WASHINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) – Facebook (FB.O) whistleblower Frances Haugen told Congress on Tuesday that one option for making social media less harmful would be to create a dedicated regulatory agency to oversee companies like Facebook, which could have former tech workers on staff.
“Right now, the only people in the world who are trained to … understand what’s happening inside of Facebook, are people who grew up inside of Facebook or Pinterest or another social media company,” she said during a hearing before a Senate Commerce Committee panel.
How social media companies should be regulated has been a topic of intense debate among lawmakers, regulators and experts. Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has been blasted by over a lack of transparency into how its platforms work, its handling of user data and the impact of its sites on users.
Haugen, a former product manager at the company who leaked internal documents to the Wall Street Journal, said the profit motive was strong enough that Facebook, which owns Instagram, would not change without pressure. “Until incentives change at Facebook, we should not expect Facebook to change. We need action from Congress,” she said.
Haugen also said that if she were made CEO of Facebook, she would immediately establish a policy that would allow it to share internal research with Congress and other oversight bodies, calling for transparency and public scrutiny of Facebook’s systems and decisions.
Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford Law School professor who resigned last year from an effort aiming to get Facebook to share more data with researchers, has argued for legislation to compel social media companies to share their data with external researchers.
“The platforms thrive in secrecy and if you subject them to outside review, it will change their behavior,” he said.
Persily said that as action is needed within the next year, he favored the Federal Trade Commission managing the process. “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you may want,” he said, though he said a new cabinet department could later be created.
Former Facebook executive Brian Boland, who was in charge of the company’s partnership data before resigning this year, said improving transparency was “step one in any kind of regulatory regime.”
Tom Wheeler, who was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said he envisaged a new, separate agency with the bandwidth and specialism to establish and enforce standards for Big Tech, including on privacy.
On Tuesday, Facebook spokeswoman Lina Pietsch said the company had itself long asked for government oversight. “We have been calling for updated regulations ourselves for two and a half years,” she said.
Facebook has previously called for regulation of the internet, including a digital regulator.
Some commentators raised caveats around the idea: Kyle Taylor, program director for a group of critics called the Real Facebook Oversight Board, said a regulator was essential but cautioned against creating a “revolving door” of ex-employees from social media companies joining the body.
Kate Klonick, an assistant professor at St. John’s University Law School who studies social media governance, tweeted that such an agency should not be in charge of misinformation as an issue.
REGULATION AND REFORM
During Tuesday’s hearing, Haugen also encouraged lawmakers to reform Section 230. She urged the law be changed to hold companies accountable for their algorithms, which often decide what social media users see when they sign in.
“They (companies) have 100% control over their algorithms and Facebook should not get a free pass on choices it makes to prioritize growth and virality and reactiveness over public safety. They shouldn’t get a free pass on that because they’re paying for their profits right now with our safety,” she said.
Facebook has said it is in favor of a reform of Section 230 to give the companies immunity from liability only if they follow best practices.
At the hearing, lawmakers did not push back at Haugen’s suggestions for various reforms but, in many cases, pointed to legislation aimed along similar lines.
A bipartisan group of senators, including Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn, introduced a bill in June that would require big internet platforms to allow users to view content that has not been decided by an algorithm.
Haugen also encouraged raising age limits for users of Facebook’s platforms from 13 to 16 or 18, given addiction issues on the sites and children’s issues with self-regulation.
Under current law, children 12 and under have more protection online than teenagers. There is a bill before Congress to raise the age to 15, among other changes.
Facebook announced in late September, shortly after a report based largely on documents from Haugen that Instagram was harmful to teenagers, that it was pausing its work on a version of Instagram aimed at younger users.
Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford and Diane Bartz; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Kenneth Li
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Steph Curry's 45-point performance against the Clippers caused a social media explosion – ESPN
Playing against Stephen Curry just isn’t fair sometimes.
And the Los Angeles Clippers were the latest to suffer the Steph experience.
The Golden State Warriors‘ point guard made up for his self-assessed “trash” performance in Tuesday’s season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers. He dropped 45 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and made 8-of-13 shots from 3-point land in a close 115-114 victory over the Clippers in the Warriors’ home opener. Curry started the game perfectly — netting his first 10 shots of the contest. He never slowed down and carried the Warriors to an exciting victory.
So @StephenCurry30 had a night…
— NBA (@NBA) October 22, 2021
As the two-time MVP was lighting up the Clippers, social media exploded, offering thoughts on what everyone just witnessed from Curry. It’s safe to say the point guard left many in awe with his sensational scoring night.
@StephenCurry30 You’re SICK Man!!!!! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 22, 2021
Watching Steph Curry is art
— Paige Bueckers (@paigebueckers1) October 22, 2021
I did watch the end of the Warriors game. I love the Warriors. @StephenCurry30 is a revelation…
— Rochelle Riley (@rochelleriley) October 22, 2021
I honestly believe that the privilege of watching Steph Curry play 🏀 is one of God’s gifts to man
What a basketball sensation
— Naveen Ganglani (@naveenganglani) October 22, 2021
— Dr. Julian Hosp (@julianhosp) October 22, 2021
Steph Curry is locking in on being a top 10 player of all time and you Final MVP twitter thugs ain’t changing my mind
— SWAGGY C (@SwaggyCTV) October 22, 2021
Steph Curry is his own sport.
