GulfNews Technology

GulfNews Technology

TikTok agrees $92m deal to settle US privacy lawsuits

Media|Americas|: San Francisco: TikTok has agreed to pay $92 million in a deal to settle a cluster of US class-action lawsuits accusing the video-snippet sharing platform of invading the privacy of young users. A legal filing Friday in federal court in the state of Illinois urged a judge to approve the settlement, which includes TikTok being more transparent about data gathering and better training employees about user privacy. The litigation combined 21 class-action cases taking aim at TikTok and its China-based parent company ByteDance. "The TikTok app infiltrates its users' devices and extracts a broad array of private data including biometric data and content that defendants use to track and profile TikTok users for the purpose of, among other things, ad targeting and profit," Illinois attorneys said in a filing. Attorneys estimated in a filing that the settlement would apply to 89 million TikTok users in the United States, with most of them eligible for pay-outs of 96 cents each if they all filed claims for settlement money. TikTok software identified users' faces to let people apply special effects to videos, but also gleaned insights about age, gender and race for content recommendation and other features, legal filings contended. Attorneys also accused TikTok of sending or storing data in China where its parent company is based. TikTok has denied any misuse of data, saying it only uses anonymous markers to detect where faces are and left that data on users' devices, according to legal paperwork. Attorneys told the judge that ByteDance had been motivated to settle due to pressure by US officials to sell TikTok. The administration of US President Joe Biden has reportedly shelved a plan by his predecessor Donald Trump to require the sale of TikTok to US tech giant Oracle with Walmart as a retail partner. Trump had aimed executive orders at TikTok and other Chinese online services allegedly posing security risks because of ties to the Beijing government. A Trump administration move to ban downloads of TikTok had been stalled amid legal challenges. TikTok, the wildly popular app with an estimated 100 million US users, has repeatedly defended itself against allegations of data transfers to the Chinese government, saying it stores user information on servers in the United States and Singapore. Early last year, Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle a suit accusing it of gathering facial recognition data in violation of an Illinois privacy law.

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Judge in Google case disturbed that even 'Incognito' users are tracked

Media|Business|: When Google users browse in "Incognito" mode, just how hidden is their activity? The Alphabet Inc. unit says activating the stealth mode in Chrome, or "private browsing" in other browsers, means the company won't "remember your activity." But a judge with a history of taking Silicon Valley giants to task about their data collection raised doubts Thursday about whether Google is being as forthright as it needs to be about the personal information it's collecting from users. At a hearing Thursday in San Jose, California, US District Judge Lucy Koh said she's "disturbed" by Google's data collection practices as described in a class-action lawsuit that says the company's private browsing promises is a "ruse." The suit seeks $5,000 in damages for each of the millions of people whose privacy has been compromised since June of 2016. Weighing Google's attempt to get the suit dismissed, Koh said she finds it "unusual" that the company would make the "extra effort" of data collection if it doesn't use the information to build user profiles or targeted advertising. Google has become a target antitrust complaints in the last year filed by state and federal officials - as well as businesses - accusing it of abusing its dominance in digital advertising and online search. Koh has a deeper history with the company as a vocal critic of its privacy policies. She forced Google in one notable case to disclose its scanning of emails to build profiles and target advertising. In this case, Google is accused of relying on pieces of its code within websites that use its analytics and advertising services to scrape users' supposedly private browsing history and send copies of it to Google's servers. Google makes it seem like private browsing mode gives users more control of their data, Amanda Bonn, a lawyer representing users, told Koh. In reality, "Google is saying there's basically very little you can do to prevent us from collecting your data, and that's what you should assume we're doing," Bonn said. Company disclosure Google argues that every time people use Chrome's private browsing mode, a full-page notice makes clear that other people who use the device won't see their activity - but that it may still be visible to, among others, websites they visit and their internet service provider. Andrew Schapiro, a lawyer for Google, said the company's privacy policy "expressly discloses" its practices. "The data collection at issue is disclosed," he said. Another lawyer for Google, Stephen Broome, said website owners who contract with the company to use its analytics or other services are well aware of the data collection described in the suit. Broome's attempt to downplay the privacy concerns by pointing out that the federal court system's own website uses Google services ended up backfiring. The judge demanded an explanation "about what exactly Google does," while voicing concern that visitors to the court's website are unwittingly disclosing information to the company. "I want a declaration from Google on what information they're collecting on users to the court's website, and what that's used for," Koh told the company's lawyers.The case is Brown v. Google, 20-cv-03664, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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Facebook restores news for Australian users after media bargaining deal

