This one’s for the girls
Facebook stands with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Plus: TikTok's upcoming group chat feature and Peloton and Adidas collab on a new apparel line.
I give Facebook a hard time because their growth-at-all-costs business model and polarizing products warrant intense scrutiny. But on the rare occasion when the company deserves kudos, I’ll give credit where it’s due. Case in point: COO Sheryl Sandberg announced that the company will now give 20 days of paid leave to all staff who suffer domestic violence or sexual assault. (Previously, employees were allowed to take unpaid leave under these circumstances.) “We all have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent it and help those who go through these awful experiences,” Sandberg said. “This is us really recognizing that this is something that affects everyone, including our employers.” In terms of privacy, Facebook says only HR managers will have access to the internal systems that ID employees who have told their managers they have to take emergency leave. The policy will also apply to employees with relatives or household members who are victims.
In related news, the House voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. The legislation, which strengthens protections for women against domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, was originally authored by then-Sen. Joe Biden and included in the now-controversial 1994 crime bill. It had been reauthorized several times until it lapsed in 2019 and could face fierce opposition in the Senate from anti-gun-control and anti-trans Republicans who are hostile to the idea of banning spouses convicted of domestic violence or abuse from owning guns or trans women being protected under the law.
Here’s your final reminder: On Monday 3/22 at noon EST, I’ll be hosting a crash course on how to write a daily newsletter or blog with confidence, clarity and consistency at Drafted, a free day-long writing and learning event by my friends at the On Deck Writer Fellowship. (I’ll share the cheat code for daily writing in the first 10 minutes.) Reserve your spot then tell all the writers in your life to sign up too. It’ll be time well spent, I promise.
As of yesterday, the IRS said it has distributed 90 million direct deposit stimulus payments amounting to $242.2 billion and mailed an additional 150,000 checks with a pay date of March 19. The stimmies were included in the American Rescue Plan to provide economic relief to those who needed it and a group of Senate Democrats introduced a bill to shield these payments from debt collectors. From Lexi Lonas at The Hill: “The proposal is similar to a previous bill passed last year that sought to block debt collectors from taking a person’s stimulus check. That bill was passed after Congress adopted the CARES Act, the first major coronavirus relief bill, which authorized payments for most Americans of up to $1,200 per adult.”
Yesterday I reported President Biden’s support of reforming the filibuster so at least one senator in the minority party would have to talk on the Senate floor to prevent debate from ending and voting from taking place. Well, it looks like Democrats took Biden’s inch and are hoping to turn it into a mile. Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock wants to tie filibuster reform to a major voting rights bill, while others want it gone altogether. As for Biden, Annie Linskey, Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis at The Washington Post report that top administration officials say that the president would rather enact his agenda than respect Senate norms. So who knows? Perhaps a change is gonna come after all…
» Not everyone thinks a return to the talking filibuster is the answer. Joel Mathis at The Week: “Why the talking filibuster won’t work”
I argued in an essay I wrote in January “that our most pressing issues require leadership from a functioning federal government — not folks whose power derives from their wealth.” At the time, I didn’t expect that a little over two months later Melinda Gates, the fifth-most powerful woman with a net worth of $70 billion, would agree with me. Philanthropists “can often take risks” and “try innovations that sometimes work and sometimes fail. They can look for new solutions, they can help us collect the data,” Gates said in an interview at the Bloomberg Equality Summit. “But ultimately it’s always up to government to scale up these innovations, to create this change.” The reason, as I explained last year, is simple: An over-reliance on philanthropy as a stand-in for action from public institutions is anti-democratic. “After all, tech executives are business people, not elected officials. So they’re under no obligation to serve the specific interests of or be held accountable by constituents in the same way a state or federal representative or senator would be.”
Related: Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced a new bill that would increase taxes for companies that pay their chief executives at least 50 times more than the typical employee.
» From Talib Visram at Fast Company: “These are the country’s 100 most overpaid CEOs”
From Jessica Denson at NBC News: “But what we've learned during the pandemic is that women are not reaping the same benefits from teleworking opportunities as men, because they are taking on even more of the at-home responsibilities. A lot of attention has been paid to how women have disproportionately taken on child care responsibilities, which will hopefully start to lessen as children can return to school. If the adults don't return to their offices, however, another remote work gender divide will persist — on the housecleaning front.” In her book Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, Ijeoma Oluo wrote that “many of our business and political leaders were freed to dedicate their time and energy to their professional success by the unpaid labor of wives and mothers and the underpaid labor of nannies and housekeepers.” These women, as I explained in this essay last month, still find themselves facing the cultural expectation that they should serve as, what Eve Rodsky called in her book Fair Play, the “she-fault” person responsible for invisible labor that keeps a family running. It’s something we need to address if we’re going to claim to be as committed to equity as America says we are.
Substack, the app that provides the technology for The Supercreator and a bajillion other newsletters, has found itself in the eye of an almost-weeklong storm after its dreadful public introduction of Substack Pro. I removed the paywall for the post I wrote on Monday about the Pro, which is a program Substack created to attract high-profile, independent-minded writers to the app and support them with a safety net while they ramp up their new mini-media empires. Give a read when you finish this issue. The Substack founders published another blog post yesterday to set the record straight about what they perceive are misperceptions about Pro. But while the follow-up post was better in style, its substance is unlikely to satisfy critics like me who interpret these deals as editorial decisions that publishers make instead of the business transactions Substack claims they are. If hot media goss is your jam, then you’ll enjoy these takes: “‘Having a Substack feels dirty’: Substack ‘Pro’ Announcement Leads to Departures from the Platform, Opportunities for Competitors”, Here's why Substack's scam worked so well and Substack Is Not a Neutral Platform
Vanessa Bryant released the names of the four grimy sheriff’s deputies — Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell, and Raul Versales — who allegedly took and shared photos from the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe, daughter Gianna and seven others. In a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, Bryant requested the crash site be secured for privacy on the morning of the crash only to learn that the deputies spread the photos within the sheriff’s department and among unauthorized people. Prayers up to Vanessa, who has handled this unspeakable tragedy with such graceful resolve. Rest in peace Mamba and Mambacita.
TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has ambitions to transform the social video app into a “social interactions app” by adding a group messaging feature. From Fanny Potkin and Yingzhi Yang at Reuters: “A group chat function would help TikTok keep users on the app longer. TikTok, which is particularly popular with teenagers and young adults, has also been expanding its livestreaming and e-commerce offerings and group chats would enable influencers to more easily connect with fans.” Why would a tech company want to maximize time on an app? I’m sure it has nothing to do with generating more ad revenue. 🙄
YouTube launched a new feature called “Checks” for creators to verify that their videos exclude copyrighted material and comply with advertiser guidelines.
Facebook says it’ll start punishing group members who break its rules after allowing racists, bigots and insurrectionists to organize in these private spaces for years. *Slow claps*
Peloton and Adidas are launching an apparel line on March 25 that was designed by some of Peloton’s top cycling instructors. The merch includes shorts, hoodies, tees, crewnecks, sports bras and joggers in sizes up to 2X and sells for $30 to $85. You’ll be able to shop the collaboration on both companies’ websites and select Adidas and Peloton stores. This is what business people call “synergy,” folks.