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High Schoolers Support Teachers By Using TikTok to Organize Strike Over Pay

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  • Teachers in Clark County, Nevada threatened to walk off the job next month after the district refused to give raises to staff members who had furthered their education, despite previously promising to do so. 
  • One student explained the situation in a TikTok post and urged students to hold their own strike in support of their teachers. 
  • The post went viral and prompted other students to speak out on similar issues in their schools.
  • The strikes were suspended after the district and teachers union struck a deal Wednesday night, which included raises and more funding for health insurance. 

Teachers Organize Strike 

Teens used the popular short-form video app TikTok to support high school teachers in Nevada this week after a teachers strike was threatened by a local school district. 

Teachers in Clark County planned a walkout on Sept. 10 to protests against the school district for failing to honor a promise it had made regarding their salaries. Educators were previously told they would earn raises so long as they furthered their education by completing professional development courses. But the district later refused to follow through on that agreement, saying it lacked the funds to do so. 

The consequences of the strike would have been devastating for the school district, which is the fifth-largest in the nation. In response to the news of picketing, the district filed an emergency court motion to block the strike and have a judge issue an order against it. If the order was imposed, the union could have faced fines of up to $50,000 a day.

Still, Clark County teachers felt they had no choice but to take a stand.

TikTok Post Goes Viral 

Many local students were also outraged by the situation, including 16-year-old Gillian Sullivan who took her frustration over to TikTok.

Sullivan, whose mom has worked for the district for more than 20 years, uploaded a video on the app where she explained the situation, saying the district would not pay teachers who had “spent the past three years earning enough credits out of their own pockets, spending extra hours outside of school to earn credits to get a raise.” 

“Personally, I don’t think this is fair and I’m kind of sick of our district thinking its okay to walk all over students and teachers all of the time,” she added. “If you’re sick of this too, and you want respect for yourself as a student but also for your teachers, please strike Sept. 5 because I’m done, and you should be too. Teachers deserve more respect than that. And it’s disgusting.”

Within days Sullivan’s video spread throughout the app and was viewed by users from all over the globe. Many commented about similar issues in their own school districts and promised to help raise awareness in whatever ways they could.

“I’m not even in ccsd but [I] still shared trying to do something to help,” one user commented. ”Solidarity,” others wrote.

Comments on Sullivan’s TikTok post

Others shared the post in typical TikTok fashion, using the app’s duet function. 

In another post, Sullivan responded to users who said their school districts were just as bad if not worse. She argued that the entire school system in the U.S. is flawed and encouraged all students to skip school on Sept. 5. “Everyone is saying their school district is bad. Nationally, the school system is broken and we can fix it by not going to school and the government realizing that we all see a problem as teenagers.” 

Her posts also made their way onto Twitter, where they picked up more praise and support. They also inspired others to upload similar TikToks, including another student in her district, 17-year-old Leonardo Bueno. 

In a three-part TikTok post, he talked about a lack of funds for school programs and rules that stop clubs or sports teams from raising their own funds. He also encouraged the student strike saying, “We should also be speaking up about teachers being underpaid and not getting their salary.” 

“Teachers put their life and dedication in teaching us, because they are teaching the future of this country.”

While many seemed prepared to participate in the student and teacher strikes, those plans have since been called off.

Union and District Reach Deal 

Late Wednesday, the Clark County School District and the Clark County Education Association said they had reached a tentative agreement to resolve the issue. The agreement includes a salary increase for the educators who completed their professional development programs, as well as a 3% raise and more funding for health insurance.

The deal still needs to be ratified by union executives and district trustees, according to the Associated Press. However, it seems that both sides expect no issues with approving the move. 

It’s unclear how much of a role, if any, the TikToks played in the decision, but Sullivan and others felt the spread of the news surely had an impact. 

Sullivan took to TikTok once more to share the news saying, “Through social media and people actively speaking out, we got what we wanted.

“I’m really happy, I’m really grateful for everybody who liked, commented and shared my post because it allowed for a lot more people to be informed about the issue within the school district including students.” 

“Thank you to our teachers,” she added. “I’m so happy they’re getting their raise … we did it, guys. Give yourselves a pat on the back. Give yourselves a high five. We won.”

See what others are saying: (Buzzfeed News) (Huffington Post) (US News)

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Black Mirror or Reality? Microsoft Granted Patent for Tech That Lets It Create Chatbots of Dead People

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  • Microsoft has been granted a patent that would allow it to create artificial intelligence chatbots of dead people using “voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters, etc.”
  • As Microsoft noted in its patent proposal, chatbots could also be created to imitate living people — opening the door for users to train a digital version of themselves to be used after they die. 
  • In the patent filing, Microsoft also suggested creating 2D or 3D models of chatbot subjects by studying images and videos of them.
  • Online, many noted the similarities between Microsoft’s patent and a 2013 episode of Black Mirror in which a woman creates an AI version of her deceased boyfriend. 

Microsoft Granted Controversial Patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Microsoft a patent for technology that would allow it digitally revive dead people.

If implemented, Microsoft would use information like “voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters, etc.,” to create artificial intelligence chatbots meant to replicate the person.

In its filing, Microsoft noted that the person could be “a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure, a random entity, etc.”

Microsoft also noted, “the specific person may also correspond to oneself (e.g., the user creating/training the chat bot), or a version of oneself (e.g., oneself at a particular age or stage of life).”

As The Independent pointed out, that opens up the door for living users to be able to “train a digital replacement in the event of their death.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Microsoft has also suggested creating 2D or even 3D models of the person by studying images and videos of them.

Has Life Finally Become an Episode of Black Mirror?

