Commentary: The Social Media Purge Exposes Net Neutrality’s True Goal

For nearly two decades, Silicon Valley made net neutrality its highest policy priority. Under the banner of a “free and open” internet, Google, Facebook, and Twitter sought regulations to ensure the uninterrupted flow of information by treating every bit equally. Or so they said.

Beginning last Friday night, these firms and others executed an unprecedented digital purge of the social media and video accounts of their political rivals. After several years of accelerating suspensions and suppressions, this time YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter permanently banned a number of high-profile conservatives and deplatformed thousands of others, at least temporarily. Many of these accounts had nothing to do with last Wednesday’s heinous events at the Capitol. Yet their histories are erased.

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Hungary Weighs Big Tech Sanctions over ‘Systemic Abuses’ of Free Speech

Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga said Monday that Hungary is considering sanctions against big tech firms over alleged “systemic abuses” of free speech, Reuters reported.

Varga plans to meet with the Hungarian Competition Authority this week to discuss possible penalties for what he says are unfair commercial practices utilized by social media firms including Facebook and Twitter, according to Reuters. In addition, the minister plans to convene a meeting with the state-sponsored Digital Freedom Committee.

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Tennessee Principal on Administrative Leave for Warning Students About Social Media Censorship

A Tennessee principal was placed on paid administrative leave after warning students about the dangers of social media censorship. Principal Barton Thorne recorded a homeroom video on Monday, reportedly sharing his thoughts via the Shelby County Schools (SCS) virtual learning platform to address several Big Tech companies’ recent decisions to censor various individuals and platforms.

In a recording of the video since deleted from YouTube, Thorne emphasized the need to allow for free speech and a “marketplace of ideas.” He condemned the Capitol Hill riot and stated that his statements had nothing to do with President Donald Trump.

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Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles Talks About His Letter to Governor Lee About Forced Investment to Companies that Censor

Thursday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles to discuss his recent letter to the governor calling for divestment in companies that censor.

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Virginia Democratic Senators File Resolution to Censure Amanda Chase

Virginia Senate Democrats filed a resolution on Wednesday to censure GOP gubernatorial candidate and Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) for addressing a crowd and urging action to overturn the 2020 presidential election hours before the Capitol riots in Washington D.C.

The resolution, introduced by Sen. John Bell (D-Loudoun) and co-sponsored by nine other Senate Democrats, formally accuses Chase of “fomenting insurrection against the United States.”

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Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles Calls for Tennessee to Dump Any State-Held Equity in Big Tech Companies Over Censorship

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles is calling on the Tennessee General Assembly to dump any state-held equity and debt in the Big Tech companies over their “war on freedom of speech.”

Ogles made the announcement on his Facebook page Wednesday, available here. It is addressed to Governor Bill Lee, Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and the other members of the Legislature.

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Analysis: The Great Social Silencing

Last week Silicon Valley silenced the president. In unison, the social media giants, with an assist from Amazon and Apple, also eliminated their most popular conservative competitor and announced that their own moderation policies would now extend to other companies. Meanwhile, CNN openly called for Fox News to be banned from cable, while a major talk radio network issued new speech rules to its hosts, extending tech’s moderation policies to the offline world. Beyond all this, Congress and the European Union called for powerful new regulation of online speech.

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Facebook and Instagram Are Eliminating All Posts that Include the Phrase ‘Stop the Steal’

Facebook announced on Monday that it is purging both Instagram and Facebook, two major social media platforms, of all content that includes the phrase “stop the steal.”

“We are now removing content containing the phrase ‘stop the steal’ under our Coordinating Harm policy from Facebook and Instagram,” Facebook said. “We removed the original Stop the Steal group in November and have continued to remove Pages, groups and events that violate any of our policies, including calls for violence.”

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ACLU Warns of ‘Unchecked Power’ After Facebook, Twitter Suspend Trump

A legislative counsel member from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Friday warned that the suspension of President Donald Trump’s social media accounts wielded “unchecked power” by large tech companies, Breitbart reported.

