Posts tagged with "Social media"

AI photography is taking over social media. Why are some concerned about privacy?

December 8, 2022

The latest social media trend among users, young and old,  is sharing virtual avatars generated through the Lensa AI app, reports ABC News.

Lensa, which has been around since 2018, enables users to upload from 10 to 20 photos of their selfies or portraits—and then it creates dozens, even hundreds, of digital images called “Magic Avatars.”

While the pictures could be considered pieces of digital art, those who are worried about personal online privacy have begun raising concerns about data collection.

Cybersecurity expert Andrew Couts is a senior editor of security at WIRED—overseeing privacy policy, national security, and surveillance coverage. He recently told ABC’s Good Morning America that it’s almost “impossible” to know what happens to a user’s photos after they are uploaded onto the app.

“It’s impossible, without a full audit of the company’s back-end systems, to know how safe or unsafe your pictures may be,” Couts said. “The company does claim to ‘delete’ face data after 24 hours and they seem to have good policies in place for their privacy and security practices.”

According to Lensa’s privacy policy, the uploaded photos are automatically deleted after the AI avatars are generated, and the face data on other parts of the app is automatically deleted within 24 hours after being processed by Lensa.

Prisma Labs, the developer of Lensa AI, told ABC News in a statement that images users upload are used “solely for the purpose of creating their very own avatars.”

“Users’ images are being leveraged solely for the purpose of creating their very own avatars. The system creates a personalized version of the model for every single user and models never intersect with each other. Both users’ photos and their models are deleted within 24 hrs after the process of creating avatars is complete,” the company said in a statement. “In very simple terms, there is no[t] a ‘one-size-fits-all collective neural network’ trained to reproduce any face, based on aggregated learnings.”

The statement continued, “We are updating our Terms & Conditions to make these more clear to everyone. The much-discussed permission to use the content for development and improving Prisma’s work and its products refers to the users’ consent for us to train the copy of the model on the 10-20 pictures each particular user has uploaded,” the statement continued. “Without this clause, we would have no right to perform this training for each subsequent generation. We are fully GDPR and CCAP compliant. We store the bare minimum of data to enable our services. To reiterate, the user’s photos are deleted from our servers as soon as the avatars are generated. The servers are located in the United States.”

Couts added that he isn’t too worried about the photos because most of us already have our faces on social media. He said his main concern is data collection that can be potentially lifted from users’ phones.

Research contact: @abcnews

Banksy unveils mural in Ukrainian town liberated from Russians

November 15, 2022

Renowned street artist Banksy has unveiled his latest artwork in an Instagram post— a mural in the liberated Ukrainian town of Borodianka, reports CNN.

The artwork shows a female gymnast balancing on a pile of rubble on the side of a building damaged by Russian strikes.

The graffiti artist posted three images of the piece Friday on social media, with a simple caption reading “Borodyanka, Ukraine,” using an alternative spelling for the town’s name.

Speculation had been mounting that Banksy was in the war-torn country after a series of murals appeared in Borodianka, located about 35 miles northwest of the capital, Kyiv.

One artwork, not officially claimed by the artist, depicted a man being flipped during a judo match with a little boy. Another showed two children using a metal tank trap as a seesaw.

Borodianka was hit particularly hard by Russian airstrikes at the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February, with many buildings reduced to piles of rubble by long-range attacks.

It was home to 13,000 people before the war, but most fled after Russia’s invasion. What was left of Borodianka, after intense shelling and devastating strikes, was then occupied by Russian forces, who moved in on February 28.

The town came back into Ukrainian control on control on April 1, and returning residents found their houses ransacked and shops pillaged with windows broken and contents stolen.

The letter “V”—a symbol used by Russia’s Eastern Military district in concert with the letter “Z,” an emblem for Moscow’s so-called “special military operation”—was found painted on buildings, vehicles and checkpoints.

The town has since been the focus of reconstruction efforts, with several tower blocks demolished as a result of damage caused by the fighting.

Research contact: @CNN

Capuchin monkey sparks police alert after calling 911 from cellphone

September 2, 2022

Talk about monkey business! On Saturday evening, August 13, the San Luis Obispo County, California, Sheriff’s Office followed up on a 911 call—only to discover that it was all the work of an inquisitive capuchin monkey called Route, reports People magazine.

“We received a 911 call that … disconnected,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post on the following Monday. “Dispatchers tried to call and text back but they received no response.”

Deputies sent to check on the call later found themselves at the Zoo to You Conservation Ambassadors in Paso Robles. Upon investigation, however, it seemed like no one had placed the call. “Was someone trying to make us look like a monkey’s uncle?” the Sheriff’s Office joked Monday.

