Posts tagged with "Google"

Facebook parent Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg is stepping down

June 3, 2022

Sheryl Sandberg is stepping down from her role as Chief Operating Officer at Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, reports CNBC.

Sandberg joined Facebook in early 2008 as the No. 2 to Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, and helped turn Facebook into an advertising juggernaut—and one of the most powerful companies in the tech industry, with a market cap that topped $1 trillion at one point.

Javier Olivan, the company’s chief growth officer, will take over as COO this fall. Sandberg, who informed Zuckerberg of her decision this past weekend, will continue to serve on Meta’s board of directors.

“Over the next few months, Mark and I will transition my direct reports,” Sandberg said in a lengthy Facebook post discussing stepping down. Meta is also planning an internal reorganization to go along with the change, Zuckerberg said.

“Looking forward, I don’t plan to replace Sheryl’s role in our existing structure. I’m not sure that would be possible since she’s a superstar who defined the COO role in her own unique way,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.

“But even if it were possible, I think Meta has reached the point where it makes sense for our product and business groups to be more closely integrated, rather than having all the business and operations functions organized separately from our products,” he said.

Meta has come under fire in recent years for its massive influence, its lack of success in stopping the spread of misinformation and harmful material, and its acquisitions of one-time rivals like Instagram and WhatsApp. Zuckerberg and other execs have been forced to testify before Congress multiple times in the last three years, although Sandberg has largely escaped that spotlight. The company currently faces an antitrust lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission and could see scrutiny from other agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission after a whistleblower filed a complaint about its efforts to combat hate on its platform.

Speaking with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin, Sandberg said the decision to step down will allow her to focus more on her philanthropic work. The move is not because of the company’s regulatory overhang or its current advertising slowdown, she said.

Prior to Facebook, Sandberg served in the Treasury Department of the Clinton Administration; then joined Google in 2001 and helped grow its advertising business.

Research contact: @CNBC

Pinterest will remove content deemed climate-change misinformation

April 7, 2022

The social media platform, Pinterest, is rolling out new guidelines prohibiting posts that it says contains misinformation about climate change, as it continues to grapple with curbing the spread of false and misleading information, reports The Wall Street Journal. 

The social-media platform, where users post anything, from photos and links to recipes and home-decor ideas, said on Wednesday, April 6, that, going forward, it will remove content from users or advertisers that it deems as misinformation about the existence or impact of climate change.

Specifically, Pinterest is aiming to eliminate content that it says misrepresents scientific data; and false or misleading findings about public-safety emergencies, including natural disasters.

“For years, we’ve been working on our misinformation policy and defining what type of harmful content does not have a place on Pinterest,” said Sarah Bromma, Pinterest’s head of Policy. “Harmful misinformation does not. It is not additive to a positive inspiring experience on the platform.”

Pinterest said it worked with the climate-change experts to develop the policy based on common misinformation themes they’ve seen across media platforms. It will use automated systems and moderators to take action on content that violates the new guidelines, Bromma said. Pinterest will allow users to flag content that will get reviewed as well, she said.

Pinterest, founded in 2010, first focused on photos when it launched. More recently, the company has been pivoting to a focus on video, commerce, and creators. Last year, it was the subject of takeover rumors. PayPal had been in talks to buy the company but ultimately backed off of a potential $40-billion-plus takeover after its shareholders balked.

The policy change at Pinterest follows a report earlier this week by climate experts tapped by the United Nations that found that countries must make major, rapid shifts away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy to meet the goals in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

An earlier report found that greenhouse-gas emissions due to human activity may have irreversibly changed the climate in some ways.

Pinterest joins other tech companies that have taken steps to limit the spread of false information on climate change.

Alphabet’s Google said last October that it would no longer allow digital ads bought on its platform to appear next to online content that denies climate change—a ban that will also apply to YouTubeTwitter launched a program last November that created hubs users can find under various tabs on its messaging platform.

Meta PlatformsFacebook also added new guidelines in November that use fact-checking organizations to determine if climate-change content is false. If it is false, Facebook reduces its distribution so fewer people see it and applies warning labels to the posts.

