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Facebook to Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency Called Libra in 2020

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  • Facebook announced its plan for a new cryptocurrency called Libra on Tuesday, explaining in detail why it will be different from other cryptocurrencies.
  • The social media giant not only helped fund the technology, but also created an independent company that will act as the wallet for Libra.
  • With Facebook’s recent privacy and security issues, people are concerned about trusting the company with their financial information.  

Facebook Announces Libra

Facebook announced on Tuesday its plan to launch a new cryptocurrency called Libra, hoping to create what they call “the internet of money”, despite high public distrust in the company over privacy and security issues.  

Libra, the statement explains, is expected to launch in 2020 and will be built on three main aspects. The first being a secure and reliable blockchain, which is the system that keeps track of cryptocurrency transactions. The blockchain used for Libra “was built from the group up,” the announcement states.

The company said it did this “to prioritize scalability, security, efficiency in storage and throughput, and future adaptability.”

The second main component of Libra focuses on the cryptocurrency being backed by a reserve of assets. This is what Libra says sets it apart from other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which are known for their volatility. With Libra being backed by stable assets actually worth value, it would be a more stable cryptocurrency. However like other cryptocurrencies, Libra is still likely to be affected by some fluctuations when converted to currencies like dollars.

As for the final aspect, the company says it will be governed by an independent group called the Libra Association. The group’s main purpose is to essentially be the administrator of the Libra network and make sure the network is available to other companies that want to take part. The 28 Founding Members, as they’re called, come from a variety of backgrounds and companies. In addition to Facebook, the group includes businesses like Mastercard, eBay, Lyft, Spotify AB, as well as non-profits like Mercy Corps. The members helped fund the reserves that back Libra and hope to have 100 members covering a wide range of organizations as well as academic institutions.

“It’s decentralized,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook when announcing Libra. “Meaning it’s run by many different organizations instead of just one, making the system fairer overall. It’s available to anyone with an internet connection and has low fees and costs.”

Facebook has said once Libra is launched, the company will no longer have authority and will be considered an equal member to the other organizations in the association.

Facebook’s Role

In addition to Facebook’s help funding the technology that makes Libra possible, it also created an independent subsidiary company, Calibra. This company will function as the first wallet for Libra, allowing users to transfer Libra between each other, and eventually pay for items with it. Simply put, it is more-or-less like Venmo and Google Pay put together.

Calibra has already launched a website which is letting people sign up for early access. The website explains that users do not need a Facebook profile to access Calibra, just a government-issued ID. And while Calibra will be available as a stand-alone app, it will also be accessible on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.  

Libra Association says they will try to ensure that the Libra infrastructure will be available to companies other than Calibra so in the future there can be other payments systems that can use the Libra freely.

Concerns

Many are quick to point out if it is safe to trust Facebook. The company has had numerous issues with privacy and data, making people question if they should be trusted with financial information

According to Reuters, Neil Campling, the head of TMT Research in London, said that “given its history of managing our data, it shouldn’t take much to convince people that Facebook managing our money is probably a terrible idea.”

People on social media have voiced their concerns as well, some even commenting on Zuckerberg’s Facebook post.

On their website, Calibra addresses the privacy and security issues.  

“Calibra will not share account information or financial data with Facebook, Inc. or any third party without customer consent. For example, Calibra customers’ account information and financial data will not be used to improve ad targeting on the Facebook, Inc. family of products.”

Noting that only certain cases, such as criminal activity or preventing fraud, would data be shared.

See what others are saying: (Quartz) (Business Insider) (CNN)

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Instagram Testing New Tools To Verify Users Are Over 18

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The new tools include AI software that analyzes video footage of a person’s face to verify their age.


Instagram Cracks Down on Underage Users

Instagram is testing new features in the United States to verify the age of users who claim to be over 18 years old. 

According to a statement from Instagram’s parent company, Meta, the tools will only apply to users who seek to change their age from under 18 to over 18. The platform previously asked for users to upload their ID for verification in this process, but on Thursday, it announced there will be two new methods for confirming age. 

