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Amazon’s Business Closely Entwined With China, Suppliers Linked to Forced Labour: Watchdog Group

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By Reuters | Updated: 9 March 2022

A report from the Tech Transparency Project said that Amazon’s business is closely entwined with China and its suppliers linked to forced labour in the Xinjiang region of China.

The research group that is run by the non-profit Campaign for Accountability and is often critical of large tech companies said that Amazon’s supplier list includes firms accused of using Uyghur labourers, reported Louise Matsakis, a tech investigator, writing in NBC News.

The Tech Transparency Project identified three Amazon suppliers that have been linked to forced labour in China directly: Luxshare Precision Industry, AcBel Polytech and Lens Technology.

According to its public supplier list, Amazon works with two subsidiaries of Luxshare: Dongguan Luxshare Precision Industry and Shenzhen Luxshare Electro-Acoustic Technology.

The suppliers help produce Amazon-branded devices and products sold under house labels like AmazonBasics.

The report also warned that some of Amazon’s third-party sellers may be offering products made using labour from the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, such as cotton imports that are already the subject of US sanctions, said Matsakis.

“The findings raise questions about Amazon’s exposure to China’s repression of minority Uyghurs in Xinjiang — and the extent to which the e-commerce giant is adequately vetting its supplier relationships,” researchers from the Tech Transparency Project wrote in the report.

Amazon declined to comment on the specific allegations. In a general statement, Erika Reynoso, a spokesperson for the company, said: “Amazon complies with the laws and regulations in all jurisdictions in which it operates, and expects suppliers to adhere to our Supply Chain Standards. We take allegations of human rights abuses seriously, including those related to the use or export of forced labour. Whenever we find or receive proof of forced labour, we take action.”

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank, estimates that from 2017 to 2019, at least 80,000 people from Xinjiang, a mostly Muslim region, were coerced to work in factories across the country as part of what the Chinese government calls “labour transfer” programs. The workers are often taken from their family homes and generally have few rights, according to researchers, reported NBC News.

American companies are under increased pressure to ensure their supply chains don’t trace back to Xinjiang, where human rights groups estimate roughly 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities have been detained in internment camps. Some of the facilities reportedly have factories built inside them.

In December, US President Joe Biden signed a law instructing officials to treat all imports from Xinjiang as tainted by forced labour unless proven otherwise.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Tesla Hikes Price for All EV Models in the US Market Amid Global Supply-Chain Issues

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By Reuters | Updated: 16 June 2022

Tesla raised prices for all its car models in the US, its latest price hike amid ongoing global supply-chain issues.

The electric carmaker increased its Model Y long-range price to $65,990 (roughly Rs. 51,53,000) from $62,990 (roughly Rs. 49,00,000), its website showed on Thursday, after delaying the deliveries of some long-range models in the United States by up to a month.

The price hike comes as costs of raw materials have surged, including aluminum that is used in cars.

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has warned about the risk of a recession in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Musk said he had a “super bad feeling” about the economy after cutting about 10 percent of jobs at Tesla.

Tesla recently cancelled three online recruitment events for China scheduled this month, the latest development after chief executive Elon Musk threatened job cuts at the electric car maker, saying it was “overstaffed” in some areas.

However, Musk had not commented specifically on staffing in China, which made more than half of the vehicles for the automaker globally and contributed a quarter of its revenue in 2021.

The company cancelled the three events for positions in sales, R&D and its supply chain originally scheduled for June 16, 23 and 30, notifications on messaging app WeChat showed late on Thursday, without stating a reason.

Notification of a June 9 event to recruit staff for “smart manufacturing” roles was not visible and it was not immediately clear it had been held as planned.

The China operation is still allowing resume submission for more than 1,000 openings posted on the social media platform, such as aerodynamics engineers, supply chain managers, store managers, factory supervisors and workers.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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YouTube Back Online After Outage Disrupts Services Across the World

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By Reuters | Updated: 13 April 2022

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube said on Tuesday it has fixed issues that had disrupted certain features for several thousands of its users across the online video sharing and social media platform.

“All fixed – you should now be able to log in, switch between accounts, and use the account menu & navigation bar across all services (YouTube, YouTube TV, YouTube Music, YouTube Studio) and devices,” YouTube tweeted.

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OneWeb to Launch Satellites With Rival SpaceX After Suspending Ties With Russian Agency

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By Reuters | Updated: 22 March 2022

Weeks after Moscow forced the 11th-hour cancellation of a rocket launch for British satellite venture OneWeb from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the company said on Monday it has contracted with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to send its satellites into orbit. Terms of the deal with California-based SpaceX, a direct competitor of OneWeb in the burgeoning broadband satellite industry, were not disclosed.

