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Westlake Legal Group > Facebook Inc

Facebook’s Suspension of ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Apps Reveals Wider Privacy Issues

Westlake Legal Group 20facebook3-facebookJumbo Facebook’s Suspension of ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Apps Reveals Wider Privacy Issues Zuckerberg, Mark E Suits and Litigation (Civil) Social Media Privacy Healey, Maura (1971- ) Facebook Inc Data-Mining and Database Marketing Computers and the Internet cambridge analytica

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook said on Friday that it had suspended tens of thousands of apps for improperly sucking up users’ personal information and other transgressions, a tacit admission that the scale of its data privacy issues was far larger than it had previously acknowledged.

The social network said in a blog post that an investigation it began in March 2018 — following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy, had retrieved and used people’s Facebook information without their permission — had resulted in the suspension of “tens of thousands” of apps that were associated with about 400 developers. That was far bigger than the last number that Facebook had disclosed of 400 app suspensions in August 2018.

The extent of how many apps Facebook had cut off was revealed in court filings that were unsealed later on Friday by a state court in Boston, as part of an investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general into the technology company. The documents showed that Facebook had suspended 69,000 apps. Of those, the majority were terminated because the developers did not cooperate with Facebook’s investigation; 10,000 were flagged for potentially misappropriating personal data from Facebook users.

The disclosures about app suspensions renew questions about whether people’s personal information on Facebook is secure, even after the company has been under fire for more than a year for its privacy practices.

As the world’s largest social network, Facebook has data of more than two billion people. But it showed that it had failed to safeguard some of that information when Cambridge Analytica took some of the data without people’s permission in 2016 and built voter profiles from it for the Trump presidential campaign, which The New York Times and The Observer in London reported on last year. Facebook said that as many as 87 million users’ information could have been retrieved.

The social network has since faced lawsuits, regulatory scrutiny and the ire of lawmakers around the world over whether it can safeguard its users’ data trove. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are investigating Cambridge Analytica. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has appeared in Congress to testify on the matter. Mr. Zuckerberg, who visited Washington this week and met with President Trump, has also apologized for the improper handling of user data and vowed changes. That included auditing all of Facebook’s third-party apps to make sure they were not abusing people’s information.

“Every company, and especially the app developers involved, needs to understand that there are consequences for abusing consumer data,” said Jules Polonetsky, chief executive of the Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit organization focused on issues of data privacy and scholarship. “If these apps escape legal penalty, developers are left thinking there is no legal risk, privacy is solely a platform responsibility and a terms of service agreement with Facebook.”

Mr. Polonetsky called for the Federal Trade Commission to act quickly against developers who broke Facebook’s terms of service around customer data.

The latest revelations follow a settlement that Facebook struck with the F.T.C. in July over privacy violations, in which the company agreed to pay a record $5 billion fine and to increase oversight into its data-handling practices. Some critics claimed at the time that the F.T.C.’s settlement did not go far enough in protecting consumers and the agency faced new calls to take a harder line on the social network.

“Facebook put up a neon sign that said ‘Free Private Data,’ and let app developers have their fill of Americans’ personal info,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said on Friday. “The F.T.C. needs to hold Mark Zuckerberg personally responsible.”

The F.T.C. said in a statement that it was “aware of a widespread problem involving app developers on Facebook’s platform and that’s why the agency obtained the relief it did.” The agency said its settlement required Facebook “to do more to enforce its platform policies and to ensure that app developers are complying with them.”

The F.T.C. is also investigating the social network for potential antitrust violations and has started interviewing former employees from companies that Facebook has acquired.

Facebook apps can take on a variety of forms, from music apps like Spotify to games like Candy Crush. Some apps use Facebook simply so that people can log in to their service or product, which otherwise has nothing to do with the social network. The common denominator is that these apps want access to information about Facebook members so that they can add new users.

In Facebook’s blog post, Ime Archibong, a company executive, said the suspensions of so many apps were not “necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to people.” Some of the apps had not yet been rolled out, while others were suspended because they did not respond to the company’s request for information, he said.

Mr. Archibong added that Facebook had banned some apps, including one called myPersonality, which declined to participate in the company’s audit and had shared information with other parties with few protections around the data. He also said Facebook had sued a South Korean data analytics company, Rankwave, in May for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

Facebook said that only 400 developers could be associated with tens of thousands of apps because developers often created apps for multiple clients, and built test versions of their products that were not deployed. The investigation is ongoing, the company added.

“We are far from finished,” Mr. Archibong wrote. “As each month goes by, we have incorporated what we learned and re-examined the ways that developers can build using our platforms. We’ve also improved the ways we investigate and enforce against potential policy violations that we find.”

The Silicon Valley company has been dueling with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office to keep documents related to its app investigation out of the public eye. The state prosecutor began examining Facebook’s data sharing practices in early 2018 after the Cambridge Analytica revelations broke and issued several civil subpoenas to the company for information. Last month, Facebook had petitioned a judge in Boston to seal the records. The seal was lifted on Friday.

“For nearly a year, Facebook has fought to shield information about improper data-sharing with app developers,” Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, said in a statement. “If only Facebook cared this much about privacy when it was giving away the personal data of everyone you know online.”

According to the court documents, Facebook told the attorney general’s office that it had identified approximately two million apps that required a close examination to determine whether they had misused people’s personal data. The investigation narrowed to focus on a group of 10,000 apps, one document said.

Of the 10,000 apps, 6,000 were flagged because a large number of people installed them, which could expose them to data misuse. Facebook conducted a “detailed background check” of developers behind 2,000 apps to determine whether they had connections to “entities of interest” or revealed any signs of fraud, according to the court documents. Another group of 2,000 apps received a technical review from Facebook, which looked at internal records to determine whether the apps had made broad data requests that could indicate misuse, the documents said.

The Massachusetts prosecutor said in a court filing that it sent Facebook a demand to reveal the names of the apps involved in the investigation. The company declined to identify them.

