Tag Archives: Media
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general will meet this month to discuss concerns that social media platforms are “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas,” the department said on Wednesday.
Its statement did not name Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), whose executives testified in Congress on Wednesday, but the firms have been harshly criticized by President Donald Trump and some of his fellow Republicans for what they see as an effort to repress conservative voices.
The companies deny any such bias.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions convened the meeting, set for Sept. 25, “to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said.
It was not known which state attorneys general would attend. Representatives for the attorneys general in New York, Connecticut and Iowa said that they had not been contacted.
Shares of social media companies slipped on Wednesday as the executives met skeptical lawmakers, with Twitter off 6.1 percent and Facebook around 2.3 percent lower in late afternoon trading. Shares of Google parent Alphabet Inc.(GOOGL.O) sank about 1 percent.
In the morning, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey testified at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on efforts to counteract foreign efforts to influence U.S. elections and political discourse.
The Senate panel has been examining reported Russian efforts to influence U.S. public opinion throughout Trump’s presidency, after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that entities backed by the Kremlin had sought to boost his chances of winning the White House in 2016.
Sandberg and Dorsey said the companies had stepped up efforts to fight such influence operations, but lawmakers said there was far more to be done and suggested Congress might have to take legislative action.
“Clearly, this problem is not going away. I’m not even sure it’s trending in the right direction,” said Senator Richard Burr, the committee’s Republican chairman.
Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s top Democrat said, “I’m skeptical that, ultimately, you’ll be able to truly address this challenge on your own. Congress is going to have to take action here.”
Legislation addressing the use of social media for political disinformation could resemble a bill passed earlier this year – and signed into law by Trump – that made it easier for state prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media companies, advertisers and others who failed to keep exploitative material off their sites.
Committee members also criticized Google for refusing to send top executives to testify at the Senate hearing, with just weeks before the Nov. 6 congressional elections.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the company might have skipped the hearing because it was “arrogant.”
Dorsey then testified at a House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee hearing focused on the bias issue.
Representative Greg Walden, the committee’s Republican chairman, said Twitter had made “mistakes” that, he said, minimized Republicans’ presence on the social media site, a practice conservatives have labeled “shadow banning.”
“Multiple members of Congress and the chairwoman of the Republican Party have seen their Twitter presences temporarily minimized in recent months, due to what you have claimed was a mistake in the algorithm,” he said.
Dorsey denied any deliberate attempt to target conservatives, or promote liberals, during more than four hours of questioning.
“Recently we failed our intended impartiality. Our algorithms were unfairly filtering 600,000 accounts, including some members of Congress, from our search auto-complete and latest results. We fixed it,” he said.
Ahead of Wednesday’s hearings, Trump, without offering evidence, accused social media companies of interfering in the November elections, telling the Daily Caller conservative website that social media firms are “super liberal.”
Trump was quoted as saying in the interview on Tuesday that “I think they already have” interfered.
Democratic House committee members accused Republicans of calling the hearing for political reasons, noting that Trump had featured accusations of bias in fundraising letters. The mid-terms will decide whether Republicans will keep their majorities in the House and Senate.
“Over the past weeks, President Trump and many Republicans have peddled conspiracy theories about Twitter and other social media platforms to whip up their base and fundraise,” said Representative Frank Pallone, the committee’s top Democrat.
Wednesday’s hearings were attended by conspiracy theorists known as Trump supporters, who have dealt with bans on social media.
The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who was temporarily suspended from Twitter, sat in the front row of the Senate hearing, and interrupted Rubio.
The House hearing was interrupted by Laura Loomer, a conspiracy theorist who has been banned from major social media sites. She shouted that Dorsey was lying, accusing him of banning conservatives and saying Twitter was going to help Democrats “steal” the November elections.
Loomer was removed from the room as Republican Representative Billy Long used the droning cadence of his former career as an auctioneer to drown her out.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bangalore; Editing by Susan Thomas and Grant McCool
Who wins in the melee between Musk and the media?
The Model 3. And the Model Y that comes after that.
Consumers are interested in the cars not spats with the media. In the end, it’s free publicity that just raises the company’s profile and drives demand for its cars. As if Tesla needs any free advertising. (It doesn’t.)
