Technology

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.

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Facebook auditors say it's failing on civil rights

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The findings from a new civil rights audit commissioned and released by Facebook show that the tech giant repeatedly failed to address issues of hatred, bigotry and manipulation on its platform.

Why it matters: The report comes as Facebook confronts a growing advertiser boycott and criticism for prioritizing freedom of speech over limiting misinformation and protecting users targeted by hate speech.

Congress vs. tech's gang of four

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The CEOs of tech's four leading giants will defend their industry's growing concentration of power from critics on both right and left who view them as monopolists when they testify, most likely virtually, before Congress on July 27.

Why it matters: The joint appearance by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Apple's Tim Cook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Google's Sundar Pichai will mark a historic collision between the leaders of an industry that has changed the world and political leaders who believe those changes have harmed democracy and individual rights.

4 hours ago - Podcasts

The misinformation virus

The spread of misinformation is crippling our fight against the coronavirus. Social media and a deeply partisan divide are fueling what the World Health Organization calls an "infodemic" — just as urgent as the virus itself.

12 hours ago - Podcasts

Facebook boycott organizers share details on their Zuckerberg meeting

Facebook is in the midst of the largest ad boycott in its history, with nearly 1,000 brands having stopped paid advertising in July because they feel Facebook hasn't done enough to remove hate speech from its namesake app and Instagram.

Axios Re:Cap spoke with the boycott's four main organizers, who met on Tuesday with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives, to learn why they organized the boycott, what they took from the meeting, and what comes next.

13 hours ago - Technology

Boycott organizers slam Facebook following tense virtual meeting

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Civil rights leaders blasted Facebook's top executives shortly after speaking with them on Tuesday, saying that the tech giant's leaders "failed to meet the moment" and were "more interested in having a dialogue than producing outcomes."

Why it matters: The likely fallout from the meeting is that the growing boycott of Facebook's advertising platform, which has reached nearly 1000 companies in less than a month, will extend longer than previously anticipated, deepening Facebook's public relations nightmare.

20 hours ago - Science

Amazon Web Services pushes into the final frontier with new space division

Earth as seen from orbit. Photo: NASA

Amazon Web Services announced last week it is forming a business division focused on helping government and commercial space entities become more agile and flexible by making use of the cloud.

The big picture: The new division — called the Aerospace and Satellite Solutions business segment — further solidifies Amazon's push into the space sector.

Conservatives hunt for their own social network

Data: SimilarWeb; Chart: Axios Visuals

There has been a big uptick in traffic to conservative social media networks like Parler, thedonald.win and Gab over the past few months, according to data from SimilarWeb.

Why it matters: Conservatives are looking to build their own social media platforms, where they can escape from what they feel is baseless censorship of their viewpoints from mainstream social media networks.

24 hours ago - Technology

Alphabet's Loon launches balloon-based internet service in Kenya

Courtesy: Loon

Loon, the balloon-based telecom subsidiary from Google parent Alphabet, is working with Telkom Kenya to provide internet service over a 50,000-square-kilometer region in western and central Kenya, a region that has been hard to cover using traditional approaches given its terrain and low population density. 

The big picture: The project marks the first large-scale, non-emergency deployment of Loon's service anywhere, as well as the first use of Loon's technology in Africa. It will also serve as an early test of the Loon service's commercial viability.

Chinese tech and business coverage surges amid Hong Kong crackdown

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As tensions between the U.S. and China escalate, more U.S. media companies like The Information, Politico and The Wire China are looking to invest in coverage of the country and its technology and business boom.

Why it matters: "It's coverage you have to have if you're a serious tech or business news operation," says Bill Bishop, author of the Sinocism newsletter.

24 hours ago - Technology

Big Tech's Hong Kong bind

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big Tech companies are scrambling to figure out what China's imposition of a new national security law in Hong Kong means for their businesses there.

The big picture: Tech companies, like other multinationals, had long seen bases in Hong Kong as a way to operate close to China without being subject to many of that country's most stringent laws. Now they likely must choose between accepting onerous data-sharing and censorship requirements, or leaving Hong Kong.

U.S. e-commerce adopts a social network strategy from China

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Verishop, the luxury e-commerce site created by former Snapchat Chief Business Officer Imran Khan, expects to sell $50 million of gross merchandise volume in 2020, sources tell Axios. It's also launching a social-shopping experience that will include influencers and a personalized feed of content.

Why it matters: Social media apps like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat have made efforts over the past few years to offer users a better shopping experience. Verishop is doing the opposite by launching a trusted marketplace first and a social media experience around it second.

Pompeo: Trump administration is "looking at" TikTok ban

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News' Laura Ingraham on Monday that the Trump administration is "looking at" a ban on Chinese social media app TikTok.

Why it matters: Lawmakers have long expressed fears that the Chinese government could use TikTok to harvest reams of data from Americans — and actions against the app have recently accelerated worldwide, highlighted by India's ban.

Facebook to meet virtually with boycott groups

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, facing an ad boycott by more than 500 brands, will hold virtual meetings on Tuesday with civil rights groups who have been key organizers of the #StopHateforProfit campaign.

The state of play: Sandberg will say in a post later that she, Zuckerberg and other execs "are meeting with the organizers of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign followed by a meeting with other civil rights leaders ... including Vanita Gupta from the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights [and] Sherrilyn Ifill from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund."

New acting head named at Open Technology Fund after purge

James M. Miles has been appointed interim CEO of the Open Technology Fund (OTF) by Michael Pack, the new CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), sources tell Axios, with an official announcement expected later Tuesday.

Why it matters: The appointment comes after Pack, who took over last month, removed leaders at OTF and other USAGM-affiliated organizations. OTF helps provide tools for dissidents and journalists around the world to securely communicate.

Jul 7, 2020 - Technology

TikTok to pull out of Hong Kong

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok said Monday night that it would pull its social video platform out of the Google and Apple app stores in Hong Kong amid a restrictive new law that went into effect last week.

Why it matters: TikTok's move comes as many large tech companies say they are still evaluating how to respond to the Hong Kong law.

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