- The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Facebook on Wednesday, alleging antitrust violations and asking a federal court to force the company to sell off assets such as Instagram and WhatsApp.
- The same day, attorneys general for 48 other states also filed another lawsuit against the $1 trillion company. The suit accused Facebook of implementing a “buy-or-bury” strategy meant to target and snuff out competition in the industry.
- These lawsuits represent the most significant legal and political challenge to Facebook’s exponential growth in the company’s history.
- On Thursday, German regulators also launched an antitrust investigation into Facebook’s decision to link Oculus VR products to its social network.
FTC Sues Facebook for Antitrust Violations
Facebook faces two antitrust lawsuits filed in federal court on Wednesday as well as a separate antitrust investigation launched in Germany on Thursday, making it a tough week for the tech giant.
The first of those lawsuits was brought by the Federal Trade Commission, which accused Facebook of engaging in illegal tactics meant to suppress its competition in the social media industry.
“Facebook has maintained its monopoly position by buying up companies that present competitive threats and by imposing restrictive policies that unjustifiably hinder actual or potential rivals that Facebook does not or cannot acquire,” the FTC said on the opening page of its lawsuit.
Specifically, the FTC referenced two social media platforms: Instagram, which Facebook bought in 2012 for $1 billion, and WhatsApp, which it bought for $19 billion two years later.
The FTC is asking a federal court in the D.C. Circuit to force Facebook to sell-off both Instagram and WhatsApp so that they can once again become independent businesses.
The lawsuit cites 2012 comments from CEO Mark Zuckerberg where he said Instagram threatened to leave Facebook “very behind in both functionality and brand.”
It also noted that Zuckerberg once called WhatsApp “the next biggest consumer risk” to Facebook.
Besides Instagram and WhatsApp, the lawsuit also mentions the now-defunct video-sharing app Vine. Notably, Vine led to the rise of creators who have now become household names, including Jake and Logan Paul, Lele Pons, Liza Koshy, and David Dobrik. It was also the starting point for more traditional celebrities like Shawn Mendes.
When Vine first came out in 2013, users were able to find friends on the app using connectivity to Facebook; however, Zuckerberg later approved a move to cut off the functionality. Because of that, the FTC lawsuit argues Vine was stripped of a feature that would have helped it’s ability to grow.
48 States File Second Antitrust Lawsuit
Alongside that lawsuit, another antitrust lawsuit against Facebook was filed by attorneys general in 48 states Wednesday.
While announcing that lawsuit, New York Attorney General Letitia James said Facebook’s practices have “squeezed oxygen” from the tech industry.
“Today, we are sending a clear and strong message to Facebook and every other company that any efforts to stifle competition, hurt small business, reduce innovation and creativity, [and] cut privacy protections will be met with the full force of our offices,” James added.
The lawsuit itself denounces Facebook’s “bury-or-buy strategy,” which forces users who are “otherwise dissatisfied with the data usage and privacy options available on Facebook” to “have nowhere else to go.”
Unlike the FTC lawsuit, this lawsuit doesn’t explicitly call for Facebook to be broken up; rather, the attorneys general are asking the D.C. court to stop Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct in general, while asking the court to take any other action it views as necessary.
Facebook: Lawsuits Are “Revisionist History”
Facebook Vice President and General Counsel Jennifer Newstead has criticized the lawsuits as “revisionist history.”
She noted that at the time Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp, the FTC approved both acquisitions.
“The government now wants a do-over, sending a chilling warning to American business that no sale is ever final,” she said. “Antitrust laws exist to protect consumers and promote innovation, not to punish successful businesses.”
“People and small businesses don’t choose to use Facebook’s free services and advertising because they have to, they use them because our apps and services deliver the most value.”
As legal experts have pointed out, the government is well within its rights to pursue these lawsuits.
For one, Newstead’s “revisionist history” lacks context.
