Society

Teacher A Viral Hit In Argentina After Holding Student's Baby During Class

A high school history teacher has won hearts and minds after carrying a young mother's baby in class so she could do her work.

BRANDSEN, ARGENTINA — It was a small act of kindness: A schoolteacher in the Coronel Brandsen district outside of Buenos Aires held a baby in class so her teenage mother could study in peace. Federico Tenreyro said he offered to hold the infant while teaching in order to help dissuade his pupil, Ludmila Disante, from any thought of dropping out of school to raise a child.

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Polish Hideout? Zambian Shave? Translating The "Meta" Meanings Of Facebook’s New Name

The embattled U.S. tech giant has unveiled a new name for its holding company: Meta. It will do little to soften the rising criticism of Facebook's practices. Indeed, across the world's many languages, we find the new name translates into all kinds of good content.

Mark Zuckerberg's unveiling of the new name for his company was a global event. And the choice has an international (ancient) ring: Meta, a word that tends to be used today to mean self-referencing, though the Greek prefix μετα refers to "after" or "beyond." Yes, another sign of the limitlessness of Zuck's ambitions.


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G20 & COP26, Facebook Becomes Meta, Moscow On Lockdown

👋 Mhoroi!*

Welcome to Friday, where world leaders meet in Rome for the G20 (before meeting again in Glasgow for the COP26 on Sunday), Facebook rebrands itself as Meta and following Texas' recent near-total ban on abortion, we also look at the mixed landscape of abortion rights across the globe. Then we unpack the Japanese dog breed name now attached to a $30 billion cryptocurrency.

[*Shona - Zimbabwe]

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How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Shelling In Syria, Bolsonaro Accused, Zuckerverse

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Amess Killing Aftermath, Myanmar Frees Prisoners, Facebook “Metaverse”

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Taiwan Tensions, Zuckerberg’s "Deeply Illogical" Quote, Ali’s Art

👋 добры дзень!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where China/Taiwan tensions rise, Mark Zuckerberg responds to the Facebook whistleblower, and artworks by Muhammad Ali (gloves off) sell at auction. Kiev-based news website Livy Bereg also explains why the Pandora Papers revelations about global financial trickery may hit hardest in Ukraine.

[*Dobry dzien - Belarusian]

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Ideas
Carl Karlsson

What Is Freedom? Surviving The Facebook Outage In Bulgaria

-OpEd-

"Do you get how big this is? It's been two hours now…"

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Zuck’s Big Loss, Taiwan On Alert, Kirk In Space

👋 Na ngeen def!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where much of the world gets back online after a six-hour outage of Facebook-linked apps, the rich and powerful try to close the Pandora Papers box, and a Star Trek icon will boldly go where few have gone before. And remember that polluted Argentine lake that turned pink in July? Well, it's not pink anymore ...

[*Wolof - Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania]

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Ideas
Gaspard Koenig

Social Media Ban For Teens? A Free-Market Philosopher Makes The Case

Cyberbullying has gained ground again this school year. For philosopher and free-market advocate Gaspard Koenig, it's simple: social media has the effects of an addictive and harmful drug, and thus forbidden for those under 16.

My daughter, born in 2010, is entering the sixth grade. In the last few days, I have received a series of alerts warning me about the "cyberbullying" that is currently targeting the "2010 generation." Following the video of a precocious French YouTuber, the "2010s" are the object of a mocking, sometimes hateful, vindictiveness on the part of their middle school elders (hashtag #Anti2010).

The affair has gained enough importance for the French National Police to remind us that "digital raiding" is a crime, and for the Minister of Education to denounce this cabal in terms that do not hide his consternation: "It's completely stupid."

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Future
David Larousserie and Alexandre Piquard

AI, Translation And The Holy Grail Of "Natural Language"

Important digital innovations have been put into practice in the areas of translation, subtitling and text-to-image.

