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Reddit Co-Founder Resigns From Board, Asks to Be Replaced by a Black Candidate

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  • Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the company’s board and called for the position to be filled by a black candidate, which CEO Steve Huffman agreed to do. 
  • The move comes days after former CEO Ellen Pao slammed the platform for allowing subreddits that promote hate, violence, and white supremacy to remain active.
  • Subreddit moderators agreed, protesting against inadequate hate speech policies by making their communities private, among other actions.
  • In his message about honoring Ohanian’s request, Huffman promised to do more to combat hate on the site. 

Resignation

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian announced his resignation from the company’s board of directors Friday, urging that his seat be filled by a black candidate.

As protests continue over the killing of George Floyd, businesses and industry leaders have faced mounting pressure to take meaningful steps that support the black community and fight against racism. “I’m writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’” Ohanian explained in a blog post, on social media, and in a video message. 

Ohanian, who is married to professional tennis paly Serena Williams, also committed to using future gains from his Reddit stock to help the black community, “chiefly to curb racial hate.” To start, he pledged $1 million to former NFL play and activist Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp. 

“I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now. To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop,” he added in his statement.

Recent Criticism of Reddit’s Policies

The move came just days after the site faced heavy criticism for allowing subreddits to remain active, like r/the_donald, which has been known to promote white supremacist content.

It’s most vocal critic was former CEO Ellen Pao, who responded to the company’s June 1 message in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

In a letter from current CEO Steve Huffman, the company said, “we do not tolerate hate, racism, and violence, and while we have work to do to fight these on our platform, our values are clear.”

To that, Pao said: “I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence. So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long.”

Pao wasn’t alone in that opinion. Following her comments, many subreddit communities took collective action to protest police brutality and racism, as well as Reddit’s failure to adequately deal with racist rhetoric and hateful content on its platform.

On Wednesday subreddits like r/NFL, r/military, r/AskReddit, r/EDM, r/DankMemes, r/AskHistorians and dozens of others across a variety of genres went private. In a post on r/MaleFashionAdvice, a moderator called out Reddit’s “blatant hypocrisy” in allowing hateful subreddits to exist while publicly condemning police brutality.

“To us, actions speak louder than words,” the moderator u/BespokeDebtor wrote Wednesday. “The admins have repeatedly demonstrated a tolerance for such behavior and provided sanctuary to the very people they’re supposedly condemning.”

Protest action varied across each community, but many moderators banned new posts for either a full day or eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Geoge Floyd had a knee pressed into his neck by a white officer before dying. 

CEO Responds to Resignation and Criticism 

Following Ohanian’s announcement, Huffman published another message to the Reddit community promising to honor the co-founder’s request.

However, he spent a great deal of time addressing how the company plans to address hateful content. 

“We’re working with mods to change our content policy to explicitly address hate,” Huffman added. “I want to take responsibility for the history of our policies over the years that got us here, and we still have work to do.”

Huffman said there are three problems Redding is most focused on.

  • Parts of Reddit reflect an unflattering but real resemblance to the world in the hate that Black users and communities see daily, despite the progress we have made in improving our tooling and enforcement.
  • Users and moderators genuinely do not have enough clarity as to where we as administrators stand on racism.
  • Our moderators are frustrated and need a real seat at the table to help shape the policies that they help us enforce.

Though he admitted that the site is already trying to address these issues, he promised more urgency.  

“We will update our content policy to include a vision for Reddit and its communities to aspire to, a statement on hate, the context for the rules, and a principle that Reddit isn’t to be used as a weapon,” he continued. 

“We have details to work through, and while we will move quickly, I do want to be thoughtful and also gather feedback from our moderators (through our Mod Councils). With more moderator engagement, the timeline is weeks, not months.”

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (DailyDot) (CNBC

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Tesla Suspends Bitcoin Purchases Over Environmental Impact, Causing Coin’s Value To Crash 20%

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  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday that his electric vehicle company would be ceasing all Bitcoin sales effective immediately, even though it just started using the cryptocurrency in March.
  • The announcement prompted a massive sell-off of Bitcoin, which plunged almost 20% on Wednesday.
  • In his statement, Musk said, “We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel.”
  • Many have since accused Musk of manipulating the crypto market since Bitcoin’s environmental impact has long been one of its most controversial facets. 

