Instagram Launches Reels to Rival TikTok

All, Business, News, Technology

Facebook launched a short-film product similar to the popular TikTok app in the United States and dozens of other countries Wednesday.The new product, called Reels, is embedded in the Instagram app and permits users to create 15-second videos set to music from a predetermined music library.The feature has been in production for at least two years, having undergone trials in Brazil in 2018. The addition comes two days after President Donald Trump gave Microsoft 45 days to acquire the U.S. division of the Chinese-owned TikTok over security concerns.FILE – The logo of the TikTok application seen on a mobile phone, Feb. 21, 2019.After the Brazil trials, Facebook tested the product in France, Germany and India, trying to grapple with some of TikTok’s biggest user concentrations. A stand-alone app, Lasso, made it to market but was not successful.TikTok Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mayer called Reels a “copycat product” that would unfairly employ Instagram’s existing user base of more than 1 billion after “their other copycat Lasso failed quickly.”Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, acknowledged the similarities in a video conference call Tuesday with reporters and said, “Inspiration for products comes from everywhere,” including Facebook’s teams and “the ecosystem more broadly.”Instagram’s current Stories feature allows users to share a photo or video that disappears after 24 hours, like the popular social media app Snapchat.Reels differs from TikTok in that it employs Instagram’s preexisting augmented reality effects, which let users overlay images and filters onto their videos.Reels’s algorithm reportedly is similar to TikTok’s, maintaining the platform’s draw for unknown creatives to go viral through being featured on the Explore page or sharing content with friends through reposts or personal messages. Content creators will be able to appear on the Explore page if their profiles are set to public.According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook is pursuing TikTok’s creators by offering them financial incentives to move over to Reels. In response to the report, a Facebook spokesperson said in certain cases, it may help cover production costs for influencers’ “creative ideas.”Instagram said it does not have plans to monetize Reels content in the near future.“We’re experimenting with different monetization options (for creators),” Shah said. 
 

your ad here

India Widens China App Ban to Cover More From Xiaomi, Baidu

All, Business, News, Technology

India has banned some mobile apps of Chinese companies such as Xiaomi Corp and Baidu Inc, three sources told Reuters on Wednesday, in New Delhi’s latest move to hit Chinese companies following a border clash between the neighbors.
 
India in June outlawed 59 Chinese apps for threatening the country’s “sovereignty and integrity,” including ByteDance’s video-sharing app TikTok, Alibaba’s UC Browser and Xiaomi’s Mi Community app.
 
Another ban was imposed in recent weeks on about 47 apps which mostly contained clones, or simply different versions, of the already banned apps, the sources said.
 
Unlike its June move, the government did not make its latest decision public, but there are a few new apps that have made it to that list, including Xiaomi’s Mi Browser Pro and Baidu’s search apps, the sources said.
 
It wasn’t immediately clear how many new apps have been affected.
 
India’s IT Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi did not respond to a request for comment. China has previously criticized India’s decision to ban the apps.
 
A spokesman for Xiaomi in India said the company was trying to understand the development and will take appropriate measures. Baidu declined to comment.
 
A ban on the Mi Browser, which comes pre-loaded on most Xiaomi smartphones, could potentially mean the Chinese firm will need to stop installing it on new devices it sells in India.
 
Xiaomi is India’s No.1 smartphone seller with close to 90 million users, according to Hong Kong-based tech researcher Counterpoint.
 
The bans are part of India’s moves to counter China’s dominant presence in the country’s internet services market following a border clash in June between the two nuclear-armed neighbors in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
 
India has also made approval processes more stringent for Chinese companies wanting to invest in the country, and also tightened norms for Chinese companies wanting to participate in government tenders.

