More Data on Content Moderation Won’t Silence Facebook’s Critics

Faced with escalating accusations of bias from the right and an onslaught of calls to break up Facebook on the left, the social media juggernaut released a data dump Thursday that its leaders hope will help the public better understand how it moderates content—and remind them that the bigger Facebook is, the more it can invest in fending off these threats.

In its third Content Standards Enforcement Report, Facebook laid out the sheer amount of prohibited content that appears on its platform, including fake accounts, spam, terrorist propaganda, child sexual exploitation, hate speech, bullying, nudity, violence, and the sale of regulated goods. In most, though not all categories, the company explained how prevalent views of that content were, how many pieces of content Facebook took action on, how much of it Facebook found before users reported it, how many enforcement decisions Facebook users appealed, and how much content was restored after that appeal.

Some of the numbers [...]  read more

GitHub ‘Sponsors’ Now Lets Users Back Open Source Projects

Last year, Microsoft paid $7.5 billion to buy GitHub, the online home of thousands of open source software projects that power apps and sites ranging from Facebook to Walmart.com. The acquisition, along with IBM’s $34 billion purchase of open source company Red Hat, proved that open source software can be big business.

That’s a little surprising since, by definition, open source code can be freely shared by anyone. Red Hat makes money by selling support for its open source products, while companies like Facebook and Google make money on the services they build atop open source code. But even as some companies build multibillion-dollar businesses atop freely available code, other open source projects are the work of hobbyists in their free time.

“The way you become an open source maintainer is often accidental,” says GitHub CEO Nat Friedman, who joined the company from Microsoft when the acquisition closed last October. “You make something great, [...]  read more

A Critical Hit to Huawei, the Student Space Race, and More News

Trouble is brewing for a Chinese electronics giant, students sent a rocket into actual space, and the highly infectious measles just won’t go away. Here’s the news you need to know, in two minutes or less.

Today’s Headlines

Huawei may have been dealt a critical blow in its war with Trump

President Donald Trump has deemed Chinese electronics giant Huawei a national security threat—a problem the company thought it could weather. But now some of its suppliers are backing away, potentially leaving Huawei crippled. How bad is it? “This is like telling Coca-Cola that they can’t use carbonated water.”

A rocket built by students has reached outer space

A rocket built entirely by USC students soared past the Kármán line—the boundary that marks the end of Earth’s atmosphere—reaching 339,800 feet and a top speed of 3,386 mph. It’s only the second amateur rocket group in history to have accomplished the feat. The students’ next goal? Claiming the highest amateur rocket launch in history.

Cocktail Conversation

In 2000, the US declared the deadly measles virus eliminated. But since January 1 of this year, measles has sickened 880 people across 24 states—more than all the cases of the [...]  read more

Judge Finds Qualcomm’s Pricing Policy Violates Antitrust Law

The US has joined China, the European Union, and South Korea in ruling that Qualcomm violated antitrust laws.

Qualcomm is the largest maker of modem chips for connecting smartphones to wireless networks. Its customers, including Apple and Samsung, complain that the company uses unfair practices, such as threatening to withhold supplies of chips, to force companies to agree to excessive licensing fees for its technology. Apple and Qualcomm settled their own separate, complicated legal battle last month.

The Federal Trade Commission sued Qualcomm in 2017, alleging that the company drove up smartphone prices by overcharging customers and unfairly blocking competitors from the modem chip market, but the case didn’t make it to trial until January. Late Tuesday night, US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled in the FTC’s favor and  [...]  read more

If Huawei Loses ARM’s Chip Designs, It’s Toast

How do you kill a company? The answer, in the context of Chinese electronics giant Huawei, appears to be depravation, removing ready access to the elements that distinguish smartphones from very expensive chunks of anodized aluminum and glass. The latest blow: Chip designer ARM has reportedly severed ties with the company. Huawei could arguably survive without Google. Without ARM? Not so much.

It’s important to clarify that nothing at this point is certain, or permanent. The BBC first reported ARM’s move Wednesday morning, citing an internal memo that noted ARM’s use of “US origin technology,” which makes it subject to a sweeping ban put in place by the Trump administration. As it did with Google, though, the US Commerce Department could grant a waiver that allows ARM to continue servicing Huawei. And broader tensions between China and the US could otherwise resolve, potentially taking some of the pressure off Huawei.

