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Newsweek’s opinion editor has an anti-tech side gig

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Newsweek’s opinion page editor, Josh Hammer, consistently publishes op-eds slamming Big Tech and Google while remaining counsel at the Internet Accountability Project, a group partly funded by Oracle.

What’s happening: The op-eds rail against Google’s business model and size and the power and reach of big tech companies.

  • After being contacted by Axios, Newsweek added a disclosure about Hammer’s role with IAP on a recent political column where he wrote about the need for conservatives to fight back against Big Tech.

Why it matters: Opinion pages run a range of pieces by differing voices on all sorts of topics, and Newsweek is no different. But Hammer’s role volunteering as counsel for an outside anti-tech group, while running anti-tech op-eds, even with proper disclosure, is unusual for a news organization.

Between the lines: Google and Oracle have been bitterly sparring for years, and the Supreme Court is currently deciding the outcome of a major copyright case between the two tech giants that’s been percolating for a decade. IAP is one of many groups involved in the debate between anti- and pro- Big Tech camps.

Details: Hammer has made no secret of his dual roles — they’re noted on his Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.

  • A Jan. 12 piece authored by Rachel Bovard, counsel at IAP, argues that Google and Apple spiking Parler from their app stores after the Capitol riot shows that Big Tech is a threat to free society and must be reined in.
  • Will Chamberlain, another IAP counsel, argues in a Jan. 19 piece (with a disclosure note about Oracle funding IAP) that Google’s defense against current antitrust suits is wrong and misleading.
  • A Jan. 22 piece by Hammer argues that conservatives must push back against Big Tech and “Silicon Valley oligarchs.” That piece received a disclosure about IAP after Axios reached out.

What they’re saying: IAP president Mike Davis told Axios: “We are very pleased that Josh Hammer is providing his volunteer legal services to the Internet Accountability Project, and we are very pleased that we’ve been so effective so quickly that Google’s trying to cancel one of our volunteers.”

“Newsweek has run op-eds from several writers associated with the Internet Accountability Project. We disclosed the connection between the writers and IAP and, in one case, when an IAP-authored piece referred to the legal dispute between Google and Oracle, the disclosure also included a note about Oracle’s role in funding IAP.

Josh Hammer’s voluntary work for IAP is not a secret and was announced in a press release clearly stating that he was also the opinion editor of Newsweek. Hammer has never written a piece about technology for Newsweek. If he does, we will make a specific disclosure about Hammer’s IAP role. As opinion editor, Hammer fulfills Newsweek’s editorial mission to publish a wide range of views on issues of public interest including technology. For example, several of the IAP op-eds were run as part of Newsweek’s debate format in which they were published alongside a piece with the opposite point of view.”

— Newsweek statement

The big picture: Newsweek has lost much of its former luster after struggling to adapt to the internet era. Oracle has a history of using creative tactics to accomplish its policy goals, and some think they go too far.

The other side: It’s not uncommon for tech companies to push their messages through third-party groups. Google does this as well, through third-party groups and think tanks.

  • Groups like the Connected Commerce Council — which count Google, Amazon, Square and Facebook as “partners” — plant pro-Google and anti-regulation op-eds in newspapers, the Washington Post previously reported (originally without disclosure, though they have changed that policy, Big Technology reports).

Our thought bubble: Compromised messengers are nothing new in Washington for any industry. What’s unique here is the editor of Newsweek’s opinion page has a conflict every time something publishes that’s anti-tech.

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Gig worker rights battle moves to Toronto

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The battle for gig worker rights has come to Canada, where the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has launched the Gig Workers United campaign. It is the latest in the global movement to increase wages and improve working conditions for gig workers who rely on app-based companies for employment.

“We have to stand up for ourselves — the streets don’t look out for us, the apps don’t look out for us, so we’re looking out for each other and collectively calling out a bad business model,” Narada Kiondo, one of the courier spokespersons for Gig Workers United, said in a statement announcing the organizing effort. “The way it is just can’t continue — if the gig economy is going to work for our society then it can’t be based on squeezing delivery workers and restaurants for profit and dodging our labor standards. And we’re going to persist, and we’ll win, because our bodies and our livelihoods are on the line.”

The roots of the organizing effort were in a similar effort two years ago. The Justice for Foodora Couriers worked to unionize delivery app Foodora couriers. The German company expanded to Canada in 2015. Foodora claimed that couriers were independent contractors and not entitled to form a union. On March 4, 2020, the Ontario Labor Relations Board ruled that Foodora couriers were “dependent contractors” and therefore could unionize.

On April 27, 2020, Foodora announced it was closing its Canadian operations.

Jan Simpson, national president of CUPW, said the lessons from the Foodora fight are that gig workers have rights to unionize.

“The couriers have shown that traditional union organizing is possible in this space. But they’ve gone farther than that, with community-organizing tactics and collective mutual aid. They’ve formed a worker-led organization that we’re proud to support because their fresh energy and ideas are what it takes to improve working conditions and reject Silicon Valley’s model of exploitation,” Simpson said in a statement.

