Showing posts with label FaceBook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FaceBook. Show all posts

March 11, 2019

Disabled? The Government Wants to know What You Post on FB~America? Yes GOP America



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WASHINGTON —

 If you’re on federal disability payments and on social media, be careful what you post. Uncle Sam wants to watch.

The Trump administration has been quietly working on a proposal to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to help identify people who claim Social Security disability benefits without actually being disabled. If, for example, a person claimed benefits because of a back injury but was shown playing golf in a photograph posted on Facebook, that could be used as evidence that the injury was not disabling.

“There is a little bitty chance that Social Security may be snooping on your Facebook or your Twitter account,” Robert A. Crowe, a lawyer from St. Louis who has represented Social Security disability claimants for more than 40 years, said he cautioned new clients. “You don’t want anything on there that shows you out playing Frisbee.”

In its budget request to Congress last year, Social Security said it would study whether to expand the use of social media networks in disability determinations as a way to “increase program integrity and expedite the identification of fraud.”
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Since then, administration officials said, the White House has been actively working with Social Security to flesh out the proposal, in the belief that social media could be a treasure trove of information about people who are applying for or receiving disability benefits.

Some members of Congress, such as Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, and some conservative organizations, such as the Heritage Foundation in Washington, have supported the idea as part of a broader effort to prevent the payment of disability benefits to people who are able to work.

But advocates for people with disabilities say the use of social media in this way would be dangerous because photos posted there do not always provide reliable evidence of a person’s current condition.

“It may be difficult to tell when a photograph was taken,” said Lisa D. Ekman, a lawyer who is the chairwoman of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a coalition of advocacy groups. “Just because someone posted a photograph of them golfing or going fishing in February of 2019 does not mean that the activity occurred in 2019.”

Moreover, people are more likely to post pictures of themselves when they are happy and healthy than when they are in a wheelchair or a hospital bed.
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More than 10 million people receive Social Security disability insurance benefits totaling more than $11 billion a month. Beneficiaries have paid into the system through payroll taxes.

President Trump is expected to detail several proposals to combat fraud in the program in his 2020 budget, to be issued on Monday.

Before he was an official presidential candidate, Mr. Trump said he would not cut Social Security.
When he announced his candidacy in June 2015, Mr. Trump maintained that position: “Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud. Get rid of the waste and abuse, but save it.”

But his budgets in the last two years have proposed reductions in the disability insurance program, which has been part of Social Security since 1956.

The president’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who is now also the acting White House chief of staff, has suggested that Mr. Trump’s campaign commitment does not cover disability benefits.

“Do you really think that Social Security disability insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security?” Mr. Mulvaney asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” in 2017. “I don’t think so. It’s the fastest growing program. It was — it grew tremendously under President Obama. It’s a very wasteful program, and we want to try and fix that.”
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Brian C. Blase, a special assistant to the president for economic policy, has been coordinating development of the new proposals on Social Security. In 2014, Mr. Blase provided the staff work for a subcommittee investigation of the disability program led by Mr. Lankford, who was then a member of the House. Soon after he got to the Senate, Mr. Lankford proposed legislation to expand the use of “evidence obtained from publicly available social media.”
Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s acting chief of staff and budget director, has suggested that most people do not think of disability insurance as part of Social Security.
Credit
Doug Mills/The New York Times


Image
Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s acting chief of staff and budget director, has suggested that most people do not think of disability insurance as part of Social Security.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
At present, disability examiners do not routinely look at social media. They can refer suspicious cases to the inspector general for Social Security, who may use social media to corroborate information from other sources in fraud investigations conducted with state and local law enforcement agencies.

The Trump administration contends that it could authorize greater use of social media by regulation, without action by Congress. Under pressure from the White House, Social Security has drafted a timeline that envisions publication of a final rule in the spring of 2020.

Michael J. Astrue, the last Senate-confirmed Social Security commissioner, has expressed misgivings about the idea.