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Facebook Says It Has Suspended ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Apps

Westlake Legal Group 20facebook3-facebookJumbo Facebook Says It Has Suspended ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Apps Zuckerberg, Mark E Suits and Litigation (Civil) Social Media Privacy Healey, Maura (1971- ) Facebook Inc Data-Mining and Database Marketing Computers and the Internet cambridge analytica

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook said on Friday that it had suspended “tens of thousands” of apps as part of an investigation into how independent developers use its members’ data, a number far higher than it had previously disclosed and a sign that data privacy remains a central issue for the social network.

Facebook said in a blog post that its investigation into apps — which it began in March 2018 following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy, had improperly retrieved and used people’s Facebook information without their permission — now covered millions of apps. It said that the tens of thousands of apps that were suspended were associated with about 400 developers. The review is ongoing.

Facebook said in May 2018 that it had suspended 200 apps. In August 2018, it said the number had grown to 400.

The app suspensions are part of the fallout that Facebook has faced over the Cambridge Analytica disclosure. Those revelations, which were first reported by The New York Times and The Observer in London, created a firestorm for the Silicon Valley company and raised questions about whether it appropriately safeguarded the data of its more than two billion users.

The social network has since faced lawsuits, regulatory scrutiny and the ire of lawmakers around the world. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, appeared in Congress to testify on the matter and has apologized. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are investigating Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook made its new disclosure as the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, which has been examining the social network’s data-sharing practices, has been working to unseal documents related to the investigation of the apps. Last month, Facebook had petitioned a judge in Boston to seal the records. The documents are likely to be unsealed by a state court within the next week.

“For nearly a year, Facebook has fought to shield information about improper data-sharing with app developers,” Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, said in a statement. “If only Facebook cared this much about privacy when it was giving away the personal data of everyone you know online.”

In Facebook’s blog post, Ime Archibong, a company executive, said the suspensions of so many apps were not “necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to people.” Some of the apps had not yet been rolled out, while others were suspended because they did not respond to the company’s request for information, he said.

Mr. Archibong added that Facebook had banned some apps completely, including one called myPersonality, which declined to participate in the company’s audit and had shared information with other parties with few protections around the data. He also said Facebook had sued a South Korean data analytics company, Rankwave, in May for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

Facebook did not address in its blog post how 400 developers could be associated with tens of thousands of apps.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Facebook Says It Has Suspended ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Apps

Westlake Legal Group 20facebook3-facebookJumbo Facebook Says It Has Suspended ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Apps Zuckerberg, Mark E Suits and Litigation (Civil) Social Media Privacy Healey, Maura (1971- ) Facebook Inc Data-Mining and Database Marketing Computers and the Internet cambridge analytica

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook said on Friday that it had suspended “tens of thousands” of apps as part of an investigation into how independent developers use its members’ data, a number far higher than it had previously disclosed and a sign that data privacy remains a central issue for the social network.

Facebook said in a blog post that its investigation into apps — which it began in March 2018 following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy, had improperly retrieved and used people’s Facebook information without their permission — now covered millions of apps. It said that the tens of thousands of apps that were suspended were associated with about 400 developers. The review is ongoing.

Facebook said in May 2018 that it had suspended 200 apps. In August 2018, it said the number had grown to 400.

The app suspensions are part of the fallout that Facebook has faced over the Cambridge Analytica disclosure. Those revelations, which were first reported by The New York Times and The Observer in London, created a firestorm for the Silicon Valley company and raised questions about whether it appropriately safeguarded the data of its more than two billion users.

The social network has since faced lawsuits, regulatory scrutiny and the ire of lawmakers around the world. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, appeared in Congress to testify on the matter and has apologized. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are investigating Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook made its new disclosure as the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, which has been examining the social network’s data-sharing practices, has been working to unseal documents related to the investigation of the apps. Last month, Facebook had petitioned a judge in Boston to seal the records. The documents are likely to be unsealed by a state court within the next week.

“For nearly a year, Facebook has fought to shield information about improper data-sharing with app developers,” Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, said in a statement. “If only Facebook cared this much about privacy when it was giving away the personal data of everyone you know online.”

In Facebook’s blog post, Ime Archibong, a company executive, said the suspensions of so many apps were not “necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to people.” Some of the apps had not yet been rolled out, while others were suspended because they did not respond to the company’s request for information, he said.

Mr. Archibong added that Facebook had banned some apps completely, including one called myPersonality, which declined to participate in the company’s audit and had shared information with other parties with few protections around the data. He also said Facebook had sued a South Korean data analytics company, Rankwave, in May for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

Facebook did not address in its blog post how 400 developers could be associated with tens of thousands of apps.

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Secret F.B.I. Subpoenas Scoop Up Personal Data From Scores of Companies

The F.B.I. has used secret subpoenas to obtain personal data from far more companies than previously disclosed, newly released documents show.

The requests, which the F.B.I. says are critical to its counterterrorism efforts, have raised privacy concerns for years but have been associated mainly with tech companies. Now, records show how far beyond Silicon Valley the practice extends — encompassing scores of banks, credit agencies, cellphone carriers and even universities.

The demands can scoop up a variety of information, including usernames, locations, IP addresses and records of purchases. They don’t require a judge’s approval and usually come with a gag order, leaving them shrouded in secrecy. Fewer than 20 entities, most of them tech companies, have ever revealed that they’ve received the subpoenas, known as national security letters.

The documents, obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and shared with The New York Times, shed light on the scope of the demands — more than 120 companies and other entities were included in the filing — and raise questions about the effectiveness of a 2015 law that was intended to increase transparency around them.

“This is a pretty potent authority for the government,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas who specializes in national security. “The question is: Do we have a right to know when the government is collecting information on us?”

The documents provide information on about 750 of the subpoenas — representing a small but telling fraction of the half-million issued since 2001, when the Patriot Act expanded their powers.

The credit agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion received a large number of the letters in the filing. So did financial institutions like Bank of America, Western Union and even the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. All declined to explain how they handle the letters. An array of other entities received smaller numbers of requests — including Kansas State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, probably because of their role in providing internet service.

Other companies included major cellular providers such as AT&T and Verizon, as well as tech giants like Google and Facebook, which have acknowledged receiving the letters in the past.

