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🎧 Today’s new Global Translations podcast episode looks at the ways job training is changing thanks to technology and the pandemic.
HEAD-TURNING: Americans may be facing armed protest in all 50 state capitals around the Biden inauguration, but New Delhi, India is facing 96,000 tractors and 12 million protesting farmers, in what organizers called “the longest march in the history of planet earth” (drone footage here). The farmers want a new market-friendly farm law overturned, India’s supreme court obliged with temporary stop to the law Tuesday.
EUROPEAN ALLIES SCORN PENCE AND POMPEO
When CNN’s Jim Acosta reported a “source close to VP” saying Pence’s plan for the next week is to “telegraph to our allies and adversaries that we have a fully functioning government,” Global Translations decided it was time to find out what European ambassadors in D.C., thought about that plan.
They aren’t buying it.
Those I spoke to all read this piece by Fiona Hill, the star witness of the first Trump impeachment, arguing that the storming of Capitol Hill was a coup attempt. One ambassador said that the Trump administration “will hardly ever get rid of the stench of Jan. 6,” and certainly not via platitudes about stable government.
National capitals are “constantly asking us for assessments about where things are going,” the ambassador said. From Cuba to Yemen to tariffs and pardons, another ambassador said they’d predicted the Trump exit ramp, except and until the Capitol riot. Now the diplomatic corps are simply holding on until Jan. 20 as best they can. The final fear: “minimal chance of a military strike somewhere.”
Pompeo and no ceremony: From tiny Luxembourg to the grey corridors of Brussels, no-one wanted to participate in the secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s victory lap. Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn went as far as to call Trump a “criminal” and “political pyromaniac,” so Pompeo canceled the European leg of the tour. Here’s the inside story. International Rescue Committee chief David Miliband, a former U.K. foreign secretary, also called Pompeo’s listing of Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terror group (effective from Jan. 19) “pure diplomatic vandalism.” Aid groups are united in arguing that this will prevent delivery of humanitarian aid.
SANDBERG’S QANON PROBLEM
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg had jaws dropping across the tech and security world on Tuesday, after claiming to Reuters about Capitol Hill rioting: “I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate.” The immediate and furious expert reactions haven’t broken into the mainstream yet, but it’s possible Sandberg’s deflection tactic may end ranking alongside Andrew Cuomo’s faux pas of writing a book about his pandemic success while it was still ongoing.
The anger spectrum ranges from Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) calling for Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to resign, to tech reporters seeing their social feeds fill up with anti-Sandberg vitriol and examples of questionable, readily available Facebook content. Angelo Carusone, head of progressive watchdog Media Matters for America (MMFA), could barely contain his anger speaking to Global Translations. “It’s not just revisionist history, it’s some pretty grand lies,” he said, saying Sandberg’s claims don’t pass the smell test. “They either didn’t catch it, or they did catch it and didn’t do anything about it,” he said.
Carusone said Facebook failed to act on evidence gathered by MMFA staff about the dangers of QAnon and other extreme groups, including his team finding “increased appeals to rally attendees to bring their guns,” in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 uprising, though armed protest is illegal in Washington D.C. “A lot of the people arrested so far are QAnon activists. Facebook helped connect them and left this conspiracy cauldron boiling.”
While Reddit closed QAnon forums as early as 2018, an Anti-Defamation League study revealed serious QAnon problems on Facebook as late as August 2020. Asked about Facebook’s claim to catch 90 percent of hate speech posts before they are reported by users, Carusone said “I don’t accept that number at all. The most consumed content on Facebook every day is crazy sh*t.” Here’s a breakdown of the post-election top performing content on the platform.
Facebook’s chief lobbyist sends Brussels a friend request: “I would like people to say that okay, for once, Facebook answered our questions,” said Aura Salla, a 36-year-old former center-right political candidate.
Other platforms reality check: If Twitter could ban 70,000 QAnon accounts this week, it means it could find them. Which means it could have found them weeks or months ago. Meanwhile, right-wing extremist chatter is spreading on new platforms.
EUROPEAN VS. AMERICAN CANCEL CULTURE
No, Angela Merkel wasn’t arguing President Trump should remain on Twitter, as many claimed on Monday. Merkel’s argument, echoed by French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, is that such decisions are too important to be left to tech CEOs and intransparent corporate committees. “What shocks me is that Twitter is the one to close his account. The regulation of the digital world cannot be done by the digital oligarchy,” Le Maire told France Inter. More reactions.
In Germany there’s already systems in place to deal with illegal and hateful content. Nazi propaganda is banned, and terror content must be immediately notified to public authorities and promptly removed. The threat of $60 million fines didn’t work when the terror content law was introduced in 2017: a gunman live streamed his attack on a German synagogue, and a local lawmaker was shot after being targeted online. The law was revamped, and while Facebook, Google and Twitter now routinely report how much content they have taken down, critics abound and Berlin is again revamping its laws. Still, some American Twitter users like Viriginia Heffernan, have shifted to have German geo-located accounts, to take advantage of the troll protection German law offers.
