US Rowing Accepts Resignation of Longtime Men’s Coach Mike Teti

Longtime U.S. rowing coach Mike Teti, who has been criticized by some of his former athletes as being emotionally abusive and using physical intimidation, has resigned but immediately accepted a position funded by a large donor leading a new high-performance training club that still has ties to the national program.

US Rowing Accepts Resignation of Longtime Men’s Coach Mike Teti

OAKLAND (AP) — Longtime U.S. rowing coach Mike Teti, who has been criticized by some of his former athletes as being emotionally abusive and using physical intimidation, has resigned but immediately accepted a position funded by a large donor leading a new high-performance training club that still has ties to the national program.

The Associated Press in July reported that American rowers under Teti feared his intense and intimidating style. An announcement from US Rowing CEO Amanda Kraus on restructuring within the program did not address the allegations but rather the need for immediate change after the U.S. team failed to win any medals at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

US rowing coach Mike Teti (AP Photo)

Kraus, who took over in November 2020, said there will no longer be a formal relationship with Teti and she accepted his resignation last week. She expressed the sport’s commitment to new leadership and direction for the build up to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“We are thinking about a culture that focuses more on athlete wellness, athlete care and communication, all of those things,” Kraus said Thursday in a phone interview, later adding that US Rowing “won’t have any contracts with any of the high-performance clubs.”

She posted a letter on the governing body’s website last Friday addressed to “national team athletes, hopefuls, partners, supporters and friends” that stated “meaningful changes need to be made in order to create an athlete-focused approach” going forward.

Nine rowers who spoke for the AP story described Teti’s intimidation — all but one discussing the situation on condition of anonymity because they either want to continue in the sport or feared retaliation — and said they have direct knowledge of the coach physically threatening athletes or verbally attacking them if they challenged him in any way.

Teti, meanwhile, was announced as head coach of elite rowers and prospects for California Rowing Club — at the same boathouse where he trained Olympians and other hopefuls in recent years ahead of the Tokyo Games.

This center, funded by the Rogers Family Foundation, will give elite rowers a choice whether to train there under Teti or with the national team. US Rowing will centralize its men’s and women’s training centers in Princeton, New Jersey, where the women’s teams were already headquartered. The center will host 12 men and 12 women as full-time residents.

Some male rowers have already relocated to the East Coast while others have indicated their plans to do so, Kraus said Thursday. US Rowing also has opened a search for a new Chief High Performance Director and also is accepting public comment through Oct. 29 on the selection process for the 2022 senior national team.

While California Rowing Club and Teti will be involved in training elite rowers who choose not to be based in Princeton, it’s unclear how much influence he will have on the makeup of the U.S. team.

In addition, US Rowing has received a 100-plus page report from an assessment begun early this year by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee into the Americans’ national team programs, including the men’s group that had been based in Oakland under Teti’s guidance.

“As we prepare for 2024 and beyond, it is clear that meaningful changes need to be made in order to create an athlete-focused approach that maximizes USRowing’s resources and those of the overall rowing community here in the United States,” Kraus wrote in her letter. “USRowing wants to enable our athletes to train and compete in sustainable environments that provide them with the stability and support they need to thrive over the long term.

“We are also committed to creating a system of high performance that will drive unprecedented success in our sport. In order to accomplish this, USRowing will be restructuring our national team’s staff, selection process, and training centers,” she said.

In her letter, Kraus said US Rowing since March has evaluated its national team operations “and how they relate to our athletes’ pathways to success” by conducting athlete exit interviews and surveys, an internal report from the sport’s High Performance Council, the USOPC assessment and input from leaders in other sports — both national and international governing bodies.

The law firm Arent Fox conducted the USOPC assessment, sending a letter in January that was obtained by the AP, that focused in part “to review whether elite athletes’ concerns are capable of being heard in a fair and neutral way that does not contribute to a fear of retaliation.”

Some athletes shared their concerns about the culture under Teti by reaching out directly to Kraus in hopes of creating change in coaching leadership.

The 65-year-old Teti, the only member of the National Rowing Hall of Fame inducted as an athlete and coach, has denied any wrongdoing, telling the AP, “I believe that I have coached fairly, with the athletes’ well-being in mind.”

Teti was investigated by the watchdog group SafeSport in 2018 and also in 2016 on behalf of the University of California at Berkeley, where he formerly coached. The SafeSport probe was closed with no sanctions and Cal never disclosed its findings.

He rowed in the U.S. eight boat that won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and coached the men’s eight to gold at the 2004 Athens Games. Four years later in Beijing, he guided the eight boat to a bronze medal before beginning a successful tenure at Cal, where he stayed for a decade. Ahead of the Summer Games in 2012, he was called in to lead the eight in qualifying for London, where the boat finished fourth.

“I am extremely grateful to the Rogers Family Foundation for creating this opportunity for our athletes. I am also excited and encouraged to see how far we can go with this group of talented young athletes,” Teti said in a statement on the rowing club’s website. “I believe our athlete-centered approach at the CRC, in partnership with USRowing and the restructuring of their new high-performance model, will allow each athlete to control their path to the Olympic Team.”

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Amid the Capitol Riot, Facebook Faced Its Own Insurrection

As supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th, battling police and forcing lawmakers into hiding, an insurrection of a different kind was taking place inside the world’s largest social media company.

Amid the Capitol Riot, Facebook Faced Its Own Insurrection

WASHINGTON (AP) — As supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th, battling police and forcing lawmakers into hiding, an insurrection of a different kind was taking place inside the world’s largest social media company.

