Tesla Says Vehicle in Deadly Crash Was on Autopilot 

A vehicle in a fatal crash last week in California was operating on Autopilot, making it the latest accident to involve a self-driving vehicle, Tesla has confirmed.

The electric car maker said the driver, who was killed in the accident, did not have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash, despite several warnings from the vehicle. Tesla Inc. tells drivers that its Autopilot system, which can maintain speed, change lanes and self-park, requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel in order to take control of the vehicle to avoid accidents. 

Tesla said its vehicle logs show the driver took no action to stop the Model X SUV from crashing into a concrete lane divider. Photographs of the SUV show that the front of the vehicle was demolished, its hood was ripped off  and its front wheels were scattered on the freeway.

The vehicle also caught fire, though Tesla said no one was in the vehicle when that happened. The company said the crash was made worse by a missing or damaged safety shield on the end of the freeway barrier that is supposed to reduce the impact into the concrete lane divider.

The crash happened in Mountain View, in California’s Silicon Valley. The driver was Walter Huang, 38, a software engineer for Apple.

“None of this changes how devastating an event like this is or how much we feel for our customer’s family and friends,” Tesla said on its website late Friday.

Earlier this month, a self-driving Volvo SUV being tested by ride-hailing service Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.

Tesla Inc. defended its Autopilot feature, saying that while it doesn’t prevent all accidents, it makes them less likely to occur than is the case for vehicles without it.

Federal investigators are looking into last week’s crash, as well a separate crash in January of a Tesla Model S that may have been operating under the Autopilot system.


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AP Analysis: Blacks Largely Missing From High-Salary Positions

Jonathan Garland’s fascination with architecture started early: He spent much of his childhood designing Lego houses and gazing at Boston buildings on rides with his father away from their largely minority neighborhood. 

But when Garland looked around at his architectural college, he didn’t see many who looked like him. There were few black faces among students, and fewer teaching skills or giving lectures. 

 

“If you do something simple like Google ‘architects’ and you go to the images tab, you’re primarily going to see white males,” said Garland, 35, who’s worked at Boston and New York architectural firms. “That’s the image, that’s the brand, that’s the look of an architect.”

And that’s not uncommon in other lucrative fields, 50 years after the Reverend Martin Luther King, a leader in the fight for equal employment opportunities, was assassinated.

An Associated Press analysis of government data has found that black workers are chronically underrepresented compared with whites in high-salary jobs in technology, business, life sciences and engineering, among other areas. Instead, many black workers find jobs in low-wage, less prestigious fields where they’re overrepresented, such as food service or preparation, building maintenance and office work, the AP analysis found.

‘Other America’

In one of his final speeches, King described the “Other America,” where unemployment and underemployment created a “fatigue of despair” for African-Americans. Despite economic progress for blacks in areas such as incomes and graduation rates, some experts say many African-Americans remain part of this “Other America,” with little hope of attaining top professional jobs, thanks to systemic yet subtle racism.

The AP analysis found that a white worker had a far better chance than a black one of holding a job in the 11 categories with the highest median annual salaries, as listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ratio of white-to-black workers is about 10-to-1 in management, 8-to-1 in computers and mathematics, 12-to-1 in law and 7-to-1 in education — compared with a ratio of 5.5 white workers for every black one in all jobs nationally. The top five high-salary fields have a median income range of $65,000 to $100,000, compared with $36,000 for all occupations nationwide.

In Boston, a hub for technology and innovation and home to prestigious universities, white workers outnumber black ones by about 27-to-1 in computer- and mathematics-related professions, compared with the overall ratio of 9.5-to-1 for workers in the city. Overall, Boston’s ratio of white-to-black workers is wider than that of the nation in six of the top 10 high-income fields.

Boston, where King had deep ties, earning his doctorate and meeting his wife, has a history of racial discord. Eight years after King’s assassination, at the height of turbulent school desegregation, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph from an anti-busing rally at City Hall showed a white man attacking a black bystander with an American flag.

The young victim was Theodore Landsmark. He’s now 71, a lawyer, an architect and director of Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

Why progress lags

He said “structural discrimination” is the overarching cause of disproportionate race representation in high-salary fields. Landsmark and others say gains are elusive for myriad reasons: Substandard schools in low-income neighborhoods. White-dominated office cliques. Boardrooms that prefer familiarity to diversity. Discriminatory hiring practices. Companies that claim a lack of qualified candidates but have no programs to train minority talent.

