Racism

“Hey – why didn’t you pick up that Black guy!”

When I first moved to NYC in 1990, I was trying to hail a taxi on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. There was a Black man already standing there a hundred feet in front. As a taxi approached, it flew right by him in order to pick me up. I opened the door to the cab and asked driver, “Hey – why didn’t you pick up that Black guy!”

“Just get in the car,” he yelled at me. I held the door open and shouted out to the man who was there ahead of me, “This cab is yours! I’ll hold the door!” He ran up the street toward me. The taxi driver, furious, hit the gas – with the door still open! In that moment I was reminded that racism is everywhere, even in one of the most liberal cities in the country.

A few years later, in 1993, NBC gave me my own prime time show, “TV Nation”. I knew the first thing I wanted to film for my very first episode. I asked beloved Emmy-nominated actor Yaphet Kotto, if he would re-enact with me that first NYC experience of mine — but instead I replaced me with an actual convicted white felon and paroled murderer, Louis Bruno, to see who the cabs would pick up first.

Featuring TV Nation correspondent Rusty Cundieff plus a special guest appearance by RUN DMC.

Yaphet Kotto passed away today. Thank you my brother for being with me on that very first night. Rest In Peace.

Politics

Sabre rattling, initiating a new nuclear arms race and increasing tension with Russia and China provides no way forward for humanity

By Jeremy Corbyn

What we need is real security – my statement on today’s announcement 👇

Real security will be provided by working co-operatively internationally to tackle the major challenges of our time – from climate catastrophe to global poverty, to the international refugee crisis to health pandemics.

In contrast to this, today’s defence and security review shows Boris Johnson’s Tories are intent on an increasingly militaristic and belligerent agenda.

Lifting the cap on the number of Trident nuclear warheads the UK can stockpile by more than 40% to 260 is totally wrong. It is in conflict with our legal obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is at odds with the new UN Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons globally. It also runs counter to the example set by President Biden of renewing a nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia.

At a time when our public services are at breaking point due to a decade of austerity, the decision to spend billions more on nuclear weapons we should never use shows the Tories have the wrong priorities.

Sabre rattling, initiating a new nuclear arms race and increasing tension with Russia and China provides no way forward for humanity and will make the world more, not less, dangerous. We need to be working together internationally to solve problems not creating new ones.

The Tories have not learnt the lessons of how ill-prepared we were to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic; they should be prioritising the health service and regenerating our economy rather than ploughing vast amounts of resources into nuclear weapons and hikes in military spending.

Real security is not provided by increasing our nuclear arsenal and taking an increasingly bellicose stance in the international arena.

Nor is it provided by continuing arms exports that fuel wars and conflicts, not least the UK’s continuing sales of arms to Saudi Arabia that are used in the war on Yemen.

It is time for a change of priorities – to push for peace and to put our planet, health, lives and livelihoods first.

COVID-19

Facebook is rolling out new tools to help people get vaccinated against Covid-19

By Mark Zuckerberg

Today we’re launching a global campaign to help bring 50 million people a step closer to getting Covid-19 vaccines.

We’ve already connected over 2 billion people to authoritative Covid-19 information. Now that many countries are moving towards vaccinations for all adults, we’re working on tools to make it easier for everyone to get vaccinated as well.

First, we’re launching a tool that shows you when and where you can get vaccinated, and gives you a link to make an appointment. This will be in the Covid Information Center, which we’ll show people right in their News Feed. We’ve already seen people use Facebook to find vaccination appointments, so this should enable millions more people to do the same.

Second, we’re bringing the Covid Information Center to Instagram, and we’ll show it to people prominently there too.

Third, we’re working with health authorities and governments to expand their WhatsApp chatbots to help people register for vaccines. More than 3 billion messages related to Covid have already been sent by governments, nonprofits and international organizations to citizens through official WhatsApp chatbots, so this update will help with the vaccination effort as well.

The data shows the vaccines are safe and they work. They’re our best hope for getting past this virus and getting back to normal life. I’m looking forward to getting mine, and I hope you are too.

Cool Leaders

Facebook 17

By Mark Zuckerberg

17 years ago, the first students signed up for Facebook and started connecting with friends. It’s been a wild journey ever since and I want to thank all of you for being part of this community.

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together these last 17 years, but I’m even more optimistic about the years ahead.

The world faces historic challenges right now and we’re committed to doing our part to help. Last year, we ran the largest voter information campaign in recent history and helped more than 4 million people register and vote. This year, we’ll run the largest worldwide campaign promoting authoritative Covid vaccine information to help put this pandemic behind us.

