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Facebook says remote working move could slow jobs growth in Ireland



Facebook still plans to “aggressively” grow staff numbers in its European headquarters in Ireland but a company-wide policy allowing permanent remote work from other countries could slow that growth over time, its Irish chief said on Friday.

Ireland’s economy is hugely reliant on multinational firms that employ around one in eight Irish workers and any move to facilitate remote working abroad would add to the challenge already posed by a planned global corporate tax overhaul.

Facebook, which is one of Ireland’s largest such employers with around 3,000 full-time staff and another 3,000 contractors, will allow some workers to permanently relocate after more than a year of many working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible employees in Facebook offices in Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom will be able to move to another one of those locations. U.S.-based staff can also move to Canada, it added.

Facebook Ireland’s Gareth Lambe said it was still working out how many Irish-based employees would be eligible to take advantage of the policy. Fewer than half of its staff are Irish nationals.

“We’re going to continue to grow aggressively,” he told national broadcaster RTE, citing a move in the next year or two to a new 57,000 square metre campus in Dublin that it intends to fill with 7,000 employees.

“This won’t have on balance a material impact on the growth of employment for Facebook in Ireland,” he said, referring to the remote working policy. “We have a target this year of adding about an additional 700 employees and we’re going to continue to do that and we’re going to continue to grow,”

“But this is a significant evolution and in the future over the coming years and decades, it is possible that the growth of jobs and numbers may not be as fast in Ireland as it would have been before it.”

Lambe said Facebook’s main Europe, Middle East and Africa decision makers will continue to be based in Dublin, meaning its corporate tax status will not change. However those permanently relocating abroad would no longer pay income tax in Ireland.

Responding to the move, Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said one of the consequences of the pandemic will be a lot more mobility of workers across national borders but that foreign direct investment will remain “an indispensable part” of Ireland’s economic model.


(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Activision Blizzard lawsuit: Everything you need to know – CNET



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Activision Blizzard, the company behind some of the biggest franchises in all of gaming, has been rocked by an explosive lawsuit. The gaming giant is being sued by the state of California, which accuses it of workplace discrimination against its female workforce. 

The suit, filed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, argues that the company has a “frat boy” workplace culture and alleges several alarming incidents of discrimination and harassment.

The suit didn’t take long to make an impact. Many employees have spoken out in support of the claims, over 2,000 have signed an open letter calling for action by the company, and a walkout protest was staged last Wednesday. After initially rejecting many of the DFEH’s allegations, Activision Blizzard has said it’ll launch a full probe — and its games will be changed to reflect values of diversity and inclusion.

Activision Blizzard is one of the biggest gaming companies in the world. It owns Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Crash Bandicoot and many more hugely popular franchises and last year recorded $2.2 billion in profit. Here’s everything you need to know about this colossal lawsuit.

What is Activision Blizzard accused of?

The DFEH’s suit accuses Activision Blizzard of workplace discrimination. It alleges women are compensated unfairly — paid less for the same job, scrutinized more heavily than their male peers — and subject to considerable harassment. The agency called Activision Blizzard a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination,” in which women are subject to regular sexual advances by (often high-ranking) men who largely go unpunished.  

Illustrative of the claims DFEH is making against Activision is an office ritual referred to as “cube crawls,” in which men allegedly drink “copious” amounts of alcohol, crawl through the office cubicles and engage in “inappropriate behavior” including groping. The lawsuit describes incidents including allegations that a female employee died by suicide during a business trip as a result of a toxic relationship with a supervisor.  

“Women and girls now make up almost half of gamers in America, but the gaming industry continues to cater to men,” the suit reads. “Activision-Blizzard’s double-digit percentage growth, 10-figure annual revenues and recent diversity marketing campaigns have unfortunately changed little.” 

And then employees reacted?

After DFEH filed its suit, Activision Blizzard responded with a lengthy statement that said the department had filed a rushed, inaccurate report with “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of [Activision Blizzard’s] past.” In an email sent to staff, published by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, vice president of corporate affairs Frances Townsend said the site presented “a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories — some from more than a month ago.” 

These statements evidently didn’t satisfy employees, neither current nor former. Over 2,000 of them signed an open letter to Activision Blizzard leadership in which they criticized the company’s response. (Activision Blizzard currently has around 10,000 employees.) 

