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What Zoom doesn’t understand about the Zoom backlash

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[Ed. be aware: At the moment’s e-newsletter and column was written and distributed earlier than Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan printed his 1,300-word plan to deal with the safety and privateness points associated to the corporate’s unprecedented client development. What follows is unedited as a result of e-mail is without end.]

Simply in time for one backlash towards the expertise business to finish — or at the least pause — a contemporary set of considerations has arrived to occupy our consideration. Zoom, the once-obscure enterprise video chat app firm, rocketed to prominence as COVID-19 pressured tens of hundreds of thousands of People — and most of Silicon Valley — to start working, education, and socializing at dwelling. Like numerous folks, I’m now on Zoom for a number of hours a day. However with all that new utilization comes heightened scrutiny — and within the first weeks of the Nice Social Distancing, Zoom has repeatedly come up quick.

The primary downside was the Zoombombings. I don’t know if I used to be the primary sufferer of this, however I used to be definitely one in all them. My pal Hunter and I began a digital blissful hour a number of weeks in the past, and after we tweeted the hyperlinks, some trolls saved stopping by to take over our screens and share porn. We rapidly realized the way to repair the issue, however Zoombombings continue each day. The FBI is looking into it, and so is the New York attorney general’s office. The issue is that Zoom permits individuals who have joined your name to share their very own screens by default, and the controls for altering this setting are troublesome to seek out.

The second downside was that Zoom started to generate directories of each e-mail tackle that signed right into a name after which let strangers begin inserting video calls to at least one one other. As with display sharing disabled by default, this was arguably a characteristic that made sense for intra-company chats however not for broadcast. Joseph Cox had the story at Vice:

The difficulty lies in Zoom’s “Firm Listing” setting, which routinely provides different folks to a person’s lists of contacts in the event that they signed up with an e-mail tackle that shares the identical area. This may make it simpler to discover a particular colleague to name when the area belongs to a person firm. However a number of Zoom customers say they signed up with private e-mail addresses, and Zoom pooled them along with hundreds of different folks as if all of them labored for a similar firm, exposing their private data to at least one one other.

”I used to be shocked by this! I subscribed (with an alias, fortuitously) and I noticed 995 folks unknown to me with their names, photos and mail addresses.” Barend Gehrels, a Zoom person impacted by the problem and who flagged it to Motherboard, wrote in an e-mail.

The third downside was that Zoom ran round telling everybody that its platform is “end-to-end encrypted,” when actually it had redefined “end-to-end encryption” with out telling anybody. Micah Lee and Yael Grauer had the story in The Intercept:

So long as you ensure that everybody in a Zoom assembly connects utilizing “pc audio” as an alternative of calling in on a cellphone, the assembly is secured with end-to-end encryption, at the least in accordance with Zoom’s web site, its safety white paper, and the person interface inside the app. However regardless of this deceptive advertising and marketing, the service really doesn’t assist end-to-end encryption for video and audio content material, at the least because the time period is often understood. As a substitute it presents what’s often referred to as transport encryption, defined additional under. […]

The encryption that Zoom makes use of to guard conferences is TLS, the identical expertise that internet servers use to safe HTTPS web sites. Which means that the connection between the Zoom app operating on a person’s pc or cellphone and Zoom’s server is encrypted in the identical approach the connection between your internet browser and this text (on https://theintercept.com) is encrypted. This is called transport encryption, which is totally different from end-to-end encryption as a result of the Zoom service itself can entry the unencrypted video and audio content material of Zoom conferences. So when you could have a Zoom assembly, the video and audio content material will keep personal from anybody spying in your Wi-Fi, but it surely gained’t keep personal from the corporate. (In a press release, Zoom mentioned it doesn’t instantly entry, mine, or promote person knowledge.)

There are different issues. Like, it seems Zoom evades MacOS administrator controls to install itself without you having to ask your boss for permission. And there’s a way to steal someone’s Windows credentials over Zoom by sharing hyperlinks, though arguably that’s extra of a Home windows downside than a Zoom downside. To spherical out the record, a security researcher on Wednesday found two additional ways to exploit Zoom and wrote about them on his weblog.

At this level, it’s possible you’ll be questioning what Zoom has to say about all this. Over at Protocol, David Pierce talks to Zoom’s chief advertising and marketing officer, Janine Pelosi, in regards to the previous few weeks. He writes:

“The product wasn’t designed for shoppers,” Zoom CMO Janine Pelosi instructed me, “however a complete lot of shoppers are utilizing it.” That’s pressured Zoom to guage lots in regards to the platform, however particularly its default privateness settings.

On the floor, this sounds affordable. Zoom is a enterprise instrument, but it surely’s now getting used exterior of companies, and so new vulnerabilities have emerged. And but that argument is challenged by all the issues above, which mainly resolve to this: with the intention to make a well-liked video chat app, you must make it extraordinarily straightforward to make use of.

In different phrases, you must make it a client app.

Within the previous days — the 1990s, mainly — the instruments you used for work had been determined by your office. They purchased you your pc, and your license for Microsoft Workplace, and no matter different arcane and usually awful-to-use packages you wanted to get your job accomplished.

That each one modified as soon as folks acquired cell phones and will start utilizing whichever packages they needed to. A brand new class of productiveness instruments arose emphasizing design and ease of use: Google Docs, Field, Dropbox, and Evernote led the best way, with Trello, Asana, and Slack following a number of years afterward. These had been instruments constructed for work, however they had been designed for shoppers. It’s why they succeeded.

Zoom realized that lesson, and has utilized it persistently since its founding in 2011. Designing for shoppers is why, for instance, Zoom goes to such nice lengths to put in itself in your Mac with out you having to get permission from an admin. Designing for shoppers is why Zoom tries to generate an organization director in your behalf. Designing for shoppers is why Zoom permits you to log in with Fb. (One thing else it got in trouble forperhaps wrongly — this week.)

And to be clear, designing for shoppers has been a good selection for Zoom. It helped the corporate develop a lot sooner than the competitors — most notably Skype, which appears to have been caught flat-footed by the second. Zoom has a lot momentum at this second that creating digital backgrounds on your calls — a enjoyable and distinctive and extraordinarily consumer-y characteristic of the product — has out of the blue turn out to be a key advertising and marketing platform for Hollywood.

Shopper-grade ease of use is crucial for a instrument like Zoom — however so is enterprise-grade safety. That’s what its enterprise prospects are paying for, in any case, and it’s why Zoom goes to have to begin shoring up its platform in a rush. Ben Thompson has a good idea for stopping the Zoomlash in its tracks:

Freeze characteristic improvement and spend the following 30 days on a top-to-bottom evaluation of Zoom’s strategy to safety and privateness, adopted by an replace of how the corporate is re-allocating assets based mostly on that evaluation.

That gained’t cease the occasional zero-day exploit from popping up. However it might go a good distance towards demonstrating that the corporate understands the stakes of our new world and is ready to behave accordingly. Zoom’s downside has by no means been that, as its chief advertising and marketing officer says, “it wasn’t designed for shoppers.” The issue is that it was.

The Ratio

At the moment in information that would have an effect on public notion of the massive tech platforms.

Trending up: Google is partnering with California lawmakers to give out 4,000 Chromebooks to students in need in California. It’s additionally offering free wifi to 100,000 rural households in the course of the coronavirus pandemic to make distant studying extra accessible.

