Facebook paying fine to settle US suit on discrimination

Critics of the practice contend that the foreign nationals will work for lower wages than US citizens. (File/AFP)
Critics of the practice contend that the foreign nationals will work for lower wages than US citizens. (File/AFP)
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Updated 20 October 2021

Facebook paying fine to settle US suit on discrimination

Critics of the practice contend that the foreign nationals will work for lower wages than US citizens. (File/AFP)
  • Facebook is paying a hefty fine to resolve allegations that it discriminated against US workers in favor of foreigners with special visas to fill high-paying jobs
  • Facebook sponsored the visa holders for “green cards” authorizing them to work permanently.

WASHINGTON: Facebook is paying a $4.75 million fine and up to $9.5 million to eligible victims to resolve the Justice Department’s allegations that it discriminated against US workers in favor of foreigners with special visas to fill high-paying jobs.
Facebook also agreed in the settlement announced Tuesday to train its employees in anti-discrimination rules and to conduct more widespread advertising and recruitment for job opportunities in its permanent labor certification program, which allows an employer to hire a foreign worker to work permanently.
The department’s civil rights division said the social network giant “routinely refused” to recruit, consider or hire US workers, a group that includes US citizens and nationals, people granted asylum, refugees and lawful permanent residents, for positions it had reserved for temporary visa holders.
Facebook sponsored the visa holders for “green cards” authorizing them to work permanently. The so-called H-1B visas are a staple of Silicon Valley, widely used by software programmers and other employees of major US technology companies.
Critics of the practice contend that the foreign nationals will work for lower wages than US citizens. The tech companies maintain that’s not the case, that they turn to foreign nationals because they have trouble finding qualified programmers and other engineers who are US citizens.
“In principle, Facebook is doing a good thing by applying for green cards for its workers, but it has also learned how to game the system to avoid hiring US tech workers,” said Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research at the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “Facebook started lobbying to change the system more to its liking starting back in 2013 when the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate was being negotiated.”
The settlement terms announced Tuesday are the largest civil penalty and back-pay award ever recovered by the civil rights division in the 35-year history of enforcing anti-discrimination rules under the Immigration and Nationality Act, officials said. The back pay would be awarded to people deemed to have been unfairly denied employment.
The government said Facebook intentionally created a hiring system in which it denied qualified US workers a fair opportunity to learn about and apply for jobs that it instead sought to channel to temporary visa holders.
“Facebook is not above the law and must comply with our nation’s federal civil rights laws, which prohibit discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke told reporters in a telephone conference. “Companies cannot set aside certain positions for temporary visa holders because of their citizenship or immigration status.”
Facebook also agreed in a separate settlement with the Labor Department to expand its recruitment for US workers and to be subject to ongoing audits to ensure compliance.
The company based in Menlo Park, California, said it believes it met the government’s standards in its practices. It said it agreed to the settlements to end the litigation and move ahead with its permanent labor certification program — which it called an important part of its “overall immigration program.”
“These resolutions will enable us to continue our focus on hiring the best builders from both the US and around the world, and supporting our internal community of highly skilled visa holders who are seeking permanent residence,” Facebook said in a statement.
Facebook says it ended the April-June quarter this year with over 63,400 full-time employees globally and has 3,000 current job openings.
The lawsuit was filed against Facebook last December by the Justice Department under the Trump administration. The alleged violations are said to have occurred from at least Jan. 1, 2018 to at least Sept. 18, 2019.
A $4.75 million fine and $9.5 million in back pay are a trifle for a company valued at $1 trillion with revenue of nearly $86 billion last year. But the announcement comes at a time of intense public discomfort and scrutiny for Facebook.
Public allegations and testimony to Congress from a former Facebook data scientist that the company disregarded internal research showing harm to children have raised a public outcry and calls for stricter government oversight of the company. The former employee, Frances Haugen, accused Facebook of prioritizing profit over safety and being dishonest in its public fight against hate and misinformation.
The company is also awaiting a federal judge’s ruling in an epic antitrust suit filed against it by the Federal Trade Commission. Calls from critics and lawmakers of both parties to break up the behemoth company are intensifying.


