The Making of a No. 1 YouTube Conspiracy Video After the Parkland Tragedy

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“I had no idea where all the attention was coming from,” said “mike m.” in an online chat interview with The New York Times. “I just noticed it started to take off.”

Many commenters were confused. “Why is this on trending, especially on news? Nothing special,” wrote one. Others, tipped off by the caption calling Mr. Hogg an actor, knew exactly what they thought they were seeing: “Someone get this kid an Oscar!” one wrote.

By noon on Wednesday, YouTube had pulled the video for violating its policy on harassment and bullying.

It was not the first time that YouTube had served not just as a source of fringe conspiracy theories, but as an accomplice in their rapid spread.

After the massacre in Las Vegas last October, YouTubers filled a void of information about the killer’s motives with dark speculation, crowding the site with videos that were fonts of discredited and unproven information, including claims that the tragedy had been staged.

After a mass shooting last November at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., those seeking news about the event on YouTube were overwhelmed by videos falsely claiming it had been a “false flag” attack meant to spur gun control measures or a plot carried out by the so-called antifa (short for anti-fascist) movement.

Mr. Hogg speaking at a rally calling for more gun control after the shooting at his high school. Credit Jonathan Drake/Reuters

In the wake of this latest tragedy, which left 17 people dead at the school in Parkland, YouTube still seemed caught by surprise by the rise of another video meant to peddle a baseless theory.

“In 2017, we started rolling out changes to better surface authoritative news sources in search results, particularly around breaking news events,” YouTube, which is owned by Google, said in a statement. “We’ve seen improvements, but in some circumstances these changes are not working quickly enough. In addition, last year we updated the application of our harassment policy to include hoax videos that target the victims of these tragedies.”

Unlike the other unhinged clips that have garnered significant attention on YouTube in the recent past, the video of the Parkland survivor originated with neither a conspiracy-oriented media organization like Infowars nor one of the popular YouTubers who have catered to far-right subcultures and fringe political factions.

Instead, it was posted to the infrequently updated account run by “mike m.” Up until the reposting of the video featuring Mr. Hogg, the account had fewer than a dozen videos and fewer than 1,000 followers. Although he declined to provide much information about himself or give his full name, “mike m.” said that he was a 51-year-old man living in Idaho.

His uploads included a handful of little-watched videos suggesting he is an avid fan of conspiracies. What inspired him to traffic in an unfounded theory about the Parkland shooting — aside from “having more time on my hands these days,” he said — were posts he had seen on the popular conspiracy site Godlike Productions. He pointed to comments on the site that claimed Mr. Hogg had been “coached” before giving interviews to members of the media who covered the massacre. It’s also where he found references to the beach video from last August.

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Mr. Hogg addressed the explosion of conspiracy theories head-on. “I’m not a crisis actor,” said Mr. Hogg, who had been visiting family and friends when he appeared in the Los Angeles news segment. “I’m someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that. I’m not acting on anybody’s behalf.”

The video posted by “mike m.” rapidly gained steam nonetheless.

What propelled this one to popularity — and eventually into YouTube’s promotional apparatus — came from outside the platform.

Links to the video proliferated on 4chan, where users have gleefully embraced the conspiracy theories and mocked the shooting victims. When it hit YouTube’s Trending page, some on 4chan celebrated: “TRENDING IN THE USA,” began one thread in the far-right politics board called /pol/. “WE’RE BREAKING THE CONDITIONING.”

The “mike m.” video also found traction on Twitter, on Facebook and in stories and comment threads on conspiracy sites. It rose in the circuitous and unexpected manner of a viral video, rather than one that had been calculated to game YouTube’s algorithms by seizing on interest in breaking news or tragedy — it had no catchy headline, no recognizable personality, no vast theorizing. And yet it blasted through YouTube’s safeguards and somehow kept going, exposing the platform as vulnerable to sudden influence from inside and outside its walls.

