D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has subpoenaed Facebook for records related to the platform’s handling of coronavirus misinformation as part of a previously undisclosed investigation into whether the tech giant is violating consumer protection laws.
What he is demanding: Racine, a Democrat, is calling on Facebook to release by the end of next week an internal study it conducted looking into vaccine hesitancy among its users, as first revealed by news reports in March.
The subpoena, filed June 21, also calls on Facebook to provide records identifying all groups, pages and accounts that have violated its policies against Covid-19 misinformation and documents detailing how many resources the tech giant has devoted to the cause.
“Facebook has said it’s taking action to address the proliferation of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on its site,” Abbie McDonough, director of communications for Racine, told POLITICO. “But then when pressed to show its work, Facebook refused. AG Racine’s investigation aims to make sure Facebook is truly taking all steps possible to minimize vaccine misinformation on its site and support public health.”
Facebook won a major battle against government regulators this week, but the war isn’t over.
The social media giant’s victory over the Federal Trade Commission in a U.S. district court portends an uphill battle for the government’s efforts to rein in the power of Big Tech. But it is also fueling calls for new legislation that could give regulators greater leverage down the road.
So while Facebook executives had reason to celebrate this week’s ruling — the decision sent the company’s value north of $1 trillion, eliciting congratulatory texts and calls among executives, according to three people familiar with the conversations — there’s also reason not to celebrate too loudly.
“Yesterday was great for Facebook and Big Tech because it showed you could persuade a court to look very critically at the government’s complaints,” William Kovacic, a former FTC chairman, said in an interview the day after the ruling. “But if you crush the government, that will be taken as a sign that the law is not fit for purpose and the law needs to change.”
Last May, as Twitter was testing warning labels for false and misleading tweets, it tried out the word “disputed” with a small focus group. It didn’t go over well.
“People were like, well, who’s disputing it?” said Anita Butler, a San Francisco-based design director at Twitter who has been working on the labels since December 2019. The word “disputed,” it turns out, had the opposite effect of what Twitter intended, which was to “increase clarity and transparency,” she said.
The labels are an update from those Twitter used for election misinformation before and after the 2020 presidential contest. Those labels drew criticism for not doing enough to keep people from spreading obvious falsehoods. Now, Twitter is overhauling them in an attempt to make them more useful and easier to notice, among other things. Beginning Thursday, the company will start testing the redesigns with some U.S. users on the desktop version of its app.
The recent shutdown of two Amazon delivery companies in Portland appears to be the first public example in the United States of such companies using their leverage to protest against Amazon.
Last week, two well-established Amazon delivery companies in Portland, Oregon offered Amazon an ultimatum: agree to a set of conditions that it said would improve revenue and driver safety—or we’ll stop delivering Amazon packages.
Amazon refused, and the two companies in the Portland area terminated their contract with Amazon, their only client, effectively shutting down.
“Amazon’s conduct over the past two years has become intolerable, unconscionable, unsafe, and most importantly, unlawful,” a letter sent to Amazon by the attorney of the two delivery companies, Triton and Last Mile and obtained by Motherboard, reads.