And it’s all happened before and is now pretty predictable and pretty boring. Musk says something to defend his company, media umbrage ensues. (See this CNBC story for the most recent tiff and this New York Times piece for the same kind of bickering that took place a couple of months ago.)
And I’ll insert that there are a few journalists (or self-styled “journalists”) that believe they’re on some sacred mission to expose Tesla as a fraud or Ponzi scheme. I’m not talking about responsible business journalists who report on Tesla aggressively but fairly. But those who are ignorant of the niceties of car manufacturing and, as a result, are susceptible to believing sketchy information that comes their way. (See this Electrek story starting at paragraph #6.)
What most people really pay attention to
It’s clear that hundreds of thousands of consumers worldwide want a Model 3. And it’s likely that hundreds of thousands more will want a Model Y (a cheaper version, more or less, of the Model X). So, if you’re a consumer in the market for a Tesla, what rivets your attention?
Price, styling/design, features, technology, availability, service, and reputation. And of course quality.
The latter is the source of a lot of the tension* between Musk and the media. But it’s often hard to tell what’s a real story about quality issues and, on the other hand, what’s an unreliable accusation. (See: “Tesla and Luxembourg squabble over failed Model S braking test” — Engadget via Electrek.)
Quality will get better as the young car maker gets a handle on manufacturing a mass-market car. The problem is, the media often goes too far by attributing some nefarious motive for issues (real or otherwise) that the company is having with Model 3 production (see Electrek link above).
The chasm between negative media coverage and the average Tesla buyer’s sentiment gets no wider than on YouTube (as I’ve written before). There Model 3 owners post overwhelmingly glowing reviews. And even when reviewers do complain, it’s typically a brief sidebar amid a long stream of fulsome praise. In the end, owners just want to be assured that Tesla stands behind the car and they’ll continue to get OTA updates.
*Remember the Consumer Reports kerfuffle? That made headlines when CR said, “Tesla Model 3 Falls Short of a CR Recommendation” though the Overall Score was high (and close to the highly-rated and recommended Chevy Bolt). After some back and forth with Tesla, Consumer Reports upgraded the Model 3 to “recommendation.”
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese state-backed media group CMC Inc said on Tuesday that it had raised around 10 billion yuan ($ 1.49 billion) in a fund-raising round from investors including rival tech giants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent Holdings Ltd.
CMC, formerly CMC Holdings which stretches from sports to amusement parks, said the A-round fundraising was led by the two tech firms along with new investors such as property developer China Vanke Co Ltd.
CMC, founded by media magnate Li Ruigang in 2015, added the firm was valued at around 400 billion yuan after the round.
Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman
Elon Musk’s ongoing criticism of the media took a strange turn late Saturday when he praised an analysis of media bias produced by a website linked to NXIVM, a group which federal prosecutors have described as an exploitative pyramid scheme. Keith Raniere, the group’s charismatic leader, was arrested in March on sex-trafficking charges, with charging documents describing a system of sexual blackmail and domination. The article Musk praised looks conventional enough, and there’s no evidence he was aware of its troubling origins—but the incident highlights the double-edged nature of campaigns to discredit the media.
Musk retweeted a link to an article on TheKnifeMedia.com Saturday evening, writing “This analysis is excellent.” The linked article applied numerical scores for factors like “spin” and “logic” to coverage of Musk’s recent critiques of the media, finding that outlets including The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times were “slanted.”
The problem with Musk’s endorsement is that The Knife, previously known as The Knife of Aristotle, has been linked to NXIVM, a marketing company that is allegedly a front for a secret group known as DOS, and which has been described as a cult by experts. NXIVM’s leader, Kieth Ranier, was arrested in March on charges of sex trafficking and abuse, including branding female members of DOS. The FBI’s efforts to rein in the group are ongoing.
Musk has since deleted his endorsement, which was archived by Slate. After being alerted to the article’s problematic origins, though, Musk seemed to double down, writing that the article “had better critical analysis than most non-cult media.”
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Links between NXIVM and The Knife/The Knife of Aristotle were unearthed last year by investigative reporter Brock Wilbur, writing in Paste. Wilbur found that the Knife shared leadership with NXIVM—including Battlestar Galactica actress Nicki Clyne—and speculated that its efforts to hire journalists were a form of recruitment for the broader group. The Knife and NXIVM have since scrubbed evidence linking the two entities.
