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Life Hacks We Tried And Loved In 2021

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Many days it seemed like just making it to the end of 2021 was the ultimate life hack. These are some of the tips that got the staff of BuzzFeed News through it. From the best place to buy jumpsuits (Old Navy, seriously), the Peloton coach that got us through it (Jess King), the sublime experience of keeping a dream journal, or just…. Piglets — we full-throatedly endorse these.

Most of these life hacks are free, but just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them.


John Paczkowski / BuzzFeed News

Peloton coach Jess King

Three days into my Peloton trial and about 10 minutes into a ride that was clearly way too difficult for me, I was seconds away from giving up. And then, I swear to you, at the very moment I was going to step off the bike the instructor, Jess King, looked me dead in the eyes and said something like “Don’t you DARE. Don’t you dare give up. You can do it.” I don’t know why, because I am typically cynical about things like feeling the person in a workout video stream is speaking to me, specifically, but I listened and stayed on the bike. And I did do it. And six or so minutes later, when King told me to lean to the right if I was going to puke, I did that, too. That was more than 50 pounds ago. And while diet and mindfulness had a lot to do with me getting healthy, so did Jess King. Because she kept me biking, daily. How did she do that to an older guy in the worst shape of his life? Distraction. With the exuberance of a trick-or-treating kid in their best costume ever or the happiest person at a rave, King is fantastically, endlessly distracting — with or without the live DJ that sometimes accompanies her. She rides the bike like it’s a horse and her steady stream of direction is encouraging and surrealistically instructive. “Pretend you have gills in your armpits!” “Nipples over knees.” “Breathe through your back.” “Oops, I meant add 5.” “Here comes the shitshift!” And, yes, “Puke to the left.” She is the only coach who consistently makes me forget about my own discomfort long enough to keep exercising regularly. And to be clear, the discomfort is real, because King is a very good trainer — she’s just giddy and comfortably ridiculous enough to distract you from it. —John Paczkowski


Rinee Shah for BuzzFeed News

Getting rid of your car

After I moved to LA, I acquired a collection of business cards and notes that people left under my windshield wipers or in the driver’s window that basically said, “hey your car is a dump, let me buy it.” Then I moved to a neighborhood notorious for having the worst possible street parking in the city, and my problems escalated. My catalytic converter was stolen. Then I paid a lot to replace it and cover other repairs. Then, about a month later, it was stolen again. Then I paid a lot to replace it again and cover more repairs. Then I installed an anti-theft mechanism, surrendered, and handed the keys over to my dad and let him drive away with it.

I bought my bike for $200 on Craigslist a decade ago and have probably spent five times that much on upkeep since then, which is still a fraction of how much it cost to own a car. I’d already relied on my bike for most trips, and the car had become redundant. I was only moving it once a week to repark and avoid tickets on street-sweeping days.

I figured ridding myself of this turbulent beast would simplify my life. And it has. Now everything I own on this planet is inside my little shoebox apartment. I immediately stopped paying for gas, for parking, for tickets, for oil changes, for brakes and tires and catalytic converters, for Geico, for the AAA membership, for the little sticker on the corner of the license plate. But it’s also made getting groceries a drag. And getting anywhere takes a little longer when you’re on bike and public transit. And I’m rolling up to dates with helmet hair and drenched in sweat. And, without a trunk or backseat to store things, I’ve had to embrace being a Backpack-Wearing Adult.

It’s complicated things, but it’s simplified things. I’m tethered to the city, but I’m liberated. —Emerson Malone


Addy Baird / BuzzFeed News

Telfar medium shopping bag — $202 on Telfar (sold out, but $150–200 on Poshmark)

The Telfar medium shopping bag is perfect. Many people have extolled Telfar’s virtues and you don’t need me to go into it here, but what I did not know was that the medium bag is the perfect size. It somehow fits absolutely everything I need for all possible situations: my laptop, my water bottle, the old Glossier bag I throw my toothbrush and face wash into when I go to my boyfriend’s place, the giant copy of Dune I for some reason take everywhere with me lately, a bunch of old disposable masks I forgot about — you name it. The handles and straps mean it can be worn or carried in a bunch of different ways without killing my shoulders and/or neck, and it somehow goes with everything I wear. I’ve never really been a purse girl, but I’ve been converted. I haven’t touched my ratty old tote bags once since this baby was delivered. —Addy Baird