Some also say investors are more likely to support white startups. When Rica Elysee, a lifelong Boston resident who grew up in predominantly black neighborhoods, brought her idea of an online platform linking beauty professionals with customers for in-home appointments to investors, she was shunned, she said.

“They said I didn’t belong in the program, that they couldn’t identify with it because they weren’t black,” said Elysee, 32, who initially marketed BeautyLynk to black women like herself. “I remember crying pretty harshly. They couldn’t relate to what I was doing.”

Some even advised her to move out of Boston, which had a booming innovation economy but was “not encouraging minorities in the tech space,” she said. Three years later, Elysee said BeautyLynk is slowly growing but still needs capital.

Most American metro areas are like Boston, with AP’s analysis showing that racial disparities in employment are indifferent to geography and politics. California’s Silicon Valley struggles to achieve diversity in computer fields. In Seattle, home to Amazon, whites outnumber blacks nearly 28-to-1 in computer- and math-related fields. Financial powerhouse New York has a 3-to-1 ratio of white-to-black workers in all occupations, but nearly 6-to-1 in business and finance. Hollywood shows inequality in entertainment, with almost nine whites for every black worker.

In Atlanta, King’s hometown, the proportional representation of black-to-white workers is close to even in many fields. Many reasons are cited. Atlanta has historically black colleges and universities such as King’s alma mater, Morehouse; the first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, pressed for policies helping black professionals after his 1973 election; and events like the 1996 Olympics opened doors for entrepreneurs of all races.

Nationally, it’s much different

Atlanta is an exception. For nearly all of the past half-century, black unemployment nationally has hovered at about twice that of whites.

President Donald Trump touted on Twitter that December’s 6.8 percent unemployment rate for blacks was the lowest in 45 years — a number critics say ignores a greater reality. For example, in an economy that increasingly demands advanced degrees, Department of Education data show that black representation among graduates in science, tech, engineering and mathematics peaked at 9.9 percent in 2010 and has been slowly declining.

In Boston, Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh said in a recent speech that the city is addressing the issue and is committed to placing 20,000 low-income residents in “good-paying jobs” by 2022.

Landsmark said stronger role models may be a solution. As Boston Architectural College’s president, he mentored Garland. They discussed race issues in the professional world — as when Garland, trying to land jobs in his neighborhood, realized many people who looked like him were unfamiliar with the very concept of architecture. He once had to explain to a homeowner who wanted his roof reframed: “I’m not a builder, I’m an architect.”

Today, Garland speaks at high schools and works at the DREAM Collaborative, which focuses on projects in low-income neighborhoods.

“I know the barriers exist in other folks’ minds, and I have to disprove that,” he said. “I keep myself focused on the issues.”


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These Burgers Are Better for the Planet, but You’d Never Know It

As the world’s population heads toward 10 billion by midcentury, experts are wrestling with how to feed the world without wrecking the planet. It’s not easy to find foods with lower environmental impact that still taste as good as the ones they are intended to replace. But chefs and environmentalists are both cheering one new menu item: the mushroom-blended burger. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.


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Traditional Pakistani Bamboo Curtains Gaining Popularity

Traditional handicrafts from Pakistan are exported to many countries around the world. One item that appears to be gaining in popularity are the country’s hand-made bamboo curtains. VOA’s Saman Khan has more in this report from Lahore, Pakistan, narrated by Sarah Zaman.


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NY’s Immigrant Taxi Drivers Despair as Taxi Industry Slumps

A financially distraught yellow cab driver from Romania recently hanged himself in his New York garage, marking the fourth suicide among city taxi drivers in as many months. In the tragedy’s aftermath, members of New York’s taxicab drivers union are renewing their calls for a cap on the number of app-based for-hire vehicles, such as Uber and Lyft, which they say are driving workers of a once-thriving industry into the ground. VOA’s Ramon Taylor reports.


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Could Enemies Target Undersea Cables That Link the World?

Russian ships are skulking around underwater communications cables, causing the U.S. and its allies to worry the Kremlin might be taking information warfare to new depths.

Is Moscow interested in cutting or tapping the cables? Does it want the West to worry it might? Is there a more innocent explanation? Unsurprisingly, Russia isn’t saying.

But whatever Moscow’s intentions, U.S. and Western officials are increasingly troubled by their rival’s interest in the 400 fiber-optic cables that carry most of world’s calls, emails and texts, as well as $10 trillion worth of daily financial transactions.