After YouTube removed the video, “mike m.” said his account had received a “strike” — that is how YouTube warns users that they have broken the site’s rules or violated its guidelines. (Three strikes and you’re out.) “I mean, why strike me over a beach confrontation video???” he said. A second video he had posted about the shooting was gaining popularity Wednesday morning, he said, until it, too, was deleted, and another strike was added to his account.

Anonymous and remorseless, “mike m” was undeterred. “There is more to this kid than appears on MSM,” he said, using the common shorthand for “mainstream media.” Asked if he would think twice about posting such videos in the future, he said, “No not at all.”

He said he was worried about his account getting deleted, adding: “But I am not going to stop.”

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Hotel Carrying New Trump Brand Secures $6 Million Tax Break

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In an email on Wednesday, Dinesh Chawla said he and his brother were pleased by the approval, though they said the development agency had not notified them of it.

The development agency declined to comment.

The decision to approve the request was not unusual for the agency, which evaluates applications for the tourism rebate program based on set criteria and has granted similar subsidies to other hotels.

The award renews legal questions about a Trump-affiliated property receiving benefits from a state or local government. Ethics watchdogs and the president’s critics say the Mississippi tax break would benefit the president, albeit indirectly, because he continues to own the Trump Organization through a trust.

Such benefits, they say, could violate the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which essentially prohibit the president from accepting certain gifts from foreign or domestic governments. Other legal experts, however, contend that domestic emoluments are allowable so long as Mr. Trump does not earn them from his service as president.

Dinesh Chawla said in an email to The Times earlier this month that the Trump Organization had played no role in the rebate application and that the Trumps and the Chawlas had agreed that any rebate would not figure into fees paid to the Trumps.

Mr. Chawla said he and his brother had sought the rebate to “improve our cash flow.”

A spokesman for the Mississippi development agency said the Trump name was not mentioned anywhere in the Chawlas’ application.

The development agency’s tourism rebate program is part of an effort to draw tourists to Mississippi and help the local economy. According to the development agency, the program allows a developer to recoup some of the sales taxes collected on a property to “reimburse the applicant for eligible costs incurred during the project’s construction.” The agency said earlier this month that 23 other tourism rebate applications had been approved under the program, including 10 for hotels.

The partnership between the Chawlas and the Trumps materialized after Mr. Bryant, a Republican, introduced members of the two families during the 2016 presidential campaign. The governor and the Chawlas have known each other for years.

Clay Chandler, a spokesman for Mr. Bryant, said earlier this month that the Chawlas had followed the same procedure as other applicants for the tax rebate. “State law guides the application process, and state law alone will determine if any application is approved,” he said.

In his earlier email to The Times, Dinesh Chawla said that “no contact with Governor Bryant or his executive staff has been made regarding the project, other than our general discussion about what the project contains.”

Still, the Chawlas contacted state officials for more than two years, seeking to get the project on their radar, according to the emails obtained through a public records request.

“I would really appreciate your efforts in advocating this idea with the Governor’s office, MDA executive director Glenn McCullough, and MDA staff and others,” Suresh Chawla wrote in a July 2015 email to Robert Morgan, an aide to Mr. Bryant, using the acronym for the development agency.

“We did not ask for any favors, other than an honest referral,” Dinesh Chawla said in his email to The Times on Wednesday. “We wanted to introduce it to the state hierarchy, because in our state, a $20 million project is of significant note.”

Last summer, Suresh Chawla alerted Mr. Morgan to the partnership with the Trumps within minutes of its being announced, sending him and other officials a news release about the deal.

When Mr. Morgan received the message, he shared the news release with three other members of Mr. Bryant’s administration, including his chief of staff, along with an official at the development agency.

Dinesh Chawla said that he and his brother had emailed more than 1,000 people with the news of the deal. “It had nothing to do with the people in high offices,” he said.

