Facebook’s head of PR leaves amid ongoing crises

Facebook’s head of PR leaves amid ongoing crises


Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group via Getty Images

Facebook is seemingly bouncing from crisis to crisis. It might not be happy, then, that the company’s leading communications exec is heading for the exit. Recode has learned that Technology Communications VP Caryn Marooney (pictured at right) is leaving Facebook after eight years at the company. There’s no mention of why Marooney is leaving, although she painted it as an amicable departure. “I have more faith in Facebook than ever,” she said.

She’ll stay on at the company until a replacement is available.

This isn’t the first big upheaval in Facebook’s public relations universe. Among other departures, its policy and comms lead Elliot Schrage left in 2018 with UK politician Nick Clegg eventually filling his shoes. However, Marooney’s decision doesn’t really help matters. She oversees communications for many key products, including Instagram and WhatsApp — Facebook may soon have to navigate privacy debacles, election integrity efforts and other challenges with a fresh face at the helm.

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Microsoft pledges $500 million to help Seattle’s housing crisis

Microsoft pledges $500 million to help Seattle’s housing crisis


POOL New / Reuters

Microsoft is putting its massive balance sheet to good use by pledging $500 million to help address the housing crisis in the greater Seattle area. According to The New York Times, it’s the most ambitious effort by a tech company to solve housing and homelessness issues brought about by inequality in regions where the tech industry is concentrated. Seattle, as you know, also serves as home to Amazon. The booming tech sector in the city and its surrounding areas has driven up costs of living so much, a lot of people — including individuals the city needs, such as teachers, nurses and first responders — are getting priced out.

Apparently, Microsoft started looking into the region’s housing situation right after Seattle compromised on a tax proposal meant to raise funds for affordable housing and homeless residents. If you’ll recall, the city wanted to tax big companies $500 per employee per year, but it had to settle for half that amount after pushback from Amazon. Based on what its consultant found out, the region has “counterintuitively done less to build middle-income housing than low-income housing, especially in the suburbs.” That’s why the tech giant is splitting its pledge into three.

Microsoft is lending $225 million to developers to subsidize the preservation and construction of middle-income housing meant for households making between $62,000 and $124,000 per year. The offer will initially be available in Redmond and nearby cities Bellevue, Kirkland, Issaquah, Renton and Sammamish. Meanwhile, it’s earmarking $250 million for low-income housing development across the King County region meant for households making $48,150 for two persons. Microsoft expects to make very little profit from the loans, and anything it earns will be reinvested back into the project. The remaining $25 million will be given as philanthropic grants to organizations working to address homelessness in the area.

Microsoft President Brad Smith and CFO Amy Hood wrote in a blog post:

“If we’re going to make progress, we’ll all need to work together as a community. We recognize that Microsoft is in a unique position to put the size of its balance sheet behind this effort… Ultimately, a healthy business needs to be part of a healthy community. And a healthy community must have housing that is within the economic reach of every part of the community, including the many dedicated people that provide the vital services on which we all rely.”

The company knows it can’t just throw money at the problem to make it go away, though — it’s not even entirely sure how much $500 million can help. In an effort to make a bigger impact, Microsoft also plans to encourage policy changes for the development of affordable housing in state legislative sessions.

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Flint, Michigan lead crisis should have buried the city in water bottles. So, why didn’t it? Study calls for dealing with waste before it burdens an emergency response

Flint, Michigan lead crisis should have buried the city in water bottles. So, why didn’t it? Study calls for dealing with waste before it burdens an emergency response

One hundred thousand residents of Flint, Michigan could only use water from bottles or filters during a years-long lead contamination crisis, which started when the city switched to a new drinking water source in 2014.

As part of a class assignment that grew into a case study, Purdue University researchers found that during the first three weeks of the disaster alone, anywhere from 31 to 100 million bottles were generated as waste. This means that Flint should have been buried in plastic by the time the crisis ended in 2017.

But it wasn’t. Through investigating why not, the researchers suggest ways to plan for waste so that figuring out what to do with it during the crisis doesn’t slow down an emergency response, including those for drinking water disasters caused by hurricanes or flooding.

“The last thing you want to do during a crisis is add to the burden of the communities. And with so many people rushing to provide bottled water to Flint, we definitely had a waste problem that we needed to resolve quickly,” said Matt Flechter, the recycling market development specialist for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), one of the organizations interviewed for this study.

The study and its recommendations, published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling, are the result of conversations with several organizations who were on the frontlines during the Flint lead crisis, including MDEQ, the City of Flint, Republic Services, Inc. and Schupan Recycling. The researchers did not seek or receive external funding for this work.

