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Why Coinbase will struggle to ban politics from the workplace – The Verge

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Programming note: There’s a presidential debate tonight! Here’s how to watch it online. And here’s Politico’s handy “pre-bunk” of 10 lies you’re likely to hear at the debate.

If there is a manager in your life, there is a good chance that they are miserable right now.

They are miserable for the reasons everyone is miserable: the pandemic; quarantine; the challenges of working from home while raising children; the steady erosion of American democracy. But unlike us working stiffs, managers are miserable for another reason: their employees are miserable, too — and worse, they expect the managers to do something about it.

In July I wrote about how a surge of employee activism inside tech companies was beginning to remake the relationship between managers and their workforces. The turbulent past four years have roiled once-harmonious businesses of all sorts, from venture-backed e-commerce companies to giants like Google. Increasingly, workers want their employers to take political stands, as I wrote about last week after listening to a summer’s worth of internal meetings at Facebook. And because these companies sell themselves as “mission-driven” to their idealistic employees, many managers feel pressure to live up to that by engaging with current affairs.

This is particularly true because the US government has become staggeringly unresponsive to its citizenry — unable to provide for their basic safety and economic security during a historic crisis. Meanwhile, corporations — particularly big US tech corporations — tend to be very responsive to their workforces, courting their feedback regularly and using it to improve the operations of the company. And so the worse that the government performs, the more that workers ask of their employers.

Other managers, though, are taking a look at all of these dynamics and saying the hell with it. Take it away, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong (emphasis his):

It has become common for Silicon Valley companies to engage in a wide variety of social activism, even those unrelated to what the company does, and there are certainly employees who really want this in the company they work for. So why have we decided to take a different approach?

The reason is that while I think these efforts are well intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction, and by creating internal division. We’ve seen what internal strife at companies like Google and Facebook can do to productivity, and there are many smaller companies who have had their own challenges here. I believe most employees don’t want to work in these divisive environments. They want to work on a winning team that is united and making progress toward an important mission. They want to be respected at work, have a welcoming environment where they can contribute, and have growth opportunities. They want the workplace to be a refuge from the division that is increasingly present in the world.

As a result, Armstrong said, Coinbase would not take positions on broader societal issues, advocate for political causes or candidates, or commit more than a minimal amount of time or resources to nonprofit work. “We are an intense culture and we are an apolitical culture,” he wrote.

Armstrong’s post resonated with some prominent members of the managerial class, who showered it with more than 5,000 Medium claps. “Yet again, Brian Armstrong leads the way,” tweeted Y Combinator founder Paul Graham. “I predict most successful companies will follow Coinbase’s lead. If only because those who don’t are less likely to succeed.”

As more people read Armstrong’s post, my timelines began to light up with takes. The tweets, which more often come from rank-and-file workers, expressed skepticism that an organization whose mission is “to use cryptocurrency to bring economic freedom to people all over the world” could also manage to be apolitical. Meanwhile, my direct messages lit up with takes from managers, who argued that a less political company is the kind that most people want to work at. If you’re an underrepresented minority and find yourself regularly confronted with internal posts that you regard as hostile, you’ll probably want to work elsewhere.

And sure, a person who is regularly posting hostile or borderline-hostile messages internally might deserve to be fired. But certain beliefs are protected — you can’t be fired for your views on religion, for example. And so, like basically everything we cover here at The Interface, the question of what employees should be allowed to say — and what they should be allowed to demand from their employers — becomes a question of content moderation.

Given how difficult content moderation is, it’s no surprise that some companies are trying to limit discussion of these issues at all. Coinbase made headlines for it this week, but earlier this month it was Facebook in a similar spot. Here’s Salvador Rodriguez at CNBC:

Under the new set of principles, Zuckerberg said, Facebook will ensure all employees feel supported at work, especially the company’s Black community, by strengthening the company’s harassment policy with more protections for underrepresented employees.

