4 July will be different this year. How can you celebrate Independence Day in 2020? – Screen Shot
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4 July will be different this year. How can you celebrate Independence Day in 2020?

For most Americans, celebrating 4 July involves multiple traditions. From parades and fireworks displays to family reunions, Independence Day is usually celebrated through mass gatherings taking place all over the country. But this year, the US’ most popular ways to mark the nation’s independence from Britain in 1776 might exacerbate the COVID-19 outbreak, health officials warned. Here is why 4 July 2020 will not be the same.

On Thursday 2 July, according to Bloomberg, the US reported 56,800 new coronavirus infections, surpassing Wednesday’s record of 52,789 and marking the highest increase since 9 May, as the curve rose in 40 states. As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, many health officials are recommending people to stay at home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) forecast that up to 160,000 people could die from the virus by 25 July, meaning that most people would get infected during the celebration of this weekend. The CDC also stated that 11 states are likely to report more deaths in the next month than the previous four weeks.

In response to these frightening predictions and ahead of the holiday weekend, some states are calling off Independence Day celebrations as they fear most events could become super-spreader ones. As COVID-19 cases rise in states such as Arizona, California, Texas and Florida, and as more and more Americans refuse to wear masks, it is understandable health officials worry about the aftermath. Similarly, after Memorial Day 2020, the US saw a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

State leaders in Nebraska suggested that holiday cookout hosts keep guest lists to make contact tracing easier if there was an outbreak. Oregon’s health authority warned residents that “the safest choice this holiday is to celebrate at home.” In Los Angeles, the health department ordered beaches closed and firework shows cancelled.

For those of you who are already disappointed by the weekend’s cancelled parades and family barbecues, there seems to be one fun event to come out of the situation; secret fireworks. Fireworks displays are synonymous with Independence Day, and while many of them have been cancelled, BBC reports that “some organisers have come up with ingenious ways to ensure they can still go ahead without crowds gathering to watch.” For example in New York City, the Macy’s Fireworks Show will be held over a series of nights at unspecified locations and times. Each show will last for just five minutes to avoid crowds being able to gather.

Beyond the coronavirus pandemic, the US has also seen a wave of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd, which led to new demands for an end to institutional racism. As many of these protests targeted statues of controversial historical figures—as seen in the UK as well—US officials became concerned that Independence Day could see further actions at different monuments.

As the celebrations kick off today with President Trump attending Mount Rushmore National Monument’s first firework display in more than a decade, this Fourth of July weekend is bound to create more problems than the US can handle. Independence Day 2020 will be unlike any other—let’s just hope its aftermath will be manageable.

Reddit bans The Donald subreddit and other far right forums. Why?

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Reddit is an online forum and social news platform with an impressive network of communities based on people’s interests, which are separated into different pages called ‘subreddits’. The platform is also infamous for giving freedom of speech free reign, sometimes leading to some pretty shocking statements on there.

But on Monday, Reddit kicked off a surprising day of bans against Trump and the far right. It started by banning the subreddit r/The_Donald, a pro-Trump forum, known for repeated ‘rule-breaking’. As the platform banned more and more subreddits, many wondered why it was doing so only now. Here’s why.

Although The Donald was considered as the most important ban, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman announced that it was just one of 2,000 subreddits banned by the site as it was on a mission to institute rule changes designed to make the platform less accommodating to hateful and abusive communities. As it later turned out, The Donald had been close to inactive for months and most of the other banned subreddits were small or inactive too.

Only a few others were notable, including the subreddit r/ChapoTrapHouse, which was associated with the left-wing podcast of the same name. Another subreddit called Gendercritical, which regularly promoted transphobic views was also banned.

This day of bans reminded many of the similar sequence of bans that took place in August 2018, when conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was banned from many social media platforms in only a few days.

Later in the day on Monday 29 June, the live-streaming video service Twitch announced that it had temporarily suspended Trump’s account for rebroadcasting comments about Mexican immigrants that broke its “hateful conduct and harassment policies.” Could these new bans be specifically aimed at Trump?

YouTube also followed by banning several far-right and racist creators from its video-sharing platform, including white supremacists David Duke, Richard Spencer, and Stefan Molyneux. While these actions should definitely be appreciated, it should also be noted that all three seemed to have been taken a bit too late.

These bans were all preceded by policy changes at Facebook and Twitter, which both shifted how the platforms handle rule-breaking behaviour by accounts linked to the president as well as the far right. The subreddit The Donald once played an important part in the pro-Trump internet community and its organisation. Over the years, it had managed to bring extremist content in front of big audiences.

In 2016, Huffman had limited the reach of the subreddit after it figured out how to get the site’s algorithms to promote pro-Trump content. Members were spreading the Pizzagate conspiracy theory while volunteer moderators had asked Huffman to do something in order to fight the abuse and harassment communities faced from The Donald members.

Some would agree that Reddit’s bans came too late; but then again, better late than never, no? These policy updates come three weeks after Black Lives Matter protests led many Reddit forums to ‘go dark’ in protest of the company’s lax policies around hosting (and therefore promoting) conservative and racist content. Reddit’s change of approach towards free expression on its platform proves that things might finally start to change.