Facebook wins antitrust dismissal, surges to $1 trillion value

Facebook shares surged after the decision, lifting the company’s market valuation above $1 trillion for the first time. (File/AFP)
Facebook shares surged after the decision, lifting the company’s market valuation above $1 trillion for the first time. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 June 2021

Facebook wins antitrust dismissal, surges to $1 trillion value

Facebook shares surged after the decision, lifting the company’s market valuation above $1 trillion for the first time. (File/AFP)
  • US judge dismisses the blockbuster antitrust action against Facebook filed last year by federal and state regulators.
  • The value of Facebook subsequently increased to over $1 trillion for the first time.

WASHINGTON: A US judge on Monday dismissed the blockbuster antitrust action against Facebook filed last year by federal and state regulators, helping lift the value of the social media giant above $1 trillion for the first time.
Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court of Washington, DC dismissed the cases filed in December by the Federal Trade Commission and more than 40 states, which could have rolled back Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and the messaging platform WhatsApp.
The federal lawsuit “failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish a necessary element... that Facebook has monopoly power in the market for personal social networking services,” the judge said in a 53-page opinion, while allowing authorities the opportunity to refile the case.
In lawsuits filed in December that were consolidated in federal court, US and state officials called for the divestment of Instagram and WhatsApp, arguing that Facebook had acted to “entrench and maintain its monopoly to deny consumers the benefits of competition.”
The judge issued a separate opinion dismissing the case by the states, saying attorneys general had waited too long to bring the case for the acquisition of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.
The judge said the FTC complaint “says almost nothing concrete on the key question of how much power Facebook actually had... it is almost as if the agency expects the court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolizt.”
The federal agency based its case on a “vague” assertion that Facebook controlled more than 60 percent of the social networking market, but the FTC “does not even allege what it is measuring.”
Boasberg wrote that “the market at issue here is unusual in a number of ways, including that the products therein are not sold for a price... the court is thus unable to understand exactly what the agency’s ‘60 percent-plus’ figure is even referring to, let alone able to infer the underlying facts that might substantiate it.”
Still he ruled that “this defect could conceivably be overcome by re-pleading,” allowing the federal agency the possibility of refiling the action.
Facebook shares surged after the decision, lifting the company’s market valuation above $1 trillion for the first time.

In a statement, the company said, “We are pleased that today’s decisions recognize the defects in the government complaints filed against Facebook. We compete fairly every day to earn people’s time and attention and will continue to deliver great products for the people and businesses that use our services.”
The ruling comes a week after a US congressional panel advanced legislation that would lead to a sweeping overhaul of antitrust laws and give more power to regulators to break up large tech firms, specifically aiming at Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.
The actions come amid growing concerns on the power of major tech firms, which have increasingly dominated key economic sectors and have seen steady growth during the pandemic.
Critics of Facebook said the rulings highlight the need to revise antitrust laws for the Internet age.
“This is a setback — not the end — in the FTC’s fight against dominant Big Tech monopolies like Facebook,” said Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge.
“The FTC should continue this important work, as the judge has indicated the agency can still file a new complaint if it can address these concerns. At the same time, Congress’ ongoing work to pass new laws and rules to address the power of Big Tech, as well as broader antitrust reforms, is now especially important and urgent.”


Sudanese-British BBC anchor Zainab Badawi on her role as new president of SOAS

Born in Sudan, Badawi moved to England when she was 2 years old. (File/AFP)
Born in Sudan, Badawi moved to England when she was 2 years old. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 October 2021

Sudanese-British BBC anchor Zainab Badawi on her role as new president of SOAS

Born in Sudan, Badawi moved to England when she was 2 years old. (File/AFP)
  • Newly-appointed SOAS president, Zeinab Badawi, is a Sudanese-British television and radio journalist who is best known for hosting BBC’s “Hardtalk”
  • Throughout her successful journalistic career, Badawi interviewed some of the world’s most notable personalities and politicians

London: The School of Oriental and African Studies in London appointed award-winning broadcaster and journalist Zeinab Badawi as the university’s newest president. 

Badawi is a Sudanese-British television and radio journalist who is best known for hosting BBC’s “Hardtalk” and various other notable programs across the network, namely “The World” on BBC Four.

Badawi’s extensive ties with SOAS’ community stretch back to 1988, when she obtained a master’s degree in Middle East history and anthropology, graduating with distinction. In 2011, Badawi was awarded an honorary doctorate by SOAS for her services to international broadcasting.

