Musk threatens to walk away from Twitter deal

Experts have said Musk can’t unilaterally place the deal on hold, although that hasn’t stopped him from acting as though he can. (AFP PHOTO / TED CONFERENCES / RYAN LASH)
Experts have said Musk can’t unilaterally place the deal on hold, although that hasn’t stopped him from acting as though he can. (AFP PHOTO / TED CONFERENCES / RYAN LASH)
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Updated 06 June 2022

Musk threatens to walk away from Twitter deal

Experts have said Musk can’t unilaterally place the deal on hold. (AFP PHOTO / TED CONFERENCES / RYAN LASH)
  • Musk threatens to walk away from his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, and accuses the company of withholding fake-account data

DETROIT: Elon Musk is threatening to walk away from his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, accusing the company of refusing to give him information about its spam bot accounts.
Lawyers for the Tesla and SpaceX CEO made the threat in a letter to Twitter dated Monday. That letter was included in a filing from Twitter with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The letter says Musk has repeatedly asked for the information since May 9, about a month after his offer to buy the company, so he could evaluate how many of the company’s 229 million accounts are fake.
Shares of Twitter Inc. tumbled more than 5 percent at the opening bell Monday.
A message was left early Monday seeking comment from Twitter.
The lawyers say in the letter that Twitter has offered only to provide details about the company’s testing methods. But they contend that’s “tantamount to refusing Mr. Musk’s data requests.” Musk wants data so he can do his own verification of what he says are Twitter’s lax methodologies.
The lawyers say that based on Twitter’s latest correspondence, Musk believes the company is resisting and thwarting his information rights under the April merger agreement.
“This is a clear material breach of Twitter’s obligations under the merger agreement and Mr. Musk reserves all rights resulting therefrom, including his right not to consummate the transaction and his right to terminate the merger agreement,” the letter says.
Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has said the company has consistently estimated that fewer than 5 percent of Twitter accounts are fake. Twitter has disclosed its bot estimates to the US Securities and Exchange Commission for years, while also cautioning that its estimate might be too low.
The bot problem also reflects a longtime fixation for Musk, one of Twitter’s most active celebrity users, whose name and likeness are often mimicked by fake accounts promoting cryptocurrency scams. Musk appears to think such bots are also a problem for most other Twitter users, as well as advertisers who take out ads on the platform based on how many real people they expect to reach.
Experts have said Musk can’t unilaterally place the deal on hold, although that hasn’t stopped him from acting as though he can. If he walks away, he could be on the hook for a $1 billion breakup fee.
The Twitter sale agreement allows Musk to get out of the deal if there is a “material adverse effect” caused by the company. It defines that as a change that negatively affects Twitter’s business or financial conditions.
In the letter, Musk attorney Mike Ringler points to a spat over a June 1 letter from Twitter in which the company said its information obligations are limited to facilitating the closing of the sale. It says Twitter is obligated to provide data for any reasonable business purpose needed to complete the deal.
Twitter also has to cooperate with Musk’s effort to get the financing for the deal, including providing information that’s “reasonably requested” by Musk, the letter states.
The letter contends that Musk is not required to explain his rationale for requesting data or submit to “new conditions the company has attempted to impose on his contractual right to the requested data.”
It alleges that Musk is entitled to the data about the core of Twitter’s business model so he can prepare the transition to his ownership.


Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists

Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists
Updated 06 August 2022

Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists

Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists
  • Amer Abu Arafa detained while Majdoleen Hassouna blocked from travel
  • Committee to Protect Journalists: ‘Israeli authorities are showing their determination to clamp down on the Palestinian press’

LONDON: Israel must release Palestinian journalist Amer Abu Arafa, who was ordered on Aug. 1 to be detained for four months, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Friday.

The reporter for the London-based Quds Press News Agency was under investigation for alleged membership of a terrorist organization, an Israel Defense Forces official told the CPJ. Abu Arafa’s home was raided by Israeli authorities on July 19.

