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Facebook loses final appeal in defamation takedown case, must remove same and similar hate posts globally

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Austria’s Supreme Court has dismissed Facebook’s appeal in a long running speech takedown case — ruling it must remove references to defamatory comments made about a local politician worldwide for as long as the injunction lasts.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment on the ruling.

Green Party politician Eva Glawischnig successfully sued the social media giant seeking removal of defamatory comments made about her by a user of its platform after Facebook had refused to take down the abusive postings — which referred to her as a “lousy traitor”, a “corrupt tramp” and a member of a “fascist party”. 

After a preliminary injunction in 2016, Glawischnig won local removal of the defamatory postings the next year but continued her legal fight — pushing for similar postings to be removed and take downs to also be global.

Questions were referred up to the EU’s Court of Justice. And in a key judgement last year the CJEU decided platforms can be instructed to hunt for and remove illegal speech worldwide without falling foul of European rules that preclude platforms from being saddled with a “general content monitoring obligation”. Today’s Austrian Supreme Court ruling flows naturally from that.

Austrian newspaper Der Standard reports that the court confirmed the injunction applies worldwide, both to identical postings or those that carry the same essential meaning as the original defamatory posting.

It said the Austrian court argues that EU Member States and civil courts can require platforms like Facebook to monitor content in “specific cases” — such as when a court has identified user content as unlawful and “specific information” about it — in order to prevent content that’s been judged to be illegal from being reproduced and shared by another user of the network at a later point in time with the overarching aim of preventing future violations.

The case has important implications for the limitations of online speech.

Regional lawmakers are also working on updating digital liability regulations. Commission lawmakers have said they want to force platforms to take more responsibility for the content they fence and monetize — fuelled by concerns about the impact of online hate speech, terrorist content and divisive disinformation.

A longstanding EU rule, prohibiting Member States from putting a general content monitoring obligation on platforms, limits how they can be forced to censor speech. But the CJEU ruling has opened the door to bounded monitoring of speech — in instances where it’s been judged to be illegal — and that in turn may influence the policy substance of the Digital Services Act which the Commission is due to publish in draft early next month.

In a reaction to last year’s CJEU ruling, Facebook argued it “opens the door to obligations being imposed on internet companies to proactively monitor content and then interpret if it is ‘equivalent’ to content that has been found to be illegal”.

“In order to get this right national courts will have to set out very clear definitions on what ‘identical’ and ‘equivalent’ means in practice. We hope the courts take a proportionate and measured approach, to avoid having a chilling effect on freedom of expression,” it added.

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Stock spikes after better-than-expected revenue, buyback announcement

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Stock spikes after better-than-expected revenue, buyback announcement

Meta (META) reported its Q4 2022 earnings today after the bell, and the Facebook parent beat key revenue expectations and growing losses on its metaverse operation. It also announced a $40 billion stock buyback plan.

Here’s what the key numbers looked like, as compared to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Q4 Revenue – $32.17 billion actual versus $31.65 billion expected

Advertising Revenue – $31.25 billion actual versus $30.86 billion expected

Adjusted Earnings Per Share (EPS) – $1.76 actual versus $2.26 expected

Facebook Daily Active Users (DAUs) – 2 billion actual versus 1.98 billion expected

Family of Apps Daily Active Users (DAUs) – 2.96 billion actual versus 2.92 billion expected

Reality Labs Operating Loss – -$4.28 billion actual versus -$3.99 billion expected

The company’s stock bumped about 14% in after-hours trading.

Good headline numbers aside, there’s a lot to question about Meta’s results today, as its metaverse division Reality Labs clocked a larger-than-expected loss of -$4.28 billion, more than $200 million more than Wall Street expected.

Perhaps more than surpassing revenue expectations, Meta has successfully cut costs.

“We anticipate our full-year 2023 total expenses will be in the range of $89-95 billion, lowered from our prior outlook of $94-$100 billion due to slower anticipated growth in payroll expenses and cost of revenue,” Meta CFO Susan Li said in a statement.

The company’s in hot pursuit of efficiency, and appears to have been ruthless in its cost-cutting efforts.

“We expect capital expenditures to be in the range of $30-33 billion, lowered from our prior estimate of $34-37 billion,” Li’s statement continues. “The reduced outlook reflects our updated plans for lower data center construction spend in 2023 as we shift to a new data center architecture that is more cost efficient and can support both AI and non-AI workloads.”

Meta’s buyback was a strong move, given that the company laid off 11,000 workers in November and more jobs are reportedly on the table even now. Moreover, the company’s C-suite re-shuffled substantially through last year, with longtime COO Sheryl Sandberg officially leaving the company in September.

