TikTok Now Political Forum For Youth, Tech Execs Decry App

The younger demographic that gravitates to TikTok is turning it into a political force, forming political coalitions — called hype houses — for their favored candidates, fact-checking others, posting news updates and commenting in real-time. Hype houses come in conservative, liberal, bipartisan and undecided flavors, and are amassing hundreds of thousands of followers. Reddit chief executive and co-founder Steve Huffman, however, is concerned about TikTok’s privacy policies, calling the app “fundamentally parasitic.” Continue reading TikTok Now Political Forum For Youth, Tech Execs Decry App

Law Could Stoke Battle Between Congress and Silicon Valley

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham and senator Richard Blumenthal plan to introduce a law that could interfere with Big Tech’s ability to provide end-to-end encryption. The Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2019 (EARN IT Act) targets the distribution of child sexual abuse material on platforms such as Facebook and Google, making them liable for state prosecution and civil lawsuits for user-posted content currently protected by Section 230. Continue reading Law Could Stoke Battle Between Congress and Silicon Valley

HPA Tech Retreat: ETC Immersive Media Challenge Explained

ETC’s immersive media head Phil Lelyveld presented a session describing the organization’s third Immersive Media Challenge — this one with a 5G twist. “The challenge is to ask students and recent graduates to come up with an idea for an engaging experience that is impossible to build now that should be possible to build in three to five years,” he said. “It’s not a hackathon. If you can build it in three to five years, you should probably start building it now. If it’s longer than five years, it’s Fantasyland.” Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: ETC Immersive Media Challenge Explained

Facebook White Paper Reveals Ideas For Internet Regulation

Facebook published a white paper outlining how it would like lawmakers to regulate the Internet, including a new model for platforms’ legal liability and a “new type of regulator” to oversee the rules governing harmful content. The white paper appeared at the same time chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote an op-ed published in The Financial Times and went to Brussels for meetings with European Commission executive vice president/competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager and other senior EU officials. Continue reading Facebook White Paper Reveals Ideas For Internet Regulation

Facebook Creates Changes to Its Rules on Paid Political Ads

Facebook has made adjustments to its policy on digital political advertising after reports emerged that 2020 presidential candidates are paying Instagram influencers. It will now require candidates buying branded content to register as political advertisers. FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra stated that a 2017 policy requiring influencers and marketers to reveal any “material connection” to advertisers is under review, adding that, “we may need new rules for tech platforms and for companies that pay influencers to promote products.” Continue reading Facebook Creates Changes to Its Rules on Paid Political Ads

UK Proposes Internet Laws, Reuters to Fact-Check Facebook

The United Kingdom proposed that its media regulator Ofcom take on the responsibility of regulating Internet content, in part to encourage Facebook, YouTube and other Internet behemoths to police their own platforms. Ofcom would be able to issue penalties against companies lax in fighting “harmful and illegal terrorist and child abuse content.” Many details have yet to be filled in. Meanwhile, Reuters has formed a new Fact Check business unit, which is poised to become a third-party partner aimed at ferreting out misinformation on Facebook. Continue reading UK Proposes Internet Laws, Reuters to Fact-Check Facebook

Google Appeals EU Fine, Argues Legality of Self-Preferencing

Google is trying to overturn three European Union antitrust rulings, claiming that it had no legal grounds for imposing $9+ billion in fines. The EU found that Google had abused its dominance over smaller competitors. Google attorney Thomas Graf told the five General Court judges that, “competition law does not require Google to hold back innovation or compromise its quality to accommodate rivals.” Although a verdict is expected early next year, its rulings can still be appealed at the European Court of Justice. Continue reading Google Appeals EU Fine, Argues Legality of Self-Preferencing

WhatsApp Chief Pledges to Safeguard Messaging Encryption

WhatsApp head Will Cathcart revealed that the app now has more than two billion active users; numbers were last released two years ago. Cathcart also emphasized that he will continue to defend the messaging app’s encryption, noting that, “for all of human history, people have been able to communicate privately with each other … and we don’t think that should go away in a modern society.” Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp for $21.8 billion, finds encryption a barrier to recuperating its investment. Continue reading WhatsApp Chief Pledges to Safeguard Messaging Encryption

