Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Zigazoo launches to be a ‘TikTok’ for kids, surpasses 100,000 uploads and downloads

Natasha Mascarenhas

Like many parents, Zigazoo founder Zak Ringelstein worries about his children’s screen time. His worries only grew when COVID-19 led to school shutdowns and kids came home to a world of remote learning. Now, as lockdowns extend, Ringelstein is learning to embrace screen time as a way to sneak education and entertainment into his kids’ digital diet.
Ringelstein, the former founder of UClass (acquired in 2015), launched Zigazoo, which he describes as a “TikTok for kids.”
Zigazoo is a free app where kids can answer short video-based exercises that they can answer through video and share responses with friends. Exercises range from how to create a baking soda volcano to making fractions out of food, and targets kids from preschool to middle school.
To ensure the app’s privacy, Ringelstein says that parents should be the primary users of the app. Users have to accept a friend request in order for their content to be seen, a move Ringelstein sees as key to avoiding bad actors or potential bullying.
Additionally, Zigazoo uses an API through SightEngine to moderate content.
Ringelstein’s first users were his own kids, a test he says was very rewarding.

Ringelstein’s son participating in a Zigazoo prompt.

The testing process made him realize that kids like to create longer videos, and watch smaller videos, so Zigazoo is figuring out an attention span for viewing. Currently, average time on site per user has gone up to 19 minutes and 43 seconds per day.
Ringelstein pointed to “Sesame Street” as his inspiration. Mixing education and entertainment has proven successful for a number of businesses. Kids were drooling in front of the screen watching the characters of “Sesame Street,” spending mindless hours staring at the television set, he recalls.
“The creators of Sesame Street…used the medium to educate kids and entertain them at the same time,” Ringelstein said. Vox described “Sesame Street” as a “bedrock for educational television,” bringing loved characters to the table with former First Lady Michelle Obama or using a silly song to teach kids about recycling.
In one month, Zigazoo has had 100,000 videos uploaded to and downloaded from its site.
While Zigazoo claims to be a “TikTok”  for kids, it is competing with the platform itself. Some teachers have turned to TikTok to create lessons on solar cell systems and experiments.
Others are putting together guides of “kid friendly” TikTok creators. And TikTok itself recently let parents set restrictions on content, DMs and screen time for their kids.
Video-based learning is a better way for students to engage actively in an educational activity, versus passively reading a paragraph from a Google doc, according to Ringelstein.
Combining education with entertainment comes with a set of risks around child safety. Last March, The New York Times wrote a story about how “kidfluencers” has grown as a concept, where parents put their kids online, touting brands, and make money off of it. The resulting ethical concerns are why Ringelstein is confident that Zigazoo is needed.
“Zigazoo is a not a kid play date smack dab in the middle of an adult party like YouTube and TikTok, it is a universe tailor-made for kid safety, learning and enjoyment,” he said.
Ringelstein sees Zigazoo’s “friend” versus “follow” feature as key to the safety of kids: Unlike TikTok, where there is a public feed and users can follow everyone, Zigazoo requires users to opt-in to being followed, similar to Facebook.
The partnerships will allow Zigazoo to post verified content using favorite and well-known characters to teach kids about the subjects they care about. And in a world where digital detoxes are no longer a reality, a smarter screen-time activity seems much needed.
Recently, Zigazoo partnered with The American Federation of Teachers for a capstone project directed at millions of K-12 students. Students are invited to submit a video using Zigazoo to encapsulate their learning experience over the past school year, which AFT says is a “far better way to sum up learning than a high-stakes test.”
This summer Ringelstein is launching “Zigazoo Channels” with a select group of major children’s entertainment companies, podcasts, museums, libraries, zoos, social media influencers and more.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Trinity Mount Ministries - DHS - Blue Campaign - What's New?

What's New with Blue?

#HumanTrafficking101 Social Media Video Series

Next month, Blue Campaign will launch a #HumanTrafficking101 video series on its social media channels. Each week during June and July we will discuss a human trafficking topic that will provide you with a better understanding of the crime and how to recognize and report it.  
Follow Blue Campaign on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram to see all the #HumanTrafficking101 posts. Comment, like, and share the videos so that your friends and followers can learn more about this crime.