Albert Gidari, a lawyer who long represented tech and telecommunications companies and is now the privacy director at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society, said Silicon Valley had been associated with the subpoenas because it was more willing than other industries to fight the gag orders. “Telecoms and financial institutions get little attention,” he said, even though the law specifically says they are fair game.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation determined that information on the roughly 750 letters could be disclosed under a 2015 law, the USA Freedom Act, that requires the government to review the secrecy orders “at appropriate intervals.”

The Justice Department’s interpretation of those instructions has left many letters secret indefinitely. Department guidelines say the gag orders must be evaluated three years after an investigation starts and also when an investigation is closed. But a federal judge noted “several large loopholes,” suggesting that “a large swath” of gag orders might never be reviewed.

According to the new documents, the F.B.I. evaluated 11,874 orders between early 2016, when the rules went into effect, and September 2017, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, requested the information.

“We are not sure the F.B.I. is taking its obligations under USA Freedom seriously,” said Andrew Crocker, a lawyer with the foundation. “There still is a huge problem with permanent gag orders.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161091351_4febfb63-cfee-4950-8433-3645e630b508-articleLarge Secret F.B.I. Subpoenas Scoop Up Personal Data From Scores of Companies Yahoo! Inc Western Union Company Verizon Communications Inc USA PATRIOT Act USA Freedom Act T-Mobile US Inc. Surveillance of Citizens by Government subpoenas Microsoft Corp Google Inc Freedom of Information Act First Amendment (US Constitution) Federal Bureau of Investigation Facebook Inc Experian PLC Espionage and Intelligence Services Equifax Inc Electronic Frontier Foundation Bank of America Corporation

Richard Salgado, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security. The company has been public about the secret subpoenas it has received from the F.B.I.CreditTom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Getty Images

The Justice Department declined to comment.

National security letters, which the F.B.I. has issued since the 1980s, have long been a point of contention in the debate over privacy and security. Initially, the bureau had to show “specific and articulable facts” indicating that the target was an agent of a foreign power. Now, the F.B.I. must certify that the information is “relevant” to a terrorism, counterintelligence or leak investigation.

“NSLs are an indispensable investigative tool,” the Justice Department argued in the Freedom of Information Act case. The department has said in legal documents that the information gleaned from the letters is important to identifying subjects and their associates, while helping to clear the innocent of suspicion.

According to a 2007 report from the Justice Department inspector general, the F.B.I. didn’t track how often information from the letters was used in criminal proceedings. But the report also said the letters had led to guilty pleas for arms trading, at least one conviction for material support of terrorism, and multiple charges of fraud and money laundering. The tool was also cited in efforts to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Much of the concern about the letters has focused on the gag orders, which accompany nearly every request and prevent the recipient — typically indefinitely — from disclosing even the existence of the letter. The federal government has argued that the secrecy is necessary to avoid alerting targets, giving would-be terrorists clues about how the government conducts its surveillance or hurting diplomatic relations.

After a series of court rulings found that the gag orders violated First Amendment protections, Congress enacted the review requirements.

The documents obtained through the lawsuit include the number of orders reviewed, as well as redacted copies of 751 letters from the F.B.I. informing companies and organizations their gag orders had been lifted. These so-called termination letters do not reveal the contents of the original national security letters, but indicate which entities received them.

Because so few gag orders have been reviewed and rescinded, it isn’t possible to say whether the companies that received the most termination letters also received the most national security letters. But given the overall secrecy around the program, the termination letters offer a rare glimpse into these subpoenas.

Equifax, Experian and AT&T received the most termination letters: more than 50 each. TransUnion, T-Mobile and Verizon each received more than 40. Yahoo, Google and Microsoft got more than 20 apiece. Over 60 companies received just one.

The underlying national security letters were not included in the documents, and it is unclear when most of them were issued and who the individual targets were.

Tech companies have disclosed more information about the letters they received than the major phone providers, which included general information about them in transparency reports.

“We have fought for the right to be transparent about our receipt” of national security letters, Richard Salgado, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security, said in a 2016 statement explaining why the company was releasing the subpoenas. “Our goal in doing so is to shed more light on the nature and scope” of the requests, he added.

Other companies have generally remained mum. In response to inquiries, a TransUnion spokesman would say only that the company “has not disclosed the receipt of any national security letters.” An spokesman for Equifax said it was “compliant with the national security letters process.”

Mr. Gidari, the former tech lawyer, attributed some of that lack of reporting to differences in company culture, noting that tech firms were more predisposed to openness, and financial institutions less likely to discuss any outside access to customer data. And most small companies, he said, don’t have the resources to keep long-term track of or challenge the subpoenas.

“That’s the problem with the Freedom Act: It procedurally pretended to solve the problem,” he said. “But the whole structure of this involves presumption in favor of the government for perpetual sealing.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Bezos and Zuckerberg Take Their Pitches to Washington

Westlake Legal Group 19amazon-facebookJumbo Bezos and Zuckerberg Take Their Pitches to Washington Zuckerberg, Mark E United States Politics and Government Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Greenhouse Gas Emissions Facebook Inc Computers and the Internet Bezos, Jeffrey P Amazon.com Inc

WASHINGTON — Two of the technology industry’s leading figures descended on Washington on Thursday as their companies face growing political pressure.

The executives, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, showed up for different reasons, and in different places. Mr. Bezos led a morning event at the National Press Club, announcing a commitment by Amazon to be carbon neutral by 2040. Later, Mr. Zuckerberg met with President Trump and held discussions on Capitol Hill about election security, privacy and other issues.

But their presence in Washington highlighted a shared need to try to reshape the public debate about their companies. Amazon and Facebook, as well as Google and Apple, face a variety of broad investigations into their power and influence.

This week, lawmakers held two hearings that focused largely on the industry. One was on the spread of extremism online. In the other, lawmakers urged the country’s top antitrust regulators, who were testifying before them, to be aggressive in their oversight of tech companies.

Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, said it was time for the companies to be more upfront with the public.

“We’ve had a lot of talk from Facebook, and we have a troubling pattern, when they’re up on the Hill, of them saying things that turn out to be either very misleading or at the end of the day it’s just not true or they just don’t follow through on it,” Mr. Hawley said.

