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Tech

Instagram Unveils Its TikTok Rival Reels Globally in Over 50 Countries, Including US

Instagram on Wednesday added a new short-form video feature to the image-focused platform in a direct challenge to TikTok, which is in the crosshairs of US President Donald Trump. “Reels” lets users record videos of up to 15 seconds and provides tools for editing, audio and effects, according to the Facebook-owned company. Reels has been launched in more than 50 countries today, including the US, UK, Japan, and Australia, on both iOS and Android. To recall, Reels was earlier launched in Brazil, Germany, France, and India in the month of June.

“Reels invites you to create fun videos to share with your friends or anyone on Instagram,” the social media platform, based in California, said in a blog post. Trump has threatened to ban China-based TikTok in the United States on national security grounds, giving it until the middle of September to work out a takeover deal with Microsoft or another suitor.

The president on Tuesday defended his demand for the US government to receive a large share of any TikTok purchase price after his stance was slammed by critics who said it appears unconstitutional and akin to extortion.

– Copying competition –

Reels puts an Instagram spin on the kind of playful video snippet sharing that has made TikTok a social media phenomenon. “Reels is a big part of the future of entertainment on Instagram,” the service said. “Our community is telling us they want to make and watch short-form, edited videos.” “Reels gives people new ways to express themselves, discover more of what they love on Instagram, and help anyone with the ambition of becoming a creator take center stage,” the platform said.

The move fits Facebook’s pattern of copying features that are hits at rival online services. How the social networking titan wields its power in the market came under scrutiny last week when Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and the heads of Apple, Google, and Amazon were grilled by a US congressional antitrust committee.

“Simply put, they have too much power,” said Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat who chairs the panel which has been conducting a year-long investigation into the business practices of the four companies. “This power staves off new forms of competition, creativity, and innovation,” Cicilline said.

Any deal allowing Microsoft to buy TikTok could be transformative for the US tech giant’s efforts to become more consumer-focused — if it can overcome the business and political risks. Buying TikTok could make Microsoft a hipper, more youth-centric company after years of shifting to enterprise services and cloud computing, say analysts.


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Tech

Trump Says Will Ban TikTok Unless US Gets 'Substantial Portion' of Company's Operations' Sale Price

A file photo of Donald Trump.

A file photo of Donald Trump.

The turnaround came after Trump on Friday said he was planning to ban the Chinese-owned video app’s US operations as soon as Saturday after dismissing a possible sale to Microsoft.

  • Reuters WASHINGTON
  • Last Updated: August 4, 2020, 9:18 AM IST

US President Donald Trump said Monday the US government should get a “substantial portion” of the sales price of the US operations of popular short-video app TikTok and warned he will ban the service in the United States on Sept. 15 without a sale.

The turnaround came after Trump on Friday said he was planning to ban the Chinese-owned video app’s US operations as soon as Saturday after dismissing a possible sale to Microsoft.

Reuters reported last week that some investors are valuing TikTok at about $50 billion, citing people familiar with the matter.

“I did say that if you buy it, whatever the price is that goes to whoever owns it, because I guess it’s China essentially … I said a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen,” Trump said.

Trump later defended his push for a cut, adding “nobody else would be thinking about but me, but that’s the way I think.”

Nicholas Klein, a lawyer at DLA Piper, said generally “the government doesn’t have the authority to take a cut of a private deal through” the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which is the interagency committee that reviews some foreign investments in the United States.

It was not clear how the US government would receive part of the purchase price.

He added it “will close down on Sept. 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal, an appropriate deal so the Treasury … of the United States gets a lot of money.”

TikTok said Monday it is “committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform as we build TikTok for the long term. TikTok will be here for many years to come.”

Daniel Elman, analyst at Nucleus Research, said a sale “could foreshadow a growing wave of US company acquisition of Chinese internet properties, particularly if the geopolitical tensions continue to mount.”

Elman said that could impact Tencent’s WeChat.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referenced WeChat on Sunday and said Trump “will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.”

US officials have said TikTok poses a national risk because of the personal data it handles. TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said in a blog post last week that the company was committed to following US laws and was allowing experts to observe its moderation policies and examine the code that drives its algorithms.

Trump’s comments confirmed a Reuters report Sunday that he had agreed to give China’s ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale of TikTok to Microsoft.

LANDLORD – TENANT RELATIONSHIP

Trump, a former New York real estate developer, compared TikTok to the landlord-tenant relationship, suggesting TikTok is like a tenant. “Without a lease, the tenant has nothing – so they pay what’s called key money or they pay something.”

He said he did not mind “whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else – a big company, a secure company, very, very American company buy it.”

Microsoft said Sunday that CEO Satya Nadella had spoken to Trump and “is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States.”

