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Sony PlayStation Suspends Ads on Facebook & Instagram to Protest Hate Speech

The Sony PlayStation Logo. (Reuters)

The Sony PlayStation Logo. (Reuters)

The call to boycott ads on Facebook started after the social networking giant decided to allow controversial posts by US President Donald Trump to stay up.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: July 3, 2020, 12:40 PM IST

Sony Playstation has joined over 400 advertisers who have decided to pull out ads from Facebook and Instagram over its failure to curb hate speech and misinformation. The #StopHateForProfit boycott has more than 400 participants and the civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League on June 17, are now calling for a global expansion of Facebook ad boycott.

“In support of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, we have globally suspended our Facebook and Instagram activity, including advertising and non-paid content, until the end of July,” PlayStation said in a statement to GamesIndustry.biz on Thursday. As hundreds of companies halt advertising on Facebook and Instagram, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is confident the brands would soon return on the platform.

According to a report in The Information, Zuckerberg told employees he was reluctant to bow to the threats of a growing ad boycott, saying “my guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.” The social networking giant said it was getting better at removing harmful content and that the platform does not in any way profit from hate speech.

The call to boycott ads on Facebook started after the social networking giant decided to allow controversial posts by US President Donald Trump to stay up. American food company Chobani, drugmaker Pfizer and software major SAP were among the latest brands pulling who joined Coca Cola, Adidas, cleaning supply firm Clorox, Conagra (the maker of Slim Jim, Duncan Hines and Pam), fast-food chain Denny’s, Ford and Starbucks to pull their ads from the platform. Facebook’s digital advertising accounted for over 98 per cent of the company’s nearly $70 billion in revenue last year.


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California Sues Cisco For Alleged Job Discrimination Based on Indian Employee's Caste

FILE PHOTO: The Cisco logo is seen at their booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: The Cisco logo is seen at their booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

Regulators have said that Cisco’s treatment of the employee, who is not named, violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

  • Associated Press
  • Last Updated: July 3, 2020, 11:44 AM IST

California regulators have sued Cisco Systems, saying an engineer faced discrimination at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters because he is a Dalit Indian. India’s caste system long placed Dalits at the bottom of a social hierarchy, once terming them “untouchables.” Inequities and violence against Dalits have persisted for decades after India banned caste discrimination.

The engineer worked on a team at Cisco’s San Jose headquarters with Indians who all immigrated to the U.S. as adults, and all of whom were of high caste, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The “higher caste supervisors and co-workers imported the discriminatory system’s practices into their team and Cisco’s workplace,” the lawsuit says.

It says Cisco’s treatment of the employee, who is not named, violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. The Civil Rights Act bans employment discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex and national origin. The lawsuit notes the employee is Dalit Indian, and that he is darker-complexioned than non-Dalit Indians.

“It is unacceptable for workplace conditions and opportunities to be determined by a hereditary social status determined by birth,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish. Two men who were Cisco supervisors and higher-caste Indians, Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, are named in the suit for discriminating and harassing the employee. The employee received less pay and fewer opportunities, and when he opposed “unlawful practices, contrary to the traditional order between the Dalit and higher castes, Defendants retaliated against him,” the lawsuit says.

Cisco did not steps to prevent this discrimination, the suit says. The suit says that Iyer told other workers that the employee was Dalit and enrolled at India’s prestigious Indian Institute of Technology through affirmative action. The employee contacted Cisco human relations, wanting to file a discrimination complaint against Iyer, and then Iyer took away his responsibilities and made other changes that reduced the employee’s role and made him feel isolated from his coworkers. The suit says Iyer disparaged the employee to coworkers and said they should avoid him.

After Iyer stepped down, Kompella replaced him, and the suit says Kompella “continued to discriminate, harass, and retaliate” against the employee, including by “giving him assignments that were impossible to complete under the circumstances.” The lawsuit says that Cisco investigated and did not “substantiate any caste-based or related discrimination or retaliation” against the employee.

Cisco Systems Inc., a major supplier of computer networking gear that makes the internetwork, said in a statement that it is committed to an inclusive workplace. It said it has “robust processes to report and investigate concerns raised by employees,” which it followed in this case, and that it is in compliance with all laws and its own policies. The company said will defend against the allegations in the complaint. Cisco spokeswoman Helen Saunders declined to say if Iyer and Kompella were still at Cisco, referring a reporter to LinkedIn.