Technology|Oceania|: Sydney: Facebook on Friday restored access to news for its Australian users after reaching agreement with the government on a landmark law requiring it and other tech firms to pay for journalistic content. The Facebook pages of Australian news outlets were able to update from early Friday morning for the first time in a week, since the social media slapped a ban on news content being seen Down Under in a dispute over the law which was adopted Thursday. Facebook and Google, the two companies targeted by the regulation, strongly objected to clauses requiring them to submit to mandatory arbitration over the amount they would have to pay local media to show Australian news on their platforms and search results. To avoid being hit by the arbitration, Google negotiated multi-million dollar content licensing deals with a host of Australian companies, and notably the country's two biggest news organisations: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Nine Entertainment. Facebook, which relies less on news in its business model, responded on February 18 by blocking access to Australian news for all its users. The move also hit many non-media Facebook pages, including for governmental emergency services, health organisations and charities, prompting widespread outrage. Facebook eventually followed Google in agreeing to negotiate paid arrangements with Australian media, leading the government to water down the arbitration requirements in the so-called News Media Bargaining Code. In announcing the end of its news blackout, Facebook said it "looks forward to continuing to work with the industry to find the best ways to support news." The firm also announced possible deals with three independent media companies Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media. The agreements marked a new foray into content payment for Facebook and Google, who became two of the world's largest and most profitable companies largely by organising, curating and indexing others' content cost-free. Facebook and Google have each said they will invest around US$1 billion in news around the world over the next three years. Google will pay for news content that appears on its "Showcase" product and Facebook is expected to pay providers who appear on its "News" feature, which is to be rolled out in Australia later this year.

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Twitter considers charging users for special content, in revenue push

Technology|: San Francisco: Twitter said Thursday it plans to offer a subscription service in which users would pay for special content from high-profile accounts, part of an economic model to diversify its revenue. The globally popular social media platform announced the potential new Super Follows service at its annual investor meeting, as it searches for new revenue streams beyond targeted advertising. "Exploring audience funding opportunities like Super Follows will allow creators and publishers to be directly supported by their audience and will incentivize them to continue creating content that their audience loves," a Twitter spokesperson told AFP. Top Twitter executives discussed Super Follows while outlining goals and plans for the near future during the streamed presentation. "We are examining and rethinking the incentives of our service - the behaviors that our product features encourage and discourage as people participate in conversation on Twitter," the spokesperson said. Super Follows was described during the presentation as a way for Twitter audiences to financially support creators and receive newsletters, exclusive content and even virtual badges in exchange. Twitter, which currently makes money from ads and promoted posts, might be able to add additional revenue via the Super Follows transactions. Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi was not convinced people will be inclined to pay for special content on Twitter. Such a model makes sense for content on platforms like YouTube, where hours of craftsmanship might be devoted to producing entertaining videos, but it is debatable whether the same could be said for tweets on Twitter, she said. No timeline was given for when Super Follows might become a feature, but it is expected that the tech giant will make further announcements in the coming months. Building communitiesTwitter considers charging users for special content, in revenue push Twitter is also considering allowing users to join communities devoted to topics via a feature seemingly similar to Facebook's "groups." Twitter aims to reach a milestone of 315 million "monetizable" users in 2023, a steep increase from the 192 million it had at the end of last year, according to a filing with US financial markets regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission. The San Francisco-based firm defined monetizable users as people who log in daily and can be shown ads. Twitter, like Google and Facebook, makes most of its money from digital advertising. The company said it is aiming for $7.5 billion in revenue in 2023, more than double the $3.7 billion it took in last year. Twitter also plans to double "development velocity," meaning the number of new features it releases per employee to get people to engage more with the service. Apple bite? Twitter revenue product lead Bruce Falck told analysts that the tech company was mindful of a potential crimp in revenue that could be caused by new privacy labels Apple is mandating for apps on its mobile devices. App makers are concerned that the labels will discourage users from allowing collection of data used to more effectively target ads. "It's still too early to tell exactly how this will impact the industry, but it will be felt by the entire industry," Falck said, adding that Twitter was innovating to soften the blow. Twitter's plan to boost revenue also includes getting more involved in online commerce. "Imagine easily discovering and quickly purchasing a new skincare product, or trendy sneaker from a brand new follow with only a few clicks," a Twitter executive told analysts. An area where Twitter is additionally looking to make money is Fleets, a recently added feature where posts and conversations vanish after a day.

