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Houston Rockets GM’s Pro-Hong Kong Tweet Sparks Controversy

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  • Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters, which upset Chinese fans. 
  • The NBA is a major business in China, prompting leaders in the NBA to address the situation and apologize for any offense the tweet, which Morey soon deleted, may have caused. 
  • The damage of the tweet was already done, however. The Chinese Government, Chinese Basketball Association, China-based sponsors for the team, and a platform that streams NBA games to 500 million Chinese viewers cut ties with the Rockets.
  • U.S. politicians are criticizing China for exercising its economic hold on the NBA. They are also upset that the NBA is catering to this hold, instead of showing support for pro-democracy protests.

Morey’s Tweet Stirs Controversy

The NBA is receiving bipartisan backlash from American politicians after apologizing for a tweet in support of Hong Kong’s protesters sent by the Houston Rockets’ General Manager. 

While in Japan for pre-season games on Friday, GM Daryl Morey expressed support for the ongoing pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong. He tweeted a photo that said, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” 

His tweet received backlash before he quickly deleted it, as China—which has condemned these protests in an effort to expand their influence over the city-state—did not like its message. The NBA has a lot of money to make in China, the Houston Rockets in particular.

Yao Ming, one of the most popular Chinese basketball stars, played on the Rockets. His tenure on the team helped make the game as popular as it is in China today and cemented the Rockets as a fan favorite in the country. He is retired from the sport and is now currently the President of the Chinese Basketball Association.

The team’s leaders and the NBA quickly moved to the damage control front after Morey deleted the tweet. The Rockets’ owner, Tilman Fertitta, sent a tweet noting that Morey’s tweet was a reflection of his personal beliefs and not any political beliefs of the team itself. 

Morey posted a series of tweets on his own addressing the situation. He said he did not intend to offend fans in China.

“I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives,” he added.

The NBA took a similar approach in their statement and also worked to downplay Morey’s remarks. 

“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” the statement read. “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the N.B.A. can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”

China Reacts to Tweet

Their efforts, however, could not stop the impact the tweet already had on China. The Chinese government cut ties with the Houston Rockets, as did several businesses, including the team’s Chinese sponsors. The CBA, along with Tencent, which streams NBA games in China to almost 500 million viewers cut their ties as well.

The owner of the Brooklyn Nets, Joe Tsai, who also co-founded Chinese media company Alibaba also condemned the remarks in a statement. 

“I don’t know Daryl personally. I am sure he’s a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been,” he said. “But the hurt that this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.”

On top of this, a report from The Ringer alleges that Houston Rockets and NBA ownership is debating whether or not to replace Morey as the team’s GM. 

Politicians Respond

This series of events has also stirred up its own controversy among American politicians, who are criticizing the NBA on both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans alike are upset that China has an economic hold on the NBA, and that the NBA is catering to that hold. Many would rather have seen the organization support the sentiment behind Morey’s original tweet instead of China, which has been largely seen as suppressing the pro-democracy protests.

Presidential candidate Julian Castro said that “China is using its economic power to silence critics—even those in the U.S..

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the situation “Unacceptable.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) accused the NBA of “kowtowing” to China. He also called out Adam Silver, the NBA’s commissioner, to criticize the organization’s response. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the NBA’s retreat shameful. 

Silver will be in China this week as various teams play preseason games. He is expected to speak during his trip and touch on the matter. 

See what others are saying: (The Ringer) (Axios) (NPR)

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The Boeing MAX 8 Scandal & Controversy Explained!

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When Boeing first introduced the 737 MAX 8, the new plane was supposed to help usher in a new generation of commercial aircraft. Then two MAX 8’s crashed within five months of each other, killing a total of 346 people.

Since then, the controversy around Boeing has kept growing and growing as numerous investigations revealed a number of highly questionable and even negligent business and regulatory practices that ultimately led to the crashes.

Even now, more than a year after the first crash, Boeing is still in the news and under the microscope as it struggles to keep up appearances.

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Facebook to Pay $550 Million to Settle Facial Recognition Suit

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  • Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in Illinois that claimed its “Tag Suggestions” feature illegally harvested facial data from millions of users in Illinois without their permission.
  • Facebook disclosed the settlement while also announcing it made $21 billion last quarter.
  • Some championed the settlement as a victory for consumer privacy rights.
  • Others argued that no matter how much Facebook pays in lawsuits and settlements, the company has continued to grow and has not fundamentally changed its business practices.

Facebook Announces Settlement

Facebook announced Wednesday that it had agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit involving facial recognition technology.

The lawsuit was filed in Illinois in 2015 and claimed that Facebook’s “Tag Suggestions” feature violated the state’s 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

The “Tag Suggestion” tool uses facial recognition software to scan users’ faces and then suggest the names of other users who might be in the picture. 

The lawsuit alleged that Facebook used it to illegally harvest facial data from millions of users in Illinois without their permission or without telling them how the data was kept.

