Provoking Facebook

Balance of Power

The Australian government has just learned what happens when you take on a tech giant like Facebook. The giant fights back.

In what's being seen as a warning to regulators around the globe, Facebook said yesterday it will stop Australians sharing news content on its platforms if a government plan to make the company pay local media outlets for their material becomes law.

Just last week, the U.S. lawmaker in charge of an anti-trust inquiry said his investigation confirmed that Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook were abusing their market power to crush competitors. In the U.K., Facebook is pushing back against a possible probe by the country's merger watchdog and won a temporary halt in July to a demand by European Union investigators to turn over vast amounts of data.

But it's not just Facebook's market power that's concerning governments. There's also the use of the platform to spread fake news, potentially sway elections and incite violence.

Facebook already has acknowledged it may have helped stoke deadly clashes in Sri Lanka in 2018 by failing to respond to warnings on abusive posts, while an assessment of its operations in Myanmar the same year found it partly to blame for violence there as well.

Now it's grappling with a backlash in India after the Wall Street Journal reported a senior executive opposed the deletion of alleged hate speech from a lawmaker belonging to the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party during a bitter election campaign last year.

With the company fighting on several fronts, the question is whether the regulators will stand their ground.

Ruth Pollard

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies July 29 before a House subcommittee in Washington.

Photographer: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

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Global Headlines

No way | Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has denied meddling in U.S. Postal Service operations to aid President Donald Trump. Mnuchin tells Saleha Mohsin that his financial review of the USPS was not used to illegally punish or interfere with the election, as alleged by Democrats and a former postal overseer. He labeled the accusations "a bit ridiculous."

Campaign 2020

There are 62 days until the election. Here's the latest on the race for control of the White House and Congress.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden today will outline his proposal aimed at reopening schools safely as he assails Trump for pushing a return to classrooms despite the virus threat. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey defeated Representative Joe Kennedy in the state's hotly contested Democratic Senate primary.

Other developments:

Sign up to receive daily election updates as a direct mobile notification on Twitter. Simply click on this link and like the tweet.

Suga time | Yoshihide Suga, the right-hand man to outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, says he will run to replace his long-serving boss  — and political heavyweights in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party appear to want him to win. The biggest factions have signaled they will line up behind Suga, 71, as a continuity candidate at the Sept. 14 internal party election. As Isabel Reynolds reports, Suga is seen as bringing stability to an economy trying to find its feet after being walloped by the coronavirus.

Maritime battleground | A new contest has begun in the South China Sea, where fishing vessels and warships increasingly rely on electronics, satellites and wartime strategies to stake territorial claims and harvest one of the world's richest fishing grounds. Even before China fired missiles into the troubled waters last week, the global pandemic and the growing involvement of the U.S. had been raising the level of aggression, with neither side showing any interest in de-escalating.

  • Click here for more on a how a few tiny islands caused a dispute between China and Japan.

China made | Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to put the world's second-largest economy on a more self-reliant path, seeking some cushion from geopolitical tensions highlighted by Beijing's sparring with the Trump administration. The push to bolster domestic production in key industries like technology comes as China's top leaders prepare to next month lay out their economic strategy for the next five years.

Covid cash | Poverty and inequality in Brazil are nearing historic lows thanks to the cash doled out by the government to respond to one of the world's worst pandemic-driven crises. It's been a huge shift for President Jair Bolsonaro, who railed against welfare, dismissed the virus — and now finds himself newly popular. 

What to Watch

  • Turkey has accused the U.S. of violating the spirit of the alliance between the two countries by lifting an arms embargo on Cyprus amid a showdown over energy resources in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • North Korea doesn't appear to be making any more plutonium to expand its nuclear-weapons stockpile, the International Atomic Energy Agency said today.
  • Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to make government spending more transparent in a bid to thwart a political backlash over allegations that contracts awarded to combat the coronavirus have been tainted by graft.

And finally ... Kuwaitis used to a seemingly endless flow of petrodollars ridiculed then-Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh when he warned four years ago that the time had come to cut spending and prepare for life after oil. As Fiona MacDonald reports, Kuwait today is still one of the world's richest countries, and yet it's struggling to make ends meet as a sharp decline in energy prices raises questions over how Gulf Arab states are run.

A woman wearing a protective mask feeds pigeons at a square in Kuwait City on Aug. 16.

Photographer: Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP via Getty Images



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