Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook’s Oversight Board Delays Decision on Trump Suspension



Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s account in January 2021, days after the riot at the U.S. Capitol. At the time, Twitter stated that the reason for the permanent suspension was “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”.

Facebook suspended Trump’s account for the same reasons. The difference between Facebook and Twitter is that Facebook’s ban was not permanent. At the time, CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said that the platform would extend the block on Trump indefinitely, and for at least two weeks, until “the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

The transition from the Trump-Pence administration to the Biden-Harris administration happened in January of 2021. This puts Facebook into the difficult decision of deciding whether or not to allow Trump to return to the platform. No matter what decision is made, one thing is certain – it will make a lot of people angry.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook has a self-styled and handpicked “Oversight Board” who has the task of deciding whether or not to overturn Trump’s indefinite suspension.

On April 16, 2021, Facebook’s Oversight Board posted a short thread on Twitter. The first tweet said: “(1/2): The Board will announce its decision on the case concerning US President Trump’s indefinite suspension from Facebook and Instagram in the coming weeks. We extended the public comments deadline for this case, receiving 9,000+ responses.”

That second tweet in the thread said: “(2/2): The Board’s commitment to carefully reviewing all comments has extended the case timeline, in line with the Board’s bylaws. We will share more information soon.”

The Hill reported: Facebook requested the board’s recommendation on suspensions when the user is a political leader, meaning the board’s decision on Trump could influence how Facebook handles bans on future leaders in the U.S. and around the world.

Personally, I think that if a public leader has been suspended from a social media platform, there is likely a good reason for it. Trump no longer holds any political office. I think Facebook’s Oversight Board should use the rules that regular people would be held to if they had their Facebook account suspended and asked for the ban to be lifted.


Facebook Allows Users to Call for the Death of Public Figures



Facebook’s bullying and harassment policy explicitly allows for “public figures” to be targeted in ways otherwise banned on the site, including “calls for [their] death”, The Guardian reported. The information comes from internal moderator guidelines that were leaked to The Guardian.

In short, it appears that Facebook thinks it is acceptable to allow public figures to be abused on their platform, including with death threats, simply because the company considers the person to be a public figure. I’m not sure why anyone who fits that definition would stay on Facebook. It seems dangerous.

The company’s definition of public figures is broad. All politicians count, whatever the level of government and whether they have been elected or are standing for office, as does any journalist who is employed “to write/speak publicly”.

Online fame is enough to qualify provided the user has more than 100,000 fans or followers on one of their social media accounts. Being in the news is enough to strip users of protections.

In addition, people who are mentioned in the title, subtitle, or preview of 5 or more news articles or media pieces within the last 2 years are counted as public figures.

Children who are under the age of 13 are never counted as public figures. That description is troubling, as it implies that teenagers 13 or older – who Facebook considers to be a public figure – can be targeted for death threats. That’s definitely not acceptable!

The internal moderator documents state that private individuals cannot be targeted with “calls for death” on Facebook. This is not so for those Facebook considers to be public figures.

According to The Guardian, public figures cannot be “purposefully exposed” to “calls for death”. What does that mean? The documents indicate that calling for the death of a local minor celebrity is acceptable to Facebook so long as the user who is making the threat does not tag the person whom they are threatening.

There are problems with that practice. Obviously, the public person who is the target of a death threat is unlikely to see it unless they have been tagged in the post. That leaves them at risk if the private person who wants them dead decides to act on it offline.

Once Facebook considers a person to be a “public figure” – it sticks. There does not appear to be a way to discover if you are considered one, which makes it impossible to have that designation removed by Facebook.


Mark Zuckerberg Shares Ideas About what Smart Glasses Could Do



Mark Zuckerberg was interviewed by The Information in a 45 minute special edition bonus episode. In it, Alex Heath and Mathew Olsen spoke with Mark Zuckerberg about the promise of augmented virtual reality.

According to CNBC, Mark Zuckerberg said that by 2030, people could use smart glasses to “teleport” to other people’s homes, and speak to them as if they’re physically present. This could allow in-person meetings to be replaced by a headset-based digital experience. Zuckerberg thinks that “teleporting” could cause a reduction in travel for business or pleasure, which could help ameliorate the effects of climate change.

“Obviously, there are still going to be cars and planes and all that. But the more we can teleport around, not only are we personally eliminating commutes and stuff that’s kind of a drag for all of us, but I think that’s better for society and for the planet overall too,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg stated that years down the road, a pair of normal-looking computer-powered glasses that can display content alongside the real world through transparent displays would be how people could “teleport”.CNBC reported that Zuckrberg’s interview comes “as the social media company plans to release a pair of smart glasses in partnership with Ray-Ban later this year.” (Those glasses would not be “full AR”).

My biggest concern is that the smart glasses would require people to log into their Facebook account in order to use them. In October of 2020, Facebook required first time Oculus users to have a Facebook account.


Facebook to Reverse News Ban on Australian News



ABC News reported Facebook will walk back its block on Australian users sharing news on its site after the government agreed to make amendments to the proposed media bargaining laws that would force major tech giants to pay news outlets for their content.

