Education Disrupted: Inside Silicon Valley’s Playbook for Wooing School Superintendents

BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. — They call it the “Church Lane Hug.”

That is how educators at Church Lane Elementary Technology, a public school here, describe the protective two-armed way they teach students to carry their school-issued laptops.

Administrators at Baltimore County Public Schools, the 25th-largest public school system in the United States, have embraced the laptops as well, as part of one of the nation’s most ambitious classroom technology makeovers. In 2014, the district committed more than $200 million for HP laptops, and it is spending millions of dollars on math, science and language software. Its vendors visit classrooms. Some schoolchildren have been featured in tech-company promotional videos.

And Silicon Valley has embraced the school district right back.

HP has promoted the district as a model to follow in places as diverse as New York City and Rwanda. Daly Computers, which supplied the HP laptops, donated $30,000 this year to the district’s education foundation. Baltimore County schools’ top officials have traveled widely to industry-funded education events, with travel sometimes paid for by industry-sponsored groups.

Silicon Valley is going all out to own America’s school computer-and-software market, projected to reach $21 billion in sales by 2020. An industry has grown up around courting public-school decision makers, and tech companies are using a sophisticated playbook to reach them, The New York Times has found in a review of thousands of pages of Baltimore County school documents and in interviews with dozens of school officials, researchers, teachers, tech executives and parents.

School leaders have become so central to sales that a few private firms will now, for fees that can climb into the tens of thousands of dollars, arrange meetings for vendors with school officials, on some occasions paying superintendents as consultants. Tech-backed organizations have also flown superintendents to conferences at resorts. And school leaders have evangelized company products to other districts.

These marketing approaches are legal. But there is little rigorous evidence so far to indicate that using computers in class improves educational results. Even so, schools nationwide are convinced enough to have adopted them in hopes of preparing students for the new economy.

In some significant ways, the industry’s efforts to push laptops and apps in schools resemble influence techniques pioneered by drug makers. The pharmaceutical industry has long cultivated physicians as experts and financed organizations, like patient advocacy groups, to promote its products.

Studies have found that strategies like these work, and even a free $20 meal from a drug maker can influence a doctor’s prescribing practices. That is one reason the government today maintains a database of drug maker payments, including meals, to many physicians.

Tech companies have not gone as far as drug companies, which have regularly paid doctors to give speeches. But industry practices, like flying school officials to speak at events and taking school leaders to steak and sushi restaurants, merit examination, some experts say.

“If benefits are flowing in both directions, with payments from schools to vendors,” said Rob Reich, a political-science professor at Stanford University, “and dinner and travel going to the school leaders, it’s a pay-for-play arrangement.”

Close ties between school districts and their tech vendors can be seen nationwide. But the scale of Baltimore County schools’ digital conversion makes the district a case study in industry relationships. Last fall, the district hosted the League of Innovative Schools, a network of tech-friendly superintendents. Dozens of visiting superintendents toured schools together with vendors like Apple, HP and Lego Education, a division of the toy company.

The superintendents’ league is run by Digital Promise, a nonprofit that promotes technology in schools. It charges $25,000 annually for corporate sponsorships that enable the companies to attend the superintendent meetings. Lego, a sponsor of the Baltimore County meeting, gave a 30-minute pitch, handing out little yellow blocks so the superintendents could build palm-size Lego ducks.

Karen Cator, the chief executive of Digital Promise, said it was important for schools and industry to work together. “We want a healthy, void-of-conflict-of-interest relationship between people who create products for education and their customers,” she said. “The reason is so that companies can create the best possible products to meet the needs of schools.”

Several parents said they were troubled by school officials’ getting close to the companies seeking their business. Dr. Cynthia M. Boyd, a practicing geriatrician and professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with children in district schools, said it reminded her of drug makers’ promoting their medicines in hospitals.

“You don’t have to be paid by Big Pharma, or Big Ed Tech, to be influenced,” Dr. Boyd said. She has raised concerns about the tech initiative at school board meetings.

A Makeover Is Born

Baltimore County’s 173 schools span a 600-square-mile horseshoe around the city of Baltimore, which has a separate school system. Like many districts, the school system struggles to keep facilities up-to-date. Some of its 113,000 students attend spacious new schools. Some older schools, though, are overcrowded, requiring trailers as overflow classrooms. In some, tap water runs brown. And, in budget documents, the district said it lacked the “dedicated resources” for students with disabilities.

In a district riven by disparities, Dallas Dance, the superintendent from 2012 through this past summer, made an appealing argument for a tech makeover. To help students develop new-economy skills, he said, every school must provide an equitable digital learning environment — including giving every student the same device.

“Why does a first grader need to have it?” Mr. Dance said in an interview last year. “In order to break the silos of equity, you’ve got to say that everyone gets it.”

The district wanted a device that would work both for youngsters who couldn’t yet type and for high schoolers. In early 2014, it chose a particularly complex machine, an HP laptop that converts to a tablet. That device ranked third out of four devices the district considered, according to the district’s hardware evaluation forms, which The Times obtained. Over all, the HP device scored 27 on a 46-point scale. A Dell device ranked first at 34.

Document | How One School District Chose Its Laptops The district’s hardware evaluations for HP, Dell, Apple and Lenovo devices. The winning device: HP.

The district ultimately awarded a $205 million, multiyear contract to Daly Computers, a Maryland reseller, to furnish the device, called the Elitebook Revolve.

Mychael Dickerson, a school district spokesman, said, “The device chosen was the one that was closely aligned to what was recommended by stakeholders.” Daly did not respond to inquiries.

With the laptop deal sealed, Silicon Valley kicked into gear.

In September 2014, shortly after the first schools received laptops, HP invited the superintendent to give a keynote speech at a major education conference in New York City. Soon after, Gus Schmedlen, HP’s vice president for worldwide education, described the event at a school board meeting.

“We had to pick one group, one group to present what was the best education technology plan in the world for the last academic year,” Mr. Schmedlen said. “And guess whose it was? Baltimore County Public Schools!”

An HP spokesman said the company did not pay for the trip. He said the company does not provide “compensation, meals, travel or other perks to school administrators or any other public sector officials.”

Interactive Feature | Education Disrupted A series examining how Silicon Valley is gaining influence in public schools.

The superintendent later appeared in an HP video. “We are going to continue needing a thought partner like HP to say what’s working and what’s not working,” he said.

Microsoft, whose Windows software runs the laptops, named the district a Microsoft Showcase school system. Intel, whose chips power the laptops, gave Ryan Imbriale, the executive director of the district’s department of innovative learning, an Intel Education Visionary award.

Recently, parents and teachers have reported problems with the HP devices, including batteries falling out and keyboard tiles becoming detached. HP has discontinued the Elitebook Revolve.

Mr. Dickerson, the district spokesman, said there was not “a widespread issue with damaged devices.”

An HP spokesman said: “While the Revolve is no longer on the market, it would be factually inaccurate to suggest that’s related to product quality.”

Asked what device would eventually replace the Revolve in the schools, the district said it was asking vendors for proposals.

Mr. Dance’s technology makeover is now in the hands of an interim superintendent, Verletta White. In April Mr. Dance announced his resignation, without citing a reason. Ms. White has indicated that she will continue the tech initiative while increasing a focus on literacy.

A Baltimore County school board member, David Uhlfelder, said a representative from the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor had interviewed him in September about Mr. Dance’s relationship with a former school vendor (a company not in the tech industry).

The prosecutor’s office declined to confirm or deny its interest in Mr. Dance.

Mr. Dance, who discussed the district’s tech initiatives with a Times reporter last year, did not respond to repeated emails and phone calls this week seeking comment.

Courting the Superintendents

In Baltimore County and beyond, the digital makeover of America’s schools has spawned a circuit of conferences, funded by Microsoft, Google, Dell and other tech vendors, that lavish attention on tech-friendly educators.

Mr. Dance’s travel schedule sheds light on that world.

Between March 2014, when the laptop contract was announced, and April 2017, when he announced his resignation, Mr. Dance took at least 65 out-of-state trips related to the district’s tech initiatives or involving industry-funded groups, according to a Times analysis of travel documents obtained under public records laws — nearly two trips per month on average. Those trips cost more than $33,000. The Times counted only trips with local receipts, indicating Mr. Dance set foot in the cities.

At least $13,000 of Mr. Dance’s airline tickets, hotel bills, meals and other fees were paid for by organizations sponsored by tech companies, some of which were school vendors, The Times found. The $13,000 is an incomplete number, because some groups cover superintendents’ costs directly, which means school records may not include them.

Another way tech companies reach superintendents is to pay private businesses that set up conferences or small-group meetings with them. Superintendents nationwide have attended these events.

One prominent provider is the Education Research and Development Institute, or ERDI, which regularly gathers superintendents and other school leaders for conferences where they can network with companies that sell to schools.

ERDI offered several service levels this year, according to a membership rate card obtained by The Times. A $13,000 fee for Bronze membership entitles a company to one confidential meeting, where executives can meet with five school leaders to discuss products and school needs. Diamond members could pay $66,000 for six such meetings.

Document | How Much It Costs to Meet With Superintendents The Education Research and Development Institute, known as ERDI, charges membership fees to school vendors to arrange small-group meetings with superintendents who can provide product feedback.

ERDI has offered superintendents $2,000 per conference as participating consultants, according to a Louisiana Board of Ethics filing. And there are other perks.

“Because we are asking for their time and expertise, we commonly offer to pay the cost of their food, transportation and lodging during their participation,” ERDI’s president, David M. Sundstrom, said in an email.

Mr. Dance’s calendar indicated that he had attended at least five ERDI events.

Mr. Dance received payment last year as an adviser for ERDI, according to his most recent district financial disclosure. It lists Dulle Enterprises, a company that owned ERDI in the past, as an employer from which he earned income.

Last February, at an ERDI conference in New Orleans, Mr. Dance met with Curriculum Associates, which makes reading software, as well as DreamBox Learning, a math platform.

At the time, both companies had contracts with the district. A few months after the event, the school board approved additional money for both companies. Each contract is now worth about $3.2 million.

A DreamBox spokeswoman said there was no connection between the meeting and its contract. “Even the appearance of impropriety is something we take very seriously and take steps to avoid,” she said.

A Curriculum Associates spokeswoman said: “These panels are not sales presentations, but rather focus-group opportunities to solicit feedback on products under development.”

Ms. White, the interim superintendent, has been involved with ERDI since 2013, according to Mr. Dickerson. He said Ms. White used vacation time to attend events, where she “provided guidance to education-related companies on goods, services and products that are in development to benefit student performance.”

Asked whether Ms. White had received ERDI payments, Mr. Dickerson said, “Participation in ERDI is done independently of the school system.” In an email, Ms. White said she found ERDI to be a “beneficial professional learning experience.” She didn’t respond to a question about ERDI compensation.

She added, “I do not believe there are any conflicts of interests” related to the district’s tech initiative.

Mr. Sundstrom, ERDI’s president, said education companies pay a fee to attend events “not to meet school leaders or make a sale,” but to get meaningful feedback on their education products from knowledgeable school leaders. He added that school officials do not make purchases at ERDI sessions and that it is their school boards that approve district purchases.

Baltimore County’s travel rules say, “No travel expenses will be paid by those seeking to do business with the Baltimore County Public Schools prior to obtaining a contract.” Mr. Dickerson explained that applied to companies currently bidding for contracts.

A Foundation’s Big Fund-Raiser

Beneath crystal chandeliers last April, politicians, school leaders, vendors and community members gathered in a banquet hall. The occasion was State of the Schools, an annual fund-raising luncheon arranged by the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools.

