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Meta Accepts CMA Order to Sell Giphy After Losing Appeal in UK Antitrust Battle

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A UK competition regulator on Tuesday re-issued its order for Facebook owner Meta to sell animated graphics startup Giphy in a final decision after a failed appeal.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said in a statement that Giphy must be “sold off in its entirety”, having already ruled last year that the acquisition would hit competition and advertising.

The regulator has again ordered the sale after the US tech giant lost an appeal over the purchase.

The watchdog argued the deal would limit choice for UK social media users and reduce innovation in UK display advertising.

“The CMA has concluded the only way to avoid the significant impact the deal would have on competition is for Giphy to be sold off in its entirety to an approved buyer,” it said in a final verdict.

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Giphy is a platform and search engine for “stickers” and other products using the graphics interchange format, or GIFs.

Meta had announced the purchase for a reported $400 million (roughly Rs. 3,289 crore) in May 2020.

“This deal would significantly reduce competition in two markets,” added Stuart McIntosh, chair of the CMA’s inquiry group, in the statement.

“It has already resulted in the removal of a potential challenger in the UK display ad market, while also giving Meta the ability to further increase its substantial market power in social media.

“The only way this can be addressed is by the sale of Giphy.”

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McIntosh said that the sale would promote “innovation in digital advertising, and also ensure UK social media users continue to benefit from access to Giphy.”

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In response, Meta expressed disappointment but said it would “accept today’s ruling as the final word on the matter”.

“We are grateful to the Giphy team during this uncertain time for their business, and wish them every success,” said a Meta spokesperson.

“We will continue to evaluate opportunities — including through acquisition — to bring innovation and choice to more people in the UK and around the world.”

New York-based Giphy, founded in 2013, is one of the world’s top GIF-sharing platforms with more than 700 million daily users.

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The CMA had in late 2021 fined social media giant Facebook, whose parent group is now known as Meta, more than EUR 50 million (roughly Rs. 405 crore) for deliberately failing to provide details of the takeover.


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Meta Oversight Board Calls for Overhaul of ‘Cross-Check’ Programme That Prioritises VIP Users

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Meta Platforms’ Oversight Board recommended on Tuesday that the company revamp its system exempting high-profile users from its rules, saying the practice privileged the powerful and allowed business interests to influence content decisions.

The arrangement, called cross-check, adds a layer of enforcement review for millions of Facebook and Instagram accounts belonging to celebrities, politicians and other influential users, allowing them extra leeway to post content that violates the company’s policies.

Cross-check “prioritises users of commercial value to Meta and as structured does not meet Meta’s human rights responsibilities and company values,” Oversight Board director Thomas Hughes said in a statement announcing the decision.

The board had been reviewing the cross-check programme since last year, when whistleblower Frances Haugen exposed the extent of the system by leaking internal company documents to the Wall Street Journal.

Those documents revealed that the programme was both larger and more forgiving of influential users than Meta had previously told the Oversight Board, which is funded by the company through a trust and operates independently.

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Without controls on eligibility or governance, cross-check sprawled to include nearly anyone with a substantial online following, although even with millions of members it represents a tiny slice of Meta’s 3.7 billion total users.

In 2019, the system blocked the company’s moderators from removing nude photos of a woman posted by Brazilian soccer star Neymar, even though the post violated Meta’s rules against “nonconsensual intimate imagery,” according to the WSJ report.

The board at the time of the report rebuked Meta for not being “fully forthcoming” in its disclosures about cross-check.

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In the opinion it issued on Tuesday, the board said it agreed that Meta needed mechanisms to address enforcement mistakes, given the extraordinary volume of user-generated content the company moderates each day.

However, it added, Meta “has a responsibility to address these larger problems in ways that benefit all users and not just a select few.”

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It made 32 recommendations that it said would structure the programme more equitably, including transparency requirements, audits of the system’s impact and a more systematic approach to eligibility.

State actors, it said, should continue to be eligible for inclusion in the programme, but based only on publicly available criteria, with no other special preferences.

The Oversight Board’s policy recommendations are not binding, but Meta is required to respond to them, normally within 60 days.

A spokeswoman for the Oversight Board said the company had asked for and received an extension in this case, so it would have 90 days to respond.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Facebook Dating Will Allow Users to Verify Their Age Using AI Face Scanning, Meta Says

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Meta on Monday announced that it has introduced a new method for users to verify their age on its Facebook Dating service. Facebook is experimenting with methods, such as using an AI face scanner, to allow users of the platform’s dating service to verify their age.

Meta announced in a blog post that it would start prompting users on Facebook Dating to verify that they’re over 18 if the platform suspects a user is underage.

Users can then verify their age by sharing a selfie video that Facebook shares with a third-party business or by uploading a copy of their ID. According to Meta, the company, Yoti, uses facial cues to determine a user’s age without identifying them.

Meta says the new age verification systems will help stop children from accessing features meant for adults. It doesn’t appear that there are any requirements for adults to verify their age on Facebook Dating.

The US social media giant has used Yoti for other age verification purposes, including vetting Instagram users who attempt to change their birthdate to make them 18 or older.

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However, according to a report by The Verge, the system isn’t equally accurate for all people: Yoti’s data shows that its accuracy is worse for “female” faces and people with darker complexions.

Last year, Instagram announced that it had started prompting users to fill in their birthday details. The prompts could initially be dismissed but the social media giant eventually made it compulsory for users who wanted to continue using Instagram. The prompts were designed to ascertain how old users were on Instagram and prevent content that isn’t suitable for young people to appear on their feed. At the time, Instagram had stated that the information is necessary for new features it was developing to protect young people.

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Meta Threatens to Remove News From Platform if US Congress Passes Media Bill

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Facebook parent Meta Platforms on Monday threatened to remove news from its platform if the US Congress passes a proposal aimed at making it easier for news organisations to negotiate collectively with companies like Alphabet’s Google and Facebook.

Sources briefed on the matter said lawmakers are considering adding the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act to a must-pass annual defense bill as way to help the struggling local news industry. Meta spokesperson Andy Stone in a tweet said the company would be forced to consider removing news if the law was passed “rather than submit to government-mandated negotiations that unfairly disregard any value we provide to news outlets through increased traffic and subscriptions.”

He added the proposal fails to recognise that publishers and broadcasters put content on the platform because “it benefits their bottom line – not the other way around.”

The News Media Alliance, a trade group representing newspaper publishers, is urging Congress to add the bill to the defense bill, arguing that “local papers cannot afford to endure several more years of Big Tech’s use and abuse, and time to take action is dwindling. If Congress does not act soon, we risk allowing social media to become America’s de facto local newspaper.”

More than two dozen groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Knowledge and the Computer & Communications Industry Association on Monday urged Congress not to approve the local news bill saying it would “create an ill-advised antitrust exemption for publishers and broadcasters” and argued the bill does not require “funds gained through negotiation or arbitration will even be paid to journalists.”

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A similar Australian law, which took effect in March 2021 after talks with the big tech firms led to a brief shutdown of Facebook news feeds in the country, has largely worked, a government report said.

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Since the News Media Bargaining Code took effect, various tech firms including Meta and Alphabet have signed more than 30 deals with media outlets, compensating them for content that generated clicks and advertising dollars, the report added.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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