Zoho CRM team is excited to announce that we have been recognized as a January 2020 Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice for CRM Lead Management. Our team at Zoho CRM takes great pride in this distinction, as customer feedback continues to shape our products and services.
In its announcement, Gartner explains, “The Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice is a recognition of vendors in this market by verified end-user professionals, taking into account both the number of reviews and the overall user ratings.” To ensure fair evaluation, Gartner maintains rigorous criteria for recognizing vendors with a high customer satisfaction rate.
Here are some excerpts from customers that contributed to the distinction:
Everyone at Zoho CRM is deeply proud to be honored as a January 2020 Customers’ Choice for CRM Lead Management. To learn more about this distinction, or to read the reviews written about our products by the IT professionals who use them, please visit the Customers’ Choice announcement.
To all of our customers who submitted reviews, thank you! These reviews mold our products and our customer journey, and we look forward to building on the experience that earned us this distinction!
The GARTNER PEER INSIGHTS CUSTOMERS’ CHOICE badge is a trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc., and/or its affiliates, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved. Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice constitute the subjective opinions of individual end-user reviews, ratings, and data applied against a documented methodology; they neither represent the views of, nor constitute an endorsement by, Gartner or its affiliates.
For death-tech startups, convincing legislators that their inventions should fall under the “cremation” umbrella is the fastest way to begin operations. Old phrases like “thermal process” can get in the way for some companies and technologies. Specifying “thermal” would seem to exclude alkaline hydrolysis and promession, for example. But in a 2016 paper, Texas Southern University law professor Asmara M. Tekle points out that other death-tech startups might benefit from the same wording. Human composting uses heat to reduce the body, and so might reasonably be understood as a sort of “cremation by carbon.” In that case, it would already be legal in most of the country. (Only one state so far has explicitly legalized the practice.)
But because of a precedent set in Ohio, startups are leery of launching their products without legislative approval. In 2011, a funeral director named Jeff Edwards began performing alkaline hydrolysis in Ohio even though the state had not explicitly legalized the process. He interpreted the broad language of an old Ohio statute, which allowed “burial, cremation, or other manner of final disposition,” to mean that alkaline hydrolysis was legal. Without consulting the state, he went ahead with his alkaline hydrolysis business. Months later, the state rebuked him. Health officials ruled that alkaline hydrolysis was not, in fact, legal under state law, and the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors lambasted Edwards for his “immoral or unprofessional conduct.”
Fear of another incident like in Ohio lingers. While some states may in fact consider human composting legal, few death-tech companies are willing to take the risk. As a result, states that have clear, up-to-date rules on the disposition of dead bodies are all the more appealing for new businesses.
So far nineteen US states have revisited their disposition laws to legalize alkaline hydrolysis. While a few created fresh rules that treat alkaline hydrolysis as a unique disposition method, most elected to tweak their existing cremation laws to include it. Maine, for one, specified in 2009 that “cremation” can occur “through other processes, including, but not limited to, chemical dissolution.” Colorado deleted the phrase “direct exposure to intense heat” from its cremation law in 2011.
Some of these updates have come at the request of death-tech companies themselves. California rewrote its cremation law in 2017 at the urging of the alkaline hydrolysis startup Qico, then offered the new company $1.6 million in tax credits. This past May, Washington became the first state to legalize human composting. Recompose, the startup that pushed for that law, plans to open its first composting facility in Seattle in December 2020. And this spring, legislators in Colorado will consider a similar bill to legalize the practice of turning cadavers into soil.
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Localities have become adept at this sort of signaling to tech companies, no matter the industry those companies might be trying to disrupt. Sometimes it’s more subtle: Arizona, for example, has granted startups a two-year leeway period in which they can test their products before applying for a formal business license. In other places, it’s more blatant: in 2017, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio enticed Amazon by lighting up the city’s most iconic monuments in the company’s orange. (Several billion dollars in promised tax breaks also served as an inducement.) But it’s far easier to lure companies in the business of alternative cremation: All you have to do is fiddle with some phrases in an outdated law.
