Poll: Teens say social media makes them feel better

By Barbara Ortutay

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK _ Today’s teens are constantly on their smartphones, many check social media “constantly” and prefer texting over face-to-face communication.

But a new poll finds that these same teens also say that social media has a positive effect on their lives, helping them feel more confident, less lonely and less depressed.

The poll was released Monday by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based non-profit group focused on kids’ use of media and technology. It found that 89 per cent of teenagers have their own smartphone. That’s up from 41 per cent in 2012, the last time the survey was conducted.

But while 2012’s teens were all over Facebook, the age group’s presence on the social network has plummeted in the past six years. Only 15 per cent of teens now say Facebook is their main social network. In 2012, 68 per cent did.

Today, 44 per cent of teens say their primary social network is Snapchat, making it the most popular social media app, followed by Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) at 22 per cent.

Among the survey’s other findings:

_ The majority of teens 59 per cent said social media makes no difference in how depressed they feel. Twenty-nine per cent, meanwhile, said it makes them feel less depressed and 11 per cent said it makes them more depressed. Thirty-nine per cent said it makes them feel less lonely and 13 per cent, more lonely.

_ Thirty-five per cent of teens said texting is their favourite way to communicate with friends, compared with 33 per cent in 2012. Only 32 per cent said talking in person is their preferred method of communication, down from 49 per cent among 2012 teens.

_ Almost three-quarters of teens said they believe that tech companies manipulate people into spending more time on their devices and more than half said using social media often distracts them from homework.

_ Sixty-four per cent of teen social-media users said they come across racist, sexist or homophobic or other hateful content either sometimes or often.

_ Sixteen per cent of teens use social media “almost constantly,” while 19 per cent never do.

_ Thirteen per cent of teenagers said they have been cyberbullied. Nearly a quarter, meanwhile, has tried to help a person who has been cyberbullied by talking to them or reporting it to an adult.

_ More than half said parents worry too much about social media on the other hand, 46 per cent think parents would be a lot more worried if they knew what “actually happens” online.

The survey was conducted in March and April among 1,141 13- to 17-year-olds nationwide. The margin of error is 3.4 percentage points.

Texters who distract drivers could be held liable in accidents: insurance expert

By Peter Rakobowchuk

THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL _ An insurance and legal expert says texters could be held liable for any damages if they message someone they know is driving and that person has an accident.

“There’s an increasing public safety issue of operators of vehicles who are distracted while driving,” lawyer Jordan Solway said in a recent interview.

“And if you contribute in the same way as if you’re in the vehicle, and you interfere with their driving of the vehicle, you could be held responsible for that injured third party.”

Solway, vice-president of claim at Travelers Canada, pointed to a New Jersey court ruling from 2013 that said the sender of a text who causes a driver to become distracted and have an accident may be held liable.

The case involved an 18-year-old driver’s girlfriend who texted him about 25 seconds before his pickup truck crossed a median and seriously injured a motorcyclist and his wife. Both bikers lost their left legs as a result of the 2009 accident.

Solway said there have been no similar cases in Canada yet, but he believes it’s just a matter of time.

He compares it to what happens when a bar owner or the host of a party has to take responsibility for someone who is drinking, becomes intoxicated and gets into a vehicle.

“It’s analogous you’re putting someone in a position where they could cause harm to themselves or a third party,” Solway said.

Travelers Canada also commissioned a recent online survey that delved into what may be distracting drivers.

The No. 1 reason may not be surprising.

Thirty-one per cent said it was because they have family obligations that require constant attention. By gender, 40 per cent of females gave that reason, while it was 23 per cent among males.

In Quebec, 23 per cent cited family obligations, while in Ontario the figure was 41 per cent.

When it came to other reasons, 27 per cent said they didn’t want to miss something important, another 14 per cent said they always wanted to be available for work and eight per cent said they were afraid of upsetting the boss if they didn“t answer.

“I think it’s a (consequence) unfortunately of living in a highly connected world where, if someone doesn’t respond immediately to an email or a text, your concern is they are ignoring you,” Solway noted.

The Harris Poll was conducted March 9-12 and involved 948 Canadian drivers aged 18 and over.

An Insurance Bureau of Canada spokesman says companies must implement policies to discourage drivers from texting _ and individuals who may be texting them _ while they are on the road.

“The aspect of determining liability or fault in cases lke that would rest with the courts,” Pete Karageorgos said in an interview.

“It has to be a whole host of instances in terms of not just the act of texting, but also the act of reading the text or responding or having that phone in your hand.”

He said some insurers are seeing more instances of rear-end-type collisions which typically happen when the driver in the back isn’t paying attention.

“It’s a concern that we share as an industry because that will impact premiums,” Karageorgos added.

But Quebec’s automobile insurance board provided some encouraging statistics involving drivers who violated the law, which prohibits the use of a hand-held device while driving.

The highest number was in 2013 when there were close to 68,000 infractions, including 19,000 that involved drivers between the ages of 25 and 34.

But in 2016, the overall total dropped to 46,369. For the 25-34 age group, it decreased to just more than 14,000

The lowest number was in 2008 when there were about 18,250 violations.

