Facebook to launch officially licensed music videos in the U.S. next month

Facebook is preparing to launch officially licensed music videos on its social network in the U.S. next month, in a direct challenge to YouTube. In materials reviewed by TechCrunch, Facebook informed Page owners linked to artists they’ll need to toggle on a new setting to add their music videos to their page ahead of an August 1st deadline, at which point Facebook will automatically create a page of their videos if no action had been taken.

Artists will not have to manually upload their videos or even provide links, Facebook told the artist Page admins. Instead, by enabling the new setting, artists are giving Facebook permission to add music videos to their Page, where they can be discovered by fans on the Page’s Videos tab. This library will include both the artist’s own official videos and those they’re featured in, Facebook explained in its marketing materials.

Once enabled, the artists can edit or remove their videos from this destination at any time.

Above: Screenshots detailing to artist Page admins how to enable the Music video experience

Though artists are being strongly encouraged to enable the feature by August 1st, if they choose not to or miss the deadline, Facebook will create a separate official music Page on their behalf titled “[Artist Name] Official Music.” This Page will be created and controlled by Facebook and will be accessible by fans via the Facebook Watch tab and a new music video destination on the platform.

In an email sent to Page owners (see below), Facebook explained that whenever it receives a new release from a music label, the artist’s Facebook Page would automatically share the video directly on the page’s Timeline. This allows the new video to reach all the followers’ News Feeds. The setting for automatic sharing can be turned off at any time.

A partial screenshot of the email to artists leaked to Twitter, where it was amplified by social media consultant Matt Navarra. The addition had previously been reported by other smaller sites, as well. TechCrunch has reviewed the marketing materials that explained in more detail how to enable the setting on artists’ Facebook Page.

By enabling the setting, artists are also giving Facebook permission to share aggregate performance insights with rightholders, including likes, shares, comments, views and other engagement data associated with these auto-generated posts, the materials noted.

In addition, artists can edit the auto-generated posts, including their title, description, tags and even the thumbnails.

Facebook’s expansion into music videos will present a significant challenge to YouTube, which accounted for 46% of the world’s music streaming outside of China as of 2017, according to a report from IFPI. Around the same time, YouTube had claimed over 1 billion music fans came to its site to connect with music from over 2 billion artists. More recently, the company reported it had paid out over $3 billion to the music industry in 2019.

Bloomberg late last year reported that Facebook was negotiating with the three largest record labels — Universal Media Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group — over rights to music videos. The report noted that record labels were interested in an alternative to YouTube, which they feel doesn’t pay enough.

Currently, artists under the major U.S. labels have not been able to share full music videos on Facebook due to licensing rights; they could only publish a short preview.

Though Facebook had prior deals with labels, the focus had been on the right to use licensed music in “social experiences” across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Oculus. That meant users could post personal videos with licensed music in the background without having their videos taken down. The prior agreements also enabled Facebook to test music-driven social experiences of its own. For example, Facebook tested a Musical.ly competitor called Lip Sync Live and later, a TikTok rival called Lasso, thanks to those deals. It rolled out Music Stickers on Facebook and Instagram, as well.

Facebook already offers a music video experience in Thailand and India. The company more broadly sees video as a major focus area, as videos help connect users and encourage social conversations. Facebook Watch, a dedicated video destination, emerged due to Facebook’s earlier video efforts and continues to expand.

Facebook, reached for comment, declined to offer a statement on its plans.

Decrypted: As tech giants rally against Hong Kong security law, Apple holds out

It’s not often Silicon Valley gets behind a single cause. Supporting net neutrality was one, reforming government surveillance another. Last week, Big Tech took up its latest: halting any cooperation with Hong Kong police.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and even China-headquartered TikTok said last week they would no longer respond to demands for user data from Hong Kong law enforcement — read: Chinese authorities — citing the new unilaterally imposed Beijing national security law. Critics say the law, ratified on June 30, effectively kills China’s “one country, two systems” policy allowing Hong Kong to maintain its freedoms and some autonomy after the British handed over control of the city-state back to Beijing in 1997.

