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A former Meta engineer on Tuesday accused the company of bias in its handling of content related to the war in Gaza, claiming in a lawsuit that Meta fired him for trying to help fix bugs causing the suppression of Palestinian Instagram posts.

Ferras Hamad, a Palestinian-American engineer who had been on Meta’s machine learning team since 2021, sued the social media giant in a California state court for discrimination, wrongful termination and other wrongdoing over his February dismissal.

In the complaint, Hamad accused Meta of a pattern of bias against Palestinians, saying the company deleted internal employee communications that mentioned the deaths of their relatives in Gaza and conducted investigations into their use of the Palestinian flag emoji.

The company launched no such investigations for employees posting Israeli or Ukrainian flag emojis in similar contexts, according to the lawsuit.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said Hamad was dismissed for violating the company’s “data access policies,” which set limits on what employees can do with different types of data.

Hamad’s claims reflect long-standing criticisms by human rights groups over Meta’s performance moderating the content posted to its platforms about Israel and the Palestinian territories, including in an external investigation the company commissioned in 2021.

Conflict erupted in Gaza after Hamas militants attacked inside Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking over 250 people hostage according to Israeli tallies. Israel in response launched an offensive in Gaza that has killed more then 36,000 people, according to Gaza health officials, and triggered a humanitarian crisis.

Since the outbreak of war last year, the company has faced accusations that it was suppressing expressions of support for Palestinians living amid the war.

Nearly 200 Meta employees raised similar concerns in an open letter to Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and other leaders earlier this year.

Hamad said his firing appeared to stem from an incident in December involving an emergency procedure designed to troubleshoot severe problems with the company’s platforms, known within Meta as a SEV or “site event.”

He had noted procedural irregularities in the handling of an SEV related to restrictions on content posted by Palestinian Instagram personalities that prevented the posts from appearing in searches and feeds, the complaint said.

In one case, the complaint alleged, he found that a short video posted by Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza had been misclassified as pornographic even though it showed a destroyed building in Gaza.

Hamad said he received conflicting guidance from other employees about the status of the SEV and whether he was authorized to help resolve it, though he had worked on similarly sensitive SEVs before, including ones related to Israel, Gaza andUkraine.

His manager later confirmed in writing that the SEV was part of his job function, he said.

The next month, after a Meta representative told him he was the subject of an investigation, Hamad filed an internal discrimination complaint and days later was fired, he said.

Hamad said Meta told him he was fired for violating a policy barring employees from working on issues with accounts of people they know personally, referring to Azaiza, the photojouralist. Hamad said he had no personal connection to Azaiza.

Meta declined to comment on what its data access policies specifically prohibit as well as Hamad’s claims about the grounds for his firing.

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Entertainment

Justin Timberlake addresses ‘tough week’ at first concert since drink-driving arrest

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Justin Timberlake addresses 'tough week' at first concert since drink-driving arrest

Justin Timberlake has performed his first gig since his arrest for alleged drink-driving, telling the crowd it had been a “tough week”. 

The US star is currently on his The Forget Tomorrow World Tour and performed in Chicago on Friday night after being arrested earlier this week.

He told the screaming crowd: “We’ve been together through ups and downs, lefts and rights.

“It’s been a tough week, but you’re here and I’m here, and nothing can change this moment right now.”

The singer appeared emotional as he added: “I know sometimes I’m hard to love but you keep on loving me and I love you right back.”

Timberlake was in Long Island in New York state – having reportedly had dinner with friends – when he was pulled over by police in the early hours of Tuesday.

Officers said the 43-year-old had failed to pause at a stop sign and was seen not being able to stay in his lane.

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Timberlake’s car caught on CCTV

Timberlake was held overnight and formally charged with a DWI (driving while intoxicated) misdemeanour at Sag Harbor Village Justice Court on Tuesday morning before being released.

According to a source talking to Page Six, the officer who pulled Timberlake over “was so young that he didn’t even know” who the star was.

A second source told the celebrity news outlet that during the arrest, Timberlake said: “This is going to ruin the tour.”

Justin Timberlake.
Pic: Sag Harbor/Reuters
Image:
Timberlake’s mugshot after his arrest. Pic: Sag Harbor/Reuters

Timberlake, who rose to fame with boyband NSYNC before finding huge success as a solo artist with hits including Like I Love You, Cry Me A River, SexyBack and Mirrors, is due to perform in Chicago again on Saturday night.

Further shows are scheduled across the US, Canada and Europe between June and December.

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According to court documents filed about the star’s arrest, there was “a strong odour of an alcoholic beverage… emanating from his breath, he was unable to divide attention, he had slowed speech, he was unsteady afoot and he performed poorly on all standardised field sobriety tests”.

Timberlake also told officers he had one martini and was following some friends home, and refused to take a breath test.

His lawyer has said he is “looking forward to vigorously defending” the singer.

Timberlake’s next court date is scheduled for 26 July.

