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tv   France 24  LINKTV  October 6, 2021 5:30am-6:01am PDT

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called runway one. ♪ >> hello, this is al jazeera and these are the top stories this hour. whistleblower frances haugen is urging u.s. regulators to regulate facebook, claiming it poses a threat to users. she wants of the handful of effects on children, also saying it stirs vision and weakens democracies. >> facebook can change, but is clearly not going to do so on its own. my fear is without action, divisive and extremist behaviors we see today are only the
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beginning. what we saw in myanmar and what we are now seeing in ethiopia are only the opening chapters of stories so terrifying, no one wants to read the end of it. congress can change the rules facebook plays by and stop the many harms it is now causing. >> the death toll from covid-19 in the u.s. so far this year is already higher than the total reported for all of 2020. more than 700,000 americans have now died from the virus. the washington national cathedral marked the fatalities by ringing it spell 700 times. venezuela has reopened its land border with colombia for the first time in almost three years. it was closed by president nicolas maduro in 2019. he alleged and attempted aid shipment was part of a u.s. backed plot to overthrow the governments. investigators say a pipeline that leaked hundreds of thousands of liters of oil into
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the waters of southern california was not initially investigated for almost 12 hours. the coast guard says it didn't have enough evidence and was hindered by darkness and a lack of technology. taiwan's president has warned of catastrophic consequences if the island fell to china. in an article published on tuesday, she is vowing to do whatever it takes to guard against threats after a record number of chinese aircraft entered the air defense zone. 148 chinese warplanes had breached the zone since friday. those are the headlines. the news continues here on al jazeera after "inside story." i will be back at the top of the hour. . ♪
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>> will facebook, -- no facebook, instagram, or what's up for 12 hours. facebook blames a technical glitch. are we too reliant on social media to communicate and do business? has facebook become to powerful? this is "inside story." ♪ adrian: hello, welcome to the program. i'm adrian finighan. . facebook is the world's biggest social media network by far. it connects to 3 billion people, nearly 40% of the global population. many use instagram and whatsapp as well, both owned by facebook. but for several hours monday, no one could communicate or share content on the company's platforms. facebook apologized and blamed a technical glitch.
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this is the latest trouble for the tech strand. a former employee has raised concerns about privacy and misinformation. first here's roslyn jordan in washington. reporter: for billions of facebook customers, no likes, no in-store moment, no worldwide phone calls or messaging. facebook's chief technology officer needed twitter to tell customers it was having massive technical difficulties, then he apologized. facebook services coming back online now may take some time to get to 100%. to every small and large business, family and individual who depends on us, i'm sorry. the outage also shut down operations at facebook's california headquarters. no phones, no computers. some workers reportedly using zoom to hold meetings. >> it's a good reminder, the
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internet is incredibly fragile. it actually can have problems like this arise and not work for long periods. typically, we don't really experience it much anymore. it used to be a lot more common a decade ago. reporter: some found the outage at facebook, instagram and whatsapp funny, but for whatsapp users, analysts say it could have been catastrophic. >> whatsapp is tremendously important for to make and in a lot of parts of the globe. it does raise questions around how important it is for there to be redundancy, but also around, should private companies be solely in control of infrastructure so critical to communications? reporter: and the outage comes as facebook is under fire for how it does business. u.s. regulators say facebook is a monopoly and should be broken apart, a move the company opposes. lastly, senators grilled a facebook official about a whistleblower's allegations, the
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company refuses to block hate speech, bullying, and other forms of harmful messaging from its sites. that whistleblower just gave her first tv interview explaining why she thinks this is the case. >> the thing i saw at facebook over and over again was that there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for facebook. facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, making more money. reporter: facebook denies frances haugen's allegations saying, "to suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true." roslyn jordan, al jazeera, washington. adrian: let's bring in our guests for today. in brussels, estelle masse are, the europe legislative manager and global data protection leader of accessnow. alp toker is founder of internet monitoring organization
