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Meet the four-year-old mini-influencer who films own vlogs to 42k subscribers

Paris McKenzie is the tiny influencer who films her own live streams, vlogs and gets her mum to take photos of her in different outfits. She has 42k subscribers and uses her mum’s camera to share her day-to-day life. The confident kid shares a YouTube channel with mum, Jovey Esin, 30, and loves to vlog whenever she can. She loves life in the spotlight so much that even when she’s not filming for their content, Paris has a toy camera that she pretends to vlog on. Jovey says Paris is always asking her to take photos of her in her outfits – and will get her to take them again if they are not up to her standard. Jovey, a video creator, from Brisbane, Australia, said: ‘She loves the camera. She’ll be like, “Mum can you take a photo of me on this background”. ‘And then she’ll want to look at them to check her pose is right after I have taken them. ‘She grew up seeing the camera and now she smiles at it every time it’s out,’ Jovey said. ‘She fell in love with it. She’s always saying, “I want to vlog”.’ Paris now does her own livestreams, and films clips of her day-to-day life. ‘She knows how to turn the camera on and if she’s not using my phone to vlog she’ll be using her toy camera,’ Jovey said.

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New Mac App Wants To Record Everything You Do – So You Can ‘Rewind’ It Later

Yesterday, a company called Rewind AI announced a self-titled software product for Macs with Apple Silicon that reportedly keeps a highly compressed, searchable record of everything you do locally on your Mac and lets you “rewind” time to see it later. If you forget something you’ve “seen, said, or heard,” Rewind wants to help you find it easily. Rewind AI claims its product stores all recording data locally on your machine and does not require cloud integration. Among its promises, Rewind will reportedly let you rewind Zoom meetings and pull information from them in a searchable form. In a video demo on Rewind.AI’s site, the app opens when a user presses Command+Shift+Space. The search bar suggests typing “anything you’ve seen, said, or heard.” It also shows a timeline at the bottom of the screen that represents previous actions in apps.

After searching for “tps reports,” the video depicts a grid view of every time Rewind has encountered the phrase “tps reports” as audio or text in any app, including Zoom chats, text messages, emails, Slack conversations, and Word documents. It describes filtering the results by app — and the ability to copy and paste from these past instances if necessary. Founded by Dan Siroker and Brett Bejcek, Rewind AI is composed of a small remote team located in various cities around the US. Portions of the company previously created Scribe, a precursor to Rewind that received some press attention in 2021. In an introductory blog post, Rewind AI co-founder Dan Siroker writes, “What if we could use technology to augment our memory the same way a hearing aid can augment our hearing?”

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Behind TikTok’s Boom: A Legion of Traumatized, $10-A-Day Content Moderators

“horrific” videos “are part and parcel of everyday work for TikTok moderators in Colombia.”

They told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism about widespread occupational trauma and inadequate psychological support, demanding or impossible performance targets, punitive salary deductions and extensive surveillance. Their attempts to unionize to secure better conditions have been opposed repeatedly. TikTok’s rapid growth in Latin America — it has an estimated 100 million users in the region — has led to the hiring of hundreds of moderators in Colombia to fight a never-ending battle against disturbing content. They work six days a week on day and night shifts, with some paid as little as 1.2 million pesos ($254) a month, compared to around $2,900 for content moderators based in the U.S….

The nine moderators could only speak anonymously for fear they might lose their jobs, or undermine their future employment prospects…. The TikTok moderation system described by these moderators is built on exacting performance targets. If workers do not get through a huge number of videos, or return late from a break, they can lose out on a monthly bonus worth up to a quarter of their salary. It is easy to lose out on the much-needed extra cash. Ãlvaro, a current TikTok moderator, has a target of 900 videos per day, with about 15 seconds to view each video. He works from 6am to 3pm, with two hours of break time, and his base salary is 1.2m pesos ($254) a month, only slightly higher than Colombia’s minimum salary…. He once received a disciplinary notice known internally as an “action form” for only managing to watch 700 videos in a shift, which was considered “work avoidance”. Once a worker has an action form, he says, they cannot receive a bonus that month….

Outsourcing moderation to countries in the global south like Colombia works for businesses because it is cheap, and workers are poorly protected…. For now… TikTok’s low-paid moderators will keep working to their grueling targets, sifting through some of the internet’s most nightmarish content.

