Posts tagged with "Facebook"

One ‘bad egg’: Woman deliberately coughs on $35,000 worth of food at market

March 20, 2020

One woman has proven herself to be “at the very bottom of the U.S. food chain” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her so-called prank at a Gerrity’s Supermarket in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, has cost the grocery store $35,000 in discarded stock, The New York Daily News reports.

On Wednesday, March 25,  the shopper deliberately coughed all over the store’s produce and on parts of the bakery and meat cases—forcing management to throw all of the contaminated merchandise away so that other customers would not be exposed to possibly contaminated food.

“Today was a very challenging day,” Gerrity’s Supermarket co-owner Joe Fasula wrote on Facebook.

According to Fasula, the woman responsible was known by police to be “a chronic problem in the community.” Although they do not believe that she actually was infected with the novel coronavirus, out of an abundance of caution they worked with the local health inspector to get rid of everything she coughed on.

After getting her out of the store and contacting authorities, more than 15 employees worked to clean and disinfect the areas she had  visited.

One thing is for sure, we will have the cleanest display and freshest produce anywhere in northeast[ern] PA,” Fasula wrote.

Research contact: @NYDailyNews

Facebook contractors must work in offices during coronavirus pandemic—while staff stay home

March 16, 2020

Silicon Valley has come up with its own high-tech version of Cinderella, the fairy tale maiden who was forced to toil endlessly for her otherwise privileged family.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook is encouraging staff worldwide to work from home—part of a so-called social distancing strategy to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But some in the social network’s army of contract workers—already often treated like second-class employees—have complained that they have no such luxury and are being asked to choose between their jobs and their health, The Intercept reports.

Discussions on Facebook’s internal employee forum reviewed by The Intercept reveal a state of confusion, fear, and resentment, with many precariously employed hourly contract workers stating that, contrary to statements to them from Facebook, they are barred by their actual employers from working from home, despite the technical feasibility and clear public health benefits of doing so.

The discussions focus on Facebook contractors employed by Accenture and WiPro at facilities in Austin, Texas, and Mountain View, California, including at least two Facebook offices. (In Mountain View, a local state of emergency already has been declared over the coronavirus.)

The Intercept has seen posts from at least six contractors complaining about not being able to work from home, and has communicated with two more contractors directly about the matter. One Accenture employee told The Intercept that their entire team of over 20 contractors had been told that they were not permitted to work from home to avoid infection.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Intercept that “for both our full-time employees and contingent workforce there is some work that cannot be done from home … for content reviewers, some of this work must be done from the office for safety, privacy and legal reasons,” adding that “we’re exploring work from home options on a temporary basis, and have already enabled it in some locations.”

The spokesperson added that Facebook is “taking additional steps to limit contact for those in the office, like physically spreading people out, limiting in-person meetings, eliminating social visitors, making changes to food service, increasing office cleaning, and encouraging people who don’t need to be in the office to stay home.”

In some cases, workers said they’ve been told that the only way they can stay home is by using the finite paid time off days they’re allotted each year.

 “Despite guidance from Facebook,” reads one contractor post, “contractors are being asked to come into the Mountain View office to work, unless they have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2.” This employee added that “We are being told that if we choose not to come in, whether it be for health concerns or out of an abundance of caution, that we will have to use PTO, [paid time off] and it’s unclear if our absence is going to be counted against us.”

According to a post from an Austin Facebook contractor, Accenture “is only sending home people who ‘exhibit flu like symptoms in the work place.’” This contractor added that he “just saw 3 people get sent home and we’re all still in the office trying to focus on our work like cross contamination doesn’t exist for 14 days prior to symptoms showing up…At this point, I’m at a loss.”

“Most people here are sick, coughing, and sneezing,” wrote a Facebook contractor in Mountain View. “The office ran out of Clorox wipes and hand sanitizers, there are no masks or thermometer.” At this office, the disparity between Facebook’s full-time employees and their hourly support staff is particularly galling: “Some employees who work in the same building got paid 2 weeks of staying home! So how is that fair? Why their lives matter more than others? Why some of us have to choose between risking their work or their health?”

Neither Accenture nor WiPro could immediately comment to the Intercept about the situation.

After The Intercept contacted Facebook, sources said the company deleted at least once lengthy thread on the PTO grievances, with one Facebook employee saying in the online workplace forum that the deleted post “contained false and misleading information about COVID-19 that was causing unnecessary panic for some people working in the [Mountain View] office.” This employee added that “going forward,” the company “will remove any posts or comment about COVID-19 flagged to us that contains misinformation.”

