Business|The Week in Business: Facebook Filters Politics
Happy Valentine’s Day. Here’s your quick rundown of the top business and tech stories to know for the week ahead, so you can spend the rest of your day eating (sorry, reading) the candy you bought for your loved ones (or yourself). — Charlotte Cowles
What’s Up? (Feb. 7-13)
The Inflation Debate
The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal is winding its way through Congress. But many leading economists have argued that the far-reaching rescue plan is overkill and could create runaway inflation. In a speech on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, disagreed, urging policymakers to set aside inflation fears and focus on restoring full employment. He also pointed out that the latest jobless numbers did not tell the full story of the flailing labor market. Employment for higher-wage workers has dipped 4 percent (still a lot), but the bottom quartile of earners have seen a devastating 17 percent plunge.
Reddit Raises the Bar
Capping off its starring role in the GameStop stock-buying furor, the online chat platform Reddit has raised $250 million in new funding. Now valued at $6 billion, the company intends to double its staff and expand its user base. Reddit’s message boards are not only a popular forum for stock tips these days. They have also become a major source of information and community for out-of-work Americans trying to navigate the complex unemployment benefits system during the pandemic.
Aunt Jemima’s Makeover
The 131-year-old pancake and syrup brand officially has a new name: the Pearl Milling Company. Quaker Oats pledged to overhaul the product line, which has long faced criticism for its history of racist imagery, in the wake of widespread protests over racial injustice last June. Its redesigned packaging will appear on shelves this summer. Several other food brands that use racial images in their marketing, including Ben’s Original rice products (formerly Uncle Ben’s), Cream of Wheat cereal and Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup are undergoing similar revamps.
What’s Next? (Feb. 14-20)
Keep It Civil
If you’re tired of your crazy uncle’s political rants on Facebook, you may welcome this development: The social media platform is changing its algorithm to reduce political content in people’s news feeds. The new algorithm, which makes political content less prominent but does not remove it, is being tested in several countries and will expand to the United States in the coming weeks. The change comes by popular request: “One of the top pieces of feedback we’re hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive. Not all political posts will be affected, however. Content from official government agencies will be exempt from the change.
India Takes On Twitter
Facebook may be toning down political content, but Twitter is fighting to keep it up — in India, at least. The clash began when Indian farmers took to Twitter to protest new agriculture laws. The country’s government ordered Twitter to delete or mute more than 1,100 accounts that it says have encouraged violence or spread misinformation. Twitter complied with some of those demands, but refused to remove accounts of journalists, activists and other figures who are exercising their right to criticize the government and do not violate the company’s policies. Now, the Indian government has accused Twitter of breaking its laws.
The Fallout Continues
Regulators and policymakers are still trying to figure out how to react to the recent GameStop stock-trading frenzy that hijacked the market in January and damaged investors big and small. Congress will hold a hearing on the matter this week, and key players — including leaders from Reddit, the hedge fund Citadel and the stock trading platform Robinhood — have been asked to testify.
A new analysis showed that women’s participation in the U.S. labor market fell to a 33-year low in January. Women accounted for almost 80 percent of workers over the age of 19 who left the work force last month. The company Bumble, which operates a female-focused dating app, had its initial public offering on Thursday, making its 31-year-old founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, a billionaire and the youngest woman to take a company public. The sale of the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to Oracle and Walmart, forced by the Trump administration, has been put on hold indefinitely by the Biden administration while it reviews national security concerns.
Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey
Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.
Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.
However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.
On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.
Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal
In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.
In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.
Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws
It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.
Russian social media laws
As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.
Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses
Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.
The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.
With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.
Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.
Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.