The foundation was created in the early 1990s and raises money for schools. Tech companies have made significant donations, and have directors sitting on the foundation’s board. The directors include employees from Discovery Education, Pearson and Microsoft, all vendors with multimillion-dollar district contracts.

Daly, the laptop provider, was the biggest donor, giving $30,000. McGraw-Hill, Discovery Education, Pearson and Microsoft each donated $1,500 to $15,000. Of the $211,500 in publicly listed donations for the event, tech companies gave about 43 percent.

“You have these huge contracts, and then you donate all this money, and the foundation puts up a banner advertising your company’s name,” said Michael J. Collins, a former Maryland state senator and former school board member. “I just didn’t think that passed the smell test.”

Discovery Education said it trained employees to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Microsoft said its policies followed government gift and ethics rules. Pearson said its donation had been nominal and vetted to prevent conflict of interest. McGraw-Hill said it was committed to integrity and transparency.

Deborah S. Phelps, the foundation’s executive director, said it awarded scholarships and gave schools grants for projects in culture, science, technology and other subjects.

When asked if the foundation had policies governing donations from vendors or potential vendors, Ms. Phelps said no. “‘There’s not necessarily a policy,” she said. There is also no policy prohibiting foundation board members who are vendors from reviewing grants involving their or competitors’ products, she said.

Mr. Dickerson said the focus of Baltimore County Public Schools was on “supporting students, teachers and their learning environments.” He added: “We are unapologetic for engaging with our Education Foundation, business partners and community stakeholders in an effort to close known achievement gaps.”

Mr. Reich of Stanford suggested school districts establish clearer rules governing their relationships with vendors, particularly with tech companies racing to win over the gatekeepers to America’s classrooms. Otherwise, parents could lose trust in the system.

“School leaders should be just as concerned about the perception of corruption as actual corruption,” he said.

Mark Warner: the tech-savvy senator taking Plastic Valley to task

Last month, Senator Mark Warner created a closed-door briefing with Twitter visibly frustrated. He stated he doubted if the tech titan understood the gravity from the analysis into Russian election meddling, and fumed to reporters the company’s presentation to congressional investigators about how exactly Russia used its platform to help the 2016 race was “frankly, insufficient on every level”.

The general public scolding was another manifestation of Washington’s growing eagerness at Plastic Valley, using the Virginia senator emerging among the loudest critics in Congress. This month he co-authored new legislation that will require internet companies to reveal who purchased online political ads on their own platforms, probably the most aggressive attempt yet to manage big tech.

Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon . com Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.

“But it’s very difficult to state that to Mark Warner. He’s experienced we’ve got the technology business. He’s been a trader. He can’t be smoked.”

Because the political sands shift for technology companies, and executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter are going to testify before congressional panels on Capitol Hill now, you will find possibly couple of US senators who comprehend the industry as deeply as Warner, an old entrepreneur and executive who accumulated a lot of money purchasing technology and telecommunications.

Buddies and former colleagues insist the Democratic senator is really as pro-business and pro-growth because he has ever been, still closer around the ideological spectrum to Republican moderate Susan Collins than leftwing firebrand Bernie Sanders. He keeps a coterie of buddies and confidants in Virginia’s tech world whom he regularly communicates with and it is on friendly terms with numerous Plastic Valley executives.

But, as vice-chair from the Senate intelligence committee investigating Russian interference in america election and studying how you can avoid it again within the 2018 congressional midterms, Warner is promoting a far more aggressive posture toward big tech.

Mark Warner and co-author Amy Klobuchar introduce the Honest Ads Act, aimed at making online political ads transparent. Mark Warner and co-author Amy Klobuchar introduce the candid Ads Act, targeted at making online political ads transparent. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/Environmental protection agency

On Wednesday, each day after appearing prior to the Senate crime subcommittee, executives from Google, Twitter and facebook goes before Warner’s committee, where lawmakers repeat the tone from the meeting is determined by how forthcoming the businesses are ready to actually cover how Russia used their platforms to spread misinformation and sow discord throughout the election.

“If they check this out like a pr problem that they’ll paper over then you will see some frustration in the Senate,” stated Angus King, a completely independent senator from Maine and part of the committee.

“This was a panic attack about this country. I’d believe that they in addition to we may wish to know how that happened.”

In front of the proceedings, Twitter and facebook have introduced internal efforts to improve transparency around how a accept and display political advertisements. And earlier this year, Facebook dispatched Sheryl Sandberg, its chief operating officer, to Washington as the organization faced intensifying critique from lawmakers and also the public.

Google, Facebook along with other digital platforms to reveal who purchased online political advertisement.

But opposition has already been whirring to existence. Throughout a House hearing a week ago, Randall Rothenberg, obama of Interactive Advertising Bureau, addressing Facebook, Google, Twitter along with other big content and advertising companies, contended in support of “self-regulation”, that they claimed would “actually go beyond this Congress will go in enforcing the rules”.

Taplin, who’s even the director USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, stated Warner is “calling bluff” around the big tech companies by presenting the disclosure legislation.

“They did lots of PR spin in advance,Inches he stated. “Now Warner says for them, OK if you’ve already stated your willing to get this done, then let’s place it into law.”

Tesla workers claim anti-Gay and lesbian threats, taunts, and racial abuse in lawsuits

Right after he began focusing on the set up line at Tesla, Jorge Ferro stated he was taunted to be gay and threatened with violence. “Watch the back,Inches a supervisor cautioned after mocking his clothes to be “gay tight”, Ferro stated.

The harassment didn’t stop after he reported it to some manager, and days after he earned another complaint, Ferro was punished, based on his account. An HR representative required away Ferro’s badge, claiming he had an “injury” that avoided him from working and saying there’s “no spot for handicapped people at Tesla”, he alleged.

Tesla frequently unsuccessful to prevent the anti-gay harassment and fired Ferro in retaliation for seeking protection, based on a wrongful termination suit, the most recent discrimination scandal to roil Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company.

“It’s revolting in my experience,Inches stated Chris Dolan, Ferro’s attorney. “This is classic ‘blame the victim’.”

sexual harassment scandal at Uber launched an avalanche of complaints from women within the male-dominated industry about abuse, undesirable advances, assault and pay disparities.

Tesla – world-renowned for its battery-powered vehicles and Musk’s vision of self-driving technology – has additionally faced accusations of sexual harassment and underpaying women. A lady engineer who filed a suit and spoke towards the Protector about her encounters was right after fired, drawing allegations of “clear retaliation”. Tesla has denied the claims.

Additionally to Ferro’s complaint, first as reported by the Protector, three black men that labored at Tesla also have filed a current suit alleging racist abuse and harassment, including attacks while using N-word and statements like “Go to Africa”.

Tesla didn’t address specific allegations, however in a number of statements known as the claims “unmeritorious” and contended it had become wasn’t responsible because the workers are contractors.

‘I needed to stand up’

Ferro, 35, started being an set up line production worker in April 2016 in the Tesla manufacturing facility in Fremont, California. Right after he began, a supervisor who trained him, Jamar Taylor, started harassing him and mocking his sexuality, based on a suit. Taylor allegedly told Ferro his clothes were “too tight – gay tight”, frequently taunted him about his outfits and then stated he wasn’t “welcome” while he is gay. Taylor also “went onto claim that [Ferro] had lots of opponents because ‘everyone suspects that [he’s] gay’”, the suit stated.

Ferro grew to become fearful once the taunts escalated to threats of violence, including “be careful” along with a warning that “something can happen to his car”, based on the complaint. Ferro told plant manager Dave Rebagliati he was gay and it was facing harassment, and HR later removed Taylor from Ferro’s set up line, the suit stated.

The harassment didn’t stop, he stated. Taylor allegedly started outing Ferro with other co-workers and ongoing to approach Ferro within the factory, at some point saying a brand new worker shouldn’t learn everything from “someone like” Ferro.

The Tesla factory in Fremont, California. The Tesla factory in Fremont, California. Photograph: Josh Edelson for that Protector

After his second complaint to Rebagliati, on 2 August 2016, the manager made the decision to transfer Ferro to a different set up line row, based on the complaint.

“The steps taken by the organization were woefully insufficient,” stated Dolan, quarrelling it had been wrong to maneuver Ferro after he complained. “It’s perceived by many people to become retaliatory. It transmits a note with other employees when you complain, you’re the main one who’s likely to have your work altered. Essentially, you’re penalizing the party who’s making the complaint.” I understood that I needed to make certain this didn’t occur to other people

Jorge Ferro

While practicing his job, Rebagliati observed a scar on Ferro’s wrist from your injuries 16 years back, and even though Ferro stated it’d no impact on his job, the manager sent him home without pay, saying he needed a doctor’s note before coming back to operate, the complaint alleged. An HR official who required away his badge stated he was “handicapped” which no accommodations might be made, and 72 hours later, before Ferro will have a doctor’s appointment, he was formally ended, based on the suit.

A physician later confirmed he could perform his responsibilities. Regardless, it had been illegal for Tesla to fireplace Ferro for any perceived disability, based on Dolan. “This only agreed to be a BS need to kick him from the workplace.”

Ferro declined a job interview request, but stated inside a statement towards the Protector now, “I understood that I needed to endure make certain this didn’t occur to other people.”

Rebagliati and Taylor couldn’t be arrived at for comment.

As a result of an in depth review of Ferro’s allegations, Tesla spokesman Dave Arnold sent a extended statement that didn’t address specific claims. The organization noticed that Taylor and Ferro were both contractors, adding, “Tesla still walked in to try and keep these people aside from each other and also to ensure a great working atmosphere.”

arbitration contracts, meaning employees have to independently resolve their discrimination complaints. The spokesman declined to state if Tesla has ever permitted a discrimination claim that they can go before the court or jury.

‘I just couldn’t go any more’

Owen Diaz, 49, told the Protector he also introduced a suit hoping protecting other black employees at Tesla from abuse. He and the boy Demetric, 22, both faced racial harassment and violent threats while employed in the Tesla factory, based on a discrimination complaint they filed having a third former worker on Monday.

Owen Diaz and his son Demetric.

Owen Diaz and the boy Demetric. Photograph: Thanks to the California Civil Legal rights Law Group

The daddy and boy both began employed by Tesla in 2015 and were susceptible to daily racial epithets, including “boy”, the N-word and statements like “All you fucking niggers – I can’t stand you motherfuckers” and “Nigger, hurry up”, the suit stated. Employees also allegedly came racist and derogatory caricatures of black children.

Owen stated within an interview he was most troubled hearing his son’s supervisor, who had been white-colored, calling him the N-word: “That was most likely among the cheapest points within my existence.” Eventually, he stated, “I just couldn’t go anymore.Inches

Based on the suit, supervisors dismissed their complaints, with one telling Demetric, “If you do not like how you’re treated, your time and effort here will finish,” and the other telling Owen, “Why would you people start out so difficult?Inches

The dismissals were hurtful, stated Owen. “You may as well just slap me and spit within my face.”

Both stated the abuse they faced escalated once they spoke as much as supervisors. Demetric was fired per week determination complaint, allegedly for implementing his phone around the production line – a guide breach that didn’t lead anybody else to become ended, the complaint stated. Owen was threatened having a demotion and finally quit because of the ongoing abuse, based on the suit, which noted they both had good performance records.

