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Senate panel interrogates Instagram CEO on how platform protects children | Instagram

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The head of Instagram faced a grilling from US lawmakers on Wednesday over how the platform protects its youngest users, an appearance that comes amid intensifying criticism of Instagram’s impact on children and young adults.

In opening statements, Senator Richard Blumenthal promised to be “ruthless” in the hearing, saying “the time for self-policing and self-regulation is over”.

“Self policing depends on trust, and the trust is gone,” he said. “The magnitude of these problems requires both and broad solutions and accountability which has been lacking so far.”

Instagram executive Adam Mosseri, appearing before the Senate commerce consumer protection panel, defended the platform and called on lawmakers to create an industry body to better regulate social media.

Mosseri also attempted to shift blame on the wider industry, saying that “keeping young people safe online is not just about one company” and added that more young people use other apps including video platforms TikTok and YouTube.

“We all want teens to be safe online,” Mosseri said in opening statements. “The internet isn’t going away, and I believe there’s important work that we can do together – industry and policymakers – to raise the standards across the internet to better serve and protect young people.”

He called for an industry body to address “how to verify age, how to design age-appropriate experiences, and how to build parental controls” on apps. He suggested targeting the protections offered by Section 230, a federal law that shields platforms from legal liability for what users post on them.

The hearing comes as Instagram and its parent company, Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), face global criticism over the ways their services affect the mental health, body image and online safety of younger users after the release of internal documents from former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen.

Those papers, published by the Wall Street Journal and handed over to Congress, revealed the company’s own internal research showed Instagram negatively affected the mental health of teens, particularly regarding body image issues.

Lawmakers also pressed Mosseri to release more of the internal research referenced in those papers including a presentation about anorexia and suicidal thoughts among teens. Mosseri committed to better transparency but said that specific presentation was likely deleted due to data retention laws.

Other senators had strong words for Mosseri, bringing grave examples of harms done to children through the Instagram platform. Maria Cantwell told Mosseri of one of her constituents who claimed her young daughter was groomed by adults on Instagram, lured into sex trafficking and taken across state lines for prostitution.

She challenged Mosseri over Instagram’s terms and conditions, which state that a child’s only legal recourse over such incidents would be an arbitration – a closed court process in which matters are settled quietly with no judge, jury, or appeal option.

“That story is terrifying,” Mosseri said. “We try to be as public as we can about how well we do on difficult problems like that one, and we believe that there should be industry standards, there should be industry wide accountability, and that the best way to do that is federal legislation, which is specifically what I’m proposing today.”

Blackburn asked Mosseri to speak directly to parents whose children have been hurt, or hurt themselves, as a result of their Instagram use. “You have broken these children’s lives, and you have broken these parents’ hearts,” she said.

Meanwhile, Blumenthal, the Democratic senator and chair of the panel, asked on Wednesday that Instagram permanently scrap its development of a platform for children, which the company previously suspended amid growing opposition. Mosseri declined to commit to a permanent stop, but said any related projects would require parental consent.

Lawmakers question Adam Mosseri about how young users are protected on the social media platform.
Lawmakers question Adam Mosseri about how young users are protected on the social media platform. Photograph: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/REX/Shutterstock

Lawmakers are increasingly pushing for greater accountability. In November, a bipartisan coalition of US state attorneys general said it had opened an inquiry into Meta for promoting Instagram to children despite potential harms. And in September, US lawmakers grilled Facebook’s head of safety, Antigone Davis, about the impacts of the company’s products on children.

Ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, Instagram said it will be stricter about the types of content it recommends to teens and will nudge young users toward different areas if they dwell on one topic for a long time.

In a blogpost published on Tuesday, the social media service announced it was switching off the ability for people to tag or mention teens who do not follow them on the app and would enable teen users to to bulk delete their content and previous likes and comments.

In the blogpost, Mosseri also said Instagram was exploring controls to limit potentially harmful or sensitive material, was working on parental control tools and was launching a “Take a Break” feature, which reminds people to take a brief pause from the app after using it for a certain amount of time, in certain countries.

Blumenthal called the company’s product announcement “baby steps”.

“They are more a PR gambit than real action done within hours of the CEO testifying that are more to distract than really solve the problem,” he told Politico.

Blackburn criticized the company’s product announcement as “hollow”, saying in a statement: “Meta is attempting to shift attention from their mistakes by rolling out parental guides, use timers and content control features that consumers should have had all along.”

