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Post-covid trends for the new normal

The thought of a ‘new normal’ is what has kept many of us going over this past year. With so many parts of life affected by the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic crisis, it is not yet fully clear what life will look like as we go back to ‘normal’. For many people, the pandemic meant working or learning from home, and much less travel as a result of lockdown restrictions. Social distancing measures have also changed how we socially interact with one another, with more people expressing hesitancy to touch and many choosing to touch elbows rather than shake hands as a greeting. 

So what will life look like in the post-covid new normal?

The work from home revolution 

Advancements in digital technology have made working from home easier than ever during this pandemic and less people than ever before are keen to get back to the office. While working from home has been shown to increase short term productivity, it is said to be detrimental to long term growth and developments in business. New co-working and scheduling software however has helped to reintroduce the social side of work and makes it easier than ever for employees to stay connected. 

Online learning

The education sector has faced many challenges this pandemic, with much disruption to students’ learning experience no matter what their age. Children have been unable to start school and many students have been unable to take their exams as normal. As a result, educational software and teaching methods have had to develop at a rapid pace. There has also been an increase in demand for online learning opportunities as a consequence of more people being at home and having more free time available. 

Paperless money

As touch became problematic our inclination towards a cashless payment system increased. Now more banks and service providers are offering digital banking and payment opportunities for customers who want to buy without the fear of infection.

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Germany to return looted Nigerian bronzes

The government of Nigeria has said it is pleased to be receiving a returned portion of the Benin Bronzes that were said to be looted all the way back in 1897. The ancient artifacts were supposedly taken by British soldiers initially in a raid before being acquired by museum collections across the United States of America and European cultural capitals. 

The artifacts consist mainly of plaques and sculptures numbering in their thousands. The items were plundered from the old Kingdom of Benin in what is now southern Nigeria. The bronzes are not associated with Benin, the modern nation. 

The repatriation of the artifacts has been the sole work of the Benin Dialogue Group for over the last decade. The group is based in Germany but comprises partnerships from multiple European nations. German officials have been working with the Nigerian government on return of the works so they can be permanently displayed in Benin City. The exhibition is hope to be realised within the year. 

In a joint release, Germany and Nigera made the statement: “The participants are in agreement that addressing Germany’s colonial past is an important issue for the whole of society and a core task for cultural policy.” They went on to “reaffirm their willingness in principle to make substantial returns” for the majority of the artifacts – a suggestion they may wish to keep several of the pieces. A more detailed time plan for the return of the artifacts will be released after the summer. 

Nigerian institutions currently only hold 9 of the Benin Bronze artifacts, whilst 38 institutions in the USA and 45 in the UK are recorded as having a piece of the historic collection. The art and cultural world has for a long time been calling for the return of previously looted artifacts as an action of decolonization. 

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Blog Politics Society

Black Lives Matter protests sparked in Minneapolis over death of Daunte Wright

The Black Lives Matter movement continues in the United States of America this month as protestors clashed with police in Minneapolis another black man was fatally shot. The enraged and upset community took to the streets for multiple nights in a row this April as Daunte Wright, a 20 year old black man was shot at the Brooklyn Centre in the middle of the city. The fatal shooting took place only streets away from where police officer Derek Chauvin is standing trial for the death of George Floyd – a historic moment in early 2020 that is noted for sparking the #BlackLivesMatter protests that formed the Black Spring of last year. 

Police officer Kim Potter initially pulled Daunte Wright over for a traffic violation, though events later escalated as Officer Potter pulled her weapon. The scene was caught on bodycam and Officer Potter clearly exclaims that she shot Daunte Wright: “Holy shit, I just shot him.” Officer Potter allegedly claims she believed she was holding her taser, evidence supported in the video where someone is heard to be shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!”

Critics have argued that traffic violations such as expired licenses, like the one Duaunte Wright was supposedly pulled over for, should not have been focused on by police at this time of increased tensions within the community. Being only streets away from the trial of George Floyd, those supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement have said demonstrates the intense pressure and scrutiny faced by the black community in Minneapolis. This is not a problem in Minneapolis alone however, and is indicative of the wider struggle with black communities and the police across the USA as racial minorities continue to face systematic oppression from the state. 

