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Black tech CEOs explain why the killing of George Floyd hits so close to home

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ShotSpotter CEO Ralph Clark

ShotSpotter

A lot of tech CEOs have voiced their outrage at the death of George Floyd, proclaiming in tweets that #BlackLivesMatter.

Charley Moore is different he can actually relate.

Moore, the CEO of Rocket Lawyer, said he was racially profiled just last fall, while driving in Vermont with his son, who’s in college about an hour south of Burlington. Moore said he filmed the incident on his phone from the moment the officer pulled them over, despite the fact that they weren’t speeding or breaking any clear law. 

“When he saw I was recording, he said, ‘What do you do for a living?'” said Moore, whose company provides online legal services for individuals and small to medium-sized businesses. “I told him I’m an attorney and everything changed. He became Mr. Vermont nice, literally speaking to the camera.” 

“It’s happened to me my whole life,” said Moore, who has three sons and lives in San Francisco. “It’s been going on for 400 years, just not videoed.” 

Charley Moore, CEO, Rocket Lawyer

Source: Rocket Lawyer

Moore is an anomaly in Silicon Valley, where racial injustice sparks widespread indignation but diversity remains aspirational.

There are only four black CEOs among Fortune 500 companies, and none of them are in technology. Numerous tech leaders have said in recent days that they’re listening, and that discrimination won’t be tolerated, with some donating money to organizations working to end racial inequality and hold law enforcement accountable.

Still, the tech industry, where African-Americans are dramatically under-represented, has a way of appearing tone-deaf and out of touch.

A day after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced $10 million in donations to “groups working on social justice,” he held a call with civil rights groups and told them that his website wouldn’t be taking down incendiary posts from President Donald Trump. Leaders of the organizations said in a statement after the Monday night call that they “are disappointed and stunned by Mark’s incomprehensible explanations.” 

The makeup of his company opens him up to greater criticism only 3.1% of senior leadership at Facebook is black, according to Facebook’s latest diversity report

“Five million or $10 million is interesting, but give me three VPs,” said Ralph Clark, CEO of ShotSpotter in Newark, California, south of Oakland.

Clark, one of the country’s few black tech CEOs, splits his time between Seattle and Oakland. Like Moore, whom he calls a good friend, Clark views the killing of an unarmed black man by a policeman in Minneapolis through a personal lens.

He recalls the time in the 1980s when he was working as a marketing executive for IBM amd police officers in Los Angeles held him up for a crime he didn’t commit. And the time he had to tell his then-10-year-old son not to play the prank of toilet papering someone’s house with a group of friends because the joke isn’t funny when a black kid gets caught.

During ShotSpotter’s IPO roadshow in 2017, Clark says he noticed times when investors in the room immediately directed their eyes to the company’s chief financial officer, a white man who was a classmate of Clark’s at Harvard Business School.

“There are biases out there and you have to navigate them,” said Clark, who has four kids between the ages of 16 and 25. “We’re taught that you’ve got to be better. You’ve got to work twice as hard and be twice as good to get half as far.”

What happens to the other three officers?

Clark also understands the issues surrounding guns and police better than most CEOs.

ShotSpotter’s technology helps law enforcement detect and locate gunfire through sensors and algorithms, and the company sells it to more than 100 departments around the country including Minneapolis. The quest is to accurately identify shooters and ultimately reduce gun violence. 

Many of the company’s employees are ex-law enforcement officers and its board includes Bill Bratton, who was previously chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and police commissioner of New York City.

Clark described an all-hands Zoom meeting the company held on Friday, where the Floyd incident was a major topic of discussion. 

Clark said everyone was horrified at the behavior of the police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while the victim cried out for help. The assailant, Derek Chauvin, was charged with murder and manslaughter on Friday.

But there’s some debate internally around what should happen to the three officers who stood idly by while Floyd died. They were fired from the department but have not been charged.

Clark thinks they should be prosecuted.

“I think it’s really, really important that those other officers are charged as accessories,” he said. “That’s the thing that’s going to change the behavior going forward.”

At Rocket Lawyer’s executive meeting on Monday, the conversation also centered around Floyd’s death and what could come of the tragedy. Moore said he’s put a lot of thought into the power of video and the ability for people to use it to help defend themselves. He said the company is working on an update to its mobile apps to let users capture and share video with attorneys as a method of deterrence and to help ensure accountability.

“Our mission is to make the tools of justice affordable enough for everybody,” said Moore. “This video, the ability to capture evidence is a really powerful one.”

Why now?

There have been numerous instances of police violence against black people captured on video in recent years. So why is this particular incident causing so much angst for tech execs?

Clark said the video, and its many different angles, presents the viewer with a picture of inhumanity that can’t be ignored and begs for a response. The length of it, combined with the noticeable gasps from the victim and his desperate calls to his mother, who died two years, ago shows “a whole new level of depravity,” Clark said.

“You’re literally watching a slow painful execution,” he said.

Moore said outrage has been building up under the Trump administration and has finally boiled over. Now that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, with the country more divided than ever, CEOs know that help isn’t coming from the federal government.

“There’s a vacuum of the sort of moral authority that government typically provides,” Moore said. “We don’t have the moral authority of Barack Obama or Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower right now. Leaders of companies, by necessity, are filling the vacuum.”