Thousands of miles away, in California, Facebook engineers were racing to tweak internal controls to slow the spread of misinformation and inciteful content. Emergency actions — some of which were rolled back after the 2020 election — included banning Trump, freezing comments in groups with a record for hate speech, filtering out the “Stop the Steal” rallying cry and empowering content moderators to act more assertively by labeling the U.S. a “Temporary High Risk Location” for political violence.

At the same time, frustration inside Facebook erupted over what some saw as the company’s halting and often reversed response to rising extremism in the U.S.

“Haven’t we had enough time to figure out how to manage discourse without enabling violence?” one employee wrote on an internal message board at the height of the Jan. 6 turmoil. “We’ve been fueling this fire for a long time and we shouldn’t be surprised it’s now out of control.”

It’s a question that still hangs over the company today, as Congress and regulators investigate Facebook’s part in the Jan. 6 riots.

New internal documents provided by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen provide a rare glimpse into how the company appears to have simply stumbled into the Jan. 6 riot. It quickly became clear that even after years under the microscope for insufficiently policing its platform, the social network had missed how riot participants spent weeks vowing — on Facebook itself — to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory.

The documents also appear to bolster Haugen’s claim that Facebook put its growth and profits ahead of public safety, opening the clearest window yet into how Facebook’s conflicting impulses — to safeguard its business and protect democracy — clashed in the days and weeks leading up to the attempted Jan. 6 coup.

This story is based in part on disclosures Haugen made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Haugen’s legal counsel. The redacted versions received by Congress were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Associated Press.

What Facebook called “Break the Glass” emergency measures put in place on Jan. 6 were essentially a toolkit of options designed to stem the spread of dangerous or violent content that the social network had first used in the run-up to the bitter 2020 election. As many as 22 of those measures were rolled back at some point after the election, according to an internal spreadsheet analyzing the company’s response.

“As soon as the election was over, they turned them back off or they changed the settings back to what they were before, to prioritize growth over safety,” Haugen said in an interview with “60 Minutes.”

An internal Facebook report following Jan. 6, previously reported by BuzzFeed, faulted the company for having a “piecemeal” approach to the rapid growth of “Stop the Steal” pages, related misinformation sources, and violent and inciteful comments.

Facebook says the situation is more nuanced and that it carefully calibrates its controls to react quickly to spikes in hateful and violent content, as it did on Jan 6. The company said it’s not responsible for the actions of the rioters and that having stricter controls in place prior to that day wouldn’t have helped.

Facebook’s decisions to phase certain safety measures in or out took into account signals from the Facebook platform as well as information from law enforcement, said spokeswoman Dani Lever. “When those signals changed, so did the measures.”

Lever said some of the measures stayed in place well into February and others remain active today.

Some employees were unhappy with Facebook’s managing of problematic content even before the Jan. 6 riots. One employee who departed the company in 2020 left a long note charging that promising new tools, backed by strong research, were being constrained by Facebook for “fears of public and policy stakeholder responses” (translation: concerns about negative reactions from Trump allies and investors).

“Similarly (though even more concerning), I’ve seen already built & functioning safeguards being rolled back for the same reasons,” wrote the employee, whose name is blacked out.

Research conducted by Facebook well before the 2020 campaign left little doubt that its algorithm could pose a serious danger of spreading misinformation and potentially radicalizing users.

One 2019 study, entitled “Carol’s Journey to QAnon—A Test User Study of Misinfo & Polarization Risks Encountered through Recommendation Systems,” described results of an experiment conducted with a test account established to reflect the views of a prototypical “strong conservative” — but not extremist — 41-year North Carolina woman. This test account, using the fake name Carol Smith, indicated a preference for mainstream news sources like Fox News, followed humor groups that mocked liberals, embraced Christianity and was a fan of Melania Trump.

Within a single day, page recommendations for this account generated by Facebook itself had evolved to a “quite troubling, polarizing state,” the study found. By day 2, the algorithm was recommending more extremist content, including a QAnon-linked group, which the fake user didn’t join because she wasn’t innately drawn to conspiracy theories.

A week later the test subject’s feed featured “a barrage of extreme, conspiratorial and graphic content,” including posts reviving the false Obama birther lie and linking the Clintons to the murder of a former Arkansas state senator. Much of the content was pushed by dubious groups run from abroad or by administrators with a track record for violating Facebook’s rules on bot activity.

Those results led the researcher, whose name was redacted by the whistleblower, to recommend safety measures running from removing content with known conspiracy references and disabling “top contributor” badges for misinformation commenters to lowering the threshold number of followers required before Facebook verifies a page administrator’s identity.

Among the other Facebook employees who read the research the response was almost universally supportive.

“Hey! This is such a thorough and well-outlined (and disturbing) study,” one user wrote, their name blacked out by the whistleblower. “Do you know of any concrete changes that came out of this?”

Facebook said the study was an one of many examples of its commitment to continually studying and improving its platform.

Another study turned over to congressional investigators, titled “Understanding the Dangers of Harmful Topic Communities,” discussed how like-minded individuals embracing a borderline topic or identity can form “echo chambers” for misinformation that normalizes harmful attitudes, spurs radicalization and can even provide a justification for violence.

Examples of such harmful communities include QAnon and, hate groups promoting theories of a race war.

“The risk of offline violence or harm becomes more likely when like-minded individuals come together and support one another to act,” the study concludes.

Charging documents filed by federal prosecutors against those alleged to have stormed the Capitol have examples of such like-minded people coming together.

Prosecutors say a reputed leader in the Oath Keepers militia group used Facebook to discuss forming an “alliance” and coordinating plans with another extremist group, the Proud Boys, ahead of the riot at the Capitol.

“We have decided to work together and shut this s—t down,” Kelly Meggs, described by authorities as the leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, wrote on Facebook, according to court records.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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