Categories
Game

Activision Blizzard shareholders approve plan for public report on sexual harassment

Activision Blizzard shareholders on Tuesday approved a plan for the company to release an annual, public report detailing its handling of sexual harassment and gender discrimination disputes, and how it’s working to prevent these incidences. The proposal was initially made in February by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

Under the proposal, Activision Blizzard will have to publicly disclose the following information each year:

  • The number and total dollar amount of disputes settled by the studio relating to sexual harassment and abuse, and discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, service member status, gender identify, or sexual orientation — covering the last three years

  • What steps Activision Blizzard is taking to reduce the average length of time it takes to resolve these incidents internally and legally

  • The number of pending complaints facing the studio relating to sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination, internally and in litigation

  • Data on pay and hours worked, as required by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing

The DFEH sued Activision Blizzard in July 2020, alleging executives there fostered a culture of rampant sexual harassment and systemic gender discrimination. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also sued the studio over these allegations in 2020, and Activision Blizzard settled with the federal agency in March, agreeing to set up an $18 million fund for claimants. Activists, employees and the DFEH have argued that this settlement is too low, and former employee Jessica Gonzalez appealed the ruling in May. The DFEH estimates there are 2,500 injured employees deserving more than $930 million in compensation.

“For years, there have been alarming news reports that detail allegedly rampant sexual abuse, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation directed toward female employees,” a statement in support of the proposal to shareholders reads. As an investor-focused document, it outlines the ways in which systemic discrimination and sexual abuse can damage the studio’s revenue streams and its ability to retain employees, saying, “A report such as the one requested would assist shareholders in assessing whether the company is improving its workforce management, whether its actions align with the company’s public statements and whether it remains a sustainable investment.”

While Activision Blizzard is facing multiple lawsuits and investigations in regards to sexism, harassment and discrimination, some employees at the studio are attempting to unionize with the help of the Communications Workers of America. This would be the first union at a major video game studio and could signal a shift in the industry’s longstanding crunch-centric cycle. At Tuesday’s annual meeting, Activision Blizzard shareholders denied a proposal that would’ve added an employee representative to the board of directors, with just 5 percent voting in favor, according to The Washington Post.

At the same time, Microsoft is in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard in a deal worth nearly $69 billion. Microsoft has pledged to respect the rights of workers to unionize. And all the while, Activision Blizzard is still making games.

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Categories
Security

Daycare monitoring apps are ‘dangerously insecure,’ report finds

Popular daycare and childcare communications apps are “dangerously insecure,” according to newly published research, exposing children and parents to the risk of data breaches with lax security settings and permissive or outright misleading privacy policies.

The details come from a new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which published the results of a months-long research project on Tuesday.

The research, conducted Alexis Hancock, EFF’s director of engineering for the Certbot project, found that popular apps like Brightwheel, HiMama, and Tadpoles lacked two-factor authentication (2FA), meaning that any malicious actor who was able to obtain a user’s password could log in remotely. Further analysis of application code revealed a number of other privacy-compromising features, including data sharing with Facebook and other third parties, that were not disclosed in privacy policies.

After being contacted by the EFF, Brightwheel implemented 2FA and claims to be ”the first in the early education industry to add this extra layer of security.” HiMama reportedly said that it would pass on the feature request to its design team but has not yet implemented the additional security feature. It is not known whether Tadpoles has an intention to implement 2FA.

Network traffic analysis shows the Tadpoles app sending user event data to Facebook.
Image: EFF

Hancock started researching the privacy and security settings of various daycare apps after being asked to download Brightwheel when enrolling her two-year-old daughter in daycare for the first time. Hancock told The Verge that she initially enjoyed using the app to receive updates about her daughter but became concerned about a lack of security given the potentially sensitive nature of the information.

“At first there was a lot of comfort in seeing [my daughter] during the day, with the images they were sending me” Hancock said. “Then I was looking at the app like, huh, I don’t really see security controls I would normally see in most services like this.”