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Ford Ousts Chief of North American Unit for ‘Inappropriate Behavior’

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Ford Motor said on Wednesday that one of its most senior officials was leaving the company after an internal investigation revealed “inappropriate behavior.”

The official, Raj Nair, had been an executive vice president and head of Ford’s North American operations since June. He spent three decades with the automaker.

Ford declined to elaborate on the nature of the actions, but said they were inconsistent with the company’s code of conduct.

“We made this decision after a thorough review and careful consideration,” Ford’s chief executive, Jim Hackett, said in a statement released by the company. “Ford is deeply committed to providing and nurturing a safe and respectful culture, and we expect our leaders to fully uphold these values.”

In recent months, there has been a wave of dismissals and resignations of powerful corporate officials after revelations about workplace misconduct, including sexual harassment. The action at Ford is one of the most prominent ousters outside the media and entertainment industries.

Mr. Nair, 53, had been seen as a rising star at the automaker, and a potential future chief executive. He previously served as its chief technology officer and head of vehicle development.

After Mr. Hackett arrived last year, Mr. Nair was put in charge of North America, Ford’s largest and most profitable region.

“I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviors consistent with the principles that the company and I have always espoused,” Mr. Nair said in the statement issued by Ford. “I continue to have the utmost faith in the people of Ford Motor Company and wish them continued success in the future.”

The company said it would name a successor soon.

The move came just weeks after Ford announced the resignation of the chief of its China operations, Jason Luo, who had been hired away from an auto-parts maker only five months earlier. A company official said Mr. Luo’s departure related to “personal reasons that predate his time at Ford.”

Last year Ford came under scrutiny for years of allegations of sexual and racial harassment of women workers by company employees at two auto plants in Chicago. In August, Ford reached a $10 million settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a case related to the plants.

Shortly after The New York Times published an investigation of the longstanding abuses at the plants in December, Ford apologized to the workers there in an open letter from Mr. Hackett that declared, “I promise that we will learn from this and we will do better.”


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Broadcom Retaliates Against Qualcomm for Raising Its NXP Bid

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Qualcomm increased its offer price for NXP to $127.50 a share from $110 to shore up support for the deal among NXP’s shareholders. The move succeeded. Qualcomm said investors controlling roughly 28 percent of NXP’s shares, including Elliott Management, the activist hedge fund that had opposed Qualcomm’s initial offer as being too low, agreed to tender their shares.

The improved NXP offer was also seen as potentially fending off Broadcom.

In a statement on Wednesday, Qualcomm said, “Broadcom’s reduced proposal has made an inadequate offer even worse despite the clear increase in value to Qualcomm stockholders from providing certainty around the NXP acquisition.”

Hock Tan, Broadcom’s chief executive, had previously said his company would walk away if the NXP offer went above $110 a share. Now Broadcom seems content to take its chances at Qualcomm’s annual shareholder meeting on March 6.

Broadcom has put forward six nominees for Qualcomm’s 11-seat board. That campaign gained momentum when influential investor advisory firms supported the slate. Institutional Shareholder Services recommended that Qualcomm shareholders vote to install four of Broadcom’s six nominees, while another adviser, Glass Lewis, backed all six.

Shares of Qualcomm and Broadcom both finished down less than 1 percent on Wednesday.

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Profile: The Redemption of Chris Hughes

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“I think that when people enjoy success of many sorts it is oftentimes easy to forget all of the factors that contribute to making that possible,” he said, citing his own upbringing. He grew up in a stable, middle-class family, the only child of a paper salesman and a schoolteacher. As a child, he took advantage of government-run after-school programs and was placed in “gifted” classes. At 14, he searched online for the “best high school in America,” turning up Phillips Academy, a prestigious private school in Andover, Mass.; Mr. Hughes applied and talked his way into a scholarship. All these factors, he argues, factored into his success even before he landed in a dorm room with Mr. Zuckerberg.