Amazon, in addition to the scrutiny from regulators, has faced increasing criticism from its own employees, many of whom say the company needs to do more to combat climate change. More than 1,500 are expected to walk out of work to push their case on Friday, a day of planned climate-related strikes around the world.

The workers have prodded Amazon on three issues: that the company have zero emissions by 2030, that it stop offering custom cloud-computing services that help the oil and gas industry find and extract more fossil fuels and that it stop giving campaign donations to politicians who deny climate change is happening.

Mr. Bezos outlined a plan to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, and instead of joining existing alliances working on climate change, he announced a new effort, Climate Pledge, and said he would push other organizations to join.

To help meet its goal, Mr. Bezos said, Amazon is ordering 100,000 electric delivery trucks from Rivian, a Michigan company in which Amazon invested $440 million in February. He visited Rivian a year ago, checking out prototypes and meeting with its chief executive, R. J. Scaringe.

Mr. Bezos introduced the Climate Pledge alongside Christiana Figueres, who was an architect of the landmark Paris climate agreement while at the United Nations. To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, the world’s total emissions of carbon dioxide must be reduced to net zero by around 2050, climate scientists have said. President Trump withdrew the United States from the accord in 2017.

“Whatever Amazon does does not stay within Amazon,” Ms. Figueres said. “It has a much bigger impact.”

But Mr. Bezos punted on many of the workers’ specific demands. Amazon would still continue to sell its cloud services to the oil and gas industry, he said. And while the company is taking a “hard look” at whether its political donations are going to “active climate deniers,” Mr. Bezos stopped short of saying the company would not give them more money in the future.

“We’re going to work hard for energy companies, and in our view we’re going to work very hard to make sure that as they transition that they have the best tools possible,” he said.

Emily Cunningham, a designer at Amazon who helped organize the walkout, praised Amazon for taking action on climate change. But she said the employees would proceed with their walkout plans on Friday and continue to press on these issues.

“Climate leadership is not compatible with actively helping fossil fuel companies extract oil and gas faster,” she said. “Scientists say that to avoid catastrophic warming, we must keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

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Many other tech companies, like Google, have also made environmental promises. Amazon’s impact on the climate is more complicated than the impact that many of its tech peers have, in part because of its vast operation moving products into and out of its warehouses and to the doorsteps of customers. The data centers at the heart of its cloud computing services also need power to stay cool, and those services help customers in many industries, including energy companies.

The company’s annual carbon footprint is about 44.4 million metric tons — the equivalent of almost 600,000 tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline — according to data it released Thursday for the first time.

That takes into account the production of Amazon’s own brands, like its Echo devices and AmazonBasics batteries, but apparently not the manufacturing footprint of the other products it sells. Walmart has pushed suppliers to be more accountable for their emissions.

Emissions from a retailer’s supply chains are typically 10 to 11 times the emissions of its own operations, said Bruno Sarda, the president of CDP North America, a nonprofit that pushes for more environmental disclosures and commitments at companies.

He said Amazon’s carbon footprint put the company “in the top 150 or 200 emitters in the world,” alongside major energy companies and heavy-industry firms.

“For somebody in their line of business, it’s a really big number,” Mr. Sarda said.

Mr. Zuckerberg came to Washington to meet with lawmakers who have raised numerous concerns about Facebook. It was his first such visit since April 2018, when he testified about privacy and the spread of disinformation on the social network.

“He also had a good, constructive meeting with President Trump at the White House today,” a Facebook spokesman, Andy Stone, said in a statement on Thursday.

The meetings began on Wednesday night, when Mr. Zuckerberg met with Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat on the powerful Commerce Committee, which is trying to pass consumer privacy legislation this year.

He dined that night at Ris, a restaurant in downtown Washington, with a group of senators convened by Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and one of the company’s most outspoken critics.

“The participants had a discussion touching on multiple issues, including the role and responsibility of social media platforms in protecting our democracy, and what steps Congress should take to defend our elections, protect consumer data and encourage competition in the social media space,” said Rachel Cohen, a spokeswoman for Mr. Warner. The group also discussed Libra, Facebook’s controversial cryptocurrency.

On Thursday, throngs of reporters and photographers trailed Mr. Zuckerberg as he visited the offices of several lawmakers, including Senator Mike Lee of Utah, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, and Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas.

Senator Hawley of Missouri said he had told Mr. Zuckerberg on Thursday afternoon that Facebook should sell both Instagram and WhatsApp to address privacy and competition concerns. Facebook recently announced plans to integrate those services more directly with the rest of the company.

“I think it’s safe to say that he was not receptive to those suggestions,” Mr. Hawley said.

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Facebook Expands Definition of Terrorist Organizations to Limit Extremism

Westlake Legal Group 17FACEBOOK-01-facebookJumbo Facebook Expands Definition of Terrorist Organizations to Limit Extremism Terrorism Social Media mass shootings Hate Crimes Facebook Inc Computers and the Internet Artificial Intelligence 8chan

Facebook on Tuesday announced a series of changes to limit hate speech and extremism on the social network, expanding its definition of terrorist organizations and planning to deploy artificial intelligence to better spot and block live videos of shooters.

The company is also expanding a program that redirects users searching for extremism to resources intended to help them leave hate groups behind.

The announcement came the day before a hearing on Capitol Hill on how Facebook, Google and Twitter handle violent content. Lawmakers are expected to ask executives how they are handling posts from extremists.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has been under intense pressure to limit the spread of hate messages, pictures and videos on its site. It has also faced harsh criticism for not detecting and removing the live video of an Australian man who killed 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In at least three mass shootings this year, including the one in Christchurch, the violent plans were announced in advance on 8chan, an online message board. Federal lawmakers questioned the owner of 8chan this month.

In its announcement post, Facebook said the Christchurch tragedy “strongly” influenced its updates. And the company said it had recently developed an industry plan with Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Amazon to address how technology is used to spread terrorist accounts.

Facebook has long touted an ability to catch terrorism-related content on its platform. In the last two years, the company said, it has been able to detect and delete 99 percent of extremist posts — about 26 million pieces of content — before they were reported to them.

