|From: Glenn Petersen||4/22/2019 4:39:40 PM|
|Carol Cadwalladr's TED talk (not available on YouTube yet): ted.com|
My TED talk: how I took on the tech titans in their lair
April 21, 2019
For more than a year, the Observer writer has been probing a darkness at the heart of Silicon Valley. Last week, at a TED talk that became a global viral sensation, she told the tech billionaires they had broken democracy. What happened next?
Carole Cadwalladr speaking at TED2019 last week. The Observer journalist was invited to give a talk in a session tagged Truth. Photograph: Marla Aufmuth/TED
If Silicon Valley is the beast, then TED is its belly. And on Monday, I entered it. The technology conference that has become a global media phenomenon with its short, punchy TED Talks that promote “Ideas Worth Spreading” is the closest thing that Silicon Valley has to a safe space.
A safe space that was breached last week. A breach that I was not just there to witness, but that I actively participated in. I can’t claim either credit or responsibility – I didn’t invite myself to the conference, held annually in Vancouver, or programme my talk in a session called “Truth”. But I did take the reporting that we have been publishing in the Observer over the past two and a half years, I did condense it into a 15-minute talk, and I did deliver it on the TED main stage directly to the people I described as “the Gods of Silicon Valley: Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Jack Dorsey”. The founders of Facebook and Google – who were sponsoring the conference – and the co-founder of Twitter – who was speaking at it.
I did tell them that they had facilitated multiple crimes in the EU referendum. That as things stood, I didn’t think it was possible to have free and fair elections ever again. That liberal democracy was broken. And they had broke it.
It was only later that I began to realise quite what TED had done: how, in this setting, with this crowd, it had committed the equivalent of inviting the fox into the henhouse. And I was the fox. Or as one attendee put it: “You came into their temple,” he said. “And shat on their altar.”
I did. Not least, I discovered, because I named them. Because nobody had told me not to. And so I called them out, in a room that included their peers, mentors, employees, friends and investors.
A room that fell silent when I ended and then erupted in whoops and cheers. “It’s what we’re all thinking,” one person told me. “But it’s been the thing that nobody had actually said.”
Because it isn’t an exaggeration to say that TED is the holy temple of tech. In the early days, it was where the new miracles of technology were first unveiled – the Apple Macintosh and the CD-Rom – and in recent years it’s become the place that has most clearly articulated the Silicon Valley gospel. For many, including myself, TED was how they discovered the excitement and possibilities of technology. A brand of tech utopianism that, even as the world has darkened, TED has found hard to give up.
But now it has. Or at least it’s sent up a flare. A bold, impossible-to-miss stroke by its high priest, Chris Anderson, a thoughtful Brit who bought TED when it was in its first incarnation – a secretive Californian conference for the masters of the universe – and made it a multi-million-dollar media organisation.
Anderson hadn’t just invited me in, he put me front and centre, in the first session, unavoidable, even – maybe especially – for his sponsors.
In the simulcast lounge where conference attendees – who pay between $10,000 and $250,000 a ticket – lounge on soft seating and watch on screens, was Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder. “I saw his eyes flicker when you said his name,” one person told me. “As if he was checking if anybody was looking.”
In the theatre, senior executives of Facebook had been “warned” beforehand. And within minutes of stepping off stage, I was told that its press team had already lodged an official complaint. In fairness, what multi-billion dollar corporation with armies of PRs, lawyers and crisis teams, not to mention, embarrassingly, our former deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, wouldn’t want to push back on the charge that it has broken democracy?
Facebook’s difficulty is that it had no grounds to challenge my statement. No counter-evidence. If it was innocent of all charges, why hasn’t Mark Zuckerberg come to Britain and answered parliament’s questions? Though a member of the TED team told me, before the session had even ended, that Facebook had raised a serious challenge to the talk to claim “factual inaccuracies” and she warned me that they had been obliged to send them my script. What factual inaccuracies, we both wondered. “Let’s see what they come back with in the morning,” she said. Spoiler: they never did.
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey at TED2019 in Vancouver last week.
here is no point in quick fixes,’ he said. Photograph: Ryan Lash/TED
That night, though, there was what was described to me as “an emergency dinner” between Anderson and a cadre of senior Facebook executives. They were very angry, my spies told me. But Anderson, one of the most thoughtful people in tech, seemed unruffled.
“There’s always been a strict church and state separation between sponsors and editorial,” he said. “And these are important conversations we need to have. There’s a lot of people here who are very upset about what has happened to the internet. They want to take it back and we have to start figuring out how.” At the end of my talk, he invited Zuckerberg or anyone else at Facebook to come and respond. Spoiler: they never did.
The next day, on stage, Anderson interviewed Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter. How hard is it to get rid of Nazis from Twitter, Anderson asked him. Dorsey, dressed in a black beanie hat, black hoodie, black jeans and black boots, a monk for the online age, responded, expressionlessly, saying that Nazism was “hard to define”.
