News

Why Blackout Tuesday matters and how you can help

What happened last Tuesday?

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I thought Instagram was glitching at first. At midnight on Tuesday, my Instagram feed started flooding with nondescript black squares. At first, none of the posts had any caption or any explanation whatsoever. I was confused. However, as the hour grew longer, the hashtag finally made its long-awaited debut: #BlackoutTuesday.

On every social media possible, everyone participated in the growing online trend. Celebrities. Personalities. Streamers. Creators. Organizations. Companies. African Americans. Asians. Caucasians. Everyone participated in Blackout Tuesday.

What is it? What did it mean? Was it a true way to support the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement? Or was it a PR move designed for those who don’t want to participate in demonstrations?

The black square

By now, the black square (or circle for Facebook) is no stranger to the online world. During tense political upheavals, the iconic image makes an appearance, heralding everyone’s support or opposition towards a specific political stance or event.

Remember the controversial Marcos burial a few years ago? Opposers posted black profile photos with the caption: Marcos is not a hero. It was also used to protest the cybercrime law years ago. Regardless of what it specifically protested, the black image is always a political statement.

In this case, the black square is a symbol of protest against the wrongful murder of George Floyd, an African American man, under the custody of a white police officer in Minnesota, sparking a new #BlackLivesMatter movement. Since the incident, peaceful protests and violent riots have erupted all over the US. In the online world, famous personalities with a platform have used their audiences to spread awareness on the issue. For days, social media was dominated by the #BlackLivesMatter conversation.

On Tuesday, social media took a different direction. Rather than spreading more awareness and furthering the conversation, everyone posted the black square, marking the return of the iconic image. However, this time, the image wasn’t just a political statement. Rather, the online activity had a deeper function.

After flooding social media with the nondescript black squares, the posters ceased all activity on social media for the day. The #BlackoutTuesday movement intended to allow more important voices to be heard. By silencing their voices, they allowed black people more control over the conversation for the day.

In similar fashion, some companies have postponed their long-awaited events to allow the protest to dominate social media. Music streaming services have also reduced their services in a similar #TheShowMustBePaused movement.

It was more than a political statement. It was a call for others to keep quiet and listen to those who had a stronger authority to speak on trauma, racism, and discrimination.

#BlackoutTuesday versus #BlackLivesMatter

Unfortunately, the movement had its drawbacks. At first, participants conjoined both #BlackoutTuesday and #BlackLivesMatter into the same post, creating a strange problem for the protest.

Now, hashtags aren’t just a clever way to add a quirky subtitle for a social media post. They can also help users follow a certain trend. When they search #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter, for example, they can see other posts with the same hashtag.

Naturally, when people searched for #BlackLivesMatter posts on Tuesday, they ran into a strange sight: an overwhelming wall of black. Ironically, in Blackout Tuesday’s attempt to silence all unimportant voices, it flooded social media in a downpour of posts without a voice. Others have also called it a desperate attempt at virtue signaling, a PR move.

Halfway through the day, #BlackLivesMatter protestors urged #BlackoutTuesday posters to stop incorporating both hashtags into the same post. However, it wasn’t to dissociate the movement from Blackout Tuesday, Rather, the guidance was to steer the movement in the right direction.

For all the good intentions that the black squares had, it was truly just a good-natured post. Besides telling posters to stop using both hashtags, Black Lives Matter supporters shared different ways to help the movement beyond the black square or the hashtag.

Beyond the hashtag

Blackout Tuesday is just one part of the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter protests. As the black squares end their one-day effectivity, the call for further action rises to the fore. How can we help the protests from miles away?

First of all, the easiest way is to keep the conversation alive. Blackout Tuesday (or even Black Lives Matter) is not just a one-day event. Neither is it just a purely American concern. The conversation will always be as relevant as it is today and as it is in the US. It is not just a racial war. Wherever discrimination is present, whether it’s race or class, the spirit of Black Lives Matter should always prevail.

Secondly, if you have means to do so, you can always donate to relevant, anti-discrimination foundations or funds. Naturally, donating to a cause in another continent might be too much to ask. However, discrimination happens everywhere. You can still donate or help various causes in your own backyard.

