massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo in May.

Connecticut plans to spend nearly $2 million on marketing to share factual information about voting and to create a position for an expert to root out misinformation narratives about voting before they go viral. A similar effort to create a disinformation board at the Department of Homeland Security provoked a political fury before its work was suspended in May pending an internal review.

In California, the State Senate is moving forward with legislation that would require social media companies to disclose their policies regarding hate speech, disinformation, extremism, harassment and foreign political interference. (The legislation would not compel them to restrict content.) Another bill would allow civil lawsuits against large social media platforms like TikTok and Meta’s Facebook and Instagram if their products were proven to have addicted children.

“All of these different challenges that we’re facing have a common thread, and the common thread is the power of social media to amplify really problematic content,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel of California, a Democrat, who sponsored the legislation to require greater transparency from social media platforms. “That has significant consequences both online and in physical spaces.”

It seems unlikely that the flurry of legislative activity will have a significant impact before this fall’s elections; social media companies will have no single response acceptable to both sides when accusations of disinformation inevitably arise.

“Any election cycle brings intense new content challenges for platforms, but the November midterms seem likely to be particularly explosive,” said Matt Perault, a director of the Center on Technology Policy at the University of North Carolina. “With abortion, guns, democratic participation at the forefront of voters’ minds, platforms will face intense challenges in moderating speech. It’s likely that neither side will be satisfied by the decisions platforms make.”

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Elon Musk’s arrival stirs fears among some Twitter employees, article with image

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  • Concerns center around Twitter’s ability to moderate content
  • Fear Musk’s views on moderation may allow trolling to flourish
  • Twitter management, employees make daily decisions -spokesperson

April 7 (Reuters) – News of Tesla (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk taking a board seat at Twitter (TWTR.N) has some Twitter employees panicking over the future of the social media firm’s ability to moderate content, company insiders told Reuters.

Within hours of the surprise disclosure this week that Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” acquired enough shares to become the top Twitter shareholder, political conservatives began flooding social media with calls for the return of Donald Trump. The former U.S. president was banned from Facebook and Twitter after the Jan 6. Capitol riot over concerns around incitement of violence.

“Now that @ElonMusk is Twitter’s largest shareholder, it’s time to lift the political censorship. Oh… and BRING BACK TRUMP!,” tweeted Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert on Monday.

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Despite Twitter’s reiteration this week that the board does not make policy decisions, four Twitter employees who spoke with Reuters said they were concerned about Musk’s ability to influence the company’s policies on abusive users and harmful content.

With Musk on the board, the employees said his views on moderation could weaken years-long efforts to make Twitter a place of healthy discourse, and might allow trolling and mob attacks to flourish.

In the wake of Trump’s ban from Facebook and Twitter, the billionaire tweeted that many people would be unhappy with U.S. tech companies acting “as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”

MUSK’S INTENTIONS

Musk has not articulated what he wants to do as a new board member but he has telegraphed his intentions with his Twitter activity. A week before Musk disclosed a 9.1% stake in Twitter, he polled his 80 million followers on whether the site adhered to the principle of free speech, and the majority voted ‘no.’

The employees, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, point to Musk’s history of using Twitter to attack critics. In 2018, Musk came under fire for accusing a British diver who had helped rescue children trapped in a cave in Thailand of being a pedophile.

Musk won a defamation case brought by the diver in 2019.

When asked for comment, a Twitter spokesperson repeated a statement from Tuesday that the board “plays an important advisory and feedback role across the entirety of our service,” but daily operations and decisions are made by Twitter’s management and employees.

“Twitter is committed to impartiality in the development and enforcement of its policies and rules,” the spokesperson said.

Some employees that Reuters spoke to were not so sure about the company’s commitment to this.

“I find it hard to believe (the board) doesn’t have influence,” said one employee. “If that’s the case, why would Elon want a board seat?”

But other employees Reuters spoke to said that Musk’s involvement could help quicken the pace of new feature and product launches, and provide a fresh perspective as an active user of Twitter.

Neither Tesla nor Musk responded to requests for comment.

Twitter’s board figures prominently in discussions within Twitter, more so than at other tech companies, one employee said. That is because unlike Meta Platforms Inc, where founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg controls the company through a dual class share structure, Twitter only has a single class of shares, making it more vulnerable to activists like Musk. Teams within Twitter often consider how to communicate a strategy or decision to the board, for instance, the employee said.

On Thursday, Musk tweeted an image from 2018 of him smoking weed on the Joe Rogan podcast on Spotify, with the text: “Twitter’s next board meeting is going to be lit.”

