Tech leaders condemn policy leading to family separations at the border

By now you’ve seen the photos and videos and probably heard the audio tape. The media coming out of the U.S./Mexico border over the past week has been truly heart-wrenching and horrifying, including, most shockingly, images of young children being housed in what amounts to human cages.

Many prominent politicians across the world (and in the G.O.P.) have called out the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border. A number of prominent executives from top tech companies have also begun to use their soapbox to address — and largely admonish — the policies that have led to this humanitarian crisis.

Here’s what those individuals are saying.

Microsoft

Microsoft was among the first tech giants to issue a statement about the situation. The official company line was both an admonishment of current administration policy and somewhat defensive after speculation arose that the company’s cloud computing platform Azure may have somehow been involved.

Here’s the full statement issued on Monday:

In response to questions we want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border, and contrary to some speculation, we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose. As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border. Family unification has been a fundamental tenet of American policy and law since the end of World War II. As a company Microsoft has worked for over 20 years to combine technology with the rule of law to ensure that children who are refugees and immigrants can remain with their parents. We need to continue to build on this noble tradition rather than change course now. We urge the administration to change its policy and Congress to pass legislation ensuring children are no longer separated from their families.

Apple

Rather than issuing a public statement, Tim Cook called the situation “inhumane” during a talk in Dublin this week. Apple’s CEO expounded upon that thought during an interview with The Irish Times, telling the paper, “It’s heartbreaking to see the images and hear the sounds of the kids. Kids are the most vulnerable people in any society. I think that what’s happening is inhumane, it needs to stop.”

As far as his own strained relationship with Trump, Cook added diplomatically, “I have spoken with him several times on several issues, and I have found him to listen. I haven’t found that he will agree on all things.”

Google

CEO Sundar Pichai took to Twitter to urge a more “humane” approach, writing, “The stories and images of families being separated at the border are gut-wrenching. Urging our government to work together to find a better, more humane way that is reflective of our values as a nation.”

Facebook

Organizations like Texas Civil Rights Project and RAICES are doing great work helping families at the US border get…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg, naturally, issued a call to action via Facebook. The post is largely a call to action asking followers to donate to nonprofit orgs Texas Civil Rights Project and RAICES, adding, “we need to stop this policy right now.”

Listening to the cries of children separated from their parents is unbearable. The practice of family separation on our…

Posted by Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday, June 19, 2018

COO Sheryl Sandberg also encouraged users to donate to the two aforementioned charities, though her language was decidedly more pointed than Zuckerberg’s. “Listening to the cries of children separated from their parents is unbearable,” she wrote. “The practice of family separation on our border needs to end now. We can’t look away. How we treat those most vulnerable says a lot about who we are.”

YouTube

In a simple tweet, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote, “Regardless of your politics, it’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening to families at the border,” while linking to a list of charities.

Tesla/SpaceX

Elon Musk’s own tweet was a bit less…verbose than the rest, simply writing, “I hope the kids are ok” and linking to a YouTube video of “Shelter” by xx.

Airbnb

Airbnb co-founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk issued a joint statement on Twitter in both English and Spanish:

Ripping children from the arms of their parents is heartless, cruel, immoral and counter to American values of belonging. The U.S. government needs to stop this injustice and reunite these families. We are a better country than this.

Uber

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi cited his own experience as an immigrant to admonish the policy, writing, “As a father, a citizen and an immigrant myself, the stories coming from our border break my heart. Families are the backbone of society. A policy that pulls them apart rather than building them up is immoral and just plain wrong.”

Lyft

The cofounders of the country’s other major ride sharing service also issued a joint statement condemning the actions. They went a step further, as well, offering free rides to a dozen organizations providing help at the border.

Twitter Launching Personalized News Features, More Robust Search and Revamped Moments Section

Twitter today announced several changes to the desktop and mobile Twitter experience to make relevant breaking news, events, and stories easier to discover.

Going forward, the Explore section of Twitter will be organized using topic tags so users can more quickly see what’s happening in news and entertainment and what’s most relevant to them.



Twitter is also improving search with related news, events, or stories that are listed at the top of search results when you search for something.

Twitter’s “Happening now” timeline that was introduced last year for sports is being expanded to include breaking and personalized news, with Twitter offering up personalized news offerings at the top of your timeline.

Notifications are also being expanded to include news based on user interest in addition to breaking news. These notifications can be toggled off by going to the recommendations section of Twitter’s settings.

As for Moments, the feature that aggregates trending news stories and relevant happenings, Twitter is organizing it into a vertical display like the Twitter timeline, rather than a horizontal orientation.

For some Moments in the United States, Twitter is implementing multiple timelines, which are designed to help users see all of the best tweets surrounding a story. These timelines will include a recap showing tweets you may have missed, a collection of the latest tweets, and top commentary.

For the World Cup, which kicks off tomorrow, Twitter has also introduced a dedicated World Cup page that will be available at the top of the timeline on Twitter for web, Android, and iOS.

The Explore, notification, and search changes are coming to iOS and Android “in the coming months,” while the changes to Moments are available starting today.

Tag: Twitter

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Twitter’s emoji for Trump’s North Korea nuclear summit is very weird

As U.S. President Trump preps for a historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Twitter doesn’t want you to forget to tweet about it under the right hashtag.

In a choice that seems to make light of a lot of really quite serious things at once, Twitter is promoting its new #TrumpKimSummit emoji for Tuesday’s summit in Singapore.

The event-specific symbol features what appears to be a high-five between a hand representing the U.S. president and one representing the North Korean dictator known for executing his political enemies and exiling large swaths of his nation to prison camps where they face starvation and torture.