“We’ve seen activity in the Russian navy, and particularly undersea in their submarine activity, that we haven’t seen since the ’80s,” General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the U.S. European Command, told Congress this month.

Without undersea cables, a bank in Asian countries couldn’t send money to Saudi Arabia to pay for oil. U.S. military leaders would struggle to communicate with troops fighting extremists in Afghanistan and the Middle East. A student in Europe wouldn’t be able to Skype his parents in the United States.

Small passageways

All this information is transmitted along tiny glass fibers encased in undersea cables that, in some cases, are little bigger than a garden hose. All told, there are 620,000 miles of fiber-optic cable running under the sea, enough to loop around Earth nearly 25 times.

Most lines are owned by private telecommunications companies, including giants like Google and Microsoft. Their locations are easily identified on public maps, with swirling lines that look like spaghetti. While cutting one cable might have limited impact, severing several simultaneously or at choke points could cause a major outage.

The Russians “are doing their homework and, in the event of a crisis or conflict with them, they might do rotten things to us,” said Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at nonprofit research group CNA Corp.

It’s not Moscow’s warships and submarines that are making NATO and U.S. officials uneasy. It’s Russia’s Main Directorate of Deep Sea Research, whose specialized surface ships, submarines, underwater drones and minisubs conduct reconnaissance, underwater salvage and other work.

One ship run by the directorate is the Yantar. It’s a modest, 354-foot oceanographic vessel that holds a crew of about 60. It most recently was off South America’s coast helping Argentina search for a lost submarine.

Parlamentskaya Gazeta, the Russian parliament’s publication, last October said the Yantar has equipment “designed for deep-sea tracking” and “connecting to top-secret communication cables.” The publication said that in September 2015, the Yantar was near Kings Bay, Georgia, home to a U.S. submarine base, “collecting information about the equipment on American submarines, including underwater sensors and the unified [U.S. military] information network.” Rossiya, a Russian state TV network, has said the Yantar not only can connect to top-secret cables but also can cut them and “jam underwater sensors with a special system.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Preparing for sabotage

There is no hard evidence that the ship is engaged in nefarious activity, said Steffan Watkins, an information technology security consultant in Canada tracking the ship. But he wonders what the ship is doing when it’s stopped over critical cables or when its Automatic Identification System tracking transponder isn’t on.

Of the Yantar’s crew, he said: “I don’t think these are the actual guys who are doing any sabotage. I think they’re laying the groundwork for future operations.”

Members of Congress are wondering, too. 

Representative Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat on a House subcommittee on sea power, said of the Russians, “The mere fact that they are clearly tracking the cables and prowling around the cables shows that they are doing something.”

Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, an Armed Services Committee member, said Moscow’s goal appears to be to “disrupt the normal channels of communication and create an environment of misinformation and distrust.”

The Yantar’s movements have previously raised eyebrows.

On October 18, 2016, a Syrian telecom company ordered emergency maintenance to repair a cable in the Mediterranean that provides internet connectivity to several countries, including Syria, Libya and Lebanon. The Yantar arrived in the area the day before the four-day maintenance began. It left two days before the maintenance ended. It’s unknown what work it did while there.

Watkins described another episode on November 5, 2016, when a submarine cable linking Persian Gulf nations experienced outages in Iran. Hours later, the Yantar left Oman and headed to an area about 60 miles west of the Iranian port city of Bushehr, where the cable runs ashore. Connectivity was restored just hours before the Yantar arrived on November 9. The boat stayed stationary over the site for several more days.

Undersea cables have been targets before.

At the beginning of World War I, Britain cut a handful of German underwater communications cables and tapped the rerouted traffic for intelligence. In the Cold War, the U.S. Navy sent American divers deep into the Sea of Okhotsk off the Russian coast to install a device to record Soviet communications, hoping to learn more about the U.S.S.R.’s submarine-launched nuclear capability.

Eavesdropping by spies

More recently, British and American intelligence agencies have eavesdropped on fiber-optic cables, according to documents released by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor.

In 2007, Vietnamese authorities confiscated ships carrying miles of fiber-optic cable that thieves salvaged from the sea for profit. The heist disrupted service for several months. And in 2013, Egyptian officials arrested three scuba divers off Alexandria for attempting to cut a cable stretching from France to Singapore. Five years on, questions remain about the attack on a cable responsible for about a third of all internet traffic between Egypt and Europe.

Despite the relatively few publicly known incidents of sabotage, most outages are due to accidents.

