Facebook’s acquisition of popular GIF website Giphy is being scrutinised by the United Kingdom’s competition watchdog for possibly reducing competition.
The parent of messaging app WhatsApp bought Giphy, a popular website for making and sharing animated images, or GIFs, in May to integrate it with its rapidly growing photo-sharing app, Instagram.
Facebook is now pausing the integration, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
“We are prepared to show regulators that this acquisition is positive for consumers, developers, and content creators alike,” the company said in a statement on Friday.
According to Facebook, 50 percent of Giphy’s traffic comes from Facebook’s apps, with half of that coming from Instagram.
While a formal probe is yet to begin, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) earlier this week served Facebook with an initial enforcement order and on Friday began the first stage of an investigation, inviting comments on the transaction from any interested party.
Giphy sought to quell some of the concerns in a statement. “Everyone will continue to have the same access to Giphy. We look forward to demonstrating how this partnership is a win for our users, partners, and content creators,” it said.
The deal, pegged at around $400 million (roughly Rs. 3,038 crores) by news website Axios, came through as Facebook was already under scrutiny over antitrust concerns, and the company is now taking fire for its decision to not challenge inflammatory posts by US President Donald Trump.
Some advocacy groups had already raised concerns when the deal was announced and Facebook had then said that Giphy’s integrations with other social platforms like Twitter, Snapchat, and ByteDance’s TikTok would not change.
© Thomson Reuters 2020
Zoom Subscriber Growth Slows as People Return to Classrooms and Offices, Posts Big Quarter Nevertheless
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 2 March 2021
The Zoom video conferencing platform on Monday reported a strong finish to its fiscal year as revenue and use soared due to the pandemic.
The quarterly earnings report came with a forecast by the company that it will grow some 40 percent in the current year despite the likelihood that vaccines will make remote work and school less of a necessity.
Zoom video conferences have become a centerpiece of life during the pandemic, as people use them for jobs, education, and socialising.
“The fourth quarter marked a strong finish to an unprecedented year for Zoom,” chief executive Eric Yuan said in an earning release.
“We are humbled by our role as a trusted partner and an engine for the modern work-from-anywhere environment.”
Zoom took in revenue of $882.5 million (roughly Rs. 6,480 crores) during the fiscal quarter that ended January 31, in a 369 percent increase from the same period a year earlier before lifestyles went remote due to COVID-19.
Net income in the quarter was $260.4 million (roughly Rs. 1,910 crores) compared to $15.3 million (roughly Rs. 110 crores) in the same period a year earlier, according to the earnings report.
Zoom said that at the end of January it had approximately 467,100 customers with workforces of more than 10 employees, an increase of 470 percent from the same quarter the prior year.
“Our ability to rapidly respond and execute drove strong financial results throughout the year,” Yuan said.
“We believe we are well positioned for strong growth with our innovative video communications platform.”
Zoom expected revenue of $900 million (roughly Rs. 6,600 crores) to $905 million (roughly Rs. 6,640 crores) in the current fiscal quarter, and revenue of at least $3.7 billion (roughly Rs. 27,160 crores) this fiscal year.
Zoom shares were up more than eight percent in after-market trades that follow release of the earnings figures.
Twitter Tackles COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation With Labels, Strike Policy
By Reuters | Updated: 2 March 2021
Twitter said it would apply warnings to tweets that contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines and implement a strike system of enforcement that could see users permanently banned for repeat violations.
The social media network started promoting public health information before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. It also aimed to remove demonstrably false or misleading content about the virus that had the highest risk of causing harm.
Since introducing its COVID-19 guidance, it said it had removed more than 8,400 tweets and challenged 11.5 million accounts.
With more and more people now looking for authoritative public health information about vaccines as programs were rolled out across the world, it said it would expand the guidance.
Katy Minshall, Twitter’s head of UK public policy, said the company recognised the role it played in giving people credible public health information.
“We continue to work with health authorities around the world – including (Britain’s health service) the NHS – to ensure high visibility access to trusted and accurate public health information on our service, including about COVID-19 vaccines,” she told Reuters.
“Today we will begin applying labels to tweets that may contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to our continued efforts to remove the most harmful COVID-19 misleading information from the service.”
She said the approach built on existing work to guard against false claims about the safety and effectiveness of inoculation.
Vaccines are at the centre of government plans to fight the pandemic that has caused more than 2.6 million deaths to date.
There have been concerns, however, that public distrust of the shots could jeopardise the success of vaccination programmes.
Surveys and data show varying levels of willingness to receive a shot according to country and demographic group.
