Conspiracy-driven violence is on the rise in the United States and social media companies, like Youtube, are not doing enough to prevent the spread of dangerous misinformation. Youtube still operates as a breeding ground for radicalization, even with increased pressure stemming from the FBI including radical conspiracy theories in the list of domestic terror threats in 2019. Kidnappings, a bomb threat, an assassination plot, and murder are all some of the heinous actions that have been motivated by conspiracy theories in the past couple of years.
Eduardo Moreno, a train engineer from California, intentionally derailed a freight train last year in an attempt to strike the navy hospital ship Mercy. Moreno wanted to “‘wake people up’” to unsubstantiated, suspicious activity aboard the ship regarding COVID-19. Conspiratorial beliefs like this circulate on platforms like Youtube, often leading to tragedy and destruction.
Youtube played a key role in the rise of the QAnon conspiracy by providing legitimacy to the movement through likes and subscribers. Moderators from 4chan, a leading message board for the alt-right, live streamed discussions of QAnon on Youtube and built a large network of followers using the platform. Youtube also enriches the pockets of creators of QAnon channels and incentivizes others to create conspiracy theory channels for monetary gain with merchandise opportunities and advertising.
Youtube benefits in this process too because conspiracy channels attract a lot of advertisement viewers to the platform. The collective followers of two popular conspiracy channels, David Icke and London Real, could bring in over $40 million a year to Youtube and Facebook. Besides advertising revenue, Youtube might also generate income from sales made in London Real’s online store, which followers are directed to through links on the platform.
Bangkok, Shanghai, the Florida Keys, Fire Island, Kitty Hawk, swaths of Italy’s northeastern coast; much of Alexandria and Amsterdam—by 2050, these places (and many more) are projected to be below the annual flood line. Within our lifetimes, we will see more and more cities harmed by rising tides. Will we be prepared when those cities start to disappear?
The scientific community has come to the consensus that sea level rise is largely attributed to melting ice sheets and the absorption of more thermal energy into the ocean, both of which are caused by global warming. The best defense against rising tides would be drastic, immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by going net zero emissions to “stabilize” global warming. But until that happens, public policy must be dedicated to creating programs and legislation that can help mitigate the human toll of rising seas.
In 2017, one of the largest companies in the world, Amazon, announced a decision that had the potential to transform any city in North America—they were looking for a second headquarters. The announcement immediately set off a fierce bidding war among cities and states for the grand prize consisting of 50,000 jobs and economic opportunities galore.
Amazon, however, was not offering this prize for free. In its Request for Proposal (RFP), the Internet giant asked for outlines of incentives cities and states would offer to offset construction costs, land acquisition, relocation fees, permits, and more, as well as the types of tax breaks and credits they would be willing to provide. Cities got creative in the types of packages they proposed, with Tucson, AZ shipping a cactus to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters and Stonecrest, GA offering to annex part of the city to the corporate giants and officially rename itself “Amazon, GA.”
After a lengthy process, Amazon ended up selecting New York City and Arlington, VA as dual winners of the new headquarters, as well as choosing Nashville for a new operations center. Just three months later, Amazon ended its plans to build part of their second headquarters in New York. What happened is part of a larger trend unfolding in cities, suburbs, and towns across America with increasing regularity in the past few years: pushback to development incentives, largely due to fears of resultant economic inequity in local communities.
One March day, a white man kills eight people, six of whom are Asian women. The man claims he has a “sex addiction” and was acting to remove his “temptation.” He drives for miles between three spas, carefully choosing his victims.
One day later, our president responds: “I am making no connection at this moment to the motive of the killer.” Two days later, FBI Director Christopher Wray claims the attack “does not appear... racially motivated.”
This is in spite of the outcry from the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community and beyond. They argue that only blindness could obscure the clear motivations of the killer, placing his attack in a long history of violence against the AAPI community. Many demand that the shooter be charged with a state or federal hate crime, yet no commitments to do so have emerged.
What, you might ask, is going on here?
The week of March 21, 2021, rumors began circling among students at the University of Virginia and other localities across the Northern regions of the state that a mass Covid-19 vaccination site in Danville, Virginia, was vaccinating all individuals with a valid ID. This practice was not made public, as the Pittsylvania/Danville Health District recently entered vaccination Phase 1c, which expands eligibility for some essential workers, but does not include all adults. College students spread this information via word of mouth and social media posts on Twitter and Reddit.
The Danville mass vaccination site is one of four of its kind that opened across the state last month. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducted analyses in collaboration with state governments to install mass vaccination centers in regions where Covid-19 disproportionately impacted residents. As of 2019, nearly a quarter of Danville residents lived at or under the federal poverty line.
By Wednesday of that week, the City of Danville released a public statement requesting that individuals stop visiting the mass vaccination site. Additionally, the Blue Ridge Health District, where UVA is located, stated that any resident who traveled to Danville would have to return to receive their second dose of the Moderna vaccine.
Students became discouraged as they felt they were hearing contradictory information from a variety of sources. Some claimed that the nurses working at the facility wanted more out-of-district individuals to come, fearing wasted doses due to slow vaccine rollout. Others believed that UVA students created an equity issue as wealthy students entered a low-income space to get vaccinated before members of the community. Additionally, others thought that shots in arms are the most important metric of success, and anyone should get vaccinated when given the opportunity.