Credit Sonny Figueroa/The New York Times

In “Fair Shot,” he offers a solution to balance the scale: a guaranteed income of $500 for adults earning less than $50,000, including nontraditional workers like parents and students. His proposal is that such a program be paid for through a tax on the country’s highest earners, those whose annual income is $250,000 or more. His plan would reach 60 million adults and lift 20 million out of poverty overnight, he writes, while providing those in the middle class with more financial stability.

“The guaranteed income as an idea is so simple that oftentimes people just sort of skip over the power of cash itself,” Mr. Hughes said. “We think, Oh my God, income inequality — it’s so incredible, all the stats are so insane, but what can we do about it? It’s got to be education or it’s got to be more job training. It’s got to be a higher minimum wage. I say, ‘Yes, yes and yes.’” But, we need to do more, he insists.

The Economic Security Project’s office is part university library, part tech start-up, with dark leather and wood furniture alongside a white meeting pod near the entrance. It seems to reflect Mr. Hughes sensibilities — his admiration for old, established institutions and his embrace of digital technology. When I arrive for our interview, Mr. Hughes greets me warmly, and we sit in what appears to be the office’s only conference room, enclosed by a glass wall. His Southern accent is barely detectable, and in conversation, he is measured and cautious, laying out his argument with his hands, becoming riled only when I bring up the tax bill (“the most perplexing and infuriating move”) and the fact that some might view their success as completely self-generated (“that’s just flat wrong”).

Before he started the Economic Security Project, Mr. Hughes had been working on the issue of the guaranteed income internationally through GiveDirectly, a nonprofit that, as the name suggests, operates a cash transfer program that puts money into the hands of those who need it. Mr. Hughes was inspired by the organization’s ideals, and he started to wonder whether a similar model could work domestically.

“There was no real organization in the United States focused on exploring how a guaranteed income might work,” he said.

But, rather than go in “guns blazing,” he explained, “We said, ‘This is a promising idea. Let’s bring together a network of people to think about this collaboratively and see where it goes.’” The Economic Security Project was originally conceived as a temporary, two-year initiative, but has since been extended to 2020.

Chris Hughes at the Economic Security Project office in Manhattan. Credit Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

Mr. Hughes’s cautiousness is a direct result of his experience at The New Republic. Despite his intention to “make it a publication that millions of people would adore and really value,” the result was not so idyllic. He invested $25 million dollars, moved the magazine to a slick new office and hired top talent from other publications. By late 2014, his investment was not paying off, and he hired Guy Vidra, a former Yahoo! executive, to be the C.E.O., hoping he might be able to make The New Republic a digital media company. Mr. Vidra and Mr. Hughes decided to replace Franklin Foer, the editor at the time, but the news reached Mr. Foer first, and he resigned, prompting mass resignations across the publication. What followed was a media maelstrom, and a little over a year later, unable to turn the publication’s profits around, Mr. Hughes sold the magazine.

“Chris was pretty anxious about where things were headed,” said Mr. Foer on a recent call, adding: “There were lots of larger forces remaking journalism, and because of Chris’s biography and because of some of the hamfisted ways in which he handled things, he kind of fell into a morality play. It was pretty easy to cast the story as a parable about journalism, and I think that helps explain the heat of the coverage that fell on him.”

In retrospect, Mr. Hughes said he regrets his approach at The New Republic. “I went in with very big picture kinds of goals and went too far too fast,” he said, before I could ask. “Now, I work on this big picture, similarly idealistic kind of idea of a world where everyone has some basic financial security through cash, but I don’t think we necessarily need to start off by giving $1,000 to everybody.”

The plausibility of his idea is a matter of debate. Branko Milanovic, a leading scholar on income inequality, and Dean Baker, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, both believe the plan is unrealistic given the partisan divisions of the current political climate. Mr. Baker also noted that policy changes to restructure the economy, such as weaker patent and copyright laws and public funding for generic medication, are a more urgent need. Stanford professor and conservative economist Nicholas Bloom brought up the potential for fraud, adding that government enforcement would be difficult.