Amazon cloud outage hits major websites, streaming apps

Amazon drivers cheer as they go back to their their delivery vans, as their logistics systems is announced to be back online at the Amazon Delivery Station in Rosemead, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (AP)
Amazon drivers cheer as they go back to their their delivery vans, as their logistics systems is announced to be back online at the Amazon Delivery Station in Rosemead, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (AP)
Updated 3 sec ago

Amazon cloud outage hits major websites, streaming apps

Amazon drivers cheer as they go back to their their delivery vans, as their logistics systems is announced to be back online at the Amazon Delivery Station in Rosemead, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (AP)
  • Amazon said the outage was related to network devices and linked to application programming interface, or API, which is a set of protocols for building and integrating application software

NEW YORK: A major outage disrupted Amazon’s cloud services on Tuesday, knocking out streaming platforms Netflix and Disney+, Robinhood, a wide range of apps and Amazon.com Inc’s e-commerce website as consumers shopped ahead of Christmas.
Amazon said it was working to resolve the issue and was making progress, but did not give an estimate when services would be fully restored.
Amazon’s Ring security cameras, mobile banking app Chime and robot vacuum cleaner maker iRobot, that use Amazon Web Services (AWS), reported issues according to their social media pages.
Trading app Robinhood and Walt Disney’s streaming service Disney+ and Netflix were also down, according to Downdetector.com.
“Netflix which runs nearly all of its infrastructure on AWS appears to have lost 26 percent of its traffic,” Doug Madory, head of Internet analysis at analytics firm Kentik, said.
Amazon said the outage was related to network devices and linked to application programming interface, or API, which is a set of protocols for building and integrating application software.
“This issue is also affecting some of our monitoring and incident response tooling, which is delaying our ability to provide updates,” the company said on its status dashboard https://status.aws.amazon.com.
Downdetector.com showed more than 24,000 incidents of people reporting issues with Amazon, including its namesake e-commerce website, Prime Video and other services. The outage tracking website collates status reports from a number of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform.
Users began reporting issues around 10:40 a.m. ET on Tuesday and the outage might be affecting a larger number of users.
Amazon has experienced 27 outages over the past 12 months related to its services, according to web tool reviewing website ToolTester.
In June, websites including Reddit, Amazon, CNN, PayPal, Spotify, Al Jazeera Media Network and the New York Times were hit by a widespread hour-long outage linked to US-based content delivery network provider Fastly Inc, a smaller rival of AWS.


Anghami launches new original podcast ‘Shagaf’

Anghami launches new original podcast ‘Shagaf’
Updated 07 December 2021

Anghami launches new original podcast ‘Shagaf’

Anghami launches new original podcast ‘Shagaf’
  • Streaming platform’s latest production shares the journey of Arab women entrepreneurs

DUBAI: Audio streaming platform Anghami has launched a new original podcast, “Shagaf,” featuring Arab women entrepreneurs from the fields of business and technology.

The show is hosted by female entrepreneur Emon Shakoor, who is the founder and CEO of Blossom Accelerator, Saudi Arabia’s first female-focused accelerator. “As an entrepreneur running an accelerator with a focus on women, empowering female founders is what I strive for,” said Shakoor.

The weekly podcast’s guests include Yara Ghouth, founder of online marketplace Naseej Market, and designer Nasibah Hafiz, who has her own fashion brand, among others.

Shakoor added that working with Anghami on the podcast is a “great way to get our literal voices heard” and share the realities of starting a business. “We want to share real stories with real women,” she added.

In Saudi Arabia, 67 percent of podcast listeners tuned in at least once a week, 30 percent of them listened to podcasts on a daily basis, while 22 percent did so three times a week, according to a report by podcast network Rising Giants Network.

The report also found that Anghami was growing in popularity in the Kingdom with 32 percent of those questioned saying it was their favorite platform.

“Podcast consumption is growing fast in MENA (the Middle East and North Africa),” said Zeina Tabbara, Anghami’s podcast lead.

“We’re developing podcasts in key categories such as lifestyle, sports, and tech (and are) truly excited to work with Emon who is passionate about the startup landscape in Saudi and MENA,” she added.

“Shagaf” is part of a bigger series of podcasts that Anghami aims to produce and stream, the company said in a statement.

The show is now available to stream on Anghami with new episodes dropping every Sunday.


Al-Hokair partners with dentsu’s Merkle in Saudi Arabia

Al-Hokair partners with dentsu’s Merkle in Saudi Arabia
Updated 07 December 2021

Al-Hokair partners with dentsu’s Merkle in Saudi Arabia

Al-Hokair partners with dentsu’s Merkle in Saudi Arabia
  • Merkle will offer performance media services for retail giant’s brands

DUBAI: Merkle Saudi Arabia, public relations firm dentsu’s data-driven customer experience management company, has been selected by Al-Hokair to deliver its performance marketing strategy across its fashion, beauty, and sport retail brands including Decathlon, Aldo, Gap, and Flormar in the Kingdom.

Merkle was selected after a competitive pitch in a bid to consolidate performance marketing for Al-Hokair’s retail arm with a scalable strategy and an overarching account structure, while still maintaining the requirements for individual brands under the group.