“It was disrespectful and humiliating,” stated Owen. “It only agreed to be a sense that nobody should ever need to go through.”

sued Tesla captured in another bigotry situation, stated the conduct at the organization made an appearance to become more egregious than similar cases he introduced from the former vehicle plant within the same facility. Dolan also stated his firm was through an “unusually high” quantity of calls from Tesla employees with an array of discrimination complaints.

Given Musk’s ambitious statements about solving a few of the world’s finest problems, he will be able to give a safe work atmosphere, Organ added.

“He’s an excellent visionary. You believe if he put his mind for this issue, it might be solved.”

Tesla’s reaction to the Diaz suit incorporated an in depth attack around the attorney, saying his original suit was “timed to coincide having a well planned media blitz so that they can produce a disingenuous narrative which was at odds using the facts” which the “timing of those new claims and the way they’re being publicized is notable, particularly from the same attorney”.

Demetric Di-az.

Demetric Diaz. Photograph: Thanks to the California Civil Legal rights Law Group

The statement further stated the 3 employees labored at Tesla for “a small amount of time and also have been gone for more than a year” and noticed that they’re contractors. The spokesman stated Tesla was not aware of the complaints until reporters arrived at out now. (The 3rd-party staffing agencies – West Valley, Chartwell and Citistaff – didn’t react to demands for comment).

Concerning the attacks against him, Organ noted the plaintiffs had arrived at to him, adding, “They wish to frame this as though it’s the greedy lawyer. Really, what it’s really about may be the racist conduct.”

Owen stated he was keen on Musk’s vision and wanted the organization was answering the lawsuits with offers to change: “Don’t sweep it underneath the rug and send your PR to do damage control. Step to the plate.”

For those who have tales to talk about about Tesla or discrimination in Plastic Valley, contact [email protected]

Finish from the road: will automation put an finish towards the American truck driver?

Jeff Baxter’s sunflower-yellow Kenworth truck shines as vibrant and almost as large as the sun’s rays. Four men clean the glistening cab within the hangar-like truck wash at Iowa 80, the world’s largest truck stop.

Baxter makes a pitstop at Iowa 80 before obtaining a 116ft-lengthy wind generator blade that he’s driving lower to Texas, 900 miles away.

Baxter, 48, is among the 1.8 million Americans, mainly men, who drive heavy trucks as a living, the only most typical job in lots of US states. Driving is among the greatest jobs on the planet. Another 1.seven million people drive taxis, buses and delivery vehicles in america alone. However for how lengthy? Getting “disrupted” industries including manufacturing, music, journalism and retail, Plastic Valley has its own eyes on trucking.

Google, Uber, Tesla and also the major truck manufacturers are searching to some future by which people like Baxter is going to be replaced – or at the minimum downgraded to co-pilots – by automated vehicles which will save billions and can cost countless jobs. It will likely be among the greatest changes towards the jobs market because the invention from the automated loom – challenging the livelihoods of millions around the globe.

electric-powered semi that will probably be semi-autonomous. But the majority of the truckers I spoke to weren’t concerned through the rise from the robots. “I don’t think a robotic could do my job,” states Ray Rodriguez, 38, that has driven up a load of cars from Tennessee. “Twenty years from now, maybe.”

Nor perform the managers from the Iowa 80 see their jobs altering in the near future. “The infrastructure just isn’t there,” states Louise DeBaillie, marketing manager of Iowa 80. Nor does she believe that individuals are ready for autonomous trucks. “Think concerning the plane. They might automate an plane now. Why don’t they’ve airplanes without pilots?” She also argues the politics of lounging off a lot of people won’t pass muster in Washington.

The household-run Iowa 80 continues to be serving truckers for 53 years, and it is so confident about its future that it’s expanding to secure its claim that they can to be the world’s greatest truck stop, adding more restaurants and shopping space towards the “Disneyland of truckers”.

Although not everybody is really certain that truck stops can survive age the formula. Finn Murphy, author from the Lengthy Haul, the storyline of his existence like a lengthy-distance trucker, states the era of the trucker as you may know him are visiting an finish. Trucking is really a $700bn industry, where a third of costs visit paying motorists, and, he states, when the tech firms can grab a slice of this, they’ll.

Left to right: Iowa 80, known as the ‘Disneyland of truck stops’ Jeff Baxter, 49, with his truck after having it washed Douglas Berry, 55 with his truck and trailer. Left to right: Iowa 80, referred to as ‘Disneyland of truck stops’ Shaun Baxter, 49, together with his truck after getting it washed Douglas Berry, 55, together with his truck and trailer. Composite: John Richard for that Protector

“The only people left in the current logistics are truck motorists. If you want to a contemporary warehouse now, say Amazon . com or Walmart, the trucks are unloaded by machines, the trucks are loaded by machines, they’re put in the warehouse by machines. Then there’s a man, most likely making $10 an hour or so, having a load of screens watching they. Then that which you have is really a truckers’ lounge with 20 or 30 guys waiting for getting compensated. Which drives the availability chain people nuts,” he states.

The aim, he believes, would be to eliminate the motorists and “have ultimate efficiency”.

“I think this really is imminent. 5 years approximately. This can be a space race – the race to obtain the first driverless vehicle that’s viable,” states Murphy. “My fellow motorists don’t seem to be particularly worried about this. They believe it’s way off to return. Everyone I’ve spoken to about this book tour, nobody thinks this really is imminent aside from me. Me and Elon Musk, I suppose.Inches The long run is originating. Perhaps it’s already here. Several states have previously laid the research for any future with less truckers. California, Florida, Michigan and Utah have passed laws and regulations allowing trucks they are driving autonomously in “platoons”, where several big rigs drive together and synchronize their movements.

Happens continues to be looking for a fight between your forces at work and also the tech titans. In This summer, the effective Teamsters union effectively pressed Congress to slow legislation for states searching to broaden using autonomous vehicles. After arm-twisting through the union, the united states House of Representatives energy and commerce committee exempted vehicles over 10,000lb from new rules designed to speed the introduction of autonomous cars. Many truckers arrived to the after being displaced by automation in other industries, and also the transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, has stated she’s “very concerned” concerning the impact of self-driving cars upon us jobs.

[embedded content] The Budweiser cans driven by self-driving truck.

But Ryan Petersen sees the Teamsters’ move like a speed bump at the best. Petersen, the founding father of Flexport, a tech-savvy freight logistics company, states fully operational self-driving trucks will begin replacing jobs over the following year, and can most likely become commonplace within 10.

“Labor makes up about 75% of the price of transporting shipments by truck, so adopters can start to understand individuals savings. Beyond that, while truckers are prohibited from driving greater than 11 hrs each day if you don’t take an eight-hour break, a driverless truck can drive for the whole day. This effectively doubles the creation of the trucking network in a quarter from the cost. That’s an eight-occasions rise in productivity, without considering other benefits acquired by automation,” he states.

Bigger trucks making highway journeys, like individuals occupying the 900-truck parking spots at Iowa 90, would be the cheapest-hanging fruit and will also be automated first, Petersen states.

This past year, Otto, a self-driving truck company of Uber, effectively delivered 45,000 cans of Budweiser inside a truck that drove the 130-odd miles from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs. A semi-automated platoon of trucks entered Europe this past year within an experiment coordinated by DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania and Volvo.

However the automation that appears to many concern motorists at Iowa 80 concerns their log books. Truck firms are shifting motorists to computerized logs – plus they hate it. The brand new system adds another layer of oversight for an industry that’s already heavily controlled, and can limit when and where motorists can stop. A person searching to include an additional half an hour to his ride to make it towards the truck stop instead of rest in a layby will dsicover that option gone, within system that’s centrally controlled instead of completed by him within the log books that occupy a lengthy shelf in Iowa 80’s giant truck driver store.

The truck driver holds a unique devote American mythology: sometimes symbolic of freedom and the road, a threat. Truckers joined popular culture every which way, in the existential horror of Spielberg’s Duel, to Convoy, the bizarre truck driver protest song that grew to become a worldwide hit and introduced the planet to CB radio slang – “Let them truckers roll, 10-4!” Left to right: truck driver Ray Rodriguez puts wheel-bolt covers on his truck promotional material for Smokey and the Bandit the Iowa 80 trucking museum. Left to right: Ray Rodriguez puts wheel-secure covers on his truck marketing material for Smokey and also the Bandit the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. Composite: John Richard/The Protector/Universal Pictures

Within the 1970s, Hollywood’s he-men thought about being truckers: Kris Kristofferson in Convoy, inspired through the song Burt Reynolds CB-slanging his way through Smokey and also the Bandit I and II. Thelma and Louise required their revenge on the cat-calling truck driver in 1991. Hollywood, presciently, were built with a cyborg drive a large rig in Terminator 2, and went full robot with Optimus Prime within the Transformers franchise. In the turn from the twenty-first century, the ever nostalgic hipsters’ passion for truck driver hats and T-shirts elevated America’s fetishization from the lengthy-distance driver.

But it’s a nostalgia from sync having a reality of declining wages, thanks partly to declining union forces, restricted freedoms, along with a job under mortal threat from technology, states Murphy. Truckers made typically $38,618 annually in 1980. If wages had just stored pace with inflation, that might be over $114,722 today – but this past year the typical wage was $41,340.

“The myth would be that the lengthy-haul trucker may be the cultural evolution from the free-range cowboy in the 1800s,Inches states Murphy. “In fact, trucking is among the most controlled industries within the U . s . States. Every slowly move the truck driver makes is tracked with a computer. We’ve logs we have to keep each time we stop, pull over, have a leak. The truck’s speed, braking, acceleration is recorded. This isn’t a cowboy around the open range. This really is a lot more like 1984 than 1894.”

Douglas Craig continues to be driving trucks since 1990. A wiry firecracker assertive, Craig states individuals pushing for automation are neglecting to begin to see the problem. Everyone is simply not prepared to see 80,000lb of 18-wheeler flying lower the highway without any one in the wheel.

“That big old rig could blow sky-high, slam right into a school. It requires a person. There isn’t a piece of equipment that may equal a person,Inches he states. “Artificial intelligence could be hacked … Who’s ready for your? I wouldn’t want my loved ones going lower the street alongside a truck that’s computer-operated.”

He states the participation from the tech companies has stopped individuals from searching for additional holistic methods to transportation problems. The reply is better roads, more delivery points for trains, streamlining the availability system – not only searching for methods of cutting manpower.

“A large amount of these folks at Google and so on are extremely intelligent. But in many ways they’re from touch with reality,” Craig states.

Yet computers don’t get tired, don’t drink or take drugs, out on another get distracted or get road rage. Murphy, the writer, states the argument that individuals are superior to machines won’t hold for lengthy – especially as more people get accustomed to autonomous cars.

“The assumption is that we’re residing in some type of driver utopia now and machines are likely to destroy that,” he states. “The truth is we have 41,000 highway deaths in the usa each year. When we stacked individuals physiques up, that might be an open health crisis. But we’re accustomed towards the 41,000 deaths that people have no idea consider it.”

Almost all individuals deaths come from driver error, he states. “What when we required time lower to 200? Here’s the way it looks in my experience. Three decades from now my grandchildren are likely to tell me: ‘You people had pedals on machines that you simply slowed lower and increased with? You’d one of the wheels to show it? And everyone had their very own? And also you were killing 41,000 people annually? You everyone was savages!’

“They are likely to take a look at driver-operated vehicles the way in which people now consider a pregnant lady smoking,” he states. “It’ll function as the absolute epitome of barbarism.”

It will likewise be a general change in work of historic proportions. “I watch lots of Star Wars,Inches states Baxter, because he prepares to return to the street. “The inventions of the innovative mind can accomplish several things. I simply shouldn’t see automated trucks coming lower the street within my lifetime.”

