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China’s COVID Lockdowns May Affect iPhone Shipments

The Apple Store at Union Square, the heart of San Francisco’s upscale tourist district, had drawn more than 30 customers within a few minutes of opening Friday morning. Visitors, couples and even a preschool-age boy browsed the atrium packed with iPhone 13s and watches to try out. A sign urged people to trade in old phones to save money on the 13s. 

But a staff member could not say when the iPhone 14 would come out — presumably sometime this year — or what it would cost. Some shoppers wondered whether it would be delayed or cost more than expected given the months of supply chain disruptions in China, where the phones are made. 

“This stuff has got to hit hard at some point,” said Bill Kimberlin, an Apple Store shopper from San Francisco. 

Apple, based in the Silicon Valley, just 50 miles south of San Francisco, outsources iPhone parts from around East Asia, and its handsets are assembled in China.  

Apple had to delay product rollouts first in 2020, when new gear was held up for a month because of China’s first COVID-19 wave, said Rachel Liao, senior industry analyst with the Taipei-based Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute. 

In the first quarter this year, she said, lockdowns in China suspended assembly plants, including at least one operated by Pegatron. Pegatron is the No. 2 iPhone assembler, with 25% of orders, after Foxconn. Both companies are based in Taiwan but manufacture in China.  

Since 2020, the costs of making the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series have increased “slightly” because of a materials shortage in the semiconductor supply chain, Liao said.  

“Sharp and protracted lockdowns are causing a lot of short-term havoc on logistics, and it’s obviously affecting delivery times significantly,” said Ivan Lam, senior research analyst with market analysis firm Counterpoint Research. 

Apple declined to answer a query from VOA about its China supply chain.   

Not just phones  

Supply chain upsets set off by China’s lockdowns in the major commercial hubs Shenzhen and Shanghai are slowing exports of products ranging from phones to building materials to motor vehicles. Western nations are experiencing shortages and higher prices imported goods.  

Chinese authorities ordered Shenzhen shuttered in March, and Shanghai, with a population of about 26 million, closed weeks later. Those closures have kept workers away from factories, delivery jobs and seaports.

Cities are locking down as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “zero-COVID” policy, aimed at controlling deaths from the coronavirus.

“The impact of the COVID-19-related restrictions and lockdown there in Shanghai is going to be severe on businesses, not just in China but globally,” said Ker Gibbs, executive in residence at the University of San Francisco and former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. 

“Shanghai is so important as a port and as a logistics hub, as a supply chain, so that any business that is touching China is going to be impacted by the lockdown,” Gibbs said. 

COVID-19 cases in China, the world’s largest consumer market, “exacerbated” a drop in global mobile phone production in the first three months of 2022, Taipei-based market analysis firm TrendForce said in an emailed statement May 10. It says production volume worldwide was 310 million phones in the same period. 

Jayant Menon, a visiting senior fellow with the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute Regional Economic Studies Program in Singapore, calls demand for China-made goods “uneven” — another cause for supply chain upsets. He anticipates the disruptions will last for two more quarters. 

“The quantities involved, I think, will clearly reflect the kind of disruptions still ongoing in China because of their zero-COVID strategy,” he said.  

Strategies for smartphones 

Smartphone supplies are holding up better than those of many other China-made goods, analysts say. 

Phone parts such as chips and screens are sourced from outside China; for example, camera lenses are made in Taiwan, and flash memory is produced in South Korea.  

“These things are counted as exports from China, as if 100% of it were made there, and in fact, a much smaller percentage is actually created in China,” said Douglas Barry, vice president of communications at the U.S.-China Business Council, an advocacy group in Washington with over 260 members. 

Apple now requires suppliers to increase inventories as it plans further in advance for product launches, Liao said. That’s a hedge against more supply chain problems. 

The Silicon Valley icon is now asking its assemblers over the longer term to cut reliance on China and raise orders for factories in India, she added. Its chief assemblers — Foxconn, Pegatron and Wistron — will continue to increase production capacity in India, she predicted. Wistron is also based in Taiwan. 

Apple is diversifying further with assembly orders to China-based Luxshare Precision Industry. Liao says that firm handles 3% of iPhone orders, with the prospect of more this year. 

Apple was the world’s No. 2-selling brand of smartphone after Samsung in the first three months of this year, with an 18% market share and 56.5 million units shipped, according to market research firm IDC, up slightly from the same period in 2021.

