Dec 5, 2018

Newly public documents paint picture of Facebook's ruthlessness

Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook documents released Wednesday portray the social giant as considering aggressive routes to squeeze more revenue out of user data, giving major companies extra access to data and undermining competitors.

Why it matters: While much of what's in the documents was already reported, together they provide a rare window into one of the world's most influential companies and reveal how Facebook's executives were ruthlessly focused on growing their service — while downplaying risks to user privacy.

The documents released by a British lawmaker show Facebook insiders discussing major issues:

  • Special access for certain companies. Employees worked with companies like Lyft, Netflix and Airbnb to extend access to some data after Facebook had generally cut off access to it for developers at large. The existence of similar agreements has been public for months, but Wednesday's document dump reveals new players who got special access and offers more insight into Facebook's decision-making.
  • Limited worry about user data leaking, even as Facebook moved towards locking access to that data down. "I think we leak info to developers, but I just can’t think of any instances where that data has leaked from developer to developer and caused real issue for us," chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in 2012, describing almost exactly the kind of behavior that would lead to the Cambridge Analytica scandal years later.
  • Moving to box out competitors. In 2013, Zuckerberg authorized a decision to shut down access to certain data for Vine, Twitter's now-dead short form video service, according to one document.

The backstory: Facebook's refusal to send Zuckerberg to testify in front of British lawmaker Damian Collins' committee has frustrated members of Parliament, culminating in Wednesday's release of the documents with limited redactions.

The other side: Facebook has said the documents, which are part of ongoing litigation against the firm, may paint a selective picture of the company's actions.

  • Zuckerberg pushed back Wednesday on aspects of the way the contents of the documents were being portrayed.

Go deeper: Read the documents

This story has been updated with more details from the documents.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 679,977 — Total deaths: 31,734 — Total recoveries: 145,625.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 124,686 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per CDC, those residents should "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska issues a stay-at-home order — New York tries to nearly triple hospital capacity in less than a month and moved presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's initial handling of the virus balk at call for U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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The year of the protest meets the year of the lockdown

Hong Kong demonstrators protest a government ban on face masks in October. Photo by Laurel Chor/Getty Images

The year of the mass uprising has collided with the year of the coronavirus lockdown, leaving protest movements around the world stalled. 

The big picture: The enduring images of 2019 are of protest — from Hong Kong to Khartoum, across the Middle East and through much of Latin America. Seemingly overnight, though, social distancing has made such mass demonstrations almost unthinkable.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by early Sunday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health