- Facebook announced that it is banning white nationalist and separatist content on its platforms.
- Some have applauded the company, while others wonder if it will be effective, and why this was not their policy in the first place.
- Its previous policy made a distinction between white supremacy, which was banned, and white nationalism and separatism, which was allowed.
What’s Facebook’s New Policy?
Facebook announced Wednesday that it will ban all white nationalist and separatist content from its platform.
A post, titled “Standing Against Hate,” informed users that the policy will take effect starting next week on both Facebook and Instagram. In it, the company acknowledged that other forms of hate speech, like white supremacy, were already not allowed. However, they explained that they previously viewed white nationalism and separatism differently.
“Our policies have long prohibited hateful treatment of people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity or religion — and that has always included white supremacy,” the post read. “We didn’t originally apply the same rationale to expressions of white nationalism and white separatism because we were thinking about broader concepts of nationalism and separatism — things like American pride and Basque separatism, which are an important part of people’s identity.”
According to the post, the company has spent the last several months speaking with organizations, academics, and other experts on race relations, who all said that the ideologies behind white nationalism and separatism were tied closely to white supremacy, and that a line can’t be truly drawn between them. This implored Facebook to change their policy.
“Going forward, while people will still be able to demonstrate pride in their ethnic heritage, we will not tolerate praise or support for white nationalism and white separatism,” the company said in their post.
In addition to this, the tech giant claimed it is also working on its speed and efficiency when it comes to removing hateful content. They also said that any search on white nationalism will link the user to Life After Hate, an organization founded by former extremists that provides outreach, education, and crisis intervention.
What Prompted This Change in Policy?
In the past, Facebook has received no shortage of criticism for the way it monitors hate speech. In 2018, Motherboard leaked Facebook’s training documents on their hate speech policies. Those documents specifically okayed white nationalism and separatism, while drawing a line at white supremacy. Many civil rights groups disagreed with this, likely leading the company to start the discussions that lead to Wednesday’s policy update.
While they didn’t mention it in their post, the timing of this announcement also follows the recent tragedy in New Zealand that left 50 dead. In that attack, a gunman used Facebook to stream himself killing people inside two mosques. The gunman was identified as a white nationalist, and after this incident many called for Facebook to do more about the hateful and harmful rhetoric on its site.
What Do People Think About This?
Their decision has been met with as much praise as it has skepticism.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, called it “positive” in a press conference, while also noting that these ideas have always been hate speech.
“Arguably these categories should always fall within the community guidelines of hate speech,” Ardern said. “But nevertheless it’s positive the clarification has now been made in the wake of the attack in Christchurch.”
Kristen Clarke, the President of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization that lobbied Facebook on the matter, congratulated the company in a tweet, calling it an “important victory.”
On the other side, Vera Eidelman, an attorney for the ACLU, thinks Facebook has the right sentiment, but is concerned about potential unintended consequences, telling NPR:
“White supremacist, nationalist and separatist views are repugnant, and Facebook as a private company is well within its rights to remove such hate and bigotry from its platform,” Eidelman wrote to NPR.
“In its attempts to police the speech of over two billion people, Facebook runs the risk of censoring those that attack white nationalism, too. Further, every time Facebook makes the choice to remove content, a single company is exercising an unchecked power to silence individuals and remove them from what has become an indispensable platform.”
See What Others Are Saying: (NPR) (Technology Review) (Vox)
Apple Raises Worker Pay as Unions Gain Ground
The company’s vice president of people and retail was caught trying to dissuade employees from unionizing in a leaked video.
Labor Squeezes Apple into Submission
Apple announced Wednesday that its U.S. corporate and retail employees will see a pay increase later this year, with starting wages bumped from $20 per hour to $22, though stores in certain regions may get more depending on market conditions.
Starting salaries are also expected to increase.
“Supporting and retaining the best team members in the world enables us to deliver the best, most innovative, products and services for our customers,” an Apple spokesman said in a statement. “This year as part of our annual performance review process, we’re increasing our overall compensation budget.”
Some workers were told their annual reviews would be moved up three months and that their pay increases would take effect in early July, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Furthermore, they were told the increased compensation budget would be in addition to pay increases and special awards already received within the past year.
Feeling squeezed by low unemployment and high inflation, tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have changed their compensation structures in recent weeks to pay workers more, and Apple is the latest to bend to market pressure.
Unions Gaining Traction
On Wednesday, The Verge received a leaked video of Apple’s vice president of people and retail, Deirdre O’Brien, explicitly dissuading employees from unionizing.
“I worry about what it would mean to put another organization in the middle of our relationship,” she said. “An organization that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business. And most importantly one that I do not believe shares our commitment to you.”
She vocalized more anti-union talking points, like the idea that the company will not be able to make important decisions as quickly with a collective bargaining agreement.
O’Brien has been personally visiting retail stores over the past few weeks in an apparent bid to combat budding union activity.
