U.S. Safer Internet Day focuses on potential, positives and problems too

Senator Charles Schumer with student panel at U.S. Safe

Senator Charles Schumer with student panel at U.S. Safer Internet Day (photo: Sarah Baker)

It was a great honor that ConnectSafely.org, the non-profit Internet Safety organization where I serve as co-director, was selected to host the first official U.S. Safer Internet Day.  The day, which has been celebrated in Europe for the past 11 years, saw events across the world including a celebration in Washington D.C. Tuesday where Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke along with a panel of high school student leaders and another panel of social media executives.

I moderated the event along with ConnectSafely.org co-director Anne Collier.

On a panel moderated by 17 year-old Aidan McDaniel of West Virginia, executives from Facebook (Instagram), Google (YouTube), Microsoft (Xbox Live), Twitter and Yahoo (Tumblr) talked about the way their companies deal with abuse reports, child pornography, bullying and other problems. But they all agreed that the overwhelming majority of their users are good online citizens.

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Students attending Safer Internet Day U.S. (photo: Sarah Baker)

Just as cities and towns have to spend resources dealing with a small number of  trouble-makers, social media companies need to police their services so  users have mostly good experiences. All of these companies maintain close ties with law enforcement, which helps them deal with the most egregious problems. But in most cases when problems come up, they’re handled internally by warning the offending user or – if necessary – kicking them off the service.

Social reporting

Facebook now enlists its users to help each other with what they call “social reporting.” Instead of Facebook staff intervening in what are often relationship issues, they offer a tool that helps users work it out among themselves or seek help from a trusted third party.  The program, which is carried out with help from the Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale, has been very effective, according to its developer, Facebook engineering Arturo Bejar. “We found when we were looking at reports that there were a lot of things getting reported that were really misunderstandings or disagreements among people who use the site,” he told me in an interview shortly after the company launched the program.

One Good Thing

While some of the day focused on problems encountered online, much of the discussion at the U.S. Safer Internet Day celebration focused on the positive things people are doing with connected technology. An important part of ConnectSafely’s program this year is the ‘One Good Thing” campaign that encourages people around the country to post positive short videos or blog posts positive things they have done or know about, using the Internet or mobile devices. The list ranges from high school kids using Facebook to promote a “Save the Pandas” campaign to a college student who spoke about the  online support given to him and friends  after the death of a fellow student. Others talk about their school’s “compliments page” or how they have gone online to support fellow students who have been cyberbullied. You can view and read these great things (and add your own) at OneGoodThing.us.

The youth student panel, moderated by Yahoo Tech “Modern Family” columnist Dan Tynan, included students from Washington DC, Chicago and Detroit. The young panelists talked about ways students can be “upstanders” rather than bystanders when someone they know is bullied online or off.  And, the kids pointed out that bullying is not as common as some adults may think. Most of their classmates treat each other with respect at school and online.

Senator Schumer on economic benefit of net

The final speaker at the Washington event was Senator Schumer, who quipped, “While I’ve probably never snapchatted with Senator Rand Paul, I do understand the great potential of the Internet.”

He said that it is now a very important part of New York’s economy, both in cities (New York city is giving Silicon Valley a run for its money) and in rural areas. He pointed out that it increases political engagement of youth and has resulted in far more young people wanting to work for elected officials. He also touched on the Internet’s role in education and telemedicine and reminded the audience that it’s “important for every family to talk about Internet safety and rules in their household.”

Safer Internet Day 2014 has come and gone, but every day is safer and better Internet day. This year’s theme, “Let’s create a better Internet together,” is a rallying call not for legislation, big pronouncements or major new products but ways that we can all contribute every day by remembering that the Internet isn’t really a network of machines but a network of people with aspirations and feelings. So, it’s really not about creating a better Internet but creating a better world.