“I’ve always maintained my ties with SOAS,” Badawi told Arab News. “I’ve attended meetings, receptions and talks. The Royal African society, of which I was chair, had very close links with the university. So, it wasn’t as though I had broken the umbilical cord of my connections with SOAS after I’d been there. I had maintained close ties.

“It was a no-brainer for me when I was asked to become president. It was something I accepted with great delight and honor,” she added.

Born in Sudan, Badawi moved to England when she was 2 years old. She recounted how, despite moving at a very young age, speaking Arabic in the house with her parents when she was growing up helped her stay connected to her Arab and African roots. 

“My identity with the African and Arab in me is not necessarily linked to a territory or having to occupy a place or a space in time,” Badawi highlighted. “It’s very much a connection through people, my parents, and my extended family, and I think that is why I have such an emotional connection with both Africa and the Arab world.”

Throughout her successful journalistic career, Badawi interviewed some of the world’s most notable personalities and politicians, including former Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who was the first Sudanese president to be charged with war crimes.

“Al-Bashir had not spoken on the record in the international media at all, nor for that matter had he given an interview at length to anybody about this,” Badawi highlighted. 

“I was particularly proud to get that interview in 2009 because the events that unfolded later — the Sudanese revolution of 2019 that ousted Al-Bashir — had revived my interview with him, and I can see that my career had come full circle,” she added. 

On other influential interviews she conducted, Badawi revealed that her interview on BBC’s “Hardtalk” with former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu had stuck with her throughout her journalistic career. 

“Tutu is a great South African, a great African and a great global humanitarian icon,” she said. “What I loved about interviewing him on ‘Hardtalk’ was that he took what he did very seriously without taking himself very seriously. And he was a man of immense humor. He often used humor to diffuse criticisms against him.”

Badawi’s honorary position as president of SOAS comes shortly after the university faced criticisms regarding anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric from prominent faculty members, namely Adam Habib, the director of SOAS.

However, Badawi says that SOAS has robust structures in place to deal with such controversies and that “if situations arise where people feel that they have grievances, such grievances should be dealt with in the appropriate way with full transparency, using all the proper governance structures at hand.”

Despite the bumps in the road, Badawi demonstrates that SOAS is increasingly asserting itself with great confidence in the UK and on the global stage. She looks forward to “strengthening current ties and forging new partnerships that will strengthen the foundations of SOAS.”


Snap launches hub to help amateur, professional creators

Snap launches hub to help amateur, professional creators
Updated 18 October 2021

Snap launches hub to help amateur, professional creators

Snap launches hub to help amateur, professional creators
  • Creator Hub will educate new, experienced users on getting most out of Snapchat, Spotlight

DUBAI: Social media company Snap Inc. has announced the launch of its new Snapchat Creator Hub, an online resource to support its creator community and help users make the most of Snap Camera.

The Creator Hub is aimed at amateur and professional creators, providing tips, tricks, and information in English and Arabic on how to leverage Snap’s various tools and platforms.

Tony Ghazal, talent partnerships manager at Snap Inc. for the Middle East and North Africa said the Snapchat community was “among the world’s most expressive and inventive storytellers, especially on mobile.”

He added: “Our aim is to provide creators with the best tools to share their stories, to improve their skills, and to connect with their audiences in a meaningful way.”

The hub features video tutorials from Snap Stars and regular creators that guide viewers through everything from getting started to advanced tools within the Snapchat app.

It also features tips on how creators can succeed on Spotlight, the company’s entertainment platform for user-generated content.

“For the last decade, Snap has pioneered the innovation behind AR (augmented reality). In that process, we deeply value our partners and creators, and are grateful for all the exciting new experiences they bring to the Snapchat community,” Ghazal said.


Facebook plans to hire 10,000 in EU to build ‘metaverse’

Metaverse is a futuristic notion for connecting people online that encompasses augmented and virtual reality. (File/AFP)
Metaverse is a futuristic notion for connecting people online that encompasses augmented and virtual reality. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 October 2021

Facebook plans to hire 10,000 in EU to build ‘metaverse’

Metaverse is a futuristic notion for connecting people online that encompasses augmented and virtual reality. (File/AFP)
  • Facebook plans to hire 10,000 workers in the EU to work on the new virtual reality tool 'metaverse'

MENLO PARK: Facebook says it plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to work on a new computing platform.
The company said in a blog post Sunday that those high-skilled workers will help build “the metaverse,” a futuristic notion for connecting people online that encompasses augmented and virtual reality.
Facebook executives have been touting the metaverse as the next big thing after the mobile Internet as they also contend with other matters such as antitrust crackdowns, the testimony of a whistleblowing former employee and concerns about how the company handles vaccine-related and political misinformation on its platform.
In a separate blog post Sunday, the company defended its approach to combating hate speech, in response to a Wall Street Journal article that examined the company’s inability to detect and remove hateful and excessively violent posts.


