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Mark Rober Faces Backlash Over NEXT For Autism Fundraiser

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  • YouTuber Mark Rober is facing backlash for hosting a star-studded fundraiser with Jimmy Kimmel for the charity NEXT for Autism. 
  • Rober announced the fundraiser in a video on Friday where he shared that his son is on the autism spectrum.
  • Many online, including several people in the autistic community, said NEXT supports finding treatments and cures for autism, something the community does not believe in. Some also were frustrated that the group supports the controversial practice of Applied Behavioral Analysis, a therapy that targets and changes certain social skills..
  • Following the criticism, NEXT released a statement saying it does not support finding a cure for autism and that while it does deal with ABA, the practice has changed over the years and it does not support dangerous variations. 

Mark Rober’s Fundraiser Faces Backlash

YouTuber Mark Rober is facing backlash for an upcoming livestream fundraiser he is hosting with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel to support NEXT for Autism. 

The livestream, called Color the Spectrum, will be held on April 30 and will feature major television, film, and internet celebrities including MrBeast, Jack Black, Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, Andy Samberg, Paul Rudd, Mark Hamill, Sarah Silverman, Terry Crews, Rhett & Link, and John Oliver. Rober announced the event in a video on Friday titled “The Truth About My Son” where he revealed that his son is autistic. According to Rober’s donation tab on YouTube, the initiative has already brought in over $850,000 for NEXT for Autism. 

While some people have applauded his efforts, others are slamming Rober, Kimmel, and the other stars participating in the event for aiding the organization. Many people in the autistic community believe that NEXT for Autism’s work does not help autistic people; rather, they claim it actually harms them. 

On Twitter, many said the organization promotes and supports finding a “cure” for autism, something that many in the community do not believe in. NEXT is tied to a variety of groups, including Autism Speaks and The Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, which have been criticized for similar reasons. 

While Autism Speaks has removed “cures” from its mission statement, the latter still says it is devoted to finding “treatments.” Many circulated a screenshot of a mission statement from CADB where prevention efforts were listed as a focus, as well; however, that no longer appears on its website. 

Others were critical of NEXT’s support for a practice called Applied Behavioral Analysis, which is a therapy that targets and changes certain social skills. Some have described this as a “conversion therapy” for autistic people. 

Additionally, people took issue with the fact that NEXT does not have a lot of autisic people on its board or working in leadership positions for the group. Some also disagreed with the way Rober painted autism in his video, feeling that he suggested autistic people’s main contributions to the world were limited to their positivity. 

Petition Calls for Event to Be Canceled

A petition calling for the event to be canceled currently has over 10,000 signatures. It compared some of NEXT’s practices to eugenics and said the group supports “other extremely harmful ideologies that all come down to the sole purpose of ending the existence of autistic people.” 

The petition suggested that people who want to donate to the autistic community should find other organizations like the Autism Self Advocacy Network.

A Twitter user named Dave Shaw wrote an open letter to those involved in the fundraiser asking them to not support NEXT.

“As an austistic adult, I can assure you that like any other marginalised community we want and need acceptance and to be included in society,” he wrote. “The organization behind the upcoming livestream, Next For Autism, does not provide nor aim for this.” 

He backed many of the other issues people have had with NEXT, calling ABA “traumatic” and a from of “child abuse.” He also stood against efforts to cure autism. 

“Autism is not a disease or a defect to be cured. It is simply a form of diversity,” he wrote. 

His letter caught the attention of YouTubers Rhett & Link, who were scheduled to appear in the livestream.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” they wrote back. “We are no longer participating in the event.”

NEXT For Autism Responds

Following the backlash, NEXT released a statement on Monday defending its practices and denying allegations that it is funding efforts to cure autism. 

“There have been some outrageous misinformation circulating about Next for Autism, its mission, methods, and partners,” that statement said. 

“Our mission has never been the cure or prevention of autism, in fact, NEXT was created to fill a void,” it continued, adding that when it was founded, most groups aiding the autistic community were working to fund biomedical research, while NEXT was focused on school services. 

The statement then addressed NEXT’s partnership with Autism Speaks and said it only works with the group to aid its mission of expanding access to programs and services. 

“Anyone using these partnerships to draw a line from NEXT to eugenics or anything related to the prevention and cure of autism is doing an enormous disservice to the people we serve by spreading this gross untruth.”

Regarding ABA, NEXT said the methodology has changed over the years and bears no resemblance to the conversion therapy-like treatments people are claiming the group supports. 

NEXT also said it is committed to including more Autistic board members in the future. 

For his part, Rober wrote that proceeds from Color the Spectrum will go directly towards services to helping autistic people after they graduate towards high school, a time period where programs are particularly lacking. His post did not directly address the backlash, but clarified where money raised will go. 

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Schools Across the U.S. Cancel Classes Friday Over Unverified TikTok Threat

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Officials in multiple states said they haven’t found any credible threats but are taking additional precautions out of an abundance of safety.


School Cancelled

Schools in no fewer than 10 states either canceled classes or increased their police presence on Friday after a series of TikToks warned of imminent shooting and bombs threats.

Despite that, officials said they found little evidence to suggest the threats are credible. It’s possible no real threat was actually ever made as it’s unclear if the supposed threats originated on TikTok, another social media platform, or elsewhere. 

“We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness, which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok,” TikTok’s Communications team tweeted Thursday afternoon. 