After speaking to Zoo to You staff, the authorities finally found the culprit. “They all realized … it must have been Route the Capuchin monkey,” the Sheriff’s Office added, noting the Route probably picked up the cellphone from a zoo golf cart and started randomly pushing buttons.

“We’re told Capuchin monkeys are very inquisitive and will grab anything and everything and just start pushing buttons,” the Sheriff’s Office continued. “And that’s what Route did … just so happened it was in the right combination of numbers to call us.”

Alongside the story, the Sheriff’s Office also shared two photos of little Route. “As you can tell from these photos, Route is a little embarrassed by the whole thing,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote. “But you can’t really blame her, after all monkey see, monkey do.”

Zoo to You confirmed the news on their own social media, writing “Route made national news!”

“While we wish it was for something a little more ‘conservation education’ based, let this serve as an educational lesson that monkeys are NOT animals that should be kept as pets!” Zoo to You added. “They’re so inquisitive you never know what might happen!”

Research contact: @people

Are you a humble-brag parent?

August 16, 2022

“As soon as I’d posted the picture I regretted it,” said writer Hazel Davis, in a HuffPost UK story several years ago. “Of course, I didn’t regret the picture of my darling, gorgeous, beautiful daughter—but the supposedly funny comment beneath it: “My poor child, covered in dirt. Call Social Services.”

Naturally I didn’t mean I was a bad parent. Far from it, in fact I wanted everyone to look at the picture, admire my daughter, and then admire how earthy and outdoorsy we all were. I regretted it because it was a perfect example of the humble brag.

Social networking site Twitter has been awash with examples of celebs and wannabe-celebs’ humble brags—one of the best and most perfectly concise being, “I just stepped on gum. Who spits gum on a red carpet?”

Parenting humble brags might take the following form: I (parent) am so bad because insert not bad/really quite enviable thing here. Sit back and wait for reassurance/praise and/or both.

Sometimes a humble brag will be an innocuous enough comment but contain some killer information such as, “Tripped over on my way home from collecting Jemima from her GRADE SEVEN cello exam. What an idiot.”

But nobody does it better than parents. “OMG,” Facebooked one friend of mine recently, “Jay fell off the bottom stair this morning. He is so advanced, I sometimes forget he’s only ten months old and still a baby.”

“Well we didn’t, love,” says Davis. “You keep reminding us every five minutes that he’s “only” ten months.

“Silly Jay trying to use a knife and fork when he’s only been feeding himself for a few months…”

A good friend of mine, Barry, is a master of the humble brag. His son, Peter, is three years old and Barry is “worried” about his development. He’s worried because Barry appears to be streets ahead of his peers and might be having a hard time at nursery. No, he’s not. YOU’RE having a hard time at nursery because the staff don’t recognize little Petey’s genius.

“I do SO worry that he will end up being bored,” sighs dad, when instead we’d all just rather he ran around the playground shouting “My kid’s cleverer than your kid. Ner ner ner ner ner,” which, to be honest, is what he really would rather be doing.

Another friend’s little darling has been doing some modeling work. “OMG totally forgot to take Scarlett’s shoot makeup off this morning,” she will opine, “poor little thing.”

Oh yes, what shoot was that? Because you hadn’t mentioned that your daughter was a model. Well not for the last three hours anyway.

The humble brag is entirely different to the genuine and refreshing brag.

“OMG my child is simply just fricking brilliant” or the genuinely humble (as favored by my friend Hannah, who adorably has NO idea how this parental bragging thing works), “Whoops. I think my child might actually ACTUALLY be dim.”

The humble-brag is sly, it’s disingenuous and it’s almost impossible not to do if you’re both British (ergo reserved) and a parent (ergo proud and smug as pants), opines Davis.

“Now, excuse me,” she writes, “while I go and get the baby’s dinner. She is SO boring, ALL she wants to eat is broccoli all the time. She’ll turn into one if she’s not careful ….”

Readers are invited to list the humble brags they use, or hear from friends.

Research contact: @HuffPostUK

Meet Murph, NERF’s first-ever official mascot

July 21, 2022

Rhode Island-based Hasbro is expanding the NERF team with the brand’s first-ever mascot, named Murph, reports The Toy Insider.

 Made entirely of NERF foam darts from head to toe, Murph personifies the playful spirit that kids can unleash through NERF. Murphy is a natural athlete, an expert at surprise NERF Super Soaker ambushes, and a fantastic trick shooter with any NERF blaster.

