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#ChallengeAccepted Trend Faces Criticisms for Alleged False Activism

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  • 5.5 million people, including many A-list celebrities, have participated in the #ChallengeAccepted trend, where women post black and white photos of themselves to promote female empowerment.
  • However, the trend has been heavily criticized by people like The New York Times writer Taylor Lorenz and actress Emmy Rossum who both said it actually doesn’t do anything to actively help women.
  • Others have claimed the trend has lost focus and meaning, thinking it originated in Turkey, where people are sharing black and white photos of women to raise awareness for high rates of violence against women in the country. 
  • Instagram has stated that the trend in the U.S. is not tied to the trend in Turkey, but many are now using the hashtag to call attention to it and to encourage their followers to support the Istanbul Convention, which is meant to protect victims of domestic violence. 

#ChallengeAccepted Goes Viral

As black and white photos of women flood Instagram feeds for the #ChallengeAccepted trend, the campaign has become a contentious subject. What started as a simple photo challenge is now under fire for not actually empowering women as it claims to do. Many are also concerned that these glamour shots are clogging up space where information about important subjects like femicide in Turkey could be shared. 

Olivia Munn, Kristen Bell, Reese Witherspoon, Florence Pugh, Jennifer Lopez, and Kerry Washington are among the over 5.5 million people who have shared black and white photos of themselves using the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted. In addition to these photos, those who partake also often share messages about female empowerment and the importance of women supporting other women. 

But the trend’s purposes and murky roots have led many to criticize the movement, and it’s unclear if any one moment served as a specific catalyst for the trend. Many now claim that it was inspired by black and white photos being shared in Turkey to raise awareness for the high rates of violence against women in the country. This has led to a lot of frustration and outrage because most of the big name celebrities sharing these photos do not mention this aspect at all, leaving their posts to just a flattering photo and brief caption.

Though, in all likelihood, this trend probably has nothing to do with what is happening in Turkey. Instagram told The New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz that the resurgence of this challenge in the United States is actually unrelated to the trend in Turkey. Versions of this trend in the U.S. have actually existed since 2016. It has been used to spread awareness for serious diseases like cancer, as well as just to share general positivity online. 

Criticism of the Online Challenge

Lorenz further discussed #ChallengeAccepted on TMZ Live, where she criticized the campaign for masquerading as a form of female empowerment while doing nothing to actually empower women. 

“Just posting, you know, ‘I’m posting this beautiful photo of myself to support other women,’ that doesn’t actually do anything to, you know, move women forward or actually advocate [for] women,” she said. “It’s not highlighting impressive women, it’s not helping your company hire more women, so it’s ultimately pretty meaningless.” 

Lorenz was far from the only critic of the trend. Actress Emmy Rossum asked her Twitter followers: “How is it empowering to other women to post a selfie?”

Though, Lorenz did think that in some cases, #ChallengeAccepted has been used for good. Stars like Rashida Jones used it to call for justice for Breonna Taylor. Also, because many are under the impression that women in Turkey are the root of the trend, many more have been using it to spread awareness about that. 

Violence Against Women in Turkey

Various infographics have been created and shared on Instagram to educate users on the platform about femicide in Turkey. Some have been liked tens, if not hundreds of thousands of times. People all over are sharing these graphics to their Instagram stories so their followers can read up on the topic.

Violence against women in Turkey has been an issue for a long time, but it is facing renewed attention because a 27-year-old woman was recently murdered by her ex-boyfriend. This has prompted protests and calls for action when it comes to the common threats women face in the country. 

According to The Guardian, 42% of Turkish women between the ages of 15-60 have suffered some form of physical or sexual violence by their husbands or partners. In 2019 alone, 474 women were murdered, mainly by partners or relatives, which was the highest rate in a decade. This number has been increasing every year for the past ten years. It is expected to climb even higher this year because of coronavirus lockdowns leading to increases in domestic violence. 

Those using the challenge to discuss Turkey on Instagram are also pointing to efforts to protect the Istanbul Convention, which is a Council of Europe treaty designed to protect victims of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. While Turkey was among the first countries to sign it, the convention is facing a new wave of threats against it. 

Legislation that provides basic human rights for women in Turkey is in jeopardy under the country’s conservative leadership. According to The Guardian, lobbyists are working to change the Istanbul Convention, leaving its future in question. 

Celebrities Refocus #ChallengeAccepted

With all this information going around, some celebrities have opted to refocus their role in this online challenge. Actress Florence Pugh, who shared a goofy black and white selfie, discussed the Istanbul Convention in her caption. She encouraged others to do the same. 

“Women are being subjected to violence and this convention is to end forgiveness for the attacker/murderers,” the “Little Women” star wrote. “With that in mind, adjust your hashtags if you didn’t already do so.”

Pugh is also sharing information about violence against women in Turkey on her Instagram stories. Likewise, Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman is also sharing articles about femicide in hers, while singer Demi Lovato is raising awareness on her page, as well. 

