In just over a decade, Facebook has connected more than 2.2 billion people, a global nation unto itself that reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business and daily life around the world. Along the way, Facebook accumulated one of the largest-ever repositories of personal data, a treasure trove of photos, messages and likes that propelled the company into the Fortune 500.
The Federal Trade Commission kicked off a series of hearings to discuss whether the agency’s competition and consumer protection policies should change to better reflect new technologies and companies. FTC Chairman Joseph Simons expressed openness to a new approach. “The broad antitrust consensus that has existed within the antitrust community, in relatively stable form for the last 25 years, is being challenged,” Chairman Simons said.
House Commerce Committee Republicans accused Twitter of being biased against conservatives. The charge drew rebukes from Democrats during a Congressional hearing that illustrated how partisan lines are increasingly being drawn on social media. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, repeatedly denied the accusations as Republicans suggested Twitter’s algorithms suppress conservative viewpoints and discriminate against Republican voices. Rep Mike Doyle (D-PA) called the idea that social media services exhibit a partisan slant a “load of crap.”
For months, Facebook, Twitter and Google have grappled with criticism over the misuse of their services by foreign operatives and the disproportionate influence of their platforms on people’s thinking.
In recent months, apparently, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft and others have aggressively lobbied officials in the Trump administration and elsewhere to start outlining a federal privacy law. The law would have a dual purpose, they said: It would overrule the California law and instead put into place a kinder set of rules that would give the companies wide leeway over how personal digital information was handled. The efforts could set up a big fight with consumer and privacy groups.
The Department of Justice approved the Walt Disney Company’s $71 billion bid for the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox, potentially complicating Comcast’s desire to make a rival offer for Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment empire. The government’s approval was filed in federal court on the condition that Disney, which already owns ESPN, divest all of Fox’s 22 regional sports networks, which include valuable channels like the Yankees’ YES network.
AT&T announced it had completed its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The Justice Department still has 60 days from the date of the ruling to file an appeal, even if the companies close the merger, and such a filing remained a possibility. There was a time limit on when the government could seek an injunction, because the merger agreement between the companies expires on June 21. If an injunction had been granted, the companies would have had to extend the date or AT&T would have had to pay Time Warner $500 million in what is known as a reverse termination fee.
Disney’s offer to buy 21st Century Fox. CVS’s bid for Aetna. T-Mobile’s proposed merger with Sprint. The path for these blockbuster deals and others could be transformed in an instant on June 12, when a federal judge is expected to issue his opinion on the government’s effort to block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner. It is one of the most influential antitrust cases in decades, enthralling Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue. If the merger is blocked, some executives are likely to slim down their deal aspirations.
Profile of FTC Commissioner Slaughter: ‘I Don’t Feel Superhuman. I Feel Like a Mom Who Has a Career.’
For the next several weeks, until her daughter Pippa goes to day care as a slightly older baby, she will join Federal Trade Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter on the fifth floor, either in a gray bouncy seat behind a desk or nestled in a wrap attached to her mother’s chest. It was the imperfect but best solution for Commissioner Slaughter, whose appointment in March to serve as an FTC commissioner just happened to coincide with the birth of her third child.
Facebook replaced its head of policy in the United States, Erin Egan, as the social network scrambles to respond to intense scrutiny from federal regulators and lawmakers. Egan, who is also Facebook’s chief privacy officer, was responsible for lobbying and government relations as head of policy for the last two years. She will be replaced by Kevin Martin on an interim basis. Martin has been Facebook’s vice president of mobile and global access policy and is a former Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.