- Dozens of companies have now condemned restrictive voting bills flowing through legislative chambers in at least 43 states, with many specifically singling out Georgia’s passage of one such bill last week.
- Over 70 Black executives for major U.S. companies began urging other businesses to fight back on Tuesday.
- Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, and Apple all joined the effort on Wednesday by condemning Georgia’s new voter law, while major players in the film and sports industry have announced plans or considerations to pull out of the state.
- In a CNBC interview Wednesday evening, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) accused the companies of making blanket criticisms without indicating what parts of the law they oppose, though CNBC’s anchors quickly outlined several specific aspects of the law that companies have criticized.
Black Execs Form Coalition Against Voter Suppression
More major companies are speaking out against GOP-led efforts to restrict voting access across the country, following the lead of more than 70 Black executives who signed a letter Tuesday urging businesses to take action.
Despite growing frustrations from consumers, many corporations were largely silent last week when the Georgia state legislature passed a massive overhaul of its election laws.
That newly-formed law enacts stricter voter identification requirements for submitting and returning absentee ballots. Counties can also now choose to only offer a single drop box location if they want, and drop boxes will be shut down on the last four days of voting. The law also makes it a misdemeanor to directly hand out food or drinks to voters waiting in line at polling sites.
Georgia isn’t alone here. According to Axios, at least 42 other states are working to restrict voting access.
With that in mind, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, one of the leaders of the coalition of Black executives, wrote in Tuesday’s letter, “When the [Georgia] law passed, I started paying attention.”
“There seems to be no one speaking out,” he added. “We thought if we spoke up, it might lead to a situation where others felt the responsibility to speak up.”
As The New York Times noted, while some Georgia-based companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot offered general statements in support of voting rights, “none took a specific stance on the bills.” That also included Merck.
“This is about all Americans having the right to vote,” said former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, who is leading the coalition of Black executives alongside Frazier. “But we need to recognize the special history of the denial of a right to vote for Black Americans. And we will not be silent.”
That coalition has since called on corporate America to publicly reject proposed voting laws that could disenfranchise Black voters. It’s also called on companies to use their influence, money, and lobbyists to hold lawmakers accountable.
The group itself appears to be the first time that this many powerful Black executives have joined forces to call out other companies for not standing up for racial justice.
More Companies Speak out
A domino effect of companies speaking out began to appear by Wednesday, beginning with Delta Airlines.
After facing a potential consumer boycott for not taking a stronger stance on the Georgia voting bill, CEO Ed Bastian released a statement that read, “I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
“The right to vote is sacred,” Bastian added. “It is fundamental to our democracy and those rights not only need to be protected, but easily facilitated in a safe and secure manner.”
“Since the bill’s inception, Delta joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties, to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill. We had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed.”
More drastically, the director of an upcoming Indiana Jones movie, James Mangold, and Star Wars icon Mark Hamill both announced that they will no longer film in Georgia.
Last week, the executive director of Major League Baseball said he’s considering whether or not to move games out of the state. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would “strongly support” such a plan.
Gov. Kemp Fires Back
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) spoke about the wave of companies that have now condemned his state’s new election law in an interview Wednesday evening.
“Specifically for Delta, they did not express any reservations about the final products of this bill,” Kemp said on CNBC. “It wasn’t until a couple of days after we signed it, after the political pressure, that Ed Bastian is now putting out a statement… quite honestly, nothing he said yet is pointing to any specific points in the bill that are causing suppression or any of those things because it doesn’t exist.”
Kemp repeated his point of not having seen any specific criticisms multiple times in the interview, even though CNBC’s anchors mentioned cited complaints from Frazier and others.
In fact, Kemp claimed multiple times in the interview that the bill actually expands voter access in Georgia.
“Governor, [these companies] don’t think so though,” anchor Sara Eisen said at one point. “No matter how much you say that. They’ve come out against it, and they’re going to fight it. And what we saw a few years ago with the LGBT bathroom bill rules, was that corporations are very powerful and once they start threatening boycotts of the state, your state, your predecessor reversed on the rules. So you’re going to deal with the corporate backlash. How far are you willing to take it?”
“Look, I’m glad to deal with it,” Kemp said before once again claiming he had not seen any specific complaints from corporations.
See what others are saying: (CNBC) (The Hill) (MarketWatch)
Mental Health Startup Cerebral May Have Harmed Hundreds of Patients, Leaked Documents Reveal
The company is being investigated by multiple federal agencies for its questionable practices, which have come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks.
Over 2,000 Incident Reports Shed Light on Recklessness
A Silicon Valley mental health startup called Cerebral may have harmed hundreds of patients by flagrantly disregarding medical standards, according to a cache of documents reviewed by Insider, as well as over 30 interviews with current or former employees by the outlet.
Founded in 2020, Cerebral provides mental health treatment to customers through talk therapy and medication for conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and ADHD.
With people quarantined during the pandemic, it became one of the largest virtual therapy firms in the United States, attracting some $462 million from investors.
Cerebral employees filed at least 2,060 incident reports during seven months in 2021, according to Insider. They show that the company enrolled patients with complex conditions like bipolar disorder, then assigned them to clinicians and other staff members with insufficient training, oversight, and support to treat such cases.
It also put dozens of patients on questionable treatment plans and misdiagnosed many others, the reports say, with company medical providers prescribing potentially lethal combinations of drugs or addictive drugs to patients with histories of addiction.
Additionally, many patients were left stranded without care for extended periods due to technology issues or the company’s failure to retain clinicians.
