This week: Meta plays dirty with TikTok, Amazon employees unionize, and Microsoft is getting heat for its video game deal. Plus, a tweet gone wrong, and Apple's attorney army.
🚧 The Big Reveal
We’ve been making some changes with Forward GC, and we’re so happy to reveal our new podcast format! Welcome to Legal Bites with Oren & Matt. Listen as they dive into the top trending legal and business news stories and share their respective takes on such. While they may be giving off serious vibes, this conversation was a fun one.
Worried about what TikTok is doing to the Youth? To society? Some of that fear may be the result of a smear campaign funded by Facebook's parent company Meta. Recognizing the existential threat that TikTok poses to Facebook and Instagram, Meta hired GOP consulting firm Targeted Victory to drive negative coverage of the Chinese social media platform.
During a February earnings call, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg reported that the company had lost daily active users for the first time in its history (to the tune of 1 million), with teens using TikTok almost 3 times more than Instagram. “People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly,” Zuckerberg said, according to Ars Technica.
In addition to spreading negative stories about TikTok (it's giving personal data about American teens to the Chinese government!), Targeted Victory also spread positive ones about Meta (like its move to support Black-owned businesses), notes The Hustle.
A History Of Playing Dirty
Not only does Meta already spend $20 million a year on federal lobbying—presumably to skirt regulations and combat antitrust actions—but it famously copied its last competitor's product, Snapchat, when it created Instagram Stories. Meta has been furiously trying to promote Instagram Reels, its clone of TikTok, but to significantly less success.
Meta’s tactics are obviously a below-the-belt jab at TikTok, but it remains unclear if they crossed any legal line. That being said, both Meta and ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) have enormous war chests that could be deployed should this go to the courtroom.
It is arguably the greatest American labor victory of the 21st century: an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island beat the odds and voted to unionize last week. Over 8,000 eligible workers at the warehouse (the JFK8 fulfillment center) voted, and approved being represented by the newly-formed Amazon Labor Union by a margin of 10 percent—making them the first union in the company's history.
Unionizing efforts were almost single-handedly led by Christian Smalls, an employee at the warehouse who was fired for his campaign.
Amazon, who has been fighting unionization efforts aggressively in recent years, released a statement saying “We’re disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees,” notes the New York Times.
The Efforts In Alabama
While Amazon workers in Staten Island celebrate their union victory, workers in Bessemer, Alabama, have been struggling to find their own victory. Over 6,000 workers voted in an election last year where they rejected unionizing efforts 2-to-1. However, the National Labor Relations Board found that Amazon had significantly interfered with the efforts, and the NLRB ordered a revote. Turnout has been smaller in this new vote, and the margins smaller, but it appears workers may have rejected unionizing for a second time, notes NPR.
The pandemic created a massive change in the way we work. What will be interesting to see is if Amazon Labor Union is a one-off blip, or if we’re seeing workers seize the moment to their advantage.
Microsoft's $68.7 billion acquisition of video-game giant Activision Blizzard is hitting a roadblock. Activision Blizzard, the company behind Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and CandyCrush Saga is embroiled in a series of lawsuits painting an overall portrait of a toxic workplace rife with harassment. Should the sale of the firm to Microsoft close, multiple US Senators now claim in a letter to the FTC, that it could potentially scuttle accountability for abusers.
“The proposed acquisition appears to be a cynical and 'opportunistic' attempt to capitalize off the systemic issues coming to light at Activision Blizzard,” the Senators' letter says, reports CNET. “While Microsoft capitalized on lower stock prices from the sexual misconduct disclosures, they also signaled that they were willing to prioritize profits over entrenched issues of gender-based discrimination in the organization.”
The letter to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan was signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Sheldon Whitehouse—each known for their progressive policies and support of the labor movement.
The Industry's Dark Underbelly
In the years since Gamergate, a notorious 2014 event in which several high-profile women in video gaming were the targets of death threats, doxing, and more, the industry has been grappling with a widespread culture of toxicity. Beyond Activision Blizzard's many lawsuits, Riot Games recently settled sexual harassment and discrimination claims for $100 million. Meanwhile, at the Roblox developers conference in October, popular video game influencer Ruben Sims managed to shut down the event with a "cybermob" threatening violence and bullying gamers on the platform, says Polygon.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard certainly doesn’t make the video game-maker’s legal troubles disappear, however, it could add fuel to anti-trust advocates who see the tech giant’s power growing far too big.
📤 What Else We're Forwarding
Tweet Suit: A Brit has been sentenced to 150 hours of community service for a tweet ruled "grossly offensive," according to The Verge. The tweet called for violence against a veteran British Army officer and was deleted 20 minutes after posting.
Litigation Legion: Apple has become reliant on a growing list of law firms, including several regional specialists, as it fights multiple court and legislative battles, notes Bloomberg Law. Apple accounted for nearly a third of all federal court appearances made last year by the 53 tech companies listed in the S&P 500.
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🎧 What We’re Listening To
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📣 What We’re Discussing
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