TRUMP’S RETURN?

One employee familiar with the company’s operations said there were no current plans to reinstate Trump. A Twitter spokesperson said there were no plans to reverse any policy decisions.

But a veteran auto analyst who covers Musk’s operating style at Tesla said such a decision may only be a matter of time.

“If Donald Trump was actually rich, he would have liked to have done the same thing but he couldn’t afford it. So Elon is doing what Trump would have liked to have done,” said Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid.

“I wouldn’t be surprised” if Twitter restores Trump’s account now that Elon owns nearly 10% of the company,” he said.

Longer term, employees said Musk’s involvement may change Twitter’s corporate culture, which they say currently values inclusivity. Musk has faced widespread criticism for posting memes that mocked transgender people and efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, and for comparing some world leaders to Hitler.

Several employees were alarmed by the warm welcome Musk received from Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and cofounder Jack Dorsey, which prompted them to hit the job market this week.

“Some people are dusting off their resumes,” one person said. “I don’t want to work for somebody (like Musk).”

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Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco; Editing by Kenneth Li, Aurora Ellis and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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‘Davos Man,’ Marc Benioff and the Covid Pandemic

He frequently tells the story of his supposed inspiration for founding Salesforce. Despite success at Oracle, where he worked early in his career, Mr. Benioff was plagued by existential doubt, prompting him to take a sabbatical to southern India. There, he visited a woman known as “the hugging saint,” who urged him to share his prosperity.

From the incorporation of Salesforce in 1999, Mr. Benioff pledged that he would devote 1 percent of its equity and product to philanthropic undertakings, while encouraging employees to dedicate 1 percent of their working time to voluntary efforts. Salesforce employees regularly volunteer at schools, food banks and hospitals.

“There are very few examples of companies doing this at scale,” Mr. Benioff told me in an interview. He noted that people were always talking to him about another business known for its focus on doing good, Ben & Jerry’s. He said this with a chuckle, clearly amused that his company — now worth more than $200 billion — could be compared to the aging Vermont hippies who had brought the world Cherry Garcia ice cream.

Mr. Benioff is by many indications a true believer, not just idly parroting Davos Man talking points. In 2015, when Indiana proceeded with legislation that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender employees, he threatened to yank investment, forcing a change in the law. He shamed Facebook and Google for abusing the public trust and called for regulations on search and social media giants. Early in the pandemic, Salesforce embraced remote work to protect employees.

“I’m trying to influence others to do the right thing,” he told me. “I feel that responsibility.”

I found myself won over by his boyish enthusiasm, and his willingness to talk at length absent public relations minders — a rarity for Silicon Valley.

His philanthropic efforts have been directed at easing homelessness in San Francisco, while expanding health care for children. He and Salesforce collectively contributed $7 million toward a successful 2018 campaign for a local ballot measure that levied fresh taxes on San Francisco companies to finance expanded programs. The new taxes were likely to cost Salesforce $10 million a year.

That sounded like a lot of money, ostensible evidence of a socially conscious C.E.O. sacrificing the bottom line in the interest of catering to societal needs. But it was less than a trifle alongside the money that Salesforce withheld from the government through legal tax subterfuge.

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Anonymity No More? Age Checks Come to the Web.

Richard Errington clicked to stream a science-fiction film from his home in Britain last month when YouTube carded him.

The site said Mr. Errington, who is over 50, needed to prove he was old enough to watch “Space Is the Place,” a 1974 movie starring the jazz musician Sun Ra. He had three options: Enter his credit card information, upload a photo identification like a passport or skip the video.

“I decided that it wasn’t worth the stress,” he said.

In response to mounting pressure from activists, parents and regulators who believe tech companies haven’t done enough to protect children online, businesses and governments around the globe are placing major parts of the internet behind stricter digital age checks.

People in Japan must provide a document proving their age to use the dating app Tinder. The popular game Roblox requires players to upload a form of government identification — and a selfie to prove the ID belongs to them — if they want access to a voice chat feature. Laws in Germany and France require pornography websites to check visitors’ ages.

called for new rules to protect young people after a former Facebook employee said the company knew its products harmed some teenagers. They repeated those calls on Tuesday in a hearing with executives from YouTube, TikTok and the parent company of Snapchat.

Critics of the age checks say that in the name of keeping people safe, they could endanger user privacy, dampen free expression and hurt communities that benefit from anonymity online. Authoritarian governments have used protecting children as an argument for limiting online speech: China barred websites this summer from ranking celebrities by popularity as part of a larger crackdown on what it says are the pernicious effects of celebrity culture on young people.

