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Ring out Pride Month with a virtual bang, from ‘Pose,’ Revry, and more

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Tel Aviv Pride, 2019 (Image courtesy of Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, Guy Yechiel)

Let’s face it: Pride Month without the ability to celebrate in our traditional ways doesn’t feel very much like Pride.

For many of us, the festivals, concerts, parades and parties, where we gather with our friends to proudly proclaim our queerness to the world, are an annual rite of passage; being cheated of it by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is an undeniable disappointment.

Even so, Pride is more than just a party (even if it’s a really fabulous one), and while the usual festivities may be cancelled, the spirit behind them is not. The LGBTQ+ community has risen to the challenge of 2020 with inventive ways to re-channel the Pride Experience for the physically-distanced needs of our time, and although a virtual event can never deliver quite the same visceral thrills as an in-person celebration, it’s worth noting that this year’s proliferation of internet and broadcast events has made Pride accessible to millions of people who might otherwise never have had the opportunity to participate, or to hear the messages of hope and acceptance that queer people in oppressive social environments around the world need to be able to hear.

Chances are good you’ve already experienced one or more of these livestreamed or broadcasted extravaganzas, but if you are still looking to get your Pride on before the month slips away next week, there are still some big ones coming your way.

One of the biggest is sure to be “Live, Work, Pose-A-Thon!” As a part of Pride month, Disney Television Studios and FX  are presenting a commercial-free one-hour virtual event, showcasing the cast and producers of “Pose” to raise awareness for GLSEN, Hetrick-Martin Institute, and Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, three notable organizations that work to support LGBTQ+ education, social change for sexual and gender minority people of color, and transgender equality through legal services and policy efforts.

The special will be emceed by Emmy, Grammy, and Tony-award winning actor and activist Billy Porter along with co-star Mj Rodriguez, and unites the voices behind the critically-acclaimed drama series “Pose.” Featured will be music and anecdotes from Porter, Rodriguez, Angel Bismark Curiel, Sandra Bernhard, Dyllón Burnside, Steven Canals, Dominique Jackson, Jeremy McClain, Janet Mock, Indya Moore, Our Lady J, Jason Rodriguez, Angelica Ross, Hailie Sahar, Ryan Jamaal Swain, Charlayne Woodard, and Patti LuPone.  “Pose” supervising producer Tanase Popa serves as producer of the special.

“I’m so proud of our cast and producers for coming together to present an uplifting hour of song and stories,” said co-creator, executive producer, writer, and director Steven Canals.  “In the spirit of ‘Pose,’ our goal is to celebrate joy, love and, of course, pride, from our family to yours.”

Executive producer, writer, and director Janet Mock added, “Since we’ve been unable to shoot the show we love, we jumped at the chance to reunite our ‘Pose’ family and partner with the studio and network to raise spirits and awareness about the plight of LGBTQ+ people of color during such a turbulent time.  This Pride month special is a commemoration of our forebears’ efforts, a memorial for trans lives lost, and a celebration of the life-saving work of LGBTQ+ organizations.”

“Pose-a-Thon!” will air Friday, June 26 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on FX and Freeform.  Viewers can also tune-in same day starting at 7:00 p.m. PT at www.poseathon.com.

 

If you’re someone who likes to make Pride an excuse for world travel, it goes without saying that this is not a good year for that – but you can at least grab a taste. Tel Aviv Pride takes place every year in June, with a surge of gay-friendly events taking place across the city and a Pride Parade that has become the largest one among all in the Middle East. In light of the Corona pandemic, that parade has been cancelled (or at least postponed), along with the rest of the four largest pride parades in Israel – Haifa, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva and Tel Aviv-Yafo – but that doesn’t mean the whole celebration is shut down.

According to Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo, “Even if we cannot hold the traditional pride parade this year, we will mark pride month with alternative events. Tel Aviv, which has already been acknowledged as the world’s most gay-friendly city, will continue to be a lighthouse city – spreading the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy to the world.”

Those “alternative events” taking place live in the city will involve over 100 drag queens and queer artists taking over the city’s streets in honor of pride month. Throughout the day on June 25, live shows will surprise passersby in central locations around the city, including open spaces, restaurants, local businesses and rooftops.

While it may not be possible for you to experience these pop-up Pride events in person, you can still experience Tel Aviv Pride vicariously through its Pride Month Virtual Tour, which will visit some of the city’s queerest landmarks and explore its queer history and culture, engaging with some of the local divas and discussing some of the open questions around LGBTQA life in Tel Aviv.

The tour takes place on Thursday June 25th at 8pm, and you can join it through this Zoom Link.

Finally, for an even more expansive experience of Pride around the world, you can join the festivities for Global Pride 2020, produced by Interpride and available through several streaming partners – including Revry, the first LGBTQ+ virtual cable network, which has teamed up with Littlstar (the livestreaming platform for PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, and Android TV) to launch the first VR streaming channel for the queer community just in time for this season of Pride.You can join this spectacular worldwide event on June 27th and 28th, when Revry will livestream it for 24 hours on the Revry Now channel (available on the Revry apps) as well as on the Littlstar platform – creating a first-of-its-kind VR Pride Festival experience!

