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Facebook unveils new controls for kids using its platforms

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Facebook unveils new controls for kids using its platforms

NEW YORK — Facebook, in the aftermath of damning testimony that its platforms harm children, will be introducing several features including prompting teens to take a break using its photo sharing app Instagram, and “nudging” teens if they are repeatedly looking at the same content that’s not conducive to their well-being.

The Menlo Park, California-based Facebook is also planning to introduce new controls for adults of teens on an optional basis so that parents or guardians can supervise what their teens are doing online. These initiatives come after Facebook announced late last month that it was pausing work on its Instagram for Kids project. But critics say the plan lacks details and they are skeptical that the new features would be effective.

The new controls were outlined on Sunday by Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs, who made the rounds on various Sunday news shows including CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” where he was grilled about Facebook’s use of algorithms as well as its role in spreading harmful misinformation ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

“We are constantly iterating in order to improve our products,” Clegg told Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday. “We cannot, with a wave of the wand, make everyone’s life perfect. What we can do is improve our products, so that our products are as safe and as enjoyable to use.”

Clegg said that Facebook has invested $13 billion over the past few years in making sure to keep the platform safe and that the company has 40,000 people working on these issues.

The flurry of interviews came after whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former data scientist with Facebook, went before Congress last week to accuse the social media platform of failing to make changes to Instagram after internal research showed apparent harm to some teens and of being dishonest in its public fight against hate and misinformation. Haugen’s accusations were supported by tens of thousands of pages of internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job in the company’s civic integrity unit.

Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, a watchdog for the children and media marketing industry, said that he doesn’t think introducing controls to help parents supervise teens would be effective since many teens set up secret accounts any way. He was also dubious about how effective nudging teens to take a break or move away from harmful content would be. He noted Facebook needs to show exactly how they would implement it and offer research that shows these tools are effective.

“There is tremendous reason to be skeptical,” he said. He added that regulators need to restrict what Facebook does with its algorithms.

He said he also believes that Facebook should cancel its Instagram project for kids.

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Gophers welcome back Kirk Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator

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Gophers welcome back Kirk Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator

The Gophers football program has officially brought back Kirk Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator, the school said Monday.

Ciarrocca will return as OC and quarterbacks coach, a role he had under head coach P.J. Fleck at Minnesota from 2017-19. Ciarrocca left Minnesota after the 2019 season to become offensive coordinator at Penn State in 2020 and offensive analyst at West Virginia in 2021.

“Kirk is one of the best offensive coordinators in the game, but he is also a tremendous person,” Fleck said in a statement. “We have a long professional history of working together, and I look forward to reuniting with him.”

The Gophers play West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix on Dec. 28, and while Ciarrocca restarted at Minnesota on Monday, he will not coach in the bowl game after conversations with Fleck and Mountaineers coach Neal Brown.

“We both agreed to not have Kirk coach in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl with his knowledge of both teams’ personnel,” Fleck continued. “When we made the decision to hire Kirk, we did not yet know our bowl opponent. Coach Brown and I both thought this would be best to avoid any awkwardness for both sets of student-athletes. It’s the right thing to do.”

Matt Simon, the U’s wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator, will call offensive plays during the bowl game. He previously called plays in the Outback Bowl win over Auburn on New Year’s Day 2020.

Ciarrocca replaces Mike Sanford Jr., who was let go last week after the U’s performances didn’t come close to matching the heights of Ciarrocca’s best season in 2019. Sanford was at the end of a two-year contract paying him $663,000 per year.

Ciarrocca left Minnesota when he was set for a raise to $1 million per year in 2020; terms of his new deal were not shared, and the Gophers added his hire is pending Board of Regent approval.

Brown has known Ciarrocca for 20 years and had a lot of praise for him during a virtual bowl game news conference on Sunday.

“I think if you are talking about a system, the best thing that I can use is he is efficient,” Brown said. “If you look throughout his career, he’s been extremely efficient. I think he’s been able to find unique ways to run the football at every stop, regardless of what his personnel is. … He’s efficient, so when you are talking about an offensive coach. I think that is what we are all hunting and he’s done it better than most.”

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Pence’s former top aide cooperating with Jan. 6 panel

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Pence’s former top aide cooperating with Jan. 6 panel

By MARY CLARE JALONICK and JILL COLVIN

WASHINGTON (AP) — The former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence is cooperating with the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Marc Short was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and accompanied Pence as he fled his post presiding over the Senate and hid from rioters who were calling for his hanging. Short is cooperating with the panel after receiving a subpoena, according to the person, who was granted anonymity to discuss the private interactions.

Former President Donald Trump was openly criticizing his vice president even as the insurrectionists broke into the building because Pence had said he would not try to unilaterally reject the electoral count as Congress certified President Joe Biden’s victory. Pence didn’t have the legal power to do so, but Trump pressured him anyway.

