Meta to Reinstate Trump’s Facebook, Instagram Accounts

Social media giant Meta announced Wednesday that it would reinstate former President Donald Trump’s accounts on both Facebook and Instagram. The former president was suspended from both platforms in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2022, Capitol Riot. Other social media platforms such as Twitter acted likewise, prompting Trump to create Truth Social, a digital platform similar to Twitter that practiced looser content moderation than its competitors.

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Regulator Fines Tech Giant Millions for Showing Targeted Ads Based on User Activity

An Irish data privacy regulator has issued fines totaling €390 million — roughly $410 million — against Facebook and Instagram parent Meta over practices related to its monitoring of users’ behavior on its services in order to create targeted ads, according to a Wednesday press release by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC).

Meta had previously argued to the commission that it had the right to tailor ads to users based on their online activity because the Terms of Service that users agreed to to use the service amounted to a contract, and that gathering this personalized data was a core part of that contract, according to the DPC. Although the DPC originally agreed with this argument, it reversed its position after other European regulators challenged this view during a standard peer review process, finding that Meta was “not entitled” to consider the Terms of Service agreement as sufficient legal basis for its actions.

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Meta Agrees to Record-Breaking Settlement in Data Privacy Lawsuit

Facebook parent Meta signed on to a $725 million settlement to potentially close out a class-action lawsuit over the sharing of user data with third parties, such as the Trump-aligned campaign consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, according to a Thursday court filing.

The case centers around allegations that the company shared users’ data with third parties without their consent, something the plaintiffs’ lawyers say has been significantly cut back since litigation began, according to the filing. The scandal first broke in 2018, after it was revealed that Facebook had shared roughly 87 million users’ data with Cambridge Analytica via a personality quiz, according to The Verge.

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Meta’s ‘Unequal’ Moderation Policy Protects Elites on Facebook and Instagram: Report

Meta’s Oversight Board criticized the social media giant for unfairly favoring certain elite users of Facebook and Instagram, granting them amnesty from certain rules, and failing to publicly disclose the program’s extent.

Meta’s “cross-check” program is supposed to minimize the number of posts Facebook and Instagram incorrectly take down, by having a human review posts by certain “powerful” users when they are found to be violating the rules, according to the Oversight Board. The Board found that, in practice, cross-check protected these accounts, allowing their content to remain up even when it was in violation of the sites’ rules and helping favored accounts receive reduced punishments for infractions, all the while repeatedly failing to detail to the public and the Board which accounts and posts were subject to this policy.

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Government Officials Have a Special Portal to Flag Facebook Posts for Censorship

The Department of Homeland Security has left open a special feature that allows government officials to flag Facebook posts for misinformation after scrapping a controversial advisory board tasked with developing guidelines for social media censorship, the Intercept reported Monday.

DHS announced plans for a Disinformation Governance Board to “develop guidelines, standards, guardrails to ensure that the work that has been ongoing for nearly 10 years does not infringe on people’s free speech rights, rights of privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in May, according to The Hill. While DHS shuttered the initiative after an onslaught of bipartisan opposition decrying the potential censorship, the Intercept found through an analysis of public and leaked documents that government efforts to police tech companies goes on.

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Russia Moves to Declare Facebook Parent Company an ‘Extremist Organization,’ Ban Instagram

Russian prosecutors asked a court to classify Facebook parent company Meta as “extremist” Friday, escalating tensions between Russia and the tech giant after Facebook was blocked in the country.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office asked a court to declare the tech giant an “extremist organization,” saying the company engaged in spreading “propaganda” and incited violence against the Russian people, Interfax reported. The move would effectively criminalize all of Meta’s operations in Russia, according to Reuters.

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Trucker ‘Freedom Convoy’ Sparks More Controversy After GoFundMe Refunds $10 Million

A Canadian movement of truckers protesting the country’s vaccine mandate has inspired a similar protest in the U.S., with a convoy expected to arrive at the nation’s capital next month. That movement, though, sparked controversy beyond its protest this weekend after a run-in with the popular online fundraiser, GoFundMe.

GoFundMe announced it would refund more than $10 million in donations to donors of the “Freedom Convoy” online fundraiser after threats of a fraud investigation from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis threatened the investigation after GoFundMe reportedly froze the fundraising account Friday and said they would give the funds to another charity of Freedom Convoy’s choice.

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Amazon and Facebook Spent More Money Than Ever Lobbying in 2021

Amazon and Facebook parent company Meta spent more money in 2021 lobbying lawmakers and officials than any year before, according to lobbying disclosure filings.

Amazon spent $20.3 million on lobbying while Meta spent $20.1 million in 2021, according to a review of lobbying disclosure filings by MarketWatch. The figures are record totals for both tech companies, who spent $18.9 million and $19.7 million on lobbying in 2020, respectively.

Google’s lobbying spend for 2021 clocked in at $11.5 million, while Microsoft spent $10.3 million and Apple spent $6.5 million, according to MarketWatch’s review.

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Facebook Parent Company Will Make Its Office Workers Get the Vaccine Booster

Facebook parent company Meta will require its in-person workers to receive a booster shot in addition to a COVID-19 vaccine, the company announced Monday.

By March 28, Meta employees must have received the booster to use the in-person offices of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, The Wall Street Journal reported. Meta is reportedly delaying the reopening of its offices until late March due to the requirement.

“We’re focused on making sure our employees continue to have choices about where they work given the current COVID-19 landscape,” Janelle Gale, Meta’s vice president of human resources, said in a statement, CNBC reported. “We understand that the continued uncertainty makes this a difficult time to make decisions about where to work, so we’re giving more time to choose what works best for them.”

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State Attorney Generals Launch Investigation into Instagram’s Effects on Kids

Young person on Instagram

A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general launched a probe into Instagram on Thursday to examine whether the company violated state-level consumer protection laws.

The states are investigating whether Meta (formerly known as Facebook), which owns Instagram, promoted the image-sharing platform “to children and young adults” despite being aware of its negative effects, according to statements from the attorneys general. The probe cites internal Facebook communications and research leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen and published by The Wall Street Journal showing Meta was aware that use of Instagram could contribute to body image and mental health issues among teens.

“When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to manipulate for longer screen time engagement and data extraction, it becomes imperative for state attorneys general to engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws,” Republican Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a statement.

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Facebook Changes Its Name to ‘Meta’

Illustration of two people looking out on a design of Meta, Facebook's new name

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday the tech giant was changing its name to “Meta.”

Zuckerberg announced the name change at the Facebook Connect 2021 conference. The new name reflects Zuckerberg’s goal to reorient his social media company to a technology conglomerate with several different products beyond the Facebook social network, focusing on “metaverse” technology. 

The “metaverse” is a virtual environment in which individuals can interact with one another through avatars and across multiple platforms and devices. Facebook called it a “new phase of interconnected virtual experiences using technologies like virtual and augmented reality” in which people interacting online can become much closer to the experience of interacting in person.”

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