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Cyborgs, Phubbing, TikTok Notes, and a New Epidemic

Words by
Jackie Baucom

APR 11, 2024

Cyborgs, Phubbing, TikTok Notes, and a New Epidemic

This week’s headlines are abuzz with controversies surrounding AI’s influence. Tech titans are facing allegations of illegal and unethical practices to amass online data for AI training. 

Meanwhile, tribal nations are suing major social media platforms, attributing their addictive designs to soaring Native American youth suicide rates.

These pressing issues shed light on the intersection of technology, ethics, and societal impact in our digital age.

Instagram Announces New Safety Features

Instagram is launching new safety features to better protect young users, including a tool aimed at preventing sexual extortion and “image abuse” by blurring nude images in direct messages.

The nudity blur option will be enabled by default for users under 18 and offered as a suggested feature for adult users to toggle on. 

Meta has been at the center of growing discussion over Big Tech’s failure to protect kids online so the news suggests the platform is responding to the concerns.

AP News | Instagram begins blurring nudity in messages to protect teens and fight sexual extortion

The Silent Theft by AI

OpenAI, Google and Meta are being accused of disregarding internal policies and circumventing copyright laws to acquire online data for training their AI systems.

AI models need text data to learn and improve and Big Tech companies are in a fierce battle to lead the AI race, apparently causing some to cut corners or exploit gray areas for data harvesting.

Last year, the Copyright Office received input from over 10,000 entities on AI stealing their creative works.

The New York Times | How Tech Giants Cut Corners to Harvest Data for A.I.

TikTok’s Photo Sharing Pursuit

TikTok is developing a photo-sharing app resembling Instagram, signaling an online rivalry between the platforms.

Some TikTok users noticed prompts for cross-platform photo sharing, hinting at a future app called TikTok Notes. 

This move reflects TikTok’s strategy to diversify content formats, including text posts and longer videos, to engage a broader audience.

Forbes | TikTok Is Testing A New Instagram Rival — Are Photos Making A Comeback?

Phubbing Leads to Disconnection

“Phubbing,” or phone-snubbing, refers to the act of ignoring someone by paying more attention to one’s phone.

This behavior negatively affects all relationships, but may be especially detrimental to caregiver-child interactions. 

Research shows parental phubbing correlates with attachment issues, learning burnout, and emotional problems in children.

Parents | What Is Phubbing and How Does It Affect Kids?

The Cyborg Chronicles

Neuralink (Elon Musk’s BCI company) caught the attention of millions recently when a video was shared showing Noland Arbaugh control a laptop via a brain implanted chip.

Dubbed “Telepathy” by Musk, the device interprets thoughts into computer commands.

Advances in brain-computer-interface technology hold promise but also pose ethical and practical challenges.

The Atlantic | What Neuralink Is Missing

Tribal Nations vs. Social Media Giants

Two tribal nations are suing major social media platforms, alleging their addictive design is contributing to a disproportionately high Native American youth suicide rates (up 20% vs. less than 1% for the general population).

The lawsuit targets Meta, Snap, ByteDance, and Alphabet for exploiting teens with features like constant scrolling and lax controls. 

CBS News | Meta, TikTok among social media firms sued by tribal nations over Native youth suicides

Social Media Giants Can Adapt When Forced

Despite continuous protests and excuses from social media companies, nearly 100 changes have been made to their platforms in response to the UK’s Children’s Code. 

These updates focus on youth safety, privacy, and time management with filters being implemented against bullying, hate speech, and more.

Many U.S. states are now pursuing similar legislation and safeguards.

NPR | TikTok and others change platforms to protect kids. Advocates say it’s just a start

Roblox CEO is Taking on Capitol Hill

Roblox CEO, David Baszucki, is taking steps to engage with lawmakers in Washington following his absence from the Senate hearing on social media safety in January.

Concerns about child protection and regulations are looming over platforms like Roblox, prompting discussions on potential legislation such as the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), and the challenges with age verification.

The Verge | Roblox heads to Washington

The Epidemic of Deepfake Nudes

In October 2023, students at Westfield High School in New Jersey created sexually explicit images using AI and their fellow classmates’ faces.

Parents say the district has not taken significant steps to address the images, or update school policies to prevent future incidents.

In contrast, a Beverly Hills, California, school facing the same situation contacted the police immediately, and expelled five boys in the span of two weeks.

The New York Times | Teen Girls Confront an Epidemic of Deepfake Nudes in Schools

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