We’re building the community infrastructure to support the diversity of communities needed for everyone in the world to join ones that are meaningful in their lives. I think this is one of the most important things we can do to help strengthen our social fabric.

We’re building privacy-focused social platforms from the bottom up based on end-to-end encryption in WhatsApp and Messenger, and then building lots of private social tools like groups, video calling, payments, co-watching, and more on top of that foundation.

We’re building commerce tools to give more than 200 million small businesses the same tools that historically only bigger companies have had — from tools to reach customers to ways to easily set up a shop on Facebook and Instagram even when your physical store is closed.

We’re building the next major computing platform with augmented and virtual reality. It will deliver the experience of “presence” — that you’re right there with another person. It will open opportunities by letting you teleport anywhere without having to commute.

And we’re building a new model of governance for online communities. The Oversight Board is one piece that provides independent and binding appeals, and now we’re working to establish more aspects of independent community governance in the years ahead.

If we can accomplish these goals, then the years ahead will be even more exciting than the 17 years so far. Thanks for being on this journey with us.

Cool Leaders

There are four big themes Facebook are focused on for the year ahead

By Mark Zuckerberg

I just shared our community update and quarterly results. There are four big themes I’m focused on for the year ahead: communities, private messaging, commerce tools for small businesses, and building the next computing platform. Here’s what I said about each on our earnings call:


Our community and business had a strong end of the year. As Covid continued to keep many of us apart and at home, people and businesses continued relying on our services to stay in touch and create economic opportunity. 2.6 billion people now use one or more of our apps each day and more than 200 million businesses — mostly small businesses — use our free tools to reach customers.

Those numbers give a sense of scale, but some of the stories we hear show the impact. Groups have formed where Covid long-haulers are helping each other through a scary experience where there’s not much else to turn to. Teachers are sending class assignments to students through WhatsApp. Local bookstores and coffee shops are using Instagram to let customers know they’re open for curbside pick-up. People came together to raise over $1.8 billion for nonprofits and personal causes through our fundraising tools last year — including $175 million for Covid-related causes alone. I’m proud of the role our services played in helping people support each other during what has been such a hard time.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time on recent earnings calls talking about our election integrity efforts, so I’m not going to discuss them at length today, but I do want to call out that, according to our estimates, we easily surpassed our goal to help 4 million people register to vote as part of the largest effort to distribute authoritative voting information in recent history — and I want to thank everyone in our teams and outside involved with that effort.

Today I’m going to focus on our product work, and specifically I’m going to focus on four themes that I’m excited about for the year ahead: communities, private messaging, commerce tools for small businesses, and building the next computing platform.

Let’s start with communities. I think that helping people build communities is one of the most important things that we can do. Our social fabric is made of multiple different layers through which we get our social support. First, we all have friends and family. That’s the most personal layer. Then we have communities we’re part of — where we feel a sense of purpose and belonging, explore interests, develop skills, grow as individuals, and meet new people. And finally, there’s the safety net that society and government provide. In many parts of the world, there’s been an unfortunate decline in community participation over the last several decades – that’s that second layer. This isn’t something that we can solve alone, but I think we can help. So now that we’ve helped billions of people stay connected with friends and family, helping everyone find and participate in communities that are meaningful to them has been our next goal. We even updated our mission a few years ago to reflect this, making it: “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Today, more than 600 million people are members of a group on Facebook that they consider to be meaningful in their lives. This has grown steadily over time — and I hear all the time from people who are in parenting groups that they’re a major resource as they navigate raising kids, or from people who found a group that shares the same health condition and they can lean on that community for knowledge and support, or from people who’ve moved to a new place and joined local groups to meet people and get situated.

Our product focus now is to develop this community infrastructure beyond feeds and message boards to help people build and run full self-sustaining community institutions. So we’re building tools to help groups get things done together and provide support for more people that span messaging, video chat, and even communities’ own websites. And we are exploring different ways to raise funds, including donations, merchandise and membership fees, to help group leaders support their community’s operations, and hire people for different roles needed to build sustainable communities for the long term.

As we continue to focus on this, we need to make sure that the communities people connect with are healthy and positive, and that’s something we’ve been focused on for a while now. One way of course that we do this is by taking down groups that break our rules against things like violence or hate speech. In September, we shared that we had removed more than 1 million groups in the last year alone. But there are also a lot of groups that we may not want to encourage people to join, even if they don’t violate our policies. So for example, we stopped recommending civic and political groups in the US ahead of the elections. We’re continuing to fine tune how this works, but now we plan to keep civic and political groups out of recommendations for the long term, and we plan to expand that policy globally. To be clear, this is a continuation of work we’ve been doing for a while to turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations and communities.

