Even Elon Musk can’t fully wreck Twitter’s one great superpower

“the TV ratings Nielsen reports have no correlation to the viewership numbers Twitter is reporting. For starters, as always, Nielsen is reporting the average viewership the debates generated, not the total number of views, which is what online outlets generally report. That’s not a new discrepancy, and at this point everyone in tech and media should know better but either doesn’t or pretends not to.

More important, under Musk, Twitter has moved to an even more fanciful description of “viewership,” where it’s not even pretending to count people who watch the video. Instead, it’s simply measuring the number of times someone has seen the tweet with the video scroll through their feed, as the Washington Post’s Will Oremus reports.”


Biden White House Pressured Facebook To Censor Lab Leak Posts

“President Joe Biden’s White House pushed Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, to censor contrarian COVID-19 content, including speculation about the virus having escaped from a lab, vaccine skepticism, and even jokes.
“Can someone quickly remind me why we were removing—rather than demoting/labeling—claims that Covid is man made,” asked Nick Clegg, president for global affairs at the company, in a July 2021 email to his coworkers.

A content moderator replied, “We were under pressure from the administration and others to do more. We shouldn’t have done it.””

“”According to a trove of confidential documents obtained by Reason, health advisers at the CDC had significant input on pandemic-era social media policies at Facebook as well. They were consulted frequently, at times daily. They were actively involved in the affairs of content moderators, providing constant and ever-evolving guidance. They requested frequent updates about which topics were trending on the platforms, and they recommended what kinds of content should be deemed false or misleading. “Here are two issues we are seeing a great deal of misinfo on that we wanted to flag for you all,” reads one note from a CDC official. Another email with sample Facebook posts attached begins: “BOLO for a small but growing area of misinfo.”

” These Facebook Files show that the platform responded with incredible deference. Facebook routinely asked the government to vet specific claims, including whether the virus was “man-made” rather than zoonotic in origin. (The CDC responded that a man-made origin was “technically possible” but “extremely unlikely.”) In other emails, Facebook asked: “For each of the following claims, which we’ve recently identified on the platform, can you please tell us if: the claim is false; and, if believed, could this claim contribute to vaccine refusals?””

Meta and Google are blocking links to news in Canada. The US might be next.

“The government legislation that both companies are protesting is called the Online News Act, or C-18. The intention is to give the long-suffering journalism industry a little cash boost, likely at the expense of two companies that are partially responsible for its woes. It accomplishes this by compelling them to pay Canadian news outlets if they host links to their content. (Fenlon’s employer, which is a public broadcaster, officially supports the Online News Act.) That’s why Meta and Google are threatening to remove news links for all Canadian users, permanently, if the law applies to them when it takes effect, likely by the end of this year.”

“The new Canadian law is modeled on a controversial Australian law, the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which went into effect in 2021. Google and Meta’s responses to that law were similar threats to pull links, but both companies ended up making payments to some news organizations. The Australian government estimates that news outlets got AU$200 million, although it doesn’t know that for sure — nor does it know how that money was distributed — because the companies were allowed to keep those figures private. Even so, other countries, like Canada, likely assumed they’d get similar results with similar laws and were less apt to take Google and Meta’s threats seriously.

If you’re Google and Meta, this may not seem fair. Links are meant to drive people to websites, right? News sites are getting traffic through those links they otherwise may not have gotten, and the platform loses eyeballs when people click away from it. Meta contends that it doesn’t even post the links in the first place; its users, including the outlets themselves, do that. In the eyes of Google and Meta, they’re doing news sites a favor. And, Meta has said, news content is a very small draw for its users. If the companies don’t really need news links to attract users, why should they be forced to pay for them and be subject to government regulation, something they want to avoid at all costs?”

“In the eyes of the law’s supporters, however, Google and Meta’s business models have taken a lot away from journalism, and this “link tax” is the least they can do to pay some of that back. And, yes, the internet has decimated the journalism industry. One way is digital ad revenues: They’re a fraction of what news outlets commanded for their print and broadcast products, and that already smaller sum is reduced even further because online advertising companies — an industry dominated by Meta and Google — take a cut of it for themselves. One oft-cited statistic has Google and Meta getting 80 percent of online advertising revenue in the country. While Google and Meta have programs that pay news companies, including in Canada, they’re not legally required to do it, they can pick and choose who and what to support (and, by extension, who and what not to support), and they can change the terms whenever they want. Meta, for example, ended an emerging journalists fellowship program in Canada in response to C-18’s passage. The Online News Act is meant to ensure that even the smallest publications get something and that the DNIs have to pay at all. The Canadian government estimates the law will generate about CA$330 million a year for its news outlets.
But that’s all if there are links to Canadian news outlets on those platforms in the first place, which brings us to the current game of chicken between the Canadian government and Big Tech — and the yawning gaps on the news feeds of people like Fenlon and Krichel.”