Trending sideways: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are adopting stricter policies to limit coronavirus scams and stop misinformation on the platforms. However folks maintain posting issues that clearly violate the principles. The scenario underscores how the businesses are engaged in an infinite recreation of whack-a-mole that’s robust to win.

Pandemic

Amazon employees at a success middle close to Detroit, Michigan, plan to stroll out over the corporate’s dealing with of COVID-19. Employees say administration was sluggish to inform them about new coronavirus circumstances and didn’t present sufficient cleansing provides. (Josh Dzieza / The Verge)

Amazon ignored social distancing guidelines at recruiting events as it races to hire 100,000 new workers. The corporate has since begun making the occasions digital. (Spencer Soper and Matt Day / Bloomberg)

Palantir is in talks with France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland about using its software to help them respond to COVID-19. The information-analytics agency says its expertise can do the whole lot from serving to to hint the unfold of the virus to permitting hospitals to foretell employees and provide shortages. (Helene Fouquet and Albertina Torsoli / Bloomberg)

Palantir is also behind a new tool being used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to monitor how the coronavirus is spreading. The instrument may also assist the CDC perceive how effectively geared up hospitals are to cope with a spike in circumstances. (Thomas Brewster / Forbes)

A group of European experts are preparing to launch an initiative to trace peoples’ smartphones to see who has come into contact with those who have COVID-19. The objective is to assist well being authorities act swiftly to cease the unfold of the virus in a approach that’s compliant with the Common Knowledge Safety Regulation. (Douglas Busvine / Reuters)

School closures are leading to a new wave of student surveillance. Faculties are racing to signal offers with on-line proctor corporations that watch college students via their webcams whereas they take exams. (Drew Harwell / The Washington Put up)

Facebook is expanding its Community Help feature as part of the company’s COVID-19 efforts. The brand new COVID-19 Group Assist hub will permit folks to request or supply assist to these impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. (Sarah Perez / TechCrunch)

Here’s how Sheryl Sandberg is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. She’s quarantining at dwelling together with her fiance and children and elevating hundreds of thousands for her native meals financial institution. (Alyson Shontell / Enterprise Insider)

Coronavirus is forcing {couples} to cancel their weddings, however some persons are getting inventive and live-streaming their nuptials on Zoom. (Zoe Schiffer / The Verge)

Doctors are turning to Twitter and TikTok to share coronavirus news. They’re making an attempt to fight the dangerous medical recommendation that’s circulating across the large platforms. (Kaya Yurieff / CNN)

A Chinese diplomat has been helping to spread a conspiracy theory that the United States and its military could be behind the coronavirus outbreak. Right here’s how that hoax began. (Vanessa Molter and Graham Webster / Stanford Web Observatory)

The coronavirus pandemic shows why Comcast could get rid of its data caps permanently without killing its business. (Jon Brodkin / Ars Technica)

Hackers are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to launch cyberattacks against healthcare providers. In a single occasion, the criminals used encryption to lock down hundreds of the corporate’s affected person data and promised to publish them on-line if a ransom wasn’t paid. (Ryan Gallagher / Bloomberg)

Startups are desperately fighting to survive the coronavirus pandemic. Some are shedding employees and slashing prices — however even that may not be sufficient. (Erin Griffith / The New York Instances)

Americans streamed 85 percent more minutes of video in March 2020 compared to March 2019. Binge watching on Hulu has grown greater than 25 p.c previously two weeks alone. (Sara Fischer / Axios)

Snap says video calling is up 50 percent month over month. This weblog publish about how utilization has modified with the coronavirus pandemic is the form of check-in I’ve been asking for from large tech corporations.

Rebecca Jennings invites you to post with abandon. She says the digital world is now a far happier place than the actual world, which is an ideal excuse so that you can spend time on social media doing varied Instagram and TikTok challenges. (Rebecca Jennings / Vox)

Virus tracker

Complete circumstances within the US: 205,172

Complete deaths within the US: A minimum of 4,500

Reported circumstances in California: 8,582

Reported circumstances in New York: 83,760

Reported circumstances in Washington: 5,292

Data from The New York Times.

Governing

Democrats are worried that Google’s ban against most ads related to COVID-19, from nongovernmental organizations, could help Trump get re-elected. They are saying it permits the President to run advertisements selling his response to the disaster whereas denying Democrats the prospect to run advertisements criticizing this response. Emily Birnbaum at Protocol reviews:

Distinguished Democratic PACs in latest days have funneled hundreds of thousands of {dollars} into tv advertisements accusing Trump of mishandling the coronavirus disaster. However staffers of a number of Democratic nonprofits and digital advert corporations realized this week that they’d not be capable to use Google’s dominant advert instruments to unfold true details about President Trump’s dealing with of the outbreak on YouTube and different Google platforms. The corporate solely permits PSA-style advertisements from authorities businesses just like the Facilities for Illness Management and trusted well being our bodies just like the World Well being Group. A number of Democratic and progressive strategists had been rebuked after they tried to put Google advertisements criticizing the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus, officers inside the corporations instructed Protocol.

Google’s data centers use billions of gallons of water to keep processing units cool. Among the facilities are situated in dry areas which might be struggling to preserve their provides. (Nikitha Sattiraju / Bloomberg)

As presidential candidates pivot to campaigning almost entirely online, political tech startups are scrambling to keep up with demand. Enterprise is booming for corporations that permit candidates to simply textual content or name voters and donors. (Issie Lapowsky / Protocol)

Wisconsin faces a shortage of poll workers and a potential dip in voter turnout due to the due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the state is moving forward with its April 7th primary anyway. (Zach Montellaro / Politico)

Oracle founder Larry Ellison is helping President Trump build a database of COVID-19 cases. He’s additionally turning his Hawaiian island resort right into a well being and wellness laboratory powered by knowledge, no matter meaning! All of it guarantees to be an excellent Netflix sequence sometime. (Angel Au-Yeung / Forbes)

Facebook is stepping up its efforts to help with the US census. Fb and Instagram now have notifications reminding folks to finish the census, and the corporate can be working to fight misinformation in regards to the course of. (Fb)

Trade

YouTube is planning to launch a rival to TikTok called Shorts by the end of the year. The app will benefit from YouTube’s catalog of licensed music by permitting customers to decide on songs as soundtracks for his or her movies. Alex Heath and Jessica Toonkel at The Info have the story:

TikTok’s enterprise is small relative to that of YouTube, which had greater than $15 billion in promoting income final yr. ByteDance makes the overwhelming majority of its income in China—together with from its native TikTok equal, generally known as Douyin—and has used its monetary assets to aggressively promote TikTok within the U.S. and elsewhere. In a be aware to staff late final yr, ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming urged them to “diversify TikTok’s development” and “improve funding in weaker markets,” according to Reuters.

