China Signals Tighter Big Tech Regulation with Alibaba Fine

The Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) fined e-commerce giant Alibaba $2.8 billion for antitrust violations, a rebuke to its founder, high-profile tycoon Jack Ma. Investigation into whether Alibaba prevented sellers from offering their goods on other e-commerce platforms began in December. The official Communist Party newspaper called monopolies “the great enemy of the market economy” and said regulation was “a kind of love and care.” In 2015, China fined Qualcomm $975 million, also for antitrust violations. Continue reading China Signals Tighter Big Tech Regulation with Alibaba Fine

Defeated Union Calls Foul on Amazon Win, Continues Efforts

Although workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama voted against unionizing with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), that union’s president Stuart Appelbaum said it planned to challenge the results, accusing Amazon of “illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign.” RWDSU director of communications Chelsea Connor specified that “alleged behavior” included placement of a USPS mailbox on the grounds of the warehouse, which some workers described as intimidating because they believed Amazon was monitoring voters. Continue reading Defeated Union Calls Foul on Amazon Win, Continues Efforts

Sony Unveils 4K Streaming Service for Latest Bravia XR TVs

Sony debuted its Bravia Core (the ‘CORE’ stands for ‘Centre of Real Entertainment’), a 4K streaming service exclusive and free to owners of its 2021 Bravia XR TVs. Its content draws from the Sony Pictures library for new releases and older movies. Sony stated that Core provides lossless 4K streaming at a much higher bitrate than Netflix and other streaming services,” HDR, DTS sound and “the largest IMAX Enhanced movie collection.” The service, accessed through the Bravia Core app, is not available on older Sony smart TVs or other devices. Continue reading Sony Unveils 4K Streaming Service for Latest Bravia XR TVs

University of Chicago Debuts First U.S. Quantum Accelerator

The University of Chicago and partners launched the first U.S. program to support quantum-tech startups. University of Chicago physicist and molecular engineer professor David Awschalom, who helped create the Duality accelerator, said, “we are at the birth of a new field of technology … at the point where the transistor is being invented.” Chicago is home to three of the eight federally funded quantum research centers founded in 2020. The University of Toronto has also unveiled a program to support quantum-tech startups. Continue reading University of Chicago Debuts First U.S. Quantum Accelerator

Facebook Counters AI Bias with a Data Set Featuring Actors

Facebook released an open-source AI data set of 45,186 videos featuring 3,011 U.S. actors who were paid to participate. The data set is dubbed Casual Conversations because the diverse group was recorded giving unscripted answers to questions about age and gender. Skin tone and lighting conditions were also annotated by humans. Biases have been a problem in AI-enabled technologies such as facial recognition. Facebook is encouraging teams to use the new data set. Most AI data sets comprise people unaware they are being recorded. Continue reading Facebook Counters AI Bias with a Data Set Featuring Actors

Spotify Intros Its Own Voice Assistant for Popular Music App

Audio streaming service Spotify unveiled a voice assistant with the wake phrase “Hey Spotify” on Android and iOS. Unlike other voice assistants, the app must be open to work; it will play a song, pull up a playlist and tune into a radio station as well as skip and pause. App researcher Jane Manchun Wong reported that the mobile version of the feature has been in the works for at least a year. It is enabled via the “settings” button in the Spotify app where the user turns on “voice interactions.” Spotify is now facing privacy questions. Continue reading Spotify Intros Its Own Voice Assistant for Popular Music App

Facebook Tests Web-Based Audio Q&A Application ‘Hotline’

Facebook’s R&D group NPE Team (New Product Experimentation) debuted the public beta of Hotline, a web-based application that allows creators to speak to an audience that can pose questions via text or audio. The first to try out Hotline was real estate investor Nick Huber who, via a livestream, talked about investing in industrial real estate as a secondary income. NPE Team identified Huber as an ideal Hotline user who would use it to expand professional skills or finances. Hotline is led by Facebook product developer Erik Hazzard. Continue reading Facebook Tests Web-Based Audio Q&A Application ‘Hotline’