Two hundred or so cable-related outages take place each year. Most occur when ship anchors snap cables or commercial fishing equipment snags the lines. Others break during tsunamis, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

But even accidental cuts can harm U.S. military operations. 

In 2008 in Iraq, unmanned U.S. surveillance flights nearly screeched to a halt one day at Balad Air Base, not because of enemy mortar attacks or dusty winds. An anchor had snagged a cable hundreds of miles away from the base, situated in the “Sunni Triangle” northwest of Baghdad.

The severed cable had linked controllers based in the United States with unmanned aircraft flying intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions for coalition forces in the skies over Iraq, said retired Air Force Colonel Dave Lujan of Hampton, Virginia.

“Say you’re operating a remote-controlled car and all of a sudden you can’t control it,” said Lujan, who was deputy commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group at the base when the little-publicized outage lasted for two to three days. “That’s a big impact,” he said, describing how U.S. pilots had to fly the missions instead.


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Trump EPA Expected to Roll Back Auto Gas Mileage Standards 

The Trump administration is expected to announce that it will roll back automobile gas mileage and pollution standards that were a pillar in the Obama administration’s plans to combat climate change. 

It’s not clear whether the announcement will include a specific number, but current regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency require the fleet of new vehicles to get 36 miles per gallon in real-world driving by 2025. That’s about 10 mpg over the existing standard. 

Environmental groups, who predict increased greenhouse gas emissions and more gasoline consumption if the standards are relaxed, say the announcement could come Tuesday at a Virginia car dealership. EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in an email Friday that the standards are still being reviewed.

Legal showdown

Any change is likely to set up a lengthy legal showdown with California, which currently has the power to set its own pollution and gas mileage standards and doesn’t want them to change. About a dozen other states follow California’s rules, and together they account for more than one-third of the vehicles sold in the US. Currently the federal and California standards are the same. 

Automakers have lobbied to revisit the requirements, saying they’ll have trouble reaching them because people are buying bigger vehicles due to low gas prices. They say the standards will cost the industry billions of dollars and raise vehicle prices due to the cost of developing technology needed to raise mileage. 

When the standards were first proposed, the government predicted that two-thirds of new vehicles sold would be cars, with the rest trucks and SUVs, said Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Now the reverse is true, she said.

Still, environmental groups say the standards save money at the pump, and the technology is available for the industry to comply. 

Health risk

They also say burning more gasoline will put people’s health at risk. 

“The American public overwhelmingly supports strong vehicle standards because they cut the cost of driving, reduce air pollution, and combat climate change,” said Luke Tonachel, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project. 

The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are involved in setting the standards, which would cover the years 2022 through 2025. 

Some conservative groups are pressing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to revoke a waiver that allows California to set its own rules. They say California shouldn’t be allowed to set policy for the rest of the nation. Pruitt has publicly questioned the veracity of evidence complied by climate scientists, including those in his own agency, that global warming is overwhelmingly caused by man-made carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.

If the waiver is revoked, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says the state will resist. “What we’re doing to protect California’s environment isn’t just good for our communities — it’s good for the country,” he said in a statement. “We’re not looking to pick a fight with the Trump administration, but when they threaten our values, we’re ready.” 

Huge dilemma

Getting rid of the waiver or having two gas mileage and pollution requirements presents a huge dilemma for automakers: while they would like to avoid fines for failing to meet the standards, they also want the expense of building two versions of cars and trucks, one for the California-led states and another for the rest of the country.

Mark Reuss, a General Motors’ product development chief, said in a recent interview that he would rather have a single nationwide standard, even if it stays the same. He called two standards “just waste,” because they would require different vehicle equipment and costly additional engineering. “I want one good one,” he said. “I could focus all my engineers on one.”

Automakers agreed to the standards in 2012, but lobbied for and received a midterm review in 2018 to account for changes in market conditions. In the waning days of the Obama presidency, the EPA did the review and proclaimed that the standards have enough flexibility and the technology is available to meet them.

Changes would be years away

Janet McCabe, who was acting assistant EPA administrator under Obama when the review was done, said Friday it will take a couple years for the EPA to propose new rules, gather public comment and finalize any changes. Any rollback would likely bring legal challenges, forcing Pruitt’s EPA to defend the science behind the changes. 

“This would all take a long time,” said McCabe, now a senior fellow at the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

In the meantime, automakers have to proceed with plans for new cars and trucks under the current gas mileage requirements because it takes years to develop vehicles.