 Hasbro is placing Murph in the center of NERF’s new advertising campaign launching this  summer  to drive the new brand mnemonic: “Unleash the Play in You.” The campaign encourages families to get up and get active with NERF and Murph to create memories that will last a lifetime. 

 During the multi-year campaign, fans will begin to see Murph appear more and more, including in stores where NERF toys are available, pop-up surprise moments, and on social media. Stay tuned for Murph’s next moves on NERF’s official social media channels on TikTokInstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

 

Research contact: @TheToyInsider

Three cats have outmaneuvered their two humans to hold a blender hostage for weeks

Febraury 1, 2022

Jessica Gerson-Neeves and her wife, Nikii, are really looking forward to using their new Vitamix blender to whip up smoothies and soups. In fact, the highly anticipated Black Friday purchase has recently become the focal point of their kitchen at home in British Columbia, Canada.

There’s just one problem: They can’t actually unpack it, reports NPR.

“It arrived in the mail on December 16, and I brought it inside and set the box down on the kitchen floor for just a quick second,” Gerson-Neeves says. “And that was a month ago.”

The cardboard box has become the site of a weekslong turf war between the couple and their three cats, in a saga that has garnered thousands of invested followers on social media.

Gerson-Neeves has posted near-daily updates on the cats’ Facebook page (warning: language), documenting their hilariously formal changing of the guard, ever-shifting alliances, and misadventures.

The posts read like dispatches from the front lines of a high-stakes battle, documenting the trio’s every move and their humans’ unsuccessful attempts to disrupt them.

The youngest troublemaker is Max, a tuxedo cat with the alias “sentient soccer ball.” Then there’s George, Destroyer of Worlds (“that’s what’s on his tag,” Gerson-Neeves says), also known as “sentient potato.” Rounding out the group is Lando Calrissian, who moonlights in the posts as “questionably sentient dust bunny” because, according to Gerson-Neeves, “he has a lot of fluff and very few thoughts.”

The cats’ page has grown from 64 followers to some 25,000, as people around the world learn about the story.

Gerson-Neeves stressed in a phone interview with NPR that the cats aren’t literally holding the Vitamix hostage. They could, of course, be hoisted off the box at any point. But she says she and her wife aren’t in a rush to end the stalemate since it’s providing some much-needed levity.

“Certainly we could relocate them. They don’t weigh a ton. It would be very easy to pick whoever’s on the box up and put them on the floor and open the box,” Gerson-Neeves says. “But why would we end something that is bringing us so much laughter? The cats are having a good time, and so many other people are enjoying this as well. I think we all are very much in need of something that is silly and low stakes right now.”

It all began, Gerson-Neeves says, when Max hopped on the Vitamix box as soon as she put it down on that fateful December day. Like any besotted cat owner, she thought it was adorable and snapped a picture, which she posted to a cat-lovers Facebook group.

“I posted it with a tongue-in-cheek caption about how this was breaking news, which clearly this was not, and by the next day I think about 10,000 people had interacted with the post,” she explains.

She wrote jokingly in the original post that she would provide updates if the standoff continued, and members of the group held her to that promise, even as days turned into weeks.

At the cusp of the third—yes, THIRD—week of ApplianceGate, we return to the saga to find that the Questionably Sentient Dust Bunny has settled in for the night shift atop the Vitamix. While no video evidence was caught of the unfortunate incident, his occupation of the annexed territory was immediately preceded by possibly the single least graceful dismount in the history of felinehood (felinity? Whatever), which somehow involved the sentient soccer ball first smacking headfirst into a wall immediately prior to pulling a fly-you-fools, briefly hanging off of the side of the Vitamix box.”

Gerson-Neeves says she has been particularly moved by the comments that their growing audience leaves on Facebook, both the hilarious and the heartfelt.

Those include people experiencing seasonal depression, exhausted health care workers, and even one woman “who said that her husband had been profoundly depressed for a long time and this was the first time she’d seen him smile in months,” Gerson-Neeves recalls.

“It is silly and ridiculous and very low stakes and not an actual problem and just something that people can laugh at,” she adds. “Everything is so overwhelming and so painful right now that people are desperately in need of things they can just laugh at.”

Research contact: @NPR

What is ‘Squid Game’ and why is everyone watching it?

October 13, 2021

Released on September 17, a nine-episode Korean thriller named “Squid Game” has become more than just a runaway hit for Netflix. It’s also social media’s favorite show,: The hashtag #SquidGame on TikTok has been viewed more than 22.8 billion times, NBC News reports.

Released Sept. 17, the nine-episode Korean thriller is poised to become Netflix’s biggest “non-English-language show in the world,” said Sarandos.