If you don’t have the money or would rather stay at home, YouTube creators have found a revolutionary way to help the cause from afar. Posted first by YouTuber Zoe Amira, these hour-long videos contain art and performances from black artists. However, rather than just an awareness tool, these videos are jampacked with ads. The creators will donate all of the ad revenue to Black Lives Matter funds and foundations. Of course, you’ll have to turn off ad blocker for the duration of the entire video. At the very least, you can mute the browser tab; however, be careful not to mute the YouTube player itself as it nullifies ad revenue.

If you can’t do any of these, the least you can do is to just listen. Everyone has a responsibility to hear out and understand different voices in the racial debate. At this point, either from miles away or right on your backyard, listening is our only way to understand the plights of other people suffering worse things than us.

SEE ALSO: Facebook employees walk out to protest against Trump

News

A new iMessage feature alerts you of any government spies

Anyone can use it

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Do you have an irrational fear of government hackers spying on your text messages? If you do, Apple has a new feature to help alleviate your phobia. Starting today, users can opt into the new iMessage Contact Key Verification feature, a security measure designed to prevent any unwanted snooping on your messages.

If it sounds too specific, it’s because Apple designed the feature for those who face “extraordinary digital threats,” like journalists and politicians. Naturally, this subset of the population can benefit from keeping their conversations away from snoopers (which includes, according to Apple, state-sponsored attackers). However, there’s no denying that the feature is also a boon to users who want an extra layer of protection for their messaging needs.

To use the feature, both the sender and the receiver need to have the option turned on while using their device. On a more basic level, the device will alert both users if an unexpected party suddenly crashes and enters the encrypted conversation. A more advanced level even allows iMessage users to compare verification codes, ensuring that both parties are indeed talking to whomever they intend to talk to.

While most users might not find a lot of use for an exorbitant amount of protection against hackers, it’s a step in the right direction for total message encryption. Despite some significant hiccups, Apple remains focused on bringing encryption to its users.

SEE ALSO: Apple is tracking users even with settings turned off

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Gaming

Microsoft is being prevented from buying Activision Blizzard

Sued by the FTC

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The year started off with a bang. Microsoft, already a respectable name in the gaming industry by itself, announced the impending acquisition of Activision Blizzard for US$ 68.7 billion. Perhaps it’s fitting that the year will end right back where it started. The FTC is officially suing Microsoft to block the monumental purchase from going through.

Announced today, the United States’ FTC (or Federal Trade Commission) has filed a legal claim against Microsoft, stating that the acquisition will allow the company to suppress competition between its rivals in the gaming industry. The commission believes that it has enough to effectively block the purchase. Allowing Microsoft to go through with the purchase will supposedly enable the company to prevent Activision Blizzard’s titles — including the Call of Duty franchise — from coming out easily on other platforms.

Since the announcement of the acquisition, Activision Blizzard has gone through a rocky year. The company had its dirty laundry aired out: a plethora of disagreeable practices from within the company. Exacerbated by the rocky launches of Diablo Immortal and Overwatch 2, it’s not exactly a stellar year for the company.

In fact, it’s not a good year for monopolistic practices either. Recently, Ticketmaster found itself under the microscope after a massive kerfuffle preventing Taylor Swift fans from purchasing tickets to the star’s upcoming concert.

While the deal between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard is still up in the air, it seems company acquisitions aren’t as easy as this year has made them out to be.

SEE ALSO: Microsoft announces a modular Adaptive Mouse

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Apps

Google is merging Waze with Google Maps

Apps will remain separate

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It’s not a secret. Google owns both Google Maps and Waze. Though both certainly come with their own pros and cons, using either app can boil down to a matter of preference, especially in driving cities. Starting soon, the two might even look more alike. Google is merging the teams of Google Maps and Waze together.

Since acquiring Waze in 2013, Google has kept the app’s development separate from Google Maps. Even knowing this face, it’s hard to draw comparisons between the two. They felt like separate products, and they were.

Now, as announced today (via Wall Street Journal), Google will merge Waze’s team (which consists of over 500 employees) with the larger team that oversees Maps, Earth, and Street View. While there are no plans to lay off any employees, incumbent Waze CEO Neha Parikh is expected to leave the company after the merger.

Though a merger might spell the end for Waze, Google remains committed to keeping its own services separate from each other. However, by merging the teams, the company can reduce a lot of redundant work that the two teams have in common.

From a more generalized standpoint, Google Maps and Waze are incredibly distinct apps. While the latter focuses more of directions for drivers, Google Maps offers a grander sweep of directions for all travelers including those who prefer to walk or take public transportation.

SEE ALSO: Google Maps introduces a new way to be a tourist

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