The company will also be more specific about which parts of Workplace can be used to discuss social and political issues. This change will be so that employees do not have to confront social issues during their day-to-day work.

If the past year has seen a surge of employee activism in the workplace, it seems, the next will see managers attempt to swing the pendulum back in the other direction. In addition to the moves announced this week, for example, Coinbase also removed two Slack channels that employees were once able to use to ask questions. (Like Facebook, the company now asks employees to submit questions in advance, with Armstrong and other executives answering only the questions with the most votes.)

Talking with current and former Coinbase employees over the past day, I found mixed reviews of Armstrong’s post. (The company itself declined to comment when I asked.)

“Most people disagree with the stance and don’t see a clear-cut separation of the company’s mission and societal issues,” one employee told me. “Others may agree with the spirit of what Brian’s suggesting, knowing how he personally thinks about mainstream issues, but don’t agree with the tone or the approach.”

Whatever you think about Armstrong’s move, I suspect that on some level we will ultimately look back on it as an act of wishful thinking. Armstrong is not alone in wishing that the polarized politics of 2020 would recede into the background long enough to let us concentrate on work. But nothing now unfolding in the world around us suggests that anything of the sort is about to happen. On the contrary, the next several weeks promise to inject politics into everyday life in frequent and possibly unsettling new ways.

It may be that your friendly neighborhood cryptocurrency exchange has nothing of consequence to add to these events. But it seems more than a little odd to declare that to be so in advance, and by fiat. Politics are not vampires — they do not need to be invited in to enter your home.

One last point: it was reported last night on Twitter by Erica Joy, and confirmed by my own sources, that Coinbase engineers walked out on the job in June after Armstrong declined to issue a public statement affirming that Black lives matter. (He later did so in a Twitter thread.) Inside the company, it is widely believed that Armstrong’s post this week is his response to the walkout — an effort to remind employees who is in charge.

And if that’s the case, it’s worth saying that much of what we have been discussing this summer has not been “politics” so much it has been human rights. Breonna Taylor was shot dead by police in the middle of the night; Armstrong’s post referred to the killing only as “recent events regarding Breonna Taylor,” before the coldness of the language was mocked on Twitter and he deleted any reference to her.

There are many issues on which I can easily accept that a cryptocurrency exchange, or really any company, has no opinions. But during an election year in which democracy itself is at stake, and state-backed violence against protesters continues unchecked, racial justice can’t be one of them. By lashing out at employees who dared to challenge him, the CEO’s worldview became crystal clear. Coinbase won’t be apolitical so much as it will be as political as he wants it to be, and those politics will be whatever Brian Armstrong says they are.

The Ratio

Today in news that could affect public perception of the big tech platforms.

Trending up: Facebook estimates that 100,000 new poll workers have signed up in response to the company’s election efforts. In North Carolina alone, 11,000 people signed up from Saturday to Monday morning, with 60,000 people clicking the link on Facebook. (Facebook)

Trending up: TikTok launched an in-app guide to the 2020 US election as part of its ongoing efforts to protect the platform from misinformation. It’s meant to help users register to vote and get information about federal, state, and local candidates. (Makena Kelly / The Verge)

Trending down: Amazon has deceived the public about rising injury rates among its warehouse workers, according to internal documents. The crisis is especially acute at robotic facilities and during Prime week and the holiday peak. (Will Evans / Reveal)

Governing

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is stepping up its scrutiny of Chinese investments in US tech start-ups. The committee has been sending a flurry of inquiries about past deals, making startups more cautious about accepting foreign investments. Here’s Jeanne Whalen at The Washington Post:

Michael Borrus, the founding general partner of XSeed Capital, said CFIUS scrutiny is causing investors and companies to think twice about deals.

