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Facebook-Parent Meta’s VR Oculus Business Said to Be Probed by US States Over Potential Violations

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By Reuters | Updated: 15 January 2022

Multiple states have begun investigating potential violations in how Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms, runs its virtual-reality Oculus business, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Two of the sources said the US Federal Trade Commission was also involved in the antitrust investigation. Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New York, North Carolina and Tennessee were among the states involved in the inquiry, one source said. A group of almost 50 states also asked an appeals court on Friday to reinstate their antitrust lawsuit, filed in December 2020, against Facebook.

The inquiries into Facebook’s Oculus business are part of the larger probe, one of the sources said.

The offices of the New York, North Carolina and Tennessee attorneys general did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

The inquiry was first reported by Bloomberg News.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Snoop Dogg Quips to Buy Twitter as Elon Musk Puts the Deal on Hold, Announces Series of Changes

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By ANI | Updated: 16 May 2022

There’s no end to Twitter saga after billionaire Elon Musk’s dramatic entry to buy out the micro-blogging site, with rapper Snoop Dogg too throwing his hat in the ring after the news broke out that Tesla CEO’s deal is on hold.

Rapper Snoop Dogg tweeted that he “may have to buy Twitter”. This set off a fun trail on his timeline, with Musk joining in with a “fire” emoji.

While Musk’s buy out plan has already flooded his timeline on Twitter with ideas for the transformation of the microblogging site, the rapper too shared his vision.

As the boss of Twitter, the Rapper laid out a set of new rules for the company, which included replacing the board of directors, giving everyone a verified account and putting free internet on aeroplanes.

“Gonna replace the board of directors with Jimmy from my corner Fish Fry, Tommy Chung and that guy with the ponytail on CNBC. Everyone gets a blue checkmark. Even that bots with 10 letters in their name that hit you in DMs n just say “Hello”. Nah f**k those bots,” he said in a series of tweets.

Musk on Saturday (local time) said that Twitter’s legal team accused him of violating a non-disclosure agreement by revealing that the sample size for the social media platform’s checks on automated users was 100.

“Twitter legal just called to complain that I violated their NDA by revealing the bot check sample size is 100!” Musk tweeted.

Twitter recently agreed to an acquisition by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a deal worth $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,41,895 crore), although it is still subject to shareholder approval. However, Elon Musk declared that the $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,41,895 crore) takeover bid of the micro-blogging site is on hold.

Musk said earlier this week that Twitter’s decision to ban former US President Donald Trump was a mistake and he would reverse it if his acquisition of the social media company is successful.

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Elon Musk Says Twitter’s Legal Team Accused Him of NDA Violation for Revealing Company’s Sample Size

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By Reuters | Updated: 16 May 2022

Elon Musk on Saturday tweeted that Twitter’s legal team accused him of violating a nondisclosure agreement by revealing that the sample size for the social media platform’s checks on automated users was 100.

“Twitter legal just called to complain that I violated their NDA by revealing the bot check sample size is 100!” tweeted Musk, chief executive of electric car maker Tesla.

Musk on Friday tweeted that his $44-billion (roughly Rs. 3,41,910 crore) cash deal to take the company private was “temporarily on hold” while he awaited data on the proportion of its fake accounts.

He said his team would test “a random sample of 100 followers” on Twitter to identify the bots. His response to a question prompted Twitter’s accusation.

When a user asked Musk to “elaborate on process of filtering bot accounts,” he replied: “I picked 100 as the sample size number, because that is what Twitter uses to calculate <5 percent fake/spam/duplicate.”

Musk tweeted during the early hours of Sunday that he is yet to see “any” analysis that shows that the social media company has fake accounts less than 5 percent.

He later said that “There is some chance it might be over 90 percent of daily active users.”

Meanwhile, Musk, who has made weeding out fake Twitter accounts and spam bots the central theme of his takeover plan, said if he buys the social-media platform he “will defeat the spam bots or die trying”. He has constantly blamed the company’s over-reliance on advertising for the relentless spread of spam bots.

Twitter, like other social media companies, has been battling spam bots over the past few years through software that spots and blocks them. Spam bots or fake accounts are designed to manipulate or artificially boost activity on social media platforms such as Twitter.

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Musk-Twitter Deal Expected to Close, but Prepared for All Scenarios, Says CEO Parag Agrawal

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By ANI | Updated: 14 May 2022

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal on Saturday said that the deal with Elon Musk is expected to be closed, however, the deal does not become an excuse to avoid making important decisions for the health of the company, adding that Twitter needs to be prepared for all scenarios and always do what’s right for it.

This is a significant update as Elon Musk earlier declared that the $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,40,800 crore) takeover bid of the micro-blogging site is on hold.

Agrawal said that though some have been asking why a “lame-duck” CEO would make these changes if Twitter is getting acquired anyway. In a response to these comments, the CEO said that while he expects the deal to close, Twitter needs to be prepared for all scenarios and always do what’s right for it.