The a part of the financial system devoted to creating novel Instagram backdrops is tanking as a result of coronavirus pandemic. Shade Manufacturing facility and Museum of Ice Cream each shut down for now, shedding most staff. (Ashley Carman / The Verge)

YTMND is again, practically a yr after being introduced down by a server failure. The location has modernized a bit, and now not wants Flash to view its archive of looping GIFs and synchronized music. (Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge)

Jack Black joined TikTok. His first video exhibits him doing a dance he calls the “Quarantine Dance.” He’s, um, shirtless. And sporting cowboy boots. (Taylor Lyles / The Verge)

Animal Crossing’s social media explosion has left some fans feeling frustrated and jealous of other peoples’ elaborate designs. The sport has turn out to be a phenomenon on social media partially due to a brand new button that lets gamers simply share screenshots. (Patricia Hernandez / Polygon)

Issues to do

Stuff to occupy you on-line in the course of the quarantine.

Participate in the 2020 census! It takes about 10 minutes and helps direct billions of {dollars} in federal funding to native communities. (And should you gained’t hearken to me, perhaps you’ll listen to Sheryl Sandberg.)

Go to one of these virtual events with authors and illustrators creating content specifically for kids.

Watch Protocol’s Issie Lapowsky interview Rep. Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley, in a Zoom meetup on Thursday at midday PT.

And at last…

Discuss to us

Ship us ideas, feedback, questions, and Zoom vulnerabilities: casey@theverge.com and zoe@theverge.com.

The Interface

Apple and Google’s COVID-19 notification system won’t work in a vaccum

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Last month, before Google and Apple announced their joint effort to enable COVID-19 exposure notifications, I wrote about the trouble with using Bluetooth-based solutions for contact tracing. Chief among the issues is getting a meaningful number of people to download any app in the first place, public health officials told me. And now that such apps are being released in the United States, we’re seeing just how big a challenge that is.

Here’s Caroline Haskins writing Tuesday in BuzzFeed:

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said on April 22 that the app, Healthy Together, would be an integral part of getting the state back on its feet: “This app will give public health workers information they need to understand and contain the pandemic and help Utahns get back to daily life.”

The state spent $2.75 million to purchase the app and is paying a monthly maintenance fee of $300,000, according to contracts obtained by BuzzFeed News. But as of May 18, just 45,000 of the state’s 3.2 million people had downloaded Healthy Together, according to Twenty.

That’s roughly 1.4 percent adoption, well below the 60 percent or so that public health officials say is necessary to make such exposure notifications effective. And it bodes ill for other states’ efforts to distribute their own apps, particularly in a world where the federal response continues to be confused and even counterproductive.

But a new reason for hope arrived today, in the form of an official release of the Apple/Google exposure notification protocol. The system, which allows official public health apps to use system-level Bluetooth features to help identify potential new cases of COVID-19, is now available as an update to iOS and Android. Three states are working on projects so far, Russell Brandom reported today at The Verge:

Alabama is developing an app in connection with a team from the University of Alabama, while the Medical University of South Carolina is heading up a similar project in collaboration with the state’s health agency.

Most notably, North Dakota is planning to incorporate the system into its Care19 app, which drew significant criticism from users in its early versions.

“As we respond to this unprecedented public health emergency, we invite other states to join us in leveraging smartphone technologies to strengthen existing contact tracing efforts,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said in a statement, “which are critical to getting communities and economies back up and running.”

In a call with reporters today, Apple and Google said 22 countries have received API access to date. Later this year, an update to iOS and Android will allow people to begin participating in the program even if they haven’t yet downloaded an official public health app.

But as we’ve discussed here before, the best-designed tech interventions won’t be effective if they’re not supported by contact tracing and isolation of new cases. So let’s check in to see how we’re doing on those fronts.

“Contact tracing” was the name originally given to the Apple/Google initiative, before the companies acknowledged that what they were doing didn’t quite live up to that standard. The term refers to getting in touch with people who may have been exposed to a disease and directing them to testing and other resources, and the current consensus view is that this work is best done by human beings. The Apple/Google system, which has been rebranded as “exposure notification,” is intended to augment the work of human contact tracers.

Around the United States and the world, public health departments are hiring people as contact tracers. Officials estimate that we will need at least 100,000 such workers in the United States, and by April 11,000 had already been hired. California and Massachusetts began hiring early; Illinois, Georgia, and Texas are among the states that have followed. There’s clearly much more work to be done, and quickly, but here’s a case where federal inaction hasn’t totally stopped states from developing a response. (More federal money to hire contact tracers would help, though.)

And what about isolating new cases? This is the process whereby people infected with COVID-19 temporarily relocate to government-run facilities to receive care in an environment where they are unlikely to spread the disease to others. Israel and Denmark are among the countries that have been using such facilities. San Francisco, in a possible step toward a contact isolation program, has begun paying to house people who were homeless in hotels as a measure to reduce the spread of the disease.

Lyman Stone makes the case for rapid deployment of contact isolation in the Washington Post. He imagines a world in which people receive tickets for failing to comply with orders to isolate — but also one in which the facilities themselves are nice enough to get people to go along with the idea voluntarily:

This system also encourages compliance because the centralized facilities would provide isolated individuals with all their basic needs (plus daily supervision so they would get treatment if they become sick). Food and medication can be delivered, WiFi would be free, and governments should provide financial compensation for lost work time. And, since covid-19 is much less dangerous to kids, families could choose for their children to be quarantined with them or separately, whichever they prefer. All of this would require legislation by state governments, but none of it is infeasible.

Alas, contact isolation sounds scary to many people. It conjures images of internment, stigmatization or family separation. But the truth is that the curtailment of our liberties would be minuscule compared with the society-wide lockdowns Americans have been enduring.

At a time when all of us are looking for answers to the pandemic, an approach that combines testing, tracing, and isolation appears to be as close to a sure thing that we have, short of a vaccine. Caroline Chen looked at the research Tuesday in ProPublica:

Researchers in the U.K. used a model to simulate the effects of various mitigation and containment strategies. The researchers estimated that isolating symptomatic cases would reduce transmission by 32%. But combining isolation with manual contact tracing of all contacts reduced transmission by 61%. If contact tracing only could track down acquaintances, but not all contacts, transmission was still reduced by 57%.

A second study, which used a model based on the Boston metropolitan area, found that so long as 50% of symptomatic infections were identified and 40% of their contacts were traced, the ensuing reduction in transmission would be sufficient to allow the reopening of the economy without overloading the health care system. The researchers picked Boston because of the quality of available data, according to senior author Yamir Moreno, a professor at the institute for biocomputation and physics of complex systems at the University of Zaragoza in Spain. “For other locations, these percentages will change, however, the fact that the best intervention is testing, contact tracing and quarantining remains,” he said.

The Apple/Google collaboration represents a chance to use the companies’ vast size and power to make a positive contribution to public health during a crisis. But it will only ever be one piece of the puzzle — and not necessarily one of the larger pieces, either. The good news is that we increasingly understand how COVID-19 can be brought under control. The open question is whether the United States government, to which we have entrusted the job of keeping us all safe, will do what is necessary to make it happen.

Virus tracker

Total cases in the US: More than 1,547,300

Total deaths in the US: At least 92,600

Reported cases in California: 84,449

Total test results (positive and negative) in California: 1,339,316

Reported cases in New York: 359,235

Total test results (positive and negative) in New York: 1,467,739

Reported cases in New Jersey: 150,399

Total test results (positive and negative) in New Jersey: 520,182

Reported cases in Illinois: 98,300

Total test results (positive and negative) in Illinois: 621,684

Data from The New York Times. Test data from The COVID Tracking Project.

