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Facebook plays hardball rather than play fair with news organizations

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Facebook plays hardball rather than play fair with news organizations

Facebook’s scorched-earth campaign to pressure Australia’s Parliament to back off a bill that would force tech companies to pay for content has backfired: “Delete Facebook” is trending on other social-media platforms after the company banned news — and even critical government information services — from down under.

Facebook abruptly announced Wednesday it was barring its Aussie users from reading and sharing news; users abroad can’t read or share Australian content either. The social-media giant didn’t even give the government notice, though CEO Mark Zuckerberg had spoken with Aussie Treasurer Josh Frydenberg over the weekend.

The platform’s heavy-handed move came in response to Australia’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code, which passed a parliamentary committee the day before and is expected to become law soon. It would force tech titans to negotiate payments with the news organizations whose content helps drive their traffic and hefty ad revenue — $53 out of every $100 spent on online ads for Google and $28 for Facebook, watchdogs say.

Australia said it would shelve the bill if Facebook and Google came to terms with publishers, and hours before Facebook’s ban, Google announced a revenue-sharing deal with News Corp., the largest owner of newspapers by circulation in Australia (and The Post’s parent company).

But Facebook chose to play hardball. Rather than pay for the investigative reporting, news and analysis that outlets provide, Facebook shut them out — along with pages belonging to Aussie charities and public services. It banned state health departments providing COVID information and the Bureau of Meteorology, which warns of bushfires, though it later restored them, claiming it was a mistake.

“Cutting off access to vital information to an entire country in the dead of the night is unconscionable,” Human Rights Watch declared, while Aussie Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed, “We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament.” Even “proud ex-Facebooker” Stephen Scheeler, former head of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, urged users to delete the app in response.

The outrage was international: Julian Knight, a British member of Parliament, warns Facebook is likely using Australia as a “test case.”

Facebook makes millions off the hard work of dedicated journalists. It’s long past time it started paying for the content it now just takes — and not just in Australia.

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Opinion

Race and gender rhetoric is the perfect cover for corporate misdeeds

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Race and gender rhetoric is the perfect cover for corporate misdeeds

Every ruling class sustains a myth to legitimate its rule. What distinguishes America’s corporate elite and its legitimating myth — wokeness and endless self-flagellation about “equity” — is a galling dishonesty married to rapacious greed.

For a stark illustration, consider the financial giant Citigroup.

In September, as protests and race riots gripped the nation, Citi published a study claiming that racism has cost the United States $16 trillion. The bank’s then-vice chairman, Raymond McGuire, contributed a pained and pious introduction.

Citigroup also announced Jane Fraser as its new CEO in September, making her the first female boss of a major Wall Street bank. Thus, as progressives applauded yet another corporate entry into the register of social justice, it went mostly unnoticed that federal regulators fined the bank $400 million the following month.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a regulatory agency within the US Treasury, said this penalty is “based on the bank’s unsafe or unsound banking practices for its long-standing failure to establish effective risk-management and data-governance programs and internal controls.” Regulators were curiously vague about the specifics. Fraser, as the financial press delicately put it, was “saddled” with a cleanup job.

From 2015 to 2019, Fraser served as chief executive of Citi’s Latin-American region. During her tenure, the bank paid $10.5 million in penalties to the Securities and Exchange Commission. “The charges stem from $81 million of losses due to trader mismarking and unauthorized proprietary trading and $475 million of losses due to fraudulently-induced loans made by a Mexican subsidiary,” the SEC said in a statement on Aug. 16, 2018.

Those penalties came a month after Citigroup reached an agreement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to pay $335 million in restitution to credit-card customers. The bank failed to reevaluate and reduce the annual percentage rates after periodic account reviews, as required by law, for approximately 1.75 million customers.

It’s hard to avoid the impression that Citi’s race-and-gender agonies — the study on racism, the female CEO — were meant to cover misconduct for which the firm has been repeatedly fined.

Silicon Valley follows a similar template.

A leaked 2020 internal memo revealed that Facebook has a policy — dubbed a “diversity initiative” — of deliberately passing over Americans for visa workers in hiring. “When hiring for HR positions, it’s important to prioritize H-1B visa workers, and this will stimulate the process of diversification of the workplace. Although not mandatory, we recognize that the priority of H-1B applicants in favor of American applicants is for the greater good of company culture.”

Facebook denied the authenticity of the memo. But the Department of Justice announced a lawsuit against the company in December 2020, alleging Facebook intentionally and systematically broke the law by refusing to hire interested and qualified American workers. “Diversification” masks a system of ruthless labor exploitation and outsourcing.

Visa workers’ right to stay in the United States is contingent on their employment, so they are naturally less prone to complaining about working conditions. It’s also not as easy for them as it is for citizens to take legal recourse against abusive employers. A “diverse” workforce is a docile and obedient one, as Amazon also knows.

Whole Foods, Amazon’s supermarket chain, has its own “diversity” initiative. As with Facebook, it is a cynical ploy intended to disadvantage workers.

