China cries foul over Facebook, Twitter block of fake accounts
Robie de Guzman • August 20, 2019 • 185
China cried foul on Tuesday (August 20) saying it had a right to put out its own views, after Twitter and Facebook said they had dismantled a state-backed social media campaign originating in mainland China that sought to undermine protests in Hong Kong.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, declined direct comment on the Twitter and Facebook moves, but defended the right of Chinese people and media to make their voices heard over the Hong Kong protests.
Overseas Chinese and students “of course have the right to express their point of view,” he told a daily news briefing.
“What is happening in Hong Kong, and what the truth is, people will naturally have their own judgement. Why is it that China’s official media’s presentation is surely negative or wrong?”
Twitter said on Monday (August 19) it suspended 936 accounts and the operations appeared to be a coordinated state-backed effort originating in China.
Facebook Inc said it had removed accounts and pages from a small network after a tip from Twitter. It said that its investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.
Twitter and Facebook have also come under fire from users over showing ads from state-controlled media that criticised the Hong Kong protesters.
In response, Twitter said it would no longer accept advertising from state-controlled news media. (Reuters)
India became the latest country after Brazil and Thailand to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in what could potentially be the biggest move against vaping globally over growing health concerns.
The ban, which also covers the production, import and advertising of e-cigarettes, cuts off a huge future market from e-cigarette makers at a time when the number of people smoking worldwide is declining.
“There has been a 77 percent increase in addiction of e-cigarettes among school-going or college-going young adults, teenagers, and children because nicotine addiction is quick and it is harmful as well,” Indian Secretary of Health and Family Welfare Preeti Sudan said.
India has 106 million smokers, second only to China.
The ban could also dash the expansion plans of companies such as Altria, backed Juul Labs, and Philip Morris International into the country.
“$150 billion opportunity, now that’s what is estimated, the nicotine market is going to be, why are we denying our farmers that, why are we denying our citizens a right to a less harmful product, these are questions that I would really like to ask the government,” Praveen Rikhy, Trade Representatives of endsin India said. (Reuters)
Facebook Inc. unveiled new models of its Portal video chatting devices on Wednesday (September 18), making the company’s first foray into TV streaming hardware but offering a limited selection of subscription services.
The launch comes as Facebook is trying to pivot toward more private forms of communication, after years of slowing user growth, data-sharing scandals and calls for change to its hands-off approach to content moderation.
The company is already one of the biggest global players in private messaging, with its WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram apps used by 2.4 billion people each month.
It is keeping the focus of its new Portal line on video calling, adding the capability for WhatsApp calls along with improvements to a wide-angle camera that keeps users in focus as they move about a room.
Facebook is also expanding Portal sales into countries including the UK, France and Australia, while lowering prices to more closely compete with industry-leading smart speakers from Amazon and Google that sell for under $100.
Standard models of the Portal, which ship on Oct. 15, will come in $129 and $179 versions. Portal TV will cost $149 and hit the shelves on Nov. 5.
Facebook is hoping the social nature of its products will be their selling point, allowing users to watch shows together while interacting via video call on the same screen.
“I think that in a couple years’ time, if you have a smart streaming device that doesn’t have a camera allowing you to video call people, you’re not going to have a competitive product,” said vice president of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth. “I think this is the killer feature for a device like this.”
Bosworth also touted privacy protections like local processing of smart features on the devices, which means most user data will not be sent back to Facebook servers.
But Portal TV offers only a few music apps and has limited options for TV programming, meaning it could face a stiff challenge in attracting consumers used to content-rich rivals like Apple TV, Netflix and Roku.
At a demonstration in San Francisco on Tuesday, the only way to stream shows appeared to be via Facebook’s Watch app. Executives said Portal TV would have Amazon’s Prime Video app loaded by the time it is available.
The company declined to say whether it had approached other content providers like HBO, Hulu or Disney.
Facebook does not disclose how many Portals it has sold since the device’s launch late last year, but hardware accounts for a tiny slice of the company’s total sales.
The social media giant makes less than 2 percent of its revenue from non-advertising sources. (Reuters)
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