A $5 billion traffic ticket

This “record-setting” corporate penalty is the equivalent of fining the average American household $483.04:

The Federal Trade Commission voted this week to approve a roughly $5 billion settlement with Facebook that could end an investigation into its privacy practices, according to a person familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak on the record, a deal that could result in unprecedented government oversight of the company.

The settlement — adopted with the FTC’s three Republicans supporting it and two Democrats against it — could end a wide-ranging probe into Facebook’s mishandling of users’ personal information that began more than a year ago.

The FTC’s $5 billion punishment against Facebook sets a new record as the largest penalty ever assessed against a tech company that broke a past promise to the government to improve its privacy practices. The matter from here rests in the hands of the Justice Department, which typically must finalize FTC settlements, though DOJ rarely has upended them.

Facebook warned investors earlier this year it could face an FTC fine as high as $5 billion. Wall Street appeared to reward the company for setting aside a large portion of that penalty earlier this year, as the company’s stock rose almost 2 points following news of the settlement Friday.

Fines don’t dissuade corporations in the slightest. Putting the CEOs, board members, and other executives in jail when the corporation breaks the law would be a much more effective disincentive.

No, no, HELL no!

What sort of drooling moron is going to give Mark freaking Zuckerberg control over his money, however virtual?

The much-hyped launch of Facebook’s cryptocurrency Libra has met a brick wall of institutional skepticism as politicians and regulators take one look at CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy record and raise a collective eyebrow.

Calibra, the new Facebook subsidiary which will operate Libra, has made no secret of its ambitions to branch out from funds transfer into credit, bill payments and other more sophisticated products. Such consolidation of power in the hands of a company that already has a monopoly on online social interaction for its 2-billion-plus users – and a terrible record of protecting users’ privacy – has understandably worried the skeptics.

I already deactivated my Facebook account – and I’ll activate it only to delete it entirely. There is literally ZERO chance I will ever make any use of Libra. I’d rather trade in seashells.

What’s good for Google

Is most definitely NOT good for America. It’s more than a bit ironic that Pichai Sundararajan is appealing to the very sort of white Christian male innovation that Google observably hates in trying to prevent Google from being broken up:

Google’s CEO has made an appeal that the company should not be broken up, as federal regulators and Congress are directing increasing scrutiny at the tech goliath.

Google’s massive size allows it to invest in future technologies without worrying about ‘short-term profits,’ CEO Sundar Pichai insisted in an interview with CNN Business on Thursday.

‘Scale does offer many benefits, it’s important to understand that,’ argued Pichai. ‘Big companies are what are investing in technologies like AI the most.’

Pichai even hinted that if Google were subject to antitrust regulation, it would spell doom for American innovation, allowing competitors like China to seize the advantage.

The amount of contempt that Pichai has for Americans can be seen in this appeal to the benefits of Google’s monopoly position. If only AT&T and Standard Oil had been clever enough to argue that their monopolies were actually beneficial…..

I have considerably more confidence in Chinese communists than in US-citizen corporatists. Say what you will about communists, but at least they are atheists that don’t actively worship the devil.

Uber settles arbitration claims

This settlement of a series of arbitrations might prove educational for some readers here:

Uber Settles ‘Majority’ of Arbitrations for at Least $146M

Total settlements are between $146 million and $170 million A “large majority” of the more than 60,000 Uber Inc. drivers filing arbitration claims for employment misclassification will receive settlement payments as part of agreements reached by the company, Uber said in a regulatory filing May 9.

12,501 arbitration claims filed out of a potential 60,000. The filing fees alone could have cost Uber $75 million. Since the arbitrators can get paid as much as $9k a day, well, it’s not exactly hard to figure out why Uber quickly decided to settle for 2x the amount of the filing fees.

Interestingly enough, Uber initially tried to avoid paying the filing fees for the very process they contractually required. Check out this article from December 2018.

Uber fought as hard as any company in America in the past few years to assure the enforceability of its contractual arbitration provisions. When drivers who had signed contracts with Uber attempted to sue the company for wage and hour violations, Uber and its lawyers at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher won key rulings from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that effectively ended the drivers’ quest to litigate their claims in court – or even to arbitrate their claims as a class. For Uber drivers, the only way to go after the company for alleged state and federal employment law violations was to file an independent arbitration claim.

