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Zuckerberg Faces Capitol Attack Grilling As Biden Signals Tougher Line On Big Tech |The Republican News

The head of Facebook, and his Google and Twitter counterparts, could face a rough ride at the scene of the insurrectionists’ crime

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, will be joined by Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Google and Twitter respectively.

By David Smith in Washington
@smithinamerica

Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Facebook, could be in for a rough ride on Thursday when he testifies to Congress for the first time about the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol in Washington DC and amid growing questions over his platform’s role in fuelling the violence.

The testimony will come after signs that the new administration of Joe Biden is preparing to take a tougher line on the tech industry’s power, especially when it comes to the social media platforms and their role in spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Zuckerberg will be joined by Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey, the chief executives of Google and Twitter respectively, at a hearing pointedly entitled “Disinformation nation: social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation” by the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee.

The scrutiny comes after a report found that Facebook allowed groups linked to the QAnon, boogaloo and militia movements to glorify violence during the 2020 election and weeks leading up to the deadly mob violence at the US Capitol.

Avaaz, a non-profit advocacy group, says it identified 267 pages and groups on Facebook that spread “violence-glorifying content” in the heat of the 2020 election to a combined following of 32 million users. More than two-thirds of the groups and pages had names aligned with several domestic extremist movements.

The top 100 most popular false or misleading stories on Facebook related to the elections received an estimated 162m views, the report found. Avaaz called on the White House and Congress to open an investigation into Facebook’s failures and urgently pass legislation to protect American democracy.

Fadi Quran, its campaign director, said: “This report shows that American voters were pummeled with false and misleading information on Facebook every step of the 2020 election cycle. We have over a year’s worth of evidence that the platform helped drive billions of views to pages and content that confused voters, created division and chaos, and, in some instances, incited violence.

“But the most worrying finding in our analysis is that Facebook had the tools and capacity to better protect voters from being targets of this content, but the platform only used them at the very last moment, after significant harm was done.”

Facebook claimed that Avaaz had used flawed methodology. Andy Stone, a spokesperson, said: “We’ve done more than any other internet company to combat harmful content, having already banned nearly 900 militarized social movements and removed tens of thousands of QAnon pages, groups and accounts from our apps.”

He acknowledged: “Our enforcement isn’t perfect, which is why we’re always improving it while also working with outside experts to make sure that our policies remain in the right place.”

Meanwhile, a group of 12 state attorneys general have sent a letter to the Zuckerberg and the Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, urging the social media companies to crack down on misinformation about coronavirus vaccines on their platforms.

The group, led by the Connecticut attorney general, William Tong, warned the Zuckerberg and Dorsey that such misinformation is “threatening the health of our communities” and “slowing progress in getting our residents protected from the virus”. They called on the CEOs to “take immediate steps to fully enforce your companies’ guidelines against vaccine misinformation”.

But the reports are likely to prompt tough questions for Zuckerberg in what is part of a wider showdown between Washington and Silicon Valley. Another flashpoint on Thursday could be Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields social media companies from liability for content their users post.

Repealing the law is one of the few things on which Biden and his predecessor as president, Donald Trump, agree, though for different reasons. Democrats are concerned that Section 230 allows disinformation and conspiracy theories such as QAnon to flourish, while Trump and other Republicans have argued that it protects companies from consequences for censoring conservative voices.

The cosy relationship between Barack Obama’s administration and Silicon Valley is a thing of the past.
The cosy relationship between Barack Obama’s administration and Silicon Valley is a thing of the past. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images
More generally, critics say that tech companies are too big and that the coronavirus pandemic has only increased their dominance. The cosy relationship between Barack Obama’s administration and Silicon Valley is a thing of the past, while libertarian Republicans who oppose government interference are a fading force.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have all come under scrutiny from Congress and regulators in recent years. The justice department, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general are suing the behemoths over various alleged antitrust violations.

In a letter this week to Biden and Merrick Garland, the new attorney general, a coalition of 29 progressive groups wrote: “It’s clear that the ability of Big Tech giants like Google to acquire monopoly power has been abetted by the leadership deficit at top enforcement agencies such as the FTC … We need a break from past, failed leadership, and we need it now.”