The fiddling can get a little finicky, though. In 2010, Kansas decided it was time to open up its disposition laws to emerging technologies such as alkaline hydrolysis. The state replaced its old definition of cremation, as the “reduction of a dead human body to essential elements through direct exposure to intense heat and flame,” with a much more open-ended one. Now it would refer to any “dissolution process that reduces human remains to bone fragments.” “The intent was to broaden the statute for future forms of disposition,” said Mack Smith, executive secretary of the Kansas State Board of Mortuary Arts, the body that oversaw the new regulation.
At Zoho, we’re building one of the most comprehensive and tightly integrated suites of business apps. We currently offer 45+ apps in all major business categories, including finance, human resources, sales, marketing, customer support, and back-office operations.
Zoho Sign, our digital signature app, was launched in July 2017 to help businesses securely sign, send, and manage legally-binding business documents from anywhere. To date, Zoho Sign has helped over thousands of businesses across the globe completely transform how they sign their business documents. With digital signatures, users are now able to sign documents electronically, saying goodbye to manual paperwork, expediting turnaround time, reducing risks, and improving governance.
Staying true to our company’s vision of building the most tightly-integrated suite of business apps, Zoho Sign now readily integrates over a dozen Zoho apps. Let’s take a quick look at our popular Zoho integrations.
Zoho CRM: When a new lead gets added to your Zoho CRM account, you need to sign and collect signatures from customers on different documents including sales quotes, purchase agreements, purchase orders, invoices, and more. Our Zoho Sign extension for Zoho CRM can help you automate this whole process effectively. Learn more.
Zoho HRMS (Recruit and People): When recruiting new employees and managing them, you need to sign and collect signatures from employees on documents including offer letters, hiring agreements, social media policy agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and more. With the Zoho Sign extension for Zoho Recruit and Zoho People, you can get rid of physical paperwork, onboard new hires quicker, and manage them easier than ever before. Learn more.
Zoho Mail: So many times we receive important business documents directly to our inbox as attachments. How about signing them directly from there? Yes, you read that right—you can now e-sign important documents right from your Zoho Mail inbox. Learn more.
Zoho Writer: Most of us use word processing software to draft business documents for collaboration with team members. With Zoho Sign’s built-in automation inside Zoho Writer, you can even sign documents, collect signatures from others, and automate e-sign workflows all within Zoho Writer’s interface itself. Learn more.
Zoho Finance apps (Books/Invoice/Inventory): Signing your invoices and estimates is an important part of your business. You can now digitally sign and manage them with the Zoho Sign integration for Zoho Finance apps. Learn more.
Zoho Forms: Most companies use online forms to collect data from customers and employees. It’s hard for them to transfer this data manually and prepare business documents, collect signatures, and create automated workflows. This can be now streamlined with Zoho Sign integration with Zoho Forms. Learn more.
Zoho Flow: Today, we work with a bunch of apps and would like to automate business workflows without any coding. You can now create automated digital signature workflows with 45+ Zoho apps and 350+ external apps like Hubspot, PipeDrive, ServiceNow, Zendesk, Stripe, Paypal, and many more.
Orchestly: Our integration with Orchestly helps you automate digital signature collection within your organization workflows without any code. Learn more.
Zoho Creator (Deluge): If you are someone already familiar with our scripting language, you can also automate your signing tasks in a few steps. Learn more.
The above is not an exhaustive list of Zoho Sign’s integration with other Zoho apps. Visit our integrations page to see a full list of integrations that Zoho Sign offers with third-party apps and Zoho apps. There’s even an exhaustive REST API library for custom integration with in-house apps.
So why wait? It’s 2020 and time to go paperless with electronic signatures. Try our 14-day free trial and explore various e-signature features that you can try in your workplace.
Have any questions or feedback about Zoho Sign? Write to email@example.com or share your thoughts in the comments section below.
It’s debatable whether antitrust enforcement has ever been particularly effective. Even a charitable reading of its legacy suggests that the first effect of disrupting Big Tech might be to enrich the oligopoly’s shareholders, which is certainly not what advocates would want. In fact, as I argued in that earlier WIRED column, industrial conglomerates often spin off businesses strategically. For instance, United Technologies is about to cut loose its multibillion-dollar divisions Otis Elevators and Carrier (one of the world’s largest HVAC companies) as a means of unlocking shareholder value. One wonders why Silicon Valley executives haven’t gone down this path; perhaps the mantras of integration and a hubristic belief that they will never actually be forced to break up has shut down consideration of those strategies.
