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Recode Daily: Amazon employees take a stand on climate change

Plus: Facebook changes its news feed, Chinese tech giant JD makes cuts to its workforce, and Republicans host a Senate hearing on alleged anti-conservative bias in social media.

Several Amazon workers at a warehouse scan stacks of packages on the shop floor
Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

In a rare show of public dissent, thousands of Amazon employees publicly called out their company leadership over climate change. Employees released a letter on Wednesday calling for CEO Jeff Bezos and other board members to come up with a company-wide plan backed by six principles including “a complete transition away from fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon offsets” and “prioritization of climate impact when making business decisions.”

Employees at Amazon have challenged company management on issues before, such as selling facial recognition technology and the lack of diversity in the boardroom. But this is the first time they’re doing so publicly with their names and titles attached. It’s a notable showing of employee-led activism at a company — as Jason Del Rey writes — “notorious for secrecy and a litigious streak” and where “public vocal dissent is practically unheard of.”
[Jason Del Rey / Recode]

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Facebook is tweaking its News Feed algorithm to improve the reliability of information on the platform. The company is integrating a new metric called “Click-Gap,” which lowers the rank of sites that are popular on Facebook, but are not linked to as widely on the rest of the internet. These kinds of sites will be deprioritized more often because they’re likely to be “producing low-quality content,” according to a blog post written by Facebook VP of integrity Guy Rosen and head of news feed integrity Tessa Lyons.

As Wired writes, it’s a change that could help slow down the spread of misinformation on the platform, but also leave the company more vulnerable to accusations of censorship from fringe groups that have benefitted from the ability to go viral on Facebook. The company also announced a slew of other changes aimed at combating misinformation on the platform, such as penalizing Groups that spread fake news and changing their community standards.
[Emily Dreyfuss and Issie Lapowsky / Wired]

Chinese tech giant JD is planning to make big cuts to its workforce. The company — which is Alibaba’s biggest competitor — is “cutting some teams by as much as half,” according to Bloomberg. The Information reported earlier that the company could be cutting its workforce by up to 8 percent. JD’s woes are part of larger economic trends in the region.

As Bloomberg writes, “Chinese tech companies are shaking up their ranks to tide them over during tougher times” as consumption in the country falls. JD in particular “has come under increasing pressure from a more-diversified Alibaba.”
[Lulu Yilun Chen and David Ramli / Bloomberg]

Despite a lack of evidence from experts, Republicans accused Facebook, Google, and Twitter of anti-conservative bias on their platforms. At a Senate hearing on Wednesday led by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Republicans renewed their claims that these platforms censor right-wing content and threatened federal legislation on the matter. As the Washington Post writes, “Conservatives long have claimed that major social-media sites exhibit political bias, pointing to Silicon Valley’s liberal leanings and regular contributions to Democrats,” even though “experts have said there is no evidence that Facebook, Google and Twitter have deliberately sought to limit the reach of Republicans.”

Democrats questioned the legitimacy of the hearing, which they say is a distraction from the threat of white nationalism and extremist content being spread on social media.
[Tony Romm / Washington Post]

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