There are signs that Biden is heeding such calls and spoiling for a confrontation. On Monday he nominated Lina Khan, an antitrust scholar who wants stricter regulation of internet companies, to the FTC. Earlier this month Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor among the most outspoken critics of big tech, was appointed to the national economic council.

There is support in Congress from the likes of David Cicilline, chairman of the House judiciary committee’s antitrust panel, which last year released a 449-page report detailing abuses of market power by Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook.

The Democratic congressman is reportedly poised to issue at least 10 legislative initiatives targeting big tech, a blitz that will make it harder for the companies and their lobbyists to focus their opposition on a single piece of legislation.

Cicilline, also working on a separate bill targeting Section 230, told the Axios website: “My strategy is you’ll see a number of bills introduced, both because it’s harder for [the tech companies] to manage and oppose, you know, 10 bills as opposed to one.

“It also is an opportunity for members of the committee who have expressed a real interest or enthusiasm about a particular issue, to sort of take that on and champion it.”

Joan Greve contributed reporting.

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Twitter And Facebook Lost $51 Billion Of Combined Market Value Since Booting Trump From Their Platforms|RN

Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED25; Francois Mori/AP

By Ben Winck


Facebook and Twitter have collectively seen $51.2 billion erased from their market caps over the last two trading sessions as investors balk at their banning of President Trump.


Facebook saw $47.6 billion erased from its public valuation, while Twitter’s market cap dropped by $3.5 billion.


Both companies announced last week they would permanently ban the president, saying keeping him on their platforms posed too large a risk of additional violence.
The bans come as Trump faces blowback from the government and corporations for his role in inciting last week’s violent riots at the Capitol.


Facebook and Twitter, the two largest social media platforms to permanently ban President Donald Trump for his role in last week’s Capitol riots, saw $51.2 billion in combined market value erased over the last two trading sessions.


Companies across sectors have responded to the president’s rhetoric in recent days by pausing political donations, making statements decrying his inflammatory remarks, and pulling products with links to right-wing movements. Facebook and Twitter possibly took the biggest retaliatory steps when they indefinitely banned Trump from their platforms on Thursday and Friday, respectively.


Both companies cited the risk of additional violence for their bans, but investors largely balked at the action. Facebook tumbled 4% on Monday and another 2.2% on Tuesday as shareholders dumped the stock, likely fearing the ban could drive users off the platform. By the time markets closed on Tuesday, Facebook’s market cap sat $47.6 billion below its Friday level.

Twitter plunged 6.4% to start the week and dipped another 2.4% as the sell-off continued into Tuesday’s close. The declines saw Twitter’s market cap drop by $3.5 billion.


To be sure, Twitter rose as much as 2.9% on Wednesday while Facebook wavered at its previous closing level. And analysts haven’t lowered the stocks’ median price targets following the bans, signaling the slides were likely knee-jerk reactions that will reverse over time.


Other tech giants responding to last week’s insurrection have fared better through the week. Apple and Google have both climbed slightly since announcing after Friday’s close they would remove right-wing social network Parler from their app stores. Amazon shares are up 1.6% since announcing on Sunday that it kicked Parler off of its web hosting service.


Still, the actions could come back to bite tech companies in the final week of Trump’s presidency. CNN reported on Monday that Trump might retaliate against tech giants for their bans. It’s not yet clear what the president’s actions would look like and if they will materialize before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.

Facebook traded at $251.70 per share as of 10:25 a.m. ET Wednesday, down roughly 8% year-to-date.

Twitter traded at $47.94 per share, down 12% year-to-date.

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Viral Video: Police Arrest 3 As Anambra Woman Strips, Beats Hubby’s Facebook Friend

Mobile-police-task-force
Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
 
The police in Anambra State have arrested three persons including a woman for stripping and attacking her husband’s Facebook female friend.
 
