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As The Digital World Occupies More of Our Time, Wellness Guides Emerge

As some of the negative effects of life lived online become more apparent, “digital wellness” groups are promoting ways to maintain healthy lifestyles. Deana Mitchell reports 

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Spain Looks to Adopt Digital Tax That Has Angered the US

Spain’s government approved Tuesday the introduction of new taxes on digital business and stock market transactions, following similar steps by other European countries.The Cabinet agreed at its weekly meeting to adopt the so-called Google tax and Tobin tax. The measures still require parliament’s approval.Finance Minister Mara Jesus Montero said the Google tax, which has angered U.S. authorities and brought a threat of tariffs by the Trump administration, will be levied only from the end of the year.By then, the government hopes an international agreement on digital business taxes will be in place. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which advises the world’s rich countries on policies, is currently trying to draw up the agreement.Montero said the government wants a “fairer” tax system, adapted to the new economic trends of globalization and digitalization.Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government is following other European countries, such as France and the United Kingdom, in adopting a digital tax.The measure is an attempt to get around tax avoidance measures frequently used by multinationals. Big tech firms such as Google and Facebook pay most of their taxes in the European Union country where they are based and often pay very little in countries where they run large and profitable operations.Spain wants to place a 3% tax on online ads, on deals brokered on digital platforms and on sales of user data by tech companies that have a turnover of more than 750 million euros a year internationally and more than 3 million in Spain. It hopes to raise close to 1 billion euros a year in extra tax revenue.Other EU countries, such as France, Italy and Belgium, have already passed a Tobin tax. In Spain, the government aims to levy a 0.2% tax on share purchases involving companies worth more than 1 billion euros. That should raise more than 800 million euros annually, according to the government.A Socialist government first said it wanted to adopt the new taxes in January of last year, but an April general election foiled its plans.

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Program Strives to Help Women Students in Tech Feel Less Isolated

Women and minorities pursuing computer science degrees often feel alone and isolated, since the field is overwhelmingly dominated by men. While about 60 percent of all 2017 bachelor’s degree recipients in the U.S. were women, only about 20 percent of Computer and Information Science bachelor’s degree recipients went to women, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). But an innovative program initiated by a global non-profit in partnership with universities across the U.S. has already made impressive gains in helping to boost those numbers. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

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Facebook Warns of Risks to Innovation, Freedom of Expression ahead of EU Rules

Facebook warned of threats to innovation and freedom of expression on Monday, ahead of the release of a raft of rules by the European Union this week and in coming months to rein in U.S. tech giants and Chinese companies.The social media giant laid out its concerns in a white paper, and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg was expected to reiterate the message to EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager and EU industry chief Thierry Breton in Brussels on Monday.Referring to the possibility that the EU may hold internet companies responsible for hate speech and other illegal speech published on their platforms, Facebook said this ignores the nature of the internet.”Such liability would stifle innovation as well as individuals’ freedom of expression,” it said in the white paper.It suggested new frameworks that should be proportionate and necessary.Zuckerberg’s visit came on the heels of visits by Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and Microsoft President Brad Smith to Brussels last month.Vestager and Breton will announce proposals on Wednesday aimed at exploiting the bloc’s treasure trove of industrial data and challenging the dominance of Facebook, Google and Amazon.They will also propose rules to govern the use of artificial intelligence especially in high risk sectors such as healthcare and transport. 

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Innovative Program Empowers Female Students in Technology

Women and minorities pursuing computer science degrees often feel alone and isolated, since the field is overwhelmingly dominated by men. While about 60 percent of all 2017 bachelor’s degree recipients in the U.S. were women, only about 20 percent of Computer and Information Science bachelor’s degree recipients went to women, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). But an innovative program initiated by a global non-profit in partnership with universities across the U.S. has already made impressive gains in helping to boost those numbers. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

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The Story of A Modern Teenage Cyborg

It seems inevitable that in this era of smart technology people would begin to think of ways to make their tech part of their body. Today, people have the ability to change themselves in new and unprecedented ways – and a 19-year-old Kai Landre is living proof. Anna Nelson has the story, narrated by Anna Rice

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Facebook to Allow Paid Political Messages That Aren’t Ads

Facebook decided Friday to allow a type of paid political message that had sidestepped many of the social network’s rules governing political ads. Its policy change came days after presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg exploited a loophole to run such humorous messages promoting his campaign on the accounts of popular Instagram personalities followed by millions of younger people. The change involves what Facebook calls branded content'' — sponsored items posted by ordinary users who are typically paid by companies or organizations. Advertisers pay the influential users directly to post about their brand. No money for FacebookFacebook makes no money from such posts and does not consider them advertising. As a result, branded content isn't governed by Facebook's advertising policies, which require candidates and campaigns to verify their identity with a U.S. ID or mailing address and disclose how much they spent running each ad. Until Friday, Facebook tried to deter the use of paid posts through influential users as political messages. Specifically, it barred political campaigns from using a tool designed to help advertisers run branded posts on Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Friday's rule change will now allow campaigns in the U.S. to use this tool, provided they've been authorized by Facebook to run political ads and disclose who paid for the sponsored posts. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during his campaign launch of "Mike for Black America," at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Feb. 13, 2020, in Houston.The Bloomberg campaign took the unconventional step of paying social media influencers — individuals with huge followings — to post Bloomberg memes using their Instagram accounts. Different versions of the sponsored posts from the Bloomberg campaign ran on more than a dozen influential Instagram accounts, each of which has millions of followers. That effort skirted many of the rules that tech companies have imposed on political ads to safeguard U.S. elections from malicious foreign and domestic interference and misinformation. Online political ads have been controversial, especially after it was revealed Russia used them to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. In response, Facebook has rolled out rules to prevent a repeat of that, though it has declined to fact-check political ads and refuses to ban even blatantly false messages. The Bloomberg campaign's memes showed the 78-year-old candidate, in a tongue-in-cheek awkward fashion, chatting with popular social media influencers with names likeTank Sinatra,asking them to help him raise his profile among younger folk. Can you post a meme that lets everyone know I’m the cool candidate?” Bloomberg wrote in one of the exchanges posted by an account called F Jerry, which has nearly 15 million followers on Instagram. The candidate then sent a photo of him wearing baggy chino shorts, an orange polo and a zip-up vest. F Jerry’s account then replied, Ooof that will cost like a billion dollars.'' Bloomberg responded by asking where to send the money. Looking to broaden audienceWith the sponsored posts, Bloomberg's campaign said it was reaching those who might not be normally interested in the day-to-day developments of politics. You want to engage people at every platform and you want them to feel like they’re not just getting a canned generic statement,” campaign spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said of the campaign’s strategy. The campaign declined to say how much it paid for the sponsored posts, or if it had more of them in the works. The posts did not appear in Facebook’s ad transparency library, which catalogs the political ads that campaigns buy directly from Facebook or Instagram and tells users how much was spent on them. Bloomberg’s campaign told The Associated Press on Thursday that Instagram does not require the campaign to disclose that information on the sponsored posts it ran earlier this week.