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Facebook, Instagram to Advice Users in US to Wear Masks to Prevent Spread of Covid-19

Both Facebook and Instagram will now show an alert on top of the News Feed to encourage users to wear face masks in the US. The social network said that with the rise in COVID-19 cases in the US, they will put an alert at the top of Facebook and Instagram to remind everyone to wear face coverings and find more prevention tips from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Facebook will direct users to the COVID-19 Information Centre. Instagram will also have a similar notification with CDC links. Facebook said it is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed during the coronavirus public health crisis.

“We’re also working to address the long-term impacts by supporting industries in need and making it easier for people to find and offer help in their communities,” the company said in a statement on Thursday. The CDC has reported a new single-day record of COVID-19 cases across the country at 54,357.

According to the update of the CDC website, there are 54,357 new cases and 725 new deaths on Thursday compared to the previous day, Xinhua news agency reported. The recent surge of the pandemic also led to record positive rates and hospitalizations. Hospitals and ICUs are being stretched to capacity in states such as Arizona, Texas and Alabama. According to the CDC, 90,626 cases and 500 deaths of COVID-19 among healthcare personnel have been reported across the country.


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Apple to Reclose Dozens of Retail Stores in US as Covid-19 Cases Spike

Image for Representation
(Image: Reuters)

Image for Representation
(Image: Reuters)

Apple has already reclosed 47 stores in recent weeks in the United States as Covid-19 cases continue to rise rapidly.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: July 2, 2020, 11:36 AM IST

Apple which has reclosed 47 own-branded retail stores in the US would shut 30 additional stores by Thursday, the media reported. “Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas. We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.

This brings the total reclosures in the US to 77. Apple has 271 retail stores in the country. After reopening some locations, Apple said last month it was planning to temporarily close some retail stores in four US states — Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida — in view of growing cases of Covid-19.

“Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas,” Apple was quoted as saying in a statement. Since the US economy started reopening, some states have seen a spike in Covid-19 cases. The US accounts for the world’s highest number of infections and fatalities with 2,685,806 and 128,061, respectively.


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Google Takes Down Ads Related to Misleading Voter Registration Information in US

Image for Representation.

Image for Representation.

Like other major U.S. tech companies including Facebook and Twitter, Google says it is trying to stem the spread of misinformation in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: June 30, 2020, 11:12 AM IST

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Monday that it had removed search ads that charged users searching for voting information large fees for voter registration or harvested their personal data. A Google spokeswoman told Reuters that the company’s misrepresentation policy barred such ads, which were found by the nonprofit watchdog Tech Transparency Project when searching for terms such as “register to vote,” “vote by mail,” and “where is my polling place.”

Tech Transparency Project said in a report on Monday that nearly a third of the more than 600 ads generated by its Google searches took users to sites that try to charge large fees for voter registration services, extract personal data for marketing purposes, install deceptive browser extensions, or serve other misleading ads. The report said that the first ad in a Google search for “register to vote” directed users to a site from PrivacyWall.org that charged $129 for “same-day processing” of voter registration. U.S. voters do not need to pay to register to vote.

PrivacyWall did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. A Google spokeswoman said the company did not yet know how the ads had got through its approval process, which uses a combination of automated and manual review. “We have strict policies in place to protect users from false information about voting procedures, and when we find ads that violate our policies and present harm to users, we remove them and block advertisers from running similar ads in the future,” the spokeswoman said.

“Some people may find it difficult to distinguish Google ads from other kinds of content because as of January, search ads on Google feature the same typeface and colour scheme as organic search results,” the TTP report said. Social media companies and online platforms, including Facebook Inc and Twitter are under pressure to curb misinformation on their sites in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election in November.


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Reddit Bans Popular Pro-Trump Forum For Violating Its Hate Speech Policies

A Reddit mascot is shown at the company's headquarters in San Francisco, California. (Image Source: Reuters)

A Reddit mascot is shown at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, California. (Image Source: Reuters)

The subreddit was known for its devotion to US President Donald Trump and had an average of 7,780 daily active users currently.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: June 30, 2020, 2:41 PM IST

Social media site Reddit on Monday shut down r/The_Donald, a forum which long served as a popular online home base for fans of President Donald Trump, saying it violated the site’s hate speech rules. Other sites also conducted high-profile sweeps: Amazon.com Inc’s live-streaming platform Twitch temporarily banned Trump’s official channel, saying it violated Twitch’s policy on hateful speech, while Google’s YouTube suspended six leading white nationalist accounts.

Reddit Chief Executive Steve Huffman said in a post detailing changes to the company’s content policies that communities and users promoting hate would be barred. Reddit was banning about 2,000 subreddits, the majority of which were inactive, he said. In response to the actions by Reddit and Twitch, a Trump campaign spokesman directed people to Trump’s campaign app “to hear directly from the president.” He did not directly address the sites’ actions.