11

TikTok Tracks You Across the Web, Even If You Don’t Use the App

A Consumer Reports investigation finds that TikTok, one of the country’s most popular apps, is partnering with a growing number of other companies to hoover up data about people as they travel across the internet. That includes people who don’t have TikTok accounts. These companies embed tiny TikTok trackers called “pixels” in their websites. Then TikTok uses the information gathered by all those pixels to help the companies target ads at potential customers, and to measure how well their ads work. To look into TikTok’s use of online tracking, CR asked the security firm Disconnect to scan about 20,000 websites for the company’s pixels. In our list, we included the 1,000 most popular websites overall, as well as some of the biggest sites with domains ending in “.org,” “.edu,” and “.gov.” We wanted to look at those sites because they often deal with sensitive subjects. We found hundreds of organizations sharing data with TikTok.

If you go to the United Methodist Church’s main website, TikTok hears about it. Interested in joining Weight Watchers? TikTok finds that out, too. The Arizona Department of Economic Security tells TikTok when you view pages concerned with domestic violence or food assistance. Even Planned Parenthood uses the trackers, automatically notifying TikTok about every person who goes to its website, though it doesn’t share information from the pages where you can book an appointment. (None of those groups responded to requests for comment.) The number of TikTok trackers we saw was just a fraction of those we observed from Google and Meta. However, TikTok’s advertising business is exploding, and experts say the data collection will probably grow along with it.

After Disconnect researchers conducted a broad search for TikTok trackers, we asked them to take a close look at what kind of information was being shared by 15 specific websites. We focused on sites where we thought people would have a particular expectation of privacy, such as advocacy organizations and hospitals, along with retailers and other kinds of companies. Disconnect found that data being transmitted to TikTok can include your IP address, a unique ID number, what page you’re on, and what you’re clicking, typing, or searching for, depending on how the website has been set up. What does TikTok do with all that information? “Like other platforms, the data we receive from advertisers is used to improve the effectiveness of our advertising services,” says Melanie Bosselait, a TikTok spokesperson. The data “is not used to group individuals into particular interest categories for other advertisers to target.” If TikTok receives data about someone who doesn’t have a TikTok account, the company only uses that data for aggregated reports that they send to advertisers about their websites, she says. There’s no independent way for consumers or privacy researchers to verify such statements. But TikTok’s terms of service say its advertising customers aren’t allowed to send the company certain kinds of sensitive information, such as data about children, health conditions, or finances. “We continuously work with our partners to avoid inadvertent transmission of such data,” TikTok’s Bosselait says.

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Children May Be Losing the Equivalent of One Night’s Sleep a Week From Social Media Use, Study Suggests

Children under 12 may be losing the equivalent of one night’s sleep every week due to excessive social media use, a new study suggests. Insider reports:
Almost 70% of the 60 children under 12 surveyed by De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, said they used social media for four hours a day or more. Two thirds said they used social media apps in the two hours before going to bed. The study also found that 12.5% of the children surveyed were waking up in the night to check their notifications.

Psychology lecturer John Shaw, who headed up the study, said children were supposed to sleep for between nine to 11 hours a night, per NHS guidelines, but those surveyed reported sleeping an average of 8.7 hours nightly. He said: “The fear of missing out, which is driven by social media, is directly affecting their sleep. They want to know what their friends are doing, and if you’re not online when something is happening, it means you’re not taking part in it. “And it can be a feedback loop. If you are anxious you are more likely to be on social media, you are more anxious as a result of that. And you’re looking at something, that’s stimulating and delaying sleep.”
“TikTok had the most engagement from the children, with 90% of those surveyed saying they used the app,” notes Insider. “Snapchat was used by 84%, while just over half those surveyed said they used Instagram.”

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Sleepless Nights Make People More Selfish and Asocial, Study Finds

A study found losing just one hour of rest could kill people’s desire to help others, even relatives and close friends. The team noted that a bad night appeared to dampen activity in the part of the brain that encouraged social behavior. “We discovered that sleep loss acts as a trigger of asocial behavior, reducing the innate desire of humans to help one another,” said Prof Matthew Walker, co-author of the study at the University of California, Berkeley. “In a way, the less sleep you get, the less social and more selfish you become.” Writing in the PLoS Biology journal, the team suggest that a chronic sleep deficit could harm social bonds and compromise the altruistic instincts that shape society. “Considering the essentiality of humans helping in maintaining cooperative, civilized societies, together with the robust erosion of sleep time over the last 50 years, the ramifications of these discoveries are highly relevant to how we shape the societies we wish to live in,” said Walker.

