Social Good

Business

How to keep the resistance going in 2018, even when you’re impossibly tired

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I was listening to The Read recently — it’s my favorite podcast — and I was struck by co-host Kid Fury’s observations about reaching the end of the year and feeling tired. 

I posted how I felt on Instagram: “Can’t add one more plan tired. Hard to get excited about exciting things tired. Can’t project, assume, or read minds tired. I’m letting myself be tired, be imperfect, be how I am. It is time to hibernate and make meaning of this year, understand the lessons.”

Five hundred people gave it a heart within a few hours. People reached out to me to say they are also tired — exhausted, really. Falling out in meetings, losing things, fighting with loved ones, letting hopelessness have our tongues.  Read more…

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Business

30 innovations that improved the world in 2017

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2017 may have been a rough year, but there were plenty of inventions, innovations, and gadgets that made the world just a slightly better place.

From global health to social justice to humanitarian aid, a slew of scientists, technologists, and activists came together this year to create impactful solutions to some of our most pressing problems.

In no particular order, here are 30 innovations that made a tangible difference in 2017. For even more inspiration, check out our list of incredible innovations from 2016. Read more…

1. The 20-cent paper toy that can help diagnose diseases

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Entertainment

Refugee mother shares family’s journey to the U.S. in powerful animated video

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Layla’s journey has been anything but easy.

She’s a refugee from the eastern Somali Region of Ethiopia, which she and her husband fled because of conflict and persecution in the early 2000s. They eventually found a temporary home in Saudi Arabia, where they had children and stayed for seven years — before Layla’s husband was deported in 2010. Her employers helped her family escape to Syria.

“I began to start my new life,” Layla says. “My kids had a little education at home.”

But before she could truly settle, civil war erupted in Syria, contributing to one of the worst refugee crises of our time. Layla made the difficult decision to once again flee the country where her family lived, walking for two to three days to the Turkish border, where she ultimately learned of her husband’s death back home. Read more…

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Architecture

How a majority-Indigenous owned wine company is giving back

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While there are already a handful of wineries run by First Nations people in Canada, Gondwana Wines is hoping to do the same in Australia.

It’s a majority-Indigenous owned wine company and social enterprise founded by Worimi entrepreneur Alisi Tutuila, that aims to simultaneously make great wine, promote Indigenous Australian culture and give back to the community itself.

A multifaceted business, Gondwana Wines gives a portion of its proceeds to the “Leading The Way” program, which provides training and employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians. Read more…

More about Social Good, Wine, Indigenous, Indigenous Australians, and Wines

Business

Facebook’s new facial recognition efforts help blind users know exactly who’s in photos

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Facebook is working to make its platform even more accessible for blind users and people with low vision.

In a series of updates announced Tuesday, the company revealed that it will begin using its already-existing face recognition technology to identify people in photographs for Facebook users with screen readers.

Facebook’s director of applied machine learning, Joaquin Candela, wrote in a blog post that the new feature will use face recognition alongside the platform’s automatic alt-text tool, which launched in 2016.

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Business

A totally doable, not so intimidating self-care survival guide to 2018

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Every editorial product is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our journalism.

After an October week from hell — when allegations against Harvey Weinstein first began to unravel, Donald Trump threatened to take aid away from Puerto Rico, women boycotted Twitter, and historic wildfires destroyed California — I splurged on a large Blue Raspberry Icee and sat alone in a 12:15 p.m. Saturday showing of Marshall. I turned my phone all the way off, and over the course of the next two hours I ugly cried in the dark. Read more…

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Business

AI-powered tool helps domestic violence survivors file restraining orders

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When a domestic violence survivor files the legal paperwork for a restraining order against an abuser, the process is often complicated, emotional, and time-intensive. 

While there’s no shortcut to make that experience less painful or nerve-wracking, Dorna Moini, a lawyer who’s represented numerous survivors pro-bono, wants to make it more efficient. That’s why she launched HelpSelf Legal, a fee-based site that uses artificial intelligence to enhance the process of filling restraining order paperwork.  

“It would be nice to have everyone have a lawyer to help them through the process,” says Moini, “but the reality is that there aren’t enough lawyers.”  Read more…

More about Gender, Artificial Intelligence, Social Good, Domestic Violence, and Legal System

Business

Facebook on how it affects your mental health: It’s you, not them

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Facebook is a symbol of one of the great debates of the 21st century: Is social media a gift to humanity, or is it a curse that drives us further apart and deeper into our own ideological echo chambers? 

