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Tag: Facebook

Facebook snags former Vine GM to run product for its new experimental app division, NPE Team

July 15, 2019 No Comments

Is Facebook preparing to launch a serious competitor to TikTok? If so, the company just picked up some key talent to make that happen. Last week, Facebook announced plans for a new division, called the NPE Team, which will build experimental consumer-focused apps where it will try different ideas and features, then see how people react. Now, Facebook has picked up former Vine GM Jason Toff to join the NPE team as a Product Management Director.

Toff’s experience also includes time spent at Google, most notably as a Product Lead for YouTube before exiting to Vine in 2014. At the short-form video app maker, Toff worked as Head of Product for a year, then became Vine’s General Manager.

Vine, of course, was later snatched up by Twitter — and there, Toff moved up to Director of Product Management before boomeranging back to Google, where his initial focus was on AR and VR projects.

Most recently, Toff worked as a Partner at Google’s Area 120, Google’s in-house incubator where employees work on experimental projects.

That’s not all that different from what Facebook appears to have in store with its own NPE Team ambitions. Similar to Area 120 or Microsoft Garage, for example, the NPE Team plans to deliver apps that will “change very rapidly” in response to consumer feedback. It will also be quick to close down experiments that aren’t useful to people in fairly short order.

That’s not how Facebook itself operates. Its more experimental apps have had longer runs, as the company used them to gain feedback to inform its larger projects. For example, its photo-sharing app Moments ran from 2015 through early 2019, and its TrueCaller-like app Hello for emerging markets ran for several years, despite fairly limited adoption.

Facebook has also tried and failed with a number of other offshoots over the past decade, like Facebook Paper, Notify, a Snapchat clone called Lifestage, and others, as well as those it picked up through acquisitions, then later shut down like tbh or Moves. It also previously ran an internal incubator of sorts called Facebook Creative Labs, which birthed now-failed projects like Slingshot, Riff, and Rooms.

Many of these efforts were fairly high-profile at launch, which made their eventual shut down more problematic for Facebook’s image. With NPE Team — as with Area 120 or Microsoft Garage — there’s a layer of separation between the test apps and the larger company. Many of the apps that the NPE Team puts out will bomb, and that’s the point — it wants to get the failures out of the way faster so others can find success.

While Toff can’t yet say what he’ll be working on at Facebook, there’s a lot of speculation that NPE Team will try to come up with some sort of answer to TikTok, the Beijing-based short-form video app that sucked up Musical.ly in 2018 and now is a Gen Z social networking hit with some 500 million-plus monthly users. Toff’s background with Vine could certainly be helpful if that were the case.

Facebook, of course, already tried to get a TikTok clone off the ground with Lasso, but the experiment didn’t take off and the app lead, Brady Voss, left Facebook soon after its launch. It

Toff says he’s hiring for NPE Team, including both UX designers and engineers.


Social – TechCrunch


Facebook reportedly gets a $5 billion slap on the wrist from the FTC

July 14, 2019 No Comments

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has reportedly agreed to end its latest probe into Facebook‘s privacy problems with a $ 5 billion payout.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the 3-2, party-line vote by FTC commissioners was carried by the Republican majority and will be moved to the Justice Department’s civil division to be finalized.

A $ 5 billion payout seems like a significant sum, but Facebook had already set aside $ 3 billion to cover the cost of the settlement and the company could likely make up the figure in less than a quarter of revenue (the company’s revenue for the last fiscal quarter was roughly $ 15 billion). Indeed, Facebook said in April that it expected to pay up to $ 5 billion to end the government’s probe.

The settlement will also include government restrictions on how Facebook treats user privacy, according to the Journal.

We have reached out to the FTC and Facebook for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

Ultimately, the partisan divide which held up the settlement broke down with Republican members of the commission overriding Democratic concerns for greater oversight of the social media giant.

Lawmakers have been calling consistently for greater regulatory oversight of Facebook — and even a legislative push to break up the company — since the revelation of the company’s mishandling of the private data of millions of Facebook users during the run up to the 2016 presidential election, which wound up being collected improperly by Cambridge Analytica.

Specifically the FTC was examining whether the data breach violated a 2012 consent decree which saw Facebook committing to engage in better privacy protection of user data.

Facebook’s woes didn’t end with Cambridge Analytica . The company has since been on the receiving end of a number of exposes around the use and abuse of its customers’ information and comes as calls to break up the big tech companies have only grown louder.