Tesla Suspends Bitcoin Purchases

Volatility is essentially a prerequisite for Bitcoin, but Wednesday proved to be an especially bad day for the cryptocurrency after Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the electric vehicle company would no longer be accepting the coin as a form of payment.

At the beginning of the day, Bitcoin was trading for around $57,000. Following Musk’s announcement, it had fallen to a 24-hour low of just over $46,000 — amounting to a nearly 20% drop in value. 

“We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel,” Musk said via Twitter. “Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment.”

This policy update comes after only months after Tesla disclosed in February that it had bought $1.5 billion in Bitcoin. It also comes after the company began accepting Bitcoin as payment for vehicles in March. 

Still, with this sudden about-face, Musk said, “Tesla will not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy. We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of Bitcoin’s energy/transaction.”

Bitcoin’s Environmental Impact

Musk tweeted a graph Thursday morning from Cambridge’s Centre for Alternative Finance that shows Bitcoin’s increasing energy use since 2016.

In March, researchers with the Centre reported that Bitcoin’s energy consumption has jumped 80% since the beginning of 2020. 

Bitcoin’s impact on the environment has long been a subject of debate since mining it takes excessive amounts of electrical energy, but that problem has only gotten worse with the coin’s continued growth. 

On Monday, Ars Technica reported that a defunct coal power plant in upstate New York has been restarted to mine Bitcoin. In January, Iranian officials partly blamed Bitcoin for mass blackouts in the country. Researchers have even found that Bitcoin mining uses more energy than places like Argentina, a country with 45 million people.

Is Musk Manipulating the Market?

The overall reaction to Musk’s announcement was less than favorable, with many accusing the billionaire of manipulating the crypto market. 

“[This is] the same guy who’s been pulling the levers on crypto and has everyone following his every move,” Dave Portnoy, the controversial owner of Barstool Sports, said. “He’s sending Dogecoin up. He’s sending Bitcoin down. This is bullshit.

“Elon, you have responsibility when one second you say to buy something and the next second you don’t,” Portnoy added. “That’s playing with people’s futures, their fortunes.” 

Others made similar statements accusing Musk of essentially controlling Bitcoin prices, with MMA fighter Keith Berry saying, “Elon is a smart cookie, do you really think he didn’t know about energy usages on #Bitcoin after he bought 1.5B in BTC in December 2020” 

Still, some argued that recent disappointment in Musk is good for Bitcoin in the long term.

“This is great for #Bitcoin,” one person tweeted. “It should never depend on the thoughts and opinions of a single entity. The Elon Musk effect is being priced out and that’s positive for the cryptocurrency industry in the long run.” 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (CNBC) (The New York Times)

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U.S. Gas Prices Hit $3 Per Gallon, a 7-year High, as Buyers Panicked During the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown

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  • The national average gas price has climbed above $3 for the first time in seven years.
  • The increase comes as the country’s largest fuel pipeline remains largely shuttered for the sixth day in a row following a ransomware attack, leading to panic buying and massive gas shortages in some cities. 
  • Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the company behind the pipeline should be able to make a decision on a full restart of the system by the end of Wednesday.
  • Still, she cautioned that it will take several days for fuel supplies to go back to normal. 

Update: Colonial Pipeline restarted operations at 5 p.m. EST Wednesday. “Following this restart it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” Colonial said in a statement. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period.”

Panic Buying Drives Fuel Shortages

The national average gas price reached $3.008 Wednesday, its highest value in seven years. 

The jump is largely being driven by two factors. The first is that the country’s largest fuel pipeline was forced to shut down last Friday following a ransomware attack by the criminal gang Darkside. That pipeline, owned by the Colonial Pipeline Company, stretches from Texas to New York and supplies 45% of the East Coast’s fuel.

The second is that panic buying related to the shutdown and fears of fuel scarcity have exacerbated the problem. In fact, Tuesday evening, over 1,000 gas stations in the Southeast ran dry. 