Mr. Hughes is aware that his proposal is far-reaching. “This is a big idea and it’s an expensive idea, but I do think that it is in line with the scale of the problem, which is also immense,” he said.

Mr. Hughes said his own windfall gave him the mental space to think about and pursue his goals, and now, he feels a responsibility to pay it forward. When I ask him where this impulse comes from, his face softens. “From my parents.” His father wanted him to be successful, he explained, but “there was also a sense that you don’t do better at the expense of others.”

Giving people cash, in Mr. Hughes’s view, is not only the most effective way to tackle inequality today, it is also the most humane: “It’s truly a belief that people can be trusted and deserve the opportunity to design their lives, to chase their own dreams.”

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NPR Executive Was Warned Repeatedly About Sexual Harassment, Report Finds

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NPR says it has already taken steps to bolster its workplace culture, including making changes to the complaint process, creating an anti-harassment support group, mandating in-person sexual harassment training and strengthening its human resources department.

The report suggested further steps, including conducting background checks and asking questions about prior sexual harassment issues during the hiring process, retaining an outside firm to investigate complaints and conducting a study of gender equity in pay and promotions.


After Weinstein: 71 Men Accused of Sexual Misconduct and Their Fall From Power

A list of men who have resigned, been fired or otherwise lost power since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke.

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“We are committed to implementing its recommendations to ensure we have a workplace where everyone feels safe and respected,” Isabel Lara, an NPR spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The past months have shown that sexual harassment is a serious, widespread problem, pervasive in every industry and many organizations; NPR is no exception.”

The report said that some NPR employees had been warned about Mr. Oreskes’s behavior, but the knowledge stayed within a “whisper network” that didn’t extend outside the newsroom.

“As a result, information that many staff members felt was widespread actually was not known to HR or leadership,” the report said.

The timeline revealed by the investigation shows that NPR executives frequently expressed concern about Mr. Oreskes’s behavior, but repeatedly addressed it through conversations instead of disciplinary action.

When NPR hired Mr. Oreskes in March 2015, a search firm delivered “overwhelmingly positive” feedback, with no criticism of his workplace conduct, the report said. But a member of the eight-person hiring committee was aware of one episode and raised it to human resources: A woman said Mr. Oreskes had left her multiple voice mail messages late at night asking to discuss his book while they were at a conference. The woman said that she had heard a similar story about another woman at the conference and that “the incidents made the conference attendees very uncomfortable,” according to the report. Nonetheless, the committee unanimously voted to hire him.

In the summer of 2015, two female NPR employees said they had dinners with Mr. Oreskes that turned excessively personal, the report found. He gave one of them a hug after dinner, which “made her feel uncomfortable,” the report said. They reported the dinners to human resources in October 2015, and the company’s general counsel, Jon Hart, spoke with Mr. Oreskes within a week.

“This conversation was described as a ‘stern talking to’ in which Mr. Hart told Mr. Oreskes that sexual comments were not appropriate and warned him that it could not happen again,” the report said. “Mr. Oreskes committed to Mr. Hart that it would not happen again.”

But in the spring of 2016, Mr. Oreskes expensed several dinners with women, including one with a female NPR employee, the report found. In August, Mr. Hart and Deborah A. Cowan, the chief financial officer, met with him and asked for business justifications for his dinners, while cautioning him to make sure he had justifications for dinners going forward.

Executives again discussed his behavior in October 2017, and they decided that Jarl Mohn, the chief executive, “would have an additional counseling session with Mr. Oreskes,” which he did, the report said.

“They decided not to terminate Mr. Oreskes at that time because there were only two reported incidents of conduct involving NPR employees and both had been addressed two years prior,” the report found.

