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Facebook court is now in session

Image: Protocol
Facebook court is now in session

Good morning! This Friday, Facebook's Oversight Board is getting ready to hear cases, the Senate wants to hear even more from Big Tech, and what it's like to spend your days and nights canvassing over Zoom.

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The Big Story

Facebook Court is now in session

After months of preparation and internal discussion, Facebook's oversight board (the real one, not to be confused with the Real Oversight Board, which is not the real one) is getting ready to hear cases. More importantly, its leaders explained how the thing's supposed to work — and set a blueprint I expect other tech companies will follow.

The board won't do much of anything before the election. But when it does, there will be three ways it can receive cases for review:

  • Users who've had their content taken down, and had their appeal to Facebook rejected, can appeal their case directly to the oversight board. (They can't submit others' content, though. The Board cited privacy reasons, but said this is something they're working on solving.)
  • Facebook can also refer cases itself.
  • And in particularly urgent scenarios, Facebook can send cases to the board for "expedited review."

Only in that last case does the board definitely have to engage; otherwise, it decides which issues to weigh in on. Whenever it does take up a case, it will announce it publicly and ask for public input. (It's all very intense and Supreme Court-y — it's gonna make a great Aaron Sorkin show.)

The big question: How much power does the board have? At first glance, a lot! When it says something should be taken down (presumably with a "Gladiator"-style thumbs-down), Facebook will take it down. Beyond that? It's kind of up to Facebook:

  • Co-chair Helle Thorning-Schmidt said the board will provide Facebook with broader policy recommendations, but noted that Facebook isn't required to implement them.
  • Greene said that, "We want our decisions to be influential and have impact beyond the single case," and that the board will prioritize cases with wider applications. But Facebook's under no obligation to do more than consider those wider applications.

The oversight board is a good idea, and could be a useful thing. Or it could be nothing more than a convenient way for Mark Zuckerberg to avoid complicated decisions, right up until the moment he doesn't feel like listening anymore. And without more real-world consequences, what's to stop him?

Regulation

The censorship fight, round 6 billion

Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg should start real estate shopping in D.C. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted yesterday to subpoena both CEOs to come in front of the committee about The New York Post's Hunter Biden saga. No subpoenas have been served yet, but the threat might be enough to get the two men to appear "willingly."

This sounds like it'll be the knock-down-drag-out hearing over alleged conservative bias on social platforms:

  • Lindsey Graham's motion to the committee said he also wants to discuss "any other content moderation policies, practices, or actions that may interfere with or influence elections for federal office," plus other times Facebook and Twitter have blocked or slow-rolled stories.
  • This also figures to be a big part of next week's hearing, too, which will also include Sundar Pichai. It was a big part of the hearing in July, too.

These two hearings are going to be exhausting, and I expect they're not going to accomplish very much. Par for the course with the recent Section 230 fight, really. But I am curious to hear how Dorsey explains Twitter's actions on the Post story, after he's already said the company handled it badly.

Electioneering

Door-knocking is so 2016

Anna Kramer writes: Every night at 6 p.m., Democratic-party organizer Pilar McDonald logs onto Zoom to host a phone-banking session. After some chit chat with the volunteers, they get down to business: Each person in each little square mutes their mics and starts dialing Iowa voters.

Organizers traditionally lead get-out-the-vote campaigns in person, canvassing door-to-door across their assigned region. But this is 2020. So McDonald and other organizers spend about 20 hours a week hosting Zoom phone-banking sessions, in addition to making calls of their own.

  • "Nationally, globally, we're all feeling the being worn down aspect. I definitely am exhausted by the end of the day and just want to close my eyes," she said.

But virtual platforms have made it easier for volunteers to engage with campaigns, said McDonald and others, which makes the whole experience worth it to them.

  • "It's democratized the experience a bit," said Matt Caffrey, an organizer for Democratic group SwingLeft. People without cars, those who have trouble driving or walking, the deaf or hard of hearing — they all have easier access on Zoom. And because anyone can make calls from anywhere, virtual canvassing is happening all over the country.
  • Susan Bryant, a seasoned campaign organizer in Iowa City, says that Zoom vastly expanded her group's ability to reach more people. "I don't know what we'd do without it," she said. "I really miss my friends, but you value the things you can."

