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Facebook Co-Founder Says It’s Time To Break Up the Platform in NYT Op-Ed

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  • The New York Times published an op-ed by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes on Thursday in which he calls for Facebook to be broken up.
  • Hughes hasn’t been connected to the platform since 2012, but says that CEO Mark Zucerkberg has too much power over speech and the digital marketplace.
  • Hughes is calling for more government regulation on tech companies overall and says that Facebook should be forced to split Instagram and WhatsApp into separate companies.

The Call

In an op-ed published Thursday by the New York Times, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says that the company has too much power and should be broken up by the government.

Hughes hasn’t worked for Facebook since 2008 and sold his final shares in 2012. However, the co-founder argues that because of the company’s position in the marketplace, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has an amount of power that is “unprecedented and un-American.”

In the op-ed, Hughes said that it is “time to break up Facebook.” Hughes is calling for more government regulation of the company and argues that Facebook should be forced to split Instagram and WhatsApp into separate companies.

“I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders,” Hughes wrote in the piece.

“And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.”

Hughes went on to say that the most problematic aspect of Facebook’s dominance is the amount of power Zuckerberg has over speech. “There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people,” Hughes said.

Hughes argues that the root of the issue is that Facebook has effectively become a monopoly with no government oversight. He points out that when Facebook hasn’t been able to buy out a competitor, the company just copies the competitor’s idea. For instance, when Snapchat grew in popularity, Facebook copied its stories and disappearing messages. Afterwards, Zuckerberg allegedly said, “Don’t be too proud to copy,” and it became an informal slogan at Facebook.

In the op-ed Hughes warns that without competition like MySpace, Facebook would never have innovated the way they did in the early days.

“Imagine a competitive market in which they could choose among one network that offered higher privacy standards, another that cost a fee to join but had little advertising and another that would allow users to customize and tweak their feeds as they saw fit,” Hughes wrote.

Regulations

Over the past few years, there have been increased calls for regulation on tech companies including Facebook, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the spread of misinformation leading up to the 2016 election.

Previous coverage of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Aside from calling on the FTC and the Justice Department to break up Facebook, Hughes also wants to see more regulation on the industry including a government agency dedicated to regulating tech companies with its first mandate being to protect privacy.

He also wants a privacy bill that specifies what control Americans have over their digital information and guidelines for “acceptable speech on social media,” because he says, “there is no constitutional right to harass others or live-stream violence.”

Hughes closes the op-ed by saying, “Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Variety) (Vox)

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Raiders Owner Says He Won’t Take Down Controversial “I Can Breathe” Tweet

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  • The Raiders football team ignited outrage Tuesday after posting a tweet that read “I can breathe,” which some criticized as tone-deaf.
  • The tweet was shared after the murder and manslaughter convictions of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on 46-year-old George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes last summer as Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe.
  • Despite understanding the vast negative reception of the post, Raiders owner Mark Davis said he would not remove it. “I thought it was something where we could all breathe again,” he said. “Justice was served. We still have a lot of work to do on social justice and police brutality. But today, justice was served.”
  • Similar remarks about Chauvin’s convictions serving as justice have launched heated debates, with many, including Sen. Bernie Sander (I-Vt.) and NBA player Lebron James, arguing that accountability was served but not justice.

“I Can Breathe” Tweet

Following the murder and manslaughter convictions of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, the Las Vegas Raiders football team tweeted, “I can breathe.”

The message is a play on Floyd’s infamous “I can’t breathe” pleas, which he repeatedly cried out while Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nine and a half minutes last summer. Perhaps not-so-surprisingly, that tweet has since attracted condemnation from many who’ve denounced it as tone-deaf.

NBA player Lebron James expressed disbelief that such a statement was even published, saying, “This is real???? Nah man this ain’t it at all. The F^%K!!!!”

“It’s obvious what the raiders statement was going for,” one Twitter user wrote. “But ignorance is at the roots of racism, and you need to use your resources to combat your own ignorance.”

