Updates on social media platforms and tech giants 2022

January 21, 2023 | 12:32pm
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Updates on social media platforms and tech giants 2022
January 21, 2023

Mexican authorities are warning about the dangers of a viral TikTok challenge that has left school students intoxicated after taking a controlled medication.

With the slogan "The last one to fall asleep wins," the challenge consists of trying to stay awake after taking clonazepam, a drug used to treat seizures, panic attacks and anxiety.

A side effect of the drug is drowsiness. — AFP

December 29, 2022

According to tracking sites Downdetector.com and Netblocks, thousands of Twitter users reported an outage on Wednesday, but the issue appeared to be resolving, with error messages and missing tweets reappearing.

At the peak of the outage, at about 0035 GMT, DownDetector says more than 10,000 people reported problems with the platform, which is now owned by the mercurial billionaire Elon Musk.

AFP journalists in the United States and Asia were among those experiencing difficulties. — AFP

December 28, 2022

Chinese regulators approve 44 new foreign video game titles Wednesday, the first to be allowed to hit the market since an industry crackdown to rein in minors' gaming habits swept the sector last year. 

Beijing moved against the country's vibrant gaming sector last August as part of a sprawling crackdown on big tech companies, including a cap on the amount of time children could spend playing games.

Officials also froze approvals of new titles for nine months until April, but a growing number of domestic titles have been approved since then.

China's gaming regulator, the National Press and Publication Administration, on Wednesday said it had approved 44 new imported games in December including Nintendo's Pokemon Unite.  -- AFP

December 23, 2022

Chinese tech giant ByteDance says its employees of Chinese tech giant ByteDance improperly accessed data from social media platform TikTok to track journalists in a bid to identify the source of leaks to the media. 

TikTok has gone to great lengths to convince customers and governments of major markets like the United States that users' data privacy is protected and that it poses no threat to national security.

But parent company ByteDance told AFP on Friday that several staffers accessed two journalists' data as part of an internal probe into leaks of company information to the media. 

They had hoped to identify links between staff and a Financial Times reporter and a former BuzzFeed journalist, an email from ByteDance's general counsel Erich Andersen seen by AFP said.

Both journalists previously reported on the contents of leaked company materials. — AFP

December 19, 2022

TikTok's Chinese owner denied on Monday setting up a subsidiary company in Taiwan after the island's authorities said they were investigating the social media app for running "illegal operations".

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's top China policy-making body, said the cabinet had requested a multi-agency investigation during a meeting on security issues posed by TikTok earlier this month.

The case was also forwarded to prosecutors for investigation after a local company allegedly engaged in business activities in Taiwan on behalf of ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese parent firm, MAC said without elaborating.

Chinese internet and social media platforms are banned from operating businesses in Taiwan under local laws.

ByteDance said on Monday it had no presence in Taiwan. -- AFP

December 19, 2022

Taiwan has launched a probe into an allegedly illegal subsidiary set up by TikTok on the island as it warned the Chinese-owned social media app was a security risk.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's top China policy-making body, said the cabinet had requested a multi-agency investigation during a meeting on security issues posed by TikTok earlier this month.

The "illegal operations" case was also forwarded to prosecutors for investigation after a local company allegedly engaged in business activities in Taiwan on behalf of ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese parent firm, MAC said without elaborating.

"In recent years, China has used TikTok and other short videos to conduct cognitive operations to infiltrate other countries," MAC said in a statement issued late Sunday.

"There is also a high risk of users' personal information being collected for the Chinese government." — AFP

December 16, 2022

Google rivals unveil a project to make freely available data sets for map features to be built into online offerings.

Alphabet-owned Google dominates online mapping, selling its services to other companies or platforms and using location and navigation capabilities to enhance its other offerings, including online advertising.

Meta, Microsoft, TomTom and Amazon Web Services have now introduced what they call the Overture Maps Foundation, the goal of which is to make comprehensive mapping data openly available for use by whoever may need it, the nonprofit Linux Foundation says in a release. — AFP

December 15, 2022

Google says Thursday it does not manipulate search results, after Hong Kong's government said the tech giant had refused its demand to remove a popular protest song.

The controversy began after it emerged that links to the pro-democracy song "Glory to Hong Kong" appeared ahead of China's official "March of the Volunteers" when people searched for the city's anthem.

The song was accidentally played for Hong Kong athletes at two international sports events last month, prompting the demand from the Chinese city to remove it from search results. — AFP

December 6, 2022

An oversight panel said on Tuesday Facebook and Instagram put business over human rights when giving special treatment to rule-breaking posts by politicians, celebrities and other high-profile users.

A year-long probe by an independent "top court" created by the tech firm ended with it calling for the overhaul of a system known as "cross-check" that shields elite users from Facebook's content rules.

"While Meta told the board that cross-check aims to advance Meta's human rights commitments, we found that the program appears more directly structured to satisfy business concerns," the panel said in a report.

"By providing extra protection to certain users selected largely according to business interests, cross-check allows content which would otherwise be removed quickly to remain up for a longer period, potentially causing harm."

Cross-check is implemented in a way that does not meet Meta's human rights responsibilities, according to the board.

Meta told the board the program is intended to provide an additional layer of human review to posts by high-profile users that initially appear to break rules for content, the report indicated.

That has resulted in posts that would have been immediately removed being left up during a review process that could take days or months, according to the report. -- AFP

November 30, 2022

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has been living in Tokyo for almost six months after disappearing from public view following China's crackdown on the tech sector, the Financial Times reported Wednesday, citing multiple unnamed sources.

The billionaire has kept a low profile since the crackdown, which has included Chinese regulators scrapping the IPO of Ma's Ant Group and issuing Alibaba with record fines.

But the FT said he has spent much of the past six months with his family in Tokyo and other parts of Japan, along with visits to the United States and Israel.

The British newspaper said Ma has frequented several private members' clubs in Tokyo, and become an "enthusiastic collector" of Japanese modern art, as well as exploring expanding his business interests into sustainability.

Ma has been spotted elsewhere since he effectively disappeared from public view in China, including on the Spanish island of Mallorca last year. -- AFP

November 29, 2022

Twitter owner Elon Musk opens fire against Apple over its tight control of what is allowed on the App Store, saying the iPhone maker has threatened to oust his recently acquired social media platform.

Musk also joined the chorus crying foul over a 30-percent fee Apple collects on transactions via its App Store — the sole gateway for applications to get onto its billion plus mobile devices.

A series of tweets fired off by Musk included a meme of a car with his first name on it veering onto a highway off-ramp labeled "Go to War," instead of continuing onwards towards "Pay 30%."

The billionaire CEO also tweeted that Apple has "threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why."

Apple did not immediately reply to an AFP request for comment.  — AFP

November 24, 2022

European Union justice commissioner Didier Reynders will travel to Ireland on Thursday to meet executives from Twitter and Facebook's owner Meta and remind them of their responsibilities under EU rules.

Sources in Reynders's office told AFP he would be in Dublin on Thursday and Friday and will meet both big tech and Irish officials, including Justice Minister Helen McEntee.   

The social media giants' EU operations are based in Ireland, and Brussels is worried that a wave of job losses will undermine their content moderation and data protection standards.  — AFP 

November 15, 2022

Google agrees to settle a landmark privacy case with 40 US states over accusations that the search engine giant misled users into believing location tracking had been switched off on their devices.

A statement says it was the largest multi-state privacy settlement by state authorities in US history and included a binding commitment for improved disclosures by Google.

"Digital platforms like Google cannot claim to provide privacy controls to users then turn around and disregard those controls to collect and sell data to advertisers against users' express wishes -- and at great profit," says New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin in the statement.