FTC Looks Into Acquisition Strategies of Big Tech Companies

The Federal Trade Commission is focused on acquisitions made by Big Tech companies, ordering Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft to turn over information on such past deals. Specifically, the FTC wants to know about the smaller deals — many less than $100 million — that the companies were not required to report to regulators, in hopes of learning more about potential antitrust abuses. FTC chair Joseph Simons noted that if they find “problematic transactions,” they can conceivably “initiate enforcement action.” Continue reading FTC Looks Into Acquisition Strategies of Big Tech Companies

EU Presses Facebook for Documents Related to Competition

The European Commission’ antitrust probe into Facebook is now seeking internal documents related to allegations that Facebook suppressed competition by leveraging its own access to users’ data. EU investigators are also looking into changes Facebook made to software interfaces that enabled app developers to access data, as well as more information on Facebook’s use of Israeli VPN app Onavo it purchased in 2013. Facebook, which shut down Onavo last year, said it disclosed its data collection to users. Continue reading EU Presses Facebook for Documents Related to Competition

Shares Rise as Twitter’s Revenue Passes $1B for First Time

Twitter revealed that, in Q4, revenue rose 11 percent to $1.01 billion, the first time that quarterly revenue topped the billion-dollar mark, and surpassing the $992 million projected by Wall Street analysts. The company stated that income was $118.8 million, with costs rising 22 percent from a year earlier. Its operating income, a closely watched number, was $153 million, down from $207 million the previous year and lower than the $161 million predicted by analysts surveyed by FactSet. Shares rose about 15 percent. Continue reading Shares Rise as Twitter’s Revenue Passes $1B for First Time

Appeals Court Will Not Rule On the Repeal of Net Neutrality

In another win for the FCC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia announced yesterday that it would not reconsider the October ruling that upheld the repeal of net neutrality rules. Requests had been made by 15 states and a collection of technology and advocacy groups to reconsider the earlier ruling. The net neutrality laws were first issued in 2015 to discourage Internet service providers from practices such as blocking or throttling traffic and enabling so-called “fast lanes” through paid prioritization. In December 2017, the FCC voted to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality laws that were largely supported by tech companies and consumer groups.  Continue reading Appeals Court Will Not Rule On the Repeal of Net Neutrality

Dominance of Top Big Tech Companies Continues to Grow

The five Big Tech companies — Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft — are all getting richer, with three of them (Amazon, Apple and Microsoft) nearing $1 trillion in stock value. Alphabet’s revenue skyrocketed past $161 billion last year, and Facebook is over halfway to a $1 trillion value. This concentration of wealth and power is making it increasingly difficult for smaller companies to compete — with little to indicate that this state of affairs will change. The result is a market of haves and have-nots. Continue reading Dominance of Top Big Tech Companies Continues to Grow

New Twitter Policy Aims to Combat Fake Photos and Video

Twitter announced yesterday that it would be more assertive in identifying fake and manipulated content on its platform. Beginning next month, the company plans to add labels or remove tweets that feature such manipulated images and video content. While short of an outright ban, the new policy is meant to address the growing concern of users frustrated by the practice of disinformation spread via social platforms. However, it also highlights the challenges faced by social media companies in regards to balancing freedom of speech, parody and satire, and false or manipulated content. On Monday, YouTube announced its plans to better manage misleading political content on its site. Continue reading New Twitter Policy Aims to Combat Fake Photos and Video

Google Adjusts New Design Updates Following Complaints

Google controls approximately 90 percent of Internet search, and regulators, politicians, advertisers and users are sensitive to the tech giant’s efforts to wring more dollars out of that dominance. Twenty years ago, Google introduced text ads above search results and, over time, the company has made those ads less conspicuous. A recent design change prompted users to accuse the company of trickery to get them to click on ads, and marketers to complain the practice is a “shakedown” to push them to pay for ads. Continue reading Google Adjusts New Design Updates Following Complaints

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