Former Apple employee Antonio García Martínez has refuted the company’s portrayal of his high-profile ouster this week and claims Apple knew about his past writings demeaning women and people of color, which came under fire from employees this week, before it made a job offer.
“Apple was well aware of my writing before hiring me. My references were questioned extensively about my bestselling book and my real professional persona (rather than literary one),” he wrote in a Twitter thread Friday. “I did not ‘part ways’ with Apple. I was fired by Apple in a snap decision,”
“Apple has issued a statement that clearly implies there was some negative behavior by me during my time at Apple. That is defamatory and categorically false,” Martínez continued. He argued that Apple “actively recruited” him for the role on its ads team, even roping in one of his former colleagues to “convince” him to take the job.
On Wednesday, the Verge reported that Apple employees circulated a petition objecting to his hiring and asking for an investigation. At issue is Martínez’s autobiography Chaos Monkeys, which chronicles his journey from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. The petition, which you can read in full here, cites several “overtly racist and sexist remarks” from his writing, such as when he refers to Bay Area women as “soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit.”
In another damning passage, the former Facebook product manager writes: “There were few women one would call conventionally attractive at Facebook. The few there were rarely if ever dressed for work with their femininity on display in the form of dresses and heels.”
G/O Media may get a commission
Apple employees argued that Martínez’s “misogynistic statements” didn’t align with Apple’s stated values concerning diversity and inclusion. They also called for Apple to explain how its recruitment team either missed or ignored his published views before offering him the position.
Hours after the Verge’s report, Apple told Bloomberg that it cut ties with Martínez.
“At Apple, we have always strived to create an inclusive, welcoming workplace where everyone is respected and accepted,” an Apple spokesperson told the outlet. “Behavior that demeans or discriminates against people for who they are has no place here.”
Apple declined to comment on details of his departure and has not confirmed what job title Martínez held, but sources say he was hired as a product engineer on Apple’s advertising platform team, according to Bloomberg. Apple did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but we’ll update this blog once they do.
Bryan Menegus is one of the most frustrating editors I’ve ever worked with, which is to say he had annoying feedback like ‘Do you have a source on this?’, ‘This paragraph is complete gibberish’, ‘Did you forget to end this sentence?’, or ‘This is just totally factually wrong’. He also changed the structure of sentences and various words so as to massively and dramatically “improve” my writing and make it “make sense.” Who’s this guy think he is?
So while I am officially sad to report that Bryan and Gizmodo dot com have recently experienced what lawyers call “loss of consortium,” his departure came just soon enough to prevent several members of the G/O Media Group staff from fleeing his editorial oppression and starting an unedited Substack about cancel culture. Or maybe that’s just me. Several of Bryan’s colleagues asked to roast him per the Gizmodo tradition, instead mentioned things like him being an amazing reporter who hasshed light on appalling labor abuses by some of the world’smost powerful corporations, a genuinely good person who does things like volunteering to deliver groceries to vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic, oneofGizmodo’sfunniestheadlinewriters, and a pretty baller amateur stick-and-poke tattoo artist. I suspect that last tidbit is selection bias, as anyone who died of bloodborne disease or ink poisoning did not respond to requests for comment.
Anyhow, as much as I might take issue with these positive depictions of Bryan’s character, I’m obligated to reprint them. All of them. There’s a lot. I’m not jealous or anything, I swear.
Gizmodo forever. And please tell Bobbo the cat I love him for me. Also, you still owe me a stick and poke of this. – Tom McKay, staff writer at Gizmodo
G/O Media may get a commission
Kelly Bourdet, former Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo
Bryan is one of the best writers I’ve edited. He is genuinely smart and fearsomely skeptical of those in power. There are few people so absolutely unimpressed by and disgusted by the wealth and trappings of the Silicon Valley rich who tech journalists often cover. This is a credit to him.
Alex Cranz, former Senior Consumer Tech Editor at Gizmodo
When Gawker was broke it took a bunch of money to make Facebook Live videos, but because it was broke it did not actually spend money to make good Facebook Live videos. Which is how, for a few months in 2016, Bryan found himself frequently ingesting the absolutely most repulsive things on camera. I watched him make, and drink, Cheeto-infused tequila (it was greasy), Marmite-based beer (also not good), and joined me in tasting ranch dressing-flavored soda (it tasted, as I would assume, a very sweaty and unclean gentleman’s taint would taste after he attempted to bathe in a chemical spill at a feedlot). Bryan would do anything for the blog Facebook Live.
While I would like to remember Bryan for is the time people begged Facebook Lives to end so Bryan would stop having to consume so much weird shit, or for the way he went from the guy hired to post viral videos he found on the internet to the guy who kind of created the whole tech labor beat and first made everyone pay attention to the outside political power of redditors, I mainly remember him for the time we were both in the office, no one else had come in, and we decided to vape coffee grounds and see what happens.