There is no simple answer to that question, which is why it frequently becomes a cultural obsession as it did this week, when a recent video surfaced of a former Facebook executive decrying the negative effects of social media. 

Now Facebook is joining the conversation with a lengthy blog post about its efforts to understand how the social media platform affects users’ well-being. The bottom line is that whether or not social media makes us miserable seems to depend on how we use it, say Facebook’s David Ginsberg, director of research, and Moira Burke, a research scientist.  Read more…

More about Tech, Facebook, Social Good, Mark Zuckerberg, and Happiness

Business

Police and communities can find themselves without a way to communicate. This startup thinks it can help.

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When Kona Shen moved back to the United States in 2014 after a few years in Haiti, she returned to a country grappling with police brutality. Eric Garner was killed in a police officer’s chokehold that July and Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri in August.

“I came back to the U.S. around the same time as Mike Brown and Eric Garner, and my cofounder is from St. Louis, right next to Ferguson, and he had seen everything firsthand growing up,” Shen said. “We had the luxury of figuring out what to do about it.” 

Shen knew her next project had to be something that would help. While starting graduate school at Stanford, she joined up with fellow student Mustafa Abdul-Hamid to figure out a way to communicate to police departments how their communities really feel and to help communities have their voices heard.  Read more…

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Business

Facebook’s AI suicide prevention tool can save lives, but the company won’t say how it works

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For many people who’ve dedicated their lives to preventing suicide, social media posts can be a precious dataset that contains hints about what people say and do before they attempt suicide.  

In the past few years, researchers have built algorithms to learn which words and emoji are associated with suicidal thoughts. They’ve even used social media posts to retrospectively predict the suicide deaths of certain Facebook users. 

Now Facebook itself has rolled out new artificial intelligence that can proactively identify heightened suicide risk and alert a team of human reviewers who are trained to reach out to a user contemplating fatal self-harm.  Read more…

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Architecture

With little else to rely on, refugees turn to Twitter to detail harsh treatment

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Australia’s offshore detention centres have long been a secretive, carefully guarded operation.

For those who remain inside them, smartphones and social media have been the main way to tell stories of their plight, as governments remain reticent on who is responsible for them and journalists struggle to gain access to the sites.

The situation has come to a head lately with the closure of the Australian-run Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in Papua New Guinea at the end of October. 

Home to more than 400 asylum seekers, the facility saw many refusing to leave for a new centre which is prone to attacks from the local community and is still under construction, as documented by the UNHCR. Read more…

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Business

Finally, a startup that takes reporting sexual harassment seriously

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Even before Harvey Weinstein kicked off this wave of actual consequences for sexual assault and harassment, Claire Schmidt was thinking about how to create a platform that would help victims. 

Schmidt, who up through this week was vice president of technology and innovation at Twentieth Century Fox, on Tuesday launched the startup AllVoices. The web platform will let people anonymously report their experiences of sexual harassment at work, and will in turn aggregate that data to give companies insights on the true scale of the problem. 

It’s a much-needed third option for victims of sexual harassment besides making their experiences public through litigation or in the press. For victims of harassment whose harassers aren’t high-profile enough to warrant news coverage, a platform like this is basically the only other option besides taking legal action.  Read more…

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Business

Selfie tourism is killing these incredibly cute creatures

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Warning: this article contains images of animal abuse which some may find distressing.

A small furry creature huddles close to a tree branch on the edge of the forest. Its large, globular eyes are shut (it’s daytime, and so now it sleeps); its strong hands and arms hold firm even as it slumbers.

In a deep sleep, the creature doesn’t hear the rustling of approaching predators. Before it knows what’s happening, it’s plucked from the tree and bundled into a bag. When it is finally taken out into the blinding light of day, metal pliers are forced into its mouth to clip its teeth. Then it is shoved into a wire cage, alone and in pain. Read more…

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Business

Use your computer’s extra power to mine cryptocurrency—and help low-income people pay bail

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People are used to rounding up their spare change or running lots of apps in the background of their computer. Two new programs are taking those well-known strategies and using them to support bail funds for people who can’t pay. 

