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Updates on social media platforms and tech giants 2021

Updates on social media platforms and tech giants 2021

LATEST UPDATE: May 11, 2021 - 8:50pm
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3 days ago

Apple was facing Tuesday possible further court action over its App Store after it was accused of "overcharging" millions of app-purchasers in the UK.

The claim, filed by digital economy expert Rachael Kent but not yet given the greenlight by Britain's Competition Appeal Tribunal, calls on the US technology giant to repay customers.

As many as 19.6 million UK users could be eligible for compensation totalling up to £1.5 billion ($2.1 billion, 1.7 billion euros), the file claims. —  AFP

May 7, 2021

Twitter begins letting some users add virtual tip jars to accounts so people can support their tweets by tossing in money.

A limited number of users around the world who tweet in English can add a "Tip Jar" feature to their profiles, according to Twitter senior product manager Esther Crawford.

The group included creators, journalists, experts, and non-profits. — AFP

May 7, 2021

Twitter confirms that it pulled the plug on several accounts trying to skirt its ban on former president Donald Trump by promoting his blog posts.

The ex-president launched a page on his website earlier this week promising comment "straight from the desk of Donald J Trump."

The page was made public just before Facebook's independent oversight board on Wednesday upheld the platform's ban on Trump. — AFP

May 7, 2021

Facebook's top executives set up an independent oversight board to avoid having to make tough decisions about explosive content -- but the panel's first major ruling on Donald Trump sent the ball right back into Mark Zuckerberg's court.

The panel on Wednesday opted to uphold the ban on the former US president's use of the leading social media network, saying Facebook was right to oust him, but sidestepped an overall decision on whether he will ever be allowed back.

It gave the company six months to justify why his ban should be permanent -- leaving a grenade in Zuckerberg's lap on the issue of free speech, and spotlighting weaknesses in the platform's plan for self-regulation.

"Facebook didn't want to make the decision because it's politically loaded," said Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and dean of its School of Information.

"So they kick it down to the oversight committee and the oversight committee says, 'We don't want this, you decide'," he noted, adding that the board had "punted on the hard question" of Trump's long-term access to Facebook. — AFP

May 5, 2021

Facebook's Workplace business software has grown by about 40 percent in a year to reach seven million paying subscribers as the pandemic accelerated a remote work trend, the company says Tuesday.

The service, which companies can use as an internal social network to communicate with employees, still trails behind top rivals like Teams which Microsoft says now has some 145 million daily active users.

"We built Workplace as an internal version of Facebook to run our own company, and it was so useful we started letting other organizations use it too," Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg says in a post. —  AFP

Interesting milestone: Workplace, our business communication tool, has hit 7 million paid subscribers -- a 40% increase...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, 4 May 2021
April 29, 2021

Apple and Facebook delivered blockbuster profits on Wednesday in the latest sign of Big Tech's strength as the sector faces scrutiny for its growing dominance during the pandemic.

The two Silicon Valley giants reported profits that essentially doubled, with Apple earning more than $23.6 billion and Facebook some $9.5 billion in the first three months of the year.

Apple was lifted by strong gains in sales of iPhones and assorted products and services, while Facebook saw robust increases in digital advertising, reflecting people's rising internet usage during the ongoing pandemic. —  AFP

April 27, 2021

Russia has imposed a $12.1-million fine on Apple for "abusing" its dominant position in the market by giving preference to its own applications, a government regulator said on Tuesday.

"Apple was found to have abused its dominant position in the iOS distribution market... which resulted in a competitive advantage for its own products," the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service said in a statement announcing the fine of more than 906 million rubles. — AFP

April 26, 2021

Facebook removes Australian member of parliament Craig Kelly's page for repeatedly peddling pandemic misinformation, the social media giant says Monday.

Facebook says it removed his popular page permanently after "repeated violations" of its policies.

"We don't allow anyone, including elected officials, to share misinformation about Covid-19 that could lead to imminent physical harm or Covid-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts," a spokesperson says in a statement. —  AFP

April 25, 2021

An update to the software powering some billion iPhones around the world kicks in Monday with an enhanced privacy feature critics fear will roil the internet advertising world.

Apple will begin requiring app makers to tell users what tracking information they want to gather and get permission to do so, displaying what have been referred to as "privacy nutrition labels."

The move by Apple, which has been in the works for months, has sparked a major rift with Facebook and other tech rivals and could have major implications for data privacy and the mobile ecosystem.

Digital ads are the lifeblood of internet giants such as Google and Facebook, and are credited with paying for the cornucopia of free online content and services.

