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April Fools Jokes Aren’t Just “Jokes”

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April Fools

April Fools is undoubtedly a fun day, exceptionally if you have crafted the most elaborate prank on your friends and loves ones. However, while your intention may probably be all about having fun, there are things that you should never joke about no matter what.

Sensitivity has been an ongoing discussion on different platforms, especially in comedy. It begs the question of whether a joke should be taken seriously or not as it was just, as has been said, a joke. Many comedians have been slammed for making racist and homophobic remarks in public. While critics understand that those were just intended to be jokes, those remarks will still have a significant impact on other people.

Take for example the case of Kevin Hart who has repeatedly posted homophobic tweets such as those indicating how he would beat his sons if they turn out to be gay. Hart defended himself by saying that they were just jokes and people should not take the thing into a deeper level. Nonetheless, amidst his repeated, yet insincerely crafted apologies, he was dropped from hosting this year’s Academy Awards.

Drag queens and other comedians also have similar experiences. Silky Nutmeg Ganache, a current competing queen in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 was exposed to have made an Islamaphobic joke in reference to her fellow queen, Mercedes Iman Diamond. Silky said in a panel interview that their season would be a “Bomb” considering that Mercedes, the first Muslim contestant in the reality T.V. show, is part of the cast. Many people slammed Silky for this remark, calling her the “most problematic queen ever.”

One thing to understand is that jokes aren’t just “jokes.” They are words with meanings and are open to all forms of interpretations. The intention of making those jokes became irrelevant in this discussion because those words will potentially have an impact on people, outweighing your freedom to have fun. That is the reason why most governments criminalize things as trivial as bomb jokes – they can potentially be a source of danger, offense, or panic.

Making jokes for fun is one thing; making problematic ones is a different story. When you talk to cat-callers in the streets and ask them why they would cat-call a woman they don’t even know; chances are, they would tell you that they were only joking. Sure, catcalling may be a joke for them, but it isn’t funny for women who were put in an uncomfortable position and harassed in the name of a “joke.”

In hindsight, jokes are harmless (well, most of them). But problematic jokes like homophobia, racism, and intolerance-based jokes are. They normalize a notion that should have been abolished for a long time already. When you joke about rape, you reduce the gravity of the crime into a subject that people can laugh about because it was not a ‘big deal.’ Abuse is not something that people can laugh about, and it is a big deal.

People loosely and recklessly throw out the “why are people so sensitive nowadays” and the snowflake rebuttal every time a problematic “joke” is being questioned. For one, being sensitive to the things that are happening around you is a symptom of a healthy mental state (and of a working moral compass). There are just so many atrocious things that other people are facing right now for you to joke about their experiences, their upbringing, their culture, their lifestyle, or their appearance.

Furthermore, a good sense of sensitivity is a sign that we, as people, are growing. The mere fact that we were not sensitive about homophobic jokes and racist banters before signals that we were in a horrible time when gay people are thrown into jail just for cross-dressing or when black people are segregated because of their skin color. Being “too sensitive nowadays” is acknowledging that these horrible times happened and these inhumane things happened to people. It is a conscious effort to prevent society from regressing to the dim and ghastly past of intolerance and insensitivity.

It is through this level of sensitivity that we help create a safe, warm, and welcoming environment to people who are different, in some ways, from us. Having an overly sensitive society is having a community that cares about the feelings of the marginalized sector – women, queer people, persons with disabilities, black people, immigrants, and refugees.

If being sensitive to jokes is what it takes to remind people that there are others are affected by the jokes they make, everyone should be sensitive to jokes. It will not even limit your ability to have fun; it will just change the way you do it.

Joking is a way for people to de-stress and to overcome their troubles in life; but make sure that you don’t make it harder for other people to live in the world that your privilege allows you to enjoy, in the process. Being responsible with the things we poke fun at goes a long way. /apr

A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama. I also own a cybersecurity blog called Zero Day.

