Apple and Facebook clash, Snapchat and Twitter announce changes, and other notable stories from this week in publicly-traded social media companies
Welcome to "#SocialStocks," The Fly's weekly recap of Wall Street's reactions to social media stock news.
APPLE VS. FACEBOOK: Apple (AAPL), on Thursday, criticized Facebook (FB) and other companies for their ad-targeting practices in response to a letter questioning a decision by the iPhone maker to delay a new privacy feature, Mark Gurman and Kurt Wagner of Bloomberg reported. Apple said in a statement to to several human rights and privacy organizations: "Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting. Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads. Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetize detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products." Facebook responded by accusing Apple of trying to distract users from its own privacy issues, also accusing Apple of using its size to block competitors from running their advertising business. “They are using their dominant market position to self-preference their own data collection while making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data,” Facebook said in the statement. “They claim it’s about privacy, but it’s about profit.”
SNAP AND TWITTER SHAKE THINGS UP: Twitter (TWTR) announced a relaunch of its verification process that will begin in early 2021. In a blog post, the company announced that it is aware of "how important it is to be able to express yourself and understand who you're talking to on Twitter. So today, we're sharing the start of our plans to revamp how people can identify themselves on Twitter, starting with verification and asking the public to share feedback on a draft of our new verification policy. Calling for public feedback has become an important part of our policy development process because we want to ensure that, as an open service, our rules reflect the voices of the people who use Twitter. We plan to relaunch verification, including a new public application process, in early 2021. But first, we need to update our verification policy with your help. This policy will lay the foundation for future improvements by defining what verification means, who is eligible for verification and why some accounts might lose verification to ensure the process is more equitable. We're starting by more clearly defining some of the core types of Notable Accounts that are served by verification. Per the proposed policy, "the blue verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic. To receive the blue badge, your account must be notable and active." Twitter noted the six accounts it will start verifying under the new guidelines:
Companies, Brands and Non- Profit Organizations
Activists, Organizers and Other Influential Individuals
The company concluded the post by saying, "But the blue verified badge isn’t the only way we are planning to distinguish accounts on Twitter. Heading into 2021, we’re committed to giving people more ways to identify themselves, such as new account types and labels. We’ll share more in the coming weeks. This is just the beginning of what we have planned for 2021.
While Twitter decided to change an existing feature, Snapchat (SNAP) introduced a new one called Spotlight. Spotlight was described by Snap as a new entertainment platform for user-generated content within Snapchat. Spotlight will surface Snaps from the Snapchat community all in one place, and will become tailored to each Snapchatter over time based on their preferences and favorites. Snap added, "As a way to celebrate and reward the creativity of the Snapchat community, Snap will distribute over $1 million USD every day to Snapchatters who create the top Snaps on Spotlight, at least through the end of the year." Spotlight is available in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and France with more countries to come.
TECH CLASHES WITH FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS: Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL), Twitter (TWTR), and other global tech firms have joined together and threatened to leave Pakistan after the country granted blanket authority to local regulators to censor digital content, TechCrunch's Manish Singh reported. Earlier this week, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan gave the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority the ability to remove and block digital content that pose "harms, intimidates or excites disaffection" toward the government or in other ways harm the "integrity, security, and defence of Pakistan," Singh said. Through a consortium called the Asia Internet Coalition Asia, the companies said they were "alarmed" by the scope of the new law, the author says, noting that the AIC also represents Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN) and others. “The draconian data localization requirements will damage the ability of people to access a free and open internet and shut Pakistan’s digital economy off from the rest of the world. It’s chilling to see the PTA’s powers expanded, allowing them to force social media companies to violate established human rights norms on privacy and freedom of expression,” AIC said in a statement.
Similarly, Vietnam has warned Facebook it will shut the company's platforms down in the country if the company does not comply with government pressure to censor more local political content on its platforms, Reuters' James Pearson reported, citing a senior official at Facebook. Facebook complied with a government request earlier this year to significantly boost its censorship of "anti-state" posts for local users, but Vietnam reportedly asked the company again in August to ramp up such restrictions. "We made an agreement in April. Facebook has upheld our end of the agreement, and we expected the government of Vietnam to do the same," the Facebook official told Reuters. "They have come back to us and sought to get us to increase the volume of content that we're restricting in Vietnam.
Keywords: privacy, iPhone, data, advertising, verification process, blue badge, Spotlight, entertainment platform, Pakistan, censor, Vietnam, content,