Research contact: @WSJ

‘Fuzz cut’: Toddler is diagnosed with rare uncombable hair syndrome

February 28, 2022

A couple from Roswell, Georgia, recently told People magazine about their “brush with fate.”

When Katelyn and Caleb Samples celebrated the birth of their second child just 16 months ago, baby Locklan arrived with jet-black hair similar to his mom’s color. But by the time he was six months old, that dark hair was being replaced by what his parents affectionally called “peach fuzz.”

“We were like, huh, what is this?” she tells People of Locklan’s (nicknamed Lock) newly-blond, soft hair. “We knew it was different, but didn’t know exactly how. And then it kept growing and growing.”

By nine months, Lock’s hair was white-blonde, super soft and sticking straight up out of his head. It matched his 3-year-old brother Shep’s hair in color, but could not be more different in texture.

“People we’re definitely noticing it,” Katelyn, 33, says with a laugh. That’s also when she got a message on Instagram from a stranger who asked if Lock had been diagnosed with “uncombable hair syndrome.”

“I was like, oh my god, what is this? Is something wrong with my baby?” she says. “I went into tailspins on Google.”

Katelyn called their pediatrician, who said they had never heard of the syndrome and directed her to a specialist at nearby Emory University Hospital.

“We went to see her and she said she’d only seen this once in 19 years,” Katelyn recalls. “She didn’t think it was uncombable hair syndrome, because of how rare it is, but they took samples and a pathologist looked at it under a special microscope.”

And after looking at the structure of Lock’s hair, they were able to confirm that, indeed, it was uncombable hair syndrome—an extremely rare condition that causes the hair to grow with a very soft and easily breakable texture. Lock is one of just 100 known cases of the condition.

Hearing that Lock had this syndrome was a shock at first. “You’re just going about your day thinking everything’s fine and that your kid might have curly hair, which does run in the family. And then to hear that there’s a rare syndrome associated with your kid — it was crazy,” Katelyn says.

Thankfully, the syndrome only seems to affect Lock’s hair. “They said because he was developing normally in every other area of his life, that we didn’t need to be worried about anything else being a concern,” she says.

Katelyn tried to learn more about the syndrome, but with so few cases, there’s very little information online or among specialists. She did, though, find a Facebook group of parents of kids with the syndrome or people who have it themselves.

“That’s been a great source of comfort, and we share pictures and talk about different things,” she says. “It’s cool to see how the older kids’ hair has changed over the years: For some people it does not go away, and for others it becomes a little bit more manageable.”

Research contact: @people

Want to vacay in the Great Outdoors? Rockies, Blue Ridge Mountains make global top ten list of ranges

February 11, 2022

Pandemic-era mask and social distancing mandates may be ending all across the nation, but many Americans may not yet be ready to get up close and personal with strangers while on vacation, reports CNBC.

If that sounds like you, you might consider a vacation in the Rockies or the Blue Ridge Mountains—two of the top ten ranges worldwide for mountain holidays recently ranked by U.K. outdoor clothing and gear outfitter Blacks.

Visits to open-air  destinations like national and state parks soared amid COVID— and those still looking for safe  outdoor getaways can head for the literal hills.

The Rocky Mountains, running from northernmost western Canada south to New Mexico, have ranked at number six six worldwide—landing a score of 7.2 out of a possible 10. The Blue Ridge Mountains, meanwhile, which span southern Pennsylvania to northern Georgia, have scored number eight worldwide—garnering a score of 6.6, tying with the Caucasus Mountains on the Europe-Asia border.

Blacks ranked each mountain range based on a  number of factors–among them, number of peaks, average temperatures and precipitation, annual search volume and Instagram posts, and average nightly hotel rates.

Both North American ranges were the priciest in the rankings, with a hotel night in the Rockies costing around an average $143.60 and one in the Blue Ridges priced at about $132.76. The average rate in the Pyrenees, in France and Spain, by comparison, is just around $67.75.