But if those caveats don’t come through? [...]  read more

Why a T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Would Be Bad for the Public

Earlier this week, FCC chair Ajit Pai announced that he would soon be asking his fellow commissioners to approve the merger of two of the four nationwide wireless carriers, T-Mobile and Sprint. After a year of deliberation, including thousands of pages of legal and economic filings by proponents and opponents and three congressional hearings, Pai has now decided that a handful of promises, made just days ago by the merging parties, puts this $26 billion transaction in the public interest. And it appears that at least two of his fellow commissioners agree with him.

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ABOUT

Gigi Sohn(@gigibsohn) is a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy, a Benton senior fellow, and former counselor to FCC chair Tom Wheeler.

But these promises are speculative, unsubstantiated, and entirely unenforceable. For example, T-Mobile and Sprint commit to deploying a new 5G network that would cover 97 percent of Americans within three years of the closing of the deal, and 99 [...]  read more

Far-Right Propaganda Floods Facebook Ahead of EU Elections

In Italy, the perpetrators spread a movie clip of a car being destroyed and pretended it was news footage of migrants wrecking a police vehicle. In Poland, they disseminated a fake news story about migrant taxi drivers raping European women. In Spain, they shared lies about Catalan separatists shutting down a child cancer center. In the UK, they shared a blog post with a beheading photo and a sensationalist headline, claiming “A Billion Muslims Want Sharia Law.”

These are just a few examples of the ugly far-right propaganda and disinformation that has flooded Facebook ahead of parliamentary elections in the European Union this week. According to a new report by online activist group Avaaz, networks of fake accounts, pages, and groups have been spreading divisive, white-nationalist, anti-immigrant content throughout Germany, the UK, France, [...]  read more

How Huawei Might Handle the Latest US Sanctions

Things were looking up for Huawei last month. Officials in the UK, Germany, and the European Union signaled they would defy US pleas to ban the Chinese telecommunications giant from building 5G wireless networks within their borders. Huawei also reported a 39 percent increase in first-quarter revenue. Then, on Thursday, the US Department of Commerce added Huawei to a list of companies considered a threat to US national security, meaning it would need permission to acquire US technology. Soon chipmakers like Intel and Broadcom reportedly stopped selling to Huawei, and Google pulled the company’s licenses for key mobile applications like Gmail and the Google Play app store.

When the Trump administration barred US companies from selling to Chinese telecom company ZTE last year, ZTE said it would halt operations. The Trump administration later backed down, but ZTE’s near-death experience demonstrates how reliant telecom companies are on US technologies. Huawei isn’t as vulnerable [...]  read more

What Tech Companies Pay Employees in 2019

Nearly a decade ago, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, Congress passed a law requiring publicly traded companies to report the median pay of their employees and compare it to the CEO’s pay. The goal was to highlight corporate excess and income inequality, with an eye toward curbing the outsized executive-compensation packages that Congress viewed as contributing to the crisis.

The requirement kicked in for most companies last year. And now, a tech companies begin to report their median pay for a second time, the figures offer a further glimpse into the compensation of some of the nation’s highest-paid workers. But they also reveal the shortcomings of reducing the pay of tens of thousands of people to a single number.

Case in point: The median pay at Google parent Alphabet rose 25 percent last year, to $246,804, the biggest increase and highest pay among a dozen tech firms tracked by WIRED. An Alphabet spokesperson says the large increase reflects a shift in [...]  read more

FCC Chair Backs T-Mobile and Sprint Deal, Clearing Hurdle for Merger

T-Mobile’s proposed $26.5 billion merger with Sprint just cleared its first legal hurdle, as Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai says he will recommend that the agency approve the deal. The FCC will most likely follow his lead, but the deal still needs approval from the Justice Department, where antitrust enforcement staffers have expressed concerns, Bloomberg reports.

In an announcement, Pai said Monday that the two companies agreed to expand their rural coverage if the merger is approved, by building a 5G wireless network that will cover 97 percent of the US population within three years and 99 percent of the country within six years. Pai says the new network will cover 90 percent of rural residents within six years. The companies also agreed to spin off Boost Mobile, the prepaid phone service owned by Sprint. The merged firm would still own T-Mobile’s MetroPCS prepaid service and Sprint-branded prepaid service.

“It’s also important that [...]  read more