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Instagram’s chief executive to testify before Congress

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Congress is investigating the harm that the app imposes on kids

Following weeks of scrutiny… Instagram’s chief executive will be testifying before Congress for the first time in early December.

The chair of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection says the “bombshell reports about Instagram’s toxic impacts” has left them wanting to “hear straight from the company’s leadership”.

The report found that Instagram made one third of teenage girls feel worse about their bodies, and about 13% of teenage British users who experienced suicidal thoughts could trace the issue back to the app.

The subcommittee is concerned about “Why the platform uses powerful algorithms that push poisonous content to children driving them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer”.

They hope that the chief will “support specific legislative reforms and solutions, particularly in its immensely potent algorithms”.

This comes only weeks after former Facebook employee Frances Haugen released thousands of pages of internal documents exposing Instagram’s parent company Facebook to the Senate.

Natasha is an Associate Producer at ticker NEWS with a Bachelor of arts from Monash University. She has previously worked at Sky News Australia and Monash University as an Online Content Producer.

World

Omicron ‘overtaking’ Delta in South Africa

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The new COVID-19 variant Omicron is causing a rise in reinfections in South Africa, a scientist studying the strain has said, though also appears to have less severe symptoms. David Doyle has more.

Omicron is causing an increase in COVID-19 reinfections in South Africa, a scientist studying the new strain has said, and is fast overtaking Delta to become the country’s dominant variant.

Professor Anne von Gottberg, a microbiologist at South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, was speaking at a World Health Organization press conference on Thursday (December 2).

“Previous infection used to protect against Delta but now with Omicron that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

However, she said she and her colleagues believe new infections and reinfections with Omicron would feature less severe symptoms.

COVID-19 cases are rising dramatically in South Africa – one of the southern African countries that first detected the variant.

Speaking at the same event, the WHO’s regional emergency director for Africa, Dr Salam Gueye, said the organization was working closely with countries to step up the response to the new variant.

“In South Africa, where WHO has already a team working in genomic sequencing, we are deploying a surge team in Gauteng province to support surveillance and contact tracing.”

But Gueye also warned that only 7.5% of Africans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – and that 80% haven’t had a single shot.

“This is a dangerously wide gap.”

Many countries have imposed travel bans on passengers from southern Africa.

African leaders have protested – saying they are being punished for their transparency in reporting data on Omicron.

On Thursday Ghana said it had detected the new strain in 34 samples from travelers who returned to the country between November 21 and 25 – but gave no further details about those who were tested.

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Sleepover at IKEA: dozens stranded amid snowstorm in Denmark

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Two dozen staff and six customers were forced to stay the night at IKEA as up to 30 centimetres of snow trapped them inside

A furniture showroom in the department store in Aalborg, Denmark, became the bedroom of several people who were unable to safely make it home in time amidst a strong snowstorm.

Store Manager Peter Elmose told the Ekstra Bladet tabloid that people could “pick the exact bed they always have wanted to try.”

People working in a toy shop next door also took to the department store to join in on the fun.

Michelle Barrett, one of the toy shop staff, told Denmark’s public broadcaster, DR, “it’s much better than sleeping in one’s car. It has been nice and warm and we are just happy that they would let us in.” 

“We just laughed at the situation, because we will probably not experience it again,” she added.

Another approximate 300 people had to stay the night at the Aalborg airport to keep out of the storm. 

According to Euronews, the IKEA sleepover consisted of feasting on chips and Swedish cinnamon rolls in the staff canteen before watching television.

“It was a really nice evening, enjoying each other’s company,” Elmose told AFP. 

“Everyone had a full night’s sleep, our mattresses are good.”

And when the shop reopened for business the next morning, all the bedding and sheets had of course been changed.

Unmade beds following the overnight stay at IKEA amid snowstorm. Source: IKEA Aalborg’s Instagram

This comes after 61 people were trapped in a Yorkshire pub for three nights last week.

The several people trapped in the Tan Hill Inn during the storm slept on makeshift beds on the floor, watched movies, had a quiz night and enjoyed a buffet meal.

Some guests even claimed they didn’t want to leave the the pub after enjoying the 17th century hotel’s hospitality.

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Hong Kong to launch China style system

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As Hong Kong and China prepare to resume quarantine-free travel, Hong Kong’s government will introduce a Beijing-style health code from December 10

The Hong Kong Health Code will take note of a user’s real name, address and identification number.

The voluntary app is designed to be compatible with systems in both Macau and Guangdong provinces in southern China.

In mainland China, a mandatory health code dictates where residents and visitors can travel to and from, sharing real-time data with authorities.

The introduction of this health code system in Hong Kong will allow Chinese officials to open back up the nation’s borders with the city-state.

Hong Kong’s chief information officer also says records “won’t be transferred to mainland authorities unless the person is infected or has been a close contact”.

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