“We’ve had Chinese VCs or Chinese families who have been interested in putting money in” to some companies where XSeed Capital is a shareholder, Borrus said. “In the current environment, we’ve decided it’s too complicated.” […]

CFIUS is particularly focused on companies and apps that collect sensitive personal information on users, such as location or financial data, and on companies involved in technology seen as critical for national security, such as certain types of battery technology and biotechnology, lawyers said, requesting anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. The committee is mostly inquiring about Chinese investment, but on a few occasions has asked about Russian investors.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines lashed out at Facebook for taking down fake accounts that supported his policies. The president, who rose to power in part by harnessing Facebook’s platform to get his messages to millions, is now making vague threats to shut it down in the Philippines. This is why Facebook was not excited about India banning TikTok, incidentally. (Jason Gutierrez and Paul Mozur / The New York Times)

QAnon leaders are asking followers to drop the “QAnon” label from their conspiracy theories and simply refer to their fight against a fictitious cabal of powerful baby-eating politicians. The move comes as tech companies crack down on QAnon content. (Ben Collins / NBC)

Baseless rumors about Joe Biden planning to use a hidden earpiece during tonight’s debate are spreading among right-wing influencers on Facebook and Twitter. “If Joe Biden isn’t hiding anything, why won’t he consent to a third party checking for an earpiece before tonight’s debate?” asked conservative activist Charlie Kirk. These lies have a history in US presidential debates dating back at least 20 years. (Kevin Roose / The New York Times)

Project Veritas, an organization run by right-wing activist James O’Keefe, has a new investigation on “ballot harvesting” that’s going viral on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The video contains significant misinformation. (Popular Information)

There have been at least 10 major foreign interference claims related to the 2020 election in the month of September. The Digital Forensic Research Lab launched a tracker to assess the credibility and impact of each claim. (Digital Forensic Research Lab)

President Trump’s assault against Twitter may represent the most egregious violation of the First Amendment by a president since Nixon went to war against the Washington Post almost half a century ago, say these authors. The president has repeatedly accused the platform of censorship. (Lee C. Bollinger and Donald E. Graham / The Washington Post)

Google is set to win EU antitrust approval for its $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit. The news comes after the search giant said it would restrict the use of Fitbit data for Google ads and would also tighten the monitoring of that process. (Foo Yun Chee / Reuters)

Industry

Amazon unveiled a new biometric technology called Amazon One that allows shoppers to pay at stores by placing their palm over a scanning device. To register to use the technology, a customer will scan their palm and insert their payment card at a terminal. After that, they can just pay with their hand. Jason Del Rey at Recode has the story:

The technology will be available at the entrance of two of the company’s Amazon Go cashierless convenience stores in Seattle, Washington, starting Tuesday, and will roll out to the rest of the chain’s 20-plus stores in the future, Amazon Vice President Dilip Kumar told Recode in an interview Monday. Recode reported in December that Amazon had filed a patent application for such a hand-payment technology.

The technology could also show up in Whole Foods stores, with Amazon hinting in a press release that it will introduce palm payments in the coming months at its other stores beyond its Amazon Go locations. Kumar wouldn’t comment on a potential Whole Foods implementation, though the New York Post reported a year ago that such a plan was in the works.

Facebook is promoting Alex Schultz, one of its longest-tenured product and growth executives, to take over as chief marketing officer. Schultz is taking over the CMO job from Antonio Luciom who departed last month. (Kurt Wagner and Sarah Frier / Bloomberg)

Zynga is shutting down its original FarmVille web game on Facebook at the end of the year. In July, Facebook said it would no longer support Flash games as of December 31st. (Kim Lyons / The Verge)

Media companies have largely backed off their attempts to compete with Facebook and Google’s digital advertising dominance. In 2017, many invested in pricey ad tech deals to lure advertisers away from the tech giants. (Sara Fischer / Axios)

Colleges are hiring students as COVID-19 safety influencers. They’re tasked with sharing coronavirus content written by the university on their personal accounts. (Ezra Marcus / The New York Times)

Emma Chamberlain has mastered the art of being relatable on YouTube, despite her increasing wealth and fame. She also just launched a new line of fair-trade coffee. (Rebecca Jennings / Vox)

And finally…

Talk to us

Send us tips, comments, questions, and political opinions appropriate to your workplace: casey@theverge.com and zoe@theverge.com.

