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Recode Daily: Facebook’s new petition feature could become its next controversial battlefield

Plus: Uber wants to develop e-scooters that can drive themselves back to be recharged; the Razzie Awards nominated Trump as “worst actor” — for playing himself; robosexuality.

Two mobile phone screens showing Facebook’s petition feature. Facebook

Gather a mob and Facebook will now let you make political demands. Facebook has launched a News Feed feature called Community Actions, which allows users to create, support and share petitions. But it could also provide vocal interest groups with a bully pulpit from which to pressure politicians and bureaucrats with their fringe agendas. The feature is largely designed for local and state issues; Facebook won’t allow users to tag President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence. Facebook says the new tool will be moderated using algorithms, human staff, and user flagging. The question will be where Facebook’s moderators draw the line on what’s appropriate as a Community Action, and the ensuing calls of bias that line may trigger. [Josh Constine / TechCrunch]

Chart of the Day: Facebook thinks the New York Times’ coverage of it has gotten more critical. It has.

WhatsApp will now limit users to forwarding a message only five times, in its global attempt to cut down on the spread of misinformation and rumors on its service. While fake stories and deceitful groups on Facebook have been the focus in the US, misinformation on WhatsApp, which has around 1.5 billion users, has become a problem elsewhere in the world. Prompted by a series of mob attacks and killings in India that were fueled by rumor-filled posts about child kidnappings, WhatsApp initially limited messages to being forwarded 20 times last July; before that, you could forward a message to up to 256 people.[Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge]

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The month-long government shutdown is forcing some companies to seek alternate routes to go public while the main markets regulator is unable to greenlight IPOs. Biotechnology companies Gossamer Bio and TCR2 Therapeutics have been exploring a little-used workaround that would let them begin trading without the usual Securities and Exchange Commission signoff; the move involves changing language in an IPO filing to make it automatically effective after 20 days. The attempts to move IPOs forward while the SEC remains closed highlight a growing concern that the shutdown, with no end in sight, is hurting businesses. If they don’t opt for the 20-day workaround, companies are left with no apparent way to go public — which is a threat to companies that need IPOs to drum up cash for their operations. [Dave Michaels, Corrie Driebusch, and Maureen Farrell / The Wall Street Journal]

Uber is hiring engineers to develop electric scooters and bicycles that can drive themselves around cities in order to reach customers and charging points. One of the biggest logistical challenges for companies renting out electric bikes and scooters — including Uber’s Jump business as well as competitors Bird and Lime — is how to keep the batteries charged. Some allow customers to collect the vehicles and then leave them on the pavement outside their destination. The businesses then pay contractors to collect, charge, and repair the scooters and bicycles overnight when they’re not in use. It’s a costly logistical operation that significantly reduces profits for the operators. [Timothy B. Lee / Ars Technica]

Donald Trump has bagged two nominations from the 2019 Razzie Awards — one for worst actor and another joint nomination for worst screen combo alongside “his self perpetuating pettiness.” His nominations come from his roles as himself in Dinesh D’Souza’s Death of a Nation and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9; his wife Melania Trump was nominated as worst actress from the same films. Meanwhile, the Academy Award nominations will be announced this morning at 8:20 am ET. [Katherine Schaffstall / The Hollywood Reporter]

Top stories from Recode

Elon Musk’s Boring Company fired five employees just one month after unveiling its first tunnel. At the same time, the company is currently hiring for a dozen-plus roles. [Jason Del Rey]

Talking about “the end of trust” with McSweeney’s editor Claire Boyle and EFF boss Cindy Cohn. On the latest Recode Decode, they talk about teaming up to produce a special privacy-themed edition of the quarterly magazine. [Kara Swisher]

This is cool

It’s time for a frank talk about robosexuality.

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