An update to the iOS software that powers iPhone, iPad, and iPod devices brings with it an "App Tracking Transparency framework" that stops apps from tracking users or accessing device identifying information without permission. — AFP

April 23, 2021

Facebook says it would emphasize user feedback when prioritizing posts on the leading social network, the latest move to quell concerns over its algorithms.

The California giant says it would add weight to surveys asking users if certain messages are "worth your time" as part of its ranking process for its main news feeds.

"Our algorithm uses thousands of signals to rank posts for your News Feed with this goal in mind," says a blog post from Aastha Gupta, Facebook product management director. —  AFP

April 21, 2021

Apple is adding a subscription option to its pioneering podcasting service, evidently moving to fend off fast-growing rival Spotify.

Beginning in May, podcast fans around the world will be able to sign up for subscriptions for perks such as ad-free listening or exclusive content from creators, the tech giant said during a streamed media event Tuesday.

"Now, you can help your favorite podcasters build their business and fuel their creativity," Apple chief Tim Cook said during a presentation from the company's headquarters in Silicon Valley. —  AFP

April 15, 2021

Twitter says Wednesday it was launching an initiative on "responsible machine learning" that will include reviews of algorithmic fairness on the social media platform.

The California messaging service says the plan aims to offer more transparency in its artificial intelligence and tackle "the potential harmful effects of algorithmic decisions."

"Responsible technological use includes studying the effects it can have over time," says a blog post by Jutta Williams and Rumman Chowdhury of Twitter's ethics and transparency team. —  AFP

April 14, 2021

Facebook's independent Oversight Board announces Tuesday it would start accepting requests to remove "harmful content" that users believe has been wrongly allowed to remain on the leading social network.

The move has the potential to vastly expand the work of the so-called "supreme court" of Facebook, which up to now had been tasked with reviewing instances of whether content was improperly taken down from Facebook or Instagram.

The Oversight Board, set up by Facebook to deal with contentious questions of content moderation, began operating last year and issued its first rulings in January. The decisions, which can overrule Facebook management, are binding. —  AFP

April 12, 2021

Technology giant Microsoft is in advanced discussions to buy the US group Nuance Communications, which specializes in artificial intelligence, for $16 billion, according to media reports Sunday.

The deal could be announced Monday, CNBC reported, citing a source close to the case.

According to the source, Microsoft made an initial offer in December and is willing to pay $56 per share for Nuance, which represents a premium of 23 percent compared to the group's closing stock price on Friday. —  AFP

April 8, 2021

Social media giant Twitter says it has launched an emoji to spotlight the "#MilkTeaAlliance" online protest movement that has forged links between pro-democracy activists across Asia.

The alliance -- named for the shared love of sugary tea drinks across Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan -- emerged last year in an expression of cross-border solidarity and shared fear of authoritarian China.

The campaign gained steam at a time when Hong Kong was emerging from months of pro-democracy protests and urban youth in Bangkok and other Thai cities were beginning their own street confrontations with authorities, demanding reform to the country's military-drafted constitution and other rights. — AFP

April 8, 2021

Facebook launches an experimental online forum called Hotline, an attempt by the social media giant to keep up with the live audio trend made popular by the likes of Clubhouse.

Social media stalwarts are scrambling to prevent users from being lured away by audio-only online rivals.

The Facebook application is essentially a spin on Reddit's Ask Me Anything sessions and Clubhouse, the audio-only social media sensation launched a year ago which has boomed during the pandemic. —  AFP

March 20, 2021

Twitter will appoint a local representative in Turkey under a contentious social media law that allows authorities to remove content from platforms, a government official says. 

Turkey's new social media regulations entered into force in October after being passed in parliament by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party.

They require platforms with more than one million unique daily users to appoint representatives who can handle court orders to take down offending content within 48 hours. — AFP

March 18, 2021

Google will invest more than $7 billion in the United States this year and create thousands of jobs, the tech giant's CEO said Thursday.

"We plan to invest over $7 billion in offices and data centers across the US and create at least 10,000 new full-time Google jobs in the US this year," Sundar Pichai said in a statement. — AFP

March 17, 2021

France's data privacy watchdog said Wednesday that it had opened an investigation into Clubhouse, the US audio chat app that has become a social media hit.

The inquiry will seek to determine if European data protection rules apply to the app's parent company, Alpha Exploration, the CNIL said in a statement, adding that it could take punitive measures if Clubhouse does not respect the legislation.

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), implemented in 2018, sets controls in particular on the transfer of private data outside the bloc.

