Tuesday's technology stories

Slain reporter's family asks FTC to take on Facebook over violent video

Andy Parker, father of Alison, speaking at a rally. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The family of slain journalist Alison Parker, who died in 2015, is asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against Facebook for not removing a video of her death, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Facebook has faced mounting widespread scrutiny in recent weeks from lawmakers and the public, initially spurred by whistleblower accounts by former employee Frances Haugen.

Epic Games to work with “Among Us” creator on future project

Image: Epic Games

Epic Games is working with "Among Us" creator Innersloth on something new, after finally acknowledging the indie developer's influence on its Impostors mode in "Fortnite."

Why it matters: It's the first time Epic has publicly conceded the game's clear similarities to Innersloth's breakout hit, in which players attempt to complete tasks while rooting out a traitor in their midst.

Oct 12, 2021 - Podcasts

Social media is having a Big Tobacco moment

Senators at the Facebook hearing last week used an analogy we’ve all heard before — Big Tech is having a Big Tobacco moment. Are the harmful effects of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram that clear cut?

Axios Re:Cap talks with Axios’ chief technology correspondent Ina Fried about how Big Tech compares to Big Tobacco.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 12, 2021 - Economy & Business

AR company Magic Leap raises $500 million from "existing investors"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Magic Leap, a Plantation, Florida-based augmented reality company, raised $500 million at a $2 billion post-money valuation from unspecified "existing investors."

Why it matters: This is a company that lives up to its name, at least in terms of separating VCs from their money, as Magic Leap has now raised nearly twice as many dollars as its current valuation. Maybe that's why none of those return backers are eager to be identified.

Google creates cybersecurity team to help respond to attacks

A Google logo at the company's offices in Berlin in August 2021. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Google announced Tuesday it has created a new cybersecurity team to help respond to and prevent cyberattacks against governments, critical infrastructure managers and other crucial companies.

Why it matters: It said the creation of the team is in response to the recent surge in cyber and ransomware attacks, including the ransomware attempt against the Colonial Pipeline in May and the sprawling SolarWinds breach, which was uncovered in December 2020 but likely existed for months before its discovery.

Tech embraces global corporate minimum tax

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new global agreement to levy a near-universal 15% minimum tax on large corporations' profits could cost tech giants billions each year. Yet lobbies representing the companies have rallied behind the plan, largely because it phases out a different kind of tax that tech dislikes even more.

The big picture: The minimum tax passed a crucial hurdle last week when more than 130 nations reached agreement at an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting. It still awaits final approval from many stakeholders, including the U.S. Congress.

Oct 12, 2021 - Technology

Power shifts from Big Tech as digital crackdowns intensify

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Data: Freedom House "Freedom of the Net 2021" report; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Internet freedom around the world has dropped for the 11th consecutive year, according to an annual report from Freedom House, a non-profit focused on expanding freedom and democracy.

Why it matters: The findings suggest that a broader shift in power from tech companies to nation states over the past year has resulted in "a record-breaking crackdown" on freedom of expression online.

New Superman comes out as bisexual in upcoming DC Comics issue

Jonathan Kent, the new Superman and son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, shares a kiss with reporter Jay Nakamura. Image: John Timms/DC Comics

The new Superman, Jonathan Kent, will soon come out as bisexual after becoming romantically involved with his reporter friend Jay Nakamura, DC Comics announced Monday.

Why it matters: The major announcement on the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane coincided with National Coming Out Day. Writer Tom Taylor told the New York Times following the announcement that the idea of "replacing Clark Kent with another straight white savior felt like a missed opportunity."

Activision's investigators now feuding

Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Two of the governmental organizations suing Activision are now fighting each other in court.

Driving the news: On Thursday, California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing said it objected to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's planned harassment lawsuit settlement with Activision Blizzard.

Nintendo says it improved its Switch controllers

Photo: Nintendo

The durability of the Nintendo Switch's controllers remains an open question, four and a half years into the popular console’s existence.

Driving the news: Nintendo itself acknowledged that uncertainty in a recent promotional interview in which its hardware designers discussed, but did not fully detail, efforts to improve the device.

Oct 11, 2021 - Technology

Facebook whistleblower to brief Facebook Oversight Board, U.K. parliament

Frances Haugen. Photo: Matt McClain-Pool/Getty Images

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen said Monday she will meet with the social media company's Oversight Board sometime in the coming weeks. The Oversight Board said in a statement it wants to "gather information that can help push for greater transparency and accountability."

Why it matters: Last week, Haugen urged lawmakers to regulate Facebook, saying it knows its algorithms can lead teens to pro-anorexia content and that it boosts extreme content more likely to elicit a reaction from users.

Companies under pressure to disclose more information to investors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook's latest firestorm highlights a broader reckoning over what public companies should disclose to investors, both about their external impacts and their inner workings.

Why it matters: The belief that all companies need to disclose is how much money they’re making, and how much they’re spending, is quickly becoming outdated.

New complaints unlikely to hobble Facebook

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A former Facebook employee has filed eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging the social network deceived investors. But even if regulators find the company at fault, it’s unlikely to remake Facebook in a drastic way.

Why it matters: Critics of Big Tech companies like Facebook have increasingly pushed for the government to halt certain practices — driven by advertising business models — they say allow or encourage harmful content.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Oct 11, 2021 - Technology

Why Big Tech is harder to rein in than tobacco

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Critics say the tech industry is having a "Big Tobacco moment," but limiting harms caused by giant tech firms is likely to prove even trickier than reducing the toll of smoking.

One key difference is that Big Tobacco was a relatively stationary target, with the big companies all producing roughly the same product and doing so year after year.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Oct 11, 2021 - Technology

Airbnb CEO warns Big Tech

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told me in an interview for "Axios on HBO" that the biggest risk to Big Tech is that "the world is rooting against them."

Driving the news: "They don't think they have society's interest in their favor," said Chesky, whose unicorn startup is based in San Francisco.