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How to talk to kids and teens about misinformation

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Tomorrow is Election Day in the US, which means we’ve reached peak political saturation: Americans are being hit with constant news alerts, a torrent of punditry and campaign ads on television, and even warring yard signs. The stakes are high, and we’re all struggling to figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction.

Kids and teens are no different. Being young has never been easy, but it’s especially tough when social media, television programs, and maybe even the adults in your life often twist truth into misinformation.

Here are some tips for grownups and young people alike for how to talk with someone about misinformation and make sure the information you’re getting and sharing is true.

How to talk to kids about misinformation

We don’t know much about how kids are affected by conspiracy theories and misinformation. “There is so little research examining conspiracy beliefs in younger people,” says Karen Douglas, a professor of social psychology at the University of Kent and the mother of two teenagers. The literature has made clear that more education helps shield people against misinformation, and that same logic probably applies to kids, who may be likelier to believe misinformation the younger they are. Douglas is developing a psychometric scale to measure conspiracy theory belief in adolescents, but until then, we won’t quite know how kids take in misinformation—which makes fighting against it more difficult.

Be age appropriate. Not all kids are ready to handle the graphic details of George Floyd’s murder or the systemic racism underlying it, for example. Nor should they be if they’re younger than tween-age, says Tanner Higgin, the director of education editorial strategy at CommonSense Media. “For kids under seven, don’t involve them in political discussions or worrying about issues,” he says. Younger kids need to know they are safe and parents are keeping them safe, and worrying them—especially during a pandemic, when they have less contact with their friends—will backfire.

That said, don’t sugarcoat. If you’ve got a particularly precocious, mature kid who’s asking pointed questions and can digest information without spiraling into anxiety and worry, be clear and honest. Lying won’t help kids who will undoubtedly find out the truth elsewhere. “Even toddlers can understand how not telling the truth, or basing decisions on bad information, can be harmful,” says Peter Adams, the senior vice president at the News Literacy Project. “They can also understand foundational journalistic concepts like fairness or the importance of accuracy. You just need to tailor the examples or themes you employ to make this real to them.”

Try introducing a “lite” conspiracy theory. This might go against logic, but Douglas says that doing so is important, especially for more gullible little ones: “Once they believe in conspiracy theories, these beliefs are difficult to correct.” Protect against that by introducing a weak version of the misinformation before they’re exposed to it in the real world, and debunking it with them. This helps kids understand what’s problematic about the reasoning, so when a more persuasive conspiracy theory comes along, they’re able to step back and question it.

How to fight misinformation at any age

Remember that you, too, can fall for misinformation. Yes, even you. “A lot of teens—particularly those who are tech savvy—think that they’re too sharp to fall for misinformation so they don’t have to worry about it,” Adams says. But it bears repeating: No one is immune from misinformation.

Be wary of reposts. “If a claim or screenshot is crossposted to a different platform, it could be a sign that it’s missing context,” Alexa Volland says. She knows: Volland trains teen fact checkers across the United States with MediaWise’s Teen Fact Checking Network (a collaboration between the Poynter Institute, the Google News Initiative, and Facebook). She’s seen plenty of Instagram stories featuring screenshots within a screenshot, or screenshots of tweets posted within an Instagram story or TikTok. Solution: Go to the original platform and check out what that person was saying before sharing.

Even toddlers can understand how not telling the truth, or basing decisions on bad information, can be harmful.

Reverse image searches are your best friend for meme checks. On social media, people sometimes post striking images that they think are about a particular news event but actually have nothing to do with that incident. Volland says that doing a simple reverse image search is one of the easiest, fastest ways to check if a viral image is really what it purports to be.

Ask yourself who is behind the information. Look at the organization or person who originally shared the story and think about their possible incentives. What do they stand to gain from the information that was shared? They may be motivated to twist the truth in ways that can lead to misinformation.

Get proof. Be your own fact checker and try to verify the information to the best of your ability. Consider: What is the evidence? Are there links to sources? Are those sources reliable? And are multiple other sources saying the same thing? Sites like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact might be useful here. 

Check your own bias. Hello, confirmation bias: If you have a strong reaction of “Ugh, that’s disgusting!” or nod vigorously in agreement with a post, step back. “If it’s a claim that sparks an intense emotional reaction, that can translate into validation,” Volland says. That makes us more likely to believe misinformation.

Check for context. Volland says a lot of the misinformation that goes viral on social media pulls images out of context for memes. For example, her group debunked a viral image supposedly about recent Black Lives Matter protests that misled viewers with images from protests in Ferguson, Missouri, a few years ago.

