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TikTok Suppressed Content From “Ugly,” Poor, and Disabled Users, Report Says

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  • A report from The Intercept claimed that in an effort to attract new users, TikTok had policies in place for its moderators to suppress content from users deemed “ugly,” poor, or disabled.
  • The documents also showed that TikTok outlined bans to be placed on users who criticized “political or religious leaders” or “endangered national honor.”
  • Sources said the policies were created last year and were in use as recently as the end of 2019.
  • A TikTok spokesperson said the majority of the guidelines were never in use or are no longer in use, but the ones targeting users’ appearances were aimed at preventing bullying.
  • However, the documents reviewed by The Intercept do not explicitly mention anti-bullying efforts.

Leaked Policies

Newly released documents reveal that TikTok creators directed their moderators to censor posts from users believed to be poor, disabled, or “ugly,” among other guidelines.  

The leaked policies were first reported by The Intercept on Monday, exposing an inconsistency within the highly popular video-sharing app whose tagline is “Real People. Real Videos.” However, based on this recently-exposed information, it seems like TikTok only wants to funnel certain types of “real people” on the “For You” feed, its page dedicated to promoting select content to its millions of users. 

The Intercept noted that the documents appear to have originally been printed in Chinese — the language of the app’s home country — but had been translated into sometimes-choppy English for global distribution. Of the multiple pages of policies the news outlet posted, one outlines characteristics that the app considers undesirable such as “abnormal body shape, chubby, have obvious beer belly, obese, or too thin.” 

The rules also encourage restrictions of “ugly facial looks” including wrinkles, noticeable scars, and physical disabilities. Criteria for the backgrounds of videos were also included in the policies, discouraging “shabby and dilapidated” environments including slums, dirty and messy settings, and old decorations. 

As far as the reasoning for these guidelines, TikTok wrote: “If the character’s appearance or the shooting environment is not good, the video will be much less attractive, not [worthy] to be recommended to new users.” 

A spokesperson for the app told The Verge that the guidelines reported by The Intercept are regional and “were not for the U.S. market.”

The other policies that The Intercept released detail more types of content that should be banned across the platform, including defamation or criticism of “civil servants, political or religious leaders,” as well as family members of these leaders. Moderators were instructed to punish any users who “endang[er] national honor” or distort “local or other countries’ history,” using May 1998 riots in Indonesia, Cambodian genocide, and Tiananmen Square incidents as examples.

The Intercept reported that sources told them the policies were created last year and were in use until at least late 2019. 

TikTok’s Response

A spokesperson for the app told The Intercept that “most of” these exposed rules “are either no longer in use, or in some cases appear to never have been in place.”

The spokesperson also told the outlet that the policies geared toward suppressing disabled, seemingly impoverished, or unattractive users “represented an early blunt attempt at preventing bullying, but are no longer in place, and were already out of use when The Intercept obtained them.”

These intentions have been pushed by the platform in the past — in December, TikTok admitted that at one point they prevented the spread of videos from disabled, LGBTQ, or overweight users, claiming it was an attempt to curb bullying. 

A TikTok spokesperson told The Intercept that these newly-released policies “appear to be the same or similar” as the ones revealed in December, but the guidelines published this week are notably different — they don’t mention anti-bullying motives and instead focus on how to appeal to more users. 

Criticism of TikTok’s Moderation and App’s Response

TikTok has faced scrutiny in the past for appearing to censor certain content, including pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and criticism of the Chinese government.  

It’s also worth noting that the app has been under fire for its data-sharing policies and the U.S. government has even suggested this is a national security threat. 

TikTok said this week that it will stop using China-based moderators to review overseas content, noting that these employees hadn’t been monitoring content in U.S. regions. 

And in further attempts to counter the criticism of their moderation tactics, TikTok announced last week that it plans to open a “transparency center” in Los Angeles in May. This center will allow outside observers to better understand how the platform moderates its content.

See what others are saying: (The Intercept) (The Verge) (Business Insider)

Business

Initial Unemployment Claims See First Rise Since April as Fed Estimates Faster Inflation Growth Than Previously Predicted

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The Fed also announced that it expects to raise interest rates in 2023, a year earlier than its previous prediction.


Unemployment Claims Rise

The Labor Department reported Thursday that, for the first time in nearly two months, weekly initial unemployment claims increased.

For the week ending on June 12, 412,000 people filed first-time claims. That’s an increase of 37,000 from the previous week’s estimate of 375,000. It’s also the highest that new claims have been in a month. 

Still, there are positive signs that the labor market is improving. For example, while last week’s continuing claims were largely unchanged from the previous week, the four-week moving average for continuing claims fell to its lowest level since March 2020. 

The Federal Reserve is also optimistic about the labor market eventually returning to form despite the country still being short 7 million jobs. Following a two-day meeting, the central bank predicted that the unemployment rate could fall back to pre-pandemic levels by 2023. 

It also expects economic growth to hit 7% this year, up from the 6.5% it predicted in March. 

Inflation Will Grow Faster Than Expected

At its meeting, the Fed said it now believes inflation will climb higher than it had previously estimated just three months ago. In March, it predicted inflation would rise about 2.4% this year. As of Wednesday, it’s expecting a 3.4% jump. 

That comes on the heels of a report from the Labor Department last week that indicated consumer prices climbed at their fastest rate since 2008 year-over-year in May. Like economists explained then, the Fed said it expects this rise in consumer prices to be temporary.

While the Fed expects the prices for some goods and services to continue to increase over the next few months because of issues such as supply bottlenecks, it also said it believes the labor market will continue to grow since the economy is finally coming out of its massive, pandemic-induced downturn in spending.

