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Protesters call for cop’s resignation after social media remarks



MEDIA — More than 60 protesters stood in front of the headquarters of the Delaware County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 27 Saturday, calling for the removal of borough Police Sgt. Robert “Skippy” Carroll after he posted social media comments some found threatening.

On Wednesday, Caroll, who is an FOP first vice president, posted a response on the lodge’s official Facebook page that read, “If you choose to speak out against the police or our members, we will do everything in our power to not support your business.” Then, on his own personal Facebook page, Carroll added, “Try us. We’ll destroy you.” Both comments have since been removed.

Media Mayor Bob McMahon confirmed the 25-year decorated law enforcement officer, who also holds a leadership position with the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Education and Training Commission, has since been placed on paid administrative leave.

At a separate vigil hosted by the NAACP Media Area branch and the Media Fellowship House entitled “We are Done Dying,” the mayor spoke to the 1,000 gathered in front of the Delaware County Courthouse Saturday afternoon.

“Now is the time is for Americans to come together,” McMahon said. “The killing of George Floyd has been a wake up call for America and the momentum is growing. This week, an individual member of our Media Police Department made posts on social media that do not reflect the thoughts of the borough or our police department. I can assure you that I, borough council and our police chief are taking appropriate action with regards to the matter. The Media Police Department is dedicated to serving everyone in a professional and non-biased manner.”

McMahon said the length of Carroll’s leave is at borough officials’ discretion and could be approximately 15 days.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be asked of him,” the mayor said, adding that a review will be underway. “That process has not begun yet.”

Organizers of Saturday’s event outside the FOP headquarters shared their perspective.

“This is not just an instance that is about one business interaction,” Kabeera Weissman of the Delaware County Coalition for Prison Reform said. “This is about a pattern of intimidating small business, of misuse of office. This is not the only business that Sgt. Carroll has been alleged to have intimidated. It is an abuse of his office.”

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Plus, she added, it’s threatening.

“When a police officer uses his official account to threaten those who speak out against police, he’s threatening every protester in Delaware County,” Weissman said. “That is a threat that I feel and that is a threat that I feel for anyone who wants to use their Constitutional rights to peacefully assemble. When he says, ‘Try us. We’ll destroy you,’ it is a threat that contains violence and it is not acceptable.”

The Delco FOP issued its own statement, as did Carroll.

The FOP’s read: “Recently, a team member of ours posted an inappropriate comment on this platform directed at our business community, we offer our sincere apology and ask for your forgiveness. This post did not meet the integrity or values of our (1,100) members and we’re sorry for the mistake.

“We promise to do better and we have heard loud and clear the anguish of those in Delaware County and across the nation,” it continued. “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our business community, residents and law enforcement as we address concerns raised by peaceful demonstrators and protesters. Our officers pledge to serve our boroughs and townships with dignity, respect and professionalism.

“Police officers across Delaware County are aware of ongoing developments in Minnesota and we send our thoughts and prayers to George Floyd’s family and friends,” it ended.

Carroll’s statement read, “This is a trying time for law enforcement. Officers are being murdered and assaulted at a record pace. Wednesday night I made a post that was poorly worded and interpreted by some as inciting violence. That was not my intention and I apologize to those who were offended.”

At least one police department represented by the FOP Lodge 27, took its own stance.

“(W)e do not share that position,” Upper Darby Police Supt. Timothy Bernhardt wrote. “In fact, we find this to be in direct contradiction to the steps we have already taken, and will continue to take, to ensure professional and fair police service in Upper Darby Township … You have a right to speak, and you deserve a police department that listens. We want a true partnership with, not only our citizens, but our businesses, regardless of politics, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity,or any other defining factor.”

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He asked for the public’s discernment. “Please do not let the opinions or positions of people unrelated to our organization reflect your view of the hardworking members of our department,” Bernhardt continued. “Our hope is that open and honest communication can continue the healing process, and that ultimately, with hard work and determination, we can stay united.”

Delaware County Council also issued a statement on Friday.

“Though the FOP subsequently apologized, the damage was done, and the incident reinforced the perception that many rightfully have that law enforcement cannot always be trusted to appreciate the imbalance of power that they wield; that carrying a weapon and a badge also carries tremendous responsibility to treat the community with equality of respect, and therefore, the need for systemic reform within law enforcement in America.”

County council also hoped for unity.

“(W)e could … choose to take these events and use them as an opportunity to bring us together, and further our understanding of those whose life experiences have greatly differed from our own,” its statement read. “It doesn’t have to be ‘either/or.'”

The county leaders said more will come towards addressing the divisive issues coming to the surface now.

