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More Nations Look to Implement Regional Laws to Manage the Influence of Online Platforms



Digital sovereignty is set to become a key theme of 2021, as more nations look at how they can curb the power of the major tech giants, and protect the personal information of their own citizens.

The recent Capitol riots in the US have once again sparked new questions around the influence of digital platforms, which many nations have been grappling with over the past few years. Add to this the concerns around apps sharing data with foreign governments, and it seems likely that a time of reckoning will soon come, and new, regional laws will need to be implemented in order for platforms to maintain their operations.

But is that workable? Can the platforms create region-specific laws, and adhere to them effectively, in order to meet such demand?

Unique requirements like Europe’s GDPR certainly add a level of operational complexity, which would be better served by implementing over-arching rules, that meet the varying requirements of each nation. 

But that, also, may not be possible – for example, right now, here’s a look at just some of the restrictions and rule changes that the major tech platforms are working to align with:

  • In Turkey, Twitter and Pinterest are facing new operating restrictions due to their failure to appoint local representatives in the region. Facebook and Google have met the new requirements, though some are concerned that the Turkish Government is seeking to monitor speech on social platforms by exerting pressure on local spokespeople.
  • In India, the Indian Government has banned all Chinese originated apps, including TikTok, due to border disputes with the CCP. TikTok had over 200 million users at the time of the ban being announced back in June.
  • In Australia, the Australian Government is pushing new regulations that would force Google and Facebook to pay for their use of content from Australian news publishers. The proposal – which makes little sense – has been strongly opposed by both companies, while recently, the US Government also voiced its concerns about the framework.
  • In Europe, MEPs are considering sanctions against big tech companies if they fail to attend an upcoming hearing to discuss tax and competition policy. The hearing is designed to help structure new, fairer operating conditions for the evolving digital marketplace.

As you can see, there’s a range of mixed concerns here, and challenges for the major platforms to meet.

Is it even possible to meet all of these requirements? Will the major platforms be able to continue operating in each nation if they don’t?

And this is before we look at the potential for increased regulation of tech platforms in the US under the incoming Biden administration. For the last four years, tech platforms have sought to placate President Trump, which many would argue is what lead to the recent unrest. But now, with the Trump administration gone, will the new US Government impose additional operating restrictions, or mandate new laws in relation to content moderation?

And if so, how would that work – and would they appease other regions as well?

Increasingly, it seems like the major tech platforms will be tasked with meeting tougher regional restrictions, which will effectively change how they operate in each jurisdiction. But maybe, with a more uniform approach, there could be a way to meet these various concerns, which would address such problems from a more global perspective.

Paying local taxes seems like a big one, with most of the tech platforms still funneling their earnings through tax havens in each region. But then again, adhering to varying local laws on content is virtually impossible to approach in any uniform way.

But you can expect these calls to keep coming – the recent events in the US have underlined what we’ve all seen around the world over the past four years, that online platforms have now become increasingly influential in democracy, truth, information transfer and societal shifts.

That has implications across the entirety of life as we know it – and while that may seem like an overstatement, it’s clear that digital platforms are only becoming more influential over time. And they can already fuel an attempt to overthrow the US Government.

Do you think other regions will be willing to wait and see if the same happens to them?

There are many implications here, and you can expect the calls for more localized approaches to digital regulation to continue as the platforms themselves work to meet these evolving requirements.  

This will have implications for data collection, advertising, marketing – all operations related to the digital sector. Already, we’re seeing changes in how data-tracking will be enabled in an effort to meet evolving demand. That could become more pressing, putting more onus on individual businesses to establish connection with their audiences direct.

Certainly, this will be a key element to monitor over the coming months.


Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value



Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

Correction: February 2, 2023 This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how much Meta expected to spend on its deal with the virtual reality start-up Within. It is $400 million, not $400 billion. Meta’s stock surged on Thursday …

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps



Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.

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Meta ‘Year of Efficiency’ call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed



Meta 'Year of Efficiency' call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., center, departs from federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With one simple slogan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg temporarily quelled investor discontent with his company’s multibillion-dollar investment into the futuristic metaverse.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said as part of the release of Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Following a 64% plunge in Meta’s share price in 2022, Wall Street cheered the report, sending the stock up almost 20%, extending a rally that began late last year. Based on after-hours pricing, Meta is trading at its highest since July.

Growth is not what’s getting investors excited. Meta reported better-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter, but sales still sank 4% from a year earlier, marking the third straight quarterly decline. And the forecast range for the first quarter suggests that year-over-year revenue could increase, but it could also fall again.

Rather, Zuckerberg’s commitment to cost cuts and efficiency is a sign that increasing profitability is important to Meta, which was known as a growth machine prior to last year’s slump.

“The first 18 years I think we grew it 20%, 30% compound or a lot more every year,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “And then obviously that changed very dramatically in 2022, where our revenue was negative for growth, for the first time in the company’s history.”

In looking to the future, Zuckerberg struck a realistic tone.

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue,” he said, regarding the recent drop in revenue. “But I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.”

Meta lowered its estimates for total expenses in 2023 to be in the range of $89 billion to $95 billion, down from its prior outlook of $94 billion to $100 billion. In November, the company announced it would lay off over 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff.

Zuckerberg said Meta will be more “proactive on cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be crucial” and that it will emphasize “removing layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”

Meta is also reducing spending as it builds new data centers that are intended to be more efficient while still able to power the company’s various artificial intelligence technologies. Capital expenditures are now expected to be in the range of $30 billion to $33 billion for 2023 instead of $34 billion to $37 billion.

Zuckerberg is selling investors on a story they want to hear, acknowledging that the company got bloated and needed more financial discipline. One of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, wrote a personal essay just a few days ago echoing that sentiment.

Still, Meta has plenty of challenges ahead, in terms of both costs and reviving its core ad business.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for developing the nascent metaverse, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Finance chief Susan Li told analysts that the company isn’t planning for any reduction in that unit anytime soon. Zuckerberg still sees it as the company’s future.

Digital advertising, meanwhile, is suffering from a struggling economy, and Li gave no indication that companies are planning to dramatically increase their spending in 2023.

Meta has also yet to recover from Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update that made it harder to target users with ads. Li said the company has been improving its online advertising system, but Apple’s update is “still certainly an absolute headwind to our revenue number.”

During the question and answer part of the call, Zuckerberg was asked about Meta’s progress in generative artificial intelligence, which has become the latest hot thing in Silicon Valley. His answer indicated that Meta is pursuing opportunities there, but will be cautious in how quickly it proceeds. Running these programs is expensive, and Meta needs to ensure it can develop them affordably, he said.

Zuckerberg said that while Meta is researching how best to incorporate the new technology, he wants “to be careful not to get too ahead of the development of it.”

Correction: Meta’s earnings report and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments occurred after the market close on Wednesday. An earlier version misstated the day.

WATCH: Meta grows in daily active users, shares pop on revenue beat

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