Facebook Whistleblower Fuels Interest in Tougher Tech Laws

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s Senate testimony Tuesday appears to have fueled congressional desire to pass new regulations on Big Tech. At a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online,” the inquiry expanded well beyond teens’ mental health, ranging from obsequious algorithms to Chinese surveillance of Uyghur populations, COVID-19 vaccine disinformation and speech leading to January’s Capitol insurrection. Calling Facebook “morally bankrupt,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said “Big Tech is facing its Big Tobacco moment,” and urged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify. Continue reading Facebook Whistleblower Fuels Interest in Tougher Tech Laws

Whistleblower Contends Facebook Values Profits Over Safety

Whistleblower Frances Haugen said on “60 Minutes” Sunday night that Facebook was cognizant of problems with apps, including Instagram, that allowed misinformation to be spread and caused societal harm, especially among young girls. Haugen revealed on the CBS news show to be the source of documents leaked to The Wall Street Journal that led to congressional inquiry. She also filed eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging Facebook hid research from investors and the public. The former product manager worked for nearly two years on the civic integrity team before exiting the social network in May. Continue reading Whistleblower Contends Facebook Values Profits Over Safety

XCheck System Is Scrutinized by Facebook Oversight Board

Facebook’s semi-independent Oversight Board is scrutinizing the company’s XCheck (or cross-check) system, which permits famous or powerful users to be held to more lenient behavior rules than other users. The inquiry, which calls out “apparent inconsistencies” in the social media firm’s decision-making, follows an investigative report by The Wall Street Journal. XCheck was initially designed as a quality control system for sanctions against high-profile users, including celebrities, politicians and journalists. It eventually grew to encompass millions of accounts, some of whom were “whitelisted,” which rendered them immune from disciplinary actions. Continue reading XCheck System Is Scrutinized by Facebook Oversight Board

Apple Makes Changes for App Developers, News Publishers

Facing increased regulatory scrutiny, Apple announced significant changes to its App Store, enabling developers to inform customers about ways to pay outside the App Store and expanding prices they can offer for subscriptions as well as in-app purchases and paid apps. The company settled a class-action lawsuit with software developers and is expecting a judgment in a suit filed by Epic Games over many of the same issues. Apple’s move is the biggest it’s ever made in response to developers alleging anticompetitive behavior. The company separately announced plans to cut its commission rate for publishers on Apple News. Continue reading Apple Makes Changes for App Developers, News Publishers

Senate Measure Could Impact Developers, App Store Models

The U.S. Senate introduced the Open App Markets Act to give consumers more control over their devices; stop app stores from ‘disadvantaging’ developers and allow them to inform consumers about lower prices and offer competitive pricing; improve the ability of startup apps, third-party app stores and payment services to compete; require devices to allow ‘sideloading’ of apps; and continue to protect privacy, security and safety of consumers. If voted into law, the Act could end Apple and Google’s monopoly over the app ecosystem. Continue reading Senate Measure Could Impact Developers, App Store Models

Senate Judiciary Committee Pursues New Antitrust Legislation

Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working together on antitrust legislation similar to some of the measures the House Judiciary Committee approved last month. Grassley has yet to offer specific details of proposed legislation but Klobuchar, who is chair of the judiciary panel’s antitrust subcommittee, said a focus on tech companies that offer their own version of products sold by rivals dependent on their platforms is “at the heart of two of the House proposals.” Continue reading Senate Judiciary Committee Pursues New Antitrust Legislation

Internet Platforms Say They’re Ready to Discuss Section 230

Facing a bipartisan push from Congress to change Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a liability shield against lawsuits for Internet platforms, tech companies have said they are now ready to discuss it. For 20+ years, Internet platforms have adamantly defended Section 230 but, in recent weeks, both Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey have voiced support for “updating” and/or “expanding” the law. Democrats and Republicans have threatened to repeal Section 230. Continue reading Internet Platforms Say They’re Ready to Discuss Section 230

Senate Confirms Trump Nominee for FCC Nathan Simington

The Senate confirmed Nathan Simington as a new Republican FCC member in a 49-to-46 vote. The confirmation comes as FCC chair Ajit Pai prepares to exit his post in January. In the run-up to the vote, Simington vowed “regulatory stability” and an openness to reexamining Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. With Simington, the five-member FCC could be deadlocked at the beginning of 2021, with two Democrats and two Republicans, possibly limiting its ability to carry out president-elect Joe Biden’s agenda. Continue reading Senate Confirms Trump Nominee for FCC Nathan Simington

Biden to Select Replacement for Outgoing FCC Chair Ajit Pai

Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai announced he will step down from his position on January 20, 2021. The FCC senior Democratic member, Jessica Rosenworcel, is predicted to be one of the leading candidates to succeed Pai, although former FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn has also been mentioned. With Pai’s departure, president-elect Joe Biden will be able to work with Democrats shortly after Inauguration Day on such anticipated priorities as restoring net neutrality and expanding universal broadband access.

Continue reading Biden to Select Replacement for Outgoing FCC Chair Ajit Pai

Facebook, Twitter Chief Execs Support Section 230 Changes

At a Senate Judiciary Committee, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey reported that their companies made improvements in blocking misinformation during the 2020 presidential election, compared to their inability to stop Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Judiciary chair Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said both companies will face modifications to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects them from liability for user-posted content, and the two chief execs expressed cautious support for the idea. Continue reading Facebook, Twitter Chief Execs Support Section 230 Changes

Big Tech Executives Defend Their Services in Senate Hearing

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter chief exec Jack Dorsey and Alphabet/Google chief exec Sundar Pichai faced a combative Senate Commerce Committee this week. Republicans want to update Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that shields Internet platforms from liability for user-generated content. They also claim the platforms censor conservative views. Democrats also want to look at Section 230 but are more focused on whether the platforms are guarding against disinformation as the presidential election looms. Continue reading Big Tech Executives Defend Their Services in Senate Hearing

With Trump Approval, Microsoft to Acquire TikTok’s U.S. Unit

After weeks of negotiations and following a phone call between President Trump and Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, the company stated it will purchase TikTok’s U.S. operations. Microsoft will work to seal the deal — which will also include Canada, Australia and New Zealand — with ByteDance by September 15. Stating appreciation for Trump’s “personal involvement,” Microsoft added that U.S. users’ data would be transferred to and remain in the country. Trump earlier said he would ban TikTok from the U.S. Continue reading With Trump Approval, Microsoft to Acquire TikTok’s U.S. Unit

Bipartisan Bill Would Further Regulate Online Content for Kids

Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, which would regulate how companies such as YouTube and TikTok handle what is accessible to children online, including advertising, app design and potentially harmful content. One of the main targets of the new bill are so-called unboxing videos, such as YouTube channel “Ryan’s World,” which can get millions of views. The KIDS Act would not ban the content, but prohibit the platform from recommending it to kids, curbing its distribution. Continue reading Bipartisan Bill Would Further Regulate Online Content for Kids

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

FTC Examining Zuckerberg’s Personal Role in Data Lapses

According to sources, the Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating Facebook for mishandling of personal data, is also taking a close look at co-founder/chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and deciding if and to what degree he should be held personally responsible. Should the FTC move in this direction, it would be a major new challenge for the Silicon Valley company and a personal censure of Zuckerberg. At the same time, Facebook just revealed it botched the safeguarding of millions of Instagram passwords. Continue reading FTC Examining Zuckerberg’s Personal Role in Data Lapses