Governing

Twitter won’t add a “misleading” label to an article shared by Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, that claims hydroxychloroquine has a “90 percent chance of helping” COVID-19 patients. Even though the claim is misleading, Twitter says it won’t add a label because the link contains no direct call for action. Here’s Adi Robertson at The Verge:

The incident is an early test of Twitter’s expanding fight against misleading health information. This month, Twitter started labeling tweets that made false or disputed claims about the novel coronavirus, in addition to removing misinformation that could incite harm. A company spokesperson, however, said the tweet is “currently not in violation of the Twitter Rules and does not qualify for labeling.” Twitter says it’s prioritizing tweets that contain a potentially harmful call to action; it’s singled out messages that encouraged people to damage 5G cell towers, for instance. It says it won’t step in to label all tweets that contain unverified or disputed information about the coronavirus.

So far, Facebook also hasn’t made a call on whether the story violates its anti-misinformation rules. But a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge that the article would likely be eligible for fact-checking. The platform typically flags content that’s rated entirely or partially false, warning users and reducing its reach.

China has launched a Twitter offensive in the COVID-19 information war. Twitter output from China’s official sites has almost doubled since January, and the number of diplomatic Twitter accounts has tripled. In recent days, these accounts have been spreading a conspiracy theory that the virus came from a government lab in the US. (Anna Schecter / NBC)

Here’s how “Plandemic” went from a niche conspiracy video about COVID-19 to a mainstream phenomenon. This account includes a blow-by-blow look at who shared what, and when. (Sheera Frenkel, Ben Decker and Davey Alba / The New York Times)

The Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group created a web domain that looked as if it belonged to Facebook to entice targets to click on links that would install the company’s powerful phone hacking technology. Facebook is already suing the surveillance firm for leveraging a vulnerability in WhatsApp to let NSO clients remotely hack phones. (Joseph Cox / Vice)

Facebook hired Aparna Patrie, a Senate Judiciary attorney, to its public policy team amid ongoing antitrust scrutiny. Patrie served as committee counsel under Sen. Richard Blumenthal. (Keturah Hetrick / LegiStorm)

Google signed a deal with the US Department of Defense to build cloud technology designed to detect and respond to cyberthreats. The news comes two years after workers at the search giant protested Google’s contract with the Pentagon for Project Maven, an initiative that used AI to improve analysis of drone footage. (Richard Nieva / CNET)

A judge in Singapore sentenced a man to death via a Zoom call for his role in a drug deal. It’s one of just two known cases where a capital punishment verdict has been delivered remotely. (John Geddie / Reuters)

The rollout of Twitch’s Safety Advisory Council has been a disaster. this piece argues. The group is supposed to advice on issues of safety and harassment, and one of the council members has already become the target of harassment since joining. (Nathan Grayson / Kotaku)

Industry

ByteDance’s valuation has risen to more than $100 billion in recent private share transactions. The news reflects expectations that TikTok’s parent company will keep pulling in new advertisers. Here’s Bloomberg’s Lulu Yilun Chen, Vinicy Chan, Katie Roof, and Zheping Huang:

“The trading of ByteDance is reflective of the global wave of consumers who agree that ByteDance can displace Facebook as the leading social network,” said Andrea Walne, a partner at Manhattan Venture Partners who follows the secondary markets. […]

ByteDance has grown into a potent online force propelled in part by a TikTok short video platform that’s taken U.S. teenagers by storm. Investors are keen to grab a slice of a company that draws some 1.5 billion monthly active users to a family of apps that includes Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese twin, as well as news service Toutiao. That’s despite American lawmakers raising privacy and censorship concerns about its operation. This week, it poached Walt Disney Co. streaming czar Kevin Mayer to become chief executive officer of TikTok.

Twitter is testing a way to let you limit how many people can reply to your tweets. If you’re part of the test, when you compose a tweet, you’ll be able to select if you’ll allow replies from everyone, people you follow, or only people you @ mention. There are a lot of interesting implications here with regard harassment and abuse — and also free expression. Jay Peters at The Verge has the story:

Limiting who can reply to your tweets could help prevent abuse and harassment on the platform. By keeping replies to a limited set of people, in theory, you could have more thoughtful and focused conversations with people of your choosing without the risk of trolls jumping into the conversation.

Facebook’s new AI tool will automatically identify items people put up for sale. The company’s “universal product recognition model” uses artificial intelligence to identify consumer goods, from furniture to fast fashion to fast cars. (James Vincent / The Verge)

Deutsche Bank analysts say Facebook’s push into online shopping could generate a $30 billion jump in annual revenue. The company will make money off transaction fees, as well as a possible increase in advertising dollars. (Rob Price / Business Insider)

Mark Zuckerberg went on CBS to discuss Shops. The interview also gets into Facebook’s responsibility to manage misinformation on the platform.

Facebook will limit offices to 25 percent occupancy, put people on shifts and require temperature checks when it lets employees back into workplaces in July. Staff will also have to wear masks in the office when not social distancing. (Mark Gurman and Kurt Wagner / Bloomberg)

Video chat tools like Meet, Zoom, BlueJeans serve as meeting emulators. They attempt to copy and repeat the form of the meeting, but don’t capture the actual interactions, this writer argues. True! (Paul Ford / Wired)

Zoom suspended its free service to people in China. As of May 1st, individual free users can no longer host meetings on Zoom, but will still be able to join them. (Yifan Yu / Nikkei)

YouTube added bedtime reminders to help people log off late at night. The feature is part of a broader set of YouTube wellness and screen time tools released in 2018 as part of Google’s Digital Wellbeing initiative. A charming throwback to the days when we cared about screen time. (Nick Statt / The Verge)

The secure messaging app Signal added PINs, a new feature to help people move their profiles across devices. The move is intended to make the company less reliant on phone numbers as its users’ primary identification. (Bijan Stephen / The Verge)

People are hiding their social distance lapses from social media, a reversal of the typical use of Instagram where people once bragged about their social activities. All the secret quarantine relationships happening right now will make for a great Netflix series in 2025. (Kaitlyn Tiffany / The Atlantic)

Students are failing AP tests because the College Board testing portal doesn’t support the default photo format on iPhones. Students now have to spend weeks studying before retaking the test. Interfaces are important! Someone should start a newsletter about them! (Monica Chin / The Verge)

Things to do

Stuff to occupy you online during the quarantine.

Update your phone. You’ll need to have the latest version of iOS or Android to begin participating in exposure notification.

Check out beloved satirical website Clickhole, which returned on Wednesday under its new ownership.

Play Crucible, the first big video game developed by Amazon. The Verge’s Nick Statt found the shooter derivative but uniquely enjoyable.

And finally…

The joke in the above tweet is that Twitter disabled replies using the new audience-limiting features it unveiled today. Related joke:

Talk to us

Send us tips, comments, questions, and exposure notifications: casey@theverge.com and zoe@theverge.com.

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The Interface

How Facebook’s past acquisitions could haunt its purchase of Giphy

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On Friday, Facebook made its fifth-largest known acquisition ever. The company bought Giphy, a database and search engine for the short looping videos known as GIFs, for $400 million. Today let’s talk about some of the reasons, stated and unstated, that Facebook bought Giphy, and then consider what might come next.

