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Facebook goes after the superspreaders

Facebook goes after the superspreaders

Good morning! This Thursday, Facebook is limiting the spread of all posts from individual superspreaders, Amazon bought all the Bond films for more than $8 billion, the creator of Google's Duo left the company for Clubhouse, and GameStop is (obviously) getting into NFTs.

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The Big Story

Facebook tackles the superspreaders

Facebook announced Wednesday that it will now limit the spread of all posts from individual Facebook users who repeatedly share content that's been debunked by fact-checkers.

That's right, all posts from those superspreaders will be suppressed. Yes, even the cat pictures. Facebook already limits the reach of individual posts that contain misinformation and levies various punishments on Pages and Groups that are havens for misinformation. But it hasn't so far cracked down on individual Facebook users.

  • That matters. Research has repeatedly shown that whether it comes to COVID vaccine misinformation or election falsehoods, even a small handful of individuals can become superspreaders of misinformation.
  • Sometimes those superspreaders, like former President Trump, are sharing misinformation on Pages. But in other cases, they're sharing posts from individual accounts with substantial reach. Until now, Facebook has taken action against the content of their posts, but not the people behind them.

Targeting these repeat offenders is key to Facebook limiting misinformation. Burying a single piece of misinformation does little to prevent the same thing from happening again in the future. Burying all posts from a problematic user might.

  • Facebook also said it will begin alerting people if they are about to Like a Page that has repeatedly shared misinformation.

These policies are contingent on Facebook's fact-checkers actually debunking users' posts, which is, after all, a manual and sometimes spotty process.

  • Facebook's fact-checking program launched in 2016 with a handful of partners and has since grown substantially. But critics have continued to point out that fact-checkers are unable to keep up with the sheer volume of misinformation on Facebook.
  • Once a given post has been fact-checked, Facebook uses automation to find other posts that, say, contain the same debunked meme or story. And yet, those systems sometimes fail to find replicas that have been tweaked ever so slightly to evade detection.

There are still lots of unanswered questions from Facebook about how this crackdown on individual accounts will work in practice. It's unclear, for instance, how many times a user has to share misinformation in order to have their account demoted. A Facebook spokesperson said the company's not sharing these details due to "very real concerns about gaming the system."

  • While Facebook alerts people each time they share misinformation, for now, users will have no way of knowing whether Facebook is demoting all posts from their account. Facebook says it's looking at how to properly notify users when they've reached their misinformation limit.
  • Also fuzzy? What it takes for a user to get back in Facebook's good graces. "If they stop sharing false content after a certain period of time, their privileges will be restored," the spokesperson said. "If they continue sharing false content, it will continue to trigger penalties."

— Issie Lapowsky (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM SLACK

A recent survey found that Slack users save an average of 90 minutes a day and forge better connections using Slack instead of email. However, email has been the default communication tool at work for nearly 50 years. It's time for a change.

Learn more

People Are Talking

Sen. Chuck Schumer urged his colleagues to pass the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act ASAP:

  • "If we don't step up our game right now, we'll fall behind the rest of the world. That's what this legislation is ultimately about: righting the ship, investing in science and tech so we can out-innovate, out-produce and out-compete the world in the industries of the future."

The tech industry needs to be more proactive about AI, and everything else, Satya Nadella said:

  • "You can't, as a tech provider, platform creator, say, hey, I'll scale this and then worry about the unintended consequences. That's just not going to be acceptable in society, first. And then regulation, of course, ultimately will catch up."
Amazon can't possibly be considered a monopoly, Jeff Bezos said, but he thinks maybe Google and Apple should:
  • "Think about mobile phone operating systems. Can you think of any successful, small, fast growing mobile phone operating systems? Where are they? Name one. They do not exist. In contrast, there are many successful, small, fast growing retailers that are doing incredibly well selling online."
The U.S. government still doesn't understand crypto and blockchain tech, Ripple's Brad Garlinghouse said:
  • "In the United States there has been a lack of regulatory clarity. Other countries, G20 markets, they have invested the time and energy, either through legislation or rulemaking, to provide that clarity and certainty, which allows investors to participate, entrepreneurs to build."