This decision is a result of negotiations between the Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. ABC News quoted Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as saying, “Mark Zuckerberg said to me today [restoring pages] will occur in coming days.”

Facebook updated its post on its Facebook Journalism Project (that was originally about the company’s decision to restrict the availability of Australian news on Facebook) with this:

“After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers. We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation. It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook.”

Personally, I am skeptical of Facebook’s claim that it has always been their intention to support journalism in Australia. If it cared about supporting news publishers it would not have banned Australian News. That decision caused collateral damage as it also resulted in blocking Australian and local news to Fiji, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Facebook’s decision also enabled anti-vaccine misinformation to spread widely since real Australian news organizations were unable to respond to and correct the misinformation in those posts. This happened at the very beginning of Australia’s vaccine rollout. In short, Facebook’s attempt to avoid paying for news may have resulted in vaccine hesitancy among some Australians.


ABC News App Gains Popularity After Facebook Removed News



Australia’s ABC News App has become extremely popular with Australians, who can no longer access local and country-wide news on Facebook. The app is a resource that connects users with news content created by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It is available on the App Store and Google Play.

As you may have heard, Facebook blocked all Australian news content from Australian news publishers. Facebook chose this drastic measure in an effort to avoid complying with legislation called the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which would require platforms like Facebook to pay news organizations for their content.

Facebook got overzealous in deciding what to remove, and blocked Australian government accounts, state health departments, weather information, and even Facebook’s own Facebook page. Other collateral damage included blocking emergency services, public officials, food banks and charities. It is my understanding that some of that has been restored.

Financial Times’ Uma Patel tweeted: “ABC has used facebook’s ban to prompt visitors to download its app… it became the most downloaded app in Australia… although the next four are all owned by Facebook and the sixth is a company fb tried to buy.”

I think this is a good sign! Australians who have grown accustomed to scrolling through news on Facebook on their phone can replace that with ABC’s News App. I’m hoping that this inspires more news organizations to create their own news apps. The result could influence people to spend less time on Facebook.

There is another good reason for news organizations to make their own apps (or to advertise their existing ones). Facebook is likely to engage in the same shenanigans it imposed on its Australian users when other countries create legislation that is similar to Australia’s ACCC. When that happens, people will immediately be able to use their favorite news app to get their news.


Facebook Blocks News in Australia to Avoid Paying News Publishers



Facebook has retaliated against the people of Australia by removing all content from Australian news publishers off of its platform. This is Facebook’s latest temper tantrum about an Australian law that would require Facebook (and Google) to pay news organizations for their content.

The law Facebook is angry about is called the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). It is a mandatory code that would cover issues like the sharing of data, ranking news content online and the sharing of revenue generated from the news. The law will be enforced through penalties and sanctions and will include a binding dispute resolution process.

Facebook posted the following on their Newsroom blog:

…Unfortunately, this means people and news organizations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook. Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted. To do this, we are using a combination of technologies to restrict news content and we will have processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed…

In June of 2020, Facebook whined that it and Google were being “singled out” unfairly by this law. Facebook stated: “If there were no news content available on Facebook in Australia, we are confident that the impact on Facebook’s community metrics and revenues in Australia would not be significant.”

It seems to me that if Facebook believes that Facebook’s revenue would not significantly change by removing Australian news – it means Facebook can easily afford to pay for it.

NBC News reported that as of today, Australian users and publishers would not be able to post news content to its social network after the Australian government threatened to force it to pay news publishers. According to NBC News, Australian publishers will be restricted from sharing or posting content to their company pages. News publishers outside of Australia can still post articles, but Australians will not be able to view them.

According to NBC News, Google has decided that it will pay news publishers for their content. Google will remunerate French newspapers based on contributions to political and general information, daily volume of publications and monthly internet audience.


France Wants Changes to EU Tech Regulations



France is pushing for changes to the EU’s legislation that would force big tech companies to pay for the news, Financial Times reported. It appears France wants changes that would allow member states to wield more power to punish bad behavior and police more types of content.

French officials want to see changes to the EU’s Digital Service Act, which sets out the responsibilities of Big Tech companies when it comes to policing the web.

Paris wants every member state to have the right to fine tech platforms and force them to remove illegal content. Currently, only countries where tech companies have their headquarters can enforce the EU’s laws.

As a result, Ireland and Luxembourg, where Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are based, have disproportionate responsibilities in regulating Big Tech.

Financial Times reported that France is also pushing for the DSA to widen beyond illegal content to the policing of harmful content and disinformation. Apparently, EU officials have concerns that France’s proposals will erode the EU’s single market.

The EU has begun working on two landmark draft European digital regulations: The Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

The DSA creates a common set of rules on intermediaries’ obligations and accountability across the single market that will open up opportunities to provide digital services across borders while ensuring user protection. It also establishes criteria for qualifying a large online program as a “gatekeeper”. The DMA includes fines of up to 10% of the “gatekeeper” platform’s total worldwide annual turnover, periodic payments of up to 5% of the average daily turnover, or additional remedies.

In short, it means that companies like Facebook and Google will have to pay news organizations for the news that the platforms post. Both companies used scare tactics to sway the opinion of Australians when their government made a similar law. I expect they will do the same to the EU law.