Go private. Nobody likes being attacked, whether it’s at the dinner table or in the comments section on Facebook. Talk to someone who might be misinformed privately and separately, whether it’s in DMs or in person away from others.  

Seek other perspectives. “We tend to read an article up and down but it’s important to open up multiple tabs and get out of your echo chamber,” Volland says. That means going to a news source that might lean the opposite way you tend to, or reading the tweets and press releases of politicians you disagree with. It might be hard, but it will make you more well-rounded and help you know what’s true and what’s inflated.

Check the comments. The comments section will often do a lot of the work in determining whether something is true or not by pointing to alternative sources, and it can be a fast, easy way to see if the post has been flagged by others as suspicious or misleading.

Conversation means meeting the other person halfway. As we’ve said before, being kind is ultimately the most powerful way to talk about misinformation. Attacking people for their beliefs can cause them to double down. Volland suggests “swapping sources” when a news story comes under dispute. Another tip: If a person is skeptical of a news source, presenting information from that source won’t be persuasive. Volland suggests instead seeking out a source you both can agree on and finding information there.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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This Week in Apps: Snapchat clones TikTok, India bans 43 Chinese apps, more data on App Store commission changes

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications, and the overall app economy.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People now spend three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

This week, we’re digging into more data about how the App Store commission changes will impact developers, as well as other top stories, like Snapchat’s new Spotlight feed and India’s move to ban more Chinese apps from the country, among other things.

We also have our weekly round-up of news about platforms, services, privacy, trends, and other headlines.

Top Stories

More on App Store Commissions

Last week, App Annie confirmed to TechCrunch around 98% of all iOS developers in 2019 (meaning, unique publisher accounts) fell under the $1 million annual consumer spend threshold that will now move App Store commissions from a reduced 15% to the standard 30%. The firm also found that only 0.5% of developers were making between $800K and $1M; only 1% were in $500K-$800K range; and 87.7% made less than $100K.

This week, Appfigures has compiled its own data on how Apple’s changes to App Store commissions will impact the app developer community.

According to its findings, of the 2M published apps on the App Store, 376K apps are a paid download, have in-app purchases, or monetize with subscriptions. Those 376K apps are operated by a smaller group of 124.5K developers. Of those developers, only a little under 2% earned more than $1M in 2019. This confirms App Annie’s estimate that 98% of all developers earned under the $1M threshold.

Image Credits: Appfigures

The firm also took a look at companies above the $1M mark, and found that around 53% were games, led by King (of the Candy Crush titles). After a large gap, the next largest categories in 2019 were Health & Fitness, Social Networking, Entertainment, then Photo & Video.

 

Of the developers making over $1M, the largest percentage — 39% — made between $1M and $2.5M in 2019.

Image Credits: Appfigures

The smallest group (1.5%) of developers making more than $1M is the group making more than $150M. These accounted for 29% of the “over $1M” crowd’s total revenue. And those making between $50M and $150M accounted for 24% of the revenue.

Image Credits: Appfigures

AppFigures also found that of those making less than $1M, most (>97%) fell into the sub $250K category. Some developes were worried about the way Apple’s commission change system was implemented — that is, it immediately upon hitting $1M and only annual reassessments. But there are so few developers operating in the “danger zone” (being near the threshold), this doesn’t seem like a significant problem. Read More.

Snapchat takes on TikTok

After taking on TikTok  with music-powered features last month, Snapchat this week launched a dedicated place within its app where users can watch short, entertaining videos in a vertically scrollable, TikTok-like feed. This new feature, called Spotlight, will showcase the community’s creative efforts, including the videos now backed by music, as well as other Snaps users may find interesting. Snapchat says its algorithms will work to surface the most engaging Snaps to display to each user on a personalized basis. Read More

India bans more Chinese apps

India, which has already banned at least 220 apps with links to China in recent months, said on Tuesday it was banning an additional 43 Chinese apps, again citing cybersecurity concerns. Newly banned apps include short video service Snack Video, e-commerce app AliExpress, delivery app Lalamove, shopping app Taobao Live, business card reader CamCard, and others. There are now no Chinese apps in the top 500 most-used apps in India, as a result. Read More.

