Sam Schechner

Russia Rolls Down Internet Iron Curtain, but Gaps Remain

Russia is dropping a digital iron curtain over its population, creating a big, new fracture in the global internet—but there are still big gaps in President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to cut off the country from online information accessible in much of the rest of the world. At the same time, more Western companies are pulling back some digital services from Russia under pressure from Western sanctions. It is too early to say how permanent the restrictions will be.

How Many Users Does Facebook Have? The Company Struggles to Figure It Out

Facebook is struggling to detect and deal with users’ creating multiple accounts on its flagship platform, according to internal documents that raise new questions about how the social-media giant measures its audience. An internal Facebook presentation in spring 2021 called the phenomenon of single users with multiple accounts “very prevalent” among new accounts. The finding came after an examination of roughly 5,000 recent sign-ups on the service indicated that at least 32 percent and as many as 56 percent were opened by existing users.

Facebook Is Rebuked by Oversight Board Over Transparency on Treatment of Prominent Users

Facebook's oversight board said the company hadn’t been forthcoming about how it exempts high-profile users from its rules and said it is drafting recommendations for how to overhaul the system, following a Wall Street Journal investigation into the practice. The oversight board said Facebook had repeatedly failed to turn over, or provided incomplete, information about how it treats content from large numbers of prominent users.

Google to Stop Selling Ads Based on Your Specific Web Browsing

Google plans to stop selling ads based on individuals’ browsing across multiple websites, a change that could hasten upheaval in the digital advertising industry. In 2022 Google plans to stop using or investing in tracking technologies that uniquely identify web users as they move from site to site across the internet. The decision, coming from the world’s biggest digital-advertising company, could help push the industry away from the use of such individualized tracking, which has come under increasing criticism from privacy advocates and faces scrutiny from regulators.

Some Google Search Rivals Lose Footing on Android System

A system Google set up to promote competition on Android has left some smaller search engines having trouble gaining traction, fueling rivals’ complaints about the tech giant’s compliance with a European Union antitrust decision ahead of potential US charges. Since March, Google has been showing people in Europe who set up new mobile devices running the company’s Android operating system what it calls a “choice screen,” a list of rival search engines that they can select as the device’s default.

Ireland to Order Facebook to Stop Sending User Data to U.S.

Apparently, a European Union privacy regulator has sent Facebook a preliminary order to suspend data transfers to the US about its EU users, an operational and legal challenge for the company that could set a precedent for other tech giants. The preliminary order was sent by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission to Facebook late in Aug, asking for the company’s response. It is the first significant step EU regulators have taken to enforce a July ruling about data transfers from the bloc’s top court.

Searching for Video? Google Pushes YouTube Over Rivals

When choosing the best video clips to promote from around the web, Alphabet’s Google gives a secret advantage to one source in particular: itself. Or, more specifically, YouTube. Google executives in recent years made decisions to prioritize YouTube on the first page of search results, in part to drive traffic to YouTube rather than to competitors, and also to give YouTube more leverage in business deals with content providers seeking traffic for their videos. A Google spokeswoman, Lara Levin, said there is no preference given to YouTube or any other video provider in Google search.

EU Legal Opinion on Facebook Case Spells Trouble for Data Transfers

Companies, including US tech giants, should be blocked from transferring European users’ data in some cases if they can’t guarantee it will be handled in compliance with European Union privacy laws, an adviser to the EU’s top court recommended. The recommendation, if followed by the EU’s Court of Justice, could unleash a 

How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results

Google has increasingly re-engineered and interfered with search results to a far greater degree than the company and its executives have acknowledged. Those actions often come in response to pressure from businesses, outside interest groups and governments around the world. They have increased sharply since the 2016 election and the rise of online misinformation. Google’s evolving approach marks a shift from its founding philosophy of “organizing the world’s information,” to one that is far more active in deciding how that information should appear.

Facebook Bends to European Union Pressure on ‘Misleading’ Fine Print

Facebook has bowed to demands from European Union regulators to change what the bloc had called its misleading terms of service, the latest example of a broader effort by governments globally to exercise more control over tech firms.  The European Commission said that Facebook has agreed to address a list of outstanding concerns that it and a group of national consumer-protection authorities had articulated about the company’s terms of service. The changes will be made by June, the commission said.