Subscription real estate might be the next big thing, Airbnb's Brian Chesky said:

  • "I think eventually in the future people will start paying for rent the way they pay for cable television, or for Netflix, you pay on a month-to-month basis."

Making Moves

On Protocol: Amazon bought MGM for $8.45 billion. It seems to be less a play to kill Netflix and more just a reason to keep people inside of Amazon's ecosystem for as long as possible. Oh, and it's a big bet on Amazon's ad business. And no surprise here: Lawmakers aren't thrilled by this merger. But it'll be fascinating to see how Amazon operates MGM's theatrical business and linear cable deals (and the Epix channel), and tries to bring one of Hollywood's oldest studios fully into the streaming era.

Speaking of Amazon, Jeff Bezos's final day as CEO will be July 5. That's when Andy Jassy will take the reins, and also happens to be the 27th anniversary of Amazon's incorporation.

Neha Parikh is the new CEO of Waze, replacing Noam Bardin after Bardin stepped down last November. She joins from Hotwire.

Apple is hiring someone to "lead the partnership program with key players in the Alternative Payments ecosystem," and wants someone with experience in crypto, payments and digital wallets.

Justin Uberti is joining Clubhouse. He was at Google for 15 years, created Duo, and will work on "interactive audio infrastructure" in his new role.

In Other News

  • On Protocol: Epic's Unreal Engine 5 is out now in early access. Developers have been waiting anxiously since that amazing demo dropped last year.
  • The EU is preparing to take on Facebook. It's close to opening a formal antitrust case against the company, The Wall Street Journal reported, and it appears to be largely focused on how Facebook treats Marketplace.
  • Facebook and Instagram are hiding the likes. Or letting users hide them, anyway. Adam Mosseri said early tests found that turning off likes didn't actually change the user experience, for better or for worse, but the feature is rolling out more broadly anyway.
  • Coinbase is getting into the media game, launching Coinbase Fact Check to "combat misinformation and mischaracterizations about Coinbase or crypto being shared in the world." And it's encouraging all companies to go direct.
  • Iran banned Bitcoin mining at least until September 22. The country has struggled with mining's huge energy needs for some time, and seems to be following China's lead here. More bad news for Bitcoin.
  • On Protocol: Is privacy just an anti-competitive ruse? Some of Big Tech's competitors think so, and are accusing Facebook and others of using privacy as an excuse to keep others down and the market for themselves.
  • It's been a big year for facial-recognition startups. After IBM, Microsoft and Amazon stopped selling their tech to police, ZDNet found that Clearview AI, TrueFace, Accenture and others have stepped in to fill the void. And over in Europe, Clearview, at least, is under huge scrutiny for privacy violations.
  • GameStop is getting in on NFTs. (Because of course it is.) It's hiring engineers for an Ethereum-based platform, combining meme stocks and diamond hands into the One True 2021 Finance Thing.

Future of work

The answer is hybrid

Nobody knows exactly what the future of work looks like. We can all agree on that, right? But as surely as we know anything, we know this: The future is hybrid. A work life that's part remote and part in the office is hard and messy and happens to be exactly what employees want. In fact, 83% of employees want that, per The Wall Street Journal. And to many of those employees, anything else is a deal breaker.

That WSJ story is worth a read, both because it makes clear how complicated hybrid work is, and how big a boost it will give companies who get it right.

Speaking of which, we haven't asked in a while: Where do you stand on the remote/hybrid/in-office future? Has your mind changed in the last few months? Reply and let us know, we'd love to hear from you.

A MESSAGE FROM SLACK

A recent survey found that Slack users save an average of 90 minutes a day and forge better connections using Slack instead of email. However, email has been the default communication tool at work for nearly 50 years. It's time for a change.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Ripple's name.
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