Experts warn not to dismiss Joker-related threats as fears emerge film could inspire anti-women extremism

Annabel Hennessy – The West Australian

Violent online threats being inspired by the new Joker movie should not be dismissed as trolling, according to online experts and anti-abuse campaigners who are worried the blockbuster could fuel anti-women extremists.

It comes as police in NSW are running patrols in Randwick, in Sydney’s east, after a threat was posted on the notorious internet forum 4Chan appearing to warn of a potential attack at a screening of the film at a popular cinema in the suburb.

In the US, security around cinemas has also been beefed up after fears the film’s graphic portrayal of a social outcast who commits violent crimes after being sexually rejected could inspire copy-cat attacks.

The movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Todd Phillips, has been likened to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver starring Robert De Niro.

Cyber safety expert Ross Bark said he was worried about parents allowing children to see the film thinking it would be similar to a more typical superhero flick.

“I don’t think anyone under the age of 18 should be seeing this film,” he said.

Curtin University senior lecturer in Literary and Cultural Studies Dr Christina Lee said it would go a long way for the cast and crew of the film to openly condemn violence and talk about how The Joker taps into the current climate of extreme divisiveness.

“ The film is a fictional representation of a comic book supervillain … not as an instructional video,” Dr Lee said.

“This, however, won’t stop certain people who identify as incels … using the movie as propaganda.”

Read the full article here

Influencers out of business as Instagram removes ‘likes’ to tackle mental health impact

Annabel Hennessy – The West Australian

Influencers who falsely inflate their popularity could be put out of business by Instagram’s decision to “hide” likes, according to social media experts.

It comes as the Mark Zuckerberg-owned app has been accused of rolling out the new feature simply as a marketing gimmick rather than a genuine attempt to address its impact on mental health.

Instagram yesterday announced Australian users would no longer see the number of “likes” a post receives, claiming they wanted to “take the competition out of posting”.

The West Australian can also reveal Instagram’s algorithm, which promotes posts with more likes to the top of the feed, will remain the same. Dan Anisse, the vice-president of product at InfluencerDB, said the announcement was bad news for professional Instagrammers who scored brand deals after buying likes.

Social media expert Ross Bark, whose company Best Enemies runs cyber safety workshops in schools, said Instagram would also change its algorithm if it was genuinely concerned about mental health.

“It’s absolutely a business decision to try and get people to post more,” Mr Bark said. “They’re not changing the algorithm so you’ve still got that herd mentality of ‘it’s a competition’.”

Read the full article here

Teenagers as young as 14 are taking drastic measures to stay or get thin according to an Australian government study.

SBS News

Australian teenagers as young as 14 are taking extreme measures including vomiting or taking laxatives to control their weight.

A new government study found, while a very small minority of mid-adolescents met the criteria for anorexia or bulimia, significant numbers had taken action to try and control their weight.

Social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat were considered the most persuasive on young minds.

Cyber safety expert Ross Bark said the role of social media influencers, who post their desirable, but often unrealistic lives online, are a new phenomenon impacting young consumers.

“They’re effectively being driven to be like these influencers when in fact it’s impossible for them to do so. So we’re seeing a dramatic upturn in kids that a lot of anxiety and mental health issues because of that,” Mr Bark said.

For further details on the SBS News story click here

Parents taking over Facebook leads to teens switching off the app

Annabel Hennessy, The Daily Telegraph

FACEBOOK is no longer considered cool by Australian teens with its popularity among youngsters plummeting 70 per cent in two years.

A new survey by Best Enemies Education of 800 Australians aged 13-18 has revealed just 11.57 per cent say the Mark Zuckerberg site is their most used app — a dramatic decline from two years ago when it was ranked number one.

Meanwhile, Instagram and Snapchat’s popularity is soaring, with more than half of teens saying Instagram is their most used app and about one in four saying they use Snapchat the most.

Best Enemies director Ross Bark, who runs cyber-safety courses in NSW schools, conducted the research and said teens no longer wanted to be on Facebook because it had been taken over by their parents.

“They want to use apps where they’re not going to be monitored,” Mr Bark said.

“Even on Instagram a lot of teens have two accounts; one which they get their family members to follow and another where they’ll be … posting risqué content.”

Read the full article in The Daily Telegraph here

Instagram guilt-tripping parents into letting young children open an account or risk being bullied

The Daily Telegraph

INSTAGRAM is guilt-tripping parents into letting children younger than 13 have their own accounts by claiming they will be bullied if they are not on the app.

The social media giant also argues that having a public account­ is “part of the fun”.

It has come under fire from cyber safety experts over its “parents’ guide to Instagram” which claims that kids who don’t have Instagram can “risk social marginalisation”.

Ross Bark and brother Darren from Best Enemies.

Best Enemies director Ross Bark, who runs cyber-safety courses in schools, said it was “ridiculous” to suggest children were going to experience “social marginalisation” purely for not being on the app.

He said that anyone under 18 on the app should have a private account and children under 13 “should definitely not” be on Instagram.

“Social marginalisation sounds like a term that has come out of a marketing manager’s mouth … it sounds like a young person will be on the fringes of society if they are not on Instagram which is a silly suggestion,” Mr Bark said.

Read the full article in The Daily Telegraph here

Caffeine chaos out of control for gamers: Doctors slam drugs which ‘help’ you play all night

The Daily Telegraph

KIDS who play video games are being encouraged to take caffeine-loaded “supplements” to boost their reaction times and help them stay up all night playing.

Best Enemies director Ross Bark, who runs cyber-safety courses in NSW schools, said “gaming supplements” were a growing problem parents needed to be aware of.

“Schools are having issues with students crashing in class after spending all night playing games,” Mr Bark said.

“It can have a real impact on their school work, their relationships and mental health. I think one of the issues is with teenager boys in particularly. They don’t see taking large amount of caffeine as a serious thing or something that carries health risks.”

Read the full article in The Daily Telegraph here

Australian children’s personal information is being sold online after being stolen from gaming sites

The Daily Telegraph

POPULAR video games such as Fortnite and Minecraft are being used to harvest children’s personal data by web fiends who flog it to anyone willing to stump up the cash.

Cyber-safety expert Ross Bark said crooks could use a child’s username and password for a gaming site like Fortnite to extract more information including phone numbers, credit card details, dates of birth and home addresses.

“Websites like Fortnite ask users to hand over a lot of personal information, which is very valuable to criminals,” Mr Bark said. “The account details would usually be purchased in bulk by the hundreds.”

Read the full article in The Daily Telegraph here