New bidders reportedly emerge for TikTok in the US as powerful critics assail the process

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that TikTok and Twitter have held talks about a potential merger, even as the video sharing company defends itself against President Donald Trump’s pressure to force the sale of the business or potentially ban it.

As the internationally distributed video streaming version of Chinese technology developer Bytedance’s social media app, TikTok has amassed a global user of avid consumers for its short form videos, including at least 100 million users in the US.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Twitter and Bytedance have had preliminary talks about a merger of TikTok’s US operations with the publicly traded social media company. The Journal noted that Microsoft remains the front-runner for TikTok’s business in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and that a potential tie-up with Twitter would just be for TikTok’s North American business.

Any Twitter bid for Bytedance’s TikTok business would likely have to bolstered by additional investors, since TikTok is valued anywhere between $15 billion and $50 billion dollars — far too big a bite for Twitter, which has a market capitalization of $29 billion.

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order that would force the sale of TikTok’s US operations or face being banned. So Bytedance has to find a buyer before Sept. 15, or shut the business down in the US.

So far, Twitter and Microsoft are the only reported bidders for Bytedance’s business, but others could emerge. And there’s the potential that any sale could be scuttled by lawsuits challenging the President’s executive order.

On Saturday, National Public Radio reported that TikTok is planning to do just that. The company will reportedly argue that the executive order from the President didn’t follow due process, and that its underlying argument that TikTok poses a national security threat is baseless, according to NPR.

Some prominent figures in the technology industry, like Bill Gates, are also questioning the process by which Bytedance is being forced to sell its business.

“[Having] Trump kill off the only competitor, it’s pretty bizarre,” Gates said in an interview with Wired. “[The] principle that this is proceeding on is singly strange. The cut thing, that’s doubly strange.”

If Twitter, were, by some miracle, to acquire TikTok’s US operations, it would add a huge additional pillar to the company’s business and permanently reshape the social media landscape. It would add a massive new user base and change the demographics of the company’s user base.

The irony of such a deal shouldn’t be lost on longtime tech watchers, who will remember that Twitter had the opportunity to become TikTok if it hadn’t killed the short form video streaming service, Vine.

Mr. Trump’s statements against TikTok have caused concern among potential buyers. Microsoft and ByteDance have been discussing a potential deal for weeks, The Wall Street Journal has reported. But when Mr. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on July 31 that he planned to ban TikTok, the companies were caught off guard and paused their discussions until they had more clarity about Mr. Trump’s plans, the Journal has reported.

 

Facebook extends coronavirus work from home policy until July 2021

Facebook has joined Google in saying it will allow employees to work from home until the middle of next year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Based on guidance from health and government experts, as well as decisions drawn from our internal discussions about these matters, we are allowing employees to continue voluntarily working from home until July 2021,” a spokeswoman told the Reuters news agency.

Facebook also said it will provide employees with an additional $1,000 to spend on “home office needs”.

Late last month Google also extended its coronavirus remote work provision, saying staff would be able to continue working from home until the end of June 2021.

Both tech giants have major office presences in a number of cities around the world. And despite the pandemic forcing them into offering more flexible working arrangement than they usually do the pair have continued to build out their physical office footprints, signalling a commitment to operating their own workplaces. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, given how much money they’ve ploughed in over the years to turn offices into perk-filled playgrounds designed to keep staff on site for longer — with benefits such as free snacks and meals, nap pods, video games arcade rooms and even health centers.)

Earlier this month, Facebook secured the main office lease on an iconic building in New York, for example — adding 730,000 square feet to its existing 2.2 million square feet of office space. While Google has continued to push ahead with a flagship development in the UK capital’s King’s Cross area, with work resuming last month on the site for its planned London ‘landscraper’ HQ.

In late July, Apple said staff won’t return to offices until at least early 2021 — cautioning that any return to physical offices would depend on whether an effective vaccine and/or successful therapeutics are available. So the iPhone maker looks prepared for a home-working coronavirus long haul.

As questions swirl over the future of the physical office now that human contact is itself a public health risk, the deepest pocketed tech giants are paradoxically showing they’re not willing to abandon the traditional workplace altogether and go all in on modern technologies which allow office work to be done remotely.