Feeling like something more exotic or far-flung than the Rockies? The Pyrenees, in fact, topped the list overall, with the Atlas Mountains in North Africa and South America’s Andes rounding out the top three ranges. The latter, in fact, is the cheapest range to visit, with an average hotel cost of just under $49 a night in the Andean metropolis of Bogota, Colombia, according to Blacks.

Number-one contender the Pyrenees is packed with ski resorts, national parks and hiking trails, and scored big when it came to popularity on the web, with more than 1.5 million Google searches a year and 2 million Instagram posts. The Atlas Mountains, meanwhile, are the warmest and least wet.

Whichever range you’re headed to, preparation is key, according to a statement from Kiera Baxter, marketing executive at Blacks. “A great mountain holiday is all in the planning,” she said. “It’s vital to take your time planning everything from your routes to your accommodation, to ensure you’ve considered all eventualities and don’t get caught out.

“Back up your routes with safer alternatives and have a plan in mind for the unexpected,” Baxter added.

Research contact: @CNBC

TikTok ousts Google to become world’s favorite online destination

December 29, 2021

Move over Google; TikTok now is the world’s most popular online destination. The viral video app gets more hits than the American search engine, according to Cloudflare, a U.S.-based IT security company.

The rankings show that TikTok knocked Google off the top spot in February, March, and June of this year, and has held the number one position since August, reports the BBC.

Last year Google was first, and a number of sites—among them, TikTok, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Netflix—were in the top ten.

Cloudfare said it tracks data using its tool Cloudflare Radar, which monitors web traffic. The company surmises that one of the reasons for the surge in Tiktok’s popularity is the ongoing worldwide COVID pandemic—as lockdowns meant people were stuck at home and looking for entertainment.

By July this year, TikTok had been downloaded more than three billion times, according to data company San Francisco-based Sensor Tower.

The social network, which is owned by a Chinese company called Bytedance, headquartered in Beijing, now has more than one billion active users across the world, and that number continues to grow.

In China, to comply with the country’s censorship rules, the app is called Douyin, and runs on a different network. Douyin originally was released in September 2016. This year, China ruled that users under the age of 14 would be limited to 40 minutes a day on the platform.

Research contact: @BBC

Verizon to sell Yahoo, AOL to Apollo for $5 billion

May 4, 2021

Apollo Global Management has agreed to pay about $5 billion to acquire Yahoo and AOL from Verizon Communications, as the wireless company exits its ill-fated foray into the media business, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The private-equity firm, based in New York City, is paying $4.25 billion in cash for a 90% share of the media assets. Verizon, also headquartered in the Big Apple,  will keep a 10% stake and $750 million of additional preferred stock in the new company, called Yahoo, that will be formed to operate the business.

The Wall Street Journal earlier had reported the potential sale of Verizon’s media assets to ApolloVerizon Media—which mostly struggled to grow against Alphabet’s Google as well as Facebook, generated $7 billion in revenue last year.

zon’s positioning of the media business as a complement to its core mobile business—aimed at helping it to add subscribers and reduce the number of people who quit—held it back from pursuing some opportunities to maximize the value of each asset, executives at the private-equity firm said, according to the Journal.

For example, Yahoo has been a popular platform for sports betting, but isn’t formally licensed to host gambling. Apollo, however, is licensed in more than 200 jurisdictions for gambling.

Apollo’s strategy for the business revolves around getting more revenue from each of its 900 million active monthly users. 

“This is a typical Apollo deal in that these are very iconic, industry leading, businesses, but they need a little tender loving care,” David Sambur, the firm’s co-head of private equity, said in an interview.

Verizon Media’s revenue has increased more than 10% over the past two quarters, helped by rebounding demand from advertisers looking to tap an online shopping boom during the coronavirus pandemic. Digital-ad sales are expected to accelerate in the coming months, as consumers start spending more cash on travel and other activities.

