Hillicon Valley - Activision Blizzard workers win gaming first




  • In Business
  • 2022-05-23 22:16:01Z
  • By The Hill
Activision Blizzard booth is seen during the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles
Activision Blizzard booth is seen during the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles  

Activision Blizzard was caught up in a whirlwind of news on Monday, with workers at the Raven Software subsidiary voting to unionize just hours after a federal labor relations agency accused the company of threatening workers. On top of that, a former employee filed to appeal the company's settlement in a federal sexual harassment case.

We'll also explore a court of appeals decision to, mostly, block a controversial Florida social media law, and we'll examine D.C.'s latest lawsuit targeting Facebook.

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill's Rebecca Klar, Chris Mills Rodrigo and Ines Kagubare. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

A first for the gaming industry

Employees at a subsidiary of gaming company Activision Blizzard voted to unionize Monday, the same day the already embattled gaming company was found guilty of threatening workers to not speak about working conditions by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

On the same day, a former Activision Blizzard employee also filed an appeal to the company's $18 million settlement in a federal sexual harassment case.

The union vote was among approximately two dozen workers at the quality assurance department at Raven Software, a division of the gaming company based in Wisconsin.

A big win: Nearly all participating workers voted in favor of the union, with just three votes against the union counted. Two ballots were challenged, but it is not sufficient to change the count.

"We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether or not to support or vote for a union. We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement.

Read more here.

Court (mostly) upholds block on Florida law

A court of appeals on Monday upheld a block on major provisions in Florida's controversial social media law that would bar companies from banning politicians, siding with tech industry groups that oppose the measure.

The 11th Circuit's unanimous 3-0 decision to block most provisions in the law comes as the tech industry awaits a decision from the Supreme Court on whether to block a similar law that went into effect in Texas amid an ongoing case in lower courts about its legality.

The 11th Circuit ruled that the law would undermine the First Amendment rights held by social media platforms, since they are private companies.

"Not in their wildest dreams could anyone in the Founding generation have imagined Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or TikTok. But 'whatever the challenges of applying the Constitution to ever-advancing technology, the basic principles of freedom of speech and the press, like the First Amendment's command, do not vary when a new and different medium for communication appears," the court wrote in an opinion.

But the court is lifting a block on some provisions of the law, including one that would require social media platforms to allow deplatformed users to access their own data stored on the platform's servers for at least 60 days.

Read more here.

DC TARGETS ZUCKERBERG

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is targeted in a lawsuit filed by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) Monday over allegations that he directly participated in decision-making that led to the Cambridge Analytica data breach.

The lawsuit comes amid Racine's ongoing case against Facebook, now under the parent company name Meta, filed in 2018 over the breach.

The new lawsuit characterizes Zuckerberg as more than "a figurehead at Facebook" who "is personally involved in nearly every major decision the company makes." The suit alleges that in that role Zuckerberg was directly involved in decisions that led to third-party Cambridge Analytica to get personal data of users in the lead up to the 2016 election.

Racine attempted to add Zuckerberg to the initial suit filed against the company, but in March a judge rejected the request, arguing Racine had waited too long.

Read more about the lawsuit.

FACEBOOK OPENS UP

Meta, the newly formed parent company of Facebook, announced Monday that it is planning to give researchers access to more information about how political advertising can be targeted on its platforms.

The new data about targeting for social issue, electoral and political ads will be available to researchers through the Facebook Open Research and Transparency project at the end of the month.

The newly available information will include what interest categories - think something like "people who like to cook" - advertisers chose for each post.

Meta will also begin including summaries of targeting information in its public accessible Ad Library some time in July.

Read more about the update.

EXPERTS WEIGH ON FEDERAL CYBERSECURITY

After grappling with multiple devastating cyberattacks, experts are applauding the progress made by the White House in the year since President Biden signed an executive order aimed to strengthen federal cybersecurity.

They are particularly impressed with the improvements to make it easier for the government and the private sector to share threat information.

"I've seen much more directive, actionable steps coming out now and I think the executive order is a big reason for that," said Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer at Veracode.

The May 2021 order sought to help secure federal government networks and critical infrastructure against cyber strikes. It introduced several key initiatives, including facilitating threat information sharing between the government and the private sector, modernizing federal cybersecurity standards and improving software supply chain security, among others.

Read more here.

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: House subcommittee asks: Is the truth out there about UAPs?

Lighter click: Enjoy these fellas

Notable links from around the web:

FBI Wiretap Opens Window To Murderous Drug Gang - And A Crucial Flaw In Snapchat Privacy (Forbes / Thomas Brewster)

A Vote by Activision Workers Could Give Unions a Foothold in Gaming (The New York Times / Kellen Browning)

Russia keeps getting hacked (Mashable / Christianna Silva)

Why it's hard to sanction ransomware groups (ProPublica / Renee Dudley)

One more thing: Musk worried about spambots

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that he is "worried" about Twitter having no plan to fix its spambots issue.

In a tweet on Saturday, Musk responded to a user complaining about the social media platform's new spam reporting tool being difficult to use.

"I'm worried that Twitter has a disincentive to reduce spam, as it reduces perceived daily users," Musk said in a reply.

When another user asked if Twitter has gotten back to him about the changes, Musk implied that the social media platform refused to explain how they calculate their daily users as fake or spam accounts.

Read more here.

That's it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill's Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We'll see you tomorrow.

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