Twitter saved from bankruptcy, Musk claims

Twitter saved from bankruptcy, Musk claims
Musk said recent months had been difficult but the company is now in a stronger financial position, though there are further hurdles to overcome. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 February 2023

Twitter saved from bankruptcy, Musk claims

Twitter saved from bankruptcy, Musk claims
  • Responding to a Wall Street Journal report, Musk said the business is ‘trending to breakeven’ but admitted that it still faces challenges
  • The platform expanded its Twitter Blue paid-for verification service to Saudi Arabia and 5 other territories last week, as it looks for ways to boost revenues

LONDON: Twitter has been saved from bankruptcy and the business is on track to break even, according to CEO Elon Musk.

In a message posted on the social media platform on Sunday, he said recent months had been difficult but the company is now in a stronger financial position, though there are further hurdles to overcome.

“Last three months were extremely tough, as had to save Twitter from bankruptcy, while fulfilling essential Tesla (and) SpaceX duties,” he wrote.

“Wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone. Twitter still has challenges, but is now trending to break even if we keep at it. Public support is much appreciated!

“To be extra clear, Twitter is definitely not financially healthy yet but is trending to be so. Lots of work still needed to get there.”

Musk posted his comment in response to a news report in The Wall Street Journal that examined his personal struggles while running several companies simultaneously, and questioned his physical well-being.

Following Musk’s takeover of Twitter in October, the company reported a massive drop in revenues from advertisers. This prompted the South African-born billionaire to say Twitter was like a “plane that is headed towards the ground at high speed with the engines on fire, and the controls don’t work,” and was at risk of going bust. He blamed the revenue decline on activists putting pressure on advertisers not to do business with the company after his takeover.

In his efforts to tackle the financial challenges Twitter faces, Musk has implemented a number of changes to the business and the platform. Shortly after completing his acquisition, he restructured the company and laid off about half of its 7,500 staff.

In an effort to enhance monetization of the platform, in December he revamped its Twitter Blue verification service in some territories and introduced a subscription-based tier that allows any user to obtain a “blue check” badge next to their name for $12 a month. The service expanded to six additional countries last week, including Saudi Arabia, increasing to 12 the total number in which it is available.

Also last week, Twitter announced it would end free access to its application programming interface, or API, which is used by third-party developers, and offer a basic paid tier instead. To further expand its revenue pool, the company was also reportedly considering offering popular usernames for sale at auction. In January, Twitter auctioned memorabilia from the company’s San Francisco headquarters.

Though the business appears to still be in a precarious financial state, the platform announced on Friday it will start sharing advertising revenue with some content creators.


106-year-old Kalinga tattooist becomes Vogue’s oldest cover star

106-year-old Kalinga tattooist becomes Vogue’s oldest cover star
Updated 14 sec ago

106-year-old Kalinga tattooist becomes Vogue’s oldest cover star

106-year-old Kalinga tattooist becomes Vogue’s oldest cover star
  • Apo Whang-Od from the Philippines is the oldest person to appear on a Vogue Magazine cover

LONDON: A 106-year-old tattoo artist featured in the April issue of Vogue Philippines is the oldest person ever to appear on the magazine’s cover.

Apo Whang-Od is also believed to be the oldest traditional Kalinga tattooist, known as a mambabatok, in the Philippines, CNN reported.

“Heralded as the last mambabatok of her generation, she has imprinted the symbols of the Kalinga tribe — signifying strength, bravery, and beauty — on the skin of thousands of people who have made the pilgrimage to Buscalan,” wrote Vogue Philippines in an Instagram post revealing the new cover.

Once prized by indigenous warriors who protected local villages, the hand-tapped tattoos are created using a bamboo stick, a thorn from a pomelo tree, water and coal.

Whang-Od, who lives in the mountain village of Buscalan, north of Manila, learned the art of hand-tapping tattoos from her father during her teenage years.

Today, tourists seeking Whang-Od’s signature geometric designs make up much of her clientele.

The traditional art is passed down only to blood relatives, and Whang Od has been instructing her two grandnieces for years now.

“The tradition will continue as long as people keep coming to get tattoos,” she told CNN in 2017, adding that she would persevere until her vision gets blurry.

“We felt she represented our ideals of what is beautiful about our Filipino culture,” said Bea Valdes, Vogue Philippines editor-in-chief.

Staff at the publication were in complete agreement that Whang-Od should go on April’s cover, she added.

“We believe that the concept of beauty needs to evolve, and include diverse and inclusive faces and forms. What we hope to speak about is the beauty of humanity,” Valdes said.

The magazine’s previous oldest cover star was British actress Judi Dench, who featured in British Vogue in 2020 at the age of 85.


