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Big Technology

News must liberate itself from Facebook. And Facebook must liberate itself from news.

An amazing thing happened last week when Facebook banned links to news articles in Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s long-overlooked news app became the country’s hottest.

The ABC app jumped from around 1,000 daily downloads to more than 15,000 in a day last week, according to mobile intelligence firm Apptopia. And by the time anyone looked up, it occupied the top spot on the country’s iOS and Google Play app stores.

Facebook enacted its ban to protest an Australian law that would make the company pay news publishers. But instead of crushing ABC, the ban set it free.

“What we…

The social network is taking the nuclear option in response to a proposed law that would force it to pay publishers

Facebook announced Wednesday that it will no longer allow links to news articles in Australia — period. That means Australian users won’t be able to link to any news articles, from any source, and Australian news publishers won’t be allowed to post to Facebook at all. Facebook users in the rest of the world will also be unable to view or share links to Australian news sources.

The drastic measure, which Facebook had been threatening for months, comes ahead of a law expected to pass in Australia that would require online platforms to pay news organizations for hosting links to…

While Facebook and Twitter get the scrutiny, Nextdoor is reshaping politics one neighborhood at a time

One year ago, Delaware’s second-largest school district was in trouble. A failed referendum in 2019, on the heels of state funding cuts two years prior, had left it staring down a $10 million deficit that raised the specter of teacher layoffs, the end of sports and extracurriculars, and the demise of a promising magnet-school program. …

Big Technology

After botching an October Surprise, can these platforms act coherently in November?

On Wednesday, Facebook and Twitter faced their first major test of the 2020 election. The New York Post published a story with illicitly obtained emails from Hunter Biden’s hard drive, obtained in the most sketchy of methods: Rudy Giuliani shared the material after a computer repairman gave it to his lawyer. Steve Bannon had tipped off the Post to its existence.

The story made questionable claims about Biden and his father based on improperly obtained documents, and the platforms took action. Facebook almost immediately decreased its distribution. Twitter blocked the link. And then conservatives went ballistic.

“The most powerful monopolies…

Letter From the Editor

Don’t be resigned: look to the future

There’s nothing more frustrating than when something stops working and you can’t do anything about it. I was fiddling with a busted Switch controller this weekend and watched helplessly as the calibration program showed the joystick pushing to the top of the screen without my direction; a little green ghost in the machine that I couldn’t exorcise.

A lot of things feel like this right now. August has been a long haul: It’s hot and slow; the president is blowing up the post office (!!!); Joyce Carol Oates, the 82-year-old author and five-time Pulitzer finalist, is revitalizing the soul of…


An upcoming change to Apple News+ ‘cannibalizes’ clicks

A change discovered in iOS 14 and macOS 11 betas this week suggests that Apple is hoping to quietly hijack and redirect users into its paid Apple News+ service, which has big implications for publishers, as well as the open web.

The update, which was brought to the public’s attention by Tony Haile, the CEO of Scroll, an app that strips ads out of articles published on partner sites, is subtle: When subscribers or trial users of Apple News+ click on a URL on the web for a site that’s part of the service, like The Atlantic, they’ll be automatically…

The result feels like a mental DDoS attack

BuzzFeed once called 2016 “Actually The Worst Year.” It didn’t hold the record for long. In six short months, 2020 has already delivered Australian wildfires, election controversies, the coronavirus pandemic, a massive increase to the surveillance state, the murder of yet more Black people at the hands of police, violent resistance to national protests in support of Black Lives Matter, and the list goes on.

It’s a lot. And our ability to process it all may be reaching a critical limit.

A growing body of research highlights the strain on our ability to read, understand, process, and take action on…

Pattern Matching

Twitter draws a line in the sand, while Facebook ducks and covers

Welcome back to Pattern Matching, OneZero’s weekly newsletter that puts the week’s most compelling tech stories in context.

From the moment Donald Trump was elected, it was obvious he’d present a conundrum for the social platforms that helped fuel his rise to power. After all, he’d broken into politics partly by pushing the racist conspiracy theory that President Obama had been born in Kenya, and insulted and demonized countless individuals and groups on his path to election.

In late November 2016, I asked both Facebook and Twitter if they’d enforce their rules against a sitting president, hypothetically, assuming he were…

Pattern Matching

A golden era of tech offices sputters to a close

Welcome back to Pattern Matching, OneZero’s weekly newsletter that puts the week’s most compelling tech stories in context.

The notion that remote work is the way of the future is hardly new. It long predates the pandemic and went mainstream in the United States almost as soon as the lockdowns began. (I made the case in early March that the coronavirus response would be a preview of society’s self-isolating future — a future that threatens to exacerbate class divides, among other far-reaching effects.)

Still, it’s remarkable just how suddenly some of the world’s largest tech companies have embraced that future…

Pattern Matching

Online spaces like ‘Fortnite’ and ‘Animal Crossing’ are replacing the physical world

Welcome to the second issue of Pattern Matching, OneZero’s weekly newsletter that puts the week’s most compelling tech stories in context. (You can find the first issue, and a brief introduction, here.) I’m Will Oremus, senior writer at OneZero.

As authorities prepare to ease lockdown orders across the country, it’s becoming clear that the “reopening” we’d all looked forward to doesn’t mean returning to anything like normalcy. Like the war on terror, the battle against coronavirus might be one that drags on for years without a real exit strategy.

Against that backdrop, we can expect a flourishing of what I’ll…

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