“Littlstar is excited to partner with Revry to redefine how LGBTQ+ audiences view content. Viewers can now interact with each other remotely in virtual reality, or if there is no VR headset available they can live stream it directly to their TV via PlayStation 4 which currently reaches over 100M homes,” said Tony Mugavero, CEO & Co-Founder of Littlstar.

“We’re thrilled to have Revry as one of our official streaming partners,” says Julian Sanjivan, Co-President of Interpride. “Partnering with Revry gives Global Pride 2020 an opportunity to access audiences and community members who may not otherwise be able to participate in the programming, especially where our other platforms are not accessible or allowed. Revry’s new live VR Channel on the Littlstar app brings our event live on PlayStations across the globe and universally available to anyone with an internet connection.”

More than 500 Pride organizations around the world have submitted more than 1,000 pieces of content for Global Pride which will include messages from former US Vice-President Joe Biden, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and artists Laverne Cox, Adam Lambert, Kesha and Todrick Hall amongst many more. You can see the full line-up here.

Viewers with a PlayStation VR will be able to watch the stream in a custom virtual world, and viewers without VR headsets can view the stream on billions of mobile device at live.littlstar.com. If you’d rather opt for a “normal” 2D livestream broadcast, you can do it on the Revry Now channel on the Revry network available online (watch.revry.tv) and in all major app stores.

 

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Welsh Olympic distance swimmer Dan Jervis comes Out

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming at the Olympics in Tokyo said he was inspired by Blackpool FC soccer player Jake Daniels

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Dan Jervis (Screenshot via British Swimming Livestream-archive)

NEATH, Talbot County Borough, Wales – In a recent interview with BBC Radio Cornwall, 26-year-old British Olympian distance swimmer Dan Jervis revealed that he had given considerable thought before announcing to the world that he is gay.

Jervis told the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast; “I was adjusting to everything else, just trying to fit in — until I thought, Just be you.”

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming for the British team at the Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan, told the BBC he was inspired by 17-year-old Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels, the professional soccer player who made history as only the second person in the past 30 years to acknowledge their sexual orientation publicly in that sport in the United Kingdom.

The swimmer also told the BBC it was important to be seen as a role model as he readies to compete in the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Jervis has previously competed winning a 1500m freestyle silver and bronze at the 2014 and 2018 Games in Glasgow, Scotland and Australia’s Gold Coast respectively.

“It took me 24 years to be who I am,” he said and added, “You know, we’re just before the Commonwealth Games and there are going to be kids and adults watching who will know that I’m like them, and that I’m proud of who I am.”

The Olympian reflected on his decision to announce he was gay: “For so long, I hated who I was – and you see it all the time, people who are dying over this. They hate themselves so much that they’re ending their lives.

“So if I can just be that someone people can look at and say, ‘yeah, they’re like me,’ then that’s good.”

Jervis then said he revealed his sexuality to a close friend when he was 24: “At that point, I’d never said the words out loud to myself.”

“I said to her: ‘I think I’m gay.’ I couldn’t even say: ‘I’m gay.’ I was basically punching the words out.

“She was quite shocked but great, and it was exactly the reaction I wanted. I’ve had all good reactions, and the way I’ve described it is I’m not going to change as a person.

“Everyone’s journey is different, but I think I’ve always known.

“It was something in the back of my mind, bugging me. I thought I was bisexual and had girlfriends that I loved – but it came to about three years ago where I knew I had to deal with this.

“It wasn’t affecting my swimming, but me as a human being. It sounds quite drastic, but I wasn’t enjoying my life. Yeah, I was smiling, but there was something missing to make me properly happy.

“I’m still the Dan you’ve always known. You just know something else about me now.”

The Commonwealth Games open in Birmingham, UK on July 28.

Listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0chqfhn

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Online Culture

FCC asks Apple & Google to remove TikTok app from their stores

Its pattern of surreptitious data practices that are documented show TikTok is non-compliant with app store policies and practises

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

WASHINGTON – In a series of tweets Tuesday, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr disclosed a letter sent to both Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet asking the two tech giants to remove TikTok from their app stores over his concerns that user data from the wildly popular social media platform is disclosed and used by bad actors in China.

In his letter dated June 24 to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr noted that because of its pattern of surreptitious data practices documented in reports and other sources, TikTok is non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies and practises.

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” he said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Carr stated that if the companiest do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8.

The statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies,” he said.

Carr was appointed by former President Trump in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC.

In March of this year, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a nationwide investigation into TikTok for promoting its social media platform to children and young adults while its use is associated with physical and mental health harms to youth.

The investigation will look into the harms using TikTok can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about those harms. The investigation focuses, among other things, on the techniques utilized by TikTok to boost young user engagement, including strategies or efforts to increase the duration of time spent on the platform and frequency of engagement with the platform.

TikTok’s computer algorithms pushing video content to users can promote eating disorders and even self-harm and suicide to young viewers. Texas opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged violations of children’s privacy and facilitation of human trafficking last month.