“Are we going to start seeing more age verification? Of course,” said Hany Farid, a professor of engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, who has called for more child safety measures. “Because there is more pressure, there’s more awareness now, on how these technologies are harming kids.”

But, Mr. Farid said, regulators and companies need to proceed with caution. “We don’t want the solution to be more harmful than the problem,” he said.

say some websites need to take additional steps to verify their users’ ages when the services collect sensitive user data.

An update to the European Union’s rules for video and audio services requires sites to protect minors, which may include checking users’ ages. In response to the change, Google said last year that it would ask some users of YouTube, which it owns, for their identification documents or credit card details before they could watch adults-only videos. A spokeswoman for Google pointed to an August blog post where the company said it was “looking at ways to develop consistent product experiences and user controls for kids and teens globally” as regulators applied new rules in different countries.

in a July blog post that it was developing programs to look for signs that users were lying about their age, like spotting when someone who claims to be 21 gets messages about her quinceañera. But when “we do feel we need more information, we’re developing a menu of options for someone to prove their age,” Pavni Diwanji, the company’s vice president of youth products, said in the post. Facebook later said one of the options would involve providing identification documents.

Many of the new age verification efforts require users to submit government-issued identification or credit cards information. But other companies are using, or considering, other options, like software that scans a user’s face to approximate the person’s age.

Critics of the checks worry that the requirement will force users to give sensitive information to websites with limited resources to prevent hacks. Outside companies that offer age checks would be vulnerable, too.

Roblox, the game company, showed prototypes to 10 teenage players, said Chris Aston Chen, a senior product manager at the company.

One possible method required players to get on a video call, while another checked government databases. Mr. Chen said the players gravitated toward using government IDs, an option they trusted and thought was convenient. (Roblox’s chief product officer is a board member of The New York Times Company.)

The technology will also make it easier for Roblox to keep out players it has barred because of inappropriate conduct in the voice chat feature. If those players log back in using a new account but try to verify their age using the same government document, they’ll be locked out.

one user said. The user noted that he had first bought the track on cassette “when I was about 12, almost 30 years ago.”

“This is a rule applied to video sharing platforms in certain countries,” YouTube’s customer support account responded.

Mr. Errington in Britain said YouTube had asked him for a credit card when he tried to watch “Space Is the Place.” He doesn’t have one. And he said he felt uncomfortable uploading a photo ID.

“I wasn’t prepared to give out this information,” he said. “So the Sun Ra video remains a mystery.”

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Exuberant Art and Cable Car Can Lift a Poor, Violent Place Only So High

MEXICO CITY — Observed from a soaring cable car, the city is a sea of concrete stretching to the horizon, ruptured only by clusters of skyscrapers and the remains of ancient volcanoes. Some 60 feet below is the borough of Iztapalapa, a warren of winding streets and alleyways, its cinder block houses encasing the neighborhood’s hills in insipid gray.

But then, on a rooftop, a sudden burst of color: a giant monarch butterfly perched atop a purple flower. Further along the route of Mexico City’s newest cableway, a toucan and a scarlet macaw stare up at passengers. Later, on a canary yellow wall, there is a young girl in a red dress, her eyes closed in an expression of absolute bliss.

The 6.5-mile line, inaugurated in August, is the longest public cableway in the world, according to the city government. As well as halving the commute time for many workers in the capital’s most populous borough, the cable car has an added attraction: exuberant murals painted by an army of local artists, many of which can be viewed only from above.

most crime-ridden areas of Mexico City.

“People want to rescue their history, the history of the neighborhood,” said the borough’s mayor, Clara Brugada Molina. “Iztapalapa becomes a giant gallery.”

Sprawling toward the outer edge of Mexico City, Iztapalapa is home to 1.8 million residents, some of whom are among the poorest in the city. Many work in wealthier neighborhoods, and before the cable car, this often meant hourslong commutes.

As with many poor urban areas of Mexico, Iztapalapa has long been afflicted by both a lack of basic services, like running water, as well as high levels of violence, often linked to organized crime.

June survey from Mexico’s national statistics agency, nearly eight of 10 residents said they felt unsafe — among the highest rate for any city in the country.

Women in particular face pervasive violence in Iztapalapa, which ranks among the top 25 municipalities in the country for femicide, in which a woman is killed because of her gender. From 2012 to 2017, city security cameras recorded more instances of sexual assault against women in Iztapalapa than in any other Mexico City borough, according to a 2019 report from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

a giant re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ.