Don’t do that.
Alex Dickinson, former Executive Managing Editor at Gizmodo Media Group
I have the sneaking suspicion that Bryan is one of those people without a bad bone in their body. That’s despite him never asking me to play guitar, Overwatch, Warzone, or anything with him, really. I was always impressed with his ability to get his hero Elon Musk to drop into Gizmodo’s DMs, and he would take my edits with only the occasional flashes of blinding white-hot rage. He would also prowl the GMG offices listening to this.
Good night, sweet prince.
Hudson Hongo, former Culture Editor at Gizmodo
I’m told that Bryan is a dogged labor reporter, bringing to light shocking revelations like “work sucks.” I have also personally observed his tragic nice-guy-ness, like when he urged co-workers to join a mutual aid network after he got covid(!) while volunteering for one. Based on those qualities alone, you might think he’s like any other Brooklyn-based rose emoji type. You’d mostly be right, but know this: He’s also incredibly tall.
This tallness is notable because he has actively forsaken his phenotypical destiny. A consummate indoor kid, I watched Bryan spend years hunching a basketball star’s frame over a computer screen like a giraffe eating from a dumpster. He did this in pursuit of a much higher calling than journalism. From his humble beginnings click-laundering YouTube videos for Sploid, to the heights he reached reporting out shit-posts like “No One Wants My Hot Dog Salad” and “New York City to Sex-Havers: 😉,” Bryan is a true internet garbageman—one of the last.
Sure, frustrated editors often sent me his drafts because they had “no idea what this [guy] is trying to say.” And more than once I had to remind Bryan to mention the actual subject of his stories in the first 1,000 words. But these were ultimately symptoms of the digital neurocysticercosis he contracted by exposing himself to raw, untreated online. Who else would log onto Tumblr dot com for the sake of readers?
His life at Gizmodo might be over, but the folktale of Bryan Menegus will live on forever. In 20 years, when his former colleagues are huddled around burning e-scooters in the shadow of a fallen world, they will tell the tale of the Jersey Angle, Sadsquatch, the Tiredest Giant in the World. Good night, sweet bud.
Hamilton Nolan, former Senior Writer at Splinter
To a true soldier of the tech labor movement, I salute you.
Catie Keck, Staff Reporter at Gizmodo
To the best of my knowledge, some of the funniest, most unhinged headlines to run on the website Gizmodo dot com in the last few years have been the handiwork of Bryan Menegus. Like the rest of the sickos at this website, Bryan has an absolutely twisted sense of humor. That said, he’s as gifted as a labor and policy reporter as he is at editing your copy into something legible and maybe even interesting. I was always grateful when I was able to put my copy in his capable hands because it meant he would make the piece much stronger than the shape it was in when I filed. Any newsroom would be lucky to have him.
Sophie Kleeman, former News Editor at Gizmodo
I initially figured it would be difficult to roast Bryan for two reasons: he is a big sweetie, and he is my ex-boyfriend, so it might be kind of awkward. But then I remembered his hot dog salad blog and almost puked, so fuck it.
I met Bryan when he was still known around here as “Sploid Boy” (RIP Sploid). He soon proved he was capable of much more than that, including blog hits like this, this, and this (but not this, and, sadly, not this either).
It quickly became clear that he was one of those rare people who really, genuinely knew and appreciated the weird corners of the internet. Better still, his appreciation wasn’t some gross cornerstone of a try-hard personality like it is for so many Online People — he’s just really good at finding and cataloguing weird, repulsive, and otherwise horrifying internet ephemera, for no reason other than it makes his friends laugh (or cry). Similarly, unlike performative Internet War Reporters, he didn’t cover online extremism for personal glory, but rather because he wanted to call out the platforms implicitly encouraging it before it was too late. (Ah, well.)
The only story I can think of that comes close to roasting Bryan is extremely boring (I asked him to take care of my plant for 3 months while I was overseas and he almost killed it because he left it in the dark), so instead I will share my favorite Bryan story: On Valentine’s Day in 2017, we got drunk and went to see Fifty Shades Darker. He stood up and looked around the theater to make sure none of our coworkers had the same idea, and lo and behold, our boss Katie Drummond was sitting in the back with her husband. This would have been way more mortifying, but Katie was also seeing a 50 Shades of Grey movie on Valentine’s Day, so really, we all just owned ourselves.
Anyway, Bryan is good, and I hope whoever was responsible for running him out of here dies on the vine.
Alex Brook Lynn, former Video Producer / Live Broadcast at Gawker Media
Bryan Menegus was probably way too nice to me.