TikTok has said it focuses on age-appropriate experiences, noting that some features, such as direct messaging, are not available to younger users. The company says it has tools in place, such as screen-time management, to help young people and parents moderate how long children spend on the app and what they see, the Associated Press reported.

“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” the company said. “We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.”

TikTok has also had a problematic relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. Recently The Washington Post confirmed that the ‘Libs of TikTok,’ an influential anti-LGBTQ account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.

Libs of TikTok regularly targets individual teachers and their workplaces – releasing their personal information that includes school and individual names as well as social media accounts, and leading its audience to harass the schools on social media.

A year ago, an investigation by Media Matters found that TikTok’s “For You” page recommendation algorithm circulated videos promoting hate and violence targeting the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, while the company celebrated the month with its #ForYourPride campaign. 

Numerous LGBTQ+ content creators have shared stories with the Blade about TikTok’s seemingly arbitrary algorithms that target otherwise benign content that is not listed outside of the platform’s polices and removed the content. In many cases restoring the posts after appeals or in the worst case scenarios banning the users.

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Online Culture

Facebook banning users who post that abortion pills can be mailed

When Facebook started removing these posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed the social media platform removed such posts on Friday

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Facebook/Meta Headquarters Menlo Park, Calif. (Blade photo by Brody Levesque)

MENLO PARK, Ca. – Social media giant corporation Meta’s Facebook platform has removed posts and has banned some users who wrote posts detailing that abortion pills can be mailed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Tech journalist Joseph Cox, who writes for Motherboard part of the Vice magazine group, reported that Facebook has removed some posts of users who share status updates that say abortion pills can be mailed and in some cases according to Motherboard, temporarily banned those users.

When exactly Facebook started removing these and similar posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed the social media platform removed such posts on Friday.

Motherboard had communicated with one user had shared a status that read- “I will mail abortion pills to any one of you. Just message me,” who then told the publication in an email:

“I posted it at 11 a.m. and was notified within a minute that it was removed. I was not notified until I tried to post later that I was banned for it.”

Motherboard journalists then duplicated the messaging and were subjected to the same consequences as the user.

The post was flagged within seconds as violating the site’s community standards, specifically the rules against buying, selling, or exchanging medical or non-medical drugs. The reporter was given the option to “disagree” with the decision or “agree” with it. After they chose “disagree,” the post was removed. 

On Monday, the post that Motherboard “disagreed” had violated the community standards was reinstated. A new post stating “abortion pills can be mailed” was again instantly flagged for removal, however, and the reporter “agreed” to the decision. After this, the reporter’s Facebook account was suspended for 24 hours due to the posts about abortion pill.

The platform’s policy clearly states “To encourage safety and compliance with common legal restrictions, we prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana.”

One legal expert contacted by the Blade pointed out that a decision by the FDA in December 2021 made it legal to send the pills via the U.S. Postal Service.

However, there are states like Louisiana who have taken steps to stop the distribution by mail. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) into law a bill that will prohibit pregnant people from getting abortion pills via mail.

Axios reported that Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Friday, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, that states cannot ban mifepristone, a medication that is used to bring about an abortion, based on disagreement with the federal government on its safety and efficacy.

“In particular, the FDA has approved the use of the medication Mifepristone. States may not ban Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy,” the Attorney General said.

As part of efforts to limit abortion access, some states have taken action to block the use of telehealth for abortion. Six states, ArizonaArkansasMissouriLouisianaTexas, and West Virginia, have passed laws specifically banning telehealth for abortion provision. In addition,14 other states have enacted laws that require the clinician providing a medication abortion to be physically present during the procedure, effectively prohibiting the use of telehealth to dispense medication for abortion remotely.

The question for social media platforms is what can be ‘policed’ especially in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision and the FDA deciding that patients to have a telemedicine appointment with a provider who can prescribe abortion pills and send them to the patient by mail.

Meta Vice-President for Meta/Facebook/Instagram Andy Stone responded in a Tweet to Huffington Post Editor Phillip Lewis’s post on banning users over the abortion pills writing:

“Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals is not allowed. Content that discusses the affordability and accessibility of prescription medication is allowed. We’ve discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting these.”

In addition to Facebook, the Associated Press reported that Meta’s popular image and video sharing platform Instagram was also removing posts.

The AP obtained a screenshot on Friday of one Instagram post from a woman who offered to purchase or forward abortion pills through the mail, minutes after the court ruled to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion. “DM me if you want to order abortion pills, but want them sent to my address instead of yours,” the post on Instagram read. Instagram took it down within moments.

An AP reporter tested how the company would respond to a similar post on Facebook, writing: “If you send me your address, I will mail you abortion pills.”  The post was removed within one minute. The Facebook account was immediately put on a “warning” status for the post, which Facebook said violated its standards on “guns, animals and other regulated goods.” Yet, when the AP reporter made the same exact post but swapped out the words “abortion pills” for “a gun,” the post remained untouched.

The Los Angeles Blade has reached out to Meta/Facebook for a comment.

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