CEO lays off 900 employees weeks before Christmas

Imagine you are invited to a work Zoom meeting a few weeks before Christmas. You take a pause from gift shopping for your children and spouse to log onto the meeting. Within three minutes of the meeting’s beginning, you are told that you are being laid off, effective immediately.

This was reality for 900 employees (9% of the company’s staff) on Wednesday, December 1. A recording of the shocking meeting went viral on TikTok, starting with CEO Vishal Garg saying “I come to you with not great news.” is a digital mortgage start-up valued at $7 billion. Garg founded the company in 2014 with the hope to ease and lower the cost of homebuying. The layoffs came within days of a $750 million cash infusion. According to CNN, among the fired were’s diversity, equity, and inclusion team.

Garg attempted to show empathy to the “unlucky” employees by stating that the last time he cried the last time he laid off an astronomical amount of employees, hoping that he would be “stronger” this time around.

“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off,” Garg said in the video. “Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”

Laid-off employees will receive one month’s pay and three months of benefits, NBC News reported.

The abrupt and unfortunate timing of this decision had many criticizing Garg and how he handled the situation, stating that this was cruel and unethical.

Garg’s reputation has received a hit before, as Forbes obtained an agressive email from Garg to employees. “You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS and…DUMB DOLPHINS get caught in nets and eaten by sharks. SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME,” Garg wrote.

After the video went viral, Garg sent an apology to the laid-off employees. The letter was leaked by one of the fired employees online. “I failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for the individuals who were affected and for their contributions to Better,” Garg wrote. “I own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating it I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you.”

The controversy has led to several executive staff members resigning, like the VP of communications, head of marketing, and head of public relations, TechCrunch reported.


Tesla safety concerns: video games on the road?

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A Tesla driver discovered one day last year that he was able to play video games on his car’s dashboard as he was driving. The driver, Vince Patton, tested the limits of what he could do while in motion, playing solitaire, browsing the web, and playing a game called Sky Force Reloaded, AP reported.

Anxious that this feature will result in distracted driving, Patton filed a report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). On Wednesday, the NHTSA stated that they have started to look into this issue, stating that they are in communication with the manufacturer.

“The Vehicle Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles with design defects posing unreasonable risks to safety,” wrote the NHTSA in an email to Bloomberg. According to AP, the agency has not opened a formal investigation yet, which would entail document requests.

According to Business Insider, the NHTSA stated that vehicle manufacturers are meant to create their in-device systems without the option to perform distracting tasks while driving. For many vehicles with touchscreen dashboards, this means a disabling of certain features when the car is in motion. The NHTSA stated that all visual-heavy secondary tasks are supposed to be tested to see they can be performed without distracting the driver. Anything too distracting must be disabled while driving.

Tesla’s video games require players to confirm that they are passengers before gameplay, but Tesla does not verify if this is true, allowing drivers to lie and play while on the road.

With the rise of car dashboards with Internet features, the NHTSA’s concerns about distracted driving have intensified. According to the agency’s car crash statistics, distracted drivers accounted for “3,142 or 8.7 percent of all fatalities in 2019.” With this in mind, the idea of drivers being able to play games while driving is even more concerning.

Though it is still early, Tesla has yet to comment on the situation.

Meta: The New Name of Facebook and Why

Source: CNBC

Facebook announced that the company changed its name to Meta on Thursday at the Facebook Connect virtual reality conference, according to CNBC. The sudden rebrand came about in the midst of legal turmoil that the company has been combatting.

The name “Meta” refers to the “metaverse,” a virtual world where users can interact with each other no matter where they are located in the real world.

“The next platform will be even more immersive — an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse, and it will touch every product we build,” wrote CEO and Founder of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, in a founder’s letter.

The social media app that the company is known for will remain as Facebook, but the company no longer wants the app to be the face of the company.

It is highly spectated that the name change was created as a distraction from ex-employee whistleblower Frances Haugen, who, according to the Washington Post, “sent tens of thousands of internal company documents to Congress and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.” This garnered a negative reputation for Facebook, along with a multitude of legal issues that arose after the documents were exposed.

It was revealed that the company has been well aware of issues its platforms have been causing but decided to ignore it.

Despite all of this, the company claims this name change comes from a shift in focus of energy. Meta aims to move towards being known as a metaverse company, rather than a social media company. The company has been forming a team whose goal is to create the metaverse.

Zuckerberg gave a demonstration of what the company wants the metaverse to look like at the Facebook Connect conference. CNBC described this as a “Pixar-like animation of software the company hopes to build some day.” The demo showed how users will be able to interact with each other using cartoon-like avatars within virtual spaces.