Rinee Shah for BuzzFeed News

Getting full coverage car insurance — $XX/month (varies obviously) from Hagerty

I purchased a classic car in full almost two years ago while we were all stuck at home and public transportation was frowned upon. When I first got it, I was in a rush to get it onto the road and only insured it for liability. In the back of my mind, I knew I should probably get better coverage but kept putting it off. A few months ago, the East Coast got hit with the tail end of Hurricane Ida and experienced extreme flash flooding. My car was supposed to be safe at my mechanic’s, but it turned out that his shop was in an area susceptible to flooding. Long story short, all of his and his customers’ expensive classic cars were destroyed — except for mine. My car just so happened to be on the lift that evening. I took that as a sign to get full coverage because I don’t think I’ll get that lucky ever again. I sleep much better at night knowing I’m covered for its full value if something were to happen to it. —Derek Gardner

Homefield Apparel shirts — $32 at Homefield Apparel

Not that anyone needs to wear college-themed apparel any more than we already do here in the US of A, but Homefield Apparel has a lot of great retro or retro-appearing logos on T-shirts for a variety of colleges (including, for example, the Naval Academy, North Carolina A&T, and Rice — it’s not just Alabama and Michigan, you know?). The T-shirts themselves are not the sturdiest I’ve ever owned and will run you more like $30 a pop, but they look great and are extremely soft, and frequently the first I reach for when going for a T-shirt. These also fall squarely in the “good gift for sibling” territory, if your sibling is looking for, say, George Washington dribbling a basketball in a ’90s style, or the LSU tiger dunking one. It’s also semi-interesting to compare different schools and get a good sense for which are needlessly tight with what kinds of uses of their branding they’ll allow. —Katherine Miller

Old Navy jumpsuits — $30–44 at Old Navy

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m the person that’s usually two to three years behind the curve. So, it wasn’t until this year that I discovered I absolutely adore jumpsuits. My gateway outfit was a hand-me-down from my mother: a neon pink jumpsuit, covered in light pink starfish, that she bought on a family trip to Hawaii in the early 1990s. Since then I’ve gone all in on the fad, most recently buying a couple of styles from Old Navy as a self birthday present: the smocked cami jumpsuit for women in a leopard print and Breathe On cross-front sleeveless jumpsuit for women in purple. (Note that the patterns available are constantly changing.) It’s not uncommon for me to wear both of these, perhaps more than once, in a week. They are soft, flattering, and, of course, have pockets, making them the go-to outfit for walking my daughter to daycare, sitting at home in front of my computer, or meeting work colleagues for drinks at an outside bar. —Zahra Hirji


Rinee Shah for BuzzFeed News

Keeping a dream diary — $24 for BuzzFeed News’s notebook from Appointed

Most of my dreams are innocuous and forgettable; these are the ones where I’m reading Slack and scrolling through Twitter, and it hurts my feelings that this is the best my nocturnal imagination can do. But sometimes there are the surreal stream-of-consciousness ones that mold my entire day. Not just the ones where my molars are falling out, but the ones where I’m skateboarding around the White House and running through an unbelievably beautiful meadow and babysitting a gross alien creature. That’s why I started keeping a running doc in my Notes app simply titled “weird dreams lately,” dedicated to the more twisted yarns, which are always a genuine delight to revisit.

Chuck Klosterman wrote, “People who talk about their dreams are actually trying to tell you things about themselves they’d never admit in normal conversation. It’s a way for people to be honest without telling the truth.” So if that’s the case, what do I do with these:

  • Nov. 26: Woodward and Bernstein are standing arm in arm on an elevated platform in a nightclub and singing something to the effect of “I ain’t never seen two pretty best friends / It’s always one of them gotta be ugly.”

  • Dec. 11: An earthquake. The foundation of my condo’s building was tipping dramatically toward the street. I was holding onto a table for balance. The cats, Puck and Toby, were freaking out. Puck was standing on his hind legs trying to grab the air with both paws. All we could do was laugh.

  • Dec. 21: I was performing in a play at my middle school at my current age. All the actors started to go off script. I got too comfortable and said the word “motherfucker” and everybody went silent and stared at me.

  • Feb. 2: Someone kept using the phrase “that’s like putting braces on a scorpion.”

