(Elder)Blogging To Give Shape To Our Lives
One Kind of Retirement Choice

Facebook = Elder Hatebook

A few weeks ago, Crabby Old Lady received an email from Facebook advising her that a blogger she knows wished to “friend” her. Crabby had never looked at the Facebook website but figured “what the hell” and accepted.

Since then, invitations tumble into Crabby's inbox at the rate of two or three a week. She has accepted all but those from a few people she never heard of and she briefly dickered around with her page that was created when she accepted the first friend.

Mostly, they want to know things like the name of Crabby's college and her major which hold no interest for her at age 66. There are networks and groups to join, requests to write on friends' "walls", products to buy, charities to contribute to and - well, Crabby got bored trying to figure out the purpose.

There is no real conversation that Crabby can find as takes place on our blogs and anyway, this blog and Crabby's life take up most of her time and there doesn’t appear to be much going on at Facebook except people collecting friends.

Then, earlier this week, Nicole Freydberg, who blogs at Freydblog, emailed Crabby regarding hate groups aimed at elders on Facebook. When she investigated, Crabby found dozens of them. Here are some examples of Facebook hate speech (with poor grammar, spelling and four-letter words intact):

Who is with me on this, who thinks old people in school should be taken into the quad and be tarred and feathered for their annoyance , stupidity, and outright wasting of time.
Children and old people should probably go to hell. Children are bastards. Old people are surly and they smell weird. Fuck that!
Too long have irate old farts been a hazard too society. They can’t hear, they can’t change their own diapers, and they sure as hell can’t drive!
Ugh yeah old people are so gross. Theyre all wrinkly and smelly. Just thinking about them makes me angry!
sometimes i see old people in wheelchairs and i have a strong urge to push them down the stairs.
Old People Make Me Want To Puke
Old people drive like they fuck: slow and sloppy
I like to beat the living crap out of old people
Let us unite and join for a common cause, abolish social security and legalize euthanasia.

[You can find a long, long list of these Facebook hate groups in a post at Nicole’s site.]

The above statements are maybe five percent of what Crabby Old Lady found in under 30 minutes. Just kids, you say? Not important? No one suddenly becomes a bigot at age 50; it is inculcated from youth. These are the people who will one day run companies, governments and vote, and they will carry these prejudices with them as they grow up, move into adult world and make decisions about old people.

To make clear how disgusting this hate speech is, Crabby applied The TGB Bias Test to some of the above excerpts wherein the words “women” or “blacks” are substituted for “old people”:

  1. Old People Make Me Want To Puke
  2. Black people make me want to puke
  1. old people in school should be taken into the quad and be tarred and feathered
  2. women in school should be taken into the quad and be tarred and feathered
  1. I like to beat the living crap out of old people
  2. I like to beat the living crap out of black people
  1. Ugh yeah old people are so gross
  2. Ugh yeah black people are so gross

Would all those No. 2 statements be tolerated on Facebook? To check, Crabby searched for them as she had with “old people”, “senior citizens”, etc. and found none. Since she doubts race and gender bias are nonexistent among 30 million members, Crabby can only believe Facebook owners remove those offensive postings. But as within most of our society, hate speech against elders is acceptable at Facebook.

Although it is frightening to know that so many kids are growing up with hateful attitudes toward old people, Crabby Old Lady faults the investors and owners of Facebook for allowing these offensive groups to continue and increase in number. The company's terms of service contain this warning:

You may not post or share Content that:
  • is obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit
  • depicts graphic or gratuitous violence
  • makes threats of any kind or that intimidates, harasses, or bullies anyone
  • is derogatory, demeaning, malicious, defamatory, abusive, offensive or hateful

But who enforces this policy? Not Facebook, at least not when abusive language targets elders. There is no contact email except for the media. Each entry within each group contains a “report” button that launches a form where objectionable material can be submitted for review. But there are thousands of hateful comments like those Crabby quoted above and it should not be users’ responsibility to report each and every one.

By allowing these groups to exist, Facebook has become Hatebook.

Meanwhile, big media is fawning all over their latest internet darling, 23-year-old Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, as in this Time magazine interview last week. Apparently, the reporter cares more about big numbers, IPOs and stock options than Facebook's ageist content.

