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Big Revolution - The Supreme Court of Facebook

Welcome to Tuesday's newsletter. Just a heads up that I've begun the process of changing my professio
June 25 · Issue #454 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Tuesday’s newsletter. Just a heads up that I’ve begun the process of changing my professional name to ‘Martin SFP Bryant’ (to stop Google confusing me with a mass murderer), so if you see those extra three letters around more often, it’s still me and I’m not having an identity crisis.
— Martin from Big Revolution

Big things you need to know today
  • Apple has launched public betas of MacOS Catalina, iOS 13, tvOS, and iPad OS. You can sign up to install them, but I’d only do it on a machine you don’t rely on to get work done — there will be things that don’t work properly and battery life may suffer. Instead, check out The Verge’s previews of MacOS, iOS 13 and iPadOS.
  • Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs has unveiled details of its controversial plan to turn part of Toronto into a sensor-laden smart city. There have been concerns about how much control the Google-affiliated company has over the project, and how data collected may be used.
  • Spotify has been getting a much sweeter deal on iOS than it claims, Apple says. The news throws Spotify’s whole claim of unfair behaviour by Apple into question.
  • A huge espionage campaign to steal call records from hacked mobile phone networks has been uncovered. The hackers could track the physical location of any customer of the hacked companies — including spies and politicians, TechCrunch reports.
  • Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is on track to make $10m in its first month. That’s way behind Pokémon Go, indicating that perhaps collecting random items for Harry Potter isn’t as compelling as being a Pokemon collector.
The big thought
Credit: Con Karampelas on Unsplash
Credit: Con Karampelas on Unsplash
The Supreme Court of Facebook
“In a world where Facebook is deemed much too powerful, and where the company is constantly criticized by some for taking down too much, and by others for taking down too little, the new Oversight Board represents a potential solution to one of Facebook’s thorniest problems: Its control over global speech. This new board, which doesn’t yet exist, will make content decisions for a global network of 2.4 billion people, making it a de-facto Free Speech Supreme Court for one of the biggest communities on the internet.”
The board would make rulings on some of Facebook’s trickiest content moderation decisions. These would be after the fact, meaning the company’s moderators may have already made the wrong decision weeks before. The idea would be for the board to act as an independent group that ensures moderators made increasingly better decisions over time.
I’ve been as critical of Facebook as anyone else lately, but this is a positive move that could work really well. It’s easy to suspect this will just be a PR exercise that changes nothing, but if it’s implemented seriously, it could change user culture on Facebook’s platform for the better.
It seems Facebook is serious about the group’s independence, with the board choosing new members itself, rather than letting Mark Zuckerberg’s team select them. I would add that it’s important Facebook doesn’t pay the board directly, too. If it did, any decision the board made that outsiders viewed as being in Facebook’s favour would reduce the board’s perceived independence — ‘they only made that decision because they don’t want to lose their jobs.’
A much better solution is to pay the board through a non-profit entity funded in part by Facebook but also by charitable groups and wealthy benefactors who have an interest in a stable, pluralistic society. It’s important that these funders represent a diversity of viewpoints, too.
So, there are details to be ironed out, but at this stage in its development and influence, having some external influence on the culture of Facebook usage is a positive thing. And it might have an indirect positive impact on the behaviour of Facebook the business, too.
A short point about Chromebooks at the border
In yesterday’s newsletter, I wrote that using a wiped Chromebook for travel wouldn’t prevent your data being accessed, as border officials may still ask you to log in, thus causing your data to download.
One reader had a fair suggestion: “Simple solution. Set up an extra account, with relatively little info. If you get asked to log in, just use the blank account.” I’m no lawyer so you shouldn’t take any such suggestions as bulletproof, but it’s worth at least considering this stuff when you travel.
One big read
The History and Evolution of Brands on Twitter The History and Evolution of Brands on Twitter
A look at the ways brands have tried to be funny on Twitter over the years.
That’s all for today...
Back tomorrow with more. See you in your inbox then.
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