Hassan Al-Redha, head of marketing for Al-Hokair Fashion Retail, said: “We were looking for a new agency partner to deliver across all performance marketing capabilities, consolidating our pay-per-click, social, and digital media efforts across numerous distinct brands.

“Merkle’s approach is helping us to integrate our tools and augment our data assets, delivering people-based insights that will ultimately lead to more meaningful customer engagement across all touchpoints,” he added.

The agency’s remit is to deliver personalization through performance marketing and granular feed management for the premium franchise retailer across various categories including women’s wear, menswear, children and baby goods, shoes and accessories, cosmetics, food and beverages, and sports and entertainment.

Vimal Badiani, head of Merkle in the Middle East and North Africa region, said: “We are looking forward to leveraging our expertise in customer experience management to support its (Al-Hokair’s) objective of targeting audiences more efficiently and effectively by delivering personalization at scale.”


Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online
Updated 07 December 2021

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online
  • Move comes after the social media platform came under scrutiny

DUBAI: Instagram has announced new additions to its safety features for teens, which will be rolled out next year.

The move comes after the social media platform came under scrutiny following research that was revealed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on how the platform affects teens.

The leaked research documents showed that 32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse; 13.5 percent of teen girls said Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17 percent of teen girls said Instagram makes eating disorders worse.

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post: “Every day I see the positive impact that Instagram has for young people everywhere. I’m proud that our platform is a place where teens can spend time with the people they care about, explore their interests, and explore who they are.

“I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram.”

The new features seek to implement tighter controls on what is recommended to teens, barring people from tagging or mentioning teens who don’t follow them, nudging teens towards different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a long time, and tightening controls on search, explore, hashtags and suggested accounts recommendations. Teens will also be able to bulk delete content they have posted.

The new features aim to help parents to be more involved in their teens’ Instagram experience, starting March 2022, Mosseri said. Instagram has created an educational hub for parents and guardians, which will include additional resources, such as product tutorials and tips from experts, to help them discuss social media use with their teens.

In addition, Instagram is piloting a tool that will give teens the option to notify their parents if they report someone, thereby providing their parents the opportunity to talk about it with them.

Mosseri announced the launch of “Take a Break,” a new feature for teens, in US, UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It is not being launched in the Middle East currently but will be introduced later as part of a phased rollout.

If someone has been scrolling for a certain amount of time, Instagram will ask them to “take a break” from the platform and suggest that they set reminders to take more breaks in the future. Instagram said early test results seem to be promising with 90 percent of teens keeping the reminders on once they set them.

“As always, I’m grateful to the experts and researchers who lend us their expertise in critical areas like child development, teen mental health and online safety, and I continue to welcome productive collaboration with lawmakers and policymakers on our shared goal of creating an online world that both benefits and protects many generations to come,” Mosseri said.


Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence

Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2021

Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence

Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
  • Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a US Internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties

CALIFORNIA: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, for $150 billion over allegations that the social media company did not take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech that contributed to violence.
A US class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that the company’s failures to police content and its platform’s design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community. In a coordinated action, British lawyers also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook’s London office.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment about the lawsuit. The company has said it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar and has said it has since taken steps to crack down on platform abuses in the region, including banning the military from Facebook and Instagram after the Feb. 1 coup.
Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a US Internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties. The complaint says it seeks to apply Burmese law to the claims if Section 230 is raised as a defense.
Although US courts can apply foreign law to cases where the alleged harms and activity by companies took place in other countries, two legal experts interviewed by Reuters said they did not know of a successful precedent for foreign law being invoked in lawsuits against social media companies where Section 230 protections could apply.
Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said that invoking Burmese law wasn’t “inappropriate.” But he predicted that “It’s unlikely to be successful,” saying that “It would be odd for Congress to have foreclosed actions under US law but permitted them to proceed under foreign law.”
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said included mass killings and rape. Rights groups documented killings of civilians and burning of villages.
Myanmar authorities say they were battling an insurgency and deny carrying out systematic atrocities.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence. A Reuters investigation https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-facebook-hate that year, cited in the US complaint, found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and images attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims on Facebook.
The International Criminal Court has opened a case into the accusations of crimes in the region. In September, a US federal judge ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down.
The new class-action lawsuit references claims by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked a cache https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-whistleblower-says-transparency-needed-fix-social-media-ills-2021-12-03 of internal documents this year, that the company does not police abusive content in countries where such speech is likely to cause the most harm.
The complaint also cites recent media reports, including a Reuters report https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/information-combat-inside-fight-myanmars-soul-2021-11-01 last month, that Myanmar’s military was using fake social media accounts to engage in what is widely referred to in the military as “information combat.”