With a background in software development, Hancock was able to use a range of tools like Apktool and mitmproxy to analyze the application code and investigate network calls being made by each of the childcare apps, and she was surprised to find a number of easily fixable errors.

“I found trackers in a few apps. I found weak security policy, weak password policies,” Hancock said. “I found vulnerabilities that were very easy to fix as I went through some of the applications. Really just low hanging fruit.”

The EFF’s new report is not the first to draw attention to serious flaws in applications trusted to keep children safe. For years, researchers have raised concerns over security weaknesses in baby monitor apps and associated hardware, with some of these weaknesses exploited by hackers to send messages to children. More broadly, a survey of 1,000 apps likely to be used by children found that more than two-thirds were sending personal information to the advertising industry.

Hancock hopes that reporting on these privacy and security flaws could lead to better regulation of child-focused apps — but nonetheless, the findings have left her concerned.

“It made me feel, as a parent, even more afraid for my child,” she said. “I don’t want her to have a data breach before she’s five. I’m doing all I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

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Categories
Security

Hacking group posted fake Ukrainian surrender messages, says Meta in new report

A Belarus-aligned hacking group has attempted to compromise the Facebook accounts of Ukrainian military personnel and posted videos from hacked accounts calling on the Ukrainian army to surrender, according to a new security report from Meta (the parent company of Facebook).

The hacking campaign, previously labeled “Ghostwriter” by security researchers, was carried out by a group known as UNC1151, which has been linked to the Belarusian government in research conducted by Mandiant. A February security update from Meta flagged activity from the Ghostwriter operation, but since that update, the company said that the group had attempted to compromise “dozens” more accounts, although it had only been successful in a handful of cases.

Where successful, the hackers behind Ghostwriter had been able to post videos that appeared to come from the compromised accounts, but Meta said that it had blocked these videos from being shared further.

The spreading of fake surrender messages has already been a tactic of hackers who compromised television networks in Ukraine and planted false reports of a Ukrainian surrender into the chyrons of live broadcast news. Though such statements can quickly be disproved, experts have suggested that their purpose is to erode Ukrainians’ trust in media overall.

The details of the latest Ghostwriter hacks were published in the first installment of Meta’s quarterly Adversarial Threat Report, a new offering from the company that builds on a similar report from December 2021 that detailed threats faced throughout that year. While Meta has previously published regular reports on coordinated inauthentic behavior on the platform, the scope of the new threat report is wider and encompasses espionage operations and other emerging threats like mass content reporting campaigns.

Besides the hacks against military personnel, the latest report also details a range of other actions conducted by pro-Russian threat actors, including covert influence campaigns against a variety of Ukrainian targets. In one case from the report, Meta alleges that a group linked to the Belarusian KGB attempted to organize a protest event against the Polish government in Warsaw, although the event and the account that created it were quickly taken offline.

Although foreign influence operations like these make up some of the most dramatic details of the report, Meta says that it has also seen an uptick in influence campaigns conducted domestically by repressive governments against their own citizens. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Facebook’s president for global affairs, Nick Clegg, said that attacks on internet freedom had intensified sharply.

“While much of the public attention in recent years has been focused on foreign interference, domestic threats are on the rise globally,” Clegg said. “Just as in 2021, more than half the operations we disrupted in the first three months of this year targeted people in their own countries, including by hacking people’s accounts, running deceptive campaigns and falsely reporting content to Facebook to silence critics.”

Authoritarian regimes generally looked to control access to information in two ways, Clegg said: firstly by pushing propaganda through state-run media and influence campaigns, and secondly by trying to shut down the flow of credible alternative sources of information.

Per Meta’s report, the latter approach has also been used to restrict information about the Ukraine conflict, with the company removing a network of around 200 Russian-operated accounts that engaged in coordinated reporting of other users for fictitious violations, including hate speech, bullying, and inauthenticity, in an attempt to have them and their posts removed from Facebook.

Echoing an argument taken from Meta’s lobbying efforts, Clegg said that the threats outlined in the report showed “why we need to protect the open internet, not just against authoritarian regimes, but also against fragmentation from the lack of clear rules.”