Now, along these same lines, we’re currently considering steps we could take to reduce the amount of political content in News Feed as well. We’re still working through exactly the best ways to do this. And to be clear, of course we’ll still enable people to engage in political groups and discussions if they want to. These can often be important and helpful. They can be ways to organize grassroots movements, speak out against injustice, or learn from people with different perspectives. So we want these discussions to be able to keep happening. But one of the top pieces of feedback we’re hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services.
So one theme for this year is that we’re going to continue to focus on helping millions more people participate in healthy communities and we’re going to focus even more on being a force for bringing people closer together.

Next, let’s talk about private messaging. As we’ve discussed before, while people enjoy connecting with friends and communities in the digital equivalent of a town square in apps like Facebook and Instagram, the fastest growing social experiences are about connecting privately in the digital equivalent of the living room in services like WhatsApp and Messenger. That’s why we kicked off a big effort a couple of years ago to re-imagine what a modern social platform would look like if you built it from the bottom up to be privacy-first.

We identified several core principles. A private social platform should be built around the most intimate interactions that we have, and that’s one-on-one conversations. The most important aspect of privacy and security is that your conversations should stay between you. That means your conversations should always be end-to-end encrypted and they should disappear when you’re done with them. Safety and reducing spam matter too, and that means we should maintain a minimum amount of metadata to build sophisticated tools to stop bad actors using these services. And you should have choice of what services you use, so we should make messaging as interoperable as possible across our apps. And finally, no matter what, we should only store people’s data in countries where we know we can keep it secure — and we should continue opposing data localization in countries with weak records on human rights or privacy.

I think these are the privacy principles that matter most to people — first and foremost people care that their conversations stay private, but after that people care about safety and other convenience too. And from this perspective, WhatsApp — and the direction we’re heading in with Messenger — are the best private social apps available.

We have a lot of competitors who make claims about privacy that are often misleading. Apple recently released so-called nutrition labels which focus largely on metadata apps collect rather than the privacy and security of people’s actual messages. But iMessage stores non-end-to-end encrypted backups of your messages by default unless you disable iCloud, so Apple and governments have the ability to access most people’s messages. So when it comes to what matters most — protecting people’s messages, I think that WhatsApp is clearly superior.

Now, since I try to use these earnings calls to discuss aspects of business strategy that I think are important for investors to understand, I do want to highlight that we increasingly see Apple as one of our biggest competitors. iMessage is a key linchpin of their ecosystem. It comes pre-installed on every iPhone and they’ve preferenced it with private APIs and permissions, which is why iMessage is the most used messaging service in the US. And now, we’re also seeing Apple’s business depend more and more on gaining share in services against us and other developers. Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own. This impacts the growth of millions of businesses around the world, including with their upcoming iOS 14 changes, so many small businesses will no longer be able to reach their customers with targeted ads. Apple may say that they’re doing this to help people, but the moves clearly track their competitive interests. I think this dynamic is important for people to understand because we and others are going to be up against it for the foreseeable future.

Our messaging services continue growing, but it’s an uphill battle and our services just need to be that much better as private social platforms to succeed. To make sure we remain the best, a couple years back we kicked off a number of long-term efforts that have started shipping recently, and more of these projects around strengthening encryption, ephemerality, interoperability and offering other tools are going to be shipping throughout this year.

Now, let’s talk about commerce. Our goal here is to give every individual entrepreneur and small business access to the same kinds of tools that historically only the big companies have had access to. We’ve always cared about this, but the pandemic has made it more urgent.

It used to be the case that only large companies could afford to have analytics or targeted advertising capacity to reach their customers. It was expensive to build these capabilities and often required building teams and storing large amounts of data in-house, which most small businesses can’t do. One of the things I’m most proud of is that we build the tools so we can offer these same capabilities to small businesses, often for free. So when you hear people say that we hold a lot of data, that’s because hundreds of millions of businesses that would have otherwise had to do this individually and would have had no easy way of doing so are now using our services to help them reach customers. When you hear people say that we’re connecting data from lots of sources, that’s to help small businesses reach customers more efficiently. Big companies often do this themselves, but small businesses can’t a lot of times, so we do this for them. When you hear people argue that we shouldn’t do these things — or that we should go back to the old days of untargeted television ads – I think that what they are really arguing for is a regression where only the largest companies have this capacity, small businesses are severely disadvantaged, and competition is diminished.

