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Bulletins

Facebook's Oversight Board announced its first posts for review

The Facebook Oversight Board will review six cases in its first round of deliberations over Facebook's content moderation decisions.


The Oversight Board chose its first six cases from the more than 20,000 appeals made since October, and the cases were chosen based on their ability to affect the widest range of posts and people, the questions they raise about Facebook's policies or their importance to public conversation, according to today's Oversight Board announcement.

In one case, a user appealed a decision to remove pictures of exposed female breasts that the user claimed were posted as part of a breast cancer awareness campaign. The post was removed because it violated Facebook's Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity Policy. In another case, a user appealed the decision to remove two posted screenshots of Tweets by the former Malaysian prime minister, in which the prime minister called for Muslim violence against French people. That post was removed for violating the company's hate speech policy, while the user claimed in the appeal that the screenshots were posted to raise awareness of the terrible words of the former prime minister. The reviewers also accepted one case referred by Facebook instead of through user appeal, about video and text removed for spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each case will be reviewed by a five-member panel that includes at least one member from the region of the world in question in the case. The public comment period for each of the cases opens today and will remain open for seven days, and the Oversight Board will make a decision about each case within three months. Under the rules of the Oversight Board, Facebook is required to implement each decision and to publicly acknowledge and reply to any policy recommendations made by the review panel.

The start of deliberations marks the first real test for Facebook's new corporate governance body, which is structured as a separate legal entity from Facebook and is intended to remain independent from Facebook's board, including Mark Zuckerberg. If the board's oversight decisions are deemed to be successful (which depends on how you judge success, of course), its structure could allow other companies such as YouTube or Twitter to spin off their own similar oversight boards.

People

Why the stock market went crazy — and one way to fix it

Leif Abraham, the co-CEO of Public, joins the Source Code podcast to talk about what's happening with GameStop, how fintech companies should be helping investors, and what "finance social" looks like.

Public's app tries to make investing simpler. And a little less crazy.

Image: Public

Leif Abraham wants to be very clear that most of this week's GameStop-stock insanity was not happening on his investing platform. (Maybe a little was, but not much.) While Robinhood was climbing the app store charts this week and prices were going out of control, things were a little quieter on Public, where Abraham is co-CEO. And he thinks that's a good thing: He's trying to build a company, a product, and a community that are all focused on long-term goals rather than short-term gains.

At the same time, Abraham said on this week's Source Code podcast, what's happening with GameStop — and AMC and BlackBerry and Nokia and a host of other stocks juiced by retail investors — does signal a shift in how the stock market works. It's no longer the exclusive property of suspenders-wearing bankers and vest-wearing hedge fund bros. The "retail investor," as they're often called, is a force to be reckoned with.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

People

What Tracy Chou learned about online harassment while trying to stop it

Her new app, Block Party, aims to give people control over harassing content.

Block Party founder and diversity activist Tracy Chou became the target of a Reddit harassment campaign while trying to promote the importance of anti-harassment tools.

Photo: Tracy Chou

When Tracy Chou decided to host a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" about online harassment over the summer, she knew it probably wouldn't be the easiest experience, but she'd been dealing with trolls for most of her career. How bad could it really be?

A vitriol-filled nightmare, it turns out. The woman hosting a forum on why she was building an app to protect against online harassment was the target of one of the biggest harassment campaigns of her life. Reddit users mocked her inability to answer their questions (she had, but due to a system error, her comments were disappearing before anyone could read them). They ridiculed her appearance and motivations. Someone created a campaign to say nasty things about her on Substack, attaching her name and photo to some of the posts. They moved to Twitter, and then to 4chan, where they organized a group that flooded her site with a denial of service attack until it went down.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (@ anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Microsoft wants to replace artists with AI

Better Zoom calls, simpler email attachments, smart iPhone cases and other patents from Big Tech.

Turning your stories into images.

Image: USPTO/Microsoft

Hello and welcome to 2021! The Big Tech patent roundup is back, after a short vacation and … all the things … that happened between the start of the year and now. It seems the tradition of tech companies filing weird and wonderful patents has carried into the new year; there are some real gems from the last few weeks. Microsoft is trying to outsource all creative endeavors to AI; Apple wants to make seat belts less annoying; and Amazon wants to cut down on some of the recyclable waste that its own success has inevitably created.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Protocol | China

More women are joining China's tech elite, but 'Wolf Culture' isn't going away

It turns out getting rid of misogyny in Chinese tech isn't just a numbers game.

Chinese tech companies that claim to value female empowerment may act differently behind closed doors.

Photo: Qilai Shen/Getty Images

A woman we'll call Fan had heard about the men of Alibaba before she joined its high-profile affiliate about three years ago. Some of them were "greasy," she said, to use a Chinese term often describing middle-aged men with poor boundaries. Fan tells Protocol that lewd conversations were omnipresent at team meetings and private events, and even women would feel compelled to crack off-color jokes in front of the men. Some male supervisors treated younger female colleagues like personal assistants.

Within six months, despite the cachet the lucrative job carried, Fan wanted to quit.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a Reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

Politics

Facebook’s Oversight Board won’t save it from the Trump ban backlash

The Board's decision on whether to reinstate Trump could set a new precedent for Facebook. But does the average user care what the Board has to say?

A person holds a sign during a Free Speech Rally against tech companies, on Jan. 20 in California.

Photo: Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Two weeks after Facebook suspended former President Donald Trump's account indefinitely, Facebook answered a chorus of calls and referred the case to its newly created Oversight Board for review. Now, the board has 90 days to make a call as to whether Trump stays or goes permanently. The board's decision — and more specifically, how and why it arrives at that decision — could have consequences not only for other global leaders on Facebook, but for the future of the Board itself.

Facebook created its Oversight Board for such a time as this — a time when it would face a controversial content moderation decision and might need a gut check. Or a fall guy. There could be no decision more controversial than the one Facebook made on Jan. 7, when it decided to muzzle one of the most powerful people in the world with weeks remaining in his presidency. It stands to reason, then, that Facebook would tap in its newly anointed refs on the Oversight Board both to earnestly review the call and to put a little distance between Facebook and the decision.

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
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