Twitter is an exception. During the first wave of the pandemic the social network firmly and fully embraced remote work, telling staff back in May that they can work from home forever if they wish.

Whether remote work played any role in the company’s recent account breach is one open question. It has said phone spear phishing was used to trick staff to gain network access credentials.

Certainly, security concerns have been generally raised about the risk of more staff working remotely during the pandemic — where they may be outside a corporate firewall and more vulnerable to attackers.

A Facebook spokeswoman did not respond when we asked whether the company will offer its own staff the option to work remotely permanently. But the company does not appear prepared to go so far — not least judging by signing new leases on massive office spaces.

Facebook has been retooling its approach to physical offices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing in May it would be setting up new company hubs in Denver, Dallas and Atlanta.

It also said it would focus on finding new hires in areas near its existing offices — including in cities such as San Diego, Portland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said then that over the course of the next decade half of the company could be working fully remotely. Though he said certain kinds of roles would not be eligible for all-remote work — such as those doing work in divisions like hardware development, data centers, recruiting, policy and partnerships.

Facebook extends coronavirus work from home policy until July 2021

Facebook has joined Google in saying it will allow employees to work from home until the middle of next year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Based on guidance from health and government experts, as well as decisions drawn from our internal discussions about these matters, we are allowing employees to continue voluntarily working from home until July 2021,” a spokeswoman told the Reuters news agency.

Facebook also said it will provide employees with an additional $1,000 to spend on “home office needs”.

Late last month Google also extended its coronavirus remote work provision, saying staff would be able to continue working from home until the end of June 2021.

Both tech giants have major office presences in a number of cities around the world. And despite the pandemic forcing them into offering more flexible working arrangement than they usually do the pair have continued to build out their physical office footprints, signalling a commitment to operating their own workplaces. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, given how much money they’ve ploughed in over the years to turn offices into perk-filled playgrounds designed to keep staff on site for longer — with benefits such as free snacks and meals, nap pods, video games arcade rooms and even health centers.)

Earlier this month, Facebook secured the main office lease on an iconic building in New York, for example — adding 730,000 square feet to its existing 2.2 million square feet of office space. While Google has continued to push ahead with a flagship development in the UK capital’s King’s Cross area, with work resuming last month on the site for its planned London ‘landscraper’ HQ.

In late July, Apple said staff won’t return to offices until at least early 2021 — cautioning that any return to physical offices would depend on whether an effective vaccine and/or successful therapeutics are available. So the iPhone maker looks prepared for a home-working coronavirus long haul.

As questions swirl over the future of the physical office now that human contact is itself a public health risk, the deepest pocketed tech giants are paradoxically showing they’re not willing to abandon the traditional workplace altogether and go all in on modern technologies which allow office work to be done remotely.

Twitter is an exception. During the first wave of the pandemic the social network firmly and fully embraced remote work, telling staff back in May that they can work from home forever if they wish.

Whether remote work played any role in the company’s recent account breach is one open question. It has said phone spear phishing was used to trick staff to gain network access credentials.

Certainly, security concerns have been generally raised about the risk of more staff working remotely during the pandemic — where they may be outside a corporate firewall and more vulnerable to attackers.

A Facebook spokeswoman did not respond when we asked whether the company will offer its own staff the option to work remotely permanently. But the company does not appear prepared to go so far — not least judging by signing new leases on massive office spaces.

Facebook has been retooling its approach to physical offices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing in May it would be setting up new company hubs in Denver, Dallas and Atlanta.

It also said it would focus on finding new hires in areas near its existing offices — including in cities such as San Diego, Portland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said then that over the course of the next decade half of the company could be working fully remotely. Though he said certain kinds of roles would not be eligible for all-remote work — such as those doing work in divisions like hardware development, data centers, recruiting, policy and partnerships.

Daily Crunch: Twitter and Facebook take action against Trump

Facebook and Twitter are taking a stronger stand against pandemic misinformation, we preview the latest version of macOS and a mental health startup raises $50 million. Here’s your Daily Crunch for August 6, 2020.