 

 

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Safer Internet Day Event — View Live

Event starts at 9:00 AM Eastern February 11, 2014

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Safer Internet Day celebrates the good done online

By Larry Magid
This column first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

sid_tv_little

Click the TV to watch the event live at 9:00 AM ET Tues

By Larry Magid
This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

For the past 11 years, the European Commission and InSafe, a Brussels-based nonprofit, have been coordinating Safer Internet Day celebrations across Europe and other parts of the world. It will be celebrated this year on Tuesday.

There have been sporadic Safer Internet events in the United States but, until now, it hasn’t been coordinated or official. But in late 2012, then Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and European Vice President Neelie Kroes signed a joint declaration to bring Safer Internet Day to the United States.

ConnectSafely.org, the nonprofit Internet safety organization where I serve as co-director, was asked to host and coordinate U.S. events. We’re planning an event in Washington, D.C., featuring a talk by Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, a panel of high-school leaders from the across the country and a panel of executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo. Kroes will address the gathering by video.

The event will be webcast live starting at 6 a.m. Pacific time at ConnectSafely.org/sidvideo. It will also be carried on Facebook Live and archived for later viewing.

The international theme of this year’s celebration is “Let’s create a better Internet together.” Rather than just focusing on all the negative things that can happen online, we’re focused on what’s good about how people, including kids and teens, are using connected technology and what we can all do to make things better.

In the United States, we’ve launched a “One Good Thing” campaign where people have contributed videos and short blog posts about things they done or witnessed that improve the Internet or use the Internet and mobile technology to make the world a better place. You can view those entries at SaferInternetDay.us/blog.

One Good Things

Some of those “good things” come from teens, including Esmi and Jessie, who said they post anonymous compliments to teens who have gotten hateful messages on Ask.fm. Maddie and Monica talked about how they donated blood and used Instagram to encourages others to do likewise. Grant talked about posting to the compliments page on his high school’s website to “send out daily complements to brighten everyone’s day.” Emily talked about how her cousin had a friend who passed away but took solace in all the support he received from friends.

None of these examples are earth shattering, but that’s the point. They are little things that people of all ages do on a regular basis to make life better for other people.

Going positive

We started this campaign because we’re tired of all the negativity. Sure, there are bad things that happen online and it’s important to deal with cyberbullying, trolling, hate speech, unwanted sexual solicitations, sexting, unwanted porn and the risk to one’s security and privacy. It’s also important to remind both kids and adults that what they say online can stick around forever and come back to haunt them. That’s all part of Safer Internet Day, but it’s also a time to celebrate the positive and remind adults, including the Washington policy makers who will be at our event, that — like most adults — most kids are thoughtful in the way they use technology and try to respect themselves and others.

Yes, there are kids who bully online. But most kids don’t engage in that type of hurtful behavior and, when it does happen, it has a lot more to do with the relationships they have than the technology itself.

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Safer Internet Day comes to US

View the live webcast here from 9:00 AM to noon Eastern (6:00 to 9:00 PT)

by Larry Magid
This column first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

For the past 11 years, the European Commission and InSafe, a Brussels-based nonprofit, have been coordinating Safer Internet Day celebrations across Europe and other parts of the world. It will be celebrated this year on Tuesday.

There have been sporadic Safer Internet events in the United States but, until now, it hasn’t been coordinated or official. But in late 2012, then Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and European Vice President Neelie Kroes signed a joint declaration to bring Safer Internet Day to the United States.

ConnectSafely.org, the nonprofit Internet safety organization where I serve as co-director, was asked to host and coordinate U.S. events. We’re planning an event in Washington, D.C., featuring a talk by Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, a panel of high-school leaders from the across the country and a panel of executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo. Kroes will address the gathering by video.

The event will be webcast live starting at 6 a.m. Pacific time at ConnectSafely.org/sidvideo. It will also be carried on Facebook Live and archived for later viewing.

The international theme of this year’s celebration is “Let’s create a better Internet together.” Rather than just focusing on all the negative things that can happen online, we’re focused on what’s good about how people, including kids and teens, are using connected technology and what we can all do to make things better.

