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Recode Daily: The buried cost of Amazon’s next-day delivery

Plus: Facebook will join Instagram in hiding “Like” counts.

An Amazon Prime delivery van driving down a suburban street.
A new BuzzFeed News report details how drivers employed by small companies work under “relentless demands to deliver hundreds of packages each shift.”
Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Amazon next-day delivery’s real cost. Yes, Amazon uses UPS and the US Postal Service to make deliveries. And it has grand plans for futuristic drone delivery, which does not exist yet. But to maintain its gigantic delivery network’s amazing next-day and same-day targets, it relies on a home-grown network of hundreds of small companies. A new BuzzFeed News report details how drivers employed by these small companies work under “relentless demands to deliver hundreds of packages each shift — for a flat rate of around $160 a day — at the direction of dispatchers who often compel them to skip meals, bathroom breaks, and any other form of rest, discouraging them from going home until the very last box is delivered,” according to BuzzFeed.

  • The real cost: Amazon’s local system cuts costs and shields the company from liability. These standalone companies take packages directly from Amazon facilities to the consumer — “covering what’s known in the industry as ‘the last mile.’” When things go wrong for employees of these small companies — as they often do under the pressure to meet Amazon’s punishing targets — the system allows Amazon to avoid any responsibility.
    [Caroline O’Donovan and Ken Bensinger / BuzzFeed News]

Facebook will join Instagram in hiding “Like” counts. Facebook may soon stop showing “Like” counts on posts in your News Feed in an attempt to “protect users from envy and dissuade them from self-censorship,” according to TechCrunch. Instagram has been testing the same change in seven countries. Removing the “Like” counts on both Instagram and Facebook “could put less pressure on users and encourage them to share more freely and frequently,” TechCrunch writes, especially on Facebook, which has become a platform for sharing major life events rather than day-to-day updates.

  • On the other hand: Removing the “Like” counts from Facebook could be a way to disguise Facebook’s “potential decline in popularity as users switch to other apps,” TechCrunch writes.
    [Josh Constine / TechCrunch]

Uber and Lyft lost another battle in California. On Friday, California state senators on the appropriations committee voted in favor of AB 5, a bill that would require companies to classify workers as employees, not independent contractors (with a few exceptions). Despite Uber and Lyft’s aggressive lobbying campaigns, the two ride-hail companies were not exempted. Lawmakers voted 5-2 to send the bill to the Senate floor for a final vote. That means Uber drivers in California are one step closer to becoming Uber employees.

  • The big deal: If AB 5 becomes law, it would disrupt the gig economy business model championed and cherished by Silicon Valley. Uber, Lyft, and other app-based gig companies rely on hundreds of thousands of independent contractors to give rides, deliver food, and complete other tasks. With AB 5, these contract workers would get the labor protections and benefits of full-time employees, and most importantly, they would be able to unionize.
    [Alexia Fernández Campbell / Vox]

Hong Kong protesters are stumped by Twitter. Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who are protesting proposed amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition law are turning to Twitter in an attempt to drum up international support or intervention for their cause. But these new Twitter users are finding the platform hard to understand. Quartz reports that one woman found “some functions of Twitter confusing, for example the difference between retweeting and retweeting with a comment.” Users on Twitter have jumped in to help the newcomers, with some setting up Google Docs with tips and others tweeting to explain common English internet terms that aren’t clear to the new users.

  • The more they learn, the more organized they are: These new Twitter users are collaborating on Telegram to poll each other on issues they want the rest of the world to see them unifying around on Twitter, Quartz reports.
    [Isabella Steger / Quartz]

Top Stories from Recode

Jack Dorsey’s hack encapsulates Twitter’s struggle with problematic content. Dorsey himself has tried to be something of a model Twitter user.
[Theodore Schleifer]

In your podcast feed:

Social media is the perfect petri dish for bias. The solution is for tech companies to slow us down. Stanford psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt, the author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, tells Kara Swisher that Nextdoor reduced racial profiling by 75 percent by introducing a tiny bit of friction for users. Listen to the latest Recode Decode here.

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