U.S. and France Ink Agreement on Digital Tax of Net Giants

The U.S. and France agreed to a 3 percent French tax to be applied to services from large Internet companies. The agreement specifies that France will repay these companies the difference between its digital tax and the taxes currently under development at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). French President Emmanuel Macron, at a joint press conference with President Donald Trump, said they had reached a “good agreement,” but that he prefers international taxes on digital services. Continue reading U.S. and France Ink Agreement on Digital Tax of Net Giants

New Cryptocurrency Planned by Messaging App Telegram

Social network Telegram is moving ahead with its plans to issue its own cryptocurrency, dubbed Gram, within the next two months. The 200 million to 300 million global users of its messaging app will also have access to Gram digital wallets. Telegram appears to have the same ambitions for Gram that Facebook has for its Libra cryptocurrency: as a way to move money worldwide. In early 2018, Telegram tapped $1.7 billion from prominent investors including major Silicon Valley venture capitalists to launch the fund. Continue reading New Cryptocurrency Planned by Messaging App Telegram

Already Internet Celebs, Virtual Beings Get First Emmy Nod

Fable Studio’s “Wolves in the Walls,” a VR adaptation of a Neil Gaiman children’s book, won a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding innovation in interactive media. The player is in the role of an imaginary friend for the CG child Lucy and uses VR goggles and handheld motion controllers to join her on an investigation of strange noises in the house. Lucy is also the first “virtual being” to win an Emmy, according to Fable co-founder Edward Saatchi, who defines that as a digital character with whom you have a two-way relationship. Virtual beings are growing in popularity on social platforms such as Instagram, where some are becoming digital influencers. Continue reading Already Internet Celebs, Virtual Beings Get First Emmy Nod

Facebook Creating Companion Messaging App to Instagram

Facebook is looking to take on Snapchat with a new messaging app the social giant is developing as a companion to Instagram. The Threads app reportedly intends to encourage constant sharing between “close friends” by automatically sharing data such as location, speed and battery life in addition to the usual messages comprised of video, images and text. Instagram previously had a standalone messaging app called Direct, but users were frustrated when they had to move between the two apps to send messages. A new messaging app built around a user’s close friends list could provide a viable alternative.  Continue reading Facebook Creating Companion Messaging App to Instagram

News Corp Working on Publisher-Centric Curated News Site

News Corp is developing Knewz.com, a website and mobile app that aggregates news and is intended to be an alternative to Google News and other platforms that don’t adequately compensate publishers. Sources said that an alpha version of Knewz.com was being shown for News Corp executives and that the company could launch the final product later this year — or decide not to proceed with it. Knewz.com is expected to draw from national news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post and NBC News. Continue reading News Corp Working on Publisher-Centric Curated News Site

Google Shutters Mobile Data Service For Wireless Carriers

Google shut down its free Mobile Network Insights service, which provided Android phone data to wireless carriers, to avert regulatory scrutiny. The service, launched in March 2017 and shuttered this April, mapped carrier signal strengths and connection speeds area-by-area, helping carriers to determine where their coverage needed to be increased or strengthened. The anonymous data was retrieved from devices using Google’s Android operating system, which accounts for about 75 percent of the world’s smartphones. Continue reading Google Shutters Mobile Data Service For Wireless Carriers

Facebook’s New Tool Offers Transparency on Data Sharing

Facebook has long collected information about its users’ browsing behavior, even when they weren’t using its platform. Now, it’s introduced a tool, Off-Facebook Activity, that lets users see and control the information gathered outside of the social network. The tool gives users a summary of the third-party websites and apps that share data with Facebook. The company noted that people generally have 80+ apps on their phones and use about half of them per month, making it difficult to track the data’s use. Continue reading Facebook’s New Tool Offers Transparency on Data Sharing