your ad here

EU to Investigate Google’s Proposed Fitbit Deal

All, Business, News, Technology

European Union antitrust regulators announced Tuesday they’ll launch an investigation into Google’s plan to buy Fitbit.Google, a U.S. tech giant owned by Alphabet, is hoping to break into the wearable technology market, and hopes to buy Fitbit for $2.1 billion. Fitbit makes wearable watch-like fitness devices. A variety of groups advocating for privacy and consumer rights want to block the deal because of antitrust and privacy concerns.The EU and many other groups say they are concerned the deal will increase the amount of data to which Google has access, making it increasingly difficult for other companies to compete effectively in the online advertising space.The EU’s executive commission stated “the proposed transaction would further entrench Google’s market position in the online advertising markets by increasing the already vast amount of data that Google could use for personalization of the ads it serves and displays.”EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager added that the “investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition.”Google’s senior vice president for devices and services, Rick Osterloh, countered that “this deal is about devices, not data,” and he added that “we’ve been clear from the beginning that we will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads.”The EU antitrust enforcer said this promise alone was not adequate.Fitbit was one of the first companies to market wearable fitness devices, which are used to monitor physical activities, heart rates, sleep patterns, and a variety of other factors. Fitbit has more than 28 million active users, and upwards of 100 million devices have been sold.  

your ad here

Chinese Executive: Forced Sale of TikTok May Be Inevitable Amid US Scrutiny

All, Business, News, Technology

The Chinese company that owns popular video-sharing app TikTok is exploring all possibilities to ensure that its subsidiary can continue operating in the United States, according to a memo sent out Monday by Chief Executive Officer Zhang Yiming.Beijing-based ByteDance has come under pressure from Washington to sell off its U.S. TikTok operations over concerns that the company’s links to the Chinese government threaten the privacy of U.S. citizens.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday that President Donald Trump is likely to take action in the coming days. People familiar with the matter told Reuters that Trump agreed to give ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale to Microsoft.In the meantime, Microsoft said in a blog post Sunday that its CEO, Satya Nadella, and Trump had a conversation on the potential acquisition and “Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States.”Zhang, who founded ByteDance in 2012, said Monday that his teams are working around-the-clock “for the best outcome.” Without naming Microsoft directly, Zhang acknowledged that ByteDance is in negotiations with a tech firm, but “we have not decided on the final solution yet. The attention of the outside world and rumors around TikTok might last for a while,” he said.According to the memo that was reported in the Chinese media, Zhang complained to his employees that “the current geopolitical and public opinion environment is becoming more and more complex. TikTok’s U.S. business is facing the possibility of being forced to sell by CFIUS, or TikTok products may be banned in the United States due to administrative orders.”FILE – Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken Nov. 27, 2019.CFIUS, or the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, opened a review last year of the Musical.ly purchase that led to TikTok’s creation. Zhang also said that despite their willingness to adopt more technical solutions to allay Washington’s concerns, the company believes CFIUS will require it to sell the TikTok U.S. operation. “We do not agree with this decision,” he said.As TikTok surged to become one of the most popular apps in the world, Washington began calling for a national security investigation into the app. White House officials and lawmakers are worried what information TikTok shares with the Chinese government about the app’s roughly 100 million American users.Zhang emphasized again that TikTok is a privately run business.“We’ve always firmly protected the security of users’ data, the platform’s independence and transparency,” he said.U.S. officials have argued that such guarantees mean little because Chinese companies generally have no choice but to bend to Communist Party demands.On Monday China’s foreign ministry said it strongly opposed any U.S. actions against Chinese software companies, and it hoped the U.S. could stop its “discriminatory policies.”In an interview Monday with U.S. business news network CNBC, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called the company’s pursuit of TikTok “exciting.”“Price is important, as well as whatever restrictions come with it from a government perspective, but I think it’s an exciting avenue for Microsoft to really increase its consumer base,” he said.In the meantime, U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday called for a U.S. company to purchase TikTok.“A U.S. company should buy TikTok so everyone can keep using it and your data is safe,” he said in a tweet, “With TikTok in China, it’s subject to Chinese Communist Party laws that may require handing over data to their government.”

