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AMC Reverses Course After Saying It Won’t Require Masks to Avoid “Political Controversy”

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  • AMC, Regal, and Cinemark theater groups said this week that they won’t require customers to wear masks when they reopen.
  • While each was criticized for the policy, AMC sparked the most outrage on Thursday when its CEO said the chain will not require guests to wear masks in order to avoid “political controversy.”
  • AMC then said Friday that it was listening to its customers’ concerns and announced that it would be reversing course, requiring customers to wear masks at all soon-to-reopen locations.
  • AMC is expected to reopen 450 locations on July 15 and hundreds of more in the following weeks. Neither Regal nor Cinemark have announced any changes to their current mask policies.

AMC Won’t Require Masks

With most movie theaters in the United States set to reopen by the end of next month, several theater chains announced this week that they won’t require moviegoers to wear masks. 

That includes AMC, Regal, and Cinemark—the three largest theater chains in the U.S. While each of those announcements individually received backlash, it was AMC that has been embroiled in the most controversy.

Because of that, AMC quickly reversed course on Friday and said that it will now require all guests to wear masks. 

The controversy began Thursday when Variety published an interview with AMC Entertainment Chief Executive Adam Aron. In it, Aron explained the reasoning behind the policy, saying, “We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy.” 

“We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary,” he added. “We think that the vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks. When I go to an AMC feature, I will certainly be wearing a mask and leading by example.”

The “political controversy” Aron cites likely refers to the belief that mask requirements infringe upon citizens’ personal freedoms. In May, a woman refused to wear a mask into a Gelson’s in Orange County, California, claiming it was her right to not wear one. Her interaction with employees then went viral

President Donald Trump has also suggested that wearing masks is a political statement, saying that some people may be wearing masks not to protect themselves from COVID-19 but as a way to “signal disapproval of him.”

Still, many others—including numerous public health officials—have stressed that wearing a facial covering helps protect others from spreading COVID-19 if they may not yet know they have it. Because of that, they argue that masks help add a level of safety for elderly individuals, as well as for those who have naturally weakened immune systems.

In the interview, Aron said AMC would still sell masks for $1 to guests who forgot to bring theirs and wanted one. He also said all employees will be required to wear masks. 

Though the chain will now require a mask for everyone in each of its locations, it is still not expected to perform temperature checks on customers. Some businesses have adopted that measure as a way to screen for COVID-19.

Like many other businesses, AMC will reopen with reduced capacity seating in order to help people socially distance and will implement several new cleaning procedures. In its first stage, AMC will only allow 30% capacity for every showtime. As it moves forward, it will then increase capacity to 40%. 

AMC said that it hopes to be able to fill its theaters to half capacity by Labor Day. By Thanksgiving, it hopes to be able to once again fully fill its theaters. 

Additionally, AMC plans to clean auditoriums between each showtime, with extra time being allotted between screenings to allow for disinfection. The chain will also provide hand sanitizing stations throughout each of its locations and will encourage contact-less and cash-free forms of payment.

“We didn’t rush to reopen,” Aron told Variety. “There were some jurisdictions in some states, such as Georgia and Texas, that allowed people to reopen theaters in mid-May. We opted to remain closed, so we could give the country time to get a better handle on coronavirus. We wanted to use this time to figure out how best to open and how to do so safely.”

Other municipalities have been much slower to open. Some still require masks to be worn at all times when in public. Even without AMC’s updated mask rules, moviegoers in those areas would have still been required to wear masks.

AMC is expected to reopen about 450 of its locations on July 15. On July 24, the chain plans to reopen 150 additional theaters to coincide with Disney’s release of “Mulan.” This live-action remake of the classic 90’s film will be the first big-budget film release since the coronavirus shutdown. It was originally scheduled to release in March. 

The following week, Christopher Nolan’s spy film “Tenet” is expected to begin running in theaters.

AMC’s Original Mask Policy Blasted on Social Media

Though Aron had wished to keep AMC theaters from becoming embattled within a political controversy, his statement seemed to encite just that. Following his comments, #BoycottAMC trended on Twitter Thursday evening, with that hashtag still trending the next day. 

Many were quick to criticize AMC’s plan to not require facial coverings as reckless, saying that even though many local and state governments are easing lockdown measures, the coronavirus still remains a serious health concern.

“Dear @AMCTheatres,” one Twitter user said. “I am a person with 10+ pre-existing conditions. I’m also a huge movie lover. I hope you know that it’s nothing political when I say that I will #BoycottAMC. It’s a matter of life or death for me & you’ve lost a customer for life.”

Others, though still criticizing AMC’s optional mask policy, reminded users that both Cinemark and Regal plan to enact the same policy upon opening. Neither of those chains, however, made comments about facial coverings being political in nature. 

AMC Says It Will Now Require Masks

In a lengthy statement released on Friday, AMC attempted to assuage outraged customers by reversing course on Aron’s original comments. 

