Big Tech

The big picture

Tech's biggest upcoming battles in 2020

Tech firms' battles this year will touch every part of our lives.

Jan 6, 2020
Sundar Pichai's Alphabet to-do list

The new CEO of Google's parent company inherited a long list of issues in need of tackling.

Dec 17, 2019
The sovereign state of Facebook

It's making the kinds of world-shaping decisions that used to be in the hands of governments.

Nov 1, 2019
For tech, it's all hard problems now

The giants must navigate treacherous political, social, and ethical rapids at every turn.

Oct 9, 2019

All Big Tech stories

Trump forces fateful choices on Twitter and Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's war with Twitter is confronting social media platforms with a hard dilemma: whether to take fuller responsibility for what people say on their services, or to step back and assume a more quasi-governmental role.

The big picture: Facebook is trying to be more like a government committing to impartiality and protecting free speech and building mechanisms for arbitration. Twitter, pushed by Trump's inflammatory messages, is opting to more aggressively enforce conduct rules on its private property, like a mall owner enforcing rules inside the gates.

Trump's big, empty beef with Twitter

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump finally acted on his now year-old threat to take action against social media platforms for alleged bias against conservatives. But so far, according to experts in both government and the industry, the threat looks mostly empty.

Driving the news: Trump escalated his war on Twitter Friday morning, tweeting repeatedly that the company needs to be regulated after it overnight added a warning label to a tweet of his calling for the military to start shooting looters, which violated Twitter’s rules against glorifying violence.

Trump's social media director says "Twitter is full of s--t"

President Trump's director of social media and deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino tweeted Friday that "Twitter is full of s--t" after the platform determined that one of the president's tweets in response to civil unrest in Minneapolis violated the company's rules.

Why it matters: Scavino is the "caretaker of Trump's explosive Twitter feed," as Politico reported last year, and the president relies on him for advice on how some of the administration's most controversial moves will be received on social media.

Updated May 29, 2020 - Technology

Twitter: Trump's Minnesota tweet violated rules on violence

Twitter said Friday morning that a tweet from President Trump in which he threatened shooting in response to civil unrest in Minneapolis violated the company's rules. The company said it was leaving the tweet up in the public interest.

Why it matters: The move exacerbates tensions between Twitter and Trump over the company's authority to label or limit his speech and, conversely, the president's authority to dictate rules for a private company.

May 28, 2020 - Technology

Tech, business, civil rights groups slam Trump's social media order

Photo: Doug Mills via Getty Images

Condemnations from a wide range of groups and figures followed President Trump's executive order aiming to curtail protections for social media companies, with only a few of the president's staunchest allies voicing support.

The big picture: There's no shortage of critics of Big Tech in general and social media in particular, but few entities believe the president should — or even legally can — regulate the policies of a private company.

What Trump's "Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship" orders

Photo: Doug MIlls via Getty Images

President Donald Trump's executive order targeting social media companies, signed Thursday, calls on independent agencies, the Justice Department and states to carry out the new policy.

May 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump signs executive order targeting protections for social media platforms

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday designed to limit the legal protections that shield social media companies from liability for the content users post on their platforms.

What they're saying: "Currently, social media giants like Twitter receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory that they are a neutral platform, which they are not," Trump said in the Oval Office. "We are fed up with it. It is unfair, and it's been very unfair."

May 28, 2020 - Technology

Google to make "page experience" a ranking factor in Search results

Photo: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Google said Thursday it will start making "page experience," or how user-friendly a web page is, a ranking factor in Google Search, as well as in the "Top Stories" feature in mobile Search. Factors like load time and interactivity will be included in the evaluation.

Why it matters: It's part of a long list of actions Google has taken to force web publishers to deliver better experiences for users. For example, Google has in the past banned traffic to publishers with annoying pop-up ads.

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.

Mark Zuckerberg: Social networks should not be "the arbiter of truth"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Thursday that social media platforms should not police political speech, and that "people should be able to see what politicians say.”

Why it matters: Zuckerberg was responding to Twitter's decision this week to fact-check a pair of President Trump's tweets that claimed that mail-in ballots are "substantially fraudulent." Twitter's label, which directs users to "get the facts" about mail-in voting, does not censor Trump's tweets.

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