From dangerous TikTok challenges to a spacecraft selfie – Here's your December 2 news briefing

To start off, we're looking into: Are TikTok challenges killing kids? – Social media giant TikTok is the world's fastest-growing social media app, with over 3.9 billion downloads.

From dangerous TikTok challenges to a spacecraft selfie – Here's your December 2 news briefing
TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

Are TikTok challenges killing kids?

Social media giant TikTok is the world's fastest-growing social media app, with over 3.9 billion downloads. The platform's age limit is 13, but internal data revealed in 2020 that more than a third of TikTok's users were under age 14 – including many below the allowed age – so the age verification process doesn't seem so reliable.

In the past few years, TikTok has faced backlash over viral challenges trending on the app. Recently, the "blackout challenge," where people use to choke themselves until they pass out, made headlines after being linked to at least 20 children's deaths in the past year – and 15 of them were under 12. Multiple lawsuits were filed by the deceased children's families, alleging that TikTok is liable for their deaths because its algorithm recommended the challenge to the young kids.

The EU tells Twitter to fix its problems

The Twitter logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., September 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo/File Photo

Twitter has faced a few issues lately related to its approach to content moderation, which has relaxed since Musk's takeover and emphasis on "free speech." Twitter has said it'll continue "diligent work" to protect the platform from abuse, violence and hateful content. But, it also announced on Tuesday that it was scrapping its COVID misinformation policy. So, Twitter's still walking a fine line when it comes to how it moderates content.

On Wednesday, the EU's commissioner Thierry Breton held a call with Musk where he told the CEO that Twitter needs to deal with its existing issues, including content moderation, tackling disinformation and targeted ads. He said it must "significantly increase" efforts to comply with the EU's new law, the Digital Services Act (DSA). The DSA requires tech firms to maintain a system for preventing things like online abuse and disinformation.

Is China softening its COVID approach?

An elderly person scans a QR code at a nucleic acid testing site for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beijing, China November 11, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

December 1 marked the official third anniversary of the first recorded COVID case in Wuhan, China. Throughout the pandemic, China has been known for its hard-line zero-COVID approach. But recent developments suggest that things might be turning a new corner.

On Wednesday, China’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan told health officials that China is facing a new stage and mission with its pandemic plan. Although she didn’t mention the zero-COVID policy directly, this announcement comes a day after other top health officials said they’d be changing some COVID controls. Now, the government is working to boost vaccination rates among the elderly, and it’s begun allowing COVID patients to quarantine at home rather than in official facilities. Some areas are also replacing sweeping lockdowns with more targeted restrictions to lessen the impact on daily life.

To end, we'll look into:

Miami Art Basel 2022

Source: Art Basel

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Art Basel's Miami Beach debut. Art Basel is the world's largest international art fair that happens once a year in Hong Kong as well as Basel, Switzerland; Paris, France; and Miami, Florida. The event started in the 1970s and has gained a ton of popularity and press since then. Tens of thousands of visitors go to each fair, from art collectors to students. Marc Spiegler, the fair's global director, described the fair by saying: "When it works, it's this virtuous circle. Galleries bring great work because the collectors are there, and collectors come for the great work."

At this year's Miami show, there are 282 booths, its biggest showing yet. Five different continents are represented, too, showing modern and contemporary art. And there are a few different categories of the fair: Galleries (main sector), Meridians (for large-scale projects), Nova, Positions, Survey (works with historical relevance), Edition, Kabinett, Magazines (art publications) and Conversations (discussion panels).

Magalí Arriola, the director of Mexico City's Museo Tamayo and the person who curated the Meridians sector this year, said, "What I would like to achieve is for visitors to have an immersive, multisensory experience through works that spark critical discourse."

There's even a digital viewing gallery. Art Basel Live was launched very recently in May 2021, and you can find Online Viewing Rooms to take in the art digitally. This way, collectors and other people who want to poke around can do so without flying all the way to Miami. Even talks between big names in the art world are recorded and available to watch online. Content on Art Basel Live on Instagram is broadcast in real-time.

Another recent addition is the decision to show NFTs as art pieces at the fair. Last year, these tokens were way more noticeable. This year, with the downward slide of Bitcoin and the FTX scandal, more traditional art forms are retaking the main stage. New York art dealer David Lewis explained: "I think there's a lot of comfort in the fact that a lot of the ways of doing things that have been going on for years or decades – or if you think of painting, centuries – are back in the lead."

In other news ...

📈Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks is up 0.74% at 2741.08 at the time of writing.

