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Anthropologie Responds to Accusations of Racial Profiling

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  • After Anthropologie posted a Maya Angelou quote on Instagram, numerous people claiming to be current or former employees accused the brand of racial profiling customers and using the codename “Nick” to refer to Black people who go into their stores.
  • A few days later, Anthropologie said it was supporting the Black community through measures like diversifying its workforce and donating $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund. 
  • That post also received backlash from users who called on the store to address the accusations levied against it.
  • On Thursday, Anthropologie posted another statement, denying that it used a codeword and saying the company has a “zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination or racial profiling.”

Accusations Against Anthropologie 

Anthropologie, the upscale clothing retailer owned by Urban Outfitters, is being accused of racially profiling customers after promoting inclusivity on social media.

The allegations first surfaced on June 1 when the brand posted a quote from Maya Angelou about diversity. 

Numerous people who said they were either current or former employees at Anthropologie stores in multiple U.S. cities and Canada responded to the post, accusing the company of racial profiling and using the codename “Nick” to refer to Black customers.

Many of the responses were screenshotted and uploaded in a post by the fashion watchdog Diet Prada.

“How are you going to stop racially profiling your [Nicks]?” one user wrote. “I worked at Anthropologie and the racial profiling was sickening. So many times the management told us to watch people of color over the headsets.” 

“I thought Chicago was the only ones who used ‘Nick” as a form of saying ‘watch that black woman who just walked in,’” another responded.

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Another day, another boho Karen retailer showing their true shades of beige. Last week, @anthropologie posted a Maya Angelou quote in splashy colors as a “call for equality”. With any mention of the #BlackLivesMatter movement absent, Angelou’s words could be interpreted more along the lines of “All lives matter”, lest Anthro offend their primary target audience. In the comment section, oblivious fans clamored for it to be released as a t-shirt or a poster. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Also in the comment section— claims of deep discriminatory practices. The code names different retailers have used to profile POC shoppers have come to light in lawsuits over the years—Moschino’s “Serena”, Zara’s “special order”, or Versace’s “D410” (the merchandise color code they use for black shirts)—but Anthropologie’s is maybe the most insidious yet. Comments from multiple employees confirm that stores in California, Chicago, Seattle, NYC and Canada use the code name “Nick” to refer to Black shoppers. Associates report being told to watch Black shoppers, and Black shoppers also commented confirming having been followed while shopping in their stores. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Anthropologie followed up with a post of a black square and then some promises of action they’ll take. At the same time, more hypocrisy was taking place at the corporate level. While the retailer was posting about committing to diversifying their workforce, they were at the same time asking POC for free labor. On May 26th, Queer Black creator Lydia Okello ( @styleisstyle ) was approached by a producer to potentially partake in Anthro’s #sliceofhappy Pride month campaign in exchange for a free outfit. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Okello replied with their typical rates and ended up getting trapped in a back and forth volley with no resolution after being told there was no budget for an influencer of their level (22.8k followers). For a campaign aimed to express what happiness means, surely they could’ve anticipated that no one, especially in a month meant to celebrate them, is happy to work for free. • #blacklivesmatter #blm #anthropologie #anthropologiehome #anthro #retail #codename #work #free #influencer #microinfluencer #labor #dietprada

A post shared by Diet Prada ™ (@diet_prada) on Jun 10, 2020 at 12:58pm PDT

Other users also criticized the post as vague, empty, and failing to actually address the Black Lives Matter movement. Those remarks, along with calls for the affluent company to donate money, were also echoed in comments on a post made by the store the next day for “Blackout Tuesday.”

Several days later, Anthropologie responded with an Instagram post where it promised to stand with and support the Black community by diversifying its workforce, expanding its diversity and anti-discriminating training, and donating $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund. 

The post did not mention the allegations of racial discrimination, which prompted more backlash and calls for the retailer to address the accusations.

Anthropologie’s Official Response 

Anthropologie finally responded to the allegations on Thursday in another Instagram post.