2018 Musk tweet unlawfully threatened workers’ union organizing efforts, court rules

2018 Musk tweet unlawfully threatened workers’ union organizing efforts, court rules
Updated 01 April 2023

2018 Musk tweet unlawfully threatened workers’ union organizing efforts, court rules

2018 Musk tweet unlawfully threatened workers’ union organizing efforts, court rules
  • Also upheld was the board’s order that Tesla reinstate and provide back pay to an employee who was fired for union-organizing activity

NEW ORLEANS: A 2018 Twitter post by Tesla CEO Elon Musk unlawfully threatened Tesla employees with the loss of stock options if they decided to be represented by a union, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a March 2021 order by the National Labor Relations Board, which ordered that the tweet be deleted. The case arose from United Auto Workers’ organizing efforts at a Tesla facility in Fremont, California.
Also upheld was the board’s order that Tesla reinstate and provide back pay to an employee who was fired for union-organizing activity.
Musk tweeted on May 20, 2018: “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets health care.”
The ruling said that “because stock options are part of Tesla’s employees’ compensation, and nothing in the tweet suggested that Tesla would be forced to end stock options or that the UAW would be the cause of giving up stock options, substantial evidence supports the NLRB’s conclusion that the tweet is as an implied threat to end stock options as retaliation for unionization.”
The UAW, and Richard Ortiz, the worker whose reinstatement was ordered, praised the ruling. “I look forward to returning to work at Tesla and working with my co-workers to finish the job of forming a Union,” Ortiz said in a UAW email.
“This a great victory for workers who have the courage to stand up and organize in a system that is currently stacked heavily in favor of employers like Tesla who have no qualms about violating the law,” said UAW Region 6 Director Mike Miller.
Tesla had not responded to emailed requests for comment Friday afternoon.


‘Only journalism can save journalism,’ FII Priority panel told

Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, talks to Justin Smith, co-founder and CEO of global news platform Semafor at the FII
Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, talks to Justin Smith, co-founder and CEO of global news platform Semafor at the FII
Updated 01 April 2023

‘Only journalism can save journalism,’ FII Priority panel told

Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, talks to Justin Smith, co-founder and CEO of global news platform Semafor at the FII
  • News subscriptions grew by nearly 58 percent between 2019 and 2020
  • Social media platforms have grown up and are now being held responsible by governments and regulators, panel discusses

MIAMI: Trust in news has fallen in almost half of 46 countries surveyed by the Reuters Institute. Other studies show that only 8 percent of people in the US trust what they read, see and hear.

These numbers do not surprise Faisal Abbas, the editor-in-chief of Arab News. Speaking at the FII Priority conference, he said: “We’re living in an era where we are bombarded by information left, right and center so for people to distrust the information that they are receiving is not unusual.”

Abbas said there was a silver lining in this situation, which is the increase in subscriptions.

“People, for the first time since the expansion of the internet, are willing to actually pay money for professional, quality journalism.”

There was a median increase of nearly 58 percent in active subscribers between 2019 and 2020, according to data from analytics firm Piano.

Given anyone now has the “ability to disseminate and receive information unfiltered instantly,” professional quality journalism is more important than ever.

Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, and Justin Smith, co-founder and CEO of global news platform Semafor discuss falling trust in news media

Justin Smith, former CEO of Bloomberg Media and current CEO and co-founder of global news platform, Semafor, who moderated the panel, said that Semafor believes the best way of “attacking trust is to rethink the actual format”.

Semafor’s articles are therefore broken down into sections featuring the news, analysis, different perspectives on the topic, and other articles on the topic.

In the Middle East, unlike America, there isn’t a first amendment that protects the free speech of the press and people. However, and particularly in Saudi Arabia, “we’re living in a positive climate of reforms,” said Abbas.

While he acknowledged “we’re not there yet,” he added that since “the whole vision is focused on setting targets, KPIs, and transparency for government officials and bodies, it is unthinkable that we will not get there in the end.”

Arab News itself has seen 500 percent growth in traffic and audience and a large rise in newsletter subscriptions, so “we must be doing something right,” he added.

Moreover, when it comes to quality journalism, Saudi media continues to dominate the media scene, Abbas said.

This is, in part at least, due to the diligence and responsibility of media outlets to maintain editorial integrity, which “can’t be promised or pledged, it has to be proven with every story.

“Reputation arrives on foot and leaves on horseback, so it only takes one mistake. It’s not a responsibility we take lightly and neither does our management.”

Abbas pressed on how social media is impacting the truth and discussed the recent pressure social media companies are facing from governments and regulators.

He likened social media platforms to someone entering their teenage years — “whatever they did before was cute,” or “they were too young to know what they’re doing,” Abbas said.

But now, regulation is catching up and platforms are being held accountable, and treated as publishers who are liable for the content on their sites, he added.

Beyond news dissemination, Abbas drew attention to the problem of commercialization.

“We’re a victim of a situation whereby you are penalized to do professional journalism, and rewarded if you do lazy fake news.”