The stated reason for acquiring Giphy, as expressed in this blog post from Instagram’s head of product announcing the deal, is twofold. One, Facebook can now build tighter integrations between the products to enhance stickers, stories, and other products. And two, it can make further investments in Giphy’s technology and content library to benefit all the companies that rely on Giphy for GIF supply. Here’s Vishal Shah:

People will still be able to upload GIFs; developers and API partners will continue to have the same access to GIPHY’s APIs; and GIPHY’s creative community will still be able to create great content.

The two companies began talking before the pandemic, I’m told, to explore some sort of expanded partnership. More than half of the GIFs sent through Giphy land on Facebook-owned apps, and half of those land on Instagram specifically. So it’s natural that the two companies would be in regular conversation.

The problem for Giphy is that its business wasn’t working. The 7-year-old company, which had raised $150.9 million, had developed a convoluted advertising model in which it would host GIFs for brands and let them pay to promote them in conversation. That generated some level of experimental revenue from advertisers, but the product failed to take off. Giphy claimed 700 million daily users. Two people close to the deal told me it likely would have gone out of business had it not been acquired, and Instagram chief Adam Mosseri tweeted that Giphy “needed a home.” (He said a bit more to Sara Fischer.)

At the same time, GIFs are a core part of any social app, and Giphy had already built the largest independent GIF library. (Google acquired the other big player, Tenor, in 2018.) There’s obvious strategic value to Facebook in acquiring a tool that is fundamental to the way that people express themselves online. A Giphy ad deck from last spring that someone sent me reported that the company served 7 billion GIFs per day, and so without Giphy in the world Facebook would have to find another way to source 3.5 billion daily GIFs.

Better yet, from Facebook’s perspective, Giphy was available at a discount. The app had last raised funding in 2016 at a valuation of $600 million, and the combination of a failing ad business and pandemic-related uncertainty had given the company a 33 percent haircut. The deal is still large by Facebook standards, though, suggesting that other players may have been competing for it. Giphy integrates with Apple’s iMessage, ByteDance’s TikTok, Slack, Snapchat, and Twitter, among many others, and it’s not hard to imagine any of them putting in an offer. (That said, I imagine $400 million was too steep a price tag for most of them.)

For all these reasons, few scoffed when Facebook announced its purchase. But given the company’s history of brilliant, pricey strategic purchases, there was a sense over the weekend that some greater game must be unfolding. To me it seemed like shrewd dealmaking during troubled times — buy a useful thing for cheap — but I also suspected that there might have been a more anticompetitive motive in play. Sarah Frier explored this question in Bloomberg:

Giphy provides the same search service to many of Facebook’s competitors, Apple Inc.’s iMessage, Twitter, Signal, TikTok and others. The company has a view of the health of those platforms and how often people use them, which is exactly the kind of insight Facebook values most, and has sought in the past. After Giphy joins Facebook, the company will maintain those integrations, and will keep getting data from GIF searches and posts around the internet. […]

Since Facebook doesn’t own a mobile phone operating system like iOS or Android, it has relied on other means to understand competitors’ strengths — sometimes getting in trouble in the process. In 2013, for instance, Facebook acquired Onavo, an Israeli company that made a VPN, a tool to keep online activity private. Just not from Facebook, which analyzed the data to see which apps were getting popular, and then came up with ways to compete with or purchase them. Apple in 2018 banned the Onavo app, declaring that the data collection violated its app store rules.

Mosseri denied this, as did other Facebook executives I spoke with over the weekend. While it’s tempting to imagine Facebook building a sequel to Onavo as an early-warning system for potential threats, at most Giphy would be redundant in this regard. When TikTok arose as a threat in 2018, Facebook could tell because the company was spending $1 billion on ads — many of them Facebook ads. And when smaller threats emerge, Facebook can tell because people post about them … on Facebook.

If a new social app arose that used a Giphy integration, and Facebook could see that it was serving them exponentially more GIFs month after month, that could potentially be useful to the company. But it seems unlikely, given all the other data at Facebook’s fingertips, that it would be all that surprising.

There’s a secondary data question, though, and it’s how all of Giphy’s partners feel about suddenly becoming Facebook customers. An important question is whether Facebook will receive data about individual consumer behavior through Giphy; the answer seems to be no. Ben Thompson, who beat me to many of these points in his newsletter today, explains how (and has a fascinating aside at the end):

The GIPHY API, on the other hand, which allows for a custom-built integration, has no such requirement, and Signal explained in 2017 how GIPHY’s service can be proxied to hide all user data. Slack has already said that they proxy GIPHY in the same way, and I strongly suspect that Twitter and Apple do the same. That means that Facebook can get total usage data from these apps, but not individual user data (and as further evidence that this sort of proxying is effective, Facebook-owned WhatsApp actually uses Google’s Tenor service; I highly doubt Facebook would have tolerated that to-date if Google were getting per-user data).

Meanwhile at The Verge, Jay Peters asks Giphy’s most high-profile partners what they make of the deal, and they responded in two ways: either saying that they had been hiding user data from Giphy, or declining to comment at all. Ultimately, these partners are going to vote with their products. If they come to view Giphy as a data giveaway to Facebook, they’re likely to find alternatives. But if Apple and Snap remain Giphy customers, perhaps skepticism of the deal will subside. (I wouldn’t count on it.)

Among the current skeptics are some members of Congress. Here’s Makena Kelly in The Verge:

In statements Friday, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Democrats Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) were skeptical of the deal.

“Facebook keeps looking for even more ways to take our data,” Hawley said in a statement to The Verge. “Just like Google purchased DoubleClick because of its widespread presence on the internet and ability to collect data, Facebook wants Giphy so it can collect even more data on us. Facebook shouldn’t be acquiring any companies while it is under antitrust investigation for its past purchases.”

There’s something darkly funny, to me anyway, about Giphy being the Facebook acquisition that rouses Congressional antitrust hawks from their multi-decade slumber party. Is Congress going to assert that Facebook now has a GIF monopoly? What are the barriers to entry to creating GIFs, exactly? We desperately need Congress to enforce antitrust when it comes to social networks acquiring other social networks, but social networks acquiring floundering content libraries seems like it ought to remain permissible.

But you know what they say about generals fighting the last war. Knowing what they know now, it seems likely that Congress would not today approve Facebook buying Instagram or WhatsApp. It would be incredible if, so many years after those purchases, it wound up being Giphy that paid the price for those failures.

Pushback

On Thursday I wrote about the idea that COVID-19 is making Silicon Valley a less attractive place to live, noting that there are already stories about some tech workers heading for cheaper pastures. I got great responses from folks working at Facebook, Google, and Twitter, among other places, reflecting a wide range of views. Two, I think, are especially worth calling out. One is that employees’ arbitrage scheme might be less effective than they hope, because companies already know that other places are cheaper to live and will lower their pay accordingly once they move. (I’m told that Google and Facebook already do this.)

The other is that fleeing to the wilderness is really only a good option for people who are partnered up and well established in their careers. Younger and more junior employees benefit immensely from city life and office life. As one younger tech worker told me:

Young people need to learn social working skills in their first job (and it won’t happen over Zoom). Young people need to gossip about coworkers. Young people need to date. Young people need to be around other people. My colleagues who are making decisions based on these policies are — by and large — married with kids. I think that’s expected! and I think it’s really good for them. But the specific effects of that — employers’ most senior employees moving offsite — could have a drastic impact on the future of how these companies operate, and I don’t think I’ve seen that well represented.