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Paul Davis's political return sparks Conservative Party turmoil – CBC.ca

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Former premier Paul Davis has announced his decision to re-enter politics, this time at the federal level — but that move isn’t welcome news to some members of the Conservative Party of Canada, with some local riding executives stepping away from their duties because of it.

On Thursday night, Davis posted on Facebook that he will seek the party’s nomination in the riding of Avalon in a future general election. Early Friday morning, Chris Power, the president of the Avalon Conservative Association, made an announcement of his own: that as Davis didn’t notify party executives first prior to posting, Power was stepping aside from his party duties, at least temporarily.

“I strongly feel that he should have first given notice to CPC nominating committee before any public announcement was made,” Chris Power said in a letter to fellow members of the association board.

In an interview with CBC News, Power said others on the board feel similarly and some executives have resigned, although he said Davis was not required to give a heads-up to the party before making his announcement.

“That’s your people on the ground, and the general consensus [is] that if we’re on the ground, that our opinion should matter, you know, and it didn’t seem like it really did,” Power said Friday.

Chris Power, the president of the Avalon Electoral District Association for the Conservative Party of Canada, is taking a leave of absence from his duties in the wake of Davis’s announcement he will run for candidacy in the riding. (Chris Power)

Power himself has decided on a temporary leave of absence from his role while the nomination process is underway, as Power said he and other executive members support the other candidate, Matthew Chapman, over Davis.

“We just thought at this time that we’d be better served with fresh blood. And we frankly didn’t think experience as a provincial politician was necessarily a positive thing right now,” said Power, who said he will be taking a “very active role” campaigning for Chapman during his leave.

‘Airing their dirty laundry’

Davis departed politics in November 2018, and in his resignation announcement at the time said he had no intention of running federally. But on Friday, Davis said the last six months — with troubles besieging small businesses and large industries, particularly oil and gas, as well as the omnipresent uncertainty — changed his mind.

“Someone needs to step up to the plate. I just can’t sit by any longer,” he told CBC News.

“There’s no plan to fix it. We don’t even hear any empathy or concern being communicated by our MPs in Ottawa.”

Davis said he’s had positive discussions with the local party ranks about running, and was caught off guard by their reaction to his announcement.

“Many of them are supporters of the other candidate. So it’s not unusual … for a candidate to have their own supporters on a district association. It happens provincially, it happens federally, it’s not unique to Avalon,” he said.

“I’m a little bit surprised that they’re airing their dirty laundry publicly, or their views on that, because some of them have been open arms welcoming and encouraged me to be in the process.”

A grassroots revival

Chapman, the other candidate, said he’s open to the competition.

“I wish Paul nothing but the best, and I’ve told him that. I believe that the membership and people of Avalon are going to recognize that I ran when nobody else would,” he said.

Chapman ran in the 2019 general election and lost to Liberal Ken McDonald, who has been the riding’s MP since 2015. In that race Chapman garnered significant support, capturing 31 per cent of the vote, compared with McDonald’s 46 per cent.

Matthew Chapman ran for the Conservative Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election and lost, and is running again for the party’s nomination in the Avalon riding. (Matthew Chapman)

Chapman credited that to grassroots support, as he and a few dedicated volunteers spent the last year rebuilding the Conservative Party’s base in the riding.

“I’ve spoken to all of people who are upset, because they’ve recognized I’ve literally put hundreds of hours of work into rebuilding this,” he said.

“People had the opportunity to run and turned it down, people had the opportunity to get involved and rebuild their association, and they didn’t.”

In the last year, the party’s grassroots in the Avalon have grown, added Power, to an executive board of 25 people with more than 280 party members, but Davis’s announcement and its resulting inner turmoil could prove to be a setback for the party.