Amazingly, thousands of Uber drivers did just that. Between August and November of this year, about 12,500 drivers, many of whom had been class members in cases in which Uber successfully moved to compel arbitration, served individual arbitration demands on Uber, claiming the company failed to pay them the federally-mandated minimum wage and failed to pay overtime wages. These thousands of drivers filed their arbitration demands at JAMS, as mandated in Uber’s contracts.

But nothing has happened in almost all of the drivers’ cases. Of the 12,500 arbitration demands filed by Uber drivers, the company has paid the requisite JAMS initial filing fee in just 296 cases, according to a newly filed petition by drivers seeking to compel Uber to pay the fees JAMS requires to launch arbitration. So far, arbitrators have been appointed in only 47 of the cases drivers have brought against Uber – and Uber has paid the arbitrator’s nonrefundable $1,500 retainer fee in a mere six cases.

In other words, Uber caved after paying out $67,750, then doing the relevant math and realizing that they were already on the hook for an absolute minimum $34,375,000, which would almost certainly have exploded into at least $318 million even if every single arbitration was kept to three days or less… not including legal fees.

More interesting information, courtesy of an exhibit that quotes the JAMS general counsel and explicitly points out that corporations can’t avoid playing by the rules they impose on their employees and users.

In a Jan. 23 notice to Uber and the drivers, JAMS general counsel and national arbitration committee cochair Sheri Eisner noted Uber’s request that JAMS review the role of the drivers’ firm Keller Lenkner in a consolidated proceeding, before Uber is required to pay initiation fees in all of the cases.

Eisner said that’s not how JAMS procedures work. “While it is not our preference to force the parties to litigate these issues seriatim, our policies and procedures, absent party agreement otherwise, require that we collect a filing fee in each case to be pursued,” she wrote. “Further, the parties’ arbitration agreement appears to clearly prohibit collective determination of any issue absent party agreement … Therefore, absent party agreement otherwise, JAMS must proceed in the normal course, following receipt of filing fees by commencing and appointing an arbitrator to each case.”

As Eisner said in the notice, JAMS had put a hold on arbitration demands for about 8,500 drivers in California while a single arbitration weighed Uber’s opposition to the post hoc vice admission of Keller Lenkner in 40 cases in which Uber has already paid initiation fees. The hearing officer, according to the JAMS notice, has determined that his decision on the pro hac vice application will apply only in the 40 cases before him, not across all of the 8,500 arbitration demands. The JAMS GC said that the hold on thousands of other California arbitrations is now lifted.

Eisner’s notice ended with language that’s extremely important for the future of mass arbitration. “JAMS is mindful of the significant resources (both in time and expense) expended by all parties and counsel in determining the best path forward to resolve these matters in multiple jurisdictions,” she wrote. “JAMS strongly encourages the parties to consider engaging a third party (whether a mediator, arbitrator or administrative representative) to assist the parties in addressing the variety of process issues presented by numerous cases proceeding in multiple jurisdictions.”

JAMS, in other words, isn’t going to help Uber out of the jam it’s facing as a result of imposing mandatory individual arbitration agreements on its drivers. Based on Eisner’s notice, Uber can’t rely on a consolidated JAMS proceeding to decide even recurring threshold issues, such as whether the drivers can rely on the law firm that filed their arbitration demands. For Uber – and any future mass arbitration defendant – hoping to cut the cost of litigating thousands of individual arbitrations by resolving across-the-board concerns in one proceeding, the JAMS letter makes it clear that the arbitration service isn’t going to bend its rules and overlook contract language to allow that.

The lesson, as always, is this: even if you write the contract and stack everything in your favor, you’d better not break it with thousands of people or you’re going to pay a lot of money for the privilege.

What else did you expect?

Alexa has been playing Stasi since her inception:

Would you let a stranger eavesdrop in your home and keep the recordings? For most people, the answer is, “Are you crazy?”

Yet that’s essentially what Amazon has been doing to millions of us with its assistant Alexa in microphone-equipped Echo speakers. And it’s hardly alone: Bugging our homes is Silicon Valley’s next frontier.