Musk’s recent criticism of the media started as pushback against coverage of Tesla’s troubles, including Autopilot-linked wrecks, labor battles, and Model 3 production delays. On the Autopilot topic in particular, Musk has a very fair point—the event-driven nature of media coverage means a few wrecks could easily overshadow the life-saving potential of A.I. driver assistance.
But Musk has broadened his critique, painting the media as a whole as “holier-than-thou,” “sanctimonious,” and lacking integrity, and suggesting that he himself could restore that integrity by building a site to rate media outlets’ credibility. His attacks have invited comparisons to President Donald Trump’s remarks against the media, and highlighted Silicon Valley billionaires’ broader distaste for criticism.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc said Wednesday it has declined an invitation to testify at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing Thursday on filtering practices by social media companies, a company spokesman said.
The company said that even though it will not appear, it looks “forward to a continuing dialogue with members of the committee about Facebook’s strong commitment to being a platform for all voices and ideas.”
Alphabet Inc and Twitter Inc have also been invited to testify at the House Judiciary Committee hearing, but have not said whether they will appear. Some Republicans have criticized social media companies for censoring some conservative viewpoints, a charge the firms have denied.
Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Toshiba Corp has decided it will cancel the planned $ 18.6 billion sale of its memory chip unit if it does not get approval from China’s anti-monopoly regulator by May, the Mainichi newspaper said on Sunday.
A consortium led by U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital last year won a long and highly contentious battle for the unit, which Toshiba put up for sale after billions of dollars in cost overruns at its Westinghouse nuclear unit plunged it into crisis.
But Toshiba was unable to complete the sale by the agreed deadline of March 31 as it was still waiting for approval from China’s antitrust authorities.
Toshiba raised $ 5.4 billion from a share issue to foreign investors late last year and it had now decided it did not need to go through with the sale, the Mainichi newspaper reported. It did not cite any source.
“Toshiba has come to a decision that there is little necessity for the sale as it is no longer in insolvency,” the newspaper reported, adding that Toshiba would consider listing the unit if the sale did not go ahead.
A Toshiba spokesman said the company was still aiming to complete the sale as soon as possible.
In early April, Toshiba Chief Executive Nobuaki Kurumatani said his company would not use the option of cancelling the sale unless there was any “major material change” in circumstances.
Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki, Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Robert Birsel
Apple Inc. warned employees to stop leaking internal information on future plans and raised the specter of potential legal action and criminal charges, one of the most-aggressive moves by the world’s largest technology company to control information about its activities.
The Cupertino, California-based company said in a lengthy memo posted to its internal blog that it “caught 29 leakers,” last year and noted that 12 of those were arrested. “These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere,” Apple added. The company declined to comment on Friday.
Apple outlined situations in which information was leaked to the media, including a meeting earlier this year where Apple’s software engineering head Craig Federighi told employees that some planned iPhone software features would be delayed. Apple also cited a yet-to-be-released software package that revealed details about the unreleased iPhone X and new Apple Watch.
Leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of current models, give rivals more time to begin on a competitive response, and lead to fewer sales when the new product launches, according to the memo. “We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great, and not have that done poorly by someone else,” Greg Joswiak, an Apple product marketing executive, said in the memo.
The crackdown is part of broader and long-running attempts by Silicon Valley technology companies to track and limit what information their employees share publicly. Firms like Google and Facebook Inc. are pretty open with staff about their plans, but keep close tabs on their outside communications and sometime fire people when they find leaks.
Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg last week talked about her disappointment with leakers. In 2016, Google fired an employee after the person shared internal posts criticizing an executive. The employee filed a lawsuit claiming their speech was protected under California law.
In messages to staff, tech companies sometimes conflate conversations employees are allowed to have, such as complaining about working conditions, with sharing trade secrets, said Chris Baker, an attorney with Baker Curtis and Schwartz, PC, who represents the fired Googler. “The overall broad definition of confidential information makes it so employees don’t say anything, even about issues they’re allowed to talk about,” he said. “That’s problematic.”
