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Twitter Ban Lifted in Nigeria After Seven Months, Company to Open Office in the Country

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By Associated Press | Updated: 13 January 2022

The Nigerian government has lifted its ban on Twitter in the West African country, seven months after the country’s more than 200 million people were shut out of the social media network.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari directed that Twitter’s operations will resume in the country on Thursday, according to the director-general of the country’s National Information Technology Development Agency. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi said that was only after Twitter agreed to meet some conditions, including opening an office in Nigeria.

Nigeria suspended Twitter’s operation on June 4, citing “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” The action triggered criticisms as it came shortly after the social media network deleted a post by Buhari in which he threatened to treat separatists “in the language they will understand.”

“Our action is a deliberate attempt to recalibrate our relationship with Twitter to achieve the maximum mutual benefits for our nation without jeopardising the justified interests of the company. Our engagement has been very respectful, cordial, and successful,” Abdullahi said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to registering in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022, Abdullahi said Twitter has also agreed to other conditions including appointing a designated country representative, complying with tax obligations, and acting “with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation has been built.”

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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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Facebook Faces GBP 2.3-Billion UK Class Action Over Market Dominance

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By Reuters | Updated: 14 January 2022

Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms, faces a GBP 2.3 billion (roughly Rs. 23,420 crore)-plus class action in Britain over allegations it abused its market dominance by exploiting the personal data of 44 million users.

Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, a senior adviser to Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) watchdog and a competition law academic, said she was bringing the case on behalf of people in Britain who had used Facebook between 2015 and 2019.

The lawsuit, which will be heard by London’s Competition Appeal Tribubal, alleges Facebook made billions of pounds by imposing unfair terms and conditions that demanded consumers surrender valuable personal data to access the network.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, the law firm representing Lovdahl Gormsen, has notified Facebook of the claim.

Facebook said people used its services because it delivered value for them and “they have meaningful control of what information they share on Meta’s platforms and who with.”

The case comes days after Facebook lost an attempt to strike out an antitrust lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), one of the biggest challenges by the US government against a tech company in decades as Washington attempts to tackle Big Tech’s extensive market power.

“In the 17 years since it was created, Facebook became the sole social network in the UK where you could be sure to connect with friends and family in one place,” Lovdahl Gornsen said.

“Yet, there was a dark side to Facebook; it abused its market dominance to impose unfair terms and conditions on ordinary Britons, giving it the power to exploit their personal data.”

Lovdahl Gormsen alleges Facebook collected data within its platform and through mechanisms like the Facebook Pixel, allowing it to build an “all-seeing picture” of Internet usage and generate valuable, deep data profiles of users.

Opt-out class actions, like Lovdahl Gormsen’s, bind a defined group automatically into a lawsuit unless individuals opt out.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Twitter, Meta, YouTube Among Tech Giants Subpoenaed by January 6 US Capitol Riot Panel

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By Associated Press | Updated: 14 January 2022

Months after requesting documents from more than a dozen social platforms, the House committee investigating the US Capitol insurrection has issued subpoenas targeting Twitter, Meta, Reddit and YouTube after lawmakers said the companies’ initial responses were inadequate.

The committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, demanded records Thursday from the companies relating to their role in allegedly spreading misinformation about the 2020 election and promoting domestic violent extremism on their platforms in the lead-up to the insurrection on January 6, 2021.

“Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps — if any — social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalisng people to violence,” Thompson, D-Miss., said in the letter.

Thompson added that it’s “disappointing that after months of engagement,” the four companies have not voluntarily turned over the necessary information and documents that would help lawmakers answer the questions at the heart of their investigation.

In his letter, Thompson outlined the way the companies were complicit in the deadly insurrection perpetrated by supporters of Donald Trump and far-right groups.

YouTube, owned by Alphabet, was the platform where a significant amount of communication took place “relevant to the planning and execution” of the siege against the Capitol, “including livestreams of the attack as it was taking place,” the letter stated.

In a statement to the Associated Press, a YouTube spokesperson said it is “actively cooperating” with the committee and is committed to stopping content that incites violence or undermines faith in elections.

”We enforced these policies in the run-up to January 6 and continue to do so today,” the spokesperson wrote.

The committee also outlined how how Meta, formerly known as Facebook, was reportedly used to exchange hateful, violent and inciting messages between users as well as spread misinformation that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent in an attempt to coordinate the “Stop the Steal” movement.

In response, Meta said it too was working with the committee to get lawmakers the information they requested.

On Reddit, the r/The_Donald “subreddit” community grew significantly, the letter said, before members migrated to an official website where investigators believe discussions around the planning of the attack were hosted. A spokesperson for Reddit said Thursday that the company had received the subpoena and “will continue to work with the committee on their requests.”