The rare joint lawsuit by 40 states grew from impatience over the failure of federal authorities to crack down on big tech amid legislative gridlock in Washington. — AFP

November 10, 2022

Apple limits file-sharing for Chinese iPhone users Thursday, a month after reports that anti-government protesters were using the function to share digital leaflets with strangers.

Under the update to the AirDrop function, users of smartphones sold by Apple in China can only opt in to receive files from non-contacts for a 10-minute window before it automatically shuts off. The feature did not previously have a time limit.

The update, rolled out in the operating system released overnight, makes it virtually impossible to receive unexpected files from strangers. — AFP

November 9, 2022

Facebook owner Meta will lay off more than 11,000 of its staff in "the most difficult changes we've made in Meta's history", boss Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday. 

"I want to take accountability for these decisions and for how we got here. I know this is tough for everyone, and I'm especially sorry to those impacted," he said in a message to staff. — AFP

November 8, 2022

Nintendo raised its full-year net profit forecast to 400 billion yen ($2.7 billion) on Tuesday, citing the weak yen and strong software sales. 

The Japanese gaming giant previously estimated net profits for the year to March 2023 would total 340 billion yen. It also reported Tuesday that net profit for the half-year from April to September jumped 34.1 percent to 230 billion yen. -- AFP

November 7, 2022

Facebook-parent Meta will become the latest tech firm to scale back its workforce, with plans to layoff thousands of employees this week, US media report.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that the layoffs could impact "many thousands" of Meta employees and that an announcement was expected as soon as Wednesday.

As of September 30, Meta had about 87,000 employees worldwide across its different platforms, which include social media sites Facebook and Instagram as well as messaging platform Whatsapp.

In his announcement of Meta's disappointing third quarter results, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the firm's staff would not increase by the end of 2023, and might decrease slightly. 

The latest plans from Meta follow recent announcements by other tech firms to freeze hiring or cut their workforce as the industry fights economic headwinds. — AFP

November 4, 2022

Election misinformation is spreading on TikTok ahead of the US midterms despite the company's policies -- and watchdogs are concerned about its effect on young voters as more Americans use the platform as a source of news.

Posts spreading unfounded claims of voter fraud, falsehoods about mail-in ballots and misleading videos about different state laws have found a home on the immensely popular app. 

Perhaps more troubling: TikTok has approved paid political advertisements containing blatant misinformation, a practice the company said in 2019 it had banned. — AFP

November 3, 2022

The White House says it deleted a tweet after Twitter users flagged the post as lacking context.

In its tweet, the White House said that it was "thanks to President Biden's leadership" that US pensioners had received the biggest benefit hike in 10 years. 

But a note by Twitter generated by users argued that the boost was in fact due to an automatic adjustment triggered by high inflation -- a mechanism that has existed since 1972. — AFP

November 1, 2022

Elon Musk has become Twitter's sole director after finalizing his $44 billion purchase of the social media site and dissolving its corporate board, documents filed Monday with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed.

The documents state that the "consummation of the Merger" occurred on October 27, at which point "Mr. Musk became the sole director of Twitter," while the entire board, including CEO Parag Agrawal, were let go.

When he made his initial buyout offer in April, Musk -- also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX -- stated that he intended to remove Twitter from the public market, after which fewer public disclosures would be required. — AFP

October 31, 2022

New Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted an anti-LGBT conspiracy theory Sunday about what happened the night US Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband was attacked, then hours later deleted the post.

The seesaw action by Musk, a self-declared "free speech absolutist," cast new uncertainty on the direction the social media platform will take under his new ownership. It also underscored the huge megaphone Musk now has at his disposal.

Musk early Sunday tweeted a response to Hillary Clinton, who posted a news story about the alleged attacker's links to the far right.

"There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye," Musk told Clinton, attaching a link to the story, which is no longer accessible, by the conservative Santa Monica Observer.

Musk may have had second thoughts about the tweet because around noon a message appeared, "This Tweet was deleted by the Tweet author." By then, Musk's tweet had been liked 110,000 times, the online Semafor news site said. — AFP

October 30, 2022

First, Elon Musk revolutionized the automobile industry, then he tackled space travel. By taking control of Twitter, the eccentric billionaire now wields a nearly untold level of influence.

In using his fortune to grab hold of such an important platform, experts say, he has even inserted himself squarely in today's global political conversation.

"He is not just expressing views on an instrument of communication, he now owns it and sets the policy of how that instrument will be used," Jeffrey Winters, a specialist in elites and oligarchs at Northwestern University, told AFP.  

The question now is what he will do with that power, starting with the topic on everyone's mind: Whether or not Musk will allow former US president Donald Trump to return to the site. 

Without anyone to answer to, Musk "is going to change the constellation of political voices that are going to be expressed through Twitter," Winters said.  -- AFP

October 28, 2022

Elon Musk took control of Twitter and fired its top executives, US media report late Thursday, hours before the deadline for the billionaire to seal his on-again, off-again deal to purchase the social media network.

Musk's initial moves at Twitter's helm included firing chief executive Parag Agrawal, who went to court to hold the Tesla chief to the terms of a takeover deal he had tried to escape, the Washington Post and CNBC report citing unnamed sources.

Musk had a court-imposed Friday deadline to complete the Twitter deal he inked in April. — AFP

October 27, 2022

Elon Musk looks set to meet a Friday deadline to seal his on-again, off-again deal to buy Twitter, avoiding a trial over the $44 billion contract that he admits is overpriced.

After he sought to terminate the sale, Twitter filed a lawsuit to hold Musk to the agreement he inked in April to purchase the social media giant.

With a trial looming, the unpredictable billionaire capitulated and revived his takeover plan.

Musk signaled the deal was on track Wednesday by changing his Twitter profile to "Chief Twit" and posting a video of himself walking into the company's California headquarters carrying a sink.

"Let that sink in!" he quipped.

"I think on Friday, we'll get an announcement that says that Elon Musk has purchased Twitter," University of California, Berkeley, law professor Adam Badawi told AFP.

-- AFP

October 25, 2022

US tech giant Meta confirmed a global outage was affecting its messaging service WhatsApp on Tuesday and said it was working to restore the app "as quickly as possible".

"We're aware that some people are currently having trouble sending messages and we're working to restore WhatsApp for everyone as quickly as possible," a Meta spokesman told AFP.

Problems with the hugely popular service were reported by monitoring site Downdetector and user complaints on social media on Tuesday morning.

Downdetector said thousands of WhatsApp users had been reporting problems since 0717 GMT, with a sharp spike appearing on its dedicated chart covering the past 24 hours.

Social media users said they were unable to connect to the app or send messages, although some reported a restoration of the service at around 0850 GMT. — AFP

October 23, 2022

Best-selling German author Sarah Sprinz's series of young adult books has received a boost from an unlikely quarter: a community of literary enthusiasts on social media platform TikTok.

The #BookTok trend has exploded in recent times, with a growing number of readers posting reviews and engaging with writers, while authors use it to promote their works.

To some, it seems counter-intuitive -- a platform known for short and often light-hearted videos is not the obvious place to encourage an activity like reading that requires deep concentration.

But videos with the hashtag have racked up billions of views, and helped to propel the popularity of some works, while bookshops are rushing to set up stands where creators can film videos.

The trend "is super important for me", Sprinz -- author of the hit "Dunbridge Academy" series, set in a boarding school in Scotland -- told AFP in an interview at the Frankfurt book fair.

"Personally for me, I believe it played a role (in my success), because I have seen a lot of videos recommending my books."

The trend, which often sees creators post emotionally charged reviews of books, has been particularly effective in attracting a new audience of younger readers, said Sprinz.