“Social media sites are not exactly clear and reliable evidence,” Mr. Astrue, who stepped down six years ago, said at a Senate hearing in 2012. “Facebook puts up phony websites under my name all the time.”

That, he said, is “why you need professionally trained fraud investigators” to evaluate the information.

Few would say that the Social Security disability program was free of fraud. The government has secured guilty pleas from a number of people who concealed the fact that they were working in various industries while drawing Social Security disability benefits.

In one case, a 57-year-old Louisiana man pleaded guilty last month to theft of government funds. He had received $2,177 a month in benefits — a total of $242,000 — while employed by companies that did demolition work and job site cleaning. He also operated heavy construction equipment. He told federal investigators that the companies had been registered in the names of family members, rather than his own name, “so y’all wouldn’t find out about it,” according to court records.
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In its latest financial report, Social Security estimated that it made $3.4 billion in overpayments to disability insurance beneficiaries in 2017, in part because of their failure to report work activities.

The program has been “riddled with problems, including fraud and abuse,” said Rachel Greszler, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. When people who can work collect benefits, she said, “it drains the system for those who truly cannot work and support themselves.”

The administration’s focus on fraud comes as the number of Americans seeking Social Security disability benefits is plunging. The number of applications was down 29 percent last year from a peak of 2.9 million in 2010.

A growing economy with strong demand for workers is one reason for the decline, officials say. In addition, they speculate that with new technology and the potential for teleworking, it is possible for some people to take jobs even though they have medical conditions that would have precluded work in the past.

Social Security officials are considering other changes that could make it more difficult for people to qualify for benefits.

They are working with the White House to overhaul the way Social Security weighs various “vocational factors” — age, education and job experience — in deciding whether a person is able to work.

In November, Social Security proposed a new rule that would strip applicants and beneficiaries of their right to an in-person hearing before an administrative law judge, after some judges came under scrutiny for leniency in allowing disability claims. In 2017, a former administrative law judge for the Social Security Administration pleaded guilty for his role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $550 million in federal disability payments for thousands of claimants.
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Under the November proposal, Social Security could hold the hearings by video conference even if a claimant objected. With video conferencing, the agency said, it could improve service to the public and reduce wait times. At present, it said, nearly 860,000 people are waiting an average of 19 months for hearings to appeal the denial or termination of benefits.

But top Democrats responsible for Social Security policy in Congress denounced the proposal in a letter to the acting Social Security commissioner, Nancy A. Berryhill.

“This change would deprive millions of Americans of their constitutional right to due process and result in hearings which are less fair and less efficient,” said the letter, signed by Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, among others.

December 29, 2018

Facebook Must Take Responsibility for Its Impact on The Strike Down of International LGBT Rights





                                                    Image result for facebook and strikedown of LGBT




If like me you’re a progressive who believes in the march of global human rights, it’s been a bit of a depressing time since 2016. Vote after vote just hasn’t gone our way. 
We’ve all had to get uncomfortably familiar with bitter disappointment. From Brazil’s far-right crackdown on LGBT+ rights, with their new leader calling himself a “proud homophobe” to Poland’s Supreme Court being attacked for serving “the ideology of homosexual activists.” And most recently it was Taiwan’s turn to cause upset and anguish – its recent referendum on marriage equality after a 2017 court ruling to introduce same-sex marriage ended in a devastating defeat for equality.
The common thread running through so many of these votes is fake news on Facebook.
In Taiwan, the vote itself was organised by Christian groups; organisations that make up only 5 per cent of the country’s population. And by now it’s clear that online campaigning tactics fuelled and funded by Christian organisations and the Chinese disseminated fake news materials across Taiwanese social networks. The aim appeared to be to confuse and convince people ahead of the vote on marriage equality. This material described LGBT+ people as perverted and claimed that Taiwan’s universal healthcare system would become overrun with foreign HIV-positive homosexuals, who would marry Taiwanese men to access HIV/Aids treatment.

These sorts of fear tactics are nothing new in any political election. But as we’ve seen repeated across all recent public votes across the world, votes and referendums seem to now be won where the public are most connected – social media. Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie has claimed that the now defunct political consulting firm could even utilise Facebook data on people's fashion tastes to encourage them to vote for Donald Trump during the 2016 US election.