Download Human Trafficking Resources

Human trafficking is a complex crime, but Blue Campaign helps break it down so you can better understand what it is, what it looks like, and how to report it. We offer a number of video and print resources that you can use to inform yourself and your community about the crime.
For example, our animated infographic video (now available in Spanish) can be used to educate individuals about the foundational elements of human trafficking. It clearly defines the crime, explains different types of human trafficking (forced labor, sex trafficking, and domestic servitude), and details actions the public can take to combat it.
infographic video still image. human smuggling does not equal human trafficking.
All resources on our website can be shared via social media, newsletters, trainings, and any platform you use to communicate with your friends, colleagues, and community. To learn more about all the free resources Blue Campaign has available, click here.
A note about orders: Due to COVID-19 impacts on staffing you may experience delays in receiving your Blue Campaign materials order. Thank you for your patience.

News You Can Use

Mayor Turner and City Council Approve Hotel Ordinance to Combat Human Trafficking (Houston Mayor’s Office)
The Houston City Council approved an ordinance requiring hotels to train their employees on human trafficking. Houston is the first major U.S. city to have an anti-human trafficking ordinance and only the second city in the United States after Baltimore.

Social Media Shareables

Tag Blue Campaign on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram using @DHSBlueCampaign. Each month we share content you can distribute on your social channels to raise awareness of human trafficking in your communities.
  • Do you know how to recognize and report #HumanTrafficking? Follow @DHSBlueCampaign to learn more. #HumanTrafficking101
  • Watch and share @DHSBlueCampaign’s #HumanTrafficking101 videos to learn more about the crime.
  • DYK: @DHSBlueCampaign has free downloadable #HumanTrafficking awareness resources in Spanish and other languages. Take a look:  
  • Victims of forced labor can be found in the U.S. and overseas. Learn more about who is vulnerable to this crime through @DHSBlueCampaign:

For more information visit the Blue CampaignTo report suspected human trafficking: 1-866-347-2423
To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)

Monday, May 11, 2020

U.S. Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations Announce Effort to Combat Internet Exploitation of Children during the Pandemic

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Vermont

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont is proud to help lead the fight against child exploitation, and law enforcement will be ever-vigilant during the pandemic, according to U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan.  She stated: “Children are precious, innocent, and vulnerable, not to mention the future of Vermont.  We can and should be judged by how well we protect them.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office has no tolerance for victimization of our youth during this time of great challenge.  We will do all we can to protect them, including aggressive prosecution of the perpetrators.  We are especially grateful to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for its strong partnership and long tradition making investigation of crimes against children a top priority.”   
HSI Boston Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael S. Shea noted, “HSI offices in the Green Mountain State and throughout New England collaborate with partners such as the United States Attorney’s Office in Vermont to bring child predators to justice on a daily basis.  Our society’s current reliance on social distancing measures to combat COVID-19 can expose children to increased internet and social media content.  HSI considers outreach efforts such as this part of a greater strategy to help protect children and educate parents and guardians.”
The internet has always provided a way for predators to locate and harm children.  Because of COVID-19, children are home and spending more time online. Many parents are teleworking, performing the extraordinarily difficult task of balancing work with the needs of their children’s education and all the other demands of childcare. Predators have always sought child victims online, and they are seeking to take advantage of the shifting home dynamics caused by the pandemic. Children are vulnerable to a variety of forms of online predatory behavior, from sexual exploitation to financial crime. According to HSI, during the pandemic period, there has been a 150 percent increase in reported incidents in Vermont of online child exploitation and attempted exploitation.  These reports include incidents of cybercrime against children and child extortion.

Vermonters should be assured that law enforcement in the Green Mountain State – at the federal, state, local, and county level – works as a team every day to combat internet crimes against children, and we are ever-vigilant during this pandemic.  We thank all agencies, and in particular, HSI and the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for their close daily partnership to protect children in Vermont and around the world.  
Please review the following resource designed to keep children, families, and the general public informed. A flyer called “Internet Safety Tips for Parents and Guardians” can be viewed at
To report a child exploitation crime or concern call the CyberTipline: 866-347-2423. Your call will be routed to the appropriate resources based here in Vermont. 
Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.  Led by United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

How to keep your child safe online while stuck at home during the COVID-19 outbreak

If your family is stuck at home during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, it’s likely your children are spending a lot more time online. School, chats wivriends and grandparents, even music lessons — so much has shifted online.

Being connected helps children and teenagers reduce the impact of this new (temporary) normal and encourages them to continue with their lives. But it also presents a new set of challenges for every parent. How can you maximize all that the internet has to offer, while minimizing the potential harm? It’s not an easy balance on a normal day, let alone when facing a health crisis like COVID-19.