In Britain, where more than a third of adults have received at least one vaccine shot, authorities are working to overcome hesitancy among some ethnic groups.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
Facebook News to Launch in Germany in May With Content From Around 100 Media Outlets
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 2 March 2021
Facebook will roll out its news platform in Germany from May, providing articles from around 100 existing German media outlets, the US-based tech giant said Monday.
“Facebook News, a place dedicated to journalistic content will launch in German in May 2021,” the social media giant said in a statement, adding that it would offer content from a “strong and diverse range” of German titles.
The platform, launched in the US in 2019 and in the UK in January, delivers users of the world’s leading social network curated news content bought from traditional publishers.
Facebook will pay publishers for their content, with the list of German partners ranging from prestigious national weeklies such as Die Zeit and Der Spiegel to regional dailies like the Rheinische Post.
In total, Facebook claims the German platform will host “more than 100 media brands”, including major groups such as Funke and Conde Nast.
Yet it will not include German media giant Axel Springer, which owns top national titles such as Die Welt and the country’s most widely read Bild daily.
“We consider it problematic that some platforms are on the one hand trying to become news media themselves, while at the same time fobbing off publishers with disproportionately low payments,” an Axel Springer spokesman told AFP.
“We advocate for a European copyright which allows all media companies to receive reasonable remuneration.”
Facebook claims its platform will help German media companies “win new readers, monetise content, and expand business model in a sustainable and long term way”.
Media companies have struggled with dwindling advertising revenue and print sales as content has moved online and become available for free, forcing a host of titles to close.
In an attempt to redress the balance between traditional media and modern tech giants, the European Union included a so-called “neighbouring right” in its 2019 reform to copyright law, forcing digital giants to sign remuneration agreements with media companies.
Yet Facebook is yet to sign any such agreement, preferring instead to focus on its own initiatives such as Facebook News and the Facebook Journalism Project.
In February, Facebook blanked out the pages of media outlets for Australian users and blocked them from sharing any news content for several days, in protest at proposed legislation to force it to pay for journalistic content.
It eventually ended the blackout after reaching a last-ditch deal with Australian lawmakers.
Twitter Accused of Breaking Law by Failing to Delete Content by Russia
By Reuters | Updated: 1 March 2021
Russia’s communications regulator accused Twitter on Monday of violating Russian law, saying the social media platform had not complied with some of its requests to delete banned content.
Roskomnadzor said Twitter had failed to delete 2,862 posts containing material linked to suicide, pornography, and drugs since 2017. It could be fined heavily it found guilty of repeatedly failing to delete content deemed illegal under Russian law, it said.
The platform is used extensively by Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his allies to criticise the authorities and announce new protests.
Twitter has been fined in the past for breaching Russia’s data laws, but the fines have so far been relatively small. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russia in recent months has taken steps to exert more influence over foreign social media platforms.
Bills passed by the lower house of parliament in December last year allowed Russia to levy large fines on platforms that do not delete banned content and even restrict access to US social media giants if they “discriminate” against Russian media.
The foreign ministry has also accused Facebook and other US social media platforms of failing to identify fake posts related to unauthorised protests in support of Navalny, where police detained thousands of demonstrators nationwide.
In January, President Vladimir Putin queried what he described as the growing clout of US social media giants and said their influence meant they now competed with governments.
Last month a Moscow court fined Twitter for refusing to store its server holding data about Russian citizens on Russian territory.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
GameStop and Other ‘Meme Stocks’ Hyped by Social Media Bots, Analysis Shows
By Reuters | Updated: 1 March 2021
Bots on major social media websites have been hyping GameStop and other “meme stocks,” although the extent to which they influenced prices was unclear, according to analysis by Massachusetts-based cyber security company PiiQ Media.
GameStop closed 6 percent lower on Friday as an early rally fizzled but the stock finished the week 151 percent higher in a renewed surge that left analysts puzzled.
The video game retailer’s shares closed at $101.74 (roughly Rs. 7,500) after retreating from a session high of $142.90 (roughly Rs. 10,540). The weekly rocket ride higher came despite a broader market selloff that sent the benchmark S&P 500 down 2.5 percent over the same time.
Analysts have struggled to find a clear explanation, and some were skeptical the rally would have legs.
“You might be able to make some quick trading money and it could be a lot of money, but in the end, it’s the greater fool theory,” said Eric Diton, president and managing director at The Wealth Alliance in New York. The theory refers to buying stocks that are over-valued, anticipating a “greater fool” will buy them later at a higher price.
Analysts mostly ruled out a short squeeze like the one that fueled GameStop’s rally in January, when individual investors using Robinhood and other apps punished hedge funds that had bet against the stock, forcing them to unwind short positions. Many GameStop buyers took their cues from online investment forums on Reddit and elsewhere.