Clubhouse offers digital "rooms" where members can start conversations or drop into ongoing chats that can range from just a few participants to thousands of people. — AFP

March 11, 2021

Facebook has decided to halt its efforts to build a trans-Pacific undersea cable that would have connected California and Hong Kong, due to tensions between the United States and China.

"Due to ongoing concerns from the US government about direct communication links between the United States and Hong Kong, we have decided to withdraw our FCC application," a Facebook spokesperson told AFP on Wednesday, referring to the Federal Communications Commission.

"We look forward to working with all the parties to reconfigure the system to meet the concerns of the US government," the spokesperson added.

The social networking giant and several telecom companies filed their first construction permit in 2018, to connect two sites in California to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The project was supposed to facilitate communications through fiber optics capable of carrying large volumes of data with very low waiting times.  — AFP

March 2, 2021

Photojournalists in Greece accused Facebook of censorship on Tuesday after pictures of a rally in support of an imprisoned hitman on hunger strike were removed from their accounts with suspension warnings.

The health of Dimitris Koufodinas, a far-left hitman who is serving multiple life sentences for 11 murders, has badly deteriorated since starting his hunger strike 53 days ago, demanding to be transferred to another prison to be near his family.

Facebook has said that the posts on Koufodinas go "against our standards on dangerous individuals and organisations" as it seeks to avoid promoting terrorists or extremists.

At least three photographers protested Facebook's decision to remove photos they took of around 3,000 people who rallied in Athens on Monday to demand his release. — AFP

February 27, 2021

TikTok has agreed to pay $92 million in a deal to settle a cluster of US class-action lawsuits accusing the video-snippet sharing platform of invading the privacy of young users.

A legal filing Friday in federal court in the state of Illinois urged a judge to approve the settlement, which includes TikTok being more transparent about data gathering and better training employees about user privacy.

The litigation combined 21 class-action cases taking aim at TikTok and its China-based parent company ByteDance. — AFP

February 25, 2021

Australia's parliament passed landmark legislation Thursday requiring global digital giants to pay for local news content, in a move closely watched around the world.

The law passed easily after a last-gasp deal that watered down binding rules Facebook and Google had fiercely opposed in return for the tech giants agreeing to pay local media companies.

The new law paves the way for Google and Facebook to invest tens of millions of dollars in local content deals, and could prove a model for resolving the firms' tussles with regulators worldwide. 

Google will now pay for news content that appears on its "Showcase" product and Facebook is expected to pay providers who appear on its "News" product, which is to be rolled out in Australia later this year.

Regulators had accused the companies, who dominate online advertising, of draining cash away from traditional news organizations while using their content for free.  

— AFP

February 23, 2021

Facebook says Tuesday it will lift a contentious ban on Australian news pages, after the government agreed to amend a world-first media law fiercely opposed by the tech giant. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook indicated a compromise had been reached on key aspects of a law that would force global tech companies to pay news companies for content that appears on their platforms.

"As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism, and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days," said Will Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia.

The social media firm sparked global outrage last week by blacking out news for its Australian users and inadvertently blocking a series of non-news Facebook pages linked to everything from cancer charities to emergency response services.

The compromise means that Facebook and Google — the main targets of the law — are unlikely to be penalized so long as they reach some deals with local media firms to pay for news. — AFP

February 23, 2021

Facebook says it will lift a contentious ban on Australian news pages, after the government agreed to amend a world-first media law fiercely opposed by the tech giant. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook indicated a compromise had been reached on key aspects of a law that would force global tech companies to pay news companies for content that appears on their platforms. — AFP

February 19, 2021

According to civil suit documents unveiled, Facebook inflated estimates about how many people would see targeted ads, but ignored the problem in order to generate more revenue.

The social networking giant has been facing a class action lawsuit since 2018. The plaintiffs claim that the platform's managers knew that its so-called "Potential Reach" measure was misleading, but did not seek to rectify the situation so as not to lose revenue. 

The California company derives the overwhelming majority of its revenue from the sale of targeted advertising. Prices vary according to many criteria, including the number of users likely to see the campaign. — AFP

February 18, 2021

Several Australian emergency services report being hit by Facebook's ban on sharing news content in the country Thursday, with pages that carry warnings about Covid outbreaks, bushfires and cyclones rendered blank.

