How the Facebook babies became the TikTok teens

As Facebook turns 20, the babies who once pervaded its news feed barely use the platform now.
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Updated 02 February 2024
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How the Facebook babies became the TikTok teens

  • As Facebook turns 20, so are many of the toddlers who pervaded its news feed

DUBAI: “My parents like photography and when the digital age came, they shifted from photobooks to Facebook,” 23-year-old Dubai resident Alexandra Morata told Arab News.

Morata, like many her age and younger, grew up to find out that their parents had been posting pictures of them — including of their awkward teenage years — on Facebook.

The phenomenon was so common that there is a term for it: sharenting.

A paper written by child development experts defines sharenting as “the practice of parents, caregivers or relatives sharing information about their children (underage) online, typically on some online platforms.”

A massive 80 percent of children had an online presence before they were 2 years old, according to a 2010 study by online security firm AVG.

The presence of baby pictures on the news feed was seemingly so pervasive that in 2013 a browser extension called UnBaby.me was created to auto-detect baby images and replace them with others, including of cats.

As Facebook turns 20, the babies who once pervaded its news feed barely use the platform now.

Teenagers spent nearly two hours on TikTok every day, compared to just one minute on Facebook and 16 minutes on Instagram, according to a 2022 study.

Morata and Aily Prasetyo, 24, both said they have shifted to other platforms like Instagram and TikTok partly due to their friends not being on Facebook anymore, and also because “Facebook was so populated with … old people,” said Prasetyo.

“Facebook is a platform for millennials and baby boomers while TikTok is more for a younger audience and is known for its emphasis on authentic videos rather than ones that are overly sales oriented,” Nimrah Khan, founder of digital marketing agency Kollab Digital, told Arab News.

Those considered Generation Z are overwhelmingly embracing TikTok. It was the top platform of choice for Gen Zs overtaking YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, according to a study last year by research firm YPulse.

Globally, seven of the top 10 countries for TikTok, by reach, are in the Middle East North Africa region, according to “Social Media in the Middle East 2022: A Year in Review” published by the University of Oregon-UNESCO Crossings Institute.

TikTok even overtook online giant Google in 2021 as the most popular website of the year, according to internet security company Cloudflare.

Khan has a warning though: “TikTok’s algorithmic recommendations can expose users, including teenagers, to inappropriate content or potential privacy risks based on their browsing history and interactions on the platform.”

Still, many youngsters remain open to sharing their lives online because they, in large part, understand the security risks of living a digital life.

Morata, for example, said that she does not have any privacy concerns around the pictures her parents shared of her childhood because they had private profiles. The conversations around online safety have made her more aware of the risks, and so, she is careful with her accounts, she added.

Social media “can be detrimental to mental health,” but it has become such a common topic of conversation that most older teens are aware of what is fake and what is not, especially as influencers have started becoming more authentic, said Prasetyo.

Despite that awareness, social media platforms can have dangerous effects on youngsters’ mental health.

Cam Barrett, who is now in her early twenties had her personal life — from bath photos to the fact that she was adopted — shared publicly on Facebook by her mother. It is a habit she inculcated too, sharing much of her life publicly, when she opened a Twitter account, she told The Atlantic.

But last year, Barrett was among the people who advocated for children’s internet privacy.

“Today is the first time that I’ve introduced myself with my legal name in three years because I’m terrified to share my name because the digital footprint I had no control over ... exists,” she said testifying in front of the Washington State House last year.

The testimony was to support a bill that aims to ensure that children who are heavily featured in influencers’ online content have a right to financial compensation for their work and to maintain their privacy.

“I know firsthand what it’s like to not have a choice in the digital footprint you didn’t create that follows you around for the rest of your life with no option for it to be removed,” Barrett said.

The bill is the brainchild of Chris McCarty, a student at the University of Washington, who was inspired by the 2020 case of Huxley Stauffer, a toddler with special needs adopted from China by family vloggers Myka and James Stauffer.

The couple made and monetized extensive content about Huxley and his adoption, before giving him up because they realized they were not equipped to take care of him.

In 2021, whistleblower and former product manager at Facebook, Frances Haugen, leaked thousands of internal documents detailing how the company knew its apps helped spread divisive content and harmed the mental health of some young users.

Top bosses from all major social media companies have been called on for answers by lawmakers around the world.

On Wednesday this week, CEOs from Meta, TikTok, and other companies were grilled by US lawmakers over the dangers that children and teens face using social media platforms.

“They’re responsible for many of the dangers our children face online,” said US Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, and chair of the committee, during his opening remarks.

He added: “Their design choices, their failures to adequately invest in trust and safety, their constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety have all put our kids and grandkids at risk.”

The hearing marked TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s second appearance before the US Congress, since March 2023, when he was questioned about the growing influence of TikTok on young people’s mental health, among other concerns.

 


Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition

Updated 20 April 2024
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Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition

  • Awards across print, digital, infographics and illustrations ‘testament to talent and dedication of design and editorial teams’

LONDON: Arab News, the leading English-language daily newspaper in the Middle East, has won four Merit Winner awards at this year’s Society of Publication Designers competition.

Arab News’ “The Kingdom vs. Captagon” Spotlight piece garnered recognition in the two categories — Custom Feature and Single Page.

The two remaining accolades went to the “Onions’ tears and inflation fears” in the Feature Opener category and the “Guide to Hajj” in Infographic, commended for its exceptional data visualization.

“We are extremely proud to have won four awards at this year’s prestigious SPD competition,” Omar Nashashibi, head of design at Arab News, said.

“To win awards across print, digital, infographics and illustrations is testament to the talent and dedication of the Arab News design and editorial teams in creating engaging content for our readers.”

