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Racine continuing to use money from Facebook founder-funded nonprofit to purchase election …

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Racine continuing to use money from Facebook founder-funded nonprofit to purchase election equipment


RACINE — The City of Racine is continuing to use grants paid for by the nonprofit that received significant funding from the founder of Facebook to invest in election equipment that can be used long after the pandemic is over.

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Inclusion voting booths

Pictured here is a handicap-accessible four-station voting booth from Inclusion Solutions, which the City of Racine is considering buying 40 of.



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On Monday, the city moved closer to buying 40 new poll booths with the goal of improving handicap access.

The Finance and Personnel Committee voted unanimously to waive the formal bidding process and purchase 40 four-station voting booths from Inclusion Solutions that allow “all voters — with and without disabilities — (to) vote at the same booth,” according to the producer’s website. Acquiring the booths would ensure all of Racine’s 36 wards have a modern, accessible voting booth.

The City Council is scheduled for a final vote on the purchase Tuesday.

The cost would be $34,753.40 and will be paid with funds from grants provided by, the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), the nonprofit that Priscilla Chan and her husband, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, donated more than $300 million to ahead of the 2020 presidential election that Democrat Joe Biden went on to win over incumbent Republican Donald Trump.

CTCL donated to more than 200 Wisconsin communities, with the lion’s shares going to the state’s five largest cities: Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha.

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Inspired by the Paralympics in 2012 and the strength of fellow wheelchair users, Fiona Carey decided to give it a go for herself. In a few short years she became an athlete and was made captain of East Anglia’s only women’s wheelchair basketball squad in 2018. Fiona, of Cockayne Hatley, Bedfordshire, didn’t let the 2020 lockdowns stop her, swapping the basketball for boxing gloves, and inspiring others as part of the This Girl Can campaign.


Private funds for public elections

Critics have claimed that laws were broken since the money wasn’t distributed evenly. However, Wisconsin has no laws against municipalities accepting donations for the operation of elections, although some Republicans in the Legislature are pushing for new laws to amend or ban the practice.

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Kathleen Fischer, Racine finance director

Fischer

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Racine received nearly $1.6 million in grants from CTCL and has nearly $200,000 remaining, Finance Director Kathleen Fischer said.

The funds must be used by June 30.

Movable voting booth

In the coming months, the city is also expecting to receive a “mobile voting precinct” the City Council approved the purchase of in August 2020 using CTCL money, to be purchased from Burlington RV.

Despite the name, the “mobile voting precinct” won’t literally be a voting precinct that rolls through streets like an ice cream truck, allowing for people to run up and vote — it is illegal for voting booths in Wisconsin to be roving.

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Instead, it is expected to be used for early voting at different locations: perhaps parking outside a community center for a set number of hours one day and then at a park the next. All dates and locations for voting would be announced a certain number of days ahead of Election Day — the number of days of notice required differ depending on what type of election it is, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission; for example, it’s 40 days for a special municipal election.

There is also the possibility of using the vehicle for voter registration events.

City staff became interested in getting a movable voting booth during elections affected by the pandemic in 2020. Poll workers faced issues when operating elections from inside structures that resembled shipping containers, such as heat or air conditioning failing and needing to run lengthy extension cords into nearby buildings. This vehicle, the city hopes, would negate those problems.

Accessible voting booths



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City Clerk Tara Coolidge

Coolidge


City Clerk Tara Coolidge explained the four-station voting booths are new to the market and sold exclusively through Inclusion Solutions.

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However, the booths have multiple benefits, including that they fold up, making them easy to store, move and set up.

“Essentially, this comes with a smaller storage capacity,” Coolidge said.

Due to the funds from the CTCL grant, the city has been able to make a number of purchases to support elections, including electronic poll books, so it was necessary to purchase poll booths with smaller storage requirements, Coolidge explained.

Secondly, the purchase will ensure that every ward in Racine will be accessible and approved under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lastly, the four-station allows for more light for voters while also providing privacy.

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According to Coolidge, many of the current poll booths have aged and are in disrepair.

“I don’t know how many people have been out to vote lately, but our poll booths could use a little love,” she told the committee.

Some of the polling places cannot use the electricity of the poll booths due to broken lights and power cords, according to Coolidge.

Alderman John Tate II raised a concern because people might not be able to social distance using this particular booth style. However, Coolidge said the design of the booth would ensure they could be easily wiped down between uses.

Adam Rogan of The Journal Times contributed to this report.

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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