Noticeably absent from the list of tech giants pulling cooperation was Apple, which said it was still “assessing the new law.” What’s left to assess remains unclear, given the new powers explicitly allow warrantless searches of data, intercept and restrict internet data, and censor information online, things that Apple has historically opposed if not in so many words.

Facebook, Google and Twitter can live without China. They already do — both Facebook and Twitter are banned on the mainland, and Google pulled out after it accused Beijing of cyberattacks. But Apple cannot. China is at the heart of its iPhone and Mac manufacturing pipeline, and accounts for over 16% of its revenue — some $9 billion last quarter alone. Pulling out of China would be catastrophic for Apple’s finances and market position.

The move by Silicon Valley to cut off Hong Kong authorities from their vast pools of data may be a largely symbolic move, given any overseas data demands are first screened by the Justice Department in a laborious and frequently lengthy legal process. But by holding out, Apple is also sending its own message: Its ardent commitment to human rights — privacy and free speech — stops at the border of Hong Kong.

Here’s what else is in this week’s Decrypted.


THE BIG PICTURE

Police used Twitter-backed Dataminr to snoop on protests

Facebook code change caused outage for Spotify, Pinterest and Waze apps

If you’re an iPhone user, odds are fairly good you spent a frustrating portion of the morning attempting to reopen apps. I know my morning walk was dampened by the inability to fire up Spotify. Plenty of other users reported similar issues with a number of apps, including Pinterest and Waze.

The issue has since been resolved, with Facebook noting that the problem rests firmly on its shoulders. A log page notes a sudden spike in errors stemming from Facebook’s iOS SDK, dating back several hours. Facebook says the issue is the fault of a change in code.

“Earlier today, a code change triggered crashes for some iOS apps using the Facebook SDK,” the developer team writes. “We identified the issue quickly and resolved it. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

While the issue was addressed relatively swiftly (though a few hours can feel like a lifetime, depending on how reliant you are on a given app), annoyed parties will no doubt remember back in May when an SDK update created a similar wave of issues. The issue was no doubt even more distressing to developers whose apps utilize the SDK.

After the second major issue in recent memory, it’s easy to imagine many reconsidering their relationship with the social network — after all, a bad experience can put people off an app entirely, as social media debates around Apple Music versus Spotify appeared to point to this morning. Many users will ultimately place the blame at the feet of a given app, rather than a third-party SDK that caused the crash.

When it comes to updating the SDK, Facebook is seemingly moving too fast and breaking too many things. We’ve reached out to the company to see how it plans to address the issue going forward.

Whether or not the Trump administration bans TikTok, it’s already helping Facebook

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. is “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including the Chinese-owned company TikTok, comparing it to other Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE that have been deemed national security threats by the current administration. “With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you that the United States will get this one right, too,” Pompeo said.

The fear is the app could be used to surveil or influence Americans, or else that TikTok parent ByteDance could be made to provide the Chinese government with TikTok’s data on its U.S.-based users — of which there are at least 165 million. India, calling TikTok a “threat to sovereignty and integrity,” decided to ban the app late last week, saying it had similar concerns.

Though security experts disagree over how concerned the U.S. should be about TikTok, the move would would undoubtedly hobble what has become one of the fastest-growing social media businesses on the planet, with 800 million monthly active users worldwide, half of whom are under age 24. In the meantime, the mere suggestion of a ban is proving a boon to TikTok’s biggest rival, Facebook, at a time when the U.S. company faces growing scrutiny over its decision not to take action on multiple controversial posts from Donald Trump.

The threat is already prompting some to speculate that Pompeo’s warning was politically motivated. In a new interview with Axios, for example, L.A.-based talent manager John Shahidi, observes that TikTok users have said they were partially responsible for a Trump rally in Oklahoma two weeks ago that failed to deliver huge crowds (yet still “likely contributed” to record number of new coronavirus cases, according to the Tulsa City-County Health Department Director).

For his part Shahidi — whose internet talent management company currently oversees nine “channels” on TikTok that collectively enjoy than 100 million followers — doesn’t doubt the two are related. “I’m on TikTok a lot,” Shahidi says of the short-form video app, and “there are no Trump supporters, no official Trump account, no one who is from his team is on TikTok.” Is it “just coincidence that we’re heading toward [the election], and the one app that doesn’t support him — with everything happening in the world — we’re going to talk about taking down TikTok?” he asks.