your ad here

Trump Gives Microsoft 45 Days to Seal TikTok Deal

All, Business, News, Technology

The Chinese-owned social media app TikTok “is going to be out of business in the United States” on Sept. 15, unless Microsoft or another U.S. company concludes a purchase deal that satisfies the U.S. government, President Donald Trump said on Monday.   The president also is insisting the U.S. Treasury should get a cut of the sale price for allowing the company to operate in the U.S.  “The United States should get a very large percentage of that price,” Trump said at an afternoon news conference. “It would come from the sale — whatever the number is.” It is unclear under what authority the government could demand such a payment.  FILE – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a conference in Seattle, May 6, 2019.In a statement, Microsoft confirmed that its chief executive officer, Satya Nadella, had spoken to Trump and was committed to acquiring the company by the stated deadline.“Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020. During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States government, including with the president,” the statement read.  “Price is important, as well as whatever restrictions come with it from a government perspective, but I think it’s an exciting avenue for Microsoft to really increase its consumer base,” the company’s largest individual shareholder, former CEO Steve Ballmer, told CNBC earlier Monday.   Trump suggested it would be “easier to buy the whole thing than to buy a portion” of TikTok.  “How do you do 30%? Who is going to get the name? The name is hot. The brand, hot. And who is going to get the name? How do you do that if it’s owned by two different companies?” Trump said at the White House.  The Chinese video app is extremely popular globally. It has been downloaded 2 billion times, including 165 million times in the United States.     TikTok features not only entertainment videos but also debates, and it takes positions on political issues, such as racial justice and the upcoming U.S. presidential election.    Trump said late last week that he would ban the app because of security concerns. India already has taken such action.  Trump Sets Clock Ticking for TikTokUS president has threatened to ban popular Chinese-owned social media app amid security concerns Officials in Washington have repeatedly expressed concern that TikTok may pose a security threat, fearing the company might share users’ data with the Chinese government.     ByteDance has said it does not share user data with the government of China and maintains it stores Americans’ user data only in the United States and Singapore.   TikTok recently chose former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its chief executive in a move seen as an effort to distance itself from Beijing.    “TikTok will be here for many years to come,” company spokesperson Hilary McQuaide said in a statement issued Monday.  The U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency group led by the Treasury Department, opened a national security review of TikTok last year.     CFIUS’s job is to oversee foreign investments and assess them for potential national security risks. It can force companies to cancel deals or institute other measures it deems necessary for national security.      
 

your ad here

Trump Says Not Opposed to Microsoft Acquiring TikTok

All, Business, News, Technology

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that he would ban the popular video app TikTok by Sept. 15 unless U.S company Microsoft acquires it before then. The Republican president said last week that he would ban the app, which is owned by Chinese company Bytedance, because of security concerns.Trump Sets Clock Ticking for TikTokUS president has threatened to ban popular Chinese-owned social media app amid security concerns Trump said Monday he would not mind if Microsoft Corp. acquired the app, but that the purchase would have to be completed by Sept. 15. Saying he doesn’t mind if @Microsoft buys @tiktok_us, @POTUS adds that any purchase by an American company would have to be done by a Sept. 15 deadline “at which point it’s going to be out of business in the United States.”
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) August 3, 2020In a statement, Microsoft confirmed that its CEO had met with Trump and was committed to acquiring the company by the stated deadline. “Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020. During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States Government, including with the President,” the statement read.  

your ad here

Microsoft, TikTok to Continue Talks; Trump Gives App’s Chinese Owner 45 Days to Reach Deal to Sell

All, Business, News, Technology

Microsoft Corp said Sunday it would continue talks to acquire popular short-video app TikTok from Chinese internet giant ByteDance. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to give ByteDance 45 days to negotiate the sale, two people familiar with the matter said Sunday.
 
Microsoft, which is aiming to conclude talks by Sept. 15, released a statement following a conversation between CEO Satya Nadella and Trump. It said it would ensure that all of the private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.
 
“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the president’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” Microsoft said in a statement.
 
The company added there was no certainty a deal would be reached.
 
The ByteDance-Microsoft negotiations will be overseen by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a U.S. government panel that has the right to block any agreement, the two sources added.
 
ByteDance, Microsoft and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.  
 
Earlier Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that Trump would take action soon.
 
“President Trump has said ‘enough’ and we’re going to fix it and so he will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said on “Sunday Morning Futures.”
 
And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told ABC on Sunday that the Committee on Foreign Investment on the United States “agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on 100 million Americans.”
 
Over the weekend several Republican senators said they backed a plan for ByteDance to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok.
 
Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said on Twitter that a divestment “and purchase by U.S. company is win-win.”
 
Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican who chairs the Commerce Committee, added that “tight security measures need to be part of any deal in order to protect consumer data and ensure no foreign access.”
 
