Media Insider: Facebook Employees Walk Out, ACLU Files Suit Against MN Police, SC Journalists Return To The Office

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s round-up of media stories from the week.

Black and white photo of protesters on steps in front of a building

Facebook Employees Stage Virtual Walkout to Protest Trump Posts

On Monday, hundreds of Facebook employees virtually walked out in protest of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to do nothing about inflammatory posts from President Trump on the platform. Automated email responses said that the protesters were out of the office to show their support for demonstrators across the country. Inside the company this week, employees have circulated petitions, threatened to resign, and several employees have publicly criticized the company and its executives. However, Zuckerberg said President Trump’s posts did not violate the social network’s rules and held firm on his hands-off approach to what people post. Zuckerberg posted the following statement on his Facebook page: “Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. But I’m responsible for reacting not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression.”

Read more from social media companies taking a different approach: Twitter adds warnings to Trump and White House tweets and Snapchat stops promoting Trump’s account.

ACLU Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Minneapolis Police For Attacking Journalists At Protests

The ACLU of Minnesota filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of journalists who were attacked by Minneapolis and Minnesota police while covering protests over the killing of George Floyd. The lawsuit was filed against the city of Minneapolis, the Minnesota State Patrol, and the Minneapolis police. Attacks by law enforcement against members of the press have escalated in recent days. In Minnesota alone, police have fired rubber bullets at journalists; tear-gassed them; pepper-sprayed them; thrown flash grenades at them; and arrested them – even after journalists warned police of their media status. The lawsuit asks for an order declaring law enforcement’s actions unconstitutional and prohibiting them from targeting and attacking journalists again. The ACLU states that this is the first of many lawsuits it intends to file across the country to protect journalists and free speech.

Continue reading: U.S. police have attacked journalists more than 130 times since May 28.

South Carolina’s Biggest Paper Forcing ‘Terrified’ Reporters Back to Office Even as Confirmed COVID Cases Rise

The employees at South Carolina’s largest newspaper, Post & Courier, returned to the office this week despite rising COVID-19 cases throughout the state. The newspaper owners, Evening Post Industries, notified staff of the return date late last week in a weekly newsletter, explaining the return as a “business decision.” In response to employee concern, management confirmed the following precautions have been put in place: revised seating arrangements, installed sneeze-guard-like dividers between cubicles, availability of hand sanitizer around the office, provided masks, and mandatory temperature checks when entering the building. The Post & Courier is one of the only major publications in America to return full-time to its offices amid the outbreak.

ICYMI: Gannett was criticized for putting ads in front of major news stories.

Microsoft sacks journalists to replace them with robots

Microsoft announced it will end its contract with PA Media at the end of the month. Starting in July, Microsoft will no longer employ PA Media journalists to select, edit, and curate news articles on its MSN website and its Edge browser. Around 27 journalists employed by PA Media will lose their jobs and be replaced by artificial intelligence software. Several tech companies are steering away from manual curation and funding projects to understand uses for artificial intelligence in journalism. The adoption of AI in journalism means more job cuts in an industry that is already hurting.

Check out a sneak peek of Apple’s new “Apple News+ Audio” feature.

VizPol takes a cue from bird-watching apps to help journalists identify unfamiliar political symbols

This week, Columbia University began invite-only beta testing on a new app called VizPol. VizPol was built by Columbia University’s journalism and engineering schools to help journalists covering demonstrations identify symbols in real time. The VizPol app can currently recognize 52 symbols associated with political and/or extremist groups. Using the app, journalists can reverse image search by uploading images and framing the symbol they want to identify. The Columbia team reached out to more than two dozen photojournalists for images from demonstrations to create the app’s catalogue of symbols. The team also had to train the app’s algorithm to recognize symbols in a variety of contexts and renderings to account for things like hand-drawn symbols or the different textured materials the symbols would be printed on.

Photographers share what they experienced while covering protests across America.

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Erin Wade is a Senior Customer Content Specialist with PR Newswire. She is also an animal lover and aspiring world traveler. Tune into her insights as a social curator at @TotalCSR.

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