“To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership,” the open letter reads, according to Bloomberg. “To claim this is a ‘truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit’ while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse is simply unacceptable.”

The letter signed by employees made three demands. First, that the company issue statements that acknowledge the severity of the allegations. Second, that Townsend resign from her role as executive sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network. Third, that Activision Blizzard’s executive leadership collaborate with employees to ensure a safe workspace to “speak out and come forward.” 

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby KotickActivision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco in October 2016.

Mike Windle/Getty

How did Activision Blizzard respond?   

After Activision Blizzard’s first statement, along with the one made by Townsend, was so thoroughly rejected by employees, the company appears to be taking the suit more seriously. Last Tuesday the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, issued a letter addressing the suit, and the concerns of employees.

“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf,” it reads. “We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.”

Kotick announced that a law firm, WilmerHale, will be hired to evaluate the company’s “policies and procedures.” 

Beyond the probe, Kotick outlined several changes that would be made effective immediately. The company would be investigating “each and every claim” of discrimination and harassment being made, and will host listening sessions to collaborate with employees on how to improve the workplace culture. Activision Blizzard will also be “evaluating managers and leaders” across the company and making personnel changes as appropriate. Finally, changes will be made to in-game content.

“We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content,” Kotick wrote.


Employees at Wednesday’s walkout.

David McNew/Getty

What about the walkout?

Alongside the open letter signed by over 2,000 employees, workers at the company planned a strike last Wednesday morning. Seeking now to be more collaborative with aggrieved workers, Activision Blizzard sent an email to staff saying they would get paid time off for attending the protest.

Hundreds of employees took up the offer, as they set up a picket line outside of Activision Blizzard’s Irvine, California headquarters. Employees held signs that read “every voice matters”, “fight bad guys in game, fight bad guys IRL” and “nerf male priviledge.” (When developers weaken characters in games like Overwatch it’s known as “nerfing” them.) 

Over 350 employees took up the offer, reports The Washington Post.  The walkout participants acknowledged Kotick’s letter, but had four additional demands, as seen in the tweet above. These include greater pay transparency and employee participation in hiring and promotion policies.

What has the industry reaction been?

On Aug. 30 Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Take-Two Interactive, the studio behind Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, assured investors that his company wouldn’t tolerate a workplace environment like the one allegedly seen within Activision Blizzard.

“We will not tolerate harassment or discrimination or bad behavior of any kind. We never have,” he said. “Is there more we can do? I’m certain there is. Do we feel like we’re in a pretty good place? We’re grateful that we do feel that way right now.”

Zelnick is the latest industry figure to weigh in on the lawsuit. 

“It’s our responsibility to ensure this type of behavior is not tolerated at Bungie at any level,” developer Bungie, owned by Activision Blizzard, tweeted, “and that we never excuse it or sweep it under the rug. While the accounts in this week’s news are difficult to read, we hope they will lead to justice, awareness, and accountability.”

Chris Metzen, a co-creator of Blizzard franchise Diablo who left the company in 2016, said: “We failed, and I’m sorry… to all of you at Blizzard — those of you I know and those of you whom I’ve never met — I offer you my very deepest apologies for the part I played in a culture that fostered harassment, inequality, and indifference.”

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What Really Happened At That BlizzCon Panel, According To The Woman In The Video – Kotaku



“I didn’t think that much about it, because there’s always been for the longest time a certain amount of sexism in the games industry that is just there and you learn to roll your eyes and do your best to ignore it and just try to appreciate the things that you do like about it,” Xantia said.

“I loved Diablo II back in the day. Did I love the character model for the Amazon? No, not really. Hell, one of my earliest memories of gaming was being excited about the first Tomb Raider game and thinking, ‘That’s so cool it has a female protagonist.’ And then you see the first model of Lara Croft in the game and you’re like, oh, cool, great, great…”

There’s an audible exhaustion in her voice when she recalls this memory. The 2010 BlizzCon panel wasn’t an anomaly. It wasn’t the mask slipping in front of thousands on video. It was what she had come to expect from a space dominated by men with little regard for anyone else, and as California’s lawsuit and new reporting has confirmed, who were at times explicitly dangerous to the women around them.