Though the plan for the metaverse has been revealed now, with $10 billion being designated for its development in the next year, it will be over 5 years before the metaverse technology is ready for the public, Zuckerberg said.

Of course, users of Facebook (now Meta) and its other platforms have many opinions about this sudden change. Some are excited about the approaching metaverse technology, while others fear what may become of society with technology like this.

Companies have already begun preparation for this new technology. For example, Nike has created several trademarks to sell products within the metaverse.

Facebook has opened up a new chapter in social technology. Now, it is just a waiting game until the technology is ready for the public.

Facebook Outage On Top of Current Backlash

Zuckerberg Loses $5.9 Billion In A Day As Facebook Faces Rare Outage,  Whisteblower Testimony
Image: Forbes

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were a few of the Facebook family apps rendered inaccessible on Monday for over five hours. This completely shifted the social media sphere for the day, as billions use Facebook and its apps. This is the largest outage the platform has had since 2008.

Facebook’s apps first started to display error messages around 11:40am Eastern time, according to the New York Times. The apps struggled to load content, some not displaying anything at all. It wasn’t until after 6:00pm Eastern time when the apps’ features slowly started to work, one by one.

This outage affected more than just Facebook and its apps, as many use Facebook as a sign-in feature on many websites and devices. Many rushed to other apps, like Twitter and Snapchat, who then experienced some issues from overloaded servers.

Facebook issued an apology using its competitor’s platform, Twitter.

Many on social media noted the interesting timing of this outage. It happened only a day after whistleblower, Frances Haugen exposed how the company consistently chooses its own interests over the public good. Haugen appeared on “60 Minutes” on Sunday to discuss her knowledge on Facebook’s effect on young users.

As usual, social media users rushed to Twitter to voice their feelings about the inconvenience throughout the entirety of the 5-hour outage.

Even Twitter itself decided to join on the fun.

Facebook has had its fair share of issues this past few weeks due to legal troubles, Haugen’s statement, and now the massive server outage. More is to come as Haugen is set to testify before Congress sometime this week.

Trouble With the Apple Card Leads to Trending Topic

Source: Apple Inc.

Apple unveiled their new iPhone 13 line on Friday, with pre-order sales opening at 8 a.m. that morning. For over an hour and a half after of the opening, customers were raising concerns about trouble ordering their new iPhone using the Apple Card, with many unable to purchase using their iPhone Upgrade Program.

Though users were able to purchase using other card payment options, this option takes away from some of the main benefits if getting an Apple Card, like 3% cash back and payment plans.

Users took to Twitter to express their frustrations about not being able to order an Apple product despite using an Apple service, eventually making “Apple Card” a trending topic on Twitter that day.

Some dealing with the issue expressed frustration.

Others, however, used humor to cope with the inconvenience.

Apple addressed the issue on their system status page, stating that “some Apple Card customers are not able to make iPhone Upgrade Program purchases.” The company updated the system status page at 12:36 p.m., claiming that the issue was resolved. The problem lasted for over four hours before Apple was able to address it.

~Club Zoom is in effect~

During the current era of social distancing, we have seen many artists, musicians, and DJ’s bring their performances to video conferencing platforms such as Zoom in order to give fans and supporters concerts, or content, or share tricks of how to create or be creative when it comes to music or art, or whatever the topic may be. With everyone streaming something from their home, we are seeing new ways of doing things that are currently just not possible, nor are they safe. For instance, at the moment you can’t really go grab a drink at your favorite bar, but people are coming up with alternatives. 

We’ve heard of Zoom happy-hour with friends or family, but have you heard of a Zoom nightclub. Well, this article from Bloomberg Business says that they’re here, and no, they are not free. People are actually paying money to get into Virtual nightclubs on Saturday nights amidst the pandemic. The Zone, a 16 room virtual nightclub has been hosting people on the video conferencing app. A bouncer greets guests in the waiting room where they are inspected to make sure they have on the proper attire, as well as beverages in hand. The guests are then let into ‘dance rooms’, where there are different costume themes and a live-streamed DJ. Later, guests are invited to the ‘hot tub room’ where swimming attire is a requirement. 

I wanted to write about this because I found it to be an interesting idea/concept. Personally, I think it’s a bit ridiculous that people are paying real money to get into these virtual nightclubs. I could maybe understand if it was set up by a particular nightclub and how friends or people who frequent it are simply trying to support a business they do not want to see go under. Not everything can be streamed and have a virtual session be the same as the interactions people had in person, and dancing in your living room is not the same as dancing at the Borgata. I respect the idea behind it and see how it fulfills a current need for the frequenters of clubs and those who need the gratification of being ‘exclusive’, but I am very interested to see if this type of nightclubbing will last.