  • Feb. 19: Dad and I visited a space museum run and operated by Mike Myers. We watched a video about efforts to extract petroleum on Mars and the voiceover sounded a lot like Dad. He wouldn’t admit that it was him. I asked Mike Myers who did the voiceover and he said it was Dad. —Emerson Malone


John Paczkowski / BuzzFeed News

Piglets

Out of all my attempts at mid-pandemic rejuvenation and despair mitigation, visiting a local farm with a bunch of piglets was by far the most effective. Piglets are a lot like puppies in that they are small, cuddly, and curious. But because they are pigs, they are arguably better. Their diminutive grunts and oinks? Their pristinely pink little noses and tiny ever-spinning tails? How ferociously, soothingly adorable. And how gently they pluck a piece of apple from your fingertips! It’s sort of the pig equivalent of a friend’s baby holding your finger. All this stuff makes a visit with piglets a killer pandemic poultice, an experience that will leave you giggling and obliterated for at least a few hours of the 18 months of the miasma of horror, idiocy, and anger we’ve all been living through. —John Paczkowski

Fabric face masks — $32 at Baggu

I struggled for so long to find a mask that not only fit my face but felt cute! These masks have a flap that covers your mouth, chin, and nose so they’re great for glasses wearers, too. I get so many compliments when I wear these! —Nicole Fallert

Cheekface

You know those TV episodes where the plot can’t be resolved because one catastrophe leads to another? It feels like we’ve been stuck in one of those for half a decade, with the finale being isolation from friends and family for almost two years (The dumpster fire got bigger, now we need a bigger dumpster and a book of matches). But with the pandemic easing, I’ve been trying to get back to being human, and what’s been helping me do that is the band Cheekface. (Here, let me explain how breathing works: You suck in and you continue to live).

The LA-based trio of Greg Katz, Amanda Tannen, and Mark “Echo” Edwards specialize in tight, talk-sung indie tunes of wry hopelessness and hopeful wryness (It’s your best life if it’s the life that you’re living right now). With their two LPs (2019’s Therapy Island and 2021’s Emphatically No) and a smattering of singles, covers, and B-sides, they balance the boredom of living while the world burns and the joy of simply existing (Sometimes I wonder if there’s a single good thing on earth. And then I eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch.).

In early October, I was in a (masked, vaccinated) crowd indoors for the first time since the pandemic started, to catch Cheekface when they swung through NYC. It was a needed, personal reminder that crowds don’t have to be a threat. They can be a balm. (I liked it better when you were standing next to me.) —Brandon Hardin


Venessa Wong / BuzzFeed News

Tarot cards — $17 at Amazon

One of the joys introduced to me this year was a new deck of tarot cards I received as a gift from a good friend. We sat on her sofa and each thought of something going on in our lives, drew a card, looked up its meaning, and thought intently about what it reflected about our personal state of affairs. We’ve all just quietly gone through so much in the pandemic. The answers, of course, lay in our interpretations, and the tarot cards can be a vehicle for self-reflection more than anything else. As we come out of a year spent in partial isolation, it was just more fun to do it with an old friend, laughing together and cheering on each other’s realizations made through a beautiful deck of divination cards. The answers we seek all lie in us anyhow, we just need some help getting to them, and a reminder that we’re not alone. —Venessa Wong


Katie Notopoulos / BuzzFeed News

The author’s couch, purchased via AuctionNinja.com

Used furniture from AuctionNinja.com

AuctionNinja is an online estate sale auction site. It’s kind of like eBay, but with items grouped by individual estate sales, so typically a whole house’s worth of furniture and or other belongings. It’s a massive pain to buy stuff there, because you have to pick it up — in person — at a specific time window at the actual house over that weekend, or you forfeit payment! But because it’s such a pain, the prices…. My god, the prices…. They are just sublime.

I moved this summer and needed some new furniture. My personal style has always been for vintage or thrift stuff, and with the supply chain issues happening I was hearing horror stories from friends waiting months for a West Elm couch to arrive. I paid under $1,000 for two matching couches in great condition from a fancy home in Greenwich, Connecticut (a friend helped load and move them). This is a site I almost hesitate to recommend because I don’t want too many people to find out about it and jack up the prices. It’s an amazing bridge between the random stuff on Facebook Marketplace/ Craigslist and a curated antique shop. —Katie Notopoulos

Opening illustration by Raymond Biesinger for BuzzFeed News

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Rivian shares down more than 17% following report of Ford sell-off – TechCrunch

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Rivian’s stock price fell more than 17% Monday, a drop prompted by a CNBC report that Ford was selling 8 million shares of the EV automaker.