The settlement could also be a way for the company to buy its way out of more strict oversight as it faces investigations into its potentially anti-competitive business practices and inquiries into its launch of a new cryptocurrency — Libra — which is being touted as an electronic currency for Facebook users largely divorced from governmental monetary policy.

Potential sanctions proposed by lawmakers for the FTC were reported to include the possibility of elevating privacy oversight to the company’s board of directors and potentially the deletion of tracking data; restricting certain information collection; limiting ad targeting; and restricting the flow of user data among different Facebook business units.


Social – TechCrunch


We still don’t know how much of Libra Facebook owns

July 7, 2019 No Comments

The $ 10 million entry fee to join the Facebook-developed cryptocurrency’s Libra Association is merely a minimum. Members who’ll verify transactions can opt to invest more in exchange for more Libra Investment Tokens that will earn them dividends from the interest earned by the Libra Reserve after it pays for infrastructure and operations costs. If regulators allow it to launch after today requesting a halt of development, and the cryptocurrency grows popular with tons of people cashing in local currencies for Libra, the Reserve that holds those assets could grow huge and generate meaningful returns via interest — especially for members willing to sink a ton of money in early.

But therein lies potential disalignment of incentives.

If you’re confused, read our guide to everything about Libra

Each Libra Association member only gets one vote on the council, including Facebook . But if Facebook puts in $ 500 million and another member like eBay antes up just the $ 10 million minimum, Facebook has a much bigger incentive to get people cashing into Libra and holding onto the cryptocurrency so the Reserve earns interest on those dollars or other fiat, rather than just getting people to transact with it regardless of whether they hold on to Libra permanently. That could lead Facebook (and its Calibra subsidiary representing it) to push governance decisions that would disproportionately benefit it.

Ahead of the Libra announcement two weeks ago, Facebook’s head of blockchain and now Calibra David Marcus told me, “The reserve earns interest on some of those treasuries. It’s a small amount and it’s variable, but if the reserve becomes big it could become a substantial way to fund the association but also return capital to investors.”

Yet Facebook, for all its talk about transparency with Libra, refused to tell me how much it’s invested into the Libra project as a whole or the Libra Investment Token. That should be a core question raised by Congress when Marcus testifies before the Senate Banking Chair on July 16th and the House Financial Services Committee on July 17th. Facebook did not respond to requests for comment on this article. Congress should also be sure to ask how Libra will avoid a Cambridge Analytica-style crypto disaster given that apps built on the Libra developer platform aren’t subject to review.

The proportion of the total Libra Investment Tokens that Facebook owns in part determines how decentralized Libra really is. If Facebook owns the lion’s share or a majority, that could give it too much financial impetus to bend the rules in its favor even if it only has one vote on the council.

Here’s how. Facebook has led development of Libra to date. In fact, the Libra Association has yet to draw up and ratify a charter or formally admit members. Technically it’s just Facebook’s project right now. “So far we’ve been funding it all,” Marcus told The Information’s Alex Heath. It’s also been coding it all, organizing it all and communicating it all.

As such, for now the project can’t survive without Facebook, and may not be able to for quite a while. That means that if at any time Facebook disagrees so strongly with the Libra Association that it threatens to pull out, it jeopardizes the investment of all the other members. That could coerce them to vote in support of its governance policy suggestions. Facebook thereby wouldn’t need more than one vote to have a much larger influence on the direction of the project.

Today in a Facebook Note (…not a Libra.org blog post), Marcus wrote, “The levels of investments of each of the partners will most likely be public as well when that’s actually live.” But that’s far from a guarantee, and could come too late for regulators to intercede or other members to truly understand the asymmetry.

Meanwhile, Marcus also said that “We’ve been basically lending money to the association that will be at some point repaid back.” That raises another question of how much Facebook has already sunk into the Libra project, how much it expects to be repaid and on what schedule. Members might be more skittish to join if they learn much of their $ 10 million investment might just go to paying back Facebook. 

That’s not to mention the other ways Facebook will earn money from Libra. Marcus wrote today that “If Libra is successful, Facebook will first benefit from it by enabling more commerce across its family of apps. More commerce means ads will be more effective, and advertisers will buy more of them to grow their businesses. Additionally, if we earn people’s trust with the Calibra wallet over time, we will also be in a position to start offering more financial services, and generate other revenue streams for the company.”

The fact that Facebook oversees development and has a massive head start on building its wallet that will be baked into its billion-plus user Messenger and WhatsApp products sure doesn’t hurt its prospects for offering other financial services. It will be first to market, instantly at scale, with an insider’s role in defining the rule book.

