The Facebook CEO made the remarks one day before the Senate expanded its questioning of how social media apps, in general, are protecting kids online.
Focus on Younger, Not Older
In an earnings call Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg assured investors that he’s “retooling” the company’s platforms to serve “young adults the North Star, rather than optimizing for the larger number of older people.”
Zuckerberg’s comments came the same day a consortium of 17 major news organizations published multiple articles detailing thousands of internal documents that were handed over to the Securities and Exchanges Commission earlier this year.
Several outlets, including Bloomberg and The Verge, reported that Facebook’s own research shows it is hemorrhaging growth with teen users, as well as stagnating with young adults — something that reportedly shocked investors.
Amid his attempts to control the fallout, Zuckerberg said the company will specifically shift focus to appeal to users between 18 and 29. As part of that, he said the company is planning to ramp up Instagram’s Reels feature to more strongly compete with TikTok.
He also defended Facebook amid the leaks, saying, “Good faith criticism helps us get better. But my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company.”
But the information reaped from the leaked documents is nothing short of damning, touching on everything from human trafficking to the Jan. 6 insurrection, as well as Facebook’s inability to moderate hate speech and terrorism among non-English languages.
Other Social Media Platforms Testify
On Tuesday, a Congressional subcommittee led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (R-Ct.) directly addressed representatives from Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube over child safety concerns on their platforms.
Facebook’s controversies have dominated social media news coverage since mid-September when The Wall Street Journal published six internal slide docs that showed Facebook researchers presenting data on the effect the company’s platforms have on minors’ mental health.
Now, Tuesday’s hearing marks a significant shift to grilling the whole of social media. Notably, this is also the first time Snap and TikTok have testified before Congress.
While each of the companies before senators generally said they support legislation to boost online protections for kids, they didn’t commit to supporting any specific proposals currently on the table.
In fact, at one point, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Ma.) criticized a Snapchat executive after she said she wanted to “talk a bit more” before the company would support updates to his Children’s Online Privacy Protect Act, which was passed in 1998.
“Look, this is just what drives us crazy,” he said “‘We want to talk, we want to talk, we want to talk.’ This bill’s been out there for years and you still don’t have a view on it. Do you support it or not?”
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (CNBC) (The Washington Post)
New Federal Rules Allow Debt Collectors To DM People on Social Media
Among several limitations, collectors cannot message people publicly, must state upfront that they’re pursuing a debt, and must give people an opportunity to opt-out of receiving additional messages through social media.
Debt Collectors Can Now DM
If you’ve suddenly found yourself flooded with more DMs in the last day, it might not be because you’ve become more popular. Instead, it could be because a new federal rule that went into effect Tuesday now allows debt collectors to message people by email, text, and even through direct messages on social media.
Debt collectors will still be subject to several notable limitations.
For example, if they reach out to someone on social media, it has to be through a private message. It can’t be in a public comments section or anything viewable to anyone except the recipient.
Additionally, if they attempt to reach out by adding a recipient as a friend or contact, they must be clear from the start that they’re pursuing a debt.
Finally, collectors must allow recipients to opt-out of receiving further messages from them on the social media platform they reach out on.
Collectors Praise the Rule, Others Express Concern
The new rule, which was greenlit by former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger, has largely been met with praise throughout the collection industry. Kraninger, a Trump-appointee who vacated her office during President Joe Biden’s transition, has argued that the rule is intended to “modernize the legal regime for debt collection.”
Essentially, she and debt collectors have contended that texts, email, and social media are now the preferred methods of communication for many people in America.
Many others, particularly those outside the collection industry, are less happy with the new rule.
“If left unchecked, this expanded access to consumers could very well contribute to new ways to harass struggling consumers,” Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post said.
“I’ve followed this issue for years, and while many companies operate within the law, illegal operations can do a lot of damage to innocent consumers,” she added. “Debt collection isn’t wicked. But it can lead to embarrassing, unethical and illegal tactics.”
For example, Singletary noted that some companies try to collect debts even after they’re no longer legally collectible.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Business Insider) (CBS News)
Workers in Alabama Will Rehold Vote to Unionize After Amazon Interfered With First Election, Agency Finds
Among other actions, federal officials found that Amazon improperly placed an unmarked U.S. Postal Service mailbox in front of its warehouse.
Workers Will Redo Union Vote
Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, will revote on whether or not to unionize thanks to a ruling issued Monday by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The workers previously agreed not to unionize by a vote of 1,798 to 738 in April. Had they voted yes, the group would have set a precedent by becoming the first Amazon employees in the country to be represented by a union.
Following the initial vote, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union — which led the charge for employees to organize — filed unfair labor practices charges with the NLRB, an independent federal agency. There, it alleged that Amazon at times broke the law while campaigning against the effort.
In its Monday decision, the NLRB’s Atlanta regional director Lisa Henderson agreed, saying Amazon, “essentially highjacked the process and gave a strong impression that it controlled the process.”
She additionally noted that Amazon “improperly polled employees when it presented small groups of employees with the open and observable choice to pick up or not pick up ‘Vote No’ paraphernalia in front of” managers.
Amazon Challenges NLRB Ruling
Amazon is expected to appeal Henderson’s decision.
“It’s disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn’t count. As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” spokesperson Kelly Nantel said according to NPR.
In a statement, Nantel also cited the fact that the results of the first vote were overwhelming.
Convincing employees to flip the results will likely be an uphill battle. To do so, those in favor of unionizing will need to convince hundreds to vote differently or convince thousands of workers who sat out the last round to now vote.
Still, this is a second breath of life for pro-unionists. While some believe the outcome could change given high employee turnover rates at Amazon, many others expect it to hold firm as a “no” vote.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (WVTM) (The Washington Post)
CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart Helped Fuel the Opioid Crisis, Jury Finds
While all three chains have vowed to appeal, this ruling is a massive win for plaintiffs who argued that opioid manufacturers and retailers violated “public nuisance” laws when contributing to the opioid epidemic.
Jury Sides Against Retailers
A federal jury in Cleveland agreed Tuesday that CVS Health, Walgreens, and Walmart — three of the country’s biggest pharmacy chains — are responsible for contributing to the opioid crisis in two Ohio counties.
This is the first time that the retail arm of the drug industry has been held accountable for opioid overdoses and deaths. It’s also the first time a jury has been used to decide in a major opioid lawsuit.
Previously, only manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson faced settlements or penalties, though the latter narrowly escaped $465 million in opioid fines in Oklahoma earlier this month after the state’s Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling.
Many plaintiffs in thousands of similar lawsuits all across the country are seeing the Ohio jury’s decision as an optimistic sign — especially since most of them are using the same argument. Plaintiffs in Ohio alleged that either opioid manufacturers or retailers violated “public nuisance” laws by ignoring harm caused by opioid abuse that later snowballed into a full-fledged public health crisis.
Retailers Vow to Appeal
Unsurprisingly, all three chains have promised to appeal Tuesday’s verdict.
There is precedent to think this decision could be overturned. For example, the now-overturned J&J lawsuit first successfully used the public nuisance argument in lower courts, but during an appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court thought the plaintiff’s argument was too broad.
That said, every state has different public nuisance laws, so there may not be a clear-cut answer as to what actually could happen with all these cases.
Despite a pending appeal, the judge overseeing Tuesday’s Ohio verdict will make a determination on how much these companies must pay after additional hearings in the spring.
While the retail arm has largely avoided settling up to this point, if this case ultimately does not go their way, it could open the door for future settlements if they decide that route is less costly than going to trial.