Some smartphone factories are using “closed-loop operations” to keep production going in China, Lam said. Companies such as Foxconn have long housed workers in factory compounds so large that some have compared them to cities.

“At the end of the day, companies will assess their vulnerabilities and adjust their supply chains accordingly,” Barry said. “It won’t be easy, and consumers will feel their pain by having to wait and paying more for products they want.” 

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Scanning the Corpse’s Face: Ukrainians Using Facial Recognition Technology to Identify Russian Soldiers

The Ukrainian government is using facial recognition software to identify Russian soldiers captured and dead. VOA’s Julie Taboh spoke with one software company CEO and an official with the Ukrainian national police about how the technology is contributing to the war effort

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Canada to Ban Huawei and ZTE From 5G Networks

Canada will ban Chinese telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE from its 5G wireless networks because of national security concerns, officials said Thursday. 

The long-awaited move follows those of the United States and other key allies and comes on the heels of a diplomatic row between Ottawa and Beijing over the detention of a senior Huawei executive on a U.S. warrant, which has now been resolved. 

The United States has warned of the security implications of giving Chinese tech companies access to telecommunications infrastructure that could be used for state espionage. 

Both Huawei and Beijing have rejected the allegations, while Beijing warned of repercussions for nations placing restrictions on the telecom equipment provider. 

The company did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment on Canada’s ban. 

Canadian Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino made the announcement at a news conference. 

“Today, we’re announcing our intention to prohibit the inclusion of Huawei and ZTE products and services in Canada’s telecommunication systems,” Champagne said. 

“This follows a full review by our security agencies and in consultation with our closest allies.” 

Canada had been reviewing the 5G technology and network access for several years, repeatedly delaying a decision that was first expected in 2019. 

It remained silent on the telecoms issue after China jailed two Canadians — diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor — in what observers believed was in retaliation for the December 2018 arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the request of the United States. 

All three were released in September 2021 after Meng reached a deal with U.S. prosecutors on the fraud charges, ending her extradition fight. 

Champagne said Canadian telecommunications companies “will not be permitted to include in their networks products or services that put our national security at risk.” 

“Providers who already have this equipment installed will be required to cease its use and remove it,” he said. 

‘Hostile actors’ 

Huawei already supplies some Canadian telecommunications firms with 4G equipment. 

Most, if not all, had held off using Huawei in their fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks that deliver speedier online connections with greater data capacity, or looked to other suppliers while Ottawa hemmed and hawed. 

Mendicino said 5G innovation “represents a major opportunity for competition and growth” but also comes with risks. 

“There are many hostile actors who are ready to exploit vulnerabilities” in telecom networks, he said. 

The U.S., Australia, Britain, New Zealand, Japan and Sweden have already blocked or restricted the use of Huawei technology in their 5G networks. 

The U.S. government considers Huawei a potential security threat because of the background of its founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese army engineer who is Meng’s father.

The concern escalated as Huawei rose to become the world leader in telecom networking equipment and one of the top smartphone manufacturers following Beijing’s passage of a 2017 law obliging Chinese companies to assist the government in matters of national security. 

Canada’s two spy agencies had reportedly been divided initially over whether to ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G networks. One favored a ban, while the other argued risks could be mitigated. 

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment had been tasked with conducting a cybersecurity review to evaluate the risks, as well as the economic costs to Canadian telecoms and consumers, of blacklisting the equipment supplier. 

Huawei was already prohibited from bidding on Canadian government contracts and core network equipment such as routers and switches. 

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Twitter Policy Aims to Clear Fog of War Misinformation

Twitter is stepping up its fight against misinformation with a new policy cracking down on posts that spread potentially dangerous false stories. The change is part of a broader effort to promote accurate information during times of conflict or crisis. 

Starting Thursday, the platform will no longer automatically recommend or emphasize posts that make misleading claims about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including material that mischaracterizes conditions in conflict zones or makes false allegations of war crimes or atrocities against civilians. 

Under its new “crisis misinformation policy,” Twitter will also add warning labels to debunked claims about ongoing humanitarian crises, the San Francisco-based company said. Users won’t be able to like, forward or respond to posts that violate the new rules. 

The changes make Twitter the latest social platform to grapple with the misinformation, propaganda and rumors that have proliferated since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. That misinformation ranges from rumors spread by well-intentioned users to Kremlin propaganda amplified by Russian diplomats or fake accounts and networks linked to Russian intelligence. 