Would a forced breakup at least be effective at dispersing power? Let’s say that Facebook were strong-armed into disassembling itself. Its logical components would be legacy Facebook (individual pages), Facebook for business, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus. You might be able to slice it even thinner, but assume Facebook would become five companies. Facebook currently has a market capitalization of just over $600 billion. That total market cap wouldn’t be divided equally among the five new companies; WhatsApp might struggle given its lack of discernible income, while Instagram might soar. It’s likely, however, that the resulting businesses would have a combined valuation greater than $600 billion, assuming it follows past patterns and that the tech industry remains robust.
Now imagine each of the Big Tech giants gets disassembled in this way. We might end up with a landscape of 30 companies instead of half a dozen. A quintupling of industry players would, by definition, create a more competitive field. But competition in the antitrust framework, stretching back to the original Sherman Anti-Trust Bill in 1890 and then subsequent legislation such as the Clayton Bill in 1914, is not a virtue or need in and of itself. It is the means to a set of ends—namely, “economic liberty,” unfettered trade, lower prices, and better services for consumers. By itself, competition does not guarantee anything.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to see how going from six companies to 30 would give consumers any more choice of services or more control over their data, or how it would help to nurture small businesses and lower costs to consumers and society. Perhaps there would be openings for companies with different business models, ones that brand themselves as valuing privacy and empowering individual ownership of data. This can’t be ruled out, but the nature of data selling and data mining is so embedded in the current models of most IT companies that it is very hard to see how such businesses could thrive unless they charged more to consumers than consumers have so far been willing to pay. In the meantime, the 30 new megacompanies would still have immense competitive advantages over smaller startups.
Would the market frictions and disruptions caused by a breakup be worth the possibility that such privacy-focused companies might succeed? Would cracking the current megacompanies into a set of slightly smaller ones effectively balance consumer needs and economic liberty? You may need to break eggs to make an omelet, but breaking eggs alone doesn’t make one.
Warren has also floated a plan to limit the number and scale of acquisitions that Big Tech companies can make in any given year. There is now an entire venture capital ecosystem that funds and incubates companies not so they can go public but so they can be acquired by Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, or Microsoft (as well as Oracle, Salesforce, Intel, and a handful of others). These acquisitions are arguably part of the innovation structure, with Big Tech providing the same exit capital as public markets, but with less regulatory hassle. Limiting acquisitions, as Warren suggests, could have the unintended consequence of depressing spending on innovation rather than unlocking it, and making it harder for smaller companies to raise money. More problematic is how the cap would be determined, or enforced fairly and consistently. If Facebook can only make X acquisitions per year at Y price, then why shouldn’t ancillary companies like Visa be subject to the same rules? Visa may be seen as a financial services company, but it is really in tech, having announced the acquisition, just last week, of financial tech company Plaid for $5 billion.
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The idea that breaking up Big Tech would strengthen democracy simply by decreasing the immense power of a few companies may be just as appealing, but it’s false too. There is no past evidence that large, dominant companies imperil democracy; AT&T and IBM had de facto monopolies in the 1960s and 1970s over telephony and computers when democracy in the United States was becoming ever more inclusive. Perhaps it’s not size per se but, rather, the nature of today’s companies—not the “big,” just the “tech”—that is at the heart of such problems.
Congratulations on building an ecommerce website to showcase and sell your products! It’s now time to focus on marketing and driving sales. If you’re reading this to pick up cues for a store that’s taking shape, we hope this article serves you well.
A common question many small business owners have is this: “How am I going to promote my products, and how much should I invest to build a long-term marketing platform?” While the answer to the latter lies in what your end-goal and budget are, the clear answer to the former is email marketing. Let’s look at how it can help meet your ecommerce marketing challenges in a time-effective manner.
Challenge 1: Converting visitors into contacts
If a person visits your online store while shopping for a watch, it’s unlikely they’d hit the “purchase” button right away. Generally, people have several boxes to tick off, and you’ll have to prove how your product can meet and hopefully surpass their needs. Put simply, you should establish a connection with them so you can nurture them to a point that they’re sales-ready. This connection will also prove valuable to retain them as customers.
Solution: Signup forms
This challenge is easily met with the help of signup forms available in email marketing software. The biggest advantage of signup forms is that you can embed them anywhere on your website.