"I think it is nice that through TikTok, a completely new, younger target audience is becoming aware of reading," said the 26-year-old. -- AFP

October 20, 2022

Elon Musk says he is "excited" about taking over Twitter, expressing enthusiasm even though he's spent months trying to break free of the $44 billion buyout contract.

A US judge early this month suspended litigation in the saga over Musk's proposed takeover of Twitter, giving the parties until October 28 to finalize the on-again, off-again megadeal.

Twitter had filed a lawsuit to hold Musk to the terms of the deal he inked in April after the Tesla chief sent word he was terminating the contract.

"I'm excited about the Twitter situation," Musk says while fielding questions on a Tesla quarterly earnings call. — AFP

October 18, 2022

Social network Parler announces a deal for Kanye West to buy the platform popular with US conservatives, just over a week after the rapper's Twitter and Instagram accounts were restricted over anti-Semitic posts.

West -- now known as Ye -- has recently alienated fans and business partners with anti-Semitic comments, interest in racist conspiracy theories and wearing a provocative "White Lives Matter" T-shirt at Paris fashion week.

"In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves," the billionaire artist and fashion mogul says in a statement released by Parler. — AFP

October 12, 2022

Russia adds US tech giant Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, to a list of "terrorist and extremist" organizations, according to a database of the Federal Service for Financial Monitoring (Rosfinmonitoring). 

Russia in late March banned Facebook and Instagram for "carrying out extremist activities" after authorities accused Meta of tolerating "Russophobia" during Russia's military campaign in Ukraine.

Meta had announced on March 10 that the platforms would allow statements like "death to Russian invaders" but not credible threats against civilians, before saying the change only applied to users posting from inside Ukraine. — AFP

October 11, 2022

Russia adds Meta to list of 'terrorist and extremist' organizations — AFP

October 8, 2022

Meta warns a million Facebook users that they have been "exposed" to seemingly innocuous smartphone applications designed to steal passwords to the social network.

So far this year, Meta has identified more than 400 "malicious" apps tailored for smartphones powered by Apple or Android software and available at the Apple and Google app stores, director of threat disruption David Agranovich said during a briefing.

"These apps were listed on the Google Play Store and Apple's App Store and disguised as photo editors, games, VPN services, business apps and other utilities to trick people into downloading them," Meta says in a blog post. — AFP

October 7, 2022

A US judge suspends litigation in the saga over Elon Musk's proposed $44-billion takeover of Twitter, giving the parties until October 28 to finalize the on-again, off-again megadeal.

Delaware Judge Kathaleen McCormick, ruling on a Musk request to freeze the case that had drawn a biting retort from Twitter, says a trial originally scheduled to begin in 11 days could be rescheduled for next month if a deal is not finalized.

"If the transaction does not close by 5 pm on October 28, 2022, the parties are instructed to contact me by email that evening to obtain November 2022 trial dates," McCormick says in the order. — AFP

October 5, 2022

Elon Musk has offered to push through with his buyout of Twitter at the original agreed price, reports say, prompting a surge in the share price of the social network that triggered a suspension of trading.

US media say the world's richest man had sent a letter to Twitter vowing to honor the original buyout price of $54.20 a share -– a U-turn on his effort to terminate the deal that saw Twitter take Musk to court in a case due to be heard later this month.

Shares were halted soon after the Bloomberg report citing unnamed sources near midday. — AFP

September 29, 2022

Facebook should pay reparations to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas forced from their homes in Myanmar in a campaign exacerbated by rampant online hate speech, Amnesty International says in a report Thursday.

The Rohingyas, a mainly Muslim minority, were targeted by Myanmar's military rulers in 2017 and driven into neighboring Bangladesh, where they have since lived in sprawling refugee camps.

Victims' associations and rights advocates say the violence was ramped up by Facebook's algorithms, saying they play up extremist content that encourages harmful disinformation and hate speech. — AFP

September 28, 2022

Twitter and Elon Musk spar in court, each digging for evidence to prevail in a high-stakes trial next month over the billionaire's bid to break his buyout deal.

Musk has been keen to find evidence to back his accusation that Twitter misled regulators and investors about what portion of accounts are actually spam or software "bots," as well as its key measures regarding growth.

Twitter, which has sued Musk to force him to complete the $44 billion buyout deal, seeks material or testimony to prove he is contriving excuses to walk away because he changed his mind. — AFP

September 16, 2022

Indonesia has launched an anti-trust investigation into Google over the etch firm's insistence that its payment system be used for purchases from its app store, authorities say, accusing it of unfair business practices.

The US internet giant has been under legal scrutiny in a number of countries over its stipulation that its billing system be used by all buyers on Google Play.

Authorities in Jakarta say in a statement they suspected "Google has abused its dominant position by imposing conditional sales and discriminatory practices in digital application distribution in Indonesia".

Google Play is the largest app distribution platform in Indonesia, a country of around 270 million people. — AFP

September 14, 2022

South Korea has fined Google and Meta more than $71 million collectively for gathering users' personal information without consent for tailored ads, regulators said Wednesday, the country's highest-ever data protection fines.

Investigations into the two US tech giants found they had been "collecting and analysing" data on their users, and monitoring their use of websites and applications, the Personal Information Protection Commission said.

The data was used to "infer the users' interests or used for customised online advertisements", it said, adding that neither Google nor Meta had clearly informed South Korean users of this practice or obtained their consent in advance.

As a result, Google was fined 69.2 billion won ($49.7 million) and Meta 30.8 billion won ($22.1 million).

"It is the largest fine for the violation of the Personal Information Protection Act," the commission said in a statement.

Regulators said the majority of the users in South Korea -- 82 percent for Google and 98 percent for Meta -- had unknowingly allowed them to collect data on their online use. -- AFP

September 14, 2022

Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko tells the US Congress that the platform ignored his security concerns, with his testimony coming as company shareholders greenlit Elon Musk's $44 billion takeover deal.

The shareholder decision clears the way for the contract to close, even as billionaire Musk tries to exit it. Twitter has sued him to force it through, but analysts said testimony by Zatko, the social network's former security chief, will put more pressure on the company as it heads to court next month.

"I'm here today because Twitter leadership is misleading the public, lawmakers, regulators and even its own board of directors," Zatko, a hacker widely known as "Mudge", tells the hearing.

He says that, during his time as head of security for the platform from late 2020 until his dismissal in January this year, he tried alerting management to grave vulnerabilities to hacking or data theft -- but to no avail.

"They don't know what data they have, where it lives, or where it came from. And so, unsurprisingly, they can't protect it," Zatko says during his opening remarks to the Judiciary Committee. — AFP

September 10, 2022

Elon Musk adds a severance payment made by Twitter to a whistleblower to the list of reasons he feels entitled to walk away from his $44 billion deal to buy the social media platform.

A termination letter sent to Twitter accused the firm of not informing him about a multi-million dollar severance payment it made in June to departing security chief Peiter Zatko, who went on to file a whistleblower complaint criticizing Twitter's security practices, according to a copy of the letter filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Musk's lawyers argue that failing to seek his consent before paying Zatko provides another legal basis to break the merger deal with Twitter he inked in April.

Twitter disagrees.

"My friend seems to be arguing that Twitter should have gratuitously told Musk that there existed a disgruntled former employee who made various allegations that had been inquired upon and found to be without merit," Twitter attorney William Savitt said earlier this week. — AFP

September 7, 2022

It's not all sunsets and selfie smiles -- people are flocking to a new social network app that calls on users to share true glimpses of their lives rather than cherry-picked moments.

Once a day, BeReal simultaneously prompts users to take photos of what they are doing, giving them two minutes. The app uses front and rear facing cameras on phones, putting shared "selfies" into context.

The app shuns software filters that add glossy special effects or touch-up effects.