When the FTC originally approved Facebook’s acquisition of WhatApp, it did so with the promise that Facebook would preserve WhatsApp’s independence and privacy protections; however, over the last year, Facebook has been working to integrate WhatsApp and Instagram with Facebook Messenger. As a result, regulators have described the plan as a bait-and-switch tactic that has the potential to eliminate WhatsApp’s privacy protections, after having also eliminated it as a competitor.
On top of that, Zuckerberg has appeared before Congress multiple times this year alone because of antitrust concerns.
In October, House Democrats also unveiled a 450-page antitrust report against Facebook, as well as Google, Amazon, and Apple.
“Our investigation leaves no doubt that there is a clear and compelling need for Congress and the antitrust enforcement agencies to take action that restores competition, improves innovation, and safeguards our democracy,” lawmakers noted.
Wednesday’s lawsuits are undoubtedly meant to be a step in that direction. In fact, they represent the most significant legal and political challenge to Facebook’s exponential growth in the company’s history.
Still, a resolution on this issue could take years. Reportedly, Zuckerberg himself even noted that in an internal discussion with employees, telling them that he didn’t yet anticipate “any impact on individual teams or roles.”
Germany Launches Investigation into Facebook VR
On Thursday, German regulators announced they were launching an investigation into Facebook’s decision to require people to create Facebook accounts in order to be able to use their Oculus virtual reality products.
“Linking virtual reality products and the group’s social network in this way could constitute a prohibited abuse of dominance by Facebook,” investigators said.
The lawsuits and this investigation are the latest in governmental moves around the world to regulate big tech industries.
Last month, the European Union filed its own antitrust charges against Amazon, accusing it of using its access to data from companies that sell products on its platform to gain an unfair advantage over them.
In October, the United States Justice Department and 11 states sued Google and accused it of cornering the market in search-related advertising.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Reuters) (The Washington Post)
Jake Paul Accused of Sexual Assault By TikToker Justine Paradise
- In a YouTube video shared Friday, TikToker Justine Paradise accused massive social media star Jake Paul of sexually assaulting her in July 2019.
- She claimed he brought her to his bedroom while she was visiting his home and forced her to perform oral sex on him after she expressed that she did not want to engage in sexual activity.
- Paul has not issued any statements about the allegations or responded to Rogue Rocket’s request for comment.
Jake Paul Accused of Sexual Assault
YouTuber Jake Paul has been accused of sexually assaulting TikToker Justine Paradise during the summer of 2019.
Paradise posted a 20-minute YouTube video on Friday detailing her accusation. Paul has not yet responded in a public statement to her claims, and his team has not responded to Rogue Rocket’s request for comment.
Paradise claimed she met Paul in 2019 after a mutual friend, identified in the video by the pseudonym Michael, invited her to hang out one day. He sent her an address to go to, and when Paradise got there, she was surprised to learn it was the Team 10 House, the mansion Paul purchased for his social media collective. She claimed that when she got there, she had to sign an NDA and have her photo taken.
She said that during her first visit to the house, she and Paul barely interacted but he still asked for her number before she left. She claimed that she and Paul would sometimes text each other and she ended up going back to the house a handful of times over the course of the summer to hang out.
She stated that on her other visits, she still barely spoke to Paul even though he would text her from across the room or other parts of the house. She described this as “awkward” but thought Paul might not know how to initiate conversation with girls because she saw so many constantly flocking towards him.
Their dynamic allegedly changed one day when, according to Paradise, Paul grabbed her and kissed her. She said she was okay with this, though she felt slightly uncomfortable that he did so in front of a room full of people. On a separate occasion, though, Paradise claimed he crossed the line.
Paradise alleged that on the night between July 19 and July 20, she and others were hanging out at the house when Paul grabbed her hand and started walking around with her, which she thought was “cute.” She said he then took her to his room, but she did not necessarily view this as something that inherently meant they would have sexual relations.
“People have brought me to their rooms before and I’m their friend and they’re literally just trying to show me their room,” she explained in her video. “Or they just want to talk to me away from the crowd of people. Or sometimes they are trying to do something sexual but if I say no, they respect it.”