The team examined the willingness of 160 participants to help others with a “self-reported altruism questionnaire”, which they completed after a night’s sleep. Participants responded to different social scenarios on a scale from “I would stop to help” to “I would ignore them.” In one experiment involving 24 participants, the researchers compared answers from the same person after a restful night and after 24 hours without sleep. The results revealed a 78% decline in self-reported eagerness to help others when tired. The team then performed brain scans of those participants and found a short night was associated with reduced activity in the social cognitive brain network, a region involved in social behavior. Participants were as reluctant to assist friends and family as strangers, the researchers said. “A lack of sleep impaired the drive to help others regardless of whether they were asked to help strangers or close relatives. That is, sleep loss triggers asocial, anti-helping behavior of a broad and indiscriminate impact,” said Walker.

To determine whether altruism takes a hit in the real world, the team then tracked more than 3m charitable donations in the US before and after clocks were shifted an hour forward to daylight saving time, suggesting a shorter period of sleep. They found a 10% drop in donations after the transition. “Our study adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that inadequate sleep not only harms the mental and physical wellbeing of an individual but also compromises the bonds between individuals, and even the altruistic sentiment of an entire nation,” said Walker. Luckily, we can catch up on sleep. Walker said: “The positive note emerging from all our studies is that once sleep is adequate and sufficient the desire to help others is restored. But it’s important to note that it is not only sleep duration that is relevant to helping. We found that the factor that was most relevant was actually sleep quality, above and beyond sleep quantity,” he added.

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Inside the biggest human surveillance experiment on the planet

It was in this techno-authoritarian wave that a facial recognition mania costing tens of billions of dollars began. Government policies with sci-fi names like SkyNet and Sharp Eyes laid out ambitious plans to blanket the country with cameras linked to police stations that shared data across the country. The vision was clear: just like on the internet, anonymity could be erased in real life. With accurate facial recognition, police could identify, categorise and follow a single person among 1.4 billion Chinese citizens.

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Study Finds Wikipedia Influences Judicial Behavior

A new study attempts to measure how knowledge gleaned from Wikipedia may play out in one specific realm: the courts.

A team of researchers led by Neil Thompson, a research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), recently came up with a friendly experiment: creating new legal Wikipedia articles to examine how they affect the legal decisions of judges. They set off by developing over 150 new Wikipedia articles on Irish Supreme Court decisions, written by law students. Half of these were randomly chosen to be uploaded online, where they could be used by judges, clerks, lawyers, and so on — the “treatment” group. The other half were kept offline, and this second group of cases provided the counterfactual basis of what would happen to a case absent a Wikipedia article about it (the “control”). They then looked at two measures: whether the cases were more likely to be cited as precedents by subsequent judicial decisions, and whether the argumentation in court judgments echoed the linguistic content of the new Wikipedia pages.

It turned out the published articles tipped the scales: Getting a public Wikipedia article increased a case’s citations by more than 20 percent. The increase was statistically significant, and the effect was particularly strong for cases that supported the argument the citing judge was making in their decision (but not the converse). Unsurprisingly, the increase was bigger for citations by lower courts — the High Court — and mostly absent for citations by appellate courts — the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. The researchers suspect this is showing that Wikipedia is used more by judges or clerks who have a heavier workload, for whom the convenience of Wikipedia offers a greater attraction.
“To our knowledge, this is the first randomized field experiment that investigates the influence of legal sources on judicial behavior. And because randomized experiments are the gold standard for this type of research, we know the effect we are seeing is causation, not just correlation,” says Thompson, the lead author of the study. “The fact that we wrote up all these cases, but the only ones that ended up on Wikipedia were those that won the proverbial ‘coin flip,’ allows us to show that Wikipedia is influencing both what judges cite and how they write up their decisions.”

“Our results also highlight an important public policy issue,” Thompson adds. “With a source that is as widely used as Wikipedia, we want to make sure we are building institutions to ensure that the information is of the highest quality. The finding that judges or their staffs are using Wikipedia is a much bigger worry if the information they find there isn’t reliable.”