Only this week we’ve again been reminded of the dangers of fake news on Facebook, with new research suggesting adverts on the platform have ignited anti-refugee attacks in Germany.
The core problem is that, through its algorithm, Facebook separates us from moderating voices or authority figures, and herds us into ever smaller like-minded groups, encouraging us to consume content that engages our base emotions.
It’s in this light that Taiwan’s decision to put marriage equality to a vote could be seen as a big mistake. Although in some cases these types of votes are won – as in Ireland and Australia – the risks now are too great. In an age of fake news and unregulated social media, wherever possible, human rights should not be put to a public vote. Lies and misinformation which used to be on the fringes of political discourse are now too easily seeping into the mainstream.



Arguably any organisation can now open an advertising account on Facebook, and can begin targeting individuals based on salary, job, interest, location and even association with any of these factors. But too many regressive organisations, who would like nothing more than to rollback hard won rights, have absolutely no qualms about abusing – rather than just using – smart social profiling techniques. They seem happy to lie, cheat and misinform to get what they want, posing a real threat to the ongoing move to equal rights and equality across the globe.
During the Out4Marriage campaign that I helped found in 2013 to support changing the law to allow same sex couples to marry, digital profiling didn’t exist in the same detail as today. What won the campaign for us was the power of progressive, personal and positive storytelling – empowering celebrities, MPs and members of the public to create their own short video content and post it online explaining why they we’re “coming out for marriage.” What wins marriage equality campaigns is the same thing which wins any campaign fighting for better human rights: empathy, compassion and relatability – particularly viewable by an audience who disagrees and needs convincing.



But shift forward to 2018, and using Facebook to reach an audience that disagrees with your opinion is near enough impossible. Imagine what could be done now if you add the power of personalisation on social media, adapting the messages to someone’s ambitions, aspirations and desires.
On the issue of gay rights there is still much work to be done. Equal marriage is still the exception around the world. And let’s not forget, it’s still illegal to be gay in 70 countries. In 10 of those countries the punishment is death. And in many cases, progress has not just stalled, it’s going backwards. Campaigners have their work cut out.
It’s time for companies like Facebook to step up and give the LGBT+ community a helping hand. First, they need to start taking misinformation seriously. As the fight for equal rights shows, there are real life impacts to the sort of fake news polluting the platform; from the thousands of gay people in Taiwan who will not be able to get married to the individual gay or trans people attacked in places like Brazil because of Facebook posts that demonise and vilify their identity. 
But they need to change their all-important algorithm. How are campaigners ever going to engage with and change the minds of those who disagree with LGBT+ rights if those people are stuck in an echo chamber that fails to expose them to different views? Without social media which proactively engages us with all different attitudes and points of view, we won’t be able to see the views that we need to change.
This change will require a big overhaul of social media sites’ profit models, but they need to take responsibility for the damage they have caused, and acknowledge the reality that this type of fake news disproportionately attacks LGBT+ people. Given how effective the tactic has been in mobilising the far right in recent elections, we can expect more in the near future. Facebook can either be a dark cloud on the horizon, or a ray of light. This coming year it needs to choose which one it wants to be. 
Mike Buonaiuto is the executive director of Shape History and co-founder of Out4Marriage campaign

November 18, 2018

Investors From Facebook Call on Mark Zuckerberg to Resign




Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg
 Mark Zuckerberg, Face Book


