Tag Archives: Times

U.S. prosecutors probing Facebook's data deals: New York Times
March 14, 2019 6:00 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – U.S. federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook Inc struck with some of the world’s largest technology companies, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the requests and without naming the companies.

Both companies are among the more than 150, including Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp, that have entered into partnerships with Facebook for access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users, according to the report.

Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over its privacy practices, including ongoing investigations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and two state agencies in New York.

In addition to looking at the data deals, the probes focus on disclosures that the company shared the user data of 87 million people with Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm that worked with U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Facebook said it was cooperating with investigators in multiple federal probes, without addressing the grand jury inquiry specifically.

“We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so,” Facebook said in a statement.

Facebook has defended the data-sharing deals, first reported in December, saying none of the partnerships gave companies access to information without people’s permission.

A spokesman for the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, which The New York Times reported is overseeing the inquiry, said he could not confirm or deny the probe.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Katie Paul in San Francisco; Editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler


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Facebook Moves to Limit Hate Speech as ‘Times’ Scandal Swirls
November 16, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Mark Zuckerberg would like you to know that despite a scathing report in The New York Times, which depicts Facebook as a ruthless, self-concerned corporate behemoth, things are getting better—at least, the way he sees it.

In a lengthy call with reporters Thursday, and an equally lengthy “note” published on Facebook, the company’s CEO laid out a litany of changes Facebook is making, designed to curb toxic content on the platform and provide more transparency into the decisions Facebook makes on content. But perhaps the most consequential update is that the Facebook News Feed algorithm will now try to limit the spread of sensationalist content on the platform, which represents a major change from how the company has traditionally approached moderation. All of it is in service of restoring trust in a company whose public reputation—and the reputation of its leaders—have taken near constant body blows over the past two years.

“When you have setbacks like we’ve had this year that’s a big issue, and it does erode trust, and it takes time to build that back,” Zuckerberg said on the call. “Certainly our job is not only to have this stuff at a good level and to continually improve, but to be ahead of new issues. I think over the last couple of years that’s been one of the areas where we’ve been most behind, especially around the election issues.”

Zuckerberg’s words come a day after the Times published a damning report that portrays Facebook as not merely behind on issues of election interference, as Zuckerberg suggests, but actively working to downplay what it knew about that interference. It suggests that Facebook’s executives, wary of picking sides in a partisan battle over Russian interference in the 2016 election, aimed to minimize Russia’s role in spreading propaganda on the platform. The story states that Facebook’s former head of cybersecurity, Alex Stamos, was chastised by the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, for investigating Russian actions without the company’s approval and berated again for divulging too much information about it to members of Facebook’s board.

In his remarks, Zuckerberg flatly denied this allegation. “We’ve certainly stumbled along the way, but to suggest that we weren’t interested in knowing the truth or that we wanted to hide what we knew or that we tried to prevent investigations is simply untrue,” he said. (Stamos, for his part, tweeted earlier on Thursday that he was “never told by Mark, Sheryl or any other executives not to investigate.”)

The Times story also alleges that Facebook waged a smear campaign against its competitors through an opposition research firm called Definers Public Relations. The firm repeatedly worked to tie Facebook’s detractors, including groups like the Open Markets Institute and Freedom from Facebook, to billionaire George Soros. Critics say that in doing so, Facebook engaged with the same anti-Semitic tropes that have been used by white nationalists and other hate groups that regularly villainize Soros.

Zuckerberg denied having any personal knowledge of Definers’ work with Facebook, and said he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, only heard about the relationship yesterday. That’s despite the fact that Definers often coordinated large-scale calls with the press on behalf of Facebook and its employees and, in at least one case, sat in on meetings between Facebook and the media.

After Zuckerberg read the story in the Times, he says Facebook promptly ended its relationship with the firm. “This type of firm might be normal in Washington, but it’s not the type of thing I want Facebook associated with, which is why we’re no longer going to be working with them.”

But while Zuckerberg said he had no knowledge of Definers’ work or its messaging, he defended Facebook’s criticism of activist groups like Freedom from Facebook. He said the intention was not to attack Soros, for whom Zuckerberg said he has “tremendous respect,” but show that Freedom from Facebook “was not a spontaneous grassroots effort.”

Zuckerberg declined to assign blame for the tactics allegedly employed by Definers, or to comment on broader personnel issues within Facebook itself. He said only that Sandberg, who has been overseeing Facebook’s lobbying efforts and who is portrayed unfavorably throughout the Times story, is “doing great work for the company.” “She’s been an important partner to me and continues to be and will continue to be,” Zuckerberg said. (Sandberg was not on the call.)