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netblocks, and catalina goanta from maastricht university, assistant professor in private law. it is interesting that facebook's statements on the outage on monday had said nothing about potential mall intent. was this just human error, a technical failure, or could it have been sabotaged? alp: well, the timing was very unfortunate, to say the least. this outage was very serious, perhaps unprecedented, lasting some six hours and having a global impact, and it came just as these hearings are being made at the select committee in the u.s. congress. there are these whistleblower complaints about the practices of the company. so exactly when the company needs to have its stuff together, yet suddenly we see this full impact outage affecting not only the main
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product facebook, but also instagram, whatsapp, and the messenger service. so the timing is awful. it will have raised a lot of questions. is this a coincidence? ultimately, there's a technical explanation for what happened, so at the moment, that is what the company has gone with. that's consistent with what we have seen as well. adrian: whatever the cause, what does it tell us about facebook's critical infrastructure? the fact that most of it appears to be located at or near facebook's headquarters in the u.s., are there solid technical reasons, or with hindsight, is there a better way? would it have made any difference in this case? catalina: this shows how much the infrastructure needs power and how much of this power is in the hands of facebook. as mentioned, the outage was over different services the company owns, but it was also affecting the hardware the company offers. people were not able to connect
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to their oculus system or to the newly launched glasses. it showed facebook is not really helping building the internet in a decentralized manner that would help in the case of incidents like that to have backup plans to maintain communication and help people get access to services, but has created a wall around the users to give them inside. when there is a problem, it's as if the whole communications system fell down. a lot of people thought, i'm using back sms, or learning that there's no other alternative. it goes to show how much power this single company has and the impact it has on the internet and users at large. i'm hoping this is also a wake-up call for many to show that no matter which company it is, they should not hold that much power over the infrastructure. adrian: catalina, what are the potential legal ramifications for facebook over this six hour
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outage? could it be sued, and if so, by whom? catalina: we have heard before that there are going to be ramifications. it is too early to say how deep and wide they will be, but let me take you through two examples. first, we have seen in the past five years or so, there has been a blossoming content creator economy. imagine you have to upload an episode of your show tonight, perhaps on facebook or on instagram, you had to go on live and do a giveaway. as a content creator, you have incurred losses. the same goes for the many companies that are now really creating customer content and customer care on whatsapp and facebook messenger. all of these companies perhaps have to go through finding alternatives. those alternatives might cost. these are damages that would
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indeed, depending on jurisdiction's, give these companies and individuals, freelancers, the opportunity to sue facebook for sure. adrian: in hindsight, was facebook naive to have held its platforms using the same critical infrastructure? dude integrated digital businesses need to be structured in that way? why does facebook do it like that? alp: we need to look back at 2019 when facebook announced it would merge its product platform. this meant essentially taking all the technology it had acquired when it bought whatsapp , when it bought instagram, and putting them behind a unified technical infrastructure. for the company, this has huge benefits. this means maintenance overhead can be reduced because you now have one dev operations team maintaining the services. it also has an advantage -- for
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advertising technology and understanding your customers. this means facebook can get more data about users and correlate it between platforms if necessary to understand the behavior of the user. those are business benefits for facebook, but they come with this great negative attached, you now have much more centralization. you have more single point of failure.that means if one thing breaks in one place, all your platforms go off-line, all of your eggs in one basket. depending on where you look at this from, that is a lose lose. it is losing data privacy over other companies and reducing the resilience of that infrastructure. perhaps for the company, it is a battle to decide how to bring forward services and collect more data without necessarily removing that resilience.