The paper describing the study has been published in ” The Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Jurisprudence.”

23

Alexa tells 10-year-old girl to touch live plug with penny

Amazon has updated its Alexa voice assistant after it “challenged” a 10-year-old girl to touch a coin to the prongs of a half-inserted plug.

The suggestion came after the girl asked Alexa for a “challenge to do”.

“Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs,” the smart speaker said.

Amazon said it fixed the error as soon as the company became aware of it.

The girl’s mother, Kristin Livdahl, described the incident on Twitter.

She said: “We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a [physical education] teacher on YouTube earlier. Bad weather outside. She just wanted another one.”

That’s when the Echo speaker suggested partaking in the challenge that it had “found on the web”.

The dangerous activity, known as “the penny challenge”, began circulating on TikTok and other social media websites about a year ago.

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Autism among American children and teens surged 50% in three years from 2017, with one in 30 kids diagnosed with the disorder by 2020, study finds

The number of children in the United States being diagnosed with autism has rocketed in recent years, a new study finds. Researchers Guangdong Pharmaceutical University, in China, found that 3.49 percent of U.S. children and adolescents – or around one-in-every-30 – had autism in 2020. This is a sharp 52 percent rise from the 2.29 percent of youths in America that had the condition in 2017.

While the research team did not give an exact reason for the jump, many experts have speculated the increase is related to parents better understanding early signs their child has autism and more surveillance for the condition.

Just under 3.5% of children and adolescents in the United States have autism, a figure that has climbed around 50% since 2017. Experts say this is likely because of increased surveillance of the condition.

Researchers, who published their findings Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics, gathered data from the annual National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

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TikTokers Are Accused of Starting Forest Fires For Views

Humaira Asghar, known as “Dolly” to her 11.5 million TikTok fans, faces charges for allegedly setting a forest fire while shooting a TikTok video in Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad. In the 11-second clip that has since been taken down, Asghar dramatically walks down a forested hill covered in flames in slow motion with a trending pop song that mentions “setting fire” playing in the background. The caption posted with the video shot in the Margalla Hills National Park reads, “fire erupts wherever I am.” Asghar is not the only Pakistani TikToker who has been accused of setting a forest fire for views. Officials say it is an emerging trend in a country that is suffering from a record-breaking heatwave.

“Young people desperate for followers are setting fire to our forests during this hot and dry season,” tweeted Islamabad Wildlife Management Board chairperson Rina S Khan Satti. “These psychotic young people have to be caught and put behind bars immediately.” Earlier this month, a man in Abbottabad city was arrested for intentionally starting a forest fire to use as a backdrop in his video. In another recently released video, two men are seen appearing to start a forest fire then running away from it while music plays in the background.

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Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the New York University’s School of Business, argues in the Atlantic that social-media platforms “trained users to spend more time performing and less time connecting.” But that was just the beginning.

He now believes this ultimately fueled a viral dynamic leading to “the continual chipping-away of trust” in a democracy which “depends on widely internalized acceptance of the legitimacy of rules, norms, and institutions.”
The most recent Edelman Trust Barometer (an international measure of citizens’ trust in government, business, media, and nongovernmental organizations) showed stable and competent autocracies (China and the United Arab Emirates) at the top of the list, while contentious democracies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and South Korea scored near the bottom (albeit above Russia)…. Mark Zuckerberg may not have wished for any of that. But by rewiring everything in a headlong rush for growth — with a naive conception of human psychology, little understanding of the intricacy of institutions, and no concern for external costs imposed on society — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a few other large platforms unwittingly dissolved the mortar of trust, belief in institutions, and shared stories that had held a large and diverse secular democracy together.

In the last 10 years, the article argues, the general public — at least in America — became “uniquely stupid.” And he’s not just speaking about the political right and left, but within both factions, “as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families.” The article quotes former CIA analyst Martin Gurri’s comment in 2019 that the digital revolution has highly fragmented the public into hostile shards that are “mostly people yelling at each other and living in bubbles of one sort or another.”

The article concludes that by now U.S. politics has entered a phase where truth “cannot achieve widespread adherence” and thus “nothing really means anything anymore–at least not in a way that is durable and on which people widely agree.” It even contemplates the idea of “highly believable” disinformation generated by AI, possibly by geopolitical adversaries, ultimately evolving into what the research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory has described as “an Information World War in which state actors, terrorists, and ideological extremists leverage the social infrastructure underpinning everyday life to sow discord and erode shared reality.”

