Big Tech Responds to Coronavirus, Improving Its Public Image

With the advent of the coronavirus, companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google quickly responded, featuring links to “high-quality information” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). Big Tech has now donated thousands of N95 masks to healthcare providers and continues to highlight accurate news. Facebook committed $100 million in small business grants and Amazon put out the call for 100,000 new employees. Overall, Big Tech isn’t just doing good but doing well, with business holding steady. Continue reading Big Tech Responds to Coronavirus, Improving Its Public Image

Instagram Unveils Co-Watching Feature for Group Video Chat

Facebook’s Instagram recently debuted Co-Watching, a feature that makes it possible for users to video chat while they browse the app. With Co-Watching, users can engage in direct-message video-chat conversations to look at saved, liked and suggested photos and videos together. Co-Watching is just one example of ways that Facebook and Instagram are shifting to accommodate users and communities during the coronavirus pandemic, when many are confined to home. Instagram first began testing Co-Watching a year ago. Continue reading Instagram Unveils Co-Watching Feature for Group Video Chat

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

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

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

Facebook Revenue Strong, Despite Facial Recognition Suit

Facebook’s revenue rose 25 percent to $2.11 billion for the quarter, beating analysts’ expectations of $20.9 billion. Its 2019 revenue rose almost 27 percent, with Q4 profits a 7 percent lift to $7.35 billion. The company reported that, even as expenses grew, its user base grew 9 percent from a year earlier to 1.66 billion, topping FactSet’s prediction of almost 1.65 billion. Not all is rosy, however: Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle an Illinois class-action lawsuit over use of its facial recognition technology. Continue reading Facebook Revenue Strong, Despite Facial Recognition Suit

Facebook Reveals More Details About Its Oversight Board

Facebook’s Oversight Board, comprised of people from outside the company, will determine if specific user posts violate its rules. But the company just divulged that it expects the board to “come to a case decision, and for Facebook to have acted on that decision, in approximately 90 days,” a lengthy period of time that makes it unlikely the board will be able to block misinformation from spreading virally. The board may play a role, however, in changing the company’s policy on paid political ads. Continue reading Facebook Reveals More Details About Its Oversight Board

Big Tech Firms Call For Regulation, Lobby Specific Policies

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, major tech players such as Alphabet, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft asked lawmakers for regulations they once fought. Facing antitrust probes and pushback on AI, privacy and encryption among other issues, these companies believe laws are inevitable and want to have a role in creating them. They also fear a patchwork quilt of global laws. Most recently, the Justice Department sparred with Apple over its request for help to unlock the iPhones of the Saudi Arabian naval trainee who killed three people in Florida. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Call For Regulation, Lobby Specific Policies

Facebook’s AI Technique Deletes 32 Billion Fake Accounts

Facebook has been under fire for abuse on its platform, although chief executive Mark Zuckerberg often said that its AI tools have been successful at diminishing such problems. It turns out that he’s right: Facebook’s recent Community Standards Enforcement Report revealed that it removed 32+ billion fake accounts between April and September, compared to “just over 1.5 billion” during the same period last year. Largely responsible for the improvement is deep entity classification (DEC), a machine learning framework. Continue reading Facebook’s AI Technique Deletes 32 Billion Fake Accounts

FTC Reportedly Considering an Injunction Against Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission is contemplating a preliminary injunction against Facebook over antitrust issues related to its integration of apps and whether they work with competitors. The injunction could prevent Facebook from further integrating apps, and possibly reverse past integration as a step to breaking up the company. An injunction would require a majority vote of the five-member FTC. Prominent antitrust experts have presented a plan to separate Facebook from recent acquisitions Instagram and WhatsApp. Continue reading FTC Reportedly Considering an Injunction Against Facebook

Facebook Advances Encryption Plans For Messaging Apps

Although U.S. Attorney General William Barr has advocated against encryption, Facebook is advancing its plans to add the technology to all its messaging platforms. Barr wants Facebook to allow at least some government access to those platforms, in the name of public safety. WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart and Messenger head Stan Chudnovsky responded to Barr that, “undermining encryption in their products for law enforcement would create a ‘backdoor’ vulnerability that malicious actors also could leverage to harm users.” Continue reading Facebook Advances Encryption Plans For Messaging Apps

Facebook Product Experimentation Team Open for Business

According to sources, Facebook’s new division dubbed the New Product Experimentation Team (or NPE Team) is looking into the possibility of creating apps and podcasts for travel, newsletters and workplace services. The NPE Team is tasked with “building the future of Facebook,” as chief executive Mark Zuckerberg hopes to keep the social media platform central to peoples’ daily lives. Other social networks such as Myspace and Friendster failed when they did not evolve beyond their initial offerings. Continue reading Facebook Product Experimentation Team Open for Business

Big Tech, DARPA Ramp Up Deepfake Research, Detection

Movies and TV shows have combined real and CG images for decades, for the purpose of entertainment. But we’re seeing the rise of deepfakes, which mix fake and real elements in still images or videos with a malignant or harmful aim. Many Big Tech companies that have benefited from letting users post and share photos are now turning their attention to battling deepfakes. According to cybersecurity startup Deeptrace, the number of deepfakes online has nearly doubled to 14,678 from December 2018 to August 2019. Continue reading Big Tech, DARPA Ramp Up Deepfake Research, Detection

Google Reconsiders Micro-Targeted Ads Ahead of Election

Google is tweaking its policies in advance of the 2020 presidential election. The company has decided to restrict just how minutely political advertisers can target an online audience. While advertisers will still be able to target ads based on age, gender, location and content of the websites that users visited, they will no longer be able to target audiences based on public voter records or political affiliations described as “left-leaning,” “right-leaning” or “independent.” Meanwhile, social giant Facebook is considering a similar move. Continue reading Google Reconsiders Micro-Targeted Ads Ahead of Election

In U.S. and Europe, Some Oppose the Breakup of Big Tech

Many public figures have called for the breakup of leading technology companies, but the European Commission’s head of competition Margrethe Vestager is not one of them. She stated that breaking up such companies should be a remedy if it’s “the only solution to [their] illegal behavior.” “We don’t have that kind of case now,” she said, although she didn’t exclude a future possibility. In the U.S., conservatives and libertarians, who often oppose antitrust measures, are also pushing back against the move to break up Big Tech. Continue reading In U.S. and Europe, Some Oppose the Breakup of Big Tech

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