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Business Highlights: Unemployment claims, Facebook board

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US unemployment claims fall to a pandemic low of 498,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to 498,000, the lowest point since the viral pandemic struck 14 months ago and a sign of the job market’s growing strength as businesses reopen and consumers step up spending. Applications declined 92,000 from a revised 590,000 a week earlier. The number of weekly jobless claims — a rough measure of the pace of layoffs — has declined significantly from a peak of 900,000 in January as employers have ramped up hiring. The pace of applications is still well above the roughly 230,000 level that prevailed before the viral outbreak tore through the economy in March of last year.

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Facebook’s oversight board: Watchdog or distraction?

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Facebook’s oversight board, which on Wednesday upheld the company’s ban of former President Donald Trump, also had some harsh words for its corporate sponsor: Facebook. But critics aren’t convinced this decision is a triumph of accountability, and say its actions may actually distract from more fundamental issues that Facebook seems less interested in talking about. Among those concerns are Facebook’s massive power, its shadowy algorithms that can amplify hate and misinformation and its desire to avoid regulation. Facebook said the board provides scrutiny and accountability for the company and that it is no substitute for regulation.

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NY: Broadband cos paid for 8.5M fake net neutrality comments

NEW YORK (AP) — The Office of the New York Attorney General said in a new report that a campaign funded by the broadband industry submitted millions of fake comments supporting the 2017 repeal of net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission’s contentious 2017 repeal undid Obama-era rules that the broadband industry had sued to stop. The proceeding generated a record-breaking number of comments, most of which were fake. A broadband industry group, called Broadband for America, spent $4.2 million generating more than 8.5 million of the fake FCC comments. A California teen submitted 7.7 million fake comments.

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More support easing vaccine patent rules, but hurdles remain

GENEVA (AP) — Several world leaders have praised the U.S. move to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines for poor nations by suspending patent protections on the shots. But it wasn’t clear if that would actually lead to the measures being lifted. Activists and international institutions cheered but Big Pharma fired back after the Biden administration called for a waiver of intellectual property protections. If even just one country votes against a waiver at the World Trade Organization, it would be sunk. The move made the U.S. the first country in the developed world with big vaccine manufacturing to publicly support the idea. And the vocal support that followed from French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday suggested that countries were reassessing their positions.

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Productivity rebounds at solid 5.4% rate in first quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. productivity posted a sharp rebound in the January-March quarter after having fallen in the previous quarter. Labor costs declined slightly. The Labor Department reported Thursday that productivity increased at an annual rate of 5.4% in the first quarter, recovering from a 3.8% rate of decline in the fourth quarter of last year. Labor costs fell at a 0.3% rate in the first quarter following a 5.6% jump in the fourth quarter. It was the biggest quarterly rise in productivity since an 11.2% surge in the second quarter of last year, a gain that reflected the fact that output was not falling as fast as the labor market was shrinking as millions of people were being laid off after the pandemic hit.

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Beyond Meat falls short of Q1 forecasts due to lower prices

EL SEGUNDO, Calif (AP) — Plant-based meat company Beyond Meat has posted a first-quarter loss after higher sales were offset by marketing costs and lower prices. The company based in El Segundo, California reported Thursday that its revenue rose 11% to $108.2 million in the January-March period. But according to analysts polled by FactSet that fell short of Wall Street’s forecast of $112.6 million. Beyond Meat reported a net loss of $27.3 million, compared to a profit of $1.8 million in the same period a year ago. Adjusted for one-time items, the company lost 42 cents per share. Analysts had been expecting an loss of 18 cents a share.

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Bank of England expects best year for UK economy since 1941

LONDON (AP) — The Bank of England will keep interest rates on hold and has grown more optimistic about the economic recovery in the U.K. this year as a result of the rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines. In a prepared statement Thursday, the nine-member Monetary Policy Committee said it will maintain the bank’s main interest rate at 0.1%. The unanimous and widely anticipated decision means that interest rates will remain at the lowest level in the bank’s 327-year history. Alongside its decision, the bank’s rate-setting panel said growth is likely to be greater than it previously thought in the coming quarters largely due to the rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, and that the easing of lockdown restrictions should spur consumer spending.

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The S&P 500 rose 34.03 points, or 0.8%, to 4,201.62. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 318.19, or 0.9%, to 34,548.53. The Nasdaq rose 50.42 points, or 0.4%, to 13,632.84. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 0.05 points, or less than 0.1%, to 2,241.42.

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How to prepare your Facebook account for your digital afterlife

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Today, our online lives are where we share a lot of private and personal information, especially on social media platforms where we share many of our thoughts, post photos and videos over the time we have spent online. Among these social media platforms, Facebook is the most used social media service today. A lot of us, our friends and our family members have a Facebook account. We post and share everything from our private photos to a personal message via Facebook.