It’s a great point. In any case, I do think Silicon Valley will survive. As another tech worker put it to me in response to the newsletter: “The Bay Area (and all of California) has been desirable and expensive for over 100 years. It’s so self-centered for the tech community to think they are the reason why SF is desirable and that if they leave, the city will collapse.”

In any case, I’m not going anywhere.

The Ratio

Today in news that could affect public perception of the big tech platforms.

Trending up: Instagram launched a series of wellness Guides to help people during the pandemic. Creators will now have the ability to connect with credible organizations to share resources on managing grief and anxiety, among other things. (Instagram)

Virus tracker

Total cases in the US: More than 1,503,600

Total deaths in the US: At least 89,800

Reported cases in California: 80,803

Total test results (positive and negative) in California: 1,292,672

Reported cases in New York: 355,037

Total test results (positive and negative) in New York: 1,439,557

Reported cases in New Jersey: 148,039

Total test results (positive and negative) in New Jersey: 505,569

Reported cases in Illinois: 94,362

Total test results (positive and negative) in Illinois: 603,241

Data from The New York Times. Test data from The COVID Tracking Project.

Governing

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted Mark Zuckerberg to take a more hands-on approach to running Facebook, a shift that started in 2016. In the process, COO Sheryl Sandberg has seen her role diminish, report Mike Isaac, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang of The New York Times:

Now, the coronavirus has presented Mr. Zuckerberg with the opportunity to demonstrate that he has grown into his responsibilities as a leader — a 180-degree turn from the aloof days of 2016. It’s given him the chance to lead 50,000 employees through a crisis that, for once, is not of their own making. And seizing the moment might allow Mr. Zuckerberg to prove a thesis that he truly believes: That if one sees past its capacity for destruction, Facebook can be a force for good.

Facebook hired a former deputy prime minister of the UK to fix its reputation and governance. “Since arriving, Clegg has ushered into existence the company’s external oversight board, helped shepherd Zuckerberg’s most significant policy speech to date and defended the company’s controversial policies on political speech. And this year, Clegg has been intimately involved in shaping the company’s coronavirus response, in particular working with dozens of governments around the world to figure out what role the social network can and should play in the pandemic—not retreating, but leaning into its role in society and even politics.” (Nancy Scola / Politico)

The Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit against Facebook for allegedly provided “material support” to terrorists by hosting their content. The case, Force v. Facebook, was brought by the families of five Americans who were hurt or killed by Palestinian attacks in Israel. An important Section 230 case. (Adi Robertson / The Verge)

Facebook’s hesitancy to wade deep into the waters of fact checking is based on the fear that debunking a bogus claim could make the lie grow stronger. But whatever the company thinks about the backfire effect, this phenomenon has not been demonstrated in any convincing way. (Ethan Porter / Wired)

Anti-vaxxers on Instagram are fueling coronavirus conspiracy theories. The company’s efforts to curb health misinformation have done little to stem the flow of conspiracy theories related to COVID-19. (Karissa Bell / Engadget)

India’s antitrust watchdog is looking into allegations that WhatsApp engaged in anticompetitive behavior. The complaint says the company bundled its digital payment feature within its messaging app, allowing it to abuse its market position and penetrate India’s booming digital payments market. (Aditi Shah and Aditya Kalra / Reuters)

Attorney General William Barr voiced his frustration with Apple for failing to help the US government unlock the Pensacola shooter’s iPhone. He said voters and Congress should make encryption decisions — not tech companies. (Chris Welch / The Verge)

The pandemic has intensified the fight between Amazon and labor. But despite several clashes in Europe, labor activism hasn’t stopped the company from dominating online retail. (Liz Alderman and Adam Satariano / The New York Times)

Also: Amazon is planning to gradually reopen its French warehouses starting on May 19th. The company is finalizing an agreement with unions to end a dispute over coronavirus protection steps that closed the sites for more than a month. (Reuters)

A seventh Amazon employee has died of COVID-19. The company still refuses to say how many workers are sick. (Josh Dzieza / The Verge)

A court in Texas is holding the first known jury trial by Zoom. The news comes as court systems across the country face a choice between postponing trials until the pandemic ends or holding remote proceedings. (Zoe Schiffer / The Verge)

Doctors are tweeting about coronavirus to make facts go viral and combat misinformation on the platform. Bob Wachter, the chairman of the department of medicine at UCSF, sets aside two hours a day to tweet updates about the virus. (Georgia Wells / The Wall Street Journal)

The United States is amassing an army of contact tracers to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. But high caseloads, low testing, and American attitudes toward authority are likely to pose serious challenges. (James Temple / MIT Technology Review)

Germany and Australia have opted for two very different approaches to contact tracing. Australia will store user data on a central server, while Germany is going with a decentralized approach. (Amrita Khalid / Quartz)

A major question about Europe’s coronavirus contact-tracing apps is whether they will work when citizens of one country travel to another. As borders begin to reopen, the question will get even more pressing. (Natasha Lomas / TechCrunch)

Industry

Disney’s top streaming executive, Kevin Mayer, resigned on Monday to become CEO of TikTok. Mayer, who was once seen as Disney’s CEO in waiting, will now serve as COO of ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company. It’s a huge get for TikTok. Here’s Brooks Barnes from The New York Times:

Mr. Mayer’s departure from Disney is not entirely a surprise. Disney’s board of directors passed over him earlier this year when it was looking for a successor for Robert A. Iger, who abruptly stepped down in February. (Mr. Iger remains executive chairman, with a focus on the creative process.) Many people in Hollywood and on Wall Street had viewed Mr. Mayer, 58, as the logical internal candidate because the future of Disney rests on its ability to transform itself into a streaming titan. The top job, however, went to Bob Chapek, the lower-profile chairman of Disney’s theme parks and consumer products businesses.

Square told employees they can work from home forever, following a similar announcement from Twitter last week. While many tech companies have extended remote work timelines due to COVID-19, only Jack Dorsey’s organizations have made the switch permanent. (Zoe Schiffer / The Verge)

People have now spent $100 million on Oculus Quest virtual reality content. And Portal sales are up 10 times year over year, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth says in this interview. (Janko Roettgers / Protocol)

Oculus says Quest is starting a VR revolution. But plenty of unanswered questions remain about the technology’s prospects for making the leap from nerd caves to living rooms. (Seth Schiesel / Protocol)

TikTok houses all kind of look the same. That’s likely not an accident — moderators were told to hide videos with environments that were “shabby and dilapidated,” with “crack[s] in the wall” or “old and disreputable decorations.” (Emma Alpern / Curbed)

Clubhouse raised Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz, bringing the company’s valuation to just above $100 million. Clubhouse, a voice-based social media app with fewer than 5,000 beta users, is now one of the most richly valued pieces of beta software ever. (Alex Konrad / Forbes)

Discord is also in talks to raise funding from investors. Business is booming because of stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Gillian Tan and Katie Roof / Bloomberg)

Singapore state investor Temasek joined the Libra Association. (Saheli Roy Choudhury / CNBC)

Google Meet has been downloaded 50 million times, up from five million at the beginning of March. The app has received a significant boost as people continue to shelter in place. (Hagop Kavafian / Android Police)

Things to do

Stuff to occupy you online during the quarantine.