PARIS — When asked about advances in language management through artificial intelligence, Douglas Eck suggests pressing the "subtitle" button on Meet, the video conferencing service used for the interview, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The words of this American engineer, who had come to Paris to work at Google's French headquarters, were then displayed in writing, live and without error, under the window where we see him, headset on. This innovation, unthinkable until recently, is also available for most videos om YouTube, the Google subsidiary. Or on the dictaphone of its latest phones, which offers to automatically transcribe all audio recordings.

These new possibilities are just one example of the progress made in recent years in natural language processing by digital companies, especially giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA). Some of these innovations are already being put into practice. Others are in the research stage, showcased at annual developer conferences, such as Google I/O (which took place May 18-20) and Facebook F8 (June 2).

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THE CONVERSATION
Amanda Baughan*

Social Media And Fruitful Conversations: It's Complicated

Good-faith disagreements are a normal part of society and building strong relationships. Yet it's difficult to engage in good-faith disagreements on the internet, and people reach less common ground online compared with face-to-face disagreements.

There's no shortage of research about the psychology of arguing online, from text versus voice to how anyone can become a troll and advice about how to argue well. But there's another factor that's often overlooked: the design of social media itself.

My colleagues and I investigated how the design of social media affects online disagreements and how to design for constructive arguments. We surveyed and interviewed 257 people about their experiences with online arguments and how design could help. We asked which features of 10 different social media platforms made it easy or difficult to engage in online arguments, and why. (Full disclosure: I receive research funding from Facebook.)

Having discussions on social media is difficult — Photo: Chris Yang/Unsplash

We found that people often avoid discussing challenging topics online for fear of harming their relationships, and when it comes to disagreements, not all social media are the same. People can spend a lot of time on a social media site and not engage in arguments (e.g. YouTube) or find it nearly impossible to avoid arguments on certain platforms (e.g. Facebook and WhatsApp).

Here's what people told us about their experiences with Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube, which were the most and least common places for online arguments.

Facebook

Seventy percent of our participants had engaged in a Facebook argument, and many spoke negatively of the experience. People said they felt it was hard to be vulnerable because they had an audience: the rest of their Facebook friends. One participant said, on Facebook, "Sometimes you don't admit your failures because other people are looking." Disagreements became sparring matches with a captive audience, rather than two or more people trying to express their views and find common ground.

People also said that the way Facebook structures commenting prevents meaningful engagement because many comments are automatically hidden and cut shorter. This prevents people from seeing content and participating in the discussion at all.

WhatsApp

In contrast, people said arguing on a private messaging platform such as WhatsApp allowed them "to be honest and have an honest conversation." It was a popular place for online arguments, with 76% of our participants saying that they had argued on the platform.

The organization of messages also allowed people to "keep the focus on the discussion at hand." And, unlike the experience with face-to-face conversations, someone receiving a message on WhatsApp could choose when to respond. People said that this helped online dialogue because they had more time to think out their responses and take a step back from the emotional charge of the situation. However, sometimes this turned into too much time between messages, and people said they felt that they were being ignored.

Overall, our participants felt the privacy they had on WhatsApp was necessary for vulnerability and authenticity online, with significantly more people agreeing that they could talk about controversial topics on private platforms as opposed to public ones like Facebook.

YouTube

Very few people reported engaging in arguments on YouTube, and their opinions of YouTube depended on which feature they used. When commenting, people said they "may write something controversial and nobody will reply to it," which makes the site "feel more like leaving a review than having a conversation." Users felt they could have disagreements in the live chat of a video, with the caveat that the channel didn't moderate the discussion.

Unlike Facebook and WhatsApp, YouTube is centered around video content. Users liked "the fact that one particular video can be focused on, without having to defend, a whole issue," and that "you can make long videos to really explain yourself." They also liked that videos facilitate more social cues than is possible in most online interactions, since "you can see the person's facial expressions on the videos they produce."

YouTube's platform-wide moderation had mixed reviews, as some people felt they could "comment freely without persecution" and others said videos were removed at YouTube's discretion "usually for a ridiculous or nonsensical reason." People also felt that when creators moderated their comments and "just filter things they don't like," it hindered people's ability to have difficult discussions.