Still, given the uptick of school shootings in the U.S. in recent years, many school districts across the country decided to respond to the rumors. According to The Verge, some districts in California, Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas shut down Friday. 

“Based on law enforcement interviews, Little Falls Community Schools was specifically identified in a TikTok post related to this threat,” one school district in Minnesota said in a letter Thursday. “In conversations with local law enforcement, the origins of this threat remain unknown. Therefore, school throughout the district is canceled tomorrow, Friday, December 17.”

In Gilroy, California, one high school that closed its doors Friday said it would reschedule final exams that were expected to take place the same day to January.

According to the Associated Press, several other districts in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania stationed more police officers at their schools Friday.

Viral Misinformation or Legitimate Warnings?

As The Verge notes, “The reports of threats on TikTok may be self-perpetuating.”

For example, many of the videos online may have been created in response to initial warnings as more people hopped onto the trend. Amid school cancellations, videos have continued to sprout up — many awash with both rumors and factual information.

 “I’m scared off my ass, what do I do???”  one TikTok user said in a now-deleted video, according to People. 

“The post is vague and not directed at a specific school, and is circulating around school districts across the country,” Chicago Public Schools said in a letter, though it did not identify any specific post. “Please do not re-share any suspicious or concerning posts on social media.”

According to Dr. Amy Klinger, the director of programs for the nonprofit Educator’s School Safety Network, “This is not 2021 phenomenon.”

Instead, she told The Today Show that her network has been tracking school shooting threats since 2013, and she noted that in recent years, they’ve become more prominent on social media. 

“It’s not just somebody in a classroom of 15 people hearing someone make a threat,” she said. “It’s 15,000 people on social media, because it gets passed around and it becomes larger and larger and larger.”

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Associated Press) (People)

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Jake Paul Says He “Can’t Get Cancelled” as a Boxer

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The controversial YouTuber opened up about what it has been like to go from online fame to professional boxing.


The New Yorker Profiles Jake Paul

YouTuber and boxer Jake Paul talked about his career switch, reputation, and cancel culture in a profile published Monday in The New Yorker. 

While Paul rose to fame as the Internet’s troublemaker, he now spends most of his time in the ring. He told the outlet that one difference between YouTube and boxing is that his often controversial reputation lends better to his new career. 

“One thing that is great about being a fighter is, like, you can’t get cancelled,” Paul said. The profile noted that the sport often rewards and even encourages some degree of bad behavior.

“I’m not a saint,” Paul later continued. “I’m also not a bad guy, but I can very easily play the role.”

Paul also said the other difference between his time online and his time in boxing is the level of work. While he says he trains hard, he confessed that there was something more challenging about making regular YouTube content. 

“Being an influencer was almost harder than being a boxer,” he told The New Yorker. “You wake up in the morning and you’re, like, Damn, I have to create fifteen minutes of amazing content, and I have twelve hours of sunlight.”

Jake Paul Vs. Tommy Fury

The New Yorker profile came just after it was announced over the weekend Paul will be fighting boxer Tommy Fury in an 8-round cruiserweight fight on Showtime in December. 

“It’s time to kiss ur last name and ur family’s boxing legacy goodbye,” Paul tweeted. “DEC 18th I’m changing this wankers name to Tommy Fumbles and celebrating with Tom Brady.”

Both Paul and Fury are undefeated, according to ESPN. Like Paul, Fury has found fame outside of the sport. He has become a reality TV star in the U.K. after appearing on the hit show “Love Island.”

See what others are saying: (The New Yorker) (Dexerto) (ESPN)

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Hackers Hit Twitch Again, This Time Replacing Backgrounds With Image of Jeff Bezos

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The hack appears to be a form of trolling, though it’s possible that the infiltrators were able to uncover a security flaw while reviewing Twitch’s newly-leaked source code.


Bezos Prank

Hackers targeted Twitch for a second time this week, but rather than leaking sensitive information, the infiltrators chose to deface the platform on Friday by swapping multiple background images with a photo of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. 

According to those who saw the replaced images firsthand, the hack appears to have mostly — and possibly only — affected game directory headers. Though the incident appears to be nothing more than a surface-level prank, as Amazon owns Twitch, it could potentially signal greater security flaws. 

For example, it’s possible the hackers could have used leaked internal security data from earlier this week to discover a network vulnerability and sneak into the platform. 

The latest jab at the platforms came after Twitch assured its users it has seen “no indication” that their login credentials were stolen during the first hack. Still, concerns have remained regarding the potential for others to now spot cracks in Twitch’s security systems.

It’s also possible the Bezos hack resulted from what’s known as “cache poisoning,” which, in this case, would refer to a more limited form of hacking that allowed the infiltrators to manipulate similar images all at once. If true, the hackers likely would not have been able to access Twitch’s back end. 

The photo changes only lasted several hours before being returned to their previous conditions. 

First Twitch Hack 

Despite suspicions and concerns, it’s unclear whether the Bezos hack is related to the major leak of Twitch’s internal data that was posted to 4chan on Wednesday.

That leak exposed Twitch’s full source code — including its security tools — as well as data on how much Twitch has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019. 

It also revealed Amazon’s at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library, codenamed Vapor, which would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.

Even though Twitch has said its login credentials appear to be secure, it announced Thursday that it has reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Users are still being urged to change their passwords and update or implement two-factor authentication if they haven’t already. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Forbes) (CNET)

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