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Robocalls Are Terrorizing Debtors More Aggressively As Student Loan Crisis Worsen

Navient has sent more than 3.3 million robocalls to student loan debtors in 2018 alone.

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Robocalls are intensified as the student loan crisis worsen. Photo: Roger Stonewell | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Two of the most prolific problems that terrorize American citizens in this day and age are robocalls and student loan debts. The worse part of it all is that these two problems are feeding off each other to maximize their impact.

Robocalls and student loan debt has one thing tangent to each other: collection agencies. As the student loan crisis gets worse and worse every year, collection agencies get more and more aggressive in terrorizing debtors, experts say.

They’re calling dead people

One emblematic case for this phenomenon is the case of Navient Corp., one of the nation’s largest student-loan servicing companies with 12 million customers. The collection agency tasked for handling student loan debt collection by the federal government is reportedly becoming more and more belligerent in their collection process, including the calls they send to debtors.

In one particular instance, the company has called a debtor’s sister; they called a number for her grandmother, who died a decade ago; they called a number for her father, who died three years ago; and they began calling her friend and housemate.

And this case is not isolated. According to the data revealed by YouMail Robocall Index, Navient ranks 45th in the most number of robocalls sent in 2018. The collection agency has aggregately sent 3,302,400 robocalls from last year alone.

Meanwhile, the company has been slapped with a series of lawsuits and complaints on how they handle their business, and complainants are calling them out for their “illegal tactics.”

More than 1,100 lawsuits and complaints against Navient has been filed at the Federal Trade Commission in the last three months alone, and more than 150 submitted to the Federal Communications Commission since January 2018 over the company’s “harassing” robocalls.

Furthermore, Navient has also been in the center of two class-action suits over alleged unsolicited calls, agreeing to settle for up to $19.7 million in 2017 and another $2.5 million that was finalized this year. In the 2017 case, plaintiffs are accusing Navient of calling them to collect for student loans they did not make; and the second case blames the collection agency of user automatic dialers to get information about borrowers from third parties.

Nonetheless, the data still reveals that the robocalls are flourishing amidst complaints and lawsuits involving Navient and their calling practices.

“Robocalls from these companies have only gotten worse,” said Billy Howard, an attorney with The Consumer Protection Firm, a law firm in Tampa. “They’re being emboldened by these little small settlements that they force people into. Litigation is just another day at the office to them.”

What is being done?

There could be some sort of relief for student loan debtors as the FCC recently voted to allow telecom companies to block robocalls by default and enable carriers to create tools that would help people avoid numbers that are not in their contact lists.

“Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and tired of robocalls. By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed, the FCC will give voice service providers the legal certainty they need to block unwanted calls from the outset so that consumers never have to get them,” said Chairman Pai.“And, if this decision is adopted, I strongly encourage carriers to begin providing these services by default—for free—to their current and future customers. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this latest attack on unwanted robocalls and spoofing.”

In a similar tone, the Senate and the House of Representatives both have a version of a bill that aims to end the terrorizing robocalls to Americans. Senate’s release, the TRACED (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) Act had an almost unanimous vote in the Senate floor with only Rand Paul not voting for it. Meanwhile, the ‘Stop Bad Robocall Act’ has also been proposed by a bipartisan committee in the House and is already set to be voted on this week. It empowers the government and regulatory bodies like the Federal Communication Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to levy heavier punishments against robocallers who violate the law.

As expected, collection agencies has become one of biggest opposition to the proposed new regulations.

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‘A Coffee With Ren’ Was Mere Propaganda For ‘Huawei’ And China

Huawei CEO asserts that Huawei’s goal is to serve the good of humanity and announced that they are rebuilding their infra to improve trustworthiness.

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Huawei CEO asserts that Huawei's goal is to serve the good of humanity and announced that they are rebuilding their infra to improve trustworthiness.
Huawi CEO Ren Zhengfei (second from the right) sat down for a 100-minute panel discussion in A Coffee With Ren. Photo: Huawei

As the tension between U.S. and China intensifies and Huawei getting caught right in the middle, the Chinese company stands in its position that they are “serving the humanity” and announced that they are going to improve their technological infrastructure to make it more trustworthy.