Once embedded on your website, the signup forms act as a means to get your visitors’ consent and basic information so you can send them email promotions. You can add and mandate different information fields like name, email address, region, mobile/telephone number, and more. By design, these forms facilitate the double opt-in method (one of the standards of email marketing), ensuring you stay compliant with privacy laws.
Quick tip: Provide a one-time discount to those who sign up to your newsletters. This way, you’re doing good favor for your signup form and sales conversions.
Challenge 2: Creating attractive promotions
In the ecommerce arena, products are your biggest asset. And you were probably quite diligent in adding product images to your platform. The same amount of care and concern should go into the making of your promotional messages as well. Your message should appeal to the eyes of your audience while giving a nice feel for your products. However, it takes a lot of time to design your message and embed product images in it.
Solution: Predesigned templates
The free predesigned templates of email marketing software solutions can largely simplify your content design process. The HTML and CSS coding aspects are already taken care of, meaning you can just pick and use them like your most comfortable t-shirt. Better yet, you can place an “image card” component in the template that enables you to view and select a picture for your product from your store. Last but not least, you can choose from template categories like holidays, seasons, onboarding, birthdays, and more.
If someone consecutively buys activity trackers and joggers, it likely means they’re interested in fitness-based products. Therefore, you should tailor your promotions for them around fitness accessories to hopefully lead to repeat sales. This is called target marketing. The same approach should be followed for every customer to give them a good reason to engage with your content. This form of marketing is catalyzed by data, and the challenges lie in accessing the data without much effort and time.
Solution: Integrate your marketing platform with your store
Integrating your marketing platform with your store easily solves this problem. However, the integration has to be tight and extensive. The easy-to-use nature of email marketing, thanks to smart software builds, allows you to (safely) leverage your store’s data to a great extent.
You can easily take that data and segment your user groups based on their behavior like this:
This is one problem that has many ecommerce owners scratching their heads. However, businesses are increasingly using one-liner emails to remind people to revisit their shopping carts. Emails like this must arrive at your recipients’ inbox with the right elements (for example, an image of the abandoned product) at the right time to win their interest. Now, supposing your shop attracts more than 1000 visitors per month, how will you churn out effective reminders for everyone?
Solution: Drag-and-drop email workflows
While we can hear most of you saying “Automation might help me,” let’s look at how to effectively use automation to find a long-term solution.
Since you’ll be dealing with multiple abandoned carts at the same time, the idea is to build a one-size-fits-all workflow that automates your follow-ups. The good news is that most of the email marketing platforms can do this. In Zoho Campaigns, this feature is called “drag-and-drop email workflows.”
With workflows, you can visualize a follow-up strategy for your abandoned carts and build it in no time. Put simply, you can configure your follow-ups in sequential order (by defining the content and send time) and have them be completely automated. To make your follow-ups look more personalized, the image of the concerned product automatically gets added.
Quick tip: You can also add response components in your workflows that allow you to set up separate follow-up messages for opens, unopens, link clicks, multiple link clicks, and more.
Challenge 5: Purchase follow-ups
Aren’t people who choose you over numerous other businesses potentially your brand loyalists? Engaging your customers again at the right time is the best way to create a long-lasting relationship. However, monitoring every purchase and coming up with content eats into your time and energy.
Solution: Email automation
Enter email automation workflows again. If your email marketing runs in tandem with your store, the purchase data (date and time of order) is instantly and automatically synced, allowing you to trigger a workflow. You’ll just have to repeat the same steps we discussed for abandoned cart follow-ups.
Quick tip: Sending a thank you or acknowledgment email like “Yay! You’ve successfully bought this” moments after purchase can leave a nice impression.
We hope you got your questions answered! If you need an extensive demo on how to implement all the above-discussed pointers, we’d be happy to help. Please share your feedback in the comment box below.
There will soon be a new bobby on the beat in London: artificial intelligence.
London’s Metropolitan Police said Friday that it will deploy facial recognition technology to find wanted criminals and missing persons. It said the technology will be deployed at “specific locations,” each with a “bespoke watch list” of wanted persons, mostly violent offenders. However, a spokesperson was unable to specify how many facial recognition systems will be used, where, or how frequently.
