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Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health

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‘Accidental hero’ finds kill switch to stop spread of ransomware cyber-attack

Move by @malwaretechblog came too late for Europe and Asia, but people in the US were given more time to develop immunity to the attack

An accidental hero has halted the global spread of the WannaCry ransomware that has wreaked havoc on organizations including the UKs National Health Service (NHS), FedEx and Telefonica.

A cybersecurity researcher tweeting as @malwaretechblog, with the help of Darien Huss from security firm Proofpoint, found and implemented a kill switch in the malicious software that was based on a cyber-weapon stolen from the NSA.

The kill switch was hardcoded into the malware in case the creator wanted to stop it from spreading. This involved a very long nonsensical domain name that the malware makes a request to just as if it was looking up any website and if the request comes back and shows that the domain is live, the kill switch takes effect and the malware stops spreading.

Of course, this relies on the creator of the malware registering the specific domain. In this case, the creator failed to do this. And @malwaretechblog did early this morning (Pacific Time), stopping the rapid proliferation of the ransomware.

They get the accidental hero award of the day, said Proofpoints Ryan Kalember. They didnt realize how much it probably slowed down the spread of this ransomware.

The time that @malwaretechblog registered the domain was too late to help Europe and Asia, where many organizations were affected. But it gave people in the US more time to develop immunity to the attack by patching their systems before they were infected, said Kalember.

The kill switch wont help anyone whose computer is already infected with the ransomware, and and its possible that there are other variances of the malware with different kill switches that will continue to spread.

The malware was made available online on 14 April through a dump by a group called Shadow Brokers, which claimed last year to have stolen a cache of cyber weapons from the National Security Agency (NSA).

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a users data, then demands payment in exchange for unlocking the data. This attack was caused by a bug called WanaCrypt0r 2.0 or WannaCry, that exploits a vulnerability in Windows. Microsoft released a patch (a software update that fixes the problem) for the flaw in March, but computers that have not installed the security update remain vulnerable.

MalwareTech (@MalwareTechBlog)

I will confess that I was unaware registering the domain would stop the malware until after i registered it, so initially it was accidental.

May 13, 2017

The ransomware demands users pay $300 worth of cryptocurrency Bitcoin to retrieve their files, though it warns that the payment will be raised after a certain amount of time. Translations of the ransom message in 28 languages are included. The malware spreads through email.

This was eminently predictable in lots of ways, said Ryan Kalember from cybersecurity firm Proofpoint. As soon as the Shadow Brokers dump came out everyone [in the security industry] realized that a lot of people wouldnt be able to install a patch, especially if they used an operating system like Windows XP [which many NHS computers still use], for which there is no patch.

Security researchers with Kaspersky Lab have recorded more than 45,000 attacks in 74 countries, including the UK, Russia, Ukraine, India, China, Italy, and Egypt. In Spain, major companies including telecommunications firm Telefnica were infected.

By Friday evening, the ransomware had spread to the United States and South America, though Europe and Russia remained the hardest hit, according to security researchers Malware Hunter Team. The Russian interior ministry says about 1,000 computers have been affected.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/13/accidental-hero-finds-kill-switch-to-stop-spread-of-ransomware-cyber-attack

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Pics Or It Didn’t Happen: reclaiming Instagram’s censored art

The authors of a book curating 270 images that Instagram censored explain why they are making them visible again

Early in March 2015, artist and poet Rupi Kaur uploaded a picture to Instagram of herself in her room, wearing jogging bottoms stained with menstrual blood. Lying with her back to the camera in a nondescript bedroom, nothing about the image was strange. A few days later, Kaur found her image had been removed, so she reposted it. A few days after that, it was removed again. This time she found out why: Instagrams moderators had deleted the picture for violation of community standards. Kaur responded with a rallying post on her Facebook and Tumblr accounts that was shared 11,000 times. We will not be censored, she wrote.

Kaurs photograph is just one of the 270 deleted images featured in Pics Or It Didnt Happen, a contemporary art book by digital artists Arvida Bystrm and Molly Soda that brings the pictures Instagram have removed back into the spotlight. But the book is about much more than simply shocking us with controversial pictures; both Bystrm and Soda agree that some level of social media censorship is needed. I do understand why censorship exists. Im not free the nipple because I dont give a shit about that, Soda says. But I do think that females presenting bodies are going to be censored more as theyre always going to be in conversation with sex no matter what the topic of the photo is.

@c.har.lee
@c.har.lee by Lee Phillips. Photograph: Lee Phillips

Pics Or It Didnt Happen exposes an ominous flaw in Instagrams community guidelines: women are getting an extremely hard time. For a variety of reasons, we dont allow nudity on Instagram, the guidelines read and yet it bare chested men remain largely uncensored, while topless images of women are guaranteed to be deleted. And it is not only nipples: when Soda and Bystrm asked their combined 207,600 Instagram followers for examples of censored images, the book explains: We began to see patterns in the types of images that had been subjected to censorship. Overwhelmingly, the photos are of female nipples, vaginal secretions and body hair. Presented together, Pics Or It Didnt Happen demonstrates how taboo very ordinary elements of female bodies, such as hair, fat and blood, have become. The stuff Ive had taken down was never explicitly sexual, Molly says. But the thing is, when you have a picture removed, it immediately sexualises it.

Since it launched in 2010, Instagram has helped to democratise the art world, making it possible for young women from different backgrounds to take a spot in a famously masculine industry, promote their work, and find recognition. Many of the women in this book have done just that. One of Instagrams most famous banned pictures, Petra Collinss 2013 crotch portrait is included, along with well-known artists like Isaac Kariuki and Maisie Cousins.

But, frustratingly, the book is very white. It was mostly white women that sent us images after we made the callout for banned pictures, says Bystrm. Whats in the book is representative of what we were sent, which I think says a lot about the state of the art world. And, as Bystrm is quoted in the foreword: White, abled, cis young women, often pretty thin These types of people tend to feel more entitled to their bodies.

The lack of non-cisgender women, and women of colour, is something that should be noted and challenged. But in making a book out of these removed online works, whether you think the photos are good or not, the authors have created an archival document with its own artistic criteria, delivering a deleted contemporary art movement into the hands of those who shun it. As a historical document, the book is interesting, says Bystrm. In 10 years time, things will be different. Instagram probably wont even exist then.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/10/pics-or-it-didnt-happen-reclaiming-instagrams-censored-art