Still, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell warned Wednesday, “Shifts in demand can be large and rapid. Inflation could turn out to be higher and more persistent than we expect.”

Powell added that the central bank will keep a close eye on inflation and that it would respond quickly if inflation becomes broader or more persistent than current estimates. 

Interest Rates Stay at Historic Lows… For Now

Among other key points from the Fed’s meeting was its decision to move up a projection for an initial interest rate hike from 2024 to 2023. Notably, it also said there could be two rate hikes in 2023. 

That then caused some major stock indices like the Dow Jones to initially stumble, though the markets were more mixed Thursday. That’s likely at least partially because the Fed kept internet rates near a historically low zero for the time being, as expected.

Some Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Rick Scott (Fl.), have argued that the 2023 projection is too slow, saying interest rates need to go up sooner to prevent inflation from rising too much. 

In testimony before a Senate committee on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the inflation situation is being monitored “very, very carefully” and that while prices are rising, they’re also moving back toward “normal” levels. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNBC) (ABC News)

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Coca-Cola Lost $4 Billion in Market Value After Cristiano Ronaldo Hid Two Bottles During a Press Conference

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After the snub by Ronaldo, another soccer player hid a bottle of Heineken during a separate press conference Wednesday


Ronaldo Pushes Away Coke Bottles

Coca-Cola’s market value fell by $4 billion after famed soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo moved two bottles of the soda off-camera during a press conference Monday.

The incident happened just before his team’s match against Hungary at the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship. After hiding the Coke bottles, Ronaldo held up an unlabeled water bottle and said “Agua,” which is Portuguese for water. 

The whole moment was likely very awkward for Coke as a company considering that it’s sponsoring the tournament; however, the situation was made tangibly worse for Coke when investors reacted by selling-off stock. That move caused its market value to fall from $242 billion to $238 billion.

Alongside that $4 billion loss, its individual share value fell 1.6%, which isn’t huge but is somewhat more notable given the fact that it was seemingly caused by one person in one moment. Ronaldo doesn’t exactly have the same level of stock market influence as that of Elon Musk on the cryptocurrency markets, and on top of that, minus several blips over the last 40 years, Coke’s stock has continued to climb overall. 

Still, it’s not a great look to have one of the world’s top athletes at a major sports tournament criticizing your sugary drink. That’s likely why a Coke spokesperson later said, “Everyone is entitled to their drink preferences” and everyone has different “tastes and needs.”

“Players are offered water, alongside Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, on arrival at our press conferences,” the spokesperson added. 

In the long run, this isn’t the end of Coke by any means. As Yahoo Finance noted, “It’s unlikely Coke’s stock will stay in the penalty box for too long as the business begins to partake in the global economic recovery.”

Ronaldo’s Healthy Diet

Ronaldo is known for basically being a machine in human form. He reportedly eats up to six very-calculated and clean meals a day and will also nap up to five times a day.

In the past, Ronaldo has indicated that he avoids alcohol and carbonated drinks in order to stay in shape. Earlier this year, he even directly spoke out against Coca-Cola when talking about his 10-year-old son.

“I’m hard with him sometimes because he drinks Coca-Cola and Fanta sometimes and no… And no, I’m pissed with him. And [I fight] with him when he eats chips and fries and everything. You know, I don’t like it.”

Besides his fame on the field, Ronaldo is also the most-followed individual on Instagram, with 299 million followers.

Pogba Seemingly Takes a Note from Ronaldo

It’s possible Ronaldo could have started a trend among athletes of speaking out more against unhealthy drinks, even if they are sponsors of games or tournaments.

In fact, on Wednesday, French player Paul Pogba removed a bottle of Heineken from the camera’s view at the start of a separate press conference.

While it was later learned that the specific Heineken was non-alcoholic, many believe Pogba, who is a devout Muslim, didn’t know that at the time or still didn’t want to promote the brand.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Yahoo Finance) (The Athletic)

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Woman From Viral Gorilla Glue Incident Launches Hair Care Line

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While some applauded the woman for making use of her newfound attention, others said they would not trust hair products from someone who put superglue in their own hair.


Tessica Brown Launches “Forever Hair”

Tessica Brown, the woman who got Gorilla Glue spray stuck in her hair for more than a month earlier this year, has now launched her own hair care line called “Forever Hair.”

Brown was inspired to create the line after the viral incident, which came to an end when a plastic surgeon removed the adhesive during a four-hour procedure at no cost.

@im_d_ollady

Stiff where????? Ma hair 🤬🤬

♬ original sound – Tessica Brown

The line includes an $18 growth stimulating oil formulated to help with the hair loss and scalp damage she was left with, as well as a $14 hair spray and a soon-to-be-released $13 product for sleek edge control.

In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Brown raved about how the hair growth oil, in particular, helped her over the last two months.

“I needed this oil to one, heal my scalp. I needed it to grow my hair back. I needed it to stimulated my hair follicles, and on top of that, I needed everything to be all-natural. And in this oil, it has just that,’ she claimed.

Mixed Reactions Online

The move might not come as too much of a surprise given that Brown has likely spent the last few months focusing on her hair’s health.

Still, the reactions on social media have been mixed.

Some have applauded Brown for making use of her viral attention and turning lemons into lemonade.

Meanwhile, others have noted that they are not about to trust a hair product line from someone who put superglue in their own hair. Plus, there is a chuck of people pointing to a typo on her packaging.

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (Florida News Times) (Insider)

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