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.
Best quarter in the history of the smartphone
Apple reported blowout earnings on Wednesday. Even during a global pandemic, every single product line was up, leading to the company’s first quarter with over $100 billion in sales.
But Apple is still best known for the iPhone, which accounted for nearly 59% of the company’s revenue during the holiday quarter. The iPhone is booming, too: Sales were up 17% year-over-year to a whopping $65.6 billion in a single quarter. That’s a big improvement from last year’s holiday quarter, when sales were up only 7.6% from the year ago.
Apple doesn’t provide unit sales for its products anymore, but according to an estimate from research firm IDC, Apple shipped 90.1 million phones during the quarter. That’s the largest number in any single quarter since IDC started tracking smartphones, analyst Francisco Jeronimo said.
Apple’s dominant quarter is adding fuel to the so-called “super cycle” investor thesis, where must-have updates combine with the natural customer upgrade cycle to drive a spike in sales growth. Analysts saw this year’s iPhone 12 models as a good candidate for a super-cycle because they sported a new design and added 5G, which enables the devices to connect to faster wireless networks.
In a note on Wednesday, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives predicted that the current cycle “should eclipse the previous iPhone record set in FY15, an achievement for the ages in our opinion.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook also said in an interview with CNBC that the company’s iPhone results could have been better if not for store closures caused by the ongoing pandemic.
“Taking the stores out of the equation, particularly for iPhones and wearables, there’s a drag on sales,” Cook told CNBC’s Josh Lipton.
In a conference call with analysts, Cook said that the new iPhones were not only getting current iPhone users to open up their wallets and upgrade, but also convincing people who had previously used competitor phones to get their first iPhone.
“Looking at the iPhone 12 family, we saw both switchers and upgraders increase on a year over year basis. And in fact, we saw the largest number of upgraders, that we’ve ever seen in a quarter,” Cook said.
5G remains a potential tailwind for iPhone sales through the rest of the year, Apple signaled on Wednesday. Cook said that while 5G in China was well established, leading to strong iPhone sales, 5G cellular networks in other regions aren’t as built-out yet, especially in Europe.
“I think most of that growth is probably in front of us there as well,” Cook said.
Elon Musk explains how self-driving robotaxis justify Tesla valuation
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., arrives at the Axel Springer Award ceremony in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.
Johannessen-Koppitz | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Don’t count Elon Musk among the investors who think Tesla is overvalued, even with the stock up almost 700% in the past year and the company valued at 213 times projected 2021 earnings, according to FactSet.
In the car maker’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, Tesla’s CEO said there is a “roadmap to potentially justify” its market cap, which has topped $800 billion, making it the fifth-most valuable U.S. company. Musk is now the world’s wealthiest person, with a net worth over $200 billion.
Musk’s valuation math goes like this: Assume the company soon reaches $50 billion to $60 billion in annual car sales (the company generated $9.31 billion in automotive revenue in Q4 and said that vehicle deliveries would increase an average of 50% a year going forward). As Tesla’s self-driving technology continues to improve, those vehicles will become self-driving robotaxis, allowing usage to go from 12 hours a week to 60 hours a week. Tesla could charge additional fees for those robotaxis, allowing the company to generate much more revenue per car. Basically, it would be like bringing software economics to the manufacturing-intensive car business.
Musk also announced that Tesla’s Full Self Driving package will be available on a subscription basis starting in Q1, rather than as a one-time $10,000 add-on, which will allow Tesla to begin adding recurring revenue as it works on improving its self-driving technology.
Even if usage only doubles, a $1 trillion valuation can make sense, according to Musk.
“If you made $50 billion worth of cars, it would be like having $50 billion of incremental profit, basically because it’s just software,” Musk said in the introductory part of the call. Based on that formula, Musk says a multiple of 20 times earnings would lead to $1 trillion in market cap — “and the company’s still in high-growth mode.”
Less than nine months ago, Musk had a very different perspective on the company’s valuation. In a tweet on May 1, he said “Tesla stock price is too high,” a comment that sent the shares down 10%. Since then, the company’s market cap has jumped by more than 450%.
It’s possible that investors are already presuming Tesla’s cars will eventually turn into revenue-generating robotaxis. But the company isn’t close to having those capabilities yet, and Musk has a history of over-promising when it comes to technological innovation.
For instance, when Tesla began to discuss self-driving technology in 2016, Musk said the company would complete a hands-free trip across the U.S. by late 2017. The company has yet to complete that mission.
Currently, Tesla’s Full Self Driving features include Smart Summon, which lets a driver call their Tesla to roll out from a parking spot to where they are standing, and Navigate on Autopilot, which can pilot the car from a highway on-ramp to an off-ramp, making necessary lane changes along the way.
But despite its name, the Full Self Driving package still requires drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and remain attentive at all times. A Munich court ruled last year that Tesla misled consumers on the abilities of its automated driving systems, and banned the company from including “full potential for autonomous driving” and “Autopilot inclusive” in its advertising materials.
While Tesla has missed many of its own projections for self-driving technology, Musk continues to insist that it’s coming. “I really do not see any obstacles here,” he told an analyst on the call who asked about the company’s progress.
Tesla shares fell 5.5% in extended trading on Wednesday after the company reported earnings that missed analysts’ estimates, even as revenue was better than expected.
WATCH: Tesla misses on earnings
Reddit group WallStreetBets behind massive GameStop, AMC run-ups goes private, invitation required
Rafael Henrique | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images
“Wallstreetbets” Reddit chat room, where retail investors marshal against short sellers, went private on Wednesday evening, limiting access to outsiders.
“You must be invited to visit this community,” the page now states. The forum’s members topped three million as of Wednesday. The community gathered an army of rookie day traders who go after heavily shorted stocks, pushing share prices higher and squeezing out short-selling hedge funds.
GameStop, a popular target in “wallstreetbets,” saw its shares soaring more than 400% this week alone. The brick-and-mortar video game retailer has skyrocketed a whopping 1,700% as retail traders continued to encourage each other to pile on.
AMC Entertainment, another hot topic in the chat room, surged more than 300% Wednesday alone, experiencing its highest volume ever.
A Reddit spokesperson said “wallstreetbets” moderators set the community to private.
“Reddit’s site-wide policies prohibit posting illegal content or soliciting or facilitating illegal transaction,” the spokesperson said. “We will review and cooperate with valid law enforcement investigations or actions as needed.”
Social platform Discord banned the “wallstreetbets” chat room on Wednesday.
“The WallStreetBets server has been on our Trust & Safety team’s radar for some time due to occasional content that violates our Community Guidelines, including hate speech, glorifying violence, and spreading misinformation,” a Discord spokesperson said in a statement.
“Over the past few months, we have issued multiple warnings to the server admin.Today, we decided to remove the server and its owner from Discord for continuing to allow hateful and discriminatory content after repeated warnings,” the spokesperson added.
This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.
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