When I arrived at Gawker Media to spearhead the Facebook Live initiative, which was another way in which the monolith social media network attempted to siphon content from newsrooms by granting each the start-up capital to hire someone like me, I was a pain in the ass for almost everybody. It was my job to take a bunch of deadline-driven, blogging journalists and haunt them to participate in experimental video productions that would stream live from our office.
In trying to enlist some of the voices across all the Gawker brands, there were a few reactions that weren’t overwhelmingly avoidant: some wanted desperately to be on camera, as they may have had ambitions for a future on the smallest screen; some just drew the short straw, as every Gawker brand had to provide talent for some kind of content per week; some… like Bryan, were just really nice. I was never sure if he felt bad for me, or if he thought it was easier to do what I ask than dodge my requests for the next day or so. I like to believe that he enjoyed some of the antics I would enlist him in, like an on-camera deep dive into the merits of Cheerwine, or one full Power Hour of Super Mario Smash Brothers.
I left Gawker Media, now Gizmodo Media Group or GMG G/O Media, in 2017. I am grateful that he was one of the people I actually stayed in touch with, not just because we share an interest in boxing but also because I am now the proud owner of one of his famous stick n’ poke tattoos which took up residence on my outer calf in the form of a coffee cup and saucer. I can only imagine he is on his way to bigger and better.
Matt Novak, Writer for Gizmodo and Paleofuture
Bryan is one of those internet renaissance people who can do everything. He’s a writer, editor, and artist. He can work on serious pieces, funny pieces, and everything in between. His versatility is what made Gizmodo a destination site, and he’s sorely missed. But wherever he winds up will be better for it. We miss you, Bryan.
Rose Pastore, Science Editor at Gizmodo
Bryan, you are so much more hardcore than me, and I’ll really miss your influence.
Andrew Couts, Deputy Editor for Gizmodo
By the time I arrived at Gizmodo, Bryan had moved on from his Spolid-y, Facebook Live-y days and was firmly into his I Am a Very Serious Journalist Who Is Taller Than You phase, which is something I just made up but is at least partially true on multiple points. Anyway, it became immediately clear to me that Bryan’s superpower is calling out bullshit—Amazon’s, mostly, but he applied it to anyone who thought they could slip one past him, and watching him rip apart some PR person’s nonsense was one of my favorite parts of the job. Thing is, he’d apply the same argumentative rigor to get out of doing work he thought was stupid. I cannot tell you how many times I assigned a blog to Bryan only for him to spend as much time as it would have taken him to write the damn thing explaining to me why the story was simply not worth covering. Sure, he was often right, but I’m still mad about it.
The stories Bryan did decide to write, however, are excellent. And as an editor, he made every story he touched better. He’s that rare journalist with an equal capacity for deep, investigative reporting and deranged, hilarious shitposting. He’s profoundly empathetic and brutally honest. He’s a caring and loyal friend and a talented artist. He makes lovely baked goods. On top of all that, he is as tall as I assume most rich people are but without all the ghoulish parts and has a fantastic cat. Gizmodo is poorer without you, Bryan. Please send cookies.
Yessenia Funes, former Reporter for Earther
Bryan!! You always looked so tired. I hope you’re getting some time to rest. Or at least to stream some cool weird shit.
Ryan Mandelbaum, former Senior Writer at Gizmodo
I never had a dirtbag coworker before Bryan. But now that I’ve had one dirtbag coworker, I wish I had more dirtbag coworkers. Also fuck you for the hot dog salad post.
Victoria Song, Consumer Tech Reporter at Gizmodo
I’m mad that Bryan runs faster than me—it’s probably because he’s a skinny beanpole but it’s infuriating considering how hard I have to try to be a whole minute or two slower per mile. I’m also mad that whenever he edited my blogs, he knew exactly what to cut and add where to make it a better piece. Further, I’m mad that Bob is no longer in Cat Slack and that aside from being good with words, Bryan does rad tattoos. It’s incredibly rude to be talented on multiple levels AND have a cute cat. I’m mad that I didn’t get to have more of my blogs edited by him. I’m MADDEST, however, that he inflicted the hot dog salad upon the world. Eat shit, my dude.
Jill Pantozzi, Deputy Editor at io9
Bryan is so talented at a ridiculous number of things it’s hard to believe he’s a real person that exists. But he once brought me baked goods when I really needed them and that’s why he’ll forever be in my heart. Also Bob. Bob is aces.
Shoshana Wodinsky, Staff Reporter at Gizmodo
Bry is an incredible reporter, a damn good editor, and a (surprisingly!!!!!) decent tattoo artist. He’s smart, funny, and one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met on the Gizmodo team. That said, he was also the one who convinced me to watch The End Of Evangelion on, like, my first week here, which was undoubtedly the worst prank anyone’s ever played on me. No amount of thoughtful, patient editing will make up for the fistfuls of brain cells I undoubtedly lost after waking up at 3 a.m. for the fifth day in a row from flying killer robot nightmares. In short, fuck that guy.
