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BuzzFeed acquires HuffPost from Verizon

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Jonah Peretti, Founder and CEO, Buzzfeed, speaks at the Wall Street Journal Digital Conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., October 18, 2017.

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

BuzzFeed is acquiring news aggregator and blog HuffPost from Verizon Media for an undisclosed amount, the companies said in a statement.

In addition to the sale of HuffPost, Verizon will become a minority investor in BuzzFeed, said the companies. Verizon Media and BuzzFeed also will syndicate content across each other’s platforms.

The deal reunites BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti with HuffPost. Peretti co-founded the site in 2005 with Andrew BreitbartArianna Huffington and Kenneth Lehrer. HuffPost gained prominence in the early 2000s as digital media companies formed to provide instant opinions on news and politics. Over the years, HuffPost broadened its scope to include celebrity blog post and award-winning longform journalism, culminating in a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for David Wood’s 10-part series on wounded veterans.

“I have vivid memories of growing HuffPost into a major news outlet in its early years, but BuzzFeed is making this acquisition because we believe in the future of HuffPost and the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come,” Peretti said. “With the addition of HuffPost, our media network will have more users, spending significantly more time with our content than any of our peers.”

Verizon has moved away from focusing on media properties since acquiring Yahoo in 2017 and AOL in 2015. Verizon acquired HuffPost through the AOL takeover, after AOL purchased HuffPost in 2011 for $315 million. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg has refocused the company on deploying 5G wireless since taking over as chief executive in 2018.

BuzzFeed has flirted with profitability this year as it has weathered a dip in digital advertising from pandemic quarantines.

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Senate Democrats ask YouTube CEO to remove election misinformation

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Susan Wojicki CEO of YouTube speaking at the 2019 Code Conference on June 10th, 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Asa Mathat | Vox Media

Several senate democrats wrote a letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki Monday evening, inquiring about the election misinformation it is still hosting on its platform and demanding that it be removed.

Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Gary Peters of Michigan, Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, New Jersey’s Robert Menendez and Gary Peters of Michigan wrote the letter, asking the company if it will commit to removing content containing false or misleading information. 

The letter outlines the risk of misinformation ahead of a Jan. 5th Georgia runoff races for Senate, which will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, adding Youtube must “take responsibility” and “immediately stop the spread of misinformation.”

“We write to express our deep concern regarding the proliferation of misinformation on your platform during and immediately following the 2020 elections and in light of the upcoming Georgia run-off elections,” the letter says. “We urge you to immediately remove all election outcome misinformation and take aggressive steps to implement prohibitions, as other social media companies have done, regarding outcomes in future elections.”

While the letter may not result in any material action, it comes as Google-owned YouTube has escaped the bulk of criticism surrounding misinformation relative to social media platforms Twitter and Facebook.

However, in recent weeks, YouTube has faced backlash and national attention after hosting videos that make unsubstantiated claims that Donald Trump won and that Democrats are committing voter fraud against Republican ballots, despite the company admitting itself the videos are “demonstrably false” and “undermines confidence in elections.” 

The company’s answer has been to remove advertising and demote the videos in rankings, but it has failed to enforced it consistently, resulting in videos with misinformation going viral across the internet.

In response to the letter from the Senate Democrats, a YouTube spokesperson said the most popular election videos on the site come from “authoritative news organizations.” The spokesperson also said it removes videos that violate its policies. But the spokesperson also said the company allows videos that discuss the outcome of the election and the vote-counting process.

“Like other companies, we allow discussions of this election’s results and the process of counting votes, and are continuing to closely monitor new developments,” the YouTube spokesperson said in a statement.

In their letter, the senators gave an example of a YouTube video claiming evidence of voter fraud in Michigan that was viewed more than 5 million views, despite any evidence of such fraud.

“These videos seek to undermine our democracy and cast doubt on the legitimacy of President-elect Biden’s incoming administration,” the letter stated. “Moreover, because the current president has not committed to a peaceful transition of power, misinformation and manipulated media content on your platform may fuel civil unrest.”

The letter continues, asking YouTube what steps it’s taking to make sure the platform doesn’t suppress votes, incite violence or make false claims about ballots. It also asks YouTube for data on videos spreading misinformation as well as to quantify the revenue it has received from hosting election result misinformation.

The senators asked for a response to questions by Dec. 8. 


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Amazon and U.S. government agency partner to inspect counterfeits

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An Amazon fulfillment center in Frankenthal, Germany.

Thorsten Wagner | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon is joining forces with a U.S. government watchdog group to conduct counterfeit inspections, the company announced Tuesday, in its latest effort to address a problem that’s plagued the e-commerce platform for years.

The company will work with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, a task force that’s overseen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to “analyze data and conduct targeted inspections aimed at preventing counterfeit products from entering the U.S. supply chain,” Amazon said. Any evidence collected from their inspections will be used to expand ongoing investigations and go after bad actors.

The initiative, referred to as “Operation Fulfilled Action,” is led by Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit. The team was launched earlier this year and is made up of former federal prosecutors, investigators and data analysts who mine the site for information and work with federal prosecutors.

Amazon’s marketplace, launched in 2000, now accounts for more than half the company’s overall sales. While it’s been a key driver of Amazon’s overall business, it has also faced a number of issues related to counterfeits, as well as unsafe and expired goods. Knockoff goods have been especially harmful for Amazon’s relationships with some brands, such as Nike and Birkenstock, who quit Amazon following a surge in counterfeits.

The company has ramped up its efforts to stamp out counterfeits on the platform. It has pursued counterfeiters in court, rolled out various programs to seek and detect sales of counterfeit goods and continues to block millions of suspected bad actor accounts and listings.


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Bitcoin price reaches three-year high of more than $19,000 | Technology

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The price of bitcoin has broken through $19,000 for the first time in almost three years, taking the world’s biggest cryptocurrency close to its all-time high of just under $20,000.

Bitcoin has surged by almost 40% in November and is up about 160% this year. It reached a peak of just under $20,000 in December 2017, before crashing spectacularly, losing a quarter of its value in a single day.

Analysts and investors say the coronavirus pandemic has led to a reassessment of bitcoin’s value as an alternative currency, and even as an alternative to gold. As the US dollar and other currencies have weakened, more investors are turning to cryptocurrency as protection against inflation.

Rick Rieder, the chief investment officer of Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, said last Friday that cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, were “here to stay”. He said millennials were happily embracing new technologies – although he himself has not bought much bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

“But do I think it is a durable mechanism that could replace gold to a large extent? Yeah I do, because it’s so much more functional than passing a bar of gold around,” he told CNBC’s Squawk Box.

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PayPal has launched a crypto trading service on its platform, and has reportedly bought nearly 70% of all new bitcoin in circulation. Its chief executive, Dan Schulman, said the pandemic had accelerated the shift to digital forms of payments.

A number of hedge fund managers, including the US billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, who predicted and profited from the 1987 stock market crash, have revealed in recent months that they have invested in bitcoin. Jones, who runs Tudor Investment Corp, has been recommending the cryptocurrency to his clients as a hedge against inflation, with the US Federal Reserve expected to keep interest rates at zero. Congress has resumed its negotiations over a massive stimulus package for the US economy.

Cryptocurrencies are notoriously volatile, and other digital currencies have also regained popularity in recent months, such as Ethereum, Litecoin and XRP, as investors reviewed their long-term prospects.


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