Earlier this month, OneWeb called off the scheduled March 4 launch of 36 satellites from Baikonur and suspended ties with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos because of last-minute demands imposed on the company by Moscow, including a guarantee that OneWeb’s technology would not be used for military purposes.

The OneWeb launch scrub came amid heightened tensions between Russia and NATO governments, including Britain, over economic sanctions imposed against Moscow by the West in response to Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

The British government, which holds a stake in OneWeb, also said it was reviewing its participation in further projects with Russia in light of the Ukraine crisis.

The British satellite firm expects its first launch with SpaceX later this year to add to its constellation of 428 satellites already in low-Earth orbit.

“With these launch plans in place, we’re on track to finish building out our full fleet of satellites,” OneWeb Chief Executive Officer Neil Masterson said.

OneWeb, which plans to offer universal broadband through a network that will ultimately consist of 650 satellites, was rescued from bankruptcy by the British government and Indian telecoms giant Bharti Global in 2020. Eutelsat Communications and SoftBank Group are among other investors in the firm.

SpaceX’s Starlink, one of several ventures in the fast-growing satellite broadband business, including Amazon subsidiary Project Kuiper, has put some 1,500 satellites in operation, providing internet access to regions underserved or hard to reach for other services.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Facebook Fails to Detect Hate Against Rohingya Muslims

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By Associated Press | Updated: 22 March 2022

A new report has found that Facebook failed to detect blatant hate speech and calls to violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority years after such behaviour was found to have played a determining role in the genocide against them.

The report shared exclusively with The Associated Press showed the rights group Global Witness submitted eight paid ads for approval to Facebook, each including different versions of hate speech against Rohingya. All eight ads were approved by Facebook to be published.

The group pulled the ads before they were posted or paid for, but the results confirmed that despite its promises to do better, Facebook’s leaky controls still fail to detect hate speech and calls for violence on its platform.

The army conducted what it called a clearance campaign in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2017 after an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. More than 7,00,000 Rohingya fled into neighbouring Bangladesh and security forces were accused of mass rapes, killings and torching thousands of homes.

On February 1 of last year, Myanmar’s military forcibly took control of the country, jailing democratically elected government officials. Rohingya refugees have condemned the military takeover and said it makes them more afraid to return to Myanmar.

Experts say such ads have continued to appear and that despite its promises to do better and assurances that it has taken its role in the genocide seriously, Facebook still fails even the simplest of tests — ensuring that paid ads that run on its site do not contain hate speech calling for the killing of Rohingya Muslims.

“The current killing of the Kalar is not enough, we need to kill more!” read one proposed paid post from Global Witness, using a slur often used in Myanmar to refer to people of east Indian or Muslim origin.

“They are very dirty. The Bengali/Rohingya women have a very low standard of living and poor hygiene. They are not attractive,” read another.

“These posts are shocking in what they encourage and are a clear sign that Facebook has not changed or done what they told the public what they would do: properly regulate themselves,” said Ronan Lee, a research fellow at the Institute for Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University, London.

The eight ads from Global Witness all used hate speech language taken directly from the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in their report to the Human Rights Council. Several examples were from past Facebook posts.

The fact that Facebook approved all eight ads is especially concerning because the company claims to hold advertisements to an “even stricter” standard than regular, unpaid posts, according to their help center page for paid advertisements.

“I accept the point that eight isn’t a very big number. But I think the findings are really stark, that all eight of the ads were accepted for publication,” said Rosie Sharpe, a campaigner at Global Witness. “I think you can conclude from that that the overwhelming majority of hate speech is likely to get through.”

Facebook’s parent company Meta said it has invested in improving its safety and security controls in Myanmar, including banning military accounts after the Tatmadaw, as the armed forces are locally known, seized power and imprisoned elected leaders in the 2021 coup.

“We’ve built a dedicated team of Burmese speakers, banned the Tatmadaw, disrupted networks manipulating public debate and taken action on harmful misinformation to help keep people safe. We’ve also invested in Burmese-language technology to reduce the prevalence of violating content,” Rafael Frankel, director of public policy for emerging markets at Meta Asia Pacific wrote in an e-mailed statement to AP on March 17. “This work is guided by feedback from experts, civil society organizations and independent reports, including the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar’s findings and the independent Human Rights Impact Assessment we commissioned and released in 2018.”

Facebook has been used to spread hate speech and amplify military propaganda in Myanmar in the past.

Shortly after Myanmar became connected to the internet in 2000, Facebook paired with its telecom providers to allow customers to use the platform without having to pay for the data, which was still expensive at the time. Use of the platform exploded. For many in Myanmar, Facebook became the internet itself.

Local internet policy advocates repeatedly told Facebook hate speech was spreading across the platform, often targeting the Muslim minority Rohingya in the majority Buddhist nation.