The approach is a sharp contrast to the carefully cultivated images common on Instagram and Facebook that often focus on parties, holidays, fancy food and perfect weather. — AFP

August 30, 2022

Elon Musk has formally subpoenaed a Twitter whistleblower to share information about spam accounts at the social network, as the billionaire fights in court to back out of a massive buyout deal.

Musk has tried to pull out of the $44 billion agreement by saying Twitter misled him on the number of false accounts, or bots, prompting strong denials and a lawsuit from the social media firm.

The Tesla boss hopes that allegations made by the former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko, about major security gaps and problematic practices at the firm, will bolster his case.

According to court documents made public on Monday, Musk's attorneys served Zatko with a subpoena Saturday demanding he share any documents or messages regarding the impact of spam and false accounts on Twitter's activity, dating back to January 2019. — AFP

August 28, 2022

Facebook has reached a preliminary agreement in a long-running lawsuit seeking damages from the social network for allowing third parties, including the company Cambridge Analytica, to access users' private data. 

According to a document filed Friday in a San Francisco court, Facebook says it is submitting a draft "agreement in principle" and has requested a stay of proceedings for 60 days finalize it. 

The social network did not indicate the amount or terms of the agreement in the class action. 

When asked by AFP, Facebook's parent company Meta did not respond on Saturday. 

The deal comes as Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg and former chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who announced her resignation in June, were due to testify in court in September as part of the scandal.  — AFP

August 26, 2022

Elon Musk's SpaceX satellites will connect directly to T-Mobile cellphones to provide service access even in the most remote places beyond the reach of cell towers from next year, the two companies announce Thursday.

The new service, which will work on existing cellphones and utilize SpaceX's network of thousands of Starlink satellites in Earth's orbit, will begin offering text messaging services from late 2023, with voice calls and data services expected to follow later.

"The important thing about this is that it means there's no dead zones anywhere in the world for your cell phone," says Musk, in an announcement event held at SpaceX's Starbase facility in Texas.

Musk says the service will save lives, giving the example of hikers who get lost and are currently unable to call for help.

"We will no longer read about these tragedies that happened where people get lost and if only they could have called for help they would be OK." — AFP

August 23, 2022

Elon Musk has served former Twitter boss Jack Dorsey with a subpoena in a hunt for material to help him get out of buying the giant social media platform for $44 billion as agreed.

Records made public on Monday show Dorsey was served with a legal order to give Musk any communications or documents related to the takeover deal inked in April, as well as information touching on false or spam accounts or how Twitter calculates the number of its active users.

The subpoena asks for anything Dorsey has on the topics dating back to January of 2019. — AFP

August 18, 2022

TikTok rolls out its battle plan against the deluge of misinformation expected to accompany the upcoming US midterm elections, a problem tech firms largely decide themselves how to handle.

The November contest that will decide who controls Congress will generate innocently shared false information as well as deliberate attempts to mislead on the major social media networks -- which have begun announcing how they will fight back.

TikTok began reminding users that its ban on political ads includes videos that people are paid to create for the platform, head of US safety Eric Han says in a blog post. — AFP

August 16, 2022

Chinese tech giants including Alibaba, Tencent and ByteDance have submitted details to a state regulator of algorithms used in some of their products, in an unprecedented move as authorities strengthen oversight of the sector.

The country's internet watchdog on Friday published a list of 30 algorithms that companies use to gather information on users and promote content or services.

Algorithms used by tech companies are closely guarded globally but in March China rolled out regulations obliging firms to disclose these tools as concerns grow about data misuse.

Beijing has in recent years embarked on a wide-ranging clampdown on the tech sector, which saw years of runaway growth and the emergence of supersized monopolies before regulators stepped in.

The rules issued in March require companies to ensure they will not engage in activities that may threaten national security, social stability or encourage over-indulgence, said Angel. — AFP

August 9, 2022

Tens of thousands of users reported being unable to access various Google services on Monday night, according to outage monitor Downdetector.

"User reports indicate Google Maps is having problems since 9:36 PM EDT (0136 GMT)," Downdetector tweeted.

More than 40,000 users, including in New York City and Denver, Colorado, reported disruptions when trying to use Google's services, particularly the maps and search engine.

After around two hours, reports of the outage began tapering, but a small number of users continued to report trouble accessing Google's cloud and calendar functions, according to Downdetector.

"We're aware of a software update issue that occurred late this afternoon Pacific Time and briefly affected availability of Google Search and Maps, and we apologize for the inconvenience," a Google spokesperson said.  

"We worked to quickly address the issue and our services are now back online." -- AFP

August 6, 2022

Elon Musk has accused Twitter of fraud, alleging the social media platform misled him about key aspects of its business before he agreed to a $44 billion buyout, as their court fight heats up.

The Tesla boss lodged the claim as he fights back against Twitter's lawsuit seeking to force him to close the deal, which he has tried to cancel.

Musk argues in the filing to a Delaware court that the number of users actually shown advertising on the platform is about 65 million lower than the firm's 238 million figure.

"Twitter's disclosures have slowly unraveled, with Twitter frantically closing the gates on information in a desperate bid to prevent the Musk Parties from uncovering its fraud," the claim alleges. — AFP

July 30, 2022

Elon Musk files claims against Twitter as he fights back against the tech firm's lawsuit demanding he be held to his $44 billion buyout deal.

Musk's counter-suit was submitted along with a legal defense against Twitter's claim that the billionaire is contractually bound to complete the deal he inked in April to buy Twitter, the Chancery Court in the state of Delaware said in a notice.

The 164-page filing was submitted as being "confidential," meaning the documents were not accessible by the public, the notice indicated. — AFP

July 29, 2022

Instagram will pause features that users have campaigned against and complained make the social network too much like TikTok, according to a report in the Platformer tech newsletter.

Celebrity sisters Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner were some of the most vocal users to have posted messages on social media this week calling for the company to "make Instagram Instagram again" and stop trying to be like TikTok.

The slogan sprang from a change.org petition that had received more than 229,000 signatures as of late Thursday. — AFP

July 29, 2022

Tech giants Amazon and Apple deliver forecast-topping results, offering some reassurance to an earnings period weighed down by inflation, economic turmoil and war.

A crowded period of results from the world's biggest tech firms has been marked by misses and uncertainty -- making it clear that the pandemic-era boom has tipped toward downturn.

Amazon beat sales estimates to reach $121 billion in the quarter, and revenue climbed at its cloud-computing platform Amazon Web Services, which brought in $5.7 billion. The market responded with a 12-percent jump in after-hours trading.

For Apple, product sales tallied $63.4 billion in a drop from the same period a year earlier, but the dip was more than made up for by services revenue that climbed to $19.6 billion, earnings figures show. — AFP

July 21, 2022

Instagram is now the most popular news source among UK teenagers, followed by TikTok and YouTube, according to a report published by media watchdog Ofcom on Thursday.

Nearly three in 10 teenagers used Instagram as their news source in 2022, with TikTok and YouTube both on 28%.

Only a quarter of teens receive their news from BBC One and BBC Two, traditionally the most popular sources among teens, down from 45% five years ago, according to online polling.

BBC One is still the most-used news source among all online adults but those numbers have also fallen by six percent. -- AFP

July 21, 2022

China has fined ride-hailing giant Didi 8 billion yuan ($1.2 billion), regulators announced Thursday, concluding a year-long investigation into alleged data security violations.

The probe found "conclusive evidence" that Didi had committed violations of an "egregious nature", the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a statement.

It accused Didi of illegally storing the ID information of more than 57 million drivers in plain text instead of a more secure format.

The regulator said the firm also analyzed passenger details without their knowledge -- including photos on their mobile phones and facial recognition data.