Meanwhile, Israel reportedly prevented Palestinian journalist Majdoleen Hassouna from leaving the occupied West Bank in July.

Border guards are said to have blocked the reporter for Turkey’s TRT from crossing into Jordan. Hassouna was previously blocked from travel in 2020 and 2021.

Justin Shilad, the CPJ’s senior Middle East and North Africa researcher, said: “Whether they use prison walls or travel bans, Israeli authorities are showing their determination to clamp down on the Palestinian press.

“Israeli authorities should immediately release all detained journalists including Amer Abu Arafa, and end the use of arbitrary detention and travel bans against the press.”


Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service

Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service
Updated 06 August 2022

Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service

Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service
  • Company will offer free, paid service from next summer

LONDON: Executives at HBO Max and Discovery+ have revealed their plans to launch a new streaming service next summer that combines the two platforms’ offerings.
From a meeting with investors on Thursday, it emerged that the two companies have set out the scope and strategy of their streaming ambitions, announcing that they will offer free and paid services.
The platform, which aims to reach 130 million paying subscribers by 2025, will offer content that is currently distributed on HBO Max and Discovery+. 
The parent companies of HBO and Animal Planet merged together to form Warner Bros. Discovery earlier this year.
David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, praised the new company’s “bouquet of owned content,” and said it will offer a single paid subscription product and a free service supported by the advertisement-based revenue model.
“The fact is there are only a handful of companies globally that can do what we do,” he said. “And putting it all together, we believe no one does it better than us.”
The name of the service was not disclosed, but executives said it will launch next year in the US and then expand worldwide in the following years.
Zaslav said Warner Bros. Discovery will adopt a “disciplined strategy,” highlighting the company’s intention to steer away from the growth-at-any-cost tactics that became common in the streaming business.
“Owning the content that really resonates with people is much more important than just having lots of content,” he added. 
“In other words, at a time when almost every piece of content ever made is available to consumers across any number of free and paid services, curation, quality and brand have never been more important.”
After the boom of the pandemic era, the streaming service market has not performed well in recent months. 
Fierce competition and the fear of a looming recession have pushed many users to cancel their subscriptions. 
Earlier this week, Warner Bros. canceled the release of the $90 million DC superhero movie “Batgirl,” which was expected to be distributed through HBO Max as part of a broader plan to increase subscribers, reiterating the company’s intention to prioritize quality over quantity.


Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK

Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK
The individuals will be required to scan their faces using the smartwatches up to five times a day. (Shutterstock/File)
Updated 05 August 2022

Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK

Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK
  • The scheme will require migrant offenders to scan their faces using a smartwatch fitted with facial recognition technology up to five times daily

LONDON: The UK Home Office and Ministry of Justice announced on Friday that migrants who have been convicted of a criminal offense will soon be required to scan their faces using facial recognition technology.

The Home Office said that the scheme will involve “daily monitoring of individuals subject to immigration control,” with the requirement to wear either a fitted ankle tag or a smartwatch at all times. 

The individuals will be required to scan their faces using the smartwatches up to five times a day. Information including their names, date of birth, nationality and photographs will be stored for up to six years.

Locations of migrant offenders will also be tracked 24/7. 

The data will be shared with the Home Office, MoJ and the police, with Home Office officials stressing: “The sharing of this data (to) police colleagues is not new.”

The Home Office added that the smartwatch scheme will be for foreign-national offenders who have been convicted of a criminal offense, rather than other groups such as asylum seekers.

Critics highlighted that the surveillance scheme is a clear breach of human rights, and is likely to impact asylum seekers’ mental health.

“Facial recognition is known to be an imperfect and dangerous technology that tends to discriminate against people of color and marginalized communities,” said Lucie Audibert, a lawyer and legal officer for Privacy International.

“These ‘innovations’ in policing and surveillance are often driven by private companies, who profit from governments’ race toward total surveillance and control of populations.”