I’m not discounting the potential Libra has to aid the unbanked who can’t pay fees for having too little money in their accounts, or make commerce cheaper for small businesses. But if Facebook stands to earn outsized returns directly and indirectly from Libra, while expecting other members to foot its R&D bill, and these numbers aren’t made public soon, it’s reasonable to question how decentralized and altruistic this project really is.


Social – TechCrunch


Facebook SDK bug crashed apps like Timehop

June 30, 2019 No Comments

A malfunction in Facebook’s Software Development Kit that lets apps add Login With Facebook, sharing, and other features caused apps that integrate it like Timehop to repeatedly crash for about three hours. TechCrunch received a tip that developers were getting tons of user complaints and crash reports starting around noon pacific today due to a problem with the Facebook for iOS SDK. TechCrunch’s testing verified that products like Timehop, Joytunes’ Simply Piano, Momento GIFs, and more kept breaking when users access Facebook features or in some cases just opened the app.

This is a big issue for Facebook because it relies on these apps to drive user lock-in. If people use Facebook to log into or share from other apps, they’re less likely to delete their account. But if the Facebook developer platform screws up like this morning, developers could instead highlight sharing via Twitter or SMS, and divert ad buys to other platforms. Most problematically, the bug could push developers to other login platforms like Google’s or Apple’s new Sign In With Apple.

[Update: 3:45pm PT: Facebook has fixed the bug and apps integrated with the SDK are starting to work normally again. A Facebook spokesperson tells me “We started to work on the issue as soon as it was reported to us, and it has been resolved.” Facebook engineer Ram Sharma posted that “Our engineering team worked to resolve this issue as soon as it was discovered. It is now mitigated and app function should be restored.” Developers confirm the bug has been fixed. The rest of this article remains as originally published.]

Facebook SDK Bug

The bug was initially submitted to Facebook’s developer forums by Ryan Layne. These crashes thwart normal usage of other apps, costing their developers ad views and in-app purchases, or leading their users to uninstall or abandon them.

Timehop Facebook SDK Crash

Hitting the Connect Facebook button on Timehop causes the app to crash. Developers in Facebook’s bug reporting forum pile on saying their apps are breaking

The situation highlights the increasing centralization of the web as more and more companies depend on a small number of mobile, hosting, and social platforms. Earlier this month, a Google Cloud outage knocked down Snapchat and Discord. While these tools make it simpler to start a company or launch an app without having to build everything in-house, they introduce platform risk. Beyond technical outages, there’s also the concern that a platform could use its insights to copy its clients, or block them if they compete with the gatekeeper too vigorously as Facebook has done to chat and social media apps in the past.


Social – TechCrunch


What Facebook Privacy? Candidates’ Tough Talk Is Just That

June 27, 2019 No Comments

More than 50 percent of US lawmakers use Facebook tracking technology known as a pixel—including some of Facebook’s biggest critics.
Feed: All Latest


Facebook and eBay told to tackle trade in fake reviews

June 23, 2019 No Comments

Facebook and eBay have been warned by the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to do more to tackle the sale of fake reviews on their platforms.

Fake reviews are illegal under U.K. consumer protection law.

The CMA said today it has found “troubling evidence” of a “thriving marketplace for fake and misleading online reviews.” Though it also writes that it does not believe the platforms themselves are intentionally allowing such content to appear on their sites.

The regulator says it crawled content on eBay and Facebook between November 2018 and June 2019 — finding more than 100 eBay listings offering fake reviews for sale during that time.

Over the same period it also identified 26 Facebook groups where people offered to write fake reviews or where businesses recruited people to write fake and misleading reviews on popular shopping and review sites.

The CMA cites estimates that more than three-quarters of U.K. internet users consider online reviews before making a purchase decision — with “billions” of pounds’ worth of people’s spending being influenced by such content. So the incentives driving a market to trade reviews for money is clear.

Commenting in a statement, the CMA’s CEO, Andrea Coscelli, said: “We want Facebook and eBay to conduct an urgent review of their sites to prevent fake and misleading online reviews from being bought and sold.”

“Lots of us rely on reviews when shopping online to decide what to buy. It is important that people are able to trust that reviews are genuine, rather than something someone has been paid to write,” he added. “Fake reviews mean that people might make the wrong choice and end up with a product or service that’s not right for them. They’re also unfair to businesses who do the right thing.”

The regulator says that after it wrote to eBay and Facebook to inform them of its findings they have both “indicated that they will cooperate.”

Facebook also told the CMA that “most” of the 26 groups it identified have now been removed.

