Big Tech Championed Zero Emissions but Now Its Power-Hungry Data Centers are Straining the Grid

Data center

For years, tech giants in California and Washington have been leading the charge to eliminate fossil fuels from the grid. Microsoft, Google, Meta and Apple, for example, are members of Climate Group RE100, an organization of major corporations who are dedicated to accelerating “change toward zero-carbon grids at scale by 2040.”

In 2018, Apple proclaimed that it was globally powered entirely by 100 percent renewable energy.

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Uvalde Victims’ Families Slap Meta with Lawsuit: Report

Family members of the victims of a mass shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, filed a lawsuit against Meta, the owner of Instagram, Friday, according to multiple reports.

Two teachers and 19 children died in the May 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde before Border Patrol agents stormed the classroom and fatally shot the perpetrator. The lawsuit also targets Activision, the maker of the Call of Duty video game franchise, and Daniel Defense, which made the rifle used in the shooting, CBS News reported.

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Rubio, Consumer Advocate Want Chinese Online Retailers Investigated

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

Lawmakers and consumer advocates are calling for a federal investigation into online Chinese retailers Temu and Shein.

The companies have spent billions of dollars in online American advertising with social media companies such as Meta, parent of Facebook and Instagram, and Google. The probe is warranted, critics say, because of anti-competitive practices skirting U.S. trade and public safety regulations; alleged use of slave laborers to make products sold at cut-rate prices; and advertising targeting children, low-income families and older Americans.

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Tech Companies Plan to Combat Use of Fake AI in Elections

Facebook User

As the threat of fake images and videos generated by artificial intelligence (AI) could potentially play a role in the coming 2024 elections and beyond, several tech companies have pledged to use their resources to combat misinformation as a result of such technology.

According to Politico, multiple companies are planning to cooperate through a so-called “Tech Accord” dictating several key goals and methods that will be used in the fight against false AI. The companies intend to expose and debunk any “deepfake” images or videos produced by AI, through various tactics such as watermarks and automatic detection technology.

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Zuckerberg Says Meta Has No Plans to Go Through with a Kids’ Version of Instagram

Mark Zuckerberg

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress on Wednesday said the tech firm has “no plans” to make a kids version of its Instagram platform. 

He acknowledge “discussions internally” on the idea but also said Meta has not “actually moved forward with that, and we currently have no plans to do so.”

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New Mexico Sues Facebook and Instagram for Hosting Child Sexual Abuse, Solicitation, and Trafficking Content

New Mexico is suing Facebook and Instagram for creating “prime locations” for sexual predators to share child sexual abuse, solicitation, and trafficking content.

NM Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed a civil suit filed against Meta and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, alleging that “certain child exploitative content” is ten times “more prevalent” on Facebook and Instagram than on pornography site PornHub and the adult content platform OnlyFans.

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Meta Is Allowing Political Ads That Question the 2020 Election — But Censoring Doubts About 2024

Meta’s social media platforms now allow political ads questioning the 2020 presidential election, but will censor ads questioning the 2024 election, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The company permits fraud claims about past elections but not current or future ones, according to its updated policy. Meta rolled out the policy after blocking certain Republicans during the 2022 midterm election primaries from releasing ads with assertions about the 2020 election being fraudulent, according to the WSJ.

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Meta to Start Labeling Political Ads with AI-Generated Images Ahead of 2024 Election

Facebook and Instagram will require political ads on their platforms to disclose if they were created with artificial intelligence so they can be labeled as such, Meta, the parent company of the social media giants, announced Wednesday.

The new policy, which will take effect worldwide Jan. 1, will place labels acknowledging the use of artificial intelligence on users’ screens when they click on the advertisements, according to The Associated Press. 

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Meta’s Oversight Board Rules That Company Stifled Speech by Removing Posts About Abortion

Meta’s Oversight Board ruled Wednesday that Facebook and Instagram showed “patterns of censorship” by removing posts about abortion that the social media platforms claimed constituted death threats.

The board had been weighing a series of posts that were initially taken down by Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, for potential death threats against both pro-abortion and pro-life advocates before being reinstated after appeals from the users. The board took up the case in June and announced this week that Facebook had erred by removing the posts, according to the ruling.

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Meta’s Epidemic of Chinese ‘Spamouflage’ Propaganda

Meta recently took “what appears to be the largest known cross-platform covert influence operation in the world,” off its platforms, according to the company’s quarterly Adversarial Threat Report released this week.’

The social media accounts that made up the covert influence operation — collectively dubbed “Spamouflage” — were active all over the world, including in America, major U.S. allies, Taiwan, and the Chinese diaspora.