Facebook investors have called on the company’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to step down as chairman, following reports that the company hired a public relations firm to smear its critics by drawing links to George Soros.
The attack on Mr. Zuckerberg is set to complicate the daunting challenge facing Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook's new global head of policy and communications, who joined last month and has been asked to conduct a review of Facebook's use of lobbying firms. 
Jonas Kron, a senior vice president at Trillium Asset Management, a US investor which owns a £8.5m stake in Facebook, last night called on Mr. Zuckerberg to step down as board chairman in the wake of the report.
“Facebook is behaving like it's a special snowflake,” he said. “It's not. It is a company and companies need to have a separation of chair and CEO.”
Both Mr Zuckerberg and Sir Nick have been under pressure following reports Facebook hired Definers, a Republican public relations firm, to help repair its battered reputation following intense criticism of the social media platform's handling of a scandal over Russian interference in the 2016 US elections and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Definers allegedly encouraged the depiction of Facebook's critics as anti-Semites and had published news articles criticising Facebook’s competitors. The business has also been accused of attempting to encourage journalists to report that anti-Facebook groups were linked to Mr. Soros.
In a call with journalists on Thursday, Mr. Zuckerberg denied knowing that his business had hired the firm. “As soon as I learned about this, I talked to our team and we are no longer working with this firm,” he said. He has also asked Sir Nick to launch a review of Facebook's use of political lobbying firms.
Nevertheless, Mr. Kron said the new revelations about Facebook's use of Definers offered fresh reasons for Mr. Zuckerberg to relinquish his dual role as chairman and chief executive.
“The latest report should remove any lingering doubts that some may have had,” he said.
Mr Zuckerberg has retained a high level of control over the social networking business which he founded in 2004 due to his combined role and his ownership of a stake representing 60pc of the company’s voting shares.
Investors claim that Mr Clegg faces a difficult task repairing Facebook's reputation due to his unfamiliarity with Silicon Valley.
Julie Goodridge, chief executive of Facebook investor NorthStar Asset Management which owns over 50,000 shares in the company,  called the appointment of Mr. Clegg to investigate Facebook’s lobbying “crazy.”
“I don't think you can appoint someone who is essentially still subservient to the board and subservient to top-level management,” she said. “You can't expect that person to come in and really have the kind of power that Zuckerberg, Sandberg, Peter Thiel, and the other board members have. What powers is this guy really going to have?”
Mr. Kron said he was pleased that Mr. Clegg would review Facebook’s lobbying efforts, but added that the move was “insufficient.” He characterized the appointment of Mr. Clegg as a “whack-a-mole” move by Facebook which didn’t address the larger issue of a lack of an independent board chair.
In the call on Thursday evening, Mr. Zuckerberg said that he had asked Sir Nick to review the business’ lobbying operations. The former Deputy Prime Minister will report to Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.
Facebook investor Natasha Lamb, a managing partner at Arjuna Capital, warned that the combined role of chairman and chief executive means that Facebook can avoid properly fixing problems inside the company.
“That concentration of power creates a lot of defensiveness within the company,” she said. “It’s an exercise in hiding that there is a problem rather than admitting that there is a problem and setting a roadmap to fixing it.”
Ms. Goodridge warned that if Mr. Zuckerberg stands down as chairman, Facebook’s share price is likely to drop.
She called for a change in Mr. Zuckerberg’s Class B voting shares, which have 10 votes per share rather than the single vote for each Class A share.
“Regardless of who shows up at board meetings, Mark still has all the power to control the company,” she said.
A combined chief executive and chairman role have become common in Silicon Valley as it allows founders to retain control of businesses, even after they go public. 
Elon Musk held both roles at electric car manufacturer Tesla until an agreement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in October forced the company to appoint a separate board chairman.

