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Fight over transparency of political donations by companies

There is a heated political battle over the lack of transparency of political donations to companies, and some are calling the current status of reporting a loophole that needs to be closed.

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SEC urged to make political donations more transparent

A group of government officials, comprised of mostly Democratic elected officials and shareholder activists, are urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require publicly traded corporations to disclose all political donations to their shareholders. Investors are entitled to certain information when making decisions on which companies they want to invest in, however information on political donations isn’t required to be shared. But some government officials say that investors have a right to know what political entities a company is contributing to.

The petition has received a substantial amount of support, however House Republicans issued legislation a few weeks ago that would make the passing of a political disclosure requirement illegal. Those in opposition of the proposal cite companies’ rights to free speech as ample reason for it to be thrown out, and that political contributions do nothing to harm a shareholder’s return on investment.

Allegation: goal is to silence the business community

“The Chamber believes that the funds expended by publicly traded companies for political and trade association engagement are immaterial to the company’s bottom line,” said Blair Holmes, a spokeswoman for the business group, who added that the advocates’ “apparent goal is to silence the business community by creating an atmosphere of intimidation under the cover of investor protection.”

In previous years, corporations typically did not directly contribute to political organizations, but instead, contribute to tax-exempt groups and trade associations that happen to make donations to politically affiliated entities. This indirect contribution model keeps corporations from directly investing in political institutions, because the actual donations are being made by another party.

The political contribution disclosure would close this loophole and require full disclosure of all donations tied to any form of political campaign, whether directly contributed to a political campaign or indirectly through an association. Businesses would be required to publicly disclose how much they are contributing to organizations known to make donations to politically-affiliated entities, which could influence investors’ decisions on whether or not they want to invest.

Destiny Bennett is a journalist who has earned double communications' degrees in Journalism and Public Relations, as well as a certification in Business from The University of Texas at Austin. She has written stories for AustinWoman Magazine as well as various University of Texas publications and enjoys the art of telling a story. Her interests include finance, technology, social media...and watching HGTV religiously.

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Business News

Ageism: How to properly combat this discrimination in the workplace

(BUSINESS) Ageism is still being fought by many companies, how can this new issue be resolved before it becomes more of a problem?

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Workers over the age of 55 represent the fasting growing sector in labor. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 25% of the labor force will be over age 55 by 2024. A 2018 AARP survey found that over 60% of the respondents reported age discrimination in their workplace. The figure is even higher among older women, minorities, and unemployed seniors. Age discrimination is a problem for many.

Unfortunately, age discrimination lawsuits aren’t uncommon. We have covered cases for Jewel Food Stores, Inc., Novo Nordisk, Inc., AT&T, and iTutorGroup, all alleging age or disability discrimination in some form or fashion. This could be from using vocabulary such as “tenured,” hiring a younger employee instead of promoting a well-season veteran, or pressuring older employees with extra responsibilities in order to get them to resign or retire early.

How can your organization create an age-inclusive workforce?

It is difficult to prove age discrimination but fighting a lawsuit against it could be expensive. Rather than worrying about getting sued for age discrimination, consider your own business and whether your culture creates a workplace that welcomes older workers.

  1. Check your job descriptions and hiring practices to eliminate graduation dates and birthdates. Focus on worker’s skills, not youthful attributes, such as “fresh graduate” or “digital native.” Feature workers of all ages in your branding and marketing.
  2. Include age diversity training for your managers and employees, especially those that hire or work in recruiting.
  3. Support legislative reforms that protect older workers. Use your experience to create content for your website.

Changing the culture of your workplace to include older workers will benefit you in many ways. Older workers bring experience and ideas to the table that younger employees don’t have. Having mixed-age teams encourages creativity. There are many ways to support older workers and to be inclusive in your workplace.

What steps are you taking in your organization to reduce ageism in your workplace?

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Business News

AI-generated content is against Google’s guidelines, so what now?

(BUSINESS) Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, says that AI-generated content is against webmaster guidelines. What does mean for content strategy?

