Lots to get to, so let's get to it.
1 big thing: Tech veterans debut site to report workplace misconduct
Former Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor and his wife, consumer and victims advocate Laurie Girand, are backing a new nonprofit effort to help band together people who are victims of workplace misconduct by the same perpetrator.
I'm With Them aims to address the issue that people are reluctant to be the only one speaking out — it allows a private way for those facing the same perpetrator to find one another.
How it works:
- People register with I'm With Them, which works with a third-party service to authenticate the identity of those reporting misconduct.
- They report what happened to them and who perpetrated the action.
- If reports reach a "critical mass" around a perpetrator, the site shares the victims' emails with one another.
Why it matters: Employees say that sexual assault and harassment remain major issues at work, especially in the tech and entertainment industries, despite two years of increased attention and focus on the issue, suggesting more concrete tools are needed.
How it started: Girand, who is president of the project and a former tech strategy consultant, was at a tech diversity and inclusion conference in October 2017 and put forward the idea of a private network.
- I'm With Them grew out of that, with Girand and McGregor providing the seed funding and hiring two Scripps College programming students in the summer of 2018.
The site's mission is to provide an alternative to simply reporting misconduct to one's employer and hoping that they will take action, especially against repeat offenders.
- It takes some cues from other efforts to help bring together victims of sexual assault, including Project Callisto, which helps report incidents to legal authorities.
What they're saying:
"[T]oo often, one person comes forward. That first person is treated with significant skepticism in the press and social media. Another person comes forward, and then they too are met with scrutiny and doubt. Sadly, sometimes dozens of people have had to come forward in order to draw attention to a single perpetrator."
"Scott and I felt we could empower those who are willing to come forward, but don’t want to come forward alone."— Laurie Girand
And the same time, people are often victimizing many co-workers, Girand said. "Serial perpetrators are a bigger problem than we thought," she said. "One bad apple has a significant impact on how cultures tolerate bad behavior."
The bottom line: This is just one more piece of the puzzle, but could help make it easier for those who fear being attacked if they are the only one to speak out.
2. Apple cuts more than 200 from AV unit
Apple has cut more than 200 jobs from the unit that includes its nascent autonomous vehicle effort, CNBC reported and Axios has confirmed.
Why it matters: Apple has had fits and starts in the project, changing leadership and approaches multiple times. The cuts follow the re-hiring of Doug Field, a former Apple executive who had been at Tesla.
Apple issued a statement confirming cuts, but also reiterated its interest in the broad category of autonomous systems. The size of the team has varied over time, but has been on the order of 1,000 workers. Per Apple...
[S]ome groups are being moved to projects in other parts of the company, where they will support machine learning and other initiatives, across all of Apple. We continue to believe there is a huge opportunity with autonomous systems, that Apple has unique capabilities to contribute, and that this is the most ambitious machine learning project ever.
3. Big layoffs hit new media (and old media too)
It was a brutal day Wednesday for media, old and new. Sizable layoffs were announced at BuzzFeed, Gannett and Verizon Media (home of AOL, Yahoo, HuffPost and others), with more than 1,000 jobs cut, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.
Why it matters: If the headlines signal anything, it's that the news media will continue to struggle to find a sustainable business model in an advertising and attention ecosystem dominated by tech companies like Google, Facebook and Netflix.
By the numbers:
- Verizon Media will cut roughly 800 jobs, or 7% of its global workforce across the organization, as well as dropping certain brands and products. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg told Axios earlier this month that each of the company's three units, including the media business, needed to be able to stand on their own. (A company spokesperson later clarified to Axios that Verizon Media Group will still have access to Verizon customer data when customers opt-in to provide such information.)
- BuzzFeed will cut roughly 250 jobs, or about 15% of its workforce, including jobs within its news division.
- Gannett cut more than 20 jobs, per Poynter, with more expected as the company tries to shed costs amid buyout talks.
The big picture: The struggle to create businesses that can support a healthy news environment is universal across the information ecosystem. It exists at the local, national and global levels, and across digital, print and television operations.
The bottom line: Many news companies are struggling to find sustainable business models in the digital era. There's no sign it's getting any easier.
Go deeper: Sara has more here.
4. Get ready for funky phone designs
After years of reducing the smartphone to as much a pure thin screen as possible, the industry is finally ready to start experimenting again.
What's happening: Foldable phones are expected from a number of device makers, while others are experimenting with clamshell and other abandoned but once-popular configurations.
- Samsung, which briefly showed a foldable phone prototype at its developer conference last year, is expected to ship a consumer device "early this year."
- Xiaomi posted a video this week of co-founder Bin Lin with a phone that folded in two places and appeared sleeker than what Samsung showed.
- LG is teasing what appears to be gesture controls for its Mobile World Congress phone launch.
- Motorola, meanwhile, is planning a pricey, modern version of its once popular Razr clamshell device, per WSJ.
Our thought bubble: Yes. these devices are coming, but whether they offer enough benefit to justify their added cost remains to be seen.
Go deeper: Have phones become boring? Well, they're about to get weird. (Wired)
5. Microsoft's Bing went dark in China
Microsoft confirmed Wednesday that its Bing search engine had a period of time when it unavailable in China, but declined to say whether technical issues or censorship were to blame.
Why it matters: Microsoft makes a modified version of Bing for China and it is normally available, albeit with certain terms censored. Bing is the last major foreign-run search engine operating in the country.
What we're hearing, per China expert Bill Bishop: Multiple people in China are saying that it's back up. It appears the media stories that it was a configuration issue may be closer to the truth than those saying a government order was behind the outage, Bishop says. (For more China intel, sign up here for Axios China.)
6. Take Note
- World Economic Forum continues in Davos, Switzerland.
- Intel reports earnings after the markets close.
- Apple has hired Soonho Ahn, a former employee of Samsung's battery-making arm to head its battery development efforts, Bloomberg reported.
- D.C.-based data privacy startup Virtru named Neville Letzerich as chief marketing officer.
- Boeing's pilotless plane-copter vehicle flew for the first time. (Axios)
- Amazon is testing Scout, its own small autonomous delivery vehicle robot. (Amazon)
- Hulu is dropping the price of its on-demand, ad-supported service, while raising the price of its live TV product. (The Verge)
- Despite publicly supporting protests, Google reportedly asked the government to limit workers' rights to organize online. (Bloomberg)
7. After you Login
U.S. cross country skiers Sophie Caldwell and Simi Hamilton were already Olympic teammates and a couple. Now they're engaged.