Big Five Tech Companies Dominate the Rise in Stock Market

The S&P 500 achieved record heights via the 37 percent rise in shares of the Big Five tech companies in the first seven months of 2020. Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook, the five largest publicly traded companies in the U.S., now account for 20 percent of the entire stock market’s total value. Meanwhile, according to Credit Suisse, all other stocks, fell a combined 6 percent. Apple’s valuation hit $2 trillion, the first U.S. company to do so, and only 21 weeks after its $1 trillion valuation. Continue reading Big Five Tech Companies Dominate the Rise in Stock Market

Unsecured Databases Leak 235 Million Social Media Profiles

On August 1, security research firm Comparitech, led by Bob Diachenko, discovered a massive data leak of nearly 235 million Instagram, TikTok and YouTube user profiles. The leak was due to an unsecured database, which is quickly becoming a widespread cause of similar breaches. An audit of the dark web found about 15 billion stolen logins from 100,000 such unsecured database breaches. The data leak discovered by Diachenko and his team was spread across several datasets, including two of 100 million each of Instagram users. Continue reading Unsecured Databases Leak 235 Million Social Media Profiles

Facebook Struggles to Contain Health Misinformation, QAnon

According to global civic movement Avaaz, over the past year Facebook enabled 3.8 billion views of misinformation related to health, almost four times the views of sites such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This has occurred despite Facebook’s partnership with these organizations to expose users to reliable information. In another effort to squelch misinformation, Facebook removed 790 QAnon groups and restricted another 1,950 groups, 440 pages and 10,000+ Instagram accounts. Continue reading Facebook Struggles to Contain Health Misinformation, QAnon

Oracle Joins Microsoft and Twitter as Latest to Pursue TikTok

Oracle Corporation is making a bid to buy the U.S. operations of TikTok, and President Trump has voiced his approval. Oracle cofounder and chair Larry Ellison held a fundraiser for Trump at his house earlier this year, and Oracle chief executive Safra Catz worked on Trump’s transition team in 2016. According to sources, Oracle has engaged in some preliminary conversations with minority TikTok owners, but it is unknown if the talks have advanced. Microsoft has also been in talks with TikTok and Twitter has explored a purchase. Continue reading Oracle Joins Microsoft and Twitter as Latest to Pursue TikTok

Quality of Deepfakes and Textfakes Increase Potential Impact

FireEye data scientist Philip Tully showed off a convincing deepfake of Tom Hanks he built with less than $100 and open-source code. Until recently, most deepfakes have been low quality and pretty easy to spot. FireEye demonstrated that now, even those with little AI expertise can use published AI code and a bit of fine-tuning to create much more convincing results. But many experts believe deepfake text is a bigger threat, as the GPT-3 autoregressive language model can produce text that is difficult to distinguish from that written by humans. Continue reading Quality of Deepfakes and Textfakes Increase Potential Impact

Facebook Teams With Top Publishers to Offer Music Videos

In a direct challenge to Google’s YouTube, Facebook introduced licensed music videos to its platform earlier this month. The videos are accessible by genre, artist and mood from a new section in Facebook Watch and are also available via Facebook artist pages. The social network is partnering with publishers including Sony Music Group, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, BMG, Kobalt, Merlin and others with licensing deals similar to those already established with YouTube. Meanwhile, YouTube Music is expanding its features as Google gets ready to shut down its Play Music app. Continue reading Facebook Teams With Top Publishers to Offer Music Videos

Apple Stands Firm in Its App Store Rules for Cloud Gaming

After Apple repeatedly rejected the Facebook Gaming app for iOS devices, it finally approved it for the App Store — with the proviso that Facebook strip out all the playable games. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg slammed the decision, saying that “iOS users [will] have an inferior experience to those using Android.” Apple’s App Store also won’t permit Microsoft’s xCloud gaming service as, in the past, it also gave the cold shoulder to Google’s Stadia. Late last week, Facebook announced a new version of its Gaming app for iPhone and iPad users. Continue reading Apple Stands Firm in Its App Store Rules for Cloud Gaming

