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Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg on the defensive over Trump posts | Twitter labels another lawmaker's tweet | USTR opens probe into digital taxes

The Hill logo The Hill 6/2/2020 Chris Mills Rodrigo and Maggie Miller
Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Zuckerberg are posing for a picture: Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg on the defensive over Trump posts | Twitter labels another lawmaker's tweet | USTR opens probe into digital taxes © Getty Images Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg on the defensive over Trump posts | Twitter labels another lawmaker's tweet | USTR opens probe into digital taxes

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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

ZUCKERBERG UNDER FIRE: A group of civil rights organizations criticized Facebook on Monday for its inaction on posts from President Trump about police brutality in Minnesota.

Several leaders of the organizations held a call with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg about the post where Trump said "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" in response to protests against the death of George Floyd.

Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, said they were "disappointed and stunned by Mark's incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up."

"He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump's call for violence against protesters," they said.

"Mark is setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar harmful things on Facebook," they said.

Zuckerberg and Facebook have been under intense criticism since keeping up Trump's post about protesters demonstrating against the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died last week while in Minneapolis police custody.

Video of the incident that surfaced last week showed a police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, while Floyd pleaded for air.

The former officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Earlier in the week, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo fired Chauvin and three other officers who were on the scene.

While Twitter placed a warning on a similar tweet from Trump claiming that it glorified violence, Facebook left it untouched. The post has received more than 254,000 reactions and 71,000 shares.

Read more.

TWO ENGINEERS QUIT: At least two Facebook software engineers have left the social media company over its decision not to flag inflammatory posts President Trump has made on the platform.

"I cannot stand by Facebook's continued refusal to act on the president's bigoted messages aimed at radicalizing the American public," Timothy Aveni wrote in a LinkedIn post. "I'm scared for my country, and I'm watching my company do nothing to challenge the increasingly dangerous status quo."

Another employee, Owen Anderson, announced his departure from the company on Twitter.

The moves by Aveni and Anderson reflect escalating tensions between Facebook and its employees.

Read more.

ZUCKERBERG HOLDS FIRM: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday defended the company's decision not to take action against President Trump's controversial posts about protests that have swept the nation in response to the death of George Floyd.

During a virtual question-and-answer session with employees, Zuckerberg said that Facebook's policies and principles in regard to free speech showed that "the right action" was to leave the posts up, according to audio of the call heard by The New York Times.

"I knew that I would have to separate out my personal opinion," Zuckerberg said. "Knowing that when we made this decision we made, it was going to lead to a lot of people upset inside the company, and the media criticism we were going to get."

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that "open and honest discussion has always been a part of Facebook's culture. Mark had an open discussion with employees today, as he has regularly over the years."

"He's grateful for their feedback," the spokesperson added.

Read more.

TWITTER RESTRICTS GAETZ POST: Twitter has restricted a Monday tweet from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), saying it glorifies violence, a move that comes after also cracking down on some of President Trump's tweets last week.

The Florida lawmaker and vocal Trump ally tweeted in response to Trump's Sunday announcement on Twitter that anti-facist activists, or antifa, would be formally designated as a terrorist organization.

"Now that we clearly see Antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?" Gaetz posted.

Twitter restricted the tweet, preventing it from being liked, replied to or retweeted. Before the social media platform's action, the tweet had been retweeted more than 12,000 times, The Verge reported.

A Twitter spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the "public interest notice" was placed on the tweet because it was "in violation of our glorification of violence policy," which forbids the threatening of violence against an individual or group.

Read more.

USTR INVESTIGATES DIGITAL TAXES: The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on Tuesday announced that it is opening investigations into digital services taxes that have been adopted or are under consideration in a host of trading partners to determine whether they are discriminatory and burden U.S. commerce.

The investigations, which will take place under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, will examine taxes that have been adopted in Austria, India, Indonesia, Italy and Turkey and that are under consideration in Brazil, the Czech Republic, the European Union, Spain and the United Kingdom. Findings that the taxes are discriminatory and burdensome could result in the U.S. imposing tariffs.

USTR said in a notice in the Federal Register that the investigations will initially focus on concerns that digital services taxes are discriminatory against U.S. companies, retroactive and potentially unreasonable tax policy. The agency said that the taxes may diverge from U.S. and international tax norms, such as taxing revenue rather than income and having a "purpose of penalizing particular technology companies for their commercial success."

"President Trump is concerned that many of our trading partners are adopting tax schemes designed to unfairly target our companies," USTR Robert Lighthizer said in a statement. "We are prepared to take all appropriate action to defend our businesses and workers against any such discrimination."

Many countries have been adopting or considering digital services taxes in an effort to collect revenue from large tech companies that have a lot of users in their jurisdictions but pay little in taxes there.

U.S. policymakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as major tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google, have raised concerns about other countries' efforts, arguing that they unfairly target American businesses. U.S. policymakers and industry groups argue that countries should not take unilateral action to impose a tax and instead should address tax issues arising from the digitalization of the economy through multilateral efforts spearheaded by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In December, USTR determined that a digital tax adopted by France discriminates against U.S. companies, and proposed tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion of French products. The following month, the U.S. and France reached an agreement under which France has paused the tax and the U.S. is holding off on imposing tariffs while the OECD talks are ongoing.

Read more.

GRINDR REMOVES ETHNICITY FILTER: The gay dating and hook-up app Grindr announced Monday that it will remove its ethnicity filter as part of its "zero-tolerance policy for racism."

Grindr posted on Twitter that the decision was made based on feedback and to show its commitment to fighting racism and hate speech. The company said it will be making a donation to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and Black Lives Matter and encouraged others "to do the same if you can."

"We stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the hundreds of thousands of queer people of color who log in to our app every day," the tweeted statement began.

"We will continue to fight racism on Grindr, both through dialogue with our community and a zero-tolerance policy for racism and hate speech on our platform," it added. "As part of this commitment, and based on your feedback, we have decided to remove the ethnicity filter from our next release."

Read more.

Lighter click:

An op-ed to chew on: COVID makes tech policy like CDA 230 more important than ever


Mark Zuckerberg on leaked audio: Trump's looting and shooting reference "has no history of being read as a dog whistle" (Recode, Shirin Ghaffary)

Mass Protests Turn the Powerful Into Conspiracy Theorists (Verge / Anne Merlan)

Your Phone Is a Goldmine of Hidden Data for Cops. Here's How to Fight Back (Gizmodo / Shoshanna Wodinsky)


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