Huffman said earlier this month that Reddit would strengthen its content policy after Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the firm’s board and former CEO Ellen Pao criticized its handling of r/The_Donald. Reddit had “quarantined” the forum last year, citing threats of violence. The new list of banned subreddits also included the left-wing r/ChapoTrapHouse, which Huffman said consistently hosted rule-breaking content. It had an average of 42,949 daily active users, according to Reddit.

Reddit’s list showed r/The_Donald had an average of 7,780 daily active users, down from its heyday around the 2016 presidential election when it regularly drew hundreds of thousands of visitors each day. Only about 200 of the banned forums listed by Reddit had more than 10 daily users. “All communities on Reddit must abide by our content policy in good faith. We banned r/The_Donald because it has not done so, despite every opportunity,” Huffman said.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Social media companies’ content policies have been in the spotlight this month, as Facebook Inc faced an employee walkout and an ad boycott over its hands-off handling of inflammatory posts amid nationwide anti-racism protests and ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Earlier this month, Twitter Inc began placing some of Trump’s messages behind warning labels, while Snap Inc said it would no longer promote Trump’s account in its Discover section.

YouTube said Monday it was terminating six accounts widely credited with building support for far-right views online over hate speech violations, including channels run by Richard Spencer, Stefan Molyneux and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Molyneux tweeted in response that YouTube had suspended “the largest philosophy conversation the world has ever known.” Spencer said he would appeal the decision.

Twitch, a site primarily used for video game live-streaming which Trump joined in October, said it had identified two streams from Trump’s account that violated its policies. One was a rebroadcast of a 2016 rally in which Trump said Mexico was sending rapists to the United States. The other was of his rally in Tulsa earlier this month when he hypothesized about a “very tough hombre” breaking into a woman’s house.

A Twitch spokeswoman said the platform had told “the president’s team” last year that there were no exceptions on the site for political or newsworthy content that broke its rules. In May, Twitch announced a new advisory council to improve safety, focusing on areas like harassment and protection of marginalized groups. Last week, it said it would begin issuing permanent suspensions as part of investigations into allegations of sexual abuse and harassment involving Twitch streamers.


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Tech

Google's New Tool Will Soon Show You Covid-19 Impact at Community Level

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

Google said it would test the News feature in a few geographic areas in the US and Canada in the Covid-19 special section of the app,

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 30, 2020, 10:56 AM IST

Google on Monday said it is piloting a new feature in partnership with local news publishers to understand how COVID-19 is impacting different communities. The company said it would test the News feature in a few geographic areas in the US and Canada in the COVID-19 special section of the app, where users can view community reopening timelines, plus updates around business and school openings.

They can also see the status of the local healthcare infrastructure, public transportation, events and sections with resources for residents looking for or wanting to help families in need. “We will also continue to expand our coverage across the U.S. and Canada, and plan to bring this feature to products beyond the Google News app in the future,” the company said in a statement.

Google said it is also working to ensure that reliable local news and information about the coronavirus is easily discoverable in Google Search and Google Assistant. “When people look for coronavirus information in Search, they’ll see the existing top stories carousel of articles, in addition to a new dedicated local news carousel highlighting timely, accurate news about their community,” the company announced.

It has also expanded a new carousel highlighting tweets from local and health authorities so these important and up-to-date announcements are more easily available. This feature is now available in more than 30 countries. Google has also seen a significant uptick in people tuning in to local radio on Google Assistant. The company recently provided emergency funding for more than 5,300 local news organizations and launched a Support Local News campaign to encourage people and businesses to subscribe, donate and advertise across local news outlets in the US and Canada.

As traditional media outlets urge social media giants to give their dues for using their news content especially during the difficult Covid-19 times, Google last week announced a new licensing programme to pay publishers for high-quality content. To be launched later this year, the programme will help participating publishers monetize their content through an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories, stay informed and be exposed to a world of different issues and interests.


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Amazon Announces Special One-time Bonus of $500 Million For Its Covid-19 Frontline Workers

Amazon.com Inc said on Monday it would spend $500 million on one-time bonuses to its front-line employees and partners working through the coronavirus crisis. Employees and partners who have been with the e-commerce company through June will receive bonuses ranging from $150 to $3,000, the company said (here) in a blog post.

The world’s largest online retailer, which delivers about 10 billion items a year, has been facing intense scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers and unions over whether it is doing enough to protect staff from the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier in the day, workers at six Amazon sites in Germany decided to go on strike in protest over safety after some staff at logistics centres tested positive for coronavirus, labour union Verdi said on Sunday.