The regulator says he expects the sites to put measures in place to ensure all the identified content is removed — and stop it from reappearing.

At the time of writing, a search of ebay.co.uk for “reviews” returned sellers offering five-star media reviews, five-star Google reviews and five-star Trustpilot reviews as the top three results — one of which was also a sponsored post:

Additional eBay listings included one offering “1/2/3/4/5 Star Freeindex Customer Service Review for business,” priced at £10 and sold by a U.K.-based seller who has been an eBay member since Feb 2011; one five-star review “on Google” that the seller touts with the line, “Boost your business and get new Customers” — at a cost of £2.69; one “100% positive FAST” review for £1; and five five-star reviews on Google priced at £15 — offered by a seller apparently based in Portugal who has been an eBay member since March 2014.

A search of U.K. Facebook groups returned multiple examples of closed groups where sellers appear to be soliciting reviews, either in exchange for goods and/or payment…

 

Reached for a response to the CMA’s call for measures to be put in place to tackle the illegal trade in fake reviews, Facebook sent us the following statement — attributed to a spokesperson:

Fraudulent activity is not allowed on Facebook, including the trading of fake reviews. We have removed 24 of the 26 groups and pages that the CMA reported to us yesterday and had already removed a number of them prior to the CMA flagging them to us. We know there is more to do which is why we’ve tripled the size of our safety and security team to 30,000 and continue to invest in technology to help proactively prevent abuse of our platform.

An eBay spokesperson also told us:

We have zero tolerance for fake or misleading reviews. We have informed the CMA that all of the sellers they identified have been suspended. The listings have been removed. Listings such as these are strictly against our policy on illegal activity and we will act where our rules are broken. We welcome the report from the CMA and will work closely with them in reviewing its findings.


Social – TechCrunch


Equity transcribed: Slack’s IPO, the VCs behind Facebook Libra, founder salaries and trouble in scooter-land

June 23, 2019 No Comments

Welcome back to this week’s transcribed edition of Equity.

This week, TechCrunch’s Danny Crichton filled in for co-host Alex Wilhelm – who was out in preparation for his wedding this weekend – joining Kate to cover the big news of the week.

Kate and Danny dive straight into Slack’s IPO and the implications of its direct listing strategy, before shifting gears to discuss the launch of Facebook’s new ‘Libra’ cryptocurrency and the VCs backing the initiative.

The duo then took a look at Lime’s latest fundraising efforts and the potential headwinds facing scooter companies with an appetite for capital. Lastly, Kate and Danny talk about underappreciated tensions for founders, including getting pushed out of their own companies and handling their own salaries.

Crichton: Talking about founders and compensation, our correspondent, Ron Miller, talked to a bunch of VCs to ask how are founders paying themselves today? Obviously, the cost of living in the Bay Area, in New York and other startup hubs has increased dramatically. So VCs have had to become acutely aware of their founders’ financial means.

One of the things that really came out of this survey though, from my perspective, was just how high the numbers are. We surveyed small number. We put it out in the interviews. It came out to post-Series A people are starting to get paid around 200K. But the numbers, even a couple of years ago, I seem to recall was like $ 120 was the magic number around the Series A, $ 90K if you had a serious seed fund and like $ 60 to $ 80 if you are just getting started.

But the numbers that we saw out of this were significantly higher. I think that shows a lot about how the cost of living has just continued to creep up in San Francisco and in New York.

Clark: Yeah. I think the point is made in the story. If you live in San Francisco and you’re paying a mortgage and you have kids, of course, you need to make six figures really to get by, which is just an unfortunate reality. I can’t say I was surprised by how those salaries looked. Seeing $ 125K for a founder, if anything, I thought was maybe a little low.

But it reminded me of, nearly a year ago at this point, when I wrote something on how much VCs are paid. I had written it based off data that was provided to me from a consulting firm. People were just up in arms at what I had written because, and I understand looking back, I think it grouped VCs together as VCs who work at really big funds who are getting the 2% carry out of a multi-billion dollar fund and who are paid a lot more.

And there are of course VCs who run seed funds or any kind of fund. There are many different sizes of VC funds. Some VCs actually don’t have a salary at all and are up against the same challenges, if not even more difficult challenges, of a startup founder.

Want more Extra Crunch? Need to read this entire transcript? Then become a member. You can learn more and try it for free. 


Kate Clark: Hello, and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast. My co-host, Alex, is getting married this weekend so he’s not with us today, unfortunately. But we’ve got TechCrunch editor, Danny Crichton on the line. Danny, how are you?


