With help from Benjamin Din and Leah Nylen
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— Call to action: The U.S. is joining a key anti-online extremism pledge, signaling that the Biden administration will center social media platforms in its efforts to fight terrorism.
— MT exclusive: A new study commissioned by the National Association of Broadcasters finds that local broadcasters are on the losing end with major tech platforms, as they struggle to find meaningful ways to monetize content.
— Facebook watch: The social media company could offer more insight this week into how it’ll approach the oversight board’s decision.
IT’S MONDAY; WAKE UP WITH MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Emily Birnbaum. All of you were right: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Endless Frontier Act was named after a 1945 report by Vannevar Bush, former director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, in which he called science the “endless frontier” — a call to action for the government to support the sciences after World War II.
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BIDEN BOOSTS FIGHT AGAINST ONLINE EXTREMISM — The U.S. will join the Christchurch Call to Action, a global effort to combat online extremism, the White House announced Friday night.
This significant decision signals a broader sea change in how President Joe Biden will approach the issue of violent extremism in the U.S. and abroad. Biden’s support for the pledge indicates that his administration will put social media companies at the center of its incoming national strategy for fighting domestic terrorism. “Countering the use of the internet by terrorists and violent extremists to radicalize and recruit is a significant priority for the United States,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
The Christchurch Call to Action is the largest-ever international campaign against online extremism and terrorist content to date. It’s also supported by every major U.S. tech company, including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Twitter.
“This sends a strong sign worldwide that we’re committed to fighting extremist activity,” said Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
— A new context: Biden and his advisers have pledged to assemble a federal response to the rise of domestic terrorism, especially after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — an event that was coordinated and organized on major social media platforms. It will be important to see whether Biden calls for the government to take a more active role in forcing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms to remove potential terrorist plots from their platforms.
The U.S. is lagging behind other countries in these efforts. While countries including France and New Zealand have passed legislation and created new kinds of oversight over the (mostly U.S.-based) companies, the U.S. has struggled to come up with a legislative response, particularly due to concerns about violating the First Amendment.
But Biden’s support for the Christchurch Call could be a first step toward increasing U.S. oversight over the tech platforms, and advocates are urging him to take it further. “As of now, we’re now at a stage of symbolic messaging and initial coordination,” Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, told MT. “But it would be nice to get the firetrucks and the hoses on the wildfires spreading around the world.”
FIRST IN MT: NEW STUDY EXPLORES TECH’S IMPACT ON LOCAL NEWS: Local broadcasters lose an estimated $1.87 billion annually by providing their content for free through Google Search and Facebook News Feed, according to a study commissioned by the National Association of Broadcasters and provided exclusively to MT.
Algorithms often down-rank local broadcast news and can place legitimate news dispatches alongside non-professional journalism and misinformation, the study said.
“These tech platforms have substantial market power in their provision of services, and they use that power for advancing their own growth and benefit to the detriment of local broadcast journalism,” BIA Advisory Services, a market research company, concluded in the study.
— A look at the numbers: BIA used information obtained from top broadcast groups and publicly available information to assess how much value the broadcasters create for the tech giants through Google Search and Facebook News Feed. Then, using economic modeling, the group concluded that broadcasters lose millions of dollars as they post content on Facebook and distribute segments through Google search.
“Unfortunately, this study makes clear that the competitive advantage of a handful of big tech platforms prevents broadcasters from recouping their substantial investment in local news, putting local journalism at risk,” said NAB CEO Gordon Smith.
— The context: Broadcasters have been actively agitating against the major tech platforms for years, arguing that they should get paid for the value they add to the social media ecosystem. And it’s a fight that could have an end in sight, with growing bipartisan support for the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would allow news organizations to band together to negotiate directly with distribution platforms like Facebook and Google.
KEEPING TABS ON FACEBOOK: Mark your calendars for Wednesday, the seventh-day deadline for Facebook to offer some kind of action in response to its oversight board’s demand that the company “reexamine” its “arbitrary” indefinite suspension of former President Donald Trump.
