5 in 5: headscarves, censorship, non-binary ticketing, local news, no-stress tech

Each week, Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team stands at the intersection of people, culture and brands to bring you five stories that you can read in five minutes.

1. Healing and helping with headscarves

Some women and children are wearing hijabs in New Zealand and posting pictures on Instagram to show solidarity for the Muslim community following last week’s terrorist attacks on two mosques. Why should you care? The initiative was started by a doctor in Auckland after hearing a woman express fear that wearing a headscarf would make her a target. She told Reuters, “I wanted to say: ‘We are with you, we want you to feel at home on your own streets, we love, support and respect you’.” This touching action alone is reason enough to care. We specifically mention it in the 5 in 5 this week because it is also a powerful example of a rising trend we’re seeing throughout the world, where people are trying to make positive change through their own individual actions. [USA Today]

2. Combating misinformation and extremism on social media

Changes were made to Facebook and Instagram this week to address their impact on the spread of hate and false information. Why should you care? The terrorist attacks in New Zealand renewed calls for Facebook to take a more active role in curbing the spread of hateful rhetoric. Though not specifically cited, this was likely the impetus for a new policy banning white nationalism and white separatism. Those who try to post messages in line with those ideologies will be redirected to Life After Hate, “a group founded by former far-right extremists.” Instagram is taking similar measures to target the spread of misinformation on vaccinations by blocking hashtags associated with ‘known health-related misinformation’, as a stop-gap measure while they design longer-term strategies. These are both important steps in addressing ways social media platforms are used to facilitate and/or perpetuate harm to society. At the same time, this brings up bigger questions on balancing genuine concerns around hate speech and misinformation with free speech (both in terms of content and those responsible for censorship). This is something we haven’t adequately addressed yet as a society and will likely be a bumpy road for years as we are forced to come to terms with the new challenges social media adds to the free speech debate. [The Hill and MIT Technology Review]

3. New ticketing options for non-binary travelers

United Airlines now offers a non-binary gender option when booking tickets. Why should you care? United wasn’t the first airline to announce plans to add non-binary gender classifications on tickets, but they were the first to implement it. According to a press release from United, “Customers now have the ability to identify themselves as M(male), F(female), U(undisclosed) or X(unspecified), corresponding with what is indicated on their passports or identification.” This option, along with employee training guided by the Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project, paves the way for United to establish themselves as the leader in “the industry in LGBT inclusivity.” Currently only five states and Washington D.C. offer non-binary legal IDs, limiting the impact to symbolism rather than significant change. However, should United choose to use their voice and power to advocate for non-binary passports and licenses in all 50 states, they could facilitate the type of real change that defines an industry leader. [The Points Guy]

4. There’s no such thing as free local news

According to a new study by Pew, 71% of Americans believe local news is thriving financially, but only 14% pay for it. Why should you care? This study is fascinating. While America is engulfed by discussions of fake news and information, Americans trust local news. They value their local journalists’ connections to the community. They see local news on the weather, crime and traffic as important to their daily lives. So why are local news outlets struggling? The essential information they want from local new sources is easy to find and the content is free through their primary sources: television, radio or online. While Facebook, Google and others have recently launched platforms to help local news outlets, we’ve seen layoffs at other digital publications where ad revenue wasn’t enough to sustain their business model. As people do not understand media revenue models, perhaps local media outlets need to be more transparent about how they make money and the importance of subscriptions, especially as the slow journalism movement and other non-profit models find new ways into local news. [Pew Research Center]

5. Mood-altering art exhibits

Artists around the world are collaborating with data scientists, AI specialists and mass transit to design calming environments. Why should you care? In Stockholm, “The Emotional Art Gallery” was displayed in metro stations throughout the first part of March. The exhibit uses real-time SEO, social media analysis, news feeds and traffic data to gauge the mood of the city and adjust the exhibits accordingly. By adjust, we mean change the artwork and design to create a more soothing environment depending on how much stress the algorithm estimated for the city at any given moment. We can’t decide if this is ingenious forward-thinking art therapy meets tech with exciting health applications or straight up dystopian mind control. These days, it feels like anything and everything could be a little bit of both. [J. Walter Thompson Intelligence]

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