Crabby Old Lady is ashamed and embarrassed to have allowed herself to be part of this website. She has sent her objections to the press email address and deactivated her Facebook account. (Full removal is not allowed.) It would be good if other elder Facebook members would write on their own blogs about the site's tolerance of ageist bigotry and join Crabby in canceling accounts and writing to Facebook.

Nothing like this ever changes unless you make a lot of noise about it.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Matty has an - uh, unique deterrent for a nursing home Lothario in I Think I'm Going to Hell.]


I had stupidly opened an account and experienced the same thing as you did. Just found it totally uninteresting.
I also find it incredible that you cannot delete the damn thing, only deactivate it.
While deactivating, I left a note, saying that as an elder, I didn't feel safe with so many elder hate groups and violent groups and send the names of the said groups. Added that I couldn't possibly trust a site that didn't follow its own rules.
Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

This makes me glad that I have never visited Facebook, and never will.

I marvel at the infinite vicious, ignorant, destructive attitudes, and actions (and inactions) that you bring to our attention. Each time I read such a post on these "pages," I conclude: THIS one tops the earlier posts that I have similarly considered, Tops. And then, you slam down another. Way to go, Ronni. And thank you — for me and for my ancestors.

I agree that this type of speech is wrong and it needs to be stopped.

But I wonder about the demographics of these posters. Most of us can remember when we thought our 25-year-old teachers were "old." Or when we didn't "trust anyone over 30." I am wondering if some of this isn't just a desire of kids to have a private space away from grownups.

I've never been to Facebooks but I gather that the "groups" are just something you click to "join" if the name sounds right to you?

Thank you for exposing this. I can see your post as an opinion piece in a major paper.

Sites like Facebook and MySpace encourage people to leave written, public records of the loutish sentiments they would otherwise express only to entertain and support their similarly benighted friends.

Bigots are irresistibly drawn to the Internet because it allows them to spread their toxic view in a seemingly "public" forum that requires no actual personal accountability. It's the electronic equivalent of the Klan lynch mobs who hid behind bedsheets.

I think a particularly depressing aspect of the current political campaigns is the emergence of candidate and campaign MySpace pages.

These pages have some entertainment value, however, because of their ironic content. Check out, for example, Mitt Romney's page. I particularly enjoyed the pro-family values photo comment from "SexyLilBunny."

Some kids today seem to enjoy saying hateful things and old people have been targets of more than that when youth gangs beat up elderly homeless or those they think are weak enough they can get away with it.

I haven't tried Facebook as because a friend invited me to join her group there, I tried MySpace, I couldn't see anything there for me and putting up a photo, as my friends had done, turned out to just end up having me hit on by 20 somethings. I figured Facebook would be more of the same.

The same friend got me to try Eons, (www.eons.com) a group exclusively for over 50s. I haven't done more than join (rainnnn there if you did and want to contact me) and I have no idea how useful it will be as I haven't taken time to join their groups of which they have many. I don't think there is a chat but more of a bulletin board for elders to exchange ideas and maybe to meet friends.

Despite practically every person I know running off to join Facebook, I have stubbornly resisted. I feel that my blog gives me as much online presence as I'd like - and takes up so much of my time that I don't know when I'd hang about on Facebook trying to collect "friends"! Despite being (presumably) in their target demographic, I just don't see the point and consequently I have never even been on the site.

I must say that I'm pretty horrified by what I read in your post. Yes, you can argue that the people posting this are teenagers and don't know any better, but can somebody please explain to me where all this hate and anger come from?? I certainly don't remember anything like it when I was growing up, and that wasn't a million years ago.

I find it appalling that Facebook does not take down this sort of content. As you say, Crabby, how is this any different to hate speech about blacks, women, Muslims or disabled people? And yet it is not seen as being offensive enough to remove - despite contravening the site's own regulations!

I've said it before and I'll say it once more, with feeling: it'll be a cold day in hell before you see me on Facebook.

"These are the people who will one day run companies, governments and vote, and they will carry these prejudices with them as they grow up, move into adult world and make decisions about old people."

And they will one day... be old. This kind of hate comes from fear and self-loathing, things that are too, too prevalent in much of today's younger generation. My only consolation is that one day their piercings and tattoos are going to are going to look pathetic.