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Categories
AI

Facebook disputes report that its AI can’t detect hate speech or violence consistently

Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen wrote in blog post Sunday that the prevalence of hate speech on the platform had dropped by 50 percent over the past three years, and that “a narrative that the technology we use to fight hate speech is inadequate and that we deliberately misrepresent our progress” was false.

“We don’t want to see hate on our platform, nor do our users or advertisers, and we are transparent about our work to remove it,” Rosen wrote. “What these documents demonstrate is that our integrity work is a multi-year journey. While we will never be perfect, our teams continually work to develop our systems, identify issues and build solutions.”

The post appeared to be in response to a Sunday article in the Wall Street Journal, which said the Facebook employees tasked with keeping offensive content off the platform don’t believe the company is able to reliably screen for it.

The WSJ report states that internal documents show that two years ago, Facebook reduced the time that human reviewers focused on hate speech complaints, and made other adjustments that reduced the number of complaints. That in turn helped create the appearance that Facebook’s artificial intelligence had been more successful in enforcing the company’s rules than it actually was, according to the WSJ.

A team of Facebook employees found in March that the company’s automated systems were removing posts which generated between 3 and 5 percent of the views of hate speech on the social platform, and less than 1 percent of all content that was in violation of its rules against violence and incitement, the WSJ reported.

But Rosen argued that focusing on content removals alone was “the wrong way to look at how we fight hate speech.” He says the technology to remove hate speech is just one method Facebook uses to fight it. “We need to be confident that something is hate speech before we remove it,” Rosen said.

Instead, he said, the company believes focusing on the prevalence of hate speech people actually see on the platform and how it reduces it using various tools is a more important measure. He claimed that for every 10,000 views of a piece of content on Facebook, there were five views of hate speech. “Prevalence tells us what violating content people see because we missed it,” Rosen wrote. “It’s how we most objectively evaluate our progress, as it provides the most complete picture.”

But the internal documents obtained by the WSJ showed some significant pieces of content were able to evade Facebook’s detection, including videos of car crashes that showed people with graphic injuries, and violent threats against trans children.

The WSJ has produced a series of reports about Facebook based on internal documents provided by whistleblower Frances Haugen. She testified before Congress that the company was aware of the negative impact its Instagram platform could have on teenagers. Facebook has disputed the reporting based on the internal documents.

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Categories
AI

Report: Sustainability is a top 10 priority for CEOs this year

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A recent survey of CEOs and senior executives by Gartner, Inc. revealed significant shifts in their thinking regarding people, purpose, prices and productivity in 2022, specifically on matters of sustainability, workforce issues and inflation.

Among the key findings, artificial intelligence (AI) is now reported as the most impactful new technology among CEOs for the third year in a row. Conversely, 63% of CEOs see the metaverse as either not applicable or very unlikely to be a key technology for their business.

Additionally, for the first time in the history of the survey, CEOs placed environmental sustainability in their top 10 strategic business priorities, coming in at 8th place. Nearly three-quarters of CEOs agreed that increasing environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts attracts investors toward their companies. Sustainability also appears as a competitive differentiator for CEOs in 2022 and 2023, on the same level as brand trust among respondents.

CEOS' Top 10 Strategic Business Priority Areas for 2022-2023. In order: growth; tech-related; workforce; corporate; financial; products and services; customer; environmental sustainability; cost; sales.

Workforce issues, such as talent retention, moved up in priority for CEOs for the second year in a row, only slightly behind technology-related issues such as digitalization and cybersecurity, and significantly ahead of financial issues such as profitability and cash flow.

Regarding inflation, 62% of CEOs see general price inflation as a persistent or long-term issue. Their top response to inflation is to raise prices (51% of respondents), rather than responding with productivity and efficiency (22% of respondents).

Overall, CEO perspectives shifted significantly in 2022, impacted by the ongoing effects of the pandemic and more recently the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, CEOs’ digital business ambition continues to rise, unabated by the pandemic and related crises.

The annual Gartner 2022 CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey was conducted between July 2021 through December 2021 among over 400 CEOs and other senior business executives in North America, EMEA and APAC across different industries, revenue and company sizes.

