Platforms

Our working definition of a digital platform (with a hat tip to Harold Feld of Public Knowledge) is an online service that operates as a two-sided or multi-sided market with at least one side that is “open” to the mass market

Big Tech braces for hostile DC in Sept 5 Hearings

The Facebook/Google/Twitter trio are better prepared for this upcoming round of Congressional testimony on Sept. 5. Almost a year after the three companies first testified together in front of Congress for Russian meddling, the three social media giants will be returning to Capitol Hill to talk about censorship and election interference. Many recall CEO Mark Zuckerberg's positive performance during televised Facebook hearings in April following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but the last time these three companies faced Congress together, the reviews were brutal.

Tumblr is explicitly banning hate speech, posts that celebrate school shootings, and revenge porn

Tumblr is changing its community guidelines to more explicitly ban hate speech, glorifying violence, and revenge porn. The new rules go into effect on September 10th. “It’s on all of us to create a safe, constructive, and empowering environment,” Tumblr writes in its blog post.

FBI's encryption fight with Facebook could have broad impact on smartphone users' privacy

The FBI is asking a federal judge in CA to force Facebook to break the encryption on its Messenger app so investigators can listen in on an alleged MS-13 gang member's voice conversations. The case, which remains under seal, raises some of the same privacy concerns as the FBI’s unsuccessful effort to force Apple to engineer a way into the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino (CA) mass shooters. But the FBI’s request in the Facebook case could have a broader impact, since the bureau reportedly wants to intercept communications in real time.

President Trump warns social media companies against ‘silencing millions of people’

President Donald Trump blasted efforts from social media companies to "censor" controversial messages and clamp down on "fake news," urging tech companies to allow Americans to figure out the truth for themselves. The president's message comes amid efforts by major social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to examine Russian election interference efforts on their sites, as well as moves from some companies to ban right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from displaying his content on their platforms.

Can Facebook, or Anybody, Solve the Internet’s Misinformation Problem?

“The work you see now from Facebook, Microsoft and others to be more proactive is a trend that is positive — it’s part of the solution, and I would want to see that trend continue,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council, a think tank that has been working with Facebook on election-security issues. “Is this a solution? No, definitely not.”  

We now know Russia isn't the only foe that's learned to exploit U.S. social media

Silicon Valley’s biggest social media companies provide some of the best tools for spreading propaganda. Social media poses an ongoing risk that will only grow without a coordinated effort to prevent manipulation. “The main takeaway from Facebook's announcement is not just that Russia-style meddling is exportable, but that it's inevitable,” said Chris Meserole, a fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “If Moscow authored the playbook, Tehran read it word for word, and they won't be the only country to do so.

Facebook Removes Data-Security App From Apple Store

Apple ruled that Facebook's data-security app violated Apple's data-collection policies designed to limit data collection by app developers. Apple informed Facebook that Onavo also violated a part of its developer agreement that prevents apps from using data in ways that go beyond what is directly relevant to the app or to provide advertising. The app, called Onavo Protect, has been available as a free download through Apple’s app store for years, with updates regularly approved by Apple’s app-review board.

Facebook reinstates data firm it suspended for alleged misuse, but surveillance questions linger

Crimson Hexagon, a Boston (MA) data analytics company, raised some eyebrows recently when it announced that its access to the firehose of user data from Facebook and Instagram had been reinstated—after being suspended and investigated by the social media giant for alleged misuse of data for surveillance purposes. The reinstatement, which began earlier in Aug, followed “several weeks of constructive discussion and information exchange,” said Dan Shore, Crimson’s chief financial officer.

There should be ‘consequences’ for platforms that don’t remove people like Alex Jones, Senator Ron Wyden says

Since 2016, everything that social media companies have done has been “either a bizarre idea or not really doing much of anything that’s actually gonna help people,” said Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR). As one of the more tech-savvy members of Congress, he’s a proponent of new legislation that will regulate voting machine companies and data firms such as Cambridge Analytica, but also believes existing laws have given platforms like Twitter more power than they have deigned to use. “I think what the Alex Jones case shows, we’re gonna really be looking at what the consequences are for just leaving comm

Google Tried to Change China. China May End Up Changing Google.

Ever since its founding 20 years ago in a Silicon Valley garage, Google has proudly and often ostentatiously held itself up as the architect of a new model for corporate virtue. Google, they said, would always put long-term values over short-term financial gain. “Making the world a better place” would be a primary business goal, and Google’s ethical compass could be summed up in a simple and celebrated motto: “Don’t be evil.” Now, Google appears to be changing its mind.