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SC college freshmen find connections on Facebook, Instagram to prepare for new chapter

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SC college freshmen find connections on Facebook, <b>Instagram</b> to prepare for new chapter thumbnail

When Emeline Niyibitanga found out she would be a part of Clemson University’s Class of 2025, she couldn’t wait to get started.

The Dillon High School senior wanted to get to know her soon-to-be classmates, learn more about everything she needed to do to get involved and meet a potential roommate. But with a global pandemic making it hard to meet others, there was little opportunity to make new friends in person.

That’s when Niyibitanga decided to go another route, creating a Clemson Class of 2025 Instagram page. She got the idea after seeing similar Facebook pages in her junior year for the Class of 2024, where students would post information about themselves.

“It’s not just a way for me to connect other people, it’s a way for me to get to meet other people in an indirect way,” she said.



Instagram screenshot 05/23/2021

Screenshots of Instagram accounts created by incoming college freshman at Clemson University, University of South Carolina and College of Charleston to help each other find friends and roommates.




The grid on Niyibitanga’s page, which has the handle @clemsonco2025, is filled with headshots, senior portraits and friend groups looking to meet their new classmates. Incoming freshmen send their pictures and a paragraph about themselves to the direct messages on the page, which Niyibitanga oversees.

To be included on the page, participants have to send proof of their acceptance to Clemson. The end result is a dating app-style page but for people eager to get on to the next chapter of their life.

Since she started the page, Niyibitanga has approved around 340 posts that are flooded onto the feeds of over 2,300 followers.



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Prospective students are shown the Liberty Street Residence Hall while taking a tour of the College of Charleston campus on May 20, 2021. Lauren Petracca/Staff




An admissions strategy

Pages like Niyibitanga’s aren’t new. For years, college students and young professionals have been using Facebook and Instagram to network, make friends and find places to live.

Since the pandemic, social media has played an even bigger role and college admissions officials are catching on.

That’s true for the College of Charleston too. The college manages multiple Facebook pages for different classes of students. The “College of Charleston Class of 2025 (OFFICIAL)” Facebook group, which is run by the university, has over 600 members.

“When a student is admitted we encourage them to join these ‘Class of …’ Facebook groups,” said Maddy Young, the college’s director of social media. “They’re typically used by admitted students to introduce themselves.”

From there, Young said the students use the page for everything from finding help enrolling in classes to meeting a roommate or finding a group of people to study with.

The groups have become an important part of the college’s admissions strategy.

“This is a savvy generation of students,” College of Charleston Director of Enrollment Amy Takayama-Perez said. “Social media is one of the top places that they go to get information about colleges and universities.”

Takayama-Perez said the goal isn’t to let students live on social media. Instead she hopes the groups start a conversation between students and help them find their connections in the real world.



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Prospective students and their parents get a tour of the College of Charleston campus on May 20, 2021. Lauren Petracca/Staff




A parent’s perspective

When Elizabeth George’s son, Carter George, was admitted to Clemson, she was shocked by how much she and her son needed to do.

Carter is Elizabeth’s first child to go to college. She didn’t anticipate the long checklist of items required of her now that he’s been admitted.

“You have to complete enrollment, a housing deposit, all kinds of stuff that they have to do that I don’t remember doing in college,” Elizabeth said.

So she turned to the Class of 2025 Clemson Parents Facebook page.

Since joining, Elizabeth has relied on the page as a means of connecting to other parents to get information on what she should buy for Carter’s dorm, the best hotels for parents’ weekend and how to sign up for food and housing.

Not only have the pages been useful to her, Elizabeth said she’s watched Carter get value out of them as well.

Carter joined the Class of 2025 Facebook and Instagram pages and later was added to the class’ Snapchat group. Although he found his roommate through the university’s roommate matching system, the groups have been a great way for him to make friends and connected before he leaves for school.

“For him, I think it’s invaluable to know some of your classmates before you get there,” Elizabeth said.



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Briley Burnette and Grant Kuhn, next-door neighbors from Lake Wiley, open up bags with information they received before taking a tour of the College of Charleston campus on May 20, 2021. Lauren Petracca/Staff




Making lasting connections

The College of Charleston pages from past years have been used for much more than initial introductions, Young said.

Students have started to use the page to sell books, find internship opportunities, invite each other to networking events and more.

“One of our strategic goals is always to improve the student experience and support them to be successful here at the college,” Young said. “Social media is a huge touchpoint for that.”

Niyibitanga hopes her page will continue to be a resource for the Class of 2025 far past their freshman year.

From students expressing their love for “Gossip Girl,” “Friends” and “The Office” to others looking for a roommate, who they ask “promise not to murder me in my sleep,” the page is full of personality and potential friendships.

