Lobbying groups representing Facebook(FB.O), Twitter(TWTR.N), Google (GOOGL.O) and other tech companies filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, seeking to block a Texas law that prohibits large social media platforms from banning users based on their political views.
The Texas law went into effect on Wednesday when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the state’s request for a stay of a district judge’s injunction blocking the law.
The law forbids social media companies with more than 50 million active users per month from banning members based on their political views and requires them to publicly disclose how they moderate content.
It was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, in September.
Internet lobbying groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association filed a lawsuit against the measure, and U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin, Texas, issued a preliminary injunction in December.
Pitman had found that the law would harm social media companies’ free speech rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The tech groups, in their emergency request, asked the Supreme Court to “allow the District Court’s careful reasoning to remain in effect while an orderly appellate process plays out.”
Australian court orders Google to pay $43 mln for misleading users
Australia’s competition watchdog said on Friday that Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google unit was ordered by the country’s Federal Court to pay A$60 million ($42.7 million) in penalties for misleading users on collection of their personal location data.
The court found Google misled some customers about personal location data collected through their Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018, Reuters reported on Friday.
Google misled users into believing “location history” setting on their android phones was the only way location data could be collected by it, when a feature to monitor web and applications activity also allowed local data collection and storage, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) said.
The watchdog, which estimates that 1.3 million Google account users in Australia may have been affected, had started the proceedings against the company and its local unit in October 2019.
Google took remedial measures in 2018, the regulator said.
In an emailed statement, Google said it had settled the matter and added it has made location information simple to manage and easy to understand.
The search engine giant has been embroiled in legal action in Australia over the past year as the government mulled and passed a law to make Google and Meta Platforms’ (META.O) Facebook pay media companies for content on their platforms.
Satellite imagery shows Antarctic ice shelf crumbling faster than thought
Antarctica’s coastal glaciers are shedding icebergs more rapidly than nature can replenish the crumbling ice, doubling previous estimates of losses from the world’s largest ice sheet over the past 25 years, a satellite analysis showed on Wednesday.
The first-of-its-kind study, led by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles and published in the journal Nature, raises new concern about how fast climate change is weakening Antarctica’s floating ice shelves and accelerating the rise of global sea levels, Reuters reported.
The study’s key finding was that the net loss of Antarctic ice from coastal glacier chunks “calving” off into the ocean is nearly as great as the net amount of ice that scientists already knew was being lost due to thinning caused by the melting of ice shelves from below by warming seas.
Taken together, thinning and calving have reduced the mass of Antarctica’s ice shelves by 12 trillion tons since 1997, double the previous estimate, the analysis concluded.
The net loss of the continent’s ice sheet from calving alone in the past quarter-century spans nearly 37,000 sq km, an area almost the size of Switzerland, according to JPL scientist Chad Greene, the study’s lead author.
“Antarctica is crumbling at its edges,” Greene said in a NASA announcement of the findings. “And when ice shelves dwindle and weaken, the continent’s massive glaciers tend to speed up and increase the rate of global sea level rise.”
The consequences could be enormous. Antarctica holds 88% of the sea level potential of all the world’s ice, he said.
Ice shelves, permanent floating sheets of frozen freshwater attached to land, take thousands of years to form and act like buttresses holding back glaciers that would otherwise easily slide off into the ocean, causing seas to rise.
When ice shelves are stable, the long-term natural cycle of calving and re-growth keeps their size fairly constant.
In recent decades, though, warming oceans have weakened the shelves from underneath, a phenomenon previously documented by satellite altimeters measuring the changing height of the ice and showing losses averaging 149 million tons a year from 2002 to 2020, according to NASA.
The losses measured from calving outpaced natural ice shelf replenishment so greatly that researchers found it unlikely Antarctica can return to pre-2000 glacier levels by the end of this century.
The accelerated glacial calving, like ice thinning, was most pronounced in West Antarctica, an area hit harder by warming ocean currents. But even in East Antarctica, a region whose ice shelves were long considered less vulnerable, “we’re seeing more losses than gains,” Greene said.
One East Antarctic calving event that took the world by surprise was the collapse and disintegration of the massive Conger-Glenzer ice shelf in March, possibly a sign of greater weakening to come, Greene said.
WhatsApp unveils new privacy features to boost user security
WhatsApp is to allow users to leave group chats without notifying others and control who can see when they are online as part of a privacy update to the messaging app.
As part of the update, which is rolling out this month, users will also be given the ability to block people from taking screenshots of View Once messages, which are designed to disappear after being opened.
The screenshot blocking tool is currently being tested, WhatsApp said, and would be released to users soon.
The Meta-owned messaging platform said the new features aimed to keep improving the privacy around online conversations.
In a post announcing the WhatsApp update, Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg said: “We’ll keep building new ways to protect your messages and keep them as private and secure as face-to-face conversations.”
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