Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas on June 6, 2019.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images
Amazon defended its decision to drop Parler from its web hosting service in response to a lawsuit filed by the social media app earlier this week.
In court filings late Tuesday, Amazon said it flagged dozens of pieces of violent content to the social media app starting in November. The company argued that Parler violated its contract with Amazon’s cloud-computing unit, Amazon Web Services (AWS), when it failed to remove the content and that AWS suspended Parler’s account “as a last resort.”
“This case is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints,” Amazon wrote in its response to Parler. “It is not about conspiracy to restrain trade. Instead, this case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of AWS content that threatens public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens.”
Amazon pulled the plug on Parler, a social media app popular with Trump supporters, last week in the wake of the deadly U.S. Capitol riot. Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon on Monday, accusing Amazon of breaching its contract and breaking antitrust laws. Parler also asked the court for a temporary restraining order to force AWS to reinstate its account.
In its response to Parler’s lawsuit, Amazon argued that restoring web service to Parler would likely harm the public, outweighing “any speculative damage Parler claims it may suffer” from its site being offline.
It also rebuffed Parler’s claim that AWS broke antitrust laws by denying it service. It cited Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law favored by Silicon Valley and, increasingly, under attack by lawmakers, which shields tech companies from being held liable for what users post on their platforms.
Amazon said it began reporting content in violation of its terms of service to Parler on Nov. 17 of last year. Over the next seven weeks, Amazon said it reported more than 100 additional pieces of content advocating violence.
Amazon included some examples of that content in exhibits filed alongside its lawsuit, which include death threats against members of Congress, tech company executives like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, as well as U.S. Capitol Police, among other groups. In some Parler posts, users made threats to “burn down Amazon delivery trucks” and Apple stores, as well as “seize Amazon’s servers.”
“We should peacefully assemble outside all these tech tyrants homes and businesses, then peacefully protest and peacefully loot and burn them,” one Parler post read, according to the court filing.
Amazon said content encouraging violence grew after the violence at the U.S. Capitol by some Trump supporters on Wednesday, which left five dead. Following the riot, politicians and the public have called on social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube to more closely moderate their platforms, in order to prevent incitements to violence.
Amazon held calls with Parler executives following the riots where it raised concerns about Parler’s ineffective moderation strategies, which included relying on volunteers to report content. Parler CEO John Matze indicated on one of those calls that the site had a backlog of 26,000 reports of content that violated its policies and were still up on the site, the filing states.
“Parler’s own failures left AWS little choice but to suspend Parler’s account,” Amazon said in the filing.
Parler didn’t respond to a request for comment. Amazon previously said there was “no merit” to the claims laid out in Parler’s lawsuit.
Tencent shares fall over 5% after closing in on $1 trillion valuation
WeChat mascots are displayed inside Tencent office at TIT Creativity Industry Zone in Guangzhou, China, May 9, 2017.
Bobby Yip | Reuters
GUANGZHOU, China — Tencent shares dropped more than 5% on Tuesday — one day after a huge rally pushed its valuation to nearly $1 trillion for the first time.
The Chinese internet giant saw its shares hit as high as 767.5 Hong Kong dollars on Monday, rallying 11% at one point. That pushed the company’s market capitalization to 7.35 trillion Hong Kong dollars ($949 billion) on Monday.
Monday’s rally appeared to be propelled by bullish calls by two investment banks. In a research note, Citi raised its target price to 876 Hong Kong dollars from 734 Hong Kong dollars, a 14% rise from Monday’s close.
UBS also upped its price target on Tencent from 700 Hong Kong dollars to 830 Hong Kong dollars — that’s a more than 8% rise from Monday’s close.
But investors took profit on Tuesday, driving Tencent shares lower by around 5.48% to 724.50 Hong Kong dollars at 2.45 p.m. local time. The stock was down over 6% earlier in the day but pared some losses.
Investors are waiting for Tencent’s 2020 results for the fourth quarter and full year, which will be released in March.
Analysts are expecting revenue to come in at 131.83 billion yuan (about $20.36 billion) for the December quarter, a 24.6% year-on-year rise, according to Refinitiv estimates. Net income is expected to grow nearly 29% to 32.85 billion yuan.
Tencent is known for its huge gaming business which analysts expect to have performed well in the fourth quarter. Revenue from smartphone games in particular are expected to grow 46% year-on-year to 38 billion yuan, helped by new title releases, according to a recent note from Jefferies.
Other analysts have also backed that up.
“We expect solid results in upcoming 4Q20, with strength in the game business overall,” Macquarie analyst Han Joon Kim said in a note published Jan. 19.
But Tencent has also been growing other areas of its business including advertising, cloud computing and financial technology via its WeChat Pay mobile payment system.
