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A Connection Between Mass Murders and Social Media Is Probably a Red Herring

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Naomi Nix and Cat Zakrzewski, the Washington Post:

The way that generation uses social media more generally could render years of work to spot and identify public signs of upcoming violence obsolete, social media experts warn.

“There is this shift toward more-private spaces, more-ephemeral content,” said Evelyn Douek, a senior research fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “The content moderation tools that platforms have been building and that we’ve been arguing about are kind of dated or talking about the last war.”

Many recent mass murderers have established a relationship between their horrific crimes and social media platforms. One of the primary sources of information about these criminals’ beliefs has been the evidence left behind in their own posts. That is also true of the hate crime in Buffalo, New York earlier this month. But it is worth being skeptical given that Americans are not particularly active on social media compared to people in other countries.

Reporting the following day from Cristiano Lima in the Washington Post’s “Technology 202” newsletter struck a more cautionary tone:

But former tech staffers, researchers and industry critics alike said rushing to draw a connection between the shooting and social media — particularly a causal one — is misguided and may distract from broader debates about the cause of such attacks.

“We should take care with how much we center the role of platforms unless there’s evidence to suggest that they substantively contributed to the violence,” said Emerson Brooking, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, a think tank that researches online extremism.

Just about every country has social media, violent video games, believers in conspiracy theories, and guns in private hands. But only one nation is an outlier in both guns and mass shootings. Beware of the people attempting, as always, to shift blame from guns to anything else. Three full days of conversations about how many doors are on buildings is unhelpful and distracting. Blaming social media is probably just as ineffectual, though it is one avenue for deeper beliefs to spread. There is a single policy area where changes must be made first: guns.

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yatesa01
18 hours ago
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Vancouver, BC
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New Site Allows Users to Crank Call Russian Bureaucrats to Protest War in Ukraine

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Tired of getting calls from your old pal Spam Likely? Now you might be able to feel the power of being on the other end of an unwanted call, all while tying up the phone lines of Russian bureaucrats, media, and military personnel.

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yatesa01
9 days ago
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Vancouver, BC
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No tunnel planned for Burrard Inlet Rapid Transit project

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The use of tunnel crossings to relieve congestion for commuters getting to and from the North Shore has been ruled out. Read More
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yatesa01
26 days ago
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Vancouver, BC
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Census on Metro Vancouver housing shows shift of missing middle families continues unabated

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COVID-19 accelerated Metro Vancouver's migration of younger families from urban centres to the suburbs, according to census figures released Wednesday, which planners say challenges all municipalities to meet family needs. Read More
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yatesa01
30 days ago
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Vancouver, BC
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One man dead in police-involved shooting in East Vancouver

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An East Vancouver man has died following an exchange of gunfire with Vancouver police on Wednesday night. Read More
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yatesa01
30 days ago
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"Police-involved shooting"
Vancouver, BC
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Want to Order Food From a Minimally-Paid Call Center Employee from Central America? Visit a Freshii in Canada

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If you didn’t think automation could get any more soul-crushing, a Canada-based health-food company is testing out if it can replace cashier workers with foreign call center employees, allowing them to pay them next to nothing in the process.

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yatesa01
30 days ago
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