Like most people who have commented, I've avoided Facebook. But maybe that's the wrong tack. Maybe we should all join and change the numbers. When I first heard of MySpace I avoided it because it was mostly kids. Since then, I've joined and the numbers are changing. It is now peopled by all ages. The kids at first didn't like it, but they got used to us.

What I heard about facebook wasn't good so I never went there. It just looked to me like another place geared toward adolescent nastiness and hooking up. Not my cuppa. After what you've written here, Ronni, you couldn't pay me to get involved. My blood pressure couldn't take it and neither could I. Think about this: these kids could well be the people who get to choose our nursing home or could be appointed our guardians! It scares the hell outta me!

My kids don't act that way. Ever. But then, they don't use Facebook or MySpace either.

Social networking needs to be social, not antisocial.

Good grief, they're getting downright hostile!

I think that the anonymity of the web does bring out annoyances and turn them into extremist statements that aren't as seriously meant in reality. But the bad part is that it fuels by mob mentality to make it seem okay.

I think Facebook is definitely responsible for overseeing and enforcing their stated policy.

Unfortunately, this extreme bigotry towards elders is on various videogames, too, where I've heard that you get points for running over an old lady crossing the street. That's why I've always decried videogames, admittedly with only these rumors as evidence.

This is the kinda "stuff" that elders hear about and makes them even more reluctant to become bloggers.

Reads like a bunch of little kids, or immature older ones or adults trying to see who can write the most outrageous comment.

Glad to read your take on any of these websites. I was turned off by Eons from the get-go. Now, this Facebook doesn't seem to be worth the time it takes to type their name.

I made a post over at www.EldersTribune.com in response to this from a young person's perspective. I do hope people read it and continue the discussion when you have time.

However nasty this is, it turns up all over the Web, not just on Facebook. I was invited to join by someone I respect who is making constructive use of the networking possibilities. I already have a couple of projects in hand that will be developed in part using Facebook networking. As someone above said, the comments you refer to are coming from a bunch of immature kids and while I agree that Facebook should be policing the site better I think it is wrong to turn away from potentially useful technology because someone else is abusing it.

I've recently joined Facebook, and notice that it is mostly geared to youngsters, with their obsessions with looks, music and dating.

However, it is perfectly possible to create a functionally very useful area of your own in groups (I'm on the process of setting up one for my village right now).

Personally, I don't take much notice of the age-hate stuff - they're just proving how immature they are. And ridiculous: unlike blacks, asians, red-heads and all the other hate-groups (apologies to all!), we're all going to be old. Unless we die first.

If anything, I wish to be critical of many older people in their reluctance to learn new technologies - although developers must take much of the blame for always focusing on what teenagers want, rather than on what older people regard as valuable.

If we're so quick to leave where we're not wanted, how can we ever expect to have equal weight there?

Also Ronni - think about this quote

Meanwhile, big media is fawning all over their latest internet darling, 23-year-old Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, as in this Time magazine interview last week.

How would you have viewed someone else characterising Zuckerberg by his age if he had been 63?


Do you mean I should leave out ages in reporting? If the founder had been older, Crabby Old Lady would have written:

"..."63-year-old Facebook founder..."

Age is pertinent to this story because Zuckerberg is extremely young for such success as his and his age relates to Crabby's blog story.

Oh,pooh, a tempest in a teapot. Saying outrageous things--speaking in hyperbole--characterizes some speech, sometimes; it's rhetorical, not literal.

Well you have been critical of such reporting in the past and your reference to him came over - to me at least - as dismissive because of his age. And no - I don't think that his age - as opposed to the age of those making those posts - is entirely relevant to the point you were making, in that it would have been made whether you cited his age or no.

Ronni people who demean and slander older people are beneath contempt and obviously misguided in their ignorance. Ageism, to my mind, is as revolting as sexism or racism.

The libels and slanders, the hate speech against old people must not stand. So I am not disabling my account but rather using it to point to the issue you raised. LinkedIn and Facebook are two social networking sites that seem to have professional value to me right now. If I were a musician, I'd add MySpace. But bottom line, on the web there is the entire range of egregious expression represented. Thanks for drawing our attention to this. I hope it can be corrected, and in correcting it I hope we address a little the ageist underpinnings of a youth culture that is over-empowered socially because it has long term economic power.