“When you shut down an entire water system and provide emergency water, there is a whole lot of waste generated. Where does it all go?” said Andrew Whelton, Purdue associate professor of civil engineering and environmental and ecological engineering, who led the study.

“It turns out that no one had looked at the waste associated with providing emergency drinking water long-term, until we investigated the Flint incident,” he said.

During the time that the Flint lead crisis was taking place, Tianqi Wang, a master’s student in civil engineering, and Jooho Kim, a doctoral student in construction engineering and management, wanted to calculate how much waste the crisis was generating as part of an in-class activity for a solid and hazardous waste management course taught by Whelton.

They were shocked to find that the millions of water bottles would have overwhelmed the city’s waste management system.

Key to Flint’s successful waste hauling, the researchers later discovered, were community organizations and government agencies who established sites around the community to distribute donated water bottles and filters, and pick up or drop off waste. They also helped residents to know about these services through local TV, social media and websites, newspapers and flyers.

But the process would need to be smoother for future crises.

“Waste management wasn’t built into the emergency response at all, so what we did was more reactionary than planned-out,” Flechter said.

Planning it out could possibly buy more time for other aspects of an emergency response, such as evaluating which households aren’t getting enough safe water.

Therefore, as part of their study, Purdue researchers recommended several ways for incorporating waste management into an emergency response plan. These include pre-identifying the roles of waste management organizations, setting up a procedure for estimating and documenting emergency water supply materials entering and exiting a community, determining where water should be distributed in advance, drafting public notifications about waste management activities and making the data on this emergency response publicly available so that people can conduct more case studies on the best possible strategies.

Unfortunately, it could be a while before waste management makes it into plans throughout the U.S.

“Drinking water is considered a critical lifeline, but federal emergency management doctrine has no clearly defined mission that is specific to supporting response and recovery,” said Kevin Morley, the federal relations manager for the American Water Works Association (AWWA). In 2017, AWWA testified to Congress on this matter and the impact on effective coordination and communications.

Even though federal organizations — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency — provide guidelines for estimating how much water a person needs when a disaster strikes, the focus for waste removal is typically on large debris, such as tree limbs and building materials during a hurricane.

“In order for waste management protocols — like for bottled water if that’s the temporary solution — to be considered appropriately, there needs to be a clear water mission in the National Response Framework,” Morley said. “Then information sharing and coordination associated with the need can more effectively be considered as part of the overall response effort and demands on local waste management infrastructure.”

Still, the organizations who informed this study have already found its recommendations useful for water quality incidents in other communities across Michigan.

“It’s nice to have clear action steps and know which questions to bring up early. This way, we’re looking at the existing recycling infrastructure from the get-go and know how those bottles should be managed,” Flechter said.

The work aligns with Purdue’s Giant Leaps celebration, acknowledging the university’s global advancements made toward a sustainable economy and planet as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. This is one of the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

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Qualcomm reportedly hired crisis PR firm behind Facebook controversy

Qualcomm reportedly hired crisis PR firm behind Facebook controversy

The New York Times’ expose that revealed the relationship between Facebook and Definers mentioned that the controversial PR firm has another big-name client from the tech industry. That client reportedly hired the company to launch a campaign against Apple and to spread negative news about the tech giant in the same way it spread damaging stories about Facebook’s critics. And, no, it wasn’t talking about Facebook itself. While the piece didn’t reveal the third company’s identity, a couple of reports by Business Insider and NBC News suggest that the firm is none other than Qualcomm.

According to BI, Definers’ west coast head Tim Miller pitched some its writers a story about the fines Apple incurred due to its legal battle against the chipmaker. Apple and Qualcomm were tight for years when they still had an agreement that iPhones could only use the latter’s wireless chips. It became clear that they were having issues after Cupertino started looking for alternatives near the end of their agreement. The two then took things to court, engaging each other in legal battles of epic proportions.

Qualcomm tried (and failed) to block Apple’s iPhone X sales, accusing the iPhonemaker of violating its patents. Meanwhile, the European Union slapped the company with a $1.23 billion fine for abusing its partnership with the iPhonemaker. More recently, Qualcomm claimed that Apple stole some of its trade secrets and gave them to Intel, and it also told a judge that Cupertino owes the company $7 billion in royalties.

NBC News notes that the Facebook Page NTK Network is running an ad to promote a story entitled “Conservatives Blast ITC Judge’s Ruling on Apple,” which covers Apple’s and Qualcomm’s patent dispute. A former Definers employee told the publication that NTK Network is the firm’s “in-house fake news shop,” a place where it publishes negative stories about its clients’ opponent. The employee also said that Qualcomm had a relationship with the controversial PR firm, but they didn’t elaborate any further. We’ve reached out to Qualcomm for an official statement and will update you when we hear back.

