Apr 21, 2019

Facebook's regulatory woes

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One company is having a hard time capturing U.S. regulators: Facebook. It's the subject of federal criminal investigation in New York, and is reportedly facing a record multi-billion-dollar fine from the Federal Trade Commission for violating its users' privacy.

The latest: An NBC News investigation has found that Facebook would regularly barter its users' privacy, opening up its treasured proprietary datasets to its most valuable partners, while denying them to potential rivals.

  • Regulators want to find Mark Zuckerberg personally liable, reports the Washington Post, rather than simply levying a large fine on the company. (In the context of what Wired calls "15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook," a 10-figure fine at the corporate level would hardly cause Zuckerberg to raise a sweat.)
  • Zuckerberg has accepted personal responsibility for Facebook's failings in speeches and in Congressional testimony, but Facebook is reportedly pushing back hard on attempts to get him to personally certify that his company is adhering to agreed privacy practices.

What we’re seeing: Facebook recently announced the departure of Erskine Bowles from its board of directors, noting that he has "served on the board since 2011". Bowles famously grilled Zuckerberg over how he allowed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

  • Trump supporter Peter Thiel, who has sat on Facebook's board since 2005, remains there, despite attempts to remove him. Thiel, a multibillionaire, owns just $5 million of Facebook stock; Zuckerberg has said it would be "crazy" to remove him from the board.

The bottom line: Facebook faces no existential threat under the current administration. But if someone like Elizabeth Warren becomes the next president, that might change.

Go deeper

Trump's slow-burn crisis

Photo: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

At 6:30 p.m. from the White House press room, President Trump will publicly make himself the face of America's response to the coronavirus crisis.

Why it matters: This is exactly the situation where a president needs the credibility to truthfully explain a tough situation to the public.

Obama demands South Carolina TV stations stop airing misleading anti-Biden ad

Photo: Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Former President Obama's office is calling on South Carolina TV stations to stop running a misleading attack ad by a pro-Trump super PAC that uses Obama's voice out of context to make it appear as if he is criticizing Joe Biden and Democrats on race.

Why it matters: It's a rare intervention by Obama, whose former vice president Joe Biden is facing a critical primary in South Carolina on Saturday. Obama has said he has no plans to endorse in the Democratic field.

The megatrends that will shape the 21st century

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

An enormous amount of change has been crammed into the first two decades of the 21st century — but what’s coming next will break every speed record.

The big picture: The world is being buffeted by rapid yet uneven advances in technology that will revamp work and what it means to be human. At the same time, fundamental demographic changes will alter democracies and autocracies alike while the effects of climate change accumulate, physically redrawing our globe.