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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Amazon Desires a Lot of New Legal guidelines

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This text is a part of the On Tech publication. You possibly can enroll right here to obtain it weekdays.

Amazon is on a roll suggesting massive modifications to U.S. legal guidelines. This could possibly be nice for a lot of Individuals and for the nation, or this could possibly be largely speak.

Amazon has been loudly supporting a federal minimal wage of $15 an hour. The corporate talked about (briefly) in a weblog put up in April that it was in favor of accelerating the federal tax charge for companies. Amazon wrote this week that it might be “actively supporting” a proposed federal invoice to legalize marijuana. Final yr, the corporate mentioned that it wished Congress to jot down guidelines for the moral use of facial recognition know-how, together with Amazon’s Rekognition.

A few of these insurance policies may make an actual distinction in individuals’s lives. My concern is that Amazon might want credit score with the general public and the policymakers for supporting these legal guidelines, however that it received’t put within the concerted and sustained work required to have an actual influence — besides when it immediately helps Amazon.

We all know that firms foyer exhausting for or in opposition to legal guidelines which might be good for his or her backside strains. However when firms say that they assist insurance policies they imagine will help everybody, do they commit the identical cash and muscle to these efforts? (And may they?)

Emily Stewart, writing for Vox’s Recode, lately requested related questions of all companies, together with the know-how giants. However maybe we must always maintain the tech superstars to an excellent larger customary due to their energy over our lives and their affect on policymakers and public notion.

Stress from firms can’t harm to nudge a Congress that’s usually gridlocked or sluggish to move legal guidelines. Labor organizations have been urgent for a $15 minimal wage for years. It’s potential that Amazon’s advocacy could be much more efficient at rallying public assist and altering the regulation. Ditto for Fb’s relentless promotions about its assist for revised U.S. web rules.

These firms deserve credit score for taking up massive points, however what issues is that they comply with by way of to the tip. As Stewart wrote, “Imprecise gestures from firms and executives are a method to easy over actual political and social points, and to deflect deserved scrutiny.”

An episode from Amazon’s previous additionally invitations skepticism of its motivations in coverage battles. For years, the corporate loudly proclaimed assist for a nationwide gross sales tax in the USA. Amazon knew {that a} nationwide gross sales tax was most probably a non-starter in Congress. However Amazon’s place helped in its combat in opposition to state legal guidelines to gather gross sales taxes on on-line purchases.

A nationwide gross sales tax by no means occurred. Amazon a couple of decade in the past started to succeed in compromises with states to use gross sales taxes. By then, the corporate had benefited from years of value benefits over standard retailers.

This little bit of historical past reveals that what Amazon mentioned was a principled coverage place was fairly doubtless little greater than a technique maneuver.

Listed here are some questions that American taxpayers can pose to tech firms who’re talking up for coverage modifications: How is the corporate pushing for this regulation? What particular coverage strategies does it have? How a lot cash will the corporate spend on lobbying for it? Will the corporate decide to standing studies on its coverage advocacy and the outcomes?

Amazon’s lobbying disclosures do point out, with out many specifics, that minimal wage points are among the many matters that the corporate has pressed with members of Congress. Jodi Seth, a spokeswoman for Amazon, additionally pointed me to the corporate’s commercials and opinion items about rising the minimal wage, and mentioned it’s one of many few points that entails everybody on Amazon’s coverage workforce.

I’ll add yet one more query to my record: Why? No, the actual reply. Radical candor about firms’ motivations for proposed coverage modifications may assist win confidence from lawmakers and the general public.

For Amazon, why not be frank that a rise within the minimal wage could be good for a lot of American employees and for Amazon’s enterprise? The corporate might have to pay extra to entice sufficient high-quality employees and hold them pleased, and its rivals might not be capable to afford larger wages.

Fb and another tech firms which might be getting behind a nationwide digital privateness safety regulation in the USA don’t sometimes say out loud that they need extra lenient guidelines from Congress to usurp strict legal guidelines that some states have handed.

I’m making a spreadsheet itemizing choose coverage positions taken by massive tech firms. I promise to report again right here periodically with what the businesses have finished. (And please electronic mail me with strategies of insurance policies proposed by tech firms that you just’d like to trace. Put “insurance policies” within the topic line.)



  • Fb fights with itself: Some staff have been difficult the Fb bosses for actions they believed helped the Indian authorities stifle on-line dissent and for eradicating some pro-Palestinian posts, my colleagues Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac report. It’s the newest instance of divisions between some Fb employees who need the corporate to face as much as domineering governments and a coverage workforce that handles tough worldwide relations.

  • It’s exhausting to make a Silicon Valley from scratch: Remainder of World appears to be like at what has gone improper with Kenya’s effort to construct a metropolis that was imagined as a high-tech utopia for residents and a hub for tech firms. “Good cities aren’t cure-alls for socioeconomic issues however quite methods to distract residents from greater, structural ones,” the article says.

  • Meet the brand new king of TikTok: Khabane Lame, a 21-year-old former manufacturing unit employee in Italy, has turn out to be the fastest-growing video creator on TikTok. My colleagues Jason Horowitz and Taylor Lorenz clarify the attraction of his intelligent and relatable response movies. (For instance, right here he’s horrified by Bitter Patch Child pizza.)

Birds are so nice. Here’s a cockatiel (I feel?) dancing and singing alongside to the piano.


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