In our latest wrapup of technology news:
- Judge rejects $100M settlement in Uber driver suit
- Twitter says it is targeting “violent extremism”
- T-Mobile’s new calling plans
- Gawker i shutting down
- New York Times nixes smartphone app
- Judge rejects $100M settlement with Uber drivers
A federal judge has rejected a legal settlement that would have divided up to $100 million among about 380,000 Uber drivers to resolve claims the ride-hailing service has been exploiting them by treating them as independent contractors instead of employees.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen declared the deal unfair in a decision issued late Thursday, complicating Uber’s efforts to remove the legal threat of having its driversclassified as employees.
That distinction would give Uber’s drivers more rights and benefits. That would in turn force the San Francisco company to change its business in ways that would cause its expenses to soar and potentially undercut its plans to eventually sell its stock in an initial public offering.
Uber expressed its disappointment with Chen’s ruling in a statement that said the company will consider its options. The alternatives include taking the case to trial, awaiting rulings in two appeals that would bolster Uber’s cause, or negotiating a revisedsettlement with the drivers in an attempt to appease Chen.
In another case earlier this year, Uber rival Lyft initially had a similar settlement with itsdrivers rejected by a different judge. Lyft raised its initial offer from $12.5 million to $27 million, good enough to win preliminary approval from U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in June.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lead attorney representing the Uber drivers, said she thinks a revised settlement is possible in this lawsuit, too. If not, she is prepared to take the case to trial, she told The Associated Press in an email. In that event, the case could be whittled to about 8,000 drivers because of binding arbitration clauses that Uber holds.
- Twitter: We suspended 360K accounts over ‘violent extremism’
Twitter said Thursday it has suspended 360,000 accounts since mid-2015 for violating its policies banning the promotion of terrorism and violent extremism.
The San Francisco-based company said in a blog post that it has also made progress in preventing users who were suspended from immediately returning to the platform using different accounts, which has been a problem in the past.
It said its rate of daily suspensions is up 80 percent since last year, though it did not provide specific numbers. The suspensions spike immediately following terrorist attacks, it said.
Twitter noted that there is no magic formula for identifying extremist accounts. Like other social media companies, it uses a variety of tools, including spam-fighting technology, automatic identification as well as reports from users, to help combat abuse.
The report on its efforts come after Twitter has been criticized for not doing enough to keep extremist groups like Islamic State from using the short-messaging service to crowdsource supporters and potential attackers.
Last week, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Twitter that accused the company of supporting Islamic State by allowing it to sign up for and use Twitter accounts. The judge agreed with Twitter that the company cannot be held liable because federal law protects service providers that merely offer platforms for speech, without creating the speech itself. At the same time, Twitter stressed that it was working to combat violent extremism on its service.
(Watch this video about how to report abuse to Twitter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ki8_CGWaw4 )
- T-Mobile phasing out data limits – but will you save money?
T-Mobile is phasing out data limits and pushing people toward unlimited data plans — which will mean higher prices for many new customers.
Although T-Mobile is cutting the price of the unlimited plan, those who haven’t been using that much data might eventually pay more for unlimited data they don’t need.
T-Mobile’s announcement Thursday comes a day after AT&T said it would raise prices on some plans while giving customers more data. Verizon made a similar move last month.
The wireless industry has become increasingly competitive over the past few years given that most people already have smartphones. Carriers have had to reduce prices to lure customers from rivals and have tried to make up the revenue by selling larger dataplans.
T-Mobile has also tried to make its plans more appealing by letting many customers stream video from dozens of services including Netflix, ESPN and HBO without eating updata. Making all its plans unlimited is an extension of that, given that video is one of the biggest drains on data.
Starting Sept. 6, T-Mobile will cut the price of its unlimited plan and start phasing out plans that have data limits. There’s no date for when the older plans won’t be available — a new customer could still get them after Sept. 6 — but the new unlimited plan will eventually be T-Mobile’s “main offer,” spokeswoman Bethany Frey said.
Existing customers can keep their plans for now.
- Gawker.com to shut down next week
Gawker.com is going to shut down as its parent company is sold to Univision, a reporter for the 14-year-old site said Thursday.
A Gawkerreport Thursday said that Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder, told staffers that Gawker.com was ending on Thursday afternoon.
Univision, the Spanish-language broadcaster, is buying Gawker Media for $135 million out of bankruptcy in the aftermath of a $140 million judgment against it in the Hulk Hogan invasion-of-privacy case. Gawker Media went into bankruptcy protection after the verdict, and a judge has to approve the sale at a hearing Thursday.
The company has other blogs apart from its namesake, including the women-focused Jezebel, tech-oriented Gizmodo and sports site Deadspin. Univision is interested in those properties as it seeks a more youthful audience than that commanded by broadcast TV.
Gawker.com’s shutdown comes after it was gunned for by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who had secretly bankrolled Hogan’s lawsuit. Thiel was outed as gay by a Gawker-owned website in 2007. His push against Gawker raised concerns about wealthy people covertly working to undermine media companies they didn’t like.
- New York Times shuts down NYT Now smartphone app
The New York Times is shutting down its NYT Now smartphone app because the company says it hasn’t lived up to its hopes in the two years since it was launched in an effort to reach a younger audience.
NYT Now offers morning and evening news briefings and a curated list of articles in a mobile friendly format. It was launched in 2014 with a subscription fee of $8 a month but was transitioned last year to a free model. The Times says it had 334,000 unique users at its peak in May of last year. That number had fallen to an average of 257,000 per month over the past three months.
The Times says many NYT Now features are being incorporated into the main New York Times app.