Afrasiabi is one of the only people named in California’s lawsuit, accused of sexually harassing and groping female Blizzard employees. It also accused him of having a “Cosby Suite” at BlizzCon where he would also prey on women.

Based on images obtained by Kotaku, the “Cosby Suite’’ was an actual booze-filled party room at BlizzCon 2013 in which Afrasiabi and others would pose with a giant portrait of the comedian. Activision Blizzard confirmed to Kotaku that Afrasiabi was terminated last year for “misconduct.” Brack, the only other person named in California’s lawsuit for failing to address sexual harassment compalints against Afrasiabi, is still currently in charge of Blizzard.

Despite the experience at the panel, Xantia said she tried to get a job at Blizzard in its Strategic Initiatives Department around 2012 and was in the running for a while before ultimately being rejected. “I was pretty heartbroken about it at the time, but man, talk about being lucky in your failures,” she said. “I now feel like I dodged a bullet there.”

Following the resurfacing of the BlizzCon 2010 moment, former World of Warcraft lead designer Greg Street, currently at Riot Games, took to Twitter to apologize in a somewhat meandering tweet thread. He first qualified the “shitty answer” by saying it can be hard to see who’s asking the questions. He also mentioned that developers are nervous up there, in front of the crowd, out of fear they will say the wrong thing. Eventually he settled on, “I find the video embarrassing and I apologize to the player who asked the question and all others who were disappointed with our ‘answer.’”

Xantia said part of what’s been so weird about seeing the video brought back up over a decade later is seeing responses like Street’s.

“I guess Greg Street now knows who I am now. Cool. OK. And also that wasn’t really an apology, but sure you do you. Whatever gets you to sleep at night,” she said. “I was joking with a friend when I saw it, when I saw everything he was writing about that, just, you know, ‘Oh, I couldn’t see her react, I couldn’t see her face’ and how he’s disappointed in all of these things. Yeah, but your ears were working just fine. Did you not hear hundreds of people booing me? What would it have taken to say, ‘Hey, guys, come on, that’s not cool’? “Whenever you start explaining yourself to that degree, it stops being an apology.”

Xantia thinks Blizzard needs to be more candid too.

“One of the biggest things that they could do is, actually be honest and have that kind of ‘boys club’ not be above reproach,” she said. “It has to be more than just a show of ‘We did these couple acts of penance and now we’re all better.’ I think there actually has to be a fundamental reevaluation.”

Xantia’s found the recent actions of other developers at Activision Blizzard, including an open letter and walkout, to be cause for optimism. And despite how bizarre it’s been to play such a visible role in the public outcry that’s currently unfolding after all these years, she’s hopeful the negative experience is now making a positive contribution.

“I’ve gotten a moderate amount of attention for all this when I’m only tangentially connected to it,” she said. “I think the important voices are for the women who were actually at Blizzard who have had to endure far, far more than just being dismissed at a convention.”

“There are worse reasons to go viral. And if this helps to actually bring about change then that would be something profoundly good that came out of a pretty small, but still shitty moment.”

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Apple's 512GB M1 Mac Mini falls back to $799 at Amazon – Yahoo News Canada



If you’ve been eyeing Apple’s latest Mac Mini as your next desktop, now is the time to act. You can currently get the 512GB model for $799 at Amazon, or $100 off the normal $899 price. The deal brings the desktop down to just below the record low we saw in March and April. It also means you’re only paying $100 more for double the storage of the $699 base model.

Buy Mac Mini M1 (512GB) at Amazon – $799

That should come in handy if you plan to take full advantage of the Mac Mini’s M1 chip. As we’ve previously noted, Apple’s in-house silicon is a powerhouse that makes quick work of most tasks, be it browsing bloated websites or opening creative editing software. Inside the desktop, you’ll find an 8-core CPU with four performance cores and four efficiency cores and a 16-core Neural Engine. Unlike with the iMac, you’ll also need your own display and peripherals like a keyboard and mouse. 

There are a few caveats, however. The Mac Mini’s RAM and storage aren’t upgradeable and the two rear Thunderbolt ports won’t please those who need extra monitors and faster connectivity. Apple also offers 16GB unified memory, up to 2TB SSD storage and 10 Gigabit Ethernet support at a cost. In fact, the true top-of-the line Mac Mini will set you back $1,799. Saying that, the specs available on this deal model should please most casual users.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

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