Read the full report by Gartner.

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Categories
AI

Report: Data and enterprise automation will drive tech and media spending to $2.5T

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According to a new report released by Activate Consulting, the global technology and media spend will balloon to $2.5 trillion by 2025.  This analysis comes as 2021 netted a spend of more than $2 trillion.

The report indicates that one of the major drivers of this tech boom will be data solutions and enterprise automation.  According to the report, “Activate Technology and Media Outlook for 2022,” a set of new companies are paving the way for the future, delivering infrastructure, tools, and applications that will enable all enterprises to operate and innovate as if they were major technology companies.

Businesses and consumers can expect to see accelerated development of customer experiences, better (faster, less bureaucratic) employee experiences, improved intelligence and decision-making, and improved operational and financial efficiency as a result.  Technology like autonomy (self-driving cars, home automation), voice recognition, AR/VR, gaming and more will enable end-user experiences while enterprises will become more productive in their marketing effectiveness, IT service management, cross-planning and forecasting, and more.

New data startups are spurring the next era of innovation.  They’re focusing on leveraging data and information, improving end-user experience, and improving storage and connectivity — all of which will drive the business-to-business and business-to-consumer experiences of the future.

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According to the report, more than 80% of the companies driving this innovation are U.S.-based, half of which are headquartered in the Bay Area.  They’re growing fast thanks to large venture capital infusions – and many of these startup companies have scaled at an unprecedented pace.  Fifteen of them have raised more than $1 billion since their launch.

In order for the next generation of companies to reach their full potential, the report indicates they must zero in on three specific areas of focus: strategy and transformation, go-to-market pricing, as well as their sales and marketing approach.

Read the full report by Activate Consulting.

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Categories
Game

How to Report Someone on Discord

Discord is a great way to interact through voice and text chat with your gaming pals for free, but there will occasionally be times when someone says something in the chat that violates the guidelines. Depending on the severity of the message, you may decide to report the user directly to Discord so disciplinary action can be taken. However, it’s not as simple as it may appear at first glance.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to report someone on Discord.

Further reading

How to report users and servers on Discord

There are steps you need to take to successfully report someone who is harassing, spamming, threatening, or simply being abusive in chat. You might find an entire server is participating in harmful activity that violates community guidelines. Here’s what you can do to alert the moderators at Discord.

Check if the message violates Discord’s guidelines

You don’t want to report someone unless their message actually violates Discord’s community guidelines. Activities and messages that are not tolerated on Discord include:

  • Harassment
  • Spam messages
  • Violating IP rights
  • Sharing child pornography
  • Glorifying or promoting suicide and self-harm
  • Distributing viruses
  • Threatening another user
  • Sharing images of gore or animal cruelty

If their message doesn’t fall into one of these categories, you likely shouldn’t report them directly to Discord. Instead, if possible, talk with the other members of the channel about their conduct. If you’re the owner or a moderator on the server, you can even kick them out and/or ban them yourself. You can also block or mute the user to avoid seeing their content while continuing to see what everyone else is saying in the server.

Please note: If the message is deleted after you send the report, disciplinary action can still be taken. However, there is no way to report a message that has already been deleted.

Turn on developer mode, find the relevant ID codes, and send report

You can’t simply hit a “report” button on Discord, at least not on the desktop app. Instead, you have to find a few ID codes that Discord’s team can use to investigate the offending messages. Take the following steps to make a report on Discord:

Step 1: Click the Gear icon next to your name in the bottom-left corner of the screen.

Step 2: Select the Appearance tab.

Step 3: Scroll down to the Advanced section of this page. You’ll see a toggle labeled Developer Mode. Turn it on.

Step 4: To get three different ID codes, go to the message in question and right-click directly on the user’s name.

Step 5: Select Copy ID.

Step 6: Paste the number you’ve copied somewhere and label it as “user ID” or something similar. Even if the user changes their username, the ID will remain the same.