“That religious stigma weighs against you,” Ms. Cerón said.

As far as the murals go, she says they look beautiful but have done little to make her feel safer.

“It does nothing for me to have a very pretty painted street if three blocks away, they’re robbing or murdering people,” she said.

Alejandra Atrisco Amilpas, an artist who has painted some 300 murals across Iztapalapa, believes they can make residents prouder of where they live, but she admits they can only go so far.

“Paint helps a lot, but sadly it can’t change the reality of social problems,” she said.“A mural isn’t going to change whether you care about the woman being beat up on the corner.”

Ms. Atrisco, who is gay, said she had come up against conservative attitudes during the project, whether from male artists doubting her abilities or local officials barring her from painting L.G.B.T.Q.-themed murals.

“Violence against women, yes, but lesbians, no,” she said, smiling ruefully.

Still, Ms. Atrisco believes her work can affect residents’ lives by representing the characters of Iztapalapa in full color.

“Every day you confront a new challenge, every day a new wall and a new story,” she said. “You make dreams come true a little bit — you become a dream maker.”

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With More Freedom, Young Women in Albania Shun Tradition of ‘Sworn Virgins’

A centuries-old tradition in which women declared themselves men so they could enjoy male privilege is dying out as young women have more options available to them to live their own lives.


LEPUSHE, Albania — As a teenager locked in a patriarchal and tradition-bound mountain village in the far north of Albania, Gjystina Grishaj made a drastic decision: She would live the rest of her life as a man.

She did not want to be married off at a young age, nor did she like cooking, ironing clothes or “doing any of the things that women do,” so she joined a gender-bending Albanian fraternity of what are known as “burrneshat,” or “female-men.” She adopted a male nickname — Duni.

“I took a personal decision and told them: I am a man and don’t want to get married,” Duni recalled telling her family.

Few women today want to become what anthropologists call Albania’s “sworn virgins,” a tradition that goes back centuries. They take an oath of lifelong celibacy and enjoy male privileges, like the right to make family decisions, smoke, drink and go out alone.

Enver Hoxha.

Ms. Rakipi snorted with contempt when asked about people who undergo transition surgery. “It is not normal,” she said. “If God made you a woman, you are a woman.”

Duni, from Lepushe village, also has strong views on the subject, saying that altering the body goes “against God’s will,” and that people “should be put in jail” for doing so.

“I have not lived as a burrnesha because I want to be a man in any physical way. I have done this because I want to take on the role played by men and to get the respect of a man,” she said. “I am a man in my spirit, but having male genitals is not what makes you a man.”

Locals in Lepushe, including Manushaqe Shkoza, a server at a cafe in the village, said Duni’s decision to become a man initially came as a surprise, but it was accepted long ago. “Everyone sees it as normal,” Ms. Shkoza said.

Duni said she was sad that the tradition of sworn virgins would soon die out, but noted that her niece in Tirana had shown that there were now less drastic ways for a woman to live a full and respected life.

“Society is changing, but I think I made the right decision for my time,” Duni said. “I can’t resign from the role I have chosen. I took an oath to my family. This is a path you cannot go back on.”

Fatjona Mejdini contributed reporting.

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The Netherlands’ Eurovision entry featured a Black Lives Matter moment.

Jeangu Macrooy, the Netherlands’ entry, takes the stage to sing “Birth of a New Age,” a song penned in response to the police killing of George Floyd and the subsequent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement worldwide.

“Skin as rich as the starlit night / Your rhythm is rebellion,” the gospel-influenced song begins, saluting the protesters who demanded justice for Floyd last year.

In the chorus, Macrooy switches from English to Sranan Tongo, the language of his native Suriname, a South American country that was once a colony of the Netherlands. “Yu no man broko mi,” he sings, over and over: “You can’t break me.”

Eurovision is well known for songs that take stands on social or political issues. In 1971, Germany’s Katja Ebstein sang “Diese Welt” (“This World”), a pro-environment track that was radical for its time. More recently, acts have pushed for gay, lesbian and transgender rights in Europe.

So it’s great to see Macrooy continuing that trend — although, sadly, he has almost no chance of winning. Few countries ever win Eurovision twice in a row. Ireland did three times in the 1990s, but by the third time they were desperate not to win again. The winner hosts the next year’s show, and it was starting to get expensive.