Presumably they are high-fiving over the successful but by no means guaranteed or likely negotiation of an extremely delicate denuclearization agreement and the deescalated international threat of the mass loss of life through nuclear annihilation.

The summit won’t be Trump’s first foray into treating an established despot and human rights abuser like or perhaps better than the leader of an allied nation, though it is Twitter’s first time treating such an event like a Game of Thrones season finale. Twitter’s event-specific emojis, sometimes called hashflags, are usually reserved for things like Coca-Cola branding campaigns (#ShareACoke) or the Super Bowl, not possibly misguided diplomacy efforts between international adversaries. In the future, they should probably stay that way.

We’ve reached out to Twitter with questions about what inspired the #TrumpKimSummit emoji campaign and will update this story if we hear back or manage to make any sense of it ourselves. Assuming that nuclear war doesn’t break out.

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Twitter will give political candidates a special badge during U.S. midterm elections

Ahead of 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Twitter is taking a visible step to combat the spread of misinformation on its famously chaotic platform. In a blog post this week, the company explained how it would be adding “election labels” to the profiles of candidates running for political office.

“Twitter has become the first place voters go to seek accurate information, resources, and breaking news from journalists, political candidates, and elected officials,” the company wrote in its announcement. “We understand the significance of this responsibility and our teams are building new ways for people who use Twitter to identify original sources and authentic information.”

These labels feature a small government building icon and text identifying the position a candidate is running for and the state or district where the race is taking place. The label information included in the profile will also appear elsewhere on Twitter, even when tweets are embedded off-site.

The labels will start popping up after May 30 and will apply to candidates in state governor races as well as those campaigning for a seat in the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Twitter will partner with nonpartisan political non-profit Ballotpedia to create the candidate labels. In a statement announcing its partnership, Ballotpedia explains how that process will work:

“Ballotpedia covers all candidates in every upcoming election occurring within the 100 most-populated cities in the U.S., plus all federal and statewide elections, including ballot measures. After each state primary, Ballotpedia will provide Twitter with information on gubernatorial and Congressional candidates who will appear on the November ballot. After receiving consent from each candidate, Twitter will apply the labels to each candidate profile.”

The decision to create a dedicated process to verify political profiles is a step in the right direction for Twitter. With major social platforms still in upheaval over revelations around foreign misinformation campaigns during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Twitter and Facebook need to take decisive action now if they intend to inoculate their users against a repeat threat in 2018.

Twitter Testing Easy-to-Access Data Saver Toggle on iOS

Twitter is testing a new “Data saver” toggle on iOS devices, as one user shared on the social media platform this morning. For users in the test, the data saver setting is housed at the very bottom of the left-handed profile menu, which you can access by swiping left-to-right on your main Twitter timeline in the iOS app.

When toggled on, the mode prevents videos from autoplaying when scrolling through tweets, and lower-quality images load instead of automatically choosing high-quality images. The toggle affects all accounts linked within the iOS app on an iPhone or iPad, helping to reduce data usage on cellular connections and in turn preventing you from going over the allotted monthly data cap on your phone bill.

Data saver test (left) vs current Twitter app for iOS (right)


Tweets about the toggle span multiple countries since earlier in the spring, so it appears Twitter has been testing the dedicated mode for a few weeks now.

Twitter’s iOS app currently lets you toggle off video autoplay and high-quality videos, or set them to load only on Wi-Fi, but the settings are stored in “Settings and privacy” > “Data usage.” It appears that the social media company is testing out a way for data saver functionality to be more at-hand and quicker to access with one toggle on the app’s frontend menu.

Twitter users also have the option of using Twitter Lite on iOS, Android, and other smartphones. Lite loads Twitter on the mobile web, outside of a dedicated app, and provides all of the main features of Twitter while reducing data usage and speeding up load times.

Some of the big social media apps offer similar data reduction settings in their iOS apps. In Facebook’s “Videos and Photos” settings on the iPhone app, you can set videos to “Never Autoplay” and reduce the upload quality of photos and videos as well. Instagram has a “Use Less Data” toggle found within the gear icon on your user profile.

The mode has also extended to music streaming apps like Spotify, and on-demand video apps like Netflix. Streaming TV services are also beginning to allow users to download their favorite shows and movies to watch offline and avoid using their data to binge shows while traveling. Platforms that support this feature include Netflix, Showtime, Amazon, Starz, Epix, and soon Hulu.

For now, Twitter’s data saver toggle is just a test, so it’s unclear when or if the feature will launch for all users.

(Thanks, Ravi!)

Tag: Twitter

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Twitter unveils new political ad guidelines set to go into effect this summer

Following the unrelenting wave of controversy around Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Twitter announced new guidelines today for political advertisements on the social networking site.

The policy, which will go into effect this summer ahead of midterm elections, will look towards preventing foreign election interference by requiring organizations to self-identify and certify that they are based in the U.S., this will entail organization registered by the Federal Elections Committee to present their FEC ID, while other orgs will have to present a notarized form, the company says.

Orgs buying political ads will also have to comply with a stricter set of rules for how they present their profiles. Twitter will mandate that the account header, profile photo and organization name are consistent with how the organization presents itself online elsewhere, a policy likely designed to ensure that orgs don’t try to obfuscate their identity or present their accounts in a way that would confuse users that the account belonged to a political organization.

In a blog post, the company noted that there would also be a special type of identifying badge for promoted content from these certified advertisers in the future.

Back in April — in the midst of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal — Twitter publicly shared its support for the Honest Ads Act. This Political Campaigning Policy will be followed up by the company’s work on a unified Ads Transparency Center which the company has promised “will dramatically increase transparency for political and issue ads, providing people with significant detail on the origin of each ad.”