Weekly News

Platforms

  • Apple’s App Store Connect will now require an Apple ID with 2-step verification enabled.
  • Apple announces holiday schedule for App Store Connect. New apps and app updates won’t be accepted Dec. 23-27 (Pacific Time).
  • SKAdNetwork 2.0 adds Source App ID and Conversion Value. The former lets networks identify which app initiated a download from the App Store and the latter lets them know whether users who installed an app through a campaign performed an action in the app, like signing up for a trial or completing a purchase.
  • Apple rounded up developer praise for its App Store commission change. Lending their names to Apple’s list: Little 10 Robot (Tots Letters and Numbers), Broadstreet (Brief), Foundermark (Friended), Shine, Lifesum, Med ART Studios (Sprout Fertility Tracker), RevenueCat, OK Play, SignEasy, Jump Rope, Wine Spectator, Apollo for Reddit, SwingVision Tennis, Cinémoi.

Services

  • Fortnite adds a $12/mo subscription offering a full season battle pass, 1,000 monthly bucks and a Crew Pack featuring an exclusive outfit bundle. More money for Apple to miss out on, I guess.
  • 14 U.S. states plus Washington D.C. have now adopted COVID-19 contact tracing apps. CA and other states may release apps soon. Few in the U.S. have downloaded the apps, however, which limits their usefulness. 
  • Samsung’s TV Plus streaming TV service comes to more Galaxy phones

Security & Privacy

  • Apple’s senior director of global privacy, Jane Horvath, in a letter to the Ranking Digital Rights organization, confirms App Tracking Transparency feature will arrive in 2021. The feature will allow users to disable tracking between apps. The letter also slams Facebook for collecting “as much data as possible” on users.
  • Baidu’s apps banned from Google Play, Baidu Maps and the Baidu App, were leaking sensitive user data, researchers said. The apps had 6M U.S. users and millions more worldwide.

Apps in the News

Trends

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

  • U.S. Brick-and-mortar retail apps saw 27% growth in first three quarters of 2020, or nearly double the growth of online retailer apps (14%), as measured by new installs. Top apps included Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, Nike, Walgreens, and The Home Depot.
  • App Annie forecast estimates shoppers will spend over 110M hours in (Android) mobile shopping apps this holiday season.
  • PayPal and Square’s Cash app have scored 100% of the newly-issued supply of bitcoins, report says.
  • All social media companies now look alike, Axois argues, citing Twitter’s Fleets and Snap’s TikTok-like feature as recent examples.

Funding and M&A

  • CoStar Group, a provider of commercial real estate info and analytics, acquires Homesnap’s platform and app for $250M to move into the residential real estate market.
  • Remote work app Friday raises $2.1M seed led by Bessemer Venture Partners
  • Stories-style Q&A app F3 raises $3.9M. The team previously founded Ask.fm.
  • Edtech company Kahoot acquires Drops, a startup whose apps help people learn languages using games, for $50M.
  • Mobile banking app Current raises $131M Series C, led by Tiger Global Management.
  • Square buys Credit Karma’s tax unit, Credit Karma Tax, for $50M in cash.

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The Supreme Court will hear its first big CFAA case

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The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday in a case that could lead to sweeping changes to America’s controversial computer hacking laws — and affecting how millions use their computers and access online services.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was signed into federal law in 1986 and predates the modern internet as we know it, but governs to this day what constitutes hacking — or “unauthorized” access to a computer or network. The controversial law was designed to prosecute hackers, but has been dubbed as the “worst law” in the technology law books by critics who say it’s outdated and vague language fails to protect good-faith hackers from finding and disclosing security vulnerabilities.

At the center of the case is Nathan Van Buren, a former police sergeant in Georgia. Van Buren used his access to a police license plate database to search for an acquaintance in exchange for cash. Van Buren was caught, and prosecuted on two counts: accepting a kickback for accessing the police database, and violating the CFAA. The first conviction was overturned, but the CFAA conviction was upheld.

Van Buren may have been allowed to access the database by way of his police work, but whether he exceeded his access remains the key legal question.

Orin Kerr, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said Van Buren vs. United States was an “ideal case” for the Supreme Court to take up. “The question couldn’t be presented more cleanly,” he argued in a blog post in April.

The Supreme Court will try to clarify the decades-old law by deciding what the law means by “unauthorized” access. But that’s not a simple answer in itself.

“The Supreme Court’s opinion in this case could decide whether millions of ordinary Americans are committing a federal crime whenever they engage in computer activities that, while common, don’t comport with an online service or employer’s terms of use,” said Riana Pfefferkorn, associate director of surveillance and cybersecurity at Stanford University’s law school. (Pfefferkorn’s colleague Jeff Fisher is representing Van Buren at the Supreme Court.)

