Uncategorized

MONITORING INCENDIARY SPEECH

In recent years a dominant rash of incendiary speech is bubbling to the surface of European societies, propagating xenophobia and intolerance towards others whilst deepening existing divisions and damaging social cohesion.
Most approaches in identifying and monitoring the various forms of hate speech over the internet have been focused and largely dependent on human analysts’ skills, including a number of noted practices such as Real time/ Retrospective monitoring and mapping as well as Discourse and content analysis.
According to their methodology context, all these approaches aim to manually spot, read and classify suspected messages of Hate speech in order to enable a reaction for incidents as they occur, to serve as an early warning system for future incidents and to better interpret the hidden context and the ideological motivation behind their chosen vocabulary. The potentially beneficial appliance of these practices is being restricted though by the fact that they are in their largest part labour – intensive and thus inadequate of processing large sets of data and messages in real time.
Considering the above, Interfusion considers a media- monitoring concept linked with programmatic activities, capable of primarily collecting and examining multi-lingual incidences of hate and dangerous speech in the EU’s online space by incorporating a two faced methodological approach that will:
i. At first rely on a manual human process in order to collect and categorize online content found in particular
blogs, forums, online newspapers, Facebook and Twitter (tweets, status updates and comments, posts, and blog entries). The element of human input in this stage is considered vital for accurately reviewing local vernacular languages and local vocabulary that will enable the project team to create a database of inflammatory speech.
ii. Secondly, developing and applying automated techniques of Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) that will have the capacity to use large databases of texts, statistical methods, and machine learning in order to identify patterns and trends in language use with the potential of processing massive amounts of data that can be collected through monitoring social media whilst operating in real time.

Uncategorized

The Needs and Gaps of the Creativity Industry of…

Despite the fact that in the past years, an integrated policy for the development of the creative industries sector has been absent, the Cultural Services still managed to foster, on a rather vertical approach, the domain of creative industries through various programmes of the respective arts’ sectors.

Today, at the heart of the creative economy in Cyprus there are those particular industries that lie at the crossroads of arts, culture, business, and technology and have a strong focus and drive towards cultural tourism and heritage, museums and libraries, hobbies, sports, and outdoor activities.

The potentially crucial role of the creative industries within the island’s touristic economic (representing 21.4% of GDP in 2016) is evident in the latest Smart Specialization Strategy for Cyprus where the until recently unexplored capacity for growth is been highlighted.

Nevertheless in order for this goal to be fulfilled a direct response to the industry’s apparent skills needs is required, by i. target training at skills gaps (e.g. digital) so that those working in the industry remain employable through reskilling and upskilling, ii. developing inclusive vocational training opportunities and relevant degree-level learning to improve diversity and work-readiness, and iii. strengthening course and trainer accreditation to ensure that all learning and skills development meets industry needs.

The most recent literature available indicates that despite the improvements to the institutional framework, third country migrant workers remain in ‘a vulnerable position. Moreover, it is now recognised that the categories of ‘vulnerable groups’ in employment concerning the island include EU workers, Turkish-Cypriots, the Roma as well workers of Asian origin: wages, particularly for the last two groups are well below the minimum fixed for sectors where collective agreements are in force or for sectors where the minimum wage rule applies.

Uncategorized

Prospects of sustainability in the EU

Sustainability has never before been as prominent on the EU agenda—and the indications are that it will become even more critical for the strategic and operative roadmap in the coming years.

A considerable number of public organizations, research Institutes and companies are embracing sustainability to one degree or another while showing a significant innovation in their approach to sustainability.

The experiences of the people leading in the field of sustainability provide a number of insightful lessons for the rest of us embarking on a move towards sustainable practices:

i. Seeing opportunity in sustainability—not just risk. Sustainability practices are moving from the domain of corporate affairs and corporate communications into the mainstream. Although the short-term financial benefits are not clear, we ought to understand the long-term economic importance of sustainability, increasingly viewing such policies and practices as vital to an organization’s future existence.

ii. Many organizations are incorporating sustainability into the heart of their strategy; in a way that sustainability cannot be separated from their core objectives (business or research). Internal structures enable sustainable principles to be pushed out from top brass, across the organization.

iii. Engaging with stakeholders: It is crucial to acknowledge progress against publicly stated sustainability goals, and that the scrutiny helps to improve progress in meeting these targets. Leading organizations are filtering stakeholder issues in a structured way—and tailoring their communication with them, as they clearly understand that actively engaging with stakeholders can be a source of competitive advantage.