For the umpteenth time this year, Zuckerberg found himself working overtime to clean up Facebook’s mess, even as he wanted desperately to tout the progress the company’s been making. And it has made important progress. In Myanmar, where fake news on Facebook has animated a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya people, the company has hired 100 Burmese speakers to moderate content there and is now automatically identifying 63 percent of the hate speech it takes down, up from just 13 percent at the end of last year. Facebook has expanded its safety and security team to 30,000 people globally, more than the 20,000 people the company initially set out to hire this year. It’s also changed its content takedown process, allowing people to appeal the company’s decisions about content they post or report. On Thursday, Facebook announced that within the next year, it will create an independent oversight body to handle content appeals.

But by far the biggest news to come out of Thursday’s announcements is the change coming to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm. Zuckerberg acknowledged what most observers already know to be one of Facebook’s most fundamental problems: That sensationalist, provocative content, even content that doesn’t explicitly violate Facebook’s policies, tends to get the most engagement on the platform. “As content gets closer to the line of what is prohibited by our community standards, we see people tend to engage with it more,” he said. “This seems to be true regardless of where we set our policy lines.”

This issue is arguably what undergirds most of Facebook’s problems the past few years. It’s why divisive political propaganda was so successful during the 2016 campaign and why fake news has been able to flourish. Until now, Facebook has operated in a black-and-white environment, where content either violates the rules or it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, it’s free to amass millions of clicks, even if the poster’s intention is to mislead and stoke outrage. Now Facebook is saying that even content that doesn’t explicitly violate Facebook’s rules might see its reach reduced. According to Zuckerberg’s post, that includes, among other things, “photos close to the line of nudity” and “posts that don’t come within our definition of hate speech but are still offensive.”

Zuckerberg called the shift “a big part of the solution for making sure polarizing or sensational content isn’t spreading in the system, and we’re having a positive effect on the world.”

With this move, Facebook is taking a risk. Curbing engagement on the most popular content will likely cost the company money. And such a dramatic change no doubt opens Facebook up to even more accusations of censorship, at a time when the company is fending off constant criticism from all angles.

But Facebook is betting big on the upside. If outrage is no longer rewarded with ever more clicks, the thinking goes, maybe people will be better behaved. That Facebook is prepared to take such a chance says a lot about the public pressure that’s been placed on the company these last two years. After all of that, what does Facebook have to lose?

More Great WIRED Stories


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Netflix plans $1 billion European investment drive: Financial Times
April 18, 2018 6:02 pm|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Netflix Inc will raise its investment in content across Europe and plans to spend about $ 1 billion on original productions this year, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people briefed on the plans.

The Netflix logo is shown above their booth at Comic Con International in San Diego, California, U.S., July 21, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The revised budget will be more than double that of last year, the report said.

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur


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In Times Of War
April 15, 2018 6:04 pm|Comments (0)

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s a good thing for risk assets that the official word on the strikes in Syria came late Friday evening (in the U.S. anyway) after markets were closed for the week.

I don’t want to suggest that the market reaction was high on anyone’s list at the White House in terms of what to consider when pondering the strikes on the Assad regime, but you’d be remiss to think it wasn’t at least on the list of concerns.

The geopolitical headlines market participants were force-fed this week were at times so momentous and at other times so surreal that analysts and financial journalists alike struggled to find the right words to express their incredulity. Everyone I talked to this week said the same thing which, in a nutshell, is that irrespective of your political leanings, the nature and frequency of the headlines during the trading week is unprecedented. Here’s an example of a random CNBC screengrab I tweeted out mid-week:

That headline of course references President Trump’s Wednesday morning tweet regarding Russia’s stated intent to shoot down U.S. missiles fired at targets inside Syria. That tweet was bombastic to the point of being cartoonish and it left markets to ponder the unthinkable – a direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia. The moment it hit is clearly visible on all manner of charts, but the one I want to show you is this one:


What you should note there is that the missiles tweet came at a time when the ruble was already extremely vulnerable. I spent all week over on my site documenting the trials and tribulations of Russian assets in the wake of the latest U.S. sanctions which roiled the ruble, Russian bonds, Russian equities and the aluminum market. On Monday, in my last post for this platform before the headlines started to come in so fast that documenting them on Heisenberg Report became the only feasible option in terms of timeliness, I talked a bit about the impact the sanctions were likely to have and I highlighted some color from several of the big banks, so if you need a review, that’s a decent place to start.