Uber attacked over pattern of ignoring police and victims before London ban

When Uber declined to conform having a warrant inside a California sexual assault situation, police, prosecutors and also the judge were bewildered.

Lt John South told the Protector that in additional than fifteen years at work, he’d never witnessed anybody so brazenly defy a judge’s order for records. A prosecutor testified that Uber was positively stopping police force from protecting riders from violence, along with a judge attacked the ride-share corporation for any “horrific” pattern of ignoring police, describing its typical response as “give less than possible, be as uncooperative as possible”.

restraining and attacking a lady passenger – is among many allegations around the world of Uber neglecting the security of riders and motorists by failing to utilize police force and ignoring standard rules. A week ago, Uber lost its license working in london partly because of the government’s concerns concerning the company’s failure to report sexual assaults to police.

While Uber is fighting London in which to stay operation there, critics around the world are pushing other local municipalities to follow along with suit – and a few repeat the police force concerns reported within the United kingdom are not even close to unique. Several women in america, who say these were sexually assaulted in Uber cars, are actually filing fresh lawsuits against the organization and spoke solely using the Protector now regarding their claims of fundamental public safety problems at Uber.

The Bay Area-based firm is facing prevalent pressure after several weeks of bad press surrounding corporate misconduct and sexual harassment, shady tactics to evade police force and claims that Uber mistreats and underpays its motorists.

In Moraga, a town 20 miles east of Uber’s Bay Area headquarters, court public records reveal particularly damning allegations associated with their evasion of police. Following a driver was arrested on suspicion of sexual battery in May, prosecutors effectively acquired a warrant for information related up to the more than 1,000 rides the suspect had given in the last 3 months.

Uber claimed an order was excessively broad, overlooked the warrant, missed the deadline enforced through the judge and unsuccessful to correctly talk to police, based on a court transcript. Prosecutors were then made to delay the analysis and produce Uber to the court within an unusual hearing where Judge Clare Maier sanctioned the organization and angrily required it adhere to an order she’d already signed.

An anti-Uber protest in New York in February 2017. An anti-Uber protest in New You are able to in Feb 2017. Photograph: Michael N/Off-shore/Barcroft Image

“The status of Uber for cooperating with police force is terrible,” stated Maier, whose $1,000 sanction was initially reported within the East Bay Occasions. “The proven fact that Uber resists search warrants provides me with grave concern that there’s an ulterior motive here and never any need to cooperate.”

The judge stated she was further concerned Uber was blocking an analysis right into a man who might be a repeat offender.

“I don’t think you will find the authority to simply resist searching warrant,” the judge later stated. “You’ve pulled your ft on every facet of it.”

South, law enforcement lieutenant around the situation, stated within an interview: “I’ve didn’t have somebody flat-out won’t adhere to searching warrant.”

Uber’s lawyer Candace Kelly testified it had become a “technology company” that put other people together in cars where “bad things” can occur, which Uber didn’t “want to be the reason for delay in solving individuals incidents”.

A spokesperson for Uber, which subsequently complied using the warrant, declined to comment.

‘They turn their back on women’

Ladies who say they’ve been attacked during Uber journeys stated the organization ought to be liable and really should did more to assist police hold assailants accountable.

“Uber is allowing this to occur and supplying the means to really make it very easy for predators,” stated Indra, a Virginia lady who stated she was sexually assaulted with a driver this past year and requested to not use her complete name. Her subsequent conversations with Uber left her with the idea the company’s position was “this type of factor is typical plus they just didn’t care”, she stated. “That’s just abhorrent. They didn’t appear worried about me like a person.”

Indra, 38, is among several ladies who has become getting lawsuits against Uber with Lisa Blossom, a higher-profile California attorney that has introduced sexual misconduct cases against Fox News, Bill Cosby and Jesse Trump.

suit filed in Might alleged that the Uber passenger was raped with a driver per month after Uber was clearly cautioned by part of the general public the man was harmful. The motive force had also formerly been charged of attempted first-degree murder, based on the suit.

openly accused the organization of neglecting to do enough to aid a criminal analysis after she reported that the passenger had groped and sexually assaulted her within a ride this past year.

“They were very defensive and never very supportive,” she stated inside a recent interview, adding that police informed her that no communication by Uber was impeding the analysis. “Uber managed to get worse by not letting me get closure.” Police, however, claimed Uber cooperated for the reason that analysis.

Uber declined to discuss specific cases. The organization stated it features a 24/7 customer care team and employs former police force experts who use police.

Facebook’s underclass: as staffers enjoy lavish perks, contractors barely manage

As probably the most desirable employers in Plastic Valley, Facebook has generated the suburbs square for staff at its headquarters in Menlo Park. After departing the vehicle having a valet attendant, employees could work out at the health club, place their bikes for any tune-up, fall off their dry cleaning, pop by the organization dental professional or doctor’s office, play game titles within the arcade, or perhaps sit lower for any trim in the barber’s shop.

But keeping all individuals amenities running requires a military of subcontracted contingent workers, including bicycle mechanics, security pads and janitors.

Facebook and didn’t resent the engineers and product managers she cleans up after. “I know that they’re those that are earning the cash,Inches she stated in Spanish. “They are the type doing hard job and becoming fair pay.”

However it does strike her as ironic the most highly compensated workers at Facebook are the ones who get all of the free amenities.

“They have free laundry, haircuts, free food anytime, free gym, all of the regular things you need to purchase, however they get it free of charge,Inches stated Gonzalez, who together with her husband spends over fifty percent their combined earnings on rent in nearby San Jose. “It’s different for janitors. We simply leave using the check.”

The $500bn company continues to be careful about making certain that it is subcontracted personnel are relatively well compensated. In May 2015, among a nationwide movement to boost the minimum wage, the organization established a $15 an hour or so minimum because of its contractors, in addition to benefits like compensated sick leave, vacation along with a $4,000 new-child benefit.

But individuals wages only go to date inside a region without having-of-control housing costs. Bay Area and San Jose rated first and third in america a current analysis of rents, with one-bed room apartments in San Jose opting for $2,378. The ultimate price of housing is the reason why California has got the greatest poverty rate in the united states, based on an american Census figure that considers a region’s living costs.

Maria Gonzalez is a janitor at Facebook. Maria Gonzalez is really a janitor at Facebook. Photograph: Julia Carrie Wong for that Protector

“You work for an organization which makes a lot money, and also the pay that they provide you with isn’t reasonable for live here,” stated Jiovanny Martinez, a burglar guard at Facebook’s primary campus. “You still need to have a second job. You’ll most likely never have the ability to afford a house. It’s challenging.Inches

Martinez, 30, really works three jobs to aid themself and the family. His Facebook shift ranges from 1.15pm to 10.00pm, so he drives for Lyft every morning. On weekends, he accumulates shifts like a park ranger. Everything work affords him a 3-room house that hosts four adults and 4 children: his wife, their two kids, his mother-in-law, his wife’s sister, and her two children. The sister and her children sleep in the spare room.

Facebook takes some steps to deal with the housing crisis. Their planned expansion to a different campus includes the making of 1,500 units of housing, which 225 is going to be below market rate.

Meanwhile, Unique Parsha continues driving her the place to find work.

In This summer, a Facebook worker alerted security there would be a dog inside a vehicle within the parking area on the hot day. The worker was concerned for that dog’s welfare, however for Parsha, explaining why her miniature dog remained within the vehicle while she labored her shift like a contractor at Facebook needed a really personal disclosure: she’s destitute. Since April, when she made abusive relationship, the 47-year-old continues to be over sleeping the parking area of the round-the-clock Gym when she will get off work on night time.

“When I recieve outfitted at the health club, I’ll be laughing,” Parsha stated. “I look all cute and stuff, and I’m destitute. That’s hecka funny. Nobody would ever know.”

Parsha is acutely conscious of the incongruity of likely to work every day at among the wealthiest companies on the planet after over sleeping the rear seat of her vehicle. “Sometimes people ask me, ‘Where are you living? What city are you living in?’” she stated. “I just feel ashamed.’”

Parsha earns well above Facebook’s minimum wage – she’s a content specialist, moderating live videos along with other content – but she still hasn’t had the ability to locate an apartment or room that they are able to afford alongside her student education loans along with other bills. She’s generate a GoFundMe page, and shared it on Facebook.

“It’s insufficient pay to outlive in line with the rent that’s available. Just how can people survive? A 1-bed room reaches least $1800,” she stated, underestimating what she’d have in all probability to covering out to have an apartment of her very own.

“That’s my whole check immediately.Inches

Facebook Navigates an Internet Fractured by Governmental Controls

On a muggy, late spring evening, Tuan Pham awoke to the police storming his house in Hanoi, Vietnam.

They marched him to a police station and made their demand: Hand over your Facebook password. Mr. Tuan, a computer engineer, had recently written a poem on the social network called “Mother’s Lullaby,” which criticized how the communist country was run.

One line read, “One century has passed, we are still poor and hungry, do you ask why?”

Mr. Tuan’s arrest came just weeks after Facebook offered a major olive branch to Vietnam’s government. Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, met with a top Vietnamese official in April and pledged to remove information from the social network that violated the country’s laws.

While Facebook said its policies in Vietnam have not changed, and it has a consistent process for governments to report illegal content, the Vietnamese government was specific. The social network, they have said, had agreed to help create a new communications channel with the government to prioritize Hanoi’s requests and remove what the regime considered inaccurate posts about senior leaders.

Populous, developing countries like Vietnam are where the company is looking to add its next billion customers — and to bolster its ad business. Facebook’s promise to Vietnam helped the social media giant placate a government that had called on local companies not to advertise on foreign sites like Facebook, and it remains a major marketing channel for businesses there.

The diplomatic game that unfolded in Vietnam has become increasingly common for Facebook. The internet is Balkanizing, and the world’s largest tech companies have had to dispatch envoys to, in effect, contain the damage such divisions pose to their ambitions.

The internet has long had a reputation of being an anything-goes place that only a few nations have tried to tame — China in particular. But in recent years, events as varied as the Arab Spring, elections in France and confusion in Indonesia over the religion of the country’s president have awakened governments to how they have lost some control over online speech, commerce and politics on their home turf.

Even in the United States, tech giants are facing heightened scrutiny from the government. Facebook recently cooperated with investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the American presidential election. In recent weeks, politicians on the left and the right have also spoken out about the excess power of America’s largest tech companies.

As nations try to grab back power online, a clash is brewing between governments and companies. Some of the biggest companies in the world — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba among them — are finding they need to play by an entirely new set of rules on the once-anarchic internet.

And it’s not just one new set of rules. According to a review by The New York Times, more than 50 countries have passed laws over the last five years to gain greater control over how their people use the web.

“Ultimately, it’s a grand power struggle,” said David Reed, an early pioneer of the internet and a former professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “Governments started waking up as soon as a significant part of their powers of communication of any sort started being invaded by companies.”

Facebook encapsulates the reasons for the internet’s fragmentation — and increasingly, its consequences.

Graphic | Global Reach

The company has become so far-reaching that more than two billion people — about a quarter of the world’s population — now use Facebook each month. Internet users (excluding China) spend one in five minutes online within the Facebook universe, according to comScore, a research firm. And Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, wants that dominance to grow.

But politicians have struck back. China, which blocked Facebook in 2009, has resisted Mr. Zuckerberg’s efforts to get the social network back into the country. In Europe, officials have repudiated Facebook’s attempts to gather data from its messaging apps and third-party websites.