SuperGLUE Is Benchmark For Language-Understanding AI

Researchers recently introduced a series of rigorous benchmark tasks that measure the performance of sophisticated language-understanding AI. Facebook AI Research with Google’s DeepMind, University of Washington and New York University introduced SuperGLUE last week, based on the idea that deep learning models for today’s conversational AI require greater challenges. SuperGLUE, which uses Google’s BERT representational model as a performance baseline, follows the 2018 introduction of GLUE (General Language Understanding Evaluation), and encourages the creation of models that can understand more nuanced, complex language. Continue reading SuperGLUE Is Benchmark For Language-Understanding AI

State Attorneys General Team Up to Investigate Tech Firms

After several states began pursuing an antitrust probe of the big technology companies, sources reported that representatives of several state attorneys general met with top Justice Department officials to air their concerns about the lack of competition in the technology sector. Now, according to sources, a bipartisan group of states plans to initiate a joint antitrust investigation, to be launched as soon as next month. Sources say the investigation will focus on whether dominant platforms stifle competition. Continue reading State Attorneys General Team Up to Investigate Tech Firms

Facebook Plans Section in Its Mobile App Called News Tab

Facebook is working on a publishing initiative called News Tab that will deliver news content partly curated by a team of editors to the social platform’s mobile app. The Silicon Valley company, which has primarily relied on algorithms to select news stories, plans to hire a team of experienced journalists to serve as editors and launch a test version of News Tab by the end of this year. “Our goal with the News Tab is to provide a personalized, highly relevant experience for people,” said Campbell Brown, head of global news partnerships at Facebook. Continue reading Facebook Plans Section in Its Mobile App Called News Tab

Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

A bipartisan group of Congress members castigated Facebook for hiring contractors to transcribe audio clips and urged regulation to prevent it in the future. The transcriptions were made to help Facebook improve its artificial intelligence-enabled speech recognition, and are part of a move to improve the capabilities of voice assistants (Amazon, Apple and Google are among companies that have taken similar approaches). Last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) circulated a draft law that would impose steep fines and even prison for executives who failed to protect users’ personal data. Continue reading Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

FTC Chair Open to Option of Breaking Up Major Tech Firms

Federal Trade Commission chair Joe Simons stated that, in the face of anti-competitive and antitrust behavior, he would be willing to break up the big tech companies, although, “it’s not ideal because it’s messy.” He’s head of a task force to examine these behemoths, including a close look at whether Facebook acquired startups, such as Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, to stifle competition. The FTC approved both purchases. The FTC is working in parallel with the Justice Department’s antitrust unit. Continue reading FTC Chair Open to Option of Breaking Up Major Tech Firms

Facebook Ad Campaigns to Carry Movie Reminders, Times

Facebook is introducing two new features in the U.S. and U.K. that will allow entertainment studios to post movie reminders and showtimes as standard components for ad buys on the platform’s News Feed. There will be no additional cost to include the new information. Since interest in many films is generated early when trailers and ads first appear, Facebook believes movie fans would be greatly served with reminders when those films hit theaters. Users tap the “Interested” button on the movie’s Facebook ad to register for the reminder. The notification arrives when the film launches, and includes a link for showtimes and purchasing tickets. Continue reading Facebook Ad Campaigns to Carry Movie Reminders, Times

Facebook Moves to Defend Itself Against Regulatory Threats

Under pressure from legislators and others, Facebook has taken steps to protect itself. According to sources, the company ceased talks to buy video-focused social network Houseparty to forestall increased antitrust concerns. In response to calls to break up Facebook, the company took internal measures to make that more difficult to do by reorganizing its departments and rebranding Instagram and WhatsApp. Elsewhere, the European Union is expected to issue decisions by the end of the year related to privacy issues involving Facebook. Continue reading Facebook Moves to Defend Itself Against Regulatory Threats

Draft Executive Order Gives FCC, FTC Sway Over Internet

According to sources, the White House drafted an executive order that would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to determine how Facebook, Twitter and other large tech companies curate their websites. The FCC would be tasked with developing regulations on how (and when) the law protects social media platforms when they remove or suppress content, and also charges the Federal Trade Commission with taking the new regulations into account when investigating or suing these companies. Continue reading Draft Executive Order Gives FCC, FTC Sway Over Internet

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