“At AMC, we have been consulting with top scientists and health experts to create a broad, sweeping, far-reaching health and safety effort to make AMC Theatres safe for our guests and associates when our theatres reopen in July,” the chain said before comparing its original policy to those of its major competitors like Regal and Cinemark.

“This announcement prompted an intense and immediate outcry from our customers, and it is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks,” it added.

“At AMC Theatres, we think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests. Accordingly, and with the full support of our scientific advisors, we are reversing course and are changing our guest mask policy. As we reopen theatres, we now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies at our theatres. The speed with which AMC moved to revise our mask policies is a reflection of our commitment to the safety and health of our guests.”

“We will constantly monitor the scientific community’s latest thinking as to the efficacy of mask usage. We also will be looking at the varying health conditions in specific localities around our theatres all across the country. This will help us to determine what our mask policy will be as we go forward, as well as to make any other needed changes to this policy.”

“Those who are unwilling to wear a mask will not be admitted or allowed to stay.”

Regal and Cinemark have yet to announce any potential changes to their mask policies. 

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

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Misinformation Makes Up 20% of Top Search Results For Current Events on TikTok, New Research Finds

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According to the report, the app “is consistently feeding millions of young users health misinformation, including some claims that could be dangerous to users’ health.”


Misinformation Thrives on TikTok

As TikTok becomes Gen Z’s favorite search engine, new research by journalism and tech group NewsGuard found that the video app frequently suggests misinformation to users searching for news-related topics. 

NewsGuard used TikTok’s search bar to look up trending news subjects like the 2020 election, COVID-19, the invasion of Ukraine, the upcoming midterms, abortion, school shootings, and more. It analyzed 540 videos based on the top 20 results from 27 subject searches, finding false or misleading claims in 105 of those posts. 

In other words, roughly 20% of the results contained misinformation. 

Some of NewsGuard’s searches contained neutral phrases and words like “2022 election” or “mRNA vaccine,” while others were loaded with more controversial language like “January 6 FBI” or “Uvalde TX conspiracy.” In many cases, those controversial phrases were suggested by TikTok’s own search bar. 

The researchers noted that, for example, during a search on climate change, “climate change debunked” showed up. While looking up COVID-19 vaccines, searches for “covid vaccine injury” or “covid vaccine exposed” were recommended.

Dangerous Results Regarding Health and More

The consequences of some of the false claims made in these videos can be severe. NewsGuard wrote in its report that the search engine “is consistently feeding millions of young users health misinformation, including some claims that could be dangerous to users’ health.”

Among the hoards of hazardous health claims were videos falsely suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines are toxic and cause permanent damage to organs. The report found that there are still several videos touting the anti-parasite hydroxychloroquine as a cure-all remedy, not just for COVID, but for any illness. 

Searches regarding herbal abortions were particularly troublesome. While certain phrases like “mugwort abortion” were blocked, the researchers found several ways around this that lead to multiple videos touting debunked DIY abortion remedies that are not only proven to be ineffective, but can also pose serious health risks. 

NewsGuard claimed that the social media app vowed to remove this content in July, but “two months later, herbal abortion content continues to be easily accessible on the platform.”

Other standard forms of conspiracy fodder also occupied space in top search results, including claims that the Uvalde school shooting was planned and that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. 

TikTok’s Search Engine Vs. Google

As part of its research, NewsGuard compared TikTok’s search results and suggestions with Google and found that, by comparison, the latter “provided higher-quality and less-polarizing results, with far less misinformation.”

“For example, searching ‘covid vaccine’ on Google prompted ‘walk-in covid vaccine,’ ‘which covid vaccine is best,’ and ‘types of covid vaccines,’” NewsGuard wrote. “None of these terms was suggested by TikTok.”

This is significant because recent reports show that young Internet users have increasingly turned to TikTok as a search engine over Google. While this might elicit safe results for pasta recipes and DIY tutorials, for people searching for current affairs, there could be significant consequences. 

NewsGuard said that it flagged six videos containing misinformation to TikTok, and the social media app ended up taking those posts down. In a statement to Mashable, the company pledged to fight against misinformation on its platform. 

“Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not allow harmful misinformation, including medical misinformation, and we will remove it from the platform,” the statement said. “We partner with credible voices to elevate authoritative content on topics related to public health, and partner with independent fact-checkers who help us to assess the accuracy of content.”

See what others are saying: (Mashable) (CNN) (USA Today)

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Over 70 TikTok Creators Boycott Amazon as Workers Protest Conditions and Pay

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As the company fends off pressure on both fronts, the Amazon Labor Union continues to back election petitions around the country including one filed Tuesday in upstate New York.


Gen Z Goes to War With Amazon

More than 70 big TikTok creators have pledged not to work with Amazon until it gives in to union workers’ demands, including calls for higher pay, safer working conditions, and increased paid time off.

Twenty-year-old TikToker Elise Joshi, who serves as deputy executive director for the advocacy group organizing the boycott, Gen Z for Change, posted an open letter on Twitter Tuesday.