The Silicon Valley giant’s tussle with the fracturing internet is poised to escalate. Facebook has now reached almost everyone who already has some form of internet access, excluding China. Capturing those last users — including in Asian nations like Vietnam and African countries like Kenya — may involve more government roadblocks.

“We understand that and accept that our ideals are not everyone’s,” said Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy. “But when you look at the data and truly listen to the people around the world who rely on our service, it’s clear that we do a much better job of bringing people together than polarizing them.”

Friending China

By mid-2016, a yearslong campaign by Facebook to get into China — the world’s biggest internet market — appeared to be sputtering.

Mr. Zuckerberg had wined and dined Chinese politicians, publicly showed off his newly acquired Chinese-language skills — a moment that set the internet abuzz — and talked with a potential Chinese partner about pushing the social network into the market, according to a person familiar with the talks who declined to be named because the discussions were confidential.

At a White House dinner in 2015, Mr. Zuckerberg had even asked the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whether Mr. Xi might offer a Chinese name for his soon-to-be-born first child — usually a privilege reserved for older relatives, or sometimes a fortune teller. Mr. Xi declined, according to a person briefed on the matter.

But all those efforts flopped, foiling Facebook’s attempts to crack one of the most isolated pockets of the internet.

China has blocked Facebook and Twitter since mid-2009, after an outbreak of ethnic rioting in the western part of the country. In recent years, similar barriers have gone up for Google services and other apps, like Line and Instagram.

Even if Facebook found a way to enter China now, it would not guarantee financial success. Today, the overwhelming majority of Chinese citizens use local online services like Qihoo 360 and Sina Weibo. No American-made apps rank among China’s 50 most popular services, according to SAMPi, a market research firm.

Chinese tech officials said that although many in the government are open to the idea of Facebook releasing products in China, there is resistance among leaders in the standing committee of the country’s Politburo, its top decision-making body.

In 2016, Facebook took tentative steps toward embracing China’s censorship policies. That summer, Facebook developed a tool that could suppress posts in certain geographic areas, The Times reported last year. The idea was that it would help the company get into China by enabling Facebook or a local partner to censor content according to Beijing’s demands. The tool was not deployed.

In another push last year, Mr. Zuckerberg spent time at a conference in Beijing that is a standard on the China government relations tour. Using his characteristic brand of diplomacy — the Facebook status update — he posted a photo of himself running in Tiananmen Square on a dangerously smoggy day. The photo drew derision on Twitter, and concerns from Chinese about Mr. Zuckerberg’s health.

For all the courtship, things never quite worked out.

“There’s an interest on both sides of the dance, so some kind of product can be introduced,” said Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google in China who now runs a venture-capital firm in Beijing. “But what Facebook wants is impossible, and what they can have may not be very meaningful.”

This spring, Facebook tried a different tactic: testing the waters in China without telling anyone. The company authorized the release of a photo-sharing app there that does not bear its name, and experimented by linking it to a Chinese social network called WeChat.

One factor driving Mr. Zuckerberg may be the brisk ad business that Facebook does from its Hong Kong offices, where the company helps Chinese companies — and the government’s own propaganda organs — spread their messages. In fact, the scale of the Chinese government’s use of Facebook to communicate abroad offers a notable sign of Beijing’s understanding of Facebook’s power to mold public opinion.

Chinese state media outlets have used ad buys to spread propaganda around key diplomatic events. Its stodgy state-run television station and the party mouthpiece newspaper each have far more Facebook “likes” than popular Western news brands like CNN and Fox News, a likely indication of big ad buys.

To attract more ad spending, Facebook set up one page to show China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, how to promote on the platform, according to a person familiar with the matter. Dedicated to Mr. Xi’s international trips, the page is still regularly updated by CCTV, and has 2.7 million likes. During the 2015 trip when Mr. Xi met Mr. Zuckerberg, CCTV used the channel to spread positive stories. One post was titled “Xi’s UN address wins warm applause.”

Fittingly, Mr. Zuckerberg’s eagerness and China’s reluctance can be tracked on Facebook.

During Mr. Xi’s 2015 trip to America, Mr. Zuckerberg posted about how the visit offered him his first chance to speak a foreign language with a world leader. The post got more than a half million likes, including from Chinese state media (despite the national ban). But on Mr. Xi’s propaganda page, Mr. Zuckerberg got only one mention — in a list of the many tech executives who met the Chinese president.

Europe’s Privacy Pushback

Last summer, emails winged back and forth between members of Facebook’s global policy team. They were finalizing plans, more than two years in the making, for WhatsApp, the messaging app Facebook had bought in 2014, to start sharing data on its one billion users with its new parent company. The company planned to use the data to tailor ads on Facebook’s other services and to stop spam on WhatsApp.

A big issue: how to win over wary regulators around the world.

Despite all that planning, Facebook was hit by a major backlash. A month after the new data-sharing deal started in August 2016, German privacy officials ordered WhatsApp to stop passing data on its 36 million local users to Facebook, claiming people did not have enough say over how it would be used. The British privacy watchdog soon followed.

By late October, all 28 of Europe’s national data-protection authorities jointly called on Facebook to stop the practice. Facebook quietly mothballed its plans in Europe. It has continued to collect people’s information elsewhere, including the United States.

“There’s a growing awareness that people’s data is controlled by large American actors,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, France’s privacy regulator. “These actors now know that times have changed.”

Facebook’s retreat shows how Europe is effectively employing regulations — including tough privacy rules — to control how parts of the internet are run.

The goal of European regulators, officials said, is to give users greater control over the data from social media posts, online searches and purchases that Facebook and other tech giants rely on to monitor our online habits.

As a tech company whose ad business requires harvesting digital information, Facebook has often underestimated the deep emotions that European officials and citizens have tied into the collection of such details. That dates back to the time of the Cold War, when many Europeans were routinely monitored by secret police.

Now, regulators from Colombia to Japan are often mimicking Europe’s stance on digital privacy. “It’s only natural European regulators would be at the forefront,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer. “It reflects the importance they’ve attached to the privacy agenda.”

In interviews, Facebook denied it has played fast and loose with users’ online information and said it complies with national rules wherever it operates. It questioned whether Europe’s position has been effective in protecting individuals’ privacy at a time when the region continues to fall behind the United States and China in all things digital.

Still, the company said it respected Europe’s stance on data protection, particularly in Germany, where many citizens have long memories of government surveillance.

“There’s no doubt the German government is a strong voice inside the European community,” said Richard Allen, Facebook’s head of public policy in Europe. “We find their directness pretty helpful.”

Europe has the law on its side when dictating global privacy. Facebook’s non-North American users, roughly 1.8 billion people, are primarily overseen by Ireland’s privacy regulator because the company’s international headquarters is in Dublin, mostly for tax reasons. In 2012, Facebook was forced to alter its global privacy settings — including those in the United States — after Ireland’s data protection watchdog found problems while auditing the company’s operations there.

Three years later, Europe’s highest court also threw out a 15-year-old data-sharing agreement between the region and the United States following a complaint that Facebook had not sufficiently protected Europeans’ data when it was transferred across the Atlantic. The company denies any wrongdoing.

And on Sept. 12, Spain’s privacy agency fined the company 1.2 million euros for not giving people sufficient control over their data when Facebook collected it from third-party websites. Watchdogs in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere are conducting similar investigations. Facebook is appealing the Spanish ruling.

“Facebook simply can’t stick to a one-size-fits-all product around the world,” said Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer who has been a Facebook critic after filing the case that eventually overturned the 15-year-old data deal.

Potentially more worrying for Facebook is how Europe’s view of privacy is being exported. Countries from Brazil to Malaysia, which are crucial to Facebook’s growth, have incorporated many of Europe’s tough privacy rules into their legislation.

“We regard the European directives as best practice,” said Pansy Tlakula, chairwoman of South Africa’s Information Regulator, the country’s data protection agency. South Africa has gone so far as to copy whole sections, almost word-for-word, from Europe’s rule book.

The Play for Kenya

Blocked in China and troubled by regulators in Europe, Facebook is trying to become “the internet” in Africa. Helping get people online, subsidizing access, and trying to launch satellites to beam the internet down to the markets it covets, Facebook has become a dominant force on a continent rapidly getting online.

But that has given it a power that has made some in Africa uncomfortable.

Some countries have blocked access, and outsiders have complained Facebook could squelch rival online business initiatives. Its competition with other internet companies from the United States and China has drawn comparisons to a bygone era of colonialism.

For Kenyans like Phyl Cherop, 33, an entrepreneur in Nairobi, online life is already dominated by the social network. She abandoned her bricks-and-mortar store in a middle-class part of the city in 2015 to sell on Facebook and WhatsApp.

“I gave it up because people just didn’t come anymore,” said Ms. Cherop, who sells items like designer dresses and school textbooks. She added that a stand-alone website would not have the same reach. “I prefer using Facebook because that’s where my customers are. The first thing people want to do when they buy a smartphone is to open a Facebook account.”

As Facebook hunts for more users, the company’s aspirations have shifted to emerging economies where people like Ms. Cherop live. Less than 50 percent of Africa’s population has internet connectivity, and regulation is often rudimentary.

Since Facebook entered Africa about a decade ago, it has become the region’s dominant tech platform. Some 170 million people — more than two thirds of all internet users from South Africa to Senegal — use it, according Facebook’s statistics. That is up 40 percent since 2015.

The company has struck partnerships with local carriers to offer basic internet services — centered on those offered by Facebook — for free. It has built a pared-down version of its social network to run on the cheaper, less powerful phones that are prevalent there.

Facebook is also investing tens of millions of dollars alongside telecom operators to build a 500-mile fiber-optic internet connection in rural Uganda. In total, it is working with about 30 regional governments on digital projects.

“We want to bring connectivity to the world,” said Jay Parikh, a Facebook vice president for engineering who oversees the company’s plans to use drones, satellites and other technology to connect the developing world.

Facebook is racing to gain the advantage in Africa over rivals like Google and Chinese players including Tencent, in a 21st century version of the “Scramble for Africa.” Google has built fiber internet networks in Uganda and Ghana. Tencent has released WeChat, its popular messaging and e-commerce app, in South Africa.

Facebook has already hit some bumps in its African push. Chad blocked access to Facebook and other sites during elections or political protests. Uganda also took legal action in Irish courts to force the social network to name an anonymous blogger who had been critical of the government. Those efforts failed.

In Kenya, one of Africa’s most connected countries, there has been less pushback.

Facebook expanded its efforts in the country of 48 million in 2014. It teamed up with Airtel Africa, a mobile operator, to roll out Facebook’s Free Basics — a no-fee version of the social network, with access to certain news, health, job and other services there and in more than 20 other countries worldwide. In Kenya, the average person has a budget of just 30 cents a day to spend on internet access.

Free Basics now lets Kenyans use Facebook and its Messenger service at no cost, as well as read news from a Kenyan newspaper and view information about public health programs. Joe Mucheru, Kenya’s tech minister, said it at least gives his countrymen a degree of internet access.

Still, Facebook’s plans have not always worked out. Many Kenyans with access to Free Basics rely on it only as a backup when their existing smartphone credit runs out.

“Free Basics? I don’t really use it that often,” said Victor Odinga, 27, an accountant in downtown Nairobi. “No one wants to be seen as someone who can’t afford to get online.”

Chips Off the Old Block: Computers Are Taking Design Cues From Human Brains

SAN FRANCISCO — We expect a lot from our computers these days. They should talk to us, recognize everything from faces to flowers, and maybe soon do the driving. All this artificial intelligence requires an enormous amount of computing power, stretching the limits of even the most modern machines.