Details of Allegation
She said that they first were chatting, then started dancing, and then started kissing before he moved things to his bed. She stated that she wanted to just keep it at kissing and thought he would understand.
“Normally, everybody respects me when I don’t want to do sexual things, so I thought it was fine if I went in his room and I thought it would be fine to kiss him because I thought he would stop if I didn’t want to do anything else,” she said.
She claimed Paul would place his hands on her body, or move her hands onto his, but that she rejected those advances by moving their hands off of each other. She also alleged that Paul likely knew her refusal to touch him was a signal that she did not to go any further, as she claimed he responded by saying “If nothing is going to happen, then what’s the point?”
“What’s the point?” she continued, “I don’t know? I don’t know, maybe I can be one of your friends. Maybe I can just be someone that you kiss.”
Paradise said she was shocked by his response as no one had ever responded to her that way before, so she felt incredibly uncomfortable, but she claimed that Paul’s actions did not stop there.
“This is the point where, if what he wanted was sex, he sees he’s not going to get it, this is the point where we would just go elsewhere, go back downstairs where everyone is,” she said.
Instead, however, Paradise claimed that Paul stood up, undid his pants, and forced her to perform oral sex. She explained that she felt especially violated because she views oral sex as incredibly intimate and has only done it with two or three other people, but she did not know how to make him stop.
“What am I supposed to do? He was literally…I was still laying down,” she said. “He was on top of me and like, holding my head into him. Like I couldn’t even tell him not to.”
“He didn’t ask for consent or anything,” she continued. “Like he knew I didn’t want to do anything with him because he said ‘If nothing’s going to happen what’s the point?’ And then he just shoves himself in me.”
Aftermath of Alleged Assault
Paradise said the assault did not last very long, but she was left feeling confused in the immediate aftermath. She claimed that once it was over, he insisted that they needed to leave his room and go to the studio in the house, where everyone else was hanging out. She added that he got frustrated and slightly aggressive when she said she wanted to take time to collect herself and fix her hair before other people saw her. She described this as a big change in personality for Paul, because he had apparently been very friendly with her before this incident.
Paradise claimed that once she rejoined the crowd, she told her friend Michael about what happened. He called the situation “horrible” and stated he would talk to Paul himself. She claimed she ended up spending the rest of the night at the Team 10 House and provided Snapchats of herself with a puffy face from crying with a location tag in Calabasas as evidence. She also shared other pictures she took at the house and other text messages allegedly exchanged between her and Paul.
She said that Paul never contacted her again after this night, even though she attempted to reach out to him to talk about what happened. She added that she was unsure if her friend Michael reached out to Paul, but if he ever did, Paul never apologized.
“Honestly, I don’t think it was anything significant to him,” she explained in the video. “Like I said there was a different girl with him every day, I don’t even know if he would remember me.”
Paradise claimed she has thought about this incident nearly every day since it happened. Her intent in posting the video was to reach out to Paul so he can learn about what he did to her and how it made her feel. She also asserted that she feels a lot of men do not change their bad behavior unless they are called out publicly.
Paradise said she wants her video to serve as a warning to other girls who might find themselves in a similar situation. She addressed the fact that some people may not believe her and accuse her of doing this for clout, but insisted she just wants to tell what she feels is an important story.
“Am I doing this for attention? Yeah, I do want attention on this,” she explained. “Because it’s a problem that’s real and deserves attention.”
On Friday, her video became a popular topic of discussion on Twitter. Many pulled up TikToks she had previously posted, including one where she mentioned a YouTuber assaulting her and having to sign an NDA. Some also shared an update to that video, where Paradise claimed she was talking to a reporter about the situation.
Other major creators, including YouTuber Trisha Paytas, uploaded Paradise and other survivors for speaking out, and urged people to take the accusations seriously.
“I’m glad victims are comfortable speaking up more and more,” she wrote. “This disgusting behavior should be put on blast – predators, rapists need appropriate punishments and not just “being cancelled” temporarily and back on a pedestal the next month.”
