Labor Department Reverses Trump-Era Rule for Gig Workers

On May 6, the Biden administration rescinded the “Independent Contractor Rule,” created during the Trump administration, that made it easier to classify gig workers as independent contractors. The Department of Labor stated that withdrawing the rule would “maintain workers’ rights to the minimum wage and overtime compensation protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act.” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh added that the move will “stop the erosion of worker protections that would have occurred had the rule gone into effect.” Continue reading Labor Department Reverses Trump-Era Rule for Gig Workers

Facebook Oversight Board Upholds Ban on Trump Accounts

The Facebook and Instagram accounts of Donald Trump will remain indefinitely suspended. Facebook’s independent Oversight Board, launched in October 2020, ruled this morning to uphold the social media giant’s January decision to suspend the accounts of then-President Trump in the wake of the U.S. Capitol insurrection. However, suggesting that an indefinite suspension “was not appropriate,” the Board “insists” that Facebook review the matter within six months, “to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.” Continue reading Facebook Oversight Board Upholds Ban on Trump Accounts

ByteDance Executive Shouzi Chew Is New TikTok Chief Exec

TikTok announced that Shouzi Chew — chief financial officer of parent company ByteDance — has been named chief executive of TikTok, replacing interim chief executive Vanessa Pappas. Pappas, who took on that role last year when then-chief executive Kevin Mayer departed, has been named global chief operating officer. Previous to his role at ByteDance, Chew was chief financial officer and international business president at Xiaomi, where he led the company’s initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Chew is fluent in English and Chinese. Continue reading ByteDance Executive Shouzi Chew Is New TikTok Chief Exec

Behind the Scenes, TikTok Working Hard to Create Viral Hits

Hit songs on TikTok seem to arise spontaneously, spurred on by user enthusiasm. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Take Megan Thee Stallion, for example, who recently won a Grammy for best female rapper. Her popular song “Savage” first become a hit on TikTok after that platform’s management analyzed user data and advised the singer’s record label how to best promote her. In other words, Tik Tok, which is described by experts as “more controlled” than competing apps, helps pick which videos go viral. Continue reading Behind the Scenes, TikTok Working Hard to Create Viral Hits

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

Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

In a 9-0 ruling authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court loosened local media ownership restrictions, which could enable more industry consolidation. It’s viewed as a victory for broadcasters that wanted to overturn the 2017 decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that found the FCC did not sufficiently consider the effect of changes on minority and female owners. The FCC appeal was supported by News Corp, Fox Corporation, Sinclair Broadcast Group and the National Association of Broadcasters. Continue reading Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

Huawei Feels Pinch of U.S. Sanctions, Ericsson Contests Ban

Huawei Technologies’ revenue in 2020 Q4 dropped 11.2 percent to 220.1 billion yuan (about $33.6 billion) from a year earlier. For 2020, revenue grew 3.8 percent to a record-breaking 891.4 billion yuan, but the Q4 drop represents how U.S. sanctions inked in September have made it difficult for Huawei to source advanced chips. Huawei revealed it was one of its slowest years ever for revenue growth. Swedish company Ericsson has been the biggest beneficiary, now surpassing Huawei’s cellular equipment sales. However, the company is defending Huawei, citing the importance of free trade. Continue reading Huawei Feels Pinch of U.S. Sanctions, Ericsson Contests Ban

Amazon Faces Pressure from Workers to Improve Conditions

As Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama prepare to vote this month on whether to unionize, the Big Tech company is getting pressure from its staff worldwide to improve working conditions. President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders have expressed support for unionizing the Alabama warehouse and workers have already cast “thousands of votes.” Meanwhile, Amazon deleted hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers’ profiles from the internal online staff directory, which has some charging the company with union busting. Continue reading Amazon Faces Pressure from Workers to Improve Conditions

Intel to Spend $20B on New Chipmaking Factories in Arizona

Intel’s new chief executive Patrick Gelsinger committed $20 billion to build two new semiconductor manufacturing plants in Arizona. Over the years, Intel has failed to keep up with the miniaturization of transistors, giving Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Samsung Electronics the lead. These two companies now make chips for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Amazon, Apple, and Nvidia but Gelsinger — who hopes for federal incentives — vowed to regain enough ground with the new factories to rival them. Continue reading Intel to Spend $20B on New Chipmaking Factories in Arizona

New Report Finds TikTok Does Not Pose a U.S. Security Risk

University of Toronto’s cybersecurity group The Citizen Lab just released a report with the finding that TikTok’s underlying code does not pose a threat to U.S. national security. Former president Donald Trump and leaders in other countries accused ByteDance’s TikTok of spying for China but The Citizen Lab, which reports on censorship and surveillance by Chinese social media apps, found no evidence of “overtly malicious behavior.” However, they added that there could be undiscovered security issues. Continue reading New Report Finds TikTok Does Not Pose a U.S. Security Risk

New TikTok Personalized Ad Policy Ends Choice to Opt Out

Beginning April 15, TikTok’s policy on personalized ads is changing. According to notices that TikTok users are seeing on their feeds, personalized ads will be mandatory — and users will no longer have the ability to opt out of such ads based on their actions — although the users will still be able to opt out of ads based on data TikTok gets from its advertising partners. Not included in this policy change are users in the European Union who are protected from personalized ads by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that requires user consent for such ads. Continue reading New TikTok Personalized Ad Policy Ends Choice to Opt Out

Bill Could Make Net Neutrality Law Under New Administration

Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) plans to introduce a bill in the next few weeks that would make new neutrality a law. “The coronavirus pandemic has proven that broadband is as essential as electricity and other utilities,” he said. “We need to restore net neutrality protections to ensure that our Internet remains open and free and that consumers can continue to benefit from this critical infrastructure.” Many Republicans still oppose net neutrality, and its existence has largely been subject to who chairs the FCC. Continue reading Bill Could Make Net Neutrality Law Under New Administration

Biden Appointing Antitrust Experts to Key Administrative Posts

President Joe Biden is expected to nominate Columbia University law professor Lina Khan, a leader of the Big Tech antitrust movement, for an open seat on the Federal Trade Commission, where she would have power to enforce existing regulations. Biden appointed another Columbia law professor, Tim Wu to the National Economic Council (NEC) as a special assistant for technology and competition policy. Big Tech antitrust wasn’t a signature focus of Biden’s presidential campaign, but the appointments seem to signal his intentions. Continue reading Biden Appointing Antitrust Experts to Key Administrative Posts

European Union Earmarks $150 Billion for New Tech Initiatives

As part of a $2 trillion recovery package, the European Union is investing $150+ billion in “Digital Compass” to boost advanced technologies and narrow the gap with the U.S. and Asia. One goal is to produce at least 20 percent of the world’s semiconductors by 2030. In 2020, said the European Commission, the EU produced 10 percent. In 2019, the EU debuted a public-private cloud-computing project, Gaia-X to increase self-reliance and, in 2017, the European Battery Alliance to develop electricity-storage technologies. Continue reading European Union Earmarks $150 Billion for New Tech Initiatives

China’s Five-Year Plan to Build Domestic Chip Manufacturing

China has a five-year plan to dominate the semiconductor industry by building up the domestic industry while fending off U.S. blacklists. The details of the plan won’t be released for a long time, but clues have been dropped by government officials, think tanks and official publications. Over the next five years, China plans to make do with existing semiconductors while it focuses on third generation chipmaking, a nascent field that no one yet dominates, by creating local companies for relevant software and hardware. Continue reading China’s Five-Year Plan to Build Domestic Chip Manufacturing

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