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Justin Timberlake addresses ‘tough week’ at first concert since drink-driving arrest

Published

on

By

Justin Timberlake addresses 'tough week' at first concert since drink-driving arrest

Justin Timberlake has performed his first gig since his arrest for alleged drink-driving, telling the crowd it had been a “tough week”. 

The US star is currently on his The Forget Tomorrow World Tour and performed in Chicago on Friday night after being arrested earlier this week.

He told the screaming crowd: “We’ve been together through ups and downs, lefts and rights.

“It’s been a tough week, but you’re here and I’m here, and nothing can change this moment right now.”

The singer appeared emotional as he added: “I know sometimes I’m hard to love but you keep on loving me and I love you right back.”

Timberlake was in Long Island in New York state – having reportedly had dinner with friends – when he was pulled over by police in the early hours of Tuesday.

Officers said the 43-year-old had failed to pause at a stop sign and was seen not being able to stay in his lane.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Timberlake’s car caught on CCTV

Timberlake was held overnight and formally charged with a DWI (driving while intoxicated) misdemeanour at Sag Harbor Village Justice Court on Tuesday morning before being released.

According to a source talking to Page Six, the officer who pulled Timberlake over “was so young that he didn’t even know” who the star was.

A second source told the celebrity news outlet that during the arrest, Timberlake said: “This is going to ruin the tour.”

Justin Timberlake.
Pic: Sag Harbor/Reuters
Image:
Timberlake’s mugshot after his arrest. Pic: Sag Harbor/Reuters

Timberlake, who rose to fame with boyband NSYNC before finding huge success as a solo artist with hits including Like I Love You, Cry Me A River, SexyBack and Mirrors, is due to perform in Chicago again on Saturday night.

Further shows are scheduled across the US, Canada and Europe between June and December.

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

According to court documents filed about the star’s arrest, there was “a strong odour of an alcoholic beverage… emanating from his breath, he was unable to divide attention, he had slowed speech, he was unsteady afoot and he performed poorly on all standardised field sobriety tests”.

Timberlake also told officers he had one martini and was following some friends home, and refused to take a breath test.

His lawyer has said he is “looking forward to vigorously defending” the singer.

Timberlake’s next court date is scheduled for 26 July.

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Arkansas supermarket shooting leaves three dead and 10 wounded as gunman arrested

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Arkansas supermarket shooting leaves three dead and 10 wounded as gunman arrested

A supermarket shooting in Arkansas, US, has left three people dead and 10 others wounded.

Parked cars and shop windows were left riddled with bullet holes after a gunman opened fire on Friday, forcing bystanders to dive for cover.

Among the injured were two police officers who shot back at the gunman – before he was arrested.

The incident took place around 11.30am local time at the Mad Butcher supermarket in Fordyce – a city of just over 3,000 people located 65 miles south of Little Rock.

Colonel Mike Hagar, director of Arkansas State Police, told reporters: “It’s tragic, our hearts are broken”.

The gunman was identified by police as 44-year-old Travis Eugene Posey.

Posey was taken to jail and charged with three counts of murder.

Other charges are still pending and no court date has been set, according to the inmate roster.

Pic: AP
Image:
Police on the scene of the attack in the aftermath of the shooting. Pic: AP

Neither Posey’s, nor the officers’ injuries were life threatening, but among the others the injuries ranged from “not life-threatening to extremely critical”, Col Hagar said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the motive for the shooting was, nor if it took place predominantly inside or outside the shop.

Roderick Rogers, a member of the city council, witnessed the attack.

He said he saw people fleeing for cover in all directions and added: “People were just jumping into cars to get to safety.”

Law enforcement officers work the scene of the shooting. Pic: AP
Image:
Law enforcement officers work the scene of the shooting. Pic: AP

Amiya Doherty said she was in her mum’s car in the car park of the shop when she heard what she thought were fireworks.

But she then saw a man holding a gun and firing and said she ducked out of view.

“I held my sister’s hand and I told her I love her,” Ms Doherty told Little Rock television station KATV.

Images from the scene showed a slew of bullet holes in the grocery store’s window, and spent shell casings strewn throughout the parking lot.

The shooting took place at the Mad Butcher grocery store in Fordyce, Arkansas. Pic: AP
Image:
The shooting took place at the Mad Butcher grocery store in Fordyce, Arkansas. Pic: AP

Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she had been briefed on the shooting.

In a post on social media she added: “I am thankful to law enforcement and first responders for their quick and heroic action to save lives.

“My prayers are with the victims and all those impacted by this.”

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Read more from Sky News:
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The White House said President Joe Biden has been briefed on the shooting and his team will continue to keep him updated.

David Rodriguez, 58, had stopped at his local petrol station in the town when he heard what he thought were fireworks.

But he too saw people fleeing from the shop and one person lying on the ground.

“The police started to show up, and then there was massive gunfire and ambulances pulling up,” he said.

“The bullets were just flying.”

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