Brian Kahn, Managing Editor at Earther
In the three-plus years of Earther’s existence, Bryan maybe wrote one or two blogs for us. it just so happens that one of those blogs is perhaps the most beautifully deranged piece I have ever had the pleasure of editing. It was about New York’s styrofoam ban. A normal person would look at the topic and deploy facts and figures to argue that styrofoam has no place in society, and that throwaway culture is strangling the planet. Bryan chose to write a piece entirely in NYC Guido Voice. In a world of intractable problems, we need more problem-solvers like Bryan.
William Turton, former Reporter for Gizmodo
Bryan is a total sweetheart and a really talented guy. He’s also good-looking.
Veronica de Souza, former Head of Audience and Social at Gizmodo Media Group
This makes me feel insanely old but I have known Bryan for over 10 years. We met as two little (yet obscenely tall) shits in college, when Bryan’s hair had roughly the same diameter as an astronaut’s helmet and mine was a questionable shade of “box red.” We went on to work together at *two* jobs, meaning we’ve been bitching about work to each other for over half a decade. Bryan is the first person I text when I encounter something truly vile online, knowing I can send these things to him without warning or context. He is funny, kind and smart, although he *did* once “vape coffee” for a story for some reason. I cannot find this story but I am in possession of the vaporizer he used for his research.
If I were to roast Bryan, I’d probably share a video of the time he ate an entire lemon, including the skin, at his desk while insisting he’s “never thrown up where he’s not supposed to.” I’d also maybe share a screenshot of the time he thought the movie Ford v Ferrari was about tennis.
The thing is, I don’t want to roast Bryan, because he is a great writer and editor and a great person. I’d rather roast the various [REDACTED] who run [REDACTED], and continue to hold the very competitive top spot for dumbest [RDACTED].
Whitney Kimball, Current Reporter at Gizmodo
Great to see so many formers back on the blog! We should all just prewrite our roasts at this point, amirite? Ha ha ha.
Anyway, there’s a scene in the movie Children of Men in which Michael Caine repeatedly tells a gunman “pull my finger,” even after getting his finger blown off. Bryan is like that. Hardcore til the end. Solid dude.
Marina Galperina, Gizmodo Features Editor
First time I edited Bryan he had just returned from a miniature horse convention in Lexington, Kentucky. He was very dedicated to communicate this specific equine enthusiasm as an understandable thing, kind of relatable actually, but also with its own very distinct qualities. Culinary shitposting aside, Bryan bringing back the atmosphere was always fun to hear secondhand, even when he didn’t have that much fun in the field itself because sometimes he’d go to awful places like the DeploraBall. I wish for Bryan to now be getting into terrible situations for journalism, banging out good funny headlines, coming up with more weird ways other people can fix bad things, and bullying rich nerds. His cat is suspicious.
Christina Warren, former Senior Writer at Gizmodo
There are so many things I could write in a roast to BryBry, our bloggy boy who went from writing up sploids and doing deep, wonderful investigations into the weird internet and transitioned into being an amazing labor and investigative reporter and editor, but I’ll start with the solemn and the obvious: Bryan deserved and deserves better.
Frankly, all of you do. But I just want to put it on the record that Bryan, you deserved better.
Being your friend and colleague was such a joy. Watching you work, so exciting. I’ve never seen someone who *gets* internet culture quite like you, and tho those days are mostly behind you, it’s the weird shit I’ll always remember. Because I’m also a citizen of the internet and we recognize each other when we see it.
Sure, you made us look at a lot of bad stuff. And the internet has deeply broken your brain, but you somehow made it worth it.
I’m very mad that you weren’t able to blog this video as your final blog.
You got this stupid song from second grade stuck in our heads one day and Dicko almost let you blog it, but we all agreed it would be the perfect final blog to inflict upon the world. I’m so angry that was taken away from all of us. So there it is for the readers. This is the shit Bryan would just drop into Slack.
I was in a car the other day with other people because that is allowed now and that fucking song was on some Spotify playlist. And all I could think of was the repetition of that third verse. Over. And over. And over. And now I’m writing this, knowing this will be stuck in my head for hours if not days.
If you want to call me “baby”
Just go ahead now
And if you like to tell me “maybe”
Just go ahead now
And if you wanna buy me flowers
Just go ahead now
And if you would like to talk for hours
Just go ahead now
Just go ahead now. Fuck off for this, buddy. But also I love you.