Already, TikTok influencers are more actively promoting their other social media channels to their followers as a kind of contingency plan. Soon to join them is Pierson Wodzynski, a 21-year-old who ran track and field in high school and was taking a break from studying communications in college when in January, a friend invited her to participate in a show on the YouTube channel AwesomenessTV, which has more than 8 million subscribers.

The show’s set-up centered around nabbing a date with social media star Brent Rivera, who has 13 million YouTube subscribers, 19.8 million Instagram followers, and more than 30 million TikTok fans. But afterward, Wodzynski found herself with the L.A.-based talent agency that Rivera cofounded two years ago called Amp Studios and in recent months, aided by special guest appearances by Rivera, she has built a substantial fanbase herself, with 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, 455,000 Instagram followers, and a stunning 4.1 million fans on TikTok.

Wodzynski says her followers seem to like the comedy bits she develops, such a recent series on the “things that go wrong when you’re running late,” and another on the “Appdashians,” wherein each character is a different social media company. (Notably, Facebook is the old grandmother character.)  Says Wodzynski, who comes across as both confident and affable, “I’m so unbelievably myself [on social media], it’s crazy.”

She is also concerned about the TikTok’s future in the U.S. Partly, she simply enjoys it. (“It’s just a great app to escape, and it’s so different, with a vast music library and editing software that other apps don’t have.”) But it’s also the source of most of her income, she says, explaining that she helps promote the brands with which Amp Studios works, including Chipotle. (“A lot of times it’s me dancing to a popular song and holding the product, or developing a creative advertisement so it looks enjoyable.”)

Wodzynski says she is “ready for anything,” and that if the U.S. bans the platform, she trusts it will do so for legitimate reasons. “There are many other roads to take your content,”  she says. The importance of diversifying across social platforms is something that Max Levine, who cofounded Amp with Rivera, gives to all of the firm’s talent, he says.

“‘Diversify’ is a good mantra for life,” says Levine, who claims he learned this lesson early when Vine — the once-popular video app that Twitter acquired, then subsequently shut down — “fizzled and died.” Levine points to early Vine stars like Logan Paul and Rivera himself who “were smart and focused on building platforms on Instagram and YouTube” and who not only emerged unscathed when Vine was shuttered but whose popularity ballooned afterward.

He says that Amp’s clients have always “promoted other socials on TikTok,” to steer them to YouTube videos, for example, and that he’d prefer that they not start being more aggressive on this front. “They’ve been doing it naturally over time. I think if every other TikTok mentions [a call to action], it could be a lot” and “not ideal.”

Still, a few minutes on TikTok underscores that growing percentage of its users has begun talking about Instagram, which requires far less effort than does developing a fan-pleasing YouTube video. With the threat of a ban in the air, Wodzynski — who says she saw her view count go down with India’s recent ban of TikTok — isn’t immune to the impulse. “Actually, later today I will be posting something on Tiktok about this whole banning thing and reminding people that if they want to follow my Instagram and Youtube that ‘this is what I post there,'” she says. “I do that pretty regularly, but I’m gong to step it up in more in the coming days and weeks.”

In the meantime, Facebook is already putting together its newest playbook. Just yesterday, in India, Instagram rolled out a video-sharing feature called Reels to fill the void left by TikTok that sounds very much like a clone. The in-app tool invites users to record 15-second videos set to music and audio, then upload them to their stories. As CNN notes, Facebook began testing the feature in Brazil last November. The feature is now available in France and Germany, too.

India not only indefinitely banned Tiktok but 58 other apps and services provided by Chinese-based firms, including Tencent’s WeChat. But the country’s government enjoys a good relationship with Facebook, which recently nabbed a 10% stake in local telecom giant Jio Platforms.

