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Bulletins

Shareholders are suing Pinterest over racism allegations

Pinterest is facing a shareholder lawsuit over allegations that the company's leaders enabled a culture of race and gender discrimination.


The plaintiff, the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island, is suing a collection of officers and directors at the company for breaches of fiduciary duty, waste of corporate assets, abuse of control and violations of federal securities laws.

The lawsuit extensively details allegations that Pinterest leaders discriminated against Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, two Black women who have said they faced pay discrimination and racism during their time at the company.

"This case arises from Pinterest's systematic culture, policy, and practice of illegal discrimination on the basis of race and sex, from at least February 2018 through the present," the lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court in Northern California, reads. "Pinterest's top executives and members of its Board of Directors personally engaged in, facilitated or knowingly ignored the discrimination and retaliation against those who spoke up and challenged the Company's White, male leadership clique."

"As a result of Defendants' illegal misconduct, the Company's financial position and its goodwill and reputation among its largely female user base (which Pinterest's success depends upon) were harmed and continue to be harmed," the lawsuit reads.

Ozoma and Banks went public with their allegations over the summer, and they were followed by former Pinterest executive Francoise Brougher, who filed a gender discrimination claim against the company.

The suit accuses leaders including Pinterest co-founders Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp of failing to address employee allegations of misconduct and racism. Jeff Jordan of Andreessen Horowitz, an investor in Pinterest who sits on the company's board, is also named as a defendant.

Power

Yes, GameStop is a content moderation issue for Reddit

The same tools that can be used to build mass movements can be used by bad actors to manipulate the masses later on. Consider Reddit warned.

WallStreetBets' behavior may not be illegal. But that doesn't mean it's not a problem for Reddit.

Image: Omar Marques/Getty Images

The Redditors who are driving up the cost of GameStop stock just to pwn the hedge funds that bet on its demise may not be breaking the law. But this show of force by the subreddit r/WallStreetBets still represents a new and uncharted front in the evolution of content moderation on social media platforms.

In a statement to Protocol, a Reddit spokesperson said the company's site-wide policies "prohibit posting illegal content or soliciting or facilitating illegal transactions. We will review and cooperate with valid law enforcement investigations or actions as needed."

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
People

In 2020, Big Tech reckoned with racial injustice. Its work is far from over.

From Facebook's walkouts to Amazon's facial recognition moratorium, did any of it make a difference?

Racial injustice issues engulfed the U.S. this year, and Big Tech wasn't spared.

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The movement for Black lives marched straight into the heart of some of Silicon Valley's most powerful companies this summer, with Facebook employees staging a virtual walkout over the company's policies, Pinterest employees speaking out about racism and retaliation they experienced and a parade of tech giants making heartfelt commitments to diversity and supporting POC-focused causes.

But as the year comes to a close, one of those giants, Google, is facing an uproar over the firing of Timnit Gebru, one of its top AI ethicists, after she wrote an internal message to fellow Googlers that criticized biases within the company and within its AI technology. It's a scandal Gebru's supporters argue is emblematic of the costs Black people in the tech industry bear for speaking out on issues related to discrimination every day.

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
Power

A racial justice protest took part of Tesla’s factory offline, an internal email says

In an email obtained by Protocol, a Tesla employee told colleagues that a protest following the Breonna Taylor grand jury decision disrupted manufacturing in Fremont.

Manufacturing in part of Tesla's Fremont factory was disrupted last month during an apparent employee protest, according to an internal email.

Photo: Lauren Hepler/Protocol

A brief disruption to production at Tesla's Fremont auto plant last month — described by the company as an act of sabotage by an employee who was subsequently fired — may have been the result of a protest over the Breonna Taylor grand jury decision, according to an internal email obtained by Protocol.

Tesla's top lawyer said last week that an employee had "maliciously sabotaged" a part of the Fremont factory, then attempted to cover it up, before ultimately confessing. In a message to Tesla workers, the lawyer called the employee's actions "crimes" and violations of the company's policies, but referred only obliquely to the perpetrator's "personal motivations."

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
Protocol | China

More women are joining China's tech elite, but 'Wolf Culture' isn't going away

It turns out getting rid of misogyny in Chinese tech isn't just a numbers game.

Chinese tech companies that claim to value female empowerment may act differently behind closed doors.

Photo: Qilai Shen/Getty Images

A woman we'll call Fan had heard about the men of Alibaba before she joined its high-profile affiliate about three years ago. Some of them were "greasy," she said, to use a Chinese term often describing middle-aged men with poor boundaries. Fan tells Protocol that lewd conversations were omnipresent at team meetings and private events, and even women would feel compelled to crack off-color jokes in front of the men. Some male supervisors treated younger female colleagues like personal assistants.

Within six months, despite the cachet the lucrative job carried, Fan wanted to quit.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a Reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

Politics

Trump’s ban on diversity training sends tech companies scrambling

Experts say the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping could strong-arm companies into halting the progress they've made on racial sensitivity.

Under the order, the Department of Labor is required to develop rules and build out an enforcement and auditing team to hold companies to the new standards over the next 60 days.

Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The country's top tech companies are mobilizing against President Trump's executive order barring federal contractors from offering diversity and inclusion training to their employees.

The executive order could force tech companies with large federal government contracts — including Google, Amazon and Microsoft — to decide between continuing to take hundreds of millions of dollars or pursuing efforts to educate their workforce on issues such as systemic racism and unconscious bias.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

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