The battle for gig worker rights is expanding across the globe. Earlier this month, a court in the U.K. ruled Uber Technologies (NYSE: UBER) drivers in London were entitled to minimum wage, essentially making them employees. Uber had appealed a lower court ruling, but the U.K. Supreme Court rejected its argument, saying it was “clear … that claimant drivers were workers who worked for Uber London under ‘worker’s contracts.’” It also said the fact that an Uber driver could turn down work “is not fatal to a finding that the individual is an employee … and does not preclude a finding that the individual is employed under a worker’s contract.”

Read: Prop 22 wins in California; takes Uber, Lyft and other drivers out from under AB5

The nature of the relationship between Uber and its drivers means that the drivers “have little or no ability to improve their economic position through professional or entrepreneurial skill,” the court wrote. “In practice the only way in which they can increase their earnings is by working longer hours while constantly meeting Uber’s measures of performance.”

In the U.S., much of the fight over the status of gig drivers has taken place in California, where voters passed Proposition 22 in November with 58% of the vote. Prop 22 removed Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig drivers from compliance with Assembly Bill 5 (AB5). That bill required companies to treat the drivers as employees.

Prop 22 did include certain provisions for drivers, including new earnings guarantees and health-care stipends among others, but it allows the gig workers to remain independent.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Brian Straight.

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African fintech startup ImaliPay raises pre-seed funding to service gig economy

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ImaliPay, an African-based fintech start-up is making waves by reshaping the future of work in the gig economy.

The Australian venture capital firm TEN13 reputed for investing in top-tier start-ups has invested an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding in ImaliPay. ImaliPay joins TEN13’s growing fintech portfolio; the likes of Chipper Cash and Bookipi. Other investors included in the raise are; Finca Ventures, Optimiser Foundation, Mercycorps Ventures, Changecom, and super angels from Norway, Nigeria, UK, and Kenya. The primary aim of the investment is to expand and accelerate its growth and footprint in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa to be the one-stop-shop for gig workers’ financial needs.

TEN13’s backing of ImaliPay follows a recent string of events that has elevated the visibility of Africa’s Fintech start-up scene. “We believe this is a perfect opportunity to introduce our growing international network of investment professionals and investors to one of the most exciting emerging Fintech companies in Africa, ” said TEN13 Managing Partner, Stew Glynn.

The growth in the African gig workforce is being propelled by the growth in digitisation and smartphone penetration. Gig workers constitute a significant proportion of the economy within ImaliPay’s target markets and this market segment is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade. ImaliPay offers gig workers a one-stop-shop of financial services such as the ability to seamlessly save their income and receive in-kind loans through a “buy now, pay later” model tied to their trade. Bolt drivers in Kenya can now request a fuel loan and payback after 3-4 days, this allows them to get more work done and Safeboda riders in Nigeria can now buy on credit bike parts, fuel, and smartphones to keep their gig moving and reduce any downtime. Other products to be offered off the platform include insurance and investment options to foster a safety net for this hard-working but vulnerable part of the population.

ImaliPay was co-founded in 2020 by Zimbabwean Tatenda Furusa and Nigerian Sanmi Akinmusire who met whilst working at leading payments company Cellulant. They believe the backing of the start-up by a notable venture capital company such as TEN13 has tremendous benefits. “It’s a great opportunity for investors to participate in the fintech revolution and a fast-growing segment. Our vision at ImaliPay is to advance financial health and inclusion for gig workers who struggle to manage and access flexible financial services that are often only available to traditional SMEs”, said Furusa.

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EU seeks views on gig workers’ rights ahead of possible law

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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission on Wednesday took a step towards improving the rights of gig economy workers with the launch of a public consultation to determine their legal employment status and how to improve their working conditions.

Lockdowns to contain the COVID-19 pandemic have increased demand for casual workers as food deliverers have hired drivers, while cleaners, needed to battle the spread of infection, have faced health and safety risks.

Courts and regulators have meanwhile sought to correct the shortcomings in the gig economy.

The UK Supreme Court ruled last week that Uber drivers are entitled to workers’ rights, such as the minimum wage, and a Spanish court said in September that riders for Barcelona-based food delivery app Glovo were employees, not freelancers.

The EU executive said it wants feedback from trade unions and employers’ groups during the six-week consultation. A subsequent consultation will look into the content of a possible law by the end of the year unless unions and employers decide to negotiate the issue themselves.

“There is no going back as to how things work. The platform economy is here to stay, new technology, new sources of knowledge, new forms of work will shape the world in the years ahead,” the Commission’s digital chief Margrethe Vestager told a news conference.

“These are new opportunities that must not come with different rights, online as well as offline. All people should be protected and allowed and enabled to work safely and with dignity,” she said.

The consultation listed seven areas for possible improvement – the employment status of gig workers, their working conditions, access to social protection, access to collective representation and bargaining, cross-border aspects, the companies’ use of algorithmic management and training and professional opportunities.

Uber said it would work with policymakers and social groups on the proposal.

“Any legislative initiative should be grounded in what platform workers value most – flexibility and control over their work, transparent and fair earnings, access to benefits and protections, and meaningful representation,” the company said in a statement.

Small companies lobbying group SME Connect urged the Commission to expand the consultation to other groups.

“Looking at these issues solely through the prism of employees/employers’ organisations risks a failure to account for these platforms and those who work on them,” its president Paul Rübig wrote in a letter to Vestager.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Barbara Lewis)

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