October 5, 2018

FaceBook Blocked Many Gay Theme Ads As Part of Their new Ad Policy










The advertisements all seemed innocuous at a glance.
A ribald sendup of fairy tales hosted by a comedian in Los Angeles. A Spanish-language social group for Latino men, sponsored by a community center in Las Vegas. And a list of senior-friendly housing options distributed by a nonprofit group in Texas.
But they were all blocked by Facebook. The company’s system, which uses automated and human monitors, determined that the advertisements were “political,” though they did not involve advocacy or any explicitly political views.
The common thread between them all? LGBT themes.
The Washington Post found dozens of advertisements mentioning LGBT themes and words that the company blocked for supposedly being political, according to a public database Facebook keeps.
The rejections, the majority of which Facebook told The Post were in error, underscore the company’s challenges in regulating the massive amount of information flowing through its service, an issue that burst into the fore after the disclosure that Russian-state actors used advertisements on Facebook to sow discord during the 2016 U.S. election. But they also touch on a deeper tension as the company seeks to better regulate political uses of its platform. Though Facebook has taken pains to appear neutral, the censorship of LGBT ads, however inadvertent, points to the company’s difficulty in finding a middle ground in a tense national climate where policy increasingly hinges on fundamental questions about race and identity. 
Many LGBT advertisers told The Post that they were upset by the way their ads had been targeted by the company.
David Kilmnick, the chief executive of the LGBT Network, a Long Island-based nonprofit, said his organization has seen about 15 advertisements blocked as political since the spring or early summer, around the time that Facebook officially changed its policy. That was when the majority of the dozen or so organizations and people interviewed by The Post said that they began to experience issues with LGBT content.
Kilmnick said he was at first confused about why the group’s advertisements — for events such as the Long Island Pride Parade, a beach concert, a pride-themed night at a New York Mets baseball game and a LGBT youth prom it puts on — were blocked. But as the rejections began to pile up, so did Kilmnick’s suspicions. 
“We were completely targeted simply because we were LGBT,” he said, “for what we’re advertising — ads that promote our programs that help support the community and celebrate pride. There’s nothing political about that."
Marsha Bonner, a motivational LGBT speaker, described a similar experience when an ad of hers for an NAACP-sponsored conference about the state of LGBTQ people of color was blocked in July, a first in years of advertising on the social media platform.
Other ads The Post found that were blocked for political reasons included a clothing company for survivors of sexual assault that advertised that its clothing “empowers men, women, gender-neutral”; a promotion for the ride-hailing company Lyft to raise money with the San Diego LGBT Community Center in advance of Pride Week; an LGBTQ night at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in California; and an LGBT-themed tourist expedition to Antarctica. 
Facebook declined to explain how the filtering process works and how much of the filtering was driven by algorithms rather than human monitors.
Facebook’s new policies require those seeking to promote posts on political topics and candidates to register with the company and mandate that the ads include information about their funding, or the advertisements will be blocked. If these companies had taken the steps to register as political entities with Facebook, a process that requires a driver’s license or passport, a personal home address and the last four digits of a Social Security number, then the ads would have been permitted.
But many people The Post spoke to said they didn’t know they had the option to register. Others said that they felt registering as political would be dishonest to their organization’s mission. And most questioned the meaning inherent in requiring an LGBT group to register as political on the basis of such an existential question about identity. 
Some of the groups said they were wary of providing their or other employees’ personal information to register with Facebook.
Overall, confusion about the social media network’s process made the problem more unsettling. Facebook’s policies spell out some of the reasons it flags ads on hot-button political issues, but the list — which includes subjects such as abortion, civil rights, guns, Social Security, the military, terrorism and taxes — says nothing about LGBT culture.

Facebook said that this ad, for a LGBTQ+ night at a county fair in Northern California, had been wrongly blocked for being "political." (Facebook image) (Rosenberg, Eli)
The experience of Thomas Garguilo, a retiree in New York who operates a page dedicated to the history of the Stonewall Inn, a national landmark, reflects the company’s confusing treatment of LGBT-themed ads. Garguilo said that so many of his ads have gotten blocked by Facebook that he has stopped using the words “LGBT” or “gay” in his language on the service. 
“It’s ludicrous. And Orwellian,” he said.
His frustration turned to anger after he wrote the company about an ad that he wanted to run, a post about a panel discussion with an LGBT radio station in Washington, on the history of Stonewall. Without the audience that would have come from paying Facebook to boost the ad, the post had been shown to only 156 out of his Stonewall Revival page’s 3,000 followers.
A Facebook employee in the company’s Global Marketing Solutions division wrote him back to explain why the company viewed the ad as political.
“Thanks for the email now after reviewing the screenshots you have provided, it mentions LGBT which would fall under the category of civil rights which is a political topic,” the Facebook employee wrote back, according to copies of the correspondence provided to The Post. “You would need to be authorized to run ads with this content.”
Another employee confirmed Facebook’s decision in a follow-up email, also telling Garguilo that the company considered “LGBT content” to be political.

