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Hillicon Valley: Google employees announce creation of union | GOP Facebook ads for Georgia runoffs contain misinformation, research finds | Mexico prepared to offer Assange asylum

Hillicon Valley: Google employees announce creation of union | GOP Facebook ads for Georgia runoffs contain misinformation, research finds | Mexico prepared to offer Assange asylum
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

GOOGLERS UNIONIZE: As we kick off 2021, employees of one Big Tech giant are taking a stand. 

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Over 220 Alphabet employees launched a union Monday, the first company-wide one at a Silicon Valley giant to date.

The Alphabet Workers Union, referring to Google’s parent company, is launching with support from the Communications Workers of America.

The union will be a minority union, meaning that while members will still pay dues, the group will not seek recognition from the National Labor Relations Board or receive collective bargaining rights.

“This is historic—the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers,” Dylan Baker, a Google software engineer, said in a statement.

“We will elect representatives, we will make decisions democratically, we will pay dues, and we will hire skilled organizers to ensure all workers at Google know they can work with us if they actually want to see their company reflect their values.” 

Google has been a hotbed for worker activism. In 2018, thousands of the workers signed a petition protesting Project Maven, a contract to help the Department of Defense track individuals in video footage captured by drones.

Google later that year announced it would end its practice of forced arbitration after 20,000 workers staged a walkout critical of the company’s handling of sexual misconduct.

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The company is expected to oppose the unionization drive, setting off a labor battle that could have implications for the whole industry.

Read more.

MORE MISINFORMATION WOES: Just weeks after Facebook lifted its ban on political ads related to Tuesday’s crucial Georgia Senate runoffs, a report released by the nonprofit advocacy group Avaaz identified ads backing the GOP senators that contained misinformation. 

Avaaz researchers found nearly 100 ads released by the campaigns of Republican Sens. David PerdueDavid PerdueGeorgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee Bipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks Please, President Trump: Drop your quest for revenge and help the GOP MORE and Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerGeorgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee Bipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks Kelly Loeffler's WNBA team sold after players' criticism MORE, as well as the Republican Party and top GOP super PACs contained claims that had been debunked by third party fact-checkers. 

Avaaz’s campaign director Nathan Miller slammed Facebook, stating the company “opened the floodgates for false and misleading information targeting Georgia voters'' in lifting the ad ban, and accused the company of “not even implementing its own policies.” 

Facebook, which has faced mounting scrutiny over its handling of misinformation, defended the way it has handled Georgia ads in response to the Avaaz report. A spokesperson said the claims highlighted in the ads identified by Avaaz are also appearing in TV, radio and mail ads, but Facebook’s Ad Library “is transparent, making the claims more readily available for scrutiny.” 

Read more here

ASYLUM FOR ASSANGE: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday announced that he is prepared to offer asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian AssangeJulian Paul AssangeBiden DOJ to continue to seek Assange extradition Assange, Snowden among those not included on Trump pardon list Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon MORE, who has been detained in the United Kingdom.

“Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance. I am in favor of pardoning him,” Lopez Obrador said during a news conference, according to Reuters. “We’ll give him protection.”

The offer from López Obrador came hours after a UK judge ruled against a request to extradite Assange to the United States, citing concerns that Assange was at risk of committing suicide. 

Assange has been in British custody since last year, when he was evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and arrested. 

U.S. authorities made the request last year after the Justice Department handed down a superceding indictment alleging that Assange worked with hackers to target and publish sensitive information to publish on WikiLeaks. The indictment came a year after the Justice Department brought over a dozen charges against Assange.

Read more about the case here. 

DOMINION TAKES ACTION: Dominion Voting Systems, one of the largest voting equipment companies in the country, plans to sue Sidney Powell, a onetime member of President’s Trump’s legal team, for her statements alleging that Dominion helped rig the 2020 election.

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Dominion CEO John Poulos told Axios that he planned to sue Powell due to her "demonstrably false" statements around Dominion systems, which Poulos said "caused real damage." Poulos did not rule out the possibility of filing similar charges against President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE

Powell has claimed in many unsubstantiated statements that Dominions machines, which are used throughout Georgia and many other states, used an algorithm to switch votes from Trump to President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE. Powell also claimed that Dominion officials paid Republican officials in Georgia to keep quiet about the incident.

Law firm Clare Locke issued a letter to Powell on Monday warning that that she could expose both herself and the Trump campaign to “substantial legal risk for defamation” if she refuses to publicly recant the claims she has made about Dominion. 

“As a result of your false accusations, Dominion has suffered enormous harm, and its employees have been stalked, have been harassed, and have received death threats,” the letter states. “We demand that you immediately and publicly retract your false accusations and set the record straight. If you refuse to do so and instead choose to stand by your defamatory falsehoods, that will be viewed as additional evidence of actual malice.” 

Dominion is set to be in the spotlight again on Tuesday as election day for the Georgia Senate races arrives. The company was awarded a $107 million contract in 2019 to implement a verified paper ballot system in Georgia after the state took the step to update its voting machines. 

More details here.

Lighter click: It’s been too long

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An op-ed to chew on: Will Axiom Space provide a commercial space station replacement for NASA's ISS?

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Trump pushed QAnon and 4chan-created conspiracy theories in Georgia call (NBC News / Ben Collins, Brandy Zadrozny and Jane C. Timm)

Florida Is Using Eventbrite for COVID-19 Vaccine Slots and It's Not Going Well (Motherboard / Edward Ongweso Jr.)

Confessions of a Virtual Reality Gym Rat (New York Times / Kevin Roose)