“We have seen both sides share information that may be misleading and/or deceptive,” said Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, who detailed the new policy for reporters. “Our policy doesn’t draw a distinction between the different combatants. Instead, we’re focusing on misinformation that could be dangerous, regardless of where it comes from.” 

The new policy will complement existing Twitter rules that prohibit digitally manipulated media, false claims about elections and voting, and health misinformation, including debunked claims about COVID-19 and vaccines. 

But it could also clash with the views of Tesla billionaire Elon Musk, who has agreed to pay $44 billion to acquire Twitter with the aim of making it a haven for free speech. Musk hasn’t addressed many instances of what that would mean in practice, although he has said that Twitter should only take down posts that violate the law, which taken literally would prevent action against most misinformation, personal attacks and harassment. He has also criticized the algorithms used by Twitter and other social platforms to recommend particular posts to individuals. 

The policy was written broadly to cover misinformation during other conflicts, natural disasters, humanitarian crises or “any situation where there’s a widespread threat to health and safety,” Roth said. 

Twitter said it will rely on a variety of credible sources to determine when a post is misleading. Those sources will include humanitarian groups, conflict monitors and journalists. 

A senior Ukrainian cybersecurity official, Victor Zhora, welcomed Twitter’s new screening policy and said that it’s up to the global community to “find proper approaches to prevent the sowing of misinformation across social networks.” 

While the results have been mixed, Twitter’s efforts to address misinformation about the Ukraine conflict exceed those of other platforms that have chosen a more hands-off approach, like Telegram, which is popular in Eastern Europe. 

Asked specifically about the Telegram platform, where Russian government disinformation is rampant but Ukraine’s leaders also reach a wide audience, Zhora said the question was “tricky but very important.” That’s because the kind of misinformation disseminated without constraint on Telegram “to some extent led to this war.” 

Since the Russian invasion began in February, social media platforms like Twitter and Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, have tried to address a rise in war-related misinformation by labeling posts from Russian state-controlled media and diplomats. They’ve also de-emphasized some material so it no longer turns up in searches or automatic recommendations. 

Emerson Brooking, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab and expert on social media and disinformation, said that the conflict in Ukraine shows how easily misinformation can spread online during a conflict and the need for platforms to respond. 

“This is a conflict that has played out on the internet, and one that has driven extraordinarily rapid changes in tech policy,” he said. 

 

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Nigeria Becoming Destination for Africa’s Promising Tech Startups

In February, the Nigerian technology startup CrowdForce announced a big break: It had received $3.6 million from investors to expand its financial services operations to many more underserved communities.  

Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Tomi Ayorinde said new funding will boost its mobile agent network from 7,000 to 21,000 this year.

“We were looking to scale faster and really gain market share,” Ayorinde said. “And what we’re doing is also very impact-related because we’re creating jobs, avenues for people to make extra income in their communities. So, it was also very interesting for impact investors to be part of what we’re trying to do.” 

When Ayorinde helped launch CrowdForce seven years ago, he intended it to be a data collection company. But after about two years, the company overhauled its business model when Ayorinde realized it could fill a need for bank accounts.   

“When we collected data of 4.5 million traders what we saw was, a lot of them didn’t have bank accounts and the ones that have bank accounts had a very tough time accessing the cash that was sent to them,” said Ayorinde.”That’s when we kind of realized that there’s a bigger problem to solve here.”

Experts say about 60% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people lack access to banks or financial services. Technology startups in Africa are trying to fix that, said the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association known as AVCA.   

In a recent report, the industry group said African startups attracted $5.2 billion in venture capital last year, and that West Africa – led by Nigeria – accounted for the largest share of investments.    

AVCA research manager Alexia Alexandropoulou said investors are looking to tap into Africa’s huge population of young people.    

“Africa is the world’s most youthful population, so as the proportion of skilled labor increases, then the result will be more human capital in order to power African businesses and also the industrial development within the continent,” said Alexandropoulou.

AVCA’s report also cites increased internet penetration in Africa and more favorable government policies as contributing to increased investments in financial technology services knwoFintech.  

But Fintech Digital Marketing Expert Louis Dike said there are obstacles to overcome, such as weak currencies and policies.  

“Africa is not a perfect place because it’s still made up of virgin markets,” said Dike. “The standard of living is quite low, our regulations are not consistent, today the government will say this and tomorrow they will change the law and restrict some startup activities.”  

But with new talents emerging in technology, more startups with big dreams are emerging in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. 

 

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Bill Gates Says He Has COVID-19, Experiencing Mild Symptoms 

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said Tuesday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms. 