Startups – TechCrunch


Facebook can be told to cast a wider net to find illegal content, says EU court advisor

June 4, 2019 No Comments

How much of an obligation should social media platforms be under to hunt down illegal content?

An influential advisor to Europe’s top court has taken the view that social media platforms like Facebook can be required to seek out and identify posts that are equivalent to content that an EU court has deemed illegal — such as hate speech or defamation — if the comments have been made by the same user.

Platforms can also be ordered to hunt for identical repostings of the illegal content.

But there should not be an obligation for platforms to identify equivalent defamatory comments that have been posted by any user, with the advocate general opining that such a broad requirement would not ensure a fair balance between the fundamental rights concerned — flagging risks to free expression and free access to information.

“An obligation to identify equivalent information originating from any user would not ensure a fair balance between the fundamental rights concerned. On the one hand, seeking and identifying such information would require costly solutions. On the other hand, the implementation of those solutions would lead to censorship, so that freedom of expression and information might well be systematically restricted.”

We covered this referral to the CJEU last year.

It’s an interesting case that blends questions of hate speech moderation and the limits of robust political speech, given that the original 2016 complaint of defamation was made by the former leader of the Austrian Green Party, Eva Glawischnig.

An Austrian court agreed with Glawischnig that hate speech posts made about her on Facebook were defamatory and ordered the company to remove them. Facebook did so, but only in Austria. Glawischnig challenged its partial takedown and in May 2017 a local appeals court ruled that it must remove both the original posts and any verbatim repostings and do so worldwide, not just in Austria. 

Further legal appeals led to the referral to the CJEU which is being asked to determine where the line should be drawn for similarly defamatory postings, and whether takedowns can be applied globally or only locally.

On the global takedowns point, the advocate general believes that existing EU law does not present an absolute blocker to social media platforms being ordered to remove information worldwide.

“Both the question of the extraterritorial effects of an injunction imposing a removal obligation and the question of the territorial scope of such an obligation should be analysed, in particular, by reference to public and private international law,” runs the non-binding opinion.

Another element relates to the requirement under existing EU law that platforms should not be required to carry out general monitoring of information they store — and specifically whether that directive precludes platforms from being ordered to remove “information equivalent to the information characterised as illegal” when they have been made aware of it by the person concerned, third parties or another source. 

On that, the AG takes the view that the EU’s e-Commerce Directive does not prevent platforms from being ordered to take down equivalent illegal content when it’s been flagged to them by others — writing that, in that case, “the removal obligation does not entail general monitoring of information stored”.

Advocate General Maciej Szpunar’s opinion — which can be read in full here — is not the last word on the matter, with the court still to deliberate and issue its final decision (usually within three to six months of an AG opinion). However advisors to the CJEU are influential and tend to predict which way the court will jump.

We reached out to Facebook for comment. A spokesperson for the company told us:

This case raises important questions about freedom of expression online and about the role that internet platforms should play in locating and removing speech, particularly when it comes to political discussions and criticizing elected officials. We remove content that breaks the law and our priority is always to keep people on Facebook safe. However this opinion undermines the long-standing principle that one country should not have the right to limit free expression in other countries. We hope the CJEU will clarify that, even in the age of the internet, the scope of court orders from one country must be limited to its borders.

This report was updated with comment from Facebook


Social – TechCrunch


Facebook changes algorithm to promote worthwhile & close friend content

May 17, 2019 No Comments

Facebook is updating the News Feed ranking algorithm to incorporate data from surveys about who you say are your closest friends and which links you find most worthwhile. Today Facebook announced it’s trained new classifiers based on patterns linking these surveys with usage data so it can better predict what to show in the News Feed. The change could hurt Pages that share clickbait and preference those sharing content that makes people feel satisfied afterwards.

For close friends, Facebook surveyed users about which people they were closest too. It then detected how this matches up with who you are tagged in photos with, constantly interact with, like the same post and check in to the same places as, and more. That way if it recognizes those signals about other people’s friendships, it can be confident those are someone’s closest friends they’ll want to see the most of. You won’t see more friend content in total, but more from your best pals instead of distant acquaintances.

A Facebook News Feed survey from 2016, shared by Varsha Sharma

For worthwhile content, Facebook conducted surveys via News Feed to find out which links people said were good uses of their time. Facebook then detected which types of link posts, which publishers and how much engagement the posts got and matched that to survey results. This then lets it determine that if a post has a similar style and engagement level, it’s likely to be worthwhile and should be ranked higher in the feed.