Appolition, which launched Tuesday, lets users round up their credit card purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the remainder to community bail funds. It’s like Acorns, but instead of investing your money, you’re directing it to a cause. The name of the app  is a play on abolition, a nod to its focus on racial justice and ending mass incarceration.

Bail Bloc, launched Wednesday by a team at The New Inquiry, takes your computer’s spare power and mines a cryptocurrency called Monero, which is converted into U.S. dollars and donated to the Bronx Freedom Fund and soon The Bail Project. Bail Bloc runs on a complicated system, but you don’t need to fully understand cryptocurrency or Monero to contribute—although it does come with a helpful cryptocurrency explainer for those who are curious. Read more…

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Business

This alarming study just sparked a fierce debate about screen time and teen mental health

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Being a teen today means wrestling with how social media and screens shape the very essence of your identity. The anecdotal truth is that both can tear you down as quickly as they build you up; friends and followers can turn into enemies while the promise of human connection can give way to profound loneliness.  

Whether or not that dynamic is significant enough to take a toll on our emotional and mental wellbeing still isn’t clear. In fact, researchers are engaged in an intense debate over what it would take to prove that outcome.  Read more…

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Lifestyle

How one tech initiative helps Syrian refugee kids learn new skills

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There are common themes in many refugees’ journeys: escaping conflict or devastation, migrating unbearably long distances, living in makeshift camps, seeking asylum in countries trying to keep them out, and eventually resettling in communities with completely new cultures and languages.

All of that can take an extraordinary toll on anyone, but refugee parents face an especially unique and stressful challenge. On top of these struggles, they still need to somehow find the strength and support to guide their young children through early development.

More about Tech, Mobile, Education, Syria, and Social Good

Business

Obsessively checking social media during a crisis might harm your mental health

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Survivors of three recent disasters — the northern California fires, the Las Vegas mass shooting, and Hurricane Maria — used social media and texting as lifelines to connect with loved ones, seek aid, and search for the latest developments. 

A new study, however, suggests that people who get updates during a major crisis from unofficial channels like random social media accounts are most exposed to conflicting information and experience the most psychological distress. 

The study, published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, surveyed 3,890 students whose campus was locked down after a shooter fired on people. Since it’s difficult, if not impossible, to begin a scientific study during a life-threatening disaster or crisis, the researchers asked students about their experience a week after the incident and analyzed five hours of Twitter data about the shooting. (Details about what happened were anonymized at the university’s request.)  Read more…

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Business

Facebook launches profile picture frame to celebrate International Day of the Girl

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It’s high time girls around the world got some extra recognition, and Facebook is working to help make that happen.

Facebook has created a special profile picture frame in honor of Oct. 11, which marks International Day of the Girl — a day meant to inspire people to work toward advancing the rights and future opportunities of young women while celebrating their talents and accomplishments.

When users log on to the network Wednesday, users are prompted with a “Today’s girls, Tomorrow’s Leaders” notification, which explains International Day of the Girl. It will also present the option to add a celebratory frame to their profile pictures. Read more…

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Business

This browser extension makes you a more ethical shopper with just one click

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Your online shopping habits aren’t as ethical as they could be. A new startup called Impakt wants to change that.

Based in New York City, Impakt is on a mission to build a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox users, helping you buy products from companies that pay workers fair wages, promote equality, don’t harm the environment, and align with your overall social and political values.

Culling public government data, industry reports, and news articles into a comprehensive “Company Ethics Database,” Impakt will deliver streamlined information about companies while you’re shopping online. If the products you want to buy aren’t up to your socially conscious standards, the extension’s algorithm will lead you to more ethical alternatives with just one click. Read more…

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Entertainment

Lady Gaga may be a superstar, but her new documentary makes her struggles extremely relatable

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If you watched just the first few minutes of Lady Gaga’s new Netflix documentary “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” you’d be forgiven for thinking she’s only a pampered pop star who has her every need met with a snap of her fingers.  

In the opening scene, Gaga strolls through her luxurious Malibu estate in a revealing body suit and sweats. She feeds pieces of chicken to her adorable dogs. She eats food someone else appears to have prepared for her. When she climbs a staircase lined with star-shaped balloons, she explains they’re to celebrate starring in a new Bradley Cooper movie. She puts her plate down so she can get a massage.   Read more…

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