This Week: Moscow takes on Alphabet, Amazon delivers a new tone toward its employees, and Cuomo is ‘troubling’ if not criminal’. Plus, helping Afghan judges, blocking the New York Times, and our return to the office.
Russia's crackdown on the Internet is heating up. A local court has levied an 8% fine of revenue (or $98m) against Alphabet, Google's parent company, for failure to remove content the government has deemed illegal. The action is the first revenue-based fine of its kind in the country, and comes as the Russian government accuses tech giants of disrupting domestic affairs.
According to The Verge, Russia's banned content mandate "includes promotion of drugs and posts by organizations the government says are extremist or terroristic, including those associated with opposition leader Alexei Navalny."
Google told The Verge that it will "study the court documents when they are available and then decide on next steps," which could mean the tech behemoth isn't willing to roll over that easily.
The court also fined Meta (the parent company of Facebook) and Twitter for similar violations.
A new law requires smartphones, laptops, and other smart devices sold in Russia to be installed with Russian-made apps, notes the BBC.
Moscow v. Silicon Valley
Russia has increasingly become an international cyber-bully in recent years. The Kremlin not only has a cozy relationship with (if not an outright state sponsorship of) hacking organizations, but it’s been tightening restrictions on internet freedoms at home.
Putin's increased belligerence abroad and restrictions at home seem to suggest a weakened autocrat who perceives the freedoms of the Internet as a threat. It will be interesting to see if Google, Meta, and other tech giants choose to stand for freedom and potentially lose a large market, or fold to Putin's authoritarian demands and stay open for business.
Amazon and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have reached a settlement that allows workers at the retailer to freely organize without retaliation by the company. The settlement comes in the wake of mounting pressure on Amazon to improve pay and working conditions for their employees, and follows a failed unionization attempt at an Alabama warehouse that is coming under new scrutiny.
Details of the settlement reveal that Amazon will notify some 750,000 employees of their workplace rights and, according to NPR, "pledged it will not threaten workers with discipline or call the police when they are engaging in union activity in exterior non-work areas during non-work time."
In November, the NLRB ruled that Amazon "improperly pressured warehouse staff" ahead of a unionization vote at a Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse. The employees will be allowed to re-do their vote.
Retention, Retention, Retention
Amazon's settlement with the NLRB comes as the company is hemorrhaging employees. "You’re seeing such an interesting mix, where the kind of basis of an employer’s relationship with their employee is really starting to show to be a critical part of their business," Karen Weise told the New York Times. This has led some to wonder if the e-commerce giant's new tone is actually a strategic decision to focus on worker retention, and thus ensure its plans for growth are staffed with enough employees.
Amazon telling the NLRB it's going to do something doesn't mean it will. However, a $4 billion investment by the company this holiday season back into its workforce shows that the company is getting serious about its own relationship with its employees.
Nearly 5 months after a state trooper came forward and accused former New York governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, a district attorney has stated he will not be facing criminal charges. Prosecutor Joyce Smith, acting District Attorney for Nassau County, said that an "exhaustive investigation" found the accusations “credible, deeply troubling, but not criminal under New York law.” The Justice Department is still conducting its own investigation into 11 women’s claims against the former governor, but the status of the case is still unclear.
The state trooper, who remains anonymous, was a part of Cuomo's security detail during a September 2019 event where, she says, Cuomo groped her as she held a door open for him.
A statement by Cuomo's spokesperson Rich Azzopardi released this week redouble's the former governor's claim that he "did not remember touching the trooper, but said that it was a common custom for him to acknowledge the presence of a trooper — male or female — holding a door as he walked past them".
In December, Chris Cuomo, the former governor’s younger brother, was fired from his hosting job at CNN after it was determined that he was involved in the governor’s defense. It was further revealed that Shelley Ross, a former ABC News executive, accused Chris Cuomo of sexual harassment when they worked together.
Despite the DA's actions on this specific case, Cuomo still faces several more accusations of sexual harassment, and the DoJ's civil investigation may lead to further legal troubles.
📤 What Else We're Forwarding
Afghan Judges: The International Association of Women Judges is coordinating efforts with several top law firms to win temporary legal status for 250 female judges fleeing Afghanistan, reports the ABA Journal. The firms joining the effort include DLA Piper, Vinson & Elkins, Debevoise & Plimpton, and more.
Ruling Against The Times: A New York court has upheld a ruling preventing the New York Times from publishing a story about Project Veritas, the Times itself says. The story was based on documents handed over by a lawyer for the conservative group, and the case has many First Amendment advocates alarmed.
OOO: Is the new Omicron variant really what's delaying many law firms from returning to the office, asks Law360. Or could there be other factors at play?
🎧 Music We’re Working To
Today we’re listening to Moon Glyph Records, an electronic label hailing from Portland. Their latest release, Amethyst: New Sounds from Moon Glyph Record, is a compilation of previously unreleased music from different artists signed to the label. Musical styles vary throughout the album, from electro to jazz, but maintaining an abstract vibe throughout the 17 tracks.
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See ya next week!