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Facebook is now an arbiter of truth

October 15, 2020, 1:00 PM UTC

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. Tech writer Danielle Abril here. You may remember me from the various occasions in which I filled in for Adam Lashinsky.

Though the team will miss Adam dearly, we are turning to the next chapter of Data Sheet. I’m excited to begin delivering the latest tech news to your inbox every Thursday as an official author of the newsletter. 

One of the things I’ve been watching is the recent backpedaling on the part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

In January, Zuckerberg passionately defended free speech at the Silicon Slopes Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah. “This is the new approach,” he said. “I think it’s going to piss off a lot of people.”

But perhaps Zuckerberg has pissed off enough people to reconsider that statement. In recent weeks, Facebook has debuted new rules banning posts, groups, pages, and accounts related to QAnon, a conspiracy theory tied to the far-right. Facebook also recently said it plans to crack down on presidential candidates or political parties that claim election victory before the official result has been determined.

The service added another new rule this week, banning ads that discourage people from getting vaccinated—though it’s leaving anti-vaxx posts from users untouched. And following pressure it received from Holocaust survivors around the world, Facebook said it will remove posts that deny or downplay the mass murder of about six million Jews in Nazi Germany. 

In announcing that ban, Zuckerberg admitted he’s had to rethink how he views free speech. “I’ve struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust,” he said in Facebook post on Monday. “My own thinking has evolved.”

On Wednesday, Facebook reduced the distribution of a New York Post story about an alleged email that connects presidential candidate Joe Biden to corruption in Ukraine. In a tweet, company spokesman Andy Stone said Facebook chose to take the action because the story needed to be fact-checked by the service’s third-party partners.

In all fairness, for years Facebook has had rules against certain types of speech. Users have been prohibited from threatening someone with violence, for example. But Zuckerberg repeatedly has said he doesn’t want Facebook to be the arbiter of truth. Yet with its most recent changes, the company is doing just that.

Danielle Abril

Twitter: @DanielleDigest


Deniers begone. Twitter on Wednesday said that it will remove posts that deny or diminish the Holocaust, joining Facebook, which reversed its stance on the matter and rolled out a similar policy on Monday. Though Twitter’s policy doesn’t explicitly prohibit posts that deny the Holocaust, the company said the posts violate its hateful conduct policy.

Warehouse woes. Amazon warehouse workers in New York say the company has “recklessly” reinstated quotas that are dangerous during the coronavirus pandemic. The workers had previously filed a lawsuit in July alleging that the company failed to follow proper COVID-19 prevention recommendations from health authorities. In the latest complaint, workers say that Amazon has started reinforcing productivity quotas leading up to Prime Day, despite telling a judge in July it had suspended those measures.

Rebranding the rebrand. The parent company of the money-losing co-working space WeWork has decided to ditch the name it introduced last year and go back to its roots. The We Company is now WeWork again, according to Reuters. The change comes as the company focuses on its core business of co-working spaces, distancing itself from WeWork co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann, who intended to broaden the business.

Race against the clock. In the latest news on the TikTok saga, a U.S. appeals court agreed to expedite the appeal of a recent ruling that blocked the government from banning downloads of the social media app. On Sept. 27, TikTok found reprieve in a preliminary injunction that allowed the app to remain on the Google and Apple app stores. Meanwhile, TikTok faces another looming deadline on Nov. 12, at which time the government could ban the usage of the app in the U.S. The government claims the app, owned by Chinese-based ByteDance, poses a national security risk.


The New York State Department of Financial Services on Wednesday released a report following an investigation into the July Twitter hack that compromised the accounts of several cryptocurrency companies and public figures.

In the report, the department said that Twitter lacked the cybersecurity protections at the time of the hack and recommended a “new cybersecurity regulatory framework for giant social media companies.”

“Social media platforms have quickly become the leading source of news and information, yet no regulator has adequate oversight of their cybersecurity. The fact that Twitter was vulnerable to an unsophisticated attack shows that self-regulation is not the answer,” Linda A. Lacewell, the department’s superintendent, said in a release.


Facebook moves to limit spread of dubious Biden laptop story by Jeff John Roberts

Zoom’s newest feature will provide a marketplace for virtual events and services by Aaron Pressman

GV, formerly known as Google Ventures, elevates its first Black female investing partner by Lucinda Shen

‘We have to change who the investors are’: How women VCs are working to fund Black and female founders by Anne Sraders

Facebook A.I. researchers push for a breakthrough in renewable energy storage by Jeremy Kahn

Apple’s 5G iPhone debut didn’t go as planned in the world’s biggest 5G market by Grady McGregor

How the NBA kept the bubble from bursting by Adam Lashinsky and Brian O'Keefe



I’ve recently learned I’m not the only person who loves getting my “I Voted” sticker on voting day. Over the years, it’s actually become a bit of a social media trend—posting a photo of your sticker after voting.

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Have you gotten your sticker this year? That’s my subtle way of telling you to vote.