"Even when regulatory authorities ordered corrections, comprehensive and in-depth corrections were not carried out," the CAC said, adding Didi's violations took place over seven years starting June 2015.

Didi has been one of the highest-profile targets of a widespread clampdown on China's tech sector, which saw years of runaway growth and the emergence of supersized monopolies before regulators stepped in. 

The fine amounts to more than four percent of its $27.3 billion total revenue last year.

"We sincerely accept this decision (and will) resolutely obey it," Didi said in a statement on social media. -- AFP

July 14, 2022

Twitter shares jumped Wednesday after a hedge fund revealed it had taken a stake in the firm based on its "strong case" against Elon Musk for moving to back out of his $44 billion buyout bid.

Stocks in the social media platform, which sued Tuesday to force the mercurial billionaire to stick to the deal, are up around eight percent in trading.

The hedge fund, Hindenburg Research, took a "significant" stake in Twitter, but one which is below the five percent line that requires reporting to US market watchdog Securities and Exchange Commission, the fund's founder Nathan Anderson confirms to AFP.

Anderson says it was the first time that Hindenburg had publicly revealed the purchase of shares.

"Twitter is suing to enforce the entire $44 billion merger price and they have a strong case," Anderson says. — AFP

July 13, 2022

Twitter sues Elon Musk for breaching the $44 billion contract he signed to buy the tech firm, calling his exit strategy "a model of hypocrisy," court documents showed.

The suit filed in the US state of Delaware urges the court to order the billionaire to complete his deal to buy Twitter, arguing that no financial penalty could repair the damage he has caused.

"Musk's conduct simply confirms that he wants to escape the binding contract he freely signed, and to damage Twitter in the process," the lawsuit contends. "Twitter has suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm as a result of defendants' breaches." — AFP

July 10, 2022

A decade ago, Elon Musk proposed a new form of transport that would shoot passengers through vacuum tunnels in levitating pods at almost the speed of sound -- he called it "hyperloop". 

Since then, cities from Abu Dhabi to Zurich have been touted as destinations, research projects have gobbled up millions of dollars and a host of commercial ventures have sprung up -- even Richard Branson got involved.

"The transportation network has not had a new mode for over 100 years," said Rick Geddes, a transport infrastructure expert at Cornell University in the United States, who compared the excitement to the early days of aviation.

But nobody has come close to making the hyperloop work.

The difficulties have ranged from costs and finding suitable locations, to simply persuading people that travelling through a narrow tunnel at speeds faster than a jet plane is a good idea.

Musk's initial proposal would have been a "barf ride", transport blogger Alon Levy wrote at the time.

Despite all the problems, though, the hyperloop idea still energises university campuses, corporate board rooms and city halls across the world.

Hidde de Bos, a 22-year-old engineering student, first heard of it four years ago.

His university at Delft in the Netherlands excelled in competitions run by Musk's SpaceX firm, which invited students to develop pods to fire through vacuum tunnels. — AFP

July 9, 2022

Twitter will sue Elon Musk to enforce the $44 billion deal to buy the company that the billionaire now wants to abandon, the chair of the social media giant's board says.

"The Twitter Board is committed to closing the transaction on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr Musk and plans to pursue legal action to enforce the merger agreement," Bret Taylor tweets. "We are confident we will prevail." — AFP

July 8, 2022

Twitter shares slid late Thursday after a Washington Post report  that Elon Musk's $44 billion deal to buy the social media giant is in danger.

The world's richest man has previously expressed misgivings and even implied he could walk away from the deal over concerns about what he believes are an abundance of fake accounts.

According to the Post, however, Musk has been unable to pin down the percentage of Twitter accounts that are not genuine, despite being given access to internal data.

While Musk has already made comments putting his commitment to the deal in doubt, the latest report cited an anonymous source saying his team is preparing for a "change in direction." — AFP

July 2, 2022

Google announces it would delete users' location history when they visit abortion clinics, domestic violence shelters and other places where privacy is sought.

"If our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit," Jen Fitzpatrick, a senior vice president at Google, writes in a blog post. "This change will take effect in the coming weeks." 

Other places from which Google will not store location data include fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, and weight loss clinics. — AFP

June 29, 2022

Japan's Sony is launching a new brand that will offer PC gaming gear, the company announced Wednesday, as it tries to compete for a share of the lucrative gaming peripherals market.

Sony is looking to expand beyond its flagship PlayStation console and boost revenue from other sectors, including PC and mobile gaming.

The gaming peripherals market of items used by players was valued at $3.88 billion globally in 2019 according to Grand View Research.

Sony's first offerings from its new Inzone brand will be three wireless headsets and two monitors, the priciest of which will retail for a suggested $899.99 in the United States. -- AFP

June 19, 2022

A majority of employees at a US Apple store have voted to form a union, a first for the tech giant, which has so far tried to discourage unionizing attempts. 

Of the 110 employees at the Towson, Maryland shop, 65 voted in favor and 33 against, according to a live count broadcast Saturday by the federal agency overseeing the vote. — AFP

June 18, 2022

YouTube pulls a video posted by the congressional committee probing last year's attack on the US Capitol because it contained election misinformation spread by then president Donald Trump.

"Our election integrity policy prohibits content advancing false claims that widespread fraud, errors or glitches changed the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election, if it does not provide sufficient context," YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi says in response to an AFP inquiry.

"We enforce our policies equally for everyone, and have removed the video uploaded by the January 6th Committee channel."

June 18, 2022

TikTok says Oracle will store all the data from its US users, in a bid to allay fears about its safety in the hands of a platform owned by ByteDance in China.

The announcement came as the popular video snippet sharing service fended off concerns about the ability of engineers in China to access information about US users that isn't public.

ByteDance employees have repeatedly accessed information about US TikTok users, according to a Buzzfeed news report citing leaked audio from TikTok in-house meetings. — AFP

June 16, 2022

Thai police charged three social media influencers with lese majeste Thursday over controversial social media advertisments for an e-commerce firm that monarchists said mocked a member of the royal family.

The TikTok clips promoting Lazada — owned by China's Alibaba Group — enraged ultra-royalists who called for it to be banned in the kingdom, and led to the Thai military barring the firm's delivery vehicles from its premises.

Criticism of the monarchy is taboo in Thailand, where King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his close family are protected by some of the world's toughest royal insult laws, with each charge carrying a prison term of up to 15 years.

Police Colonel Siriwat Deepo from the Technology Crime Suppression Division confirmed to AFP the arrest of the three people acting in the clips: Anuwat Pratumklin, Kittikhun Thamakitirat and Thidaporn Chaokovieng.

Their lawyer Duangrat Srinaunt told AFP the trio had been freed on bail and that they denied the charges. — AFP

June 16, 2022

YouTube says that more than 1.5 billion people monthly tune into its Shorts video service, which competes with global sensation TikTok.

Alphabet-owned YouTube and Facebook-parent Meta both added short-form video sharing formats to their services after TikTok -- which late last year said it topped a billion users -- became the rage.

YouTube Shorts went live less than two years ago, adding videos of no longer than 60 seconds to the mix of offerings on the platform. — AFP

June 9, 2022

Twitter will yield to Elon Musk's demand for internal data central to a standoff over his troubled $44 billion bid to buy the platform, US media reports.

The news comes just days after the Tesla chief threatened to back out of his deal to purchase Twitter, accusing it of failing to provide data on fake accounts.

The Washington Post, New York Times and website Axios cited unnamed sources familiar with the negotiations as saying Twitter's board decided to let Musk access its full "firehose" of internal data associated with the hundreds of millions of tweets posted daily at the service. — Agence France Presse

June 6, 2022

Australia's federal court orders Google on Monday to pay more than $500,000 in damages to a politician after finding he had been defamed by a comedian's videos hosted on YouTube.

