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Snapchat will ban Trump on Jan. 20

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Evan Spiegel, CEO of SNAP Inc.

Stephen Desaulniers | CNBC

Snap will permanently terminate the Snapchat account of President Donald Trump on Jan. 20, the company said Wednesday.

Last week, Snap announced an indefinite suspension of Trump’s account following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and previously the company had announced that it would no longer content from Trump’s account to appear in the Discover section of Snapchat.

“In the interest of public safety, and based on his attempts to spread misinformation, hate speech, and incite violence, which are clear violations of our guidelines, we have made the decision to permanently terminate his account,” a spokesman for the company said in a statement.

The company said the decision to terminate Trump’s account was “in the best interest of our Snapchat community” for the long term. This came after Trump had repeatedly tried to violate Snap’s community guidelines, the company said.

Although Trump could post content that was in violation of Snap’s guidelines, the content was often removed within minutes and unable to gain much visibility, the company spokesman told CNBC.

Snapchat follows other major social media networks, including Twitter, which banned Trump permanently last Friday, and Facebook, which has blocked him from posting to his account until after Joe Biden is inaugurated, and perhaps longer.


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GameStop jumps another 110% to above $140, trading briefly halted in another wild day

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Copies of ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ on display for sale at a GameStop store in Peru, Illinois.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The explosive rally in GameStop is showing no signs of slowing down as retail investors talking in chat rooms and hedge funds rushing to cover their short bets against the stock pushed it above $120 a share at one point Monday.

Shares of the brick-and-mortar video-game retailer soared more than 110% to $142.96 at its high of the session in morning trading. The stock was briefly halted for volatility. Within an hour of the opening bell, more than 60 million shares has already changed hands, doubling its 30-day average trading volumes of 29.8 million shares.

GameStop shares have more than quadrupled in January alone and are up almost 700% in three months. The stock was worth just $6 apiece four months ago.

Monday’s jump came despite a double-downgrade from Telsey Advisory Group. The Wall Street firm slashed its rating on GameStop to underperform from outperform, saying there’s a disconnect between fundamentals and valuation.

“The sudden, sharp surge in GameStop’s share price and valuation likely has been fueled by a short squeeze, given the high short interest, and, to a lesser degree, speculation by retail investors on forecasts for the new gaming cycle and the involvement of activist RC Ventures,” Telsey analyst Joseph Feldman said in the note on Monday.

“We believe the current share price and valuation levels are not sustainable, and we expect the shares to return to a more normal/fair valuation driven by the fundamentals,” the firm added.

GameStop has been a popular short target on Wall Street. In fact, more than 138% of its float shares had been borrowed and sold short, the single most shorted name in the U.S. stock market, according to FactSet citing the latest filings.

On Jan. 11, news broke that activist investor and Chewy co-founder and former CEO Ryan Cohen is joining GameStop’s board. The stock jumped on the announcement on hopes Cohen would drive a change in strategy. The gain triggered a rush of short covering from hedge funds and traders who bet against the stock. When a shorted stock trades sharply higher, short sellers would have to buy back shares to cut their losses, which fuels the rally.

GameStop has also been a hot topic in online chat rooms, Twitter and Reddit as some retail investors and day traders aim to push shares higher and squeeze out short sellers.

One post on the popular “wallstreetbets” Reddit Monday morning said “IM NOT SELLING THIS UNTIL AT LEAST $1000+ GME.” The post quickly drew more than 2,000 comments.

“It’s just another reflection of the ebullient mood,” Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, said Monday of GameStop, “Again, it will matter when it does, whenever it does.”

Citron Research, a vocal GameStop short seller, said Friday it would not be commenting on the company any longer because of attacks from the “angry mob” that owns the stock. Citron said there were too many people hacking Citron’s twitter account on Friday, and it canceled a livestream where it was going a detail five reasons why the stock will go back to $20.

Telsey’s 12-month price target is $33. According to FactSet, the average price target of analysts is just $12.39, far below where it was trading Monday.

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WhatsApp loses millions of users after terms update | WhatsApp

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A poorly explained update to its terms of service has pushed WhatsApp users to adopt alternative services such as Signal and Telegram in their millions.

The exodus was so large that WhatsApp has been forced to delay the implementation of the new terms, which had been slated for 8 February, and run a damage limitation campaign to explain to users the changes they were making.

