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      Meta sues FTC, hoping to block ban on monetizing kids’ Facebook data / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 30 November - 18:50

    Photo illustration in which the Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a Meta logo

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Chesnot)

    Meta sued the Federal Trade Commission yesterday in a lawsuit that challenges the FTC's authority to impose new privacy obligations on the social media firm.

    The complaint stems from the FTC's May 2023 allegation that Meta-owned Facebook violated a 2020 privacy settlement and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. The FTC proposed changes to the 2020 privacy order that would, among other things, prohibit Facebook from monetizing data it collects from users under 18.

    Meta's lawsuit against the FTC challenges what it calls "the structurally unconstitutional authority exercised by the FTC through its Commissioners in an administrative reopening proceeding against Meta." It was filed against the FTC, Chair Lina Khan, and other commissioners in US District Court for the District of Columbia. Meta is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the FTC proceeding pending resolution of the lawsuit.

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      Meta’s “overpriced” ad-free subscriptions make privacy a “luxury good”: EU suit / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 30 November - 18:37

    Meta’s “overpriced” ad-free subscriptions make privacy a “luxury good”: EU suit

    Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

    Backlash over Meta's ad-free subscription model in the European Union has begun just one month into its launch.

    On Thursday, Europe's largest consumer group, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), filed a complaint with the network of consumer protection authorities. In a press release , BEUC alleges that Meta's subscription fees for ad-free access to Facebook and Instagram are so unreasonably high that they breach laws designed to protect user privacy as a fundamental right.

    "Meta has been rolling out changes to its service in the EU in November 2023, which require Facebook and Instagram users to either consent to the processing of their data for advertising purposes by the company or pay in order not to be shown advertisements," BEUC's press release said. "The tech giant’s pay-or-consent approach is unfair and must be stopped."

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      Meta routinely ignored reports of kids under 13 on Instagram, states allege / ArsTechnica · Monday, 27 November - 18:35

    In this photo illustration, the icons of WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and Facebook are displayed on an iPhone in front of a Meta logo

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Chesnot )

    It has never been a big secret that underage kids use social networks like Instagram and Facebook despite the Meta-owned platforms' rule that every user be at least 13 years old. But while the company says publicly that it does what it can to remove kids' accounts, US states suing Meta say they have evidence that the company routinely ignores reports of underage users.

    "Within the company, Meta's actual knowledge that millions of Instagram users are under the age of 13 is an open secret that is routinely documented, rigorously analyzed and confirmed, and zealously protected from disclosure to the public," said a newly unredacted complaint released last week.

    Meta received 1.1 million reports of under-13 users on Instagram between 2019 and the first half of 2023, but "disabled only a fraction of those accounts and routinely continued to collect children's data without parental consent," the complaint said. In 2021, Meta received over 402,000 reports of under-13 Instagram users through its website and app reporting systems, but its "records show that fewer than 164,000—far fewer than half of the reported accounts—were 'disabled for potentially being under the age of 13' that year," the lawsuit said.

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      Did Facebook fuel political polarization during the 2020 election? It’s complicated. / ArsTechnica · Friday, 28 July, 2023 - 14:14 · 1 minute

    Did Facebook fuel political polarization during the 2020 election? It’s complicated.

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Aurich Lawson)

    Over the last several years, there have been growing concerns about the influence of social media on fostering political polarization in the US, with critical implications for democracy. But it's unclear whether our online "echo chambers" are the driving factor behind that polarization or whether social media merely reflects (and arguably amplifies) divisions that already exist. Several intervention strategies have been proposed to reduce polarization and the spread of misinformation on social media, but it's equally unclear how effective they would be at addressing the problem.

    The US 2020 Facebook and Instagram Election Study is a joint collaboration between a group of independent external academics from several institutions and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. The project is designed to explore these and other relevant questions about the role of social media in democracy within the context of the 2020 US election. It's also a first in terms of the degree of transparency and independence that Meta has granted to academic researchers. Now we have the first results from this unusual collaboration, detailed in four separate papers—the first round of over a dozen studies stemming from the project.

    Three of the papers were published in a special issue of the journal Science. The first paper investigated how exposure to political news content on Facebook was segregated ideologically. The second paper delved into the effects of a reverse chronological feed as opposed to an algorithmic one. The third paper examined the effects of exposure to reshared content on Facebook. And the fourth paper , published in Nature, explored the extent to which social media "echo chambers" contribute to increased polarization and hostility.