1. These institutions aren't teaching them very much. Maybe they should step aside and let someone else take their seat in the class.

2. I would be so embarrassed and heart-broken to be these kid's parents

3. I can't wait until they are "old people" (wouldn't be fun if each of them had to have their nasty little comment tattooed on themselves for all the world to see)

It would be nice if their comments could be memorialized in some way so when they, too, are old, they would be confronted with their words every few days.

Ronni, I'm glad you're pushing back on this--I'd like to see this report go out to a wider audience. I bet the AARP magazine would be very interested in an article about this.

I am a 24 year old college graduate that has been using Facebook since it first became popular. While it may not be very interesting to some of you, it has allowed me to keep in touch with friends that have scattered all over the country since graduation (both high school and college).

Though I do want to apologize for any offense my age group caused regarding the horrible things said on facebook, however, I feel it is equally unnecessary to blame all facebook's users for the fault of the few people who clearly have an over-exaggerated love of expletives. I have over 200 actual friends through facebook, whom I am certain would never post anything of the sort. In a large group of people, especially one a vast as the internet, you're bound to get a few crazies.

Not to mention, I'm not entirely sure what was said was truly meant to be hateful, incredibly inappropriate...perhaps, but hardly a hate group on par with the KKK (as said on a previous comment).

Have you never once had a bad day and on the way home have to drive behind a horrible driver, who just happens to be a woman? I have, and I have legitimately thought "stupid women drivers!" Being a woman driver myself, I obviously do not actually believe that all women make horrible drivers. But will someone else out there think it's my goal to be demeaning and misogynistic? I suppose it's just the art of the hyperbole, some people get it and let it pass and some don't.

Ronni: I'm polling eGenerations members about their own experiences, if any, with elder hate. I'll let you know if they come up with any examples. Personally, I've often been ignored, but I can't remember any instances of hatred being expressed toward me, either in person or in writing. I'm glad I've never visited Facebook. Those writers (certainly not all Facebook members) are sick! Still, I hope we "old folks" are not being too sensitive. I'm usually content to "live and let live."

Facebook used to be the college-aged social network, but as myspace turned younger and younger, teens started moving to Facebook to pose as college students.

16 year olds posting dumb crap about "old" people in an attempt to appear sophisticated is laughable, not hate speech.

It no fun being insulted, but censorship is worse. Dumbing down the web to the lowest common denominator of thin skin isn't a place that I want to bother with

Unlike racists people insulting the "old" will one day be hoist by their own petard.

I have joined a couple of these hate groups to see what they are about. Do take a look at my post at Elders Tribune if anyone is interested to see beneath the surface.

Nobody is trying to re-write the constitution or ruin Facebook. Facebook already has a policy against hosting hate speech.

Thanks everyone for joining in on this conversation. Ronni, thank you so much for giving this the attention it deserves.

Besty: I too feel a bit of press coverage would be great; however, I wonder if AARP would just be preaching to the choir. How to converse more with the generation who is generating this language? What other press outlets could we notify?

Jonathan: Ahh, free speech. Censorship. So. The options? To allow the racist and antisemetic groups back on facebook. Or, to keep it even-steven. Remove the elder hate groups. AND, pop in a a little community education while at it. That: would be the responsible thing for facebook administrators to do.

Penelope: The damage? Ignore? Hate speech, whether joking or malicious, does too often escalate into abuse. Elder abuse or even passive neglect is predominant around the world (even in cultures where people think 'they respect their elders over there!') and academics are just now looking into the issues surrounding it. But I have a feeling for every kid who laughs it off, several take it to heart. And even if it hurts one person in a grocery store to hear a malicious joke, isn't that harm enough?

Pete Townshend is an anti-elder bigot and The Who should be banned. That's the problem with kids today.

You know, I find this absolutely appalling as well, despite being under 30, but at the same time, I also find the opening of Facebook to the general public an annoyance. Facebook was originally built for university students to connect with each other (and alumni, as I was out of college by the time it started), then a couple of years ago the doors were opened and an influx of children were let in, hence the elder-bashing. I did a search as well after reading your article and the vast majority of those in elder-bashing groups are of high school age.

Isn't there anywhere for adults to go on the internet anymore? I don't think this is just about being over 50 or over 30. I wish Facebook had remained a place for the educated, and not the masses.