Many smart-speaker owners don’t realize it, but Amazon keeps a copy of everything Alexa records after it hears its name. Apple’s Siri, and until recently Google’s Assistant, by default also keep recordings to help train their artificial intelligences.

So come with me on an unwelcome walk down memory lane. I listened to four years of my Alexa archive and found thousands of fragments of my life: spaghetti-timer requests, joking houseguests and random snippets of “Downton Abbey.” There were even sensitive conversations that somehow triggered Alexa’s “wake word” to start recording, including my family discussing medication and a friend conducting a business deal.

But don’t worry. They totally mean well and would NEVER deplatform you simply because they have you on record committing crimethink.

Indiegogo plays science police

They were already playing thought police, but now they’re branching out into policing science:

The last year has been the worst on record in the US for measles outbreaks since the disease was declared ‘eradicated’ in 2000. Even though vaccination rates across the country are still high, (according to the CDC) there remains some communities where disinformation campaigns which claim that ‘vaccines are dangerous’ (often called ‘anti-vaxx’ campaigns) have led to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. Sadly, this can lead to a deadly outbreak when members of the public are exposed to someone who has picked up the disease, often overseas. Measles is highly contagious and can be fatal, especially amongst children.

And despite President Trump telling Americans to “get their shots”, 45 has previously appeared to link vaccines and autism. Public health experts say there is no link.

At the same time, over half a million children in Britain have been left unprotected against measles in the past decade and Unicef has called for a renewed focus on immunization.

It’s with this background that some tech companies are starting to realize they may have been part of the problem.

Yesterday Crowdfunding site Indiegogo said it would no longer allow anti-vaccine fundraisers or similarly unscientific, so-called “health campaigns”, to use its platform.

The move came after $86,543 was raised for a documentary, called Vaxxed II, based on the false claim that vaccines cause autism. Although the organization behind it, The People’s Truth, will still get their cash, minus the site’s 5{e8a4cc2da20ae907408fc668f824b0c1c953618ed39cb8b4e4c88688f9991565} fee, Indiegogo said it was now planning a new policy to keep similar anti-vaccine projects off its site, a company spokesperson told BuzzFeed News Friday.

The fundraiser did not violate IndieGoGo’s existing policies on untruthful campaigns, but Indiegogo never promoted it on its site, said a company spokesperson. Executive directors of the “documentary”, Polly Tommey and Brian Burrowes, have criticized tech companies’ ‘de-platforming’ of their film as “censorship”.

Indiegogo is the latest in a line of tech companies coming round to the idea of cutting off the oxygen of publicity and cash to such campaigns.

The unmentioned elephant in the room is the I-word. Immigration. That’s the real reason for the increase in measles everywhere, along with the increase in a whole host of other diseases for which there is no vaccination.

The fact that none of these pro-vaccine activists will even mention the word serves to demonstrate that their professed concerns about measles, and their professed concerned about children’s health, is entirely false.

Consistent with their values

Disgraced director James Gunn is back at Disney:

James Gunn has certainly been on a roller coaster of a ride with Disney and his role on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. First, he was fired. Then, Disney wouldn’t hire him back. Then, Gunn’s script was going to be used. Now, Gunn has been hired back to direct.

Shockingly, Disney has changed its tune about Gunn, according to Deadline. He will both write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which currently does not have a release date.

Back in July 2018, Gunn was fired by Disney when controversial tweets, from many years prior, resurfaced where Gunn made joked about pedophilia and rape. Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said, “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

It would appear those “offensive attitudes and statements” are no longer inconsistent with Disney’s values. As if they ever actually were.

UPDATE: Disney never even considered getting another director. The whole Gunn “firing” was simply a charade performed for the public in order to take the heat off Disney.

James Gunn is back as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — and it sounds like Disney never seriously explored a replacement after all.

Gunn, who was fired from the Marvel superhero sequel last summer when old tweets of his joking about rape and pedophilia were resurfaced, on Friday confirmed reports that he has been rehired for the project.

Vol. 3 was originally expected to be released in 2020, but preproduction was put on hold last August after Gunn’s firing. Reports suggested that Disney was launching a search for his replacement so the movie could go forward, with The Hollywood Reporter writing that the studio was taking a “measured approach in their search for a director.” Rumors swirled for months about who was being considered, and Vice director Adam McKay suggested in an interview that he had discussed possibly taking over the project.