By Wednesday, the situation was even worse. Nearly a quarter of all stations in North Carolina were out of gas, and in urban areas like Charlotte, 71% of stations were empty.  Meanwhile, around 15% percent of stations in both Georgia and Virginia were out of gas, and in the Atlanta metro area, 60% of stations had been depleted. 

Photos and video from affected states show hours-long lines. Some people have reported waiting more than five hours to get to the pump. Others have shared images of “out of fuel” signs. Stretching pumps even thinner are reports that many drivers are simply trying to top off mostly-full tanks or gas cans. 

In one tense situation captured at a gas station near Raleigh, North Carolina, a woman can be seen spitting on a man and hitting a car after she reportedly tried to cut the line. The man fires back a spit of his own, leading to a fight between the two.

When Will the Pipeline Be Back?

On Monday, some (but not most) of the pipeline was brought back manually. Colonial Pipeline officials have also said they hope to restart most operations by the end of the week.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm also told reporters Tuesday that Colonial should be in a position to make a decision on a full restart by the end of Wednesday; however, it’s likely going to take several days for fuel supplies to return to normal even after operations recover.

“Much as there was no cause for, say, hoarding toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, there should be no cause for hoarding gasoline,” Granholm said. 

Many analysts have echoed that warning, telling people to fuel up only if they need to and asking them to try to conserve as much gas as possible until the pipeline becomes largely operational again. 

The governors of Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia have all declared states of emergency to try to stave off shortages and keep gas prices down. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (USA Today) (MarketWatch)

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GLAAD Report Finds All Top Social Media Platforms “Effectively Unsafe” for LGBTQ+ Users

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  • The LGBTQ+ media monitoring organization GLAAD said in a Sunday report that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are all “effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users.” 
  • Of the 64% of respondents who told GLAAD they’ve faced anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech or harassment online, 75% said at least some came from Facebook, which performed the most poorly of all five platforms.
  • The report highlights more than just hate speech, as GLAAD notes that “inadequate content moderation, polarizing algorithms, and discriminatory AI” also negatively affect LGBTQ+ users.
  • “This is about less watchdogging, more partnering with these platforms to get it right,” GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said while calling the report a starting point for how platforms can change.

Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate Speech Rampant on Social Media Sites

The LGBTQ+ media monitoring organization GLAAD has published a report that classifies every top social media platform as “effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users.” 

That includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

“Of special concern, the prevalence and intensity of hate speech and harassment stands out as the most significant problem in urgent need of improvement,” GLAAD said in the report released Sunday.

The organization noted 64% of LGBTQ+ social media users have experienced harassment and hate speech online, which it said is higher than all other identity groups. 

Of the five platforms, Facebook was far and above the worst offender. In fact, GLAAD reported that 75% of the LGBTQ+ respondents who’ve experienced online harassment said at least some of that harassment happened on Facebook.

Meanwhile, 24% percent of respondents said they have faced similar harassment on Twitter and Instagram each. YouTube came in just below those figures at 21%, and TikTok saw the lowest harassment level of the five at 9%.

GLAAD’s president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis said that while the organization was originally going to give each platform a grade, “What we ended up realizing is that if we started grading, they’d all fail, quite frankly.” 

Content Moderation and AI

It’s not just hate speech. “Inadequate content moderation, polarizing algorithms, and discriminatory AI” were also listed among the specific problems that GLAAD hopes these social media platforms will address. 

The organization even listed several “urgent recommendations,” which read:

  • “Stop allowing algorithms to fuel extremism and hate. Similarly, confront the problem of bias in AI.”
  • “Make it easier for users to report problematic content, be transparent in content moderation, and use more human moderators.”
  • “Employ a dedicated LGBTQ policy lead.”
  • “Respect data privacy, especially where LGBTQ people are vulnerable to serious harms and violence.”

It also called for platforms to more strongly enforce misinformation labels and restrict hashtags/shares of anti-LGBTQ content.

“This is about less watchdogging, more partnering with these platforms to get it right,” Ellis said, summing up the purpose of the report as a “roadmap” for platforms to begin implementing change.

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

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