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Facebook’s top lawyer delays departure as crisis continues

Facebook’s top lawyer delays departure as crisis continues


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Despite announcing that he would leave the company earlier this year, Facebook’s top lawyer Colin Stretch will stay on as general counsel into 2019, according to Recode. The change of heart comes as Facebook is embroiled in yet another controversy following a bombshell report from the New York Times that documents the company’s mishandling of a number of situations it has been faced with in the last two years.

The lawyer’s extended stay at the company is sure to come with its fair share of challenges. Facebook is currently dealing with several federal investigations into its data privacy practices stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year.

Those battles will likely only be complicated by the recent New York Times report. The story, which Facebook claims contains some inaccuracies, shows the company responding slowly and insufficiently to scandals like Russian interference surrounding the 2016 election and using political campaign tactics to attack its critics. Stretch was named in the report as one of several executives who was aware of Russian activity on Facebook before the company announced it publicly.

Stretch reportedly informed his team of his decision to stay on at Facebook several weeks ago. He is expected to remain with the company into the summer of 2019, though he end up could staying longer.

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NYT: Facebook’s crisis response included sneaky redirections

NYT: Facebook’s crisis response included sneaky redirections

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., from left, Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships and platform marketing at Facebook Inc. and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., walk the grounds after the morning session at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Thursday, July 12, 2018.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s no secret that the last couple of years have seen Facebook’s reputation take a series of hits — whether due to data breaches, alleged bias, rumors of intrusive spying or confusing policies — but a New York Times report tonight exposes more about how the company reacted. Arriving on the heels of a Wall Street Journal article describing declining employee morale, it doesn’t reflect well on Facebook’s efforts and raises even more questions about an operation already facing calls for increased regulation.

In addition to peering into previously identified problem areas like Facebook’s slow response to the spread of misinformation or questionable applications of policies meant to be unbiased, it specifically calls out a strategy where the company tried to distract from criticism. Since late last year, it expanded work with a consultant, Definers Public Affairs, that the Times said used political campaign tactics in public relations. This includes everything from Facebook’s public support for FOSTA to articles written on a conservative news site attacking Google and Apple.

While Facebook execs went on an apology tour earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook focused on his company’s reticence to collect and sell data from its customers — a point the report mentions in contrast to Mark Zuckerberg apparently telling his management team to use only Android because of its larger user base. It’s unclear if any actually switched.

Other details range from the bizarre — apparently Facebook needed pollsters to determine that Zuck’s testimony on Capitol Hill came off as robotic — to deeply unsettling. George Soros has been a target of anti-Semitic attacks for many years, and even though Facebook worked with one group to describe some of the criticism it received as anti-Semitic, the Definers agency pushed material suggesting a link between Soros and groups aligned against Facebook. Variety points out a writer for the Daily Caller who confirmed the contact.

As for specific executives like Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, they’re cast as either unaware of threats or, in the case of Sandberg, angry when she found out that then-security chief Alex Stamos had begun looking into Russian misinformation without getting approval first. Arguments against coming out strongly against Russian meddling or determining that a post by Donald Trump violated its TOS are attributed to former George W. Bush administration member, and current Facebook exec, Joel Kaplan.

While we’ve continuously heard from Facebook about its shifting response to issues like Russian-sourced pages and posts of misinformation, it has not yet responded to this report — which the NYT said it based on interviews with more than 50 people — to confirm or deny details.

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After Math: They’re on the move

After Math: They’re on the move


ASSOCIATED PRESS

With the president’s made up migrant caravan crisis having mysteriously vanished now that the midterms are over, it’s time to take a look at the other movers and shakers from the industry this week. Volkswagen announced the development of a $23k Tesla rival, China has developed security cameras can now ID people by their gait, and Google’s built a computer model to guess which restaurants will give you the runs.