5 ways you can help keep your children safe online

1. Keep them safe with open communication

Have an honest dialogue with your children about who they communicate with and how. Make sure they understand the value of kind and supportive interactions and that mean, discriminatory or inappropriate contact is never acceptable. If your children experience any of these, encourage them to tell you or a trusted adult immediately. Be alert if your child appears to be upset or secretive with online activities or if they are experiencing cyberbullying.

Work with your child to establish rules on how, when and where devices can be used.

2. Use technology to protect them

Check that your child’s device is running the latest software and antivirus programs, and that privacy settings are on. Keep webcams covered when not in use. For younger children, tools such as parental controls, including safe search, can help keep online experiences positive.

Be cautious of free online educational resources. Your child should never have to provide a photo or their full name to use these resources. Remember to check the privacy settings to minimize data collection. Help your child learn to keep personal information private, especially from strangers.

3. Spend time with them online

Create opportunities for your child to have safe and positive online interactions with friends, family and you. Connecting with others is more important than ever at the moment and this can be an excellent opportunity for you to model kindness and empathy in your “virtual interactions”.

Help your child recognize and avoid misinformation and age-inappropriate content that may increase anxiety about the COVID-19 virus. Many digital resources from credible organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization are available for you and your child to learn about the virus together.

Spend time with your child to identify age appropriate apps, games and other online entertainment.

>> How to talk to your child about coronavirus


Boy at home with family sitting at a table on a laptop
Alain, 12, learning from home in Côte d'Ivoire. "I like to study at home, and it's easy to follow classes online. Of course I miss my friends, but it's also nice to spend more time with my dad at home."

4. Encourage healthy online habits

Promote and monitor good behavior online and on video calls. Encourage your children to be kind and respectful to classmates, to be mindful of what clothes they wear and to avoid joining video calls from a bedroom. 

Familiarize yourself with school policies and helplines to report cyberbullying or inappropriate online content.

As children spend more time online, they can be exposed to more advertising that may promote unhealthy foods, gender stereotypes or age-inappropriate material. Help them recognize online ads and use the opportunity to explore together what is wrong with some of the negative messaging you see.

>> How to deal with cyberbullying

5. Let them have fun and express themselves

Spending time at home can be a great opportunity for your children to use their voices online to share their views and support those in need during this crisis.

Encourage your child to take advantage of digital tools that get them up and moving, like online exercise videos for kids and video games that require physical movement.

Remember to balance online recreation with offline activities, including time outside, if possible.  

Friday, May 8, 2020

Sex Trafficking Operation Run By Polish Immigrants Busted: Feds

The men accused of running the "Norridge Girls" prostitution ring complained the coronavirus cut into their $40,000-a-month profits.

By Jonah Meadows, Patch Staff 

Marcin Ciborowski and Mariusz Daniluk are charged with running a yearslong prostitution ring in Chicago and the suburbs. (Jonah Meadows/Patch, File)

CHICAGO — A pair of undocumented Polish immigrants charged with running a prostitution ring complained in a recorded conversation about how the spread of the coronavirus had disrupted their sex trafficking operation, authorities said.
The two men ran what was known as the "Norridge Girls" prostitution operation, which involved arranging for the arrival of a rotating roster of sex workers from Poland, Russia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic, according to federal investigators.
Marcin Ciborowski, also known as "Rafal Golaszewski," was arrested Feb. 14 at O'Hare International Airport. The same day, immigration officials intercepted and turned back a pair of women suspected of working in his prostitution scheme that he had allegedly been waiting to pick up.
Ciborowski, who has been held ever since at the McHenry County Jail, has been arrested at least five times in four states, including twice in Illinois, according to the feds. His most recent arrest was a 2016 DUI charge in Illinois.
Authorities said he has been held in administrative custody pending his removal to Poland, which has been delayed by the cancellation of flights due to the coronavirus pandemic. He was previously deported in 2002 but arrested again in 2005 after illegally reentering the country, prosecutors said.

