Sep 8, 2021 • 10M

🗞️ The FTC zeroes in on...the McFlurry?

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Episode details

This week: The latest Big Tech-California tiff and a growing issue with internet shutoffs across the world. Plus: The FTC is tired of the McFlurry machine being broken.

🐻 California has a labor law problem with Amazon 

Just when it seemed like all the legal focus was on Apple and Google, Amazon is feeling some new legal pressure, per the NYT. 

  • California wants to get in the middle of how Amazon runs its factories and warehouses: Though its workers are paid hourly, they reportedly have a quota of tasks they must complete from an algorithm-based system. These quotas have led to numerous reports of discomfort from Amazon employees, including having to forego bathroom breaks to get enough work done.

  • California’s new bill would make that problem go away: It would ban any business in the state from using a quota that prevented employees from using the bathroom as much as they needed, or from taking any state-mandated breaks.

Amazon is the target, but every company is included

The bill is facing great opposition not just from the Bezos machine but from corporations across California. They believe it would place undue regulatory burdens on them despite not having the same work environments as Amazon. According to the NYT, Amazon’s serious injury rate is roughly double the national average.

The Verdict

The California state senate is expected to vote on the bill this week. 

👎 Governments are shutting down internet access more than ever 

Bad news on the open internet front: Foreign countries have picked up the pace on taking away the web from their citizens. 

  • In the last decade, democracy has taken a hit across the globe: And the internet, where people should be able to freely share information, has been a major target. According to The Verge, drawing from stats from the nonprofit Access Now, some 850 internet shutdowns have occurred in the last 10 years. The trend appears to have started with Egypt, where an internet shutdown happened for nearly the entire country for five days in 2011. 

  • Numbers went down during COVID: Around 200 shutdowns happened in 2019, before falling slightly last year. Internet shutdowns are on the rise once again in 2021. 

A response to protest

Social media and the internet have allowed people to organize protests in ways they never could in prior eras. Venezuelan lawyer Marianne DÍaz told The Verge  “As more and more people use the internet, and particularly social media, to document and denounce human rights violations, civil unrest and other events, some governments start seeing the internet as a threat that needs to be ‘controlled.’”  

The Verdict

It’s going to be difficult to police governments that attempt to cut off internet access. The best tools for any given person facing a shutdown are encrypted networks like VPNs. 

🍨 Why the FTC is getting involved with McFlurrys 

Ever wondered why the McDonald’s McFlurry machine is broken every time you’re in the drive-thru? So, apparently, has the FTC, and it’s taking legal action, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • Seriously, this is a real news story: The FTC contacted franchises across the country, asking why the ice cream machines are always broken. People have pondered this question for years, making McDonald's the butt of late-night TV jokes and even conspiracy theories.

  • But franchise owners aren’t laughing: They believe the machines, sent to them by corporate McDonald’s and designed by the manufacturer Taylor Commercial Foodservice LLC, are too prone to damage and too complicated to fix. They get hurt financially when machines are broken.

Why this matters to the FTC

The FTC has been looking into various types of products to see whether they are manufactured in a way that makes them too complicated or too easy to break, thus leading the purchasers of the products to spend money on repairs from the manufacturer. 

The Verdict

So far this is just a preliminary investigation. In the letters from the FTC obtained by the Wall Street Journal, the organization said there was no conclusion about any wrongdoing from McDonald’s, Taylor or any company yet.

💌 What else we're forwarding

The Skadden lawyer who worked until he was 93: He was hired when the original partners were still in charge and kept on working through this year. It’s a super interesting story. 

The ABA journal history of Law & Order: An in-depth look at the show that defined lawyers (at least on TV!) in the 90s.

🎧 Music we’re working to

Today we’re listening to UMFANG, a techno producer and DJ from the Bronx via Kansas. 2017’s Symbolic Use of Light alternates between techno and ambient, revealing that club music minus drums equals good meditation music. Most of this album was made with a single drum machine that she bought for $50 - which you won’t realize as her sound feels incredibly expansive.

Symbolic Use of Light - UMFANG (40m, no vocals)
Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube Music / Amazon Music 

See ya next week!

✌🏽 Raad