John Barilaro was deputy premier of the state of New South Wales in 2020, when an Australian comedian known as friendlyjordies uploaded a series of videos to YouTube, accusing the politician of corruption and using an Italian accent to mock his heritage.

Barilaro labelled the videos racist, and broke down in court watching one that had been filmed by friendlyjordies at a luxurious property that the politician owned and rented out on Airbnb.

"I'm traumatised by it," Barilaro said during his testimony. — AFP

May 28, 2022

US market authorities have asked Elon Musk to explain an apparent delay in reporting his Twitter stock buys, the agency reveals, the latest questions on the methods and intent of his troubled bid for the platform.

Musk became a major Twitter stockholder following the purchase of 73.5 million shares in early April, and less than two weeks later launched a hostile takeover bid.

He went on to ink a $44 billion deal to buy the San Francisco-based company, but has since given mixed signals regarding how committed he is to following through. — AFP

May 27, 2022

Elon Musk faces a lawsuit accusing him of pushing down Twitter's stock price in order to either give himself an escape hatch from his $44 billion buyout bid, or room to negotiate a discount.

The suit alleges the billionaire Tesla boss tweeted and made statements intended to create doubt about the deal, which has roiled the social media platform for weeks.

Filed Wednesday by a shareholder, the claim seeks class action status and calls on a federal court in San Francisco to back the validity of the deal and award shareholders any damages allowed by law. — AFP

May 24, 2022

TikTok says it will start letting some popular accounts at the video-snippet streaming star charge subscriptions for live streams.

Similar money-making tools have been added to rivals such as Instagram and Facebook as the social media platforms compete for online personalities that attract audiences.

"LIVE Subscription is an extension of our efforts to build diversified creator monetization opportunities that suit a range of creator needs," TikTok says in a blog post. — AFP

May 20, 2022

Twitter says it will put warning labels on demonstrably false posts about Russia's war in Ukraine under a new "crisis misinformation policy."

Tweets violating the new rule will be hidden behind messages saying that misleading information in the posts could cause real-world harm, said Twitter head of safety and integrity Yoel Roth.

Twitter users will then have to click on a link to see an offending post.

"While this first iteration is focused on international armed conflict, starting with the war in Ukraine, we plan to update and expand the policy to include additional forms of crisis," Roth said in a blog post. — AFP

May 17, 2022

Billionaire Elon Musk says Tuesday that his purchase of Twitter would not go ahead unless he was assured that fewer than five percent of accounts on the platform were fake.

"Yesterday, Twitter's CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%," tweets Musk, who has almost 94 million followers on the social network. 

"This deal cannot move forward until he does." — AFP

May 15, 2022

From e-commerce colossus Amazon to social networking star Facebook, US tech firms that once grew with abandon have reined in hiring to endure tumultuous times.

Internet giants that saw business boom during the pandemic have taken a hit from inflation, war, supply-line trouble and people returning to pre-Covid lifestyles.

Corporate belt-tightening was a common theme as big tech firms reported earnings from the first three months of this year.

Facebook parent Meta told analysts that hiring goals were being adjusted as it continued to look to a bright future.

"We regularly re-evaluate our talent pipeline according to our business needs, and in light of the expense guidance given for this earnings period, we are slowing its growth accordingly," a Meta spokesperson told AFP.

"However, we will continue to grow our workforce to ensure we focus on long-term impact."

Seattle-based Amazon,  the second largest employer in the United States, revealed that its ranks are overly plump after ending last year with more than twice as many workers as it had in 2019.

As the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 slowed during the first quarter of this year and workers returned from time off, Amazon "quickly went from being understaffed to overstaffed," chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky told analysts. — AFP

May 14, 2022

Elon Musk sends mixed messages about his proposed Twitter acquisition, pressuring shares of the microblogging platform amid skepticism on whether the deal will close.

In an early morning tweet, Musk says the $44 billion takeover was "temporarily on hold," pending questions over the social media company's estimates of the number of fake accounts or "bots."

That sent Twitter's stock plunging 25%. — AFP

May 11, 2022

Elon Musk says he would lift Twitter's ban on former US president Donald Trump if Musk's deal to buy the global messaging platform is successful.

"I would reverse the permanent ban," the billionaire says at a Financial Times conference, noting that he doesn't own Twitter yet, so "this is not like a thing that will definitely happen."

The Tesla chief's $44-billion deal to buy Twitter must still get the backing of shareholders and regulators, but he has voiced enthusiasm for less content moderation and "time-outs" instead of bans. — AFP

May 4, 2022

Germany's anti-cartel watchdog says Wednesday it has placed Meta, the company which owns Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, under close watch for any possible abuse.

The Federal Cartel Office says it has determined Meta to be a company of "paramount significance for competition", a move paving the way for the authorities to clamp down "against potential competition infringements". — AFP

April 29, 2022

A British court adjourns an appeal by Facebook's owner Meta against a competition regulator ruling that it should be forced to sell online GIF creator Giphy.

The Competition and Markets Authority in November found Meta's purchase of Giphy — which supplies animated GIFs or mini videos to major social networks — would give the US behemoth too much market share.

Adjourning the case at London's Competition Appeal Tribunal after four days of hearings, judge Marcus Smith said he would make his ruling "at a later date", which could mean weeks or months. — AFP

April 27, 2022

The World Health Organization urges Twitter to keep working to root out disinformation following Elon Musk's move to buy the social media platform — stressing when it comes to health, good information is "life-saving".

"Good stewardship of those platforms is extremely important," WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan tells reporters.

"It is not the business of WHO who owns or who manages those platforms," Ryan says when asked about the deal. — AFP

April 26, 2022

A Russian court on Tuesday hit Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta with a fine for refusing to take down LBGT content. 

A Moscow district court ordered the US tech giant to pay four million rubles (about $53,000/50,000 euros) for failing to delete content with LGBT "propaganda", news agency Interfax reported.

Meta and other tech companies are frequently slapped with fines by Russia for not deleting content on the request of authorities. 

Since the start of Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine, Russia has ramped up pressure on social networks, banning Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Attacks on the LGBT community are relatively frequent in Russia, where conservative and religious circles take a dim view of the community. -- AFP

April 26, 2022

Twitter confirms it is selling the platform to billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk in a deal valued at $44 billion.

The sale was a dramatic shift for the board, which had originally maneuvered to block Musk from taking the social media network private.

"Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated," Musk says in a joint statement announcing the takeover. — AFP

April 25, 2022

Twitter is reconsidering Elon Musk's buyout proposal, with discussions between the two camps ongoing Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reports, after the billionaire said Thursday he had secured the necessary funding.

"Twitter is taking a fresh look at the offer and is more likely than before to seek to negotiate," the business daily reports, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Tesla CEO Musk said Thursday he had secured close to $46.5 billion to finance the transaction, but also that he planned to appeal directly the company's shareholders as he looks to take over the social media platform. — AFP 

April 22, 2022

Former US president Barack Obama calls out Silicon Valley, urging tech companies to stop dividing society and undermining democracy, and for political leaders to help guide the way with regulation.

Obama said that online platforms have found that "inflammatory, polarizing content" attracts online audiences with money to be made at the expense of democracy.

"It’s that in the competition between truth and falsehood, cooperation and conflict, the very design of these platforms seems to be tilting us in the wrong direction," Obama said at a Stanford Cyber Policy Center event. — AFP

April 21, 2022

As tempting as access to Elon Musk's wealth may be, Twitter is not eager to be ruled by a billionaire known for shooting from the hip with little regard for the consequences.