But Facebook said that it had mostly focused on identifying organizations like separatists, Islamist militants and white supremacists. The company said that it would now consider all people and organizations that proclaim or are engaged in violence leading to real-world harm.

The team leading its efforts to counter extremism on its platform has grown to 350 people, Facebook said, and includes experts in law enforcement, national security, counterterrorism and academics studying radicalization.

To detect more content relating to real-world harm, Facebook said it was updating its artificial intelligence to better catch first-person shooting videos. The company said it was working with American and British law enforcement officials to obtain camera footage from their firearms training programs to help its A.I. learn what real, first-person violent events look like.

Since March, Facebook had also been redirecting users who search for terms associated with white supremacy to resources like Life After Hate, an organization founded by former violent extremists that provides crisis intervention and outreach. In the wake of the Christchurch tragedy, Facebook is expanding that capability to Australia and Indonesia, where people will be redirected to the organizations EXIT Australia and ruangobrol.id.

“We know that bad actors will continue to attempt to skirt our detection with more sophisticated efforts,” the company said, “and we are committed to advancing our work and sharing more progress.”

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House Antitrust Panel Seeks Documents From 4 Big Tech Firms

Congress showed the breadth of its investigation into the big tech companies on Friday, making a public demand for scores of documents, including the personal emails and other communications from dozens of top executives.

Members of the House committee, Republicans and Democrats alike, who are investigating the market power and behavior of the companies, sent letters directly to Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Google.

The requests called for all communications to and from executives at those companies, including eight at Amazon, 14 at Apple, 15 at Facebook, and 14 at Google.

With the request, which was posted on the committee’s website, the lawmakers sent a not-so-subtle message that executives would be held responsible for the replies, and that the investigation would continue to play out publicly. That has the potential of damaging the brands’ reputation. They are already dealing with questions about spreading disinformation, failing to respect users’ privacy and maneuvering to minimize their taxes.

The requests come as similar inquiries are underway at the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and by the attorneys general of dozens of states. The investigations are just beginning in earnest. How far the inquiries will go, what they will uncover and if any allegations will stand up in court are all uncertain.

But the investigations show the growing angst about the tech companies’ power. For decades, the industry has been held up as a beacon of American ingenuity and business acumen, and it faced little regulation. Now, though, Silicon Valley’s influence on everything from how we vote to how we shop is readily apparent — and yet the technology driving it remains largely mysterious.

“There is this great and growing dependence on technology that we don’t really understand,” said A. Douglas Melamed, a former antitrust official in Justice Department. “And that frightens people.”

House lawmakers were expected to demand internal corporate documents and communications as part of their antitrust investigations. But those demands are often made to a company’s top lawyer. And the committee asked for all communications related to a long list of corporate actions, from companies acquired to the treatment of potential rivals.

By releasing its requests, the House committee offered a glimpse of the depth of the scrutiny that the companies will face and laid out the lines of investigation being pursued. The information it collects can also feed the other investigations, and help lawmakers more sharply question witnesses under oath in hearings, said William Kovacic, a law professor at George Washington University.

“Those interrogations take on an entirely different tone,” said Mr. Kovacic, a former chairman of the F.T.C. “This is a significant escalation of the process.”

The inquiries into individual companies are complex; the tech giants span a range of digital markets including internet search, advertising, e-commerce and social media. And the companies are likely to resist some of the requests, contending they could reveal trade secrets.

The companies will almost certainly try to narrow the scope and reduce the volume of the documents they deliver. But the House investigators have leverage. These are document “requests” but backed by the threat of subpoenas if the companies do not comply.

The communications habits of the individual companies will also play a role in determining how much evidence there is and in what form.

At Amazon, for example, Mr. Bezos writes brief emails to make announcements or delegate, but largely gives feedback and discusses issues in person. He is well known internally for forwarding customer complaints to staffers with just a “?,” leaving teams scrambling to resolve the issue.

Westlake Legal Group tech-investigation-sept9-articleLarge House Antitrust Panel Seeks Documents From 4 Big Tech Firms United States Politics and Government States (US) Justice Department House of Representatives Google Inc Federal Trade Commission Facebook Inc Computers and the Internet Collins, Douglas A (1966- ) Cicilline, David N Apple Inc Antitrust Laws and Competition Issues Amazon.com Inc Alphabet Inc

16 Ways Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon Are in Government Cross Hairs

Investigations could eventually lead to the breakup of some companies, and to new laws that might alter the balance of corporate power.

He has developed a rigid process for making decisions at Amazon that heavily relies on paper documents — called six-pagers for their length — that lay out the plan and reasoning for a proposed strategy. They often include hefty appendices and are presented to executives in long meetings where they are read and discussed.

In response to the committee’s requests, representatives of the companies mainly pointed to their previous statements: They have consistently said that they would cooperate with the federal and state investigations, and would seek to demonstrate that they operate in dynamic, highly competitive markets.

In a statement, Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, who leads the subcommittee on antitrust, which is conducting the House investigation, called the document requests “an important milestone” in the fact-gathering stage.

Mr. Cicilline also emphasized the effort’s bipartisan nature. The letters to chief executives are signed by Mr. Cicilline, and Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and also the ranking Republican members of the Judiciary Committee and the antitrust subcommittee, Doug Collins of Georgia and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

The formal requests for information begin with cover letters to the chief executives, saying the investigators are examining competition in online markets and “whether dominant firms are engaging in anticompetitive conduct.” The letters are accompanied by detailed lists of the requested documents and communications.

It is unclear how much of the investigative work will become public as inquiries progress. At later stages, when investigators are trying to lay the groundwork for a suit, they won’t want to show their hand to a potential corporate defendant.

Such work — collecting more documents, taking depositions, assembling evidence and building the narrative of corporate misbehavior — is best done in secrecy. Major antitrust investigations typically last many months or years.

Sometimes, companies themselves make disclosures about an investigation. Google, for example, said last Friday that its parent company, Alphabet, had received a mandatory request for information from the Justice Department about previous antitrust investigations.

The House document requests indicate that its staff has closely studied the companies.