WeChat, in particular, has been a focus of investors.
Last week, Tencent announced that transactions on its WeChat Mini Programs rose more than 100% in 2020 from 800 billion yuan in 2019. The company did not reveal the 2020 figure. But it highlights the way that Tencent is trying to monetize and increase the stickiness of its messaging app WeChat, which is used by over a billion people.
Mini Programs are apps people can use within WeChat without having to leave the messaging app. They have been a key part of the growth of WeChat.
Though the monetization efforts of WeChat are still in the early stages, analysts see this as a long-term effort.
“We continue to find stronger emphasis on improving accessibility and functionality than monetization. We think lack of monetization of mini programs in 2021 is fine, as there is limited expectation of such embedded in earnings expectation anyways,” Macquarie’s Kim said.
“Rather, Tencent’s growing influence in on-line commerce activity will strengthen the stock’s long-term narrative and support its valuation multiple.”
Google says PAC won’t fund Congress members against election results
Google’s political action committee won’t fund members of Congress who voted against the presidential election results this cycle, the company confirmed to CNBC on Monday evening.
“After the disturbing events at the Capitol, NetPAC paused all contributions while undertaking a review,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement to CNBC. “Following that review, the NetPAC board has decided that it will not be making any contributions this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certification of the election results.”
Axios first reported the funding pause.
Last week, tech companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft announced they would pause contributions from their political action committees in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Insurgents planned to forcibly turn over election results after high-profile Congress members and former President Donald Trump falsely alleged a “stolen” election.
Google’s PAC donated to Sen. Ted Cruz’s Senate campaign in 2017 and 2018.
The company up until Jan. 7 — after the insurgence — allowed the same lawmakers and Trump to recite voter fraud falsehoods on YouTube. Trump’s YouTube home page still automatically plays a 46-minute video rife with false allegations of voter fraud. It has been up for a month and had nearly 6 million views.
Chinese video app Kuaishou Hong Kong IPO could raise over $5 billion
A Kuaishou app interface on a mobile phone, Yichang, Hubei province, China, Jan 20, 2021. Kuaishou is gearing up for an initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong.
Costfoto | Barcroft Media | Getty Images
GUANGZHOU, China — Chinese short video app Kuaishou has priced its Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO) as it looks to raise funds to take on rivals such as Douyin, the Chinese version of TiKTok.
Kuaishou said it would issue 365,218,600 shares each priced between $105.00 Hong Kong dollars to $115.00 Hong Kong dollars.
At the top end of the range, the company could raise around $42 billion Hong Kong dollars ($5.42 billion). The amount could be raised if the so-called over allotment option is exercised. The option allows the underwriting banks to issue a certain percentage more shares if demand is high.
Shares will begin trading on Feb. 5 in Hong Kong.
Kuaishou’s IPO comes as Chinese regulators look to crack down on the country’s technology sector and have already made moves to reign in livestreaming platforms. In November, State Administration for Radio, Film and Television’s put caps on how much people can spend on virtual items and banned teenagers from purchases.
Virtual items are where viewers purchase some sort of digital gift to give to their favorite streamers. In the nine months that ended Sept. 30, Kuaishou made 25.3 billion yuan (approx. $3.9 billion) of revenue from live streaming, which accounted for over 60% of total revenue. A large part of live streaming revenues come from virtual gifting.
Kuaishou’s other revenue drivers include advertising and a fledgling e-commerce business where users can buy goods through its app.
Regulators in China have been laser-focused on the tech sector looking to introduce rules in areas from data protection to micro-lending and antitrust.
WeChat owner Tencent, is one of Kuaishou’s biggest backers, and owns around 21.5% of the company.
Kuaishou said it will use the proceeds for growing its products, research and development, selective acquisitions around content, social entertainment and software and general working capital.
Kuaishou said it had 262.4 million daily active users for its app in the first nine months of 2020, up from 165.2 in the same period in 2019.
Its monthly paying users grew to 59.9 million from 48.5 million in that period.
However, the company swung to a loss in the nine months ending Sept. 30. It reported an adjusted net loss of 7.24 billion yuan as marketing expenses ballooned.
Kuaishou’s IPO is another win for the Hong Kong stock exchange which has managed to attract companies into listing for the first time or carrying out a secondary offering.
Chinese tech giants Alibaba, JD.com and NetEase, which are all listed in the U.S., have done secondary listings in Hong Kong. CNBC this month reported Chinese video platform Bilibili is also gearing up to raise over $2 billion in a secondary listing in Hong Kong.
Bank of America, China Renaissance and Morgan Stanley are working on Kuaishou’s IPO.
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