Republican Senator Marco Rubio said on Twitter “if the company & data can be purchased & secured by a trusted U.S. company that would be a positive & acceptable outcome.”
 
On Saturday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the “right answer” to address security concerns about TikTok would be to “have an American company like Microsoft take over TikTok. Win-win. Keeps competition alive and data out of the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” 

your ad here

Facebook Bows to Brazil Judge, Blocks 12 Accounts Worldwide

All, Business, News, Technology

Facebook announced Saturday that it had obeyed a Brazilian judge’s order for a worldwide block on the accounts of 12 of President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters who are under investigation for allegedly running a fake news network.Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes said Friday night that the company had failed to fully comply with a previous ruling ordering the accounts to be shut down, saying they were still online and publishing by changing their registration to locations outside Brazil.Facebook issued a statement saying it had complied because of the threat of criminal liability for an employee in Brazil.But it called the new order “extreme,” saying it posed a “threat to freedom of expression outside of Brazil’s jurisdiction and conflicting with laws and jurisdictions worldwide.” The company said it would appeal to the full court.Facebook also argued it had complied with the previous order by “restricting the ability for the target Pages and Profiles to be seen from IP locations in Brazil.””People from IP locations in Brazil were not capable of seeing these Pages and Profiles even if the targets had changed their IP location,” the company said.Moraes said that Facebook ought to pay $ 367,000 in penalties for not complying with his previous decision during the last eight days.He also had ruled Twitter should block the accounts. While Twitter said then that the decision was disproportionate under Brazil’s freedom of speech rules and that it would appeal, the targeted profiles were disabled.Moraes is overseeing a controversial investigation to determine whether some of Bolsonaro’s most ardent allies are running a social media network aimed at spreading threats and fake news against Supreme Court justices.The probe is one of the main points of confrontation between Bolsonaro and the Supreme Court.The president himself filed a lawsuit last week demanding the accounts to be unblocked.

your ad here

Trump Sets Clock Ticking for TikTok

All, Business, News, Technology

President Donald Trump went to one of his private golf courses Saturday in Virginia after threatening to halt operations in the United States of a popular Chinese-owned video sharing social media app. “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” he told reporters Friday on Air Force One traveling with him from Florida. He said he would likely use an executive order to prohibit the app. No action was announced before the president left the White House Saturday morning for the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.Trump was seen by VOA dressed casually departing the West Wing of the White House. It is common for him on weekends to golf at his 325-hectare property, which is located 40 kilometers northwest of the White House.   Trump also told reporters on Air Force One the previous day that he does not support a deal that would allow a U.S. company to buy TikTok’s American operations. The app is extremely popular globally. It already has been downloaded 2 billion times worldwide, and 165 million of those downloads were in the United States. The app features not only entertainment videos, but also debates, and it takes positions on political issues, such as racial justice and the coming U.S. presidential election. Officials in Washington are concerned that TikTok may pose a security threat, fearing the company might share its user data with China’s government.When asked by Fox News last month whether Americans should download the app on their phones, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has said it does not share user data with the Chinese government and maintains that it only stores U.S. user data in the U.S. and Singapore. ByteDance has agreed to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok completely in a bid to save a deal with the White House, the Reuters news agency reported Saturday. TikTok also recently chose former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its chief executive in a move seen as an effort to distance itself from Beijing. “Banning an app like TikTok, which millions of Americans use to communicate with each other, is a danger to free expression and technologically impractical,” said the American Civil Liberties Union.  The U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency group led by the Treasury Department, opened a national security review of TikTok last year.  CFIUS’s job is to oversee foreign investments and assess them for potential national security risks. It can force companies to cancel deals or institute other measures it deems necessary for national security.Microsoft and other U.S. companies, in recent days, reportedly have been looking to purchase the U.S. operations of TikTok.Some on social media are accusing Trump of singling out TikTok because pranksters used the app to order hundreds of thousands of tickets to his June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which attracted a smaller-than-expected crowd. TikTok is also where comedian Sarah Cooper posts her videos lip-synched to Trump sound bites, which have attracted millions of views.  Cooper on Friday, uploaded a video mouthing comments made by the president earlier in the day about TikTok.   How to tick tack pic.twitter.com/1Mn8nk363f
— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) July 31, 2020

your ad here