Ford held a 12% stake, or about 102 million shares, of Rivian.

Over the weekend, David Faber of CNBC reported that Ford would sell 8 million of its Rivian shares through Goldman Sachs. Faber followed up on Monday, describing the sale as “done.” The sell-off came as an insider lockup for the stock expired Sunday.

TechCrunch will update the article if Ford responds to a request for comment.

The news has further accelerated the decline of Rivian’s share price since its IPO last year. Rivian debuted as a publicly traded company in November with an opening share price of $106.75, a price that made it one of the largest IPOs in U.S. history and put its market cap above GM as well as Ford. (At the time, GM’s market cap was $86.31 billion; Ford’s was $78.2 billion.)

Rivian’s share price reached as high as $179.47 a week later, before coming back down to earth. Rivian shares have fallen more than 75% since its public market opener.

That freefall has also affected its largest shareholders, Ford and Amazon. Last month, Ford reported it lost $3.1 billion in GAAP terms in Q1, largely due to a write-off of the value of its stake in Rivian. 

Amazon reported a $7.6 billion loss on its investment in Rivian.

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Why Twitter’s top lawyer has come under fire from Elon Musk

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Vijaya Gadde came reluctantly to the decision that cemented her reputation on the right as Twitter’s “chief censor.” For years, the company’s top lawyer had resisted calls to boot then-President Donald Trump from his favorite social media platform.

Even after a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, Gadde explained during an emotional virtual company town hall on Jan. 8 that Trump hadn’t broken enough of Twitter’s rules against glorification of violence to merit a permanent ban of his account.

Three hours later, after her team produced evidence that Trump’s latest tweets had sparked calls to violence on other sites, Gadde relented, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. She reached then-CEO Jack Dorsey in French Polynesia, and they agreed to lower the boom.

Elon Musk wants ‘free speech’ on Twitter. But for whom?

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account,” the company announced in a blog post, “… we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

The ban on Trump, which continues to this day, is the most prominent example of the deeply polarizing decisions that have led conservatives to accuse Twitter of political censorship. As billionaire Elon Musk, a self-declared free-speech absolutist, seeks to acquire the social network, these decisions — and Gadde herself — are coming under fresh scrutiny.

Critics have derided her as Twitter’s “top censorship advocate,” a barb amplified by Musk, who tweeted a meme with a photo of Gadde that cast her as an icon of “Twitter’s left wing bias.” Musk’s legions of followers have tweeted calls for her firing, some of them racist. (Gadde, 47, is Indian American.)

Twitter colleagues describe Gadde’s work as difficult but necessary and unmotivated by political ideology. Defenders say her team, known as the trust and safety organization, has worked painstakingly to rein in coronavirus misinformation, bullying and other harmful speech on the site, moves that necessarily limit some forms of expression. They have also disproportionately affected right-leaning accounts.

But Gadde also has tried to balance the desire to protect users with the values of a company built on the principle of radical free speech, they say. She pioneered strategies for flagging harmful content without removing it, adopting warning labels and “interstitials,” which cover up tweets that break Twitter’s rules and give people control over what content they see — strategies copied by Twitter’s much larger rival, Facebook.

Many researchers and experts in online harassment say Gadde’s policies have made Twitter safer for its roughly 229 million daily users and say they fear Musk will dismantle them if the sale goes through.

“If Musk takes things in the direction he has been signaling — which is a rather simplistic view that more or less anything goes in the name of free speech — we will certainly see the platform go back to square one,” said Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University.

Twitter workers face a reality they’ve long feared: Elon Musk as owner

Whatever happens to her policies, Gadde signaled at a staff meeting late last month that her days at Twitter may be numbered, telling employees that she would work to protect their jobs as long as she is around, according to a person who attended the meeting.

She did not respond to requests for comment. Twitter declined to comment. Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

This story is based on interviews with 10 current and former Twitter employees, as well as others familiar with decisions made by Gadde and her team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private company discussions.

“I do believe very strongly — and our rules are based on this framework — that free expression is a fundamental right, that everyone has a voice and they should be able to use it,” said Gadde in a 2019 interview with The Washington Post. There is a line between doing that and committing what we call abuse or harassment, and crossing over into a place where you’re preventing someone else from using their voice.”