Other suitors previously showed interest in buying off certain pieces of the media

For Apollo, buying the entire portfolio means needing to have a view on how to run each of the diverse properties. The firm specializes in doing such complex deals and has focused on boosting growth at other internet companies it owns, including online-photo-services company Shutterfly.

Verizon Chief Executive Hans Vestberg said in an interview that the company’s long-term strategy to provide “network-as-a-service” to customers over fiber-optic and cellular connections made the media business a better fit under new owners. He portrayed the sale as an outcome years in the making.

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump supporters flee to MeWe, Gab, and Rumble after Parler goes offline

January 13, 2021

Now that the account of @realDonaldTrump has been banned from Twitter—and both Apple and Google have dropped Parler from their app stores—supporters are flocking to the social media sites MeWe, Gab, and Rumble, Fortune reports.

Gab, a service that claims to champion free speech, said it added 600,000 new users over the weekend. Meanwhile, MeWe, a similar service, said it has added 400,000 users every day since Saturday and now has more than 14 million members.

The gains follow Sunday’s shut down of conservative social network Parler, which went offline after Amazon web hosting service dumped Parler as a customer because of violent posts and threats in wake of the Capitol riot. Shortly beforehand, both Apple and Google had banned Parler from their app stores.

Adding to the increased interest in alternative social media sites are bans by Twitter and Facebook on President Trump and other high-profile conservative personalities..

On Monday, Fortune notes, Facebook went to the additional step of removing content containing the phrase “stop the steal” in hopes of preventing future violence. The phrase is a popular rallying call of Trump supporters who falsely believe there was widespread fraud in the presidential election.

“It’s almost like the perfect storm,” MeWe CEO Mark Weinstein told the news outlet, adding, “The melting pot of people coming to MeWe are coming from all directions.”

Weinstein hammered home the point that his goal is to be “more vigilant” in moderating content on his service, and that he does not want to be an “anything goes” app—a thinly veiled swipe at Parler’s lax approach.

He said that MeWe has just shy of 100 content moderators who review posts on its service, and that they actually adhere to “strict” terms of service that includes the possibility that they’ll alert authorities about any concerning posts. But on Monday, several QAnon and “patriot” private groups could be found, one of which called Patriots Unleashed asked users if they were “armed and ready” before allowing them to join.

Weinstein acknowledged that some of MeWe’s user growth has been due to Parler shutting down. But he added that the app was growing prior to the election and riots. As a result, he said MeWe’s users have a wide array of political views, and are not just Trumpists.

“Those other guys, they’re opinion chambers,” he said about Parler and Gab. “We’re a social network.”

The rise of alternative social media services began late last year after Facebook and Twitter began labeling and removing more posts on their services for election misinformation. Conservatives considered the crackdown to be evidence of bias against them and President Trump.

For example, Rumble, a little-known YouTube rival, suddenly soared in popularity. Over the weekend, users downloaded its app 162,000 times— a nearly 10-fold gain from last weekend, Fortune says.

But Mark Shmulik, analyst at investment bank AB Bernstein, said he doesn’t expect the latest rise in popularity of MeWe and Gab to be long-lasting. “It’s a fad,” he said. “There will be a little niche, but it won’t disrupt what we’re seeing on Twitter.”

Shmulik said Twitter and Facebook, though growing slower, are far larger and also attract a more diverse set of users with a diverse set of thoughts. That’s what makes big social media companies more engaging than the upstarts, he added, which he described as the “equivalent to Trump rallies.”

“You can continue that, but at some point you have to reach the masses,” Shmulik said.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

The new ‘Donald J. Trump Presidential Library’ is fake news for his detractors to love

November 17, 2020

It’s been tough for anyone to get an up-close and personal look at presidential history during 2020. From FDR’s family home in Hyde Park, New York, to Ronald Reagan’s commemorative exhibition space in Simi Valley, California, all 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) have been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sadly, for folks who like to absorb history in person, we’ll likely see fewer brick-and-mortar presidential libraries in the future, Forbes reports. Four years since the 44th president left office, the all-digital Barack Obama Presidential Library isn’t fully open yet. And, while it takes a lot of time to digitize hundreds of thousands of records, NARA supports the digital model chosen by Obama going forward.