The request sent to Google, for example, seeks communications to or from senior executives on a series of company moves including Google’s purchase of DoubleClick in 2008 and AdMob in 2011. Those acquisitions helped build up Google’s huge and lucrative ad business.

House investigators also want to see the executives’ communications on Google practices: One request is for communications on its policy on “whether non-Google companies can provide competing ad networks” and other services.

That part of the House inquiry echoes that of the states’ investigation of Google. The Texas State Attorney General’s Office, which is leading that effort, this week sent Google a lengthy demand for information on its ad business, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

But the House investigation is broader. Its request touches other businesses including smartphone software, seeking information on Google’s purchase of Android in 2005.

The House requests for the other companies are similarly detailed. The document sent to Facebook, for example, asks for extensive internal information about its acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, which were potentially emerging competitors until they were bought.

The House committee asks for company documents related to the “strategic value” and “any antitrust risks associated with acquiring” those companies.

The House document also requests information on any Facebook decisions that limit third-party apps’ access, including a version of its “platform policy,” which the company withdrew last year and could be read as a policy intended to keep competing technology off Facebook.

According to the House document, the policy said apps should, “Add something unique to the community. Don’t replicate core functionality that Facebook already provides.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

House Antitrust Panel Demands Big Tech C.E.O.’s Emails

The government’s pursuit of big tech companies turned more personal and political on Friday, as federal lawmakers demanded documents, emails and other communications from dozens of top executives.

Members of the House committee investigating the market power and behavior of the companies sent letters directly to Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Google.

The requests called for all communications to and from executives at those companies, including eight at Amazon, 14 at Apple, 15 at Facebook, and 14 at Google.

With the request, which was posted online, the lawmakers sent a not-so-subtle point that executives would be held responsible for the replies, and that the investigation would continue to play out publicly. That has the potential of damaging the brands’ reputation in the eyes of their customers.

The lawmakers were expected to demand internal corporate documents and communications as part of their antitrust investigations. But those demands are often made to a company’s top lawyer. And the committee asked for all communications related to a long list of corporate actions, from companies bought to treatment of potential rivals. That suggests the Congressional staff has done its homework.

Similar inquiries are being conducted by the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of dozens of states.

The House investigation, like the ones by the federal agencies and states, is really just beginning in earnest. How far they will go, just what they will uncover, and, if it comes to that, whether allegations will stand up in court are all uncertain.

The inquiries into individual companies are complex, as the tech giants span a range of digital markets including internet search, advertising, e-commerce and social media. And the companies will most likely resist some of the inquiries by the House committee and other government investigators, contending that to comply would mean handing over corporate trade secrets.

By releasing its information requests, the House committee offered a glimpse of the depth of the scrutiny that the companies will face and laid out the lines of investigation being pursued. And the evidence it collects can also feed the other investigations.

In response to the House committee’s information requests, representatives of the companies mainly pointed to past statements they have already made. The companies have consistently said they would cooperate with the federal and state investigations, and that they would seek to demonstrate that they operate in dynamic, highly competitive markets.

Westlake Legal Group tech-investigation-sept9-articleLarge House Antitrust Panel Demands Big Tech C.E.O.’s Emails United States Politics and Government States (US) Justice Department House of Representatives Google Inc Federal Trade Commission Facebook Inc Computers and the Internet Collins, Douglas A (1966- ) Cicilline, David N Apple Inc Antitrust Laws and Competition Issues Amazon.com Inc Alphabet Inc

16 Ways Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon Are in Government Cross Hairs

Investigations could eventually lead to the breakup of some companies, and to new laws that might alter the balance of corporate power.

In a statement, Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, who leads the subcommittee on antitrust, which is conducting the House investigation, called the document requests “an important milestone” in the fact-gathering stage of its investigation.

Mr. Cicilline also emphasized the bipartisan nature of the House effort. The letters to chief executives are signed by Mr. Cicilline, and Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, but also the ranking Republican members of the Judiciary Committee and the antitrust subcommittee, Doug Collins of Georgia and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

The formal requests for information begin with cover letters to the chief executives, saying the investigators are examining competition in online markets and “whether dominant firms are engaging in anticompetitive conduct.” The letters are accompanied by detailed lists of the documents and communications sought from the named executives.

Just how much of the investigative work will become public as inquiries progress is unclear. Information requests and public declarations are one thing. But that is very different from later stages, when investigators are trying to lay the groundwork for a suit — and won’t want to their hand to a potential corporate defendant.

Such work, collecting more documents, taking depositions and assembling the evidence and building the narrative of corporate misbehavior, is best done in private. Major antitrust investigations typically last many months or years.

Sometimes, the companies themselves make disclosures about an investigation. Google, for example, said last Friday that its parent company, Alphabet, had received a mandatory request for information from the Justice Department concerning the company’s previous antitrust investigations.

The House document requests show that its staff has closely studied the companies.

The request sent to Google, for example, seeks communications to or from senior executives on a series of company moves including Google’s purchase of DoubleClick in 2008 and AdMob in 2011. Those acquisitions helped build up Google’s huge and lucrative ad business.

But House investigators want to see the executives’ communications on Google practices: One request is for communications on its policy on “whether non-Google companies can provide competing ad networks” and other services.

That part of the House inquiry echoes that of the states’ investigation of Google. The Texas state attorney general’s office, which is leading the states’ pursuit of the company, sent Google this week a lengthy demand for information on its ad business, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

But the House investigation is broader. Its request also touches other businesses including smartphone software, seeking information on Google’s purchase of Android in 2005.

The House requests are similarly detailed for the other companies. The Facebook document asks for extensive internal information about its acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, which were potentially emerging competitors until they were bought.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

‘Simply Unacceptable’: 145 Executives Demand Senate Action on Gun Violence

In a direct and urgent call to address gun violence in America, the chief executives of some of the nation’s best-known companies sent a letter to Senate leaders on Thursday, urging an expansion of background checks to all firearms sales and stronger “red flag” laws.

“Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the heads of 145 companies, including Levi Strauss, Twitter and Uber, say in the letter, which was shared with The New York Times.

The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.

The debate and the decision to sign — or not sign — are a case study in how chief executives must weigh their own views and the political risks to their businesses.