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Musk: Fight Against Zuckerberg Will Be Live-Streamed on X with Proceeds Going to Veterans

Elon Musk says that his fight with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be live-streamed on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter that Musk owns.

“Zuck v Musk fight will be live-streamed on 𝕏. All proceeds will go to charity for veterans,” Musk wrote on X early Sunday morning.

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House Judiciary Committee Questions Zuckerberg on Potential Censorship on Threads

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerburg asking questions about possible censorship occurring on Threads, Meta’s latest social media platform.

“Given that Meta has censored First Amendment-protected speech as a result of government agencies’ requests and demands in the past, the Committee is concerned about potential First Amendment violations that have occurred or will occur on the Threads platform,” Committee chairman Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, wrote in the letter.

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Twitter Threatens Legal Action over Meta’s Threads App

Social media platform Twitter warned rival Meta that intended to protect its intellectual property rights following the latter’s debut of a Threads, a Twitter competitor that is linked to Meta’s other platforms.

Twitter has raised concerns that Meta may have improperly used its intellectual property and issued the firm a cease-and-desist letter on Thursday.

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New California Bill Would Make Social Media Platforms Liable for Harm Caused to Children

Parents of children who are harmed by the use of social media platforms are one step closer to holding those platforms accountable, thanks to a new bill passed by the California Assembly Judiciary Committee.

The bill was authored by State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and is being sponsored by Attorney General Bonta.  

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Meta Scraps Censorship Policies for COVID ‘Misinformation’

Facebook parent company Meta is officially terminating its COVID-19 censorship policies in the U.S., the tech giant told The Washington Post.

Meta has repeatedly tamped down on COVID-19 “misinformation” in the U.S. and even faced pressure from the White House to engage in content suppression. Although the tech giant is done moderating this content in the U.S., it will continue restricting content “in countries that have a Covid-19 public health emergency declaration” due to “the risk of imminent physical harm,” Meta told the Post.

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Hundreds of Former Federal Surveillance Officials Have Moved to Jobs in Big Tech

Over 200 former employees of federal surveillance agencies have since joined the corporate ranks of Big Tech companies in recent years, thus increasing the likelihood of systematic censorship of conservative accounts by such platforms.

According to the Daily Caller, the four social media companies Google, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok have recruited 248 former employees from the FBI, CIA, Department of Justice (DOJ), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as proven by searches of the professional job listing and networking platform LinkedIn. The bulk of these hires were made between 2017 and 2022, with some of the former federal employees moving on to top executive positions within the social media companies.

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Meta Launches Paid Verification Service

Meta on Friday launched a paid verification service for Facebook and Instagram that offers a profile badge and identity monitoring services in exchange for subscription fee.

While the company will not charge fees to existing verified accounts, others seeking verification must pay $11.99 per month on the web or $14.99 per month on mobile device, according to The Hill.

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Meta to Reinstate Trump’s Facebook, Instagram Accounts

Social media giant Meta announced Wednesday that it would reinstate former President Donald Trump’s accounts on both Facebook and Instagram. The former president was suspended from both platforms in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2022, Capitol Riot. Other social media platforms such as Twitter acted likewise, prompting Trump to create Truth Social, a digital platform similar to Twitter that practiced looser content moderation than its competitors.

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Regulator Fines Tech Giant Millions for Showing Targeted Ads Based on User Activity

An Irish data privacy regulator has issued fines totaling €390 million — roughly $410 million — against Facebook and Instagram parent Meta over practices related to its monitoring of users’ behavior on its services in order to create targeted ads, according to a Wednesday press release by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC).

Meta had previously argued to the commission that it had the right to tailor ads to users based on their online activity because the Terms of Service that users agreed to to use the service amounted to a contract, and that gathering this personalized data was a core part of that contract, according to the DPC. Although the DPC originally agreed with this argument, it reversed its position after other European regulators challenged this view during a standard peer review process, finding that Meta was “not entitled” to consider the Terms of Service agreement as sufficient legal basis for its actions.

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Meta Agrees to Record-Breaking Settlement in Data Privacy Lawsuit

Facebook parent Meta signed on to a $725 million settlement to potentially close out a class-action lawsuit over the sharing of user data with third parties, such as the Trump-aligned campaign consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, according to a Thursday court filing.

The case centers around allegations that the company shared users’ data with third parties without their consent, something the plaintiffs’ lawyers say has been significantly cut back since litigation began, according to the filing. The scandal first broke in 2018, after it was revealed that Facebook had shared roughly 87 million users’ data with Cambridge Analytica via a personality quiz, according to The Verge.