The big story: Twitter, Facebook take action against Trump misinformation

Facebook and Twitter both took action against a post from President Donald Trump and his campaign featuring a clip from a Fox News interview in which he misleadingly described children as “almost immune” to COVID-19. Facebook took down the offending post, while Twitter went further and locked the Trump campaign out of its account (separate from Trump’s personal account).

“The @TeamTrump Tweet you referenced is in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation,” Twitter’s Aly Pavela said in a statement. “The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again.”

Meanwhile, Twitter also announced today that it will be labeling accounts tied to state-controlled media organizations and government officials (but not heads of state).

The tech giants

macOS 11.0 Big Sur preview — Big Sur is the operating system’s first primary number upgrade in 20 years, and Brian Heater says it represents a big step forward in macOS’ evolution.

Apple 27-inch iMac review — This will be one of the last Macs to include Intel silicon.

Uber picks up Autocab to push into places its own app doesn’t go — Uber plans to use Autocab’s technology to link users with local providers when they open the app in locations where Uber doesn’t offer rides.

Startups, funding and venture capital

On-demand mental health service provider Ginger raises $50 million — Through Ginger’s services, patients have access to a care coordinator who serves as the first point of entry into a company’s mental health plans.

Mode raises $33 million to supercharge its analytics platform for data scientists — Mode has also been introducing tools for less technical users to structure queries that data scientists can subsequently execute more quickly and with more complete responses.

Crossbeam announces $25 million Series B to keep growing partnerships platform — Crossbeam is a Philadelphia startup that automates partnership data integration.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Can learning pods scale, or are they widening edtech’s digital divide? — In recent weeks, the concept has taken off all across the country.

Eight trends accelerating the age of commercial-ready quantum computing — Venrock’s Ethan Batraski writes that in the last 12 months, there have been meaningful breakthroughs in quantum computing from academia, venture-backed companies and industry.

5 VCs on the future of Michigan’s startup ecosystem — According to the Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA), there are 144 venture-backed startup companies in Michigan, up 12% over the last five years.

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

Everything else

More Chinese phone makers could lose US apps under Trump’s Clean Network — The Trump administration’s five-pronged Clean Network initiative aims to strip away Chinese phone makers’ ability to pre-install and download U.S. apps.

UK reported to be ditching coronavirus contact tracing in favor of ‘risk rating’ app — Reports suggest a launch of the much-delayed software will happen this month, but also that the app will no longer be able to automatically carry out contact tracing.

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.

Twitter adds labels for government officials and state-controlled media

Twitter is introducing new labels for accounts and tweets tied to government officials and “state-affiliated media.”

“Twitter provides an unmatched way to connect with, and directly speak to public officials and representatives,” the company wrote in the blog post announcing these changes. “This direct line of communication with leaders and officials has helped to democratize political discourse and increase transparency and accountability.”

However, Twitter suggested that these labels are part of a larger effort “to protect that discourse because we believe political reach should be earned not bought.”

When it comes to labeling government officials, the company said it’s focusing on those who represent “the official voice of the state abroad,” including “foreign ministers, institutional entities, ambassadors, official spokespeople, and key diplomatic leaders.” It’s starting with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, with plans to add other countries in the future.

Twitter said these labels will not apply to “the personal accounts of heads of state,” because “these accounts enjoy widespread name recognition, media attention, and public awareness.” For example: President Donald Trump’s Twitter account has not been labeled, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s account has.

Twitter label screenshot

Image Credits: Twitter

As for state-affiliated media, Twitter said that media organizations that maintain editorial independence despite government financing, such as the BBC and NPR, will not labeled.

Instead, the label will be reserved for “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution” — for example, Russia-backed RT. To identify these outlets, the company says it’s consulting outside experts, including members of its Digital and Human Rights Advisory group (part of Twitter’s Trust & Safety Council).

Facebook introduced a similar label in June.

Twitter also said state-affiliated media will no longer receive promotion via the service’s home timeline, notifications and search. (This limitation does not apply to government officials.) The service had already blocked these groups from purchasing advertising after an incident last year in which China’s state news agency bought promoted tweets to portray pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as violent.