“To a certain extent, these C.E.O.s are putting their businesses on the line here, given how politically charged this is,” said Chip Bergh, chief executive of Levi Strauss, a company whose denim jeans have long been a symbol of America. Mr. Bergh spent the last several days trying to cajole his peers into joining him and gun control advocates like Everytown, which is funded in part by Michael Bloomberg. “Business leaders are not afraid to get engaged now,” he added. “C.E.O.s are wired to take action on things that are going to impact their business and gun violence is impacting everybody’s business now.”

Mr. Bergh said he was encouraged by the conversations. “The tide is turning,” he said, citing a spate of recent polls that show a majority of Americans in both parties support background checks and red flag laws. “People were starting to be much more open-minded,” he said, even when the discussion didn’t conclude with a signature.

Yet he is also bracing for a backlash. “This has been spun by the N.R.A. as we’re trying to repeal the Second Amendment,” Mr. Bergh said. “Nothing is further from the truth.”

The movement has gained momentum since last month, when a shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso killed 22 people. A day later, nine people were shot and killed in Dayton, Ohio.

“Gun violence in America is not inevitable; it’s preventable,” the business leaders wrote. “We need our lawmakers to support common-sense gun laws that could prevent tragedies like these.”

In addition to the expanded background checks, they are pressing the government to let federal courts issue temporary orders keeping guns out of the hands of people considered at risk of violence, under what is known as a red-flag law.

A week ago, Walmart, the largest retailer and employer in the country, wrote its own letter to Congress, pushing for a debate over reauthorizing an assault weapons ban. It also announced that it was removing certain ammunition and guns from its shelves and would discourage “open carry” in its stores. Other retailers followed suit by changing their open-carry policies, including Kroger, CVS, Walgreens and the Wegmans grocery chain.

Read more from Andrew Ross Sorkin on the gun debate
Walmart’s C.E.O. Steps Into the Gun Debate. Other C.E.O.s Should Follow.

Sept. 3, 2019

Westlake Legal Group merlin_138861399_eb31fe7d-2756-4d09-a85d-b147d7d9f84e-threeByTwoSmallAt2X ‘Simply Unacceptable’: 145 Executives Demand Senate Action on Gun Violence United States Politics and Government Uber Technologies Inc Salesforce.com Inc mass shootings Law and Legislation gun control Google Inc firearms Facebook Inc Debates (Political) Corporate Social Responsibility Bergh, Charles V
Dear Walmart C.E.O.: You Have the Power to Curb Gun Violence. Do It.

Aug. 5, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 05db-sorkin-guns2-threeByTwoSmallAt2X ‘Simply Unacceptable’: 145 Executives Demand Senate Action on Gun Violence United States Politics and Government Uber Technologies Inc Salesforce.com Inc mass shootings Law and Legislation gun control Google Inc firearms Facebook Inc Debates (Political) Corporate Social Responsibility Bergh, Charles V

The letter signers on Thursday include the leaders of Airbnb, the Gap, Pinterest, Lyft, the Brookfield Property Group and Royal Caribbean.

Missing from the list, however, are some of America’s biggest financial and technology companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, some of which debated internally whether to sign the letter.

Two companies that signed may raise eyebrows in Washington: Thrive Capital, whose founder, Joshua Kushner, is the brother of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, and Bain Capital, the private equity firm co-founded by Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah.

The letter is the latest example of the business community’s stepping into a sensitive political area — sometimes reluctantly — during the Trump presidency. Business leaders have criticized Mr. Trump’s immigration policy and his response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va. On guns, the president has on several occasions offered support for stronger firearms policies before stepping away.

Some of the letter signers plan to lobby lawmakers in Washington, but it is unclear how much money, if any, the companies may devote to this issue.

Some executives signed on without hesitation. Others mulled it, often creating a raucous debate inside their offices and among their boards of directors, only to decide that the political risk was too high. More than a half-dozen executives spoke about their deliberations on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of conversations.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook did not sign, although he told colleagues and peers that he agreed with stricter background checks, two people involved in the conversation said. With Facebook under federal scrutiny — and contending with a drumbeat of criticism from Republicans who contend that the company’s platform silences conservative voices — Mr. Zuckerberg has decided that activism on this issue would only intensify the spotlight on the company, these people said. Others inside Facebook made the case that it was a moral responsibility to press for more responsible gun sales laws.

Similar concerns were raised by the leadership at Google, whose YouTube unit was the site of a shooting last year. Google recently announced an internal policy that would make it hard for the company to consider signing the letter. That policy includes this line: “Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics.”

Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, signed. His company’s policy bans guns from its vehicles, either for drivers or passengers. Once he signed, Lyft, Uber’s main rival, signed as well.

Several executives said one of the biggest practical worries was whether taking such a stance would lead to in-store confrontations with angry customers carrying guns. Would they be putting their employees in danger or even just in an uncomfortable discussion about a divisive issue?

Even banks like Citigroup and Bank of America, which both publicly distanced themselves from gunmakers this year by ending lending and banking relationships with manufacturers, declined to sign the letter. After they made their positions public this year, the banks were rebuked by Republican lawmakers. Louisiana passed a law preventing the banks from working on bond offerings for the state.

“I personally believe the policies of these banks are an infringement on the rights of Louisiana citizens,” the state’s treasurer, John Schroder, said at the time. “No one can convince me that keeping these two banks in this competitive process is worth giving up our rights.”

For better or worse, business leaders are increasingly carving out positions on social issues. It’s not new — and the Hobby Lobby fight against the contraceptive provision of the Affordable Care Act shows us that such positioning does not confine itself to progressive causes — but it is growing.

In some cases, those maneuvers have happened out of necessity, as when top executives could not count on a strong response from Washington after the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That touched off a flurry of calls between some of the country’s top finance executives about how to handle a conference being hosted by Saudi Arabia, whose crown prince had been implicated in Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.

But over the last three years, businesses have become engaged on social issues like immigration, climate change and race in a way that would have been unfathomable a decade ago. On Thursday, businesses turned to the problem of gun violence.