Kate Ruane, a senior legislative counsel at the ACLU warned in a statement that the decision to suspend Trump from social media platforms could set a precedent for big tech companies to silence less privileged voices.

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Facebook Bans Virginia Senator Amanda Chase from Posting for 30 Days

State Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) said Friday that she has been banned from posting to her public Facebook page for 30 days, with an additional ban on posting live video for another 30 days. In addition to the ban, Facebook removed some of her posts, including a video showing a woman being shot in the U.S. Capitol and flagged as false Chase’s claims of Antifa involvement in the Wednesday Capitol riot.

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Star News Network Working to Restore Tens of Thousands of Posts Deleted from Facebook

Tens of thousands of posts containing news stories from The Star News Network’s Facebook pages were temporarily deleted Wednesday. 

“Hi, we are currently experiencing an issue with Facebook and because of that the sharing is stopped and your Facebook accounts are paused,” a third party software used by The Star News Network to schedule and post stories to social media said by email.

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Facebook Temporarily Shuts Down Republican Fundraising Page for Senators Loeffler, Perdue

Facebook on New Year’s Day temporarily shut down a Republican fundraising page for Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff elections.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) tweeted about the alleged censorship, which took place just four days before the election.

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Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles Forms ‘Andy’s Army TN’ Facebook Group to Promote Liberty

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles formed a Facebook group called “Andy’s Army TN” for “patriots and Fans of Andy Ogles who believe in taking a stand for our Constitution and Liberties.”

The private group’s page is here. Since it is a private group, people have to request to join. Facebook showed the membership to be approximately 1,800 as of Monday.

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Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery Joins Legal Fight Against Facebook

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced this week that he has joined 48 other attorneys general in filing a lawsuit against Facebook and alleged that the company illegally stifles competition to protect its monopoly. This, according to a press release that Slatery’s staff posted on the Tennessee Attorney General’s website.

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Facebook Sued by 48 States, Federal Trade Commission Over Allegations of Monopolistic Practices

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday that she is leading a coalition of dozens of states to file a lawsuit against social media giant Facebook.

James, along with the attorneys general of 47 other states and the Federal Trade Commission, accuse Facebook of using its dominant market position to acquire and otherwise crush competitors, tactics that amount to monopolistic abuse that harm users.

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Analysis: USA Today & Facebook Use Slanderous ‘Fact Check’ to Suppress Facts About Illegal Voting by Non-Citizens

A “fact check” by USA Today is defaming a Ph.D.-vetted study by Just Facts that found non-citizens may have cast enough illegal votes for Joe Biden to overturn the lawful election results in some key battleground states. The article, written by USA Today’s Chelsey Cox, contains 10 misrepresentations, unsupported claims, half-truths, and outright falsehoods.

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Commentary: How to Parler

Are you tired of Big Tech deciding what posts you see on social media? Do you feel anxious posting your political opinions online? Do you wish you could exercise your right to free speech without worrying about political correctness or being “cancelled”?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, Parler may be the best thing to happen to you in 2020! It’s been a year, we all need some good news, so please read on.

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Biden’s Transition Team Is Stacked with Former Facebook and Zuckerberg Insiders

At least seven former higher-ups of Facebook or the charity run by its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, have secured positions in President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, despite Democratic Party officials labeling the social media giant among the biggest threats to American democracy.

Biden announced Friday that former Facebook Director of Public Policy Louisa Terrell would direct his White House Office of Legislative Affairs, which will put her in charge of advancing Biden’s agenda in Congress. Terrell, who lobbied for Facebook from 2011 through 2013, currently oversees legislative affairs for the Biden transition team.

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Six Takeaways as Facebook, Twitter CEOs Testify at Senate Hearing

The CEOs of Twitter and Facebook returned Tuesday to Capitol Hill, this time to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

While focused on Twitter’s blocking of a New York Post story about the Biden family’s business dealings overseas and the social media giants’ immunity from lawsuit under the Communications Decency Act, the hearing veered into other topics as well.