“It’s only been out for nine days, and it’s a very good chance it’s going to be our biggest show ever,” Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos told NBC last month.

And it’s not just popular in the USA: Flix Patrol, a website that tracks streaming statistics for the top platforms in the world, reports that “Squid Game” is the No. 1 show in dozens of countries, among them, the USA, the UK,  and South Korea.

Streaming numbers for Netflix aren’t independently verified, making a show’s popularity difficult to quantify. Netflix executives didn’t respond to requests for comment from NBC.

Julia Alexander, a senior strategy analyst at Parrot Analytics in Brooklyn, New York, said it’s clear that “Squid Game” has been a massive success, adding that she would use one word to describe how big a win it has been for Netflix.

“‘Unprecedented,'” Alexander said. “I’m assuming that the executives knew because of the talent they used, because of the region they released it in, that this was going to be a hit in South Korea. I would put good money that the executives had no idea this was going to be a global hit.”

The show follows Seong Gi-Hun, played by Lee Jung-jae, as he and hundreds of other desperate and deeply indebted contestants compete in a violent and often grotesque competition for about $38 million. Only one person can win the prize, and those who lose the series of children’s games pay with their lives.

On social media, users can’t stop talking about “Squid Game. “People hear about it, people talk about it, people love it, and there’s a very social aspect to that, which does help grow the show outside of what we do,” Netflix’s global TV head, Bela Bajaria, told Vulture.

Another reason “Squid Game” has become such a worldwide phenomenon is its accessibility. The show is filmed in Korean, but Netflix offers subtitles in 37 languages and dubs in 34 languages, allowing those who would rather not read subtitles to enjoy it, too.

Even the way the show is subtitled and dubbed has opened conversations online, where some say the translations miss crucial context.

“Not to sound snobby but i’m fluent in korean and i watched squid game with english subtitles and if you don’t understand korean you didn’t really watch the same show. translation was so bad. the dialogue was written so well and zero of it was preserved,” Twitter user Youngmi Mayer tweeted in a thread that has gone viral.

Research contact: @NBCNews

The ‘dark side’ of bodybuilding

September 28, 2021

Big biceps, toned abs, and cut calves: Those are the muscular manifestations of a perfectly sculpted body. But is bodybuilding actually good for your health?

Not really, experts say, according to a report by USA Today. In fact, they believe that striving to create this muscle-bound ideal—as bodybuilders and weight lifters often do—has the potential to cause serious consequences on a psychological level.

“Research has shown that sports and activities that have an aesthetic component to them, where the way one appears is part of how one is being evaluated or judged, tend to have higher rates of eating disorders,”  Dr. Sari Shepphird, a sports psychologist specializing in eating disorders recently told USA Today. “Not only higher than in the general population—but higher than even in other sports where the rates are already high.”

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to get in shape, the kind of perfectionism that is required in sports like bodybuilding is one risk factor in developing these issues, Shepphird says.

“It’s a sport that… a lot of people find… exciting and engaging and motivating, but you just need to make sure, overall, that it’s not beginning to affect your quality of life (or) your mental health,” she says.

Body builders or weightlifters run the risk of falling into the category of orthorexia, which is when someone is unhealthily obsessed with being healthy, explains Dr. Elizabeth Wassenaar, regional medical director at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver.

“They are really preoccupied with eating food or engaging in activities that it feels like will help drive them towards health, and then paradoxically actually end up becoming more unwell,” she says.

Indeed, Wassenaar points out, a gym goer who struggles with this may think that if the he or she works out enough and build enough muscle that the result will be peak health—but what happens is, they’re never satisfied.

 “That’s kind of the crux of the illness: (It’s) never enough,” Wassenaar adds, explaining that body dysmorphia can also be at play.

One specific type of body dysmorphia that is seen among bodybuilders is muscle dysmorphia, which has also been referred to as bigorexia or reverse anorexia.

The American Psychological Association defines muscle dysmorphia as “a form of body dysmorphia characterized by chronic dissatisfaction with one’s muscularity and the perception that one’s body is inadequate and undesirable, although objective observers would disagree with such an assessment.”

This condition often leads to excessive exercising, steroid abuse, and eating disorders, according to the APA.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone you see at the gym lifting weights has an eating disorder. “Going to the gym doesn’t cause the eating disorder, but when the preoccupation with an ideal body shape or weight becomes someone’s driving force, or when there’s an over emphasis placed on one shape or weight, then that can create a climate that contributes to disordered eating,” Shepphird says.

