Mar 6, 2019

Axios PM

1 big thing: Facebook's biggest pivot yet

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

15 years after he launched the "digital equivalent of a town square," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is promising a major shift in the other direction.

  • "I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won't stick around forever," he announced today.

Why it matters: "That would mark a sharp reversal for Facebook, which has grown into one of the world’s wealthiest companies by inventing exotic new methods of personal data collection," The Verge's Casey Newton writes.

  • What they're saying: "#1 reason to be suspicious of Zuckerberg’s privacy manifesto today ... It doesn’t say how Facebook is going to make money in a world where it respects our privacy," WashPost tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler tweets.

More from Zuck: "As we build our infrastructure around the world, we've chosen not to build data centers in countries that have a track record of violating human rights like privacy or freedom of expression."

  • "Upholding this principle may mean that our services will get blocked in some countries, or that we won't be able to enter others anytime soon.
  • "That's a tradeoff we're willing to make."

Between the lines: I asked Axios reporters for thought bubbles on what this means across the company.

  • Facebook users: Internet users are already seeking out private, ephemeral and group-oriented services as alternatives to the reputational risks and pervasive harassment that can accompany public platforms, Axios' Sara Fischer has reported.
  • Facebook's bottom line: The company could enjoy lower operational costs and risk since it will no longer have to invest in as many content moderation efforts on an encryption-based platform, Sara tells me.
  • Facebook advertisers: The encrypted part could become a big deal if users do more posting in encrypted groups than in public, Axios' Scott Rosenberg notes.
  • Facebook regulators and U.S. lawmakers: This makes it harder for any government to break up Facebook/WhatsApp/Instagram because of the integration of the technological and business parts of the platforms, Axios’ Ina Fried wrote on Slack.

Go deeper: Facebook's reputation is sinking fast

Bonus: Pic du jour

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Michael Cohen arrives at the secure offices of the House Intelligence Committee, the second time in as many weeks that Cohen has testified to the committee behind closed doors.

  • Cohen provided new documents today showing edits made to his false statement to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project in 2017, according to a CNN report.
2. What you missed
  1. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen while testifying today on the Hill: "Sir, we don't use cages for children." Video.
  2. The U.S. trade deficit grew to $621 billion in 2018, its highest level since 2008. Go deeper.
  3. Sen. Martha McSally said today that she was raped by a superior officer while she served in the U.S. Air Force.
  4. A new study suggests black people are more likely to get hit by an autonomous vehicle than white people. The findings are the latest example of how human bias seeps into AI. Details.
  5. The DNC won't permit Fox News to televise its 2019-2020 candidate debates because of the network's ties to the Trump administration. Go deeper.
3. 1 wild thing

"Archaeologists have confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians and say that famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification," the AP notes.

  • "A study published in “Near Surface Geophysics” says archaeologists used ground-penetrating radar and terrestrial laser scans and historical maps and photographs."
  • "They found fully buried structures, ammunition magazines and tunnels."
  • "Historians believe workers built over existing structures when the prison was built in the 20th century."