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Because of the Internet, ‘We Are All Cranks Now’

…from the characters of Dickens to Grandpa Simpson, recently it seems that the figure of the crank has dropped away from the public imagination. Now, this could be that the art of penning demented letters to metropolitan newspapers on a semi-regular basis may be dying out with the last generation of people to use lead toothpaste, but I don’t think that’s it. I think we’ve lost sight of them not because they went away, but because they became unremarkable. We are all cranks now.

Online has drastically lowered the barriers of entry into the Order of Crankhood. Time it was when if you really wanted to get publicly steamed about something you’d read, you’d first have to buy a newspaper, read that newspaper, get steamed, go to your writing desk, jot down your letter, put that letter in an envelope, find a stamp, and then walk to the post office. And even after doing all that, there was no guarantee that it would be published. Being a crank even 30 years ago took a kind of monastic dedication to the high art of being a weirdo, but nowadays, saying something deeply unwell about an article you don’t like to thousands of people is as trivial as ordering a coffee.a

And if the internet in general has lowered these barriers, social media has gone a step further. People who never set out to be cranks in the first place are actively incentivized to do so. This isn’t just because whenever you post you get a thrilling little tally of all the people who agree with you, it’s because of how these platforms are designed to maximize engagement. The ideal poster for social media companies is one who posts often, who posts stridently, and who responds to as much stuff as possible.

So, to be on Twitter or Facebook is to sit in a room while someone holds up random pieces of stimulus and demands your appraisal of each. What do we reckon of this? Okay, how about this? And this? What’s your view here? Were you to design a machine to turn otherwise normal, healthy people into cranks — a kind of crankification engine, if you like — you would probably arrive at something like these platforms.

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The White House is briefing TikTok stars about the war in Ukraine

This week, the administration began working with Gen Z For Change, a nonprofit advocacy group, to help identify top content creators on the platform to orchestrate a briefing aimed at answering questions about the conflict and the United States’ role in it.

The briefing was led by Matt Miller, a special adviser for communications at the White House National Security Council, and Psaki. The Washington Post obtained a recording of the call, and in it, Biden officials stressed the power these creators had in communicating with their followers. “We recognize this is a critically important avenue in the way the American public is finding out about the latest,” said the White House director of digital strategy, Rob Flaherty, “so we wanted to make sure you had the latest information from an authoritative source.”

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Some Amazon Ring Customers Demand Drivers Dance, Then Post Videos Online

Some Amazon customers are now explicitly asking the company’s drivers to deliver a performance along with the package. They are posting signs to their front doors or tapping unusual delivery instructions into the Amazon app in the hopes of capturing a spectacle on their surveillance feeds…. [T]hese customers proceed to shamelessly post the evidence to social media. Sometimes the videos are spun into an online sleuthing opportunity, as the TikToker asks viewers to hunt for the dancing driver’s identity. And they represent just a slice of the “Amazon driver approaches the door” genre of internet video… But whether the video is pitched as heartwarming or sadistic, the customer is enlisting the driver into a nonconsensual pageant that doubles as a performance review. As Jackson reported, Amazon drivers who fail to fulfill customer requests risk demerits.

Amazon encourages customers to publicize their Ring videos on its safety-minded social network, Neighbors, and makes it easy to share them more widely, too. One of Ring’s marketing lines is “A lot happens at your front door,” and this is meant as both a warning and an invitation — though it suggests it is too dangerous to venture outside, it also implies that a whole world of entertainment is to be found through eyeing your surveillance feed. The official Ring YouTube channel is filled with user-generated videos that help inject its growing spy network with warmth and surprise, as the cameras catch spontaneous footage of good Samaritans, grazing cows and, of course, the company’s drivers caught in kooky scenarios, like in this entry from December: “Even a Giant Bear Will Not Stop This Amazon Driver From Making His Delivery.”