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UN Blacklists Dozens of Ships, Businesses Over N. Korea Smuggling

The U.N. Security Council on Friday blacklisted 27 ships, 21 companies and a businessman for helping North Korea circumvent sanctions, keeping the pressure on Pyongyang despite its recent diplomatic opening to talks, a diplomat said.

Acting on a request from the United States, a council committee approved the largest-ever package of sanctions designations on North Korea, the council diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The move is part of a global crackdown on the smuggling of North Korean commodities in violation of U.N. sanctions resolutions, which were adopted in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Thirteen North Korean oil tankers and cargo vessels were banned from ports worldwide, along with 12 other ships for helping Pyongyang smuggle banned commodities or supplying oil and fuel shipments, according to a U.N. document obtained by AFP.

Two other North Korean vessels were hit with a global assets freeze but were not banned from port entry. 

Twenty-one shipping and trading firms were hit by an assets freeze. Three of them are based in Hong Kong, including Huaxin Shipping, which delivered shipments of North Korean coal to Vietnam in October.

12 North Korean firms hit

Twelve North Korean firms were blacklisted for running ships involved in illegal transfers of oil and fuel, according to the document.

Two other companies — Shanghai Dongfeng Shipping and Weihai World Shipping Freight, also based in China — were blacklisted for carrying North Korean coal on their vessels.

The remaining firms are in based Singapore, Samoa, the Marshall Islands and Panama. 

A businessman identified as Tsang Yung Yuan was hit by a global travel ban and assets freeze for organizing illegal shipments of North Korean coal with a North Korean broker in Russia.

The sanctions were approved as the United States moves to open talks with North Korea on its nuclear drive, with a possible summit meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un to be held by the end of May.

Despite the diplomatic opening, the United States have made clear they will keep the pressure on Pyongyang to shift course by pressing on with sanctions.

Sanctions flouted

Last year, the Security Council adopted a series of resolutions to ban North Korean exports of commodities in a bid to cut off revenue to the nation’s military programs.

The measures severely restrict deliveries of oil and refined petroleum products to North Korea, but sanctions monitors have reported that Pyongyang has used vessels to dodge those restrictions.

North Korea earned $200 million last year from exports of coal, iron, steel and other banned commodities, according to a recent report.

Only eight North Korean vessels had so far been banned from ports for sanctions-busting, so the inclusion of 13 other ships Friday was expected to significantly cripple North Korea’s maritime network.

The United States had initially asked the United Nations to ban 33 ships and 27 firms over smuggling, but China put a hold on that request to review the list.

Earlier this month, the White House said Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed in a phone conversation to keep up the sanctions pressure on North Korea until Pyongyang takes concrete steps toward denuclearization.


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Air France, Lawyers Strike as Macron Labor Woes Grow

French lawyers staged a walkout Friday while Air France staff went on strike over pay, adding to a growing wave of industrial unrest that threatens to slow President Emmanuel Macron’s reform drive.

Air France canceled a quarter of the day’s flights as its pilots, stewards and ground crew press for a 6 percent pay rise.

And courts postponed hearings as hundreds of lawyers, clerks and magistrates stopped work across the country to protest judicial reforms, among a slew of changes by the ambitious 40-year-old president riling various sections of French society.

“The government’s plan at least has the benefit of being coherent — scrimping, cutting, sacrificing everything it can,” legal profession unions said in a joint statement ahead of protests Friday afternoon.

Law unions complain that the court shake-up, which aims to streamline penal and civil proceedings and digitize the court system, will result in courts that are over-centralized and “dehumanized.”

They particularly object to the scrapping of 307 district courts and their judges which they say will result in a judiciary that is “remote from the people.”

In the meantime, staff at state rail operator SNCF will begin three months of rolling strikes, two days out of every five, on Monday evening — just as many travelers are coming back from an Easter weekend away.

The next day, refuse collectors will strike demanding the creation of a national waste service, energy workers will strike urging a new national electricity and gas service, and Air France staff will walk out again.

“The cost of living goes up, but not salaries,” Francois, an Air France employee, told AFP during a demonstration at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, saying a six percent raise represents “barely a baguette a day for a month.”

Various universities across the country have, meanwhile, been disrupted for weeks by protests against Macron’s decision to introduce an element of selection to the public university admissions process.

‘Growth first, raise later’

Macron has so far avoided the mass industrial action suffered by his predecessor Francois Hollande.