“It’s sad because we had a number of initiatives that we were working through as a district that now all has to be put on hold,” said Power.

The call for nominations in the riding is still open, and Davis said the party would give two weeks’ notice before it closes and the candidate election process kicks in.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Some facts on British Columbia politics as the province heads to the polls Saturday – News 1130

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VANCOUVER — Voters in British Columbia go to the polls on Saturday. Here’s some of what you need to know about B.C. politics:

— The NDP formed a minority government in 2017 with support from the Green party after finishing on election night with two fewer seats than the B.C. Liberals, while the Greens had an election breakthrough, winning three seats and holding the balance of power.

— The last time B.C. had a minority government before that was in 1952 and the NDP’s rise to power in 2017 ended a 16-year span outside government.

— The B.C. Liberals were in power from 2001 to 2017.

— Andrew Wilkinson became leader of the Liberal party in February 2018, replacing Christy Clark.

— John Horgan was acclaimed NDP leader in 2014 and first won a seat in the legislature in 2005.

— Sonia Furstenau took over the job of Green party leader about a week before the election was called, replacing Andrew Weaver.

— This election has 87 seats up for grabs. At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats. The Greens held two seats, there were two Independents and one seat was vacant.

— The Liberal Party of British Columbia is not affiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada and describes itself as “a made-in-B.C. free enterprise coalition.”

— The NDP was in power from 1991 to 2001 with four different party leaders during its time in office.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Debate Night: The ‘On Politics’ Breakdown – The New York Times

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Good morning, and welcome to our very last debate recap edition of On Politics — for this year, anyway. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host. Stay tuned for Giovanni Russonello’s Poll Watch later today.

Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

For President Trump, the measure of success in last night’s debate was clear: He needed a big win.

This final matchup of the 2020 election season was his biggest remaining opportunity to substantially change the dynamics of a race that’s been slipping away from him for weeks — if not months.

But instead of getting a debate victory, Mr. Trump fought Joe Biden to a draw, and that’s not what the president needed.

There were some improvements over his previous debate performance: Following the advice of his aides, Mr. Trump focused his attention on attacking Mr. Biden, and restraining his emotional outbursts and frustrations with the moderator.

While many of his arguments were littered with false and unsubstantiated claims, he drove a consistent message against Mr. Biden, casting him as a career politician who’s been ineffectual during his decades in Washington — “all talk and no action.”

And Mr. Trump delivered red meat to his conservative base, alleging that the former vice president used his position to enrich his family — an unsubstantiated argument peddled by Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies.

But amid all the attacks, Mr. Trump presented no clear vision to a country in the midst of a national crisis, failing to explain how he would use a second term.

Mr. Trump is no longer a political outsider able to blame the Washington establishment for the country’s failings. Yet, he seemed to dismiss the more than 222,000 people killed by the coronavirus pandemic in the United States and the plight of hundreds of children separated from their parents at the southern border.

For his part, Mr. Biden remained unfazed by the assault. He accused the president of trafficking in Russian disinformation and challenged him to release his taxes.

Even with mute buttons and social distancing, the debate ended up being a strikingly normal political event in a very strange election year. Neither man performed in a way that would automatically disqualify him among his supporters or undecided voters.

For some viewers, the debate brought back memories of 2016. Four years ago, Mr. Trump entered the final debate trailing in the polls and needing a big victory. He stuck with a more measured tone, attacked Hillary Clinton as a political insider and had his best performance of that campaign.

Then, Mr. Trump trailed Mrs. Clinton by about six points, according to polling averages. Mr. Biden now leads by around nine points nationally, and he’s made notable inroads into key parts of the president’s coalition.

Much of Mr. Biden’s strength stems from the low marks voters have given the president on the defining issue of the campaign — the coronavirus pandemic. Last night, Mr. Trump still did not have any good answers for how he would manage the spread of virus.