“Though we’re freshmen now, we’re still going to be students at Clemson,” Niyibitanga said. “People can always scroll through and see if they want to make a new friend.”

Follow Libby Stanford on Twitter @libbystanford.

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Oldham cat which wanders into Co-op store becomes TikTok and Instagram star

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A POPULAR cat which regularly wanders into a convenience store has become an overnight social media star.

Sarah Naylor and her son William welcomed a nine-month old kitten into their home in Lees around two years ago after he was in the care of charity Cat Protection.

The kitten has been rescued off the street.

William, who supported Tottenham Hotspur Football Club at the time, decided to name him Deli Alli, after the England international who plays for the London side.

And since he has lived with Sarah and William he has been known for venturing into nearby places, such as the Co-Op store on Owl Mill Street.

He also pops into the Angel Inn on Nicholson Street and Cartax Radio Cars on High StreetM Sarah said.

But it is his adventures in the Co-Op which is he mostly known for and this week, one of his fans took to social media platform TikTok and shared a post about him.

FAMILY: William with Deli Alli

FAMILY: William with Deli Alli

LOVING: Deli Alli

LOVING: Deli Alli

Including a picture of Deli Alli, the post read: “Don’t ask (be)cause I have no idea, but yes, there was a cat sat on my shopping.”

It has since been widely shared and has attracted more than 1m views and over 62,000 likes.

Deli Alli’s fame has shot up further after a meme was created about him on another social media outlet, Instagram.

Sarah, 38, said: “He is the first cat I have ever had and he was wild when we first got him.

“But now he is just like normal.

“He goes out and into the Co-Op and walks up and down the aisles and knows all the staff.

“He likes to hide in the baby food aisle and jump out at people and there’s a chair near the tills that he sits on.”

William, eight, is thrilled that his feline companion has been recognised widely online.

POPULAR: In the Co-Op in Lees

POPULAR: In the Co-Op in Lees

Reacting to Deli Alli’s newfound fame, he added: “I think it is really funny and I am really proud of him.”

Emily Lees, who works at the Co-Op store, said: “Delli Ali just lingers around all the time, he’s lovely.

“He does not like leavingm I think he thinks it’s his house.”

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Facebook’s AI treats Palestinian activists like it treats American Black activists. It blocks them.

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The companies blamed the errors on glitches in artificial intelligence software.

In Twitter’s case, the company said its service mistakenly identified the rapid-firing tweeting during the confrontations as spam, resulting in hundreds of accounts being temporarily locked and the tweets not showing up when searched for. Facebook-owned Instagram gave several explanations for its problems, including a software bug that temporarily blocked video-sharing and saying its hate speech detection software misidentified a key hashtag as associated with a terrorist group.

The companies said the problems were quickly resolved and the accounts restored. But some activists say many posts are still being censored. Experts in free speech and technology said that’s because the issues are connected to a broader problem: overzealous software algorithms that are designed to protect but end up wrongly penalizing marginalized groups that rely on social media to build support. Black Americans, for example, have complained for years that posts discussing race are incorrectly flagged as problematic by AI software on a routine basis, with little recourse for those affected.

Despite years of investment, many of the automated systems built by social media companies to stop spam, disinformation and terrorism are still not sophisticated enough to detect the difference between desirable forms of expression and harmful ones. They often overcorrect, as in the most recent errors during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or they under-enforce, allowing harmful misinformation and violent and hateful language to proliferate, including hoaxes about coronavirus vaccines and violent posts ahead of the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.

The Palestinian situation erupted into a full-blown public relations and internal crisis for Facebook. Last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg dispatched the company’s top policy executive, Nick Clegg, to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leadership, according to the company. Meanwhile, Palestinians launched a campaign to knock down Facebook’s ranking in app stores by leaving one-star reviews. The incident was designated “severity 1” — the company’s term for a sitewide emergency, according to internal documents reviewed by The Washington Post and first reported by NBC. The documents noted that Facebook executives reached out to Apple, Google, and Microsoft to request that the posts be deleted.

Meanwhile, a group of 30 Facebook employees, some of whom said they had friends and family affected by the conflict, have complained of “over-enforcement” on the Palestinian content in an open letter on the company’s workforce messaging boards, according to another set of internal documents reviewed by The Post. The group has filed at least 80 tickets to report “false positives” with the company’s automation systems in relation to the conflict, noting many of the problems were with the AI mistakenly labeling images of protests as “harassment or bullying.”

Jillian York, a director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group that opposes government surveillance, has researched tech company practices in the Middle East. She said she doesn’t believe that content moderation — human or algorithmic — can work at scale.

“Ultimately, what we’re seeing here is existing offline repression and inequality being replicated online, and Palestinians are left out of the policy conversation,” York said.

