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Zuckerberg to meet EU Commissioners ahead of antitrust proposals

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FILE PHOTO: Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters)Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg will meet the EU’s digital and industry chiefs on Feb. 17, EU officials said on Tuesday, days before the two Commissioners present proposals to rein in U.S. tech giants and Chinese rivals.

In addition to European Competition and Digital Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, Zuckerberg will also meet justice chief Vera Jourova, the officials said.

Facebook said: “Next week, Mark Zuckerberg will travel to Europe to participate in the Munich Security Conference, and meet with European decision-makers in Brussels to discuss a framework for new rules and regulation for the internet.”

Vestager and Breton are set to announce proposals on Feb. 19 to create a single European data market aimed at challenging the dominance of U.S. tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, according to a European Commission proposal seen by Reuters.

They will also propose rules to govern the use of artificial intelligence. The Commission is expected to seek feedback before finalizing the rules.

Facebook is already in Vestager’s crosshairs over its use of data collected by the company over the years from classified ads players and its right to use their data for any purpose including to launch competing products, according to a questionnaire seen by Reuters.

Zuckerberg’s last public appearance in Brussels was in 2018 when he met European Parliament leaders to answer questions on how the data of 2.7 million European users was improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by David Evans

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Facebook Agrees to Audit Its Hate Speech Controls

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Facebook said on Monday it would submit itself to an audit of how it controls hate speech in a bid to appease a growing advertising boycott of the platform, as it prepared to address a group of advertisers on Tuesday.

The move comes as major advertisers such as Unilever and Starbucks have signed on to the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign started by US civil rights groups, which urges brands to pause their Facebook ads in July to pressure the social media giant to do more to take down hate speech.

Media Rating Council (MRC), a media measurement firm, will conduct the audit to evaluate how it protects advertisers from appearing next to harmful content and the accuracy of Facebook’s reporting in certain areas.

The scope and timing of the audit were still being finalised, Facebook said.

Facebook hosted a call with advertisers on Tuesday, which included Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, Guy Rosen, vice president of integrity, and Neil Potts, public policy director.

The executives told the group Facebook would include a new data point about the prevalence of hate speech in its Community Standards Enforcement Report, which details how the company takes down content that violates policy, said Barry Lowenthal, chief executive of ad agency The Media Kitchen, who attended the call.

Lowenthal said while he believed Facebook had taken many steps toward tampering down hate speech, the problem has become so large that it may require more drastic measures to fix.

“Maybe they should hit pause on the platform entirely,” Lowenthal said, whose agency works with clients like Vanguard and Loews Hotels. “How much more can society handle?”

Ford Motor Co and Coca-Cola are among companies that said they would pause advertising on all social media platforms for at least 30 days.

Facebook announced last week it would label “newsworthy” content that violates its policies, but the move failed to satisfy organisers of the boycott, who plan to call on more global advertisers to join the campaign.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Jio-Facebook Deal: Facebook to Buy 9.99 Percent Stake in Reliance Jio

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Facebook will buy a 10 percent stake in the digital business of India’s Reliance Industries for Rs. 43,574 crores, as the social media firm looks to leverage its highly popular WhatsApp chat service to offer digital payment services. The deal will help the Indian conglomerate cut debt that has piled up in its expensive push to secure top spot for its Jio Infocomm telecom business. Facebook’s investment will make it the largest minority shareholder in Jio Platforms Ltd, Jio said in a statement on Wednesday, putting the enterprise value of the business at around $66 billion (roughly Rs. 5 lakh crores). Jio Platforms holds a host of Reliance’s digital assets including Jio Infocomm.

WhatsApp is trying to secure approval to roll out its digital payment service in India, which will see it compete in a crowded market with the likes of Google Pay and Paytm. The approval to expand beyond the beta launch hasn’t come through yet, a Facebook spokesman said.

The messaging service has 40 crore users in India, its biggest market, reaching nearly 80 percent of smartphone users in the country. The deal will also help the social media giant leverage WhatsApp to partner with Reliance’s e-commerce marketplace JioMart, that connects small businesses to customers.

“(India) is in the middle of a major digital transformation and organizations like Jio have played a big part in getting hundreds of millions of Indian people and small businesses online,” Facebook founder CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post.

For Reliance, whose debt pile swelled to more than $40 billion (roughly Rs. 3 lakh crores) as of September, the partnership will bring in much needed funds to make good on its promise to cut net debt to zero by March 2021.

Reliance Industries, controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, is also set to sell a fifth of its oil and chemical refining business to Saudi Aramco for roughly $15 billion (roughly Rs. 1.15 lakh crores), and a stake in its telecom tower assets to Canadian private equity firm Brookfield Asset Management for over $3 billon (roughly Rs. 23,000 crores).

While Jio has become the country’s largest wireless operator within about three years of its launch, Mumbai-headquartered Reliance has also rapidly expanded its retail business, which now has over 10,000 stores selling groceries, consumer electronics and apparel.

Revenue at these two businesses together jumped more than 25 percent in the December quarter.

Last month, Financial Times reported that Facebook was in talks for a 10 percent stake in Jio but the talks were halted due to global travel bans amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Jio said Morgan Stanley was the financial adviser on the deal. AZB & Partners, and Davis Polk & Wardwell were counsels.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Facebook Fundraisers Introduced in India to Help Push COVID-19 Relief Efforts

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Facebook on Monday announced the launch of ‘Facebook Fundraisers’, a platform that will allow people to start a fundraiser on Facebook for a cause and charity that matters most to them. It also announced a Social-For-Good Live-a-thon initiative through which celebrities, publishers and creators can encourage people to donate to charities. This feature was previously available in the US and Europe, and now it has been made available in India as well.

Facebook charges no fees for raising funds for a non-profit. In other countries, it has made possible to raise personal funds as well, but that option hasn’t been activated in India as of yet. Facebook Fundraisers lets users create a dedicated fundraising page for a cause and urge people to donate to it.

Facebook users will find the fundraisers feature on the left side of the homepage. Just tap on ‘see more’ and select fundraisers from the dropdown menu then click on the ‘Select Non-Profit’ button. Choose from a list of verified organisations available and mention the amount of money you want to raise. You also have to mention when the fundraiser has to end, choose an appropriate fundraiser title, and the reason why you are raising money for the company. Additionally, the user has to add a cover photo for the fundraiser, and Facebook offers a suggested photo for ease. On Facebook’s mobile app for Android and iOS, users can select the hamburger menu to access it.

Facebook’s Social-For-Good Live-a-thon will start on April 24 and it will continue till May 1. During this week, celebrities, creators and publishers will go encourage people to donate via Facebook Live. Artists will go live from their Facebook accounts, and the donate button will be visible on the video itself. Facebook said it has over 150 partners who will take part for this cause.

Facebook also has a Covid-19 information centre which is pinned on top of the homepage for desktop and its mobile apps. Users can click on the link to find the latest global and India updates, information on Covid-19.

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