GLOBAL RISKS AND TRENDS
SPILLOVER EFFECTS OF U.S. CAPITOL RIOTS
EXPECT — MORE TERROR CONTENT LAWS: The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee has voted to require social media platforms remove terror content within one hour of it being posted, by 54 votes to 13, after three years without a majority for action. European digital rights NGOs have lobbied hard against the law, arguing that a vague definition of terror content would allow for political censorship. Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer told POLITICO that “with this regulation in place, Viktor Orbán could delete legitimate content throughout the EU.”
EXPECT — TECH DEPLATFORMING MESSES TO SPREAD: What happens in America, is not staying in America. This week Uganda is showing cancel culture works both ways: Facebook suspended a number of accounts controlled by Ugandan government officials in the run-up to Thursday’s national election, AFP reported. And the Ugandan government is reported to have requested the country’s mobile providers “block access to the iOS AppStore, Google PlayStore, and YouTube.” Chinese Uighur tweets were also banned
EXPECT — MORE ROLE REVERSAL: Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, is used to working with women to stabilize foreign politics. This week she found herself fielding questions from those foreign collaborators about how they can support America: “One way is a commitment to truth, to the fundamental proposition that reality is non-negotiable,” Verveer said.
DON’T EXPECT — AN UPENDED CAMPAIGN FINANCE WORLD: American corporate political donations are dropping off a cliff because “the risk from their political activities has gone up quantum-fold,” said Bruce Reed, president of the Center for Political Accountability. In other advanced democracies there are clearer boundaries and limited risk. Billionaires and multinationals are legally allowed to rain money on political candidates in countries from Australia, to Denmark and Germany to Turkey, but a combination of free TV airtime for parties, public campaign funding, and time-limited election campaigns, means that few bother. Other democracies from Japan to Canada to South Korea have clear campaign contribution and spending limits. While Germany’s Deutsche Bank came to Trump’s commercial rescue over the years, it’s also true that when Marine le Pen needed a bank loan she had to turn to Russia: because no French banks would be associated with her.
CHINA KEEPS MOVING AWAY FROM DEBT-FUELED GROWTH: Just as America is about to dive into an infrastructure funding debate, China, the global infrastructure engine, is pulling back. The latest victim: it’s rapid railway network.
JOBS RECOVERY SPOTLIGHT
🎧 Today’s new Global Translations podcast episode looks at new paths to jobs in the post-pandemic world. As the orthodoxy for career paths changes for the better, Luiza Savage and Ryan Heath look at how new programs for training workers and helping them make career pivots work.
RAPID TRAINING PROGRAMS URGED BY U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: CEO Tom Donohue said Tuesday that a broad-based economic recovery in 2021 depends on reskilling and supporting workers, and called for government-funded “rapid training programs.”
Ong Tze Ch’in leads Singapore’s SkillsFuture program and told Global Translations the city state has built nothing less than “a national movement about the pursuit of skills mastery,” including a credit offered to every adult in the country of between $375 and $950, and “absentee payroll,” a government funding system that covers up to 90 percent of a worker’s salary for time spent training. Ong, who was previously Singapore’s director of military intelligence, advises the U.S. to get cracking: “You don’t grow an army in a day. You grow it over years so that when you need it, you have it.”
Ravi Kumar, President of Infosys, told Global Translations he hires based on a student’s capacity to learn, rather than the brand name of their degree. Infosys runs “a finishing school infrastructure,” of 8 to 10 weeks of tailored training for new hires, at a cost of around $20,000 per student. Other companies like IBM are pursuing a public-private partnership model: IBM’s P-TECH started in Brooklyn a decade ago and now operates in 28 countries.
BORIS VS BEIJING — A PANGOLIN HILL TO DIE ON: Boris Johnson told the global OnePlanet summit Monday that Chinese traditional medicine was to blame for the coronavirus pandemic. “It originates from bats or pangolins, from the demented belief that if you grind up the scales of a pangolin you will somehow become more potent or whatever it is people believe,” Johnson said.
SKY HIGH — TRUDEAU NAMES FORMER ASTRONAUT AS FOREIGN MINISTER: Marc Garneau flew aboard the space shuttle in 1984, and is now fourth foreign minister in five years, replacing François-Philippe Champagne who was demoted to an innovation portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle. Garneau lived in Houston for nine years, and is regarded as a workhorse.
UN — GUTERRES RUNNING FOR SECOND TERM: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres officially declared Monday he is seeking a second five-year term. India, Mexico, Norway, Ireland and Kenya have joined the Security Council as elected temporary members for 2021 and 2022.
THANKS to editor Blake Hounshell and Nirvi Shah
Allies scorn Pence and Pompeo, as Sandberg’s QAnon problem grows – Politico