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Cameroon Sentences Transgender Women to 5 Years in Prison

Two transgender women were sentenced to five years in prison in Cameroon this week after they were found guilty of “attempted homosexuality” and public indecency, the latest example of an increasing crackdown on gay and transgender people in the West African nation, human rights groups say.

Shakiro, identified in police documents as Loïc Njeukam, and Patricia, referred to as Roland Mouthe, both identify as transgender and were arrested in February as they were having dinner at a restaurant in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital. On Tuesday, they were also found guilty of failing to show proof of identity and given the maximum fine of 200,000 CFA francs, or $370.

Shakiro, a social media personality who has amassed tens of thousands of followers through her posts calling for more tolerance toward gender minorities in Cameroon, has stopped eating and shared plans to die by suicide since the verdict, according to her mother, Joséphine Marie Njeukam, who visited her in prison on Wednesday.

Ms. Njeukam said her child told her, “‘Mum, I won’t survive here for five years.’” She said her child didn’t kill anyone or steal, and that her sexuality “shouldn’t be a crime.”

according to Human Rights Watch, and several of those arrested were subjected to beatings and other forms of abuse.

“There has long been an anti-L.G.B.T. sentiment in Cameroon,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, a researcher at Human Rights Watch who documents abuses in the country. “Now the judicial system contributes to the perception that homosexual and transgender people are criminals.”

The sentence for Shakiro and Patricia, who both go by a single name, is the maximum punishment under Cameroon’s penal code for engaging in sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex. But the women’s lawyer says they were detained while they were having dinner in a public space, and were not intimate or attempting to be.

Shakiro, 23, and Patricia, 27, were at a restaurant in Douala on Feb. 8 when police officers arrested them on charges of failing to provide identity documents. The two remained in prison for two months awaiting trial, according to their lawyer, Alice Nkom, and were sentenced on Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch.

Prosecutors in Cameroon and several other countries in Africa where homosexuality is criminalized, including Kenya, Tunisia and Uganda, among others, have in recent years commissioned anal examinations to allegedly prove that a person had engaged in homosexual intercourse, even though the outdated practice has been widely discredited by health care professionals and amounts to sexual assault.

attracted a wide following on social media, where she has repeatedly called for more tolerance against homosexual and transgender people in Cameroon.

“My sexual orientation and my sexuality aren’t choices,” she wrote in March. “But your baseless hatred and your homophobia are.”

Linda Noumsi, a makeup artist and friend of Shakiro’s, said her activism had attracted many critics. “She has a strong personality, and she can be quite vocal about her cause, which brought real supporters, fake friends, and enemies,” Ms. Noumsi said.

Ms. Nkom, the lawyer, said the verdict sent a pernicious message to the public in Cameroon: “It says, ‘If you don’t like someone’s appearance because they are different, you can just call the police, and they’ll have them arrested.’”

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Marriage Records in England and Wales Will Now Include Mothers’ Names

LONDON — Marriage certificates in England and Wales have traditionally left space for the names and professions of just one parent: the fathers of the couple tying the knot.

That changed on Tuesday, with couples now allowed to add mothers’ names to their official marriage record. The change corrects “a historic anomaly” and is part of a larger overhaul of how marriages are registered in the two nations, the British government said. Unions will also now be recorded in a single electronic registry instead of in registry books.

The changes are the biggest to the registration system since the Marriage Act came into effect in 1837, the Home Office said, and they have been in the works for several years. In 2014, David Cameron, then the prime minister, said the system did not reflect “modern Britain” and pledged to make modifications.

But the final stages of legislation to include both parents did not come before Parliament until last month, spurred by a larger bill that passed in 2019. The earlier bill included the changeover to an electronic marriage registry and the extension of the right to civil partnerships to all couples.

witnesses to their marriage to get around the requirements and make sure that they were included on the certificates.

Caroline Criado Perez, a British author and women’s rights activist, said she had refused to get married until the certificates included mothers. “It sat so wrong with me to willingly take part in the erasure of women,” she wrote on Twitter. Others criticized the overhaul as a small and largely meaningless step compared with the other barriers that women face.

reduced the application fee for those looking to legally change their gender in England and Wales from 140 pounds, or about $195, to £5. Activists for L.G.B.T.Q. rights had criticized the cost as a barrier for transgender people looking to officially recognize their gender identity on a certificate.

Almost 6,000 such certificates were granted from 2005 to 2020, though an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 transgender people live in Britain, the Government Equalities Office said, adding that it was also working “at speed” to move the application process online.

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