In fact, in February, before a trip to India, Donald Trump talked about Facebook and ranking that both he and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoy on the platform. He said Modi is “number two” on Facebook in terms of followers, and that he is number one as told to him directly by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

As reported in the Economic Times, Trump said at the time: “I’m going to India next week, and we’re talking about — you know, they have 1.5 billion people. And Prime Minister Modi is number two on Facebook, number two. Think of that. You know who number one is? Trump. You believe that? Number one. I just found out.”

Daily Crunch: Facebook faces blistering civil rights audit

Auditors were not impressed by Facebook’s civil rights work, Tinder tests video chat and a new nasal spray could reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 8, 2020.

The big story: Facebook faces blistering civil rights audit

The results are out in a multi-year audit of Facebook’s approach to civil rights issues. In recent weeks, as the company has faced an advertiser boycott over some of these same issues, executives have pointed to the audit as a sign that it’s taking civil rights concerns seriously. But the findings aren’t exactly positive.

“While the audit process has been meaningful and has led to some significant improvements in the platform, we have also watched the company make painful decisions over the last nine months with real world consequences that are serious setbacks for civil rights,” wrote former ACLU director Laura W. Murphy and attorneys from law firm Relman Colfax.

Meanwhile, Facebook executives met with the leaders of the boycott yesterday, but it sounds like little progress was made, with Color of Change President Rashad Robinson criticizing the company for “expecting an A for attendance.”

The tech giants

Tinder now testing video chat in select markets, including US — The feature will allow Tinder users to go on virtual dates when both of them opt-in (something that’s probably a lot more appealing during the current pandemic).

Slack snags corporate directory startup Rimeto to up its people search game — With this acquisition, Slack could potentially improve the experience of searching for employees across a company.

Microsoft makes Teams video meetings less tiring with its new Together mode — Instead of presenting all the attendees as little squares, Together mode shows them sitting together in an auditorium. Although it sounds silly, Microsoft says this is actually easier for the brain to process.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Permutive raises $18.5 million to help publishers target ads in a new privacy landscape — Rather than relying on third-party cookies, Permutive uses a publisher’s first-party data to deliver more targeted ads.

Swiftmile raises $5 million round led by Thayer Ventures for micromobility charging stations — Swiftmile makes charging stations for electric bikes and scooters, with 150 stations deployed throughout the United States to date.

Harvard biomedical engineering professor to launch nasal spray that could reduce COVID-19 transmission risk — The product is called FEND, and the startup Sensory Cloud plans to release it in September.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

What India’s TikTok ban means for China — Manish Singh discusses how a recent order from the Indian government is shifting the market in favor of local companies.

As media revenue struggles, subscription startups see growth — It’s not exactly a rosy picture for media startups, but there have been some promising subscription success stories.

Ford’s Bronco relaunch demonstrates the power of nostalgia — Even if you don’t care about the Bronco, this week’s rollout has been a master class in how companies can use nostalgia for marketing.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, designed to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Trump’s sudden reversal on student visas will be felt in Silicon Valley — With international students no longer allowed to stay in the U.S. if their universities move their courses entirely online, there could be a big impact on technical talent and innovation.

The tech industry comes to grips with Hong Kong’s national security law — We interviewed a range of players to get a sense of what the new law will mean for internet freedom and entrepreneurship.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Facebook and Instagram boot close Trump ally Roger Stone for network of fake accounts

Facebook released today its latest report detailing disinformation campaigns operating on its massive social network, and this one came with a few surprises. In the new report, Facebook disclosed that it had removed a network of accounts linked to close Trump ally and former campaign advisor Roger Stone for “inauthentic” activity and coordinated fake accounts around the time of the 2016 presidential election. Facebook has since removed Stone’s own accounts from both Facebook and Instagram.

The accounts linked to Stone, who is set to go to prison next week, posted on a number of topics, mostly from 2015 to 2017, including Florida politics, WikiLeaks’ release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails, the 2016 races and Stone himself, “praising his political acumen, defending him against criminal charges.” Facebook removed 54 Facebook accounts, 50 Facebook pages and four Instagram accounts linked to Stone and his close associates. The network ran related accounts on Twitter and YouTube, as well.