Online, many noted the similarities between Microsoft’s patent and a 2013 episode of Black Mirror in which a character, played by Hayley Atwell, revives her recently-deceased boyfriend through an AI chatbot. As the episode progresses, that AI — played by Domhnall Gleeson — eventually becomes an exact replica android of her boyfriend. 

“More people that need to remember Black Mirror is a warning sign, not a product manual,” said Tama Leaver, an internet studies professor at Curtin University in Australia. 

Indeed, many critics have interpreted the episode, which focuses on the grief felt by Atwell’s character because of her loss, as an examination of “our own mortality and our desire to play God.” 

“It shines a spotlight on our desperate need to reverse a natural and necessary part of life without considering the consequences on our emotional well-being,” Roxanne Sancto said in a review for Paste Magazine.

In fact, series creator Charlie Brooker said part of his direct inspiration for writing the episode was based on Twitter and the question: “What if these people were dead and it was software emulating their thoughts?”

See what others are saying: (The Independent) (IGN) (Indie Wire)

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JoJo Siwa Fans Caution Against Labeling the Star’s Sexuality

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  • JoJo Siwa was featured in two TikTok videos Wednesday that many felt signaled her as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • One showed her dancing and lip-syncing to Paramore’s “Aint It Fun,” along with members of the TikTok group Pride House LA. Siwa specifically mouthed the lyric “Now you’re one of us,” which is also the caption of the post. 
  • The second video showed her lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song that has long been heralded as an LGBTQ+ anthem.  
  • The 17-year-old entertainer has not directly addressed speculations about her sexuality, prompting many to caution against labeling her.

JoJo Siwa TikToks Trigger Sexuality Speculations

JoJo Siwa fans are urging the public not to label the 17-year-old entertainer’s sexuality, especially when she has not explicitly done so herself.

The request came after Siwa became a trending topic Wednesday when many speculated that she had come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

The speculations stem from two TikTok videos she was featured in. The first was posted on choreographer Kent Boyd’s account. It features him and other members of the TikTok group Pride House LA, which includes several stars from Disney Channel’s “Teen Beach Movie.”

It showed them all lip-syncing and dancing along to Paramore’s hit song “Ain’t It Fun.” Siaw specifically mouthed the lyric “Now you’re one of us.” That lyric was also the caption of the post.

@kentboyd_

Now your one of us!! @itsjojosiwa @molleegray @garrettclayton91 @jekajane #pridehousela

♬ now ur one of us – Mia Mugavero

Later in the day, Siwa posted a video on her personal TikTok account that featured her lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song that has long been heralded as an LGBTQ+ anthem. 

Part of the lyrics she sang along to were: “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian transgender life / I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive.” 

Reactions

These posts really started all the rumors online, and things picked up when influencers like James Charles, Bretman Rock, and others expressed their support.

Many fans also left comments on the videos saying they were proud of her, and journalist Yashar Ali tweeted, “This feels like a big deal if it is what I think it is…JoJo Siwa is hugely popular with kids.”

“And as someone just pointed out, if it is what I think it is, she’s doing it at the height of her fame when she’s selling out arenas,” he continued.

Despite the wave of praise, other fans feel that it’s inappropriate and harmful to make speculations about anyone’s sexuality.

Many have even shared their own experiences coming out, reminding people not to label Siwa as anything until she explicitly chooses to share that information herself. 

While Siwa hasn’t directly addressed any of the responses as of yet, she has retweeted a post that features her video, the pride flag emoji, and the caption, “@itsjojosiwa is on the right track, she was born this way.”

Still, others also noted that she has publicly asked Lady Gaga to collaborate with her in the past, so perhaps this is a signal about that happening soon.

Others believe it could also be Siwa’s way of signaling that she is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (Metro) (Teen Vogue)

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Google Investigates Top AI Researcher Who Was Looking Into a Previous Firing

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  • Google is investigating the co-leader of its Ethical AI team, Margaret Mitchell.
  • While Mitchell has not been fired, her account has been locked because Google said she “exfiltrated thousands of files” and shared them with people outside of the company. 
  • In a tweet, Mitchell indicated that she had been “documenting current critical issues” related to the firing of another Google AI Ethicist in December.
  • Sources reportedly told Axios that Mitchell had been specifically looking for messages that showed discriminatory treatment of that fired researcher.

Google Investigates Margaret Mitchell

On Tuesday, Google stated that it is now investigating the co-leader of its Ethical Al team, Margaret Mitchell.

Mitchell has reportedly not been fired, but her company email account has been locked.

According to Google, its security systems automatically lock employee accounts “when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered.”

In this case, Google said Mitchell “exfiltrated thousands of files” and then shared them with people outside of the company. 

Why Did Mitchell Begin Looking Through Files?

Mitchell’s investigation is related to the ousting of another top AI ethicist at Google, Timnit Gebru, who was fired at the beginning of December. 

Before Gebru was fired, managers reportedly instructed her to withdraw an unpublished research paper upon her return from vacation. In an email to the internal listserv Google Brain Women and Allies, Gebru then voiced frustration at managers for allegedly making the decision without her input. 

“You are not worth having any conversations about this, since you are not someone whose humanity (let alone expertise recognized by journalists, governments, scientists, civic organizations such as the electronic frontiers foundation etc) is acknowledged or valued in this company,” Gebru said in a critique of the decision. 

Gebru’s firing led to such a massive outcry from Google employees that Google CEO Sundar Pichai pledged to investigate the situation. 

On Friday, Mitchell indicated in a tweet that she was also looking into Gebru’s firing, saying that she was “documenting current critical issues from [Gebru’s] firing, point by point, inside and outside work.”

According to Axios, sources have said that Mitchell used automated scripts to siphon through messages that potentially document discriminatory treatment against Gebru.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Verge) (Bloomberg)

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