WATCH: Facebook is taking employee virtual walkout very seriously

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/02/black-tech-ceos-george-floyd-killing-hits-close-to-home.html

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Tesla’s solar panels and Powerwall batteries are becoming a package deal

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If you’re still thinking about getting a Tesla Powerwall or equip your roof with its redesigned solar panels, you should probably consider getting both or going elsewhere entirely. Elon Musk revealed in a tweet that “Starting next week, Tesla Solar Panels & Solar Roof will only be sold as an integrated product *with* Tesla Powerwall battery” creating the kind of brand synergy he’s been seeking.

Electrek reported last month that Tesla’s website had started telling potential Powerwall buyers that the only way to get the in-demand battery would be to order solar panels too, so it looks like this policy works both ways. Beyond just tying two big-ticket items together, Musk went on to say that “Tesla can unlock higher capabilities for free via software update next month” for Powerwall 2, and that for new installations, solar power will feed exclusively to the battery.

Of course, as Electrek also mentioned, even if you already have a contract with Tesla for your panels, it may have altered the deal with a higher price than originally estimated, citing “roof complexity.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/tesla-solar-powerwall-exclusive-bundle-063934061.html

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The US Postal Service is monitoring social media for ‘inflammatory’ postings

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The United States Postal Service may not be a likely candidate if you’re asked to name the government agencies you think are monitoring social media posts, but it’s apparently been doing just that. According to Yahoo News, the Postal Service’s law enforcement arm — the United States Postal Inspection Service or USPIS — has been running a surveillance program called the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP). Analysts with the team have reportedly been trawling social media websites for “inflammatory” posts and then distributing the information they collect to other agencies through Homeland Security. 

Yahoo News got its hands on a document describing the kinds of content the iCOP analysts found revolving around planned protests for the World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy back in March. The bulletin contained posts collected from Facebook, Parler, Telegram and other social media sites. It noted that Parler users, in particular, commented about their intent to use the rallies to engage in violence, with some posters saying that it’s their opportunity to “do serious damage.” 

The iCOP analysts concluded that there was “no intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats.” However, the notice said they will continue monitoring social networks and identifying posts discussing planned attacks and violent actions. 

That government agencies are keeping an eye on Parler and Facebook groups doesn’t come as a surprise, considering the role they played in giving people a platform to plan the Capitol riot back in January. Civil liberties experts expressed their surprised that the Postal Service is monitoring posts online, though, when the postal service isn’t related to social media. When asked by Yahoo News, the USPIS explained that its actions are meant to protect the postal service, its infrastructure, employees and its customers. It said in a statement:

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the primary law enforcement, crime prevention, and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service. As such, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has federal law enforcement officers, Postal Inspectors, who enforce approximately 200 federal laws to achieve the agency’s mission: protect the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure, and customers; enforce the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and ensure public trust in the mail.

The Internet Covert Operations Program is a function within the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which assesses threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open source information.

Additionally, the Inspection Service collaborates with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to proactively identify and assess potential threats to the Postal Service, its employees and customers, and its overall mail processing and transportation network. In order to preserve operational effectiveness, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service does not discuss its protocols, investigative methods, or tools.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/us-postal-service-monitoring-social-media-050234115.html

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Disney’s new deal with Sony gets Spider-Man flicks on Disney+

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Just a couple of weeks ago, Sony Pictures closed a deal with Netflix over exclusive streaming rights for its theatrical streaming releases starting in 2022 as well as catalog titles and some new originals they will team up to produce. Now Disney has also announced a licensing deal with Sony Pictures for theatrical releases from 2022 – 2026, as well as number of its older catalog titles.

So what’s going on? Netflix’s deal secures exclusive US rights for the period after the movies are released theatrically and on Blu-ray / video on-demand, about nine months after they come out in theaters. Disney’s deal kicks in after that, for the window where movies usually run on cable TV or broadcast networks with ads (as Deadline mentions, this deal follows up on a similar one Sony had with the now-Disney-owned network FX). 

Other than new movies, the deal also secures streaming rights for older movies including Spider-Man movies that have been missing from the MCU set on Disney+ and evne Into the Spider-Verse (after their exclusivity on Netflix expires). Other than Disney+ and the company’s various cable networks, this also covers Hulu and a note in the press release it will add a “significant number of library titles” starting in June.

There’s no word on how much money is changing hands, but Sony Pictures exec Keith Le Goy said in a statement that “This agreement cements a key piece of our film distribution strategy, which is to maximize the value of each of our films, by making them available to consumers across all windows with a wide range of key partners.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/sony-disney-licensing-014946942.html

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‘Resident Evil 4’ comes out on Oculus Quest 2 this year

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As promised, Oculus had new details to share about the upcoming VR remaster of Resident Evil 4. When it comes out on Oculus Quest 2 later this year, you’ll get to replay the GameCube classic in first-person. That means many of the gameplay systems have gotten a tweak to make them better suited for VR. For instance, you can move Leon by pushing forward the analog stick on the Quest 2’s Touch controllers or by taking advantage of the teleportation and room-scale features developer Armature has added to the game. Weapons and items will be physical objects in the game world you’ll be able to pick up. That means if you want to switch to say your pistol, you can grab it from Leon’s holster instead of jumping into the menu. 

Outside of gameplay tweaks, Armature tried to keep the experience similar the one Resident Evil fans know and love. You’ll see cinematics in their original format and the studio says it faithfully recreated animations and textures in Unreal Engine 4. Oculus and Armature promised to share more details on the remaster soon. 

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/resident-evil-4-oculus-quest-2-223807329.html

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