Why it matters: From the Valley to D.C., Big Tech players like Facebook, Google and Amazon are under more scrutiny than ever as new technology develops and privacy and antitrust concerns grow in lockstep with companies’ ambitions.
Facebook-owned Instagram on Wednesday launched its answer to the popular karaoke app TikTok, whose future remains in limbo.
The big picture: Facebook has a long record — sometimes successful, sometimes not — of adopting features that have proven popular on rival platforms and rolling them out to its billions of users worldwide in an effort to avoid being eclipsed by younger upstarts.
TikTok announced new rules for its users on Wednesday to curb misinformation and manipulation ahead of the 2020 election.
Why it matters: The Chinese-owned karaoke app aims to show that its platform won't be vulnerable to election-related mischief and malice, as it weighs a deal to sell itself to Microsoft to forestall a ban by the Trump Administration.
TikTok has been all over the news in recent days, as President Trump has put the app squarely in his sights.
The state of play: New CivicScience data provided first to Axios show continued growth in TikTok’s user base since the beginning of the year, with 14% of those surveyed saying they use the app.
Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of a year-long legal battle between Waymo and Uber, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of stealing trade secrets, per media reports.
Why it matters: The case, which the companies settled despite still landing Levandowski with criminal charges, made headlines as two of Silicon Valley's best-known companies fought to win the race to build self-driving cars. The exact start date of his prison sentence is delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Trump said twice Monday that the U.S. Treasury would need to get a portion of the sale price of TikTok, as a condition of regulatory approval.
Why it matters: This is akin to extortion — the sort of thing you'd expect to hear on a wiretap, not from the White House in front of reporters.
The Federal Communications Commission Monday took the next step toward enacting a request from President Trump to craft new rules for online content, aimed at ending what he called "censorship" of conservatives. At the same time, the White House withdrew a GOP commissioner's renomination to the agency after he criticized calls for the government to regulate online speech.
The big picture: The FCC's move stems from a May executive order by the president, aimed at scaling back the liability shield that protects platforms from liability for content posted by users.
The strange realities of 2020 have perfectly played to the kind of fear QAnon thrives on, driving record online interest in the conspiracy theory.
Why it matters: QAnon is not just one fringe conspiracy theory — it's a sprawling network of falsehoods that's seeping into the mainstream. Its growing influence is sowing fear and confusion around some of today's most important issues, such as election integrity and the coronavirus pandemic.
The QAnon conspiracy is picking up steam abroad, particularly in Europe, where populist movements are on the rise.
Why it matters: "The U.S. has started exporting these domestic-in-origin conspiracy movements to the outside world, "says Zarine Kharazian, Assistant Editor at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab.
President Trump's crackdown on TikTok suggests that the U.S. government is starting to see the internet more like China does — as a network that countries can and should control within their borders.
The big picture: Today's global internet has split into three zones, according to many observers: The EU's privacy-focused network; China's government-dominated network; and the U.S.-led network dominated by a handful of American companies. TikTok's fate suggests China's model has U.S. fans as well.