Researchers at the social analytics firm Graphika dive into considerable detail in their own report on the newly unearthed campaign, which was discovered in connection with newly public search warrants from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Facebook also noted that some of the pages it removed had links to the Proud Boys, the extremist group Facebook eventually banned in 2018 after the group leveraged the platform to recruit and grow its ranks for months if not years. It began looking into the network of accounts through suspected activity by Proud Boys members seeking to return to the platform, uncovering the broader network after the search warrants came to light in April.

Last November, Stone was found guilty of seven felony charges, including making false statements to Congress, obstructing Congress and witness tampering. President Trump has hinted that he plans to pardon his longtime associate. Trump’s Attorney General William Barr created a firestorm of scrutiny earlier this year when he took the highly unusual step of intervening in order to reduce Stone’s sentence, presumably due to the president’s closeness with Stone.

Stone wasn’t the only high-profile political figure to be caught manipulating the social network. A parallel Facebook investigation into fake account networks in Brazil uncovered a cluster of accounts linked to the office of Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro and his sons, who had previously been investigated for running “a criminal fake news racket.”

Blistering civil rights audit raises alarms about Facebook’s ongoing policy failures

The results of a multiyear investigation into Facebook’s policies and their consequences for the civil liberties of its more than 2.5 billion users are out.

The audit, conducted by former ACLU director Laura W. Murphy and lawyers from law firm Relman Colfax set out by collecting concerns from a broad swath of civil rights organizations concerned about Facebook’s growing power and its potentially harmful reverberations through marginalized communities in particular and democratic society more broadly. The auditors also used concerns from some lawmakers, who have become increasingly critical of Facebook since the 2016 U.S. election, to steer their investigation. The ultimate goal of the project was to “make sure important civil rights laws and principles are respected, embraced and robustly incorporated” into the social network.

As the report notes, the audit doesn’t situate Facebook’s decisions in the context of it competitors, instead evaluating the company’s behavior on its own. The approach is useful, because social media companies often get a pass for behavior that’s standard in the industry, an approach that lowers standards across the board rather than looking at real-world impacts. The auditors make a point of giving Facebook credit for its cooperation in the audit, which the company itself undertook with pressure from outside groups concerned about its failings on issues like race-based hate, misinformation, voter suppression and extremism.

While the report has its positive moments of giving credit where credit is due, the auditors found that Facebook’s progress on civil rights issues has had many one step forward, two steps back moments over the last two years. Any sense of optimism about the company’s progress is tempered by frustration about Facebook’s policy missteps at the very top.

“While the audit process has been meaningful and has led to some significant improvements in the platform, we have also watched the company make painful decisions over the last nine months with real world consequences that are serious setbacks for civil rights,” the auditors wrote.

As far as positive decisions go, they cite Facebook’s progress on changing policy in discriminatory housing and employment ads, expanded voter suppression policies, census interference prevention measures, more frequent meetings with civil rights leaders and changes to content moderation policies, like its prohibition of praise for white nationalism that went into effect last year.

In spite of some progress, the auditors say they still have a number of concerns. Specifically, they called for Facebook to implement its voter suppression policies more aggressively leading into the 2020 U.S. election, citing President Trump’s ominous false claims about voting in the 2020 election, which went untouched on the platform.

Facebook’s enforcement of its policies against white nationalism and white separatism (terms mostly synonymous with white supremacy) were also an area of concern, with the auditors calling for the company to forbid this kind of content even if it doesn’t use those terms specifically. The chalked some of these failures up to the company’s policies being “too reactive and piecemeal” rather than coherent, a statement that anyone paying attention to the company’s recent decisions can certainly relate to.

The audit cites a number of specific moments as failures for Facebook’s policies, including Nick Clegg’s deeply controversial assertion last year that politicians wouldn’t be subject to the company’s already shaky fact-checking program, a decision widely denounced by civil rights leaders and Facebook’s other critics for giving people in power “more freedom on the platform to make false, voter suppressive and divisive statements than the average user.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s Georgetown speech last October enshrining a very narrow and contentious conception of free speech at the expense of everything else was another major moment of departure for Facebook from its stated commitment to civil rights, the auditors write. “The prioritization of free expression over all other values, such as equality and nondiscrimination, is deeply troubling.”