Mosseri also said in Wednesday’s hearing that the platform may be reintroducing a chronological news feed in 2022, a departure from the activity-driven algorithm it currently uses.

While lawmakers seemed satisfied to make some concrete steps towards formulating better social media policies, activists remained wary.

For years the company has offered “empty promises and half-baked safety measures”, said Josh Golin, executive director of children’s safety organization Fairplay.

“The bottom line is this: Instagram’s advertising business is harming children, and nothing meaningful has been done to change that,” he said. “It’s clear that self-regulation will not work. Congress must act now and regulate big tech to protect children.”

Agencies contributed reporting

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Angharad Yeo: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Comedy

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I am a child of the internet. I was always drawn to computers and tech, and used to beg my dad to bring us to his office on a weekend so we could use the high-speed internet to play Neopets games. As I got older it was all MSN, MySpace, Paramore fan forums, Tumblr, Twitter and now TikTok. I want nothing more than to zone out and look at my little pictures.

One of my favourite things about the internet is that it allows you to see everyone’s best joke. The moment in their life where they were at their absolute funniest – whether it be because they had a moment of brilliant wit or because they got pulled through a panel roof while practising for a high school play (I assume).

The internet has rotted my brain with the following content. Please now allow it to rot yours.

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The Pandemic Years have (and continue to be) difficult for everyone. Who among us has not, at one time or another, needed to just explain themselves by saying: “It’s mental illness, innit?”

2. Perfect burger

When I showed this video to my fiancee, she flatly said: “I like how absurdist it is.” That’s her code for, “I don’t get it, but I’m happy you’re happy.” And I am happy. Look at how confident and brave this burger is – ready to take on the world, come what may. I wish to be the burger.

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I have been to court precisely once because I inadvertently got in a cop’s way and he was grumpy about it so he booked me. The penalty was dismissed but not before I cried in front of the judge trying to explain what happened because I was so stressed out. Court is a daunting place and I simply cannot imagine walking in there with any level of irreverence. However, I’m extremely glad there are people who simply do not care, will say whatever damn thing and then an internet angel turns them into TikToks.

4. Turtle choir

This tweet is made all the more majestic by the vaguely threatening Sylvanian Families-style profile picture, on a Twitter account named @bigfatmoosepssy.

5. Trying coffee with pasta water

Climate change is slowly turning the Earth into a barren ball of pain as Mother Nature smacks us for being extremely bad. Even though individual responsibility for climate change isn’t enough to turn the tide, I still applaud those who try. Twitter user @madibskatin woke up in the morning and decided to be the change she wants to see in the world, tastebuds be damned. One could argue that it’s pretty obvious that pasta water isn’t going to make a good coffee but like my dad says as he puts pineapple juice in his coffee: “If no one tries it, how will we know? What if it’s secretly good?”

6. Soaring, flying

If you look closely, this video is actually a metaphor for the ways in which we attempt to break free from our circumstances, yet are entirely at the mercy of them.

7. You cannot trick me

This may be a parody Twitter account, but the spirit of Gail Walden speaks truths. There is no victory sweeter than that which is gained on thine enemy’s own soil.

8. Self-deprecating jokes

Humour is a coping mechanism. I am coping.

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Dairy products are delicious. Ice-cream? Revolutionary. Cheese? Life-changing. Whipped cream on a pavlova? Essential. But milk? Disgusting. It’s not a drink, it’s a stepping stone to greater things.

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I am absolutely 100% not at all lactose intolerant (I promise) so I don’t relate to this video at all (not even a bit).

Angharad Yeo is the host of Double J Weekends, 9am – midday, Saturdays and Sundays.

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F5 cuts revenue 2022 forecasts amid low network chip stocks • The Register

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The artist formerly know as F5 Networks – it moved to plain old F5 in November – is clipping revenue forecasts for fiscal ’22 by $30m to $90m because it can’t source enough specialised chips to produce systems.

The continued impact of the shortfall was outlined in F5’s Q1 results to 31 December and subsequent earnings conference call, during which chief exec François Locoh-Donou opened up on the challenge of suppliers cancelling orders because they can’t meet demand.

“As a result of persistent strong system demand, our systems backlog continued to grow in Q1,” he said. “Over the last 30 days, suppliers of critical components that span a number of our platforms have informed us of significant increases in decommits.