In the United States, we’ve launched a “One Good Thing” campaign where people have contributed videos and short blog posts about things they done or witnessed that improve the Internet or use the Internet and mobile technology to make the world a better place. You can view those entries at SaferInternetDay.us/blog.

One Good Things

Some of those “good things” come from teens, including Esmi and Jessie, who said they post anonymous compliments to teens who have gotten hateful messages on Ask.fm. Maddie and Monica talked about how they donated blood and used Instagram to encourages others to do likewise. Grant talked about posting to the compliments page on his high school’s website to “send out daily complements to brighten everyone’s day.” Emily talked about how her cousin had a friend who passed away but took solace in all the support he received from friends.

None of these examples are earth shattering, but that’s the point. They are little things that people of all ages do on a regular basis to make life better for other people.

Going positive

We started this campaign because we’re tired of all the negativity. Sure, there are bad things that happen online and it’s important to deal with cyberbullying, trolling, hate speech, unwanted sexual solicitations, sexting, unwanted porn and the risk to one’s security and privacy. It’s also important to remind both kids and adults that what they say online can stick around forever and come back to haunt them. That’s all part of Safer Internet Day, but it’s also a time to celebrate the positive and remind adults, including the Washington policy makers who will be at our event, that — like most adults — most kids are thoughtful in the way they use technology and try to respect themselves and others.

Yes, there are kids who bully online. But most kids don’t engage in that type of hurtful behavior and, when it does happen, it has a lot more to do with the relationships they have than the technology itself.

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Family Contract For Smartphone Use

Just updated the family contract for smartphone use aimed at parents, kids and teens.

You can find it here:

 

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Apple and FTC reach agreement about children’s app purchases

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

FTC and Apple enter into agreement with Apple on children’s apps

FTC enters into agreement with Apple on children’s apps

The Federal Trade Commission announced that it has entered into a consent decree with Apple regarding alleged charges that Apple allowed children to purchase apps and make in-app purchases on its app store.

The FTC accused Apple of failing to inform parents that there is a 15-minute window when a parent enters a password to purchase an app. Without that knowledge, the commission alleges that children have been able to purchase apps within that period without parental knowledge.

The agreement requires Apple to pay a minimum of $32.5 million in refunds to parents for unauthorized charges,  but if requests are below that, the difference will be paid to the FTC.  The FTC said it aims to achieve “full consumer redress,” and there is no maximum on what Apple will have to pay, if the claims exceed the $32.5 million.”

At a press conference FTC chair Edith Ramirez added that the FTC  is also putting controls on how Apple handles in-app purchases. Apple will be required to obtain “informed consent for charges to consumers.”  The order requires Apple to send out an email to potentially affected consumers with information on how to apply for a refund. She said that the basic principal that Apple agreed to will also apply to other companies. Apple, according to the FTC, “also will be required to change its billing practices to ensure that it has obtained express, informed consent from consumers before charging them for items sold in mobile apps.”

Just ahead of the press conference, Recode.net published an email from Apple CEO Tim Cook to employees about the settlement.  Cook said that Apple is already doing what the settlement calls for and that “ It doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled. To us, it smacked of double jeopardy.”  Cook said “the 15-minute window had been there since the launch of the App Store in 2008 and was aimed at making the App Store easy to use, but some younger customers discovered that it also allowed them to make in-app purchases without a parent’s approval.”

In response to my question, Ramirez said that  ”Apple was aware of this issue since at least March of 2011″ and that “in our view the problem continues.” In response to another reporter, Ramirez said that the agreement goes beyond the earlier settlement and “provides more robust relief.” It also requires Apple to change its practices to assure that there is proper notice given to account holders and parents so that they understand that the 15 minute window is being opened when they give consent.

In a statement, Ramirez called the settlement ““a victory for consumers harmed by Apple’s unfair billing, and a signal to the business community: whether you’re doing business in the mobile arena or the mall down the street, fundamental consumer protections apply.”