There were problems, he admitted, but there was no point in quick fixes. They needed to go “deep”. You’re on a ship, Anderson said, and there’s an iceberg ahead. “And you say… ‘Our boat hasn’t been built to handle it’ and we’re waiting and you are showing this extraordinary calm and we’re all worried but we’re outside saying, ‘Jack, turn the fucking wheel.’ ”
Spoiler: the fucking wheel remains unturned.
Anderson gave credit to Dorsey for actually showing up. And it’s true he did. He showed guts for doing what Zuckerberg and Sandberg would not.But, for many, including me, he might as well not have bothered. What came across most strongly, chillingly, was the complete absence of emotion – any emotion – in Dorsey’s face, expression, demeanour or voice.
When Cyndi Stivers, a TED director, asked me last summer if I’d be interested in doing a talk, I knew I would be terrified, but I knew I had to do it. The one constant in the time I have been reporting this story has been the lack of mainstream broadcast coverage, the absence of other newspapers picking it up, the failure by even senior, well-respected journalists to understand the issues at stake, the wilful misinterpretation of the facts by the right-wing press, the almost total silence from both the government and the opposition.
The brilliance of the TED format, its slick production, deft editing and clever curation, is that it offers an opportunity to bypass the traditional media – the BBC most especially – that has failed or refused to cover this story. TED Talks speak to an audience who desperately need to know what happened but almost certainly don’t: the disenfranchised teenagers and young people who had no vote but who will be affected by this perfect storm of technology and criminality for the rest of their lives.
But TED is a tough, pressured, hugely stressful gig, even for experienced public speakers, and I’m not that. Standing in the wings waiting to go on, I told the stage manager that my heart was racing uncontrollably and in an act of great kindness, she grasped both my hands and made me take breath after breath. And what you don’t see in the video – deftly edited out – is the awful, heart-stopping moment when I forgot a line, followed by another act of collective kindness, a spontaneous empathic cheer as I composed myself and found my cue. “That’s when the audience came onside,” an attendee told me. “You were human. That’s when you won them over.”
On the TED stage, dressed in a hat and a hood, Dorsey appeared – and I can’t think of any other way of saying this – insentient. And when I make the same observation to an older tech titan, he tells me how he once went with Zuckerberg on a 15-hour flight on a private jet with 16 other people and Zuckerberg never said a word to anyone for the entire duration.
It’s all I can think about by the end of the week. For five days, I’ve been overwhelmed by support and understanding and encouragement from wellwishers, person after person who tells me they were moved or terrified by my talk, by the danger posed by this technology that has unleashed a potential for destruction that we neither saw coming nor know how to contain.
Dorsey can see the iceberg but doesn’t seem to feel our terror. Or understand it. In an interview last summer, US journalist Kara Swisher, repeatedly asked Zuckerberg how he felt about Facebook’s role in inciting genocide in Myanmar – as established by the UN – and he couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.
The world needs all kinds of brains. But in the situation we are in, with the dangers we face, it’s not these kinds of brains. These are brilliant men. They have created platforms of unimaginable complexity. But if they’re not sick to their stomach about what has happened in Myanmar or overwhelmed by guilt about how their platforms were used by Russian intelligence to subvert their own country’s democracy, or sickened by their own role in what happened in New Zealand, they’re not fit to hold these jobs or wield this unimaginable power.
I walked among the tech gods last week. I don’t think they set out to enable massacres to be live-streamed. Or massive electoral fraud in a once-in-a-lifetime, knife-edge vote. But they did. If they don’t feel guilt, shame and remorse, if they don’t have a burning desire to make amends, their boards, shareholders, investors, employees and family members need to get them out.
We can see the iceberg. We know it’s coming. That’s the lesson of TED 2019. We all know it. There are only five people in the room who apparently don’t: Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Jack Dorsey.
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (15201)||4/23/2019 1:16:36 PM|
|From: Sr K|
|She's a whining, bitter invitee, who might not get invited back.|
I looked at the TED talks and it's there.
But it's called
Facebook's role in Brexit, and how to fix democracy.
This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.
It was in Vancouver, net the main presenting location.
"I did tell them that they had facilitated multiple crimes in the EU referendum. That as things stood, I didn’t think it was possible to have free and fair elections ever again. That liberal democracy was broken. And they had broke it."
TED is not an EU forum. It's mostly about technology. Sometimes it's whimsical, that the then-current owners find appealing.
Did she bring any technology to help a perceived problem? No.
From my view, Twitter is useful and Square is useful. She never mentioned it, because she has an agenda for "the guardian".
In the real world, The Guardian isn't the guardian.