Others were less critical of the Raiders. For example, some argued that the tweet’s intentions were still pure, even if tone-deaf. Others cited Floyd’s brother, who made a similar statement of “Today, we are able to breathe again,” following Chauvin’s conviction. 

The Raiders weren’t the only entity to be accused of making a tone-deaf response Tuesday. Many also claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) basically thanked Floyd for being murdered after she said, “Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice.”

Raiders’ Owner Mark Davis Claims Responsibility for Tweet

Many initially described the “I can breathe” tweet as a fairly glaring blunder from the Raiders’ PR team; however, overnight, it was learned that the tweet was actually the brainchild of Raiders owner Mark Davis.

“I thought that said a lot,” Davis said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “It said a lot about everything. I thought it was something where we could all breathe again. Justice was served. We still have a lot of work to do on social justice and police brutality. But today, justice was served.”

“I feel bad it was taken in a way it wasn’t meant to be done,” he added. “That can only be my fault for not explaining it.”

Davis also took a moment to apologize if the tweet offended anyone in Floyd’s family, but he added that he won’t take it down.

“It was taken negatively by 99 percent of the people,” he said. “That happens. That’s part of social media.”

Was Justice or Accountability Served on Tuesday?

The question of whether or not justice was actually served with Chauvin’s convictions has become a national debate over the past 24 hours. 

For example, actor Chris Evans tweeted “Justice” following the verdict. Likewise, singer Katy Perry said, “Rest in JUSTICE George Floyd.” 

Meanwhile, others such as Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took noticeably different stances. 

“That a family had to lose a son, brother and father; that a teenage girl had to film and post a murder, that millions across the country had to organize and march just for George Floyd to be seen and valued is not justice. And this verdict is not a substitute for policy change,” AOC said.

The jury’s verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd,” Sanders wrote on Twitter. “Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person.” 

That’s a sentiment Lebron James echoed in a one-word, all-caps tweet reading, “ACCOUNTABILITY.”

See what others are saying: (ESPN) (New York Post) (Yahoo! Sports)

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Elon Musk Claims Autopilot Wasn’t On, But Feds Are Now Investigating a Driverless Tesla Crash

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  • Two federal agencies are investigating a driverless Tesla crash that killed two passengers and may have been the result of an unattended Autopilot feature. 
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Monday that Autopilot was not enabled and that the car’s owner had not even purchased Full-Self Driving; however, authorities have not confirmed this and have only said no one was in the driver’s seat when the car crashed. 
  • Local authorities said they plan to issue search warrants to obtain the car’s data and definitively conclude whether Autopilot was enabled.
  • The Washington Post projected that the ongoing federal investigations into the crash could lead to the potential government regulation of Autopilot features. 

Driverless Crash Kills Two

Federal agencies are investigating whether or not an Autopilot feature is to blame for a deadly Tesla crash that happened over the weekend.

That incident occurred around 11:30 Saturday night just outside Houston when a Model S ran off the road at a high speed and crashed into a tree, killing both men inside the car. 

According to local authorities, no one was behind the wheel; rather, they said one man was sitting in the rear of the car and the other was in the front passenger seat. 

Constable Mark Herman noted that the fire caused by the crash took 30,000 gallons of water and “four hours to put out.” Had the car not been an electric vehicle, Herman said the fire “would have taken a matter of minutes” to extinguish.

The aftermath of the blaze shows the car nearly completely destroyed, with only a husk remaining. 

As a result, some have raised concern about the batteries used in electric vehicles, because while generally safe, they can result in “thermal runaways” if the car crashes at a high speed. 

Did Autopilot Cause the Crash?

According to testimony from the men’s wives, just minutes before the crash, both men had been talking about going for a drive. Reportedly, they had also been discussing the car’s Autopilot feature. 