The U.S.-based cruise ship industry will need to prove it can operate safely with test cruises and volunteer passengers before normal operations can begin, the Centers for Disease Control said in a statement on Wednesday. All cruise volunteers will need to be fully vaccinated and must agree to be tested for covid-19 three to five days after their journey.
“Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidance for cruise ships to undertake simulated voyages with volunteer passengers as part of its COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate application,” the CDC said in a statement.
“With the issuance of these documents, cruise ship operators now have all the necessary requirements and recommendations they need to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages.”
The conditions for these test voyages are rather extensive, as you can see from the CDC website. The CDC’s specifications for laboratory tests alone show that the Biden administration isn’t messing around when it comes to letting the cruise industry get back to business. But vaccines may allow things to proceed even faster.
Cruises can skip the “test cruise” phase if 98% of its crew and 95% of passengers have been fully vaccinated, though it’s not immediately clear if any cruise company will attempt to make that happen. Royal Caribbean, which published a blog post about the trials, did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment overnight.
G/O Media may get a commission
From the CDC website:
COVD-19 vaccines play a critical role in the safe resumption of passenger operations, but not all cruise ship operators have announced plans to mandate passenger vaccinations. As more people are fully vaccinated and more drug therapeutics are available, the phased approach allowed CDC to incorporate these advancements into planning for safe resumption of cruise ship travel. CDC recommends that all port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when a vaccine is available to them.
But the CDC knows there could very well still be covid-19 outbreaks on cruise ships moving into the near future. And the agency said as much in a statement, clearly trying to temper expectations that everything will return to normal immediately.
“CDC acknowledges that it is not possible for cruising to be a zero-risk activity for spread of COVID-19,” the CDC said in its statement on Wednesday.
“While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, CDC is committed to ensuring that cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern.”
A series of Instagram ads run by the privacy-positive platform Signal got the messaging app booted from the former’s ad platform, according to a blog post Signal published on Tuesday. The ads were meant to show users the bevy of data that Instagram and its parent company Facebook collects on users, by… targeting those users using Instagram’s own adtech tools.
The actual idea behind the ad campaign is pretty simple. Because Instagram and Facebook share the same ad platform, any data that gets hoovered up while you’re scrolling your Insta or Facebook feeds gets fed into the same cesspool of data, which can be used to target you on either platform later.
Across each of these platforms, you’re also able to target people using a nearly infinite array of data points collected by Facebook’s herd of properties. That data includes basic details, like your age or what city you might live in. It may also include more granular points: say, whether you’re looking for a new home, whether you’re single, or whether you’re really into energy drinks.
Based on this kind of minute data, Signal was able to create some super-targeted ads that were branded with the exact targeting specs that Signal used. If an ad was targeted towards K-pop fans, the ad said so. If the ad was targeted towards a single person, the ad said so. And if the ad was targeted towards London-based divorcees with degrees in art history, the ad said so.
G/O Media may get a commission
Apparently, Facebook wasn’t a fan of this sort of transparency into its system. While the company hasn’t yet responded to Gizmodo’s request for comment, Signal’s blog post explains that the ad account used to run these ads was shut down before many of these ads could reach their target audiences. Personally, I think that’s a shame—I’d have loved to see an ad that showed what Instagram really thinks of me.
A new chapter unfolded this week in Amazon’s years-long legal battle over selling exploding hoverboards. A California appeals court has ruled that the e-commerce giant is responsible for the safety of third-party products sold on its platform, according to the Los Angeles Times.
At the center of this case is Kisha Loomis, a woman who was “severely burned” after a hoverboard she bought on Amazon in 2015 through a third-party vendor burst into flames. A string of similar incidents prompted the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to launch an investigation into the safety of the devices, and Amazon later agreed to offer refunds to hoverboard customers living in the U.S. or Canada.
Initially, a California judge sided with Amazon, which argues that it only connects customers with sellers and shouldn’t be held liable for safety issues that result from those transactions. However, an appeals court ruled this week that Amazon is a “direct link in the vertical chain of distribution under California’s strict liability doctrine, acting as a powerful intermediary between the third party seller and the consumer.” You can check out the full ruling here.
Christopher Dolan, one of Loomis’ attorneys, called the court’s decision a huge victory for consumers in a statement to the Verge.
“Amazon can’t escape liability for defective products it sells to consumers by claiming it is not involved in the marketing, sale and distribution of goods and is just an ‘advertiser,’” he told the outlet on Saturday.
G/O Media may get a commission
In a statement to the Times, Amazon said it “invests heavily in the safety and authenticity of all products offered in our store, including proactively vetting sellers and products before being listed, and continuously monitoring our store for signals of a concern.” Amazon did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but we’ll update this blog when they do. If Amazon opts to challenge this ruling, the case could go on to California’s Supreme Court.