How the Supreme Court will determine what “unauthorized” means is anybody’s guess. The court could define unauthorized access anywhere from violating a site’s terms of service to logging into a system that a person has no user account for.

Pfefferkorn said a broad reading of the CFAA could criminalize anything from lying on a dating profile, sharing the password to a streaming service, or using a work computer for personal use in violation of an employer’s policies.

But the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling could also have broad ramifications on good-faith hackers and security researchers, who purposefully break systems in order to make them more secure. Hackers and security researchers have for decades operated in a legal grey area because the law as written exposes their work to prosecution, even if the goal is to improve cybersecurity.

Tech companies have for years encouraged hackers to privately reach out with security bugs. In return, the companies fix their systems and pay the hackers for their work. Mozilla, Dropbox, and Tesla are among the few companies that have gone a step further by promising not to sue good-faith hackers under the CFAA. Not all companies welcome the scrutiny and bucked the trend by threatening to sue researchers over their findings, and in some cases actively launching legal action to prevent unflattering headlines.

Security researchers are no stranger to legal threats, but a decision by the Supreme Court that rules against Van Buren could have a chilling effect on their work, and drive vulnerability disclosure underground.

“If there are potential criminal (and civil) consequences for violating a computerized system’s usage policy, that would empower the owners of such systems to prohibit bona fide security research and to silence researchers from disclosing any vulnerabilities they find in those systems,” said Pfefferkorn. “Even inadvertently coloring outside the lines of a set of bug bounty rules could expose a researcher to liability.”

“The Court now has the chance to resolve the ambiguity over the law’s scope and make it safer for security researchers to do their badly-needed work by narrowly construing the CFAA,” said Pfefferkorn. “We can ill afford to scare off people who want to improve cybersecurity.”

The Supreme Court will likely rule on the case later this year, or early next.

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What to make of Stripe’s possible $100B valuation

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This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here.

Welcome to a special Thanksgiving edition of The Exchange. Today we will be brief. But not silent, as there is much to talk about.

Up top, The Exchange noodled on the Slack-Salesforce deal here, so please catch up if you missed that while eating pie for breakfast yesterday. And, sadly, I have no idea why Palantir is seeing its value skyrocket. Normally we’d discuss it, asking ourselves what its gains could mean for the lower tiers of private SaaS companies. But as its public market movement appears to be an artificial bump in value, we’ll just wait.

Here’s what I want to talk about this fine Saturday: Bloomberg reporting that Stripe is in the market for more money, at a price that could value the company at “more than $70 billion or significantly higher, at as much as $100 billion.”

Hot damn. Stripe would become the first or second most valuable startup in the world at those prices, depending on how you count. Startup is a weird word to use for a company worth that much, but as Stripe is still clinging to the private markets like some sort of liferaft, keeps raising external funds, and is presumably more focused on growth than profitability, it retains the hallmark qualities of a tech startup, so, sure, we can call it one.

Which is odd, because Stripe is a huge concern that could be worth twelve-figures, provided that gets that $100 billion price tag. It’s hard to come up with a good reason for why it’s still private, other than the fact that it can get away with it.

Anyhoo, are those reported, possible prices bonkers? Maybe. But there is some logic to them. Recall that Square and PayPal earnings pointed to strong payments volume in recent quarters, which bodes well for Stripe’s own recent growth. Also note that 14 months ago or so, Stripe was already processing “hundreds of billions of dollars of transactions a year.”

You can do fun math at this juncture. Let’s say Stripe’s processing volume was $200 billion last September, and $400 billion today, thinking of the number as an annualized metric. Stripe charges 2.9% plus $0.30 for a transaction, so let’s call it 3% for the sake of simplicity and being conservative. That math shakes out to a run rate of $12 billion.

Now, the company’s actual numbers could be closer to $100 billion, $150 billion and $4.5 billion, right? And Stripe won’t have the same gross margins as Slack .

But you can start to see why Stripe’s new rumored prices aren’t 100% wild. You can make the multiples work if you are a believer in the company’s growth story. And helping the argument are its public comps. Square’s stock has more than tripled this year. PayPal’s value has more than doubled. Adyen’s shares have almost doubled. That’s the sort of public market pull that can really help a super-late-stage startup looking to raise new capital and secure an aggressive price.

To wrap, Stripe’s possible new valuation could make some sense. The fact that it is still a private company does not.

Market Notes

Various and Sundry

And speaking of edtech, Equity’s Natasha Mascarenhas and our intrepid producer Chris Gates put together a special ep on the education technology market. You can listen to it here. It’s good.

Hugs and let’s both go do some cardio,

Alex

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