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|To: Sr K who wrote (15202)||4/23/2019 1:41:06 PM|
|From: Kirk ©|
|Blaming Facebook for "bad actors" using Facebook to influence elections is like blaming Alexander Graham Bell for inventing the telephone that let people conspire to commit crimes.|
It is just a targeted communication tool... where it is legal to target "Gold Bond" to one ethnic group but you can't target housing to other ethnic groups if you don't include the groups targeted with "Gold Bond" ads.
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|From: JakeStraw||4/24/2019 7:53:56 AM|
|Alphabet's Waymo Reviving Detroit Plant With Self-Driving Cars|
Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo LLC has picked an idled American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. facility in Detroit as the site where it will equip vehicles made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc with self-driving technology. The Mountain View, California-based company will lease the factory and start work on its self-driving vehicles this summer, creating “hundreds” of jobs over time, according to company
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|From: FUBHO||4/29/2019 12:04:35 PM|
|Google Staffers Share Stories of ‘Systemic’ Retaliation|
By Mark Bergen and Josh Eidelson
Hundreds of Google staffers met on Friday and discussed what activists allege is a frequent consequence of criticizing the company: Retaliation. Two leaders of recent company protests said they’ve been mistreated by managers and collected similar stories from other workers at the world’s largest internet company.
The claims of retaliation are the latest in a series of internal upheavals over issues ranging from the use of artificial intelligence for military purposes to executive misconduct and the rights of contract workers. Alphabet Inc.’s Google set the standard in Silicon Valley for employing and retaining scores of highly-trained computer scientists. But the recent troubles have hurt its reputation. Employees registered a decline of faith in Google’s executives in recent internal surveys. Several software coders refused to work on a project for the Pentagon last year, spiking the contract, and some resigned in protest.
In November, several employees organized a company walkout over payouts to executives facing sexual assault allegations. Around that time, the activists gathered 350 accounts of employee concerns.
On Monday, two of those organizers, Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, wrote an email saying Google had punished them because of their activism. The two asked staffers to join them on Friday to discuss the company’s alleged actions, and during the meeting they shared more than a dozen other stories of internal retribution that they had collected over the past week. Like many meetings at Google, participants could watch via a video live-stream and submit questions and comments.
High Stakes“Now more than ever we need to reject retaliation, and reject the culture of fear and silence that retaliation creates,” read an email from the event organizers, which Bloomberg News viewed. “The stakes are too high.”
“We prohibit retaliation in the workplace and publicly share our very clear policy,” a Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “To make sure that no complaint raised goes unheard at Google, we give employees multiple channels to report concerns, including anonymously, and investigate all allegations of retaliation.”
Whittaker is a researcher at Google specializing in artificial intelligence. She co-founded a research group, AI Now, that is affiliated with New York University. Whittaker wrote to her colleagues in an email that she was told she would have to “abandon my work on AI ethics.”
Stapleton, who works in the marketing department at YouTube, alleged that she was informed she was being demoted and later told to take a medical leave she didn’t need. After she retained a lawyer, Stapleton said, the company “walked back my demotion, at least on paper,” but “the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day.”
Sick LeaveIn the email, Stapleton said that she arranged a meeting with Google’s human resources division after flagging changes to her job. She was told to go on sick leave. When she replied that she wasn’t sick, Stapleton wrote, the HR director said: “We put people on it all the time.”
On Friday, Whittaker and Stapleton shared additional information about their situations in an internal post to colleagues.
Whittaker said that her manager, whom she did not name, told her that her AI ethics work “was no longer a fit.” The manager said Google’s cloud division had plans to massively increase sales by “being everywhere Lockheed is,” according to Whittaker. That’s a reference to the defense company Lockheed Martin Corp. Google’s work with the U.S. military was the subject of employee protests last year. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the mention of the cloud business.
Whittaker tried to get transferred to another Google AI team, a move she said was supported by Jeff Dean, the company’s head of artificial intelligence. Soon after, Whittaker was involved with another protest: an employee petition against the appointment of Kay Coles James to an AI ethics counsel organized by Google. The company ended up scrapping the group.
Two weeks after the petition, Whittaker said she learned that her planned transfer had been canceled and that her role at Google would be changing. “Continuing my work at AI Now and my work in AI ethics was not on the table,” she wrote.
Oona King, Google’s director of diversity strategy, rejected at least one of the employee’s claims. “I can genuinely say when I’ve looked at the details of one of the cases, it isn’t as it appears here,” she wrote, according to a message viewed by Bloomberg News.
#NotOkGoogleExecutives at YouTube and Google Cloud sent messages to staffers earlier this week disputing the accounts of Stapleton and Whittaker, according to a person who had seen them.
Several current and former employees took to Twitter on Friday to register complaints using the hashtag #NotOkGoogle, a riff on the company’s virtual assistant product. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” wrote Alex Hanna, a member of Google’s cloud division.
