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Breaking up big tech: continued scrutiny for Facebook

A world without Facebook – or any other of its online social media outlets such as Instagram and Whatsapp – seems almost unimaginable for some. In fact, an increasing number of the global population are born into a world they will never know without an ever growing digital realm. For those born between the mid- to late- 1990s until the early 2010s, this generation has even become known as Gen Z – or rather Generations Zoomers since the undeniable takeover of 2020 from the digital conference platform zoom in wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. 

Since its launch in 2004 Facebook has continually dominated our social sphere, affecting both our online and offline behaviours. It’s growing control as a media conglomerate has caused much controversy in more recent times this year, yet the social media giant is not accustomed to controversy and lawsuits. The infamous dispute between founder Mark Zuckerberg and some fellow Harvard law students was encapsulated in the 2010 film The Social Network, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and even Justin Timberlake. 
With a history of breaking up large company monopolies such as logging companies in the 1840s, Standard Oil in the 1910s, and then AT&T in the 1980s, the U.S. Government has finally taken on big tech. Following investigative court proceedings with the four online giants Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google back in July 2020, the government has once again taken on Facebook for holding too much power in the social media sphere. The government has since filed an antitrust law against Facebook, directed at the company’s tactics of buying rival competition. Whilst policy makers have described the court proceedings as likely to be an uphill battle though are keen to break up the monopoly that arguably stifles rival competition and hinders creative diversity, others have criticised the government for attempting a break up that could cause unintended and unforeseeable consequences.

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Facebook Politics Social Media Twitter

List of Facebook and Twitter execs that donated to Biden’s campaign

The big tech monopolies have come under a lot of scrutiny lately, and it’s about time. Facebook is now the subject of anti-trust lawsuits filed by the government of the United States as well as the attorneys general of 47 US states. The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple and Google (check out Google adwords agency) have all been grilled by the US Congress in recent months. During these congressional hearings, Democrats mostly concentrate on anti-trust violations while Republicans complain about censorship of conservative voices.

While Republican rhetoric is almost 100 percent nonsense, it’s abundantly clear that Facebook and Twitter do in fact have a cultural and political bias that favors shallow mainstream liberalism. The kind of liberalism conveyed by Joe Biden, for example. Indeed, Fox News reports that top executives at both Facebook and Twitter donated many a dollar to Biden’s presidential campaign. Moreover, none donated to Trump’s fascist reelection campaign.

Using Federal Election Commission records, Fox discovered that Erin Egan (Facebook vice president of public policy) donated the maximum $2,800 to Biden in October. She also donated the same amount to Biden’s uninspiring primary campaign.

Also donating the maximum allowable amount to Biden during the primary was Facebook’s chief revenue officer David Fischer, who went on to give a niggardly $750 to Biden during the general election.

David Wehner, Facebook’s chief financial officer, also pumped the maximum $2,800 into the Biden campaign. As did four of Facebook’s vice presidents—Gene Alston, Michael Verdu, Shahriar Rabii and T.S. Khurana—and the chief operating officer of Instagram (owned by Facebook), Marne Levine.

It was pretty much the same story at Twitter, which, you may recall, drew the ire of Republicans shortly before the election by flat-out censoring a New York Post story alleging financial and political improprieties on the part of Joe Biden’s ne’er-do-well son Hunter (now under investigation for tax fraud). Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey—who now sports a Russian peasant beard—later testified to the US Congress that it was a mistake to censor the article. But the damage had been done.

Anyhow, Twitter VP Matt Derella gave Biden’s campaign $2,000 in September, while senior director Ryan Oliver and senior director of product management James Kelm (not execs) donated the full monty. Kelm donated $2,800 to Biden’s primary campaign as well.

Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment, while Twitter said it “enforces the Twitter rules judiciously and impartially for everyone on our service.” A demonstrable absurdity contradicted by their prolific censorship.

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Facebook Policy Politics Privacy Social Media Society

Facebook extends more tentacles into UK economy

Facebook is reportedly going to bring in 1,000 employees from London, mostly for product development and safety purposes, bringing the tech/surveillance/censorship company’s UK workforce to more than 4,000. According to Reuters, most of the new jobs will be tech-related—e.g. software engineering and data science. The rest will be part of Facebook’s “community integrity” squad, whose job it is to “remove harmful content from platforms like Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.” “Community integrity” is an interesting euphemism for censorship. (See here.)

Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the company was satisfied with Prime Minister Boorish Johnson’s attempts to address its Brexit-related concerns.

“The Johnson government has been very clear about what that looks like,” Mendelsohn said, “and so we will continue to invest here in London.”

Boorish is happy about it:

“We are committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, alongside being one of the best places for technology companies to be based.”

As Reuters reports, Facebook is taking measures to rehabilitate itself after the Cambridge Analytica mess, in which a third party company was able to collect private information from millions of Facebook users without their consent. Facebook didn’t address, or even divulge, the massive breach until it was called out by several news outlets. Zuckerberg eventually agreed to testify about the scandal in front of the US Congress, giving a decidedly robotic performance.

“We also understand that this [securing user data] is an ongoing important conversation—we want to be part of that conversation,” Mendelsohn said in a boilerplate statement. “We want to be working with policymakers in this area to get to thoughtful policy.”

She proceeded to boast, based on Facebook’s own reading of a study by Copenhagen Economics, that the company has created more than 3 million jobs in Europe.

Given less attention is Facebook’s ability to eliminate jobs. Here’s an example. In 2016, Inc. Magazine named Render Media the second fastest-growing media company in the United States. Two years later Render Media announced that it was going out of business.

“In a note to clients, Render Media blamed changes to Facebook’s branded content guidelines, which led it to no longer support its partner publishing network with articles,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “The spokeswoman for the company also said that the social media site’s recent news feed algorithm tweak contributed to the decision, among other factors.”

Render isn’t the only casualty:

“The branded content changes, along with a related tweak to Facebook’s news feed algorithm that reduces the amount of content from publishers in favor of posts from friends and family, have stymied companies that rely heavily on traffic from Facebook to prop up their businesses. Earlier this year, the female-focused digital publisher LittleThings closed its doors, after the news feed change caused its traffic to plummet by 75%.”