The community in Minneapolis was so enraged multiple nights of protest took place in the city, with crowds converging on the Brooklyn Centre. People gathered in defiance of the 7pm curfew imposed due to ongoing coronavirus social distancing restrictions.

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Influencers Politics Society

UK’s Prince Phillip will be taken to the grave in a custom made Land Rover hearse

Not to be outdone in death, the British Royal family is as well known for its lavish funerals as lavish weddings. Prince Phillip is the latest British royal to make global news headlines this month with his unsurprising death at the ripe old age of 99. 

While getting old and dying might not be quite the front page news tabloids and the BBC have been making it out to be, one noteworthy part of the whole affair is the customised Land Rover – designed by Prince Phillip himself – that will be taking the now deceased monarch to the grave. 

Following the death of Princess Diana, the palace was criticised for their lack of humanity in the face of a nation’s grief. This time however, end to end BBC broadcasting of coverage on the Duke’s life has received over 110,000 complaints from all over the UK. 

In this respect, the over coverage of the Duke’s life and death seems more like a propaganda move from the royals who may be trying to make themselves more relatable in this time of tragedy for many who have lost one of the 127,000 people to COVID-19 so far. It is likely also the palace’s way of preparing the nation for the imminent demise of the Queen herself who at 94 years old, is almost ready to send herself a centenarian telegram. 

The funeral is set to take place on Saturday 17th April 2021 and will feature an eight minute procession within Windsor Castle. In a strange turn of events it has been revealed by the palace that Prince Phillip will be travelling to his grave in a Land Rover designed by the prince himself. 

Knowing old age was approaching it seems Prince Phillip spent the last 16 years designing and working with Land Rover to manufacture his dream hearse. The hearse takes on the classic Land Rover design at the front, whilst the back looks more like a pick-up truck style, long enough to fit the Prince’s coffin. 

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Companies Influencers Politics Society Twitter

Twitter stands up to world leaders with account bans

Twitter has been a leader in the social media forefront since its conception back in 2015. The platform finally launched publicly on March 26th 2006 and has been a long-standing big name amongst the online social media giants since. After a controversial banning of the then U.S. President Donald Trump back in early 2021, it has made global headlines again with its banning of an account linked to the Iranian president Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

The Associated Press was the first to report the closing of an account named @khamenei_site, which had been linked to the Supreme Leader of Iran’s personal website. The account, written in Farsi, was claimed to have violated the hate speech regulations of the platforms when it posted an image of Trump playing golf. While the image may at first seem harmless, the connected caption written in Farsi translated as a threatening ‘Revenge is certain’. 

The account was linked without a doubt to the Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, when the same image then appeared on his website last month. The picture was accompanied again with a quote from the Supreme Leader Khamenei: ‘Soleimani’s murderers and those who ordered his murder must face revenge. … Both the murderers and those who ordered it should know that revenge may come at any time.’

The account ban comes after Twitter made sensational world news previously with their banning of Donald Trump from the platform – whilst he was still president of the United States of America. A statement about the suspension, which was released via the Twitter blog on Friday 8th January 2021, cited a ‘risk of further incitement of violence’ as the cause for concern driving the shutdown. 

The statement came the same day in response to Trump’s tweets that are alleged to have started the riots in the capital, for which he is now also under an ongoing impeachment trial.

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Influencers Politics Society Travel

Online influencers receive backlash for travel during global pandemic

Online influencers have received backlash recently for their lavish Instagram posts featuring them globetrotting and holidaying as usual, despite a global pandemic. Social media stars, often having risen to fame from reality TV shows or celebrity gossip sites, are used by businesses as advertising for their services or products in the same way as traditional advertising uses famous actors or models. Stars of social media sites like Instagram and TikTok however have been deemed out of touch with the public to be posting jealousy inducing travel porn whilst the majority of us around the world are still existing in various states of lockdown. 

Stars such as ‘travelinmysoul’, the TikTok account run by influence account Barbora Ondrackova, has over 176.6 thousand followers on TikTok and over 535 thousand followers on her @fashioninmysoul Instagram. Many of her thousands of fans however were displeased at a post she made at the end of 2020 showing a compilation of places she’d visited that year. The insensitivity of the post and questionable activity of the content enraged many commenters. 