Short interest accounted for 28.4 percent of the float on Thursday, compared with a peak of 142 percent in early January, according to S3 Partners.
Options market activity in GameStop, which has returned to the top of the list in a social media-driven retail trading frenzy, suggested investors were betting on higher prices, higher volatility, or both.
Refinitiv data showed retail investors have been buying deep out-of-the-money call options, which have contract prices to buy far higher than the current stock price.
Many of those option contracts were set to expire on Friday, meaning handsome gains for those who bet on a further rise in GameStop’s stock price.
Call options, profitable for holders if GameStop shares hit $200 (roughly Rs. 14,750) and $800 (roughly Rs. 59,000) this week, have been particularly heavily traded, the data showed. GameStop’s stock traded this week as high as $184.54 (roughly Rs. 13,600) on Thursday, far below the $483 (roughly Rs. 35,630) intraday high it hit in January.
“The actors are looking to take advantage of everything they can to maximise their impact and the timing is important,” said David Trainer, chief executive officer of investment research firm New Constructs. “The options expiration will contribute to their strategy on how to push the stock as much as they can and maximise their profits.”
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday suspended trading in 15 companies because of “questionable trading and social media activity.” GameStop was not among them.
The 15 companies were in addition to six stocks it recently suspended due to suspicious social media activity.
Robinhood said it has received inquiries from regulators about temporary trading curbs it imposed during a wild rally in shorted stocks earlier this year.
Other Reddit favorites were also lower on Friday, with cinema operator AMC Entertainment down 3.4 percent, headphone maker Koss off 22.4 percent and marijuana company Sundial Growers down 2.9 percent.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
Facebook to Pay $650 Million in US Privacy Lawsuit Settlement
By Associated Press | Updated: 27 February 2021
A federal judge on Friday approved a $650 million (roughly Rs. 4,780 crores) settlement of a privacy lawsuit against Facebook for allegedly using photo face-tagging and other biometric data without the permission of its users.
US District Judge James Donato approved the deal in a class-action lawsuit that was filed in Illinois in 2015. Nearly 1.6 million Facebook users in Illinois who submitted claims will be affected.
Donato called it one of the largest settlements ever for a privacy violation.
“It will put at least $345 (roughly Rs. 25,400) into the hands of every class member interested in being compensated,” he wrote, calling it “a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy.”
Jay Edelson, a Chicago attorney who filed the lawsuit, told the Chicago Tribune that the checks could be in the mail within two months unless the ruling is appealed.
“We are pleased to have reached a settlement so we can move past this matter, which is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders,” Facebook, which is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, said in a statement.
The lawsuit accused the social media giant of violating an Illinois privacy law by failing to get consent before using facial-recognition technology to scan photos uploaded by users to create and store faces digitally.
The state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act allowed consumers to sue companies that didn’t get permission before harvesting data such as faces and fingerprints.
The case eventually wound up as a class-action lawsuit in California.
Facebook has since changed its photo-tagging system.
Telangana Thwarts China-Based Hacker Group’s Bid to Target State Power Systems, Says Official
Tandav Row: Amazon Prime India Head Aparna Purohit’s Anticipatory Bail Plea Supreme Court Hearing on March 4
Volvo to Go All Electric by 2030, Sell Exclusively Online
Motorola One Fusion+ With Pop-Up Selfie Camera, Snapdragon 730 SoC Launched: Price, Specifications
Motorola One Fusion+ to Go on Sale for First Time at 12 Noon via Flipkart: Price in India, Specifications
Intel 10th Gen Desktop CPUs Launched Including 10 Core, 5.3GHz Core i9-10900K
Science3 weeks ago
‘Matrix’-Style Bracelets May Turn Humans Into Batteries by Converting Body Heat Into Energy
Internet2 weeks ago
Amazon India Responds to Report on Secret Strategy to Dodge Regulators as Retailer Group Calls for Ban
Science3 weeks ago
ISRO Joins Hands With MapmyIndia to Take on Google Maps With Homegrown Mapping Portal
Science1 week ago
NASA Releases Mars Perseverance Rover Landing Video: ‘Stuff of Our Dreams’
Apps2 weeks ago
WhatsApp to Move Ahead With Privacy Update Despite Backlash, Will Display Banner With Additional Information
Computers3 weeks ago
Alphabet, Microsoft, and Qualcomm Complain Against Nvidia Arm Acquisition; US FTC Opens Probe: Report
Science1 week ago
Mars Perseverance Rover Landing Video, Audio From Red Planet Released by NASA: ‘Stuff of Our Dreams’
Social Networking1 week ago
After Facebook, Twitter Ban, Donald Trump Fans and Extremists Turn Elsewhere