The Met said use of the technology would be publicized beforehand and marked by signs on site. It said the technology would not be connected to the city’s existing surveillance cameras or to cameras worn by police officers.
The announcement signals one of the most significant police deployments of facial recognition in the West, by one of the largest police forces in the democratic world. The Met has more than 30,000 officers, covering the 32 boroughs of greater London. The UK capital is already one of the most surveilled cities in the world, with some 627,000 cameras, according to CCTV.co.uk, most of them privately owned.
Seeing a major police force in a Western democracy embrace facial recognition may only embolden more repressive regimes elsewhere in the world, says Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch in the UK. She says activists in Hong Kong, Russia, or South America may find it more difficult to push back against expanded use of facial recognition as a result.
Carlo says facial recognition is already being used in dubious ways in the UK, for example to monitor the Notting Hill Carnival, a major event in British Black culture. “We talk about mission creep, but the mission is already well out of control,” she says. “It is inherently an authoritarian tool, and it lends itself to abuses of power.”
The Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, Nick Ephgrave, said in a statement that the technology would help London police combat violent crime. “As a modern police force, I believe that we have a duty to use new technologies to keep people safe in London,” Ephgrave said.
Civil liberties groups criticized the move. “As a highly intrusive surveillance technique, [facial recognition] can provide authorities with new opportunities to undermine democracy under the cloak of defending it,” the London-based watchdog Privacy International said in a statement.
Facial recognition has advanced rapidly in recent years, thanks to progress in machine learning. With sufficient high-quality training data and processing power, it is now possible for computers to pick faces out of a crowd with high accuracy. But the technology has proven controversial, partly because of its capacity to invade people’s privacy, but also because without diverse training data it can work better on some types of people (usually white males) than others.
Several US cities, including San Francisco and Oakland in California and Somerville in Massachusetts, have banned official use of facial recognition. Meanwhile, in authoritarian countries, facial recognition is rapidly becoming a routine tool of policing and government control.
Allowing police to scan the faces of innocent bystanders in search of criminals challenges a person’s expectation of privacy in public spaces. And it is hard to imagine that the technology would not spread to the dragnet of cameras that blanket London’s streets eventually.
The Met’s move also comes as UK experts question the reliability and legality of the technology in trials, and even as the government’s own privacy watchdog argues that more oversight is required.
The Metropolitan Police has previously tested facial recognition in 10 locations, including London’s West End. Officials said that in these trials, 70 percent of wanted suspects were spotted, while only one in 1,000 people were incorrectly flagged as a person of interest. But even these limited experiments have been controversial.
Researchers at the University of Essex who were given access to the trials offered a more critical assessment of the experiment in a report produced in July 2019. They claim that in six trials, where 42 persons were identified, “in only eight of those matches can the report authors say with absolute confidence the technology got it right.”
As we sail into 2020, we have something to make your sailing smoother: a calendar with all the important payroll compliance dates you need to know for this year. This calendar will help you track your compliance activities and stay on top of it. But why is statutory compliance essential to run a business? Let’s explore.
What is statutory compliance?
The Government has set certain legal guidelines for businesses to support their employees during and after their tenure. According to these guidelines, businesses have to:
Remit the withheld taxes and contributions to the Government.
File returns to the respective Government departments.
Submit statutory information to Government officials for auditing.
Statutory compliance means adhering to the above guidelines and remitting the contributions and taxes to the Government on time.
What do you need to do as an organisation?
The Government has set some dates on which the remitted sums will have to be submitted to the respective departments. For example, the EPF contributions of the employer and the employee should be submitted on the 15th of every month. Similarily, e-TDS/TCS statements should be filed for quarterly income tax returns (Form 24Q) on the 31st of every quarter (Jan, Apr, July, Oct).
What happens if you fail to stay compliant?
Failure to adhere to these dates would result in severe penalties, including hefty fines and legal action. It can have a worse impact on the business’s reputation, because compliance violations tend to cause customers to lose faith in the business.
How does Zoho Payroll help you stay compliant?
It’s simple. We’ve designed a compliance calendar which highlights the compliance dates for all the statutory components to remind you of the statutory activities you need to be ready for. Download your digital copy here. Print it out and set it up at your work station and take a look at it every week. We’ve also included some cool facts about payroll for you to check out. We hope this calendar brightens up your desk and makes compliance a little less cumbersome.