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overall, it will be difficult for facebook to fight this one, especially after what happened on monday. it has really shown what the problem is with bringing together so many major platforms under one roof. adrian: picking up on what you were saying a few moments ago about the company becoming too big, too powerful, too important to too many people, this will fuel the argument for breaking facebook up, isn't it? estelle: potentially, yes, but the conversation we should be having and what the regulators need to look at, is whether or not breaking up is the solution, and what really is the solution -- looking at the power facebook holds. i think at the moment, globally as well. whether it is in europe or other parts of the world, when we look at those companies, we look at the market when they operate or fix specific issues -- for instance, in europe, there's a strong data protection regulation operated by
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companies. it is a problem we have. we need to understand how all the different pieces of that puzzle need to work together to address all of these issues, like that facebook having all this power is creating on the infrastructure. it is creating discrimination issues, etc. there's probably maybe not a single solution to all of those different issues. we need regulators to work on antitrust and work with media regulators together, to either stand. i think the current tools we have in terms of regulation and regulatory response, the marketplace like facebook and others like amazon, they are all over the place. they are superpowers in the ad market, social media, communication, etc. you need to look at it
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holistically. the solution might be to break them up or break up different services or make sure they are not integrated together, which by the way was one of the asks for the european commission when facebook bought whatsapp. the thing that they ask is that they would not share information, something facebook did break. there's a lot of looking back that needs to happen on the company's practices, but also larger consideration on the different tools we had and if none of those are salt together, perhaps we should have the conversation on whether or not it should be broken up. i'm not sure if we are even there yet and there are so many steps, but we should not be afraid of putting that option on the table. adrian: catalina, do you agree? should private companies like facebook be solely in charge of infrastructure that is so critical to global communications and so many people? catalina: i completely echo what
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estelle mentioned. in legal literature, such as in north america, these platforms are called functional sovereigns. on the one hand, it is a company like many others we have seen in the history of capitalism. at the same time, what we see with the entire facebook downtime is that it has been the equivalent of an electricity outage, because it has been providing critical infrastructure that a lot of the public depends on. so in the words of lynette taylor, a scholar from the netherlands, these are public actors without public values. this is them fitness -- emphasis we want to take, what do we in force these platforms? also, we see one solution could be more harmonization. so far, we don't have the cyberspace, but we have cyber spaces. the rules that are applicable in
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the european union, one side, the rules applicable in india and china, those are different size of the story. do we want to have just one set of rules that will be applicable to such a giant company that really opera -- operates transactionally? that is food for thought. adrian: it has been said these platforms are public actors without public values. what does the outage that we suffered monday tell us about the public's reliance upon the? is there any way in which social media could exist without a social media company facilitating it? alp: what we have seen is that users use services like whatsapp as though they are part of the platform, as though they are built into the phone. users don't necessarily see a distinction between a device they hold and the services that run on the platform. that then becomes a huge problem
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because you have blurred lines. who controls the infrastructure? is this inherent to the technology itself, or is it due to the structure of the business? that is a good question and it seems it is possible to decentralize these platforms more. it is not necessarily to have such a centralized designs and model to communications networks. what is possible is sometimes limited by the device. apple for example may limit what an application can do in terms of communication with peer to peer, connecting other devices to other firms, which would prevent you from creating perhaps a global mesh network application. that is the barrier at the moment. it is not the technology or physical hardware. on the one hand, it is some limitations imposed by the vendors, but also the companies themselves, which want to hold
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onto power? there have been efforts to federate networks, link them. those failed because companies essentially love to hold onto their users. they don't want to let go. the internet is a network of interconnected computers, but those interconnections are still governed by the companies. adrian: picking up on something you were saying a few minutes ago, we heard facebook uses platforms to harvest data from users, which it then uses to sell advertising. one of the applications, whatsapp, has end to end encryption, something that has long bugged government and intelligent security agencies who have argued for backdoor access to these encrypted chats. if facebook is broken up and there is some sort of involvement from the state in the infrastructure of platforms, doesn't that have applications for privacy? estelle: that's a very important
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question. if facebook is broken up, the state doesn't have to become the owner necessarily of the company. whatsapp and facebook used to be two different companies. it does matter in what condition, for instance the whatsapp encryption model, would remain if it was to be separated from the facebook ecosystem. there are communication services currently that don't belong to facebook that are decentralized that offer and to end -- end to end to end encryption, so it can happen. we need to have the larger conversation about what facebook is doing with some data. not the content of the messages, but other data around communication. i think facebook themselves have made commitments towards staying on encryption but it's not because it stays on facebook, but the value encryption brings
