This week: Facebook’s other big crisis and the law firm embroiled in the Pandora Papers scandal. Plus, the Supreme Court starts one of its most important sessions in recent years.
It’s nearly impossible to keep track of the number of problems piling up at Facebook these days.
Here’s one you might’ve missed (while you were unable to log on to Insta or WhatsApp): A whistleblower says Facebook made a key error that may have helped users plan the January 6 Capitol riot.
The Facebook whistleblower is Frances Haugen: After leaving the company, she has helped release damning information to the WSJ and appeared on “60 Minutes” on Sunday.
She dropped a major scoop about post-election security: Haugen said Facebook dismantled a unit dedicated to managing election misinformation to chase growth after the 2020 election ended. “Fast forward a couple of months,” she told “60 Minutes,” “we got the insurrection.”
Facebook was a key tool in the riots
The rioters used Facebook to plan their break-in into the Capitol and for spreading misinformation related to the election, according to the New York Times.
Section 230 protects Facebook from almost anything damaging these users did on its platform. But the public scrutiny will remain very high.
What’s going on with the Pandora Papers? And what might be the legal repercussions? Here’s a quick guide.
The gist of the Pandora Papers: Released last week, the Pandora Papers show hundreds of corporations and politicians engaging in offshore tax havens and shell companies, according to the WSJ. Those things generally aren’t illegal, but the report notes “these affairs often amount to shifting profits from high-tax countries, where they are earned, to companies that exist only on paper in low-tax jurisdictions.” The maneuvering means companies get added secrecy, and the public loses out on their tax contributions.
At least one huge law firm is involved: Ever heard of Baker McKenzie? According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the firm had a prominent role in helping companies and politicians -- including some connected to corruption and authoritarian regimes -- avoid taxes through shell companies.
The legal questions at hand: As mentioned, using tax shelters and making shell companies usually isn’t illegal on its face. But several countries have already announced they will initiate investigations of key figures. As for Baker McKenzie, law professor Richard Painter told the ICIJ, “Not being illegal doesn’t make it right.”
The Supreme Court started its latest session, back in person, and it is being billed as one of the most important years. Here’s a rundown of why it could be so consequential, per CNN:
School vouchers and religion: On Dec. 8, the Supreme Court will hear a case about school vouchers in Maine for families with no public school option. Some families choose religious options, but the state doesn’t allow every type of religious institution. If the Court continues its drift toward a greater emphasis on the freedom of religion, it will likely side with more flexibility for the vouchers.
Abortion: Mississippi enacted a 15-week abortion ban, and the legal challenge against it will be heard on Dec. 1. The ban has already been batted down by lower courts but if SCOTUS sides with the law it will overturn Roe v. Wade.
Concealed carry: New York has a law that requires people seeking an unrestricted license to carry to provide a specific reason for their need for self-defense. It has been upheld in federal courts. But 2nd Amendment activists believe it could lead to a reduction in the right to bear arms. The case will be heard on Nov. 3.
A general theme: Justices have been saying in recent public appearances they aren’t partisan and merely have different legal philosophies. It’s highly unlikely the general public will be convinced in a major session like this one.
💌 What else we're forwarding
Big Law's talent retention problem: People are leaving Big Law because all the money in the world isn’t enough for the grueling schedules they must endure.
Elizabeth Holmes's best defense was delay, delay, delay: Before the Holmes trial started, there were numerous delays. Now some prosecution witnesses are having difficulty relaying details from so many years ago.
🎧 Music we’re working to
Today we’re listening to Jackie Mittoo, a Jamaican keyboardist and composer. He was a member of the popular ska group, The Skatalites. He began playing keyboard at the age of 4 and went on to become the “funkiest keyboard player ever to come out of Jamaica” according to Sounds of the Universe. We’re listening to his 1970 album, Now, which shows a range of styles including a great reworking of “Eleanor Rigby”.
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See ya next week!