Disclaimer: While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information in this calendar has been obtained from reliable sources, Zoho Payroll is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information, as the dates may change.
First and foremost, it is important to keep in mind that some topics are just going to be “boring,” and that is ok. Not all industries are consistently full of excitement, such as travel, shopping, and entertainment. And depending on the intent of the piece, it may warrant a more professional, straight forward approach. Plus, if a reader thinks it is helpful, it typically won’t be considered boring.
However, it doesn’t mean we can’t take those more “boring” topics and create good, interesting content that is going to attract readers. Here are five tips for kicking “dull” content up a notch.
1. Write Like You Speak
When people are looking for advice, they want to read content that is easy to understand and sounds like the person writing is talking directly to them. Instead of filling each paragraph with confusing terminology, simplify it. Write it as if you were explaining it to someone who is right in front of you.
2. Narrow the Focus and Be Specific
People want answers that are directly tied to their situation. So once you decide your topic, take it a step further and think about who you want to speak to in the article. For example, let’s say you are a plumber who is writing a blog about common plumbing issues found in homes. Ask yourself questions to help define the target audience.
What kind of home is it?
What is the age of the home?
How old are the people in the home?
Have they lived in the house for a long time, or did they recently purchase it?
By asking simple questions, you can come up with multiple topics related to common plumbing problems, for example:
Common Plumbing Problems First-Time Homeowners Should Know
Ways to Prevent Plumbing Issues in Older Homes
5 Kid-Related Plumbing Problems Parents Should Be Aware Of
3. Add in a Little Humor
While it may not be appropriate for every industry or subject, adding in a little humor to lighten up a drab topic can keep a reader’s attention. Whether it is a funny image or a humorous comparison to something everyone has experienced, even the slightest hint of comic relief can keep a person interested.
4. Analogies, Examples, and Visuals
In many instances, these “boring” topics can have some level of complexity that might make it difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t already have a baseline knowledge of that industry.
Incorporate examples or analogies to help the reader better understand an idea or visually explain it through a simple infographic or video. Sometimes, just being able to visualize a concept can make all the difference.
5. Make It Easy to Digest
Long blocks of text can turn off a reader before they get started. Make your writing concise and use headers to organize the content. The reader can then navigate through the article easily and choose sections relevant to what they are looking for.
Don’t let people yawn as they read through your content. Utilize one or all five of these points when writing your next article to positioning it your content above the rest in the industry. Still not sure how to make “dull” content interesting? Let us help you!
A new report offers one of the most comprehensive overviews of the challenges to global electoral integrity posed by the onslaught of misinformation, online extremism, and social media manipulation campaigns, and calls for a series of reforms from platforms, politicians, and international governing bodies.
In a report released Wednesday, the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age found the rise of social media has caused irrevocable harm to global electoral integrity and democratic institutions—and the effects may get even worse.
The report, based on a year of global research and consultations with academics, policy makers, and representatives from the tech industry, calls for governments to form an international coalition—similar to those in place to tackle issues such as human trafficking or climate change—dedicated to addressing foreign meddling in elections and social media influence campaigns. It also urges governments to build an election vulnerability index to help determine which elections are ripe for interference or particularly susceptible to misinformation.
It comes at a watershed moment for election security, as the digital and physical worlds become increasingly intertwined for voters around the globe. In a first for US elections, a Washington state district will allow its 1.2 million eligible voters to cast ballots via smartphone beginning Wednesday. The district, which encompasses the greater Seattle area, is one of many government entities aiming to increase voter turnout by adopting new technology, though past attempts to digitize the process have been marred in controversy. A 2010 trial of an online voting system in the Washington, DC, area was hacked by researchers from the University of Michigan who in 48 hours were able to compromise the server and change all of the vote tallies. Plans to roll out mobile voting to some overseas military members and citizens announced in 2018 met with outrage from the security community, who describe the sites as far from secure.
In new and developing nations, things are much worse, the commission says.
“Democracies vary in their vulnerability to disinformation based on pre-existing polarization, distrust, and partisan traditional media, with new and transitional democracies in the Global South being particularly vulnerable,” the report says, pointing to elections in Kenya, the Philippines, and Nigeria. “For the foreseeable future, elections in the democracies of the Global South will be focal points for networked hate speech, disinformation, external interference, and domestic manipulation.”