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Telegram introduces auto-delete messages feature

Media|World|: New Delhi: Telegram, which is fast gaining users in India in the wake of a WhatsApp privacy row, on Wednesday said it has introduced an auto-delete messages feature for individual chats, groups and channels. Earlier, this feature was only available for Secret Chats. Now users of the instant messaging platform will be able to set a timer of 24 hours or 7 days in any chats before sending messages. After the selected timeframe, the messages will disappear for all the users in a group or channel, or for the single recipient in an individual chat. In group and channels only admins are able to enable this feature or edit it. All the messages show a countdown to their deletion time, users can track the time to specific messages by simply tap on Android or press and hold on iOS. Auto-delete only applies to messages sent after the timer is set, earlier messages will stay in the chat history, Telegram said. To enhance user's chat experience with higher privacy and better security, Telegram also launched other new features including expiring invite links, scannable QR codes as joining invites, home screen widgets for Android and iOS, among others. A new form of Telegram group called Broadcast Groups has also been introduced to allow participants to connect with a live voice chat. Telegram said it has also made it quicker and easier for users to report any spam content or fake accounts, any content related to violence, child abuse, pornography, etc.

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TikTok purges over 340,000 videos for spreading misinformation

Media|: San Francisco: Popular short video-sharing platform TikTok has removed over 340,000 videos in the US for breaking the platform's rules around misinformation about the 2020 presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a report in Engadget on Wednesday, details of the takedowns were released as part of the company's latest transparency report. The company removed 347,225 videos for sharing election misinformation or manipulated media. An additional 441,000 clips were removed from the app's recommendations because the content was "unsubstantiated," the report said. During the same period, TikTok took down 51,505 videos for sharing misinformation about COVID-19. In its report, TikTok noted that 87 per cent of these clips were removed within 24 hours of being posted and that 71 per cent had "zero views" at the time they were removed. The new stats come after TikTok tightened its policies around misinformation ahead of the election. In the lead-up to the 2020 election, the company introduced new rules barring deepfakes and expanded its work with fact checking organisations to debunk false claims. The app also added in-app notices to direct users to credible information. In its report, TikTok said it was well-prepared for the election, and that much of the misinformation was from domestic sources within the US. The company also noted that misinformation and disinformation represents only a fraction of the total content TikTok removes.

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Microsoft unveils new industry Clouds

Companies|: San Francisco: Microsoft on Wednesday launched new industry Clouds for financial services, manufacturing and nonprofit sectors. The tech giant also announced first update to Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, and the public preview timing for Microsoft Cloud for Retail. "Designed with industry challenges in mind, these clouds can enable organizations to jump ahead and deliver value at record pace," said Alysa Taylor, Corporate Vice President, Business Applications & Global Industry. The Cloud for Financial Services for which the public preview is planned for March will help retail banks create a 360-degree view of the customer with greater insight, embed digital collaboration into their process workflows. For example, a new feature called Loan Manager will enable lenders to close loans faster by streamlining workflows and increasing transparency through automation and collaboration. Available for public preview by the end of June, Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing is designed to deliver capabilities that support the core processes and requirements of the industry. "Launching in public preview by the end of June, Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit connects the trusted cloud capabilities of Microsoft to the most common nonprofit scenarios such as constituent engagement, program design and delivery, volunteer management and fundraising, all brought together by the nonprofit common data model," Taylor explained. Microsoft Cloud for Retail brings together different data sources across the retail value chain and uniquely connects experiences across the end-to-end shopper journey, using a set of capabilities that deliver more relevant personalized experiences and optimize operations for sustained profitability, the company said.

