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Connecting online, tornado victims track down lost treasures

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Connecting online, tornado victims track down lost treasures

The “Quad State Tornado Found Items” Facebook group has been reconnecting people with their lost pets, official documents and family photos after deadly storms hit Kentucky and surrounding areas – Copyright AFP Pedro PARDO

Daniel Stublen

Abigail Miller’s parents lost practically all they owned in the weekend twisters that ravaged their small Kentucky town.

But with the help of strangers, they tracked down photographs of their daughter’s graduation — via social media groups which thousands are using to reconnect storm victims with cherished possessions strewn many miles away.

In preparation for a move, Miller’s parents had placed all their belongings in a storage unit in Dawson Springs, among the places hardest hit when tornadoes ripped homes apart across five US states last weekend.

The young pharmacy tech, who lives out of state, was relieved to hear they had evacuated ahead of the storm, but devastated to find out about their lost belongings.

“We didn’t expect to find anything,” said the 19-year-old.

But she soon noticed that an old schoolmate had shared a photo of her in a Facebook group called “Quad State Tornado Found Items.”

Then she got tagged in another photo in the group.

“Is this you?” commented the poster, Lisa Graham.

“Yes it is me and my parents,” Miller replied, “Thank you so much!”

The photos of Abigail Miller, with her parents at her high school graduation, had flown all the way to Philpot, Kentucky, almost an hour and a half away by car.

More of their photographs were found by others in Philpot, and each finder was more than willing to mail them back.

“Some even asked what our family needed for Christmas,” she said.

– ‘That’s my memaw!’

The “Quad State Tornado Found Items” group now has over 66,000 members, and is growing by the hour.

People are using the group to help reconnect lost pets, official documents, and hundreds of family photos — each item offering a glimpse into the lives upended by the tornadoes.

One shows a father in the year 2000, holding his newborn baby in hospital.

Another shows two men in tuxedos at a 1980s wedding.

A few black-and-white photos show young men in uniforms during World War II.

The original owners are often identified within minutes through crowdsourcing, as family members and friends tag their loved ones in the comments section.

“That’s my memaw! I’ll message you!” Dani Runkel commented under a torn photo of her grandmother holding a Christmas present.

Other messages reveal the tragedy that has struck many families.

“This is my uncle who died in the tornado,” reads a comment below a torn yearbook photo.

“This is my grandmother,” a woman commented below an image of a 1998 funeral pamphlet. “It’s from my dad’s house that was destroyed in Princeton KY.”

– ‘I’d want the same thing’ –

Beyond family photos, tornado victims are also using online groups to reconnect with their pets.

Laura Pratt, a teacher in western Kentucky, was anxious when her husband called to say he had found a stray dog while helping a friend with storm clean-up — and was bringing it home.

“I’ve got a dog, I didn’t know how it would react. I also knew my son would fall in love with her,” said Pratt.

She knew for certain however that her husband did the right thing.

“That’s your family member. If my dog was missing, I’d want the same thing.”

Pratt’s dog had run away before, so she knew there were dedicated Facebook groups for finding missing pets.

She posted photos of the dog, a blind dachshund with a big brown spot on her head.

A few people reached out offering to buy the animal if its owner could not be found.

Three days later came a message from Shari Howard of Benton, another town in western Kentucky hit by tornadoes:

“This is my dog! My house and everything got destroyed! Where can I find her? Her name is Willow!”

When Pratt went to meet with her, she knew she had found the right person.

“As soon as the lady picked her up, she relaxed — you knew she was meant to be with her.”

On social media, “you see good in people, you see bad,” said Pratt.

But in the tornado aftermath, she takes pride in the number of strangers offering assistance online and organizing drives.

“It shows the strength of our community.”


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Florida lawmakers push to ban social media for children under 16

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Vietnam plans to ask all social media users on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to verify their identities

Social media. — © AFP/File Olivier DOULIERY

Florida moved Thursday towards enacting what would be one of the strictest bans on children’s use of social media in the United States after the state Senate passed a bill to keep those under 16 off such platforms.

