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Facebook Parent Meta’s Global Affairs Director Hails Mark Zuckerberg’s Leadership

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 9 June 2022

Mark Zuckerberg’s presence at the helm of Facebook parent Meta for “many, many years” would be perfectly natural, his global affairs director has told AFP, even as the founders of many tech companies hand off to fresh blood.

Succession at the mega company has been in the headlines in recent weeks with the announcement of the departure of Sheryl Sandberg after 14 years as the firm’s number two.

But while the founders of companies like Amazon, Twitter, and Google have all moved on, Zuckerberg has shown no sign of giving up the reins – despite raging criticism over privacy scandals and the rampant spread of misinformation across Facebook.

Now as Meta rolls out its plans for the metaverse – the immersive virtual world that it considers the future of the Internet – there’s no reason for the 38-year-old to go anywhere anytime soon, said Nick Clegg, the company’s director of global affairs.

“It’s a multi-year project. It would make sense to me that Mark Zuckerberg would want to continue, to build this new chapter of the company, and that’s going to last for many years, many years,” Clegg told AFP on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

“He is the founder of the company, of Meta, but he is also the architect of the new chapter, of this construction, of these augmented reality and virtual reality technologies.”

Facebook bought virtual reality headset maker Oculus in 2014 and launched a social VR platform.

The technology has taken off in the gaming industry, and become popular among players of Fortnite and Roblox.

But Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister, said the metaverse promised great opportunities in the fields of education and medicine, as well as entertainment.

For example, he said, teachers can take their students on a virtual trip through ancient Greece, and medics can learn sophisticated surgical techniques.

And, he said, as hardware improves, the need for specialist equipment will diminish.

“In years to come, people will be able to access these new technologies through their phones,” he said.

“We are exploring how we can increase access to everyone and not just people who can afford the new and latest hardware.”

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Facebook Fined EUR 265 Million by Irish Data Privacy Regulator After Investigation Into Data Scraping

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By Reuters | Updated: 29 November 2022

Ireland’s data privacy regulator imposed an EUR 265 million (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore) fine on social media giant Facebook on Monday, bringing the total it has fined parent group Meta to almost EUR 1 billion (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore). The penalty resulted from an investigation, started last year, into the discovery of a collated set of personal data that had been scraped from Facebook between May 2018 and September 2019, and made available online. Facebook was also ordered to make a range of corrective measures.

Meta said it had cooperated fully with the investigation by Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) and made changes to its systems during the time in question, including removing the ability to scrape its features in this way using phone numbers.

Monday’s fine is the fourth the DPC has levied against one of Meta’s companies. It is Meta’s lead privacy regulator within the European Union, and has 13 more inquiries into the social media group outstanding.

In September the watchdog hit its Instagram subsidiary with a record fine of EUR 405 million (roughly Rs. 3,435 crore), which Meta plans to appeal. Meta added in its statement on Monday that it was reviewing the decision related to the latest fine.

The DPC regulates Apple, Google, Twitter, Tiktok and other technology giants due to the location of their EU headquarters in Ireland. It currently has 40 inquiries open into such firms, including the 13 involving Meta.

The regulator has the power to impose fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s global revenue under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) “One Stop Shop” regime introduced in 2018.

The DPC said mitigating factors in Monday’s decision – which had been approved by all other relevant EU regulators – included the actions Facebook had taken.

“We’ll keep going until the behaviour does change,” Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) Helen Dixon told Irish national broadcaster RTE on Monday.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Elon Musk Claims Apple Threatened to Pull Twitter From App Store, Ready to ‘Go to War’ Over In-App Purchases

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By Reuters | Updated: 29 November 2022

Elon Musk accused Apple of threatening to block Twitter Inc from its app store without saying why in a series of tweets on Monday that also said the iPhone maker had stopped advertising on the social media platform. The billionaire CEO of Twitter and Tesla said Apple was pressuring Twitter over content moderation demands.

The action, unconfirmed by Apple, would not be unusual as the company has routinely enforced its rules and previously removed apps such as Gab and Parler. The latter, which is popular with US conservatives, was restored by Apple in 2021 after the app updated its content and moderation practices, the companies said at the time.

Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?,” Musk last month, said in a tweet.

He later tagged Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s Twitter account in another tweet, asking “what’s going on here?”

What’s going on here @tim_cook?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“It wasn’t clear to me how far up the Apple food chain that idea went internally and without knowing that, it isn’t clear how seriously to take any of this,” said Randal Picker, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

The world’s most valuable firm spent an estimated $131,600 (roughly Rs. 1,07,42,900) on Twitter ads between November 10 and November 16, down from $220,800 (roughly Rs. 1,80,23,385) between October16 and October 22, the week before Musk closed the Twitter deal, according to ad measurement firm Pathmatics.

In the first quarter of 2022, Apple was the top advertiser on Twitter, spending $48 million (roughly Rs. 391 crore) and accounting for more than 4 percent of total revenue for the period, the Washington Post reported, citing an internal Twitter document.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the report.