Meta Platforms Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg leaves federal court after attending the Facebook parent company’s defense of its acquisition of virtual reality app developer Within Inc., in San Jose, California, U.S. December 20, 2022. REUTERS/Laure Andrillon

Meta’s got a lot of moving parts

Still, on the face of it, these numbers offer up a better-than-expected close out to what’s been an exceptionally difficult year for Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp. In 2022, the company’s stock declined approximately 63%, as the company battled macroeconomic headwinds and a slow ad market.

All in all, it’s been a solid day for Meta, which reportedly won its case against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this morning, getting the green light to buy VR developer Within. Meta’s proposed acquisition of Within, which makes popular VR app Supernatural, has been in the works since October 2021. However, they’re not out of the woods yet. The FTC, going forward, could appeal and will likely continue to scrutinize Meta’s future deals under Chair Lina Khan.

Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks and on LinkedIn.

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FTC finds GoodRx shared sensitive health data with Facebook, Google

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FTC finds GoodRx shared sensitive health data with Facebook, Google

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The FTC on Wednesday filed a court order against GoodRx for failing to notify users that it shared their personal, identifiable health data with Facebook and Google and said it would permanently ban the company from sharing such information for ads, should the court order be federally approved.

Why it matters: The court order is the first FTC action under the Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires companies to notify users when their health data is infringed upon, and includes several safeguards aimed at protecting consumer data.

  • “We’re making clear that apps violating this rule need to come clean with consumers when they share sensitive data improperly,” an FTC official said during a press briefing about the order.
  • The order must be approved by the federal court to go into effect.

Zoom in: The health data GoodRx shared with tech companies includes individually identifiable data on users’ prescription medications and health conditions. Per the complaint:

  • In August 2019, GoodRx compiled lists of users who’d purchased medications for heart disease and high blood pressure and uploaded their email addresses, phone numbers and mobile advertising IDs to Facebook so it could identify their profiles.
  • GoodRx then used that information to target users with relevant ads.

Details: The court order, filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC in California’s Northern District, found GoodRx shared data with companies including Facebook, Google, Criteo, Branch and Twilio. The order found GoodRx:

  • Monetized users’ personal health data to target them with health- and medication-specific ads on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Let third parties it shared data with use the information for research, development or advertising purposes without getting consent.
  • Misrepresented its HIPAA compliance, displaying a seal at the bottom of its telehealth site falsely suggesting it complied with the law.
  • Failed to maintain sufficient policies or procedures to protect its users’ personal health information.

State of play: GoodRx, which offers prescription discount coupons and telehealth services, lets users track their personal health data to save, track and get alerts about prescriptions, refills, pricing and medication purchase history.

  • Per the complaint, the company collects data from users themselves and from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that confirm when someone buys a prescription drug using one of its coupons.
  • Since January 2017, more than 55 million consumers have visited or used GoodRx’s website or mobile apps, the complaint says.

What they’re saying: A spokesperson for GoodRx told Axios the company does not agree with the allegations, saying the order “focuses on an old issue that was proactively addressed almost three years ago.”

  • “We admit no wrongdoing,” the spokesperson said. “Entering into the settlement allows us to avoid the time and expense of protracted litigation.”

  • “Health data today isn’t just what your doctor keeps in a file behind a desk,” an FTC official said during the briefing. “And the way we’re enforcing this reflects that new reality.”
  • “We expect this to have a significant impact on the marketplace,” the official added.

Flashback: The FTC in 2021 issued a warning to health apps and others that collect or use consumers’ health information that they must comply with the Health Breach rule.

  • “We are now showing the market that we meant business when we issued that policy statement,” the FTC official said.

What’s next: In addition to charging GoodRx with a $1.5 million civil penalty and banning it from disclosing user health information for ads, the order requires that the company:

  • Direct third parties to delete the consumer health data shared with them and inform users about the breaches and the FTC’s enforcement action.
  • Get users’ consent before sharing health data with third parties for purposes other than ads and detail the types of health information it will disclose to those parties.
  • Limit how long it can retain personal health information.
  • Create a privacy program that includes safeguards to protect such data.

Of note: While the order only binds GoodRx, companies including Facebook who received the data “are on notice that they were in receipt of data that was illegally collected,” another FTC official said.

This story has been updated to include the company’s comment.

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Facebook and Google ad oligopoly is over, fund manager says

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Facebook and Google ad oligopoly is over, fund manager says

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Inge Heydorn, fund manager at GP Bullhound, discusses competition in the digital ad market, what investors will be looking for in Meta’s results, and why it’s “all about TikTok.”

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