Over the first three weeks of January, Signal has gained 7.5 million users globally, according to figures shared by the UK parliament’s home affairs committee, and Telegram has gained 25 million.

In both cases, the increase appears to have come at WhatsApp’s expense. Data tracked by the analytics firm App Annie shows WhatsApp falling from the eighth most downloaded app in the UK at the beginning of the month to the 23rd by 12 January. By contrast, Signal wasn’t even in the top 1,000 apps in the UK on 6 January, yet by 9 January it was the most downloaded app in the country.

Niamh Sweeney, WhatsApp’s director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told the home affairs committee that the exodus was believed to be related to the update to the company’s terms of service. She said that update was intended to do two things: enable a new set of features around business messaging, and “make clarifications and provide greater transparency” around the company’s pre-existing policies. “There are no changes to our data sharing with Facebook anywhere in the world,” Sweeney said.

But after viral posts – ironically, widely spread on WhatsApp – claimed that the privacy policy instead gave the service the right to read users’ messages and hand the information over to its parent company Facebook, WhatsApp announced a delay in the implementation of the new terms of service. “We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way,” WhatsApp said in an update posted to its site, which it is paying to advertise on Google under searches for “WhatsApp privacy policy”. The company says it will delay the implementation of its new policy until 15 May.

App Annie’s director of market insights, Amir Ghodrati, said moving quickly was important. “These types of shifts in messaging and social networking apps are not unusual. Due to the nature of social apps and how the primary functionality involves communicating with others, their growth can often move quite quickly, based on current events. We’ve seen growing demand over the last few years for encrypted messaging and apps focused on privacy.”

The shift to more privacy-focused messaging apps had been building before WhatsApp’s public relations disaster, Ghodrati said. “Messaging apps that provide privacy features saw the greatest engagement growth in [the first half of] 2020. These apps saw on average 30% more active users than the alternatives. Apps like Signal, Telegram, Wickr, and WhatsApp offer privacy features ranging from end-to-end encrypted data transfer to ‘self-destructing messages’.”

Ironically, in some ways WhatsApp is more privacy-focused than its competitor Telegram. The former applies end-to-end encryption – which prevents the service provider from being able to access user messages – by default to every chat except those between users and large businesses.

Telegram, however, only turns on end-to-end encryption for “secret chats”, an option that users must actively select for each individual contact. Such chats “are meant for people who want more secrecy than the average fella”, the service explains in an FAQ.


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Ethereum hits all-time high, BTC rises

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Ethereum and Bitcoin coins.

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Bitcoin’s price rose on Monday after a brutal sell-off that saw the virtual currency briefly dip below $30,000. Meanwhile, ether — the world’s second-biggest cryptocurrency — hit a fresh record high.

Bitcoin rose more than 7.4% in the last 24 hours to trade around $34,807, according to data from CoinDesk, looking to recover from steep losses last week that wiped out more than $100 billion from the entire crypto market.

Ether, the digital token of the Ethereum blockchain, notched a new all-time high of $1,476 early Monday morning. The cryptocurrency climbed 6.2% to a price of $1,415 at about 9:15 a.m. ET.

Altcoins, or alternative cryptocurrencies, have been known to rally in times of strength for bitcoin. Ether’s latest price movement was attributed to increased use of Ethereum — its underlying network that is undergoing a major upgrade — and interest from institutional investors in crypto.

“Ethereum’s current rise cold shoulders the sceptics, many of whom were quick to denounce crypto when bitcoin recently fell from its $40,000 high,” said Simon Peters, cryptoasset analyst at online investment platform eToro.

“With a whole range of logistical improvements to the Ethereum network in the works, increased institutional inflows, and more and more developers building on the platform, the future is bright for Ethereum. I believe that a price of $2,500 by the end of the year is very feasible. As with all crypto, however, there will be bumps along the way.”

Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market value, has had a wild start to 2021. After quadrupling last year, bitcoin’s price briefly topped $40,000 for the first time on Jan. 7. It’s down 17% from its all-time high, but still up over 17% since the start of the year.

Advocates of the digital coin say it’s benefited from heightened institutional demand and its perception as a safe haven asset similar to gold. But skeptics are worried bitcoin is in a bubble.


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