The tide has finally turned against Big Tech. Last week, Twitter banned political advertising; EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said she was considering much tougher monopoly standards; the city of Toronto pushed back on Google’s Sidewalk project; Australia sued the search giant over alleged misuse of location data; and US presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren called out Facebook’s political lobbying as she declared she would end the revolving door between business and policy if she wins the White House.
It has been a long time coming.
Criticising Big Tech can feel redundant at a time when many chief executives in Silicon Valley are doing such a good job of making the public sceptical about their business models and their executive competence all by themselves. Even so, Mark Zuckerberg’s speech at Georgetown University and his testimony on Capitol Hill last week are worthy of note. Facebook insists it does not want to be responsible for false political advertising. So I’d like to help Mr Zuckerberg out by fact checking a few of the points of disinformation in his own communications.
The meltdown of WeWork’s CEO and Mark Zuckerberg’s bizarre threat to sue the U.S. offer a teachable moment: When you concentrate vast and unaccountable control over major companies in founders — no matter how creative or capable — bad things happen.
In Silicon Valley, the problem starts with “supervoting” stock structures that let the CEO (mostly) boy wonders raise mountains of cash from star-struck investors without giving up meaningful control over the company. The trick is a gimmicky “dual-share” stock structure in which the insiders’ own shares have powerful voting rights but ordinary investors are stuck on the sidelines. SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson has warned this dual class in effect creates “corporate royalty.”George Orwell would probably say it’s just another example of the “Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others” corruption that eventually poisons pretty much every revolution.
[Editor Charlie sez: Looking more like a publisher every day! Buhbye 230! Buhbye DMCA!]
Facebook has said repeatedly that it isn’t in the journalism business, but a team of human editors responsible for an upcoming news initiative by the company will exercise significant control over the presentation of top stories, including judging them over their use of anonymous sources, according to internal guidelines seen by The Information.
While Facebook’s plans to hire human editors for an upcoming news tab have been previously reported, the guidelines, which Facebook recently shared with employees in an internal memo, offer the first insight into how the team will make decisions that could affect the news stories millions of people see. One person who has seen a version of the tab being tested by Facebook employees said it featured stories from The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, CBS News, National Geographic, BBC, The Huffington Post, and The Hill, though some of those publishers don’t appear to have officially struck agreements with Facebook yet.
Read the post on The Information (subscription required and well worth it)
European Union’s (EU) anti-trust regulatory activities have been dealing a severe blow to U.S. technology companies. The flurry of investigations related to data privacy, anti-competition practices and tax avoidance have been taking a toll on these companies since quite some time now.
Notably, Alphabet’s GOOGL Google and Facebook FB are hurt by the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU.
Google was fined $57 million by French data protection authority under GDPR for not being able to disclose massive user data collection across its search platform, Google Maps and YouTube.
Meanwhile, the social media giant is allegedly storing millions of user passwords across its core Facebook app, Facebook Lite and Instagram platforms in an unencrypted format. Europe’s default privacy regulator is carrying out the investigation following which the company might face a fine of $2.2 billion.
The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said he’s prepared to break up major technology platforms if necessary by undoing their past mergers as his agency investigates whether companies including Facebook Inc. are harming competition.
FTC Chairman Joe Simons, who is leading a broad review of the technology sector, said in an interview Tuesday that breaking up a company is challenging, but could be the right remedy to rein in dominant companies and restore competition.
“If you have to, you do it,” Simons said about breaking up tech companies. “It’s not ideal because it’s very messy. But if you have to you have to.”
In The Grand Deflection category, mark your calendars: Where were you the first time you heard the word “tech lash”? They are the spin they’ve been waiting for.
Facebook hires former senior government officials to lobby for Facebook to use its tools for more surveillance capitalism by roiling against the surveillance state that uses their tools to perfect the totalitarian state.
Welcome to The Party.
[Sir Nick Clegg t]he former deputy prime minister [and now lobbyist for Facebook] has said the social network plans to set up an independent oversight board to which people can appeal against content decisions made by Facebook. [But wait…they’re a platform…they’re a publisher…they’re a platform….]
He also defended the company, saying it was the victim of a “tech lash”.