Big Tech Cracks Down On QAnon; Rumble Sues Google Over Search Rankings

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QAnon Booted

Just days after permanently banning President Trump’s account, Twitter started cracking down on conspiracy theorists spreading disinformation on the platform, The New York Times reports. Twitter removed more than 70,000 accounts on Monday that promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory. The suspensions were carried out over the weekend and applied to posts with “the potential to lead to offline harm.” Facebook, meanwhile, which blocked Trump from its platform for at least the remainder of his term, is removing all content referring to “stop the steal,” a phrase that’s become shorthand for Trump’s unproven claims of election fraud, as per The Wall Street Journal. Other social platforms are also cleaning house ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, including Snapchat and Reddit, both of which have placed limits on Trump and on toxic speech that might trigger violence. Although many have praised Facebook and Twitter for their actions, others, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have raised questions about the level of power that tech companies have over online discourse. Trump supporters have been blasting big tech for silencing conservative voices.

More Legal Drama

Google is being sued (what else is new?) by Canadian video-sharing site Rumble over claims that the search giant is abusing its monopoly power. Rumble, a YouTube rival that has more than two million creators, has become popular with conservative figures in the US who complain they’re being censored by established tech platforms. Rumble filed its suit in California on Monday, alleging that Google is “unfairly rigging its search algorithm” to favor YouTube's videos in search results, according to Business Insider. Where have we heard that one before? The suit also notes that Rumble has lost ad revenue and viewers due to Google’s monopolistic practices, including the preinstallation of the YouTube app on Android phones. Google dominance in search has drawn attention from regulators in the EU and, more recently, from the US federal government and a coalition of state AGs, both of which have filed antitrust lawsuits against Google.

In Musk We Trust?

When Elon Musk speaks, apparently people listen. A week after the Tesla CEO urged his Twitter followers to use the messaging app Signal as an alternative to Facebook-owned WhatsApp amid concerns about changes to the service’s privacy policy, downloads of Signal and Telegram surged. CNBC reports that Signal saw approximately 7.5 million installs globally through the App Store and Google Play store between Jan. 6 and Jan. 10, according to Sensor Tower. That’s 43 times higher than the previous week’s download number and marks the  highest weekly or even monthly install rate for Signal in the app’s history. Meanwhile, Telegram saw 5.6 million downloads globally over the same time period, according to Apptopia. WhatsApp’s loss is Signal and Telegram’s gain. Although WhatsApp has shared certain data with Facebook since 2016, users previously had a chance to opt out of this practice. But starting Feb. 8, users will be prompted to accept the updated terms in order to continue using WhatsApp. The announcement, of course, sparked both confusion and outrage on social media. 

But Wait, There’s More!

The Capitol riot and its aftermath makes the case for tech regulation more urgent, but not any simpler. [TechCrunch]

Marketers brace for more social unrest in the coming weeks. [Digiday]

San Francisco police prep for a potential pro-Trump demonstration at Twitter's HQ. [Business Insider]

How CEOs became the unofficial fourth branch of government by acting as a faster and arguably more effective check on the president’s power than Congress could. [Axios]

T-Mobile names IPG’s Initiative as its US media agency of record. [Adweek]

Tapjoy settles with FTC over misleading in-app rewards. [Business of Apps]

Univision is launching a free ad-supported streaming service called PrendeTV. [Cord Cutter News]

Neutronian and Eyeota have launched a data quality certification initiative. [release]

You’re Hired!

Former Facebook ad integrity chief Rob Leathern is joining Google's Privacy and Data Protection Office to lead product development. [Twitter]

Turner vet Donna Speciale lands at Univsion as its ad sales chief amid a reorg under new management. [Variety]

Enterprise data company Alation expands its leadership team and appoints Tracy Eiler as CMO. [release]

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