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
Stoop is looking to provide readers with what CEO Tim Raybould described as “a healthier information diet.”
To do that, it’s launched an iOS and Android app where you can browse through different newsletters based on category, and when you find one you like, it will direct you to the standard subscription page. If you provide your Stoop email address, you’ll then be able to read all your favorite newsletters in the app.
“The easiest way to describe it is: It’s like a podcast app but for newsletters,” Raybould said. “It’s a big directory of newsletters, and then there’s the side where you can consume them.”
Why newsletters? Well, he argued that they’re one of the key ways for publishers to develop a direct relationship with their audience. Podcasts are another, but he said newsletters are “an order of magnitude more important” because you can convey more information with the written word and there are lower production costs.
That direct relationship is obviously an important one for publishers, particularly as Facebook’s shifting priorities have made it clear that they need to “establish the right relationship [with] readers, as opposed to renting someone else’s audience.” But Raybould said it’s better for readers too, because you’ll spend your time on journalism that’s designed to provide value, not just attract clicks: “You will find you use the newsfeed less and consume more of your content directly from the source.”
“Most content [currently] is distributed through a third party, and that software is choosing what to surface next — not based on the quality of the content, but based on what’s going to keep people scrolling,” he added. “Trusting an algorithm with what you’re going to read next is like trusting a nutritionist who’s incentivized based on how many chips you eat.”
So Raybould is a fan of newsletters, but he said the current system is pretty cumbersome. There’s no one place where you can find new newsletters to read, and you may also hesitate to subscribe to another one because it “crowds out your personal inbox.” So Stoop is designed to reduce the friction, making it easy to subscribe to and read as many newsletters as your heart desires.
Raybould said the team has already curated a directory of around 650 newsletters (including TechCrunch’s own Daily Crunch) and the list continues to grow. Additional features include a “shuffle” option to discover new newsletters, plus the ability to share a newsletter with other Stoop users, or to forward it to your personal address.
The Stoop app is free, with Raybould hoping to eventually add a premium plan for features like full newsletter archives. He’s also hoping to collaborate with publishers — initially, most publishers will probably treat Stoop readers as just another set of subscribers, but Raybould said the company could provide access to additional analytics and also make signing up easier with the app’s instant subscribe option.
And the company’s ambitions go beyond newsletters. Raybould said Stoop is the first consumer product from a team with a larger mission to help publishers — they’re also working on OpenBundle, a bundled subscription initiative with a planned launch in 2019 or 2020.
“The overarching thing that is the same is the OpenBundle thesis and the Stoop thesis,” he said. “Getting publishers back in the role of delivering content directly to the audience is the antidote to the newsfeed.”
The company hopes to do for podcasts what its Music Genome Project did for streaming songs.
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When we brought together DoubleClick and the Google Analytics 360 Suite under Google Marketing Platform, we knew we had to make some changes to our websites, blogs and social media channels too. Now, the resources you’ve been reading and visiting over the years have been updated to reflect our new brand, so you can find the latest news, tips and more on our advertising and analytics solutions in one spot.
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Instagram’s future growth depends on the developing world, so it’s built a version of its app just for them. “Instagram Lite” for Android appeared today in the Google Play App Store without any announcement from the company. “The Instagram Lite app is small, allowing you to save space on your phone and download it quickly” the description reads.
At just 573 kilobytes, Instagram Lite is 1/55th the size of Instagram’s 32 megabyte main app. It lets you filter and post photos to the feed or Stories, watch Stories, and browse the Explore page, but currently lacks the options to share videos or Direct message friends.
Instagram Lite addresses many problems common amongst mobile users in the developing world who are often on older phones with less storage space, slower network connections, or who can’t afford big data packages. Users might not have to delete photos or other apps to install Instagram Lite, or wait a long time and pay more for it to download.
The release follows Instagram’s revamped mobile website that launched last month, also designed for the developing world. At the time I wrote, “The launch begs the question of whether Instagram will release an Instagram Lite version of its native app.” The answer is yes. Mobile analytics service Sensor Tower tipped TechCrunch off to the release.
When asked for comment, an Instagram spokesperson confirmed that Instagram Lite began testing in Mexico this week, and provided this statement: “We are testing a new version of Instagram for Android that takes up less space on your device, uses less data, and starts faster.” The company wouldn’t say whether ads would be included. Later this year the app will expand to more countries, and get messaging and video posting capabilities.
The “Lite” trend has picked up steam recently. Facebook launched Facebook Lite in 2015, and it had 200 million users by 2017. That paved the way for the launch of Messenger Lite in April 2018, and Uber glommed on to the strategy with the release of its own Lite app earlier this month. Users have clearly been craving Instagram Lite, since a fake/unofficial Facebook Page with that has racked up over 2000 Likes.
Instagram announced last week at the IGTV unveiling that it had hit 1 billion monthly active users. It’s been growing at roughly 100 million users every four months, with much of that coming from the developing world. Snapchat neglected international markets to focus on US teens, leaving the door open for Instagram and WhatsApp’s clones of Snapchat Stories to grab big user bases in countries like India and Brazil.
With this new growth tool in its belt, Instagram may see even swifter adoption in emerging markets. It could score potentially score evenue straight from Lite if ads are included, then as phones and networks improve, hope to shift users onto the full-fidelity version. Now, eyes will be on Snapchat to see if it builds its own Lite app. Otherwise it risks continuing to slip further behind the Instagram juggernaut.
TESS is designed to find and study the exoplanets closest to Earth.
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