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Google homepage on computer representing AI-generated content.

John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, stated that AI-generated content is against Google’s webmaster guidelines in a weekly online question and answer session.

Let’s review what that means for you and your content strategy going forward.

First of all, what is AI Generated Content?

Simply put, Medium defines it as

“[a]utomatically generated or Auto-Generated content is content that’s been created with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence tools.”

Tools like writesonic or jasper are examples of AI content creation tools made to create content for a blog, social media, etc. If you check these websites, you will find that Google is listed as one of the many companies that use their services.

So, Google can use it but others will be penalized for using it. Can Google recognize when a user takes advantage of AI-generated content services for use on the web?

In the video Q&A, Mueller doesn’t confirm or deny whether or not Google is capable of recognizing AI-generated content. He is quoted as stating,

“I can’t claim that. But for us, if we see that something is automatically generated, then the webspam team can take action on that.”

After countless searches about the Google webspam team and what actions they can take, it’s not immediately clear, but what seems to be the consensus is that it could negatively impact Google rankings and SEO.

What can you do?

If you are already using AI-generated content, the first thing to consider is do you need to do most of the heavy lifting or are you using it to generate ideas or a starting point? If you’re using it to fully write your next blog post, you need to reconsider this position and be sure to have a human add personal touches to your online content.

According to Mueller, using AI-generated content in ANY capacity is considered unacceptable. He states,

“[c]urrently it’s all against the webmaster guidelines. So, from our point of view, if we were to run across something like that, if the webspam team were to see it, they would see it as spam.”

Your best bet is to keep doing it yourself because right now Google has all the power over search and rankings. At least, until something changes.

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Social media and depression go hand-in-hand, studies show

(BUSINESS) Maybe this won’t come as a surprise, but the statistics sure are telling- having depression and social media usage are linked.

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Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health" representing dopamine.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania believe they have found evidence of a link between depression and social media use. Many studies have attempted to show that social media use can be detrimental to your mental health, but the parameters of these studies are often limited in scope or were unrealistic situations. The UPenn study collected usage data tracked by the phone rather than relying on self-reporting.

Psychologist Melissa G. Hunt, the author of the published study, says the bottom line is: “Using less social media than you normally would lead to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

It should be noted that the study participants were college students who were randomly assigned to either use social media as they normally would or be in the experimental group that limited time on the three most popular platforms, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Hunt doesn’t believe that it’s realistic not to use social networks at all, but it is important to find a way to manage your use to avoid negative effects.

Depression is a serious problem for Americans, but is social media responsible?

The CDC reported that between 2013 and 2016, 8.1% of Americans over the age of 20 experienced depression in a 2-week period. About 80% of these people had difficulty with daily activities due to depression. However, “over a 10-year period, from 2007–2008 to 2015–2016, the percentage of adults with depression did not change significantly.” On the other hand, social network use increased exponentially during this time.

There have been other studies that link social media use and depression. It might be that the more platforms accessed increase the risk for depression. Another study found that it was the way people used social media that increased depression. Using it to compare yourself to others or feeling addicted to social media increased the feelings of depression.

But it’s unknown whether depression or social media use came first. Studies haven’t quite agreed on whether it exacerbates existing problems, or creates them.

How should we approach social media use?

Another report suggests that Facebook knew from the start that they were creating addictions. The people closest to tech believe that there are inherent risks for their children to be on social media. Scary? It should make you think about how and why you use tech.

If you find yourself having negative feelings after using social networks, consider limiting the amount of time you spend on those platforms. Get out and connect with others. Relationships can often reduce the risk of depression. Get involved in your community. It’s important to find balance in using social media and having connections with others. Spend time on what makes you feel better about your life.

There are still a lot of questions about how social networks and technologies affect society. In the meantime, pay attention to how you use these sites and be conscious of not getting sucked into the comparison trap.

If you are depressed and lonely, there is help available, and we ask you to make that difficult step and reach out – call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline at 800-950-6264 or text NAMI to 741741. You can also visit their website to find your local NAMI.

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