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      Big Tech can transfer Europeans’ data to US in win for Facebook and Google / ArsTechnica · Monday, 10 July, 2023 - 18:43 · 1 minute

    Illustration of European and US flags superimposed with ones and zeroes to represent data.

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | BeeBright)

    The European Commission today decided it is safe for personal data to be transferred from the European Union to US-based companies, handing a victory to firms like Facebook and Google despite protests from privacy advocates who worry about US government surveillance.

    The commission announced that it "adopted its adequacy decision for the EU-US Data Privacy Framework ," concluding "that the United States ensures an adequate level of protection—comparable to that of the European Union—for personal data transferred from the EU to US companies under the new framework. On the basis of the new adequacy decision, personal data can flow safely from the EU to US companies participating in the Framework, without having to put in place additional data protection safeguards."

    In May, Facebook-owner Meta was fined 1.2 billion euros for violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with transfers of personal data to the United States and was ordered to stop storing European Union user data in the US within six months. But Meta said at the time that if the pending data-transfer pact "comes into effect before the implementation deadlines expire, our services can continue as they do today without any disruption or impact on users."

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      Threads attracts 30M users in 24 hours despite design flaws, privacy concerns / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 6 July, 2023 - 19:47

    Threads attracts 30M users in 24 hours despite design flaws, privacy concerns

    Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

    Meta has officially launched its surprisingly popular Twitter alternative, Threads—shocking even Mark Zuckerberg as signups hit 30 million within the first 24 hours. Though a separate app, Threads is built as a convenient extension of Instagram, requiring an Instagram account to join and allowing users to port their entire Instagram following over in one click. That has clearly made Threads appealing to a huge chunk of Instagram users.

    "We didn't expect tens of millions of people to sign up in one day, but supporting that is a champagne problem," Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said in a cheery update on Thursday.

    With its well-timed launch coming just after Twitter announced unpopular rate limits on tweets , Threads has quickly surpassed ChatGPT as the fastest-growing consumer app, TechCrunch reported . But as signups explode, Threads is also experiencing immediate backlash from critics who have complained about how Threads was designed and about the app's seemingly ample privacy issues.

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      Facebook hit with record €1.2 billion GDPR fine for transferring EU data to US / ArsTechnica · Monday, 22 May, 2023 - 16:36

    The Facebook logo displayed on a smartphone screen.

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images)

    European and Irish regulators have ordered Facebook owner Meta to pay a fine of 1.2 billion euros for violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with transfers of personal data to the United States. It's the largest GDPR fine ever.

    Meta was also ordered to stop storing European Union user data in the US within six months, but it may ultimately not have to take that step if the EU and US agree on a new regulatory framework for international data transfers.

    The infringement by Meta's subsidiary in Ireland "is very serious since it concerns transfers that are systematic, repetitive, and continuous," European Data Protection Board (EDPB) Chair Andrea Jelinek said in an announcement today. "Facebook has millions of users in Europe, so the volume of personal data transferred is massive. The unprecedented fine is a strong signal to organizations that serious infringements have far-reaching consequences."

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      Twitter fails to remove, label graphic images after Texas mass shooting / ArsTechnica · Monday, 8 May, 2023 - 17:12 · 1 minute

    A sign asking people to "Pray for Allen, Texas," stands at a memorial to those killed at the Allen Premium Outlets mall after the mass shooting on May 8, 2023, in Allen, Texas.

    Enlarge / A sign asking people to "Pray for Allen, Texas," stands at a memorial to those killed at the Allen Premium Outlets mall after the mass shooting on May 8, 2023, in Allen, Texas. (credit: Joe Raedle / Staff | Getty Images North America )

    Graphic images from a Texas mass shooting on Saturday that killed nine (including the gunman) and wounded seven are still circulating on Twitter after spreading virally all weekend. Critics told The New York Times that unlike other platforms, Twitter isn't doing enough to remove or label these "unusually graphic" images, especially in footage where dead bodies of some victims, including a young child, appear to be identifiable, Reuters reported .

    Family members do "not deserve to see the dead relatives spread across Twitter for everybody to see,” photojournalist Pat Holloway told the Times. Over the weekend, Holloway joined others in tweeting directly at Twitter CEO Elon Musk to step up the platform's content moderation.

    Twitter's policy on sharing content after a violent attack acknowledges that "exposure to these materials may also cause harm to those that view them." That policy is primarily focused on banning the distribution of content created by perpetrators of attacks, but it also places restrictions on "bystander-generated content" depicting "dead bodies" or "content that identifies victims."

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