Consequently, while it hasn’t been definitively confirmed, there is a good amount of evidence to suggest they may have been using the feature at the time of the crash.

Still, many are unconvinced, including one person who tweeted, “This doesn’t make sense.” That person then cited a number of Autopilot’s safety features, including that seats are “weighted to make sure there is a driver, hands must be on steering wheel every 10 seconds or it disengages,” and that autopilot doesn’t go over speed limits.

Notably, in a direct reply to that person, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said, “Your research as a private individual is better than professionals… Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase [Full Self-Driving]. Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have.”

That said, in replies to both comments, many users shared dozens of videos of people appearing to have Autopilot activated without anyone in the driver’s seat. 

Others claimed that Autopilot can be enabled without physcial lane lines and that it will go over the speed limit.

Duke University professor Missy Cummings also cited her research, which found that “in 30% of trials, [Tesla] vehicles drove autonomously for nearly 30 seconds on extreme curves that lacked even a single lane marking.” 

No matter the online discourse, local authorities said they plan to issue search warrants on the car’s data, which should tell them whether or not Autopilot was on.

As part of a federal response, both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety board have said they’re sending teams to investigate the crash. 

Notably, the NHTSA said last month that it’s investigating nearly two-dozen Tesla crashes involving either the confirmed or suspected use of Autopilot. 

As The Washington Post pointed out, this could be a sign that regulation is coming.

“At issue is whether Musk has over-sold the capability of his systems by using the name Autopilot or telling customers that ‘Full Self-Driving’ will be available this year,” the outlet said. 

To note, Tesla itself does warn drivers that they still need to pay attention and be ready to take control of their vehicles even when using Autopilot. Part of that means riding in the driver’s seat. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Verge) (Ars Technica)

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UK Now Considering Its Own Digital Currency as China Eases Tone on Bitcoin

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  • On Monday, the United Kingdom became the latest country to consider a central bank-backed digital currency.
  • While that currency isn’t technically a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and would not remove existing physical cash from the economy, it would allow households to have accounts directly with the country’s central bank.
  • China, which is currently conducting trial runs of a central bank digital currency, called Bitcoin an “investment alternative” on Sunday — signaling a noticeable change in tone following the country’s previous crackdowns on the crypto market.
  • Though the People’s Bank of China said it will not ease its current crypto restrictions, industry insiders said they are nonetheless watching for any regulatory changes.

UK Considering Its Own Digital Currency

British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak instructed the Bank of England to look into potentially backing a digital currency Monday morning. 

According to Sunak, that central bank digital currency (CBDC)  — at least colloquially — might eventually be called “Britcoin.” 

As Reuters explained, such a currency “would potentially allow businesses and consumers to hold accounts directly with the bank and to sidestep others when making payments, upending the lenders’ role in the financial system.”

A British CBDC would not replace physical cash or existing bank accounts. It also wouldn’t technically be a cryptocurrency, though the concept of CBDCs is inspired by crypto.

The United Kingdom is just the latest country in Europe exploring a CBDC option. For example, Sweden has suggested that it could launch a digital currency by 2026, and the European Union has said it may integrate an electronic euro as soon as 2025. 

China Eases Tone on Bitcoin

It’s not just Europe. China may very well be on the cusp of launching its own digital currency. In fact, it’s already given away millions of that currency through trials being conducted in several cities.

That said, China’s end goal is currently a little different than Britain’s. Once live, China aims to have its CBDC replace some of the country’s cash.

On Sunday, China also indicated that it’s beginning to warm up to cryptocurrencies. Despite banning local crypto exchanges in 2017, among other actions, China’s central bank has now referred to Bitcoin as an “investment alternative.”

According to CNBC, industry insiders have taken note of the “progressive” nature of that comment and said they’re watching closely for any regulatory changes made by the bank; however, for now, the bank’s deputy governor said it plans to keep its current crypto restrictions in place. 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Associated Press) (CNBC)

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