The global one-to-many messaging platform is moving to prevent the Tesla boss from getting his hands on all of Twitter's outstanding shares, signaling that worries about where he would lead the company outweigh the proffered payoff.

"It's management, the board, that feels something is wrong," said Endpoint Technologies analyst Roger Kay.

"Musk is essentially an autocrat; his form of libertarianism has a twinge of far right politics to it." — AFP/Glenn Chapman

April 16, 2022

Twitter moves to defend itself against Elon Musk's $43 billion hostile takeover bid, announcing a plan that would allow shareholders to purchase additional stock.

"The Rights Plan will reduce the likelihood that any entity, person or group gains control of Twitter through open market accumulation without paying all shareholders an appropriate control premium," Twitter says in a statement. — AFP

April 12, 2022

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, will give content creators the opportunity to sell virtual items to users in Horizon Worlds, its main platform in the metaverse, the company said Monday. 

"For example, someone could make and sell attachable accessories for a fashion world or offer paid access to a new part of a world," the Californian tech group said in a press release.

The metaverse, touted by Meta and other companies as the future of the internet, consists of a set of parallel "universes" accessed primarily through augmented and virtual reality platforms. — AFP

April 11, 2022

Indonesia's biggest tech firm soared in Jakarta trade Monday after a billion-dollar IPO that was the world's fifth-biggest this year, defying recent heavy weather for Asian tech stocks.

GoTo, the largest digital ecosystem in the archipelago nation of 270 million people, was formed by the merger of ride-hailing company Gojek and e-commerce platform Tokopedia in May 2021.

Clad in the signature black-and-green jacket of a Gojek driver, GoTo CEO Andre Soelistyo pressed the 9 am opening bell at the Jakarta stock exchange.

"Despite global market volatility, investor interest has been strong, reflecting the rapidly growing demand in Southeast Asia for our on-demand, e-commerce and financial technology services, as well as confidence in GoTo's position as the largest digital ecosystem in Indonesia," he said in a press release.

His company's shares jumped by up to 23 percent in the first exchanges and fluctuated around 15 percent at 388 rupiah during the trading session.

The company raised about $1.1 billion in its IPO that concluded last week, priced at 338 rupiah per share, representing a market value of about $28 billion, it announced Monday. — AFP

April 11, 2022

Elon Musk is no longer joining the board of Twitter, the CEO of the social media company says, in a reversal less than a week after announcing the Tesla chief would be appointed.

Musk was named to join the Twitter board after buying a major stake in the firm and becoming its largest shareholder.

"Elon has decided not to join our board," Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweets.

April 7, 2022

Music hosting service Vevo confirms that its YouTube channels for Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and other famous artists had served up videos of a convicted conman after being hacked.

Vevo, which provides music videos to platforms including YouTube, says that it deleted the improperly uploaded content and is investigating the breach.

"Some videos were directly uploaded to a small number of Vevo artist channels earlier today by an unauthorized source," a spokesperson says in response to an AFP inquiry.

"No pre-existing content was accessible to the source." — AFP

April 6, 2022

Twitter announces that Elon Musk will join its board, boosting hopes the Tesla boss will lift the social media company's prospects as some observers expressed wariness of the billionaire's influence.

Shares rose for a second day on news of Musk's board appointment after surging on Monday's disclosure of the outspoken entrepreneur's large stake in the company.

"I'm excited to share that we're appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value," Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal says in a tweet. — AFP

April 3, 2022

Sri Lanka blocked access to social media platforms on Sunday after authorities imposed a weekend nationwide curfew to contain protests over a worsening economic crisis.

The South Asian nation is facing severe shortages of food, fuel and other essentials, along with sharp price rises and crippling power cuts, in its most painful downturn since independence from Britain in 1948.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa imposed a state of emergency on Friday, the day after a crowd attempted to storm his home in the capital Colombo, and a nationwide curfew is in effect until Monday morning.

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp were among the platforms shut down by internet service providers on the orders of defence authorities, the pro-government Ada Derana news channel said.

"On the request of the defence ministry, service providers advised to temporarily restrict social media platforms," the broadcaster said, quoting Sri Lanka's media regulator.

Anonymous activists had called for mass protests on Sunday on social media before the order went into effect. — AFP

April 1, 2022

Content identified as misleading or problematic were mistakenly prioritized in users' Facebook feeds recently, thanks to a software bug that took six months to fix, according to tech site The Verge.

Facebook disputed the report, which was published Thursday, saying that it "vastly overstated what this bug was because ultimately it had no meaningful, long-term impact on problematic content," according to Joe Osborne, a spokesman for parent company Meta.

But the bug was serious enough for a group of Facebook employees to draft an internal report referring to a "massive ranking failure" of content, The Verge reports. — AFP

March 31, 2022

Facebook's owner Meta has hired a consulting firm to carry out a US campaign denigrating its fierce rival TikTok, according to a Washington Post report Wednesday partially confirmed by AFP.

The campaign reportedly includes placing letters in major US news outlets and promoting negative stories about TikTok, allegedly using the type of tough tactics familiar to Washington politics.

Meta, which shed hundreds of billions in value earlier this year due to doubts about its future, is in a pitched fight against the video sharing platform popular with young social media fans.

"We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success," Meta told AFP in a one-line statement in response to the article. — AFP

March 26, 2022

The EU will require tech giants to drop barriers between their hugely popular messaging services to boost competition, but critics warn that could come at the cost of millions of users' privacy.

Praise poured in after negotiators from the European Parliament and EU member states agreed late Thursday on a sweeping law to curb market dominance of US firms like Google, Facebook owner Meta, Amazon and Apple.

But the provision in the legislation that looks set to make big services such as WhatsApp and Apple's iMessage provide access to smaller operators drew concerns it would compromise the encryption that guards users' data. — AFP

March 22, 2022

A Russian court bans Facebook and Instagram as "extremist", part of sweeping efforts by Moscow to crack down on social media during the conflict in Ukraine.

The Russian authorities have accused US tech giant Meta -- the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp -- of tolerating "Russophobia" since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.

Facebook and Twitter have been inaccessible in Russia since early March and Instagram was blocked in the country a week ago.

March 21, 2022

The Supreme Court judge who had ordered messaging app Telegram blocked in Brazil reversed the ruling Sunday, after the tech company complied with an earlier decree to make changes to the platform.

"Considering that the (court's requested changes) were fully attended to, I revoke the decision to fully and completely suspend the operation of Telegram in Brazil," Judge Alexandre de Moraes wrote in a document released by the court.

The order to block the app throughout the country, published Friday, never actually went into effect, and Telegram had continued to function normally throughout the weekend. — AFP

March 20, 2022

Three companies have lodged a complaint with the European Commission against Microsoft, accusing the US technology giant of anti-competitive practices in its cloud services, sources told AFP Saturday, confirming media reports.

Microsoft is "undermining fair competition and limiting the choice of consumers" in the computing cloud services market, said one of the three, French company OVHcloud, in a statement to AFP.

The companies complain that under certain clauses in Microsoft's licensing contracts for Office 365 services, tariffs are higher when the software is not run on Azure cloud infrastructure, which is owned by the US group.

They also say the user experience is worse and that there are incompatibilities with certain other Microsoft products when not running on Azure. 

In a statement to AFP, Microsoft said "European cloud service providers have built successful business models on Microsoft software and services" and had many options on how to use that software.  

"We continually evaluate how best to support all of our partners and make Microsoft software available to all customers in all environments, including those with other cloud service providers," it continued.  — AFP

March 19, 2022

The Telegram messaging app has become a go-to platform since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, despite concerns over its data security and defenses against misinformation. 

It has benefitted from the gap left by Russia's blocking of Facebook and Instagram, offering a platform for mass messaging in a way similar to social media. 