But The Hollywood Reporter now reports that “what almost no one knew” until today was that Marvel and Disney had actually “never undertaken a search” for another director at all and, in fact, had “gone back to Gunn and made a deal…in secret.” Deadline similarly reports that the decision to bring back Gunn was made “months ago” and that Marvel “never met with or considered any other director.”

Dividing and conquering

The attempts to defend the reprehensible, misandric Gillette commercial are just another form of trying to prevent white men from forming a political identity of their own to compete with all the other identity groups striving for power in the West:

When did simply suggesting that people conduct themselves with common decency become enough to spark public outrage? As part of a new campaign against toxic masculinity, Gillette have decided to put some weight behind their 30-year-old ‘the best a man can get’ tagline by putting out an advert that encourages men to be the best people they can be as well. Smart, right? Well, actually, it turns out that they have potentially lost themselves a fair few customers, with men’s rights activists and far right campaigners crying on Twitter over claims of ‘emasculation’, while threatening to never purchase a Gillette razor again.

But, as their advert and accompanying statement so aptly points out, ‘turn on the news today and it’s easy to believe that men are not at their best.’ And, while it may be a bit exploitative of the #MeToo movement, their prompt to their consumers to try to change this seems entirely reasonable. As marketing campaigns go, it’s probably one of the most poignant that we’ve seen in a while. From the handling of the classic ‘boys will be boys’ excuse for misbehaviour to the notion that men should be working to set a new example for the younger generation, the advert’s proposals for a revised understanding of what it means to be a ‘good’ man navigate the thorny issues of gender inequality extremely well.

So, to be frank, if people are offended by the advert, then they are probably part of the problem. Gillette’s campaign isn’t an attack on masculinity or men; it’s simply an attempt to eradicate the toxic behaviours that have become commonplace and assumed as ‘normal’ in our patriarchal society. No one is taking away the beer, the barbeques or whatever else men have seen in the advert that has caused them to have meltdown over razor blades. They’re just telling men to be nice.

Notice how everyone from Jordan Peterson to this Gillette defender are telling white men to be INDIVIDUALS, to refrain from embracing their evil IDENTITY and engaging in any COLLECTIVE attempts to defend themselves and their interests.

This is not an accident. This is not about helping those men. This is about neutering and neutralizing white men. This is about dividing and conquering white men, often with the assistance of foolish white women.

Don’t fall for it.

How Google covered its tracks

The alleged Googler describes this “How Google Screwed Over James Damore” but it really explains how Google covered its tracks and manipulated both the media, the legal system, and even a government agency as part of its coverup.

I was involved in the internal decisions involving James Damore’s memo, and it’s terrible what we did to him.

First of all, we knew about the memo a month before it went viral. HR sent it up the reporting chain when he gave it as internal feedback, but we did nothing. There wasn’t anything we could do, except admit to wrongdoing and lying to our employees. We just hoped that no one else would see his document.

Unfortunately, the memo started spreading within the company. The floodgates opened and previously silent employees started talking. To quell dissent, we: told executives to write to their employees condemning the memo; manipulated our internal Memegen to bias the ratings towards anti-Damore posts (the head of Memegen is an “ally” to the diversity cause); and gave every manager talking points on what to tell their reports about the memo. In all our communications, we concentrated on how hurt employees purportedly were and diverted attention from Google’s discriminatory employment practices and political hegemony, never mind the science.

We needed to make an example of Damore. Looking for some excuse to fire him, we spied on his phone and computer. We didn’t find anything, although our spying probably made his devices unusably slow, preventing him from organizing support within the company. When we did fire him, our reputation and integrity took a hit, but at least other employees were now afraid to speak up.

Firing him without an NDA was a huge risk though. He was a top performer and knew too many compromising secrets, like Dragonfly, the secret censored search project in China. He had also reported several legally dubious practices in Search that still exist. Only God knows why he never leaked Dragonfly or the other issues, but I think it’s because he actually cared about Google.

Our response after we fired him was equally disgraceful. We were supposed to have a Town Hall TGIF to answer employees’ questions about the controversy. However, after questions started coming in that we couldn’t reasonably answer, we had to cancel it. We shifted the blame onto “alt-right trolls” and have avoided talking about it openly since then.

