U.S. and EU Conduct Their First Trade Tech Council Meeting

The European Union and United States agreed yesterday on strengthening cooperation regarding several major global concerns, including a “rebalancing” of supply chains for semiconductors, new approaches to regulating international tech companies, and practical models for contending with “non-market, trade-distortive policies and practices” (although China was not singled out in the group’s statement). During their first meeting in Pittsburgh yesterday, officials from the newly formed U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) promised to work together on the development of artificial intelligence and screening interests in sensitive dual-use technologies. Continue reading U.S. and EU Conduct Their First Trade Tech Council Meeting

Politicians Ban Social Media Platforms From Removing Posts

Brazil and the U.S. state of Texas both banned social media companies from removing certain posts containing political viewpoints. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro’s ban is temporary, and focuses on content in which he claims the only way he will lose next year’s election is if the vote if rigged. Legal experts say this is the first time a national government stopped an Internet company from taking down content that violates their rules. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill forbidding social media platforms from removing posts because of political views. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among those expected to fight the Texas legislation. Continue reading Politicians Ban Social Media Platforms From Removing Posts

FTC Reveals Comscore Data Detailing Facebook Dominance

The Federal Trade Commission released Comscore figures showing Facebook’s marketplace dominance. From September 2012 through December 2020, the network generated 92 percent of the monthly time U.S. users spent on social media. In contrast, the combined market shares of Snap, Google+, MeWe and Friendster never exceeded 18 percent in any month during that time frame. A federal judge dismissed the case in June noting that the FTC did not offer details of its monopoly claim; these findings are now part of the FTC’s lawsuit. Continue reading FTC Reveals Comscore Data Detailing Facebook Dominance

China Boosts Control by Buying Stakes in ByteDance, Weibo

China is strengthening its control of Internet content companies by increasing regulatory scrutiny, buying stakes in companies and filling board seats among other actions. Most recently, a state-backed company purchased 1 percent of the shares of ByteDance, parent company of TikTok, which gave it the right to appoint a director to its board. Weibo also sold a 1 percent stake to a state investor and gave it a seat on its board of directors. China has discussed owning shares of social media companies since 2016. Continue reading China Boosts Control by Buying Stakes in ByteDance, Weibo

Twitter to Study Misinformation by Letting Users Flag Tweets

Twitter is testing a new feature in a few markets that will allow users to flag posts that contain misinformation, similar to how they can already report spam or abuse. The company — which doesn’t have a strong fact-checking unit — plans to use the feature to study misinformation on the platform rather than review the user-identified tweets for legitimacy or respond to the reporting user with updates. Currently, Twitter only fact-checks tweets on elections, COVID-19 and other “select categories.” Continue reading Twitter to Study Misinformation by Letting Users Flag Tweets

TikTok Eclipses Facebook as Most Downloaded App Globally

A 2020 survey of downloads around the world revealed that TikTok tops the list of social media providers for the first time since the survey was initiated in 2018. TikTok parent company ByteDance debuted the international version of the app in 2017, which has since outdistanced Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, all of which fill the other four spots in the top five apps. In 2020, former president Donald Trump called on TikTok to be forced to sell off its U.S. operations, citing security concerns. Continue reading TikTok Eclipses Facebook as Most Downloaded App Globally

Facebook Posts Strong Earnings, Plans Its Metaverse Future

In Q2 2021, social giant Facebook’s profit doubled from a year earlier to $10.39 billion and revenue rose 56 percent to $29.08 billion, both numbers beating Wall Street expectations. Shares fell 3+ percent in after-hours trading, however, when Facebook predicted that revenue growth will slow for the rest of the year. Through the end of Q2, its stock has grown 22 percent. The company also said that Apple’s privacy changes in the new iOS will have a stronger impact in the current quarter as more users update their iOS devices. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to eye its metaverse future. Continue reading Facebook Posts Strong Earnings, Plans Its Metaverse Future

Biden Executive Order Promotes Net Neutrality, Competition

President Joe Biden signed an executive order with 72 proposals and actions for a “whole-of-government effort to promote competition in the American economy.” Among them, President Biden encourages the FCC to restore net neutrality rules undone by former President Donald Trump, to “consider limiting early termination fees and prevent Internet service providers from making deals with landlords that limit tenant choices,” and to revive the President Barack Obama era Broadband Nutrition Label and its better price transparency. Continue reading Biden Executive Order Promotes Net Neutrality, Competition