After Mr. Mohn asked the staff to come forward with harassment complaints, an employee said Mr. Oreskes had groped her in the spring of 2017. Around the same time, a woman told NPR’s legal team that Mr. Oreskes had kissed her without her consent when he was employed by The Times.

He was suspended on Oct. 31 after the Washington Post article was published. Shortly after, an NPR employee said Mr. Oreskes had made an inappropriate comment in 2016 during a conversation about her career, and had invited her to his beach cottage to “continue the conversation over wine,” the report found. Mr. Mohn asked for his resignation after hearing her complaint.

Mr. Oreskes’s career in journalism stretches back about four decades. He started at The Daily News and joined The Times in 1981, holding many jobs in two decades at the paper, including chief political correspondent and deputy managing editor. He worked at The Associated Press from 2008 to 2015, serving as a vice president and senior managing editor.

The newly released report, which was not edited by NPR employees, was based on interviews with 86 current and former employees, 71 of whom were women.

Reached by email on Wednesday, Mr. Oreskes said that he did not speak to the law firm that prepared the report, but that he continued to support NPR and its mission.

He pointed to a statement he made on the day he resigned: “I am deeply sorry to the people I hurt. My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility.”

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Fed Officials Say Economy Is Ready for Higher Rates

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The January meeting was held before a wave of turbulence passed through global equity markets in early February, but the gyrations are unlikely to have discomposed policymakers. Several Fed officials have said they remain focused on the underlying strength of economic growth.

The day’s numbers are displayed after the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on Feb. 15. Credit Bryan R. Smith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Based on the relatively strong economy, but the continued stubbornness of inflation, I’ve penciled in two hikes for 2018,” Patrick Harker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, said Wednesday in St. Louis.

Most of his colleagues have predicted that the Fed will raise rates at least three times in 2018, just as it did in 2017.

“If the economy evolves as I anticipate, I believe further increases in interest rates will be appropriate this year and next year, at a pace similar to last year’s,” Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said earlier this month.

The persistent question mark is inflation. The Fed aims to keep prices rising at an annual rate of 2 percent, but it has consistently fallen short of that goal since the end of the last recession in 2009.

Most Fed officials predict that stronger growth will ultimately translate into stronger inflation, but they have made the same predictions repeatedly in recent years, without notable success. Some officials argue that the Fed should stop raising rates until inflation shows clear signs of revival.

The meeting account said that officials had less confidence about the outlook for inflation. They “saw both upside and downside risks to the inflation outlook,” it said.

In a presentation at the January meeting, which was described in the account, the Fed’s staff told policymakers that the major theories of inflation dynamics are not strong predictors of the movement of inflation, nor effective guides to policy. The link between economic growth and inflation has weakened in recent years; the predictive value of inflation expectations is greater, but it does not offer clear guidance.

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Tech We’re Using: Limiting the Influence of Tech When You Report on It

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It made an impression on me that even the mere idea of being surveilled can chill people’s behavior.

Now I view privacy not so much as the ability to keep your personal details away from prying government agencies or companies. Privacy is the right to choose which entities access information about you, control how those entities use your data, check the fairness of data-based decisions made about you, and correct errors.

Since American consumers currently lack those kinds of rights over most of their data, I’ve grown fond of tools that lift the hood on online tracking and profiling.

Ms. Singer uses Disconnect, a service that allows you to see which third parties are tracking you online. Credit Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

One tool I use on my laptop is Disconnect, a service that shows you the third parties tracking you on every site. When I was reading articles this morning about the Trump administration, Disconnect counted 78 advertising networks, analytics services and others tracking me on HuffPost; 24 trackers on The New York Times site, and 19 on The Washington Post.

What could be better about some of these tools?

ProtonMail can be cumbersome. The service encrypts your emails before they reach the ProtonMail server. As a result, you can’t search the texts of your emails for keywords if you use the free service. You can search only the subject lines.