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Analysis: Conservatives Ditch Fox, Facebook, Twitter

Conservative news and social media sites appear to be the big winners from last week’s election.  Viewers ditched Fox News causing a massive ratings plummet after the election. It is now No. 3 in ratings and is being bested by MSNBC and CNN in news coverage. Fox was the top-rated cable news channel on election night, easily leading in ratings, beating both CNN and MSNBC.

Fox’s Election Day coverage had 14.1 million viewers during prime time on Nov. 3, far ahead of CNN with 9.4 million viewers and MSNBC, which had 7.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

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Democrats Say Facebook, Google Political Ad Bans Will Suppress Voter Turnout During Senate Double Runoff Election in Georgia

Facebook and Google are banning political ads from their platforms with no exceptions allowed, at a time when two U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs in a Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia that could help determine control of that chamber, NBC News reported.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee criticized the decisions, which they said, “amount to unacceptable voter suppression.”

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Conservative Facebook Users Upset Over Censorship Take Alternative Social Media Site Parler Out for a Test Drive

Facebook seems to be presenting a “Catch-22” for conservatives who are fed up with censorship: In order to leave Facebook yet let contacts know how to find them, they must risk Facebook’s censorship to let those contacts know.

Project Veritas has often documented Facebook’s bias against conservatives and its deletions of their posts.

Some who say they are tired of that bias are trying microblogging/social networking site Parler. They say they see Parler as a free-speech alternative to Twitter. Forbes in June ran an interview with Parler founder John Matze and how the site has grown to be a conservative presence in only two years.

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Commentary: Silicon Valley Titans Lie Again as Congress Meekly Looks On

After a series of mishaps involving muted senators, virtual cross-talk, and “connectivity issues” befuddling one of the world’s most tech-savvy men, the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday for what has now become a performative ritual: senators of both parties yell about different aspects of social media, the tech giants respond with bland, vague, noncommittal statements. And nothing substantive happens.

This is exactly where the Senate Commerce Committee found itself on Wednesday, when Big Tech was confronted with a host of critics and without any defenders—but ultimately very little in the way of committed follow-up from legislators.

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Commentary: A DOJ Roadblock to America’s Big Tech Beatdown?

It’s safe to say that Big Tech hasn’t had a great month.

Google received a beating at the Supreme Court for allegedly stealing the coding needed to create Android. Congress subpoenaed Facebook and Twitter for deliberately blocking news coverage potentially damaging to one political party — a move that culminated in a high-profile hearing yesterday. And now, the Department of Justice has charged Google with illegally maintaining its search and advertising monopoly.

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Commentary: How to Restrain Big Tech Immediately

A year ago, University of Georgia professor Cas Mudde took to Twitter and asked: “How do you manage to stay informed about political news and stay mentally balanced?” In his next tweet, he confessed too much time on social media was contributing to anxiety and depression.

With this, Mudde expressed a sentiment many social media users share. As we discuss policy issues tied to social media—tech regulation, free speech, foreign influence—we shouldn’t lose sight of the damaging psychological effects of today’s information environment. You may not want to hear this a week before the election, but social media addiction is a public health issue. Big Tech is the new Big Tobacco.

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Student Sues School for Banning Biblical Shirt While Allowing LGBTQ Speech

A Tennessee high school student has filed a lawsuit against Overton County School District (OCS) for banning her Biblical shirt while allowing other free speech. The shirt read: “HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.” 
OCS claimed that the student’s shirt violated Livingston Academy dress code policy. Although the policy doesn’t define “offensive messages” or “sexual connotations,” Principal Richard Melton determined that the student’s shirt fell under those criteria.

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Facebook Disabled Dr. Carol Swain’s Ad Account For Promoting Law Enforcement Appreciation Event

Facebook blocked Dr. Carol Swain’s ad account, claiming her ads had violated their policies on “deceptive or misleading practices.” Swain had posted an ad for a virtual law enforcement appreciation event.

Swain told The Tennessee Star that she’d directed the woman who runs her social media to submit the ad. Facebook informed Swain that she’d have to change the ad or submit new paperwork to describe the ad as “political.”

