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Broadband Roundup: Trump’s Media Bias Panel, Facebook Shops, Virtual Private Networks in Hong Kong

Elijah Labby

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Photo of President Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore used with permission

May 26, 2020 — President Donald Trump has proposed a federal panel that would monitor alleged incidents of anti-conservative bias on tech platforms, according to The Wall Street Journal. The panel would work in conjunction with existing government offices like the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to investigate allegations of “censorship” on platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

Conservatives have long claimed bias on such platforms, saying that Twitter and others have removed or restricted their posts and accounts for unworthy reasons.

Last week, the president echoed that frustration, tweeting that “The Radical Left is in total command & control of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google” and that “The Administration is working to remedy this illegal situation.”

Tech platforms are granted immunity for content moderation decisions under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. They have hotly contested the existence of an anti-conservative bias on their platforms.

Facebook moves into e-commerce

Facebook announced the launch of a new feature that would allow businesses to start free online stores on the platform. The feature, called Shops, comes amid heightened economic hardships in the retail sector caused by the novel coronavirus.

By contrast, pandemic has helped some small business platforms like Etsy, where users have been selling homemade face masks and other personal protective equipment.

The Shops feature has the potential to change the small business landscape, said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he said.

Facebook stands to gain from increased online traffic, and could profit immensely from ad placement on the Shops platform.

Virtual private network sales spike in Hong Kong, amid concerns about Chinese government overreach

VPN companies like NordVPN have reported significant sales increases amid fears that China will violate their ‘One Country, Two Systems’ agreement, Fortune reports.

The agreement, which was signed in 2019, preserves Hong Kong's autonomy. However, a new law, proposed by Beijing, would punish acts that threaten China's national security. VPN’s, which reroute internet activity through servers around the world, are much more difficult to trace and are an insurance policy against what many Hong Kong residents see as the Chinese government overstepping its bounds.

NordVPN reported an increase in sales of about 120 percent, while Surfshark, another VPN provider, sold a week’s worth of VPNs in the single day following the news.

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