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Tik Tok LGBTQ Pride Flag parody enrages conservatives

The ensuing vitriol included accusing her of being an “indoctrinator with an ungodly social agenda.” She was also being harassed online.

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Screenshot from Twitter

COSTA MESA, Ca. – A teacher in southern California filmed a Tik Tok parody regarding students reciting the daily pledge of allegiance ritual for her classroom, substituting the America national flag with the LGBTQ+ “Progress” Pride flag and was promptly attacked by conservatives and elements of the extreme far right on social media.

Kristin Pitzen, who teaches English-as-a-second-language for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, in her now deleted Tik Tok account, poked fun at the pledge in an apparently empty classroom in her post this past Friday.

 

In the video she says; “Okay, so during third period, we have announcements and they do the pledge of allegiance.

“I always tell my class, stand if you feel like it, don’t stand if you feel like it, say the words if you want, you don’t have to say the words.

“So, my class decided to stand but not say the words. Totally fine.”

One of the students pointed out, however, that it was a bit “weird” to pledge allegiance to a flag, with no flag in the classroom.

Pitzen explained to the camera in an aside that she had taken down her classroom’s American flag during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it “made her uncomfortable”, but added that she had packed it away and could no longer find it.

She continued: “In the meantime, I tell this kid, ‘We do have a flag in the class that you can pledge your allegiance to. And he like, looks around and goes, ‘Oh, that one?’”

She panned the camera to her left and up and focuses on the LGBTQ Progress Pride Flag hanging on the wall above her head.

While some commentators were amused by the parody, the pushback from numerous accounts labeled as conservative, patriotic, Christian and other variants of the right including far right elements were definitely not amused.

Pitzen in a video released in June celebrated LGBTQ Pride month.

A social media Twitter account known as ‘Libs of Tik Tok @libsoftiktok” captured both videos along with screenshots of a sampling of the comments on the ‘Pledge to the Pride Flag’ video, many of which supported Pitzen.

The ensuing vitriol included accusing her of being an “indoctrinator with an ungodly social agenda.” Numerous people tracked down and harassed Pitzen causing her to delete her Tik Tok account. Additionally hundreds left enraged messages on the Facebook page for the school District which responded Saturday afternoon to the school system’s page stating;

“On Friday evening, one of our teachers created a personal social media post that caused alarm and concern related to saluting the American flag. Showing respect for our nation’s flag is an important value our District instills in our students and is an expectation of our employees. We take this matter seriously and are investigating and addressing it.”

The uproar caught the attention of a former Trump administration official- gay conservative Richard Grenell, the former U.S. Ambassador to Germany who is a resident of Southern California himself, joining in on twitter and he too blasted Pitzen;

“What kind of parent would allow their child to be taught by this wacko? Why are parents turning their kids over to someone they don’t know? I’d like to talk to people who think this is good?!?”

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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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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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LGBTQ+ dating app Grindr moves to moderate illegal content

It announced that it is moving to moderate its platform with an AI-based system from tech start-up Spectrum Labs

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Grindr logo/Facebook

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Grindr, the largest LGBTQ+ dating app globally with roughly 11 million monthly active users in virtually every country in the world announced that it is moving to moderate its platform with an AI-based system from tech start-up Spectrum Labs.

On Thursday, AXIOS reported that for years, Grindr has chosen not to implement an AI system for content moderation, not because it didn’t want to augment its keyword-based filtering system, but because it was concerned that the models weren’t sensitive enough to keep users safe without introducing other types of bias.

The dating app since its launch in 2009, has grown to become a fundamental part of the queer community a spokesperson noted. Content moderation via machine learning is tricky, controversial and not always good,” Grindr spokesman Patrick Lenihan told Axios.

In its reporting, AXIOS noted that “rather than simply police content for certain words or phrases, Spectrum’s contextual AI service works to solve specific issues, such as identifying the sale of drugs and sex as well as trying to detect underage users.”

Spectrum CEO Justin Davis said that Spectrum has a set of algorithms it has tuned over the years, but also works with each customer to make the system work for their environment. As a result, it can take weeks or months to get its tools up and running.

In addition to the issues outlined, Grindr along with other competitors and dating apps are also combatting harassment and illegal scams that cost users, according to the Federal Trade Commission, over $500 million in 2021.

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