Sucking the Joy

How WeWork is making child labor cool again; did Twitter commit securities fraud?; and more.


  • It’s election day in many states and cities across America! Don’t forget to vote.

  • This is civic tech: ICYMI, here’s a great profile of Benetech’s Jim Fruchterman, written by Ned Desmond of TechCrunch on the occasion of Benetech’s winning the renewal of a five year $42.5 million grant from the Department of Education for Bookshare, its longstanding reading program for the blind.

  • Sidewalks Labs big “smart city” project with Waterfront Toronto is continuing to run into headwinds, as local residents question whether the company is being transparent enough about its plans, Bianca Wylie reports for Torontoist.

  • The winner of Pennsylvania’s first statewide hackathon, Code4PA, is KnowPA.com, a website that predicts dangerous driving zones based on crash history, harsh weather, and other data, Jason Shueh reports for Statescoop.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Reporters Sans Frontières is calling on Facebook to stop relegating journalism to the site’s “cellar” in the six countries—Slovakia, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Colombia—where the company has been testing a new approach to NewsFeed that takes all the hard news out of users’ feeds unless companies pay to place it there. “In our view, this arrangement reinforces a discriminatory, pay-based distribution of media content that threatens journalism’s ability to survive,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

  • The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is embracing a “bottom-up” approach to its new Community Fund, which is focused on supporting community organizations in the Bay Area, David Callahan and Alyssa Ochs report for InsidePhilanthropy.com.

  • Twitter agonistes: David Dayen argues for The Intercept that by not doing more to delete fake accounts with Russian and Ukrainian IP addresses (after being alerted by former engineering manager Leslie Miley), Twitter may have committed securities fraud by allowing its user numbers to be artificially inflated. He has a point, though surely stock-buyers weren’t naive about all those eggs?

  • Internet of Shit: One Bitcoin transaction now uses as much energy as your house does in a week, Christopher Malmo reports for Vice’s Motherboard. Maybe we should call it the blockhead-chain?

  • Sprint keeps emailing a random woman in California details about customer accounts, Kate Conger reports for Gizmodo, likely because her email address comes close to being a generic Sprint address.

  • Apple, good for your privacy, but horrible at paying its taxes. That’s the bottom line of Jesse Drucker and Simon Bowers story in The New York Times about the giant company’s ongoing exploitation of off-shore tax havens to shelter more than $128 billion in profits.

  • Here’s yet another story about homelessness in Silicon Valley, reported by Janie Has for the Associated Press. She reports, “The median rent in the San Jose metro area is $3,500 a month, yet the median wage is $12 an hour in food service and $19 an hour in health care support, an amount that won’t even cover housing costs. The minimum annual salary needed to live comfortably in San Jose is $87,000, according to a study by personal finance website GoBankingRates.”

  • Make sure you have nothing in your mouth before reading the next item…

  • WeWork, the multibillion dollar co-working conglomerate, is launching a private elementary school called WeGrow inside one of its New York City spaces, aimed at supporting “conscious entrepreneurship” by little kids, reports David Lidsky for FastCompany. I kid you not. “In my book, there’s no reason why children in elementary schools can’t be launching their own businesses,” Rebekah Neumann, one of WeWork’s founders, commented. One of her and co-founder Adam Neumann’s five young children is already enrolled in a pilot group, with a full component of 65 five- to eight-year-olds planned to start next fall. Lessons in business will be provided from both employees and entrepreneur-customers of WeWork. Neumann touts this example: “an 8-year-old child who was working with our brand team, designing shirts and collateral for our farm stand… “We notice that she has an aptitude for design and a true passion. So instead of just noticing that and then going back to the classroom and strictly teaching geometry, we’re like, ‘Wow, this kid is great. She loves this.’ There’s a member in WeWork who she can apprentice under.” Nothing like bringing back child labor, right?

  • Commenting on the WeGrow news for Bloomberg News, Samuel Abrams, the director of Columbia University’s National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, said that encouraging children to ask questions and take control of their education through hands-on, project-based learning, which the WeWork school professes, is a good thing. “But WeWork’s “very instrumental approach” to learning, “essentially encouraging kids to monetize their ideas, at that age, is damaging,” Abrams said. “You’re sucking the joy out of education at a time when kids should just be thinking about things like how plants grow and why there are so many species.”