Redesigning social media for better arguing

We asked participants how proposed design interactions could improve their experiences arguing online. We showed them storyboards of features that could be added to social media. We found that people like some features that are already present in social media, like the ability to delete inflammatory content, block users who derail conversations and use emoji to convey emotions in text.

People were also enthusiastic about an intervention that helps users to "channel switch" from a public to private online space. This involves an app intervening in an argument on a public post and suggesting users move to a private chat. One person said "this way, people don't get annoyed and included in online discussion that doesn't really involve them." Another said, "this would save a lot of people embarrassment from arguing in public."

A comic displays five tiles in which people are arguing in a comment section, and the app intervenes suggesting the users move to a private message instead.

One way social media platforms can intervene: move squabbles out of public discussions. "Someone Is Wrong on the Internet: Having Hard Conversations in Online Spaces', CC BY-ND

Intervene, but carefully

Overall, the people we interviewed were cautiously optimistic about the potential for design to improve the tone of online arguments. They were hopeful that design could help them find more common ground with others online.

Yet, people are also wary of technology's potential to become intrusive during an already sensitive interpersonal exchange. For instance, a well-intentioned but naïve intervention could backfire and come across as "creepy" and "too much." One of our interventions involved a forced 30-second timeout, designed to give people time to cool off before responding. However, our subjects thought it could end up frustrating people further and derail the conversation.

Social media developers can take steps to foster constructive disagreements online through design. But our findings suggest that they also will need to consider how their interventions might backfire, intrude or otherwise have unintended consequences for their users.

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Geopolitics
Maurizio Di Fazio

For Facebook Moderators, The Soul-Crushing Job Must Go On

Underpaid and overexposed to what in some cases can be truly disturbing content, moderators are the invisible, human grease that keep the social media machine running. It's grueling but essential work that happens behind the scenes.

The message was for Mark Zuckerberg. "Without our work, Facebook would be unusable. Its empire collapses," the founder of the social media titan was told in a letter sent last year and signed by more than 200 people.

"Your algorithms cannot spot satire. They cannot sift journalism from disinformation. They cannot respond quickly enough to self-harm or child abuse," the missive went on to say. "We can."

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Geopolitics
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

The World's Social Media Alternatives To Facebook And Twitter

Whether governments exercising control or protest movements needing a boost, upstart social media platforms matter in places like Russia, Poland and India.

In the United States, the social media application Parler was the platform of choice for the insurrectionists behind the Jan. 6 capital mob. While the app has been taken off the main servers and app stores (though it is now back online), social movements on all sides of the political spectrum worldwide are trying to leave behind mainstream tech giants like Facebook and Twitter. While some activists and protestors are looking for a place to organize without government surveillance and censorship, politicians are also looking to local alternatives to cement their power.

A wave of new right-wing sites in Poland

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eyes on the U.S.
Julie Chauveau

What Trump's Twitter Ban Means For The Rest Of The World

By closing Donald Trump's social media accounts, the Big Tech platforms have recognized for the first time their fundamental responsibility for the content they broadcast. But for this and other reasons that now also means the regulators must step up.

-OpEd-

PARIS — Do we have the right to silence a man for taking extreme positions, particularly if we are a private company? And what if the individual in question is the democratically elected head of state? These philosophical questions have suddenly become urgent with Twitter's decision to ban the account of the American president, Donald Trump, after the whole world watched in dismay as his supporters invaded the Capitol.

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Geopolitics
David Barroux

Europe Is Right To Call Up Big Guns Against Big Tech

Europe is moving forward in a united front to force Big Tech that could lead to a historic showdown on the future of how the digital economy functions.

-OpEd-

PARIS — Facing the rise of Big Tech, which by now has crossed the line far too many times, European states had forgotten the three basic requirements that make any police force effective: political will and backing; the right laws to give it the means to take action; and, finally, it needs to be armed.

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