Pinterest to Foster Influencer Content with New Creator Fund

Although image-sharing service Pinterest has been less reliant upon influencer culture than Instagram and other social media platforms, that began to change when it introduced Story Pins and creator profiles. These features were intended to make it easier for high-profile users to build a following and showcase their projects. Now, Pinterest is unveiling a $500,000 Creator Fund to pay a small group of influencers to create content for the platform. With this initiative, it joins TikTok and Snapchat in paying creators. Continue reading Pinterest to Foster Influencer Content with New Creator Fund

Pew Research Study Finds Social Media Use Remains Stable

A new report from the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of U.S. adults use social media, a number that has been stable over the past five years. The survey drilled down into use of a variety of individual sites and apps, finding that YouTube and Facebook still are dominant, with 81 percent and 69 percent respectively of those surveyed reporting using those sites. YouTube and Reddit were the only platforms that saw “statistically significant” growth since 2019. Forty percent said they ever use Instagram. Continue reading Pew Research Study Finds Social Media Use Remains Stable

Nasdaq, Intel Team on Homomorphic Encryption in the Cloud

Nasdaq and Intel have partnered to advance homomorphic encryption (HE), which allows AI and machine learning computations on data without having to decrypt it. Nasdaq will adopt HE to be used with Intel’s latest processors. Intel is also exploring the encryption technology with the Defense Department’s DARPA. Nasdaq’s exploration of HE in a business setting is aimed to lead to tools that can focus on preventing fraud and money laundering. Healthcare is another field that is expected to benefit from HE. Continue reading Nasdaq, Intel Team on Homomorphic Encryption in the Cloud

Facebook, Apple, Niantic Develop AR Glasses for Consumers

New augmented reality glasses intended for consumers are on the horizon. Facebook plans to release a version in partnership with EssilorLuxottica’s Ray-Ban brand and is developing AR glasses that work with sensor-enabled wristbands. Meanwhile, Niantic and Qualcomm have teamed to manufacture AR glasses, and Apple is working on an AR headset for consumers, to be followed by AR glasses. Snap is also developing AR glasses aimed at consumers. Google, which debuted Google Glass in 2013, is also said to be planning another attempt at the consumer market. Continue reading Facebook, Apple, Niantic Develop AR Glasses for Consumers

Coalition of Small Businesses Aims to Weaken Amazon’s Grip

Trade groups representing small merchants in hardware, office supplies, books and groceries are organizing in 12 cities to form Small Business Rising, a coalition for stronger antitrust laws and enforcement of existing ones. They hope new measures will force Amazon to spin off its own business lines that compete with them. The House Antitrust Subcommittee is already considering such legislation but hasn’t yet introduced a bill. Amazon called the efforts “misguided interventions in the free market.” Continue reading Coalition of Small Businesses Aims to Weaken Amazon’s Grip

Supreme Court: Google Engaged in Fair Use of Java Code

In a 6-2 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court took Google’s side in a copyright battle with Oracle over the former’s use of Java APIs in its Android operating system. Oracle, which had purchased Java in 2010 when it bought Sun Microsystems, sought billions of dollars in damages for what it claimed was copyright infringement. Google argued that free access to the Java software interfaces was important to innovation. Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said that Google made “fair use” of the Java code. Continue reading Supreme Court: Google Engaged in Fair Use of Java Code

Justice Thomas Argues Big Tech Be Regulated Like Utilities

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that tech platforms be regulated like utilities, in a concurrence he wrote to a decision to vacate a lower court’s ruling about former President Trump’s Twitter account. “There is a fair argument that some digital platforms are sufficiently akin to common carriers or places of accommodation to be regulated in this manner,” he wrote. Regulating such platforms like utilities could force them to make changes to current moderation policies against hate speech and harassment. Continue reading Justice Thomas Argues Big Tech Be Regulated Like Utilities

China Is First Country to Debut a National Digital Currency

China has begun issuing a digital currency from by its central bank, a move that will give that country’s government new ways to monitor its economy and people. The digital yuan will be aimed at international uses and not linked to the global financial system. At the People’s Bank of China, director of the Digital Currency Research Institute Mu Changchun noted that, “in order to protect our currency sovereignty and legal currency status, we have to plan ahead.” China is the first to issue a national digital currency. Continue reading China Is First Country to Debut a National Digital Currency

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