The DNC and Democratic organizers have long been lambasted for their comparatively poor tech capabilities, and 2020 has been more of the same. Many Republicans continue to door-knock despite the pandemic, and while some Republicans are phone-banking as well, the pandemic has motivated an important technological development that's been missing for Democrats — and organizers told me the Zoom-based network will last well beyond 2020.

Keep reading: Here's Anna's full story on the newly Zoom-filled canvassing process.

A MESSAGE FROM PHILIPS

Philips

Strengthening healthcare interoperability and cybersecurity in the COVID era

A stronger healthcare system means connecting people, data and technology for a frictionless experience across care settings. At Philips, we're developing interoperable solutions that seamlessly transfer data so clinicians can stay focused on what matters most: the patient.

Learn more.

People Are Talking

The Facebook ad boycott really did bring about change, said Facebook's Carolyn Everson:

  • "It forced us to take all the work we've been doing over the last few years, get it into a more organized fashion, add a much-needed level of accountability, specific timelines and goals."

Phil Spencer had a good explanation for what it meant for Microsoft to lean into gaming – and of the mistake too many companies make:

  • "Instead of everything we're doing pivoting on some strategy that Microsoft has and how does gaming help us accelerate a Microsoft strategy, actually talking about and realizing gaming as a top level strategy for Microsoft and what are the assets that Microsoft has that can help us differentiate in the gaming market itself?"

Expensify CEO David Barrett emailed all his customers and told them to vote for Biden:

  • "All evidence suggests that another four (or as Trump has hinted — eight, or more?) years of Trump leadership will damage our democracy to such an extent, I'm obligated on behalf of shareholders to take any action I can to avoid it."

The key to good design during a pandemic is flexibility, Google's Ivy Ross said:

  • "What was our home has to become an office or a schoolroom. So how do we build in the most flexibility into our environments so they can accommodate different modes of being?"

Making Moves

Josh Buckley is the new CEO of Product Hunt. He's also investing in the company. Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt's founder, is staying on as a strategic advisor.

BitTorrent is buying DLive and combining with it to create a company called BitTorrent X, which is going to be heavily focused on all things blockchain. The company also said there's more to come on that front in November.

Katelin Holloway is the newest partner at Seven Seven Six. She joins from Reddit, where she was head of people and culture.

In Other News

  • Facebook is finally monetizing WhatsApp. It said it would start charging companies to use WhatsApp for Business. It added features to the product too, including extra ecommerce tools and a hosting service.
  • South Korea is investigating Google for antitrust violations. Fair Trade Commission head Joh Sung-wook said "there is an act that hampered competition," adding that she plans to present a case to its review committee later this year.
  • On Protocol: Quibi's demise is bad news for T-Mobile. The service was a key part of the carrier's mobile video plans, with T-Mobile footing some of its customers' bills. Meanwhile, the carrier is gearing up for a new TV product announcement next week.
  • Netflix launched a HBCU bootcamp. The 16-week program, powered by 2U, will train 130 Norfolk State University students in Java, UX/UI design and data science.
  • Instacart now accepts SNAP benefits. Customers can pay for Aldi groceries using their benefits, with the program launching in Georgia.
  • Don't miss this fascinating look at how Apple organizes itself as a company, from HBR. It's as open as I've ever seen Apple be about how it operates internally.
  • Microsoft extended WFH to July 6, 2021. Time to start planning your July 4 Zoom party.

One More Thing

maga2020!

More from Anna: Dutch security researcher Victor Gevers claimed he managed to log into Trump's Twitter account on the fifth try yesterday. The password? "maga2020!" (That's apparently the same password used for the Wi-Fi at his rallies.) Twitter said this hack shouldn't be possible and that there's no evidence it happened, but Gevers claimed that the Secret Service thanked him for addressing the problem.

A MESSAGE FROM PHILIPS

Philips

Strengthening healthcare interoperability and cybersecurity in the COVID era

A stronger healthcare system means connecting people, data and technology for a frictionless experience across care settings. At Philips, we're developing interoperable solutions that seamlessly transfer data so clinicians can stay focused on what matters most: the patient.

Learn more.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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