Senator calls for stricter rules on how YouTube advertises to kids


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Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), one of Congress’ top tech watchdogs, is requesting that the Federal Trade Commission force YouTube to make sweeping policy changes following reports that the agency is finishing up an investigation into how the platform handles children’s data and experiences.

Markey authored the law on how platforms should treat children’s data, entitled the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Generally, COPPA makes it unlawful for platforms like Facebook and YouTube to collect the data of users under the age of 13. In his Tuesday letter, Markey voices concerns that YouTube isn’t complying with these guidelines.

“I am concerned that YouTube has failed to comply with COPPA,” Markey wrote to the FTC. “I, therefore,…

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One of the creepiest series in YouTube history is now a decade old and can’t seem to die


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Ten years ago this week, a video appeared on the Something Awful forum describing a trove of unlabeled tapes that had been recorded as part of a student film project. The director had supposedly instructed for the tapes to be burned. But years after the project was suddenly ended, the video’s narrator reveals that he kept them intact and decided to parse through the footage.

“Should I find anything in any of them I will upload it to keep as a permanent record,” the narrator wrote. Within a few uploads, the audience was subjected to a slew of clues as to what drove the director to cancel the project. The tapes were filled with shots of eerie symbols and a tall, creeping figure without a face and dressed in a suit.

These videos were some…

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The Senate will hold a hearing next month on Facebook’s Libra currency


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On Wednesday, the Senate Banking Committee announced it will be holding a hearing next month to question witnesses over Facebook’s new cryptocurrency initiative, Libra.

The hearing, entitled “Examining Facebook’s Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations,” is set for July 16th, but the committee has yet to nail down who will be testifying. The plans come shortly after Facebook formally announced its new cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem, Libra. Facebook’s plan was met with harsh criticism from lawmakers, as well as calls for investigation into the potential consumer risks.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is the top Democrat on the committee and was one of the first lawmakers to question Facebook’s new product. “Facebook…

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Internet giants must stay unbiased to keep their biggest legal shield, senator proposes


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On Wednesday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is expected to introduce legislation that would heavily modify section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, adding new restrictions to the broad immunity currently enjoyed by platform companies. Under Hawley’s “Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act,” companies could be stripped of that immunity if they exhibit political bias, or moderate in a way that disadvantages a certain political candidate or viewpoint.

“With Section 230, tech companies get a sweetheart deal that no other industry enjoys: complete exemption from traditional publisher liability in exchange for providing a forum free of political censorship,” said Sen. Hawley. “Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, big tech has failed to hold…

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Top Democrat calls for Facebook to halt cryptocurrency plans until Congress investigates


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Hours after Facebook announced its plans for a global cryptocurrency project, a top House Democrat is calling for Facebook to halt its plans until Congress and regulators have had a chance to investigate potential risks.

“With the announcement that it plans to create a cryptocurrency, Facebook is continuing its unchecked expansion and extending its reach into the lives of its users,” House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) said in a statement. “Given the company’s troubled past, I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues and take action.”

Waters’s comments came shortly after…

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Top Democrat calls for strict oversight on Facebook’s new cryptocurrency


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The top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee blasted Facebook’s Tuesday announcement that it would be launching a new cryptocurrency. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) warned the company that any new plans should be subject to strict oversight.

“Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy,” Brown said. “We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight. I’m calling on our financial watchdogs to scrutinize this closely to ensure users are protected.”

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Bernie Sanders applauds the gaming industry’s push for unionization


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For the past few years, game developers have increasingly sought to unionize amid growing concerns over layoffs and burnout in the industry — and, today, Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders applauded their efforts.

“The video game industry made $43 billion in revenue last year. The workers responsible for that profit deserve to collectively bargain as part of a union,” Sanders said in a tweet. “I’m glad to see unions like @IATSE and the broader @GameWorkers movement organizing such workers.”