News media organizations incur multiple costs from commissioning a story, to legal reviews, to copyediting. They then end up sharing revenue with social platforms or Google, which is unfair, Abbas said.

Often, fake news stories go viral on social media platforms garnering millions of clicks, “and that is just a classic model of how easy it is and how social media will reward you if you are publishing fake news.”

It is important to remember that “big tech companies weren’t founded by journalists or publishers; they were founded by engineers who didn’t quite understand the impact that fake news has,” Abbas said.

Ultimately, he concluded, “it’s up to us, only journalism can save journalism.”


Nobel-winning Russian editor: “I know Gershkovich, he’s no spy“

Nobel-winning Russian editor: “I know Gershkovich, he’s no spy“
Updated 31 March 2023

Nobel-winning Russian editor: “I know Gershkovich, he’s no spy“

Nobel-winning Russian editor: “I know Gershkovich, he’s no spy“
  • Dmitry Muratov told Reuters the case against Gershkovich was part of a wider trend to make journalism a "dangerous profession" in Russia
  • More than 260 publications have been closed, blocked or de-registered since then, he said

MOSCOW: A Nobel prize-winning Russian journalist said on Friday he did not believe that arrested American reporter Evan Gershkovich was a spy, and that he hoped diplomacy could bring about his quick release.
Dmitry Muratov told Reuters the case against Gershkovich — a Wall Street Journal reporter facing espionage charges that carry up to 20 years in jail — was part of a wider trend to make journalism a “dangerous profession” in Russia.
“I know Gershkovich. I’ve met him two or three times over the last year. I know the practice exists of using journalists as spies, intelligence officers and ‘illegals’ (undeclared spies) — this is not that kind of case,” Muratov said.
“He was no kind of so-called deep-cover operative — using being a journalist and his journalist’s accreditation as a cover for espionage ... Gershkovich was not a spy,” said Muratov, a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for his efforts to defend press freedom in Russia.
He was speaking outside a closed court hearing in Moscow on Friday in the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition politician facing charges including state treason and spreading false information about the armed forces.
Muratov also cited the case of Ivan Safronov, a former journalist sentenced to 22 years in jail for treason last year.
“At every turn, we’re being charged with espionage and treason. It’s a trend — to show that journalism is a dangerous profession ... both for Russian and other journalists.”
Muratov was editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which has seen several of its reporters killed in the last two decades, and had its registration revoked last year after Russia went to war in Ukraine. More than 260 publications have been closed, blocked or de-registered since then, he said.
“I don’t really understand how, given that trend and the lack of media competition, you can hold the elections that President Vladimir Putin announced for 2024,” he said.
“Does it mean they’ll go ahead without difficult topics, discussions, candidate programs? I’m starting not to understand how that can work.”
Muratov said he was aware of the “popular theory” that Gershkovich had been seized as a bargaining chip for Moscow to use in a prisoner exchange with the United States, though he did not say if he believed that himself.
He said he very much hoped that “through back-channel diplomacy,” Gershkovich would soon be freed.


Meta rolls out long-sought tools to separate ads from harmful content

Meta rolls out long-sought tools to separate ads from harmful content
Updated 31 March 2023

Meta rolls out long-sought tools to separate ads from harmful content

Meta rolls out long-sought tools to separate ads from harmful content
  • System offers advertisers three risk levels they can select for their ad placements

LONDON: Meta Platforms Inc. said on Thursday it is now rolling out a long-promised system for advertisers to determine where their ads are shown, responding to their demands to distance their marketing from controversial posts on Facebook and Instagram.
The system offers advertisers three risk levels they can select for their ad placements, with the most conservative option excluding placements above or below posts with sensitive content like weapons depictions, sexual innuendo and political debates.
Meta also will provide a report via advertising measurement firm Zefr showing Facebook advertisers the precise content that appeared near their ads and how it was categorized.
Marketers have long advocated for greater control over where their ads appear online, complaining that big social media companies do too little to prevent ads from showing alongside hate speech, fake news and other offensive content.
The issue came to a head in July 2020, when thousands of brands joined a boycott of Facebook amid anti-racism protests in the United States.
Under a deal brokered several months later, the company, now called Meta, agreed to develop tools to “better manage advertising adjacency,” among other concessions.
Samantha Stetson, Meta’s vice president for Client Council and Industry Trade Relations, said she expected Meta to introduce more granular controls over time so advertisers could specify their preferences around different social issues.
Stetson also said early tests showed no significant change in performance or price for ads placed using more restrictive settings, adding that those involved in the tests were “pleasantly surprised.”
However, she cautioned that the pricing dynamic could change, given the auction-based nature of Meta’s ads system and the reduction in inventory associated with any restrictions.
The controls will be available initially in English- and Spanish-speaking markets, with plans to expand them to other regions — and to the company’s Reels, Stories and video ad formats — later this year.