Step 7: Right-click on the message itself and once again select Copy ID. This time, you’ll get an ID number for the message and channel. Paste it and label it as “message ID,” like you did the other one.

Step 8: Go over to the icon for the server on the left side of your screen and right-click on it.

Step 9: Select Copy ID a third time and paste it with the two others.

Step 10: Label this one “server ID” or something similar.

Step 11: Send your report.

With this last step, you will send your report to Discord via its Trust & Safety request center. Enter your email address, select your report type based on the option in the drop-down box that most closely applies to your situation, enter a subject, and finally describe the incident and provide all three ID codes in the Description box. You may also want to consider sending screenshots of the messages to Discord as well, which you can submit in the Attachments section of the form. Send the report along, and you’re ready to let Discord take care of the rest.

How to report on iOS

Reporting a Discord user on iOS is a much simpler process than doing it on a desktop. Maybe too simple.

All you need to do is use your finger to press down, hold the desired message, and hit Report. You won’t have to give any reasoning or ID codes. Discord’s support team declares that it does view these reports as with all the others. If an event is time-sensitive and needs urgent attention, but you don’t have access to a computer, you can also send an email to abuse@discordapp.com. Simply type out the details of your specific situation, click send, and that’s it. Just beware that you may not get a reply. Be sure to link to the message within your email. To get this link, just click Copy Message Link from the same menu as above.

How to clear a report from Discord

If you run into a situation where you need to cancel a prior report, we recommend sending a direct message to the Discord Twitter page. Send your situation’s details and ask that a team member erases your report. Also, to make it easier for the Discord team, you should make sure to give them the email address you use for your account. A few reasons why someone might retract a report could be that they mistakenly reported someone or reported them before realizing that the message did not violate Discord’s community rules.

We want to point out that filing false reports goes directly against Discord’s terms of service. Only report someone if you’re absolutely sure they are violating the guidelines, or you could face some negative consequences. Discord’s help team strives to work as efficiently as possible in replying to reports they receive. They often resolve issues in a matter of minutes.

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Categories
AI

Report: 63% of millennials approve of automation in the workplace

This article is part of a VB special issue. Read the full series: Automation and jobs in the new normal.


According to a new study by the human-centered automation company Hyperscience, 81% of people believe automation can lead to more meaningful work, despite common misperceptions around what automation is, how it’s being used today, and how the U.S. workforce views it.

In its 2021 Automation Pulse Report, Hyperscience found that there continues to be widespread misunderstanding of what automation is. Specifically, while 75% of respondents believe they know what automation is, 55% brought up popular misconceptions when asked to explain that understanding further. Responses included technology existing solely to replace people (17%), automation is a job killer (3%), and conflating AI with automation (10%).

Despite the increasing adoption of automation in today’s digital-first workforce, many respondents did not identify particular benefits and use cases of automation across various industries. While 70% of respondents said automation could add value for the transportation and logistics sector, and 66% believe it adds value for financial services and banking, responses were less convinced of value adds for healthcare (48%), insurance (47%), and government/public sector (45%).

Automation provides more time to focus on valuable tasks. Pie chart. 81% of respondents agree that if automation technology can remove data entry tasks--like manually entering insurance information or details from a handwritten form into a computer--the employee would have more time to focus on more valuable tasks in their everyday job.

One of the bigger highlights from the study specifically focused on millennials, the largest generation in the U.S. labor force today, who are increasingly ready to work side-by-side with this technology. In fact, more than a third (35%) of millennials believe humans and machines can work together and 63% believe automation in the workplace is a good thing — especially if used to alleviate certain work burdens.

Forty-three percent of all respondents agreed with this sentiment, ranking a better employee experience as a result of using automation as the most important part of technological advancement in the workplace. Technology affecting the customer and overall customer experience (34%) ranked a close second, while only 23% of respondents selected the company as the most important beneficiary of technology.

Read the full report by Hyperscience.

This article is part of a VB special issue. Read the full series: Automation and jobs in the new normal.