But discord has been growing, with an estimated 200,000 taking to the streets last week in protests and walkouts by workers across the public sector angered by his reforms, including plans to cut 120,000 jobs.

Elected last May, the centrist ex-investment banker has pledged to shake up everything from France’s courts to its education system.

At Air France, 32 percent of pilots were set to join Friday’s walkout along with 28 percent of cabin crew and 20 percent of ground staff, according to company estimates.

But while just 20 to 30 percent of long-haul flights were cut at Charles de Gaulle and Orly in Paris, at other airports such as Nice, as many as half of Air France flights were cancelled.

The French state owns 17.6 percent of the carrier as part of the Air France-KLM group, Europe’s second-biggest airline, which has been plagued by strikes and labor disputes in its French operations in recent years.

Eleven trade unions have already staged two Air France strikes on February 22 and March 23 seeking a six percent salary hike, with two more planned on April 3 and April 7.

Unions argue the airline should share the wealth with its staff after strong results last year, but management insists it cannot offer higher salaries without jeopardizing growth in an intensely competitive sector.

“To distribute wealth we have to create it first,” chief executive Franck Terner told Le Parisien newspaper.

Air France is set to bring in a 0.6 percent pay rise from April 1 and another 0.4 percent increase from October 1, along with bonuses and promotions equivalent to a 1.4 percent raise for ground staff — seen by unions as grossly inadequate.


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Facebook ‘Ugly Truth’ Memo Triggers New Firestorm Over Ethics

Was a leaked internal Facebook memo aimed at justifying the social network’s growth-at-any-cost strategy? Or simply a way to open debate on difficult questions over new technologies?

The extraordinarily blunt memo by a high-ranking executive — leaked this week and quickly repudiated by the author and by Facebook — warned that the social network’s goal of connecting the world might have negative consequences, but that these were outweighed by the positives.

“Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies,” the 2016 memo by top executive Andrew “Boz” Bosworth said. “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”

While Bosworth and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said the memo was only a way to provoke debate, it created a new firestorm for the social network mired in controversy over the hijacking of personal data by a political consulting firm linked to Donald Trump.

David Carroll, a professor of media design at the New School Parsons, tweeted that the memo highlighted a “reckless hubristic attitude” by the world’s biggest social network.

“What is so striking is that an executive chose to have this conversation on a Facebook wall,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University professor who studies social networks. “He showed poor judgment and poor business communication skills. It speaks to Facebook’s culture.”

Grygiel said these kinds of issues require “thoughtful discussion” and should take place within a context of protecting users. “When these companies build new products and services, their job is to evaluate the risks, and not just know about them, but ensure public safety.”

Bosworth, considered part of chief executive Zuckerberg’s inner circle, wrote: “The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is ‘de facto’ good.”

On Thursday, he said he merely wanted to open a discussion and added that “I don’t agree with the post today and I didn’t agree with it even when I wrote it.”

Zuckerberg responded that he and many others at Facebook “strongly disagreed” with the points raised.

‘Offloading’ ethical questions

Jim Malazita, a professor of science and technology studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said it was not surprising to see the memo in an industry whose work culture is highly compartmentalized.

Malazita said the memo frames the discussion with the assumption that technology and connecting people is always positive.

“By the assumptions built into that framework they are already shutting down a whole bunch of conversations,” he said.

Malazita added that most people who learn computer science are taught to make these technologies work as well as possible, while “offloading” the question of moral responsibility.

“It’s not that they don’t care, but even when they care about the social impact, there’s a limit to how much they practice that care.”

Joshua Benton, director of Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab, said it may be too easy to blame Facebook for misuse of the platform.

“I’m rarely in a position to defend Facebook,” he said, but the view that a technology is worth spreading even though some people will use it for terrible ends “is something you could have believed about the telegraph, the telephone, email, SMS, the iPhone, etc,” Benton tweeted.

Doing the right thing

Patrick Lin, director of the ethics and emerging sciences group at California Polytechnic State University, said he sees “no evidence that Facebook’s culture is unethical, though just one senior executive in the right place can poison the well.”

“I’d guess that most Facebook employees want to do the right thing and are increasingly uncomfortable with how the proverbial sausage is made,” Lin added.

Copies of internal responses at Facebook published by The Verge website showed many employees were angry or upset over the Bosworth memo but that some defended the executive.

Others said the leaks may suggest Facebook is being targeted by spies or “bad actors” trying to embarrass the company.


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