— Jared Wade (@Jared_Wade) October 22, 2021
It remains unclear how one should go about defending Steph Curry
— Ken Tremendous (@KenTremendous) October 22, 2021
Even though Curry had a masterful performance, maybe the most important takeaway from Thursday’s game is that the Warriors are 2-0 on a young NBA season.
— Famouslos32 (@famouslos32) October 22, 2021
Trump, barred from Twitter and Facebook, says he's launching his own social media site – CBC.ca
Nine months after being expelled from social media for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, former president Donald Trump said Wednesday he’s launching a new media company with its own social media platform.
Trump says his goal in launching the Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) and its “Truth Social” app is to create a rival to the big tech companies that have shut him out and denied him the megaphone that was paramount to his national rise.
“We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favourite American President has been silenced,” he said in a statement. “This is unacceptable.”
Conservative voices actually do well on traditional social media. On Wednesday, half of Facebook’s 10 top performing link posts were from conservative media, commentators or politicians, according to a daily list compiled by a New York Times technology columnist and an internet studies professor using Facebook’s own data.
TMTG talking big
Trump has spoken about launching his own social media site ever since he was barred from Twitter and Facebook. An earlier effort to launch a blog on his existing website was abandoned after the page drew dismal views.
TMTG has not set its sights low. In addition to the Truth Social app, which is expected to soft-launch next month with a nationwide rollout early next year, the company says it is planning a video-on-demand service dubbed TMTG+ that will feature entertainment programming, news and podcasts.
One slide in a TMTG presentation on its website includes a graphic of TMTG’s potential competitors, which range from Facebook and Twitter to Netflix and Disney+ to CNN. The same slide suggests that over the long term TMTG will also become a power in cloud computing and payments and suggests it will go head-to-head with Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Stripe.
TMTG also takes some jabs at Trump’s previous favourite social network. Slides accompanying the Truth Social preorders listing in Apple’s app store depict a social network that strongly resembles Twitter, right down to short messages and user handles preceded by “@” signs.
The same graphics also feature a user named Jack’s Beard, who in one image fumes when an employee pushes back on an order to delete a user and its posts, calling it “kinda an overreach.”
The Jack’s Beard account uses the handle @jack, which is the real Twitter handle of Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO; Dorsey’s long scraggly beard has also drawn attention during his congressional appearances over Zoom.
Terms of service
The terms of service for Truth Social, meanwhile, bar users from annoying any of the site’s employees and from statements that “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.” It was not immediately clear who the “us” in that statement refers to.
In a release, the new venture announced it had been created through a merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWA), and said it seeks to become a publicly listed company.
DWA, based in Miami, is a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. Such publicly traded companies are designed to list the shares of a private company more quickly than a traditional initial public offering.
In practice, that means the SPAC acquires a private firm and then changes its name and other details to those of the acquired firm.
Deal has initial value of $875M US
SPACs pay for their acquisitions with cash provided by investors who bought into the SPAC’s initial public offering. DWA’s Sept. 8 IPO raised $287.5 million US, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
DWA said it has raised roughly $293 million in cash, which it will use to grow TMTG’s ventures. Among the company’s biggest shareholders are several institutional investors, including Lighthouse Investment Partners, D. E. Shaw & Co., and Radcliffe Capital Management, according to an SEC filing. DWA said more details about the deal will be disclosed in upcoming filings.
The deal has an initial enterprise value, a measure that takes into account a company’s total debts and assets, of $875 million, according to the release. It still requires the approval of shareholders of both DWA and TMTG, as well as regulators.
Shares of Digital World Acquisition soared 94 per cent to $19.32 in morning trading.
Sask. government says social media posts about ICU patient transfers should be 'disregarded' – CTV News
The Saskatchewan government released a statement Thursday morning saying social media posts about ICU patient transfers should be “disregarded” following immense confusion among doctors and officials over planned ICU patient transfers to Ontario.
The statement comes following social media posts by doctors in Saskatchewan and Ontario that said upcoming ICU patient transfers from Saskatchewan to Ontario had been cancelled.
Dr. Hassan Masri, an ICU physician from Saskatoon, tweeted the Saskatchewan government has called off all further patient transfers to Ontario ICUs, which the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre denies.
Masri told CTV News Wednesday evening there were plans in place for “a lot more” Saskatchewan patients to be sent out east for care this week.
Dr. Michael Warner from Toronto said he expected to receive a Saskatchewan COVID-19 patient at his hospital on Thursday, but the transfer was cancelled by the Saskatchewan government.
Ontario Health executive vice president Dr. Chris Simpson told CP24 on Tuesday there are plans in place to transfer an additional six patients throughout Thursday and Friday – which would bring the total number of patient transfers from Saskatchewan to 12.
Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) president Marlo Pritchard responded to that statement on Wednesday morning saying that is not the case.
CTV News reached out to the premier’s office Wednesday evening to ask for clarity about the claims made by the doctors.
The statement from the government on Thursday morning not did clarify why Ontario officials believed six more patients were coming or why doctors were under the impression those additional transfers had been cancelled.
A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan government said the province will announce all confirmed ICU patient transfers through official channels.
On Thursday afternoon the province said three more patients will be transferred to Ontario in the coming days.
With files from CTVRegina.ca’s Michaela Solomon
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