Global Glance: June 29, 2015
A quick look at intriguing international stories
By John Bostwick, Managing Editor, Radius
Welcome back to Global Glance. This week we look at:
- Fake social media profiles
- The vulnerability of chocolate
- A 16-year-old French girl makes American baseball history
The Rise of Fake Social Media Profiles
The final chapter of Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2010 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad imagines a future in which the authenticity of all social media posts is suspect. In that section, anyone could be and probably is posting for profit under the guise of pure enthusiasm. If this New Republic article on so-called “click farms” is any indication, Egan’s future of a largely fraudulent social media environment may soon be realized.
Click farms create fake Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles, which can then be sold to individuals and organizations looking to boost their online credibility. The market for fake profiles includes not only high-profile users like corporations, politicians and celebrities, but average people seeking to increase followers and “likes” for personal and professional reasons. In other words, there are endless opportunities for click farms: “Researchers estimate that the market for fake Twitter followers was worth between $40 million and $360 million in 2013, and that the market for Facebook spam was worth $87 million to $390 million.” Presumably, nearly all of the buyers for this shady service live in developed countries, but the article indicates that the majority of click farms operate in developing countries like the Philippines, India, and Indonesia.
The article observes that click farms not only create artificially inflated numbers for followers and “likes”; they also threaten the foundation of social media: “More than $16 billion was spent worldwide on social media advertising in 2014; this money is the primary revenue for social media companies. If social media is no longer made up of people, what is it?”
The Vulnerability of Chocolate
Two countries produce over 50% of the world’s cocoa supply. Can you name them? You may be surprised to hear that Ivory Coast produces 30% of the world’s cocoa, and Ghana, the next largest producer, isn’t far behind. Cocoa is a significant engine driving these economies, fueled of course by a worldwide taste for chocolate. A worldatlas.com piece on the top ten cocoa-producing nations estimates that, by 2016, “the global chocolate market will be worth $98.3 billion.”
Unfortunately for cocoa-producing countries, high demand doesn’t guarantee consistent yields. A recent Wall Street Journal article explains that production numbers for Ghana’s cocoa farms are down significantly after “dry weather and the late application of pesticides and fungicides” to cocoa trees. Other factors have also affected cocoa production in recent years. For example, the Journal article notes that the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa caused cocoa prices to hit a three-and-a-half-year high in 2014, despite the fact that the disease never actually spread to either Ghana or Ivory Coast. The story highlights not only the vicissitudes of cocoa production, but the potential overreliance of the global chocolate industry on these two African nations. Sounds like an opportunity for growers and investors in the other countries mentioned in worldatlas.com’s top ten list.
A 16-Year-Old French Girl Makes US Major League Baseball History
About three decades ago, the National Football League overtook Major League Baseball as the United States’ most popular spectator sport. According to a Harris poll released in 2015, the NFL now enjoys a 16-point margin over MLB. Still, despite (or perhaps because of) its leisurely pace, baseball will probably never shed its reputation as “America’s pastime,” and the US still produces many of the game’s best players.
As for international baseball, most of us know that Japan and Cuba are, along with the US, perennial powerhouses. These International Baseball Federation final rankings for 2014 attest to that. France is ranked 27th, which is respectable but hardly impressive. Nevertheless, France has developed at least one highly noteworthy player in recent years: the 16-year-old Melissa Mayeux.
Lindsay Berra of MLB.com reported that Mayeux, “became the first known female baseball player to be added to MLB's international registration list, which means she will be eligible to be signed by a Major League club on July 2.” Berra adds that Mayeux is a long shot to sign with an MLB team, but her addition to the competitive registration list “solidifies her status as a legitimate player.” In case you’re still skeptical that this is some kind of publicity stunt or feel-good story, check out the article’s accompanying video, which shows Mayeux hitting pitches with a sweet, powerful-looking swing and fielding ground balls from the shortstop position. It’s worth a look.