Australia Says Facebook Will Lift the Country’s News Ban

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s government announced on Tuesday that Facebook has agreed to lift its ban on Australians sharing news after a deal was struck on legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed in statements that they had reached agreement on amendments to proposed legislation that would make the social network and Google pay for news that they feature.

Facebook blocked Australian users from accessing and sharing news last week after the House of Representatives passed the draft law late Wednesday.

The Senate will debate amended legislation on Tuesday.

“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a statement.

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Source:: Time – Technology


Facebook Blocks Australians From Viewing and Sharing News

(CANBERRA, Australia) — Facebook announced Thursday it has blocked Australians from viewing and sharing news on the platform because of proposed laws in the country to make digital giants pay for journalism.

Australian publishers can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts can’t be viewed or shared by Australian audiences, the U.S.-based company said in a statement.

Australian users cannot share Australian or international news.

International users outside Australia also cannot share Australian news.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” Facebook regional managing director William Easton said.

“It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter,” Easton added.

The announcement comes a day after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described as “very promising” negotiations between Facebook and Google with Australian media companies.

Frydenberg said after weekend talks with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, he was convinced that the platforms “do want to enter into these commercial arrangements.”

Frydenberg said he had had a “a constructive discussion” with Zuckerberg after Facebook blocked Australian news.

“He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward,” Frydenberg tweeted.

But communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the government would not back down on its legislative agenda.

“This announcement from Facebook, if they were to maintain this position, of course would call into question the credibility of the platform in terms of the news on it,” Fletcher told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“Effectively Facebook is saying to Australians information that you see on our platforms does not come from organizations that have editorial policies or fact-checking processes or journalists who are paid to do the work they do,” Fletcher added.

The Australian Parliament is debating proposed laws that would make the two platforms strike deals to pay for Australian news.

The Senate will consider the draft laws after they were passed by the House of Representatives late Wednesday.

Both platforms have condemned the proposed laws an unworkable. Google has also threatened to remove its search engine from the country.

But Google is striking pay deals with Australian news media companies under its own News Showcase model.

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Source:: Time – Technology


Clubhouse App Appears to Be Blocked in China, Users Say

Users of red-hot social media platform Clubhouse in China said they were unable to use the app on Monday, after an explosion of discussions over the weekend on taboo topics from Taiwan to Xinjiang.

Reports of users being unable to use the invite-only, audio-based app appeared on other social-media platforms such as Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat and Sina Corp.’s microblogging platform Weibo. On Twitter, which is blocked in China, users claiming to be in the country posted screenshots of Clubhouse’s home screen saying that an error had occurred and that a secure connection to the server could not be made.

Clubhouse had erupted among Chinese users over the weekend, with thousands joining discussions on contentious subjects undisturbed by Beijing’s censors.

On the app, where users host informal conversations, Chinese-speaking communities from around the world gathered to discuss China-Taiwan relations and the prospects of unification, and to share their knowledge and experience of Beijing’s crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in the far west region of Xinjiang.

Until mainland-based users began experiencing technical difficulties, Clubhouse was gaining traction in mainland China. The hashtag #Clubhouse attracted more than 51 million views on Weibo, while the question “Why Clubhouse is so popular” generated hundreds of answers on Zhihu, a Chinese Q&A site. The surge in interest also created a new business, as dozens of stores on Alibaba’s online marketplaces appeared to be selling invitation codes to the app for as much as 288 yuan ($44.60) each.

The company did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

—With assistance from Colum Murphy.

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Source:: Time – Technology


Bachelor Stars Are Promoting a Birth Control App on Instagram That Experts Say Uses One of the Least Effective Contraceptive Methods

In recent months, several former Bachelor cast members have used their Instagram accounts to promote the fertility awareness app Natural Cycles as a method of contraception. The celebrities touting the app to their millions of followers have sent up red flags to health experts. Some say the app and its messaging presents a simplified, and possibly misleading, understanding of how its users can avoid getting pregnant.

Natural Cycles is a popular fertility-tracking app that relies on an algorithm that calculates the days of the month a woman is likely to be fertile based on basal body temperature readings and menstrual cycle data. It gives users a thermometer for daily temperature checks and claims to indicate when the user is ovulating and should either abstain from sex or use protection to prevent pregnancy. In 2018, it became the first app to be cleared for marketing as a contraceptive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after being certified as a contraceptive in the European Union in 2017. While there’s nothing out of the ordinary about reality TV influencers advertising products on their social media accounts, these particular posts provide an incomplete—and therefore, potentially harmful—picture of how effective fertility awareness methods (FAMs) are at preventing pregnancy.

In the caption of a Jan. 25 Instagram post promoting Natural Cycles, former Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise contestant Tia Booth wrote that she began using the app as an alternative contraception method to hormonal birth control.

“When I got off [birth control pills] I didn’t want to take any synthetic hormones so was tracking my cycle by counting days on my calendar through a period tracker, which ummm is not reliable,” the post reads. “Thankfully, my friend told me about [Natural Cycles], the first and only FDA cleared birth control app, and I’ve been using it ever since.”

At least six Bachelor Nation alums have posted ads for Natural Cycles over the past few months, promoting the app to over 4 million collective followers. However, the ads do not say that FAMs are widely considered one of the least effective contraception methods. Obtaining accurate basal body temperature readings isn’t as simple as these Instagram posts make it seem, says Dr. Katherine Varda Schwab, an OB/GYN in Seattle. And an incorrect reading could potentially mislead users into thinking they’re not ovulating.

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Source:: Time – Technology