Amazon obsessively surveils its workers through dashcams, smartphone monitors and machine-generated report cards, and these videos implicate the customer in that exercise, making the violation of driver privacy into a kind of internet-wide contest. The caption for Amazon’s bear video focuses on the heroic actions of a Ring user named Josh, who supposedly aided the delivery driver’s safety by “watching his exit the whole time” on the security camera…. Its routes are often serviced by precarious gig workers, its quotas are too punishing to allow for socializing, and all potential human interactions have been replaced by one-way surveillance. In many of these TikTok videos, Amazon workers literally run in and out of the frame. If delivery drivers were once lightly teased or frequently ogled, now they are simply dehumanized, plugged into machine-run networks and expected to move product with robotic efficiency. The compulsory dance trend on TikTok suggests that customers, too, have come to see drivers as programmable….

On an even more depressing corner of Amazon TikTok, customers post videos not to backwardly celebrate drivers but just to shame them for delivering the package with less than the customer’s expected level of service.

131

The Internet Gave Rise to ‘Cancel Culture OCD’

Today, the phrase “cancel culture” triggers a wide range of responses: concern, frustration, a bit of eye-rolling. There are endless debates about what it is (accountability or censorship?), what’s driving it (context collapse, perhaps, or a new “woke” religion), and whether it even exists. Few public figures have been successfully canceled; even fewer have stayed canceled. Yet online life remains suffused with a distinct air of paranoia and an often-pacifying doubt—and perhaps focusing on the “cancel” part of cancel culture distracts from its rippling effects in our daily lives. The old saying goes, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.” But the experiences of people with cancellation OCD reveal another truth: Scrutinize yourself too closely and you can always find something wrong.

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10 year old boy lives life as a YouTube advertising sensation

There’s no one way to describe what Kaji, who is now 10 years old, has done across his multiple YouTube channels, cable television shows and live appearances: In one video, he is giving you a tour of the Legoland Hotel; in another, he splashes around in his pool to introduce a science video about tsunamis. But for years, what he has mostly done is play with toys: Thomas the Tank Engine, “Paw Patrol” figures, McDonald’s play kitchens. A new toy and a new video for almost every day of the week, adding up to an avalanche of content that can overwhelm your child’s brain, click after click. Kaji has been playing with toys on camera since Barack Obama was in the White House.

Here are a few of the companies that are now paying him handsomely for his services: Amazon, Walmart, Nickelodeon, Skechers. Ryan also has 10 separate YouTube channels, which together make up “Ryan’s World” [31.2M subscribers], a content behemoth whose branded merchandise took in more than $250 million last year. Even conservative estimates suggest that the Kaji family take exceeds $25 million annually.

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Is the Internet Changing the Way We Remember?

“A study in 2019 found that the spatial memory used for navigating through the world tends to be worse for people who’ve made extensive use of map apps and GPS devices…” reports NBC News.

But that’s just the beginning, according to Adrian Ward, who studies psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. NBC says Ward’s research suggests “People who lean on a search engine such as Google may get the right answers but they can also end up with a wrong idea of how strong their own memory is.”

In Ward’s research, published in October in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, he used a series of eight experiments to test how people used and thought about their own knowledge as they completed short quizzes of general knowledge. Some participants had access to Google while answering the questions — “What is the most widely spoken language in the world?” was one — while others did not. They also completed surveys. He found that people who used Google were more confident in their own ability to think and remember, and erroneously predicted that they would know significantly more in future quizzes without the help of the internet. Ward attributed that to Google’s design: simple and easy, less like a library and more like a “neural prosthetic” that simulates a search in a human brain.

“The speed makes it so you never understand what you don’t know,” Ward said.

The findings echo and build on earlier research, including a widely cited 2011 paper on the “Google effect”: a phenomenon in which people are less likely to remember information if they know they can find it later on the internet…. In a review of recent studies in the field, published in September, researchers at Duke University found that the “externalization” of memories into digital spheres “changes what people attend to and remember about their own experiences.” Digital media is new and different, they wrote, because of factors such as how easily images are edited or the huge number of memories at people’s fingertips.

Each photographic cue means another chance for a memory to be “updated,” maybe with a false impression, and each manipulation of a piece of social media content is a chance for distortion, wrote the researchers, doctoral student Emmaline Drew Eliseev and Elizabeth Marsh, a professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of a lab dedicated to studying memory.

178

Notifications Are Driving Us Crazy

We’re on alert overload. Stray comments and offhand requests once shouted across the office now blink and buzz at us from Microsoft Teams and Slack. Our communication has grown fragmented, spread across myriad apps we have to learn, conform to, remember to check.