With our commerce tools, we’ve made it so a business can set up a shop once, and then they’ll have an online storefront in both Facebook and Instagram immediately, and eventually on WhatsApp and Messenger as well. We recently expanded checkout to all US businesses, making the process of buying a lot more seamless. And as lockdowns have continued, we saw more small businesses and creators also use Paid Online Events to make money.

WhatsApp is also an important part of our strategy here. More than 175 million people message a WhatsApp business account every day and we’re building new features to make it even easier to transact with businesses in the app. We introduced carts, which lets people browse catalogs, select multiple products, and send the order as a message to the business.

The more that people interact with businesses, the better tools that we’re going to need to provide for businesses to help them support their customers. Many businesses need more than a phone to manage their customer service, so we’re building tools to let businesses store and manage their WhatsApp chats using our secure hosting infrastructure if they would like. We’re in the process of updating WhatsApp’s privacy policy and terms of service to reflect these optional experiences.

Now, to clarify some confusion that we’ve seen, this update does not change the privacy of anyone’s messages with friends and family. All of these messages are end-to-end encrypted – which means we can’t see or hear what you say, and we never will unless the person you message chooses to share it. And business messages will only be hosted on our infrastructure if the business chooses to do so. We want everyone to know the lengths we go to protect your private messages, so we’re moving the date of this update back to give everyone time to understand what the update means.

Finally, let’s discuss our work building the next computing platform. This is one of the areas where I’m most excited about our progress heading into 2021. If you look at the history of computing, every 15 years or so a new major platform emerges that integrates technology more naturally and ubiquitously into our lives — starting with mainframes, then PCs, then browser-based computing, and then mobile. And I believe the next logical step is an immersive computing platform that delivers this magical sense of presence — that you’re really there with another person or in another place. Our phones can’t deliver this, and neither can any technology that has come before it. This is going to unlock the types of social experiences I’ve dreamed of building since I was a kid, and it’s what we’re building towards at Facebook Reality Labs.

We launched Quest 2 in October and it’s on track to be the first mainstream virtual reality headset. We designed it so anyone could jump in — with the best and most immersive experience out there — and at a price that makes it available to as many people as possible. I think that Facebook has done more than any other company to bring virtual reality to the mainstream. It’s been great to see so many people embrace this, especially this year during the pandemic. We’re seeing people use it to play games with friends when they can’t be together in person, do workouts in their living room, or to meet with colleagues while working from home. There are a lot of reasons Quest 2 was one of the hot holiday gifts this year.

We’re also seeing a growing ecosystem of developers building amazing new experiences for the platform. Right now, more than 60 Oculus developers are generating revenue in the millions — nearly twice as many as a few months ago.

In previous quarters, I’ve talked about our long term, future goals when it comes to virtual reality, but I think that this quarter’s results show that this future is here.

Augmented reality glasses are going to be a key part of this vision too. We’re still working on the foundational technology to underpin these — and the ultimate product is still some years away. But this year we’re excited to deliver a first glimpse of what will be when we launch our first pair of smart glasses from Ray-Ban, in partnership with Luxottica.

During this pandemic, we’ve also seen Portal has proven to be a great way for people to stay connected — and especially over the holiday as families had to celebrate apart. This year, we’re focused on expanding the role of Portal and virtual reality presence into the workplace — bringing more features that improve remote presence, collaboration and productivity.

2021 has a lot of unknowns. We don’t know when vaccines will be widely available, when our teams will be back in the office, or when our lives are going to start feeling normal again. But what I do know is that we’re going to keep investing in and innovating on the big themes I discussed here in order to put more power in the hands of people and small businesses. I personally believe that technology can unlock progress and opportunity — and that the full story of the internet has not yet been written. That’s why I’m hopeful for the year ahead, and grateful that you’re all on this journey with us.

Cool Leaders

10 years at Facebook

By Fidji Sino

Today marks 10 years at Facebook.
I still vividly remember my first day – I knew deep down that this was going to be a wild adventure, yet could not have imagined quite how much.

From the early days of working in marketing, to discovering my real passion for building products, to leading amazing teams that have each taught me so much – the last 10 years have helped me grow in ways I could never have imagined.

They’ve also taught me how big a privilege it is to build experiences for billions of people – one I never take lightly. My best moments in this job have been meeting with some of the people whose lives have been changed by being able to connect with others: the baker mom who discovered Facebook Live in the very early days of the product (when I wasn’t even sure it was going to work!), built a huge following and gave me the warmest hug at one of our events; the jewelry artist who couldn’t believe how fast her business was taking off thanks to Facebook Ads; the woman who accosted me at an event to thank me for helping find her long-lost sister thanks to Facebook and had me in a puddle of tears on the spot; the non-profit leader who is building patient communities and raising money on Facebook to find a cure for a condition I now have… and so many others.