“These came in the form of both order delivery delays and sudden and pronounced reduction in shipment quantities. The step function decline in components availability is significantly restricting our ability to meet our customers’ continued strong demand for our systems.

“Like others in the industry, we are seeing worsening availability of specialized networking chipsets. Within the last 30 days, we have learned that deliveries for 52-week lead time components or at a year ago have been pushed out and that our expected quantities have been reduced.”

Group turnover grew 10 per cent year-on-year to $687m in F5’s Q1, fuelled by a 47 per cent leap in software to $163m, 2 per cent in services to $344m, and 1 per cent in hardware to $180m.

“Our software transition continues to gain momentum,” said Locoh-Donou, adding later in the earnings call: “While we are solely disappointed that supply chain challenges have gated our ability to fulfil customer demand for systems in the near term, we are more confident than ever in our position, our strategy and our long-term opportunity.”

The backlog grew by 10 per cent so the sales pipeline is looking healthy, said the exec, who was at great pains throughout the call to tell analysts: “It absolutely is a supply issue. And the revision we’ve just done to our annual guidance is 100 per cent linked to the supply issue.”

For the year, F5 now expects sales to grow 4-8 per cent ($610m to $650m).

“The issue with our supply chain has deteriorated steadily. And last year, we were not able to ship the demand, which is why our backlog grew so much during the year.

“Things have been getting worse. And at the beginning of our fiscal year, when we were doing the planning for this year, we actually took into account the number of decommits that we were getting from various suppliers and a situation that was already very tight on a number of components.”

He said in the past month it was seeing more than 400 cancellations from suppliers, “and we were running about 30 per cent less than that even just a month ago – the situation is quite unprecedented.”

In a bid to ameliorate the supply situation, F5 said it is working to design and qualify replacement parts – which may improve thing in the second half of the year. It is also trying to pre-order more components.

F5 is confident that it will not see orders cancelled. “The demand we have is very real. Our lead times, unfortunately, have gotten progressively worse over the last five, six quarters, but we haven’t seen any increase in order cancellation, and we don’t expect to see that going forward,” Locoh-Donou stated.

Supply chain problems with silicon components have been hitting companies in the IT industry and beyond for multiple quarters now, and networking vendors are no less vulnerable.

Last year, Arista warned that lead times for key chips were extending out to 60 weeks, twice what would be expected before the pandemic. Both Arista and Juniper announced they were being forced to bump up prices in November, while Cisco warned its buyers and investors that supply chain issues were likely to persist for several months more, although it expected to see some improvement in the situation for Q3 and Q4, taking us into the second half of 2022. ®

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Cork data centre equipment maker Edpac acquired for €29m

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Munters, a Swedish air treatment technology company, will use the Edpac acquisition to expand into the European market.

Irish data centre equipment manufacturer Edpac has been acquired by Swedish company Munters in a €29m deal.

Based in Carrigaline, Co Cork, Edpac manufactures cooling equipment and air handling systems for data centres in the European market, with additional sales in the Middle East, South America and Asia.

For Munters, which has significant operations in North America, the acquisition is an opportunity for it to expand in the European market. Once complete, the deal will see the transfer of Munters’ technologies and engineering capabilities to Ireland.

“The European data centre market is a prioritised segment for Munters, and the acquisition is a significant step in our growth strategy,” said Klas Forsström, president and chief executive of Munters.

Forsström said that Munters’ experience in the North American market will provide Edpac with “opportunities for further profitable growth” by collaborating on “technology development and establishing unified processes”.

Edpac has two manufacturing facilities in Ireland – Newmarket and Carrigaline – and employs around 150 people in the country. Currently a manufacturing partner for Munters, Edpac sees approximately 7pc of its revenue come from the sale of Munters products.

In the financial year ending April 2021, Edpac reported net sales of €17m and earnings before tax of €1.7m. According to The Irish Times, Edpac managing director Noel Lynch has led the company since it was bought from its Swiss parent in 1991.

“We are excited to welcome Edpac to Munters. Edpac brings an attractive, differentiated customer base and high-quality products,” Forsström said, adding that Edpac’s operating model “is a perfect match with Munters ways of working.”

Founded in 1955, Munters aims to create energy efficient air treatment technologies for customers in a wide range of industries. Listed on Nasdaq Stockholm, it employees 3,300 employees across 30 countries – with annual sales exceeding 7bn Swedish krona in 2020.

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