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New Study Suggests Social Media Harms May Be Overstated

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  • A study by researchers at the University of Oxford found that the amount of time young people spend on social media has little impact on their overall life satisfaction.
  • The researchers argue that society should instead focus less on screen time and more on whether particular aspects of online behavior or content are harmful.
  • Similar studies have been conducted in the past giving conflicting conclusions on social media’s impact, however, the research team says that this is partly because data is limited.
  • They are asking tech companies to collaborate with researchers to better explore social media’s effects on overall health and well being.  

Study Finds “Trivial” Impact on Life Satisfaction

Time spent on social media has only a “trivial” impact on happiness among adolescents, according to a new study from the University of Oxford.

The research team conducted a study involving more than 12,000 UK adolescents between 2009 and 2017. Researchers asked the thousands of participants to share how much time they spent using social media on a normal school day. The participants were also asked to rate how satisfied they were with different aspects of life.

The study found that the amount of screentime only had a small negative impact on how happy the children felt about life. Instead family, friends, and school life all had a greater impact on well being.

“99.75% of a young person’s life satisfaction across a year has nothing to do with whether they are using more or less social media,” said Professor Andrew Przybylski, co-author of the research from Oxford University.

The team did say that the effects of time spent on social media had a wider impact on girls over boys, but even so, they said the effects remain very small.

“On an individual basis, time shouldn’t be the thing that parents are worrying about,” said Przybylski. “Thinking about social media like it’s a black box that has kind of a ticking clock on top of it – that way of thinking about screen time is almost certainly wrong.”

Talk to Your Children

Instead, Przybylski said that there are other avenues that researchers need to explore. “It is entirely possible that there are other, specific, aspects of social media that are really not good for kids … or that there are some young people who are more or less vulnerable because of some background factor,” he said.

The research team added that parents should worry less about how much time their children spend on social media sites and instead talk to them about their specific experiences.

“Just as things went awry offline, things will also go awry online, and it is really important for that communication channel to be open,” said Amy Orben, co-study author and psychology lecturer at the University of Oxford

Conflicting Data

The question of the potential impact social media has on young people is one that has been asked many times before, and has resulted in conflicting data. Some studies have suggested that social media could be hurting children’s mental health, while others have said it has positive effects on socialization.

However, Przybylski says that studies are often based on limited evidence and do not give the full picture. In fact, the research team suggested that other studies may have failed to account for the fact that some teens who were already more depressed to begin with may spend more of their time on social media.

“With most of the current debate based on lacklustre evidence, this study represents an important step towards mapping the effects of technology on wellbeing,” said Przybylski

But even this particular study had its limitations. It relies on self-based reported time on social media and does not include how exactly that time was spent or on what platforms.

The researchers at Oxford are urging tech companies to release data on how people use social media in order to help them understand more about the impact technology has on younger people’s lives.

“Access is key to understanding the many roles that social media plays in the lives of young people,” Orben said.

“What this shows us is we need to stop looking at social media as a whole and we need to start thinking about the nuances.”

Dr. Max Davie, officer for health improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told the Guardian that he also supported the call for companies to work with scientists, calling the study“the first small step.”

However, he said there were other issues that needed to be explored. For instance, he suggested more research should be done to analyze screen time’s interference with activities like sleep, exercise and time with family or friends.

Despite its limitations, Professor Liz Twigg from Portsmouth University, who is currently leading a large-scale study of the impact of social media on children, welcomed the study.

“As the authors themselves recognise, no study like this provides definitive evidence, but this one certainly provides compelling evidence,” she said.

See what others are saying: (Sky News) (BBC) (The Guardian)


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Al Jazeera Suspends Journalists for Controversial Holocaust Video

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  • Al Jazeera posted a video on their youth-focused channel AJ+ that said Jewish people had intentionally misrepresented how bad the Holocaust was for them, and claimed that “Israel is the biggest winner from the Holocaust.”
  • The video, which was in Arabic, attracted widespread condemnation after a U.S.-based nonprofit called The Middle East Media Research Institute posted a translated version of it.
  • Al Jazeera removed the post and suspended two journalists involved with making the video.

AJ+ Video

Qatar-based multination publication Al Jazeera suspended two journalists who published a video that claimed Jewish people deliberately exaggerated the Holocaust so that Israel could benefit.

The video was posted on May 18 by AJ+ Arabic, Al Jazeera’s youth-focused channel that creates short video explainers designed for social media.  It was reportedly posted on the Twitter and Facebook accounts for AJ+ and received hundreds of thousands of views before it was taken down.