Note in the chart above that the ruble was essentially bailed out by Steve Mnuchin on Wednesday afternoon following the Trump tweet. The Treasury Secretary seemed to rule out sanctions on Russian government debt (the so-called “nuclear option“) relieving some of the pressure on Russian assets in the process. Here’s what Deutsche Bank wrote early in the week about market psychology following the latest sanctions:

Markets quickly switched to thinking the unthinkable, whether sanctions could be extended to the OFZ market. We believe at this stage it is unlikely. Targeting OFZ is the final lever that the US administration has and it may keep it in reserve.

Right. And make no mistake, if the U.S. were to pull that lever in response to further geopolitical tensions with Moscow, it would be bad news. Here’s a look at the ruble plotted with Russia CDS (you can see the selloff in the currency and the abrupt widening in credit risk):


Global markets aren’t going to be particularly inclined to catch cold immediately if Russian assets sneeze, but if you’re long risk, you don’t want to see a scenario where this spirals too far out of control, because eventually, it will spill over into emerging markets more broadly.

So you need to think about Friday’s airstrikes on Assad regime targets in that context if you’re an investor. Also, note that in the event Russian assets are hit by these type of political concerns, rising crude prices won’t necessarily offset the pain. Indeed, if you looked at the ruble on Wednesday morning (so, in the heat of the moment, as it were), it was on track for its biggest one-week underperformance of Brent since 2009:

(Bloomberg; through Wednesday morning)

Speaking of crude, this was a blockbuster week. WTI posted its biggest weekly gain since July, rising nearly 9%:


There’s nothing quite like an acute escalation in the Mideast to prompt investors to price in a geopolitical premium in crude and you’re reminded that at the end of the day, this always comes back to the same question: what’s the read-through for the odds of an outright confrontation between Tehran and Riyadh?

I’ve written a ton this week about Douma (where the chemical attack occurred) in an effort to give readers a bit of background on the fight for Eastern Ghouta. I’m not going to get too far down that rabbit hole here, but suffice to say there’s a Saudi connection to the rebels there, and as you’re hopefully aware, Iran is the Assad government’s staunchest ally. This all comes at a critical time for relations between Washington and Tehran and that has implications for crude. Here’s a bit of color from a new Goldman note discussing what the effect on crude might be if Trump decides not to extend waivers on Iran sanctions next month:

If the US reintroduces the secondary sanctions, we would expect European refiners to reduce imports from Iran, even without participation from the EU, given their exposure to the US, either through assets or product trade flows. The EU accounts for 25% of Iran’s 2.6 mb/d crude exports but we believe the key for the global oil market is whether these flows will be curtailed rather than simply redirected to Asia.

Key to the impact on the oil market would be how Saudi Arabia decides to respond. Potential losses from Iranian production would support oil prices by $ 7/bbl (assuming 500 kb/d outages for 6-mo, and modeling the impact of such an inventory shock on timespreads). This 10% increase in prices would halve the export revenue impact for Iran. So in this situation, Saudi Arabia may decide to increase production to prevent higher oil prices from softening the impact of the sanctions on Iran. Net, while the reintroduction of US secondary sanctions on Iran is increasingly likely, the lack of global coordination suggests a limited production impact initially. Of course, the odds of steeper military escalation in Iran have increased with the recent changes in the US administration. Further, a direct conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran could create a dramatic impact on the oil market if local producing or refining assets were impacted.

This is all particularly interesting in the context of the Saudis’ purported desire to see crude at $ 80 per barrel ahead of the Aramco IPO. As you can surmise from the above, this is a rather delicate balancing act and there’s a lot more at stake than just the fate of U.S. shale. Incidentally, thanks to a Bloomberg scoop out Friday, we now know that Aramco is the most profitable company in the world by a fairly large margin:

(Heisenberg, Bloomberg data)

As far as other assets, I think it’s entirely possible that all of this supports equity volatility in the U.S. next week. Multiple sellside desks have warned that the potential for a “sell the news” dynamic to unfold during earnings season is high, and if you were watching the banks on Friday, it seems like we got a preview of just that kind of mentality following results from JPMorgan and Citi.

Coming full circle, it’s of course possible that the timing of the airstrikes will give markets a couple of days to calm down and that temporal cushion could mute the reaction. On the other hand, Russia is most assuredly not pleased, and although their options for retaliating are to a certain extent limited by fears of further economic reprisals from the West, the rhetoric is likely to remain heated for quite some time.

For now, I’ll leave you with a chart from Barclays which plots a news-based measure of geopolitical risk:


Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.


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Home Depot's CEO Did This 25,000 Times. Science Says You Should Do It Too
November 10, 2017 12:04 pm|Comments (0)

When Frank Blake announced his retirement three years ago as the CEO of Home Depot, employees flooded him with handwritten notes of appreciation.