The woman, Tochukwu Azota, allegedly attacked and stripped Okafor Ogochukwu her husband’s Facebook friend in their family house at Amawbia, Awka South local government of the state.
 
It was alleged that Mr. Azota had Ogochukwu through Facebook before bringing her into their matrimonial home in Amawbia when the incident happened.
 
Our correspondent gathered that Mrs. Azota had been monitoring her husband’s conversation with Ogochukwu through his phone before she caught him with her on that fateful day.
 
She was said to have locked up the lovebirds in the room upon noticing the strange visitor, and went and procured the services of her friends who came back and gave the unwanted guest the beating of her life including stripping and chasing her out of gate naked.
 
A source in the family who pleaded anonymity said: “The woman was stripped, beaten to a pulp and her nude video uploaded on the social media.
 
“We tried to interven but her assailants stopped everybody from coming in until they accomplished their mission and pushed the woman out of the gate naked.”
 
Confirming the incident, the State Police Public Relations Officer, Haruna Mohammed, said three persons had already been arrested in connection with the matter, adding that the suspects would be charged to court after investigation.
 
“One Okafor Ogochukwu of Osile village Ogidi reported at Central Police Station Awka that she was invited by her male Facebook friend, one Ifeanyi Azota, to his house at Ezimezi village in Amawbia.
 
“All of a sudden a woman who claimed to be his wife, Azotani Tochukwu, appeared in the housed, one Ogochukwu Nwankwo (female) and locked her inside the bathroom for almost four hours and left.
 
“The women later came back with two big canes and opened the bathroom.
 
“While the suspect’s friend one Ogochukwu Nwankwo, stripped her naked and flogged her severally, the principal suspect was busy video-taping the incident and thereafter pushed her out from the compound naked.
 
“The complainant further alleged that the principal suspect, Azotani Toochuckwu, called her on phone the following day and demanded the sum of N60,000 or they would post her nude video on the internet.”
 
Mohammed further said, “consequently, when the complainant refused to pay the money as requested, the principal suspect Azotani Tochukwu, actualised her threat and posted the naked video on the internet and since then the video has gone viral.
 
“The scene of the incident had been visited by police detectives attached to Central Police Station Awka.”   (The Sun)
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Mark Zuckerberg Loses $3.3bn From His Fortune After Facebook News Feed Change|RN

Adam Lusher
Mark Zuckerberg standing in front of a stage            © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited  

Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to change the way Facebook operates people’s news feeds has cost him $3.3bn, with his personal net worth dropping by 4.4 per cent, it is believed.

After Facebook went public with the news feed change on Thursday, the website’s share value dropped by nearly four per cent before US markets opened on Friday.

By close of business on Friday Facebook shares were trading at $179.37, down more than 4.4 per cent on Thursday’s price of $187.77.

And Forbes has calculated that for Mr Zuckerberg, the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook, this translated into a personal hit of 3.3bn – a 4.4 per cent fall in his personal fortune.

Mr Zuckerberg, 33, who started Facebook in 2004 aged 19, still owns a 17 per stake in the company, which went public in 2012.

He explained his reasons for changing the news feed algorithm in a Facebook post on Thursday, saying he wanted the website to prioritise posts from friends and family over businesses and brands.

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us,” he said. “But recently we’ve gotten feedback that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.

“Based on this … . I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

Some, however, have suggested that the change might also have been influenced by Facebook’s alleged desire to counteract what the company is believed to refer to as “context collapse”.

This is the phenomenon where people stop sharing as much information about their personal lives on Facebook, yielding less useful data for the advertisers on whom Facebook relies to make its money.

Tweaking the news feed to encourage people to talk about their personal lives might, therefore, be seen as a means of increasing Facebook’s commercial value.

The markets, though, appear to have reacted badly to the news feed change, at least in the short term.

a screenshot of a cell phone: facebook-share-price.jpg© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited facebook-share-price.jpg Some analysts, however, think the tweak will work well for the company in the long term.

Mark Mahaney, an analyst at RBC, told Bloomberg: “Making the feed more relevant should boost user and engagement growth over time.