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Meta’s ‘Unequal’ Moderation Policy Protects Elites on Facebook and Instagram: Report

Meta’s Oversight Board criticized the social media giant for unfairly favoring certain elite users of Facebook and Instagram, granting them amnesty from certain rules, and failing to publicly disclose the program’s extent.

Meta’s “cross-check” program is supposed to minimize the number of posts Facebook and Instagram incorrectly take down, by having a human review posts by certain “powerful” users when they are found to be violating the rules, according to the Oversight Board. The Board found that, in practice, cross-check protected these accounts, allowing their content to remain up even when it was in violation of the sites’ rules and helping favored accounts receive reduced punishments for infractions, all the while repeatedly failing to detail to the public and the Board which accounts and posts were subject to this policy.

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Government Officials Have a Special Portal to Flag Facebook Posts for Censorship

The Department of Homeland Security has left open a special feature that allows government officials to flag Facebook posts for misinformation after scrapping a controversial advisory board tasked with developing guidelines for social media censorship, the Intercept reported Monday.

DHS announced plans for a Disinformation Governance Board to “develop guidelines, standards, guardrails to ensure that the work that has been ongoing for nearly 10 years does not infringe on people’s free speech rights, rights of privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in May, according to The Hill. While DHS shuttered the initiative after an onslaught of bipartisan opposition decrying the potential censorship, the Intercept found through an analysis of public and leaked documents that government efforts to police tech companies goes on.

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Russia Moves to Declare Facebook Parent Company an ‘Extremist Organization,’ Ban Instagram

Russian prosecutors asked a court to classify Facebook parent company Meta as “extremist” Friday, escalating tensions between Russia and the tech giant after Facebook was blocked in the country.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office asked a court to declare the tech giant an “extremist organization,” saying the company engaged in spreading “propaganda” and incited violence against the Russian people, Interfax reported. The move would effectively criminalize all of Meta’s operations in Russia, according to Reuters.

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Trucker ‘Freedom Convoy’ Sparks More Controversy After GoFundMe Refunds $10 Million

A Canadian movement of truckers protesting the country’s vaccine mandate has inspired a similar protest in the U.S., with a convoy expected to arrive at the nation’s capital next month. That movement, though, sparked controversy beyond its protest this weekend after a run-in with the popular online fundraiser, GoFundMe.

GoFundMe announced it would refund more than $10 million in donations to donors of the “Freedom Convoy” online fundraiser after threats of a fraud investigation from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis threatened the investigation after GoFundMe reportedly froze the fundraising account Friday and said they would give the funds to another charity of Freedom Convoy’s choice.

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Amazon and Facebook Spent More Money Than Ever Lobbying in 2021

Amazon and Facebook parent company Meta spent more money in 2021 lobbying lawmakers and officials than any year before, according to lobbying disclosure filings.

Amazon spent $20.3 million on lobbying while Meta spent $20.1 million in 2021, according to a review of lobbying disclosure filings by MarketWatch. The figures are record totals for both tech companies, who spent $18.9 million and $19.7 million on lobbying in 2020, respectively.

Google’s lobbying spend for 2021 clocked in at $11.5 million, while Microsoft spent $10.3 million and Apple spent $6.5 million, according to MarketWatch’s review.

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Facebook Parent Company Will Make Its Office Workers Get the Vaccine Booster

Facebook parent company Meta will require its in-person workers to receive a booster shot in addition to a COVID-19 vaccine, the company announced Monday.

By March 28, Meta employees must have received the booster to use the in-person offices of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, The Wall Street Journal reported. Meta is reportedly delaying the reopening of its offices until late March due to the requirement.

“We’re focused on making sure our employees continue to have choices about where they work given the current COVID-19 landscape,” Janelle Gale, Meta’s vice president of human resources, said in a statement, CNBC reported. “We understand that the continued uncertainty makes this a difficult time to make decisions about where to work, so we’re giving more time to choose what works best for them.”

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State Attorney Generals Launch Investigation into Instagram’s Effects on Kids

Young person on Instagram

A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general launched a probe into Instagram on Thursday to examine whether the company violated state-level consumer protection laws.

The states are investigating whether Meta (formerly known as Facebook), which owns Instagram, promoted the image-sharing platform “to children and young adults” despite being aware of its negative effects, according to statements from the attorneys general. The probe cites internal Facebook communications and research leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen and published by The Wall Street Journal showing Meta was aware that use of Instagram could contribute to body image and mental health issues among teens.

“When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to manipulate for longer screen time engagement and data extraction, it becomes imperative for state attorneys general to engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws,” Republican Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a statement.

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