Facebook spokeswoman Dani Lever said the company’s “policies are designed to give everyone a voice while keeping them safe on our apps, and we apply these policies equally.” She added that Facebook has a dedicated team of Arabic and Hebrew speakers closely monitoring the situation on the ground, but declined to say whether any were Palestinian. In an Instagram post May 7, Facebook also gave an account of what it said led to the glitch.

Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said the enforcement actions were “more severe than intended under our policies” and that the company had reinstated the accounts where appropriate. “Defending and respecting the voices of the people who use our service is one of our core values at Twitter,” she said.

Palestinian activists took to the social media platforms as they began staging protests in late April ahead of an impending Israeli Supreme Court case over whether settlers had the right to evict families from their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Potential evictees live-streamed confrontations and documented footage of injuries after Israeli police stormed al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

The conflict descended into war after terrorist group Hamas, which governs Gaza, fired explosive rockets into Israel. Israel responded with an 11-day bombing campaign that killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children. Twelve people in Israel were killed, including two children.

During the barrage, Palestinians posted photos on Twitter showing homes covered in rubble and children’s coffins. A cease-fire took effect May 20.

Palestinian activists and experts who study social movements say it was another watershed historical moment in which social media helped alter the course of events. They compared it to a decade ago, when social media platforms were key to organizing the pro-Democracy uprising known as the Arab Spring. But at the time, tech companies didn’t rely on policing algorithms, rather humans making decisions. And while mistakes were made, nothing occurred on the scale of today, York said.

Even after the companies said the glitches were fixed, 170 Instagram posts and five Twitter posts that activists believe were wrongly removed were still offline, according to 7amleh, the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, a group that advocates for Palestinian digital rights. The group said in a report in late May that it was told by the companies that some of the remaining posts are under review.

Facebook and Twitter declined to comment.

During the early protests in East Jerusalem, some posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were taken down for using the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah, the name of the neighborhood in dispute, said Iyad Alrefaie, director of Sada Social, a group that tracks digital rights in the Palestinian territories.

Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian-American journalist who covers the West Bank for Al Jazeera and other outlets, posted on Instagram that she had her account restricted by Twitter for purportedly violating the company’s social media policy while covering a protest. She said in media interviews that she did not know which tweets broke the rules. The company later restored her account and tweets, saying it made an error, according to spokeswoman Rosborough.

Digital rights groups Access Now, 7amleh and other organizations have spent the years since the Arab Spring documenting problems with how social media companies handle Palestinian content, as well as content from the region at large.

In 2016, Facebook blocked the accounts of several editors at two Palestinian news organizations without giving a reason, Al Jazeera reported at the time. After complaints, the social media company reversed the bans and said they had been accidental. In 2019, Twitter suspended accounts run by a Palestinian news organization, Quds News Network, in a sweep of terrorist accounts (which have since been reinstated, Twitter said). In May 2020, Facebook deactivated the accounts of more than 50 Palestinian journalists and activists without providing an explanation, activists said, including from journalists who posted footage of attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian farmers in occupied territories.

Facebook declined comment on those examples.

Facebook took down a post from a father wishing his infant son, named Qassam, a happy birthday, according to Alrefaie, the director of Sada Social. The group assumed that it was because the company blocks many posts about al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing.

“These words are part of our discourse, it’s a part of our culture,” Alrefaie said. “Facebook didn’t differentiate between any context.” Facebook declined comment on that incident.

Marwa Fatafta, digital rights policy manager for the Middle East and North Africa region for Access Now, said other keywords, such as the term Zionist, are often banned when Palestinians use them because it’s assumed to be antisemitic.

“Under our current policies, we allow the term ‘Zionist’ in political discourse, but remove attacks against Zionists in specific circumstances, when there’s context to show it’s being used as a proxy for Jews or Israelis, which are protected characteristics under our hate speech policy,” Facebook’s Lever said.

Some activists have developed workarounds to the algorithms, including using an ancient method of writing Arabic, according to an article by independent Egyptian news website Mada Masr. Some U.S. activists use similar tactics, purposely misspelling common words like “white” to avoid algorithmic censorship during discussions of race, The Post has reported.

Activists have also decried tech companies’ relationship with the Israeli government, and in particular the Ministry of Justice’s Cyber Unit — which has a direct channel to technology companies to report potential content violations. They have asked tech companies to be transparent about when the government secretly refers accounts to be blocked or content to be removed, including whether the unit was involved in takedowns during the war.

Facebook, Google and Twitter all said they comply with local laws and regularly respond to takedown requests from governments, which they publish in biannual transparency reports. Twitter said the spam filter issue had nothing to do with Israeli authorities. Facebook did not respond to several requests for comment about the nature of reports by Israeli authorities during the recent crisis. A Google spokesman declined to say whether it received bulk requests from the Cyber Unit.