Facebook’s decision to this day to not reverse its course on posts from Trump that intentionally mislead the public about voting (in one he baselessly claimed vote-by-mail systems are “fraudulent”) also remains an ongoing source of frustration, undermining the company’s progress. The auditors wrote that they are confounded about why the company “has failed to grasp the urgency” of robust policy enforcement with fewer than five months to go before the U.S. presidential election, concluding that Facebook’s decision to keep the Trump posts up shows that civil rights and voting integrity fall far behind its expedient interpretation of free expression on the company’s list of values.

“This report outlines a number of positive and consequential steps that the company has taken, but at this point in history, the Auditors are concerned that those gains could be obscured by the vexing and heartbreaking decisions Facebook has made that represent significant setbacks for civil rights,” the report states.

The bits of the audit we’ve touched on here only scratch the surface of a fairly comprehensive and often clarifying examination of a complex company’s often troubling policy decisions, so we’ve embedded the full Facebook civil rights audit document below.

Too little, too late: Facebook’s Oversight Board won’t launch until ‘late fall’

Facebook has announced that the limp “Oversight Board” intended to help make difficult content and policy decisions will not launch until “late fall,” which is to say, almost certainly after the election. You know, the election everyone is worried Facebook’s inability to police itself will serious affect.

On Twitter, the board explained that as much as it would like to “officially begin our task of providing independent oversight of Facebook’s content decisions,” it regrets that it will be unable to do so for some time. “Our focus is on building a strong institution that will deliver concrete results over the long term.”

That sounds well enough, but for many, the entire point of creating the oversight board — which has been in the offing since late 2018 — was to equip Facebook for the coming Presidential election, which promises to be something of a hot one.

As my colleague Natasha Lomas described the board when it was officially announced:

The Oversight Board is intended to sit atop the daily grind of Facebook content moderation, which takes place behind closed doors and signed NDAs, where outsourced armies of contractors are paid to eyeball the running sewer of hate, abuse and violence so actual users don’t have to, as a more visible mechanism for resolving and thus (Facebook hopes) quelling speech-related disputes.

But as we soon found out, the board would have nothing to do with what many would call the most dangerous content on Facebook: fast-spreading misinformation. The board will for now primarily concern itself with disputed takedowns of content, not simply disputed content. On many matters its decisions will be merely advisory.

Facebook has taken a relatively laissez-faire attitude towards manipulated media, deliberate misinformation, misleading political ads and other troubling content, and executives including Mark Zuckerberg have regularly reinforced that attitude.

An attempt to hit the company in its wallet has proven unexpectedly successful, with many large companies pledging to at least temporarily advertising from Facebook to protest these policies. Coca-Cola, Ford, REI, and even TechCrunch’s parent company Verizon have signed on to #StopHateforProfit. Facebook met with representatives of the effort today and the latter were, predictably, disappointed.

“Today we saw little and heard just about nothing,” said Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. It seems that Facebook does not consider the present pecuniary punishment heavy enough to warrant a serious response.

The delay of the Oversight Board, even the defanged one being promised, is just one more straw on the camel’s back.

Facebook boycott leaders ‘disappointed’ after meeting with Zuckerberg, Sandberg

What began as a relatively small effort by activist organizations to hold Facebook accountable for perceived policy failings has snowballed into a mass corporate backlash—and a rare moment of discomfort for a company that enjoys its status as one of tech’s untouchable giants.

As the #StopHateforProfit campaign continues to attract surprisingly mainstream corporations to its boycott of Facebook advertising, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and the newly back-at-Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox sat down with the group on Tuesday. Other members of the policy team and and one more member of Facebook’s product team were also present for the meeting, which lasted a little over an hour.

Following the conversation with Facebook’s uppermost leadership echelon, leaders from four of the organizations spearheading the boycott called the chat an unequivocal disappointment. “Today we saw little and heard just about nothing,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. Greenblatt also expressed disappointment that Facebook fails to apply “energy and urgency” to issues like hate and misinformation that it brings to scaling its massively successful online ad platform.