Twitter locked the Trump campaign out of its account for sharing COVID-19 misinformation

Twitter took action against the official Trump campaign Twitter account Wednesday, freezing @TeamTrump’s ability to tweet until it removed a video in which the president made misleading claims about the coronavirus. In the video clip, taken from a Wednesday morning Fox News interview, President Trump makes the unfounded assertion that children are “almost immune” from COVID-19.

“If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely — but almost immune from this disease,” Trump said. “They don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem.”

While Trump’s main account @realDonaldTrump linked out to the @TeamTrump tweet in violation, it did not directly share it. In spite of some mistaken reports that Trump’s own account is locked, at this time his account had not been subject to the same enforcement action as the Trump campaign account, which appears to have regained its ability to tweet around 6PM PT.

“The @TeamTrump Tweet you referenced is in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation,” Twitter spokesperson Aly Pavela said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again.”

Facebook also took its own unprecedented action against President Trump’s account late Wednesday, removing the post for violating its rules against harmful false claims that any group is immune to the virus.

The president’s false claims were made in service of his belief that schools should reopen their classrooms in the fall. In June, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made similar unscientific claims, arguing that children are “stoppers of the disease.”

In reality, the relationship between children and the virus is not yet well understood. While young children seem less prone to severe cases of COVID-19, the extent to which they contract and spread the virus isn’t yet known. In a new report examining transmission rates at a Georgia youth camp, the CDC observed that “children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission.”

Twitter says Android security bug gave access to direct messages

Twitter says a security bug may have exposed the direct messages of Android app users, but said that there was no evidence that the vulnerability was ever exploited.

The bug could have allowed a malicious Android app running on the same device to siphon off a user’s direct messages stored in the Twitter app by bypassing Android’s in-built data permissions.

Twitter said, however, that the bug only worked on Android 8 (Oreo) and Android 9 (Pie), and has since been fixed.

A Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch that the bug was reported by a security researcher through Twitter’s bug bounty platform, HackerOne, a “few weeks ago” and was investigated and fixed.

“Since then, we have been working to keep accounts secure,” said the spokesperson. “Now that the issue has been fixed, we’re letting people know.” Twitter said it waited to let its users know in order to prevent someone from learning about the issue and taking advantage of it before it was fixed — a common approach to reporting security flaws.

The notice sent to affected Twitter users. (Image: TechCrunch)

Twitter said about 4% of users are still running a vulnerable version of Twitter for Android, and will be notified to update the app as soon as possible. Many users began noticing in-app pop-ups notifying them of the issue.

News of the security issue comes just weeks after the company was hit by a hacker, who gained access to an internal “admin” tool, which along with two other accomplices hijacked high-profile Twitter accounts to spread a cryptocurrency scam that promised to “double your money.” The hack and subsequent scam netted over $100,000 in scammed funds.

The Justice Department charged three people — including one minor — allegedly responsible for the incident.

Decrypted: How a teenager hacked Twitter, Garmin’s ransomware aftermath

A 17-year-old Florida teenager is accused of perpetrating one of the year’s biggest and most high-profile hacks: Twitter.

A federal 30-count indictment filed in Tampa said Graham Ivan Clark used a phone spearphishing attack to pivot through multiple layers of Twitter’s security and bypassed its two-factor authentication to gain access to an internal “admin” tool that let the hacker take over any account. With two accomplices named in a separate federal indictment, Clark — who went by the online handle “Kirk” — allegedly used the tool to hijack the accounts of dozens of celebrities and public figures, including Bill Gates, Elon Musk and former president Barack Obama, to post a cryptocurrency scam netting over $100,000 in bitcoin in just a few hours.

It was, by all accounts, a sophisticated attack that required technical skills and an ability to trick and deceive to pull off the scam. Some security professionals were impressed, comparing the attack to one that had the finesse and professionalism of a well-resourced nation-state attacker.

But a profile in The New York Times describes Clark was an “adept scammer with an explosive temper.”