Amazon has a long history of advertising unsafe products from third-party, often near-anonymous sellers on its platform. Many of these items are reportedly stored within Amazon’s own warehouses via the company’s distribution business, Amazon Logistics.
Legal rulings have historically been in Amazon’s favor, but the tide’s begun to turn in recent years. In August, another California court of appeals reversed a 2019 trial court ruling in Amazon’s favor in a case where a woman suffered severe burns after the battery on a laptop she said she bought off a third-party seller on Amazon caught fire. A federal appeals court ruled in 2019 that Amazon could be held liable for sales of defective products after a customer was blinded in one eye by an allegedly faulty retractable dog leash. Lawsuits over exploding hoverboards have also cropped up in several other states.
Add another pushpin to the string wall of America’s shadowy force of postal service cops. Yahoo News reports that the USPS’s security arm, the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), monitored social media for potential threats of domestic violence. According to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo obtained by Yahoo News, the USPIS collected “inflammatory” Parler and Telegram posts ahead of planned March 20 protests and shared them with other agencies.
The previously unknown operation is called the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP). It’s unclear whether this is an ongoing program or was established for the sole purpose of collecting right-wing social media posts. The investigation seems to include posts from Facebook and other social media platforms, but the full breadth of the investigation is not clear from the document. The QAnon-promoted protests, against vaccines and covid-19 safety measures, were set for March 20, a date some believed would mark Donald Trump’s surprise return to the White House.
The two-page document, which is labeled “law enforcement sensitive” and was distributed by a DHC intelligence “fusion center,” reads in part:
Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021…Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.
Neither the USPIS nor the DHS immediately responded to our requests for comment.
You’ll recall that USPIS agents were the armed guys who arrested Steve Bannon on his yacht last year, which piqued our curiosity. (This receded while Postmaster General Louis DeJoy dismantled the rest of the place, cut back hours and proposed reviewing postal workers’ pension payments.) As for what that had to do with the postal service, Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale said at the time: “the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to identifying and investigating anyone who exploits others for their own benefits.”
G/O Media may get a commission
Mail tie-ins seem to be sort of loose. In a 2019 year-end report, the USPIS said that it employed 1,289 inspectors charged with enforcing “roughly 200 federal laws, covering crimes that include fraudulent use of the U.S. Mail and the postal system.” This surprisingly thrilling tie-in means that they hunt down prolific mail thieves, mail marketers, dark web-sourced mailed drugs, drug delivery bribes, and even on a $7 billion fraud scheme. But it also has a long-running unit for investigating child exploitation material, which, it seems, may or may not be detected through the process of flowing through mail. In its 2019 year-end report, for example, USPIS said that it was handed an investigation into a hard drive (which had at one point been mailed) containing child sexual abuse material, but the investigation was passed along from a Rhode Island internet child abuse task force, not seized en route or at a delivery point.
And, as the Washington Post has noted, the postal service’s investigatory powers granted since 1775 make it the oldest law enforcement agency in the country. The USPIS’s report suggests that it collaborates with virtually every federal investigatory body, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, the FBI, the DEA, and more.
The USPIS told Yahoo News that the iCOP program’s mission represents that of the overall USPIS mission to assess “threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open source information.” But it added that the USPIS “collaborates” with federal, state, and local law enforcement to protect employees and also “customers.”
By the “customers” metric, it seems that, like the mail, USPIS knows no jurisdiction. In its mission statement, the USPIS says that it works to keep up the reputation of the USPS, or “provide the investigative and security resources that ensure America’s confidence in the U.S. Mail.”
UPDATE 4/21/2021 7:20 p.m. ET: The USPIS declined to respond to Gizmodo’s request for information on USPIS’s relationship with DHS and the scope of its operations. It shared a general statement about USPIS operations, cited by Yahoo News: “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service occasionally reviews publicly available information in order to assess potential safety or security threats to Postal Service employees, facilities, operations and infrastructure.”
Tentatively excellent news! The FTC has declared that it is serious about racist algorithms, and it will hold businesses legally accountable for using them. In a friendly-reminder type announcement today, it said that businesses selling and/or using racist algorithms could feel the full force of their legal might.
“Fortunately, while the sophisticated technology may be new, the FTC’s attention to automated decision making is not,” FTC staff attorney Elisa Jillson wrote in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the agency “has decades of experience” enforcing laws that racist algorithms violate. They write that selling and/or using racially biased algorithms could qualify as unfair or deceptive practices under the FTC Act. They also remind businesses that racial discrimination (by algorithm or human) could violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
The effects of algorithmic racial bias and automated white favoritism spill out far beyond the types of products Facebook serves us. Racist algorithms have been shown to disproportionately deny Black people recommendations for specialized healthcare programs. They have priced out higher interest rates on mortgages for Black and Latinx people than whites with the same credit scores. They have drastically exaggerated Black defendants’ risk of recidivism, which can impact sentencing and bail decisions. They have encouraged police to target locations and arrest records which perpetuate further disproportionate arrests in Black communities. The list goes on.