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Scuttle the “Bully Pulpit” Metaphor

Guest post

by Warren Blumenfeld

Dr. Warren Blumenfeld

Dr. Warren Blumenfeld

New words join while some words perish from all languages. Some words remain though altering or transforming their meanings to varying degrees between eras. A number of words even expand to include additional parts of speech, for example, former nouns enter the realm of verbs, like the noun “text” to the verb “to text,” the noun “lunch” to the verb “to lunch,” and many others. I’ve even added to this trend by connecting the noun “dissertation” to the action verb “to dissertate,” meaning the process of researching and writing a dissertation. I don’t think this has a chance, though, of going viral anytime soon (noun “virus” to the verb “to go viral”).

This year, my college students introduced me to the terms “meme” (a cultural image, video, or phrase) and “selfie” (a picture one takes of oneself with a smartphone or webcam and distributes on the web), so now I feel “in” with the lingo (though I’m probably self-deluded).

I am struck by the enormous variety of terms that we as a society have altered in their meanings over the years. Recently a student talked in class about the “sick” son of a famous social activist. When the class noticed the look of deep concern on my face, they laughed, and one student informed me that “sick” now also means “awesome.” Students also taught me that “crib” can now mean “home,” and “scoop” can mean to “pick one up in one’s car.” I have learned also, that the term “luxury,” back in the 14th century, in French “luxurie,” meant “sexual intercourse,” and by the 15th century expanded to “lasciviousness” and “sinfulness.”  We clearly do not employ the term with this meaning today.

I was raised at a time when my parents and grandparents referred to the “Frigidaire” or to the “ice box” for what our society commonly refers to as a “refrigerator.” Sometimes I unconsciously let slip the term “ice box,” and my friends remark that “I am dating myself.”

I see similar breakdowns and misunderstandings between generations over the expression “bully pulpit.” President Theodore Roosevelt coined the expression, and reportedly first used it in 1909: “I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!” (February 27, 1909, issue of The Outlook magazine).

‘Bully’ had a different meaning back then

In this quote, Roosevelt referred to how the presidency offered the resident of the White House a wonderful opportunity, an awesome platform, to promote an agenda or series of programs. Within Roosevelt’s United States, “bully” often suggested or denoted “magnificent,” “superb,” “amazing,” “fantastic,” “great,” or “marvelous” as in the expression “bully for you” (“good for you,” “fantastic work”).

As was the case in Roosevelt’s time as it is today, a “pulpit” is a physical structure, a platform or foundation, from which one presents a sermon within a religious house of worship.

As we know today, however, “bully” no longer retains its positive meanings. Rather, according to the prestigious Journal of the American Medication Association (2001), “Bullying is a specific type of aggression in which (1) the behavior is intended to harm or disturb, (2) the behavior occurs repeatedly over time, and (3) there is an imbalance of power, with a more powerful person or group attacking a less powerful one….”

Studies reveal inconsistent results over the actual rates of bullying behaviors evidenced in our workplaces and in our schools, but most reputable research acknowledge the prevalence of these destructive behaviors not only on the targets of bullying, but also on the perpetrators.

We need, therefore, to ask some critical questions. For example, given contemporary meanings and understandings of the term “bully,” are we in fact stating directly, or at least implying, that by advancing the metaphoric expression of the “bully pulpit,” we are promoting the notion that “might makes right,” that people with political power can use that power to figuratively at least beat their opponents into submission? And if so, what kinds of messages are we sending our youth? Moreover, in a nation purportedly separating religion from government, how appropriate is it for politicians to use sectarian (“pulpit”) metaphors.

I contend that we must not view bullying and harassment as simply youth problems and behaviors, but rather, investigate the contexts in which bullying “trickles down” from the larger society and reproduces itself within the schools. Young people, through the process of social learning, often acquire bullying and harassing attitudes and behaviors, many times from “adults,” and also often learn from them the socially sanctioned targets for their aggressive behaviors.