With celebrities changing the angles of their involvement in this, what initially appeared to be a surface-level girl power challenge has now started to highlight an international issue that many may have previously been unaware of. While its initial direct ties to the #ChallengeAccepted campaign have been disproven by Instagram, this issue has become a driving force behind the trend’s spread. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Cut) (Elle)

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Anti-Vaxxers Spread Conspiracy Theory Claiming Bob Saget Died From COVID-19 Booster Shot

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This comes less than a month after anti-vaxxers spread a similar false rumor about comedian Betty White.


Anti-Vaxxers Spread Unfounded Theory About Bob Saget’s Death

Anti-vax and right-wing conspiracy theorists are spreading unfounded claims that comedian Bob Saget died as a result of receiving his COVID-19 booster shot.

Saget, best known for his role as Danny Tanner on “Full House,” died this week at the age of 65 in Orlando, Florida. The Orange County Sheriff’s office said they were responding to “a call about an unresponsive man in a hotel room” and pronounced Saget dead on the scene at the Ritz-Carlton. They found “no signs of foul play or drug use” and some reports have since claimed that it appears Saget may have died in his sleep. No further cause of death has been released. 

Not long after the news of his death, anti-vaxxers begin circulating baseless claims that a COVID-19 booster shot killed Saget. Saget said he received his booster shot on a Dec. 13 episode of his podcast. Many have shared a clip where he talks about the booster to suggest that was his cause of death.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters have been proven to be both safe and effective. That, of course, has not stopped conspiracy theorists from endlessly touting false assertions about unproven side effects and responses.

Claims about Saget’s death being vaccine-related can be found on Twitter, Reddit, TikTok, Telegram, and other social media platforms. Many of the posts, despite containing clear misinformation, have remained on these sites for several days without being taken down. 

Candace Owens Promotes Booster Theory

The conspiracy found a large platform this week when conservative news personality Candace Owens discussed it on her Daily Wire talk show. Owens has repeatedly spoken against COVID-19 vaccines and uses her platform to regularly share all kinds of political and cultural misinformation. 

During the Jan. 11 episode of “Candace,” which was flagged by Media Matters, Owens said the public has a “right to demand answers” about the circumstances around Saget’s death and the booster. 

“I’m just not on Big Pharma’s payroll and I refuse to peddle in their lies. And so to that end, today, I’m going to point out another truth and it will likely be deemed a conspiracy theory until it’s not,” she said. “There are too many healthy individuals, like Bob Saget, who we know have received their vaccinations, who are dropping dead, suddenly and unexpectedly, with no further explanation. Healthy athletes, young students in their physical prime — the majority of them males — dropping dead suddenly and unexpectedly in the middle of games from heart issues.”

Owens continued to peddle anti-vax rhetoric regarding the media and vaccine mandates. She also spewed unsubstantiated suggestions that “healthy men are dying” because of vaccines. 

“All of this to say I don’t know why a healthy man, who was in the middle of a comedy tour, suddenly and unexpectedly drops dead in his hotel room,” she continued. “But I do know that we have a right to ask the question. All of us do. In fact, when the entire world has suddenly and unexpectedly been prescribed an injection that we don’t need, it is not only our right to ask questions but also our right to demand answers.”

Anti-Vax Misinformation Has Found A Large Platform

Not even a month before Saget’s death, anti-vaxxers likewise falsely claimed that comedian and actress Betty White died from receiving her COVID-19 booster. White passed at the age of 99, just weeks before her 100th birthday. According to her death certificate, she died from a stroke she had six days before her death on Dec. 31. 

After people started falsely claiming the booster caused her death, White’s agent released a statement clarifying these rumors were not true. 

“Betty died peacefully in her sleep at her home,” Jeff Witjas told People Magazine. “People are saying her death was related to getting a booster shot three days earlier but that is not true. She died of natural causes. Her death should not be politicized — that is not the life she lived.”

Media platforms have struggled to control the swelling amount of misinformation users constantly spread, specifically regarding the pandemic and vaccinations. While many sites have promised to remove, flag, or fact-check incorrect posts, anyone who wants to find anti-vax information will have an easy time doing so. 

This week, a group of doctors and medical workers urged Spotify to lay out a misinformation policy, citing the false claims Joe Rogan has repeatedly made about vaccines on his podcast. Several international fact-checking organizations also recently demanded that YouTube do more to fight disinformation on its service. Over the last year, citizens and politicians have asked that Twitter, Facebook, and Google do more to slow the spread of pandemic-related misinformation.

“While we understand that your companies have implemented policies regarding the removal of vaccine-related misinformation and dedicated resources to stop the spread of misinformation, we believe more must be done,” a group of Democratic senators wrote in a letter to the three company’s CEOs. “It is imperative that you be transparent about the amount of harmful misinformation that appears on your platforms and the effectiveness of your efforts to remove this content, so that public health organizations and experts can respond appropriately.”