Meanwhile, personal texts and social-media mentions have bled into the workday after all this time at home, adding another layer of distraction to our time on the clock. Why put your phone on silent if the boss isn’t hovering over you? Our culture has evolved to accommodate rapid communication, says Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, and it can be mentally taxing. Many of us struggle to conjure up that brilliant thought that hit right before the notification burst in. “Your memory is just overflowing with information,” she says.

It doesn’t make for great circumstances for getting work done, but there are ways individuals, managers and organizations can contend with the onslaught. Dr. Mark’s research finds people switch screens an average of 566 times a day. Half the time we’re interrupted; the other half we pull ourselves away. Breaks — even mindless ones like scrolling Facebook — can be positive, replenishing our cognitive resources, Dr. Mark says. But when something external diverts our focus, it takes us an average of 25 minutes and 26 seconds to get back to our original task, she has found. (Folks often switch to different projects in between.) And it stresses us out. Research using heart monitors shows that the interval between people’s heart beats becomes more regular when they’re interrupted, a sign they’re in fight-or-flight mode. The onus is on teams and organizations to create new norms, Dr. Mark says. If individuals just up and turn off their notifications they’ll likely be penalized for missing information. Instead, managers should create quiet hours where people aren’t expected to respond. “It’s a matter of relearning how to work,” she says.

166

How China Uses Western Influencers As Pawns In Its Propaganda War

China is recruiting YouTubers to report on the country in a positive light and counter the West’s increasingly negative perceptions. “The videos have a casual, homespun feel. But on the other side of the camera often stands a large apparatus of government organizers, state-controlled news media and other official amplifiers — all part of the Chinese government’s widening attempts to spread pro-Beijing messages around the planet,” the report says. “State-run news outlets and local governments have organized and funded pro-Beijing influencers’ travel, according to government documents and the creators themselves. They have paid or offered to pay the creators. They have generated lucrative traffic for the influencers by sharing videos with millions of followers on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.”

Typically, the Chinese government support comes in the form of free organized trips around China, particularly in Xinjiang. By showing the influencers a carefully sanitized image of life in the country, the authorities don’t need to worry about negative stories. They simply make it easy for the YouTubers to present images of jolly peasants and happy city-dwellers, because that’s all they are allowed to see. One of the authors of the New York Times piece, Paul Mozur, noted on Twitter another important way that the authorities are able to help their influencer guests. Once produced, the China-friendly videos are boosted massively by state media and diplomatic Facebook and Twitter accounts: “One video by Israeli influencer Raz Gal-Or portraying Xinjiang as ‘totally normal’ was shared by 35 government connected accounts with a total of 400 million followers. Many were Chinese embassy Facebook accounts, which posted about the video in numerous languages.”

A new report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, “Borrowing mouths to speak on Xinjiang,” has some more statistics on this practice: “Our data collection has found that, between January 2020 and August 2021, 156 Chinese state-controlled accounts on US-based social media platforms have published at least 546 Facebook posts, Twitter posts and shared articles from [China Global Television Network], Global Times, Xinhua or China Daily websites that have amplified Xinjiang-related social media content from 13 influencer accounts. More than 50% of that activity occurred on Facebook.” Mozur says that the use of Western influencers in this way also allows employees of Beijing-controlled media, like the journalist Li Jingjing, to present themselves as independent YouTubers. On Twitter, however, she is labeled as “China state-affiliated media.” The Australian Strategic Policy Institute sees this as part of a larger problem (pdf): “labelling schemes adopted by some video-sharing and social media platforms to identify state-affiliated accounts are inconsistently applied to media outlets and journalists working for those outlets. In addition, few platforms appear to have clear policies on content from online influencers or vloggers whose content may be facilitated by state-affiliated media, through sponsored trips, for example.”

According to Mozur, China’s state broadcaster is actively looking for more influencers, offering bonuses and publicity for those who sign up. In the US, China’s consulate general is paying $300,000 to a firm to recruit influencers for the Winter Olympics, ranging from Celebrity Influencers with millions of Instagram or TikTok followers, to Nano Influencers, with merely a few thousand. The ultimate goal of deploying these alternative voices is not to disprove negative stories appearing in Western media, but something arguably worse, as the New York Times report explains: “China is the new super-abuser that has arrived in global social media,” said Eric Liu, a former content moderator for Chinese social media. “The goal is not to win, but to cause chaos and suspicion until there is no real truth.”

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