Other influencers coming under fire for their choice to continue travel during a time when infections of COVID-19 continue to rise in many places include reality TV star Chloe Ferry. The star, made famous on UK reality show Geordie Shore, featured herself in Dubai partying as usual and making the statement to “Fuck 2020!” Celebrities such as Ferry have clapbacked at the criticisms, claiming the travel was essential for their work online as influencers. 

Elsewhere in the USA there have been fears that influencers online taking refuge from the pandemic in more rural areas may encourage a migration by others. As people confined to densely populated urban areas become increasingly frustrated by lockdown measures, there are concerns they will follow their celebrity idols to smaller and middle-town areas currently less affected by the pandemic.

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Apps Politics Social Media Twitter Uncategorized

Twitter sued by the man behind NY Post’s infamous Hunter Biden story

A couple weeks before the US presidential election, the New York Post—a right wing tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch—published a story about Hunter Biden, the son of then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The thrust of the article was that Hunter essentially bribed foreign officials with access to his father when the latter was Barack Obama’s vice president.

How the story developed was odd to say the least: someone went to a computer repair shop—sort of like a health analytics company for computers—and dropped off a water-damaged laptop that allegedly belonged to Hunter. The owner of the shop proceeded to look at the contents of the laptop’s hard drive, discovering a mass of incriminating files. Then, as any rational, well-meaning individual would do, he decided it was a good idea to share them with Rudy Guliani’s lawyer. Then he turned the hard drive over to the FBI.

Guliani and his army of Trump-worshipping orcs shopped the hard drive story around to various media outlets. The Post, presumably, was the only one to accept it. The article was published, and the Trump campaign thought it had its October surprise. But within a few hours the article had been censored by Twitter, which later justified the clearly-political move by citing its “hacked materials” policy. It even disabled the NY Post’s Twitter account.

A couple days later Twitter restored the account as well as the censored links, but of course the damage was done; the controversy surrounding the story had become far bigger than the story itself. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to the hoopla by saying he didn’t want “Twitter to be a distributor for hacked materials,” but conceded that it had been a “mistake” to simply censor an article without providing any context.

Anyway, the owner of the computer repair shop, John Paul Mac Isaac, is now suing Twitter for defamation. His lawyers claim that by slapping the “hacked materials” label on the Post’s story, Twitter implied that he is a hacker. Isaac is seeking $500 million in punitive damages, an unspecified amount in compensatory damages, and a “public retraction of all false statements.”

“Plaintiff is not a hacker and the information obtained from the computer does not [constitute] hacked materials because Plaintiff lawfully gained access to the computer,” the lawsuit says, adding that Isaac “is now widely considered a hacker” and was forced to close his repair business due to threats and negative customer reviews.

This reminds me of that time when the previously-bald-headed Elon Musk was sued for defamation after referring to a cave diver as a “pedo guy” on Twitter. He won the case by claiming his tweet was satirical. Poor judgment on the part of that judge.

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Europe to break up big tech if U.S. can’t

Following antitrust investigations from the U.S. Government into online giants Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple back in July 2020, the EU has now threatened to break up Silicon Valley’s big tech companies if the US can’t.

The argument revolves around monopoly and antitrust laws, put in place to stop companies from engaging in anti competitive behaviour. Whilst the U.S has been conducting investigations this December in an aim to break up Facebook and bringing seemingly incriminating emails sent from its founder to light, the EU has since released two major new drafts of regulations for tech companies. 

The two documents are the Digital Markets Act and a Digital Services Act which seek to hold companies accountable for both unfair competition and the regulation of illegal behaviour on their platforms. The documents come from the EU centre of Brussels and are the first significant revamp of policy from the EU in twenty years. Both proposals for the new acts will first need to be voted on by the Council of Ministers and European Parliament before being able to be made into law. There is, however, no timetable as of yet to when this might occur. 