The video was posted in Arabic, but it started to get backlash after the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a U.S.-based nonprofit, posted an English translation of the video.

Screenshot of MEMRI’s Translation

After the video started receiving criticism, Al Jazeera tweeted that they deleted the video because it “violated the editorial standards of the Network.”

The following day, the publication said in a statement that it “has taken disciplinary action and suspended two of its journalists” over the video.

“Dr. Yaser Bishr, Executive Director of Digital Division, stated that Al Jazeera completely disowns the offensive content in question and reiterated that Al Jazeera would not tolerate such material on any of the Network’s platforms,” the statement said. “In an email to staff he also called for the mandatory bias training and awareness program.”

The statement also said that Dima Khatib, the Managing Director of AJ+ Channels, claimed that  “the video was produced without the due oversight,” and added that workflows were being reviewed.

The Video

According to MEMRI’s, the video was posted with the caption, “The Gas Chambers Killed Millions of Jews – That’s How the Story Goes. What Is the Truth behind the Holocaust and How Did the Zionist Movement Benefit from It?”

Based on MEMRI’s translations, the video starts out with the narrator saying, “The narrative that six million Jews were killed by the Nazi movement was adopted by the Zionist movement.” The narrator then goes on to explain what happened in the Holocaust, describing the persecution of Jews and other groups.

Then the narrator says that the Jews were only part of the many groups murdered by the Nazis and asks, “So why is there a focus only on them?”

“Jewish groups had financial resources, media institutions, research centers, and academic voices that managed to put a special spotlight on the Jewish victims of the Nazis,” she continued.

She then claims that the number of people who died in the Holocaust is still being debated today and asks the question: “How did Israel benefit from the Holocaust?”

The narrator goes on to discuss the 1933 Transfer Agreement, where Zionist groups negotiated with Nazis to allow thousands of German Jews to leave for Palestine, and then makes the argument that Israel greatly benefited from this.

“Israel is the biggest winner from the Holocaust, and it uses the same Nazi justifications as a launching pad for the racial cleansing and annihilation of the Palestinians,” the narrator said.

She concludes the video by asserting that the idea behind the “State of Israel” comes from concepts “that suckled from the Nazi spirit and its main notions.”

Response

Following the incident, numerous people took to Twitter to condemn Al Jazeera.

Emmanuel Nahshon, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry called the video “the worst kind of pernicious evil” in a tweet, and argued that it “perpetuates hatred of Israel and the Jews.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Arabic media spokesperson, Ofir Gendelman, also expressed disdain in a tweet, writing that the video was “spreading lies about it & about Israel, specifically on #Ramadan in order to incite the masses.”

Others outside of Israel also criticized Al Jazeera. Donald Trump Jr. joined in on Twitter, writing, “Al-Jazeera is now openly publishing Holocaust Denial videos on their facebook page. Will @facebook take action & ban them for this like they’ve done to conservatives for far less?

Al Jazeera English v. Al Jazeera Arabic

Others who criticized Al Jazeera on Twitter highlighted the differences between the publication’s English networks, like Al Jazeera English and AJ+ English, and their Arabic-language networks and content.

One user posted screenshots of the video posted to AJ+ Arabic next to a video about a Holocaust survivor posted on AJ+ English the same day.

“Don’t be fooled by AJ‘s polished facade for its gullible Western audience,” another user wrote on Twitter. “AJ isn’t news, it’s state-controlled propaganda.”

This discussion was also hit on in an article published by BBC. In the article, BCC notes that Al Jazeera English is known for its “varied coverage,” and shining a light on “underreported stories.”

However, that reporting “comes in stark contrast to Al Jazeera Arabic,” the article stated, continuing that Al Jazeera’s Arabic networks often include “friendly coverage of Islamist groups – particularly favouring those aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.”

This compare and contrast is interesting because Al Jazeera is considered a very reliable source among U.S. audiences, but at the end of the day, it is a multinational media network that is funded by the Qatari government.

If Al Jazeera’s Arabic coverage is catered so differently to its Middle Eastern audiences, it inevitably raises questions about its legitimacy and reporting in the U.S.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Haaretz) (The Guardian)

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Taiwan Becomes First in Asia to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

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  • Taiwan’s Parliament passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage on Friday, making it the first in Asia to do so.
  • The decision comes after a 2017 ruling by Taiwan’s Constitutional Court which found that disallowing same-sex marriage violated the country’s constitution, and gave the government two years to pass a law legalizing it.
  • Supporters of the bill are optimistic it will set an example for other Asian nations, while opponents say it does not support the will of the people, who overwhelmingly voted against legalization in a referendum last November.

