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By Fiza Ali
Apple removes Unjected, a dating app for the unvaccinated, over anti-vax content
by Fiza Ali
Apple has removed a hybrid social and dating app for the unvaccinated, Unjected, saying that it referenced the themes and concepts of the COVID-19 pandemic "inappropriately". Unjected describes itself as a platform that provides users space where they can match with other users who support "medical autonomy and free speech". The founders of the dating app are also involved in a conflict with Google regarding their Android app.
The site reportedly contained false claims that vaccines produced for COVID-19 have the potential to serve as bio-weapons, connect to 5G, and modify genes. Google sent Unjected a notice on the 16th of July to remove false claims and misleading information from the site within two weeks to prevent a Play Store ban. Upon this notice, the developers removed the social feed but Shelby Thompson, co-creator of the app, stated that Unjected would restore both the false claims and the feed, and will not comply with the request.
The app also has an account on Instagram where it supports its perspective on freedom and does not refrain from propagating misleading posts like claiming that mRNA vaccines alter DNA in spite of Instagram's anti-misinformation stance.
Apple and Google have made it clear through their crackdown that they won't permit apps that allow anti-vax content. The former also claimed that the app encouraged its users to utilize shady tactics to avoid Apple's regulations, and that is also reason enough to ban Unjected from the App Store.
Source: Bloomberg (paywall) via Engadget
By Jay Bonggolto
Apple is reportedly asking for vaccination status of employees in some locations
by Jay Bonggolto
Many of Apple's employees outside of China switched to remote work arrangements in March of last year when COVID-19 kicked in, forcing everyone to observe social distancing in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. The company also recently delayed its plan to resume office-based setup for employees amid the growing number of Delta variant cases, as per The New York Times.
Now, Apple is said to be looking into the vaccination status of its employees. The Verge reporter Zoë Schiffer has said on Twitter that the firm is asking its employees in specific locations whether they have been inoculated.
The report stems from supposed guidance coming from Apple that states:
Those that refuse to share their vaccination status will be presumed "unvaccinated". Schiffer noted that Apple would implement "additional health and safety protocols" for on-site employees who are not yet fully vaccinated.
Earlier this year, the Cupertino-based firm offered paid time off for employees who would agree to get full vaccination as a part of an effort to encourage them to get the vaccine. Other companies like Google, on the other hand, are requiring employees to get fully vaccinated before they can transition back to the office environments. It's not clear, however, whether Apple would demand the same from its employees.
Google.org announces $2.5 million for Southeast Asia COVID-19 response
by Paul Hill
Google has announced that its philanthropic arm, Google.org, has made a $2.5 million grant to UNICEF and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to assist countries in Southeast Asia recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the recipients of the grant will be Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Pakistan.
According to Google, the money will go to providing critical, life-saving support for the people who need it most. It is also providing a further $5 million in ad grants so that local government agencies and organisations such as UNICEF can run information campaigns to ensure the populations of these countries can get accurate information about the disease.
Unlike countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, many of the countries receiving these funds have not yet vaccinated large sections of the population. According to Our World in Data, 55.4% and 48.91% of people (including children) in the UK and U.S. are fully vaccinated while the countries receiving the money have fully vaccinated populations of between just 0.51% and 18.86% so people are still ending up in hospitals with more serious conditions.
Explaining the company’s plans going forward Stephanie Davis, Vice President, Southeast Asia, Google, said:
People that want to chip into the global COVID-19 vaccination effort can do so through the WHO Foundation’s Go Give One campaign. Donations can be made from most countries around the world and money raised goes to a fund called COVAX AMC which buys and equitably distributes vaccines to recipient countries – mostly those which are low and middle income and would otherwise struggle to secure vaccines for their populations.
Google delays its plans to re-open offices, will require employees to get vaccinated
by Anmol Mehrotra
Today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent out an email to all the Google employees briefing them about the company's plans to re-open offices for employees.
In the email, Pichai said that the company plans to delay the return to offices to at least October 18, thanks to the recent spike in coronavirus cases due to the Delta variant. He also assured that the company will give ample notice to employees before opening offices in order to help them transition back to the office environment. Furthermore, the company noted that it plans to allow employees with special needs to apply for an exemption and work from home till the end of 2021.
Apart from that, Pichai also confirmed that the company plans to make vaccination mandatory for all Google employees returning to the campus. The company will roll out this policy to employees in the U.S. in the coming weeks with plans to expand it to other regions in the coming months. Pichai also noted that the company will not apply the policy until vaccines are readily available in the local area.
The search giant also plans to allow employees to apply for exemption in case they cannot get vaccinated due to "medical or other protected reasons". The company will share more information about the exemption process in the future.
Lastly, Pichai also took this opportunity to announce that Google helped Gavi vaccinate over one million people in low-and middle-income countries globally.
By Usama Jawad96
Online civility deteriorated in the second year of the pandemic, claims Microsoft
by Usama Jawad
The ongoing pandemic has undeniably been a test of endurance for everyone. While outdoor activity and interactions have decreased, online engagement has been on the rise not only in professional domain, but across personal life as well. That said, this may not have resulted in a net-positive behavior as a Microsoft research now reports that online civility actually deteriorated going into the second year of the pandemic.
Image via Rusbase Microsoft surveyed 11,067 respondents spread across 22 countries in 2021 - which is the second and ongoing year of the pandemic considering most countries started enforcing stricter measures in early 2020. People aged 13-74 were surveyed about their experience when it comes to 21 online risks spread across four categories, namely sexual, reputational, behavioral, and personal.
The survey's results revealed that 82% of the countries had experienced net-worse online civility during the pandemic. Only four of the 22 surveyed countries showed a net-positive change, namely Columbia, Peru, Mexico, and India. Meanwhile, countries like Germany, Italy, Poland, Philippines, and Hungary reported the steepest net-negativity, as can be seen in the graphic from Microsoft below:
Image via Microsoft Only 17% of respondents claimed that digital civility improved during COVID-19, while 30% claimed that it actually decreased. These numbers were at 26% and 22% respectively in 2020. Meanwhile, the trend for digital positivity such as people helping each other online dropped to 56% compared to 67% last year according to these respondents as well. Other notable statistics include:
The trends reported by Microsoft are certainly disappointing and something for us to ponder and improve upon as a global community. The company says that it will reveal the full report on the international Safer Internet Day 2022 on February 8, 2022.