The letter suggested that background checks on all gun sales were a “common-sense solution with overwhelming public support.” A number of polls have put backing for such policies above 90 percent.

The market is demanding action — and businesses are listening.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

145 Business Leaders Call on Congress to Act on Gun Violence

Westlake Legal Group 12DB-SORKIN-01-facebookJumbo 145 Business Leaders Call on Congress to Act on Gun Violence United States Politics and Government Uber Technologies Inc Salesforce.com Inc mass shootings Law and Legislation gun control Google Inc firearms Facebook Inc Debates (Political) Corporate Social Responsibility Bergh, Charles V

In a direct and urgent call to address gun violence in America, the chief executives of some of the nation’s best-known companies sent a letter to Senate leaders on Thursday, urging an expansion of background checks to all firearms sales and stronger “red flag” laws.

“Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the heads of 145 companies, including Levi Strauss, Twitter and Uber, say in the letter, which was shared with The New York Times.

The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.

The debate and the decision to sign — or not sign — are a case study in how chief executives must weigh their own views and the political risks to their businesses.

“To a certain extent, these C.E.O.s are putting their businesses on the line here, given how politically charged this is,” said Chip Bergh, chief executive of Levi Strauss, a company whose denim jeans have long been a symbol of America. Mr. Bergh spent the last several days trying to cajole his peers into joining him and gun control advocates like Everytown, which is funded in part by Michael Bloomberg. “Business leaders are not afraid to get engaged now,” he added. “C.E.O.s are wired to take action on things that are going to impact their business and gun violence is impacting everybody’s business now.”

Mr. Bergh said he was encouraged by the conversations. “The tide is turning,” he said, citing a spate of recent polls that show a majority of Americans in both parties support background checks and red flag laws. “People were starting to be much more open-minded,” he said, even when the discussion didn’t conclude with a signature.

Yet he is also bracing for a backlash. “This has been spun by the N.R.A. as we’re trying to repeal the Second Amendment,” Mr. Bergh said. “Nothing is further from the truth.”

The movement has gained momentum since last month, when a shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso killed 22 people. A day later, nine people were shot and killed in Dayton, Ohio.

“Gun violence in America is not inevitable; it’s preventable,” the business leaders wrote. “We need our lawmakers to support common-sense gun laws that could prevent tragedies like these.”

In addition to the expanded background checks, they are pressing the government to let federal courts issue temporary orders keeping guns out of the hands of people considered at risk of violence, under what is known as a red-flag law.

A week ago, Walmart, the largest retailer and employer in the country, wrote its own letter to Congress, pushing for a debate over reauthorizing an assault weapons ban. It also announced that it was removing certain ammunition and guns from its shelves and would discourage “open carry” in its stores. Other retailers followed suit by changing their open-carry policies, including Kroger, CVS, Walgreens and the Wegmans grocery chain.

The letter signers on Thursday include the leaders of Airbnb, the Gap, Pinterest, Lyft, the Brookfield Property Group and Royal Caribbean.

Missing from the list, however, are some of America’s biggest financial and technology companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, some of which debated internally whether to sign the letter.

Two companies that signed may raise eyebrows in Washington: Thrive Capital, whose founder, Joshua Kushner, is the brother of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, and Bain Capital, the private equity firm co-founded by Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah.

The letter is the latest example of the business community’s stepping into a sensitive political area — sometimes reluctantly — during the Trump presidency. Business leaders have criticized Mr. Trump’s immigration policy and his response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va. On guns, the president has on several occasions offered support for stronger firearms policies before stepping away.

Some of the letter signers plan to lobby lawmakers in Washington, but it is unclear how much money, if any, the companies may devote to this issue.

Some executives signed on without hesitation. Others mulled it, often creating a raucous debate inside their offices and among their boards of directors, only to decide that the political risk was too high. More than a half-dozen executives spoke about their deliberations on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of conversations.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook did not sign, although he told colleagues and peers that he agreed with stricter background checks, two people involved in the conversation said. With Facebook under federal scrutiny — and contending with a drumbeat of criticism from Republicans who contend that the company’s platform silences conservative voices — Mr. Zuckerberg has decided that activism on this issue would only intensify the spotlight on the company, these people said. Others inside Facebook made the case that it was a moral responsibility to press for more responsible gun sales laws.

Similar concerns were raised by the leadership at Google, whose YouTube unit was the site of a shooting last year. Google recently announced an internal policy that would make it hard for the company to consider signing the letter. That policy includes this line: “Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics.”

Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, signed. His company’s policy bans guns from its vehicles, either for drivers or passengers. Once he signed, Lyft, Uber’s main rival, signed as well.

Several executives said one of the biggest practical worries was whether taking such a stance would lead to in-store confrontations with angry customers carrying guns. Would they be putting their employees in danger or even just in an uncomfortable discussion about a divisive issue?

Even banks like Citigroup and Bank of America, which both publicly distanced themselves from gunmakers this year by ending lending and banking relationships with manufacturers, declined to sign the letter. After they made their positions public this year, the banks were rebuked by Republican lawmakers. Louisiana passed a law preventing the banks from working on bond offerings for the state.

“I personally believe the policies of these banks are an infringement on the rights of Louisiana citizens,” the state’s treasurer, John Schroder, said at the time. “No one can convince me that keeping these two banks in this competitive process is worth giving up our rights.”

For better or worse, business leaders are increasingly carving out positions on social issues. It’s not new — and the Hobby Lobby fight against the contraceptive provision of the Affordable Care Act shows us that such positioning does not confine itself to progressive causes — but it is growing.

In some cases, those maneuvers have happened out of necessity, as when top executives could not count on a strong response from Washington after the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That touched off a flurry of calls between some of the country’s top finance executives about how to handle a conference being hosted by Saudi Arabia, whose crown prince had been implicated in Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.

But over the last three years, businesses have become engaged on social issues like immigration, climate change and race in a way that would have been unfathomable a decade ago. On Thursday, businesses turned to the problem of gun violence.

The letter suggested that background checks on all gun sales were a “common-sense solution with overwhelming public support.” A number of polls have put backing for such policies above 90 percent.

The market is demanding action — and businesses are listening.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com