Parliament Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Taiwan became the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage after the country’s Parliament approved a bill Friday.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei, in anticipation of Friday’s vote. Gathered outside the Parliament building, supporters cheered when the decision was announced.

The Parliament’s announcement came after lawmakers considered three separate bills and ultimately decided on the most progressive of the three, which was passed with a vote of 66-27. The legislation chosen was the only one that defined a same-sex relationship as “marriage,” while the other bills used terms like “same-sex union.”

The bill will take effect after Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, signs it into law. Ing-wen campaigned on marriage equality in 2016, and praised the passage of the bill on Twitter, writing, “We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”

Once the law goes into effect, it will give same-sex couples many of the same tax, insurance, and child custody benefits that are allowed to heterosexual married couples. It will also allow limited adoption rights, though it is unclear if those rights will extend to the adoption of non-blood relatives.

Taiwan’s Progressive History

Taiwan has been applauded as a champion and leader of gay rights in the region, well before the passage of the new bill.

Its annual gay pride parade in Taipei is known for attracting tens of thousands of people from all over the continent, making it the largest pride parade in East Asia.

In 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled that the laws that prohibited same-sex couples from marrying violated the Taiwanese constitution. The court then gave the government two years to pass a law legalizing same-sex marriage.

However, same-sex marriage remained a divisive subject in Taiwan. Following the 2017 ruling, conservative and religious opponents stalled the passage of a new law legalizing gay marriage. Opponents also pressured the government into holding a referendum on whether or not the public wanted gay marriage to be legal.

The referendum, which was held in Novemeber, showed that Taiwanese voters overwhelmingly opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage, and favored the definition of marriage as the union of a man and woman.  

Taiwan’s ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), responded to the referendum by drafting two competing bills that would align with both the Constitutional Court’s decision and the results of the referendum. Unsurprisingly, those bills were strongly opposed by the LBGTQ+ community.

Taiwan’s Parliament ultimately did not choose those two bills, instead opting for the bill supported by the LGBTQ+ community, as represented by the vote on Friday. While marriage equality advocates have criticized the limits on adoption rights for same-sex couples, they still favored the bill that was passed over the other versions.

While supporters celebrated the bill’s passage, opponents of legalizing gay marriage expressed their anger. “How can we ignore the result of the referendums, which demonstrated the will of the people?” said John Wu, a lawmaker who is part of the opposition Kuomintang party. “Can we find an appropriate compromise solution? We need more dialogue in society.”

Potential Implications for the Region

Taiwan’s decision to legalize gay marriage makes it the first to do so in a region where gay rights have fallen wayside.

With the new law, many hope that Taiwan will set an example for other countries in the region. Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, applauded Taiwan for leading the way for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia “amid growing authoritarianism and rights abuses in other countries throughout the region.”

However, it remains unclear if other Asian nations will follow suit. While countries like China and Vietnam have decriminalized homosexuality, gay marriage still remains illegal.

Other Asian nations still are slow to embrace change concerning LGBTQ+ rights.

Until last year, gay sex was considered a criminal offense in India which was punishable by up to ten years in jail. Just last month, Brunei implemented new laws that made gay sex and adultery punishable by stoning to death.

Brunei later walked back on the law after massive international protest. It now claims it will not enforce the death penalty, though gay sex will still be punished by jail time in the country.

That said, others are optimistic about strides some Asian nations are taking. Thailand has proposed a law that would recognize same-sex partnerships, and last year a Hong Kong court ruled that same-sex couples that live in the city would be allowed the same rights to visas as heterosexual couples who are married.

Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Hong Kong, but public opinion polls show that support for marriage equality is gaining traction.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (BBC) (The Washington Post)

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Modern Day Gold Rush?! What You Need To Know About This Illegal Mining Town

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Imagine living in the highest elevation human settlement in the world. A place where the climate and living conditions are unlike any other. There are no roads. There is no plumbing, no running water, and no sewage disposal system.

What there is, however, is gold, tons of it. So much, in fact, that over the years, thousands of people have moved to the city with the hope of striking it rich. But even so, over 68 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line. Why? Watch the video to find out and learn more about the city that’s been coined, “The White Hell.”

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