“We believe these changes will be beneficial to Facebook in the medium and long term.”

Just how much Mr Zuckerberg will worry about the short term drop in his wealth is also unclear.

Given that Facebook shares were trading at around $127 in January 2017, the company’s value is still up by more than 40 per cent year-on-year, even after this week’s fall.

Despite losing $3.3bn, Mr Zuckerberg is still worth $72.4bn (£52.7bn) – and, anyway, it’s not as if he intends to hold on to his Facebook shares.

Mark Zuckerberg standing in front of a stage

 

In December 2015 Mr Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan said they were planning to give away 99 per cent of their Facebook shares over the course of their lives.                 (The Independent)

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Facebook To Make Major Changes With News Feed From Media, Businesses Less Prominent

Mark-Zuckerberg-Facebook

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerbrg

Facebook is to change how its news feed works, making posts from businesses, brands and media less prominent.

Instead, content that sparks conversations among family and friends who use the site will be emphasised, explained chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on his page.

Organisations on Facebook may see the popularity of their posts decrease as a result, the firm acknowledged.

The changes will take effect over the coming weeks.

“We’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” wrote Mr Zuckerberg.

He said that he and his team felt a responsibility to make sure Facebook was good for people’s wellbeing.

If public content is to be promoted, it will now have to be seen to encourage community interaction – as happens within the tight-knit groups that discuss TV programmes and sports, he said.

Another example given by Facebook in a separate post was live video feeds, which tend to generate much discussion.

“By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” added Mr Zuckerberg.

“But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”

 

In a previous post, Mr Zuckerberg had vowed to “fix” Facebook in 2018, saying he wanted to ensure that users were protected from abuse and that time spent on the site would be time well spent.

He also pledged to defend Facebook from nation states.

Analysis has recently suggested that some actors, including Russia, have tried to manipulate content on the social network.

“It’s definitely a significant change,” said Laura Hazard Owen at Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab.

“It’s going to affect publishers a lot, we’re going to be seeing a lot less news organically pop up in our news feeds.”

Ms Owen added, however, that Facebook had not been very clear about what sort of discussions the site’s revamped algorithms would prioritise.

It might end up being “the most controversial stuff” that generates heated conversations, she suggested, or simply content pulled in from group pages where users engage with others on specific topics.

Given recent public scrutiny, the social network was currently “in the hot seat”, said Gabriel Kahn from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

“Facebook is in the midst of all of these fires it’s trying to put out, it’s trying to reassert its warm and fuzzy brand value that it has always tried to put forth,” he told the BBC.

Mr Kahn added the update from Mr Zuckerberg was a “clear admission” that Facebook wielded significant power over the health of society.

However, he argued that the new priorities could further distort views and the nature of conversations.

“There should be public debate about the values they’re applying to that algorithm,” he said.  (The Sun)

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Man Arrested For Writing ‘Good Morning’ On Facebook |The Republican News

Israeli security forces                             © Reuters Israeli security forces  

A man in the West Bank was arrested by Israeli police after he wrote “good morning” in Arabic on Facebook and then software mistranslated his words as “attack them”.

Palestinian builder Halawim Halawi had posted the words with a photo of himself in the Israeli settlement of Beitar Ilit where he works.

Facebook’s automatic translation software interpreted the post to mean “attack them” in Hebrew and “hurt them” in English, according to Haaretz.

Israeli police were then informed of the message and they became suspicious because he was standing next to a bulldozer.

Such vehicles have been used in terror attacks and officers thought he may be threatening to carry out such an atrocity, the website reported.

Mr Halawi was arrested and then questioned on suspicion of incitement.

Fortunately, police realised they had made a mistake and released him a few hours later.

It was unclear how such a translation error could have been made as there are no apparent similarities between the Arabic expression used for “good morning” and the phrases in Hebrew or English.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told the AFP news agency that “a few days ago, a Palestinian was detained for questioning on suspicion of incitement through his Facebook page”.

She said he was “immediately released” after the suspicions turned out to be false.

Haaretz reported that the Facebook post has since been deleted.  (Sky News)

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