China Gait Recognition

165 feet: Everybody walks in their own weirdly wonderful way. Unfortunately, China’s state surveillance system can now spot you because of that gait from more than 150 feet, even if your face is obscured. So the next time you see someone walking through downtown Beijing like they’re fleeing a sandworm, this is probably why (though maybe get to higher ground too, just to be safe).

nethernopes

20 years of lie: Nice, some guy in the Netherlands wants a court to declare his 69-year-old self as 49-years-old so he can have better luck on Tinder. Which will totally work right up until the moment that he insists they go to dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon at Golden Corral so he can be home in time for Matlock.

asdfeven Hugo has got it rough) but there’s some help on the horizon from Google. The search giant has developed an algorithm that can spot incidents of food poisoning by cross-referencing a user’s search for terms like “diarrhea” against their cached location data. During trials in Las Vegas and Chicago, the model identified unsafe food conditions 52 percent of the time, compared with just 22 percent of routine inspections in those cities.

birds

£1 plus 20p per minute: That’s how much Bird’s new UK pilot program will rent street scooters for. Unfortunately, the zippy contraptions will only be made available along a single path in east London’s Olympic Park.

fleet

20,000 e-bikes: Speaking of alternative transportation, Paris announced this week that it will unleash an armada of electric bicycles upon its city streets in a large-scale effort to help reduce traffic and counteract climate change. Users will be able to rent a bike for 40 euros a month.

Germany Earns Volkswagen

$23,000: Volkswagen just fired a shot across Tesla’s bow, announcing this week that it has begun development on a Model 3 competitor that will likely cost a whopping $12,000 less than Tesla’s offering when it goes on sale sometime after 2020.

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Facebook hires tarnished UK politician to fix its reputation

Facebook hires tarnished UK politician to fix its reputation

These days, all Facebook seems to do is lurch from one public relations crisis to a political one, and back again. Consequently, the company has decided to hire a British former politician, Sir Nick Clegg, as VP of Global Affairs and Communications. Clegg will replace Elliot Shrage, who announced he was stepping down from that role earlier this year.

Clegg will spend a short amount of time at Facebook’s California HQ but will divide his time between the US and UK until the start of 2019. It’s believed that Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, arguably the two most important figures at Facebook, approved (and were involved) with Clegg’s hiring.

He won’t be a figure known to many in the US, but Clegg was leader of Britain’s “third” political party, the Liberal Democrats, between 2007 and 2015. Clegg led the party as a center / center-left organization and was considered a rising political star.

At the 2010 general election, the Liberal Democrats had their best ever results, winning 57 seats and ensuring neither of the two larger parties could govern alone. Despite the political conflicts, Clegg chose to enter into partnership (coalition) with the right-wing Conservative Party, becoming deputy Prime Minister.

The partnership would prove toxic, both to Clegg’s brand and that of the Liberal Democrats, and in the next election lost 49 of its 57 seats. He would subsequently resign the leadership, and would go on to lose his seat at the 2017 election to the Labour party.

Clegg was held personally responsible for a decision to triple the cost of university tuition fees, despite promising not to do so on the campaign trail. He would go on to become a figure of some ridicule, with even Lord Steel — a former Liberal leader himself — writing that he “steered the Liberal Democrats to disaster.”

According to the Financial Times, Clegg was “wooed” by Zuckerberg, saying that Clegg would have a key role in shaping Facebook’s strategy.

The move does make sense on some levels: Clegg is an experienced politician, albeit not a very popular one. But he does know how the European Union works, and is still well-regarded on the continent for his pro-European stance. Consequently he may be useful when Facebook navigates policy debates between itself and the trading bloc.

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Uber pledges to cap trip pricing during major emergencies

Uber pledges to cap trip pricing during major emergencies

Today, Uber outlined a new set of guidelines regarding how the company will respond in the event of a crisis, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack. The company’s Global Security Center (GSC) monitors conditions in every area that Uber opera…

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Venezuela crisis: Petro cryptocurrency ‘making things WORSE’ as economy faces COLLAPSE

Venezuela crisis: Petro cryptocurrency ‘making things WORSE’ as economy faces COLLAPSE

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The redesigned Lincoln Navigator is ready for regular folks

The redesigned Lincoln Navigator is ready for regular folks,

The Lincoln Navigator luxury SUV (starting at $72,555) is unapologetically huge. That could create a bit of an existential crisis for some. Here are some of the issues I thought about while driving the Navigator: Where do you park something t…

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Watch Faraday Future’s high-speed FF 91 field tests

Watch Faraday Future’s high-speed FF 91 field tests

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Faraday Future hasn’t given up on the FF 91 despite going through a financial crisis and losing executives along the way. Now, a few months after a Hong Kong investor reportedly threw the startup a $1.5 billion lifeline, it has dropped a new video sh…

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Elon Musk said he will pay for home water filters in Flint

Elon Musk said he will pay for home water filters in Flint,

Four years ago, the Flint water crisis began when officials switched its source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Its more corrosive water caused dangerous levels of lead from old pipes to leach into the city’s drinking water, poisoning residents….

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Immunity could be key to addressing coral crisis

Immunity could be key to addressing coral crisis,

Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life, feed hundreds of millions of people and contribute vastly to the global economy.

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