Pentagon Cancels JEDI Contract, Reveals New Cloud Initiative

The Defense Department stated that the contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project “no longer meets its needs,” canceling a highly contentious $10 billion cloud computing contract awarded to Microsoft. In January, the department warned Congress that it would do so if a federal court agreed to hear whether former President Trump used his influence to award the contract to Microsoft over its rival Amazon. Such a suit, it pointed out, would result in a lengthy court cost and unacceptable delays. Instead, the Pentagon announced a new cloud program. Continue reading Pentagon Cancels JEDI Contract, Reveals New Cloud Initiative

Federal Judge Blocks Florida Law That Restricts Social Media

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis urged lawmakers to pass Florida Senate Bill 7072 to make it easier for the state’s election commission to fine social media companies from $25,000 to $250,000 for banning political candidates during election season. The law passed, but hours before it was slated to take effect District Court Judge Robert Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction against it, noting that plaintiffs NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) will likely prevail in their effort to have the law declared unconstitutional. Continue reading Federal Judge Blocks Florida Law That Restricts Social Media

ByteDance Revenue, Profit Leap in 2020 But No IPO in Sight

Privately-held startup ByteDance, owner of TikTok, reported that its revenue more than doubled to $34.3 billion last year, rising 111 percent from a year ago while gross profit rose 93 percent to $19 billion. As of December 2020, ByteDance — which also runs Douyin, the domestic Chinese version of TikTok, and Jinri Toutiao, a news aggregation app — had about 1.9 billion monthly active users on all its platforms. Due to share-based compensation to workers, the company had a $2.1 billion operating loss last year. Continue reading ByteDance Revenue, Profit Leap in 2020 But No IPO in Sight

YouTube Bans Alcohol, Gambling, Politics from Masthead Ads

Google’s YouTube announced that its masthead — which appears at the top of its app and website — will no longer run ads related to alcohol, gambling, “prescription drug terms” or politics. Gambling includes sports betting and casino games, and politics references ads that endorse political candidates. According to Google, the move is aimed to “lead to a better experience for users.” The masthead is a very visible rectangle across the top of YouTube’s homepage and is usually the platform’s most expensive and desirable ad unit. Continue reading YouTube Bans Alcohol, Gambling, Politics from Masthead Ads

Biden Introduces Broader Review of Foreign-Controlled Apps

President Biden revoked former President Trump’s executive order banning social-networking services TikTok and WeChat — developed by Chinese companies ByteDance and Tencent Holdings, respectively — but didn’t let Chinese companies off the hook. Instead, he replaced the previous order with another that establishes a broader review of the potential security risks found in numerous foreign-controlled apps. Biden officials said the new order would create “clear intelligible criteria” to evaluate those risks. Trump’s executive order was immediately challenged in court, and Biden’s move, said analysts, is intended to withstand such a test. Continue reading Biden Introduces Broader Review of Foreign-Controlled Apps

Facebook Will No Longer Offer Politicians Special Treatment

Facebook revealed that former President Donald Trump’s suspension from its platform would last for at least two years. Trump will be eligible for reinstatement on the social network in January 2023, before the next U.S. presidential election. At that time, experts will decide “whether the risk to public safety has receded.” Further violations would trigger “rapidly escalating sanctions” and potentially a permanent suspension. The company also announced that it would end its policy of treating the posts of world leaders and other politicians differently than those of other Facebook users. Continue reading Facebook Will No Longer Offer Politicians Special Treatment

Coalition Says No to Internet Company Shields in Trade Deals

Public Citizen, Color of Change and the Center for Digital Democracy are three of the 16 public interest groups that sent a letter to President Joe Biden warning that liability protections for Internet companies in trade agreements will cripple efforts to hold such companies accountable for user content. At the American Economic Liberties Project, which also signed the letter, policy director Morgan Harper said that such a ratified trade deal could confirm and propagate controversial legal protections for Internet companies. Continue reading Coalition Says No to Internet Company Shields in Trade Deals