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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Driving the news: Facebook on Friday announced new measures aimed at preventing people from using its platform to foment violence.

  • The company is blocking the creation of new Facebook events in locations close to the White House, U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings through Inauguration Day.
  • It's also reviewing events related to the inauguration and removing those that violate policies.
  • And it's restricting U.S. accounts that have repeatedly violated Facebook policies from creating live videos or events, Groups or Pages.

What we're hearing: Some companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have briefed the Hill on recent talks they've had with law enforcement.

  • The companies are sharing information about troubling material they find on their platforms as well as soliciting threat information from law enforcement so they can act against problematic accounts.
  • Facebook also meets regularly with other tech firms to warn each other about security threats they detect on their platforms, said a Facebook source.

What they're saying: "We are continuing our ongoing, proactive outreach to law enforcement and have worked to quickly provide responses to valid legal requests," a Facebook spokesperson told Axios.

  • "We are removing content, disabling accounts, and working with law enforcement to protect against direct threats to public safety."
  • A Twitter spokesperson said the company is "working closely with law enforcement and federal government partners, including the FBI, [the Department of Homeland Security], and others to help mitigate potential risks."
  • The company also says it's expediting law enforcement requests.

Our thought bubble: It remains to be seen whether measures like blocking Facebook events still make a difference in thwarting threats. Many bad actors are moving to less visible platforms and may be unlikely to plan another attack out in the open.

And Facebook's ads aren't exactly reinforcing the message of preventing violence. It has run ads for military equipment, including body armor and gun holsters, next to news about the Capitol attack, according to a Buzzfeed report.

  • Facebook does not allow ads for guns, ammo or explosives, but its policies permit tactical gear to be advertised to users aged 18 and older. 

Catch up quick: Other companies have rolled out changes since the Capitol siege to prevent their platforms from being used for a repeat on Inauguration Day.

  • Airbnb said Wednesday it is canceling existing reservations and blocking new ones in and around Washington, D.C., during inauguration week as federal officials remain on alert for potential violence.
  • Twitter has suspended more than 70,000 accounts for sharing QAnon content, and it has blocked keywords from its search and trending features that break its rules related to civic integrity and glorification of violence.
  • Google told advertising partners Wednesday that beginning Jan. 14, its platforms will block all political ads, as well as any related to the Capitol insurrection. A limited version of its "sensitive event" policies went into effect after the Capitol attack to help curb ads that could be used to sow confusion, or help lead people to materials that could be used in protests, like mace.
  • Snapchat decided to permanently ban President Trump, citing risks to public safety, Sara scooped Wednesday night.

Go deeper

App rush: Talent over trash

Data: Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Amid the sea of pollution on social media, another class of apps is soaring in popularity: The creators are paid, putting a premium on talent instead of just noise.

The big picture: Creator-economy platforms like Patreon, Substack and OnlyFans are built around content makers who are paid. It's a contrast to platforms like Facebook that are mostly powered by everyday users’ unpaid posts and interactions.

Jan 29, 2021 - Technology

Facebook seeks a new head of U.S. public policy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook is looking externally for a new U.S. policy chief as it moves Kevin Martin, a Republican who now holds the job, to a different position, per a memo seen by Axios.

Between the lines: Facebook is moving on from the Trump era in which Republicans held most of the power in Washington and Facebook was particularly eager among tech companies to forge warm relations with GOP policymakers.

Jan 29, 2021 - Technology

Big Tech is outsourcing its hardest content moderation decisions

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Faced with the increasingly daunting task of consistent content moderation at scale, Big Tech companies are tossing their hardest decisions to outsiders, hoping to deflect some of the pressure they face for how they govern their platforms.

Why it matters: Every policy change, enforcement action or lack thereof prompts accusations that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are making politically motivated decisions to either be too lax or too harsh. Ceding responsibility to others outside the company may be the future of content moderation if it works.