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Tech CEOs Slam Move to Axe DACA as Cruel, Disappointing

Silicon Valley on Tuesday hit back at the Trump administration's decision to rescind DACA, an Obama-era program that allows undocumented individuals who were brought to the US as children to defer prosecurtorial action for two years at a time, provided they follow certain guidelines.

Today, the Justice Department announced an "orderly phase out" of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) within six months since the program "was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch," according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Ideally, Congress will address the issue through legislation in the next six months, though it has failed to do so for years. That failure to act on immigration reform is what moved President Obama to introduce DACA in the first place, though he noted at the time that DACA was temporary and called on Congress to do something. "There is still time for Congress to pass the DREAM Act this year, because these kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two-year increments," Obama said in 2012.

But Congress did nothing, so those kids have indeed been living in two-year increments. Now, the lives of more than 800,000 young people are in limbo, prompting criticism from the CEOs of major tech firms.

'A Sad Day'

"This is a sad day for our country. The decision to end DACA is not just wrong. It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it," Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post.

"The young people covered by DACA are our friends and neighbors," he continued. "They contribute to our communities and to the economy. I've gotten to know some Dreamers over the past few years, and I've always been impressed by their strength and sense of purpose. They don't deserve to live in fear."

Zuckerberg urged Congress to "act to pass the bipartisan Dream Act or another legislative solution that gives Dreamers a pathway to citizenship," something his FWD.us organization has been pushing.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai echoed those sentiments on Twitter:

Brad Smith, president and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft, said the company is "deeply disappointed" by the administration's decision, and urged Congress to take up DACA before tax reform, given the time constraints.

"We say this even though Microsoft, like many other companies, cares greatly about modernizing the tax system and making it fairer and more competitive," Smith wrote in a blog post. "But we need to put the humanitarian needs of these 800,000 people on the legislative calendar before a tax bill. As an employer, we appreciate that Dreamers add to the competitiveness and economic success of our company and the entire nation's business community. In short, urgent DACA legislation is both an economic imperative and a humanitarian necessity."

But Smith acknowledged that "we should be prepared for the possibility that it will not do so," in which case the "broader business community [must] vigorously defend the legal rights of all Dreamers"—including the 39 employed by Redmond.

"If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel," Smith pledged. "We will also file an amicus brief and explore whether we can directly intervene in any such case. In short, if Dreamers who are our employees are in court, we will be by their side."

'Setback for Our Nation'

In his own tweet, Tim Cook says Apple employs 250 Dreamers.

In a Tuesday note to employees obtained by MacRumors, Cook said he was "deeply dismayed" by the DOJ's decision, which he called a "setback for our nation."

"I've received several notes over the weekend from Dreamers within Apple. Some told me they came to the US as young as two years old, while others recounted they don't even remember a time they were not in this country," he wrote.

Apple is working to "provide [Dreamers] and their families the support they need, including the advice of immigration experts."

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A major new campaign of disinformation around Brexit, designed to stir up UK ‘Leave’ voters, and distributed via Facebook, may have reached over 10 million people in the UK, according to new research. The source of the campaign is so far unknown, and will be embarrassing to Facebook which only this week claimed it was clamping down on ‘dark’ political advertising on its platform. Researchers for the UK-based digital agency 89up, allege that “Mainstream Network” — which looks and reads like a ‘mainstream’ news site but which has no contact details or reporter bylines — is serving hyper-targeted Facebook advertisements aimed at exhorting people in Leave-voting UK constituencies to tell their MP to “chuck Chequers”. Chequers is the name given to the UK Prime Ministers’s proposed deal with the EU regarding the UK’s departure from the EU next year. 89up says it estimates that Mainstream Network, which routinely puts out pro-Brexit “news”, could have spent over £250,000 on pro-Brexit or anti-Chequers advertising on Facebook in less than a year. The agency calculates that with that level of advertising, the messaging would have been seen by 11 million people. TechCrunch has independently confirmed that Mainstream Network’s domain name was registered in November last year, and began publishing in February of this year. In evidence given to Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee today, 89up says the website was running dozens of adverts targetted at Facebook users in specific constituencies, suggesting users “Click to tell your local MP to bin Chequers”, along with an image from the constituency, and an email function to drive people to send their MP an anti-Chequers message. This email function carbon-copied an [email protected] email address. This would be a breach of the UK’s data protection rules, since the website is not listed as a data controller, says 89up. The news comes a day after Facebook announced a new clampdown on political advertisement on its platform, and will put further pressure on the social media giant to look again at how it deals with the so-called ‘dark advertising’ its Custom Audiences campaign tools are often accused of spreading. 89up claims Mainstream Network website could be in breach of new GDPR rules since, while collecting users’ data, it does not have a published privacy policy, or contain any contact information whatsoever on the site or the campaigns it runs on Facebook. The agency says that once users are taken to the respective localized landing pages from ads, they are asked to email their MP. When a user does this, its default email client opens up an email and puts its own email in the BCC field (see below). It is possible, therefore, that the user’s email address is being stored and later used for marketing purposes by Mainstream Network. TechCrunch has reached out to Mainstream Network for comment on Twitter and email. A WhoIs look-up revealed no information about the owner of the site. TechCrunch’s own research into the domain reveals that the domain owner has made every possible attempt to remain anonymous. Even before GDPR came in, the domain owners had paid to hide its ownership on Godaddy, where it is registered. The site is using standard Godaddy shared hosting to blend in with 400+ websites using the same IP address. Commenting, Damian Collins MP, the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK Houde of Commons, said: “We do not know who is funding the Mainstream Network, or who is behind its operations, but we can see that they are directing a large scale advertising campaign on Facebook designed to get people to lobby their MP to oppose the Prime Ministers’s Brexit strategy. I have been sent a series of emails from constituents as a result of these adverts, in a deliberate attempt to alter the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. “The issue for parliamentarians is we have no idea who is targeting whom via political advertising on Facebook, who is paying for it, and what the purpose of that communication is. Facebook claimed this week that it was working to make political advertising on their platform more transparent, but once again we see potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent to influence the political process and no one knows who is behind this.” Mike Harris, CEO of 89up said: “A day after Facebook announced it will no longer be taking ‘dark ads’, we see once again evidence of the huge problem the platform is yet to face up to. Facebook has known since the EU referendum that highly targeted political advertising was being placed on its platform by anonymous groups, yet has failed to do anything about it. We have found evidence of yet another anonymous pro-Brexit campaign placing potentially a quarter of a million pounds worth of advertising, without anyone knowing or being able to find out who they are.” Josh Feldberg, 89up researcher, said: “We have no idea who is funding this campaign. Only Facebook do. For all we know this could be funded by thousands of pounds of foreign money. This case just goes to show that despite Facebook’s claims they’re fighting fake news, anonymous groups are still out there trying to manipulate MPs and public opinion using the platform. It is possible there has been unlawful data collection. Facebook must tell the public who is behind this group.” TechCrunch has reached out to both Facebook and Mainstream Network for comment prior to publication and will update this post if either respond to the allegations.

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