The proposals include big fines for big tech companies seeking to eat up market competition. Companies will be liable for up to 10% of their worldwide revenue for acts of deliberate anti-competition, while fines for up to 6% of global revenue will be put in place for companies that fail to regulate their platforms for illegal behaviour. 

If the new laws were to come into place they would indicate one of the biggest and most significant shifts in worldwide policy making, as EU law would greatly impact US companies’ working practices. The EU laws are noted to be some of the most strict and stringent big tech companies would have to comply with.

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Blog Facebook Policy Politics

Breaking up big tech: continued scrutiny for Facebook

A world without Facebook – or any other of its online social media outlets such as Instagram and Whatsapp – seems almost unimaginable for some. In fact, an increasing number of the global population are born into a world they will never know without an ever growing digital realm. For those born between the mid- to late- 1990s until the early 2010s, this generation has even become known as Gen Z – or rather Generations Zoomers since the undeniable takeover of 2020 from the digital conference platform zoom in wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. 

Since its launch in 2004 Facebook has continually dominated our social sphere, affecting both our online and offline behaviours. It’s growing control as a media conglomerate has caused much controversy in more recent times this year, yet the social media giant is not accustomed to controversy and lawsuits. The infamous dispute between founder Mark Zuckerberg and some fellow Harvard law students was encapsulated in the 2010 film The Social Network, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and even Justin Timberlake. 
With a history of breaking up large company monopolies such as logging companies in the 1840s, Standard Oil in the 1910s, and then AT&T in the 1980s, the U.S. Government has finally taken on big tech. Following investigative court proceedings with the four online giants Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google back in July 2020, the government has once again taken on Facebook for holding too much power in the social media sphere. The government has since filed an antitrust law against Facebook, directed at the company’s tactics of buying rival competition. Whilst policy makers have described the court proceedings as likely to be an uphill battle though are keen to break up the monopoly that arguably stifles rival competition and hinders creative diversity, others have criticised the government for attempting a break up that could cause unintended and unforeseeable consequences.

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Blog Influencers Politics Society

Who is Q?

“Q”, the anonymous individual behind the QAnon movement, is apparently two people—or was one person and is now another. That’s according to an analysis done by a company called OrphAnalytics. OrphAnalytics is dedicated to authenticating texts and “detecting ghostwriting issues.”

The company recently applied its genomics-based technology to 4952 QAnon posts—or “Q drops”—that had been published on 4chan and 8chan between October 2017 and November 2020.

“The whole corpus is collected in order to challenge the proposal that a single writer be the sole author of Q-drops specific to QAnon,” OrphAnalytics wrote in an abstract.

It goes on to explain (in absurdly esoteric language that would stop a fast courier in its tracks):

“The stylometry of the 7.5k concatenates of Q-drops classified chronologically reveals two clusters, characteristic of two different styles, which correspond to the two periods of publication of the Q-drops on the 4chan and 8chan forums. This observation sheds light on the background information of the media surveys.

“The signal is mostly carried by Q-drops of less than 1000 characters and clustering does not seem to interfere with the analyses. The other type of concatenation tested, concatenation by size, proves unable to cluster reasonably. A success rate was calculated by non-hierarchical clustering analysis: more than 90%. This rate is comparable to that measured in a criminal case under investigation and to that obtained on texts from a solved case.”

What the hell does that mean? Damned if I know. Apparently it means that two different people have written as “Q.”

“Our results very strongly suggest the existence of two different authors behind Q,” said OrphAnalytics’ CEO Claude Alain Roten, according to PRNewswire. “Moreover, these distinct signatures clearly correspond to separate periods in time and different online forums.”

In other words, the 4chan Q is different from the 8chan Q. The former was active from October 28, 2017 to December 1, 2017—a pretty short stint. At that point, the Q baton was passed to someone else, and that person began posting on 8chan. Roten says it’s probable—though not certain—that a single person has authored all of the Q drops since December 2017.

So where is OrphAnalytics going with this? Well, Roten says the objective is to unmask Mr Q.

“The next step is to contribute putting a name on QAnon by comparing these signatures to those of the usual suspects,” he said. “To do that, we gather and cure written material from these persons to compare it with Q messages.” 

It has been suggested that 8chan owner Jim Watkins is Q. That seems logical enough.