Gadde is a previous donor to Kamala Harris and other Democrats, and in 2017 she helped lead Twitter’s $1.59 million donation to the ACLU to fight Trump’s executive order banning immigration from majority Muslim countries.

Among employees, Gadde is known for taking a legalistic yet pragmatic approach to content moderation. As with Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection, she often has argued against limiting speech and has rejected colleagues who wanted to take a stronger approach to removing content, moving to do so only after careful consideration.

For years, she has been the animating force pushing Twitter to champion free expression abroad. In India and Turkey, for example, her team has resisted demands to remove content critical of repressive governments. In 2014, Gadde made Twitter the only Silicon Valley company to sue the U.S. government over gag orders on what tech companies could say publicly about federal requests for user data related to national security. (Five other companies settled.)

Elon Musk boosts criticism of Twitter executives, prompting online attacks

“She wasn’t a censorship warrior or a free expression warrior,” said a former colleague familiar with Gadde’s approach. “She is pragmatic, but not doctrinaire.”

A dedication to free speech has been part of Twitter’s DNA since its founding in San Francisco 16 years ago. Early executives were such believers that they famously referred to Twitter as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” That approach made Twitter ripe for abuse in its early days, and the platform developed a reputation as unsafe — particularly for high-profile women, who endured threats of rape and other sexist attacks.

Back then, Twitter’s attitude was, “we don’t touch speech,” said University of Virginia law professor Danielle Citron, an expert on online harassment. In 2009, Citron prepared a three-page, single-spaced memo for the Twitter C-suite, explaining the legal definition of criminal harassment, true threats and stalking.

Gadde joined Twitter’s legal team two years later, leaving her post at the Silicon Valley firm Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati. People who worked with her said her move was inspired by the Arab Spring uprising, when pro-democracy activists used Twitter and other social platforms to organize protests across the Middle East. The Arab Spring solidified the belief among Twitter’s leaders that their job was to protect speech, not police it.

Twitter was soon engulfed in scandal, however. In 2014, online trolls launched a brutal campaign against women in the video game industry. The attacks — which came to be known as “GamerGate” — were carried out on multiple tech platforms. But they were most visible on Twitter, where women received highly graphic threats of violence, some including the woman’s address or an exact time of attack.

The incident was a wake-up call for the company, said software engineer Brianna Wu, one of the women targeted in GamerGate, who worked with Twitter to improve the site.

In an op-ed published in The Post, Gadde wrote that she was “seriously troubled by the plight of some of our users who are completely overwhelmed by those who are trying to silence healthy discourse in the name of free expression.”

Elon Musk wants a free speech utopia. Technologists clap back.

By then, Gadde had been promoted to general counsel, overseeing all legal and trust and safety matters facing the company.

In response to GamerGate, Twitter streamlined the company’s complicated nine-step process for reporting abuse and tripled the number of people on its trust and safety team, as well as other teams that protect users, according to the op-ed and other reports at the time.

But the moves to clamp down on harassment soon stirred fresh controversy. Internal emails obtained by BuzzFeed in 2017 showed Gadde and other executives engaged in messy, seemingly ad hoc deliberations over whether to shut down the accounts of alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and right-wing flamethrower Chuck C. Johnson, who had tweeted that he was raising money in the hopes of “taking out” a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Johnson, who says his comment was part of a “journalistic project,” has complained that Twitter never offered a clear reason for the ban. He sued the company over it and lost. He has since abandoned his alliance with Trump and declared his support for President Biden, he said, leading to attacks online. Because his Twitter account is still suspended, Johnson argues he is unable to defend himself.

About the same time, Twitter was confronted with another conundrum: the candidacy of Trump, who made Twitter central to his 2016 presidential campaign. With nearly 90 million followers at his peak, Trump routinely lobbed tweets at political opponents, journalists and even private citizens, triggering waves of online harassment.

After Trump’s election, Gadde and Dorsey convened a “free speech roundtable” at the company’s San Francisco headquarters, where top Twitter executives heard from Citron, former New York Times editor Bill Keller and Tom Goldstein, former dean of the graduate journalism school at University of California at Berkeley. During the meeting, which has not been previously reported, Citron expressed concerns about online harassment, especially directed at journalists.

Gadde “understood how speech could silence speech,” Citron recalled, “and could be incredibly damaging to people’s lives.”