‘Go to war’

Among the list of grievances tweeted by Musk was the up to 30 percent fee Apple charges software developers for in-app purchases, with Musk posting a meme suggesting he was willing to “go to war” with Apple rather than paying the commission.

Did you know Apple puts a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store? https://t.co/LGkPZ4EYcz— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

The fee has drawn criticism and lawsuits from companies such as Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, while attracting the scrutiny of regulators globally.

The commission could weigh on Musk’s attempts to boost subscription revenue at Twitter, in part to make up for the exodus of advertisers over content moderation concerns.

Companies from General Mills to luxury automaker Audi of America have stopped or paused advertising on Twitter since the acquisition, and Musk said earlier this month that the company had seen a “massive” drop in revenue.

Ad sales account for about 90 percent of Twitter’s revenue.

The self-described free speech absolutist, whose company has in the past few days reinstated several Twitter accounts including that of former US President Donald Trump, has blamed activist groups for pressuring advertisers.

Ben Bajarin, the head of consumer technologies at research firm Creative Strategies, said that Musk may be reading too much into a regular process Apple goes through in app review.

“App review from Apple is not perfect by any means and a consistently frustrating process for developers but from what I hear it is a two-way conversation,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Elon Musk Says Twitter Will Add Encrypted DMs, Payments; Claims Signups at All-Time High as Advertisers Leave

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By Reuters | Updated: 28 November 2022

Twitter Chief Executive Elon Musk says new user signups to the social media platform are at an “all-time high”, as he struggles with a mass exodus of advertisers and users fleeing to other platforms over concerns about verification and hate speech.

Signups were averaging over two million per day in the last seven days as of November 16, up 66 percent compared to the same week in 2021, Musk said in a tweet late on Saturday.

He also said that user active minutes were at a record high, averaging nearly 8 billion active minutes per day in the last seven days as of November 15, an increase of 30 percent in comparison to the same week last year.

Twitter Chief Executive Elon Musk says new user signups to the social media platform are at an “all-time high”, as he struggles with a mass exodus of advertisers and users fleeing to other platforms over concerns about verification and hate speech.

Signups were averaging over two million per day in the last seven days as of November 16, up 66 percent compared to the same week in 2021, Musk said in a tweet late on Saturday.

He also said that user active minutes were at a record high, averaging nearly 8 billion active minutes per day in the last seven days as of November 15, an increase of 30 percent in comparison to the same week last year.

Musk’s “Twitter 2.0 The Everything App” will have features like encrypted direct messages (DMs), longform tweets and payments, according to the tweet.

Slides from my Twitter company talk pic.twitter.com/8LLXrwylta— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 27, 2022

In another tweet early on Sunday, Musk said he sees a “path to Twitter exceeding a billion monthly users in 12 to 18 months.”

Advertisers on Twitter, including big companies such as General Motors, Mondelez International, Volkswagen AG, have paused advertising on the platform, as they grapple with the new boss.

Musk has said that Twitter was experiencing a “massive drop in revenue” from the advertiser retreat, blaming a coalition of civil rights groups that has been pressing the platform’s top advertisers to take action if he did not protect content moderation.

Activists are urging Twitter’s advertisers to issue statements about pulling their ads off the social media platform after Musk lifted the ban on tweets by former US president Donald Trump.

Hundreds of Twitter employees are believed to have quit the beleaguered company, following an ultimatum by Musk that staffers sign up for “long hours at high intensity,” or leave.

The company earlier in November laid off half its workforce, with teams responsible for communications, content curation, human rights and machine learning ethics being gutted, as well as some product and engineering teams.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Elon Musk Calls Donald Trump’s Twitter Ban ‘Grave Mistake’, Condemns Violence

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By Reuters | Updated: 26 November 2022

Twitter’s ban on then President Donald Trump after January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters was a “grave mistake” that had to be corrected, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Friday, although he also stated that incitement to violence would continue to be prohibited on Twitter.

“I’m fine with Trump not tweeting. The important thing is that Twitter correct a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service,” Musk said in a tweet. “Deplatforming a sitting President undermined public trust in Twitter for half of America.”

Last week, Musk announced the reactivation of Trump’s account after a slim majority voted in a Twitter poll in favor of reinstating Trump, who said, however, that he had no interest in returning to Twitter. He added he would stick with his own social media site Truth Social, the app developed by Trump Media & Technology Group.

Republican Trump, who 10 days ago announced he was running for election again in 2024, was banned on January 8, 2021, from Twitter under its previous owners.

At the time, Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol. The results of the November 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden were being certified by lawmakers when the Capitol was attacked after weeks of false claims by Trump that he had won.

Trump repeatedly used Twitter and other sites to falsely claim there had been widespread voter fraud, and had urged supporters to march on the Capitol in Washington to protest.

The attack is being investigated by US prosecutors and a congressional committee.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday on Musk’s statement that Trump did not violate any Twitter terms of service when his account was suspended.

