What in the World—Week of May 29

Mars testing paper packaging for its signature chocolate bar

Mars is swapping out the plastic wrapper for its namesake chocolate bar with environmentally friendly paper packaging. According to The Guardian, Mars will test the new wrapping at 500 Tesco stores across the country in a pilot project beginning today.

It’s the latest in a series of moves made by confectionary companies to eliminate plastic packaging. Last year, the iconic UK chocolate brand Quality Street swapped out its traditional foil and plastic wrappers for recyclable paper. And earlier this year, Nestlé announced that it would test paper packaging for its KitKat bars in Australia.

According to The Guardian, Mars is investing “hundreds of millions of pounds to redesign thousands of types of packaging” with a goal of reducing the use of virgin plastics by one-quarter in the short-term, while also increasing its use of recycled plastic in its packaging.

Richard Sutherland-Moore, an engineer responsible for global packaging innovation R&D at Mars-Wrigley, said that the biggest challenge for the brand was finding a paper solution with “an adequate level of barrier properties” to protect the chocolate while also ensuring food safety, quality and integrity.

Vatican asks bishops to tone it down on social

The Sermon on the Mount might be a revered part of Christianity, but sermonizing on Twitter is problematic.

The Vatican’s communications department issued a 20-page document called “Towards Full Presence. A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media,” in which it urged bishops and high-profile lay Catholic leaders to refrain from posting inflammatory comments/content on social media.

“In a time when we are increasingly divided, when each person retreats into his or her own filtered bubble, social media is becoming a path leading many towards indifference, polarization, and extremism,” reads the document. “When individuals do not treat each other as human beings but as mere expressions of a certain point of view that they do not share, we witness another expression of the ‘throw-away culture’ that proliferates the ‘globalization’–and normalization– of indifference.”

The document also says that simply “being Christian” is not enough. “It is possible to find many profiles or accounts on social media that proclaim religious content but do not engage in relational dynamics in a faithful way,” it said. “Hostile interactions and violent, degrading words, especially in the context of sharing Christian content, cry out from the screen and are a contradiction to the Gospel itself.”

According to Reuters, several conservative Catholic bishops and high-profile commentators in the U.S. have criticized Pope Francis, with some even endorsing what it described as “fierce, far-right video attacks” on the pontiff.

Universal partners with AI company Endel to create ‘functional’ music

First it came for the pictures. Then it came for words. And now artificial intelligence seems to be coming for the music.

Universal Music Group has partnered with Endel, a Berlin-based “AI sound wellness company,” on a deal that will enable UMG artists to create “soundscapes” for activities such as sleep, relaxation and focus that harness the power of AI.

In a release, the companies stressed that the agreement will “always respect creators’ rights and put artists at the centre of the creative process.” Endel had previously worked with Republic Records artist James Black to create an ambient soundscape called Wind Down, as well as with Grimes on a lullaby app.

“At UMG, we believe in the incredible potential of ethical AI as a tool to support and enhance the creativity of our artists, labels and songwriters,” said UMG’s executive vice-president, chief digital officer Michael Nash.

UMG had previously ordered streaming services to take down “Heart on My Sleeve,” which featured AI-generated voices of the Toronto artists Drake and The Weeknd. The song had gone massively viral online when UMG stepped in and said that the song represented “a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law.”

In a related note showing the rapid growth of AI-generated music, Engadget reported earlier this month that Spotify has already reportedly removed “tens of thousands” of songs from the generative AI company Boomy.

Bioré criticized for influencer post referencing school shootings

Skincare brand Bioré was hit with a wave of criticism last week after a paid influencer’s post was accused of trivializing gun violence.

The video was part of a broader effort by Bioré for mental health awareness month that featured multiple influencers. But in a TikTok post to her 27,000 followers, influencer and Michigan State University graduate Cecilee Max-Brown talked about a shooting on the school’s campus earlier this year that saw three people killed and five injured.

According to The New York Times, the video alternated between sober discussion of the proliferation of school shootings and gun violence, and a lighter tone in which Max-Brown narrated over scenes that showed her “exercising, resting and using skin care products.”

“Life has thrown countless obstacles at me this year—from a school shooting to having no idea what life is going to look like after college,” said Max-Brown in her video. “In support of mental health awareness month, I’m partnering with Bioré Skincare to strip away the stigma of anxiety. “We want you to get it all out,” the video continues. “Not only what’s in your pores but most importantly what’s on your mind too.”

The video was taken down less than 24 hours after it was posted, and Bioré promptly issued an apology admitting it “lacked sensitivity around an incredibly serious tragedy” and that its “tonality was completely inappropriate.” While Bioré said all creator content is reviewed, it does not edit or censor content, particularly content relating to mental health.

In a separate apology, Max-Brown said that the video was simply meant to “spread awareness” of the struggles with anxiety she has faced since the incident. “This partnership was not intending to come off as the product fixing the struggles I’ve had since this event.”

Twitter withdraws from EU agreement to combat disinformation

In just the latest black eye for Twitter since its takeover by Elon Musk, the social platform has withdrawn from a voluntary agreement set by the European Union to curb online disinformation.

That drew a rebuke from Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market, who tweeted Friday that the social platform’s obligations to combat disinformation remain. “You can run but you can’t hide,” he said.

Time quoted Breton as saying that as of Aug. 25, fighting disinformation will become a legal obligation under the EU Digital Services Act. Twitter will qualify as a “very large online platform,” requiring it to address harmful content and submit annual risk assessments to the commission.

Twitter was among 38 signatories to the EU’s Code of Practice, alongside major tech companies including Google, Meta and TikTok, as well as NGOs, software companies and fact-checking organizations.

Some of those companies submitted their first baseline reports in February, outlining their plans to stamp out disinformation pertaining to everything from the Ukraine invasion to Covid. But according to Time, Twitter’s report was “short of data” and failed to include commitments that it would empower fact-checkers.

Failure to comply with the DSA could result in fines of up to 6% of Twitter’s annual revenue (which has fallen precipitously in recent months) or even the EU cutting off access to the platform’s more than 440 million users in the region.

Chris Powell