In the teenager’s defense, the attack could have been much worse. Instead of pushing a scam that promised to “double your money,” Clark and his compatriots could have wreaked havoc. In 2013, hackers hijacked the Associated Press’ Twitter account and tweeted a fake bomb attack on the White House, sending the markets plummeting — only to quickly recover after the all-clear was given.

But with control of some of the world’s most popular Twitter accounts, Clark was for a few hours in July one of the most powerful people in the world. If found guilty, the teenager could spend his better years behind bars.

Here’s more from the past week.


THE BIG PICTURE

Garmin hobbles back after ransomware attack, but questions remain

Twitter warns investors of possible fine from FTC consent order probe

Twitter has disclosed it’s facing a potential fine of more than a hundred million dollars as a result of a probe by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which believes the company violated a 2011 consent order by using data provided by users for a security purpose to target them with ads.

In an SEC filing, reported on earlier by the New York Times, Twitter revealed it received the draft complaint from the FTC late last month. The activity the regulator is complaining about is alleged to have taken place between 2013 and 2019.

Last October the social media firm publicly disclosed it had used phone numbers and email addresses provided by users to set up two-factor authentication to bolster the security of their accounts in order to serve targeted ads — blaming the SNAFU on a tailored audiences program, which allows companies to target ads against their own marketing lists.

Twitter found that when advertisers uploaded their own marketing lists (of emails and/or phone numbers) it matched users to data they had submitted purely to set up two-factor authentication on their Twitter account.

“The allegations relate to the Company’s use of phone number and/or email address data provided for safety and security purposes for targeted advertising during periods between 2013 and 2019,” Twitter writes in the SEC filing. “The Company estimates that the range of probable loss in this matter is $150.0 million to $250.0 million and has recorded an accrual of $150.0 million.”

“The matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome,” it adds.

We’ve reached out to Twitter with questions. Update: A company spokeswoman said it had nothing to add outside this statement:

Following the announcement of our Q2 financial results, we received a draft complaint from the FTC alleging violations of our 2011 consent order. Following standard accounting rules we included an estimated range for settlement in our 10Q filed on August 3.

The company has had a torrid few weeks on the security front, suffering a major security incident last month after hackers gained access to its internal account management tools, enabling them to access accounts of scores of verified Twitter users, including Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Joe Biden, and use them to send cryptocurrency scam tweets. Police have since charged three people with the hack, including a 17-year-old Florida teen.

In June Twitter also disclosed a security lapse may have exposed some business customers’ information. While it was forced to report another crop of security incidents last year — including after a researcher identifying a bug that allowed him to discover phone numbers associated with millions of Twitter accounts.

Twitter also admitted it gave account location data to one of its partners, even if the user had opted-out of having their data shared; and inadvertently gave its ad partners more data than it should have.

Additionally, the company is now at the front of a long queue of tech giants pending enforcement in Europe, related to major GDPR complaints — where regional fines for data violations can scale to 4% of a company’s global annual turnover. Twitter’s lead data protection regulator, Ireland’s DPC, submitted a draft decision related to a probe of one of its security breaches to the bloc’s other data agencies in May — with a final decision slated as likely this summer.

The decision relates to an investigation the regulator instigated following yet another major security fail by Twitter in 2018 — when it revealed a bug had resulted in some passwords being stored in plain text.

As we reported at the time it’s pretty unusual for a company of such size to make such a basic security mistake. But Twitter has a very long history of failing to protect users’ data — with additional hacking incidents all the way back in 2009 leading to the 2011 FTC consent order.

Under the terms of that settlement Twitter was barred for 20 years from misleading consumers about the safety of their data in order to resolve FTC charges that it had “deceived consumers and put their privacy at risk by failing to safeguard their personal information”.

It also agreed to establish and maintain “a comprehensive information security program”, with independent auditor assessments taking place every other year for 10 years.

Given the terms of that order a fine does indeed look inevitable. However the wider failing here is that of US regulators — which, for over a decade, have failed to grapple with the exploitative, surveillance-based business models that have led to breaches and security lapses by a number of data-mining adtech giants, not just Twitter.

