Trump’s social media accounts and on-line harms: the tech assessment of 2021

It was a year in which the friction between technology and politics reached new heights.

How should the regulation of social media be dealt with, the debate about freedom of expression and censorship as well as data collection and data protection concerns are topics that have shaped the last 12 months.

Here’s a look back at some of the greatest tech stories of 2021.

Mr Trump was banned from Twitter this year (Niall Carson / PA)

(PA archive)

– Donald Trump is kicked off social media

The storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 by supporters of former President Donald Trump – who instigated them along the way – was the final straw for social media platforms.

After months of flagging Trump posts as misleading or invisible, Facebook, Twitter, and others banned the former president from posts they believed incited violence.

A debate about the power of social media quickly flared up – critics voiced concerns that it amounted to censorship and that a then-incumbent world leader’s performance on such large forums was a dangerous precedent, while others argued that Mr. Trump was unfiltered and often misleading and obviously untrue and harmful posts could not be ignored regardless of office.

Almost a year later and the bans remain in place, and Mr Trump is still looking for a new way to speak to his supporters on the internet.

Apple has continued its war on data collection (Yui Mok / PA)

(PA archive)

– Apple continues to fight against data collection

After launching its data collection nutrition labels for apps in 2020, Apple doubled its promise to better protect user privacy and limit data collection, especially for targeted online advertising, in 2021.

The biggest announcement came in the form of App Tracking Transparency (ATT), a tool that required app developers for the first time to ask users for permission to track them and their activity on apps and websites outside of their own.

The tool gave users the ability to grant and revoke tracking permission at any time, which Apple said would drastically reduce third party data collection.

In addition, the company has used its iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 software updates to introduce new tools that will allow users to hide their IP address and location from unsolicited marketing emails, and which will allow them to identify the websites they have visited To hide from third parties. Party advertisers, which in turn reduces data collection.

The makers of Fortnite are embroiled in a battle over payment systems with the tech giants (Andrew Matthews / PA).

(PA archive)

– Apple, Google and allegations of anti-competitive behavior

Apple may be praised for its approach to user privacy, but regulators spent 2021 raising concerns about how Apple and Google operate their respective iOS and Android app stores.

Since in Apple’s case the App Store is the only way to download apps to an Apple device, concerns have been raised that it may be able to stifle competition by ousting its own services over those of its competitors Has a monopoly on the apps that appear in the store and obliges app developers to use Apple’s payment system for in-app purchases – from which Apple receives a commission.

For Google, critics argue that preloading Google apps on Android devices is also unfair and anti-competitive, and its payment system structure, like Apple’s, is unfair.

Both companies have defended their practices, saying that their app stores are set up to keep users safe while also allowing developers to grow their business by being part of their ecosystem.

Adjustments to the app store rules have also come into effect – some of the rules for payments are being relaxed – as a sign that the debate is having an impact.

At the heart of this case is an ongoing legal battle by Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, in which the company is taking legal action against companies in the US and Europe after the successful game was removed from both app stores in 2020 after it An attempt was made to introduce a separate payment method that bypassed the Apple and Google systems.

This fight should continue until 2022.

The online security law still hasn’t made it into parliament (Dominic Lipinski / PA)

(PA wire)

– Online damage and the online safety bill

The government’s plans to regulate social media and internet businesses and hold them accountable for harmful content appearing on their platforms were further cemented during the year.

The long-delayed online security law has still not made it to parliament, but a joint committee of MPs and colleagues has now called on ministers to tighten the bill to hold tech companies accountable.

Their recommendations, published in December, called for more online damage – such as fraudulent advertising and cyberflashing – to be included within the scope of the bill and for named company managers to be prosecuted if the user is not protected.

The government’s response is expected early next year.

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