Illinois is one of three states that has its own biometric privacy laws, and BIPA is arguably the strongest of all three. 

Under BIPA, companies that collect biometric data, which includes data from finger, face, and iris scans, must get prior consent from consumers and detail how the data will be used and how long the company will keep it. BIPA also allows private citizens to sue.

The lawsuit accused Facebook of failing to comply with those restrictions. 

Facebook, for its part, argued that the people who it collected data from without consent could not prove that they experienced any concrete harm, like financial losses. However, the company still ultimately decided to settle.

Once the federal judge overseeing the case approves the settlement, people eligible to claim money are expected to receive a couple hundred dollars.

Other Settlements & Controversies

Many privacy experts and advocates applauded the settlement and said it was a victory for consumer privacy rights.

But others argued that the settlement does not really change anything, because it is not a big deal for Facebook. While $550 million might seem like a lot, for Facebook, its basically pocket change.

Even the way Facebook announced the settlement seemed to emphasize that point. The tech giant disclosed the settlement while announcing its financial results for 2019, reporting that revenue rose 25% to $21 billion in the last quarter alone.

Not only did that indicate how minor the Illinois settlement was for the company financially, it also showcased their incredible ability to weather scandals and controversy.

Over the last few years, Facebook has received a lot of backlash, largely over privacy concerns and the spread of misinformation on the platform.

Most recently Facebook has been under fire for its decision to essentially let politicians lie in political ads.

In July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Facebook $5 billion over privacy violations— the largest fine the FTC has ever imposed on a tech company by far.

Facebook’s Continued Growth

But even in the face of massive financial costs and prominent controversies, Facebook still continues to grow.

In an article published by Axios, writer Sara Fischer described Facebook’s ability for continued growth despite those obstacles.

“Facebook closed out the second decade of the millennium stronger than ever,” she wrote. “Facebook’s continued ability to post double-digit revenue growth every year speaks to how well it has been able to innovate and adapt, even in the face of regulatory headwinds and increased competition.”

Fischer gave the example of North America and Europe where Facebook has gotten more money per user each year despite the fact that its user growth in those regions has stayed relatively stagnant.

Source: Axios

She also mentioned the Illinois case, FTC fine, and other growing concerns over privacy and advertizing Facebook has warned its investors about.

“So far these fines have proven moot in getting the tech giant to fundamentally change its business, which continues to grow substantially,” she said.

While Facebook did agree to be more transparent about how it uses facial recognition technology as part of the FTC settlement, many are skeptical that the Illinois case will bring about any substantive change.

However, in an investor call following the release of Facebook’s earnings report Wednesday, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said that he wanted to be more transparent about the company’s values.

“One critique of our approach for much of the last decade is that because we wanted to be liked, we didn’t want to communicate our views as clearly, because we worried about offending people,” he said.

“Our goal for the next decade isn’t to be liked, but understood. In order to be trusted, people need to know what we stand for.”

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Verge) (The New York Times)

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New 2020 Emoji Include Transgender Flag and More Gender-Inclusive Options

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  • Over 100 new emoji were revealed on Wednesday, set to be released sometime in 2020.
  • The new additions will consist of 62 brand-new emoji as well as 55 gender and skin-tone variants. 
  • The transgender flag, a woman in a tuxedo, and a more gender-inclusive alternative to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will be among the new options.
  • Other emoji introduced include boba tea, a dodo bird, a smiley face with a tear, and an anatomical heart.

Fresh Faces

More than 100 new emoji will be available for mobile phone users this year, providing both fun new icons as well as more inclusive and diverse options.

The list was unveiled on Wednesday by the Unicode Consortium, an organization devoted to developing and maintaining software internalization standards and data.

There will be 62 brand-new emoji as well as 55 gender and skin-tone variants, reflecting a push toward a more inclusive collection. Among the new icons will be the transgender symbol as well as the transgender pride flag, an idea proposed by advocates and artists with the help of Google and Microsoft.  

Along this same vein, more gender-inclusive options will be seen with this new wave. Both a woman and a non-binary figure in a tuxedo will soon be available, as well as a man and a non-binary figure in a wedding veil. 

To complement the already-existing Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus options, a more gender-inclusive alternative will be included as well — under the name of Mx. Claus. 

There will also be new emoji depicting parents feeding a baby. 

Other new emoji include a smiley face with a tear, two figures hugging, boba tea, and an anatomical heart. The animal section is getting a boost too, as a beaver, a seal, a polar bear, and even a dodo bird will be introduced. 

The release date of the new emoji depends on each individual vendor, but Unicode Consortium noted that typically the new icons are rolled out in the fall.

Praise for New Emoji

After the new additions were revealed, many took to Twitter to express their joy about the more inclusive options.

“Incredible power in the new 2020 emojis,” one person wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (USA Today) (CBS)

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