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Amazon started a Twitter war because Jeff Bezos was pissed

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Amazon has long been at odds with Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over their criticisms of the company’s labor and business practices. But the discord reached a new height last week when Amazon aggressively went after both on Twitter in an unusual attack for a large corporation. With each new snarky tweet from an Amazon executive or the company’s official Twitter account, insiders and observers alike asked a version of the same question: “What the hell is going on?”

Turns out that Amazon leaders were following a broad mandate from the very top of the company: Fight back.

Recode has learned that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expressed dissatisfaction in recent weeks that company officials weren’t more aggressive in how they pushed back against criticisms of the company that he and other leaders deem inaccurate or misleading. What followed was a series of snarky and aggressive tweets that ended up fueling their own media cycles.

The timing was likely not coincidental. Bezos and other Amazon leaders are on edge as the company is facing the largest union election in its history at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse. Election results will be tallied early this week, and Amazon officials understand that if a majority of the employee voters vote to unionize, it could set off a chain reaction at other facilities, with the potential to force the e-commerce giant to overhaul how it manages its hundreds of thousands of front-line US workers. There was terror inside the executive ranks of Amazon the last time a union election was held at a US Amazon facility — and that was only a small subset of a warehouse’s workforce, the majority of whom voted against unionization. That vote happened in early 2014, and consisted of just 27 technicians and mechanics at an Amazon warehouse in Delaware. In Alabama, though, the stakes are much higher with nearly 6,000 workers eligible to vote. Bezos knows all of this well.

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So when news broke last week that Sanders was planning to visit Alabama in the final days of voting, top Amazon executive Dave Clark fired off a Twitter thread that started with the following post.

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“I welcome @SenSanders to Birmingham and appreciate his push for a progressive workplace,” Clark’s account posted on Wednesday. “I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace.”

1/3 I welcome @SenSanders to Birmingham and appreciate his push for a progressive workplace. I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace https://t.co/Fq8D6vyuh9

— Dave Clark (@davehclark) March 24, 2021

A few hours later, the official “Amazon News” media relations Twitter account, with more than 170,000 followers, snapped back against House Rep. Mark Pocan, who had questioned Clark’s “progressive workplace” assertion by alluding to stories of Amazon’s pace of work being so demanding that workers have to “urinate in water bottles.”

“You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?” the official Amazon News account tweeted. “If that were true, nobody would work for us.”

1/2 You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us. The truth is that we have over a million incredible employees around the world who are proud of what they do, and have great wages and health care from day one.

— Amazon News (@amazonnews) March 25, 2021

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And after a back-and-forth with Sen. Elizabeth Warren that began with her criticizing the company’s tax payments, the same Amazon account “quote-tweeted” Warren with this message:

This is extraordinary and revealing. One of the most powerful politicians in the United States just said she’s going to break up an American company so that they can’t criticize her anymore. https://t.co/Nt0wcZo17g

— Amazon News (@amazonnews) March 26, 2021

An Amazon spokesperson did not reply to a request for comment.

If Bezos wanted the news cycle off of the union drive for a bit, it sort of worked. But instead of talking about the union, media outlets and industry observers have been focused on the rarity and judgment of a trillion-dollar company sparring with powerful lawmakers on Twitter. Amazon’s pushback on the congressman’s comment about workers peeing in bottles also ignited a new news cycle after The Intercept revealed internal Amazon communications acknowledging that contractors who deliver Amazon packages sometimes defecate in bags and urinate in bottles.

Amazon warehouse workers who’ve spoken to Recode over the years say it is indeed rare to hear of a warehouse employee — as opposed to a delivery driver — urinate in bottles at work. But the bigger point many make is that it’s not uncommon for workers to take other measures, such as limiting how much they drink, to reduce their need to use the bathroom for fear of missing their production quotas or getting written up by supervisors for too much “time off task,” as Amazon calls it.

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Inside of Amazon, rank-and-file employees were also perplexed by the company’s Twitter approach. “Suspicious activity on @amazonnews Twitter account,” was the title of one internal support ticket — called a trouble ticket inside the company filed by an Amazon security engineer last week, according to a screenshot viewed by Recode.

“Over the past two days, there have been two threads by @amazonnews in response to comments made by US Government officials that have received considerable attention,” the ticket reads. “The tweets in question do not match the usual content posted by this account.”

The security engineer noted that the tweets were posted using Twitter’s web app rather than Sprinklr, the social media management software typically used by the Amazon News account to post tweets.

The tweets, according to the security engineer, “are unnecessarily antagonistic (risking Amazon’s brand) and may be a result of unauthorized access.”

The support ticket was closed without action, according to a source.

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Elon Musk Says He’ll Pay $11 Billion in Taxes in 2021 But Twitter Wants ‘Proof’

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Elon Musk took to Twitter to clarify once and for all that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes this year.

If the number of times Elon Musk could count when someone has asked him to pay the full taxes, he would be a very rich..wait, never mind. The Tesla boss is rich beyond any private individual has been in history, reports said.

Musk has increasingly been facing criticism from many politicians and many others who insist he has not been paying taxes as compared to the profits his companies have been making. On Sunday, the SpaceX CEO took to Twitter to share that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes.

For those wondering, I will pay over $11 billion in taxes this year— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 20, 2021

But some of the questions did not stop. One person tweeted how they needed to see Musk’s tax returns while yet another asked how much percentage was that of his total income.

A few were, however scathing of the government who thought they will add that amount to their pockets rather than using it for some proper development.

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Wow that’s enough to give each person in the world almost $2 million but instead the government will just stick it in their pockets— greg (@greg16676935420) December 20, 2021

Why not $200 billion? Asking for a Senator— litquidity (@litcapital) December 20, 2021

Earlier this week, Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren has tweeted to say that Musk should pay taxes and stop “freeloading off everyone else” after Time magazine named him its “person of the year”.

In response, Musk shot four tweets in which he said that the senator reminded him of a friend’s angry mom who yelled at everybody. He tweeted, ““And if you opened your eyes for 2 seconds, you would realize I will pay more taxes than any American in history this year.” “Don’t spend it all at once … oh wait you did already.”

He added further, “You remind me of when I was a kid and my friend’s angry Mom would just randomly yell at everyone for no reason.”

Musk responded by saying that he “will pay more taxes than any American in history this year”. This Twitter exchange left netizens divided as even though many supported Warren and agreed that Musk should pay more taxes, others felt that he was already doing enough.

Musk’s Tesla is worth about $1 trillion. Over the last few weeks, he has sold nearly $14 billion worth of Tesla shares.

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The Tesla boss has been pushing for his colonize Mars agenda for years now, and has made it very clear in some occasions that he would rather spend the money on putting humanity on the red planet, than pay his taxes. “My plan,” the SpaceX founder tweeted about his fortune, “is to use the money to get humanity to Mars and preserve the light of consciousness.”

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Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures

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Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.

Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.

It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.

Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”

“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.

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Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.

Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.

“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.

In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”

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But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

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By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

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Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream

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At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”

On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.

Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.

Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.

The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.

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Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.

The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

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The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.

Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.

In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.

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Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.

But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.

“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.

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© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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