Watch the BBC together with your friends. BBC Together is like Netflix’s similar Watch Party, but for British TV.

Read 14 ways that people are finding joy during the pandemic, including taking butt selfies.

Listen to me talk about various aspects of tech and the pandemic with iHeartRadio’s Daily Dive, Kara Swisher and her son Louie, and my friends on The Vergecast. I also spoke with Australia’s Late Night Live show about Facebook’s preliminary settlement with content moderators.

Those good tweets

Talk to us

Send us tips, comments, questions, and GIFs: casey@theverge.com and zoe@theverge.com.

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The Interface

Half of all Facebook moderators may develop mental health issues

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In November 2018 I received a message that changed my life. A person working as a moderator for Facebook in Phoenix through a company called Cognizant asked to get on the phone and talk about some of what he was seeing there. His experiences shocked me, and after I wrote about what he and his colleagues were going through in The Verge, they would go on to shock a lot more people.

It was an office where moderators would have panic attacks while still in training, traumatized by daily exposure to gore and other disturbing posts. Where ever-shifting content policies, and demands for near-perfect accuracy, could make the job itself impossible. And where months of sifting through conspiracy theories led some moderators to embrace fringe viewpoints, walking through the building insisting that the earth is flat.

I wrote about the experiences of a dozen current and former moderators at the Phoenix site last February. A few months later, after hearing from employees that conditions at Cognizant’s Tampa site were even more grim, I traveled there and talked to a dozen more workers. There I learned of a stressed-out moderator who died of a heart attack at his desk at the age of 42. I learned of multiple sexual harassment suits that had been filed against various workers at the site. And I met three brave former moderators who violated their non-disclosure agreements to describe their working conditions on camera.

By then a lawsuit by a former moderator named Selena Scola, which accused Facebook of creating an unsafe workplace that had caused her mental health problems, was working its way through the courts. And on Friday, lawyers filed a preliminary settlement in the case. I wrote about it today at The Verge:

In a landmark acknowledgment of the toll that content moderation takes on its workforce, Facebook has agreed to pay $52 million to current and former moderators to compensate them for mental health issues developed on the job. In a preliminary settlement filed on Friday in San Mateo Superior Court, the social network agreed to pay damages to American moderators and provide more counseling to them while they work.

Each moderator will receive a minimum of $1,000 and will be eligible for additional compensation if they are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or related conditions. The settlement covers 11,250 moderators, and lawyers in the case believe that as many as half of them may be eligible for extra pay related to mental health issues associated with their time working for Facebook, including depression and addiction.

“We are so pleased that Facebook worked with us to create an unprecedented program to help people performing work that was unimaginable even a few years ago,” said Steve Williams, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in a statement. “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe.”

After a year of reporting on the lives of these moderators — I also profiled people who do the work for Google and YouTube — it seemed clear to me that some percentage of people who work as moderators will suffer long-term mental health consequences. But what is that percentage?

Last year I published some leaked audio from a Facebook all-hands meeting in which CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged this range of experiences. “Within a population of 30,000 people, there’s going to be a distribution of experiences that people have,” Zuckerberg said, referring to the number of people Facebook has working on trust and safety issues around the world. “We want to do everything we can to make sure that even the people who are having the worst experiences, that we’re making sure that we support them as well as possible.”

One of the most interesting aspects of today’s news is that it begins to answer the question of how many moderators are affected. Designing a settlement required that lawyers for Facebook and the plaintiffs estimate how many people would make claims. And the number is much higher than I had imagined.

This lawsuit covers only people who have worked for Facebook through third-party vendors in the United States from 2015 until today, a group whose size is estimated to be 11,250 people. (A similar lawsuit is still pending in Ireland covering European workers.) Both Facebook and plaintiffs’ lawyers consulted with experts in post-traumatic stress and vicarious trauma. Based on those discussions, a lawyer for the plaintiffs told me, as many as half of the members of the class are expected to qualify for additional payments.

In other words, if you become a moderator for Facebook, a legal precedent suggests you have a one in two chance of suffering negative mental health consequences for doing the work.

Perhaps those odds will come down as Facebook implements some of the other changes they agreed to in the settlement, such as providing more counseling and offering workers tools to adjust the content that they’re viewing — turning it black and white, turning off audio by default, and so on. But the risk to human lives is real, and it’s not going away.

Another aspect to consider: how much will the average moderator get paid as a result of the settlement? The $52 million figure is less impressive when you consider that fully 32.7 percent of it has been earmarked for the lawyers in the case, leaving $35 million left over for everyone else.

The settlement was designed to compensate moderators in tiers. The first tier grants $1,000 to everyone, in the hopes that moderators use the money to get a mental health checkup from a doctor. For those who are either newly diagnosed or already have diagnoses, the settlement provides an additional $1,500 to $6,000 based on the severity of their cases. And then moderators can also submit evidence of distress suffered as a result of their work to win up to $50,000 per person in damages.

The sums could all be much smaller depending on how many members of the class apply and are found eligible for benefits beyond the first $1,000. If half the class were found eligible for additional mental health benefits and received equal compensation — which will not be the case but may be useful for ballpark-estimation purposes — there would be $4,222.22 available per moderator.

In my Twitter replies, lots of folks objected to the size of the payment, arguing it should have been much higher. Here, for example, is person who called the settlement “a day’s worth of random market fluctuation in profits for Facebook.” I won’t argue here — many of these content moderation roles are essentially first responder jobs, not nearly as different as you might think from police officers and paramedics, and they deserve compensation and benefits more closely in line with the service they provide and the risks that they take.

I called up Shawn Speagle, a former Facebook moderator who worked at the Tampa site, to tell me what he thought. Speagle, who was not involved in the lawsuit, worked for Cognizant from March to October 2018. During that time, he was exposed to videos of extreme violence and animal abuse on a near-daily basis, and he began to overeat and experience night terrors. After being fired, he was diagnosed with PTSD.

He said that a year of psychiatric care had helped him significantly with his symptoms, but also that the things he had seen continue to haunt him. “It’s been a very long ride,” Speagle told me Tuesday. “It’s been very difficult to forget about a lot of that stuff. You never do — it just sticks with you forever. Even though it was just seen over a screen, those lives are never coming back. I just wish that Facebook would recognize that.”

Speagle said that he sometimes felt embarrassed describing his PTSD to others, worrying they wouldn’t quite believe a person could develop the condition by reviewing Facebook posts. “There were a lot of times when it was humiliating,” he said. But psychiatrists helped him to understand that the phenomenon known as vicarious trauma — watching others experience pain — is real, and can be dangerous. He has since become a public school teacher.

I asked him what he thought of the payout he might now be eligible for.

“I would be fine getting no money,” Speagle told me. “I just wanted to bring this forward. When I did the job at Facebook, I was told I was making the world a better place for animals and young people. The reason I came forward was to stick to true to that. Money and a lawsuit have nothing to do with what I did.”

The Ratio

Today in news that could affect public perception of the big tech platforms.