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5G's selective roll out in India by 2021 end

Technology|: New Delhi: By the end of this year, India is expected to join the select club of countries like the US, Canada, the UK and many European Union nations where 5G technology has already been launched. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), under the Communications Ministry, in a detailed note submitted to a parliamentary committee recently, held that "the specific time frame" for the rolling out of 5G technology in India is "by the end of 2021". Currently, 4G technology has been a major inflexion in mobile technology with packet-switched data transmission and high-speed connectivity. The DoT Secretary's note, accessed by IANS, told the committee that the 5G technology will be "rolled out not on a pan-India basis but in select areas first where the demand would justify the capex". In simple words, the technology will be rolled out in those selected areas which will be able to justify the capital expenditure incurred by the entity concerned on the 5G spectrum. The government also clarified that "the 5G technology will initially ride on the 4G technology". "It is not that one fine day 5G will come and replace all 4G. That is not so. "The releases which are happening in 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) are 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 like that. Release 15, which is generally taken, is expected to be adopted as 5G features," the committee was told. The government noted that different countries will adopt different parts of the features and what is more likely is that in the initial years, the core and radio access network will have equal distribution of 4G and 5G technology. "The core will be of 4G and the radio access network will be 5G." Noting that 5G has various applications, the DoT said: "One of the earliest applications will be on Enhanced Mobile Broadband (EMBB). It will be in large metros and give users better mobile experience in terms of talking download, and more reliability." "It is important, but we think the real strength of this technology is in social use applications, in the field of health, education, agriculture, disaster management, public safety, traffic management etc." The government focus will be on these lines as it thinks that the users many are not able to distinguish between 4G and 5G for faster speed. However, it accepts that it is a "tough" road ahead and it has to work hard to make sure that 5G in India comes in near future. "Our own assessment would be regarding the specific time frame that somewhere by the end of 2021," the DoT Secretary said in the note. The official further clarified that the 5G roll out plan is based on a study which the government has undertaken. "I am going by the logic that this will have to be preceded by auction of 5G. Right now, what we are going to have is auction for bands other than 3.3 to 3.6 but this band will also be auctioned somewhere in the next six months or so," the Secretary said, adding that the spectrum will be available after this. In parallel, various companies would be benefiting using 5G and would be making their investments, as well as deciding the areas for the rollout, the committee was told. The approach to 5G Policy requirements in India was already finalised in the 5G High Level Forum (5GHLF) Report released by the DoT in August 2018, with minimal on-ground actions or implementation instructions having been issued so far. Action in areas such as identification of spectrum band, decision on spectrum band and decision on spectrum policy are still to be initiated. The 5G trial applications were submitted by the TSPs in the month of January last year. However, till date, the guidelines for their trials have not been made clear and there is no set date for their commencement.

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Facebook to invest $1 b illion in news industry after Australia row

Business|Media|: Facebook Inc on Wednesday pledged to invest at least $1 billion in the news industry over the next three years, days after a high-profile stand-off with the Australian government over paying news outlets for content. The social network's commitment to the news industry follows Google's $1 billion investment last year, as technology giants come under scrutiny over their business model as well as the proliferation of misinformation on their platform. Facebook on Tuesday restored Australian news pages, ending an unprecedented week-long blackout after wringing concessions from the government over a proposed law that will require tech giants to pay traditional media companies for their content. The brief blackout shocked the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the tech giants. In a blog detailing its version of the showdown, Facebook said the news ban was related to a "fundamental misunderstanding" of the relationship between the company and news publishers. It also acknowledged that some non-news content got inadvertently blocked when it banned all news content. Facebook said on Wednesday it has already invested $600 million in the news industry since 2018. The social media company added it was in active negotiations with news publishers in Germany and France for a deal to pay for content for its news product, where users can find headlines and stories next to a personalized news feed.