Goldstein declined to comment on the meeting. Keller said the group discussed how new standards could bring order to the “wild west” of social media.

Elon Musk acquires Twitter for roughly $44 billion

Internally, some employees faulted Gadde for ineffectiveness, as rules were unevenly applied across the massive platform. Three former workers said her trust and safety unit did not coordinate well with other teams that also policed the site.

Even as the company took action to limit hate speech and harassment, Gadde resisted calls to police mere misinformation and falsehoods — including by the new president.

“As much as we and many of the individuals might have deeply held beliefs about what is true and what is factual and what’s appropriate, we felt that we should not as a company be in the position of verifying truth,” Gadde said on a 2018 Slate podcast, responding to a question about right-wing media host Alex Jones, who had promoted the falsehood on his show, Infowars, that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged.

A year later, nearly every other major platform banned Jones. Twitter initially declined to do so, saying Jones hadn’t broken any of its rules. Within a month, however, Gadde reversed course, banishing Jones for “abusive behavior.” In a 2019 appearance on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, Gadde explained that Jones had earned “three strikes” by posting videos that did violate Twitter’s rules, including one she deemed an incitement to violence against the news media.

Jones did not respond to a request for comment. At the time, he called Infowars “a rallying cry for free speech in America,” adding that he was “very honored to be under attack.”

Gadde and her team later escalated the company’s efforts to fight disinformation — along with spam and fake accounts — after news broke that Twitter, Facebook and other platforms had been exploited by Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign. The company began removing a million accounts a day in a broad effort to crack down on abuse.

In a move described as signature Gadde, Twitter also launched an initiative called “Healthy Conversations” that sought feedback from hundreds of experts about how to foster more civil dialogue. That effort led to updated hate speech policies that banned “dehumanizing speech” — such as racial slurs and negative stereotypes based on religion, caste or sexual orientation — because it could have the effect of “normalizing serious violence,” according to a company blog post.

In subsequent years, Dorsey became increasingly absent and would effectively outsource a growing number of decisions to Gadde, including those around content moderation, three of the people said.

Gadde also was key to a 2019 decision to ban political advertising on the platform, according to four people familiar with the decision, arguing that politicians should reach broad audiences on the merits of their statements rather than by paying for them. Other companies copied the move, enacting temporary pauses during the 2020 election.

Throughout Trump’s presidency, at the company’s monthly town halls, Twitter employees regularly called on Gadde to ban Trump, accusing him of bullying and promoting misinformation. Gadde argued that the public had a right to hear what public figures such as Trump have to say — especially when they say horrible things, the people said.

How Twitter decided to ban Trump

Meanwhile, Gadde and her team were quietly working with engineers to develop a warning label to cover up tweets — even from world leaders such as Trump — if they broke the company’s rules. Users would see the tweet only if they chose to click on it. They saw it as a middle ground between banning accounts and removing content and leaving it up.

In May 2020, as Trump’s reelection campaign got underway, Twitter decided to slap a fact-checking label on a Trump tweet that falsely claimed that mail-in ballots are fraudulent — the first action by a technology company to punish Trump for spreading misinformation. Days later, the company acted again, covering up a Trump tweet about protests over the death of George Floyd that warned “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” More such actions followed.

Later that year, Gadde was involved in a decision that drew widespread criticism. In October 2020, the New York Post published an exclusive story based on material found on a laptop allegedly belonging to Biden’s son Hunter. Gadde and other trust and safety executives suspected the story was based on material obtained through hacking and therefore violated the company’s rules against publishing such material.

Anxious to avoid a repeat of Russia leaking hacked material during the 2016 election,Twitter executives took the unusual step of temporarily locking the newspaper’s Twitter account and blocking Twitter users from sharing a link to the story.

Even within liberal Twitter, the decision was controversial, two of the people said. It was not entirely clear the materials had been hacked, nor that the New York Post had participated in any hacking. A Post investigation later confirmed that thousands of emails taken from the laptop were authentic.

Amid mounting outrage among conservatives, Gadde conferred with Dorsey and announced an 11th-hour change to the hacked-materials policy: The company would remove only content posted by the hackers themselves or others acting in concert with them. It also would label more questionable tweets.

Dorsey later tweeted that the decision to block mention of the New York Post story was a mistake. Recently, Musk tweeted that “suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate.”