“Dear Amazon.com,” it reads, “We are a coalition of over 70 TikTok creators with a combined following of 51 million people. Today, August 16th, 2022, we are joining together in solidarity with Amazon workers and union organizers through our People Over Prime Pledge.”

Amazon has refused to recognize the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) since workers voted to unionize at a Staten Island warehouse in April, and it has resisted collective bargaining negotiations.

Although the ALU is not involved in the boycott, its co-founder and interim President Chris Smalls expressed support for it in a statement to The Washington Post, saying, “It’s a good fight to take on because Amazon definitely is afraid of how we used TikTok during our campaigns.”

While the ALU posts videos on TikTok to drum up popular support for the labor movement, Amazon has sought to win large influencers over to its side. In 2017, it launched the Amazon Influencer Program, which offered influencers the opportunity to earn revenue by recommending products in personalized Amazon storefronts.

Last May, the company flew over a dozen Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok stars to a luxurious resort in Mexico.

Emily Rayna Shaw, a TikTok creator with 5.4 million followers who has partnered with Amazon in the past, is participating in the boycott.

“I think their method of offering influencers life-changing payouts to make them feel as if they need to work with them while also refusing to pay their workers behind the scenes is extremely wrong,” she told The Post.

“As an influencer, it’s important to choose the right companies to work with,” said Jackie James, a 19-year-old TikTok creator with 3.4 million followers, who told the outlet she will cease doing deals with Amazon until it changes its ways.

The ALU is demanding that Amazon bump its minimum wage to $30 per hour and stop its union-busting activities.

Slogging Through the ‘Suffocating’ Heat

Amazon is also facing challenges from workers themselves, with some walking out this week at its largest air hub in California, where company-branded planes transport packages to warehouses across the country.

They are asking for the base pay rate to be raised from $17 per hour to $22 per hour.

A group organizing the work stoppage under the name Inland Empire Amazon Workers United said in a statement that over 150 workers participated, but Amazon countered that the true number was only 74.

The Warehouse Worker Resource Center counted 900 workers who signed a petition demanding pay raises.

Inland Empire Amazon Workers United has complained about the “suffocating” heat in the facility, saying that temperatures at the San Bernardino airport reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for 24 days last month.

Amazon spokesperson Paul Flaningan, however, claimed to CNBC that the temperature never surpassed 77 degrees and said the company respects its workers’ right to voice their opinions.

On Tuesday, the ALU backed another warehouse’s decision to file a petition for a union election in upstate New York, roughly 10 miles outside Albany.

The National Labor Relations Board requires signatures from 30% of employees to trigger an election.

See what others are Saying: (The Washington Post (CNBC) (Associated Press)

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Twitter Roasts Tim Hortons for Offering Coffee and Donut to Settle Lawsuit for Spying on Customers

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The company allegedly tracked app users’ movements 24/7 to determine when they visited a competitor, a major sports venue, or their home or workplace.


A Not So Tasty Compensation

Social media users ridiculed Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons over the weekend for a leaked email in which it offered to compensate customers whom it allegedly spied on by giving them a free beverage and pastry.

Twitter user James McLeod posted pictures of the email Friday, which was sent to affected users of the company’s app.

“You are receiving this email in connection with a proposed settlement, subject to Court approval, of a national class action lawsuit involving the Tim Hortons app and the collection of geolocation data between April 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020,” it read.

“As part of the proposed settlement agreement, eligible app users will receive a free hot beverage and a free baked good,” it continued. “Distribution details will be provided following approval, in the event that the court approves the settlement.”

The email specified that the free beverage would have a retail value of $6.19 (CAD) plus tax, and the free baked good would be $2.39 (CAD).

In a statement to Vice, Tim Hortons said the settlement is not admission of any wrongdoing and that the allegations in the lawsuits have not been proven in court.

“Add to this the fact that the coffee is absolutely abysmal and it becomes even more hilarious,” one person tweeted amid a flurry of criticism toward the company.

Another added, “Do you think the donut will have the good sprinkles or the bad sprinkles?”

‘Vast Amounts’ of Data Collected Illegally

Suspicion that Tim Hortons had violated its customers’ privacy began in 2020 when a reporter from the National Post found that the company’s app had tracked their location over 2,700 times in under five months.

Last Month, Canadian authorities wrapped up an investigation into the matter, finding that Tim Hortons tracked and recorded the movements of people who downloaded its app every few minutes of every day, even when the app wasn’t open.

Although the app requested permission to access geolocation data, authorities concluded that it misled users to believe it would only gather data while the app was open.

Using “vast amounts” of geolocation data, the company inferred where users lived, where they worked and whether they were traveling, according to investigators.

It even allegedly generated an “event” anytime a user entered or exited a Tim Hortons competitor, a major sports venue, or their home or workplace.

The investigation found that the company continued gathering data for a year even despite having shelved plans to use it for targeted advertising.

The company, which has committed to deleting all geolocation data on group members, said in a statement that it only used the data in a limited way, such as to analyze user trends.

See what others are saying: (Vice) (The Verge) (Privacy Commissioner of Canada)

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