“We announced changes to our leadership team and operations yesterday. Changes impacting people are always hard,” the CEO tweeted adding, “I won’t use the deal as an excuse to avoid making important decisions for the health of the company, nor will any leader at Twitter.”

He said that he is accountable for leading and operating Twitter. The CEO also noted that it is their job to build a stronger Twitter every day.

Agrawal continued by saying that regardless of the company’s future ownership, Twitter will be improved as a product and business for customers, partners, shareholders, and all of the users.

“No one at Twitter is working just to keep the lights on. We take pride in our work,” the CEO wrote in a tweet. He said that he is still focused on doing his job, and that includes making hard decisions as needed.

“I will continue to embrace the deep complexities of our service and our business. And you can expect more change for the better,” the CEO added.

“I will also try to bring more transparency to the work that we do. You won’t see tweets from me on the ‘topic of the day’ or the loudest sound bite, but rather on the ongoing, continuous, and challenging work our teams are doing to improve the public conversation on Twitter,” he continued.

He also expressed gratitude to the whole Twitter team. “They have stood strong and focused, sharp and agile. They’ve been doing the work, as they always have,” he wrote while praising the team at Twitter.

Twitter recently agreed to an acquisition by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a deal worth $44 billion, although it is still subject to shareholder approval. However, Elon Musk declared that the $44 billion takeover bid of the micro-blogging site is on hold.

Twitter shares tumbled around 20 percent in the pre-market trading on Friday after Musk’s announcement over hold on the Twitter deal.

Musk said earlier this week that Twitter’s decision to ban former US President Donald Trump was a mistake and he would reverse it if his acquisition of the social media company is successful.

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Facebook Sued by Former Content Moderator Over Forced Unsafe Job Conditions in Kenya

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By Associated Press | Updated: 11 May 2022

A man who says he is “destroyed” after working as a content moderator for Facebook has filed a lawsuit accusing the company of human trafficking Africans to work in an exploitative and unsafe facility in Kenya.

The case against Meta Platforms, the Menlo Park, Calif. company that owns Facebook, and Sama, a San Francisco subcontractor, was lodged Tuesday with a court in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Daniel Motaung’s petition “calls upon Kenya’s courts to order Facebook and its outsourcing companies to end exploitation in its Nairobi moderation hub, where content moderators work in dangerous conditions,” said a statement by Foxglove, a London-based legal nonprofit that supports Facebook content moderators.

The first video Motaung watched as a Facebook moderator was a video of someone being beheaded, he told reporters during a call Tuesday. He stayed on the job for roughly six months, after relocating from South Africa to Nairobi in 2019 for the work. Motaung says he was dismissed after trying to spearhead efforts to unionise at the facility.

Motaung said his job was traumatising and he now has a fear of death.

“I had potential,” Motaung said. “When I went to Kenya, I went to Kenya because I wanted to change my life. I wanted to change the life of my family. I came out a different person, a person who has been destroyed.”

Motaung says in his filing that once he arrived in Kenya for that work, he was told to sign a non-disclosure agreement and his pay was less than promised, with one monthly paycheck that was KES 40,000, or roughly $350 (roughly Rs. 27,000).

The lawsuit notes that Sama targets people from poor families across Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and other countries in the region with “misleading job ads” that fail to disclose that they will be working as Facebook content moderators or viewing disturbing content that expose them to mental health woes.

Applicants are recruited “through deceit,” said Mercy Mutemi, who filed the petition in court Tuesday morning. “We found a lot of Africans were forced into force labour situations and human trafficking. When you leave your country for a job that you didn’t apply for, that amounts to human trafficking.”

Content moderators are not given enough medical coverage to seek mental health treatment, the filing alleges.

The lawsuit also seeks orders for Facebook and Sama to respect moderators’ right to unionise.

Meta’s office in Nairobi said it takes seriously its responsibility to people who review content for the company and requires its “partners to provide industry-leading pay, benefits and support,” according to a statement issued by the company’s spokeswoman.

”We also encourage content reviewers to raise issues when they become aware of them and regularly conduct independent audits to ensure our partners are meeting the high standards we expect of them,” the statement said.

In 2020, Facebook agreed to pay $52 million (roughly Rs. 401 crore) to US content moderators who filed a class action lawsuit after they were repeatedly exposed to beheadings, child and sexual abuse, animal cruelty, terrorism and other disturbing content.

Sama, which describes itself as an ethical AI company, did not immediately provide comment.

Sama’s Nairobi location is the largest content moderation facility in Africa, with approximately 240 employees working on the effort, according to the filing.

“We are not animals,” Motaung said in the statement. “We are people — and we deserve to be treated as such.”

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Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey Backs Elon Musk’s Plan to Reinstate Donald Trump’s Account

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By ANI | Updated: 11 May 2022 11:26 IST

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has supported Elon Musk’s plan to reinstate Donald Trump’s account, asserting that the decision to ban the former US President was “a failure.”

Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter following the January 6 Capitol Riots for violating the platform’s rules against violence incitement, a decision the company has said was taken by then CEO Jack Dorsey.