“We will be exploring opportunities in the coming weeks to formally bring all parts of our community, including law enforcement, to the table to create an ongoing dialogue toward the goals of much-needed reform and mutual understanding,” council said. “We hope you will join us in taking this opportunity as one to grown, and instead of dividing, to come together.”

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As demonstrators chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Sgt. Carroll has got to go,” and “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police,” Weissman said the sergeant needs to leave. On, there were more than 6,000 signatures combined on two petitions also calling for his removal.

“If he does not resign, the Media Police Department needs to fire him,” she said. “The Media Police Department also needs to look at how it is dealing with accountability for its officers. This is a cultural problem for the Media Police Department. It’s systemic and it needs to stop.”

Weissman continued, “Black Lives Matter is a call for valuing the humanity of black people. It is not a call against police but we will speak out against police brutality and against police racism.”

Septuagenarians Paul and Fran Sheldon social distanced as best they could at the protest and felt, despite the pandemic, it was important to attend.

“I want a police that is responsible to the citizenry and that protects all citizens,” Paul Sheldon said. “Skippy does not seem to fit that category.”

His wife, who’s lived in Media for 20 years, was aghast.

“How can somebody in that position just think that it’s all right?” she said. “He’s trained. He’s a professional in policing and de-escalation and he chooses to escalate something that’s based on racism … It’s beyond belief that he can feel comfortable doing that and it’s beyond belief that people can say, ‘Oh, it’s all blown over now. We’ve made up.'”

She, like others at the protest, felt the sting of Carroll’s words.

“It wasn’t just between Skippy and this (business owner),” Sheldon said. “It was between Skippy and all of the residents of Delaware County. I believed that Media was safe. I believed that.”

When asked if she still believed that, she paused. “It doesn’t matter,” she added. “It really doesn’t matter.”

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Twitter Expands its Test of User-Reported Misinformation, Expanding Platform Insight



Twitter Looks to Extend its Keyword Blocking and Mute Options to More Elements

After seeing success with its initial test of a new, manual reporting option, enabling users to flag tweets that contain potentially misleading claims, Twitter is now expanding the test to more regions, with users in Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines now set to get access.

Launched in August last year, Twitter’s latest effort to combat misinformation focuses on audience trends and perception of such as a means to determine common issues with the platform, and what people feel compelled to report, pointing to things that they don’t want to see.

The process adds an additional ‘It’s misleading’ option to your tweet reporting tools, providing another means to flag concerning claims.

Which is obviously not a foolproof way to detect and remove misleading content – but as noted, the idea is not so much focused on direct enforcement, as such, but more on broader trends based on how many people report certain tweets, and what people report.

As Twitter explained as part of the initial launch:

“Although we may not take action on this report or respond to you directly, we will use this report to develop new ways to reduce misleading info. This could include limiting its visibility, providing additional context, and creating new policies.”

So essentially, the concept is that if, say, 100, or 1,000 people report the same tweet for ‘political misinformation’, that’ll likely get Twitter’s attention, which may help Twitter identify what users don’t want to see, and want the platform to take action against, even if it’s not actually in violation of the current rules.

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So it’s more of a research tool than an enforcement option – which is a better approach, because enabling users to dictate removals by mass-reporting in this way could definitely lead to misuse.

That, in some ways, has borne true in its initial testing – as explained by Head of Site Integrity Yoel Roth:

On average, only about 10% of misinfo reports were actionable -compared to 20-30% for other policy areas. A key driver of this was “off-topic” reports that don’t contain misinfo at all.

In other words, a lot of the tweets reported through this manual option were not an actual concern, which highlight the challenges in using user reports as an enforcement measure.

But Roth notes that the data they have gathered has been valuable either way:

We’re already seeing clear benefits from reporting for the second use case (aggregate analysis) – especially when it comes to non-text-based misinfo, such as media and URLs linking to off-platform misinformation.

So it may not be a great avenue for direct action on each reported tweet, but as a research tool, the initiative has helped Twitter determine more areas of focus, which contributes to its broader effort to eliminate misinformation within the tweet eco-system.

A big element of this is bots, with various research reports indicating that Twitter bots are key amplifiers of misinformation and politically biased information.

In early 2020, at the height of the Australian bushfire crisis, researchers from Queensland University detected a massive network of Twitter bots that had been spreading misinformation about the Australian bushfire crisis and amplifying anti-climate change conspiracy theories in opposition to established facts. Other examinations have found that bot profiles, at times, contribute up to 60% of tweet activity around some trending events.

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Twitter is constantly working to better identify bot networks and eliminate any influence they may have, but this expanded reporting process may help to identify additional bot trends, as well as providing insight into the actual reach of bot pushes via expanded user reporting.

