June 26, 2019

During Ireland's highly contentious abortion ban referendum last year, Facebook blocked American pro-life groups from running advertisements in the country, despite the Irish government declining to ask the company to do so, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

"During [Ireland's] election, leading up to that referendum, a bunch of pro-life American groups advertised ... to try to influence public opinion there," Zuckerberg said. "And we went to the Irish and asked folks there, 'well how do you want us to handle this? You have no laws on the books that are relevant for whether we should be allowing this kind of speech in your election, and really this doesn't feel like the kind of thing a private company should be making a decision on.'"

Zuckerberg went on to say that the Irish government told Facebook that since they didn't have a law, the question of foreign advertising was punted back to the company to self-regulate. "We ended up not allowing the ads," Zuckerberg confirmed.

Facebook's decision to block the ads has been controversial since the company publicly announced its intent just weeks before the May 2018 referendum. "I'm not sure Irish people ever voted for Mark Zuckerberg to make these types of decisions," Gavin Sheridan wrote for The Guardian at the time.

Zuckerberg used the example of Ireland to urge countries to update their laws. "I really don't think that as a society we want private companies to be the final word on making these decisions," he agreed. Watch his comments below. Jeva Lange

10:09 p.m.

Uber released a startling 84-page review on Thursday outlining how many reports of sexual abuse the ride-hailing service received in 2018.

In the United States, there were 235 reports of rape, 280 reports of attempted rape, 1,560 reports of groping, and 970 reports of unwanted kissing. "Each of these incidents represents an individual who has undergone a horrific trauma," Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, told NBC News.

Uber says the victims included both drivers and riders, with passengers accused of sexual assault in 45 percent of cases. "We do four million rides a day," West said. "And when you're operating at that kind of scale, thankfully, 99.9 percent of those rides end with absolutely no safety incident whatsoever." Uber said it has enacted stricter background checks for drivers and added more safety features in the app, including a button that lets users call 911. Catherine Garcia

9:04 p.m.

A satellite image captured Thursday shows activity at a rocket launching site North Korea had previously dismantled, CNN reports.

The image of Sohae Satellite Launching Station, obtained by CNN and analyzed by experts, shows a large shipping container at the facility's test stand, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, said. This was the first time analysts have seen this container, he added, and it could indicate that North Korea will soon start conducting engine tests at the site again. These engines would be used to power satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, CNN reports.

While at the NATO summit in London on Tuesday, Trump mused that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "really likes sending rockets up, doesn't he? That's why I call him Rocket Man." Trump also said he has a "good relationship" with Kim, but his remarks still irked Choe Son Hui, North Korea's first vice-foreign minister. North Korean state media reports Choe declared that "if any language and expressions stoking the atmosphere of confrontation are used once again on purpose at a crucial moment as now, that must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard." Catherine Garcia

7:38 p.m.

Several West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation employees have been suspended following the leak of a photo showing more than 30 members of a basic training class giving a Nazi salute, WCHS reports.

Basic Training Class #18 was held Oct. 21 through Nov. 27, and WCHS recently obtained a copy of the photo, with blurred faces, from the office of Gov. Jim Justice (R). In a statement released Thursday, Justice said he has ordered "the termination of all those that are found to be involved in this conduct. This will not be tolerated on my watch, within the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation or within any agency of state government."

Jeff Sandy, the cabinet secretary for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, sent a letter on Wednesday to employees of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, condemning the photo. "It is distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate," he said. Sandy also announced that Betsy Jividen, the commissioner of the state Division of Corrections, has directed all copies of the photo "be destroyed, sent to this office, or otherwise taken out of circulation to keep its harm from spreading." Catherine Garcia

5:12 p.m.

If you want to get shredded like Star-Lord, why not cut out the middleman?

Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World star Chris Pratt has opened his own Amazon storefront hawking a wide variety of health and fitness products, including rowing machines, boxing gloves, and protein powders. Unfortunately for those who really want to get motivated for their next run, the lineup of products doesn't currently include any live dinosaurs.

Read more at People. Scott Meslow

4:40 p.m.

Earlier this year, superhero fans faced the terrifying possibility of a world where the seemingly limitless roster of Marvel Cinematic Universe superheroes didn't include Spider-Man, who was caught up in the messy web of a rights and profit-sharing dispute between Sony and Disney.

Spider-Man has since been added back into the Marvel fold — and as it turns out, the hero in this story is none other than Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland, who says he sealed the deal by getting drunk and crying in a phone call with Disney CEO Bob Iger.

For a superhero, it's an admittedly unconventional strategy for saving the day, but hey, who can argue with the results? Read more at Indiewire. Scott Meslow

4:35 p.m.

Congratulations to Emma Stone on her brand-new rock!

The Oscar-winning La La Land actress is engaged to Dave McCary, a segment director she met while filming a sketch for Saturday Night Live back in 2017, reports CNN. Who says workplace romances between attractive, talented people who spend a whole day making each other laugh can't work out?

Read more at CNN. Scott Meslow

4:16 p.m.

Working for Infowars' Alex Jones is about as nutty an experience as you'd expect, according to one former employee.

Josh Owens, an ex-video editor for Infowars, has written a piece in The New York Times Magazine describing bizarre behind-the-scenes details about working for the fringe conspiracy theorist, such as that Jones allegedly once dumped a bag containing an employee's pet fish in the trash, "wildly" stabbed a moldy water cooler, ripped blinds off the wall, yelled at employees to hit him, regularly removed his shirt, and "threatened to send out a memo banning laughter in the office," with his reasoning apparently being that "we're at war."

Owens also describes an incident in which Jones allegedly took employees to a private ranch in Texas to shoot guns and "after eating a few handfuls of jalapeño chips, he picked up an AR-15 and accidentally fired it in my direction." A bullet "hit the ground about 10 feet away from me," Owens says, prompting one employee to go off on Jones, who "claimed he had intentionally fired the gun as a joke — as if this were any better."

Throughout the piece, Owens expresses regret for working for Jones, especially because he recalls how doing so involved making up stories to fit Jones' narrative. "The information did not meet our expectations, so we made it up, preying on the vulnerable and feeding the prejudices and fears of Jones's audience," Owens writes, adding that "we ignored certain facts, fabricated others and took situations out of context to fit our narrative."

Jones responded to the piece by telling Mediaite it's "a compendium of lies, disinformation, and half-truths." Brendan Morrow

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