Research contact: @theintercept

Corporate America races to respond to a crisis that routs the usual 9-5 routine

March 11, 2020

Employers are implementing contingency plans—from dividing teams across locations, to limiting visitors, to allowing employees to telecommute—as the spread of the novel coronavirus is starting to topple basic expectations about the safety and sustainability of office-based work, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The moves, designed to minimize disruption to businesses while protecting workers, range from advising colleagues to stand at least six feet apart, to requiring that people register their personal travel plans with their employers. While some companies have done emergency planning, the virus’s breadth and speed are posing challenges still hard to anticipate, executives said.

On Monday, the Journal notes, Bank of America began splitting up some employees on its Equities and Fixed-Income teams between New York and Connecticut—creating redundancies, so that if an employee gets sick and a whole team has to self-quarantine, a backup team can keep functioning in its place. More than 100 employees will work from Connecticut, while the majority will remain in New York.

Microsoft has instructed thousands of its workers in Seattle and the Bay Area area to work from home if they are able, and recommended that employees still needed in open office spaces stay six feet away from others. The company also asked its staff to try to limit prolonged interaction with other people.

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a company email, encouraging staff in California and areas around the world with a high concentration of infections to work from home if possible over the coming week. The note represented an escalation in the company’s caution to staff. It last week had encouraged its 25,000 workers across Silicon Valley to work from home.

Meanwhile, the news outlet reports, Harvard informed students this week that they should not return from Spring Break; all classes will be held online. In addition, several colleges, including Texas A&M and MIT, have started asking employees and students to register their personal travel plans, so that administrators can keep track as coronavirus spreads—and MIT says, “Classes with more than 150 students will begin meeting virtually [this week]…; numerous MIT events have been postponed or modified.”

Stripe a San Francisco-area financial-technology company, has switched to videoconferencing for job interviews in place of on-site meetings. Becton Dickinson ,a medical-supplies company based in New Jersey, told employees to limit client meetings off-site.

Facebook, which on Thursday recommended that thousands of its employees in the San Francisco-area start working from home, is further encouraging people to stay away from the campus by canceling shuttle-bus operations for the coming week.

San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase last week asked several types of workers—including people with compromised immune systems, those who are “at risk because of age,” or people for whom getting sick would be especially problematic—to start working from home, according to Philip Martin, the company’s chief information security officer. He estimates that 200 out of 1,000 employees globally fell into groups that Coinbase asked to work remotely, including single parents and pregnant employees. The company on Friday suggested all employees begin working from home if they can starting this week.

However, The Wall Street Journal notes, working from home doesn’t work for swaths of the employee universe, from food-service and hotel staffers to nurses. Nearly four in 10 workers in the United States (or 37%) say it isn’t possible at all for them to do their job by working from home for a period of several weeks, according to a new Wall Street Journal/SurveyMonkey poll.

Companies say they are looking to federal and local authorities for guidance, but they are also closely watching how their peers respond, often not wanting to be first to implement a drastic protocol, said Lars Schmidt, the founder of Amplify, an HR consulting and executive-search firm.

“There’s a bit of a cascading impact,” he said. “Companies are holding out to see what others are doing.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Going south? Facebook, Netflix, and Twitter beg off South by Southwest over coronavirus fears

March 9, 2020

They may be “social media,” but right now, hobnobbing with hordes of people is not their mission: Facebook, Netflix, TikTok, and Twitter have joined the growing list of companies—including Warner Music—that are dropping out of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, ABC News reports.

Apple is also, by many accounts, pulling out—but has not confirmed the rumors.

The tech, film, and music festival is slated to take place March 13 to 22 in Austin, Texas—and organizers said at a news conference on March 4 that the event is still scheduled to take place, as planned; and that canceling it wouldn’t make the community safer.

“Right now, there is no evidence that closing South by Southwest or other activities is going to make this community safer. We are constantly monitoring that situation,” Dr. Mark Escott, the interim medical director for Austin Public Health, told reporters. “One of the concerns is that if we shut down or make the recommendation to shut down South by Southwest, people will still continue to come here … but without that organizational structure that South by Southwest provides.”

Festival organizers are increasing the availability of hand-washing and sanitizing stations— as well as screening employees’ and volunteers’ temperatures—to help allay anxieties over COVID-19, Escott added.