Now, considering his reluctance to read, you wouldn’t think that President Donald Trump’s first priority would be a library for posterity. But search the internet for Donald Trump Presidential Library and you will find a shiny new website already achieving killer first-page ranking on Google, Forbes says.

What’s more, this slick operation has a communications team that churns out press releases and thousands follow the DJT Library on Twitter.

Sleekly rendered in WordPress using the classy Musea theme, with an elegant gray Garamond typeface and all-white backdrop, djtrumplibrary.com looks and feels like many beautiful museum portals. That is, until you start poking around.

The website invites Americans to explore the COVID Memorial, where a quiet reflecting pool lets visitors “mourn the thousands dead under his lack of leadership.” Oh.

Decorated with “Make America Great Again” signs and Confederate flags, the Alt-Right Auditorium is hosting a movie series including Nazi propaganda and Birth of a Nation. “A silent film which represents the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) as a heroic force necessary to preserve American values and a white supremacist social order,” touts the site, along with a special promo: “2 for 1 tickets available for White Supremacy Wednesday!”

Yes, folks, it’s a hoax —and a rather elaborate, painstaking one at that.

While the project began as the brainchild of a small New York City architecture practice that wishes to remain anonymous, the team quickly “gained an army of curators, writers, designers, and general trouble-makers,” according to the site’s FAQ page.

The Felons Lounge is a shrine to Trump’s indicted cohorts, Forbes informs us.

As satirical spoof sites go, this is top of the line, chock full of custom artwork and clever Easter eggs. Take the library’s physical address at 1 MAGA Lane in Nogales, Arizona. The street is fictional, of course, but Nogales is a real border city that’s been central to Trump’s “build the wall” promise.

And check out the price of admission. Kids and students are free, while there’s a three-tiered structure for adults: $10 for seniors, $25 for U.S. citizens and $50 for immigrants.

Presidential libraries are known for museum-quality exhibits that show off their respective administrations’ accomplishments. Think John F. Kennedy’s Space Program Exhibit, LBJ’s Social Justice Gallery and Reagan’s Berlin Wall Exhibit.

At the faux Donald J. Trump Presidential Library website, permanent exhibits include Tax Evasion 101, where letters spelling “tax paid $750” rise from the floor in bas-relief. There’s a Twitter gallery, of course, as well as a Wall of Criminality that draws lines from Trump to some of his numerous alleged misdeeds.

No doubt, Trump critics will enjoy taking this unflattering virtual tour of his presidency. But while the site is layered with plenty of snark, its take-away is somehow not gleeful, Forbes notes.

For a reminder of why so few Americans are traveling these days, head to the rooftop COVID Cemetery, where an old tweet from Trump supporter Herman Cain, who died of Covid-19, has been blown up to billboard size. It reads, “It looks like the virus is not as deadly as the mainstream media first made it out to be.”

Research contact: @Forbes

 

Google will extend employee work-from-home policy until Summer 2021

July 28, 2020

We doubt that there will be much pushback from employees, now that Google has once again pushed back the date when its offices will reopen—this time, to Summer 2021., The Wall Street Journal reports.

Previously, the search engine platform had said that employees would return to the office on July 6 of this year; then, had postponed reopening to September. The latest change of plans reflects the current COVID-19 landscape—with more than 4.2 million cases nationwide and deaths mounting—which has grown immeasurable more dangerous just since May.

Indeed, the Journal reports, Google CEO Sundar Pichai made the decision partly to help employees with children who may be facing a partly or mostly remote school year.

“To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email to employees obtained by the Journal. “I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland first reported that Google would announce as early as Monday, July 27, that it had pushed its return-to-office date back to July 2021 for nearly all of its 200,000 employees and contract workers.

Google closed its offices in March as the coronavirus hit the San Francisco Bay Area. Management is now looking at the situation in California with an abundance of caution; although Pichai said in his memo to employees that Googlers had returned to the office “with robust health and safety protocols in place” in 42 countries where conditions have improved.