For his part, Paul has been posting his usual content on social media to promote his upcoming fight. Many people are urging him to respond to the accusations.
New Streaming Metrics Highlight Staggering Gap Between Male and Female Gamers
- Valkyrae and Pokimane are the two most-watched female gamers in the world, bringing in 12.2 million and 6.8 million hours of watch time in the first quarter of 2021, respectively.
- The data comes from a new report by Stream Hatchet, which also showed that streaming remains a heavily male-dominated industry despite recent increases in the number of female gaming streamers.
- On its list of top 100 streamers ranked by hours watched, Valkyrae and Pokimaine were the only two women included, placing 27th and 98th.
- For comparison, the top streamer overall was xQc, a male variety gamer who raked in over 73 million hours of watch time.
Valkyrae Leads Female Streamer List by Giant Margin
Female streamers like Valkyrae and Pokimane have each amassed millions of followers and have become household names in gaming, but a new report shows that women in the industry are still affected by a massive gender gap.
In its findings for the first quarter of 2021, Stream Hatchet, which tracks metrics among gaming streamers, found that Valkyrae easily topped the most-watched female streamers chart with 12.2 million hours of watch time across Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming. That’s a leap of double from the 6 million hours that she brought in during the third quarter of last year.
Pokimane followed Valkyrae as the second most-watched female streamer during Q1 of this year, with 6.8 million hours viewed.
Men Dominate Overall Streamer List
Still, the report makes clear that “the male/female streamer gap is… substantial,” as Valkyrae actually ranks 27th if both male and female streamers are grouped together. Pokimane falls farther down that same list at the 98th spot. Of the top 100 streamers, they are the only two women on the list.
In fact, just looking at the overall top 10 streamers for most hours watched, the numbers showcase a staggering divide.
For example, variety streamer xQc topped the list with over 73 million hours watched. Other popular streamers such as Ludwig and Shroud came in lower on the top 10, but both were still very well above the 20 million hours mark.
One factor that could explain this massive discrepancy is the fact that, historically, the gaming sphere has been dominated by men. In 2017, it was reported that over 81.5% of all Twitch users were male, despite the Entertainment Software Association estimating that 41% of gamers are female.
By 2019, the percentage of female users on Twitch grew to 35%, with male users making up the other 65%. No statistics have been published regarding the makeup of non-binary users on the platform.
One interesting note with this report is that for the top gaming V-Tubers, the opposite seems to be true: Women overwhelmingly dominate the sphere. One female Twitch V-Tuber even saw an astronomical growth of 274%.
As Stream Hatchet noted, “Most VTubers broadcast in Japanese or Korean, and as a result, there are strong similarities between VTubing and Anime.”
Generally, Streaming Has Surged
More generally, Stream Hatchet reported that live streaming audiences have continued to “skyrocket.” In fact, between January and March, the number of daily hours watched increased 80% from the same timeframe last year.
Twitch also dominated as the top streaming platform, with 8.8 billion hours watched compared to YouTube’s 1.4 billion hours and Facebook Gaming’s 1.1 billion hours.
Instagram Head Says Scammer, Not Facebook Employee, May Have Asked Julia Rose for $65K To Restore Her Accounts
- Content creator Julia Rose shared a Twitter thread on Wednesday claiming that Instagram removed two of her accounts for nudity, despite the fact that larger mainstream accounts post similar or more explicit content.
- Rose even alleged that a Facebook supervisor said they could restore her accounts for $65,000 and 2.5% of her company’s profits before revoking that offer because someone had paid to take her accounts down in the first place.
- She called on the Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, to ensure that policies are enforced equally and fairly across all accounts.
- She also asked him to look into the issue of people paying for account takedowns, and Mosseri responded by claiming Rose may have been communicating with a scammer.
Julia Rose Calls Instagram Out for Unfair Policy Enforcement
Julia Rose, a content creator and founder of the digital magazine Shag Mag, claimed on Wednesday that she was asked by a Facebook employee to pay $65,000 in order for them to restore her removed Instagram accounts. Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, however, says this may have been a scam.