Loreena McKennitt is leaving Facebook, but other musicians say it’s not so easy

Loreena McKennitt is leaving Facebook, but other musicians say it’s not so easy

By David Friend

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Folk singer Claire Coupland doesn’t love Facebook, but when it comes to promoting her music career she’s almost married to the social media goliath.

Her relationship with the platform is fraught with her questions about its true effectiveness, but like most musicians the Toronto-based performer sticks around. She shows up nearly every week to post something that she hopes will attract new listeners and keep the loyal fans entertained, like a new song or recent photo.

And despite concerns over Facebook data breaches, she hasn’t seriously considered joining the chorus of users who severed ties with the platform and deleted their profiles. It seems like most musicians haven’t.

“Everything’s there. It’s all connected already, so I don’t know if it’s wise to get rid of a Facebook fan page,” she said. “I would never get rid of mine.”

Coupland, like many independent musicians early in their careers, is always looking for ways to promote her music without spending a lot of money. Facebook is cheap to use and can potentially reach millions of listeners.

But it’s also problematic for people concerned about privacy and the wider-reaching impact of data exchange between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook that went undetected for some time.

Facebook told investors last week that known data breaches might only be the tip of the iceberg. The company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission disclosed expectations that “additional incidents of misuse of user data or other undesirable activity by third parties” could emerge in the coming months.

That puts artists in a tough spot where most believe they can’t afford to leave the platform, but they don’t necessarily like it either.

The Darcys’ Wes Marskell holds those mixed feelings for Facebook, calling it an “overarching menace,” but a necessary tool for musicians. He balances his dislike for the platform, and its privacy concerns, against his belief that “everyone else is collecting that sort of data” on its users too.

But as a career musician, he said it offers valuable fan insight that can help determine which cities to play and what resonates with listeners.

“It is helpful to understand who your audience is, who’s participating and what they like,” he said.

But Facebook’s attractive features make it impossible to follow the lead of singer Loreena McKennitt, who recently announced plans to delete her Facebook profile over concerns for the privacy of her fans. The Manitoba-born performer, known for her 1997 hit “The Mummers’ Dance,” has more than 546,000 followers on the platform.

McKennitt said after details of the data exchange between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook were recently made public, she had to make a decision.

“As a business owner and a citizen I became very concerned that Facebook was offside,” she said in a recent interview.

“I’d rather stop partaking in an infrastructure that I know is very compromised.”

McKennitt’s plan to dump the platform, which she says she’ll do on June 1, has been met with mixed reactions from her fans.

Some say the singer is being hypocritical by publicly expressing concerns over privacy, but still using Facebook to promote her new album in the weeks before she officially closes her account. Others are unhappy they’re losing an easy way to learn about the singer’s upcoming tour dates.

Leaving Facebook is a privilege as a musician, McKennitt acknowledged.

“There are many artists whose Facebook page is probably managed by their label,” she said. “They may not even have a choice about whether they can shut it down or not.”

“I’m also lucky from the standpoint that I’m kind of a legacy artist,” she added. “I could retire tomorrow and I’d be fine.”

Younger acts are operating in a totally different social media world, said Rebecca Webster, president of music publicity firm Webster Media Consulting Inc.

“Definitely Facebook is a place where artists need to be,” she said. “I always think of it as the water cooler.”

But Webster doesn’t see Facebook holding any sort of unwieldy position against its social media competitors. It’s an instrument in the digital toolbox alongside Instagram, Twitter and all the others, she said.

“Media is impermanent, and it has been for quite a while, and the only way you survive is by transitioning and changing,” she said.

“You have to keep learning and finding where the people are.”

Tamara Campbell believes music fans generally find it valuable to know where their favourite artists will be. It’s one of the reasons why the Toronto-based music publicist encourages independent artists to invest in a website.

She said many new artists often don’t think about the value of a permanent home base when they’re trying to cater to every trendy social media platform.

“Having your own URL is almost like having your own social insurance number,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter if you have a million followers, if you can’t sell a $10 album it’s worthless to you, if that’s what you’re looking for.”

Coupland is trying to keep the big picture in mind as she navigates her social media future. The folk singer recently began to make plans to update her website with flashier graphics. She’s also forging ahead with the proven success of another traditional digital approach _ the email newsletter.

“If they come to a show, I get their email address,” Coupland said. “That’s the one thing that’s pretty tried and true for me.”

She also strongly believes in the value of word-of-mouth.

“If you make something really great, people will find it and they’ll share it,” she said.

International probe shuts down cyberattack provider

By Mike Corder

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

THE HAGUE, Netherlands _ In a major hit against cybercriminals, an international police operation has taken down what investigators called the world’s biggest provider of potentially crippling Distributed Denial of Service attacks.

On Wednesday, police hailed the success of the operation Wednesday, saying that a joint investigation led by Dutch and British experts and supported by European Union police agency Europol led to the arrest on Tuesday of the administrators of the website webstresser.org.