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Telegram Consents to Pay $18.5 Million Penalty to Settle Digital Token Dispute

Image for Representation (File Photo)

Image for Representation (File Photo)

The settlement announced over the weekend comes after Telegram in May announced its decision to withdraw its cryptocurrency-focused subsidiary, Telegram Open Network or TON.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 29, 2020, 3:22 PM IST

Telegram has agreed to return more than $1.2 billion to investors and to pay an $18.5 million civil penalty to resolve the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s charges that the instant messaging platform’s unregistered offering of digital tokens called “Grams” violated the federal securities laws.

The settlement announced over the weekend comes after Telegram in May announced its decision to withdraw its cryptocurrency-focused subsidiary, Telegram Open Network (TON), due to problems it faced as a result of the US SEC scrutiny. Telegram engineers had been working on the blockchain platform called TON and a cryptocurrency they were going to name Gram for the past two-and-a-half years.

On October 11, 2019, the SEC filed a complaint against Telegram, alleging that the company had raised capital to finance its business by selling approximately 2.9 billion Grams to 171 initial purchasers worldwide. The SEC sought to preliminarily enjoin Telegram from delivering the Grams it sold, which the regulator alleged were securities that had been offered and sold in violation of the registration requirements of the federal securities laws.

On March 24, 2020, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction barring the delivery of Grams and finding that the SEC had shown a substantial likelihood of proving that Telegram’s sales were part of a larger scheme to unlawfully distribute the Grams to the secondary public market.

“New and innovative businesses are welcome to participate in our capital markets but they cannot do so in violation of the registration requirements of the federal securities laws,” Kristina Littman, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit, said in a statement. “This settlement requires Telegram to return funds to investors, imposes a significant penalty, and requires Telegram to give notice of future digital offerings.”

Telegram Founder and CEO Pavel Durov said in May that “a US court stopped TON from happening”. Durov urged others to keep fighting for decentralisation, balance and equality in the world. “You are fighting the right battle. This battle may well be the most important battle of our generation. We hope that you succeed where we have failed,” he said.


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US Wants to 'Help' Allies Buy Non-Huawei Telecom Gear Amid China Tensions

The United States is willing to help other countries finance purchases of next-generation telecom technology from Western providers so they can avoid Chinese tech giant Huawei, which Washington sees as a security threat, an American official said Thursday. Washington is lobbying European and other allies to exclude Huawei Technologies Ltd. as they upgrade to 5G networks. Australia, Japan and some others have imposed restrictions on Chinese technology, but Huawei’s lower-cost equipment is popular with developing countries and is making inroads into Europe.

Giving Huawei even a small 5G role would allow Beijing to expand its “surveillance state” by eavesdropping on phone and other network-based systems, said Keith Krach, a U.S. undersecretary of state for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. “There are lots of financing tools and those kinds of things that I think many countries like us are willing to help provide because we recognize this danger,” Krach said on a conference call with reporters.

Huawei, China’s first global tech brand, is the biggest maker of network equipment and the No. 2 smartphone brand. It is a leader in 5G, along with Finland’s Nokia Corp. and Sweden’s LM Ericsson. Washington is in talks with Brazil over possible financing of 5G equipment purchases by its phone carriers, the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported this month, citing the American ambassador to Brazil, Todd Chapman. Chapman said Washington also was talking with other countries.

Krach gave no financial details but cited South Korea’s Samsung as another potential vendor of “trusted communications” equipment. The pressure on Huawei comes at a time of increasingly rancorous U.S.-Chinese relations over the coronavirus pandemic, a security law imposed on Hong Kong and Beijing’s recent border clash with Indian soldiers.

Huawei denies U.S. accusations it facilitates Chinese spying or is controlled by the ruling Communist Party. Its founder, Ren Zhengfei, told reporters in January 2019 that he would reject official demands to reveal its customers’ secrets despite a Chinese law that requires companies to hand over any information demanded by the government. 5G is intended to expand networks to support self-driving cars, power plants, remotely controlled medical equipment and other futuristic applications. That makes it more intrusive and politically sensitive.

“Everything is connected to it,” said Krach. “It’s an interconnected system, and you are only as strong as your weakest link.” U.S. export controls imposed last year block Huawei’s access to most American components and other technology. Washington tightened restrictions this year by barring companies outside the United States from using American technology to produce processor chips and other components for Huawei without U.S. government permission.

Washington wants other governments to remove earlier generations of Huawei technology as well, Krach said. If countries are choosing their 5G systems, this is definitely the time to do a rip-and-replace transition,” he said.


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