Also on Wednesday, health officials in Texas announced the state’s first confirmed case of coronavirus in Fort Bend County, outside of Houston.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was scheduled to be one of the event’s speakers, but his name no longer appears on the website, ABC News noted. “Twitter is implementing a mandatory global business travel restriction for our employees, effective immediately. This unfortunately includes SXSW,” a Twitter spokesperson told the nework news outlet.

A Facebook spokesperson similarly said, “Due to concerns related to coronavirus, our company and employees will not be participating in SXSW this year.”

Netflix and TikTok also both confirmed to ABC News on Thursday, March 5, that they would not be participating. Apple did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment, although Reuters reported that the company had opted not to attend.

Organizers and the city of Austin have faced widespread calls to call off the festival this year. A Change.org petition calling for it to be canceled had garnered nearly 50,000 signatures as of Thursday.

Calling off the festival would be a major blow to the local economy. The gathering injects up to $350 million into Austin’s economy, according to a 2018 analysis by Greyhill Advisors, funded by South by Southwest.

Research contact: @ABC

Editor’s note: Under pressure to keep a lid on COVID-19, Austin has canceled SXSW, as of Friday night, March 6.

Elliott Management buys stake in Twitter; looks to replace CEO @jack Dorsey

March 3, 2020

Hedge fund Elliott Management has taken a sizable stake—although it won’t say just how much- in the San Francisco-based social network Twitter  and plans to push for changes at the company, including replacing Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, according to people familiar with the matter.

According to a report by Reuters, Twitter is one of the few U.S. technology companies headed, but not controlled, by one of its founders. It has given shareholders equal voting rights, making Dorsey, who owns only about 2% of the company, vulnerable to a challenge from an activist investor such as Elliott.

And word is out that Elliot would like to see Dorsey go. NPR reported on March 1 that Elliott is concerned that Dorsey hasn’t focused enough on Twitter, because he is also chief executive of payments company Square. The hedge fund is pushing for a CEO whose sole job is running Twitter.

Adding pressure, Elliott has nominated four directors to the company’s board, according to two people familiar with the matter, NPR said. The two sides have had constructive talks, according to the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Twitter and Elliott declined to comment.

The worry is that under Dorsey’s leadership, Twitter is not poised to capitalize on a flood of news this year—including the U.S. presidential election, the summer Olympic Games in Tokyo—and the coronavirus outbreak, that could attract people and advertisers to the platform.

Elliott approached San Francisco-based Twitter about its concerns privately and has had constructive discussions with it since then, the people said.

Twitter has been a potential target for activist investors for years, according to Bloomberg News. The company only has one class of stock, the news outlet notes, which means co-founder Dorsey doesn’t have voting control of the company like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Snapchat co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy.

Research contact: @NPR

Rude awakening: Find out the story behind this amazingly grumpy baby photo

February 27, 2020

They are calling it “the scowl seen ‘round the world.” A photo from Brazil has gone viral for catching the expression of a newborn baby girl who appears to angrily stare down the doctor who delivered her by C-section.

Photographer Rodrigo Kunstmann, who snapped the now-famous picture of Isabela Pereira de Jesus, said her family burst out laughing when he showed them the image.

“They were like, ‘This could be an internet meme!’” Kunstmann, 32, told TODAY Parents on NBC-TV in the United States through a translator. “Everybody thought it was funny.”

But don’t be fooled by Isabela’s expression. Kunstmann has been in touch with her parents and they insist she has an easy, gentle disposition.

“She’s very sweet,” Kunstmann revealed. “The picture was just a moment.”

Still, it’s fun to imagine what was going through Isabela’s mind when she made her entrance into the world.

“Do NOT disturb my sleep for this! Lol,” wrote one person on Kunstmann’s Facebook page.

Added another, “She’s mad at the Dr. for taking her from her warm and dark and peaceful world into a bright room with a lot of people awing over her.”

“I remember when I first laid eyes on her after her birth, that was the face she was making,” Musa’s mom, Justine Tuhy, previously told TODAY Parents. “She was born via C-section at 41 weeks, so we assume she is annoyed she was evicted.”