As he has for months, the president tried to downplay the severity of the pandemic, arguing that the virus is easing its grip on the country even as the number of new infections hit the highest point in months. The claim flouts not only current reality but also what most voters expect for the future.

Recent polling by The New York Times and Siena College found that just over half of likely voters believed that the worst of the pandemic was yet to come, compared with 37 percent who said the worst was over.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Mr. Biden said.

In a particularly unpredictable election season, a Biden win is not a forgone conclusion, as my colleague Adam Nagourney detailed in the paper yesterday. But a draw in the final debate may not be enough to sharply turn the race away from him.

When the debate began, more than 48 million Americans had already voted. For Mr. Trump to win this race, he must energize a “red wave” in the final days of this contest that could overtake the Democrats’ early voting advantage. That either means turning out a sizable number of new voters or persuading a decent slice of Americans to change their opinion and back the president.

Mr. Trump may have gotten his best performance of the campaign last night, but it’s not clear that it will be enough to get him what he needs.


  • Here’s the assessment from our recap article from the front page of the newspaper: “If the tenor of Thursday’s forum was more sedate, the conflict in matters of substance and vision could not have been more dramatic.”

  • Our news analysis notes that Mr. Trump “succeeded at various points in acting like the type of person he claims to disdain: a typical politician in a debate.”

  • The debate moderator, Kristen Welker, managed to restore order to a quadrennial institution that some believed could not be tamed, our media reporter writes.

  • A team of New York Times reporters fact-checked Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, providing context and explanation for more than three dozen claims.

  • Win, lose or draw — what did the analysts, strategists and other observers think? Here’s a roundup of reaction from across the political spectrum.


Drop us a line!

We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.


President Trump and the Republican Party are giving up. So argue the Times columnists Ross Douthat and Charles Blow.

“What we’re watching is an incumbent doing everything in his power to run up his own margin of defeat,” says Mr. Douthat.

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Keep up with Election 2020

“Trump isn’t even trying to make a case for a second term,” writes Mr. Blow. “He isn’t laying out a vision and a plan.”

So what is he doing? Mr. Douthat contends that “he’s making a closing ‘argument’ that’s indistinguishable from a sales pitch for a TV show or a newsletter — suggesting that even more than four years ago, the president assumes he’ll be in the media business as soon as the election returns come in.”

As Mr. Blow points out, Mr. Trump has been driven in recent weeks to speculate what he might do in the event of a loss. “Could you imagine if I lose?” he said at a recent rally. “My whole life, what am I going to do? I’m going to say I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics. I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country. I don’t know.”

For Republicans in the House and Senate, frustration abounds. The president’s erratic messaging during a pandemic and a period of economic instability leaves Republican senators up for re-election in a bind. That’s especially true for Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican whom Mr. Trump seems to be actively campaigning against.

Some Republicans are simply tired of the president and his antics. The Times columnist Gail Collins notes in The Conversation with Bret Stephens that Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska accused Mr. Trump of “screwing up the coronavirus crisis, cozying up to dictators and white supremacists and drawing the water for a ‘Republican blood bath.’”

That’s “too little, too late, in my view, though it’s always nice to hear what Republicans really think of their favorite president,” Mr. Stephens says.

— Adam Rubenstein


At the start of last night’s debate its moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News, delivered a polite but firm instruction: The matchup should not be a repeat of the chaos of last month’s debate.

It was a calmer affair and, for the first few segments, a more structured and linear exchange of views.

President Trump, whose interruptions came to define the first debate, was more restrained, seemingly heeding advice that keeping to the rules of the debate would render his message more effective. And while there were no breakthrough moments for Joe Biden, he managed to make more of a case for himself than he did last month, on issues such as the coronavirus and economic support for families and businesses in distress.

On “The Daily,” Alexander Burns, a national political correspondent for The Times, recaps the night’s events.

Click here to listen now.


Thanks for reading. On Politics is your guide to the political news cycle, delivering clarity from the chaos.

On Politics is also available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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