A Simple Way to Regulate TikTok

“The platform-utilities approach, by contrast, suggests Congress take a different path. In banking, radio, airlines, maritime shipping and power, federal regulators had to give approval, via a license or charter, to a company before it could operate one of these utility-services in the United States. That approval was conditional on meeting congressionally set regulatory standards that apply across the whole sector. Clear rules on restricting foreign influence reduce the need to come up with complicated compliance plans or monitoring programs. They create a level playing field for businesses, so firms do not have to worry about being singled out for regulation.
For generations, this approach traveled alongside antitrust law. Antitrust generally focuses on competitive markets; the platform-utilities approach recognizes that some markets might not be very competitive, and preventing the abuse of corporate power, therefore, requires regulation. Indeed, both approaches emerged at the federal level at almost the same time. The Sherman Antitrust Act was passed in 1890, only a few years after the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, which took a platform-utilities approach to regulating the railroads.

In the late 20th century, both fields went through revolutions. Antitrust became dominated by an approach that focused on consumer welfare and efficiency. Deregulatory advocates passed laws abandoning the platform-utilities approach in rail, airlines, maritime shipping, telecommunications and banking. Today, antitrust is in the midst of a renaissance, with policymakers on left and right supporting more aggressive enforcement of competition laws. The platform-utilities approach deserves the same reinvigoration, because it offers useful strategies for addressing current policy challenges.

If lawmakers want to take a lesson from the long American tradition of regulated capitalism, they should advance comprehensive legislation to regulate tech platforms more like public utilities. Such legislation should include restrictions on foreign ownership and control, which could apply to all tech platforms from adversarial countries. Comprehensive legislation should also include sectoral standards that apply to U.S. firms as well — standards not just on data collection, surveillance and privacy, but also against anti-competitive behavior.

Just like radio a century ago, tech platforms are a modern utility, essential for commerce and communication. We should start treating them that way.”

Who is Linda Yaccarino, Elon Musk’s pick for new Twitter CEO?

“Yaccarino is a seasoned media executive who could help repair Twitter’s relationship with its advertisers, many of whom have quit or cut back from the platform recently because of Musk’s perceived volatility. She has a reputation for being a tough negotiator and was key in the launch of NBCUniversal’s digital Peacock streaming service, according to the Wall Street Journal. She’s also a known Trump supporter, according to sources. In the past few months, Yaccarino has publicly praised Musk, and she interviewed him at a major advertising conference in April — paving her way, in the eyes of media insiders, to take on the role.”

“if you think that means the Elon-Twitter story is over, don’t hold your breath. Musk is still very much in control. He will still be the owner of Twitter. Unless he sells the company — or a controlling share of it — he’s the one calling the shots.
How much power he gives Yaccarino is entirely at Musk’s discretion.”

The ridiculous but important Twitter check mark fiasco, explained

“Verification used to be a way for users to know that a profile belonged to the person or organization it purported to be. It was reserved for the accounts that would need such an indicator, including those of famous people, companies, and journalists, who got blue check marks appended to their profiles to make that verification easy for everyone to see.
It has now become a symbol of who is willing to pay $8 a month for “Twitter Blue.” Or, in the case of organizations, a symbol of who is willing to pay at least $1,000 a month.”

“Musk framed the move as a way to open up Twitter’s blue checks, which to some had become a symbol of unfair and much-desired privilege that was bestowed upon people they didn’t like.”

“the core problem remains that Twitter is no longer verifying the identity of users who get a blue check, nor is it a symbol of authenticity. Anyone who has a phone number and a credit card can appear “verified,” though Twitter supposedly vets accounts to ensure they’re not pretending to be someone else when they initially sign up, and temporarily takes their blue check away if they change their names or profile photos.”

“Twitter began verifying accounts in 2009 to settle a lawsuit from famous baseball guy Tony La Russa over a fake Tony La Russa account. Back then, it was relatively easy to squat on a famous person’s name and make a fake account pretending to be them. That’s why Donald Trump had to go with “@realDonaldTrump” when he joined Twitter; someone had already taken @donaldtrump and made it a Trump parody account. Tina Fey says she’s never been on Twitter, but a lot of people sure thought @TinaFey (now @NotTinaFey) was her. And then there are the many, many Fake Will Ferrell Twitter accounts. That said, like most things Twitter, verification isn’t perfect: Author Cormac McCarthy’s fake account was somehow verified as recently as 2021.”