A friend asked me to try out this "radio" thingy one day. Goodness! You wouldn't believe the things people were saying on it. Why aren't we passing laws and policing what people say and think on these things. Surely it will lead to the fall of our civilization!!!

That's what 90% of you sound like in the comments. I'm laughing and crying at the same time.

Because you run across some short-sighted, small-minded people spouting off the first thing that pops into their brains, you seem to think the whole thing is a waste of time. Facebook is popular because it provides a useful way for people of any age to connect with minimal effort. It is an excellent way for seniors groups to form and keep up, if they took the time to learn the ins and outs of the system.

Like TV and radio, there will always be channels and stations that play something ~you~ find objectionable. If that is the case, do what most of us do -- change the channel or click the back button. On the other hand, knowing what these people are thinking could be to your benefit.

I think that the "age hate" represented on facebook is geared more toward the dislike of non-traditional students. Granted, the majority of comments are rude, personal, and subjective. Possibly there is no need for the group dedicated to making fun of old people...Just possibly.

I think there is a wall of misunderstanding between our generations. The young, myself included, enjoy extremes of sarcasm, and humor that is aimed to shock the reader/ viewers. Of course, this type of humor leads to a macho-est style of competitive posting. That does not mean that they are serious.
The elder generations, I think, don't understand the jest in this type of humor.
Back to the subject of non-traditional students: (i.e. students in college later in life)

It is actually a subject of much frustration for many people in the average age range for college students. Frustration because of the differences in the approach that the older students more commonly take to their classes (possibly due to more "life experience" or the fact that they, themselves are older than the professor). I think some common attributes seen in non-traditional students are: inability to keep up with class work, constant questioning of the classroom material, no care for classroom etiquette, tardiness (with excuses, always very loudly spoken excuses), and poor note taking habits.
This list of common attributes is not definitive of all non-traditionals, in any way, I'm sure there are non-trads out there who are great students (though I doubt there are many).
The common attributes as listed are a severe disruptive force for the classroom environment, due to many reasons. I wont list them all, but here is an example: Challenging the instructor, this is common for non-trads from my experience. The instructor is not pulling his or her information from a rabbit filled hat, it is their life's work to study and relate this information to student groups, however a non-trad heard from a friend at church who knows someone that may know something that the professor is wrong. It does not matter, and in attempting to prove a professor wrong with a usually skewed logic and idealism laden assumption the class at large is loosing valuable time and education (but it cant wait until after class, as the non-trad must get back home post haste.)

Well, sorry to drag on, but I hope that this shows somewhat a root from where all of this age-ist angst is coming from.
It's not because we play too many video games, are self-indulgent beyond what your generation is, narcissistic, or in anyway inherently hateful to our elders. I surmise that it is much more a problem related to the problem caused by the rise in non-trad students in recent years.

24yr old, College Grad.

Hi Ronni...thanks for this sobering look at Facebook.

What I'm finding most annoying about Facebook these days is the number of 40-something genX noobs who want to use it for business networking...

Yes, a network that was set up to keep Ivy-league fratboys safe from MySpace predators *should* most definitely be used for business networking (insert sarcastic tone here)...

And to Young Steve--as a non-trad student, I've seen many trads also challenge professors. Esp. young male trads who seem to feel a distinct need to verbally joust with a professor and interrupt him/her to impress the chicks in the class. So don't give me any crapola about older people in classes when your own peers are just as--if not more--disruptive.

(oh, and I also like the way a number of young people these days beleive that 40 is "elderly". hmm...guess when you leave the 18-34 demographic, you're out to pasture.)

Well Tish,

I hope that you graduate sometime before you hit sixty, starting your life at forty is hard enough. Let's not get going on finding your "career" once you hit your twilight years, it'll most likely be very hard to move up the company ladder if you only have 20 years of productive labor in you before you're off to the home.
I kid, I kid. See, this is the type of humor that I refered to earlier (cite middle of my last post)it's funny to us "whipersnapers" though I fully understand if you don't find it so.
Hey Tish, if I may call you Tish, I'm not saying that you are elderly at forty by any means, just that you are far removed from the normative college demographic (Undergrad being from 18 to 25 yrs.)
Peace Out.
Young Steve.