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Categories
AI

Report: AI has assisted half of all business owners during the labor shortage

Hear from CIOs, CTOs, and other C-level and senior execs on data and AI strategies at the Future of Work Summit this January 12, 2022. Learn more


A new report from Unsupervised indicates that one in two business owners implementing AI say it has helped their business during the labor shortage.

As companies continue to see high turnover rates, business owners can benefit from AI handling the duties traditionally managed by human employees, especially if employers are struggling to hire new workers. According to the study, the top tasks that business owners are optimizing via AI include chatbots, content creation for emails and advertisements, and managing inventory.

However, if businesses increase AI implementation, they will also need to ensure they are properly staffed with employees who are trained and knowledgeable on their AI programs. The Unsupervised report found that 40% of business owners feel they are lacking in regards to having AI expertise on staff.

How are businesses using AI technology? The most commonly used AI technologies include natural language processing at 36%, robotic process automation at 22%, computer vision at 18%, deep learning at 16%, conversational interfaces at 15%, and physical robotics at 13%. The top three tasks that business owners are optimizing with AI include creating content for emails and ads for customers at 47%, chatbots at 44%, and managing inventory at 35%.

Above: The top tasks business owners are optimizing via artificial intelligence are content creation for emails and advertisements, chatbots, and managing inventory. Overall, 1 in 2 business owners using AI say it has helped their business during the labor shortage.

Image Credit: Unsupervised

While AI can complement human workers or “fill in” for certain jobs, it is crucial to have skilled professionals with holistic knowledge of the AI programs the business has implemented. If a perceived difficulty in hiring AI-trained professionals continues, business owners must quickly adapt with methods such as strategic hiring, streamlined training, or even outsourcing.

The notion of implementing AI for business needs is growing: 18% of business owners want to ramp up their use of AI in the future, and one in five are currently in the process of implementing AI for the first time. The trade-off is needing fewer employees capable of what AI can handle, but needing more employees skilled in AI programs.

Unsupervised used several data sets to examine the use of AI among businesses and capture the current AI and business landscape, including the 2021 AI Index Report, International Data Corporation, Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise, and CB Insights, in order to explore AI startup funding. Unsupervised also surveyed 520 business owners about their attitudes toward implementing AI in their business via Prolific.

Read more in the full report by Unsupervised.

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Categories
AI

Report: Companies that invested in automation saw 5% to 7% revenue increase

Hear from CIOs, CTOs, and other C-level and senior execs on data and AI strategies at the Future of Work Summit this January 12, 2022. Learn more


New research from SnapLogic and Cebr found that the U.K. could have prevented £10-£14 billion ($13.4-$18.8 million USD) of its pandemic-related gross domestic product (GDP) contraction if it had matched the automation level of the U.S. Furthermore, the U.S. could have witnessed a $105-$212 billion smaller GDP contraction if it was as automated as Singapore.

The continued adoption of automation across the U.S. and U.K. has helped companies position themselves for growth, while also having the added benefit of improving resilience against economic disruption. Within three months of investment, U.S. companies witnessed an average year-on-year increase in revenue of 7%, or an extra $195 billion per month, and saw an average annual increase in employment of 7%, equating to a total of 7.2 million jobs.

As investment in automation grows, there are certain technologies leading the way. The research finds 78% of U.S. companies directed their investments towards cloud computing, and 71% focused on data integration. The Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analysis were the next most popular technologies in the U.S., with 64% and 62% adoption rates, respectively.

Automation boosts business revenue and economic resilience. The average year-on-year increase in revenue of U.S. companies investing in automation is 195 billion dollars a month. The average year-on-year increase in revenue of UK companies investing in automation is 14 billion per month.

Despite automation commonly being thought of as a way to cut costs, U.S. businesses that automated did so to boost their company’s speed and agility (52%), while improving employee productivity (47%). Automation has helped companies to achieve these goals, with the potential to increase productivity by 15% in the long term, which translates to the creation of approximately 16 million jobs in the U.S, according to the research.

Independent consultancy Cebr surveyed 1,000 businesses in the U.S. and U.K. about their automation strategies, initiatives, and results to develop this study.

Read the full report by SnapLogic and Cebr.

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