Internal documents reviewed by Business Insider show Whole Foods promotes diversification because stores with lower racial diversity have a higher likelihood of unionizing. In other words, Amazon doesn’t want workers to bargain for better pay and working conditions. And although the company is freezing donations to Republicans who challenged the certification of President Biden’s victory, in part, due to irregularities involving mail-in ballots, Amazon attempted to block voting by mail for a union election at a fulfillment center in Alabama. Mail-in voting, Amazon said, prevents supervision and “a fair election.”

America’s “woke” moment has allowed the oligarchs to apply a fresh patina of legitimacy to rotting and repulsively unjust power structures.

Pedro Gonzalez is assistant editor of American Greatness.

Twitter: @Emereticus  

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — Feb. 25, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — Feb. 25, 2021

The Issue: A winter storm in Texas that knocked out state residents’ power for over a week.

The premise of Kevin D. Williamson’s article rests on a flawed observation that the energy woes of Texas were a result of underperforming renewables. The author failed to note that of the 45 gigawatts of power offline, 30 gigawatts involved natural gas (“The Mess In Texas,” PostScript, Feb. 21).

In fact, it is widely acknowledged now that renewables performed better than expected, while fossil-fuel plants underperformed.

Since the piece included the exact number by which solar and wind failed, I can only assume the author also knew how much of a failure thermal plants were.

Therefore this piece is just another attempt to confuse the public and distract from the urgency with which renewables need to be implemented.

Nimisha Wasankar

Austin, Texas

Williamson puts a large part of the blame for Texas’ energy-system failure on the state’s spending on renewable energy instead of making the fossil-fuel part of the system more robust.

He is missing a very important point: Just as Texans didn’t spend to protect their traditional energy sources from cold weather, they didn’t protect their renewable sources, in particular wind, from the very same problems.

Phil Dix

Delran, NJ

The Republican Party has been successful in running against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“Tex. gov plea for more aid,” Feb. 21).

It has raised money and frightened voters by painting her as a real danger to the American way of life.

Texas is undergoing a terrible crisis because of extreme weather. Guess who raised money to help Texans? AOC.

Not President Donald Trump, Reps. Mo Brooks or Kevin McCarthy or Sen. Ted Cruz. These self-proclaimed lovers of the average citizen have done nothing to help their fellow citizens.

As much as I do not agree with AOC’s politics, she has proven to be a real American hero.

Alan Podhaizer

Brooklyn

I’m very distressed about what is happening in Texas and the many people who are suffering dearly: the cold, the snow, the power shutdown, the lack of heat and the shortage of drinking water. This is just so sad.

My cousin, Ronald Moyne, is 72-years-old and lives in Denton, Texas, had no electric to power his home and had to boil water.

The power companies there have fallen down on the job and did not do what had to be done to protect the people of Texas with a plan in place to be ready for this disaster.

Added to all this, many are also hurting from COVID, like the rest of the nation. My prayers go out to all the people of Texas who are suffering so much.

Frederick Bedell

Bellerose

Crying Chuck Schumer should keep his nasty snide remarks about Texas to himself, as we are a self-sufficient state that believes in freedom for all Americans, not just our residents (“Tex. water-crisis fury,” Feb. 22).

It’s the only state in the lower 48 that has its own power grid, but much of that has been hampered by the new administration’s attempts to cut our sources of energy.

Perhaps if Schumer paid more attention to his killer governor, or the abundantly high murder and subway-crime rates, then New York City wouldn’t have so many people fleeing to safer places to live.

Don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house, Chuckie. I’m a former New York City resident.

Douglas Ellis

Mansfield, Texas

Schumer has it backward when he says that Texas is paying the price for ignoring climate change.

Texans made the mistake of believing the global-warming alarmists who said that Texas would become hotter and drier and that snow would be a thing of the past. Why then should Texans weatherize its pipelines?

Why should the state install expensive equipment in its wind turbines to enable them to withstand extreme cold?

Texas’ mistake was listening to the apostles of global warming, not ignoring them.

Rael Isaac

Irvington

Want to weigh in on today’s stories? Send your thoughts (along with your full name and city of residence) to [email protected]. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, accuracy and style.

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Opinion

Democrats’ new restaurant-killer in ‘relief’ bill

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Democrats’ new restaurant-killer in ‘relief’ bill

Buried in Democrats’ “relief” bill is a poison pill for restaurants and their servers already struggling thanks to the pandemic and lockdowns: an end to the tipped minimum wage.

As it works now, eateries can pay servers about $5 an hour less than the regular minimum wage, because they earn more than that in their tips. If they don’t, the boss is legally obliged to make up the difference, so it’s a no-lose provision for workers — who generally make far more than minimum as a result.

It’s only become controversial in recent years because tipping makes it near-impossible to unionize restaurants, or at least to collect much in union dues.

But servers like it that way: When Sarah Jessica Parker was hosting a gala to promote killing the tipped-minimum in New York, she had to keep the location a secret to keep hundreds of protesters away. Oh, and the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network opposed the change, too, with NAN’s Rev. Kirsten John Foy noting, “It will be devastating for communities of color, where neighborhood restaurants provide good jobs to a lot of good people, and they make much more than $15 an hour typically.”

Democrats pretend ending tips, and imposing a national $15 minimum wage, will help low-end workers. In fact, it will kill a ton of jobs, especially in low-cost-of-living areas.

Above all, there’s no way this belongs in a pandemic-relief bill: This favor to a special interest is the opposite of relief.

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