Notably, the report calls for countries to update political advertising laws to take into account the dominance of social media platforms and their outsized impact on modern political discourse. It asks policy makers to adopt legislation clearly defining what constitutes a political ad and institute a “digital cooling-off period” for online political ads in the 48 hours preceding an election. It wants rules setting the minimum audience segment size for online ads—a recent subject of contention among tech companies. Google has moved to restrict micro-targeting for political ads, while Facebook defends the practice. And it asks public officials to compel platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share more data with academics and other independent third-parties, and to clearly label accounts that use automation or appear to be bots, or “face financial penalties.”
The report also urges platforms to allow only candidates who have “pledged to avoid deceptive campaign practices” to purchase ads, a practice that Facebook has steadfastly refused to adopt. In October, Facebook doubled down on its decision to exempt politicians from its usual policies prohibiting posting misinformation and other forms of problematic content, extending the carte blanche to ads purchased by political candidates or officeholders. Shortly after, Twitter elected to do the opposite, banning all political ads on the platform globally.
The confrontation did not result in an arrest or criminal charges, but it did precipitate another racial discrimination suit — alleging a case of “banking while black.” Thomas’s lawyer said it also underscores the pattern of racism that people of color face while carrying out quotidian tasks such as walking, gardening or cooking.
“This fits right into that picture, to a T,” Deborah Gordon, an attorney for Thomas, said in an interview.
“If I had walked into that bank, they’d have been happy to see me,” added Gordon, who is white. “But an assumption was made about him right away. That’s part and parcel of being an African American male in this country.”
On Thursday, hours after the Detroit Free Press first reported Thomas’s story, TCF Bank issued an apology, saying that the bank employees should not have called the police.
“We strongly condemn racism and discrimination of any kind,” bank spokesman Tom Wennerberg said in a statement. “We take extra precautions involving large deposits and requests for cash and in this case, we were unable to validate the checks presented by Mr. Thomas and regret we could not meet his needs.”
Wennerberg told The Washington Post the company may consider policy changes, but maintained that Thomas’s request did raise some red flags.
“Given the circumstance of the request, it definitely warranted further investigation into the validity of these checks,” he said.
Wennerberg declined to discuss the details of the transaction, but said in an earlier interview with the Associated Press that Thomas had tried to deposit three checks totaling $99,000 into an account that was nearly empty and had no recent activity.
Rather than turning Thomas away and calling the police, Wennerberg said, the bank’s assistant branch manager should have “deposited the checks and informed the customer that there would be an extended hold until we could validate the source of the funds and the validity of them.”
As soon as Thomas got to the counter, the assistant branch manager “immediately appeared suspicious” of him, says a lawsuit he filed in a Michigan circuit court this week. Thomas asked to open a savings account, deposit money and get cash back, the lawsuit says. But the assistant manager told him the checks would need to be “verified.” Then she asked him: “How did you get this money?”
She said she needed to “call in the checks,” the lawsuit says, but instead she went into a backroom and called the Livonia Police, which dispatched four officers to the bank. Later, it alleges, the bank filed a police report against Thomas, accusing him of check fraud — even after he called Gordon and she offered proof the money was from a legal settlement.
The lawsuit says Thomas’s race was a factor in TCF Bank’s “decision to treat him less favorably than other individuals.”
“They did not want to assist me because I was African American,” Thomas, who is also an Air Force veteran, told the AP. “They didn’t want to assist me because they assumed that I had a fraudulent check, which was far from the truth. This was no mistake. This was not just, ‘Well, we made an error. I’m sorry.’ I didn’t get an ‘I’m sorry.’ ”
And the timing made the situation worse, Gordon said. On Jan. 13, Thomas settled his federal lawsuit against the rental car company, Enterprise Leasing, where he used to work. On Tuesday, he received his settlement checks and went to the bank.
“For him, it was like, ‘Wow, I really can’t get away from this,’ ” Gordon said. “You extricate yourself from one unfortunate situation, and the same thing happens the day the other one ends, and it picks right back up again.”
That day, Thomas withdrew the rest of his money from TCF Bank and closed his account. An hour later, he walked into a Chase Bank, opened an account and deposited the checks without issue, Gordon said. The next morning, the money was available.