Have to agree with Tish. As a non-trad grad, I displayed none of the traits that appear to annoy your demographic, graduated with a 4.0, and also thought the young, testosterone-laden students were the most disruptive in their strutting of feathers for the females.

Oh, dear. Seems as if the issue of elder-bashing is equally as polarizing as women-bashing, gay-bashing, etc. If there is one thing the average person hangs onto for dear life, it's personal perspectives and prejudices.

Studies show that watching violence on TV leads to a de-sensitization that allows violence to become the unexamined norm. This paradigm shift applies to any activity that devalues or denigrates human beings. So how do we determine where that line is, when it changes from sarcasm to custom? At the very least, this behavior prevents any meaningful or collegial dialogue within the Facebook (or any) community.

I didn't read Ronni's post as a blow to free speech, although some of the comments come perilously close. We can choose to either respond or disengage from the group. There is the real possibility that people engaging in bashing will not only come to accept it as the norm, but even those who don't actively participate, but only keep silent, are giving tacit approval. This reminds me of the famous quote about "they came for the Jews, and I was silent." We all know the ending of that story.

Still, internet=free speech=free wheeling, and navigating the Web is at your own risk. The decision to speak up or not is an individual one, and should remain so.

Having spent most of my adult life working in universities, I've seen hundreds of thousands of 18-26 year olds come and go. Attitudes and behaviors have changed over the years. Time was when younger people deferred to elders because it was expected, and generally led to civilized exchange of ideas, etc. Every year, I see the phenomenon of "entitlement" grow. While transcribing interview tapes for doctoral dissertations on the subject, I was appalled that every single interviewee felt that they deserved an A, no matter whether they had actually earned it or not. Not only that, if they received any lower grade, it was their expectation that they should be able to argue the professor into changing it. From colleagues at other universities, I'm hearing the same thing. From a true learning environment, we have evolved into a bottom line way of thinking: "I (or my dad or mom) paid for this education, now you OWE me an A."

Wow. Sorta parallels what's happening in society--Enron, the Bush/Cheney cancer, corporate greed to the annihilation of the masses tacitly (or vocally) saying "I am above the law. I am the center of the universe, and I will destroy anything in my path to acquire money and power." Maybe a little harsh to compare young adults to that crap, but when they have these people as role models, well, it's no wonder social values in the US have gone to shit. I don't blame the young folks, they're just trying to survive in a very scary global environment.

Never before has our society been in such deep moral doo-doo, which includes trashing the environment. I think, therefore, it behooves each of us to closely examine our beliefs and get to work on figuring out how to communicate inter-generationally so we can figure out how to clean up this mess. To not do so is to hasten the end of civilization as we know it.

Where did all this damn immaturity come from?

These kids may be young, but as far as I'm concerned they're GROWN. They're voting and paying taxes,and working next to me; they get annoyed when I remind them that their asses should be making real friends, instead of "collecting" friends, like downloads, and that their right to act stupid is gone. Grow up, college is over!

And their folks are around my age, so I wanna know, are they disrespecting them too? Young Steve, would you direct that ha ha sarcasm to your mom, then say I understand if you don't find it funny?

Many a truth is said in jest.

Or, maybe your mom isn't dealing with her own ageing, knowing that you are nothing but a grown walking stick, so hollow, that you can't even support her, heh heh.

But I guess this is what happens when middle, and upper middle-class parents keep their kids infantilized.

Um, wow!

Question about Facebook groups, then.

If I were to start an intergenerational group on Facebook, what could we do to make it productive, instead of just another passive conglomerate of folks who support something? Should I try to establish something?

Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks y'all!


I came across this on the web today - thought it might be of value..


To replace the current 'deactivation' you can now delete your full account.

Here is the link to the TimesOnline artilcle and below, a TinyURL for the deletion process itself.

"If you visit the account section of Facebook you are offered only the opportunity to “deactivate”. This merely hides your public profile until you next log in. It’s a useful option if you are likely to return. To delete your details permanently you must first unearth the anonymous-looking customer service form that is hidden away at tinyurl.com/2xv52v.

When completing this form tell Facebook in both the subject and the message fields that you wish to have your account deleted. To check if this has been done properly either create a fake Facebook account or ask a friend to search for your details a few days later."

Hope this helps...

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