“Through their opaque technologies and algorithms, they facilitate government discrimination and human rights abuses without any accountability. No other country in Europe has deployed this dehumanizing and invasive technology against migrants,” she said.

According to the UK government website, the Ministry of Justice had awarded a £6 million contract to British technology company ‘Buddi Limited’ in May to supply electronic monitoring non-fitted devices “to support implementation of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service for specific cohorts.”

This service, introduced in 2018, uses satellite technology to monitor foreign offenders awaiting deportation. 

“A non-fitted device solution will provide a more proportionate way of monitoring specific cohorts over extended periods of time than fitted tags,” the statement on the website reads. 

“These devices will utilize periodic biometric verification as an alternative to being fitted to an individual.”


Instagram announces expansion into NFT market

Instagram announces expansion into NFT market
Updated 05 August 2022

Instagram announces expansion into NFT market

Instagram announces expansion into NFT market
  • Users in more than 100 countries across the world are now able to share their NFTs on the platform

LONDON: Meta, Instagram’s parent company, announced on Thursday the international expansion of its non-fungible token support across its platforms, namely Instagram.

Users in more than a hundred countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas will now be able to use the new feature, which allows them to share their NFTs on the platform.

“Today we’re starting international expansion to 100 countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and the Americas. Additionally, we now support wallet connections with the Coinbase Wallet and Dapper, as well as the ability to post digital collectibles minted on the Flow blockchain,” Meta said in a statement.

The tech giant announced the integration of Coinbase and Dapper, as well as other third-party wallets such as Rainbow, MetaMask and Trust Wallet, which are required to access and purchase NFTs assets.

“In order to post a digital collectible, all you need to do is connect your digital wallet to Instagram,” the statement continued.

Meta first announced its test launch in May, with the feature initially rolled out to selected creators and collectors.

Instagram users can now include NFTs in their feed and messages, as well as in augmented reality stickers in Stories. When tapped, it would reveal information about the creator of the work, as well as the owner of that digital item.

“Every day, creators inspire people and push culture forward around the world. With the incredible opportunity of blockchain technology, they can now leverage new tools to earn income, and fans can support their favorite creators by purchasing digital collectibles — art, images and videos, music or trading cards — as non-fungible tokens (NFTs),” Meta highlighted.

Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of the new feature in an Instagram post featuring a signed baseball card of himself as a kid, which will soon become an NFT, he pointed out.

Meta’s move into the NFT market is considered by some to be ill-timed, but experts speculate that Instagram could soon start monetizing the new feature by introducing its own marketplace.


Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube
Updated 05 August 2022

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube
  • Google said it already has measures to address the Nigerian government’s concerns including a system for trained users to flag troublesome content

ABUJA: Nigeria asked Google to block the use of YouTube channels and livestreams by banned groups and terrorist organizations in the country, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said on Thursday.
Nigeria has been exploring ways to regulate social media usage in the country, Africa’s most populous. The country is home to millions of Internet users and platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Tiktok are popular. YouTube “channels and emails containing names of banned groups and their affiliates should not be allowed on Google platforms,” Mohammed said he told Google executives in Abuja, the country’s capital.
Charles Murito, Google’s sub-Saharan African director for government affairs and public policy, in a statement said the company already has measures to address the Nigerian government’s concerns.
Those measures include a system for trained users to flag troublesome content, he added. “We share the same goals and objectives,” Murito said. “We do not want our platform to be used for ill purposes.”
The minister said the government was particularly concerned with online activities by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The government has labeled IPOB, a group campaigning for the secession of a southeastern region of Nigeria, a “terrorist organization.”
The YouTube concerns are part of an effort by the government, the minister said, to protect Nigerian Internet users from harmful effects of social media, especially ahead of a presidential election next year.
Nigeria suspended Twitter in June 2021 and blocked access to users after the social media giant removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari threatening to punish regional secessionists.
The government lifted the Twitter ban six months later.