Research contact: @TODAYshow

Newborns suit up like Chiefs at Kansas City hospital

February 4, 2020

They might have been born yesterday (well, Sunday)—but they already have winning fashion sense: The University of Kansas Health System dressed some infants who arrived in time for the Super Bowl kickoff in tiny Chiefs uniforms—creating a sea of red in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

“Because we treat them like Chiefs, they dressed the part!” the Kansas City-based hospital posted on Facebook, adding, “In celebration of the upcoming Super Bowl and an impending visit from [official Chiefs Mascot] KC Wolf and Chiefs Ambassador Shawn Barber (and with permission from their parents), our NICU babies were dressed as The Kansas City Chiefs players.”

According to a report by Fox News, the mini Chiefs were photographed wearing tiny wigs and team gear, including jerseys, wristbands, and pompoms. One infant even rocked a Chiefs bow tie.

The adorable photos warmed the hearts of Facebook users, generating 377,000 “likes” on the social media site by Monday.

“Cheers to the Chiefs fighting hard Sunday like these beautiful babies do each day!! Prayers to the families of each and every one of these tiny miracle[s],” one Facebook user commented on the post.

Research contact: @FoxNews

Double take: Winklevoss brothers buy a startup founded by identical twins

November 20, 2019

They are best-known for losing the Facebook concept—which they had named ConnectU—to the ambitious Mark Zuckerberg when they all attended Harvard University. And for winning $65 million in a suit against Zuckerberg in 2008.

But now the Winklevoss twins—Tyler and Cameron, age 38—have become crypto entrepreneurs. And Bloomberg reported on November 19 that they have made their first-ever acquisition, from a duo of entrepreneurs to whom they bear a strong resemblance.

Duncan and Griffin Cock Foster, 25, are also identical twins, Bloomberg says. While the Winklevoss brothers rowed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the other twins rowed in high school. That said, the Cock Fosters weren’t involved in the birthing of the social network Facebook.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Tyler Winklevoss told the financial news outlet in a phone interview. “There are so many great parallels, it was just the right fit.”

The two sets of twins came together over their belief in the future of so-called nifties. A niftie may be a cat from the CryptoKitties game, in which players breed the digital felines, or a token representing ownership in art, stamps, and comic books—an asset that is being kept track of via a blockchain digital ledger and is tradeable.

To buy such collectibles, people typically have to open digital currency wallets, buy cryptocurrency on an exchange—a process that can take hours and can be confusing.

The Cock Fosters’ Nifty Gateway, which the Winklevosses’ Gemini Trust bought for an undisclosed sum, lets anyone pay for nifties with a credit card, via a streamlined experience similar to checking out through Amazon.

The company currently lets people buy nifties from Open Sea marketplace and CryptoKitties and Gods Unchained games.

It doesn’t disclose its customer numbers or payment volume. But Duncan Cock Foster forecasts that nifties could one day attract as many as one billion collectors, Bloomberg reports. The Winklevosses expect that the market for nifties will be as big as the collectibles, art, and gaming markets combined.

 “We believe in this future where all your assets will be on a blockchain and you may want to buy, sell and store them, and Nifty fits that vision,” Tyler Winklevoss said.

While initially Gemini, with more than 220 employees, and Nifty, with three workers, will continue to operate as stand-alone companies, that could change, and some of Nifty’s features could make way into Gemini services.

Duncan now owns about 300 nifties; and his brother, 100. While most people currently don’t even know what the word means, the two sets of twins hope that will change.

“All great companies, all great ideas there’s a period where you see a truth and many other people don’t, and you have to have that conviction,” Tyler Winklevoss said.

Research contact: @business

Parallel universes: Dems raising $75 million to go head-to-head with GOP on social media

November 5, 2019

Two can play that game: A progressive organization called Acronym is plunging into the presidential campaign—revealing plans to spend $75 million on digital advertising that will be used to counterbalance and neutralize President Donald Trump’s early spending advantage in key 2020 battleground states, The New York Times reported on November 4.

And such a rampart may well be needed: Trump has spent more than $26 million so far nationally just on Facebook and Google, the news outlet says. That’s more than the four top-polling Democrats—Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg—have spent in total on those platforms.

Since its creation as a nonprofit group dedicated to building power and digital infrastructure for the progressive movement in March 2017, Acronym claims to have “run dozens of targeted media programs to educate, inspire, register, and mobilize voters,” as well as to have “worked with dozens of partners to accelerate their advocacy programs and investments.”

In the 2018 cycle, Acronym developed new digital tools and strategies to encourage voters to register to vote and show up at the polls on Election Day. Through these programs, Acronym and its affiliated political action committee, Pacronym, claim to have helped elect 65 progressive candidates across the country.

