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Recode Daily: This could be the beginning of the end for Facebook’s social network

Plus, Airbnb makes a major acquisition, Huawei heats up its battle with the US government, and Facebook finally draws the line on anti-vaccination content.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Justin Sullivan / Getty

Here’s what Facebook’s new focus on private messaging means. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement that the future of communication is in “private, encrypted services” is a big shift in the company’s public thinking about its core set of products. As Recode’s Kurt Wagner writes, “Intimate, encrypted, private messaging services like WhatsApp and Messenger are in. Facebook’s semi-public, not-very-private News Feed is out.” While the company won’t be able to drop its moneymaking News Feed any time soon, “this feels like the beginning of the end for Facebook’s social network.” [Kurt Wagner / Recode]

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Airbnb is acquiring hotel booking app HotelTonight. Airbnb announced it’s acquiring discount hotel booking app HotelTonight — a company that was recently valued at $463 million. The major deal solidifies Airbnb’s status as a top player in the hotel and travel industry, one that’s no longer a “mere platform for wayward travelers looking for a spare room in an off-beat home.” The challenge ahead of its hotly anticipated IPO is whether Airbnb is able to “maintain the mission that made it a $30 billion company in the first place”: a company that is intent on changing — not becoming — the hotel industry. [Teddy Schleifer / Recode]

Huawei is suing the US government over a law that bans federal agencies from buying the company’s products. Chinese tech behemoth Huawei — one of the world’s top smartphone makers — is fighting back, arguing that the ban on their products violates the US Constitution by singling out an individual or group for punishment without trial. For years, the US has put restrictions on government use of Chinese telecommunications products over security concerns, which the company denies are legitimate. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Huawei Chairman Guo Ping said the ban “not only is unlawful, but also restricts Huawei from engaging in fair competition, ultimately harming US consumers.” [Sherisse Pham and Julia Horowitz / CNN]

Facebook is finally making moves to limit the spread of anti-vaccination posts and hoaxes. Amid rising public criticism, Facebook made the call not to show Pages and Groups that spread anti-vaccination conspiracies in users’ search results. Although it’s better late than never, some are asking what took Facebook so long. As Recode’s Kurt Wagner explains, “sharing things that are false on Facebook — so-called fake news — is not actually against the company’s terms of service,” but content that causes “immediate harm” is. Anti-vaccination misinformation “appears to fall somewhere in the middle” so “Facebook is taking extra steps to fight it.” Anti-vaccination theories are a public health concern, especially with a growing measles outbreak spreading through Washington state. [Kurt Wagner/ Recode]

Russia is cracking down on internet freedoms, under the guise of policing “fake news.” A new law passed the Duma, or lower house of Russia’s parliament, imposing fines of up to $15,000 for posting “fake news” on social platforms and imposing jail time for offenses such as spreading information online that demonstrates “disrespect for society, the state, [and] state symbols of the Russian Federation” — including of President Vladimir Putin. Free-speech advocates and media watchers have expressed alarm over a move seen as intended to chill criticism of the state at a time when Russia appears to be moving away from an open internet toward a state-policed China-style model. [James Griffiths and Nathan Hodge / CNN]


We all know Kara Swisher talks tech. But this year, at South By Southwest, she and Peter Kafka have a few surprises up their sleeves. Whether chopping it up with Kathy Griffin, sliding into the shark tank with Mark Cuban, or grilling presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the two Recode heavyweights are bringing their A-game to Austin. The two, along with Pivot co-host Scott Galloway, will be live podcasting in Austin at Vox Media’s The Deep End March 8 through 10 and at several SXSW events over the weekend. If you’re in Austin, please join us for free at The Belmont for The Deep End events. Can’t make it to Austin? We’ll be covering all our interviews on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Each interview will also be featured as a podcast episode. So subscribe to Recode Decode, Recode Media, and Pivot to catch them all. Find Kara and Peter’s full schedule of events here.

Top stories from Recode

Resy, the high-end restaurant reservation rival to OpenTable, is about to be sold. The popular app for booking hip restaurant reservations is about to be acquired, multiple sources tell Recode. [Theodore Schleifer and Jason Del Rey]

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer says Congress should investigate if Trump ordered the DOJ’s AT&T-Time Warner lawsuit. Mayer recently published a bombshell investigation into the links between Fox News and the Trump White House. When she heard about the alleged incident, she says on Recode Media, “my jaw dropped.” [Peter Kafka]

This is cool

Here’s how San Francisco’s soon-to-be IPO millionaires plan to spend their riches.

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