The problem with Facebook’s attempt to be more like Nextdoor

Facebook is expanding its reliance on community moderators. | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nextdoor’s approach to content moderation doesn’t always work.

Facebook is becoming a bit more like Nextdoor in an effort to boost its groups feature. The only problem is that Facebook appears to be borrowing one of Nextdoor’s more controversial concepts: giving more power to community moderators.

On Wednesday, the company announced it was making a major enhancement to the powers of its groups’ community moderators. Now, administrators can do a number of new things, like automatically block certain people from commenting in conversations based on factors like how long they’ve been a member of the group. Facebook says the new tools are meant to help “admins play a key role in helping maintain a safe and healthy culture.” The changes are part of Facebook’s broader shift toward relying more on unpaid community admins, who get … Read the rest

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People keep finding late loved ones on Google Maps

Google uses cars to capture the panoramic images that power Street View, and sometimes, images of people. | Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Some find it comforting, some find it creepy.

For years, Google Maps has offered Street View, which stitches together panoramic camera images to recreate a digital facsimile of physical spaces in the real world that you can explore online. Some people are discovering that if they scroll through the platform long enough and use a time travel feature, they just might find the image of a late loved one captured by one of Google’s cameras — and seemingly saved in Google Maps forever.

In the past few days, several posts announcing these discoveries have gone viral. One from UK-based writer Sherri Turner has already racked up tens of thousands of “Likes” on Twitter. A similar tweet from an anonymous confessions account also attracted attention from not … Read the rest

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Big Tech has a battle ahead over antitrust regulation — and it’s going to get messy

Lina Khan, who has been a strong advocate for breaking up Big Tech companies, was recently appointed as chair of the FTC. | Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Industry groups are ramping up their fight against regulation.

For several years now, Congress and regulatory agencies have warned that they could, in the future, try to break up Big Tech. In the past week, that threat got more real.

On June 11, Congress introduced a sweeping set of five antitrust bills with notable levels of bipartisan support that targeted the tech giants — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google — and which could potentially break up their core businesses. On June 15, in a surprise move, the White House appointed Big Tech nemesis Lina Khan to be not just a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), but the chair of the powerful federal agency that enforces antitrust laws.

“If I were … Read the rest

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to create a new agency to deal with data privacy

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is giving her privacy agency bill another try. | Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The FTC currently enforces federal privacy laws. Gillibrand doesn’t think it’s enough.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is introducing a revamped version of her Data Protection Act, which would create a new government agency in charge of regulating and enforcing federal privacy laws — the ones we have now as well as any we might get in the future.

“Big Tech companies are free to sell individuals’ data to the highest bidder without fear of real consequences, posing a severe threat to modern-day privacy and civil rights,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “A data privacy crisis is looming over the everyday lives of Americans and we need to hold these bad actors accountable.”

The bill builds on her 2020 version in ways that seem to reflect the Biden administration’s agenda and the fact that Democrats … Read the rest

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The problem with Facebook’s attempt to be more like Nextdoor

Facebook is expanding its reliance on community moderators. | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nextdoor’s approach to content moderation doesn’t always work.

Facebook is becoming a bit more like Nextdoor in an effort to boost its groups feature. The only problem is that Facebook appears to be borrowing one of Nextdoor’s more controversial concepts: giving more power to community moderators.

On Wednesday, the company announced it was making a major enhancement to the powers of its groups’ community moderators. Now, administrators can do a number of new things, like automatically block certain people from commenting in conversations based on factors like how long they’ve been a member of the group. Facebook says the new tools are meant to help “admins play a key role in helping maintain a safe and healthy culture.” The changes are part of Facebook’s broader shift toward relying more on unpaid community admins, who get … Read the rest

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Lina Khan will be chair of the Federal Trade Commission

Lina Khan, an expert in antitrust and a critic of Amazon’s power, is joining the Federal Trade Commission. | Graeme Jennings/Getty Images

Democrats and Republicans came together to confirm the antitrust expert to the FTC.

The Senate has voted to appoint Lina Khan, an antitrust law expert and a major critic of Big Tech’s power, to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The vote was 68 in favor and 28 opposed, which represents a stunning level of bipartisanship in a highly polarized, Democrat-controlled Senate.

Even more significantly, news came later on Tuesday afternoon that Khan will be the chair of the FTC. During an afternoon hearing focused on smart home speakers and competitiveness, Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced that Khan would be taking on the FTC’s leading role. A source familiar with the White House’s plans confirmed the news, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren celebrated Khan’s appointment in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Khan’s … Read the rest

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The controversy over Bill Gates becoming the largest private farmland owner in the US

Bill Gates has bought a surprising amount of farmland in recent years. | Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images

People are drawing connections between Gates’s vast farmlands and climate change advocacy.

Bill Gates might be a tech billionaire — but he and his wife Melinda French Gates, who are in the process of divorcing, are also two of the largest private farmland owners in the United States.

Recent reports detailing the extent of Gates’s land ownership have prompted criticism from some environmental advocates and farmers, who say there seems to be a contradiction between his public environmental advocacy and his personal investment strategy.

Others have speculated the farmland purchases may be a part of the billionaire’s overall climate efforts. Bill Gates has said there’s no connection, either way. But the new details on the purchases — and the discussion surrounding them — serve as an important reminder that billionaires can store … Read the rest

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What are you legally allowed to say at work? A group of fired Googlers could change the rules.

Google workers protesting sexual harassment issues at the company in November 2018. | Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The NLRB is expanding its complaint against Google for allegedly retaliating against employee activists in what could turn out to be a precedent-setting decision.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the US’s top enforcer of labor rights, just expanded its complaint against Google to include three more fired Google workers. Those former employees say the company retaliated against them for protesting its work with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Now that these workers have been added to the complaint, which will be heard before an administrative judge in August, the outcome of the case could result in a shift in what employees can talk about at work without fear of repercussions from their employer.

The NLRB first filed its complaint against Google in December 2020, saying the company was “interfering with, … Read the rest

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What you need to know about the House’s opening bid to rein in Big Tech

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies before a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in July 2020. | Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The bills have the beginnings of bipartisan support, but will likely need even more to actually pass.

These days, it’s hard to get Democrats and Republicans in Congress to agree on anything.

So it’s notable that Democrats on the Antitrust Subcommittee announced a slew of antitrust legislation today aimed at limiting the power of the tech giants — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, specifically — with some bipartisan support from their Republican colleagues. Collectively called “A Stronger Online Economy: Opportunity, Innovation, and Choice,” each of the five bills introduced has multiple co-sponsors, including at least one from either side of the aisle.

Broadly, the bills aim at curbing Big Tech’s power by limiting their roles as gatekeepers and their domination of digital markets. The bills also represent the culmination … Read the rest

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The Trump administration forced Apple to turn over lawmakers’ data. Democrats are outraged.

Device metadata from Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was obtained by the Department of Justice. | Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some say it’s an attack on the separation of powers.

Democratic lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the Trump administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) and its use of subpoenas to obtain device metadata belonging to at least two members of Congress. They say it’s a disturbing attack on the separation of powers, the principle of keeping the operations of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches generally separate from one another.

The calls for oversight follow a New York Times report revealing that the DOJ made Apple turn over records from several people associated with the House Intelligence Committee — including Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Eric Swalwell, their staff and family, one of whom was a minor — in the midst of an investigation into … Read the rest

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