Facebook rebrands as “Meta;” disables facial recognition capabilities

In late October, Facebook announced that it would change its name to Meta, signaling a shift of the social media giant’s focus toward the metaverse, a virtual space where social media, gaming, augmented reality, virtual reality, and cryptocurrencies converge and allow people to interact virtually with one another. It’s a relatively new concept in technology with many different definitions and interpretations. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement at the company’s annual Connect conference that brings together virtual and augmented reality developers, content creators, marketers, and other technologists to explore the industry’s growth and expansion.

In addition to the name change, Facebook also announced in early November that it would be shutting down its face recognition system that close to a third of all Facebook users use. This change in technology policy represents a seismic shift for the company and for the larger social media landscape, reflecting ongoing conversations in the industry about data privacy and access to personal information.

Just in time for the holiday shopping season: Pinterest launches its own shopping network

In late October, image sharing social media giant Pinterest announced the launch of Pinterest TV, a digital destination where users and subscribers can interact with Pinterest creators selling their goods and creations. The channel features original episodes from “Pinners” in livestream sessions that are recorded and can be accessed after broadcast in an on-demand archive.

COVID-19 fueled a meteoric increase in both online and live streaming shopping activities delivered from traditional television channels such as QVC and Home Shopping Network as well as internet companies such as YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and Amazon. Axios reported in September that the live video shopping format is poised for exponential growth, while Coresight Research, a retail and tech analysis firm, predicted that livestream e-commerce could see growth to $25 billion in sales within the next two years.

Social media companies prevail in Communications Decency Act’s intellectual property exception; Third Circuit cites internet publisher immunity

Karen Hepp, a well-known Philadelphia television journalist, was photographed in 2017 by a New York City convenience store camera without her knowledge or consent. That photograph later found its way in a variety of online advertisements ranging from dating services to erectile dysfunction products.

Hepp sued Facebook, Reddit, and Imgur in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She claimed that each platform violated Pennsylvania’s statutory and common law right of publicity laws. The Third Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals recently dismissed the case, citing that each of these companies were protected and had immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 0f 1996 (CDA). Read the full opinion of Hepp v. Facebook, No. 20-2725 (3d Cir. 2021).

Algorithms under fire: proposed bill could alter Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Democratic Representative from New Jersey, is sponsoring the Justice Against Malicious Algorithms Act (JAMA), a bill that would modify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), which protects websites from liability over content posted by their users. The bill seeks to amend and strip away immunity from online platforms if they “knowingly or recklessly uses a personalized algorithm to recommend content that materially contributes to physical or severe emotional injury” according to Axios. The bill does not apply to platforms with fewer than five million unique monthly visitors or users.

Some analysts don’t think the bill will get past the House of Representatives, but even with its introduction, it sends a strong message for social media platforms to introduce more stringent policies away from self-regulation of content.

LinkedIn’s presence in China to change under censorship concerns

LinkedIn, the professional networking giant, recently announced that it will retire its Chinese version and replace it with a new job board called “InJobs” to connect China-based professionals with employers. LinkedIn acknowledges that operating in China presents challenges in compliance with the country’s requirements.

LinkedIn recently came under fire for recently blocking U.S. journalists’ profiles in China. One such journalist, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, pressed the platform about its censorship activities in China.

This unfolding story raises ongoing questions about Western technology companies and the roles they play in China, especially in their interplay with the Chinese government and its strict censorship laws and regulations.