“You may have seen that we have been challenged to be more transparent, unbiased, and fair in our stores and with our business practices,” the statement begins. 

Regarding allegations of racial profiling, we have never and will never have a code word based on a customer’s race or ethnicity,” it continued. “Our company has a zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination or racial profiling in any form. Employees who do not adhere to this policy are subject to disciplinary action which may include termination.”

The statement also addressed accusations brought by a Black model and content creator named Lydia Okello, who posted screenshots of a conversation they had with an Anthropologie producer who had recruited them for a campaign celebrating Pride Month.

Okello said that when they provided their freelance rates, the producer said there was “no budget,” and that instead they would be given “one gifted look.” 

“‘No Budget’ means that I was approached with no intent to ever be paid for my time and labour, let alone my experiences as a Black queer person,” Okello wrote. 

“This happens to Black creatives constantly. Especially in the fashion industry,” they continued. “We are made to feel that we ask for too much when we bring up fair compensation for labour. It is implied that we should be happy with what we get. Shouldn’t we just be happy that a big brand wants to work with someone like us?”⠀

“But, in this case, it is quite confounding that a multimillion dollar company would reach out to someone with ‘no budget’. Especially when it involves the Queer Black Voices™️ it would like to align itself with, and use in advertisements.”

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On May 26th, I was contacted by a producer at @anthropologie to take part in a Pride campaign. I responded with my rates for the campaign requirements. The response was that there was no budget, but that the producer would be happy to email to discuss rates.⠀ ⠀ The email was a longer pitch, including a request for an advertisement on my Instagram page and 3-5 images for them to use wherever they would like. With no budget. ⠀ ⠀ The above are screenshots from our conversation, including a “nudge” in my DMs this week to respond to the email requests for free labour.⠀ ⠀ Throughout the interaction, I stated my price and was met with no compensation. “No Budget” means that I was approached with no intent to ever be paid for my time and labour, let alone my experiences as a Black queer person. Only after many messages/emails was there acknowledgement that I should be compensated. Even in that response, there was gaslighting. I stated my fees from the very first message.⠀ ⠀ This happens to Black creatives constantly. Especially in the fashion industry. We are made to feel that we ask for too much when we bring up fair compensation for labour. It is implied that we should be happy with what we get. Shouldn’t we just be happy that a big brand wants to work with someone like us?⠀ ⠀ I’ve been “paid” in exposure numerous times in the last 12 years as a style blogger. Which I now refuse to do. But, in this case, it is quite confounding that a multimillion dollar company would reach out to someone with “no budget”. Especially when it involves the Queer Black Voices™️ it would like to align itself with, and use in advertisements. Seems timely, no?⠀ ⠀ We need to hold brands accountable to their lip service. In fact, with BLM being a “hot topic” to a lot of corporations, this is going to happen FREQUENTLY. Folks will want to capitalize on Black bodies & Black labour for the lowest price possible, as they have for several hundred years. ⠀ ⠀ The final slide is a post from June 5 on the brand page. When Anthropologie says “black lives do matter” what does that mean? When they plan to diversify their workforce, is it this free Black labour?⠀ ⠀ #payblackcreatives #MyAnthropologie

A post shared by LYDIA OKELLO | they/them (@styleisstyle) on Jun 7, 2020 at 8:20am PDT

Interestingly, Anthropologie appeared to validate Okello’s claim that they were told they would only be compensated in product, though it did not refer to them by name.

“In the case of influencers, our methods of compensation include product, financial payment, or a combination of both,” the company wrote.

Many users responded by condemning the post as defensive and generic, and some accused the retailer of lying.

“This is some straight BS, SAVE IT,” one user wrote. “You’re only posting this to save your company after people finally spoke out. I’m so over companies trying to make up for their LONG history of racial bias. You support and stand with things when it’s convenient for you!”

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Daily Beast) (USA Today)

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Employees at Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software Form First Union at a Major Gaming Company

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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)

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Uber Forks Over $19 Million in Fine for Misleading Australian Riders

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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.