Government use of racist algorithms makes the “selling” part especially important. The FTC can’t try the cops, but it might be able to go after a company that misrepresented its tool as race-neutral.
Given the endless churn of stories about the racist results of facial recognition, it could seem that the FTC is equipping itself to practically annihilate the technology. In an email to Gizmodo, an FTC spokesperson said that a seller could be guilty of “deceptive” practices if it “misleads consumers (whether they are businesses or individuals) about (for example) what an algorithm can do, the data it is built from, or the results it can deliver, the FTC may challenge that as a deceptive practice.”
G/O Media may get a commission
That’s a big deal! Most algorithms that sort through personal data do deliver discriminatory results, and companies tend not to admit it. But this is complicated by the fact that it’s often hard to prove the results because companies also tend to avoid letting us look under the hood, forcing investigative journalists and researchers to piece together clues after the damage is done. (See most of the links above.)
That caginess would likely stall an FTC complaint against an “unfair” practice. The commission would have to perform the time-consuming chore of exposing proof that the algorithm itself directly harms consumers. (In the spokesperson’s example: “compromises consumers’ ability to get credit, housing, jobs”.)
In other words, no one knows the extent of racist algorithms’ damage, and the FTC urges businesses to hold themselves accountable or the FTC “will do it for you,” read: the FTC will come for you, even if you’re a small potatoes Honda dealership.
Businesses will still lie, they know, so the announcement also reminds us that the FTC filed a complaint against Facebook alleging, among other things, that the company knowingly deceived users about facial recognition. This resulted in a settlement of $5 billion, which the FTC had celebrated as “history-making” but Democrats complained was wildly insufficient to make Facebook feel any pain.
On a more hopeful note, the FTC could spread some of the regulatory responsibility around. The spokesperson noted that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice, too, could pursue discrimination cases.
Here’s hoping they follow through and drive a hard bargain. People are getting sick and locked up.
Peloton is pushing back against a request from federal regulators to recall its Tread+ treadmill after the product was involved in a child’s death last month, the Washington Post reported Friday.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which launched an investigation shortly after the incident, plans to issue a new consumer safety warning as soon as this Saturday outlining the potential dangers posed by the Peloton Tread+, according to officials who spoke with the outlet on the condition of anonymity. Peloton has reportedly been stalling these efforts, negotiating with regulators over the wording and timing of a consumer alert and questioning whether a full recall is even warranted.
Peloton, a multi-billion-dollar exercise equipment manufacturer and media company, came under fire last month after CEO and co-founder John Foley posted a letter to the company’s website about the child’s death, calling it a “tragic accident.” He went on to disclose that Peloton is aware of “a small handful of incidents involving the Tread+ where children have been hurt,” and reiterated the product’s safety instructions, which warn users to keep kids and pets away from Peloton equipment “at all times”.
Earlier this week, regulators issued an administrative subpoena to force a reluctant Peloton to disclose information about the child who died as regulators continue their investigation into what exactly went wrong, the officials said. The Post’s sources said the CPSC has found “dozens” of incidents involving Peloton’s treadmills. These included reports of users who experienced injuries such as broken bones and head trauma after getting trapped beneath the equipment.
“This doesn’t happen with other treadmills,” one official with knowledge of the case told the Post. “It is a different hazard pattern than is typically seen.”
G/O Media may get a commission
As noted by Bloomberg, the CPSC received another worrying report about the Tread+ in February when a 3-year-old boy suffered a “significant brain injury” after being pulled under the treadmill. When his father discovered him, the child wasn’t breathing and needed to be resuscitated, according to the report. The child was also found with “tread marks on his back matching the slats of the treadmill, neck injury, and petechiae on his face, presumably from occlusion of blood flow.”
Based on the number of accidents and the severity of the injuries reported, CPSC staff decided to recommend that Peloton should issue a product safety recall, according to the officials the Post spoke with.
However, Peloton disagrees, arguing that improper use is to blame for these incidents rather than the product’s design.
Peloton “does not believe a recall is necessary,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to the Post, adding that the Tread+ “is safe for use when the warnings and safety instructions we provide are followed.”
It should be noted that Peloton may also be fighting against a recall because of the timing, as it’s budget treadmill model is set to go on sale next month. While the Tread+ costs $4,295, this new model has a price tag roughly half that at $2,495. Issuing a safety recall for one of its treadmills just weeks before it rolls out another one could tank consumer confidence and negatively impact sales. (Obviously a company’s profit should never come before consumer safety, but hey, that’s capitalism for you).