Now, some of the world’s largest tech companies are taking a cue from biology as they respond to these growing demands. They are rethinking the very nature of computers and are building machines that look more like the human brain, where a central brain stem oversees the nervous system and offloads particular tasks — like hearing and seeing — to the surrounding cortex.

After years of stagnation, the computer is evolving again, and this behind-the-scenes migration to a new kind of machine will have broad and lasting implications. It will allow work on artificially intelligent systems to accelerate, so the dream of machines that can navigate the physical world by themselves can one day come true.

This migration could also diminish the power of Intel, the longtime giant of chip design and manufacturing, and fundamentally remake the $335 billion a year semiconductor industry that sits at the heart of all things tech, from the data centers that drive the internet to your iPhone to the virtual reality headsets and flying drones of tomorrow.

“This is an enormous change,” said John Hennessy, the former Stanford University president who wrote an authoritative book on computer design in the mid-1990s and is now a member of the board at Alphabet, Google’s parent company. “The existing approach is out of steam, and people are trying to re-architect the system.”

The existing approach has had a pretty nice run. For about half a century, computer makers have built systems around a single, do-it-all chip — the central processing unit — from a company like Intel, one of the world’s biggest semiconductor makers. That’s what you’ll find in the middle of your own laptop computer or smartphone.

Now, computer engineers are fashioning more complex systems. Rather than funneling all tasks through one beefy chip made by Intel, newer machines are dividing work into tiny pieces and spreading them among vast farms of simpler, specialized chips that consume less power.

Changes inside Google’s giant data centers are a harbinger of what is to come for the rest of the industry. Inside most of Google’s servers, there is still a central processor. But enormous banks of custom-built chips work alongside them, running the computer algorithms that drive speech recognition and other forms of artificial intelligence.

Google reached this point out of necessity. For years, the company had operated the world’s largest computer network — an empire of data centers and cables that stretched from California to Finland to Singapore. But for one Google researcher, it was much too small.

In 2011, Jeff Dean, one of the company’s most celebrated engineers, led a research team that explored the idea of neural networks — essentially computer algorithms that can learn tasks on their own. They could be useful for a number of things, like recognizing the words spoken into smartphones or the faces in a photograph.

In a matter of months, Mr. Dean and his team built a service that could recognize spoken words far more accurately than Google’s existing service. But there was a catch: If the world’s more than one billion phones that operated on Google’s Android software used the new service just three minutes a day, Mr. Dean realized, Google would have to double its data center capacity in order to support it.

“We need another Google,” Mr. Dean told Urs Hölzle, the Swiss-born computer scientist who oversaw the company’s data center empire, according to someone who attended the meeting. So Mr. Dean proposed an alternative: Google could build its own computer chip just for running this kind of artificial intelligence.

But what began inside data centers is starting to shift other parts of the tech landscape. Over the next few years, companies like Google, Apple and Samsung will build phones with specialized A.I. chips. Microsoft is designing such a chip specifically for an augmented-reality headset. And everyone from Google to Toyota is building autonomous cars that will need similar chips.

This trend toward specialty chips and a new computer architecture could lead to a “Cambrian explosion” of artificial intelligence, said Gill Pratt, who was a program manager at Darpa, a research arm of the United States Department of Defense, and now works on driverless cars at Toyota. As he sees it, machines that spread computations across vast numbers of tiny, low-power chips can operate more like the human brain, which efficiently uses the energy at its disposal.

“In the brain, energy efficiency is the key,” he said during a recent interview at Toyota’s new research center in Silicon Valley.

Change on the Horizon

There are many kinds of silicon chips. There are chips that store information. There are chips that perform basic tasks in toys and televisions. And there are chips that run various processes for computers, from the supercomputers used to create models for global warming to personal computers, internet servers and smartphones.

For years, the central processing units, or C.P.U.s, that ran PCs and similar devices were where the money was. And there had not been much need for change.

In accordance with Moore’s Law, the oft-quoted maxim from Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, the number of transistors on a computer chip had doubled every two years or so, and that provided steadily improved performance for decades. As performance improved, chips consumed about the same amount of power, according to another, lesser-known law of chip design called Dennard scaling, named for the longtime IBM researcher Robert Dennard.

By 2010, however, doubling the number of transistors was taking much longer than Moore’s Law predicted. Dennard’s scaling maxim had also been upended as chip designers ran into the limits of the physical materials they used to build processors. The result: If a company wanted more computing power, it could not just upgrade its processors. It needed more computers, more space and more electricity.

Researchers in industry and academia were working to extend Moore’s Law, exploring entirely new chip materials and design techniques. But Doug Burger, a researcher at Microsoft, had another idea: Rather than rely on the steady evolution of the central processor, as the industry had been doing since the 1960s, why not move some of the load onto specialized chips?

During his Christmas vacation in 2010, Mr. Burger, working with a few other chip researchers inside Microsoft, began exploring new hardware that could accelerate the performance of Bing, the company’s internet search engine.

At the time, Microsoft was just beginning to improve Bing using machine-learning algorithms (neural networks are a type of machine learning) that could improve search results by analyzing the way people used the service. Though these algorithms were less demanding than the neural networks that would later remake the internet, existing chips had trouble keeping up.

Mr. Burger and his team explored several options but eventually settled on something called Field Programmable Gate Arrays, or F.P.G.A.s.: chips that could be reprogrammed for new jobs on the fly. Microsoft builds software, like Windows, that runs on an Intel C.P.U. But such software cannot reprogram the chip, since it is hard-wired to perform only certain tasks.

With an F.P.G.A., Microsoft could change the way the chip works. It could program the chip to be really good at executing particular machine learning algorithms. Then, it could reprogram the chip to be really good at running logic that sends the millions and millions of data packets across its computer network. It was the same chip but it behaved in a different way.

Microsoft started to install the chips en masse in 2015. Now, just about every new server loaded into a Microsoft data center includes one of these programmable chips. They help choose the results when you search Bing, and they help Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-computing service, shuttle information across its network of underlying machines.

Teaching Computers to Listen

In fall 2016, another team of Microsoft researchers — mirroring the work done by Jeff Dean at Google — built a neural network that could, by one measure at least, recognize spoken words more accurately than the average human could.

Xuedong Huang, a speech-recognition specialist who was born in China, led the effort, and shortly after the team published a paper describing its work, he had dinner in the hills above Palo Alto, Calif., with his old friend Jen-Hsun Huang, (no relation), the chief executive of the chipmaker Nvidia. The men had reason to celebrate, and they toasted with a bottle of champagne.

Xuedong Huang and his fellow Microsoft researchers had trained their speech-recognition service using large numbers of specialty chips supplied by Nvidia, rather than relying heavily on ordinary Intel chips. Their breakthrough would not have been possible had they not made that change.

“We closed the gap with humans in about a year,” Microsoft’s Mr. Huang said. “If we didn’t have the weapon — the infrastructure — it would have taken at least five years.”

Because systems that rely on neural networks can learn largely on their own, they can evolve more quickly than traditional services. They are not as reliant on engineers writing endless lines of code that explain how they should behave.

But there is a wrinkle: Training neural networks this way requires extensive trial and error. To create one that is able to recognize words as well as a human can, researchers must train it repeatedly, tweaking the algorithms and improving the training data over and over. At any given time, this process unfolds over hundreds of algorithms. That requires enormous computing power, and if companies like Microsoft use standard-issue chips to do it, the process takes far too long because the chips cannot handle the load and too much electrical power is consumed.

So, the leading internet companies are now training their neural networks with help from another type of chip called a graphics processing unit, or G.P.U. These low-power chips — usually made by Nvidia — were originally designed to render images for games and other software, and they worked hand-in-hand with the chip — usually made by Intel — at the center of a computer. G.P.U.s can process the math required by neural networks far more efficiently than C.P.U.s.

Nvidia is thriving as a result, and it is now selling large numbers of G.P.U.s to the internet giants of the United States and the biggest online companies around the world, in China most notably. The company’s quarterly revenue from data center sales tripled to $409 million over the past year.

“This is a little like being right there at the beginning of the internet,” Jen-Hsun Huang said in a recent interview. In other words, the tech landscape is changing rapidly, and Nvidia is at the heart of that change.

Creating Specialized Chips

G.P.U.s are the primary vehicles that companies use to teach their neural networks a particular task, but that is only part of the process. Once a neural network is trained for a task, it must perform it, and that requires a different kind of computing power.

After training a speech-recognition algorithm, for example, Microsoft offers it up as an online service, and it actually starts identifying commands that people speak into their smartphones. G.P.U.s are not quite as efficient during this stage of the process. So, many companies are now building chips specifically to do what the other chips have learned.

Google built its own specialty chip, a Tensor Processing Unit, or T.P.U. Nvidia is building a similar chip. And Microsoft has reprogrammed specialized chips from Altera, which was acquired by Intel, so that it too can run neural networks more easily.

Other companies are following suit. Qualcomm, which specializes in chips for smartphones, and a number of start-ups are also working on A.I. chips, hoping to grab their piece of the rapidly expanding market. The tech research firm IDC predicts that revenue from servers equipped with alternative chips will reach $6.8 billion by 2021, about 10 percent of the overall server market.

Across Microsoft’s global network of machines, Mr. Burger pointed out, alternative chips are still a relatively modest part of the operation. And Bart Sano, the vice president of engineering who leads hardware and software development for Google’s network, said much the same about the chips deployed at its data centers.

Mike Mayberry, who leads Intel Labs, played down the shift toward alternative processors, perhaps because Intel controls more than 90 percent of the data-center market, making it by far the largest seller of traditional chips. He said that if central processors were modified the right way, they could handle new tasks without added help.

But this new breed of silicon is spreading rapidly, and Intel is increasingly a company in conflict with itself. It is in some ways denying that the market is changing, but nonetheless shifting its business to keep up with the change.

Two years ago, Intel spent $16.7 billion to acquire Altera, which builds the programmable chips that Microsoft uses. It was Intel’s largest acquisition ever. Last year, the company paid a reported $408 million buying Nervana, a company that was exploring a chip just for executing neural networks. Now, led by the Nervana team, Intel is developing a dedicated chip for training and executing neural networks.

“They have the traditional big-company problem,” said Bill Coughran, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital who spent nearly a decade helping to oversee Google’s online infrastructure, referring to Intel. “They need to figure out how to move into the new and growing areas without damaging their traditional business.”

Intel’s internal conflict is most apparent when company officials discuss the decline of Moore’s Law. During a recent interview with The New York Times, Naveen Rao, the Nervana founder and now an Intel executive, said Intel could squeeze “a few more years” out of Moore’s Law. Officially, the company’s position is that improvements in traditional chips will continue well into the next decade.

Mr. Mayberry of Intel also argued that the use of additional chips was not new. In the past, he said, computer makers used separate chips for tasks like processing audio.

But now the scope of the trend is significantly larger. And it is changing the market in new ways. Intel is competing not only with chipmakers like Nvidia and Qualcomm, but also with companies like Google and Microsoft.

Google is designing the second generation of its T.P.U. chips. Later this year, the company said, any business or developer that is a customer of its cloud-computing service will be able to use the new chips to run its software.

While this shift is happening mostly inside the massive data centers that underpin the internet, it is probably a matter of time before it permeates the broader industry.

The hope is that this new breed of mobile chip can help devices handle more, and more complex, tasks on their own, without calling back to distant data centers: phones recognizing spoken commands without accessing the internet; driverless cars recognizing the world around them with a speed and accuracy that is not possible now.