Apple is notoriously secretive about its product development. In 2012, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook pledged to double down on keeping the company’s work under wraps. Despite that, the media has continued to report news on the firm to satisfy demand for information on a company that’s become a crucial part of investment portfolios, many of which support public retirement funds for teachers and other essential workers.
In 2017, Apple held a confidential meeting with employees in another bid to stop leaks. Since then, publications, including Bloomberg News, published details about the iPhone X, a new Apple TV video-streaming box, a new Apple Watch with LTE, the company’s upcoming augmented-reality headset, new iPad models, software enhancements, and details about the upcoming iPhones and AirPods headphones.
Here’s the memo:
Last month, Apple caught and fired the employee responsible for leaking details from an internal, confidential meeting about Apple’s software roadmap. Hundreds of software engineers were in attendance, and thousands more within the organization received details of its proceedings. One person betrayed their trust.
The employee who leaked the meeting to a reporter later told Apple investigators that he did it because he thought he wouldn’t be discovered. But people who leak — whether they’re Apple employees, contractors or suppliers — do get caught and they’re getting caught faster than ever.
In many cases, leakers don’t set out to leak. Instead, people who work for Apple are often targeted by press, analysts and bloggers who befriend them on professional and social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and begin to pry for information. While it may seem flattering to be approached, it’s important to remember that you’re getting played. The success of these outsiders is measured by obtaining Apple’s secrets from you and making them public. A scoop about an unreleased Apple product can generate massive traffic for a publication and financially benefit the blogger or reporter who broke it. But the Apple employee who leaks has everything to lose.
The impact of a leak goes far beyond the people who work on a project.
Leaking Apple’s work undermines everyone at Apple and the years they’ve invested in creating Apple products. “Thousands of people work tirelessly for months to deliver each major software release,” says UIKit lead Josh Shaffer, whose team’s work was part of the iOS 11 leak last fall. “Seeing it leak is devastating for all of us.”
The impact of a leak goes beyond the people who work on a particular project — it’s felt throughout the company. Leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of the current model; give rival companies more time to begin on a competitive response; and lead to fewer sales of that new product when it arrives. “We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great, and not have that done poorly by someone else,” says Greg Joswiak of Product Marketing.
Investments by Apple have had an enormous impact on the company’s ability to identify and catch leakers. Just before last September’s special event, an employee leaked a link to the gold master of iOS 11 to the press, again believing he wouldn’t be caught. The unreleased OS detailed soon-to-be-announced software and hardware including iPhone X. Within days, the leaker was identified through an internal investigation and fired. Global Security’s digital forensics also helped catch several employees who were feeding confidential details about new products including iPhone X, iPad Pro and AirPods to a blogger at 9to5Mac.
Leakers in the supply chain are getting caught, too. Global Security has worked hand-in-hand with suppliers to prevent theft of Apple’s intellectual property as well as to identify individuals who try to exceed their access. They’ve also partnered with suppliers to identify vulnerabilities — both physical and technological — and ensure their security levels meet or exceed Apple’s expectations. These programs have nearly eliminated the theft of prototypes and products from factories, caught leakers and prevented many others from leaking in the first place.
Leakers do not simply lose their jobs at Apple. In some cases, they face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets both classified as federal crimes. In 2017, Apple caught 29 leakers. 12 of those were arrested. Among those were Apple employees, contractors and some partners in Apple’s supply chain. These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere. “The potential criminal consequences of leaking are real,” says Tom Moyer of Global Security, “and that can become part of your personal and professional identity forever.”
While they carry serious consequences, leaks are completely avoidable. They are the result of a decision by someone who may not have considered the impact of their actions. “Everyone comes to Apple to do the best work of their lives — work that matters and contributes to what all 135,000 people in this company are doing together,” says Joswiak. “The best way to honor those contributions is by not leaking.”
BEIJING (Reuters) – Customs officers in southern China’s technology hub Shenzhen busted a group of criminals using drones to smuggle 500 million yuan ($ 79.8 million) worth of smartphones from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, the official Legal Daily reported on Friday.
Authorities arrested 26 suspects who used drones to fly two 200-meter (660-feet) cables between Hong Kong and the mainland to transport refurbished iPhones with a total value of 500 million yuan, the paper said in a report on the crackdown by Shenzhen and Hong Kong customs.