For years Facebook failed to invest in content moderators who spoke local languages or fact checkers with an understanding of the political situation in Myanmar or to close specific accounts or delete pages being used to propagate hatred of the Rohingya, said Tun Khin, president of Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, a London-based Rohingya advocacy organization.

In March 2018, less than six months after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled violence in western Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, told reporters social media had “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public.”

“Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media,” Darusman said.

Asked about Myanmar a month later at a US Senate hearing, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook planned to hire “dozens” of Burmese speakers to moderate content and would work with civil society groups to identify hate figures and develop new technologies to combat hate speech.

“Hate speech is very language specific. It’s hard to do it without people who speak the local language and we need to ramp up our effort there dramatically,” Zuckerberg said.

Yet in internal files leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen last year, AP found that breaches persisted. The company stepped up efforts to combat hate speech but never fully developed the tools and strategies required to do so.

Rohingya refugees have sued Facebook for more than $150 billion (roughly Rs. 11,46,180 crore), accusing it of failing to stop hate speech that incited violence against the Muslim ethnic group by military rulers and their supporters in Myanmar. Rohingya youth groups based in the Bangladesh refugee camps have filed a separate complaint in Ireland with the 38-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development calling for Facebook to provide some remediation programs in the camps.

The company now called Meta has refused to say how many of its content moderators read Burmese and can thus detect hate speech in Myanmar.

“Rohingya genocide survivors continue to live in camps today and Facebook continue to fail them,” said Tun Khin. “Facebook needs to do more.”

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Zomato Instant 10-Minute Food Delivery Service to Be Launched Soon

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 22 March 2022

Zomato will soon start instant 10-minute food delivery, company founder Deepinder Goyal said on Monday. In a blog post, he however said the online food delivery platform is not putting any pressure on its delivery partners to deliver food faster but will achieve the target by relying on a dense finishing stations’ network, which is located in close proximity to high-demand customer neighbourhoods.

In a blog post explaining why the company is getting into instant delivery, Goyal said, “Customers are increasingly demanding quicker answers to their needs. They don’t want to plan, and they don’t want to wait. In fact, sorting restaurants by fastest delivery time is one of the most used features on the Zomato app.” After becoming a frequent customer of Blinkit, one of Zomato’s investments in the quick commerce space, Goyal said he started feeling that the 30-minute average delivery time by Zomato is too slow and will soon have to become obsolete.

“If we don’t make it obsolete, someone else will,” he asserted.

Sharing how the 10-minute deliveries will be achieved, he said, “Each of our finishing stations will house bestseller items (around 20-30 dishes) from various restaurants based on demand predictability and hyperlocal preferences. Luckily, the experience of having delivered 1.35 billion orders across India over the years makes our job a little easier. “

Clarifying that Zomato doesn’t put any pressure on delivery partners to deliver food faster to fulfil our quick delivery promise, he said, “Nor do we penalise delivery partners for late deliveries.” “The delivery partners are not informed of the promised time of delivery. Time optimisation does not happen on the road and does not put any lives at risk.” Sophisticated dish-level demand prediction algorithms, and future-ready in-station robotics are employed to ensure that food is sterile, fresh and hot at the time it is picked by the delivery partner, he added. Goyal further said, “We are going to pilot Zomato Instant with four stations in Gurugram from next month onwards.”

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Facebook, Instagram Banned by Russia on ‘Extremism’ Charges Amid Ukraine Crisis

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By Associated Press | Updated: 22 March 2022 

A Moscow court banned Facebook and Instagram on Monday for what it deemed extremist activity in a case against their parent company, Meta. The Tverskoy District Court fulfilled a request from prosecutors to outlaw Meta and banned Facebook and Instagram for what they called “extremist activities.” Russian prosecutors have accused the social media platforms of ignoring government requests to remove what they described as fake news about Russian military actions in Ukraine and calls for anti-war protests in Russia.

The court’s ruling bans Meta from opening offices and doing business in Russia. Meta declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Prosecutors haven’t requested to ban the Meta-owned messaging service WhatsApp, which is widely popular in Russia. The authorities also emphasized that they do not intend to punish individual Russians who use Facebook or Instagram.

Instagram and Facebook were already blocked in Russia after the country’s communications and media regulator Roskomnadzor said they were being used to call for violence against Russian soldiers. In addition to blocking Facebook and Instagram, Russian authorities also have shut access to foreign media websites, including BBC, the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.

Continuing the effort, Roskomnadzor on Monday blocked the website of Euronews, a European news network. The regulator has also cut Euronews broadcasts.

The court’s verdict comes amid multipronged efforts by Russian authorities to control the message about Russia’s military action in Ukraine, which the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation” intended to uproot alleged “neo-Nazi nationalists.”

A new law fast-tracked on March 4 by the Kremlin-controlled parliament, a week after Russia launched the attack on Ukraine, envisions prison terms of up to 15 years for posting “fake” information about the military that differs from the official narrative.

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