I refer to this as the “social ecology” of bullying and harassment. Ecology can be defined as the relationships between organisms and their environments. We must, therefore, investigate the larger sociological and psychological environments for us to determine, understand, and if necessary, institute procedures to change our institutional environments.

“Bully pulpit” as Teddy Roosevelt understood the expression, I contend, has morphed, evolved, and transformed into what we might call today the President’s “leadership platform,” and how the presidency offers the resident of the White House a wonderful opportunity, an awesome platform, to promote an agenda or series of programs.

As it is often said that “elections have consequences,” in fact so do words. Therefore, let us assign and bury the “bully pulpit” to the archives of linguistics.

References

JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, April 25, 2001. Vol. 285, No. 16).

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

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National Center adds another layer to children’s safety online

For several years, I’ve been on the board of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The organization, which is based in Alexandria, Va., is best known for helping to reunite missing children with their custodial parents or guardians, but it also strives to protect children from sexual exploitation in both the physical and cyber worlds.

In addition to its national headquarters, NCMEC operates branch offices in a handful of cities across the country and has just opened a Silicon Valley office in Palo Alto. One reason, according to NCMEC spokesperson Stacy Garret, is to be closer to the technology companies that play such an important role in the lives of children and teens. About 95 percent of American teens are online, according to Pew Research, and most are regular users of social media sites and services like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. A May 2013 Pew study found that 91 percent of teens had posted a photo of themselves online, up from 79 percent in 2006. More than seven in 10 (71 percent) post their school name, 71 percent also post the city or town where they live, and more than half (53 percent) post their email address. A fifth of teens post their cellphone number — up from only 2 percent in 2006.

None of these activities are necessarily dangerous. Research from the Crimes Against Children Research Center has found that posting of such personal information doesn’t correlate with exploitation nearly as much as such risky behaviors as talking to a stranger online about sex. The good news is that most young people are pretty smart when it comes to protecting themselves from online predators and — based on research from Pew — we also know that most kids also take at least some steps to protect their privacy.

Still, the National Center has plenty of work to do when it comes to protecting kids online. One of the goals of the new office is to work with tech companies to bake child protection into their products from day one. It’s similar to the notion of “privacy by design.” Rather than making safety an afterthought — something the company gets around to after the product has been around for a while — it’s much better if companies think about the possible dangers as they develop their products.

The nonprofit organization I co-direct, ConnectSafely.org, works closely with (and receives financial support from) Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking companies to help them think about safety, security, privacy, appropriate content and social interactions between users, and I’m happy to say that these companies employ professionals who put a lot of thought into these issues.

While my group and other Internet safety organizations can advise these companies on a range of issues such as cyberbullying and encouraging positive online interactions, NCMEC plays a unique role because of its focus on child exploitation and its close ties to law enforcement. NCMEC analysts understand — far more than I do — the extent to which children can be harmed in a variety of ways ranging from the (fortunately fairly rare) cases where children are lured into sex with people they meet online to the far more common problem of online child pornography, Child porn — also referred to as sexual abuse images — is illegal in the United States and most other countries, yet as NCMEC analysts have repeatedly pointed out, there is still a great deal of child porn being produced and distributed online and much of it is coming from the U.S. Many tech firms use Photo DNA to identify such images. The technology, which was developed by Microsoft, is being used to compare a newly found image with a database of known images to both identify a potential child porn image and determine whether it’s an old image or could be a newer picture of a child still in danger.

We also know that there are still cases in which children have been harmed as a result of an online interaction. There are a variety of issues at stake, including the risks that the child takes, the design of the product and the efforts the company makes to provide education to youth, as well as to identify and deter predatory behavior. With NCMEC’s help, it’s my hope and belief that companies will get better at that and children will get even savvier when it comes to avoiding risky behavior.