Via Twitter, the billionaire philanthropist said he will isolate until he is again healthy. 

“I’m fortunate to be vaccinated and boosted and have access to testing and great medical care,” Gates wrote. 

The Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the most influential private foundation in the world, with an endowment of about $65 billion. 

Bill Gates has been a vocal proponent for pandemic mitigation measures, specifically access to vaccines and medication for poorer countries. The Gates Foundation in October said it will spend $120 million to boost access to generic versions of drugmaker Merck’s antiviral COVID-19 pill for lower-income countries. 

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Elon Musk Says He’d Reinstate Trump’s Twitter Account

Elon Musk on Tuesday said he would reinstate former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account. 

The Tesla CEO who’s vying to buy Twitter and take it private for a reported price tag of $44 billion made the comment at the Financial Times Future of the Car conference. 

“I do think that it was not correct to ban Donald Trump,” Musk said. “I think that was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.”  

Musk added that Trump’s ban was “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.” 

Trump’s account was permanently banned after the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, with Twitter saying his continued presence on the platform was a “risk of further incitement of violence.”  

Musk added that permanent bans should be “extremely rare” and reserved for “bots, or spam/scam accounts.”  

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” he said in a recent statement.  

Trump has said he does not intend to rejoin Twitter and will focus mostly on the social network he launched called Truth Social. 

Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Reuters. 

 

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Biden Starts Program to Provide Discounted Internet Service in US

The Biden administration announced on Monday that 20 internet companies have agreed to provide discounted service to people with low incomes, a program that could effectively make tens of millions of households across the U.S. eligible for free service through an already existing federal subsidy.

The $1 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress last year included $14.2 billion funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides $30 monthly subsidies ($75 in tribal areas) on internet service for millions of lower-income households.

With the new commitment from the internet providers, some 48 million households will be eligible for $30 monthly plans for 100 megabits per second, or higher speed, service — making internet service fully paid for with the government subsidy if they sign up with one of the providers participating in the program.

Biden, during his White House run and the push for the infrastructure bill, made expanding high-speed internet access in rural and low-income areas a priority. He has repeatedly spoken out about low-income families that struggled finding reliable Wi-Fi, so their children could take part in remote schooling and complete homework assignments early in the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we didn’t know it before, we know now: High-speed internet is essential,” the Democratic president said during a White House event last month honoring the National Teacher of the Year.

The 20 internet companies that have agreed to lower their rates for eligible consumers provide service in areas where 80% of the U.S. population, including 50% of the rural population, live, according to the White House. Participating companies that offer service on tribal lands are providing $75 rates in those areas, the equivalent of the federal government subsidy in those areas.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday were set to meet with telecom executives, members of Congress and others to spotlight the effort to improve access to high-speed internet for low-income households.

The providers are Allo Communications, AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom), Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink), Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum (Charter Communications), Starry, Verizon (Fios only), Vermont Telephone Co., Vexus Fiber and Wow! Internet, Cable, and TV.

American households are eligible for subsidies through the Affordable Connectivity Program if their income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or if a member of their family participates in one of several programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) and Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit.

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Musk Gets $7B Backing for Twitter Bid From Tech Heavyweights

Billionaire Elon Musk has strengthened the equity stake of his offer to buy Twitter with commitments of more than $7 billion from a range of investors, including Silicon Valley heavy hitters like Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.

Other investors include Sequoia Capital Fund, which pledged $800 million, and VyCapital, which pledged $700 million, according to a Thursday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. But Ellison, who is also a and Tesla board member, is making the biggest contribution, pegged at $1 billion.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud has pledged 35 million in Twitter shares in support of Musk, according to the filing.

Musk in earlier regulatory filings revealed that he has sold roughly $8.5 billion worth of shares in Tesla to help fund the purchase. Musk later tweeted that he doesn’t plan any further sales of the company’s shares, meaning he would need outside commitments to help fund the $44 billion deal.

Because of the new funding listed in the SEC filing Thursday, Musk will cut the $12.5 billion in margin loans he was leaning on in half, to $6.25 billion. The transaction is also now being funded by $27.25 billion in cash and equities, up from $21 billion.

The Thursday filing also said that Musk is in ongoing talks with other parties including former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who is the second largest individual stakeholder in the company after Musk.

“This was a smart financial and strategic move by Musk that will be well received across the board and also shows the Twitter deal is now on a glide path to get done by the end of this year,” wrote analyst Dan Ives who follows Twitter for Wedbush.