There are various ways in which such insight could be of value, even if it doesn’t result in direct action against offending tweets, as such. And it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter’s expansion of the program improves the initiative, and how it also pairs with its ongoing ‘Birdwatch’ reporting program to detect platform misuse.

Essentially, this program won’t drive a sudden influx of direct removals, eliminating offending tweets based on the variable sensibilities of each user. But it will help to identify key content trends and user concerns, which will contribute to Twitter’s broader effort to better detect these movements, and reduce their influence.

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Twitter’s Latest Promotional Campaign Focuses on Celebrities Who’ve Manifested Success Via Tweet



Twitter's Latest Promotional Campaign Focuses on Celebrities Who've Manifested Success Via Tweet

Twitter has launched a new advertising campaign which is focused on ‘manifesting’ via tweet, highlighting how a range of successful athletes and entertainers made initial commitments to their success via Twitter long before their public achievements.

Through a new set of billboard ads across the US, Twitter will showcase 12 celebrities that ‘tweeted their dreams into existence’.

As explained by Twitter:

To honor these athletes and other celebrities for Tweeting their dreams into existence, Twitter turned their famous Tweets into 39+ billboards! Located across 8 cities (NYC, LA, SF, Chicago, Toronto, Houston, Tampa, Talladega), most of the billboards can be found in the hometowns or teams’ locations of the stars who manifested their dreams, such as Bubba Wallace in Talladega and Diamond DeShields in Chicago.”

Twitter Manifest campaign

Beyond the platform promotion alone, the billboards actually align with usage trends at this time of year, as people work to stick with their New Year’s resolutions, and adopt new habits that will improve their lives. Seeing big-name stars that have been able to achieve their own dreams, which they’ve publicly communicated via tweet, could be another avenue to holding firm on such commitments, while Twitter also notes that tweets about manifestation are at an all-time high, seeing 100% year-over-year growth.

Maybe that’s the key. By sharing your ambitions and goals publicly, maybe that additional accountability will better ensure that you stick to your commitments – or maybe it’s all just mental, and by adding that extra public push to yourself, you’ll feel more compelled to keep going, because it’s there for all to see.

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In addition to the promotional value of the campaign, Twitter’s also donating nearly $1 million to charities as selected by each of the featured celebrities.

“Some of the charities include Boys and Girls Club, Destination Crenshaw, The 3-D Foundation, and UNICEF Canada.”

It’s an interesting push, which again comes at the right time of year. Getting into a new routine is tough, as is changing careers, publishing your first artwork, speaking in public, etc. Maybe, by seeing how these stars began as regular people, tweeting their dreams like you or I, that could act as a good motivator that you too can achieve what you set out to do, and that by posting such publicly, you’re making a commitment, not to the random public, but to yourself, that you will do it this year.

Sure, 2022 hasn’t exactly got off to a great start, with a COVID resurgence threatening to derail things once again. But maybe, this extra push could be the thing that keeps you focused, like these celebrities, even amid external distractions.  

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Snapchat Adds New Limits on Adults Seeking to Connect with Minors in the App



Snapchat Adds New Limits on Adults Seeking to Connect with Minors in the App

After Instagram added similar measures last year, Snapchat is now implementing new restrictions to limit adults from sending messages to users under the age of 18 in the app.

As reported by Axios, Snapchat is changing its “Quick Add” friend suggestion process so that it’s not possible for people to add users aged under 18 “unless there are a certain number of friends in common between the two users”. That won’t stop such connection completely, but it does add another barrier in the process, which could reduce harm.

The move is a logical and welcome step, which will help improve the security of youngsters in the app, but the impacts of such could be far more significant on Snap, which is predominantly used by younger people.

Indeed, Snapchat reported last year that around 20% of its total user base was aged under 18, with the majority of its audience being in the 13-24 year-old age bracket. That means that interaction between these age groups is likely a significant element of the Snap experience, and restricting such could have big impacts on overall usage, even if it does offer greater protection for minors.

Which is why this is a particularly significant commitment from Snap – though it is worth noting that Snapchat won’t necessarily stop older users from connecting with younger ones in the app, it just won’t make it as easy through initial recommendations, via the Quick Add feature.

So it’s not a huge change, as such. But again, given the interplay between these age groups in the app, it is a marker of Snap’s commitment to protection, and to finding new ways to ensure that youngsters are not exposed to potential harm within the app.

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Snapchat has faced several issues on this front, with the ephemeral focus of the app providing fertile ground for predators, as it automatically erases any evidence trail in the app. With that in mind, Snap does have a way to go in providing more protection, but it is good to see the company looking at ways to limit such interactions, and combat potentially harmful misuse.

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