State AGs Push Facebook to Take More Steps Against Hate

Democratic attorneys general for 19 states and the District of Columbia urged Facebook executives to create a live, real-time means for users to report harassment, intimidation and hate speech, and to improve blocking and filtering of such speech, as well as be more cooperative with law enforcement investigating hate crimes. Facebook said that in Q1 this year, it “took action” against 9.6 million pieces of content that violated polices, compared to 5.7. million the previous quarter. Continue reading State AGs Push Facebook to Take More Steps Against Hate

Instagram Reels, Rival to TikTok, Launches in 50+ Countries

Facebook’s Instagram debuted Reels, its short-video feature designed to compete with Chinese app TikTok. Instagram previously aped Snapchat’s disappearing photos with its own Instagram Stories, which has since become hugely popular. TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer called out Reels as a “copycat product,” but Instagram director of product Robby Stein said that Instagram plans to distinguish Reels from the competition by “adapting to users.” The launch takes place amid tumult over TikTok’s future in the U.S. Continue reading Instagram Reels, Rival to TikTok, Launches in 50+ Countries

Influencers Test Rival Apps Due to TikTok’s Uncertain Future

With Trump administration threats to ban Chinese app TikTok, that platform’s creators are worried about its future viability. Potential TikTok rivals such as Byte and Triller are wooing TikTok influencers (and other users), even offering cash to make the switch. Short-form video app Clash, for example, debuted its services months earlier than planned and Facebook’s Instagram is about to debut its TikTok-like service Reels. The rising tension between the countries also impacts U.S. app developers that aim to launch in China. Continue reading Influencers Test Rival Apps Due to TikTok’s Uncertain Future

Evaluating Possible Impact of Recent Ad Boycott on Facebook

It’s time to assess the impact of an advertiser boycott of Facebook, started on June 17 to protest that company’s handling of hate speech and misinformation. Following the urging of civil rights groups Color of Change, the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, 1,000+ advertisers publicly joined in the boycott, dubbed #StopHateForProfit, which was intended to last for the month of July. Other advertisers pulled back on spending but did so less publicly. Facebook has 9+ million advertisers. Continue reading Evaluating Possible Impact of Recent Ad Boycott on Facebook

European Union Adopts New Strategy to Contain Tech Firms

The European Union has led the movement to leverage antitrust laws in an effort to limit the power of Big Tech companies from the United States. Now, convinced that the impact of these efforts did not go far enough to change behavior, they are pursuing a different tack, this time drafting regulations that address specific business practices. But even as the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were grilled in a Congressional hearing last week, they reported skyrocketing revenue and billions in profit. Continue reading European Union Adopts New Strategy to Contain Tech Firms

Big Tech Companies Are Thriving Despite the Current Climate

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the wares and services of Big Tech companies such as Amazon, Apple and Facebook have become more indispensable than ever. As such, they are thriving. Amazon, for example, reported $88.9 billion in sales, with profits doubling to a record $5.2 billion in the quarter ending June, even though it spent $4 billion on its supply chain and worker safety in that time frame. Apple marked an 11 percent increase in quarterly sales, and Facebook sales rose 11 percent to $18.7 billion. Continue reading Big Tech Companies Are Thriving Despite the Current Climate

Big Tech Executives Are Grilled During Congressional Hearing

At a congressional hearing this week, the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google endured frustration and hostile criticism from bipartisan lawmakers. House Antitrust Subcommittee chair David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) started by saying that, “Our founders would not bow before a king. Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy,” referring to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai. The companies are collectively worth almost $5 trillion. Continue reading Big Tech Executives Are Grilled During Congressional Hearing

Facebook Lures TikTok Creators to Its Reels With Big Payday

Instagram has offered lucrative deals to some of TikTok’s top video creators to switch to its new competing service Reels, which parent company Facebook plans to debut early next month. According to sources, potential payments for some creators could be “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Similar to TikTok, Reels is a platform that allows users to share short-form video content. Some TikTok creators have amassed large followings, and have been paid by brands to promote products, wear branded clothing or use specific songs. Continue reading Facebook Lures TikTok Creators to Its Reels With Big Payday

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