To control the narrative, we planted stories with journalists and flexed Google’s muscles where necessary. In exchange for insider access and preferential treatment, all we ask for is their loyalty. For online media, Google’s ads pay their paycheck and our search brings their customers, so our influence shouldn’t be underestimated.

We dealt with his NLRB case in a similar way. People are ultimately lazy, so we found a sympathetic lawyer in the NLRB and wrote the internal NLRB memo for her. No one wanted to spend the effort to oppose it, despite it being laughably weak. Then, after Damore dropped his NLRB case and filed a class action lawsuit, we had the NLRB publicly release their memo. Our PR firms sent press releases saying “the NLRB ruled the firing legal”, which was, of course, manufactured bullshit.

All of our scheming was over the phone, in deleted emails, or through an external PR firm, so we can deny all of it. Now that we’ve forced him into arbitration, we’re close to screwing him over completely.

The connection here is that Sundar Pichai blamed the canceled Town Hall TGIF on this very blog, due to my exposure of various internal communications during the Damore defenestration. It’s intriguing to learn that was merely a diversion and the real reason was that the executives simply wanted to avoid answering questions from the employees. It also shows that the mainstream news narrative can NEVER be trusted. Never. Not even if they report that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

However, this attempt to sweep their evil and illegal doings under the rug may yet fall apart, as James Damore has already begun looking into verifying the redditor’s claims. And while I don’t know what arbitration system they are using, I know the major ones all have a broad range of options for discovery.

Whoah, this would explain a lot. I can’t verify its authenticity, but the OP is correct that I was one of about 100 employees that knew about Dragonfly. I also did report several legal issues in Search that they probably haven’t fixed. My phone and computer were also extremely slow after the document went viral. Other parts of the post include knowledge that only a Googler would know.

One ex-Googler finds the charges legitimate, if not necessarily true.

Even though this is obviously written by either a current or ex-Googler, strictly speaking that’s not a guarantee that any of it actually happened.

That said, as a former Googler myself I find this account believable. The internal atmosphere for anyone who disagrees with any aspect of the current liberal dogma is quite suffocating, and there are significant numbers of very vocal people who just post SJW bullshit on internal Google+ and seemingly do little else. The list of grievances and positions labeled as wrongthink grows more and more ridiculous by the day. Attacks on people who disagree intensify. Because manufactured outrage culture is rewarded by making a person essentially non-fireable (especially if they’re female and/or black and/or LGBTQ), offense is taken liberally, with lots of histrionics, and at the slightest provocation.

People deadass come into the office expecting to wage social justice war against their co-workers, who on the whole are quite sympathetic to the cause already, but may have slight disagreements along the more extreme margins, like James did. And no, as an employee you don’t get a chance to ignore all of this BS. It’s a constant, unending barrage that only gets worse over time.

I also don’t doubt for a second that the response to the Damore incident was strictly coordinated, especially after his memo became public, and so was his firing. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive beyond belief.

It’s true. I have seen hundreds of examples of absolutely outrageous behavior that would get people fired at any normal corporation. What I posted here last year was just the tip of a very large and ugly iceberg. And if you’re wondering why I haven’t posted all of it already, well, you really just don’t know me at all.

Industrial scale wizardry

From Jordan Peterson to The Last Jedi, you simply can’t believe anything that the media tells you about what is big or smart or successful or popular anymore. Because it’s all just corporate gaslighting for profit.

Director Kyle Newman: You look at The Last Jedi, and honestly, I don’t know anybody out here, maybe two people in my life, out of hundreds of people that I’ve talked to, who liked the movie. All the filmmakers I know that won’t talk about it publicly. All the people I know internally, there’s all these people that won’t, even journalists who gave it positive reviews are like, I do that because I need to maintain my access. Privately, there’s a lot of people who really don’t like it.

Geeks and Gamers: So you’re saying that the ones who gave it good reviews really are phony reviews.

Newman: 100 percent. I can’t name them, but yes, 100 percent.

I find it interesting that despite the constant encouragement to “think different” and “question authority” and engage in “critical thinking”, the media devotes an incredible amount of resources to convincing those who consume its products to do precisely the opposite. This would appear to be the inversive wizardry that Owen Benjamin describes, albeit on a giant industrial scale.