As a result, Cerebral shuffled patients from one provider to the next and even bungled their prescriptions, sometimes leading them to suffer drug withdrawal or take the wrong medication.
Patients Tell Their Stories
One patient reportedly spent two weeks waiting for a referral to a clinician, later saying she spent eight days in a psychiatric ward.
Another patient told CBS News she was prescribed a drug for her anxiety but afterward could not reach her prescriber for instructions on how to switch to the new medication safely.
“Any time I needed help, she was never available,” she said.
After she did not get a response for six days, she began taking the drug anyway, which caused her to break out in a rash.
“I messaged back,” she said, “letting them know it was spreading and getting worse, and they said that they were still trying to get a hold of that prescriber… They make it seem like they want to help, and then they get you, and then they’re gone.”
A Cerebral spokesperson told Insider that the reports did not highlight enough patients to accurately reflect the company.
“Any incident reports you obtained show Cerebral’s dedication to quality,” the spokesperson said. “You can’t take a relatively small group of incident reports and draw conclusions about our care.”
Two former senior employees told the outlet those reports were monitored by just a couple of people who had other responsibilities at the company, adding that leadership frequently pushed off solving the systemic issues flagged.
Cerebral’s practices are currently being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (CBS News) (Fierce Healthcare)
Instagram Testing New Tools To Verify Users Are Over 18
The new tools include AI software that analyzes video footage of a person’s face to verify their age.
Instagram Cracks Down on Underage Users
Instagram is testing new features in the United States to verify the age of users who claim to be over 18 years old.
According to a statement from Instagram’s parent company, Meta, the tools will only apply to users who seek to change their age from under 18 to over 18. The platform previously asked for users to upload their ID for verification in this process, but on Thursday, it announced there will be two new methods for confirming age.
One of the strategies was referred to as “social vouching.” Using this option, people can request that three mutual Instagram followers over the age of 18 confirm their age on the platform.
The other method allows users to upload a video selfie of themselves to be analyzed by Yoti, third-party age verification software. Yoti then estimates a person’s age based on their facial features, sends that estimate to Meta, and both companies delete the recording.
According to Meta, Yoti cannot recognize or identify a face based on the recording and only looks at the pixels to determine an age. Meta said that Yoti “is the leading age verification provider for several industries around the world,” as it has been used and promoted by social media companies and governmental organizations.
Still, some question how effective it will be for this specific use. According to The Verge, while the software does have a high accuracy rate among certain age groups and demographics, data also shows it is less precise for female faces and faces with darker skin tones.
Issues With Kids on Instagram
Meta argues that it is important for Instagram to be able to discern who is and is not 18, as it impacts what version of the app users have access to.
“We’re testing this so we can make sure teens and adults are in the right experience for their age group,” the company’s statement said.
“When we know if someone is a teen (13-17), we provide them with age-appropriate experiences like defaulting them into private accounts, preventing unwanted contact from adults they don’t know and limiting the options advertisers have to reach them with ads,” it continued.
These changes come as Instagram has been facing increased pressure to address the way its app impacts younger users.
Only children 13 and older are allowed to have Instagram accounts, but the service has faced criticism for not doing enough to enforce this. A 2021 survey of high school students found that nearly half of the respondents had created a social media account of some kind before they were 13.
The company also recently came under fire after The Wall Street Journal published internal Meta documents revealing that the company knew that it harmed teens, including by worsening body image issues for young girls and women.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Wall Street Journal) (Axios)
Elon Musk Threatens to Fire Employees Unless They Work in Person Full-Time
The world’s richest man in the world previously suggested that the popularity of remote work has “tricked people into thinking that you don’t actually need to work hard.”
“If You Don’t Show up, We Will Assume You Have Resigned”
On Wednesday, Electrek published two leaked emails apparently sent from Elon Musk to Tesla’s executive staff threatening to fire them if they don’t return to work in person.
“Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla,” he wrote. “This is less than we ask of factory workers.”
“If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible, I will review and approve those exceptions directly,” he continued.
Musk then clarified that the “office” must be a main office, not a “remote branch office unrelated to the job duties.”
“There are of course companies that don’t require this, but when was the last time they shipped a great new product? It’s been a while,” he wrote in the second email.
Later on Wednesday, a Twitter user asked Musk to comment on the idea that coming into work is an antiquated concept.
He replied, “They should pretend to work somewhere else.”
The Billionaire Pushes People to Work Harder
Musk has a history of pressuring his employees and criticizing them for not working hard enough.
“All the Covid stay-at-home stuff has tricked people into thinking that you don’t actually need to work hard. Rude awakening inbound,” he tweeted last month.
Three economists told Insider that remote work during the pandemic did not damage productivity.
“Most of the evidence shows that productivity has increased while people stayed at home,” Natacha Postel-Vinay, an economic and financial historian at the London School of Economics, told the outlet.
Musk is notorious for criticizing lockdown mandates and went so far as to call them “fascist” during a Tesla earnings call in April 2020.
Not long before that, Tesla announced that it would keep its Fremont, California plant open in defiance of shelter-in-place orders across the state.
In an interview with The Financial Times last month, Musk blasted American workers for trying to stay home, comparing them to their Chinese counterparts whom he said work harder.
“They won’t just be burning the midnight oil. They will be burning the 3 a.m. oil,” he said. “They won’t even leave the factory type of thing, whereas in America people are trying to avoid going to work at all.”
That same day, Fortune published an article detailing how Tesla workers in Shanghai work 12-hour shifts, six days out of the week, sometimes sleeping on the factory floor.