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which works to organize creatives, responded to Sanders saying, “Too often,…

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Twitch sues to unmask trolls that posted violent and pornographic streams


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The Amazon-owned game streaming platform Twitch is suing anonymous trolls who posted a slew of harmful and illegal content, including the Christchurch shooting, on the platform late last month. If the company learns the identities of these people, they plan to request the court to prohibit them from using the platform and force them to pay damages, as first reported by Bloomberg.

The videos were posted last month by an organized group of trolls in Twitch’s Artifact category, who are named in the lawsuit as John and Jane Does 1-100. Aside from the video filmed by the Christchurch shooter, trolls also streamed porn, copyrighted movies and television shows, and other illegal and harmful content.

“Over the weekend of May 25, we became…

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Amazon hires Washington, DC official who participated in HQ2 talks


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One of the DC government’s top economic development officials, who tried to charm Amazon into building its second headquarters in the District, will be stepping down to work for the tech giant in the coming weeks.

Brian Kenner, DC’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development, helped lead the Mayor Muriel Bowser administration’s “Obviously DC” campaign. The campaign was aimed at tempting Amazon to locate a new headquarters in the DC metro area, using a combination of tax credits and other incentives. The effort ultimately failed, with Amazon initially splitting up its second headquarters between Long Island City in NYC and a Northern Virginia headquarters just outside DC. Months later, New York officials rallied against the deal,…

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Congress grapples with how to regulate deepfakes


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Top House Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) issued a warning on Thursday that deepfake videos could have a disastrous effect on the 2020 election cycle.

“Now is the time for social media companies to put in place policies to protect users from this kind of misinformation not in 2021 after viral deepfakes have polluted the 2020 elections,” Schiff said. “By then it will be too late.”

The warning came during a House Intelligence Committee hearing focused on analyzing the national and election security risks of the technology. The committee convened a panel of experts from universities and think tanks to prepare a deepfake strategy to guide new restrictions from both the government and platforms.

At the outset of the hearing, Schiff came out…

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Ajit Pai: The greatest threat to the internet is Silicon Valley, not ISPs


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One day after the anniversary of the end of net neutrality, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai took shots at Silicon Valley tech giants suggesting that they are the ones controlling what consumers see online, not the internet service providers.

“The greatest threat to a free and open internet has been the unregulated Silicon Valley tech giants that do, in fact, today decide what you see and what you don’t,” Pai said. “There’s no transparency. There’s no consumer protections and I think bipartisan members of both congressional chambers have now come to that realization.”

The statement came during Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing, where commissioners fielded questions on net neutrality, broadband mapping, and…

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Instagram will leave up deepfake video of Mark Zuckerberg


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A deepfake video of Mark Zuckerberg was uploaded to Instagram earlier this week, as first reported by Motherboard, leading to heated speculation as to how the company would react to apparent defamation against its founder and CEO. But according to a spokesperson, Facebook will not be removing the video, following the same policy applied to a distorted, viral video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi only a few weeks ago.

“We will treat this content the same way we treat all misinformation on Instagram,” a spokesperson told The Verge. “If third-party fact-checkers mark it as false, we will filter it from Instagram’s recommendation surfaces like Explore and hashtag pages.”

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Ten state attorneys general are suing to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger


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A group of 10 state attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, is filing a multi-state lawsuit to block the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint while the US Justice Department’s decision looms.

“When it comes to corporate power, bigger isn’t always better,” James said. “The T-Mobile and Sprint merger would not only cause irreparable harm to mobile subscribers nationwide by cutting access to affordable, reliable wireless service for millions of Americans.”

The two companies announced the $26 billion merger last April, which would shrink the US’s national wireless carrier pool from four to three providers if approved. In the months following the announcement, lawmakers and consumer advocates have criticized the…

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Donald Trump on tech antitrust: ‘There’s something going on’


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In an interview with CNBC on Monday, President Donald Trump criticized the antitrust fines imposed by the European Union on United States tech companies, suggesting that these tech giants could, in fact, be monopolies, but the US should be the political body raking in the settlement fines.