Color of Change President Rashad Robinson criticized Facebook for “expecting an A for attendance” for participating in the meeting. Free Press co-CEO Jessica J. González also expressed that she was “deeply disappointed” in the company. NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson dismissed the company’s efforts as well, accusing Facebook of being “more interested in dialogue than action.”

The #StopHateforProfit campaign calls for companies to suspend their advertising on Facebook and Instagram for the month of July, citing recent policy choices by the company, including the decision not to touch a post by President Trump threatening racial justice protesters with violence.

The initiative is led by a handful of civil rights groups and other organizations, including the ADL, Color of Change, Sleeping Giants, the NAACP and the tech company Mozilla. The effort attracted surprisingly widespread support, with companies from Coca-Cola and Starbucks to Ford and Verizon agreeing to temporarily suspend their Facebook and Instagram ad budgets, joining a handful of outdoor brands that signed onto the campaign in late June.

The campaign’s goals include a demand that Facebook hire a “C-suite level executive” with civil rights expertise, an audit and refunds for advertisers who unknowingly had their ads run on content later removed for violating the platform’s terms of service and a call for Facebook to identify and shut down both private and public groups centered around “white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism.”

The group also critiques Facebook’s incentive structure for content on its platform and how the company’s political relationships, like that with the Trump administration. “Facebook is a company of incredible resources,” the boycott’s organizers wrote. “We hope that they finally understand that society wants them to put more of those resources into doing the hard work of transforming the potential of the largest communication platform in human history into a force for good.”

While the group doesn’t believe that other tech platforms are blameless, it focused efforts on Facebook due to the company’s sheer scale and outsized impact on discourse both on and off the platform. “The size and the scope of it simply has no point of comparison,” Greenblatt said, citing the social network’s 2.6 billion users.

“We’re tired of the dialogue, because the stakes are so incredibly high for our communities,” González said, referring to the pandemic’s disproportionate negative health outcomes for people and color and the ongoing civil rights uprising following the killing of George Floyd. González also mentioned that Facebook profits from political ads “dehumanizing” brown and Black people in the U.S.

In the midst of renewed public scrutiny, Facebook announced last week that it would crack down on so-called “boogaloo” groups inciting anti-government violence, though boogaloo content not linked to violent threats may remain up on the platform. The announcement came the same day that a group of Democratic senators pressed the company on those groups—which it suggests to users via algorithms.

“We come together in the backdrop of George Floyd” Johnson said of the group’s campaign against Facebook, noting that communities are rightfully moving to hold companies to higher standards on issues of race and race-based hate.

“We are simply saying, keep society safe. Keep your employees safe. And help us protect this democracy,” Johnson said.

Facebook and WhatsApp halts reviews of Hong Kong demands for user data

Facebook has confirmed it has suspended processing demands for user data from Hong Kong authorities following the introduction of a new Beijing-imposed national security law.

A spokesperson for the social networking giant told TechCrunch it will “pause” the processing of data demands until it can better understand the new national security law, “including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts.” The spokesperson added: “We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions.”

Facebook said its suspension will also apply to WhatsApp, which it owns.

News of the suspension was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Tech giants have long seen Hong Kong as a friendly outpost in Asia as a semi-independent city nation state, albeit under the control of Beijing under its “one country, two systems” principles. Hong Kong has far greater freedoms from mainland China, where government surveillance and censorship is widespread.

But the new national security law, imposed unilaterally by the Chinese government on June 30, effectively undermines any protections Hong Kong nationals had. The law removes provisions for authorities to require a court order before it can demand data from internet companies, like Facebook.

One industry leader, who chairs the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association, said internet providers would have little choice but to comply with the new law.

The move is likely to put Facebook — and other tech giants that follow in its footsteps — on notice with Beijing, which already has sweeping bans against some Western tech giants, like Facebook and Twitter, on the mainland. WhatsApp is highly popular in Hong Kong, alongside Telegram and WeChat.

Facebook’s transparency report shows the social media giant received 384 demands for user data from Hong Kong authorities last year, the latter half of the year saw Facebook comply with fewer than half of all demands.

Messaging app Telegram also reportedly said Monday that it will no longer process data requests from Hong Kong authorities.