wonder if this feature is seamless enough to avoid problems such as mistaken arrests.  The algorithm used to make this feature possible is called DeepFace and has yet to be sold to any third parties. Despite all of this, Meta has not promised they won’t use this software in future products.