- 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.”
You’ve GOT to be kidding. How f****** irresponsible.— DC The Bruin 💛💙🐻✌ (@DCtheBruin) June 19, 2020
Why is SAFETY a political issue for @adam_aron and @AMCTheatres?
Well, I was really on the fence about continuing my monthly AMC A-List membership and going back WITH a mask. #AMC, thanks for the clarity.😷#BoycottAMC pic.twitter.com/fMwY3E03Pb
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)
Uber Forks Over $19 Million in Fine for Misleading Australian Riders
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)
Report Finds That Instagram Promotes Pro-Eating Disorder Content to 20 Million Users, Including Children
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.
Etsy Sellers Strike Amid Increased Transaction Fees and Mandatory Offsite Advertising
“What began as an experiment in marketplace democracy has come to resemble a dictatorial relationship between a faceless tech empire and millions of exploited, majority-women craftspeople,” an Etsy seller wrote in a petition.
Thousands of Etsy Sellers Shut Down Shops
Roughly 15,000 Etsy sellers are closing up their online shops starting Monday in protest of several grievances they have with the platform, including a new fee increase.
Starting on Monday, transaction fees are getting boosted from 5% to 6.5% on the platform. CEO Josh Silverman sent a memo claiming that this hike will allow the company to “make significant investments in marketing, seller tools, and creating a world-class customer experience,” but sellers have been frustrated by the change.
“Etsy’s last fee increase was in July 2018. If this new one goes through, our basic fees to use the platform will have more than doubled in less than four years,” seller Kristi Cassidy wrote in a petition calling for a strike. As of Monday morning, over 50,000 Etsy sellers, customers, and employees had signed the petition.
“These basic fees do not include additional fees for Offsite ads – which started during the first wave of the pandemic,” Cassidy continued.
Offsite ads allow Etsy to advertise sellers’ products on other websites like Google. Sellers who make over $10,000 a year reportedly have no way of opting out of the program and Etsy takes at least 12% of sales generated through the promotions.
“Etsy fees are an unpredictable expense that can take more than 20% of each transaction,” Cassidy wrote. “We have no control over how these ads are administered, or how much of our money is spent.”
Etsy became a pandemic success story as online shopping rose amid lockdowns. Many turned to the platform to purchase masks and other goods, prompting its stock, sales, and number of sellers to rise.
“It’s really obnoxious to tell us sellers, ‘Hey, we made record profits last year and we’re gonna celebrate by raising your fees a whole bunch,’” Bella Stander, a maps and guidebooks publisher who sells on Etsy, told the Wall Street Journal.
What Etsy Sellers Are Demanding
Currently, there are over five million sellers on Etsy. Cassidy hopes that if enough of them unite, the company will have to respond.
“As individual crafters, makers and small businesspeople, we may be easy for a giant corporation like Etsy to take advantage of,” she wrote. “But as an organized front of people, determined to use our diverse skills and boundless creativity to win ourselves a fairer deal, Etsy won’t have such an easy time shoving us around.”
In the petition’s list of demands, it asks that Etsy cancel the transaction fee increase, allow sellers to opt out of offsite ads, and provide a transparent plan to crack down on resellers who take up space on the platform.
It also demanded that Etsy end its “Star Seller Program,” which impacts how sellers can interact with their buyers.
“Etsy was founded with a vision of ‘keeping commerce human’ by ‘democratizing access to entrepreneurship.’ As a result, people who have been marginalized in traditional retail economies — women, people of color, LGBTQ people, neurodivergent people, etc. — make up a significant proportion of Etsy’s sellers,” Cassidy wrote.
“But as Etsy has strayed further and further from its founding vision over the years, what began as an experiment in marketplace democracy has come to resemble a dictatorial relationship between a faceless tech empire and millions of exploited, majority-women craftspeople.”
In a statement to Yahoo Finance, an Etsy spokesperson claimed that sellers were the company’s “top priority.”
“We are always receptive to seller feedback and, in fact, the new fee structure will enable us to increase our investments in areas outlined in the petition, including marketing, customer support, and removing listings that don’t meet our policies,” the spokesperson said. “We are committed to providing great value for our 5.3 million sellers so they are able to grow their businesses while keeping Etsy a beloved, trusted, and thriving marketplace.”
The strike was a trending topic on Twitter Monday morning. Many sellers took to the social media site to pledge their support to the movement.
Many sellers are urging buyers to refrain from using the site for the remainder of the week, which is how long the protest is currently scheduled to last.