In other words, a driverless car needs cameras and radar and lasers. But it also needs a brain.

Lurid Lawsuit’s Quiet End Leaves Silicon Valley Start-Up Barely Dented

SAN FRANCISCO — At Upload, the parties never seemed to stop.

The start-up began by hosting impromptu gatherings to promote virtual reality as the next big thing. It quickly became an entertainment and news hub for the VR industry, hosting hundreds of events. The crowds were young and eager to network. Models did demos, and the liquor flowed.

The freewheeling atmosphere was not restricted to the evening hours. There was a “rampant sexual behavior and focus” in the Upload office that created “an unbearable environment,” a former employee, Elizabeth Scott, said in a lawsuit filed in May.

Elizabeth Scott, a former employee of Upload, sued the start-up in May, claiming “an unbearable environment.”

Ms. Scott said in her suit that the Upload office had a room with a bed “to encourage sexual intercourse at the workplace.” It was referred to as the kink room. Men who worked for the company were described in the suit as frequently talking about being so sexually aroused by female colleagues that it was impossible to concentrate. When Ms. Scott, Upload’s digital media manager, complained about the hostile atmosphere and other issues in March with her supervisor, she was fired, the suit said.

In a statement after the suit was filed, Upload said that “our employees are our greatest asset” and that “these allegations are entirely without merit.” The company said Upload’s chief executive, Taylor Freeman, and president, Will Mason, could not discuss the lawsuit and its specifics. On Friday, as this article neared publication, the men issued another statement that said, “We let you down and we are sorry.”

At a time when Silicon Valley is filled with tales of harassment and discrimination against women — just this week, the chief executive of the lending start-up Social Finance resigned amid accusations of sexual misbehavior — the purported behavior at Upload stands out. Ms. Scott said in the suit that while she was at a conference in San Jose, Calif., Mr. Freeman kicked her out of her room in Upload’s rented house so he could use it for sex.

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If the claims were striking, so was the response.

In contrast to the venture capitalists who were knocked off their perches this summer by harassment complaints, Upload was scarcely dented by the publicity surrounding Ms. Scott’s suit. Mr. Freeman and Mr. Mason were not forced to resign. Investors did not pull their money. The company’s events continued, if in terms that were a bit more muted.

A few weeks ago, the suit was crossed off Upload’s to-do list when it was quietly settled for a modest sum, said two people with knowledge of the case who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Both sides had an incentive to come to terms: Upload could say the problem was now in its past, and Ms. Scott, 26, got a victory of sorts without the risk of going to trial.

Shortly after Ms. Scott filed her suit, at least a half-dozen members of Upload’s team quit in solidarity, but they did not go public with their complaints. (At its peak, the company had about 20 to 25 employees.) In interviews, two of those who left described what happened but said that even though they were now working elsewhere, they did not want their names used.

“A lot of people were afraid to be in the media,” said another former employee, Danny Bittman, who broke his silence with a piece in Medium this week in support of Ms. Scott. “We were scared of everything that was happening.”

Behind the scenes, in members-only Facebook groups and other forums, the virtual reality industry is still roiled. People have opinions, they just do not want to be caught uttering them.

“People privately assumed the worst — that the Upload allegations are all true,” said Kent Bye, who does a popular industry podcast, Voices of VR. “Or they assumed the opposite — that the allegations are salacious, crazy and can be ignored. Regardless, they don’t want to risk their career by publicly talking about a connecting node for the entire industry.”

In more than two dozen interviews for this story, even those inclined to see Upload in the most favorable light said it was the story of a company run by young, immature men who were flush with cash and did not know how to handle their power.

That is true of many Silicon Valley start-ups. Some grow out of it. Others, like Uber — which fired 20 employees this year in a harassment scandal that ultimately pushed out much of its top management team — do not until they are forced to.

The situation at Upload was particularly fraught because its principal product was parties. In the great tradition of Silicon Valley start-ups, the company was less interested in making a profit than in getting attention, said former employees. So the line between work and play, often fuzzy, was entirely erased.

The existence of the kink room became the enduring symbol of Upload as soon as Ms. Scott filed her suit. Employees of the porn site Kink.com came to an early Upload party and left behind a sign, said two people with knowledge of the events. It became the name of a room toward the front of the office, a narrow chamber equipped with a bed.

“There was a lack of leadership to cultivate a healthy work environment, and investors who failed to take a more active role in oversight,” Mr. Bye said. “The only way to resolve these sorts of problems is to confront them head on, and that is precisely what no one seemed prepared to do.”

Tech’s Fresh Start

Upload was founded in 2014 as entrepreneurs — many of them women — flocked to virtual reality. There was a feeling of vast potential in the young industry, a sense of being able to make a mark by moving quickly and meeting the right people.

Upload was the place to do it. Two of the founders — a third had dropped out — were in their mid-20s, with energy and ideas but not many credentials. Mr. Freeman, the chief executive, listed “backpacking in Europe” and “freelance user experience designer” on his résumé.

Before becoming Upload’s president, Mr. Mason was an intern at a Florida design studio. A 2014 graduate of Stetson University in Florida, he began an online petition at Change.org in 2015 to remove the school’s first female president, Wendy Libby, labeling her “cancer.” The petition got little support.

“I tend to be fairly passionate about things and wear my heart on my sleeve,” Mr. Mason explained in an email about his petition. “Looking back, there are definitely ways I would handle this differently.”

Although Upload’s ambitions were ill-defined, the company was popular from the start. It quickly raised $1.25 million. One of its most prominent early investors was Joe Kraus, a Silicon Valley veteran who is now at GV, Alphabet’s venture capital arm. Mr. Kraus, who invested $25,000 of his own money in Upload, was described by the company as an adviser. He declined to be interviewed.

Larger sums came from Shanda Group in China and, in a second funding round of $4.5 million, Colopl, a Japanese mobile gaming company. Colopl’s Shintaro Yamakami is the only non-Upload employee on the company’s board. A spokeswoman for Mr. Yamakami said he was currently “refraining from public relations activity.” A spokeswoman for Shanda, an investment firm, said, “We do not have comments to offer.”

Ms. Scott joined Upload in April 2016. She had graduated in 2012 from Emory University, where she was president of a group called the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention.

She declined to be interviewed. Her mother, Jenny Scott of Gainesville, Fla., said, “Elizabeth had several incidents growing up that targeted her physical safety and developed her sense of right and wrong.”

Ms. Scott, whose Facebook page describes her as “short, sassy & blonde. Take it or leave it,” managed the stories generated by Upload’s writing team on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, produced videos and handled relationships with software developers.

She said in the suit that she had other work, too: The women at Upload were required to do what were called “womanly tasks,” including cleaning up. They were also told to act like “mommies” to the men and help them with whatever they needed.

The suit presented a portrait of a deeply entitled male culture, one that clashed with the fresh start VR seemed to offer the tech industry. But Ms. Scott’s suit was the second in the virtual reality industry in just a few months to present such an unwelcoming picture.

Magic Leap, a VR start-up backed by Google and other high-profile investors, had been sued in February by a woman who said in her complaint that she had been hired to make the company more diverse and friendly to women.

The woman, Tannen Campbell, said in court papers that she had challenged Magic Leap “to acknowledge the depths of misogyny” in its culture that “renders it so dysfunctional” it threatened the company. The suit accused the company of gender discrimination and retaliation, which Magic Leap denied. It was settled in May.

Across the tech industry, sexual harassment appears to be ingrained. While the research is largely anecdotal and fragmentary, Chloe Hart, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Stanford University, said the subject came up often in 27 in-depth interviews she had with female engineers about their social interactions at work.

Two-thirds of the women, Ms. Hart said, had experienced unwanted sexual interactions, such as being groped or kissed, or hearing comments about the physical attractiveness of women colleagues and sexual jokes or references that made them uncomfortable. One-third talked about men they worked with expressing romantic interest that was not reciprocated.

This and other surveys suggest that in some ways, Silicon Valley has not evolved much over 50 years, even as more and younger women arrived.

Some young women said they did not expect much from Silicon Valley. Amanda Joan, a VR developer, said the “misogynistic and lewd culture” described in Ms. Scott’s suit was as common to Silicon Valley as heavy traffic and expensive housing.

“If I were to boycott every organization that exhibited such culture and behavior (publicly or behind closed doors), I would be severely limited in my options,” Ms. Joan wrote on LinkedIn last month. “Honestly, I wouldn’t hold my breath that there would be any left unless I moved to Wonder Woman’s home island.”

‘A Boisterous Culture’

About 11 months after Ms. Scott joined Upload, Ms. Scott said in her suit, she complained to a supervisor about the office atmosphere, about being shunned by Mr. Freeman and Mr. Mason and about being paid less for equal work and forced to perform menial and demeaning tasks. She was subsequently fired.

That was in March, after Mr. Freeman and Mr. Mason had been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list of rising stars.

All the success on the surface masked a workplace where, one former employee said, “women are seen as the candy in the room.” At Upload events, VR technology was demonstrated by women hired from a company called Models in Tech. Ms. Scott’s suit said the founders tried to secure “submissive Asian women” for a fund-raising trip to Asia.

“Upload was a boisterous culture, a ‘bro’ culture,” said another former employee, Greg Gopman, in an interview. “Virtual reality is hyped and no one was hyping it more than Upload. Within the industry, they were loved for giving people attention in the most positive way. They had a lot of clout and were able to act as they wanted until someone called them out.”

Mr. Gopman, 33, is mentioned in Ms. Scott’s suit. Other male employees, the suit said, would talk about how he “refuses to wear a condom” and “has had sex with over 1,000 people.”

When asked about being mentioned in the suit, Mr. Gopman, who has drawn attention in tech circles before for criticizing homeless people, said he was not happy about it. “How am I going to get married some day if I have to explain that?” he asked. Upload declined to comment on its former employee.

Mr. Freeman, the chief executive, said in an interview that the company was moving on. The lesson he learned, he said, was that employees need to talk more, and that especially in times of trouble they need someone to hear their complaints. Under the agreement to end Ms. Scott’s suit, Mr. Freeman was precluded from discussing it.

“A lot of things could be avoided if there is an open line of communication,” he said. “Once you have five people, male or female, at a start-up you need external HR. Not having someone to go talk to about your potential concerns just makes it so much worse.”

He added, “We’re the strongest as a company that we’ve ever been because of this.”

As for Ms. Scott, she now works for a camera company. She told friends that she had numerous interviews with VR companies, but as soon as they found out she had filed suit against her previous employer, they all declined to hire her.

Sheriff’s Badge

A woman runs Upload now. Kind of.

Anne Ahola Ward, a specialist in increasing internet traffic, was a consultant to Upload. In June, when many of the employees were quitting, she proposed taking over. Her title is chief operating officer.

“Anne has had a lot of experience, and experience is a huge thing,” Mr. Freeman said. He demurred when asked whether she was the “adult supervision” that all start-ups are said to need. “We’re all adults here,” he said.

Ms. Ward, 38, is wry about the opportunity.

“I’m a woman in Silicon Valley,” she said. “Do you think someone would have handed me the keys to a start-up that wasn’t beleaguered?” Her husband asked the obvious question: Why aren’t you the chief executive? “The title isn’t important to me,” she said.

The kink room is now Ms. Ward’s office. There is no bed there. She has instituted mandatory anti-harassment training: a two-hour session led by an outside consultant. There is now a human resources department. People have formal job descriptions. And as a joke — but not quite — people in the office gave Ms. Ward a sheriff’s badge.