But have you wondered what happens to your Facebook account and the information (like posts, comments, photos, videos, etc.) that you have created and accumulated on the service after your time?

■ What will happen to my account?

■ Who can access your profiles?

■ Who will own your account and data?

■ How to manage it when such a time comes?

Facebook has added features to your account so that you can decide what happens to your account when such a time arises. Follow the steps given below to set it up and ensure that the information in your Facebook accounts is handed over to someone else safely or managed according to your choice.

Setting up Facebook’s legacy contact:

In the case of Facebook, you can choose to memorialise your account and hand over the control to a ‘Legacy contact’ of your choice or altogether delete your profile after your time.

Step 1: To set up your legacy contact, you can visit the ‘Settings & privacy’ option under your profile and select the ‘Memorialisation settings’ under ‘General Account settings’. You can also sign in to your account and visit https://www.facebook.com/settings to access this setting.

Step 2: Now, you can choose a legacy contact in this setting by searching for and adding a friend from your account as your legacy contact. Do note that, once memorialised, the legacy contact can only moderate the posts on your page and not post on your behalf.

Step 3: The following setting is to choose whether to allow your legacy contact to download all your data that you have created or shared on your Facebook account like posts, photos, videos etc.

Step 4: The final setting on this page could be considered an alternative to choosing a legacy contact. This setting is to delete your complete Facebook account once you pass away. Facebook needs to be informed about your death and requires verifying it with valid documentation to activate this feature. The company will delete all your information on Facebook on completion of this process.

To know more about these settings, you can visit the FAQ page on legacy contact.

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Big EU lawsuit against Facebook morphs into 3-year ‘partnership’ with complainants

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Three years ago, a group of EU consumer agencies launched a multi-country lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the social media giant of having illegally harvested the data of millions of users.

More than 300,000 angry Facebook users positioned themselves behind the collective action suit, which promised to award them individual monetary damages if the company was found guilty of wrongdoing.

On Friday, those lawsuits quietly morphed into a brand new partnership with Facebook.

Euroconsumers, the umbrella organization behind the Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Portuguese lawsuits, announced they were entering a partnership with the company focused on the “safety and privacy” of Facebook users.

The move comes after POLITICO reported that Euroconsumers had settled its lawsuit with Facebook at the end of April — and highlights the fact that collective action lawsuits rarely make it over the finish line in Europe, sheltering companies from the type of action that can produce crippling damages in U.S. courts while leaving consumers with little recourse.

Originally, Euroconsumers had told people who joined the case it would seek compensation of €200 for every Facebook user whose data was mishandled.

In the end, though, there will be no court decision, no admission of wrongdoing by Facebook and no direct payment from the company to consumers as a result of the settlement, according to Euroconsumers.

Instead, the consumer groups and Facebook said they were forming a joint committee focused on three priorities: sustainability, digital empowerment and fighting scams. The issue of privacy — which was the explicit focus of the lawsuit — is the “umbrella” under which the thee priorities fall.

As for the consumers, they are being promised a vague consolation prize.

The four consumer groups said they would commit to “reward” consumers who joined the original lawsuit with “a package to help consumers be safe online” — but no hard cash.

Asked whether Facebook had paid money to Euroconsumers in the settlement, the group declined to comment. POLITICO reached out to Facebook, but the company didn’t give an immediate response apart from the press release.

Meanwhile, the committee isn’t committed to producing any specific results.

“There are specific initiatives in the making, but there will also be a consumer reporting channel. We will able to report problems that emerge, like feedback from our members,” said Els Bruggeman, head of policy at Euroconsumers.

A spokesperson for the group said: “It’s the moment to try to influence the reasoning from companies who are managed far away.”

Legally speaking, though, the heat is off Facebook.

The consumer groups will evaluate their collaboration in three years.

“An agreement for one year would be too short. Three years is long enough to be able to evaluate. There will be a lot of changes in the digital world in that period,” added the spokesperson.

In the meantime, a change in legislation may give future collective action lawsuits in Europe more teeth: A directive finalized late last year could lead to bigger pan-European collective redress cases.

Want more analysis from POLITICO? POLITICO Pro is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to trade, technology, cybersecurity and more, Pro delivers real time intelligence, deep insight and breaking scoops you need to keep one step ahead. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary trial.

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Russian watchdog demands that Facebook delete post insulting WWII veterans

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MOSCOW, May 29. /TASS/. Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) demanded that US company Facebook delete an Instagram post that insults the memory of World War II veterans, the watchdog said on its website on Friday.

“Roskomnadzor has sent a letter to Facebook Inc top management, demanding that content insulting the memory of World War II veterans be deleted,” the watchdog said. “The governmental agency found the unlawful post on the Instagram social network, owned by Facebook.”

According to Roskomnadzor, publication of clearly offensive information that insults Russia’s military glory and memorable dates, or desecrates military glory symbols, or offends WWII veterans constitutes a criminal offense in Russia and is subject to criminal proscution.

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