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Facebook Demands Academics Disable Ad-Targeting Data Tool

Academics, journalists and First Amendment lawyers are rallying behind New York University researchers in a showdown with Facebook over its demand that they halt the collection of data showing who is being micro-targeted by political ads on the world’s dominant social media platform.

The researchers say the disputed tool is vital to understanding how Facebook has been used as a conduit for disinformation and manipulation.

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Senator Marsha Blackburn’s New Bill Tackles Big Tech Censorship and ‘Fact-Checkers’

U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is co-sponsoring a reform bill tackling Big Tech’s censorship and “fact-checking” policies. The bill, “Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act,” is a reform of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA).
Section 230 hasn’t been updated in nearly 25 years. The goal of the reform is to “clarify the original intent of the law and examine Big Tech’s content moderation practices.”

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Holocaust Denial Posts Banned on Another Social Media Platform

Twitter will begin removing posts containing Holocaust denial, a Twitter spokeswoman told Bloomberg News just days after Facebook also implemented a policy banning posts that deny the Holocaust. 

“We strongly condemn anti-semitism, and hateful conduct has absolutely no place on our service,” the spokeswoman told Bloomberg News in a statement. “We also have a robust ‘glorification of violence’ policy in place and take action against content that glorifies or praises historical acts of violence and genocide, including the Holocaust.”

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Commentary: Is Twitter, Facebook Censorship of New York Post Biden-Ukraine Story the Beginning of Social Tyranny?

Twitter and Facebook have both limited distribution of an Oct. 14 report from the New York Post’s Emma-Jo Morris and Gabrielle Fonrouge entitled, “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad” detailing an alleged meeting between former Vice President Joe Biden and Burisma executive Vadym who Biden’s son, Hunter, used to work for, in April 2015.

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Facebook Will Remove ‘Militarized’ Calls for Unauthorized Poll Watchers

Facebook said Wednesday it will remove posts that use “militarized language” to call for people to participate in poll watching or when the intent behind the posts is to intimidate voters, according to a CNN report.

Posts that use the word “army” or “battle” or that are implicitly threatening would fall under the ban, said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of content policy, on a call with reporters.

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‘Oil Barons and Railroad Tycoons’: Big Tech Must Be Restructured, House Report Says

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have abused their monopoly power and must undergo significant restructuring, according to a House report released Tuesday.

Lawmakers who wrote the report said the four tech companies had grown into monopolies akin to “oil barons and railroad tycoons” and suggested an overhaul to U.S. antitrust laws, according to The New York Times. The lengthy report, spearheaded by Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler and David Cicilline, is the result of a 15-month House Judiciary Committee investigation into the companies collectively known as Big Tech.

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Mark Levin: Facebook Is Censoring My Content

Radio host Mark Levin, affectionately known as “The Great One,” says Facebook is censoring his content.

“Facebook has just sent us this message. It’s a clear effort at censorship,” Levin wrote on Monday morning.

“Every link I post is from a legitimate source,” Levin wrote on his Facebook page. “But because so many people are seeing what I’m posting and we’re within weeks of the election it’s clear that Facebook is trying to influence the election’s outcome. It’s also clear Facebook is pushing a leftwing agenda. I’ll address this tonight on radio.”

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New Facebook Data Center Could Make Big Impact in Gallatin, Report Says

A new report that describes how Facebook’s data centers have impacted surrounding areas could predict how a new one will impact Gallatin.

As The Tennessee Star reported in August, Facebook will invest $800 million to build a new state-of-the-art data center in Gallatin to create approximately 100 jobs. Gallatin officials said at the time that Facebook will hire locally.

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Leaked Facebook Memo Describes Company’s Underwhelming Response to Global Political Manipulation

A former Facebook data scientist released a 6,600-word memo on her final day at the company detailing what she considers the tech giant’s lackluster response to fake accounts and activities that impacts elections around the globe. 

The employee, Sophie Zhang, was fired this month from Facebook for what she says was ongoing friction between her and management about the platform’s approach to combating extensive, global manipulation, according to a recent Buzzfeed News report.

