Top Stories

July 07, 2020

Human Rights/ Digital Ethics

Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok among firms ‘pausing’ police help in Hong Kong

Social media firm TikTok and web conferencing app Zoom have become the latest companies to react to sweeping new national security legislation imposed by China in Hong Kong. TikTok has pulled its app from Hong Kong app stores and Zoom will stop complying with city authorities’ data requests. Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Telegram have already said they are “pausing” cooperation with data requests on user information from Hong Kong authorities, putting pressure on Apple – the largest technology company with Hong Kong operations to have said nothing about the national security laws – to do the same.  After controversial laws were imposed by the Chinese central government, sweeping new powers have been announced for Hong Kong’s police including raids without a warrant and secret surveillance. The powers allow for confiscating property related to national security offences and allow senior police to order the takedown of online material they believe breaches the law. (BBC, The Guardian)


Fujitsu announces permanent work-from-home plan

Tech firm Fujitsu will offer unprecedented flexibility allowing its Japanese workers to work permanently from home. Staff will be able to work flexible hours and working from home will be standard wherever possible. Fujitsu said it “will introduce a new way of working that promises a more empowering, productive, and creative experience for employees that will boost innovation and deliver new value to its customers and society”. Under the plan employees will “begin to primarily work on a remote-basis to achieve a working style that allows them to flexibly use their time according to the contents of their work, business roles, and lifestyle”. The company also said that the programme will allow staff to choose where they work, whether that is from home, a major corporate hub or a satellite office. Fujitsu believes that that the increased autonomy offered to its workers will help to improve the performance of teams and increase productivity. In May, Twitter told staff that they can work from home “forever” if they wish as the company looks towards the future after the coronavirus pandemic. (BBC)

Environment/ Health

Fear over rise in animal-to-human diseases

Diseases jumping from animals to humans are increasing and will continue to do so without action to protect wildlife and preserve the environment, UN experts have warned. They blame the rise in diseases such as Covid-19 on high demand for animal protein, unsustainable agricultural practices and climate change. Neglected zoonotic diseases which jump from animals to humans, such as Ebola, West Nile virus and Sars, kill two million people a year, they say. The jump is driven, according to the report by the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Livestock Research Institute, by the degradation of our natural environment – for example through land degradation, wildlife exploitation, resource extraction and climate change. This alters the way animals and humans interact. The report offers governments strategies on how to prevent future outbreaks, such as incentivising sustainable land management, improving biodiversity and investing in scientific research. (BBC)

Climate Change/ Sustainable Business

Three-quarters of UK businesses feel threatened by climate crisis

Three quarters of UK businesses feel threatened by the climate crisis, yet only one in 10 have undertaken climate risk assessments and regard the issue as a priority, a new study from London-based start-up the Earth Science AI company Cervest has revealed. The findings, based on a survey of more than 500 UK businesses, revealed a major gap between corporate awareness of the dangers posed by climate change and in-house action to address the escalating risks. The poll reveals that 60 per cent of companies in the UK are concerned that climate change will prove damaging for their business. Yet just one in 10 businesses confirmed that they were assessing climate risk as a priority, while an overwhelming majority of businesses surveyed – 72 per cent – said they saw climate as a ‘political problem’. Furthermore, more than four in five organisations said they felt the government was failing to provide adequate support to help them tackle climate risks, while 85 per cent said they were in favour of regulation that mitigates climate risk. (BusinessGreen)

Environment/ Deforestation

Covid-19 lockdown gives rise to deforestation across Asia and South America

Despite the government-imposed lockdowns and worldwide economic stasis as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is evidence of increased forest clearances in Brazil, Colombia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal and Madagascar, Myanmar and Peru. The deforestation is thought to be part of illegal harvesting of products from tropical forests driven by high demand for those products. According to reporting carried out for Mongabay, similar situations are playing out throughout the tropics, with reports of increased activity in numerous countries in Asia and South America especially. The anticipated global economic recession is likely to hit many developing countries where the forestry sector contributes significantly to government revenue. Most experts agree that this is a critical time for the way in which the global community tackles the environmental crisis. On the one hand, it could reduce demand for timber, but it could also result in more demand for less sustainably harvested and illegal timber. (Eco-Business)

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