Apple removes popular Quran app for users in China

Apple removes popular Quran app for users in China
Updated 16 October 2021

Apple removes popular Quran app for users in China

Apple removes popular Quran app for users in China

DUBAI: Apple has removed a popular Quran app from its app store in China on the request of Chinese officials. 

“Quran Majeed,” a reading-friendly application used by millions of Muslim users around the world, has been deleted on the Chinese app store for “hosting illegal religious texts,” the BBC reported. 

“According to Apple, our app Quran Majeed has been removed from the China App store because it includes content that requires additional documentation from Chinese authorities,” the report cited the app makers as saying. 

“We are trying to get in touch with the Cyberspace Administration of China and relevant Chinese authorities to get this issue resolved.” 

It is reported that the app has more than one million users in China.

The BBC report said it contacted the Chinese government for a comment, but had not received a response. 

The Chinese Communist Party officially recognizes Islam as a religion in the country. 
But China has been constantly accused of committing human rights violations, that amount to genocide, against the millions of Uyghurs, who are mostly Muslim, living in Xinjiang.


Google cyber-threat arm exposes Tehran’s online espionage

Google cyber-threat arm exposes Tehran’s online espionage
Updated 16 October 2021

Google cyber-threat arm exposes Tehran’s online espionage

Google cyber-threat arm exposes Tehran’s online espionage
  • An Iranian-government aligned group has tried to steal personal information and passwords of notable individuals across Europe and the US through 2021
  • Iran set to continue on the same cyber-espionage path despite the exposure of their tactics, expert tells Arab News

Tech giant Google has exposed how Iranian-backed groups attempt to use its platforms to carry out espionage on behalf of the government in Tehran.

In a blog post released on Thursday, Google’s Threat Analysis Group exposed the work of APT35, a shady hacking group that Google said is linked to the Iranian government.

Ajax Bash, of TAG, said: “This is the one of the groups we disrupted during the 2020 US election cycle for its targeting of campaign staffers. For years, this group has hijacked accounts, deployed malware, and used novel techniques to conduct espionage aligned with the interests of the Iranian government.”

APT35 “regularly conducts phishing campaigns targeting high risk users,” Bash said.

In one instance, he said, Iranian hackers targeted lecturers from a British university — the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London — and impersonated them in an attempt to trick others in the academic community into divulging their personal information and passwords. This form of cyber espionage is called credential phishing.

“APT35 has relied on this technique since 2017 — targeting high-value accounts in government, academia, journalism, NGOs, foreign policy, and national security,” said Bash.

“Credential phishing through a compromised website demonstrates these attackers will go to great lengths to appear legitimate — as they know it’s difficult for users to detect this kind of attack.

“One of the most notable characteristics of APT35 is their impersonation of conference officials to conduct phishing attacks,” said Bash. He explained that Iranian-backed operatives impersonated officials from the Munich Security Conference and an Italian think-tank to steal passwords and information.

Amin Sabeti, the founder of Digital Impact Lab and an Iran-focused cyber security professional, told Arab News that Google’s blog exposes how Iran continues to build on its national cyber security strategy.

“This report shows again that Iranian state-backed hackers are very good in social engineering and they have improved their technique,” he said.

“For example, using a legitimate website to convince the target to enter the credential details of their online account is something new that we didn’t see a few years ago.”

Sabeti also said that, despite Google unmasking Iran’s cyber-espionage activity, it is unlikely that they will change their strategy entirely.

“I think we will see the same techniques but with new ideas.”

Google’s Bash said: “We warn users when we suspect a government-backed threat like APT35 is targeting them. Thousands of these warnings are sent every month, even in cases where the corresponding attack is blocked.  

“Threat Analysis Group will continue to identify bad actors and share relevant information with others in the industry, with the goal of bringing awareness to these issues, protecting you and fighting bad actors to prevent future attacks.”

Decoder

Credential phishing

It is a form of cyber attack in which hackers impersonate a reputable entity or person to steal user ID or email addresses and password combinations, then use the victim's credentials to carry out attacks on other targets.