Wassenaar explains it can be difficult for people to recognize they have a problem with bodybuilding because these body ideals are “reinforced by our society that values the appearance of fitness.”

This reinforcement is amplified on social media, where people have access to a constant stream of imagery and often find themselves making comparisons.

“We live in a culture where eating disorders thrive because of the messages we’re exposed to,” says Claire Mysko, head of Youth Outreach for the New York City-based National Eating Disorders Association, or NEDA. “Social media heightens that exposure.”

“From the outside it may look like somebody is fairly muscular, because they spend a lot of time lifting weights… When they look in the mirror, they (may) not see themselves as appearing healthy or fit,” Wassenaar says. “Sometimes they will think that they have much smaller muscles than they do, and so they keep trying to look a certain way.”

And despite eating disorders being among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose, athletes may be less likely to seek treatment for an eating disorder due, in part, to stigma, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

Bodybuilder Rob Lipsett highlighted the stigma surrounding eating disorders in a YouTube video about his own experience, admitting he “really didn’t think it would happen to me.”

He admits, “This is kind of the dark side of fitness, and it’s something that people don’t like to talk about,” he says.

However, think about talking to a professional or contacting one of the associations for help if you are targeting the perfect body in your workouts, but never seem to be satisfied.

Research contact: @USATODAY

Shoppers snap up furniture and fashion from Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan

March 23, 2021

You might not be able to sit down with Oprah, but you can sit down like Oprah, thanks to patio furniture that resembles the set featured in her interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, NBC News reports.

While the focus of Oprah’s widely watched conversation with the couple revolved around several bombshell revelations about the royal family, the patio furniture and the outfits and accessories worn by Meghan and Oprah Winfrey also got lots of attention.

According to NBC, several news outlets already have tracked down a set of chairs that they claimed were the ones used in the interview. The set, which was available on Amazon and at several other retailers, was listed for about $600 and is sold out on multiple sites. Another nearly identical set of rattan chairs on Walmart.com retailed for over $300 and is also sold out. Lookalikes for other items, such as the outdoor rug, the low table and the succulents centerpiece, were also featured in articles and quickly sold out.

It wasn’t just the patio furniture that had people talking.

Oprah’s Götti eyeglasses spawned articles with several lookalike frames, and the designer of Meghan’s dress was quickly identified as Giorgio Armani.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData’s retail division, attributed the fascination with clothing, accessories and even patio furniture to two things.

“First of all, a lot of famous people tend to be very put together in their outfits. Someone like Oprah will have a stylist, will think about what she’s wearing. … That does make the clothes they wear quite enviable,” Saunders told NBC News. “The other thing, when you have someone like Meghan, a lot of people admire her, [which] makes her a kind of icon as an individual, and people look to emulate that in terms of the things she’s wearing to try to get a bit of that kind of attitude or personality into their own psyche.”

There was also lots of speculation about the significance of the lotus flower featured on Meghan’s dress, which mirrors similar treatments of the sartorial and styling choices other politicians, royals, and world figures make when they appear in public. An entire industry has cropped up dedicated to analyzing the choices celebrities make with their ensembles, which can often carry significant meaning, be it positive or negative.

“Where there’s a very high-profile event, be it an inauguration or big interview like this that lots of people tune in to, inevitably the products and the outfits and garments featured really gather a lot of attention,” Saunders said. “You start having a lot of curiosity about where these products came from, and then people search them out online or find things that are similar.”

The fascination then leads to increased spending as the items are quickly sourced and sell out online. As consumers have sought out such information more readily, designers have become more vocal on social media, taking ownership of certain looks and sharing details about the process and inspiration behind them.

The designers and stylists behind outfits worn by the Obamas, Kate and Meghan have made similar posts in the past, and Ivanka Trump used social media to promote her eponymous clothing line after an appearance at the Republican National Convention.

After Biden’s inauguration, the hairstylist who worked on Michelle Obama’s hair posted on Instagram about the look. The designer who made first lady Jill Biden’s ensemble for inauguration night shared that it featured the official flowers from every state and U.S. territory.

“Social  media platforms have really democratized fashion and trends, because it becomes very, very easy for a designer to really showcase their wares to very large audiences in a way that in the past you just couldn’t do,” Saunders said. “Before the advent of social media, to amplify your brand you would have to get a placement in one of the big magazines, you’d have to get on the news or be talked about in the media, and that wasn’t always easy.”

Now, not only is it easier for the designers to promote the looks, but consumers are also so eager to emulate what they see on famous figures that other designers and brands will often launch similar styles or “knockoffs” to capitalize on the fascination and spending.

Research contact: @NBCNews