Europol said webstresser.org had more than 136,000 registered users and racked up 4 million attacks on banks, governments, police forces and the gaming industry. Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS, attacks attempt to make online services unavailable by overwhelming them with traffic from multiple sources.

“It used to be that in order to launch a DDoS attack, one had to be pretty well versed in internet technology,” Europol said in a statement. “That is no longer the case.”

The agency said that registered users could pay a fee of as little as 15 euros ($18) per month to rent its services and launch cyberattacks.

Administrators of the service were arrested Tuesday in Britain, Croatia, Canada and Serbia, Europol said. The illegal service was shut down and computers and other infrastructure seized in the Netherlands, the United States and Germany.

Croatian police said that a 19-year-old Croat, whom they described as the owner of webstresser.org, was detained on charges of “serious criminal acts against computer systems, programs and data” that carry a possible sentence of one to eight years in prison.

Gert Ras, head of the Dutch police’s High Tech Crime unit, said the operation should send a clear warning to users of websites like webstresser.

“Don’t do it,” Ras said. “By tracking down the DDoS service you use, we strip you of your anonymity, hand you a criminal record and put your victims in a position to claim back damages from you.”

‘Um… no’: Zuckerberg protects his own privacy in testimony

Even Mark Zuckerberg has limits on what he’s willing to share.

In a rare light-hearted exchange during his public grilling before U.S. senators Tuesday, the Facebook CEO told Sen. Dick Durbin that no, he would rather not share personal details of his life with the U.S. Congress.

“Mr. Zuckerberg, would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?” asked Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.

“Um… no,” Zuckerberg said after pausing, then smiled as the room laughed.

“If you’ve messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you’ve messaged?” Durbin continued.==

“Senator, no, I would probably not choose to do that publicly here,” Zuckerberg replied.

“I think that maybe is what this is all about,” Durbin said.  “Your right to privacy. The limits of your right to privacy and how much you give away in modern America in the name of quote, ‘Connecting people around the world.”’

Durbin was among many senators who grilled Zuckerberg on what the social network collected on its users, following revelations that the Donald Trump-affiliated data mining firm Cambridge Analytica scooped up data on millions of Americans without their knowledge.

Montrealer’s fight for insurance benefits highlights dangers of social media: lawyers

By Morgan Lowrie

THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL _ The case of a Montreal writer who said his insurance company refused to pay him disability benefits due in part to online postings is a reminder to people to watch what they put on the Internet, according to legal experts.

Literature professor Samuel Archibald published a letter in La Presse earlier this month detailing his struggles to get disability benefits after being diagnosed with severe depression last fall.

He wrote that while he was on leave from his job at Universite du Quebec a Montreal, the school’s group insurer opened an investigation because he had been able to take part in certain activities such as speaking with students, reading poems on the radio and making a 10-minute TV appearance.

They also looked at photos he had posted on social media that showed him jogging or playing with his children.

“They also used this new trick of peeling through the insured’s Facebook and Instagram pages in order to prove, in the event of a lawsuit, that he is not depressed,” he wrote on Feb. 12.

The article prompted a wave of denunciations from doctors, union leaders and citizens, with some sharing their own stories of being denied claims with the hashtag #avecsam.

It also elicited a response from Archibald’s insurance company, which defended its commitment to mental health and promised to review his file.

“Close to half of our group insurance claims are disability cases, and less than five per cent of mental health claims are declined,” Desjardins wrote in a statement.

“It’s important to note that each claim is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, while consulting with the insured, experts  including the attending physicians and the employer.”

But the story is no surprise to legal experts, who say insurance companies are increasingly turning to social media to investigate claims.

David Share, a lawyer who specializes in insurance claims, says insurance companies have always conducted surveillance and been suspicious of certain kinds of disability claims.

He says that while firms have a responsibility to ensure claims are valid, social media can also offer “a cheaper, quicker way of trying to find grounds to deny a claim.”

As an example, he says insurance companies can argue that someone who spends a certain number of hours online is capable of working a desk job or taking calls.

“It’s easy to say ‘this person doesn’t look disabled,’ but that’s an overly simplistic way of looking at it,” he said.

Robert Currie, a lawyer and member of Dalhousie University’s law and technology institute, says insurance companies are too often allowed to be invasive and to jump to conclusions that aren’t supported by their evidence.

“You can’t judge anything meaningful about someone’s mental health based on their social media feeds,” said Currie.

“One thing we know is that social media feeds are extremely unreliable indicators of anything about a person, 95 per cent of the time.”

Both Share and Currie say that while the issue of social media monitoring raises privacy concerns, thus far there are few government regulations in place to stop it.

“The legal system is still trying to catch up with the Internet and the impact that it has, and it’s very difficult to prevent companies or investigators from being able to learn how to look things up online,” Share said.

Currie said that while people can have some legal recourse if they can show that companies breached strong privacy barriers, it’s far easier and less costly to assume that anything posted online can be found.

“A colleague has a sign on her office that reads: ‘Dance like nobody is watching; email as if it’s going to be read to a deposition some day,”’ he said.

“I think people are far too casual about this.”

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