Uncategorized

Cryptomarkets & Performance-enhancers

For years now a considerable number of college and university students have been taking performance-enhancing drugs in order to follow their often overloaded schedule and if possible to excel within a competitive academic environment. This, not so ideal situation, although relatively unknown outside our universities, is actually pretty common knowledge, particularly among actual students. This knowledge has been a staple of the idea of modern academic life for decades now, but just like the rest of the world, the phenomenon seems to take a more complex and unknown course due to the obscure possibilities of the Internet. Although students have always used performance-enhancers or as they are most commonly known ‘’smart drugs’’, it’s only recent that this number has started to accelerate at a worrying rate.

 

The most common of these substances frequently taken by students include, but are not limited to medicines made for ADHD and medicine made for sleeping disorders.

The term “smart drug” refers almost exclusively to ‘’nootropics’’, a widely varying arrangement of drugs that helps healthy individuals put themselves in a greater position of control over their brain thus improving their cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation. For students in particular, smart drugs can enhance knowledge retention, that kind be a significantly advantageous factor during examination periods. Moreover, smart drugs can boost an individual’s brain into working faster and accessing access the information that she or he has learned, whilst increasing their ability to critically assess and analyze complex and vast amounts of information.

 

All these anecdotal but yet widely known evidence among young students are frequently seen as a huge advantage over the ones not partaking in any of these performance-enhancers. And so it becomes quite apparent as to why more and more students are willing to risk being involved in an illegal activity as well as their own health in the process of obtaining and consuming some of these smart drugs.

 

Bullying Uncategorized

Covert Bullying: An issue for all

Covert bullying, a less direct form or ‘hidden’ bullying, is arguably becoming quite prevalent and insidious among students, as a result of the implementation of improved school policies to deal with overt bullying, and with the advent of new forms of information and communication technology (ICT).

Today, the digital media revolution is providing young people with an extra platform and communication culture upon which covert bullying can operate. Consequently, school students have the ability to access a highly connected world through the web and evolve into frequent and sophisticated users of modern information and communication technologies, including computers and smart devices. (Bamford, 2005)

Nevertheless, the anonymous virtual nature of these technological means, the lack of central control, and limitations for monitoring and supervising its use, has enabled adolescents to adopt a new and pervasive form of covert aggression, known as ‘cyberbullying’, in which the location, actors, language and gestures of face-to face bullying have evolved and moved into the virtual world. 

Despite that bullying by physical violence can only be threatened, not conducted, by technology, evidence indicates that verbal and psychological bullying can have a more negative long-term effect (Reid, Monsen, & Rivers, 2004), since through this virtual form of ‘’covert’’ bullying, a much wider audience is being made aware of the incident than in would in the case of overt bullying.

In response to the emerging growth of this cloaked type of harassment, there is an apparent need for school administrators and educational departments to revise their existing policies, action plans, and training programs, in order to effectively raise awareness of the means through which the social-cognitive skills of certain aggressive students are being used to ‘invisibly’ manipulate a whole group against the few. Young people need to be provided with the comprehensive understanding of group behaviour and change, and the appropriate knowledge/ability to engage in low levels of identity deception in order to protect their public image.

Domestic Violence Uncategorized

Domestic Violence: An issue for all

Domestic violence against women is one of the most common victimisations experienced by immigrants (Raj & Silverman, 2002). While some progress has undoubtedly been made in the EU in terms of improving public awareness and giving women who suffer from violence more places to turn, according to the Council of Europe, one European woman in four experiences domestic violence at some point in her life, and between 6-10% of women suffer domestic violence in a given year.

Whilst immigrant women are often viewed as keepers of tradition and charged with passing this tradition on to the next generation, the jobs or roles they held in their home countries are not transferable to the host country. That makes their adjustment to a new culture particularly complicated. Male dominance in families may not only survive the move but may even be reinforced when men, threatened by new roles they see their wives assuming, seek to enforce old customs of inequality in the name of tradition.