Two Facebook employees told Thomas Garguilo that advertisements that mentioned "LGBT" were considered political, according to emails he shared with The Post. (Thomas Garguilo) (Screen shot by Thomas Garguilo)
In an email response to an inquiry from The Post, Facebook said that the majority of the advertisements cited in this story had been wrongfully blocked, but it declined to explain why they had been filtered in the first place. It said that it was not intentionally blocking LGBT advertisements. 
“The ones that were incorrectly labeled have been removed from the archive and we apologize for the error,” the company said in a statement distributed by spokeswoman Devon Kearns. “We do not consider all ads that relate to LGBT under this policy, but rather only those that advocate for various policies or political positions, which several of these ads do."
Kearns also offered an apology to Garguilo but did not explain why the company had sent him the same response twice. “We apologize for the confusion we caused this person by incorrectly telling them their ad was political,” she said.

The ad, for a screening of "Selena" from the Los Angeles LGBT Center, was also determined to be "political." (Facebook image) (Rosenberg, Eli)
There are signs that Facebook’s political filtering has spread to other ads that refer to identity groups. These include an advertisement for a trash pickup at a riverbed in California that noted: “Maybe you are Caucasian, African American, Native American, Latino, Asian, Two-spirit. Maybe you are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist.” (Facebook told The Post that it filtered the ad because it briefly mentioned a 50-year-old piece of environmental legislation, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.) Other ads apparently hit by the filters include a celebration of Nigerian Independence Day in Houston, a “Taco Tuesday” at a Mexican restaurant in Florida, a street fair in Chicago with “Mexican and Latin” street food and a post with facts about Holocaust diarist Anne Frank. 
Other groups have also complained that they have been unjustly targeted by Facebook’s political-advertising restrictions, including nonpartisan veterans groups and news media companies, many of which may write about and cover political issues but are not politically affiliated with any group or cause. And some clearly political ads — including those for senators and advocacy groups — have made it through without being flagged.

Facebook initially determined that this ad, for a "Taco Tuesday" at a Mexican food restaurant, was political. (Facebook image) (Rosenberg, Eli)
Theresa Lucero, a coordinator at the Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit that offers services such as HIV testing and counseling, said that the group has been having particular trouble getting ads approved, for things such as a gay social group it organizes, if the advertisements are in Spanish. When it has posted the same ads in English, they’ve gone through, Lucero said.
Kelly Freter, the director of marketing and communications at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, said the organization had seen seven to 10 ads for events and awareness campaigns blocked since mid-June. 
“We can’t get a clear answer about why things are being blocked or someone to follow up with us about how we register as an organization,” Freter said. One of the center’s blocked ads that was reviewed by The Post was an invitation to celebrate the life of singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez with a screening of the movie starring Jennifer Lopez.
“The bigger concern from us is that we’re unable to reach people in the community,” Freter said.

Another ad, a list of LGBT-friendly housing for seniors, was also deemed to be political by Facebook. (Facebook image) (Rosenberg, Eli)
Kearns pointed to the company’s work with the LGBT community, noting that about 8 percent of Facebook employees have identified as LGBTQ in a survey. The company has given users the option to select genders beyond male and female since 2014, and it joined amicus briefs filed with the Supreme Court in 2015 to support the legalization of same-sex marriage. Facebook also works with advocacy organizations to address issues such as anti-LGBT bullying.
Many of the groups' administrators said their experience had given them a sour impression of the company, though most said there were few alternatives for getting their message out to wide groups of people.
“Why is this community considered a political community?” Bonner, the motivational speaker, said in an interview with The Post. “Immigrants are political. LGBT is now political. African Americans are political. Asian Americans are political. Where does this stop when all we’re trying to do is live our lives?” 

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