Google is one of several tech companies mulling how and when to reopen offices. Microsoft has said employees will work from home through at least October, while Amazon has said employees will work remotely until January. Both companies are based in Seattle, where coronavirus cases are still on the rise.

Twitter, based in San Francisco, announced in May that employees could work from home forever if they wanted. For Facebook, which appears to have sent some employees back to the office in July, as many as half of all employees will most likely work from home permanently, CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said.

Research contact: @WSJ

Skiers and suppliers donate goggles to healthcare workers in desperate need of PPE

April 3, 2020

As healthcare professionals continue to face severe supply shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a global pandemic, one of the many makeshift solutions to the problem has been implemented by the winter sports community, The Boston Globe reports.

Skiers and snowboarders, like other sports enthusiasts, had their season cut short by the measures intended to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak. But thanks to a newly created New England-based organization, they can help pitch in to remedy the shortage of protective medical equipment.

Goggles For Docs is helping companies and individuals donate ski and snowboard goggles to hospitals for use as personal protective equipment (PPE). It was started by Jon Schaefer, co-owner and general manager of Catamount and Berkshire East ski areas.

Schaefer, who led the charge to close ski areas due to the threat of the coronavirus, noted that his heightened awareness was because of direct connections with the healthcare world.

“My wife is a physician’s assistant at Berkshire Medical Center, and there was an early outbreak in Pittsfield,” Schaefer said. “I know a lot of the doctors there. I have a friend who intubated patient zero in Vermont, so I guess I had a direct line to the stress.”

But. he said, the inspiration for the donations came on Saturday, March 28: “A friend of a friend, who is a physician in New York emailed me asking for ski goggles for the health care workers there. That email went out to six of us. Within 20 minutes, I was getting that same email forwarded to me from other friends. All I could think of is, jeez, this doctor is going to get 10,000 pairs of Smith goggles sent to his house and that’s not a very efficient use of resources.”

Schaefer started a Google sheet and a contact list. Pretty soon, the list of hospitals signing up went from one to six.  On Sunday morning, he woke up to what seemed like 500 emails.

One of the messages that came to Schaefer, who is, himself, a former Middlebury College Division 1 ski racer, contained a message from Trevor Crist, the CEO of Inntopia — a Stowe-based ski resort software company, offering whatever help was needed in getting things more organized.

“I knew the company, but had never spoken [to] or heard from these guys before,” says Schaefer.  “On a return trip from a local grocery, I started fleshing out a website on a phone call with them.” The Goggles for Docs site went online at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“ All the while the word was spreading at the hospital level. “Even as we were on the phone building this, three more hospitals signed up,” Schaefer said.

As of Monday evening, March 30, nearly 2,000 used and new goggles were being sent to hospitals in seven states—and requests to organize have come in from hospitals as far away as New Zealand and Spain. On Monday night, ten more hospitals signed up, with a stated need of nearly 1,000 more goggles.

“I’m not sure how it works on their end, but doctors have told me two things: First, that they need goggles as COVID-19 can be transmitted with, say a direct cough to the eyeball, and second, that they can take care of disinfecting and distributing them,” Schaefer said.

While Schaefer’s wife is not currently wearing goggles as her hospital has adequate supplies of eyewear, Schaefer says that Berkshire Medical Center has put in an order for 300 and their need was met by the public with a large contribution, 217, coming from Uvex.

He told The Boston Globe, “What’s crazy about this whole thing is one day we’re all going to meet,” Schaefer said of the hundreds of volunteers. “There’s this whole team that’s developed, and only a handful of us that know each other face to face.

“Everybody wants to help. The one thing I think we did was connect people with a lot of passion to help and a motivated ski community with people that are really asking for help. If anything, maybe in that there’s just a little bit of hope. People are fired up.”

“I didn’t wake up this week thinking I was going to be the COVID Goggle Guy — we have a lot to take care of at our businesses now too,” says Schaefer. “It was just one thing that we as a ski industry could do to help.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe