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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says blocking Post story was ‘wrong’



Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square Inc., holds an Apple Inc. iPhone while standing outside of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015.

Yana Paskova | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Friday reiterated his apology for how the company handled an unverified New York Post report claiming to contain a “smoking gun” email related to presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

“Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix. Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that,” Dorsey said in a tweet.

The New York Post story alleges then-Vice President Biden’s son Hunter Biden attempted to introduce to a top executive at a Ukrainian company Hunter Biden worked for to his father. A spokesman for the Biden campaign denied the claims.

Twitter chose to restrict the distribution of the story, citing its hacked material policy, which doesn’t “permit the use of our services to directly distribute content obtained through hacking that contains private information, may put people in physical harm or danger, or contains trade secrets.” The company later said that it blocked the story’s link specifically because it contained images of hacked material with personal and private information.

Twitter faced swift backlash from conservatives and President Donald Trump for its decision to restrict the report.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tx. told reporters Thursday alongside Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that the committee would vote next week whether to subpoena Dorsey for a hearing in front of their committee next Friday.

Cruz later told CNBC’s “Power Lunch” on Thursday that Twitter’s actions “marked a dramatic escalation and it crossed a new line.” He argued that blocking the article was tantamount to “election interference” and questioned Twitter’s liability protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

In response, the company late Thursday updated its policy on hacked materials after receiving “significant feedback,” it said. Twitter will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them. Twitter will also label tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on the social media platform.

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Hugs, sequins and rainbows as Taiwan enjoys victory over virus | World news




At the entrance to Taipei’s Pride march on Saturday, Pearl Jain and Lance Xie held up a sign offering free hugs. Similar placards were waved above the pulsating crowd of 100,000 sweaty and bedazzled party goers crushedalong the parade route.

Xie had recently returned from Melbourne, where 5 million people have just emerged from one of the toughest lockdowns in the world and everyone is trying not to touch each other. It was good to be home.

Jain said: “It’s nice to have the chance to hug people here because everywhere else is in lockdown and that’s just so sad.”

Pearl Jain and Lance Xie offer free hugs at Taipei Pride.

Pearl Jain and Lance Xie offer free hugs at Taipei Pride. Photograph: Helen Davidson/The Observer

People in Taiwan are still taking precautions – mandatory masks on public transport, digital registration for some events, isolation for people with symptoms – but Jain said life in Taipei had barely changed in 2020. “We’re doing really great, our government and people here are just trying to protect ourselves,” she said.

Saturday was Taiwan’s 202nd consecutive day without a single locally transmitted case, and for the tens of thousands out celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, Covid feels like a distant memory.

Taiwan, a self-governing democracy of 24 million dangerously close to mainland China, where the virus began, has essentially eliminated community transmission of Covid-19 after recording just 550 mostly imported cases and seven deaths.

Amid a global downturn, Taiwan’s GDP is predicted to grow by more than 1.5% this year. In the third quarter it grew by 3.3% – the fastest since 2018. The only other government claiming growth is China, which considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province that it must take back – by force or otherwise.

“In Taiwan, even though people are quite divided on political issues, when we face a common threat, people want to come together and work together,” Yawen Cheng, professor of health policy at the National Taiwan University, told the Observer.

After the 2004 Sars epidemic killed 73 of its people, Taiwan strengthened and centralised its disease control framework and pandemic preparations, and started annual drills. Taiwan also learned from that epidemic that it couldn’t rely on bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO) for timely information, because China had ensured the country’s exclusion from global briefings and emergency meetings.

“We couldn’t get direct information from international organisations,” said Cheng. “Taiwan has always been careful about what happens in mainland China, so the Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) of Taiwan tried to get information from informal channels.”

When Taiwan’s authorities received a social media message in late December warning of a strange pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, they acted almost immediately, screening flights from the Chinese city before enacting entry bans, which were eventually extended to all foreigners by March. Strict border controls are still in place, and around 340,000 people have gone through the mandated quarantine for new arrivals, monitored by the CECC and police, and tracked by mobile phones.

The government also banned mask exports while it stockpiled and then rationed them out to residents as local production increased tenfold. The health system was scaled up and new technologies developed to monitor, track and trace potential cases, and to support people with grocery deliveries and counselling.

Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister, said the most important technologies in the Covid response were masks and soap, but technology played an “assistive role”. This included the development of a mask availability map using pharmacy supply and sales data, and “digital fencing” – using phone tracking to allow people to quarantine at home. When a signal leaves the property or drops out, a call is made to the police.

Marchers at Taipei Pride

Marchers at Taipei Pride. Photograph: Sam Yeh/Getty Images

The measures “piggyback” on existing technology – such as mobile phone mast triangulation and SMS warning systems for earthquakes – to alert people to infection risks nearby, said Tang, a former civic hacker and well-known advocate of open democracy. They don’t collect any data they weren’t collecting pre-pandemic, Tang added.

Other countries have balked at proposals far less intrusive than those that Taiwanese people accept. Cheng said there had been a lot of discussion about whether the state had gone too far but acknowledged that it had been responsive to concerns.

In a policy study published in October, Cheng and her co-author suggested the Taiwanese government’s landslide election win in January gave it the political capital to maximise its response, and perhaps even to overreact. “I think social trust is the key to the success of Taiwan’s virus control,” she said. It’s an interactive process. The government has done a lot to make the information more public and open, and so in turn the public trust the government’s actions.”

Taiwanese society was not unchanged by the pandemic. While Taiwan’s tech exports rose in a world full of people stuck at home with their devices, the local economy suffered. The Taiwanese government has passed financial measures worth billions of pounds.

Tang said habits formed in the early months, like contactless payments and online food deliveries, boosted e-commerce but hurt sectors that rely on face-to-face interaction. In response, the government launched a programme selling NT$3,000 (£80) shopping vouchers for $1,000.

“That rebuilt the habits of spending outside of one’s home, and rebuilt the economy based on face-to-face transactions, like night markets,” Tang said.

Now, Taipei’s shops and markets are heaving. People browse, busk and greet each other with handshakes and hugs. It feels normal.

Tang said the government’s willingness to listen to expertise outside its inner circle was key. It helped that the vice president at the time of the outbreak was Chen Chien-jen, an epidemiologist, but there was also “a larger culture that says we trust the wisdom at the edges and the frontline”.

Back at the parade, the afternoon sun bounced off the blue sequins of Diva Wei’s ballgown as she and Daniel Lin waited to start marching, something they were conscious was open to few others around the world.

“I feel this is the marvellous outcome of our government’s policy and the collaboration from society,” said Lin. “It’s so great.”

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Congress fails to pass Big Tech legislation ahead of election




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Why Netflix will keep raising prices with confidence




CEO Of Netflix, Reed Hastings, attends the red carpet during the Netflix presentation party at the Invernadero del Palacio de Cristal de la Arganzuela on April 4, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.

Juan Naharro Gimenez | Getty Images

Netflix announced Thursday it will raise prices for U.S. customers.

Don’t be surprised if you’re reading the same story next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.

The company’s decision to raise its standard plan by $1 per month, from $12.99 to $13.99, and its premium plan by $2 per month, from $15.99 to $17.99, is an essential part of Netflix’s long-term strategy. It’s why Netflix has a market valuation of $218 billion on just $2.8 billion of net income in the last 12 months.

Netflix’s last price increase was January 2019. The video streamer has largely been able to avoid significant price hikes because it has consistently added subscribers, giving investors a clear growth story. But Wall Street is counting on consistent price increases as customer growth wanes. By that time, investors hope Netflix is an inexpungible staple in people’s homes, much like cable TV has been for the last four decades.

Early evidence suggests Netflix is on the right track. Monthly churn for Netflix (near 2%) is far below that of other streaming services, such as CBS All Access (soon to be renamed Paramount+) and Starz, according to data from Antenna, a measurement and analytics company that tracks purchase behavior.

The key to increasing prices without significant spikes in cancellations or dissatisfaction is to convince customers they’re still getting a superb value. The genius of Netflix over the past two or three years has been a subtle shift away from trying to be HBO and toward being a replacement for the entire cable bundle.

Replacing cable, not HBO

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said in a GQ interview in 2013.

But that’s not actually what Netflix has done. Netflix has focused on a wide breadth of offerings, including animated kids’ shows, breezy romantic comedies, Adam Sandler movies, reality shows like “Love is Blind,” lowbrow documentaries like “Tiger King,” food shows like “The Great British Bakeoff,” and fun game shows like “The Floor is Lava.” It’s hard to imagine any of these series on HBO. And, sure, it’s got HBO-style fare too — movies like “Roma,” series like “The Crown,” and “Sex and the City” knockoffs like “Emily in Paris.” The full suite is similar to a cable bundle.

Ironically, HBO didn’t want to become Netflix until quite recently, despite Sarandos’s claim otherwise. While HBO made the decision to go direct to consumers as an a la carte application in 2015, HBO chief Richard Plepler focused on premium programming while actively shunning most other content. Only recently, after AT&T‘s takeover of Time Warner (and a new slate of executives), has HBO tried to emulate Netflix with HBO Max.

Netflix’s decision to become the cable bundle lite — excluding live events, news and sports — gives the company an excellent argument to raise rates from a price-value perspective. Netflix’s premium service is now $17.99 a month. The average cable TV bill is about $100 a month, according to LightShed Partners. While there are cheaper digital alternatives, YouTube TV is $64.99 a month. AT&T Now (formerly DirecTV Now) is either $55 or $80 per month. Even Sling TV is $30/month.

Meanwhile, the cable bundle quality is likely to decline in the coming years as most premium content gets pushed to streaming services. This should embolden Netflix to keep raising pricing, as it won’t just be the leader among streaming services (thus justifying it as the most expensive offering), but also an increasingly appealing alternative to cable.

WATCH: Netflix shares move higher after company announces subscription price hike

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