An entire community under one roof? Coronavirus?

An article from NPR brings up Whitter, Alaska, an extremely small town on the west side of the Prince William Sound. Positioned in an aesthetically pleasing location in the valley of two mountains. However, there are no tiny houses huddled together or lining the streets, but rather a 14-story tall building that looks like a mediocrely maintained hotel called Begich Towers.

The former army barracks are where the majority of the 200 Whitter residents call home. 

Walking along the hallways of the entrance, the building gives a high-school-esque feeling with colorful bulletin boards on top of yellow-painted cinder blocks. 

In a remote area of Alaska, Whitter sees some of the most brutal weather with winds that often top 60 mph. This is why the residents of Begich Towers have everything they need under one roof. There’s a laundromat, convenience store, health clinic, school, and even a church in the basement. 

I found this article extremely interesting as Whitter is obviously an extremely small town with not much more than 200 residents, but also how people are comfortable living their entire lives essentially in one building. 

I decided to write about this article now because, amidst the coronavirus pandemic that we’re now in, we have ways to socially distance ourselves. In the greater Philadelphia area, we have access to some of the best medical professionals on earth- but what would happen to the residents of Begich Towers if the COVID-19 reached their remote town? What about all the Americans- all the people in the world without access to the medicine we have, or even funds to be able to stock-up during potential quarantining. Let us use this article as a reminder to be thankful for what we have.

Facial recognition start up has it’s full client list stolen

Clearview AI says a recent vulnerability has allowed someone to gain “unauthorized access” to a list of all its customers. Unfortunately, data breaches are apart of life in the 21st century. The vulnerability kept hackers at bay from accessing Clearview’s accounts of 3 billion. This vulnerability has since be patched and servers were checked but no breach was reported.

Clearview of Your Personal Life

Hoan Ton-That an Australian techie and onetime model is inventing technology that would end the ability to walk down the street anonymously.  Providing this technology to local cops in Florida, F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security

In this article by Kashmir Hill, a company called Clearview by Hoan Ton-That can disclose any personal information of you. His company has created an app where anyone can take a picture of a person and upload it.  The app will then retrieve all the online data of that person using facial recognition. The database for this facial recognition can be anything a person has ever posted online, including Facebook, YouTube, and even Venmo.  This technology goes beyond anything any of the Silicon Valley giants or United States government has ever created.

Federal and state law enforcement officers have used this app to help solve cases of shoplifting, identity theft, credit card fraud, murder, and child sexual exploitation cases.

This technology is often frowned upon though, because of its invasion of privacy.  Google’s chairman in 2011 said this piece of technology was the only thing they refrained from because it could end up harming society more than it is helping.  San Francisco has barred police from using this technology.

This company has made ways through law enforcement.  More than 600 law enforcement companies have used this technology without publicly announcing that they have been using it.  Clearview is also refraining from disclosing this list of companies who are using it.

This technology goes beyond identifying criminals.  The computer code has been analyzed by The New York Times and it has been discovered that this technology is being linked with augmented-reality glasses.  Users could identify anyone through wearing these pair of glasses.  This would be including an activist in a protest, an attractive classmate, anyone.  This would not only reveal their name, but also where they live!  It can reveal a lot of information about that person, even what they did and who they know. 

Ofcom and Protecting UK Content

Ofcom, a British media regulator has been appointed by the government to legally regulate harmful content over media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration has targeted content such as child-abuse, terrorism, and self-harm as key areas to be regulated. Especially in a time when media usage has skyrocketed, media content needs to be scrutinized on all platforms.

Last year, the British government thought to create a branch of the government to directly enforce content regulations. Instead, the government has decided to fund Ofcom to protect the internet from harmful content. They even held a conference with over 2,400 companies to see which company would be the best fit for the job.

According to the British government, Ofcom will have the power to give out fines, warnings, and block off internet service providers. Ofcom can also make the senior management of social media companies responsible. The government also has to make sure that the enforcement powers are to be used fairly.

There have been critics of this new proposal, because content creators are concerned this could backfire. Ofcom could use their powers to censor too much content, restricting freedom of speech and free content creation. In response to this, the government ensured it would use this power only to censor malicious and harmful content. They ensured their will be a code of violation that will be strictly enforced, but not to overdue their own powers.

The idea of content restrictions are welcomed all over the World. Giant tech companies such as Facebook welcome the idea of the government intervening to provide safe web browsing. However, other companies such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft suggest using artificial intelligence to weed out harmful content.