Fire, health and meteorological services around the country were experiencing problems with their Facebook pages, which are regularly used to issue emergency warnings in the disaster-prone country.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley tweets the government's Bureau of Meteorology's page "has been impacted by the sudden Facebook news content restrictions", urging people to visit the website. —  AFP

February 12, 2021

Microsoft lobbies for other countries to follow Australia's lead in calling for news outlets to be paid for stories published online, a move opposed by Facebook and Google.

Microsoft last week offered to fill the void if rival Google follows through on a threat to turn off its search engine in Australia over the plan.

Microsoft President Brad Smith says in a statement the company fully supports proposed legislation in Australia that would force Google and Facebook to compensate media for their journalism. — AFP

February 11, 2021

President Joe Biden's administration has asked a US federal court to pause proceedings aimed at banning TikTok to allow for a fresh review of the national security threat from the popular Chinese-owned video app.

The filing in a federal appeals court said the new administration had begun a review and would not for the moment press for a ban of the mobile app as sought by former president Donald Trump.

The filing said the Commerce Department "plans to conduct an evaluation of the underlying record justifying those prohibitions" sought by the previous administration of Donald Trump, which claimed TikTok posed a national security threat because of its links to the Chinese government. — AFP

February 6, 2021

Twitter condemns Myanmar's move to block access.

February 5, 2021

Shares in Chinese video app company Kuaishou almost triple on their Hong Kong debut, following a $5.4 billion initial public offering for the TikTok rival that was the biggest for an internet firm in nearly two years.

Its outstanding debut comes despite a crackdown by China on tech firms in recent months and will be a sign of encouragement to TikTok owner ByteDance, which is said to be planning its own listing.

The firm -- among China's most popular short video platforms -- soared to HK$338 at the open, from an IPO price of HK$115, valuing it at about $180 billion. It ended the day at HK$300. 

— AFP

February 4, 2021

Facebook says some of its services were being restricted in Myanmar, days after the military seized power in a coup.

"We are aware that access to Facebook is currently disrupted for some people," a company spokesperson tells AFP. 

"We urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information."

February 2, 2021

Twitter temporarily blocks scores of accounts and tweets in India at the government's request, including those of a prominent news magazine and farmers staging mass protests in the capital.

An IT ministry source told AFP the government had directed the social media giant to act against about 250 Twitter accounts and tweets that posed a "grave threat to public order".

The accounts were blocked on Monday afternoon but were accessible again hours later.

January 29, 2021

US tech giant Google stepped up its public relations campaign against Australian regulation Friday, presenting all search users Down Under with a "proposal" to water down planned rules.

Australians searching for any term were presented with a pop-up setting out the company's opposition to proposed legislation that would force them to pay news companies for content.

Google and Facebook have vehemently opposed the proposed rules, which are designed to rebalance the relationship between long-struggling news companies and tech giants that dominate the online advertising market.

Under the new laws, the firms would be required to compensate Australian media outlets — ranging from Rupert Murdoch's giant News Corp to public broadcaster ABC -- for publishing snippets of their content in search results or news feed. — AFP

January 28, 2021

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said the social network will no longer recommend politics-themed groups to users, a measure already taken in the US due to election tensions.

The social media giant is aiming to shine up an image tarnished by the political controversy, including Donald Trump's rise the White House.

"We plan to keep civic and political groups out of recommendations for the long term and we plan to expand that policy globally," Zuckerberg said in an earnings call.

He added that Facebook would also reduce political content in users' main news feeds as part of a push "to turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversation." — AFP

January 22, 2021

Google threatens to block Australian users from accessing its search service unless the government changed proposed legislation to make the internet giant pay news outlets for their content.

Google Australia Managing Director Mel Silva tells a senate committee in Canberra that if the current draft media laws went ahead unchanged it would be "the worst-case scenario" and force the firm to block Australians.

"If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia," Silva says. — AFP

January 20, 2021

Google-owned YouTube on Tuesday confirmed it extended a ban on new video being added to US President Donald Trump's channel due to the potential for inciting violence.

The weeklong suspension of uploading or streaming live video to Trump's channel had been set to lift on the eve of President-elect Joe Biden taking the oath of office.

"In light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, the Donald J. Trump channel will be prevented from uploading new videos or livestreams for an additional minimum of seven days," YouTube said in response to an AFP inquiry.

"As we shared previously, comments will continue to be indefinitely disabled under videos from the channel." — AFP

January 20, 2021

Social media giants crossed a threshold in banning US President Donald Trump and an array of his supporters — and now face a quandary on defining their efforts to remain politically neutral while promoting democracy and free speech.

After the unprecedented violence in the seat of Congress, Trump was banned for inciting the rioters — on platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google-owned YouTube and Snapchat. The alternative network Parler, which drew many Trump backers, was forced offline by Amazon's web services unit.