The platform also provides one of the last windows on Russia, but also an open channel to the horrors facing an under siege Ukraine. — AFP

March 19, 2022

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says that the decision by a Supreme Court judge to block popular messaging app Telegram nationwide is "inadmissible" and puts the "freedom" of Brazilians at risk.

The ruling "is inadmissible. (The judge) failed to act against the two or three people that according to him should be blocked, so he decided to affect 70 million people... What is at stake is our freedom," says the far-right leader, for whom Telegram is a key element of his strategy to win re-election in October. — AFP

March 18, 2022

Australia announces Friday it is suing Facebook owner Meta over scam adverts for cryptocurrency schemes that falsely claimed to be endorsed by prominent figures.

Australia's consumer protection commission says it had started Federal Court proceedings against Meta Platforms for "false, misleading or deceptive conduct" in breach of consumer or securities laws.

It accuses Meta of failing to do enough to stop scam ads for cryptocurrency or money-making schemes, even after being alerted by celebrities who had been misrepresented by similar ads published on Facebook. — AFP

March 12, 2022

YouTube broadens its blocking of Russian state-linked media channels to apply internationally after initially barring them only in Europe following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Russia's internationally condemned attack has provoked unprecedented sanctions from Western governments and businesses, including a growing list of US tech firms.

YouTube's guidelines "prohibit content denying, minimizing or trivializing well-documented violent events, and we remove content about Russia's invasion in Ukraine that violates this policy," the video sharing platform says. — AFP

March 11, 2022

Facebook says that due to the invasion of Ukraine it has temporarily eased its rules regarding violent speech to allow statements like "death to Russian invaders," but not credible threats against civilians.

Moscow's internationally condemned invasion of its neighbor has provoked unprecedented sanctions from Western governments and businesses, but also a surge of online anger.

"As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as 'death to the Russian invaders,'" Facebook's parent company Meta says in a statement. — AFP

March 10, 2022

Dating app Tinder will give US users a way to check if potential dates have been convicted of a violent crime, a check that experts warn has limitations.

The app's parent firm Match Group announced on Wednesday it would begin offering access to Garbo, a new US online background check platform that can show if someone has a history of violence.

After navigating to Garbo through the Tinder app, users then enter the name, phone number or other details about a potential date to check for arrests, convictions and sex offender registry information.

Dating apps, including Tinder, have been pressured to take action after women have reported they were sexually assaulted by men they connected with via the platforms.

"This is just the first step in delivering on our mission to help proactively prevent harm in the digital age," Garbo founder Kathryn Kosmides said in a statement.

Match said up to 500,000 free Garbo searches would be made available, and thereafter a check would cost $2.50 plus a processing fee. — AFP

March 10, 2022

Facebook begins letting groups automatically reject posts identified as containing false information, taking aim at a part of the massive network that has drawn particular concern from misinformation watchdogs.

Administrators of "groups" at the leading social network can opt to have software automatically reject incoming posts showcasing information found to be false by third-party fact-checkers, Facebook App communities vice president Maria Smith says.

"Our research shows, those same features — privacy and community — are often exploited by bad actors, foreign and domestic, to spread false information and conspiracies," disinformation researchers Nina Jankowicz and Cindy Otis wrote in a Wired opinion piece in 2020. — AFP

March 5, 2022

Russia blocks Facebook, curbs Twitter and moves to impose harsh jail terms over "fake news" about its army as Moscow seeks to squelch dissent about its invasion of Ukraine

Social media giant Facebook was blocked over accusations of "discrimination" against Russian state-tied news outlets, according to media regulator Roskomnadzor, adding Twitter access was also "restricted".

"Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information... and silenced from speaking," says Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Facebook's parent Meta. — AFP

March 4, 2022

Facebook and multiple media websites are partially inaccessible in Russia, as authorities crack down on critical voices as fighting escalates in Ukraine.

AFP journalists in Moscow were not able to access Facebook, as well as the sites of media outlets Meduza, Deutsche Welle, RFE-RL and the BBC's Russian-language service. The monitoring NGO GlobalCheck also said the sites were partially down. — AFP

March 3, 2022

Music streaming giant Spotify says it had closed its office in Russia and removed Russian state-sponsored content from its service.

The move came in response to the "unprovoked attack against Ukraine", Spotify says in a statement, adding it had taken several measures as a result.

"We have closed our office in Russia until further notice," says the Stockholm-based company, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. — AFP

February 21, 2022

Donald Trump's new social media platform "Truth Social" is planning a gradual rollout this week and should be "fully operational" by late March, potentially raising the former president's profile more than a year after he was banned by major social media.

"This week, we will begin to roll out to people on the Apple App store," said Devin Nunes, CEO of the Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), the new app's parent company. The former Republican congressman was speaking Sunday on conservative Fox News.

"I think, by the end of March, we're going to be fully operational — at least within the United States," added Nunes, who resigned from the US House to lead the Trump group. — AFP

February 16, 2022

Facebook-parent Meta has agreed to pay $90 million to settle a 10-year-old lawsuit accusing it of tracking users online even after they logged off the social network, court records show.

The agreement was filed Monday in a California court and if approved by a judge would put to rest one of the series of suits alleging the social media giant invaded users' privacy.

"Reaching a settlement in this case, which is more than a decade old, is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders and we're glad to move past this issue," Meta spokesperson Drew Pusateri told AFP. — AFP

February 9, 2022

Apple announces a new service that will allow US businesses later this year to accept payments on their iPhones from touchless cards or other iPhones, a new challenger in the booming payments business.

The iPhone-maker says no additional hardware will be required. The system will work by tapping buyer's and seller's devices — thus bypassing payment terminals from firms such as Block.

"The new capability will empower millions of merchants across the US, from small businesses to large retailers, to use their iPhone" to accept payments, Apple says in a statement. — AFP

February 5, 2022

Facebook parent Meta begins rolling out a minimum distance between users' avatars in its virtual reality Horizon network after reports of harassment, one of the thorny issues for its metaverse vision.

The "personal boundary" function in the immersive platform, where people can socialize virtually, puts a ring of space around users' digital proxies.

"A personal boundary prevents anyone from invading your avatar's personal space," Horizon vice president Vivek Sharma writes. — AFP

January 27, 2022

Twitter suspends a bot account for spoiling the solution to the next day's Wordle, the wildly popular internet word puzzle.

The game, which only offers one puzzle per day, has amassed millions of players since it came online last year. 

But the Twitter profile @wordlinator seemed determined to ruin the fun for participants posting their scores on the social media site. 

"The account referenced was suspended for violating the Twitter Rules and the Automation Rules around sending unsolicited @mentions," a Twitter spokesperson tells AFP.  — AFP

January 25, 2022

The Dutch consumer watchdog fines Apple five million euros ($5.6 million) for failing to allow dating app operators to choose payment options other than its own Apple Pay system in its Dutch App Store.

The Authority for Consumers and Markets had already warned Apple last month that it faced a penalty of five million euros per week -- and a maximum fine of 50 million euros in total -- if it failed to change the conditions for access to the Dutch App Store.

"In the App Store, dating app providers must also be able to use payment systems other than Apple's payment system," the watchdog had says at the time. — AFP

January 25, 2022

Facebook's parent company Meta announces it was launching one of the world's most powerful supercomputers to boost its capacity to process data, despite persistent disputes over privacy and disinformation.

The US tech giant says the array of machines could process images and video up to 20 times faster than their current systems.

"The experiences we're building for the metaverse require enormous compute power (quintillions of operations / second!)," writes Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook, referring to his idea of a 3D internet where users don virtual reality headsets and sensor equipment to create an immersive experience. — AFP

Bookmark this page for updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. Main image from by geralt from Pixabay

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