Facebook fights order to globally block accounts linked to Brazilian election meddling

Facebook has branded a legal order to globally block a number of Brazilian accounts linked to the spread of political disinformation targeting the country’s 2018 election as “extreme”, claiming it poses a threat to freedom of expression outside the country.

The tech giant is simultaneously complying with the block order — beginning Saturday after it was fined by a Supreme Court judge for non-compliance — citing the risk of criminal liability for a local employee were it not to do so.

However it is appealing to the Supreme Court to try to overturn the order.

A spokesperson for the tech giant sent us this statement on the matter:

Facebook complied with the order of blocking these accounts in Brazil by restricting the ability for the target Pages and Profiles to be seen from IP locations in Brazil. People from IP locations in Brazil were not capable of seeing these Pages and Profiles even if the targets had changed their IP location. This new legal order is extreme, posing a threat to freedom of expression outside of Brazil’s jurisdiction and conflicting with laws and jurisdictions worldwide. Given the threat of criminal liability to a local employee, at this point we see no other alternative than complying with the decision by blocking the accounts globally, while we appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Friday a judge ordered Facebook to pay a 1.92 million reais (~$367k) fine for non compliance, per Reuters, which says the company had been facing further daily fines of 100,000 reais (~$19k) had it not applied a global block.

Before the fine was announced Facebook had said it would appeal the global block order, adding that while it respects the laws of countries where it operates “Brazilian law recognizes the limits of its jurisdiction”.

Reuters reports that the accounts in question were controlled by supporters of the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, and had been implicated in the spread of political disinformation during the country’s 2018 election with the aim of boosting support for the right wing populist.

Last month the news agency reported Facebook had suspended a network of social media accounts used to spread divisive political messages online which the company had linked to employees of Bolsonaro and two of his sons.

In a blog post at the time, Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, wrote: “Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Social Liberal Party and some of the employees of the offices of Anderson Moraes, Alana Passos, Eduardo Bolsonaro, Flavio Bolsonaro and Jair Bolsonaro.”

In all Facebook said it removed 33 Facebook accounts, 14 Pages, 1 Group and 37 Instagram accounts that it identified as involved in the “coordinated inauthentic behavior”.

It also disclosed that around 883,000 accounts followed one or more of the offending Pages; while the Group had around 350 accounts signed up; and 918,000 people followed one or more of the Instagram accounts.

The political disops effort had spent around $1,500 on Facebook ads, paid for in Brazilian reais, per its account of the investigation.

Facebook said it had identified a network of “clusters” of “connected activity”, with those involved using duplicate and fake accounts to “evade enforcement, create fictitious personas posing as reporters, post content, and manage Pages masquerading as news outlets”.

An example of removed content that was being spread by the disops network identified by Facebook (Image credit: Facebook)

The network posted about “local news and events including domestic politics and elections, political memes, criticism of the political opposition, media organizations and journalists”; and, more recently, about the coronavirus pandemic, it added.

In May a judge in Brazil had ordered Facebook to a block a number of accounts belonging to Bolsonaro supporters who had been implicated in the election meddling. But Facebook only applied the block in Brazil — hence the court order for a global block.

While the tech giant was willing to remove access to the inauthentic content locally, after it had identified a laundry list of policy contraventions, it’s taking a ‘speech’ stance over purging the fake content and associated accounts internationally — arguing such an order risks overreach that could damage freedom of expression online.

The unstated implication is authoritarian states or less progressive regimes could seek to use similar orders to force platforms to apply national laws which prohibit content that’s legal and freely available elsewhere to force it to be taken down in another jurisdiction.

That said, it’s not entirely clear in this specific case why Facebook would not simply bring down its own banhammer on accounts that it has found to have so flagrantly violated its own policies on coordinated authentic behavior. But the company has at times treated political ‘speech’ as somehow exempt from its usual content standards — leading to operating policies that tie themselves in contradictory nots.

Its blog post further notes that some of the content posted by the Brazilian election interference operation had previously been taken down for violating its Community Standards, including hate speech.

The case doesn’t just affect Facebook. In May, Twitter was also ordered to block a number of accounts linked to the probe into political disops. It’s not clear what action Twitter is taking.

We’ve reached out to the company for comment.