The controversial bill seeks to protect children’s mental health against the “addictive features” of such platforms, amid fears over online dangers including from sexual predators, cyber bullying and teen suicide.

The legislation, which was approved 23-14, will now go back to the state House. It has already passed there, with the House speaker championing the legislation, but changes made in the Senate need to be approved in the lower chamber.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has expressed concerns over whether banning social media for children under the age of 16 violates parents’ rights – Copyright AFP Philip FONG

It would then have to be signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has expressed skepticism about the legislation. Similar efforts by other states have previously been blocked by courts.

“We’re talking about businesses that are using addictive features to engage in mass manipulation of our children to cause them harm,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican Erin Grall, told the Florida Senate on Thursday.

But DeSantis, who has previously said he is sympathetic to fears over the impact of social media on children, voiced concerns about parental rights.

“A parent has the right to opt in,” he told a press conference Thursday.

The governor has argued many times that parents should have more control over decisions affecting their children, particularly in education.

Under DeSantis Florida has passed laws to curtail teaching about sex education and gender identity in schools and to eradicate diversity programs in state-funded universities.

Scores of books have been removed from the state’s school library shelves in recent months, deemed inappropriate for children by conservative parents and school boards.

Some critics say such a law targeting social media use would violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.

Last year a federal judge blocked an Arkansas initiative that sought to require parental consent to open a social media account.

Most social media networks already have a minimum age of 13 to open an account, though they do little to ensure compliance with the provision.

If the regulation is approved, the platforms will have to block children under the age of 16 from creating accounts and close those already opened.

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Solar Flares Or Sabotage? Internet Theories On Today’s Massive Cell Phone Outage

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Solar Flares Or Sabotage? Internet Theories On Today's Massive Cell Phone Outage

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Massive cell phone outages across America are being reported today by customers of AT&T, Cricket Wireless, Verizon, T-Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Boost Mobile, US Cellular, and Straight Talk Wireless, according to data from Downdetector, an online platform that monitors connectivity. That story and more news you need to read today, inside.

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Meta Expands Access to Instagram’s Creator Marketplace

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Meta Expands Access to Instagram’s Creator Marketplace

Meta has announced that it’s finally expanding access to its Creator Marketplace tool, which will give more businesses the capacity to search for creators to work with on their Instagram campaigns.

Meta first launched its Creator Marketplace back in 2022, enabling U.S.-based brands to search and connect with relevant platform influencers based on a range of qualifiers, including focus topics, follower counts, location, etc.

And now, businesses in the following regions will also be able to access the tool:

  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Japan
  • India
  • Brazil

In addition to this, Meta also says that Chinese export brands will also be invited to connect with onboarded creators in countries outside of China.

Which is interesting, considering Meta’s tenuous history with the CCP’s “Great Firewall”, but the deal here relates to Chinese businesses operating in regions outside of their homeland, which is somewhat separate to Meta’s internal dealings.

In addition to expanding access, Meta’s also rolling new machine learning-based recommendations within Creator Marketplace, which will use Instagram data to help brands more easily discover creators who are the best fit for their campaigns.

Instagram Creator Marketplace

As you can see in this example, the new recommendations will highlight accounts that have strong engagement rates in your niche, have mentioned your brand in the past, or have produced good results for similar businesses.

That could make it easier to find the right fit, or at the least, to give you more options to consider in your process.

Branded Content collaborations can be highly effective on IG, by using the established expertise and experience of creators who have already built a following in the app, and know what works, to boost your promotions.

By working with the right creators, with connection to your target audience, you can secure valuable endorsement within key communities, which can help to germinate your branding in the right communities.

Brands can check out Instagram’s creator marketplace in Meta Business Suite, with access coming to these new regions shortly.



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