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Spotify to launch in 85 new markets, reach more than a billion listeners

Media|Business|: Stockholm/New York: Spotify said on Monday it would nearly double its market presence by launching in 85 new markets in the next few days, making the music streaming service available to more than a billion people around the world. The company's shares, which were down in early trading, reversed course to rise as much as 6% to a record high. The Swedish company, which started its service more than a decade ago, . While Spotify is the leader in music streaming, entry in new countries across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America would significantly increase the gap with its rivals, Apple Music and Amazon Music. "Together these markets represent more than a billion people, with nearly half of them already using the internet," said Chief Premium Business Officer Alex Norstrom. "Some of the places we're going like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nigeria have the fastest growing internet populations in the world." An earlier expansion drive in India, Russia and the Middle East has already brought in millions of subscribers. While paid subscribers got a boost during the coronavirus pandemic as people locked in their homes opted for its premium service, the company is now looking to boost its advertisement revenue. In a one and half hour livestream featuring singing by Justin Bieber, Spotify released a host of new features for artists and tools for advertisers for better targeting its millions of users across music and podcasts. PODCAST PLAY In its efforts to make money from podcasts, Spotify announced the creation of a podcast advertising marketplace where advertisers can buy across a network of original exclusive and independent podcasts and target audiences both on and off Spotify. It has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to boost its podcast range, which now has more than 2.2 million podcast titles, including "The Michelle Obama Podcast" and one by Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan. Higher Ground Productions, Barack and Michelle Obama's production company, announced another new show with Bruce Springsteen for Spotify called "Renegades: Born in the U.S.A." On Monday, Spotify announced a partnership with a AGBO, a company led by Anthony and Joe Russo, creators behind films like "Avengers: Infinity War", for multiple podcast series. It also signed a deal with Warner Bros and DC for a range of narrative-scripted podcasts. The first, "Batman Unburied", will release later this year as part of a set of characters whose stories will be explored via audio, including "Superman", "Wonder Woman", "Joker", and "Catwoman", among others. Spotify also launched a new subscription service, Spotify HiFi, with which premium subscribers in select markets will be able to upgrade their sound quality of the songs to "lossless" CD-quality music.

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LG says not ditching plan to launch rollable smartphone

New Delhi: South Korean major LG Electronics has denied a media report that said the company may scrap a plan to develop a smartphone with a rollable display. Yonhap news agency reported, citing industry sources, that LG reportedly told its parts suppliers, including Chinese display maker BOE, to put the rollable smartphone development project on hold. According to The Verge, the company said the LG Rollable has not been put on hold. "I can firmly deny that any such decision on future mobile products has been finalised," an LG spokesperson was quoted as saying in the report late on Monday. LG last month announced that its mobile business unit is open to "all possibilities" for its future operations amid rumours that the company may sell the struggling mobile business. Then the company said the development of the rollable smartphone is still in progress, but it has not revealed its future plans in detail. LG's mobile business has been in the red since the second quarter of 2015. Its accumulated operating loss reached nearly 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) last year. Analysts said LG will either shut down or sell its mobile business, or at least scale it back. LG, has, however denied reports that it was planning to exit the smartphone business. At its event for the all-digital Consumer Electronics Show 2021, LG teased its rollable smartphone with a short video clip. Named 'LG Rollable', the device was highlighted by a resizable screen with a side-rolling display.

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UAE telco du hopes to rope in more foreign investors in its stock after raising ownership cap

Markets|Technology|: Dubai: The UAE telco du expects foreign investors to come on board in significant numbers now that it has raised its limit to 49 per cent. The company confirmed the increased ownership limit becomes effective from today (February 23).  Foreign investors currently hold less than 1 per cent - 0.74 per cent - of du's stock, which is listed on DFM. It believes it has the numbers to convince them – “Last year, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications (EITC) attained a net income of Dh1.44 billion, revenue of Dh11.08 billion, and a 24.1 per cent growth in capital expenditure year-on-year,” du said in a statement. “The latter was the highest level of capital intensity in the preceding five years, and these emphasize EITC’s profitability and resilience in challenging business environments.” But no new foreign investor can hold more than 5 per cent of the equity. It was last month that du – as well as Etisalat – raised foreign ownership limit to 49 per cent from 20. Update on DFM On Tuesday, Dubai Financial Market's General Index led the upside rally in most of the Gulf markets today. After dropping for five consecutive sessions, the index is finding its way higher to 2573, up 1.20 per cent on the day, according to ICM.com's Market Analyst Wael Makarem. "The optimism over the drop in coronavirus cases is playing a good role in reviving investors' appetite." As for Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, the Index hovered above 5,670, gaining 0.16 per cent on the day. The index is consolidating in a tight range, near its highest levels since 2005, said Makarem.