📰Some specifics:

  • Dow Jones is down 0.56% to 34,395.01.
  • Nasdaq Composite is up 0.13% to 11,482.45.
  • S&P 500 fell 0.08% to 4,076.57.
  • Hang Seng Index gained 0.75% to 18,736.44.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • In the US, Dow Jones fell on Thursday's choppy session while S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed higher after a big rally in the previous session.
  • Data showed American manufacturing contracted in November for the first time since May 2020 as the ISM purchasing managers index dropped to 49 from 50.2 in the prior month.
  • A gauge of consumer prices had the second-smallest increase this year, rising just 0.2% in October. This offered investors hope that the Fed's rate hikes may be cooling inflation without causing a full-blown recession.
  • Investors are eyeing data on non-farm payroll, the unemployment rate and hourly wages on Friday to gain insight into the labor market.
  • In China, stocks rallied as the country gave signs it's moving toward easing COVID curbs.
  • JPMorgan has forecast a 9-10% jump in Chinese stocks by the end of next year if this optimism keeps up.
  • Hong Kong's retail sales rose 3.9% in October, and online retail sales jumped 34.7% year-on-year in value terms.
  • Hong Kong's economy contracted 4.5% in Q3 from a year earlier, a third consecutive quarter of year-on-year contraction.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • “Powell’s comments yesterday reconfirmed that the Fed is intent on tackling service elements of inflation, which offered reassurance to investors and sent equity markets higher. If the Fed achieves its goal of a soft landing, the Santa Claus rally that’s forming may evolve into a full-scale bull market in 2023,” said Peter Essele, head of portfolio management for Commonwealth Financial Network.
  • “Labor management sentiment continued to shift, with a number of panelists’ companies reducing employment levels through hiring freezes, attrition, and now layoffs. In November, layoffs were mentioned in 14% of employment comments, up from 6% in October,” said Timothy Fiore, chair of ISM’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

🛢Oil: Oil settled higher as China showed signs of easing COVID curbs, giving hopes for higher demand from the world's top crude importer. US crude was up 0.8% to US$81.22, and Brent fell 0.1% to US$86.88 per barrel.

👛Bitcoin: At the time of writing, Bitcoin is down 1.21% at US$16,965.80.

💲South African president "Farmgate": South African President Cyril Ramaphosa could be impeached over his "Farmgate" scandal. He's accused of covering up a US$4 million theft from his farm back in 2020, which involved kidnapping and bribing the burglars into silence. This means that Ramaphosa might've broken an anti-corruption law. He's only one month away from a conference that will decide if he's allowed to run for a second term.

✉Letter bombs in Spain: So far, six different high-profile targets have received letter bombs around Spain. The country has stepped up security and confirmed that it wouldn’t stray from supporting Ukraine, as one of the bombs was sent to the Ukrainian embassy.

🌊NATO undersea infrastructure: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store will talk to the head of NATO about protecting undersea infrastructure like gas pipelines and internet cables. This kind of action follows Russia's invasion of Ukraine as well as the recent damage done to the Nord Stream gas pipelines.

⛽The EU’s price cap on Russian oil: The EU is close to agreeing to cap Russian oil at US$60 per barrel. So far, this latest offer has been confirmed by three EU diplomats and comes ahead of the deadline on Monday to set the cap.

👩‍⚖️EU Russia tribunal: On Wednesday, the EU's top official suggested a new UN-backed court should investigate and prosecute Russia for possible war crimes in Ukraine. This is a new idea that suggests many officials don't think the international justice system is set up to properly deal with the invasion.

⛰Deadly landslide in Brazil: A landslide on a highway in southern Brazil has killed at least two people and left many more missing. It hit more than 21 vehicles. Firefighters are using thermal cameras to find possible survivors, but the rescue effort is pretty complicated.

📜Germany labels Holodomor famine a genocide: On Wednesday, Germany's parliament officially recognized Ukraine's 1930s "Holodomor" famine as a genocide. The event killed more than 3 million Ukrainians under the rule of Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

🐤Twitter/Apple fued: Elon Musk isn't beefing with Apple anymore. Musk earlier claimed that Apple threatened to pull the platform from its App Store. But, since talking to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who said Apple never entertained the idea, Musk called it a "misunderstanding" that had been "resolved."

💊Alzheimer's breakthrough: According to new research in the New England Journal of Medicine, the drug lecanemab shows a lot of promise in slowing cognitive decline, which is a total breakthrough for Alzheimer's disease. At the same time, there still need to be more trials, and the drug could have some bad side effects.

💻Musk really wants to computerize humans: In typical Elon fashion, he revealed some big news about future projects his company Neuralink is working on, even though their brain computer chip isn’t quite ready yet. Musk said on Wednesday that the company also has great confidence in a chip implanted in the spinal cord to help with paralysis and another in the eyes to restore vision. He also said the brain computer chip may be headed to human trials in as soon as six months.

🚀Orion's selfie: NASA's Orion spacecraft took a photo of itself at 268,563 miles away from Earth. The image below was taken by a camera on one of its solar arrays.

📷Wildlife Photographer of the Year list: The shortlist of photos for London's Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award 2022 is out. These pictures "spotlight important stories of nature from across the globe," chosen out of 38,575 entries from 93 countries.

Written and put together by Joey Fung, Vanessa Wolosz and Christine Dulion