See what others are saying: (Insider) (The Daily Beast) (The Daily Dot)

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Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather, and Others Sued Over Alleged EthereumMax Crypto Scam

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EthereumMax executives and partners are being accused of sharing “misleading promotions and celebrity endorsements” in order to “artificially increase the interest in and price” of the coin.


Lawsuit Alleging Crypto Scam Filed in California

Reality star Kim Kardashian, boxer Floyd Mayweather, and former NBA star Paul Pierce are among several celebrities and executives being sued for allegedly misleading investors into a pump-and-dump crypto scam.

The class-action lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by New York resident Ryan Huegerich. Huegerich brought the complaint on behalf of himself and others who claim to have lost money after investing in the coin EthereumMax between May 14, 2021 and June 27, 2021.

Kardashian, Mayweather, and Pierce are among a slew of people with substantial followings who promoted EthereumMax in the spring and summer of 2021. Pierce tweeted about the coin, saying he “made more money with this crypto in the past month” than he did with ESPN in a year. Kardashian touted the cryptocurrency in an Instagram story post that included a link for her followers to “swipe up to join the E-Max community.”

Mayweather drew attention to EthereumMax during his highly-anticipated fight against YouTuber Logan Paul, which accepted the coin as payment for tickets to the event. During the match, he wore shorts with the coin’s name and logo. Mayweather also endorsed the coin during a Bitcoin conference in Miami, Florida. 

Plaintiffs Allege Stars Participated in Pump-And-Dump Scheme

The plaintiffs argued that the three stars, along with several others, promoted the coin with false information. According to the lawsuit, the defendants touted “the ability for investors to make significant returns due to the favorable ‘tokenomics’ of the EMAX Tokens” in order to sell their portions for a pump-and-dump profit.

The Company’s executives, collaborating with several celebrity promotors, (a) made false or misleading statements to investors about EthereumMax through social media advertisements and other promotional activities and (b) disguised their control over EthereumMax and a significant percent of the EMAX Tokens that were available for public trading during the Relevant Period,” the lawsuit said.

“The misleading promotions and celebrity endorsements were able to artificially increase the interest in and price of the EMAX Tokens during the Relevant Period, causing investors to purchase these losing investments at inflated prices,” the suit continued.

The plaintiffs slammed the EthereumMax coin as a “speculative digital token created by a mysterious group of cryptocurrency developers.” According to the lawsuit, the coin “has no connection” to the popular cryptocurrency Ethereum, but uses the name in an effort to “mislead investors into believing that the EMAX Tokens were a part of the Ethereum network (when they are not).”

A spokesperson for EthereumMax condemned the allegations in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

“The deceptive narrative associated with the recent allegations is riddled with misinformation,” the spokesperson said.

Kardashian, Mayweather, and Pierce have not responded publicly to the lawsuit. 

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNBC) (BBC News)

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Cardi B’s Defamation Suit Against YouTuber Goes to Trial

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Cardi B claims the YouTuber “became obsessed with slandering and harassing” her.


Cardi B Alleges YouTuber Harmed Her Reputation

The trial for a defamation case rapper Cardi B brought against an entertainment YouTuber began Monday in Atlanta, Georgia.

In the lawsuit, Cardi claims that Latasha Kebe, who is known online as UnwineWithTashaK, repeatedly made false statements in an effort to destroy the “Up” singer’s reputation. The suit alleges that Kebe told her YouTube following that Cardi had worked as a prostitute, used cocaine, cheated on her husband, and had contracted STDs like herpes and HPV.

Kebe reached one million subscribers last week. Her videos get anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 views. 

Cardi has called the purportedly unfounded statements “degrading and harassing.” She says that Kebe began spreading the misinformation in 2018 and has since made dozens of videos furthering those claims. 

Kebe became obsessed with slandering and harassing [Cardi],” the lawsuit says per Rolling Stone, which obtained a copy of the document. “In the 16 months preceding the filing of this lawsuit, Kebe put out at least 38 videos regarding [the rapper].”

What Will Be Argued in Court?

Kebe has denied the accusations and previously countersued, alleging that Cardi encouraged her fans to harass her online. A judge dismissed the suit over a lack of evidence. 

According to Billboard, the trial is expected to last two weeks. It is unknown if Cardi will have to take the witness stand herself. 

Michael S. Overing, a lawyer and defamation expert not involved in the case, told Rolling Stone that Cardi has good odds of winning her case.

Cardi probably has a pretty good shot at this one,” he said, noting she had provided “very specific factual statements” that could potentially be “readily proven false.”

“But the problem with these lawsuits, traditionally, is that it’s very hard to prove that you suffered actual damages,” he continued. “This is where the question of actual malice comes in.” 

Overing, among other experts, believes that much of this case will come down to whether or not the jury believes that Kebe acted with ill-intent. This means that in order to win the case, the musician’s team will likely have to prove that Kebe knew the claims were false when she spread them.

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (Rolling Stone)

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