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Jerry The Bear Helps Kids With Diabetes

As part of Safer Internet Day’s One Good Thing campaign, I interviewed Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz about Jerry the Bear, a plush talking toy designed to help children with type 1 diabetes manage their condition.

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Tell us ‘one good thing’ about using tech to make the Internet or the world better

This article first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

one_good_thing_medallion

About 11 years ago, the European Commission established Safer Internet Day, an annual event that focuses on making the Internet a better and safer place. It takes place on the second day of the second week of February, which means it falls on Feb. 11 in 2014. Over the years there have been sporadic events in the United States supporting the same goal, but there hasn’t been a lot of coordination in this country.

That’s about to change.

Safer Internet Day gets a boost in the U.S.

Safer Internet Day gets a boost in the U.S.

ConnectSafely.org, the nonprofit Internet safety organization that I co-direct, was asked by the European Commission to coordinate Safer Internet Day activities in the United States. With support from Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and a variety of government agencies, nonprofit groups and companies, we’re planning an event in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 11, along with local events throughout the country.

This year’s theme is “Let’s create a better Internet together” because the folks in Europe who coordinate events globally realize that improving the online experience for both kids and adults isn’t just about dealing with dangers. It’s also about recognizing and encouraging all of the great ways people use the Internet and mobile technology to make the world a better place.

Here in the United States, we’re doing this by creating a “one good thing” campaign and asking people to go to SaferInternetDay.us to let us know what they are doing or have done. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It could be as simple as letting us know that you had a conversation about safety at home or school or that you used the Internet to help mobilize people to clean up a local park. It could be a report about something kind you tweeted or how you used your mobile phone’s camera to document a problem that needed to be addressed.

And it doesn’t have to be your good thing — you can tell us about someone else if you want. You can write us a post, send a video or upload a file. If it’s positive, we want to hear about it and share it.

All of the good things will be reported on the site and many will be tweeted or posted to our Facebook page. Selected ones will be featured in a video to be shown at our Capitol Hill event and our YouTube channel.

The reason we’re doing this is because “goodness” can be infectious. We keep hearing about an epidemic of cyberbullying (actually there isn’t one), but we’d much rather be talking about an epidemic of kindness because that’s exactly what is happening right now. Sure, there are some people using the Internet to do mean things, but there are millions of people in the United States and around the world using the Internet and mobile technology to do amazing things to help their communities, schools, nation and the world.

There are plenty of examples of “good things” people are doing. Kevin Curwick, a high school football player from Osseo, Minn., for example, has started a “nice it forward” campaign on Twitter (@OsseoNiceThings), where students just say positive things about other students. The idea, according to Justin Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center, is spreading to other cities. “Showing compassion in a public forum sends a message to those who are being targeted that they are not alone and that at least some students at the school are on their side and appreciate who they are and what they do,” Patchin wrote in his blog.

And then there’s Pink Shirt Day in Canada. A ninth-grade boy in Nova Scotia was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. When two seniors heard the news, they went to a discount store and bought 50 inexpensive pink T-shirts that dozens of students wore to school. What started out as a kind gesture turned into a movement and “Pink Shirt Day” is now celebrated throughout Canada and beyond.

The project doesn’t have to solve a big problem. It could be as nice as just bringing a smile to people’s faces like CaliforniaChristmasLights.com, which helps bring holiday cheer to people in Silicon Valley.

It can even be a commercial enterprise. Christopher Gandin Le used to work for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and now heads up Emotion Technology — a company that focuses on public health and suicide prevention. AbleRoad is a company that connects people with disabilities with accessible places to live. StartSomeGood.com helps social entrepreneurs, change-makers and nonprofits rally their community and raise funds.

I could fill pages with great examples, but I would love to hear more. If you or someone you know is using tech to make the world a better place, send me an email or tell us about it at OneGoodThing.us. We’re especially interested in what young people are doing, but also want to hear about adults who are using their skills and technology to benefit the world.

 

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