Shares of Twitter Inc. have remained below the per-share offering bid by Musk of $54.20 because there are still doubts on Wall Street about whether the deal will go through.

Shares of the San Francisco social media platform rose 2% before the opening bell, to $50.10.

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Automakers, Appliance Manufacturers Struggle to Find Computer Chips Amid Shortage

Cars stuck on the assembly line. Delays in the delivery of dishwashers, refrigerators and game consoles. Consumers and businesses are feeling the pinch of the semiconductor shortage. The war in Ukraine could make the situation worse. Michelle Quinn reports.

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EU Says Apple Pay May Violate EU Antitrust Laws

The European Union on Monday accused Apple of abusing its dominant Apple Pay market position to prevent other companies from competing in contactless payment technologies. 

“Apple has built a closed ecosystem around its devices and its operating system, iOS. And Apple controls the gates to this ecosystem, setting the rules of the game for anyone who wants to reach consumers using Apple devices,” EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said. “By excluding others from the game, Apple has unfairly shielded its Apple Pay wallets from competition.” 

The 27-nation bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission, said Apple’s practice “has an exclusionary effect on competitors and leads to less innovation and less choice for consumers for mobile wallets on iPhones.”  

The commission has not disclosed what, if any, fines could be levied against Apple should it be found in violation of antitrust laws. 

In response, Apple said it would cooperate with the Commission. 

The company said it “will continue to engage with the Commission to ensure European consumers have access to the payment option of their choice in a safe and secure environment.”  

The Commission has been investigating several aspects of Apple’s business practices in Europe since 2020, including the possibility the company violates European antitrust laws over music streaming and the app store. 

Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press. 

 

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US Company Produces Drones for Ukrainian Armed Forces

BRINC, a company based in Seattle, Washington, is producing special drones to assist Ukraine’s armed forces. The drones are used in search and rescue missions and can provide eyes in places where it’s too dangerous to send people. Khrystyna Shevchenko has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.
Videographer: Khrystyna Shevchenko

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Google Adds Ways to Keep Personal Info Private in Searches

Google has expanded options for keeping personal information private from online searches.

The company said Friday it will let people request that more types of content such as personal contact information like phone numbers, email and physical addresses be removed from search results.

The new policy also allows the removal of other information that may pose a risk for identity theft, such as confidential log-in credentials.

The company said in a statement that open access to information is vital, “but so is empowering people with the tools they need to protect themselves and keep their sensitive, personally identifiable information private.”

“Privacy and online safety go hand in hand. And when you’re using the internet, it’s important to have control over how your sensitive, personally identifiable information can be found,” it said.

Google Search earlier had permitted people to request that highly personal content that could cause direct harm be removed. That includes information removed due to doxxing and personal details like bank account or credit card numbers that could be used for fraud.

But information increasing pops up in unexpected places and is used in new ways, so policies need to evolve, the company said.

Having personal contact information openly available online also can pose a threat and Google said it had received requests for the option to remove that content, too.

It said that when it receives such requests it will study all the content on the web page to avoid limiting availability of useful information or of content on the public record on government or other official websites.

“It’s important to remember that removing content from Google Search won’t remove it from the internet, which is why you may wish to contact the hosting site directly, if you’re comfortable doing so,” it said.

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New Kenyan Fish Marketing App Aims to Reduce Sexual Exploitation of Women Fishmongers

An application developed in Kenya to improve the marketing of fish caught in Lake Victoria is helping women fishmongers fend off sex-for-fish exploitation by fishermen. The Aquarech app allows traders to buy fish without having to negotiate with fishermen – as Ruud Elmendorp reports from Kisumu, Kenya.
Videographer: Ruud Elmendorp Produced by: Henry Hernandez

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Musk’s Twitter Ambitions Likely to Collide with Europe’s Tech Rules 

A hands-off approach to moderating content at Elon Musk’s Twitter could clash with ambitious new laws in Europe meant to protect users from disinformation, hate speech and other harmful material. 

Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist,” pledged to buy Twitter for $44 billion this week, with European Union officials and digital campaigners quick to say that any focus on free speech to the detriment of online safety would not fly after the 27-nation bloc solidified its status as a global leader in the effort to rein in the power of tech giants.

“If his approach will be ‘just stop moderating it,’ he will likely find himself in a lot of legal trouble in the EU,” said Jan Penfrat, senior policy adviser at digital rights group EDRi.

Musk will soon be confronted with Europe’s Digital Services Act, which will require big tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook parent Meta to police their platforms more strictly or face billions in fines.