The bans broke new ground for internet firms but also shattered the longstanding notion that they are simply neutral platforms open for all to express any views.

"Banning Donald Trump was a crossing of a Rubicon for social media firms, and they can't go back," said Samuel Woolley, a professor and researcher with the University of Texas Center for Media Engagement.

"Up to now their biggest goal was to promote free speech, but recent events have shown they can no longer do this." — AFP

January 19, 2021

Turkey on Tuesday hits Twitter, Pinterest and Periscope with advertising bans after they failed to follow Facebook and appoint a local representative to take down contentious posts under a new media law.

Freedom of speech defenders warn the law is part of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's attempt to control social media and stop any dissent against his government.

The social media legislation passed last year meant networks with over a million users had to appoint an envoy to handle court orders to remove offending content within 48 hours. —  AFP

January 14, 2021

Twitter chief Jack Dorsey backs its ban of US President Donald Trump, but says it sets a "dangerous" precedent and represents a failure to promote healthy conversation on the platform.

"Having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications," Dorsey says in a string of tweets inviting feedback from users.

"While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation." — AFP

January 13, 2021

WhatsApp reassures users about privacy at the Facebook-owned messaging service as people flocked to rivals Telegram and Signal following a tweak to its terms.

There was "a lot of misinformation" about an update to terms of service regarding an option to use WhatsApp to message businesses, Facebook executive Adam Mosseri, who heads Instagram, says in a tweet.

WhatsApp's new terms sparked criticism, as users outside Europe who do not accept the new conditions before February 8 will be cut off from the messaging app. — AFP

January 12, 2021

Twitter announces it has suspended "more than 70,000 accounts" linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory following the attack on the US Capitol by a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters.

The social network began its purge Friday, shortly after it had permanently suspended Trump's account for language that could incite violence.

"Since Friday, more than 70,000 accounts have been suspended as a result of our efforts, with many instances of a single individual operating numerous accounts," Twitter says in a blog post. — AFP

January 11, 2021

Tech giants Amazon, Apple and Google have all cut ties with Parler, the social media platform popular with some conservatives, potentially leaving it without an internet home as of midnight Sunday even as its usership has recently been soaring.

The three mega-corporations have accused the platform of continuing to post messages inciting violence even after the deadly assault Wednesday on the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump. 

If Parler is unable to find a new hosting partner by 08H00 GMT Monday, when Amazon cuts off its services, the site will be unable to function.

A day after Twitter on Friday permanently suspended the president's main account, Parler remained the application most downloaded in the US from Apple's app store. 

The social network, launched in 2018, operates much like Twitter, with profiles people can follow and "parleys" instead of tweets. Freedom of expression is its declared raison d'etre. — AFP

January 9, 2021

Twitter blocks an effort by US President Donald Trump to sidestep a freshly-enacted ban by tweeting from the official @POTUS account for the country's leader.

Shortly after Twitter permanently suspended the president's personal @realdonaldtrump account, he fired off tweets from the presidential account accusing the company of being in cahoots with the "Radical Left."

The tweets were quickly deleted.

"Using another account to try to evade a suspension is against our rules," Twitter says.

"We have taken steps to enforce this with regard to recent Tweets from the @POTUS account." — AFP

January 9, 2021

US President Donald Trump accuses Twitter of conspiring "to silence me."

January 8, 2021

Facebook has banned President Donald Trump from the platform "indefinitely" due to his efforts to incite violence at the US Capitol, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday.

Zuckerberg said a one-day ban imposed on Trump's accounts on Facebook and Instagram was extended because of Trump's "use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government."

The announcement came the day after the outgoing US leader was locked out of all major social media platforms due to his false claims about the legitimacy of his loss to President-elect Joe Biden, and for inciting the angry mob that stormed the US Capitol.

"We believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. — AFP

January 7, 2021

Facebook blocks US President Donald Trump from posting for 24 hours over policy violations.

January 6, 2021

US President Donald Trump orders a ban on Alipay, WeChat pay and other apps linked to Chinese companies, saying they could route user information to the government in Beijing.

The executive order is to take effect in 45 days, weeks after Trump is replaced in the White House by President-elect Joe Biden.

It also comes after previous executive orders aimed at banning TikTok, which is owned by China-based ByteDance, were derailed by court rulings indicating Trump overstepped his legal authority. — AFP 

Get the latest news about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. Main image from by Pixelkult from Pixabay 

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