Earlier on Friday, Musk tweeted that calling for violence or incitement to violence on Twitter would result in suspension, after saying on Thursday that Twitter would provide a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts that had not broken the law or engaged in spam.

Replying to a tweet, Musk said it was “very concerning” that Twitter had taken no action earlier to remove some accounts related to the far-left Antifa movement. In response to another tweet asking if Musk considered the statement “trans people deserve to die” as worthy of suspension from the platform, the billionaire said: “Absolutely”.

Change and chaos have marked Musk’s first few weeks as Twitter’s owner. He has fired top managers and it was announced that senior officials in charge of security and privacy had quit.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Elon Musk Says Twitter Will Grant ‘General Amnesty’ for Suspended Accounts From Next Week

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By Reuters | Updated: 25 November 2022

Elon Musk said on Thursday that Twitter will provide a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts starting next week after running a poll on whether to do so for users who had not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam. In a poll Musk posted on Twitter on Wednesday, 72.4 percent of the more than 3.16 million users who took part voted in favour of bringing back those who had been suspended by the social media platform.

“The people have spoken,” Musk, who acquired Twitter last month, tweeted on Thursday. “Amnesty begins next week.”

Last week, Musk, the world’s richest person, reinstated some previously suspended accounts, including former US President Donald Trump, satirical website Babylon Bee and comedian Kathy Griffin.

He tweeted in October that Twitter would form a content moderation council “with widely diverse viewpoints.” Musk said no major content decisions or account reinstatements would happen before the council convened.

Change and chaos have marked the billionaire’s first few weeks as Twitter’s owner. He has fired top managers, including former Chief Executive Parag Agarwal, and it was announced that senior officials in charge of security and privacy had quit.

Those resignations drew scrutiny from the US Federal Trade Commission, whose mandate includes protecting consumers and which said it was watching Twitter with “deep concern.”

He tweeted in October that Twitter would form a content moderation council “with widely diverse viewpoints.” Musk said no major content decisions or account reinstatements would happen before the council convened.

Change and chaos have marked the billionaire’s first few weeks as Twitter’s owner. He has fired top managers, including former Chief Executive Parag Agarwal, and it was announced that senior officials in charge of security and privacy had quit.

Those resignations drew scrutiny from the US Federal Trade Commission, whose mandate includes protecting consumers and which said it was watching Twitter with “deep concern.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Twitter, Other Social Media Apps Fail to Remove Hate Speech, Says EU Review

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By Associated Press | Updated: 25 November 2022

Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it in 2022 compared with the previous year, according to European Union data released Thursday.

The EU figures were published as part of an annual evaluation of online platforms’ compliance with the 27-nation bloc’s code of conduct on disinformation.

Twitter wasn’t alone — most other tech companies signed up to the voluntary code also scored worse. But the figures could foreshadow trouble for Twitter in complying with the EU’s tough new online rules after owner Elon Musk fired many of the platform’s 7,500 full-time workers and an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation and other crucial tasks.

The EU report, carried out over six weeks in the spring, found Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82 percent in 2021.

In comparison, the amount of flagged material Facebook reviewed within 24 hours fell to 64 percent, Instagram slipped to 56.9 percent and YouTube dipped to 83.3 percent. TikTok came in at 92 percent, the only company to improve.

The amount of hate speech Twitter removed after it was flagged up slipped to 45.4 percent from 49.8 percent the year before. TikTok’s removal rate fell by a quarter to 60 percent, while Facebook and Instagram only saw minor declines. Only YouTube’s takedown rate increased, surging to 90 percent.

“It’s worrying to see a downward trend in reviewing notifications related to illegal hate speech by social media platforms,” European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova tweeted. “Online hate speech is a scourge of a digital age and platforms need to live up to their commitments.”

Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment. Emails to several staff on the company’s European communications team bounced back as undeliverable.

Musk’s acquisition of Twitter last month fanned widespread concern that purveyors of lies and misinformation would be allowed to flourish on the site. The billionaire Tesla CEO, who has frequently expressed his belief that Twitter had become too restrictive, has been reinstating suspended accounts, including former President Donald Trump’s.

Twitter faces more scrutiny in Europe by the middle of next year, when new EU rules aimed at protecting internet users’ online safety will start applying to the biggest online platforms. Violations could result in huge fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s annual global revenue.

France’s online regulator Arcom said it received a reply from Twitter after writing to the company earlier this week to say it was concerned about the effect that staff departures would have on Twitter’s “ability maintain a safe environment for its users.”

Arcom also asked the company to confirm it can meet its “legal obligations” in fighting online hate speech and that it is committed to implementing the new EU online rules. Arcom said it received a response from Twitter and that it will “study their response,” without giving more details.

Tech companies that signed up to the EU’s disinformation code agree to commit to measures aimed at reducing disinformation and file regular reports on whether they’re living up to their promises, though there’s little in the way of punishment.

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