Peloton did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for inquiry, but we’ll be sure to update this blog when they do. A company spokesperson provided the following statement to the Verge:
We are disappointed that the CPSC is mischaracterizing the situation. The Peloton Tread+ is safe for use at home when operated as directed and in accordance with our warnings and safety instructions. As a reminder, the Tread+ is not for children under 16 and children, pets, and objects need to be kept away from the Tread+ at all times. Peloton is 100% committed to the safety of our Members and we will always be open to working with the CPSC to implement impactful safety measures. When the Tread+ is not in use, Members should continue to follow the safety instructions by storing the safety key, which keeps the Tread+ from operating, away from the Tread+ and out of reach of children.
The Tread+ isn’t Peloton’s first product that users have reported some serious issues with. Last year, the company issued a recall for clip-in pedals that would unexpectedly break off during use, causing lacerations and other injuries. The recall impacted an estimated 27,000 bikes.
A new investigation from The Guardian shows police and other public officials have been financially contributing to the legal defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old “Kenosha shooter” and rightwing icon currently on trial for the deaths of two people.
Rittenhouse became infamous last summer after traveling from his home in Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he disastrously inserted himself into the local political turmoil inspired by a police-involved shooting and ended up killing two people with an AR-15 style rifle.
A recent data breach involving the Christian crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo shows just how much online support the shooter would appear to have in rightwing circles—including some members of our nation’s law enforcement community. Using the platform, Rittenhouse raised upwards of half a million dollars over a period of several months—clearing $586,940 between last August and early January of this year. A certain number of those contributions apparently came from police and other public officials spread throughout the country.
According to The Guardian, the data appears to have included internal comments provided by contributors: “God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong,” said an internal affairs officer with the Norfolk police department in Virginia, chipping in $25 to Rittenhouse’s defense. “Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”
Rittenhouse also apparently received contributions from other public officials—including a city official in Huntsville, Alabama, and an engineer at one of the U.S.’s national laboratories. The report notes that in many cases “the donations were attached” to the contributors’ “official email addresses, raising questions about the use of public resources in supporting such campaigns.” It doesn’t share how much money came specifically from government employees.
G/O Media may get a commission
Other data reviewed by reporters show substantial support by police for a number of other disgraced law enforcement officials—including Rusten Sheskey, the Kenosha police officer who shot and seriously injured 29-year-old Black man Jacob Blake, thus setting off the local protests that Rittenhouse flew to the state to needlessly involve himself in. A fund for Sheskey apparently raised several thousand dollars, most of which came from “private email addresses associated with Kenosha officers.”
The data leak involving GiveSendGo has shown that the site has raised millions and millions of dollars for far-right figures and groups—including the Proud Boys. The company did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment and we’ll update this post when we receive a reply.
FedEx is facing pressure to reconsider its policy of forcing employees to lock up their phones during work, following Thursday night’s deadly shooting at a ground facility in Indianapolis.CNN reported that, around 11 p.m. ET, a man opened fire in the parking lot at the facility, killing eight and injuring several others before dying of suicide.
The no-phone policy would have necessarily prevented workers from dialing 911 and, horrifically, left victims unable to reach loved ones as they were dying. A state police sergeant tweeted a few hours after the shooting that they’d set up a family reunification center at a nearby Holiday Inn for family members “attempting to come to the scene.” The New York Times reported that families gathered at the hotel were still waiting for information on Friday morning.
A partner of a FedEx employee who has been confirmed safe also said this morning that friends and family were still fearfully awaiting news. A WRTV reporter tweeted video, in which Vanessa Waters told an assembled crowd: “Because they cannot take their phones in, a lot of these people are upset, they don’t know if their loved ones are alive or hurt. … I think [the no-phone] rule should change.”
FedEx confirmed to Business Insider that the company is considering a change to its no-phone policy, though when asked by Gizmodo, a FedEx spokesperson troublingly side-stepped the topic. They only explained that the phone policy is in place to “minimize potential distraction around package sortation equipment and dock operations.”
“Our immediate priorities are the safety and well-being of our team members and cooperation with law enforcement at this time,” they added.
G/O Media may get a commission
Others, who identified themselves as parents and friends of FedEx employees, have tweeted pleas to the police for information and blamed FedEx for preventing victims from calling for help. Out of respect for potential mourners, Gizmodo has chosen not to reach out.
In 2014, a 19-year-old shot and wounded six people at a FedEx facility. The Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are injured or killed by gun violence, lists a total of 148 mass shootings this year.
If you or someone you know is having a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.