Journalists and activists have also complained that Google hasn’t updated its maps of Gaza with higher-resolution images, despite a U.S. law limiting the degree of detail in public maps of the area being lifted in 2020. Detailed maps help document the damage from airstrikes.

Google declined to comment on why the Gaza maps have not been updated.

Payment app Venmo also mistakenly suspended transactions of humanitarian aid to Palestinians during the war. The company said it was trying to comply with U.S. sanctions and had resolved the issues.

Tech companies are caught between governments trying to stop unrest or violence and activists advocating for free democratic expression, said James Grimmelmann, a law professor at Cornell Tech.

“So the platforms really have to make deeply political choices,” he said.

The latest issues began May 5, when Instagram started receiving reports that people participating in protests in Colombia could not share video, the company later said in a post in which it apologized for its errors. The next day, similar reports came from people participating in demonstrations in Canada and in East Jerusalem. Executives discovered a glitch in a long-planned update to video-sharing products, called Stories. In its apology, the company noted that the bug had nothing to do with these particular events, and in fact had affected more users in the United States than elsewhere.

Several days later, citizens and activists began reporting their posts about al-Aqsa Mosque, using the hashtag #AlAqsa or its Arabic counterparts, were being restricted. The restrictions were often accompanied by a pop-up that said the term was associated with “violence or dangerous organizations.”

On May 11, a Facebook employee filed a grievance, according to a report by BuzzFeed. Facebook said in response that the name of the mosque was a designated terrorist organization. Facebook later told The Post that the hashtag had been restricted in several ways, not only blocking individual posts but also limiting people’s ability to search for it.

Around the same time, Twitter began fielding reports that influential accounts tweeting about the conflict were being unexpectedly suspended, the company said, due to AI mistaking posts for spam. The company says it restored the accounts a few hours later.

Twitter spokeswoman Rosborough noted that similar incidents of overly severe enforcement took place during the 2020 presidential debates and during protests against a coup this spring in Myanmar.

And sometimes, she pointed out, algorithms get things right: At one point during the conflict, an algorithm also automatically restricted the Israeli army’s official account. The account was trying to post the same tweet twice, of emergency sirens going off in the southern city of Beersheba, and Twitter blocked it.

“We know it’s repetitive — but that’s the reality for Israelis all over the country,” the tweet said.

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Karen from Brighton’s Instagram post with new Melbourne lockdown song

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Karen from Brighton returns with a Backstreet Boys song about lockdown. Picture: Instagram
Karen from Brighton returns with a Backstreet Boys song about lockdown. Picture: Instagram

Social media sensation Karen from Brighton has returned with a new song to help boost Melburnians spirits during the latest lockdown.

Jodi Grollo, who shot to fame as Karen from Brighton last year when she complained about walking the same streets of the posh bayside suburb, says she has returned home from Noosa to help get Victorians through another lockdown.

In her latest Instagram post on Thursday, she covered the Backstreet Boys’ smash hit Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) with lyrics adapted to Victoria’s situation.

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“Everybody, yeah, I’m so sorry,” she sang.

“Everybody, lock your doors tonight, Covid’s back all right.

“Oh my God it’s back again. Everybody’s locked inside again.

“Covid’s back another variant now, 12 months on and we still don’t know how.

“Is it original, maybe.”

Ms Grollo then had another subtle swipe at the Premier Dan Andrews and Health Minister Martin Foley, who she has heavily criticised in the past for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Can we blame Danny? Not likely,” she continued.

“How’s about Foley? Well probably.

“All I know is that we need to lock our bloody doors again tonight. Crap.”

The post has already gathered more than 10,500 views in just 24 hours.

Ms Grollo rose to social media fame when she was interviewed on Nine News from Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens track during last year’s crippling lockdown and was asked about a new restriction not to cross council boundaries while exercising.

“Well, you get sick of walking the same streets,” she said. “You know, I’ve done all of Brighton.”

Jody Grollo, known as Karen from Brighton, departs for Darwin at Melbourne Airport in October last year. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Geraghty
Jody Grollo, known as Karen from Brighton, departs for Darwin at Melbourne Airport in October last year. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Geraghty

She was then involved in a bitter war of words with the Premier before she eventually packed up and moved to Queensland via the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs facility to escape Victoria’s lockdown.

Although she indicated the move would probably be permanent at the time, she says she has returned this week to “help get us through another lockdown”.

The viral celebrity is the daughter of pokies king Bruce Mathieson and the wife of Gianni Grollo, whose family controls the prominent Grollo construction empire.

Some have dubbed her ‘Karen from Brighton’ for her response to Melbourne’s lockdown on Nine News.

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Jack Paynter is NCA NewsWire’s breaking news and crime reporter based in Melbourne. He began his career as a local journalist at Leader community news in suburban Melbourne before moving to Hobart for a stint…

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