Huawei unveils phone system that could replace Android

Some officials also see the rise of Huawei and other Chinese tech competitors as a potential threat to US industrial leadership. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 August 2019

Huawei unveils phone system that could replace Android

  • Washington has labeled Huawei a security threat, an accusation the company denies
  • Huawei reported that sales in the six months through June rose 23.2% over a year earlier to 401.3 billion yuan ($58.3 billion)

BEIJING: Huawei on Friday unveiled a smartphone operating system that it said can replace Google’s Android, adding to the Chinese tech giant’s efforts to insulate itself against US sanctions.

The announcement of HarmonyOS highlights the growing ability of Huawei, the No. 2 global smartphone brand and biggest maker of network gear for phone carriers, to create technology and reduce its reliance on American vendors. US curbs imposed in May threatened Huawei’s smartphone sales by limiting access to Android and blocking Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., from supporting music and other services based on the system.

Huawei Technologies Ltd. wants to keep using Android, Richard Yu, CEO of its consumer device unit, said at a conference for software developers in the southern city of Dongguan. “However, if we cannot use it in the future we can immediately switch to HarmonyOS,” Yu said. He said that could be done in as little as two days if needed.

Huawei, China’s first global tech brand, is at the center of a battle between Washington and Beijing over the ruling Communist Party’s ambitions to develop companies that can compete in robotics and other fields. The Trump administration says Beijing’s efforts are based on stealing or pressuring companies to hand over technology. Washington and other trading partners say the Chinese campaign violates its free-trade obligations.

Washington has labeled Huawei a security threat, an accusation the company denies. Some officials also see the rise of Huawei and other Chinese tech competitors as a potential threat to US industrial leadership. Huawei spends about $12 billion a year on US semiconductor chips and other components. The company said the US export curbs might cut its projected sales by $30 billion over two years.

Since then, authorities have said vendors will be allowed to supply technology that is available from other sources. That came after American technology suppliers warned they would be hurt by the loss of one of their biggest customers. Huawei also has developed its own chipsets for low-end smartphones and servers, though it still needs US vendors for its most advanced products.

Yu said Huawei’s first smartphone using HarmonyOS would be released Saturday under its Honor brand. Huawei, headquartered in the southern city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, reported earlier its smartphone shipments rose 24% in the first half of 2019 over a year ago to 118 million.
“We could have done better, but due to the challenges we face in the international market, our shipments dropped a bit,” Yu said.

Huawei reported that sales in the six months through June rose 23.2% over a year earlier to 401.3 billion yuan ($58.3 billion). That was up from 2018 growth of 19.5%, but Chairman Liang Hua warned Huawei will “face difficulties” in the second half. Liang said then that Huawei was reviewing its product lineup to make sure it could fill orders without US components if necessary.

On Friday, Yu said HarmonyOS is designed to operate on PCs and tablet computers as well as smartphones, allowing users to integrate music and other functions across multiple devices. HarmonyOS will be open source to allow outside developers to contribute to its development, Yu said.
“We want to build a global operating system, so it will not be used by Huawei alone,” he said.


Twitter shuts more than 200,000 Chinese accounts targeting Hong Kong protests

Updated 20 August 2019

Twitter shuts more than 200,000 Chinese accounts targeting Hong Kong protests

  • Twitter traced the Hong Kong campaign to two fake Chinese and English Twitter accounts that pretended to be news organizations based in Hong Kong
  • An additional 936 core accounts Twitter believes originated from within China attempted to sow political discord in Hong Kong

 

 

WASHINGTON: Twitter said Monday it has suspended more than 200,000 accounts that it believes were part of a Chinese government influence campaign targeting the protest movement in Hong Kong.
The company also said it will ban ads from state-backed media companies, expanding a prohibition it first applied in 2017 to two Russian entities.
Both measures are part of what a senior company official portrayed in an interview as a broader effort to curb malicious political activity on a popular platform that has been criticized for enabling election interference around the world and for accepting money for ads that amount to propaganda by state-run media organizations.
The accounts were suspended for violating the social networking platform’s terms of service and “because we think this is not how people can come to Twitter to get informed,” the official said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said the Chinese activity was reported to the FBI, which investigated Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election through social media.
After being notified by Twitter and conducting its own investigation, Facebook said Monday that it has also removed seven pages, three groups and five accounts, including some portraying protesters as cockroaches and terrorists.
Facebook, which is more widely used in Hong Kong, does not release the data on such state-backed influence operations.
Twitter traced the Hong Kong campaign to two fake Chinese and English Twitter accounts that pretended to be news organizations based in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy demonstrators have taken to the streets since early June calling for full democracy and an inquiry into what they say is police violence against protesters.
Though Twitter is banned in China, it is available in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region.
The Chinese language account, @HKpoliticalnew, and the English account, @ctcc507, pushed tweets depicting protesters as violent criminals in a campaign aimed at influencing public opinion around the world. One of those accounts was tied to a suspended Facebook account that went by the same moniker: HKpoliticalnew.
An additional 936 core accounts Twitter believes originated from within China attempted to sow political discord in Hong Kong by undermining the protest movement’s legitimacy and political positions.
About 200,000 more automated Twitter accounts amplified the messages, engaging with the core accounts in the network. Few tweeted more than once, the official said, mostly because Twitter quickly caught many of them.
The Twitter official said the investigation remains ongoing and there could be further disclosures.
The Twitter campaign reflects the fact that the Chinese government has studied the role of social media in mass movements and fears the Hong Kong protests could spark wider unrest, said James Lewis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“This is standard Chinese practice domestically, and we know that after 2016 they studied what the Russians did in the US carefully,” Lewis said. “So it sounds like this is the first time they’re deploying their new toy.”
Twitter has sought to more aggressively monitor its network for malicious political activity since the 2016 presidential election and to be more transparent about its investigations, publicly releasing such data about state-backed influence operations since October so others can evaluate it, the official said.
“We’re not only telling the public this happened, we’re also putting the data out there so people can study it for themselves,” the official said.
As for state-backed media organizations, they are still allowed to use Twitter, but are no longer allowed to pay for ads, which show up regardless of whether you have elected to follow the group’s tweet.
Twitter declined to provide a list of what it considers state-backed media organizations, but a representative said it may consider doing so in the future. In 2017, Twitter specifically announced it would ban Russia-based RT and Sputnik from advertising on its platform.