Facebook is also more than just a company and a product for me. As an immigrant, Facebook quickly became my extended family, my community. The biggest honor of the last ten years has come from being a part of the journey of so many wonderful people here, and making each other better. This community celebrated my successes and believed in me sometimes more than I believed in myself, and gave me confidence to always take on the next challenge. I still remember getting a big round of applause to encourage me and make me feel less self-conscious when I presented to Mark and the exec team my plan for Video completely lying down from my bed due to pregnancy complications (video calls from bed were less “normal” five years ago than they’ve been this year!) – it’s a simple example of how people here lift each other up in times of need, and it matters so much.

My biggest piece of advice when people ask is to surround yourself with people who see the magic in you and are willing to shine a light on it, because it makes all the difference, and while I could fill so many paragraphs with people who have done that for me here, I just want to give the biggest thanks to Mark, Sheryl, Chris and Will for the chance of a lifetime. I’m forever grateful. Here is to the next 10.

Cool Leaders

Zuck: We are extending the block we have placed on President Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely

By Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden.

His decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the US and around the world. We removed these statements yesterday because we judged that their effect — and likely their intent — would be to provoke further violence.

Following the certification of the election results by Congress, the priority for the whole country must now be to ensure that the remaining 13 days and the days after inauguration pass peacefully and in accordance with established democratic norms.

Over the last several years, we have allowed President Trump to use our platform consistent with our own rules, at times removing content or labeling his posts when they violate our policies. We did this because we believe that the public has a right to the broadest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech. But the current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.

We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.

COVID-19

Oliver Stone: “I got vaccinated in Russia”

By Oliver Stone

Many have wondered why I was vaccinated in Russia against COVID.

(1) The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines won’t be available for most of us in the United States for weeks, if not more.

(2) I happened to be in Russia shooting some of their nuclear energy facilities for our documentary on climate change. One of these facilities at Beloyarsk contains the state-of-the-art “fast breeder reactors,” which utilize their own nuclear waste and which apparently have never been visited by an American. In that regard, I also visited one of France’s EDF (Électricité de France) plants. And further visits are planned to US facilities. Also, I should point out that the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology is highly respected for its virology and other work going back many years. The vaccine is being offered for free at numerous clinics in Moscow and nationwide.

(3) There’s no need for ideological competition here between Russia and the United States, which I’ve seen too much of in our media. In fact, there’s been very little mention that the Russians were developing this vaccine successfully over the summer. There’s a paranoia here in this country about Russia and China, which many of us don’t share. The peace of the world is at stake, and when it comes to climate and COVID issues, we must learn how to use the best minds we have here on earth to attack the major issues. There’s no reason why the US, Russia, and China couldn’t be in a partnership for clean energy. But our arms industry’s greed for profit is the one ugly thing preventing this from happening.

(4) Most telling that these recent cyber and poisoning issues, neither of which we’ve ever offered solid evidence of, come up just as the Biden Administration begins. It seems our intelligence agencies are complicit with our media. See this analysis from Caitlin Johnstone.

Sport

#S7ILLRISING

By Lewis Hamilton

Leading up to today and even after I crossed the line, I’ve been gathering my thoughts about what’s most important to me. This year has been so unpredictable. With the pandemic and obviously the season being pushed back by several months, I had the most downtime I’ve ever had in my life. It gave me the chance to really think about my ultimate purpose. Seven World Championships means the world to me, I can’t even describe how much, but there’s still another race we’ve yet to win.

This year I’ve been driven not just by my desire to win on the track, but by a desire to help push our sport, and our world to become more diverse and inclusive. I promise you I am not going to stop fighting for change. We have a long way to go but I will continue to push for equality within our sport, and within the greater world we live in.

Equaling Michael Schumacher’s record puts a spotlight on me that I know won’t be here forever. So, while you’re here, paying attention, I want to ask everyone to do their part in helping to create a more equal world. Let’s be more accepting and kinder to each other. Let’s make it so that opportunity is not something that is dependent on background or skin colour.

Nothing is impossible. A driving force for me this year has been to set an example for the next generation, to never give up on your dreams. I was told by many that my dream was impossible, yet here I am. I want you to know that you can do it too. Never give up, keep fighting, and let’s keep rising to the occasion. #S7ILLRISING