“It’s the first case found in China that drones were being used in cross-border smuggling crimes,” the Legal Daily reported, citing a news conference held by Shenzhen customs on Thursday.
The smugglers usually operated after midnight and only needed seconds to transport small bags holding more than 10 iPhones using the drones, the report quoted customs as saying. The gang could smuggle as many as 15,000 phones across the border in one night, it said.
Regulating the use of drones has become an important task for China, the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer drones.
China published strict rules last year to tackle incidents of drones straying into aircraft flight paths, including requiring owners of civilian drones to register craft up to a certain weight under their real names.
Shenzhen customs was quoted by the Legal Daily as saying it would closely monitor new types of smuggling with high-tech devices and enhance their capability with technical equipment, including drones and high-resolution monitors, to detect smuggling activity.
Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Se Young Lee; Editing by Paul Tait
LONDON (Reuters) – Social media companies should face prosecution for failing to remove racist and extremist material from their websites, according to a report by an influential committee.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s ethics watchdog recommends introducing laws to shift the liability for illegal content onto social media firms and calls for them to do more to take down intimidatory content.
Social media companies currently do not have liability for the content on their sites, even when it is illegal, the report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life said.
The recommendations form part of the conclusions of an inquiry into intimidation experienced by parliamentary candidates in an election campaign this year.
“The widespread use of social media has been the most significant factor accelerating and enabling intimidatory behavior in recent years,” the report said.
“The committee is deeply concerned about the limited engagement of the social media companies in tackling these issues.”
While the report said intimidation in public life is an old problem, the scale and intensity of intimidation is now posing a threat to Britain’s democracy.
The report found that women, ethnic minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political candidates are disproportionately likely to be the targets of intimidation.
The committee heard how racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and anti-Semitic abuse is putting off some candidates from standing for public office.
Platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are criticized for failing to remove abusive material posted online even after they were notified.
The committee said it was “surprised and concerned” Google, Facebook and Twitter do not collect data on the material they take down.
“The companies’ failure to collect this data seems extraordinary given that they thrive on data collection,” the report said. “It would appear to demonstrate that they do not prioritize addressing this issue of online intimidation.”
Twitter said in a statement it has announced several updates to its platform aimed at cutting down on abusive content and it is taking action on 10 times the number of abusive accounts every day compared to the same time last year.
YouTube declined to comment, while Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Many politicians have become more vocal about the abuse they face after Labour’s Jo Cox, a 41-year-old mother of two young children, was shot and repeatedly stabbed a week before Britain’s Brexit referendum last year.
Reporting By Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison
The Department of Homeland Security is proposing to expand the files it collects on immigrants, as well as some citizens, by including more online data—most notably search results and social media information—about each individual.
The plan, which would cover data like Facebook posts or Google results, is set out in the Federal Register, where the government publishes forthcoming regulations. A final version is set to go into effect on Oct. 18.
The plan, reported by BuzzFeed, is notable partly because it permits the government to amass information not only about recent immigrants, but also on green card holders and naturalized Americans as well.
The proposal to collect social media data is set out in a part of the draft regulation that describes expanding the content of so-called “Alien Files,” which serve as detailed profiles of individual immigrants, and are used by everyone from border agents to judges. Here is the relevant portion:
The Department of Homeland Security, therefore, is updating the [file process] to … (5) expand the categories of records to include the following: country of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS Online Account Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results
The proposal follows new rules by the Trump Administration that require visitors from certain countries to disclose their social media handles, and allow border agents to view their list of phone contacts.
Those earlier measures alarmed civil rights advocates who questioned whether they would do much to improve security, and worried other countries would introduce similar screening of Americans. In response to the latest effort to collect social media data, the American Civil Liberties Union warned of a “chilling effect.”
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“This Privacy Act notice makes clear that the government intends to retain the social media information of people who have immigrated to this country, singling out a huge group of people to maintain files on what they say. This would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the free speech that’s expressed every day on social media,” the group said in a statement.
The new rules are currently subject to a comment period until Oct. 18 but, if they go into effect as planned, they will add yet more data to “Alien Files” that can already contain information such as fingerprints, travel histories, and health, and education records.
Such repositories provide powerful intelligence-gathering tools, but brings potential privacy risks such as government surveillance or cyber-attacks.