Ren Zhengfei, the founder and Chairman of Huawei, understands that their company and their developments are the forefronts of Chinese innovations, and in a live-streamed panel discussion last week, Ren started the company’s position as a “force for the good of humanity and just for scientific advancement and tech development.”

In the panel discussion entitled “A Coffee with Ren,” the company’s highest authority did not dwell on the latest announcement that it would drop $30 billion of revenue, as the brewing US-China trade wars put Huawei in the center of the chaos; instead, he reiterated his message that the company is innocent of what Washington accuses.

The U.S. denounces the company of stealing American technology and intellectual property and installing backdoors on its technology and infrastructures that aids the Chinese government in its cyber espionage and economic sabotage propaganda.

“In the next five years, we will invest US$100 billion in reshaping network architecture, so that networks can be simpler, faster, more secure, and more trustworthy […]At the very least, we should be able to meet the standards of Europe’s GDPR when it comes to privacy protection.” Ren said.

“Of course, our revenue will need to double. If we face financial difficulties, we may cut our R&D investment, but the amount will still be close to that figure. We need to restructure networks and make more contributions to humanity […] Huawei employees are everywhere — in the poorest areas of Africa, in places stricken with malaria, Ebola, or AIDS, and in the wilderness. We don’t make much money there. We are there because of the commitment we have for humanity,” he added.

The US vs. Huawei

For the last few months, Huawei’s credibility has been questioned following an all-out campaign of the Trump administration against the smartphone giant. Washington has been talking to its allies in Europe and Asia-pacific to persuade them to drop Huawei from their bid to install 5G networks in different territories.

Trump’s message was simple: drop Huawei from your 5G technology infrastructure, or else you will suffer consequences. With consequences, the U.S. meant a plethora of economic and security support that they are willing to withdraw from countries who refuse to drop Huawei’s bid.

A few months ago, America’s ambassador to Germany, sent a letter to Berlin to warn them that if they push through with their plans of allowing the Chinese tech company from bidding to build Germany’s 5G system, the U.S. will no longer be able to share sensitive intelligence information with the country — as working with Huawei constitute an adverse security risk for both U.S. and Germany. Trump’s administration has made similar threats to other European nations.

The U.S. believes that the Chinese Communist Party is using Huawei as a tool to carry out massive cyber espionage and economic sabotage campaigns against the west, and allowing them to build the data infrastructure in their countries, would make that task easier for Huawei and the Chinese government.

A Coffee With Ren was a mere propaganda

The live-streamed event, A Coffee with Ren, was propagated for both China and Huawei’s sake; especially since Tian Wei, host of World Insight on the state-run China Global Television Network, moderates the panel discussion.

The edited transcript of the event reflected what the Twitter account @HuaweiFacts calls the “official truth and facts.” Deflection from the issue has become a go-to for both Tian and Ren during the panel discussion. For example, Tian warded off and suppressed questions regarding China’s censorship of Google, and these questions were purposely left out from the “official transcript.”

One panelist was techno-utopian economist George Gilder, whose 1981 best-seller Wealth & Poverty. During his message, the “Official Truth” included his contention that “the basic challenge of the world economy today is to address the scandal of money,” and that the $5.1 trillion of currency trading every 24 hours “accomplishes nothing.” But his statement regarding cryptocurrency being used to steal money from the future “to consume in the present” has also been left out of the transcript.

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‘Libra’ Could Be A Victim Of Bad Rep Over Facebook Security

Will Libra survive a storm coming?

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Facebook's bad reputation in terms of security could hamper the future of Libra as skepticism over the new digital coin grows.
Will Facebook convince governments that Libra won't be a threat to national currencies? Photo: Book Catalog | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Popular social media network and tech giant, Facebook, unveiled its most ambitious venture yet two days ago: The Libra cryptocurrency. However, following an initial market excitement, it seems that the project, even if it’s still has a long way before it can be officially rolled out, has already faced tremendous skepticisms across sectors.

