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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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NFL Reaches Agreement to End Race-Norming, New Testing Formula Remains Unclear

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The practice, which was adopted by the league in the ’90s, assumes that Black players operate with a lower cognitive function than players of other races. 


NFL Ends Race-Norming

The U.S. District Court of Philadelphia uploaded a confidential proposed settlement between the NFL and former players on Wednesday that confirms the league’s plans to abolish race norming. 

The NFL previously halted the use of race-norming in June as part of a$1 billion settlement with retirees Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport, but details of the deal weren’t supposed to be released until it underwent review from a federal judge. 

In fact, it currently seems as if someone in the court accidentally uploaded the document, as it was deleted hours later. 

Among the details reaped from the settlement, it was revealed that the league plans to modify cognitive tests over the next year as part of a short-term change regarding how it verifies dementia-related brain injury claims. Previously, it used race-norming — the practice of assuming Black players have a lower cognitive function than players of other races — to test whether retirees seeking financial compensation had sustained brain injuries from the sport. 

Black retirees who were denied access to compensation originally will also have their tests automatically re-evaluated over the course of the next year, if the settlement pushes through. 

The NFL has additionally agreed to develop a long-term replacement system with the help of experts and players’ lawyers.

Still, the exact formula behind these new testing metrics, which will be designed as race-neutral per the agreement, is unknown. For example, retirees don’t know how the new changes will affect their scores or if they might potentially need to take additional tests before becoming eligible for compensation.

The Issue With Race-Norming

Race-norming was first adopted by the league back in the ’90s, and in theory, it was meant to help offer better treatment to Black retirees who had developed dementia from brain injuries related to football.

Essentially, the thought process was to take socioeconomic factors into account since Black people come from disadvantaged communities at higher rates; however, that quickly became a major issue since Black players were held to a higher standard of proof than players of other races. 

For example, since the tests assumed Black people have less cognitive skill, Black retirees seeking claims needed to score lower to be granted compensation. That then led to many having their claims denied because they tested too high — even if they would have tested within the range to receive compensation had they been white. 

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (The Washington Post) (ABC News)

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Facebook Plans Name Change as Part of Rebrand

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News of the alleged rebrand came the same day Facebook was fined nearly $70 million for breaching U.K. orders related to the company’s 2020 acquisition of Giphy, as well as the same day it reached a $14 million discrimination settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.


Facebook Allegedly Plans To Debut New Name

Facebook, Inc. is planning to announce a new company name next week, according to a Tuesday report from The Verge. 

The rebrand would reportedly align with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision to shape the company into a full-fledged “metaverse” — AKA a virtual reality space where users can interact with one another in real-time. 

The new name is currently unknown, but it would likely not affect the social media platform Facebook. Instead, the change would target its parent company, Facebook, Inc. — similar to how Alphabet became the parent company of Google following a 2015 restructure. 

On Monday, Facebook said it is currently planning to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to help make its metaverse goal a reality. 

Still, plans for the metaverse have not gone uncriticized, especially given the recent weeks of increased scrutiny regarding Facebook’s dominance over people’s daily lives. “Metaverse” was first coined in 1992 by American author Neal Stephenson in his novel “Snow Crash,” which depicts a corporate-owned virtual world.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey even cited one user who referenced the novel, agreeing that Stephenson was right in his prediction of “a dystopian corporate dictatorship.”

Facebook To Pay Fine and Settlement

Also on Tuesday, regulators in the United Kingdom fined Facebook nearly $70 million for breaching orders related to its 2020 acquisition of Giphy. 

While that’s only a fraction of the $400 million it paid to purchase Giphy, UK regulators warned that they could eventually order Facebook to sell off Giphy if they find proof the acquisition has damaged competition.

In the U.S., the Justice Department said the same day that Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle discrimination allegations brought by the agency under the Trump administration. 

In December, the department accused the company of favoring foreign workers with temporary work visas over what it described as thousands of qualified U.S. workers. 

“Facebook is not above the law and must comply with our nation’s federal civil rights laws, which prohibit discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices,” Kristen Clarke, an assistant attorney general at the department, said. 

Notably, this settlement is the largest ever collected by the department’s Civil Rights Division.

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

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SEC Releases Long-Awaited Report on January Memestock Frenzy, Pokes Hole in “Short Squeeze” Narrative 

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Among other findings, the SEC said hedge funds weren’t broadly damaged by January’s unprecedented trading event.


SEC Publishes Findings

The Securities and Exchange Commission released a long-awaited, 44-page report on Monday detailing its findings regarding this year’s “Memestock Frenzy,” which involved companies such as GameStop and AMC.

During the frenzy in late January, the share prices of those companies soared exponentially. According to one of the key narratives of the situation, smaller investors piled onto GameStop as a way to directly attack hedge funds that were actively betting against GameStop’s success and future. As CNBC reported at the time, those “hedge funds and other players had to rush in to cover their bets against the stock.” 

What followed were reports that hedge funds had lost billions of dollars all at once. In fact, one notable hedge fund, Melvin Capital, received what many described as a nearly $3 billion bailout. Meanwhile, in June, it was reported that the London-based White Square Capital had shut down its main fund due to the losses it suffered in January.

However, now, the SEC has said there is no real evidence to support some of the key pillars of this narrative, including that hedge funds were substantially hurt in the long run.

“Staff believes that hedge funds broadly were not significantly affected by investments in GME and other meme stocks,” the agency said in its report. “Staff did not observe that any advisers to private funds and registered funds experienced liquidity issues or difficulties with counterparties.”

On the whole, hedge funds even saw a 1.2% increase in profits in January, according to data from the HFRI Fund Weighted Composite index.

The agency also noted that GameStop purchases to cover bets were just “a small fraction of overall buy volume,” adding that “GME share prices continued to be high after the direct effects of covering short positions would have waned.”

“The underlying motivation of such buy volume cannot be determined,” the agency concluded. “Perhaps it was motivated by the desire to maintain a short squeeze. Whether driven by [that] desire… or by belief in the fundamentals of GameStop, it was the positive sentiment, not the buying-to-cover, that sustained the weeks-long price appreciation of GameStop stock.”

SEC Not Currently Issuing Any Recommendation

The agency did not offer any policy recommendations with this report, though it did stress that a number of small-time investors who either initially bet against GameStop’s success or tried to ride the wave of gains saw significant losses.

Given that the number of investors trading GameStop rapidly jumped from 10,000 at the beginning of January to 900,000 by the end of the month, it’s not surprising that the FTC confirmed heavy losses for many.

With that in mind, the SEC aligned its next focus on commission-free trading apps and the way in which they promote potentially excessive trading. Notably, that includes apps such as Robinhood and Webull, both of which faced controversy during the frenzy for severely restricting users’ ability to trade so-called memestocks. 

“Consideration should be given to whether game-like features and celebratory animations that are likely intended to create positive feedback from trading lead investors to trade more than they would otherwise,” the SEC said in its report.

SEC Chair Gary Gensler said Tuesday that by April, the agency could propose rules limiting how those apps make money from each trade, which is known as “payment for order flow.”

See what others are saying: (The LA Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)

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