Correction: September 15, 2017

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported Elizabeth Scott’s age. She is 26, not 27.

‘It Was a Frat House’: Inside the Sex Scandal That Toppled SoFi’s C.E.O.

SAN FRANCISCO — For months, the text messages came. Some were flirtatious, asking her to meet him late at night. Sometimes, the texts were sexually explicit.

The messages were directed at Laura Munoz, an executive assistant at the online lending start-up Social Finance. The texts were from her boss, Mike Cagney, the company’s chief executive, according to five people who spoke with Ms. Munoz or saw the messages. Given Mr. Cagney’s stature at Social Finance, known as SoFi, Ms. Munoz was at a disadvantage.

That became apparent when SoFi’s board was informed of Mr. Cagney’s communications with Ms. Munoz in late 2012. The board said it found no evidence of a sexual relationship. Ms. Munoz was then paid about $75,000 to leave the company, according to three people familiar with the proceedings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly. Ivo Labar, a lawyer representing Ms. Munoz, said matters were resolved between his client and SoFi.

Around the same time, SoFi’s board and executives also heard complaints from investors that Mr. Cagney had made misstatements to them over the start-up’s student loan products, according to emails between investors, executives and the board that were obtained by The New York Times. Directors stood by Mr. Cagney in that instance, too.

The board’s support allowed Mr. Cagney to build SoFi into a fast-growing start-up that is trying to take on the big banks by offering lending, insurance and asset management online. The company has been valued at more than $4 billion.

But within SoFi, Mr. Cagney, a married father of two, continued to raise questions among employees with his behavior. He was seen holding hands and having intimate conversations with another young female employee, according to six employees who saw the two together. At late-night, wine-soaked gatherings with colleagues, he bragged about his sexual conquests and the size of his genitalia, said employees who heard the comments.

Mr. Cagney’s actions were echoed in other parts of SoFi. The company’s chief financial officer talked openly about women’s breasts and once offered female employees bonuses for losing weight, according to more than a dozen people who heard his comments. Some employees said on a few instances, they caught colleagues having sex with supervisors at SoFi’s main satellite office in Healdsburg, Calif., which was the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed last month.

Even as other Silicon Valley companies such as ride-hailing giant Uber have been in the spotlight this year for inappropriate treatment of women, Mr. Cagney’s case goes a step further. Although many of the issues at other firms stemmed from the actions of midlevel executives or investors, Mr. Cagney personally faces questions about his role. His conduct was described by more than 30 current and former employees, most of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

The behavior went largely unchecked until Monday, when SoFi’s board acted after weeks of growing scrutiny of the company. The start-up said Mr. Cagney, 46, would leave as chief executive by the end of the year and that he would step down immediately as chairman. In a statement announcing Mr. Cagney’s departure, SoFi did not explain the executive change.

The company said its business was performing well, and that SoFi was becoming a “major, innovative player in consumer finance.” A SoFi spokesman said the company did not comment on personnel matters and disputed that its business had taken on too much risk. Through the spokesman, Mr. Cagney also said he “vehemently denies” any improprieties at after-hours events with colleagues.

Yet Mr. Cagney’s position had become increasingly delicate after the filing of the sexual harassment suit, which accused him of “empowering other managers to engage in sexual conduct in the workplace.”

His situation was also exacerbated by claims about his approach to SoFi’s business, which uses money from Wall Street investors to fund student loans, personal loans and mortgages. At several points, Mr. Cagney ignored warnings from colleagues that he was being too aggressive with the business, according to more than a dozen employees who were involved in the conversations.

That included a time when Mr. Cagney decided to put customer service representatives in charge of lending determinations, despite them having no experience in the area. Another time, he told investors that SoFi had $90 million in debt financing for a loan product; the company did not in fact have the money, according to the internal emails reviewed by The Times.

SoFi’s board, which includes representatives of Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and the influential hedge fund Third Point Capital, now faces questions about whether it needed more checks and balances on Mr. Cagney.

Companies like SoFi show how boards are incentivized to prioritize cash flow and growth over governance, said David F. Larcker, a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business who specializes in corporate governance. “The board now has a duty to correct for things that have gone wrong,” he said.

The board said that it found “no allegation or evidence of a romantic or sexual relationship” between Mr. Cagney and Ms. Munoz and referred all other questions to SoFi.

Workplace Pursuits

Mr. Cagney, who was born in New Jersey, started his career in finance in 1994 at Wells Fargo, where he climbed the ranks to the trading desk. He later left the giant bank to begin a financial software company, and then his own hedge fund, Cabezon, in 2005. On the side, he attended Stanford’s business school.

In 2011, Mr. Cagney began SoFi with several co-founders. The start-up, established as venture capitalists were getting excited about financial technology, raised nearly $100 million in its first year. In total, SoFi has now taken in $1.9 billion from investors including SoftBank, Discovery Capital and Baseline Ventures.

Even with other co-founders, Mr. Cagney quickly established himself as the company’s center of gravity. SoFi’s offices, with glassed-in conference rooms and cheap Ikea furniture, were set up in San Francisco’s Presidio, the park near the Golden Gate Bridge, because Mr. Cagney’s hedge fund already had its offices there. His home was less than a mile away.

Mr. Cagney exhibited an aggressive attitude at the office that he may have learned as a trader at Wells Fargo. He sometimes shouted obscenities and excoriated employees in front of others when they made mistakes.

Mr. Cagney hired deputies who had similar characteristics. One was Nino Fanlo, a former executive at Goldman Sachs and the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, who became SoFi’s chief financial officer in 2012.

Mr. Fanlo, 57, sometimes kicked trash cans in the office when angry. He also commented on women’s figures, including their breasts; said that women would be happier as homemakers; and once told two female employees he would give them $5,000 if they lost 30 pounds by the end of the year, according to more than a dozen people who heard the comments and witnessed the weight-loss offer.

Mr. Fanlo said it was “patently false” that he did not respect women and that his team at SoFi had many women who received promotions and professional accolades. He also attributed his shouting and kicking of trash cans to frustration about deals and start-up pressures.

“You’re under extraordinary pressures at a company that is growing that fast,” Mr. Fanlo said.

More than two dozen former SoFi employees said they were uncomfortable with Mr. Cagney’s pursuit of women in the office. In 2012, he sent the text messages to Ms. Munoz, the executive assistant, until her colleagues took the issue up with executives and the board, according to the five people who spoke with Ms. Munoz about the matter.

Even as Mr. Cagney was texting Ms. Munoz, he also chased another young female employee. Six employees said they saw Mr. Cagney and the employee holding hands and talking intimately. One day in 2013, when Mr. Cagney was flirting with her at the office in front of colleagues, she grew enraged and left, according to three employees who witnessed the episode. Soon after, she left the company.

Around that time, SoFi’s board asked Mr. Cagney to not engage in inappropriate conduct with employees, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations. The situations were awkward in the office given that Mr. Cagney’s wife, June Ou, began working at SoFi in 2012, rising to become the company’s chief technical officer. Her desk was near Mr. Cagney’s. Ms. Ou did not respond to a request for comment.

Pushing the Business

SoFi’s business works in the following way: It loans money to students, home buyers and individuals with high credit scores. The company funds those loans with money from hedge funds and banks, who buy the loans through securities or bonds that SoFi creates.

As early as 2012, Mr. Cagney ran into trouble with some of his investors. That year, the company said it had secured $90 million in debt financing for one of its loan products, called Refi A. But some investors who had bought the securities noticed their returns were not in keeping with SoFi’s estimates and voiced concerns to executives and to a board member, according to the emails obtained by The Times.

About 10 SoFi executives met to discuss the situation; it was then that some of them learned Mr. Cagney had not actually secured the $90 million for the loan product, according to people who were at the meeting. Some attendees said they were dismayed at the possibility that they had made material misstatements to investors.

In October 2012, SoFi bought back the Refi A securities from investors for what they had paid, plus the investment return they had anticipated, or gave them the option to put their money into a different product. Mr. Cagney said in an investor letter that the product had been “imperfect,” but did not offer any details about the $90 million. The SoFi spokesman said that “no consumers were harmed in the process.”

In 2015, SoFi began offering mortgages. In meetings with the compliance officer overseeing the program, Mr. Cagney was told that SoFi was not doing enough to document the income of borrowers and was rushing to offer loans more quickly than competitors did, according to a person involved in the mortgage business. A SoFi spokesman said the company complied with all laws.

Mr. Cagney also led a push into personal loans last year. To strengthen that business, he asked customer service representatives to review and approve loans, a job that had previously been done by the company’s underwriters, said two people involved in the loan business. Many employees opposed the change because customer service representatives do not have the experience of approving loans, but the move helped SoFi double the amount of loans it issued in just a few months.

That created another problem: SoFi did not have enough money to fund all the loans it was giving out. Mr. Cagney told employees that because of the funding shortfall, it could take as long as 30 days for some new customers to get the money they borrowed. But the employees who dealt with the customers were told by a supervisor to say that people would still get the money within 72 hours as promised.

“We had to lie to them and tell them that we were a little behind or that the transfer got lost — just something to keep them off our backs,” said Marie Lombard, who worked from 2014 to 2016 at SoFi’s operations center in Healdsburg.

Mr. Cagney eventually took customer service representatives off the underwriting decisions.

A SoFi spokesman said that customer service representatives did not approve loans and that the company’s proprietary software made those decisions. He added that SoFi always communicated timing changes on its loans to borrowers and that delays have never run as high as 30 days.

An Internal Toll

Mr. Cagney’s risk-taking outside of SoFi also created problems. In January 2015, his hedge fund, Cabezon, suffered big losses on a currency trade. In the aftermath, SoFi’s board agreed to buy Cabezon for $3.25 million and give the hedge fund’s employees jobs at SoFi. That caused resentment at SoFi among some workers.

A SoFi spokesman said the company bought Mr. Cagney’s hedge fund partly because the board was concerned about Mr. Cagney’s ability to focus on both companies.

At the time, SoFi was growing rapidly. Since 2011, when it had five people in a one-room office, the company has grown to 1,200 employees and lent more than $20 billion to about 350,000 customers. Earlier this year, the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners led a new round of fund-raising that gave SoFi another $500 million and valued the company at $4.3 billion.

Mr. Cagney’s co-founders nonetheless left the company one by one, and Mr. Fanlo departed this summer. (Mr. Fanlo said that he left to pursue a new opportunity.)

In 2015, an anonymous email was sent to everyone in the company, complaining in detail about the work environment and nepotism in hiring, according to five employees who received the email. SoFi said that it takes every complaint seriously.

At the start-up’s office in Healdsburg, Yulia Zamora, who worked as an underwriter there from 2015 to 2016, said it often seemed as if there were no rules. She said she was propositioned by a supervisor numerous times.

“It was a frat house,” Ms. Zamora said. “You would find people having sex in their cars and in the parking lot. It was a free-for-all.”’

SoFi has recently been taking steps to contain the damage. Earlier this month, the company started an investigation into the harassment claims in the Healdsburg satellite office. At the same time, questions over Mr. Cagney’s own behavior also surfaced.

In recent days, Mr. Cagney canceled a trip to Singapore to attend a board meeting at SoFi’s offices in San Francisco on Monday. At the meeting, Mr. Cagney argued for his job — but eventually lost out to board members who viewed him as a liability, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

“I want SoFi to focus on helping members, hiring the best people, and growing our company in a way consistent with our values,” Mr. Cagney wrote in a letter announcing his departure. “That can’t happen as well as it should if people are focused on me, which isn’t fair to our members, investors, or you.”