Here’s how The Post analyzed Hunter Biden’s laptop

Now employees are worried that Musk will undo much of the trust and safety team’s work. Many people silenced by policies adopted under Gadde are clamoring for Musk to avenge them. Johnson, for example, said he has appealed via text to Jared Birchall, head of Musk’s family office, asking when his account might be restored.

Birchall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Though Johnson does not plan to tweet, he said, he wants his account back on principle. According to text messages first reported by the Wall Street Journal and subsequently viewed by The Post, Birchall replied: “Hopefully soon.”

Birchall also shed light on one of the biggest questions looming over the Musk takeover: Will Musk undo Gadde’s decision to ban Trump? At a recent TED conference, Musk said he supports temporary bans over permanent ones.

Musk “vehemently disagrees with censoring,” Birchall texted to Johnson. “Especially for a sitting president. Insane.”

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Gradient Ventures backs Mentum’s goal to democratize investment services in LatAm – TechCrunch

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Investment in stocks or retirement accounts can seem like a complicated process if you are not sure where to begin.

Mentum is out to change that in Latin America, and is working on customizable investment APIs and widgets so businesses in Latin America can build and offer fully digital investment products, like local mutual funds, ETFs and stocks, to their customers. The products are also compliant with local regulations.

Co-founder and CEO Gustavo Trigos started the San Francisco-based company in 2021 with Simon Avila and Daniel Osvath. The trio, who participated in Y Combinator’s summer 2021 cohort, come from a mixture of backgrounds in payments, technology, APIs and investment services.

All of them came to the U.S. from Latin America to study and work, and in the course of using some of the investment apps offered in the U.S., they struggled to find similar products in Latin America that provided a way to fully invest. And, in Latin America, just 2% of the population in each country have access to investment products, and that’s mainly because they are high-net-worth individuals, Trigos said.

He noted in talking to folks at Chile-based Fintual, which is operating in the retail investing space, why there was not more competition, and what they discussed was a huge gap in the infrastructure and understanding the regulations in each country.

“You have to start from scratch in each country,” Trigos told TechCrunch. “We saw no one was building it, so we did.”

Mentum is not alone in working to provide an easier way for Latin Americans to learn about investing and try it out. In the past year or so, some significant venture capital dollars have been infused into companies, like Vest, Flink and Grupo Bursátil Mexicano, that have also developed investment products as a way to boost financial inclusion within the region.

Trigos considers Mentum a technology company operating in the fintech space versus a fintech company. It started in Colombia and acts as a middle layer, developing technology that companies can build on top of.

One of the early approaches the company took was to reach out to 10 of the top broker-dealers in each country to understand the regulations and build relationships to get the greenlight to do business. While Trigos called that process “burdensome,” once Mentum did that, it was able to more easily repeat the process in Chile and now is eyeing Peru and Argentina for expansion.

Initially, Mentum targeted fintech companies because they already knew how to work with APIs, but then demand started coming in from traditional banks and even supermarkets, insurance companies, credit unions and super apps that deliver food.

Mentum’s widgets. Image Credits: Mentum

Having so many different kinds of companies eager to offer investment products is a big reason why the company wanted to make its products easier to use, Trigos said.

“We analyzed hundreds of apps to see what the general experience should look like, then we created widgets that do require some code, but we also have a desktop simulator in beta that will require no code to set up the experience,” he added.

Mentum’s products are still in beta, but plans to launch them this year were accelerated by $4.2 million in funding, led by Google’s Gradient Ventures, with participation from Global Founders Capital, Soma Capital Y Combinator and co-founders of Plaid and Jeeves.

Trigos intends to use the new capital to increase its headcount from the seven employees it has now, including setting up its founding team. One of his goals for the year is to grow in Colombia and Chile by integrating five clients in each country. The company will work on product development and features that will enhance the experience, like more payments and adding DeFi and crypto.

Mentum already has two strategic partnerships with broker-dealers and is currently in the integration process with two of its fellow YC-backed fintech companies in Colombia and another 25 companies interested in launching its products.

“The financial services industry is undergoing a massive transformation in Latin America. APIs have created new opportunities for the way we bank,” said Wen-Wen Lam, partner at Gradient Ventures, in a written statement. “With its innovative technology, Mentum has opened up a wide range of possibilities for Latin America fintech apps. We’re excited to back Gus and his team as they usher in the next generation of banking.”

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