Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Media exposés and boycotts from big-name advertisers are doing what government regulators haven't: They're forcing the country's biggest tech companies to change their products, policies and strategies.

  • Why it matters: Despite an onslaught of hearings and statements from Washington, virtually no regulation has actually passed to significantly address privacy practices.
  • The early 2020 conversation includes a call to "break up" big tech — led by Elizabeth Warren's proposal targeting Google, Facebook and Amazon. But the proclamations have yet to be backed up by any concrete action.

Driving the news: Nearly every major tech company (YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, etc.) has changed its policies over the past two weeks to address anti-vaccination content that's littered those platforms. Those changes have been made almost entirely in response to media reports uncovering that conspiratorial content.

  • Facebook's privacy pivot announcement last week follows a barrage of bad headlines over the way Facebook treats user data.
  • Facebook's privacy efforts have significantly increased since the Cambridge Analytica data scandal last year. The data misuse, which was made public by media reports, forced Facebook to eventually end relationships with third-party data brokers and improve privacy transparency policies.
  • YouTube, one of Facebook's biggest video rivals, announced a massive change two weeks ago to disable comments on all videos of children under the age of 18. The move came after a damning media story was published by Wired about ways YouTube comments are used as a part of child exploitation rings.

Advertisers from major corporations have continued to boycott big tech firms that aren't doing enough to moderate content and comments.

When it comes to law enforcement, even when authorities do take action against companies that break rules, it's often in response to media reports uncovering the dangerous practices in the first place.

Be smart: These efforts have moved the needle, especially on issues like privacy, but it will take government action to create a culture where consumer privacy and safety is a forethought, not an afterthought.

  • Such transformations have happened around the world, particularly in Europe, where lawmakers have passed sweeping regulations to address some of these concerns, especially around data.

What's next: The biggest platforms, with power bigger than some governments around the world, will continue to be covered with increasing scrutiny by the press.

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In her first sit-down interview since being named Joe Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris talked about what she'll do to fight for women if elected VP, and how the Democrats are thinking about voter turnout strategies ahead of November.

What they're saying: "In a Biden-Harris administration women are going to be a priority, understanding that women have many priorities and all of them must be acknowledged," Harris told The 19th*'s Errin Haines-Whack.

Facebook goes after Apple

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Facebook is seeking to force a face-off with Apple over its 30% in-app purchase commission fee, which Facebook suggests hurts small businesses struggling to get by during the pandemic.

The big picture: Facebook has never publicly gone after Apple, a key strategic partner, this aggressively. Both companies face antitrust scrutiny, which in Apple's case has centered on the very fee structure Facebook is now attacking.

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Exclusive: UAE wants Israel normalization finalized "as soon as possible," minister says

Anwar Gargash. Photo: Shraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images

The UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, told me in an exclusive interview that his country wants to implement its normalization deal with Israel “as soon as possible."

What he's saying: Gargash said he was confident that the U.S.-brokered deal moved Israeli annexation of the West Bank off the table for a “long time.” He also said Israeli tourists would soon be able to travel to the UAE.