In a lengthy Twitter thread, Rose said both her personal account and her account for Shag Mag were taken down in December and have still not been reactivated. The accounts had 5.2 million and 700,000 followers respectively. They were also the primary tools she used to promote her company and her podcast, “The Shitshow.”
Rose said sources at Instagram told her the accounts were removed for impersonation and nudity, however each of those reasons left her confused. First, she noted that they were her official, verified, accounts. Secondly, while Rose often posted physically revealing content, the accounts for Playboy and other mainstream companies frequently get away with posting similar and even more explicit content.
To resolve the matter, she said a mutual friend linked her with a Facebook supervisor who said they could get her accounts back for $65,000 dollars and 2.5% of her company. She was also told to label herself as male in order to decrease her chances of another takedown. The offer was allegedly later revoked because that supervisor had been paid to remove her accounts in the first place.
Rose Reaches Out To Adam Mosseri
Rose escalated the situation in an email to Mosseri, alerting him of these alleged under-the-table deals happening at his company.
“It has now been over three weeks of filling out every possible form, using every single resource and now we are within weeks of having to terminate employees,” she wrote in that email, “because the only answers I have gotten are ‘Thank you for contacting us. Upon review, the account was correctly removed and cannot be restored’ as well as a pretty hefty dollar amount offer put on the table to get this account back from someone on the inside at Facebook (which raises even more red flags that should be addressed).”
She emphasized these accounts are part of her life’s work and business. Rose wrote that considering Mosseri’s previous promises to commit to helping young creators, he should take this issue seriously, as she is a young female CEO in the digital space.
“I am asking for a fair assessment of reinstating my accounts, for fair treatment, and for you to value me as a woman whose body should not be seen as pornographic,” she continued. “I am not asking for you to allow nudity on your platform but I am asking you to treat accounts fairly across the board and equally with more clear guidelines that can help ensure other small businesses won’t get shut down, like myself.
Rose claims she got no response but said that when her male friend messaged him on the platform, Mosseri immediately responded by saying “not sure of the specifics but I will look into.” Communication apparently stopped there.
Rose Calls for Change at Instagram
Since then, another Instagram account she had made and built 100,000 followers on was again taken down without warning. Rose pleaded in her thread for the platform to enforce their content policies equally and fairly regardless of who posted it. She also encouraged Mosseri to look into the issue of employees being paid to take down accounts.
“How is it fair that my business and I, a female CEO can be shutdown for the EXACT same content that mainstream companies like Playboy get away with posting?” she asked.
“I encourage all who have a voice and the power to create real change to stand up and use your platform for all of the women and women owned businesses who are currently being taken down and treated unfairly by iInstagram,” she continued.
“I do not believe that a woman’s body by itself should be looked at as pornographic or sexually explicit.”
Rose made another Instagram account and attempted to post her Twitter thread there but said the post was taken down within minutes. As of Thursday morning, however, a post containing her tweets was available on her new page.
Her thread prompted many to say they have faced similar problems with Instagram and have heard numerous stories of employees getting paid to either remove or restore accounts. Many used the hashtag #FreeJulia to call attention to the problem and encourage Instagram to help her. Big creators, including YouTubers Corinna Kopf and Adam22 tried to call attention to the issue.
“The way Instagram blatantly shits all over women trying to make something out of themselves is insane and they need to be held accountable,” Adam22 wrote.
Adam Mosseri Responds
Mosseri ended up responding to Rose’s thread late Wednesday.
“This looks like a scam, we sometimes see people pretending to be employees to defraud people,” he wrote. “Instagram will never DM you or ask you for money to recover an account. DM me if you have questions, happy to help.”
Rose responded by saying she had sent Mosseri a direct message, but she has not shared any updates on the process of restoring her accounts. Both her personal account and the Shag Mag account are still not accessible on the platform as of Thursday afternoon.