That doesn’t mean Mark Zuckerberg and his crew will have a final decision on Trump’s fate on the social network — the board last week gave Facebook six months to figure this out, and the company has said Trump’s accounts would remain suspended during that review. But this week may bring more clarity about how Facebook intends to proceed.
Until now, the oversight board’s rulings have been short, clear-cut decisions about whether to remove or leave up specific pieces of content. But its ruling on Trump was much more nuanced, and the case involves his entire presence on the social network.
— And outside observers don’t seem to have high hopes for Facebook to resolve its Trump questions by mid-week. “I doubt they’ll have a full policy rolled out by then, so it’s possible the announcement this week won’t be very interesting,” Evelyn Douek, a Harvard Law School lecturer who has closely followed the oversight board’s work, told MT in an email.
— More key dates: Facebook has 30 days to respond to the board’s policy recommendations and six months to figure out what the appropriate punishment for Trump should be, especially if it makes any policy changes.
— Meanwhile: Board co-chair Michael McConnell, a former federal appeals judge, told “Fox News Sunday” why it offered Facebook six months for review: “They needed some time because their rules are shambles. They are not transparent, they are unclear, they are internally inconsistent.”
BATTLE OF THE EXPERTS — Week 2 of the Epic Games v. Apple antitrust suit returns today and it will be antitrust wonk paradise. Epic’s main economic expert, David S. Evans of Global Economics, will take the stand to testify about Apple’s monopoly in smartphone operating systems before Stanford’s Susan Athey — Microsoft’s former top economist — talks about app store economics.
— Apple will then offer its own experts, starting with MIT’s Richard Schmalensee. He will testify that the proper market for analysis is the “digital games transaction market,” one in which Apple has only a small share. After Schmalensee, UPenn’s Loren Hitt and Michigan’s Francine LaFontaine — a former top FTC economist — will take the stand to discuss the game transaction market and Apple’s market power.
— BFFs no more?: Evans and Schmalensee are two leading experts on platforms and so-called “two-sided markets,” where a company helps connect two types of customers. The duo wrote a seminal paper on the topic and teamed up on “Matchmakers,” a book explaining their work to a broader audience. The Supreme Court cited them in its 2018 decision finding American Express’s practices don’t violate antitrust law. After decades of joint work, the Apple case has split the pair.
— Roblox vs Fortnite: But first, Epic’s top marketing guru Matthew Weissinger will finish his testimony. One theme that permeated much of Week 1 revolved around how Apple defines games. Roblox — where 164 million monthly active users build and play — isn’t a game, Apple’s Trystan Kosmynka insisted Friday. That confused Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. “I don’t understand the distinction you’re making,” she said. Kosmynka likened Roblox to Snapchat where users stylize photos with bunny ears. “These experiences are not capable of doing dynamic things beyond what the creator has already programmed,” he said. Weissinger, meanwhile, pushed on labelling Roblox as a “platform” and Fortnite as a “game,” describing the concerts and movie viewings offered in Fortnite.
— ICYMI: Leah offered thoughts on being in “the room where it happens” versus virtual trial coverage.
Paul Margie will join Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis as head of the telecommunications practice. … Stella Low is leaving Cisco to be Apple’s vice president of worldwide corporate communications.
Microshift: The announcement of Bill and Melinda French Gates’ divorce surprised their foundation’s staff members. But it reflected diverging interests that were already playing out in their philanthropic work, NYT reports.
ICYMI: Some Texans are up in arms as SpaceX buys up property in Boca Chica Village. WSJ has more.
Enter Elon: “Saturday night was the moment it became absolutely undeniable: tech is culture now. As Elon Musk took the stage on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ he came with the kind of recognition and anticipation that even A-list actors and musicians struggle to get.” Protocol has the highlights.
Opinion: Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich argues that Section 230 makes the internet safer from “conspiracy theorists and bigots,” via The Tennessean.
ICYMI: Conservative outlets including The Washington Times, Newsmax, Town Hall and Red States are endorsing bipartisan legislation to make Google and Facebook pay more for news. Read more here.
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