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Telecom giant Etisalat cancels share buyback plan, offers special dividend

Markets|Technology|: Dubai: Etisalat has proposed one-off special dividend of 40 fils a share, which will raise the 2020 full-year payout to shareholders of Dh1.2. This special dividend replaces its earlier plan for a share buyback programme, which now stands cancelled. "In addition to sustaining our total dividend of Dh0.80 per share, we are pleased to be proposing a special one-time dividend of Dh0.40, representing a dividend payout ratio of 115 per cent and a high dividend yield for 2020," said Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Chairman. It was recently that the telecom giant raised the upper limit for foreign investors in its stock to 49 per cent. (The move was mirrored by its Dubai-based counterpart, du.) Etisalat - rated last year as having the fastest mobile network in the world - had a consolidated net profit of Dh9 billion, from a 3.8 per cent increase year-on-year increase that’s been attributed to “strong growth in the international operations that outweighed the decline in the UAE operations”. Read More Here's why Aramco and ADNOC are 2020's 'most valuable' Middle East brands Foreign investors can from today hold up to 49% in Etisalat, du Subscriber gains The aggregate subscriber base reached 154 million, representing an increase of 3.6 per cent, despite having to cope with the pandemic and the sudden sharp rise in user demand for its networks. “Despite the unprecedented impact of the pandemic, Etisalat demonstrated robust financial performance, driven by our vision to innovate while ensuring that communities we serve remain connected, informed and productive," said Al Tayer, Chairman of Etisalat Group. "Across our footprint, we stood for our communities and took immediate steps to protect our teams and customers, support critical verticals, and ensure the uninterrupted delivery of quality services. "During the year, revenue and net profit growth were witnessed in our international markets while the domestic market experienced a decline in both due to the pandemic and market maturity." The company set up a dedicated taskforce after the pandemic hit to "ensure business continuity, monitor the performance of basic applications and ensue smooth access to data locally and internationally."

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Top EU official backs Australia in Facebook row

Europe|Media|: Brussels: The European Commissioner for digital services - who is helping draw up new EU rules for online business - backed Australia in its dispute with web giant Facebook on Monday. Thierry Breton, Brussels' top official for the EU internal market, told MEPs that Facebook had been wrong to kick Australian media off its service in a row about paying for news. Separately, US tech titan Microsoft joined European media in calling for EU members states to follow Australia in setting up a mechanism to ensure that news publishers are paid. Last week Facebook blanked out the pages of media outlets for Australian users and blocked them from sharing any news content, rather than submit to the proposed legislation. The European Union has also passed a rule requiring Internet "gatekeepers" like Google or Facebook to negotiate fees for including news stories and links. But the news industry wants the upcoming Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act to include tougher regulations to strengthen its position against the dominant platforms. Breton is involved in the drafting of this legislation, and on Monday he told MEPs that Australia had taken the right course. "I really find it very damaging when a platform takes such steps to protest against the law of a country. This has to be said publicly. Australia must be supported in this fight," Breton said. "It is up to the platforms to adapt to the regulators and not the other way round. There are laws, and the platforms must adapt." In a statement from a coalition of news media trade associations, Fernando de Yarza, president of News Media Europe, said Australia's experience with Facebook should serve as a warning. "There's a real need for a binding instrument to address inherent imbalances in bargaining power with gatekeepers, which undermine the potential of Europe's press sector," he said.

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Koo targets 100 million users this year with 'micro-blog of India' tag