Photo source: AcronymAnd in January 2019, the group launched Shadow, a technology company focused on building accessible, user-centered products to enable progressive organizers to run smarter campaigns

Political organizers and pundits agree that such an effort is necessary. “The gun on this general election does not start when we have a nominee; it started months ago,” said David Plouffe, who managed Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and was a key adviser to him in 2012, and who recently joined Acronym’s board. ”If the things that need to happen don’t happen in these battleground states between now and May or June, our nominee will never have time to catch up.“

In an interview with the Times, Plouffe and Tara McGowan, the founder and chief executive of Acronym, said their digital campaign would kick off immediately, with a heavy focus on shaping how the public views Trump and the Democratic Party during the primary season, well before a nominee emerges.

“Our nominee is going to be broke, tired, have to pull together the party; and turn around on a dime and run a completely different race for a completely different audience,” Plouffe said.

“There is an enormous amount of danger between now and then,” he added. “If the hole is too steep to dig out of, they’re not going to win.”

The campaign, which the organization is calling “Four is Enough,” will focus initially on key swing states: Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. One state that is historically a battleground was notably missing from the initial list: Florida.

The effort will feature advertisements across multiple digital platforms, including Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Hulu, and Pandora. There will be original content, such as videos and animations, as well as boosting local news coverage that portrays Trump, his administration,and his agenda in a harsh light.

McGowan told the news outlet that for months her group had been raising the alarm about the president’s early online spending advantage.

“It started to feel as though we were really screaming into the abyss,” she said. So

McGowan told the Times that the group had already raised approximately 40% of the planned $75 million budget. She noted that Plouffe has joined as both a political adviser and to help raise funds. The spending will be made across two groups, Acronym, which is a nonprofit that does not disclose its donors, and Pacronym, a political action committee, which does. (The group’s winking moniker is a poke at the frequent practice of settling on a meaningful series of words to form an acronym for a nonprofit; they have skipped that alphabet-soup step entirely.)

“We’re absolutely, as a party, not doing enough and I don’t know that $75 million is enough,” McGowan said. “We can’t afford to not do this work right now.” Of the fact that some of her group’s donors would remain undisclosed, she said, “We have to play on the field that exists,” noting that Trump is aided by such funds, as well.

Research contact: @nytimes

Facebook gets grief for including Breitbart in News tab

October 29, 2019

Can Facebook do anything that doesn’t draw fire from users, regulators, legislators, and the media? After years of complaints from American news outlets that the social media site has The Washington Post reports that Facebook has agreed to compensate at least some news organizations as part of a specialized “News” tab meant to steer users toward curated national and local news stories.

But the project immediately raised new controversy when it became known that Breitbart News—a Web outlet linked to right-wing causes that was once run by former Trump adviser Steve Bannonhad been included among the 200 media outlets participating in the program.

“Given that Facebook is putting actual news outlets in the same category as Breitbart, actual news outlets should consider quickly withdrawing from the program,” Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, a liberal nonprofit media watchdog, told the Post.

At an event in New York to launch the project, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended Breitbart’s inclusion. “You want to include a breadth of content to make sure all different topics can be covered,” Zuckerberg said.

Other outlets participating include The Washington Post, The New York Times, News Corp., BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, Bloomberg News, Fox News, NBCUniversal, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.

The News tab marks the latest iteration of Facebook’s approach to online news, the Post reports. Before January 2018, the company had been a leading distributor of news, but that role was dogged by the presence in its feed of false and misleading information, as well as by allegations that its news feed and other features tilted toward liberal viewpoints

Zuckerberg did not go into specifics about how different publishers would be compensated, and media analysts expressed skepticism that the arrangement will help the small and medium local outlets that have been most seriously undercut by the rise of online news distribution.

“The vast majority of local news outlets are not included, and that is part of the news ecosystem that’s most at risk,” David Chavern, the president and chief executive of the News Media Alliance, a trade association of news publishers, told The Washington Post.

Chavern called Facebook’s agreement to pay at least some news outlets for their content a step in the right direction, noting that tech platforms have been “uniquely unwilling to pay for news and quality journalism.”

The News tab already is available to more than 200,000 Facebook users in the United States, with a broader rollout planned for early next year. The new service, Facebook executives say, should make it easier for users to locate the day’s major headlines, as well as stories geared toward particular topics or locales.

The initiative could reach 20 million to 30 million people over a few years, Zuckerberg said.

 Research contact: @washingtonpost