“I got boxes and boxes of notes,” Blake recalls. “They are my most important mementos from my time at Home Depot.”

Those notes brought the spirit of gratitude full circle.

During his seven-year stint as CEO, Blake set aside several hours every Sunday to hand-write notes thanking standout employees for their service. He estimates he wrote more than 25,000 notes to everyone from district managers to hourly associates.

“I’d see the notes framed at the stores,” he told me. “So I knew it mattered.”

Science confirms it mattered. Studies show that employees who feel appreciated are happier, more engaged, more productive, and more likely to contribute in positive ways.

And it’s not just the recipient who benefits. Studies show that people who express appreciation are more optimistic, as well as physically and emotionally healthier.

In other words, gratitude stays with those who give it.

So, as we head into Thanksgiving, here are four tips for using the lost art of letter writing as a way of expressing appreciation to your employees.

1. Be specific about why you’re thankful.

When Frank Blake thanked me via email and phone for writing about this particular topic, it made me smile. We all want to be appreciated for what we’re doing, and when you’re recognized for something specific, it’s even more of a motivator.  

Blake says when writing his notes, he stayed away from generalities. Instead of simply thanking employees for their customer service, he told me he’d write: “I heard that you did xyz for a customer recently. Thank you for setting a great example of customer service.”

Lydia Ramsey, a business etiquette expert and author of Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits, suggests mentioning the specific effect on your team or organization. For example, “Thank you for coming in on your day off. You helped us finish our project on time and set a great example for everyone involved.”

2. Set up a system.

When Blake sat down every Sunday to write his notes, he had a process for identifying the recipients: Each store would collect specific examples of great customer service. The store would send those names to the districts. The districts would send their top picks to the regions. And the regions would send their top picks directly to Blake.

“I figured the advantage of this is that it created an atmosphere of people being on the lookout for recognizing great behavior,” Blake says.

Regardless of the size of the company, he advises bosses to develop a mindset that focuses on identifying employees who put in extra effort, and then a system to recognize those employees.

3. Keep note cards handy.

In this digital media age, it’s easy to skip the pen and go straight for the keyboard. But when was the last time you put a text or an email in a keepsake box? There’s just something about a handwritten note that creates a more meaningful connection.

To avoid the temptation of dashing off a digital thank you, have fun picking out some note cards that reflect your personality, and stash them in a convenient place in your desk. That way, “you don’t have to hunt them down, and you can write that note immediately, while the act is still fresh in your mind, says Ramsey.

4. Go beyond gratitude.

Making employees feel appreciated goes beyond thanking them for a job well done. It can also include recognizing and acknowledging significant events in their lives like birthdays, engagements, work anniversaries, kids’ graduations, and even family illnesses.

Regardless of the precipitating event, Ramsey calls handwritten notes “a chance to build positive relationships with employees.”

And since fewer and fewer people are putting pen to paper these days, you’ll stand out with each letter you write.

Letting people know you’re thinking of them creates a chance for meaningful connection. It also creates a keepsake they can look back on and remember that you took the time to reach out.

“There’s something so powerful about the written word,” says Blake.


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17 Times the Internet Totally Summed Up Millennial Dating
August 10, 2017 11:00 pm|Comments (0)

Modern romance can be tough. Luckily, we’re tougher!

Source: http://www.thefrisky.com/2017-03-17/17-times-the-internet-summed-up-dating-in-2017/

America Ferrera Amerie Amy Cobb Amy Smart Ana Beatriz Barros Ana Hickmann


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Half of the top 100 retail sites had slow load times during AWS’s S3 outage, vendor finds
March 6, 2017 5:35 am|Comments (0)

Yesterday Amazon Web Services had a bad day. And when AWS has a bad day, so do a lot of other sites.

Vendor Apica is a website monitoring services that keeps a close eye on some of the top retail websites around the country. All in all, the retail website Apica tracks had trouble dealing with the elevated errors rates AWS reported in S3 starting around mid-day Eastern Time.

+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: 5 Lessons from Amazon’s S3 cloud blunder, and how to protect yourself from the next outage +

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How The New York Times Is Clawing Its Way Into the Future
February 12, 2017 5:25 pm|Comments (0)

How The New York Times Is Clawing Its Way Into the Future

The Gray Lady is embarking on an ambitious plan, inspired by the strategies of Netflix, Spotify, and HBO, to make a subscription to the <em>Times</em> indispensable. The post How The New York Times Is Clawing Its Way Into the Future appeared first on WIRED.

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