“I am grateful that I quit Google,” wrote Liz Fong-Jones, an engineer and outspoken critic who left the company earlier this year.
“This is a pattern, these are systemic issues, and we will change it only by speaking up and acting together,” Stapleton wrote in the email.
Google management publicly endorsed the employee walkout in the fall, giving the blessing for staff to vent frustration. But as dissent continued to rise inside Google, the company’s lawyers urged the U.S. government to give companies more leeway to reign in rebellious employees from organizing over workplace email.
NLRB ComplaintGoogle made that argument in an ongoing case before the National Labor Relations Board involving alleged retaliatory discipline against an employee. On Monday, a new complaint was filed with the agency accusing Google of retaliating against staff for discussing and protesting working conditions.
The filing alleges that within the last six months, one or more employees suffered transfer, demotion, or “other adverse action,” and that the company acted “in order to discourage employees from engaging in” the type of collective action that is protected by U.S. federal law.
The identity of the person who made the filing was redacted in the copy obtained by Bloomberg News via a Freedom of Information Act request. The matter has been assigned to the NLRB’s regional office in New York.
(Updates with information on NLRB complaint at end.)
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|From: Glenn Petersen||4/29/2019 9:16:21 PM|
|Alphabet drops after reporting ad revenue slowdown|
Published 6 hours ago Updated an hour ago
Lauren Feiner @lauren_feiner
Alphabet shares fell about 7% after Google’s parent company reported revenue that fell below analyst estimates for its first-quarter 2019. The drop wiped more than $60 billion off Alphabet’s market cap.
- Alphabet shares are up 24% this year, but the stock fell after hours Monday following disappointing revenue.
- Ad sales growth is decelerating at Google.
- The company was hit with a $1.7 billion fine from the European Commission in the quarter.
Here’s what Alphabet reported compared to Wall Street’s expectations:
Google is seeing decelerating growth after consistently expanding at 20% or more in prior periods. Revenue increased 17%, down from growth of 28% a year earlier, and ad sales rose 15%, down from 24% a year ago.
- Earnings per share: $11.90 per share, ex-items, vs. $10.61 expected, per Refinitiv survey of analysts
- Revenue: $36.34 billion, vs. $37.33 billion expected, per Refinitiv survey
- Traffic acquisition costs: $6.86 billion, vs. $7.26 billion expected, according to FactSet
- Paid clicks on Google properties: +39%
- Cost-per-click on Google properties: -19%
Paid clicks on Google properties grew only 39% from the year-ago quarter. That’s a sharp drop from the fourth quarter or 2018 (up 66%) and third quarter (up 62%). It means that Google properties are not growing traffic volumes as quickly to make up for declines in advertising prices.
Ruth Porat, Alphabet’s finance chief, said on the earnings call with analysts that most of the deceleration is related to YouTube, which “represents the vast majority of total clicks.”
Porat said, “While YouTube clicks continue[d] to grow at a substantial pace in the first quarter, the rate of YouTube click growth decelerated versus what was a strong Q1 last year reflecting changes we made in early 2018, which we believe are overall additive to the user and advertiser experience.”
Investors had high hopes coming into the report with the stock surging 24% for the year and closing at a record on Monday. The stock has joined a broader rally across the tech industry.
Traffic acquisition costs (TAC) in the period were $6.86 billion, while analysts expected $7.26 billion. This metric represents the payments Google pays to companies like Apple to be the default search engine on their browser.
Alphabet recorded a European Commission fine of $1.7 billion in the quarter as a settlement for stifling competition in the online ad sector. Excluding the fine, the company’s operating income rose 26% to $8.31 billion. Total cash and marketable securities rose 4% to $113.5 billion.
Google has pinned much of its future growth on the emerging areas of its business as cost per clicks (CPC) decline. The company’s hardware and cloud businesses are included in Google’s “other revenues” segment, which saw a 25% increase to $5.45 billion.
Headcount growth in cloud was the biggest driver of the company’s increase in operating expense, Porat said on the call. A big chunk of Google’s costs in recent quarters has been dedicated to bolster the cloud business, which is trying to keep pace with market leaders Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Longtime Oracle executive Thomas Kurian was named CEO of Google’s cloud group in November.
He said at a conference in February that Google’s cloud business will “accelerate the growth even faster than we have to date.” Porat said on Monday that capital expenditures will increase this year but “at a meaningfully lower rate than in 2018.”
Alphabet’s so-called “Other Bets,” which include its self-driving startup Waymo and health venture Verily, remain very small, with revenue of $170 million, up from $150 million a year ago.
It’s the second straight disappointing quarterly report for Alphabet. After fourth-quarter numbers were released, shares of Alphabet fell because of higher-than-expected capital expenditures and a lower operating margin.
Separately, Alphabet stands to gain billions of dollars from its investments in two of biggest tech IPOs this year: Uber and Lyft. It owns about 5% of each company.
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