Author: Catherine Shu

Progressive advocacy groups call on the FTC to ‘make Facebook safe for democracy’

A team of progressive advocacy groups, including MoveOn and Demand Progress, are asking the Federal Trade Commission to “make Facebook safe for democracy.” According to Axios, the campaign, called Freedom From Facebook, is set to launch a six-figure ad campaign on Monday that will run on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, among other platforms.

The other advocacy groups behind the campaign are Citizens Against Monopoly, Content Creators Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, Mpower Change, Open Markets Institute and SumOfUs. Together they are calling on the FTC to “break up Facebook’s monopoly” by forcing it to spin-off Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger into separate, competing companies. They also want the FTC to require interoperability so users can communicate across competing social networks and strengthen privacy regulations.

Freedom From Facebook’s site also includes an online petition and privacy guide that links to FB Purity and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger, browser extensions that help users streamline their Facebook ad preferences and block online trackers, respectively.

The FTC recently gained a new chairman after President Donald Trump’s pick for the position Joseph Simons was sworn in early this month, along with four new commissioners also nominated by Trump. Simons is an antitrust lawyer who has represented large tech firms like Microsoft and Sony. The FTC is currently investigating whether or not Facebook’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica violated a previous legal agreement it had with the commission, but many people are wondering if it and other federal agencies are capable of regulating tech companies, especially after many lawmakers seemed confused about how social media works during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearing last month.

Despite its data privacy and regulatory issues, Facebook is still doing well from a financial perspective. Its first-quarter earnings report showed strong user growth and revenue above Wall Street’s expectations.

TechCrunch has contacted Freedom From Facebook and Facebook for comment.

Interfaith social network Pray.com raises $14M Series A to add new features to its mobile app

Pray.com, an interfaith social networking app for members of religious communities, has raised a $14 million Series A led by TPG Growth. Previous investors Science Inc. and Greylock Partners also returned for the round, which brings the Santa Monica-based startup’s total funding, including a seed round announced last June, to $16 million. Founded in 2016, […]

Facebook will verify the location of US election ad buyers by mailing them postcards

 Facebook’s global director of policy programs says it will start sending postcards by snail mail to verify buyers of ads related to U.S. elections. Katie Harbath, who described the plan at a conference held by the National Association of Secretaries of State, didn’t reveal when the program will start, but told Reuters it would be before the congressional midterm elections in November. Read More

Library of Congress will no longer archive all public tweets, citing longer character limits

 The Library of Congress announced today that it will no longer add every public tweet to its archives, an ambitious project it launched seven years ago. It cited the much larger volume of tweets generated now, as well as Twitter’s decision to double the character limit from 140 to 280. Instead, starting on Jan. 1, the Library will be more selective about what tweets to preserve, a… Read More

Twitter will tell users if content was blocked to comply with local laws or legal demands

 Twitter will now display messages to inform users if blocked tweets were withheld to comply with local laws or court orders, which it calls Country Withheld Content (CWC). The public already has information about CWC through notices sent directly to affected accounts, Lumen, a database of legal requests for the removal of online content, and Twitter’s own biannual transparency reports.… Read More