Libra, as Facebook said, is a secured currency; unlike Bitcoin. The new digital money banks on real currencies and government certificates. It also runs on its blockchain technology, the Libra Blockchain, which assures the protection of every transaction involving the new online coin.

Furthermore, as part of Facebook’s assurance that Libra is unlike any other, albeit volatile cryptocurrency already roaming around the internet, the California-based company also announced that the coin would be overseen by an organization it spearheads — The Libra Association. Members of the new organization backing up the new cryptocurrency include payment and financial service providers, among others, like PayPal, Mastercard, and VISA. But of course, Facebook is the face of the organizations.

While Facebook will not have direct control of the Libra currency, the tech company is planning to profit from it by launching a subsidiary, Calibra, which serves as a crypto exchange company for Libra. Calibra is also a digital wallet, where users can store their Facebook coins and process transactions like transferring funds and sending remittances.

Facebook’s security reputation

But security isn’t something Facebook can display around as its badge of honor. The social media platform has been involved in controversies after controversies related to the security that they provide to their users.

One of the biggest blunders faced by Facebook that summoned CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Congress was the allegations that the company allowed U.K.-based firm Cambridge Analytica to use Facebook user data in attempts to sway public opinion in the 2016 elections. According to reports, Cambridge-Analytica improperly accessed 87 million Facebook users’ data. Following the highly-covered Congress testimony, Zuckerberg has promised to fix its security problems and to make sure that the same incident will not happen.

But it is not the end of Facebook’s security mishaps. Only recently, Facebook was involved in another data breach, where the company has admitted that it has been saving user passwords in human-readable format, and allowed those passwords to be exposed to thousands of Facebook employees. While Facebook defended the incident by saying that its employees did not use the exposed data in any way, multiple sectors have still slammed Facebook over the apparent recklessness of the company that leads to the exposure of thousands of user passwords.

The intense pressure on Facebook to secure user data may affect how Libra will perform in the market once the tech giant starts to roll it out early next year. As early as now, skepticism looms over Libra’s head as experts believed that it could be a venture, just many of other investments from Facebook, that users refuse to adopt.

Data shows users don’t trust Facebook in handling their money

And the numbers are glaring. In a study, most Facebook users (91%) said that they would not use the payment feature on Facebook Messenger. In 2015, Facebook rolled a payment option that can be done through its messaging app by connecting the U.S. issued credit and debit card as well as other payment merchants like Paypal. According to research firm Statista, around 79% of Facebook users who are aware of the feature did not use the payment option in Facebook Messenger.

In a greater scheme, consumer attitude towards online payments has also gone sour. Among those who currently access their bank and financial accounts online, about a quarter of people said they’re considering no longer doing so with mobile apps or via the internet, the MagnifyMoney survey added.

“This is largely because many U.S. consumers are more comfortable paying with either a credit card or cash instead of their mobile device,” the company added. “Additionally, the technology shift at the point-of-sale on the merchant side has been slow.” eMarketer expects that percentage to climb gradually.

Governments are skeptical too

The growing skepticism amongst users isn’t the only problem faced by Facebook’s Libra. Lawmakers also have their eyes on the recent project of Facebook. US Representative Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, asked Facebook to halt work on the unit it answers questions about privacy and security.

European officials have also expressed concern regarding Libra, citing that the system, if widely adopted, could shake the global economy and rival national banks. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire sent a letter to officials from the G7 and International Monetary Fund calling for a group to examine Libra’s impact on the global financial system. Le Maire said that Libra must not become a “sovereign currency,” while a German politician noted Facebook’s potential to become a “shadow bank” to the global financial system.

Nonetheless, the lawmakers come forward with the acknowledgment that they are yet to understand the dynamics of Libra and what it means for the global economy. But whether or not Facebook can convince governments of the benefits of having a digital currency is worth watching out for.

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