Considering the above aspects along with the complex combination of political, economic and social factors they experience in host countries, women with an immigrant background tend to be quite vulnerable against intimate partner violence (Basile & Black, 2011).

In addition, factors of culture and immigration status occasionally aggravate the level of violence, block victims from access to valuable information/legal remedies, and complicate their efforts in obtaining any kind of relief (Hass, Dutton & Orloff, 2000). Subsequently, these circumstances sufficiently influence the barriers which a battered immigrant woman will need to confront in a host country: the nature of relief she will need to obtain from the legal system; what should be included in her safety plan; what threats the abuser will use against her; what excuses the abuser will use in an attempt to justify violence, etc.

Legal Highs Uncategorized

Legal Highs Today

During the last decade, an average of four or five new Legal Highs (drugs) came on to the market each year. In that time, the synthetic drug mephedrone had become the fourth most popular drug on the EU market, after marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy. It was banned in April of that year, but not before a new market had emerged for online legal highs. More recently, EU researchers found 49 new legal drugs for sale online.

More than 280 potentially harmful legal highs and other new psychoactive synthetic drugs are currently being monitored by European experts, representing what has been described by experts as a fundamental shift in the market in illicit drugs. The EU’s drug agency, in a joint report with Europol on new drugs entering the market indicates that 73 became available across Europe only the last year, and adds that there is at this moment a firmly established, thriving legal highs business with low risks and high profits operating through more than 690 online sites and specialised bricks-and-mortar head shops.

Plus, according to one of latest European Drug Reports, by the (EMCDDA) in Lisbon on current Trends and Developments, the internet has created new routes for supply and use, and the market is at this moment less “structured around plant-based substances shipped over long distances to consumer markets in Europe”.

An increasing proportion of Legal Highs reported are from less known and more obscure chemical groups. Accordingly, most of the products on sale contain mixtures of substances, and the lack of pharmacological and toxicological data means it is hard to speculate on long term health implications of use, but increasingly data shows that some of these substances cause problems requiring clinical interventions while fatalities have been recorded.

While the challenge posed to legislative bodies and regulatory agencies at the moment by new psychoactive substances online vending is unlikely to diminish in the near future, identifying effective practices and necessitating appropriate and flexible awareness mechanisms can truly help addressing this particularly dynamic and expanding phenomenon.

Combating Hate Crime Uncategorized

Hate Crime

Hate Crime refers to a physical or a verbal attack on an individual that is motivated by prejudice against that person because of a particular characteristic, for example, their sexual orientation or gender identity. Incidents of apparent hate crimes and hate group activities of this kind constitute at the moment an alarmingly frequent phenomenon in many European countries.

Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected. Everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity. EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Articles 1 and 3(1)

Accordingly, violence and offences motivated by racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, or by a person’s disability, sexual orientation or gender identity are all examples of hate crime, which harm not only those targeted but also strike at the heart of EU commitments to democracy and the fundamental rights of equality and non-discrimination. Today, this form of discriminatory violence and prejudice finds fertile breeding grounds in the current economic crisis. In September, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, included a stark warning in his annual ‘state of the union’ address, saying that the euro crisis was contributing to the rise in extremism. In addition, the failure of many National governments in the European Union to adopt coherent migration policies, chronic mismanagement of the asylum system, and, most recently, the deep economic crisis and resulting austerity have exacerbated what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) described in late 2016 as a “humanitarian crisis.

According to the FRA’s latest report EU-MIDIS Data in Focus 6: Minorities as Victims of Crime, victims and witnesses of hate crimes are reluctant to report them, whether to law enforcement agencies, the criminal justice system, non-governmental organisations or victim support groups. As a result, victims are often unable or unwilling to seek redress against perpetrators, with many crimes remaining unreported and unprosecuted and, therefore, invisible.

A practical step towards combating this increasingly worrying phenomenon would be to foresee the provision of comprehensive and easily accessible information to victims of hate crime, made available in various forms (audio visual, web – based and written.) Moreover, we should direct our focus in countries which the economic crisis has contributed to the outburst of the phenomenon, with the purpose of encouraging victims to report the crime against them and witnesses to testify against the offender/s. The end goal must be to acknowledge victims, make these crimes more visible and hold perpetrators to account.