“FIND THIS FUCK,” Citizen CEO Andrew Frame reportedly told employees during the company-led manhunt, which included a $30,000 bounty for users who provided information that led to the suspect’s arrest.
Citizen Abandons Plans for Private Police Force
The crime-tracking app Citizen has now scrapped controversial plans to create its own police force after a highly criticized test run in Los Angeles with a private security service.
The company first began its 30-day Los Angeles pilot program last month, though it was only made available for employees. At the time, it seemed this was a route Citizen was intent on pursuing, as it had previously indicated an interest in creating an on-demand nighttime protection service for its 7 million users. In fact, it even launched its own company-branded squad car for the pilot program.
As of Tuesday, that program is now defunct, and according to CBS Money Watch, the company has no plans of continuing it in Los Angeles or any other city.
“A Digital Superhighway for Racial Profiling”
A spokesperson for the company refused to tell the outlet why it was abandoning the project, but the decision comes after a week of extremely negative publicity.
On May 21, Vice’s Motherboard first broke the news that Citizen was developing a private security force with Los Angeles Professional Security. In that article, reporter Joseph Cox wrote that the company wanted to deploy the firm “to the scene of disturbances at the request of app users.”
In a second report published Thursday, Cox cited one former employee who described the app’s user base as “insanely racist, which comes out in comment sections that are especially vile even by the standards of internet comment sections.”
That kind of behavior on the app has become a major concern for many given the potential for real-world implications to arise.
“The app gives people the power to say who is and who isn’t suspicious, and who belongs in their community,” Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst at the nonprofit privacy watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation, told CBS. “These apps are a digital superhighway for racial profiling.”
Because of those factors, Guariglia added that the service’s potential was “incredibly disturbing.”
Citizen Offered $30,000 Bounty for Wrong Person
Cox’s second report also details just how concerning Citizen’s attempts to catch criminals have already been.
Two weeks ago, Citizen reportedly received a tip about a fire that had broken out in Los Angeles’ Pacific Palisades neighborhood because of suspected a male arsonist. According to sources Cox spoke with, Citizen Founder and CEO Andrew Frame then initiated a massive manhunt for the criminal in an effort to “prov[e] Citizen’s utility to users and [help] the app grow.”
In fact, Frame allegedly wanted Citizen to catch the suspect live on air as thousands watched, a situation that appears to be reminiscent of A&E’s “Live PD,” which was canceled last year following the in-custody deaths of George Floyd and Javier Ambler.
Frame even initially offered $10,000 to the user who provided information that would lead to the suspect’s arrest. He later bumped that reward up to $20,000 before ultimately capping the bounty at $30,000.
Cox reported that at one point, an employee noted that posting “specific information that could identify parties involved in an incident” violated company policy, but that employee was ignored.
“first name? What is it?! publish ALL info,” Frame allegedly told his employees via Slack.
“FIND THIS FUCK,” the report said he later added. “LETS GET THIS GUY BEFORE MIDNIGHT HES GOING DOWN.”
“BREAKING NEWS. this guy is the devil. get him,” he said in another message. “by midnight!@#! we hate this guy. GET HIM.”
“Notify all of la. Blast to all of la.”
“The more courage we have, the more signups we will have. go after bad guys, signups will skyrocket. period… we should catch a new bad guy EVERY DAY.”
Numbers-wise, Frame was right. According to internal Slack messages, concurrent viewership peaked at 40,000 people and signups spiked. At a later all-hands meeting, Frame allegedly noted that 1.4 million people engaged with the hunt in some form.
But the hunt was marred by the fact that police eventually arrested a different man than the one Citizen had spent a full night hunting. As Cox put it, “Frame and the entirety of the Citizen apparatus had spent a whole night putting a bounty on the head of an innocent man.”
“Citizen incentivizes both its employees and the public to create incidents because they are the core currency of the app and what drives user engagement, user retention, and a sense of reliance on the app itself,” Cox added.
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.
See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Electrek) (Business Insider)
Apple Raises Worker Pay as Unions Gain Ground
The company’s vice president of people and retail was caught trying to dissuade employees from unionizing in a leaked video.
Labor Squeezes Apple into Submission
Apple announced Wednesday that its U.S. corporate and retail employees will see a pay increase later this year, with starting wages bumped from $20 per hour to $22, though stores in certain regions may get more depending on market conditions.
Starting salaries are also expected to increase.
“Supporting and retaining the best team members in the world enables us to deliver the best, most innovative, products and services for our customers,” an Apple spokesman said in a statement. “This year as part of our annual performance review process, we’re increasing our overall compensation budget.”
Some workers were told their annual reviews would be moved up three months and that their pay increases would take effect in early July, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Furthermore, they were told the increased compensation budget would be in addition to pay increases and special awards already received within the past year.
Feeling squeezed by low unemployment and high inflation, tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have changed their compensation structures in recent weeks to pay workers more, and Apple is the latest to bend to market pressure.
Unions Gaining Traction
On Wednesday, The Verge received a leaked video of Apple’s vice president of people and retail, Deirdre O’Brien, explicitly dissuading employees from unionizing.
“I worry about what it would mean to put another organization in the middle of our relationship,” she said. “An organization that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business. And most importantly one that I do not believe shares our commitment to you.”
She vocalized more anti-union talking points, like the idea that the company will not be able to make important decisions as quickly with a collective bargaining agreement.
O’Brien has been personally visiting retail stores over the past few weeks in an apparent bid to combat budding union activity.
Apple stores in three locations — New York, Georgia, and Maryland — are currently pushing to unionize, with the latter two set to vote in elections on June 2 and 15, respectively. In response to these efforts, Apple has hired anti-union lawyers, given managers anti-union scripts, and held anti-union captive audience meetings.
In the United States, unionized workers make about 13.2% more than non-unionized workers in the same sector, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
As of Wednesday, Apple’s shares had fallen 21% since the start of the year, but sales grew 34% last year to almost $300 billion.