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#DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement Author Allum Bokhari Highlights Elements of His New Book

Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed the author of #Deleted: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal the Election Allum Bokhari to the show to highlight elements of his new book.

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Facebook Will Ban New Political Ads One Week Before the Election to Curb Misinformation

Facebook announced Thursday that it would bar any new political ads from its platform in the final week before the election.

The social network also said that it would remove any measures attempting to dissuade people from voting and would block any candidate’s attempts to claim false victories before official results have been reported, The New York Times reported.

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Michigan and Ohio Secretaries of State Endorse Zuckerberg’s Millions Directed to Elections

Michigan and Ohio state secretaries Jocelyn Benson and Frank LaRose endorsed $300 million directed to elections by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan. The Center for Tech and Civil Life (CTCL) and Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) announced Tuesday that Zuckerberg and his wife donated in order “to promote safe and reliable voting in states and localities.”

Both Benson and LaRose agreed that the investment was necessary considering the pandemic’s effects on the presidential election. LaRose reposted the press release the day it came out, citing the need for accurate information during voting.

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Facebook Stirs Anger, Abandons Drilling Gear on Oregon Coast

Facebook’s effort to build a landing site in a village on the Oregon coast for a fiber optic cable linking Asia and North America has run into serious trouble.

First, a drill pipe snapped under the seabed. Workers left 1,100 feet of pipe, 6,500 gallons of drilling fluid, a drill tip and other materials under the seabed as they closed down the site, aiming to try again next year.

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Facebook Announces Restrictions on Groups Like QAnon and Antifa

Facebook announced Wednesday that it will take further action against pages, groups, and Instagram accounts associated with anarchist groups and other groups “tied to violence.”

The social media website said it will expand their “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy” to censor groups who reportedly pose a “significant risk” to public safety, such as QAnon, the company said in a statement. Facebook is also taking action against “offline anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests,” the statement said.

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COVID-19-Era Public School Models Are Driving Increased Interest in Homeschooling

Virginia parents are increasingly interested in homeschooling due to fear of COVID-19 and frustration over new public school models. Organizations ranging from the state-level Home Educators Association of Virginia to local Facebook groups are providing advice, resources and counseling.

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Phil Bredesen’s Silicon Ranch to Help Power Facebook’s Tennessee Operations

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen’s Nashville-based Silicon Ranch will help power Facebook’s operations in the state.

Company officials will partner with the Tennessee Valley Authority to develop carbon-free energy for a 70-megawatt solar facility in Madison County. This, according to a press release that TVA officials published on their website Thursday.

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Twitter, Facebook Hit Trump Over Post Suggesting Children Are ‘Almost Immune’ from Coronavirus

Twitter partially suspended President Donald Trump’s campaign Twitter account on Wednesday for posting a tweet containing a video of Trump suggesting children are “almost immune” to coronavirus.

The post contains an interview Trump gave to Fox News Wednesday morning in which the president made the claim relating to children and the ongoing pandemic, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. Facebook removed a post Wednesday that contained the same video, marking the first time the social media platform has nixed a Trump post over coronavirus misinformation.

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Zuckerberg Mocks Conspiracy Theory Suggesting He Forged a Secret Deal with Trump as ‘Pretty Ridiculous’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed speculation that he and President Donald Trump have come to an understanding in an interview published Monday.

“I’ve heard this speculation, too, so let me be clear: There’s no deal of any kind,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with Axios published Monday.

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Facebook’s Software Kit to Blame for Popular Apps Crashing

Friday’s widespread crashes of popular apps running on the iPhone’s iOS operating system — including Tinder, Spotify and Pinterest — serve as a reminder that Facebook is still tracking you through your phone using sophisticated software, even if you’re not browsing the social network.

Early Friday, users of the apps reported crashes when they tried to open them up. Facebook attributed the problem, which was quickly fixed, to a bug in its software development kit, or SDK, a tool developers use to integrate their apps with Facebook.

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