On Tuesday, Elon Musk said that he would restore Trump’s banned account on Twitter if his deal to acquire the company is completed.

“I think it was a morally bad decision to be clear and foolish in the extreme,” he said at a Future of the Car event hosted by the Financial Times.

Backing Musk’s comment, Twitter co-founder said that the decision to issue the ban on Trump’s account was “a failure.”

“I do agree. There are exceptions (CSE, illegal behaviour, spam or network manipulation, etc), but generally permanent bans are a failure of ours and don’t work, which I wrote about here after the event (and called for a resilient social media protocol),” he Tweeted.

He re-shared a January 13, 2021 tweet that stated he did “not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban” Trump from the platform but had “made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter.”

Musk, the world’s richest man Musk called the ban a “morally bad decision,” saying permanent bans undermine trust in Twitter.

“If there are tweets that are wrong and bad, those should be either deleted or made invisible, and a suspension–a temporary suspension–is appropriate, but not a permanent ban,” said Musk.

“I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump. I think that was a mistake … It alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice,” he added.

The Tesla tycoon’s $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,37,465 crore) takeover bid was accepted by Twitter’s board of directors last month, but it still needs regulatory approval. Trump has said he would have no interest in rejoining Twitter even if his account were reinstated, insisting that he plans instead to stick with his fledgling social media network, Truth Social.

Last week, Musk denied a report that Trump had encouraged him to buy Twitter, tweeting that he has had “no communication, directly or indirectly,” with the former president.

Trump, for his part, has said he would not return to Twitter even if his account were restored, instead of promoting his own social media venture, Truth Social.

Musk agreed last month to buy Twitter in a $44 billion deal. However, he said that the transaction wasn’t a done deal and that several steps, including a Twitter shareholder vote, still needed to be completed.

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Elon Musk Says Will Reverse Twitter Ban on Former US President Donald Trump

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By Reuters | Updated: 11 May 2022

Billionaire Elon Musk said Tuesday he would reverse Twitter’s ban on former US President Donald Trump when he buys the social media platform, the clearest signal of Musk’s intention to cut moderation of the site.

Musk, the world’s richest person and chief executive of Tesla, has inked a $44-billion (roughly Rs. 3,37,465 crore) deal to buy Twitter. He has called himself a “free speech absolutist” but given few specific details of his plans.

Musk is expected to become Twitter’s temporary CEO after closing the deal, Reuters previously reported according to a source familiar with the matter.

The question of reinstating Trump has been seen as a litmus test of how far Musk will go in making changes.

Musk, speaking to the Financial Times Future of the Car conference, added that he and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey believe permanent bans should be “extremely rare” and reserved for accounts that operate bots or spread spam.

Musk said the decision to ban Trump amplified Trump’s views among people on the political right, and he called the ban “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”

The suspension of Trump’s account, which had more than 88 million followers, silenced his primary megaphone days before the end of his term and follows years of debate about how social media companies should moderate the accounts of powerful global leaders.

Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter shortly after the January 6 riot on the US Capitol. Twitter cited “the risk of further incitement of violence” in its decision.

Musk has also said the platform must limit speech as required by law, and he told a European Union official on Monday that EU policy was “exactly aligned” with his own thinking, referring to a new law that levies hefty fines on companies that do not control illegal content such as advertising aimed at children.

‘Ought to be everywhere’

Conservatives, who have accused San Francisco-based Twitter of bias against right-leaning views, have cheered the prospect of Trump’s return.

“He (Trump) ought to be everywhere he can,” Republican Senator Rick Scott told reporters when asked about Musk’s comments. “We shouldn’t have social media companies that are restricting people’s ability to get their message out.”

Democrats have said Trump’s potential reinstatement could constitute a threat to democracy, although some hope that a frequently-tweeting Trump could upset their base and rev up turnout in the November midterm congressional elections.

Twitter declined to comment.

Trump had previously told Fox News that he would not return to Twitter if allowed, preferring his own social media app, Truth Social, a Twitter-like platform that launched on the Apple app store in late February and in which users post “truths” instead of tweets.

Trump has revved up his messaging on the new platform after a slow start, posting about 50 times, mostly in the last week, to his 2.7 million followers. He averaged 18 tweets a day when he was president.

There was no immediate comment from a Trump spokesperson.

Trump is chairman of the company that owns Truth Social, which is merging with blank-check acquisition firm Digital World Acquisition.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday Twitter’s ban on Trump was a matter for the company to decide. The Biden administration wants online platforms to protect freedom of speech but also ensure they are not forums for disinformation, she said.

During the conference, Musk said the deal to acquire Twitter could be done in two to three months in the “best case scenario.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Twitter shares fell to a level that indicated the stock market believed it was unlikely that Musk would make the acquisition for $44 billion, as he originally agreed.

Musk’s decision to go after Twitter has concerned some Tesla investors and put pressure on the stock. Musk on Tuesday added that he would stay at Tesla “as long as I can be useful.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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