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to safe communications for many of us around the world and for many sectors, and tear up and is not just communication, it is banking sectors. it is often a larger conversation that needs to happen. to your point, you can separate the system and make sure privacy safeguards apply strongly. to be completely honest, it is not like facebook is the poster child for privacy. potentially separating whatsapp from facebook could bring more privacy features and stronger development in the products. adrian: on monday, facebook asked a judge to dismiss the federal trade commission's antitrust lawsuit against it, which seeks to force it to sell instagram and whatsapp. the ftc says facebook has monopoly power in social network. facebook though says the ftc is
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ignoring reality and that it competes vigorously with some of the companies that estelle was talking about, tiktok, imessage, twitter, snapchat, linkedin, youtube. who is right, the ftc or facebook? catalina: that is a very tough call, so we will have to wait and see, but the problem is this entire outage facebook has gone through has not made its own case stronger. indeed, if you look at instagram and the products developed including reels as a way to mimic tiktok, and the different products available in instagram, are a testament to what you were mentioning, that there is competition in the market. at the end of the day, a lot of social media companies will wind up developing the same product. this is what estelle was mentioning, the interrelation of these companies the ftc has taken a lot of concern with. we have seen not just facebook
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was down, we've seen instagram was affected, whatsapp was affected, even oculus vr, the other company facebook holds peer that is the main concern. adrian: i want to get some comments from all of you on the facebook whistleblower, frances haugen, her testimony, that facebook executives chose profits over safety and it needs to be regulated like big tobacco. allegations that facebook strenuously denies. what do you make of that? alp: facebook would be desperately trying to avoid being regulated, because it operates in an environment where it wants to make decisions. it isn't the first time the company is faced with similar allegations. we know that they will oppose these vigorously. in this sense, the outage could make a difference because it raises an additional set of questions over the centralization of the company. if you add that with the new
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players that have come around and you have this very toxic set of claims and allegations around the company that really fall for some regulation. adrian: estelle, what are your thoughts? estelle: i think the conversation will be very important. it is not the first scandal facebook is facing, not even just this year. to be honest, we kind of know right now facebook is misleading users because their commitment does not match practices. we kind of knew also that some of the statements that were made were not -- facebook was just trying to ease regulators to not be more regulated, but now it appears facebook has misled their own investors. there are a lot of questions that need to be asked, not just facebook but to the ecosystem that allows facebook to exist the way it does right now. should we really help facebook maintaining this current business model that is harmful
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for users and potentially harmful for investors, for advertisers, and really only working for them? we need to dig into that question because at the moment, we only get a misleading statement from facebook that is there to reinstate their current power but there's a lot more that can be done if we reference the impact it has on all this politically. adrian: catalina? catalina: to complement what has been said, i think what is very important is to acknowledge also the novel business models facebook has been coming up with , social media platforms in general. i would like to stress very importantly content monetization. in addition to the platform ads we were already talking about, these are ads facebook would take money from, grants to use targeted advertising parameters, and therefore built on the kind of data they gather from users. in addition, we see this rise of
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content monetization on social media which creates and brings with it new incentives to participate commercially in this ecosystem. not just the advertisers and intermediaries that have been involved in the platform echo system, but also the advertising and monetization including through social commerce that social media is going towards. i think this should be on our agendas because this can also help us understand better the kind of issues that have been getting more awareness, like the teenagers and mental health on instagram. adrian: we are almost out of time, but as all three of you have said as far as frances haugen's testimony, we have been here before. there have been other facebook whistleblowers. given yesterday's outage and the severity of it, could this be the beginning of the end for facebook, or at least facebook as we know it being a giant conglomerate?
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alp: well, it may not be the beginning of the end for facebook itself, but it does appear to signal something new, whether that is realization month that it is time for change, that the world needs alternatives, needs to start doing r &d into decentralized options, and ways to perhaps make the company work more effectively in the public interest in the long run. so it is a turning point. we will see. adrian: we have to leave it. many thanks indeed to our guests. as always, thank you for watching. you can see their program again any time by going to the website at al jazeera.com. for further discussion, join us, ironically, at our facebook page. find that as -- at facebook.com/aj insidestory.
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for me, adrian finighan, we will see you again. goodbye for now. ♪
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