GENEVA: The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) issued on Wednesday a new international standard for the manufacture and use of personal audio devices, including smart phones and audio players, to make them safer for listening.
The standard was developed under WHO’s “Make Listening Safe” initiative, which seeks to improve listening practices especially among young people, both when they are exposed to music and other sounds at noisy entertainment venues and as they listen to music through their personal audio devices.
The standard for safe listening devices was developed by experts from the WHO and the ITU over a two-year process drawing on the latest evidence and consultations with a range of stakeholders, including experts from government, industry, consumers and civil society.
It recommends that personal audio devices include “Sound allowance” function, referring to software that tracks the level and duration of the user’s exposure to sound as a percentage used of a reference exposure.
Also these devices should be capable of providing an individualized listening profile based on the user’s listening practices, which informs the user of how safely or not he or she has been listening and gives cues for action based on this information.
In addition, volume limiting options should limit the volume, including automatic volume reduction and parental volume control, while information and guidance to users on safe listening practices should be available, both through personal audio devices and for other leisure activities.
While urging governments and manufacturers to adopt the voluntary WHO-ITU standard, the WHO also underlines that civil society, in particular professional associations and others that promote hearing care, also has a role to play in advocating for the standard and in raising public awareness about the importance of safe listening practices.
According to the WHO, nearly 50 percent of people aged 12 to 35 years, or 1.1 billion young people, are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices.
It is estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people, or one in every 10 people worldwide, will have disabling hearing loss, posing an annual global cost of 750 billion U.S. dollars, though half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented through public health measures.
“Given that we have the technological know-how to prevent hearing loss, it should not be the case that so many young people continue to damage their hearing while listening to music,” says WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“They must understand that once they lose their hearing, it won’t come back. This new WHO-ITU standard will do much to better safeguard these young consumers as they go about doing something they enjoy.”
China Mobile plans to offer 5G commercial services in over 50 cities
SHANGHAI: Chinese telecom giant China Mobile plans to offer 5G commercial services in over 50 cities this year, the company announced Tuesday.
Over 50,000 5G base stations will be built across the country this year, the company’s chairman Yang Jie told a press conference.
The company aims to expand the 5G commercial services to all Chinese cities above the prefecture level by 2020.
China Mobile will coordinate the development of 4G and 5G technologies, further integrate 5G technology with state-of-the-art technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, nurture an industrial ecology and expand applications across different sectors, Yang said.
The plan came after China Mobile was granted a commercial-use license for the superfast wireless technology with three other counterparts in early June.
Aussie court rules media companies liable for Facebook comments
SYDNEY: Media companies are responsible for defamatory comments made on their Facebook pages, an Australian court said in a landmark ruling Monday.
The New South Wales Supreme Court ruled that three media companies were responsible for user comments on a story about an indigenous youth detainee, Dylan Voller, in 2016 and 2017.
Voller claimed that publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and Sky News were responsible for comments on their public Facebook pages — alleging he was a rapist and that he attacked a Salvation Army officer leaving the man blind in one eye.
His lawyers said the comments were defamatory.
Voller had been held in a youth detention in the Northern Territories, and videos of him being mistreated by staff prompted a Royal Commission inquiry in 2016.
Lawyers for the media companies argued they could not be expected to filter the hundreds and thousands of comments posted on their Facebook pages day and night.
But, acknowledging the ruling related to an “emerging area” of law, the court found that the media companies could have screened or blocked defamatory comments.
The court considered cases from New Zealand to Hong Kong, and ultimately determined companies should pay costs and potential damages, but left the door open for appeal.
It did not rule on whether the comments themselves were defamatory.
The case raises questions about laws governing Facebook and other social media sites, notably, whether Australia’s already stringent defamation laws — which strongly favour those claiming defamation — have become even tougher.
“It could have far-reaching implications for media organisations using Facebook as a platform,” said lawyers at Addisons in a legal briefing paper.
If the final ruling goes against media companies, they “will need to monitor and remove any defamatory comments on their posts”.
The chief political correspondent at Nine — a television channel which now owns the Sydney Morning Herald — expressed unease at the “appalling trajectory of defamation law in Australia”, which he said represented a “real and present danger to journalism”.
Governments must regulate social networks: Facebook’s Clegg
LONDON: Governments must regulate social networks and not the companies themselves, Facebook’s head of global affairs and a former deputy prime minister of the UK said in an interview Monday.
“It’s not for private companies, however big or small, to come up with those rules. It is for democratic politicians in the democratic world to do so,” Clegg said.
Clegg, the former leader of UK political party the Liberal Democrats, said there was a “pressing need” for new “rules of the road” on issues including data privacy and election rules.
At the same time, companies such as Facebook should play a “mature role” in advocating regulation, he said.
Britain has said it will make social media bosses personally liable for harmful content and shut down offending platforms under a “world-leading” government plan.
Coming in for heavy criticism over the past year, Facebook has instituted changes, particularly on privacy and the transparency of political campaign ads.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has called for “globally harmonised” online regulation.
Sceptics say Facebook is seeking to buy time amid calls for tougher regulation in the United States and elsewhere — with some calls to break up major tech firms and other activists questioning whether they should maintain immunity from liability for content posted by users.
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