It’s a constant reminder that ceding to online surveillance is much more frictionless than trying to limit it.

Recently Apple investors raised concerns about smartphone addiction and children. Is this a problem and are there adequate solutions?

I’ve heard from many parents, including a few physicians, concerned about the amount of time their kids are spending online at school and at home. It’s so difficult to find the right balance between making sure our children are fluent with online tools and protecting them from getting sucked in by habit-forming video platforms and social networks. Many parents feel they are up against a powerful, interlocking ecosystem, designed to hook their kids on constant scrolling, watching, and clicking.

Given the vast ecosystem, however, singling out Apple as the culprit seems to me a little bit like blaming only soda can manufacturers for Americans’ addiction to sugary beverages. Yes, it would be terrific if Apple introduced new control options for parents. But if shareholders want to fault companies for manipulating or addicting users, they should also be taking a hard look at Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix and many more.

Even small user-interface changes could make a big difference. Imagine if the default setting for streaming video services wasn’t autoplay.

On a larger level, we’ve seen over the past year how some Big Tech companies initially refused to take responsibility for the spread of fake news and other side effects of their innovations. In that context, platforms that nudge children and adults to stay online are merely one symptom of a much bigger problem.

You wrote a series last year examining tech industry influence in American public schools. Now you’re looking into Silicon Valley’s increasing footprint in the health sector. What are the similarities and differences?

“It may seem quaint, but I still relish the idea that people in a democratic society have the right to be anonymous in public,” Ms. Singer said. Credit Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

There’s huge hype around the idea that tech can improve education. Same goes for health.

So far, however, there’s not much rigorous evidence that learning apps on their own improve students’ educational results. Likewise, there is little hard evidence that health apps by themselves reduce disease.

Still, I’m optimistic about the potential for software in health.

That’s partly because a few tech companies are participating in rigorous studies, called randomized controlled trials. In these studies, researchers randomly select some volunteers to try a new intervention. By comparing the results in the treated and untreated groups, researchers could identify apps that do make significant health contributions.

Beyond your job, what tech product are you currently obsessed with in your daily life?

Every weekend, I try out a new recipe from NYT Cooking. And while I’m cooking, I listen to podcasts.

I’m currently devouring Uncivil, a history podcast on the Civil War. It unfolds like a detective story. And while you’re engrossed in the plot twists, it neatly obliterates the standard American narrative of the Civil War.

Right now, my family is on a bit of a Brit TV binge. We just watched the second season of “The Crown,” the fictional series on Queen Elizabeth II, and “The Coronation,” a glowing documentary featuring the real QE2. And we raced through “Prime Suspect: Tennison,” the prequel to the classic TV police procedural that starred Helen Mirren.

I also just took an audio boot camp course at Columbia University School of Journalism. Now I’m teaching myself to use Hindenburg, a radio editing program.

Are you doing anything unusual to limit the spread of your data?

It may seem quaint, but I still relish the idea that people in a democratic society have the right to be anonymous in public. I think Americans should be able to attend political protests or drive to the grocery store in our pajamas without being recognized by government agencies or companies.

The recent proliferation of face recognition software, however, poses huge risks to public anonymity. In simple terms, face recognition software works by scanning a photo of your face and then converting your facial topography into a unique code, called a face print. The benefit — as well as the hazard — is that a company that takes a face print from one photo of you could potentially use it to identify you in any other photo or video frame.

I may be particularly attuned to the fragility of public anonymity because, like many journalists, I’ve been doxed.

So, as an experiment, I’ve been limiting photos of myself online to see whether I have any control over how they spread. As a kind of inside joke, my Twitter avatar is an illustration that Minh Uong, the art director in the Times’s Business section, created for an article I once wrote about the risks of facial recognition.

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Tech Stocks Boost Wall Street Ahead of Fed Minutes

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The S&P 500 rose 0.52 percent to 2,730.3 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.75 percent at 7,288.67.

Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet powered the S&P and the Nasdaq.

“People are finding it more difficult to own dividend stocks because they are getting beaten up. If things are going to be okay, it’s going to be driven by companies that are able to grow and take advantage of the growth in the economy,” said Jason Browne, chief investment officer at FundX Investment Group in San Francisco.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 1.04 percent gain in the industrial index.

The real estate sector fell the most with a 0.72 percent decline after data showed U.S. home sales unexpectedly fell in January.

Qualcomm fell 1.05 percent after Broadcom lowered its takeover offer for the chipmaker. The revised offer comes in the wake of Qualcomm’s sweetened bid for NXP Semiconductors.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yields <US10YT=RR>, the benchmark for global borrowing costs, were slightly below the four-year peak at 2.8987 percent.

The CBOE Volatility index, a gauge of near-term stock market volatility, eased to a session low of 17.97 and below Friday’s close of 19.46.

A jump in these two gauges to multi-year highs were at the center of the selloff in equities earlier in the month.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,993 to 888. On the Nasdaq, 2,027 issues rose and 809 fell.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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Bahrain Activist Gets 5-Year Sentence for ‘Insulting’ Tweets

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As those charges were pending, Mr. Rajab reiterated his criticisms last May in another opinion column in The New York Times appealing to President Trump on the eve of his trip to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. “It fills me with shame that my country, Bahrain, is bombing Yemen, with United States support,” Mr. Rajab wrote, adding, “What I have endured is a small fraction of what the people of Yemen have suffered, largely because of the military intervention of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and their allies.”

United Nations agencies say that the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen has contributed to a humanitarian disaster, including thousands of indiscriminate civilian casualties as well as widespread famine and disease. A recent report by a United Nations panel concluded that the two sides had reached a stalemate neither could win, and that a Saudi-led blockade of the country has “had the effect of using the threat of starvation as an instrument of war.”

Supporters of the Saudi-led campaign argue that it is necessary to prevent Iran from establishing a beachhead on the Arabian Peninsula through its allies in Yemen, the Houthis. Supporters of Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim monarchy similarly argue that the Shiite-dominated opposition is in league with Shiite-led Iran. Tehran has used its state-owned media to encourage unrest in Bahrain, and Shiite militants in Bahrain have carried out violent attacks on security forces.

Mr. Trump has embraced Saudi Arabia as a close ally, vowed to push back against Iranian influence around the region, and tempered even the muted criticism of Bahrain that occurred under the Obama administration.

“Our countries have a wonderful relationship together,” Mr. Trump said during an appearance in Riyadh last spring with the king of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. “There has been a little strain, but there won’t be strain with this administration.”

In September, the Trump administration approved a $3.8 billion deal for Lockheed Martin to sell Bahrain more than a dozen new F-16 fighter jets, as well as upgrades to its existing fleet and other military equipment. Mr. Trump dropped requirements imposed under President Barack Obama for improved human rights before any arms sales. And, after a meeting with the crown prince of Bahrain in late November, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that the kingdom had agreed to spend as much as $9 billion on unspecified “commercial deals,” including the F-16s.

Mr. Rajab’s sentence on Wednesday was “a slap in the face to justice,” Heba Morayef, the Middle East director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “It is absolutely outrageous that he be forced to spend a further five years in jail simply for daring to voice his opinions online.”

Aziza Salman, a representative of the government of Bahrain, said in an email that the charges against Mr. Rajab “relate to specific articles of Bahrain’s penal code and did not, in any way, relate to any political views he may hold.”

“Bahrain’s commitment to protecting the security of the nation and its citizens is absolute; Nabeel Rajab was found guilty of undermining that security,” she added.

Asked on Tuesday about Mr. Rajab’s impending sentencing, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said the administration was “very disappointed” that an earlier conviction had been upheld. “We continue to have conversations with the government of Bahrain about our very serious concerns,” she added.

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