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"China's Africa Loan Waiver Minimal" - Study

FILE: Chinese President Xi Jinping posing with a number of African leaders. Taken 9.3.2018
FILE: Chinese President Xi Jinping posing with a number of African leaders. Taken 9.3.2018

China's waiver of 23 interest-free loans to African countries last month amounted to only 1.1% or less of Chinese lending to the continent, a study showed on Monday.

The waived loans were of 10 to 30-year maturities and were worth up to $610 million in total, researchers at Boston University estimated, using a database of Chinese state lending compiled by researchers.

China's foreign ministry said in August it had cancelled 23 loans to 17 African countries that matured in 2021, but did not give further details.

China has waived some loans to African countries since 2000 when it cancelled loans made in the 1980s and 1990s, although it generally takes a harder stance on restructuring lending to developing nations under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013, analysts say.

Chinese state-owned lenders committed to $53.8 billion of loans to Africa between 2000 and 2012, according to the Boston University database, which tracks loans made since 2000, so the loans cancelled last month accounted for a tiny portion.

"(Interest-free loan) provision and cancellation are important diplomatic and symbolic tools in China's lending practices," said the report, by Jyhjong Hwang and Oyintarelado Moses.

They added that the loans are "more akin to foreign policy instruments than bottom line-oriented financial instruments".

Interest-free loans from China to Africa, which have included funding for government buildings, stadiums and hospitals, are usually treated like grants, according to researchers and African government officials.

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Meta Toughens Content Curbs for Teens on Instagram, Facebook

FILE - Woman holds smartphone with Meta logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture
FILE - Woman holds smartphone with Meta logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture

WASHINGTON — Meta on Tuesday said it was tightening up content restrictions for teens on Instagram and Facebook as it faces increased scrutiny that its platforms are harmful for young people.

The changes come months after dozens of U.S. states accused Meta of damaging the mental health of children and teens, and misleading users about the safety of its platforms.

In a blog post, the company run by Mark Zuckerberg said it will now "restrict teens from seeing certain types of content across Facebook and Instagram even if it's from friends or people they follow."

This type of content would include content that discusses suicide or self-harm, as well as nudity or mentions of restricted goods, the company added.

Restricted goods on Instagram include tobacco products and weapons as well as alcohol, contraception, cosmetic procedures and weight loss programs, according to its website.

In addition, teens will now be defaulted into the most restricted settings on Instagram and Facebook, a policy that was in place for new users and that now will be expanded to existing users.

This will "make it more difficult for people to come across potentially sensitive content or accounts in places like Search and Explore," the company said.

Meta also said that it will expand its policy of hiding results to searches related to suicide and self harm to include more terms.

Leaked internal research from Meta, including by the Wall Street Journal and whistle-blower Frances Haugen, has shown that the company was long aware of dangers its platforms have on the mental health for young people.

On the platforms, teens are defined as being under eighteen, based on the date of birth they give when signing up.

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