The change aligns with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent comments declaring that Facebook’s goal isn’t total time spent, but time well spent with meaningful content you feel good about. Most recently, that push has been about demoting unsafe content. Last month Facebook changed the algorithm to minimize clickbait and links to crappy ad-filled sites that receive a disproportionately high amount of their traffic from Facebook. It cracked down on unoriginality by hiding videos ripped off from other creators, and began levying harsher demotions to repeat violators of its policies. And it began to decrease the distribution of “borderline content” on Facebook and Instagram that comes close to but doesn’t technically break its rules.

While many assume Facebook just juices News Feed to be as addictive in the short-term as possible to keep us glued to the screen and viewing ads, that would actually be ruinous for its long-term business. If users leave the feed feeling exhausted, confused and unfulfilled, they won’t come back. Facebook’s already had trouble with users ditching its text-heavy News Feed for more visual apps like Instagram (which it luckily bought) and Snapchat (which it tried to). While demoting clickbait and viral content might decrease total usage time today, it could preserve Facebook’s money-making ability for the future while also helping to rot our brains a little less.


Social – TechCrunch


Zuckerberg says breaking up Facebook “isn’t going to help”

May 11, 2019 No Comments

With the look of someone betrayed, Facebook’s CEO has fired back at co-founder Chris Hughes and his brutal NYT op-ed calling for regulators to split up Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. “When I read what he wrote, my main reaction was that what he’s proposing that we do isn’t going to do anything to help solve those issues. So I think that if what you care about is democracy and elections, then you want a company like us to be able to invest billions of dollars per year like we are in building up really advanced tools to fight election interference” Zuckerberg told France Info while in Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Zuckerberg’s argument boils down to the idea that Facebook’s specific problems with privacy, safety, misinformation, and speech won’t be directly addressed by breaking up the company, and that would instead actually hinder its efforts to safeguard its social networks. The Facebook family of apps would theoretically have fewer economies of scale when investing in safety technology like artificial intelligence to spot bots spreading voter suppression content.

Facebook’s co-founders (from left): Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, and Mark Zuckerberg

Hughes claims that “Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American” and that Facebook’s rampant acquisitions and copying have made it so dominant that it deters competition. The call echoes other early execs like Facebook’s first president Sean Parker and growth chief Chamath Palihapitiya who’ve raised alarms about how the social network they built impacts society.

But Zuckerberg argues that Facebook’s size benefits the public. “Our budget for safety this year is bigger than the whole revenue of our company was when we went public earlier this decade. A lot of that is because we’ve been able to build a successful business that can now support that. You know, we invest more in safety than anyone in social media” Zuckerberg told journalist Laurent Delahousse.

The Facebook CEO’s comments were largely missed by the media, in part because the TV interview was heavily dubbed into French with no transcript. But written out here for the first time, his quotes offer a window into how deeply Zuckerberg dismisses Hughes’ claims. “Well [Hughes] was talking about a very specific idea of breaking up the company to solve some of the social issues that we face” Zuckerberg says before trying to decouple solutions from anti-trust regulation. “The way that I look at this is, there are real issues. There are real issues around harmful content and finding the right balance between expression and safety, for preventing election interference, on privacy.”

Claiming that a breakup “isn’t going to do anything to help” is a more unequivocal refutation of Hughes’ claim than that of Facebook VP of communications and former UK deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg . He wrote in his own NYT op-ed today that “what matters is not size but rather the rights and interests of consumers, and our accountability to the governments and legislators who oversee commerce and communications . . . Big in itself isn’t bad. Success should not be penalized.”

Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Hughes

Something certainly must be done to protect consumers. Perhaps that’s a break up of Facebook. At the least, banning it from acquiring more social networks of sufficient scale so it couldn’t snatch another Instagram from its crib would be an expedient and attainable remedy.

But the sharpest point of Hughes’ op-ed was how he identified that users are trapped on Facebook. “Competition alone wouldn’t necessarily spur privacy protection — regulation is required to ensure accountability — but Facebook’s lock on the market guarantees that users can’t protest by moving to alternative platforms” he writes. After Cambridge Analytica “people did not leave the company’s platforms en masse. After all, where would they go?”

That’s why given critics’ call for competition and Zuckerberg’s own support for interoperability, a core tenet of regulation must be making it easier for users to switch from Facebook to another social network. As I’ll explore in an upcoming piece, until users can easily bring their friend connections or ‘social graph’ somewhere else, there’s little to compel Facebook to treat them better.


Social – TechCrunch