Media|India|Business|: New Delhi: Even as Twitter faces intense scrutiny in India, home-grown vernacular micro-blogging platform Koo, which has crossed 4 million users within no time, aims to garner 100 million users by the end of this year, its Co-founder Mayank Bidawataka said on Monday. According to Bidawataka, the company is prepared to handle such heavy traffic as it is investing in technologies that can support such massive user base at scale. "We want Koo to become a world-class app and want to be known as the micro-blog of India. Our teams are prepared to handle the growing online traffic. We have just closed Series A funding and our finances are stable," Bidawataka told IANS. Read more The Indian Twitter rival staging a Koo Twitter row: Indian politicians urge people to switch to rival local app Koo Farmers protest: Why BJP government is pitted against Twitter in India Bollywood: Kangana Ranaut threatens to quit Twitter and join Indian app Koo has raised $4.1 million as part of its Series A funding. Infosys veteran Mohandas Pai's 3one4 Capital is the latest addition to the investors on board, according to the company, and Accel Partners, Kalaari Capital, Blume Ventures and Dream Incubator also participated in the round. Koo has fast become a favourite among several Union ministers, including IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who is at the forefront of the government's war with Twitter. The fast-growing vernacular platform describes itself as a personal updates and opinion sharing micro-blogging service. "We will add support for more Indian languages as people are now joining on their own with word-of-mouth publicity. We will go deeper into the country with enabling more languages soon," Bidawataka noted. The app won the Atmanirbhar App Innovation Challenge held in August last year and Prime Minister Narendra Modi encouraged Indians to use the Koo app in his 'Mann Ki Baat' speech too. "The broader idea is to connect people and let them be the voice of India, get new perspectives, meet like-minded people and start meaningful conversations," the Koo Co-founder stated. The company has plans to monetise the app when the right time is near. "We will have more business accounts as more brands are joining the platform and that will be separate from common users who will not be bombarded with ads," Bidawataka said, adding that the company will monetise once they reach the scale they are looking for.

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LG may ditch plan for rollable smartphone

New Delhi: LG Electronics, a South Korean tech firm, may scrap a plan to develop a smartphone with a rollable display, industry observers here said Monday, amid growing speculation that the South Korean tech giant will ditch its money-losing mobile business. LG reportedly told its parts suppliers, including Chinese display maker BOE, to put the rollable smartphone development project on hold, according to industry sources. The parts makers may request compensation from LG in the future for their development efforts, they added. A LG official said nothing can be confirmed at this point regarding the company's plan for a rollable smartphone. LG last month announced that its mobile business unit is open to "all possibilities" for its future operations amid rumours that the company may sell the struggling mobile business, reports Yonhap news agency. Then the company said the development of the rollable smartphone is still in progress, but it has not revealed its future plans in detail. LG's mobile business has been in the red since the second quarter of 2015. Its accumulated operating loss reached nearly 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) last year. Analysts said LG will either shut down or sell its mobile business, or at least scale it back. At its event for the all-digital Consumer Electronics Show 2021, LG teased its rollable smartphone with a short video clip. Named 'LG Rollable', the device was highlighted by a resizable screen with a side-rolling display. The rollable smartphone was LG's second product under the Explorer Project, the company's new mobile category announced last year that aims to deliver devices with a different form factor and upgraded mobile experience. The Wing, a rotating dual-screen smartphone, was the first one to be developed under the Explorer Project. Industry observers speculated that the pace of LG's rollable smartphone development could have been more sluggish than expected and that the company may have felt pressure delivering successful results with the product in the market. According to market researcher Counterpoint Research, LG shipped 24.7 million smartphones last year, down 13 per cent from a year earlier, and was the ninth-largest smartphone vendor with a global market share of 2 per cent.

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Silicon Valley venture capital giant 500 Startups launches new fund in Saudi Arabia

Markets|Technology|Saudi|: Dubai: One of the biggest global names in venture capital, 500 Startups has struck an alliance with Saudi Arabia's Sanabil Investments, which focuses on private investments, to launch the Sanabil 500 MENA Seed Accelerator Program in Riyadh. It will consist of six programmes run by 500 Startups over three years for a select group of pre-seed and seed stage startups from the region. Startups participating will receive a $100,000 investment from the Sanabil 500 MENA Seed Accelerator Fund. The fund will also invest opportunistically in other pre-seed and seed stage startups throughout MENA. It is expected to invest in approximately 100 startups. This follows the announcement of 500 Startups’ new MENA regional headquarters in Riyadh. Startup ecosystem Bedy Yang, Managing Partner at 500 Startups and General Partner of the Sanabil 500 MENA Seed Accelerator Fund, said: “The region’s ecosystem has evolved significantly since 500 first started investing in the region nearly 10 years ago, and we will continue providing seed-stage founders with the best support possible.” 500 Startups has operted  50 accelerator programs in Silicon Valley and globally, and invested in over 2,500 companies, including more than 180 from within MENA. Based on internal valuations and information received, as of December 31 last, 500’s global investment portfolio now has more than 23 'unicorns', or investments valued at over $1 billion.