Thursday's technology stories

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jul 2, 2020 - Economy & Business

Why advertisers mistrust Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than 400 major advertisers, including Unilever, CVS, and Verizon, have pulled their ads from Facebook and Instagram as part of the #StopHateForProfit campaign organized by advocacy groups including Color for Change, NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and Sleeping Giants.

Why it matters: The ease with which the campaign has signed up advertisers is only in part a function of its intrinsic merits. It's clear that brand advertisers and their agencies kinda wanted to make this move anyway.

Facebook sued for alleged bias against Black employees and applicants

Photo: Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook was sued Thursday by a hiring manager and two job applicants who allege the company acts in a biased manner against Black workers, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture per Axios' Scott Rosenberg: The lawsuit comes as Facebook confronts a growing advertiser boycott over its treatment of hate speech on its platform, all against the wider backdrop of national outrage over police violence against Black Americans and other manifestations of systemic racism. Facebook, like most Silicon Valley companies, has very few Black employees and has promised to increase its diversity.

House Judiciary plans back-to-back blockbuster hearings

Photos: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images; Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is lining up back-to-back blockbuster hearings right before the August exodus.

The state of play: The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google will testify as part of the committee's antitrust investigation, N.Y. Times columnist Kara Swisher first reported. Axios is told that, with negotiations continuing over document production, the date being discussed is July 27 with the CEOs expected to appear remotely. The next day, July 28, Attorney General Bill Barr will appear for an oversight hearing that will include grilling on Lafayette Park, Mueller and more.

Jul 2, 2020 - Technology

Nextdoor CEO pledges to address racial profiling and censorship

Nextdoor, the hyper local social network, is seen on a computer screen inMarch 2020. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar is vowing to update the site's moderation policies and recruit more Black moderators after the hyperlocal social network came under fire for removing posts related to Black Lives Matter while tolerating racist messages, per NPR.

Why it matters: The service, where more than 265,000 U.S. neighborhoods swap roofer recommendations and lost-dog tips, is getting a hard lesson in the perils of content moderation that have dogged bigger social networks Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 2, 2020 - Technology

As boycott grows, Facebook juggles rights groups and advertisers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As an advertiser boycott of Facebook over its tolerance of hate speech continues to snowball, the company has begun making small, incremental changes to mollify activists while it tries to buy time to evolve its content policies.

Driving the news: Sources tell Axios that the product and policy changes sought by the #StopHateForProfit campaign were long under discussion both inside Facebook and with some external groups. Meanwhile, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly told employees that the boycotting advertisers will be back before long.

Jul 2, 2020 - Technology

Scoop: Twitter removes photo from Trump tweet after NYT copyright complaint

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Twitter has removed a picture from a tweet by President Trump on Tuesday after it received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint from the New York Times, which owns the rights to the photo.

Why it matters: This is the second time in two weeks that Twitter has had to take down content from Trump's account due to a copyright violation.

Senators' letter on USAGM purge promises funding review

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A bipartisan group of Senators on Wednesday wrote a letter to Michael Pack, the newly-confirmed CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), that they plan to review the agency's funding, after Pack abruptly fired the heads of five organizations funded by USAGM.

Why it matters: The sudden dismissal of all five heads last week prompted concerns amongst the senators about Pack's leadership and the future of the agency, which has aimed to promote American democratic values through unbiased journalism abroad.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jul 1, 2020 - Technology

Rooting out AI bias

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New research offers strategies to prevent algorithms used in business from pushing unethical policies.

Why it matters: Machine-learning algorithms are increasingly being deployed in commercial settings. If they are optimized only to seek maximum revenue, they can end up treating customers in unethical ways, putting companies at reputational or even regulatory risk.

Tech CEOs will testify in House antitrust hearing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The CEOs of Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook have agreed to testify at a hearing at the end of the month as part of a congressional antitrust investigation into the power of online platforms.

Why it matters: The high-profile hearing will let lawmakers directly question company leaders before releasing a report that will detail the findings of their year-long probe and possibly recommend changes to antitrust law.

New bill stokes long-running encryption fight in Washington

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congress is gearing up for another run at passing encryption laws that proponents say will allow U.S. law enforcement to do its job and security experts say will make everyone’s communications less safe.

The big picture: As companies like Facebook and Apple encrypt more of their platforms by default, U.S. authorities fear the world is “going dark” on them. The consensus is stronger than ever among security experts, human rights advocates and the industry that weakening encryption hurts everyone.

Password thieves target at-home workers

Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

With so many people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, more cyber criminals are using “brute force” attacks to break the passwords of employees signing into their company networks remotely, according to ESET, a cybersecurity and antivirus protection firm.

How it works: Brute force attacks break into systems by trying out vast numbers of possible passwords.

Graham to narrow tech liability bill

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A bipartisan bill taking aim at tech's liability shield will be narrowed so that it no longer threatens online platforms with losing that shield's protections if they don't meet government-set standards.

Why it matters: The EARN IT Act represents one of the most pressing threats to websites' immunity from liability over user-posted content amid Trump administration attacks on the shield, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jul 1, 2020 - Technology

Dish officially enters wireless business, buying Boost from T-Mobile

Dish Network

Dish Network is now in the wireless business, having closed its $1.4 billion purchase of Boost Mobile and other prepaid assets from T-Mobile.

Why it matters: The deal was a condition for regulatory approval of T-Mobile's Sprint purchase and is part of an effort to create a fourth national wireless carrier.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 1, 2020 - Technology

Facebook oversight board urged to tackle climate "loophole"

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Prominent environmentalists and Democratic activists say Facebook is "allowing the spread of climate misinformation to flourish, unchecked" and urging the company's external oversight board to intervene.

Driving the news: A new open letter with signatories including Stacey Abrams, John Podesta and Tom Steyer takes aim at distribution of content from a group called the CO2 Coalition without warning labels or restrictions.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jul 1, 2020 - Technology

Google buys smart glasses firm North

Courtesy: North

Google formally announced on Tuesday that it is buying North, the Canadian smart glasses firm — a deal that had been reported last week to be in the works.

Why it matters: The move shows that Google, one of the earliest to explore high-tech eyewear, remains interested in the category.

Streaming price hikes make it less of a cheap cable alternative

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

YouTube TV and ESPN+ both raised their prices Tuesday, even though both packages rely on live sports rights to entertain consumers, and the pandemic has shut down live sports.

Why it matters: Streaming services and so-called skinny bundles promised to provide a cheaper alternative to the old cable television package. These price hikes suggest that price advantage won't hold.