Trending up: Instagram is launching new features aimed at making the platform a more positive space. The company says it’s rolling out the ability to delete up to 25 comments at once and also block or restrict multiple accounts at the same time. (Ashley Carman / The Verge)

Trending up: Jack Dorsey gave $15 million to San Francisco’s coronavirus relief fund. The money will help undocumented and low-income households struggling with the pandemic. (Dominic Fracassa / San Francisco Chronicle)

Virus tracker

Total cases in the US: More than 1,354,300

Total deaths in the US: At least 80,600

Reported cases in California: 69,520

Total test results (positive and negative) in California: 991,897

Reported cases in New York: 342,267

Total test results (positive and negative) in New York: 1,204,651

Reported cases in New Jersey: 139,945

Total test results (positive and negative) in New Jersey: 425,933

Reported cases in Illinois: 79,123

Total test results (positive and negative) in Illinois: 442,425

Data from The New York Times. Test data from The COVID Tracking Project.

Governing

Facebook is working to launch a new political advocacy group that would combat regulators trying to rein in the tech industry. The move escalates Silicon Valley’s battle with Washington at time when government officials are still threatening to break up large companies. Tony Romm at The Washington Post has the story:

The organization is called American Edge, and it aims through a barrage of advertising and other political spending to convince policymakers that Silicon Valley is essential to the U.S. economy and the future of free speech, according to three people familiar with the matter as well as documents reviewed by The Washington Post. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the group because it hasn’t officially been announced.

In December, American Edge formed as a nonprofit organization, and last month, it registered an accompanying foundation, according to incorporation documents filed in Virginia. The setup essentially allows it to navigate a thicket of tax laws in such a way that it can raise money, and blitz the airwaves with ads, without the obligation of disclosing all of its donors. Many powerful political actors — including the National Rifle Association — similarly operate with the aid of “social welfare” groups.

Facebook released a new report detailing how it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and human fact-checkers to enforce its community standards. The company is relying more heavily on AI for its moderation efforts. But some pieces of content, like memes and videos, can be difficult for AI to parse. (Nick Statt / The Verge)

Anti-lockdown protests in Australia were fueled by a conspiracy theory Facebook group. The members have suggested, falsely, that Bill Gates is behind the coronavirus pandemic, and chanted “arrest Bill Gates” at a recent rally. (Cameron Wilson / BuzzFeed)

Misinformation researcher Renée DiResta says she wishes tech companies would expand their definition of who counts as an authoritative source. In this Q&A she discusses how platforms are managing coronavirus misinformation and where they could be doing more. (Berkman Klein Center)

Coronavirus infection rates are spiking in heartland communities, according to an unreleased White House report. The news is at odds with President Trump’s declaration earlier this week that “all throughout the country, the numbers are coming down rapidly.” (Jonathan Allen, Phil McCausland and Cyrus Farivar / NBC)

Three days after a top White House aide tested positive for COVID-19, government officials working in the West Wing are being instructed to wear masks. The rule does not apply to President Trump, however. (Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker / The Washington Post)

Here’s what it’s like being a contact tracer in the United States. These people are tasked with tracking down those who might have been infected with COVID-19. (James Temple and Bobbie Johnson / MIT Technology Review)

Nearly 40 percent of Icelanders are using a contact tracing app, the highest number of any country. Despite the widespread use, experts say the impact of the app has been small compared with manual tracing techniques like phone calls. As we told you it would be a month ago.(Bobbie Johnson / MIT Technology Review)

The Federal Trade Commission indicated that it’s looking into privacy complaints related to Zoom. Lawmakers have been expressing concerns about how Zoom collects and stores user data. (Reuters)

How big would a hologram of Joe Biden have to be for every person in the continental US to see him? Roughly 1,400 miles tall, or 255 Mount Everests stacked on top of each other. If you’re not clear on why this is currently a subject of debate, you may want to remain uninvolved. (Makena Kelly / The Verge)

Industry

Jack Dorsey told Twitter employees they’ll be allowed to work from home forever, even after the coronavirus pandemic has passed. Some jobs that require physical presence, such as maintaining servers, will still require employees to come in. This is a good thing, but also a few years from now Twitter is definitely going to realize that it has several hundred employees on the payroll who have not worked for the company in ages. Here’s Alex Kantrowitz at BuzzFeed:

Twitter encouraged its employees to start working from home in early March as the coronavirus began to spread across the US. Several other tech companies did the same, including Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

That month, Twitter human resources head Jennifer Christie told BuzzFeed News the company would “never probably be the same” in the structure of its work. “People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way,” Christie said. “Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.”

Twitter added former Google AI chief Fei-Fei Li to its board of directors. Li left Google after coming under fire for her role in the company’s military contracts, which sparked employee protests and eventually led the company to abandon the project. (Tyler Sonnemaker / Business Insider)

Facebook shut down Instagram Lite, its app aimed at emerging markets. The company — which has always characterized the app as a “test” — is planning to take what it has learned over these past years to develop a new version of the app. (Sarah Perez / TechCrunch)

Facebook News publishers are worried that the project might have slid out of the company’s top priorities due to the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 Information Center in particular seems to have been rolled out to solve precisely the type of problem the News tab was originally intended to solve. (Max Willens / Digiday)

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have brought back bartering as people trade goods in Facebook groups. (Rachel Lerman / The Washington Post)

In an interview that was immediately read and shared by every working journalist, Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg blamed the streaming app’s rough start on the coronavirus pandemic. “I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus,” he said. “Everything.” Same, Jeff, same. (Nicole Sperling / The New York Times)

Hackers are impersonating Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet for phishing scams. As significantly more people are using the tools during the COVID-19 pandemic, the domains could be used to trick people into downloading malware. (Jay Peters / The Verge)

Ordering food from local businesses is a nice way to support the restaurant industry in your area. But it’s a bit more complicated than you might think. One Grubhub user tried to order pizza from a supposedly local restaurant that turned out to be an undercover Chuck E. Cheese. For shame, Chuck E., for shame.(Jelisa Castrodale / Food and Wine)

Google Stadia is a lonely place. Google’s cloud streaming service feels like a virtual stadium that is still being built, and the crowds haven’t arrived. (Tom Warren / The Verge)

Charli and Dixie D’Amelio have left TikTok’s Hype House. The sisters say they don’t have any beef with the house members, though Charli and one of the founders did just break up. (Starr Bowenbank / Cosmopolitan)

LinkedIn launched a virtual events tool to let people create and broadcast online gatherings on the platform. (Ingrid Lunden / TechCrunch)

Things to do

Stuff to occupy you online during the quarantine.

Read the books these tech executives are into right now.

Try not to murder the person you live with over a petty gripe. Reading about other’s petty gripes might help.

Listen to this Vergecast episode with me, Verge editor in chief Nilay Patel, and former Facebook chief security office Alex Stamos. We talked about fixing Zoom, misinformation on social platforms, election security, and much more.

Attend a three-day virtual festival on Houseparty with your friends. The lineup is very good and includes Keegan-Michael Key, Tinashe, Zooey Deschanel, and Doja Cat.

Those good tweets

And finally …

This is just another tweet, but I wanted it to have a place of honor today.

Talk to us

Send us tips, comments, questions, and class action settlements: casey@theverge.com and zoe@theverge.com.

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