“Every week you see them going after Facebook and Apple and all of these companies … The European Union is suing them all of the time,” Trump said. “Well, we should be doing this. They’re our companies. So, [the EU is] actually attacking our companies, but we should be doing what they’re doing. They think there’s a monopoly, but I’m not sure that they think that. They just think this is easy money.”

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Congress is taking on YouTube’s pedophilia problem


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Three senators are calling for YouTube to take more direct action in protecting children against predatory behavior on the platform in the wake of a recent New York Times story, which investigated sexually predatory views and comments on children’s videos posted to YouTube.

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) have each taken a step in addressing YouTube’s child safety issue. Hawley announced yesterday that he would be introducing a bill that would make it unlawful for video-hosting platforms like YouTube to recommend videos that feature minors. Recommendation systems are under particular scrutiny after the Times report, which showed YouTube’s recommendation algorithm suggesting videos of…

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Teen vapers are using eBay to dodge age restrictions


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As government regulators move to crack down on youth vaping, eBay and other online marketplaces are still awash with bootleg Juul pods. Those third-party sales violate most platform rules and are the target of significant anti-counterfeiting efforts by Juul itself. But none of it has managed to block the sales entirely, suggesting that regulators may face an uphill battle as they try to curb the teen vaping epidemic.

Vaping forums like the /r/Juul subreddit are littered with posts from users who purchased what they believed to be legitimate products from eBay and Alibaba. Several users note that they’re underage and unable to purchase authentic Juul products in physical stores or on the Juul website. It’s common knowledge that many of…

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Senator calls for FTC investigation into ‘dangerous detox teas’ on social media


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On Tuesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote to the FTC requesting a federal investigation into the sale of “detox teas” on social media that are pervasively marketed by influencers on social media.

Online influencers like the Kardashians have long peddled weight loss teas to their millions of followers on Instagram and YouTube. Companies like Flat Tummy Co use brand ambassador programs that pay influencers to post a certain number of photos and stories to their Instagram accounts and other social media accounts to market their products. Teas are some of the most notable items, but other weight loss and appetite suppressors like shakes and lollipops are marketed in the same way as well.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it’s time to regulate Big Tech


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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is ready to take on tech companies, saying in a tweet Monday night that “the era of self-regulation is over.”

The tweet comes only a few days after a distorted video of the Speaker caught fire on social media causing an uproar amongst lawmakers who requested platforms, like Facebook, take down the false video. YouTube removed it, Facebook added a new menu directing users to “additional coverage,” and Twitter let it stand on President Donald Trump’s own account.

“Today, everything is connected to the Internet; it is the foundation on which our economy, democracy & attention rest,” Pelosi said. “Unwarranted, concentrated economic power in the hands of a few is dangerous to democracy – especially when…

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House lawmakers launch antitrust investigation into Big Tech


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The House Judiciary Committee is launching an investigation into giant tech companies like Facebook and Google to determine whether they are abusing their market dominance and violating antitrust law.

“The open internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online,” Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said in a statement. “But there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications.”

The investigation comes amid growing tensions between regulators and Silicon Valley. Over the past few days, reports surfaced that the Federal Trade…

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FTC secures authority to open antitrust probe into Facebook


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The Federal Trade Commission will be in charge of any antitrust investigations into Facebook, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal Monday.

It’s part of an arrangement that permits the Justice Department to investigate Google while handing over Facebook and Amazon to the FTC. On Friday, reports surfaced that the Justice Department was preparing to open an antitrust probe into Google. It wasn’t immediately clear exactly what part of Google’s business that the Department would be investigating, but shortly after the news broke, The Washington Post confirmed that The FTC would be at the reigns of any investigations into Amazon.

Both the FTC and the Justice Department have the authority to enforce antitrust laws, but the…

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