Other crackdowns

Officials agreed just days ago on the landmark legislation, expected to take effect by 2024. It’s unclear how soon it could spark a similar crackdown elsewhere, with U.S. lawmakers divided on efforts to address competition, online privacy, disinformation and more.

That means the job of reining in a Musk-led Twitter could fall to Europe — something officials signaled they’re ready for.

“Be it cars or social media, any company operating in Europe needs to comply with our rules — regardless of their shareholding,” Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, tweeted Tuesday. “Mr Musk knows this well. He is familiar with European rules on automotive, and will quickly adapt to the Digital Services Act.”

Musk’s plans for Twitter haven’t been fleshed out beyond a few ideas for new features, opening its algorithm to public inspection and defeating “bots” posing as real users.

France’s digital minister, Cedric O, said Musk has “interesting things” that he wants to push for Twitter, “but let’s remember that #DigitalServicesAct — and therefore the obligation to fight misinformation, online hate, etc. — will apply regardless of the ideology of its owner.” 

EU Green Party lawmaker Alexandra Geese, who was involved in negotiating the law, said, “Elon Musk’s idea of free speech without content moderation would exclude large parts of the population from public discourse,” such as women and people of color. 

Twitter declined to comment. Musk tweeted that “the extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all.” He added that by free speech, he means “that which matches the law” and that he’s against censorship going “far beyond the law.” 

The United Kingdom also has an online safety law in the works that threatens senior managers at tech companies with prison if they don’t comply. Users would get more power to block anonymous trolls, and tech companies would be forced to proactively take down illegal content. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office stressed the need for Twitter to remain “responsible” and protect users. 

“Regardless of ownership, all social media platforms must be responsible,” Johnson spokesman Max Blain said Tuesday. 

Need seen for cleanup

Damian Collins, a British lawmaker who led a parliamentary committee working on the bill, said that if Musk really wants to make Twitter a free speech haven, “he will need to clean up the digital town square.” 

Collins said Twitter has become a place where users are drowned out by coordinated armies of “bot” accounts spreading disinformation and division and that users refrain from expressing themselves “because of the hate and abuse they will receive.” 

The laws in the U.K. and EU target such abuse. Under the EU’s Digital Services Act, tech companies must put in place systems so illegal content can be easily flagged for swift removal. 

Experts said Twitter will have to go beyond taking down clearly defined illegal content like hate speech, terrorism and child sexual abuse and grapple with material that falls into a gray zone. 

The law includes requirements for big tech platforms to carry out annual risk assessments to determine how much their products and design choices contribute to the spread of divisive material that can affect issues like health or public debate. 

“This is all about assessing to what extent your users are seeing, for example, Russian propaganda in the context of the Ukraine war,” online harassment or COVID-19 misinformation, said Mathias Vermeulen, public policy director at data rights agency AWO. 

Violations would incur fines of up to 6% of a company’s global annual revenue. Repeat offenders can be banned from the EU.

More openness 

The Digital Services Act also requires tech companies to be more transparent by giving regulators and researchers access to data on how their systems recommend content to users. 

Musk has similar thoughts, saying his plans include “making the algorithms open source to increase trust.” 

Penfrat said it’s a great idea that could pave the way to a new ecosystem of ranking and recommendation options. 

But he panned another Musk idea — “authenticating all humans” — saying that taking away anonymity or pseudonyms from people, including society’s most marginalized, was the dream of every autocrat.

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Elon Musk Quest to Scrap Deal Over 2018 Tweets is Rejected

Elon Musk’s request to scrap a settlement with securities regulators over 2018 tweets claiming he had the funding to take Tesla private was denied by a federal judge in New York.

Judge Lewis Liman on Wednesday also denied a motion to nullify subpoenas of Musk seeking information about possible violations of his settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Musk had asked the court to throw out the settlement, which required that his tweets be approved by a Tesla attorney. The SEC is investigating whether the Tesla CEO violated the settlement with tweets last November asking Twitter followers if he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock.

The whole dispute stems from an October 2018 agreement with the SEC in which Musk and Tesla each agreed to pay $20 million in civil fines over Musk’s tweets about having the money to take Tesla private at $420 per share.

The funding was far from secured and the electric vehicle company remains public, but Tesla’s stock price jumped. The settlement specified governance changes, including Musk’s ouster as board chairman, as well as pre-approval of his tweets.

Musk attorney Alex Spiro contended in court motions that the SEC was trampling on Musk’s right to free speech.