See what others are saying: (ABC) (NASDAQ) (Los Angeles Times)

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Report Finds That Instagram Promotes Pro-Eating Disorder Content to 20 Million Users, Including Children

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According to the study, even users hoping to recover were given eating disorder content because they were “still in Instagram’s algorithmically curated bubble.”


Instagram Promotes Eating Disorder Content

Instagram promotes pro-eating disorder content to millions of its users, including children as young as nine-years-old, according to a Thursday report from the child advocacy non-profit group Fairplay.

The report, titled “Designing for Disorder: Instagram’s Pro-eating Disorder Bubble,” studied what it called an eating disorder “bubble,” which consisted of nearly 90,000 accounts that reached 20 million unique users. The average age of the bubble was 19, but researchers found users aged nine- and 10-years-old that followed three or more of these accounts. Roughly one-third of those in the bubble were underage. 

According to Fairplay, Instagram’s parent company Meta derives $2 million in revenue a year from the bubble and another $228 million from those who follow it. 

“In addition to being profitable, this bubble is also undeniably harmful,” the report said. “Algorithms are profiling children and teens to serve them images, memes and videos encouraging restrictive diets and extreme weight loss.”

“Meta’s pro-eating disorder bubble is not an isolated incident nor an awful accident,” it continued. “Rather it is an example of how, without appropriate checks and balances, Meta systematically puts profit ahead of young people’s safety and wellbeing.”

Researchers identified the bubble by first looking at 153 seed accounts with over 1,000 followers that posted content celebrating eating disorders. Some used phrases like “thinspiration” or other slang terms like “ana” and “mia” to refer to specific eating disorders. Others included an underweight body mass index in their bios. 

Those seed accounts alone had roughly 2.3 million collective followers, 1.6 million of which were unique. Of those unique users, researchers looked at how many seed accounts each followed to determine that nearly 90,000 accounts were part of the eating disorder bubble. Those accounts totaled over 28 million followers, 20 million of which were unique.

These pages posted content ranging from memes and photos of extreme thinness to screenshots of progress on calorie counting apps. One user said they were on their third day of eating just 300 calories. 

Others, including children under the age of 13, put their current weights and goal weights in their account bios. Some wrote that they “hate food” or were “starving for perfection.”

Content’s Impact on Children

Fairplay claimed that many of those in the bubble wanted to recover but were essentially trapped in Instagram’s algorithm. 

“Many of the biographies of users in the bubble talk about wanting to or being in recovery, wanting to get ‘better’, to ‘heal’ or being aware of how unwell they were,” the report said. “However, these users are still in Instagram’s algorithmically curated bubble. They will still be feeding content from other accounts in the bubble, including the seed accounts, that normalizes, glamorizes or promotes eating disorders.”

The report also showcased the firsthand account of a 17-year-old eating disorder survivor and activist identified as Kelsey. Kelsey wrote that it was impossible to “imagine a time when the app didn’t have the sort of content that promotes disordered eating behavior.” 

“I felt like my feed was always pushed towards this sort of content from the moment I opened my account,” Kelsey continued.

“That type of content at one point even got so normalized that prominent figures such as the Kardashians and other female and male influencers were openly promoting weight loss supplements and diet suppressors in order to help lose weight.”

Kelsey said Instagram delivered that content without any relevant searches, but posts about body positivity needed to be actively sought out. 

The report concluded by arguing that there needs to be legislation that regulates platforms like Instagram by requiring them to prioritize user safety, particularly for children.

Meta and Instagram have long been accused of disregarding child safety. Last year, a whistleblower unveiled documents that revealed the company knew of the harm it posed to young people, specifically regarding body image. A Meta spokesperson told The Hill that they were unable to address the most recent allegations in Fairplay’s report.

“We’re not able to fully address this report because the authors declined to share it with us, but reports like this often misunderstand that completely removing content related to peoples’ journeys with or recovery from eating disorders can exacerbate difficult moments and cut people off from community,” the spokesperson said.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (CNet)

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