Ciborowski told investigators he last entered the country around 2010 after paying $7,000 to a Polish smuggling organization to illegally bring him over the U.S.-Mexico border, and then bought someone else's genuine identity cards for $2,000 from a person he believed had a contact at the Illinois Secretary of State's Office and then managed to obtain a commercial driver's license under the assumed name, according to federal prosecutors.
Investigators learned more about the scheme, which operated out of the Northwest Side of Chicago and several northwest suburbs, including Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village and Rosemont, by reviewing online postings on prostitution-focused forums, according to an affidavit from Oleg Sokolov, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service. Their online advertisements shared common language, including the phrase, "No African American Guys."
After comparing online prostitution ads with travel records, agents identified a dozen suspected Norridge Girl escorts and began interviewing them upon their arrival or departure from the country, the affidavit said.
Several of the women admitted working for the operation and said recruiters had led them to believe they were getting involved with a high-end escort business that involved "travel, gentlemen, yachts, and hotels," but in reality they found themselves working 12-hour days with up to 10 clients, Sokolov said. The leaders of the scheme would take half of their proceeds and occasionally take them to buy groceries or to wire money back to Europe.
One woman said she had been beaten at least 10 times by clients who demanded to have sex without a condom. She gave investigators photos showing her with a bloody nose and bruises, saying the ringleaders of the scheme never did anything to physically abusive clients and warned her against reporting the beatings to police, according to Sokolov's 93-page affidavit.
Another woman told investigators that she believed the ringleaders were able to stay operational for more than eight years at a location in the 7500 block of West Belmont Avenue by paying off local police, the IRS agent said. The operator of a shop on the ground floor of the building was aware of the ongoing prostitution business.
Starting the day after his Valentine's Day arrest at O'Hare, Ciborowski began placing phone calls on the prison phone system to a fellow accused sex trafficker to discuss the details of their prostitution business, according to the affidavit. The phone calls were in Polish and were recorded and translated by authorities.
Mariusz Daniluk, who has been charged alongside Ciborowski with one count of conspiracy to import, "employ, or harbor in any house or other place, aliens for the purpose of prostitution or for any other immoral purpose," continued to operate the Norridge Girl ring after another alleged accomplice, Rafal Surala, was deported back to Poland in November 2019 and after Ciborowski was arrested in February, according to federal prosecutors.
One of the sex workers told investigators she believed Ciborowski was the boss of the operation, according to the affidavit. She said she believed he "did bad things in Poland," such as "cut fingers off." She told agents she was scared to talk about more about Ciborowski or Surala out of fear for what they might do to her or her family, and she believed both were involved in organized crime.
Like Ciborowski, Daniluk did not have lawful status in the United States, according to authorities. He was living in the northwest suburbs after having been released on bond for immigration violations.
The two men were recorded discussing their declining prostitution business as the coronavirus spread throughout the Chicago area, the affidavit said.
"Nothing man, zero [expletive], you know responses," Daniluk said in mid-March.
"[Expletive], what the [expletive] is this, since the morning they're talking about this corona [expletive], [expletives]," Ciborowski said from inside the jail in Woodstock.
At one point, they allegedly spoke of the possibility one of their workers had contracted COVID-19.
"I don't know what, [expletive] fever, cough etc." Daniluk said.
"Uhuh, uhuh, let's hope it's not that [expletive] you know," Ciborowski responded.
"I don't know, I can't tell you since yesterday," Daniluk said.
"Yeah, and if one is sick, the rest might be sick as well," Cibrowski said.
"I don't [expletive] know, I don't know what it is, you know," Daniluk said.
"[expletive]. You can't get her [expletive] checked out?" Cibrowski asked.
"Well I can, but getting it checked out now is you know," Daniluk said.
On March 16, Daniluk complained about having to go to four stores to buy three packages of toilet paper.
"How's the sick one?" Ciborowski asked.
"The sick one is better," Daniluk said.
"Ah, so that means it's not corona," Ciborowski said.
"But I, I did not go inside," Daniluk said.
"Well, no no no, why the [expletive] would you," Ciborowski said.
Federal investigators estimated that the Norridge Girls ringleaders generated about $40,000 a month in revenue before the COVID-19 pandemic. They converted the cash into cryptocurrencies and bought expensive luxury vehicles, authorities said.
But like many Illinois business owners, they said the coronavirus had cut their profits to "zero" and, in transcripts of a translated phone calls, worried their operation was not generating enough cash to pay the bills after Gov. J.B. Pritzker's March 20 stay-at-home order shuttered non-essential operations.
"I know, I know, yeah," Ciborwoski said. "I'm wondering how long this will [expletive] last still."
"I don't have a clue," Daniluk said.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Trinity Mount Ministries - DOJ - PROJECT SAFE CHILDHOOD - Justice News - UPDATE - 06/03/2019


Project Safe Childhood
Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.  Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.