One of the strategies was referred to as “social vouching.” Using this option, people can request that three mutual Instagram followers over the age of 18 confirm their age on the platform.

The other method allows users to upload a video selfie of themselves to be analyzed by Yoti, third-party age verification software. Yoti then estimates a person’s age based on their facial features, sends that estimate to Meta, and both companies delete the recording. 

According to Meta, Yoti cannot recognize or identify a face based on the recording and only looks at the pixels to determine an age. Meta said that Yoti “is the leading age verification provider for several industries around the world,” as it has been used and promoted by social media companies and governmental organizations. 

Still, some question how effective it will be for this specific use. According to The Verge, while the software does have a high accuracy rate among certain age groups and demographics, data also shows it is less precise for female faces and faces with darker skin tones. 

Issues With Kids on Instagram

Meta argues that it is important for Instagram to be able to discern who is and is not 18, as it impacts what version of the app users have access to.

“We’re testing this so we can make sure teens and adults are in the right experience for their age group,” the company’s statement said. 

“When we know if someone is a teen (13-17), we provide them with age-appropriate experiences like defaulting them into private accounts, preventing unwanted contact from adults they don’t know and limiting the options advertisers have to reach them with ads,” it continued. 

These changes come as Instagram has been facing increased pressure to address the way its app impacts younger users. 

Only children 13 and older are allowed to have Instagram accounts, but the service has faced criticism for not doing enough to enforce this. A 2021 survey of high school students found that nearly half of the respondents had created a social media account of some kind before they were 13.

The company also recently came under fire after The Wall Street Journal published internal Meta documents revealing that the company knew that it harmed teens, including by worsening body image issues for young girls and women.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Wall Street Journal) (Axios)

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Elon Musk Threatens to Fire Employees Unless They Work in Person Full-Time

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The world’s richest man in the world previously suggested that the popularity of remote work has “tricked people into thinking that you don’t actually need to work hard.”


“If You Don’t Show up, We Will Assume You Have Resigned”

On Wednesday, Electrek published two leaked emails apparently sent from Elon Musk to Tesla’s executive staff threatening to fire them if they don’t return to work in person.

“Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla,” he wrote. “This is less than we ask of factory workers.”

“If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible, I will review and approve those exceptions directly,” he continued.

Musk then clarified that the “office” must be a main office, not a “remote branch office unrelated to the job duties.”

“There are of course companies that don’t require this, but when was the last time they shipped a great new product? It’s been a while,” he wrote in the second email.

Later on Wednesday, a Twitter user asked Musk to comment on the idea that coming into work is an antiquated concept.

He replied, “They should pretend to work somewhere else.”

The Billionaire Pushes People to Work Harder

Musk has a history of pressuring his employees and criticizing them for not working hard enough.

“All the Covid stay-at-home stuff has tricked people into thinking that you don’t actually need to work hard. Rude awakening inbound,” he tweeted last month.

Three economists told Insider that remote work during the pandemic did not damage productivity.

“Most of the evidence shows that productivity has increased while people stayed at home,” Natacha Postel-Vinay, an economic and financial historian at the London School of Economics, told the outlet.

Musk is notorious for criticizing lockdown mandates and went so far as to call them “fascist” during a Tesla earnings call in April 2020.

Not long before that, Tesla announced that it would keep its Fremont, California plant open in defiance of shelter-in-place orders across the state.

In an interview with The Financial Times last month, Musk blasted American workers for trying to stay home, comparing them to their Chinese counterparts whom he said work harder.

“They won’t just be burning the midnight oil. They will be burning the 3 a.m. oil,” he said. “They won’t even leave the factory type of thing, whereas in America people are trying to avoid going to work at all.”

That same day, Fortune published an article detailing how Tesla workers in Shanghai work 12-hour shifts, six days out of the week, sometimes sleeping on the factory floor.

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Electrek) (Business Insider)

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Apple Raises Worker Pay as Unions Gain Ground

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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)

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