Since 1965, the annual SPD awards have promoted and celebrated excellence in editorial design, photography and illustration across both print and digital mediums. This year, the competition’s jury received thousands of entries from around the globe.  


Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

Updated 20 April 2024
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Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

  • Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man
  • The man, who police said recently traveled from Florida to New York, had not breached any security checkpoints to access the park

NEW YORK: A man who doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire outside the courthouse where former President Donald Trump is on trial has died, police said.
The New York City Police Department told The Associated Press early Saturday that the man was declared dead by staff at an area hospital.
The man was in Collect Pond Park around 1:30 p.m. Friday when he took out pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories, tossed them around, then doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire, officials and witnesses said.
A large number of police officers were nearby when it happened. Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition at the time.
The man, who police said recently traveled from Florida to New York, had not breached any security checkpoints to access the park.

The park outside the courthouse has been a gathering spot for protesters, journalists and gawkers throughout Trump’s trial, which began with jury selection Monday.
Through Friday, the streets and sidewalks in the area around the courthouse were generally wide open and crowds have been small and largely orderly.
Authorities said they were also reviewing the security protocols, including whether to restrict access to the park. The side street where Trump enters and leaves the building is off limits.
“We may have to shut this area down,” New York City Police Department Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry said at a news conference outside the courthouse Friday, adding that officials would discuss the security plan soon.


Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine

Updated 20 April 2024
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Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine

  • Izvestia said Semyon Eremin, 42, died of wounds from a drone attack in Zaporizhzhia region
  • Eremin had reported for the Russian daily from hottest battles in Ukraine during the 25-month-old war

Semyon Eremin, a war correspondent for the Russian daily Izvestia, was killed on Friday in a drone attack in southeastern Ukraine, the daily said.

Izvestia said Eremin, 42, died of wounds suffered when a drone made a second pass over the area where he was reporting in Zaporizhzhia region.
Izvestia said Eremin had sent reports from many of the hottest battles in Ukraine’s eastern regions during the 25-month-old war, including Mariupol, besieged by Russian troops for nearly three months in 2022.
He had also reported from Maryinka and Vuhledar, towns at the center of many months of heavy fighting.


WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system

Updated 20 April 2024
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WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system

  • Targets’ selection based on membership to some WhatsApp groups, new report reveals
  • Accusation raises questions about app’s privacy and encryption claims

LONDON: WhatsApp is allegedly being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s contentious artificial intelligence system, Lavender, which has been linked to the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, recent reports have revealed.

Earlier this month, Israeli-Palestinian publication +972 Magazine and Hebrew-language outlet Local Call published a report by journalist Yuval Abraham, exposing the Israeli army’s use of an AI system capable of identifying targets associated with Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

This revelation, corroborated by six Israeli intelligence officers involved in the project, has sparked international outrage, as it suggested Lavender has been used by the military to target and eliminate suspected militants, often resulting in civilian casualties.

In a recent blog post, software engineer and activist Paul Biggar highlighted Lavender’s reliance on WhatsApp.

He pointed out how membership in a WhatsApp group containing a suspected militant can influence Lavender’s identification process, highlighting the pivotal role messaging platforms play in supporting AI targeting systems like Lavender.

“A little-discussed detail in the Lavender AI article is that Israel is killing people based on being in the same WhatsApp group as a suspected militant,” Bigger wrote. “There’s a lot wrong with this.”

He explained that users often find themselves in groups with strangers or acquaintances.

Biggar also suggested that WhatsApp’s parent company, Meta, may be complicit, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in these operations.

He accused Meta of potentially violating international humanitarian law and its own commitments to human rights, raising questions about the privacy and encryption claims of WhatsApp’s messaging service.

The revelation is just the latest of Meta’s perceived attempts to silence pro-Palestinian voices.

Since before the beginning of the conflict, the Menlo Park giant has faced accusations of double standards favoring Israel.

In February, the Guardian revealed that Meta was considering the expansion of its hate speech policy to the term “Zionist.”

More recently, Meta quietly introduced a new feature on Instagram that automatically limits users’ exposure to what it deems “political” content, a decision criticized by experts as a means of systematically censoring pro-Palestinian content.

Responding to requests for comment, a WhatsApp spokesperson said that the company could not verify the accuracy of the report but assured that “WhatsApp has no backdoors and does not provide bulk information to any government.”


Eastern European mercenaries suspected of attacking Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati

Updated 19 April 2024
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Eastern European mercenaries suspected of attacking Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati

  • UK security services believe criminal proxies with links to Tehran carried out London knife attack

LONDON: Police said on Friday that a group of Eastern European mercenaries is suspected to have carried out the knife attack on Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati in late March.

Zeraati was stabbed repeatedly by three men in an attack outside his south London home.

The Iran International presenter lost a significant amount of blood and was hospitalized for several days. He has since returned to work, but is now living in a secure location.

Iran International and its staff have faced repeated threats, believed to be linked to the Iranian regime, which designated the broadcaster as a terrorist organization for its coverage of the 2022 protests.

Iran’s charge d’affaires, Seyed Mehdi Hosseini Matin, denied any government involvement in the attack on Zeraati.

Investigators revealed that the suspects fled the UK immediately after the incident, with reports suggesting they traveled to Heathrow Airport before boarding commercial flights to different destinations.

Police are pursuing leads in Albania as part of their investigation.

Counterterrorism units and Britain’s security services leading the inquiry believe that the attack is another instance of the Iranian regime employing criminal proxies to target its critics on foreign soil.

This method allows Tehran to maintain plausible deniability and avoids raising suspicions when suspects enter the country.

Zeraati was attacked on March 29 as he left his home home to travel to work. His weekly show serves as a source of impartial and uncensored news for many Iranians at home and abroad.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program this week, Zeraati said that while he is physically “much better,” mental recovery from the assault “will take time.”