Apple stores in three locations — New York, Georgia, and Maryland — are currently pushing to unionize, with the latter two set to vote in elections on June 2 and 15, respectively. In response to these efforts, Apple has hired anti-union lawyers, given managers anti-union scripts, and held anti-union captive audience meetings.
In the United States, unionized workers make about 13.2% more than non-unionized workers in the same sector, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
As of Wednesday, Apple’s shares had fallen 21% since the start of the year, but sales grew 34% last year to almost $300 billion.
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNBC) (The Verge)
Employees at Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software Form First Union at a Major Gaming Company
Organizers say the decision has the potential to upend labor practices in the gaming industry.
Raven Software QA Testers Win Union Bid
A group of 28 workers at Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software voted to form the first-ever union at a major U.S. gaming company.
While the Game Workers Alliance is a small union, organizers in the space say its formation represents a major shift for the gaming industry and will encourage others in the sector to follow suit.
The newly unionized workers are quality insurance (QA) testers working at the Wisconsin-based studio to develop “Call of Duty.” QA testers work to sort out any glitches in games, and the jobs are notoriously known for extreme crunch periods where staffers work long stretches of hours before a game’s release.
During crunch periods, employees are regularly given 12- to 14-hour shifts with just a few days off each month in order to meet release deadlines.
Many QA testers have said they are treated as second-class to others in the industry. They are paid much lower — often minimum wage or close to it — work on contract cycles and, as a result, feel disposable.
That particular sentiment was underscored for workers at Raven Software in December when the company ended the contracts of about a dozen QA testers. The decision prompted the remaining QA testers to hold a walkout and, shortly after that, they began organizing to form a union, which they dubbed the Game Workers Alliance.
Activision’s Battle Against Unionization Effort
Activision did not support the push for unionization and actively fought against it. The company refused to voluntarily recognize the union, and just days after the group filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board, it moved QA testers to different departments across its properties.
Activision also announced it would convert over 1,000 temporary QA workers to full-time employees, give them a pay raise to $20 an hour, and provide more benefits. However, management said the move would not apply to the unionizing workers because, under federal law, they could not try to encourage workers from voting against unionization by offering pay hikes or benefits. Union leaders repudiated that argument.
Additionally, Activision fought against the union petition, arguing that any union would need to include all of the studio’s employees, but the Labor Board rejected the claim and let the effort proceed.
According to multiple reports, Activision management continued to push against the union in the weeks leading up to the vote. Some Raven employees told The Washington Post company leaders had suggested at a town hall meeting that unionization could hurt game development and impact promotions and benefits. The following day, the managers allegedly sent an email urging workers to “vote no.”
On Monday, Labor Board prosecutors announced they had determined that Activision illegally threatened workers and enforced a social media policy that violated bargaining rights. Activision denied the new allegations.
The two parties will have until the end of the month to file an objection, and if none are filed, the union becomes official. It is currently unclear how Activision and Raven will respond, but they have signaled that they might not make the transition period easy for the union.
According to internal documents seen by Bloomberg, the company has repeatedly mentioned that it can take a while for a union to negotiate its first contract.
In a statement following the vote, an Activision spokesperson told The Post that the company respects the right of its employees to vote for or against a union, but added: “We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 of Raven employees. We’re committed to doing what’s best for the studio and our employees.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Uber Forks Over $19 Million in Fine for Misleading Australian Riders
The penalty is just the latest in a string of lawsuits going back years.
Uber Gets Fined
Uber has agreed to pay a $19 million fine after being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for making false or misleading statements in its app.
The first offense stems from a company policy that allows users to cancel their ride at no cost up to five minutes after the driver has accepted the trip. Despite the terms, between at least December 2017 and September 2021, over two million Australians who wanted to cancel their ride were nevertheless warned that they may be charged a small fee for doing so.
Uber said in a statement that almost all of those users decided to cancel their trips despite the warnings.
The cancellation message has since been changed to: “You won’t be charged a cancellation fee.”
The second offense, occurring between June 2018 and August 2020, involved the company showing customers in Sydney inflated estimates of taxi fares on the app.
The commission said that Uber did not ensure the algorithm used to calculate the prices was accurate, leading to actual fares almost always being higher than estimated ones.
The taxi fare feature was removed in August 2020.
A Troubled Legal History
Uber has been sued for misleading its users or unfairly charging customers in the past.
In 2016, the company paid California-based prosecutors up to $25 million for misleading riders about the safety of its service.
An investigation at the time found that at least 25 of Uber’s approved drivers had serious criminal convictions including identity theft, burglary, child sex offenses and even one murder charge, despite background checks.
In 2017, the company also settled a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for $20 million after it misled drivers about how much money they could earn.
In November 2021, the Justice Department sued the company for allegedly charging disabled customers a wait-time fee even though they needed more time to get in the car, then refused to refund them.
Later the same month, a class-action lawsuit in New York alleged that Uber charged riders a final price higher than the upfront price listed when they ordered the ride.