As Pence’s top aide, Short was also present for several White House meetings ahead of the insurrection. At one point, Trump banned Short from the White House grounds because he objected to the pressure on Pence to reject the legitimate election results.

CNN first reported Short’s cooperation and subpoena.

Some people close to Pence were furious about the way that Trump tried to scapegoat the former vice president on Jan. 6 and became even more incensed after Pence, his closest aides and his family were put in physical danger by the rioters.

Alyssa Farah, who served as Pence’s press secretary before taking on other roles and left her job at the White House before Jan. 6, voluntarily met with Republicans on the House select committee and provided information.

In a series of tweets as the insurrection unfolded, Farah urged Trump to condemn the riots as they were happening and call on his supporters to stand down. “Condemn this now, @realDonaldTrump,” she tweeted. “You are the only one they will listen to. For our country!”

The panel in November subpoenaed Keith Kellogg, who was Pence’s national security adviser, writing in the subpoena that he was with Trump as the attack unfolded and may “have direct information about the former president’s statements about, and reactions to, the Capitol insurrection.” The committee wrote that according to several accounts, Kellogg urged Trump to send out a tweet aimed at helping to control the crowd.

The Jan. 6 panel has spoken to more than 250 witnesses, most of them voluntarily, committee leaders said last week, and plans a series of open hearings next year to make many of their findings public.

The committee has deposed a wide range of people, from Trump’s own aides to organizers of his massive rally that morning to allies outside the White House who strategized how to overturn Biden’s legitimate victory.

The panel has also interviewed election officials in crucial swing states such as Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania who were pressured by the former president and his allies as he pushed false claims of election fraud.

Trump has derided the committee’s work and continued to make claims about fraud that have been widely rejected by courts and election experts.

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Gophers rally for late lead but fall to unbeaten Nebraska

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Gophers rally for late lead but fall to unbeaten Nebraska

Without its floor leader on Monday, Lindsay Whalen’s Gophers were at a disadvantage from the start. But the head coach felt confident she still had enough to hand Nebraska its first loss of the season.

They’d done it before. Minnesota swept the Cornhuskers last season, winning the second game without starting point guard Jasmine Powell. They came tantalizingly close to doing it again on Monday, but in the end Nebraska had too much in a 70-67 victory at Williams Arena.

Kadi Sissoko scored a career-high 25 points, and Sara Scalia added 20 despite playing the point most of the game, but the Gophers couldn’t build on a four-point fourth quarter lead.

“It’s tough to lose. I thought we had our chances to win,” Whalen said. “I thought some guys stepped up with Jazz being out, and so there’s a lot of performances that I thought were really good. But obviously, we didn’t get it done, so it’s tough to take.”

Deja Winters gave the Gophers a 61-57 lead with a driving layup with 4 minutes, 34 seconds remaining, but Nebraska used an 11-4 run over the next three minutes to take control. Sam Haiby, a senior guard from Moorhead, scored eight of those points, giving the Cornhuskers a 68-65 lead with 43 seconds left.

Scalia missed from the paint, and Deja Winters missed an open 3-pointer before Ashley Scoggin hit two free throws with 11.3 seconds left to seal it.

Haiby finished with 13 points, and Jaz Shelley and Bella Cravens each scored 15 points for the Cornhuskers, who improved to 9-0, 1-0 in the Big Ten. The Gophers fell to 6-5, 0-1.

Powell, averaging 12.3 points and a team-high 5.9 assists, was out with a lower right leg injury and wore a stationary boot while watching from the bench. It’s unclear whether she’ll be available for Sunday’s game at Michigan.

“She’s getting treatment and she’ll continue to work with the medical staff and we’ll see how she’s feeling,” Whalen said.

Without Powell, Scalia was forced to move from off guard to point, which she has done before and done well. But the move throws a wrench in a lot of what Minnesota likes to do on offense. Scalia is the team’s best 3-point shooter, and playing point made it nearly impossible for teammates to get her an open shot.

Still, Scalia was effective. She was 4 for 7 from 3-point range and scored on a handful of drives down the center of the lane.

“It was definitely a lot more work,” Scalia said. “They were picking me up in the backcourt almost every possession. I just had to get the offense going and then when it was my turn, or I saw a shot or a play open, I did what I could to create or knock down my shot.”

Turnovers played a major part down the stretch. The Gophers were charged with six in the fourth quarter and the Cornhuskers finished with 21 points off turnovers.

The Gophers trailed 33-31 at intermission but immediately gave up four points on two turnovers to start the third quarter as Nebraska scored the first six points. They started the fourth on an 11-4 run to take a 61-57 lead, but couldn’t get enough stops to expand it.

Nebraska grabbed seven of the next 10 rebounds while outscoring the Gophers 13-3.

“That’s what it comes down to in this league,” Whalen said. “Everybody’s fighting, everybody’s battling, and it’s about those hustle plays and who can get those extra boards when things aren’t falling. We talked about it at halftime, and there were times I thought we were pretty good, but obviously we were not good for long enough stretches.”

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