The letter further detailed how Twitter was warned about the potential violence that was being planned on its platform in advance of the attack and how its users engaged in “communications amplifying allegations of election fraud, including by the former President himself.”

One specific tweet from Trump on December 19, 2020 was highlighted: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election” as he urged followers to come to Washington to engage in a “wild” protest on January 6, 2021.

A spokesperson for Twitter declined to comment on the subpoenas.

The committee made its initial request for the documents from 15 social media companies in August, which also included TikTok, Parler, Telegram, 4chan, and 8kun.

The subpoenas come as the nine-member committee continues its wide-reaching investigation into how a mob was able to infiltrate the Capitol and disrupt the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory, in what was the most serious assault on Congress in two centuries.

The committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans has interviewed more than 340 people and issued dozens of subpoenas to those in Trump’s inner circle, including his former chief of staff, as well as requests to their own colleagues in the House.

On Wednesday, the committee requested an interview with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

McCarthy as well as GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania have denied the committee’s request to sit down for interviews or turn over documents related to their conversations on January 6, 2021, with Trump or those close to him as hundreds of his supporters beat police, stormed the building and interrupted the certification of the 2020 election.

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Meta Makes Booster Shots Mandatory for Returning Workers, Office Reopening Delayed

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By Reuters | Updated: 11 January 2022

Facebook parent Meta Platforms has delayed its US office reopening date and mandated COVID-19 booster shots for employees returning to office, joining the growing list of companies revamping reopening plans as Omicron surges.

For employees who opt to work from office, the reopening date has been delayed to March 28 from the earlier plan of January 31, the tech giant said on Monday.

All workers returning to office will have to present proof of their booster jabs, while the company closely monitors the Omicron variant situation, it said. Meta currently requires all its US employees coming to office to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Employees have until March 14 to decide whether to return to the office, request to work remotely full time or request to work from home temporarily.

Employees who are not vaccinated for medical or religious reasons can request such remote work, a spokesperson said. “Employees who take no action can face disciplinary measures, including termination. Obviously, this would be a last resort,” the spokesperson said by email.

Corporate America has doubled down on vaccination mandates and delayed back-to-office plans as the Omicron variant drives up infections to record levels across the country.

Last week, Citigroup said its US staff who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 14 will be placed on unpaid leave and fired at the end of the month.

In December, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp had offered an option to defer returning to office.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Signal’s Moxie Marlinspike Quits, WhatsApp Co-Founder Brian Acton to Take Over as Interim CEO

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By Reuters | Updated: 11 January 2022

Messaging app Signal’s founder and Chief Executive Officer Moxie Marlinspike will step down and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton will become the interim CEO, Marlinspike said in a blog post on Monday.

“It’s a new year, and I’ve decided it’s a good time to replace myself as the CEO of Signal”, he said. Marlinspike, who will remain on Signal’s board, said he is scouting for candidates for the permanent CEO position.

Acton founded Signal’s rival messaging app WhatsApp in 2009. The company was bought by Meta Platforms, then Facebook, in 2014. He left WhatsApp in 2017 due to differences around the use of customer data and targeted advertising, according to Signal’s website.

In February 2018, he alongside Marlinspike, started the non-profit Signal Foundation, which currently oversees the app, by providing an initial funding of $50 million (roughly Rs. 370 crore).

Signal, an end-to-end encrypted messaging platform, has been endorsed by people including Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, and whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Reddit Said to Tap Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs for IPO

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 January 2022

Social media platform Reddit, whose message boards became central to meme stock trading frenzy in 2021, is tapping Wall Street banks Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group for its initial public offering, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.

Reddit had confidentially filed for an IPO in December and is aiming for a valuation of over $15 billion (roughly Rs. 1,11,436 crore) at the time of its flotation. It was valued at $10 billion (roughly Rs. 74,231 crore) in a private fundraising round led by Fidelity Management in August.

A second source familiar with the matter said JPMorgan Chase is also one of the top underwriters on the deal.

Goldman Sachs and Reddit did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment. Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase declined to comment.

Reddit, which was founded in 2005 by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, has more than 50 million daily active users and over 100,000 communities.

Its message boards, especially its WallStreetBets thread, were at the heart of a pitched battle between small-time traders and big hedge funds and had helped drive big gains in highly shorted shares of companies such as GameStop and AMC, while popularising the term meme stocks.

Globally, IPOs have raised a record $594 billion (roughly Rs. 44,10,667 crore) in 2021, riding the coattails of stock market rallies with technology and healthcare being the biggest sectors driving IPO volumes.

There were 426 technology IPOs last year and 332 healthcare-related deals, collectively accounting for almost 42 percent of IPO proceeds raised by companies globally, according to Refinitiv.

Bloomberg News first reported the news.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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