Microsoft said Sunday it is “committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”

Many prominent Republicans, including House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, issued statements in support of a Microsoft acquisition of TikTok’s US operations. Some congressional aides are worried about a backlash by younger voters against the party if Trump banned TikTok, which has 100 million American users.

Microsoft and TikTok parent ByteDance gave the US government a notice of intent to explore a preliminary proposal for Microsoft to purchase the TikTok service in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also backed the sale, while a senior White House adviser raised concerns about a sale to Microsoft.

“A US company should buy TikTok so everyone can keep using it and your data is safe,” Schumer said on Twitter, adding: “This is about privacy. With TikTok in China, it’s subject to Chinese Communist Party laws that may require handing over data to their government.”

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro suggested on Monday that Microsoft could divest its holdings in China if it were to buy TikTok.

“So the question is, is Microsoft going to be compromised?” Navarro said in an interview with CNN. “Maybe Microsoft could divest its Chinese holdings?”

Navarro said the Chinese government and military use Microsoft software “to do all the things they do.”


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Tech

Microsoft Confirms Plans to Buy TikTok by September 15; May Invite Other US Investors

Image for Representation. (Picture Source: PTI)

Image for Representation. (Picture Source: PTI)

The official confirmation came after reports surfaced that Microsoft has halted its bid to buy the US operations of China-based TikTok after President Donald Trump vowed to ban the short-video making app.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: August 3, 2020, 10:36 AM IST

Microsoft has officially confirmed it is in talks to acquire the operations of video-sharing platform TikTok in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand markets following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald Trump. “Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” the tech giant said in a blog post late on Monday.

“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” the company said. The official confirmation came after reports surfaced that Microsoft has halted its bid to buy the US operations of China-based TikTok after President Donald Trump vowed to ban the short-video making app that has over 80 million monthly users in the country.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, a sale was thought close to agreement “but was put in doubt after the US president’s warning”. Microsoft said that it “will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020”.

During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the US government, including with the President. The discussions with ByteDance will build upon a notification made by Microsoft and ByteDance to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

The two companies have provided notice of their intent to explore a preliminary proposal that would involve a purchase of the TikTok service in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and would result in Microsoft owning and operating TikTok in these markets. Microsoft said it may invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in this purchase. Microsoft said it would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the US.

“To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred,” it said. Trump said last week that he will ban the popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok from operating in the country through an executive order.

Last week, TikTok unveiled a plan to offer creators $2 billion globally in the next three years. TikTok has denied any Chinese control over its operations. The move to ban TikTok comes at a time of heightened tensions between the Trump administration and the Chinese government over a number of issues, including trade disputes and Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.


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Categories
Tech

ByteDance Offers to Forgo Complete Stake in TikTok to Save US Deal, Says Report

ByteDance Offers to Forgo Complete Stake in TikTok to Save US Deal, Says Report

The move came after President Donald Trump said he had decided to ban the popular shortvideo app, two people familiar with the matter said.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: August 1, 2020, 7:45 PM IST

China’s ByteDance has agreed to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok completely in a bid to save a deal with the White House, after President Donald Trump said on Friday he had decided to ban the popular short-video app, two people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

ByteDance was previously seeking to keep a minority stake in the U.S. business of TikTok, which the White House had rejected. Under the new proposed deal, ByteDance would exit completely and Microsoft Corp would take over TikTok in the United States, the sources said. Some ByteDance investors that are based in the United States may be given the opportunity to take minority stakes in the business, the sources added.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether Trump would accept ByteDance’s concession. ByteDance in Beijing did not respond to a request for comment

Under ByteDance’s new proposal, Microsoft will be in charge of protecting all U.S. user data, the sources said. The plan allows for another U.S. company other than Microsoft to take over TikTok in the United States, the sources added.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor



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Tech

Is Microsoft Considering Buying TikTok From ByteDance, At Least In The US?

It seems that Microsoft is considering buying the incredibly popular but under-fire social media network TikTok. Microsoft is believed to be in talks with Chinese tech company ByteDance to buy the social media app’s US operations. This comes at a time when US President Donald Trump has again expressed concerns about the national security threat that the Chinese-owned app poses and threatened to ban it in the US altogether. India banned TikTok a few weeks ago as part of a larger list of Chinese owned apps that are no longer accessible in India.

TikTok is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, valued at around $100 billion. It is unclear at this time as to how advanced the talks between Microsoft and ByteDance really are and what terms the two tech giants are looking at, if at all. This development was earlier reported by Fox Business Network’s Charles Gasparino who tweeted, “My banking sources say they are looking at it; can’t guarantee a purchase but this thing is being shopped and one of the stops has been @Microsoft”. Earlier, Trump had made his intentions clear. “We’re looking at TikTok, we may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things. There’s a couple of options. But a lot of things are happening, so we’ll see what happens. But we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok,” said Trump while speaking with reporters. In China, the National Intelligence Law of 2017 governs all tech companies that are based in China or are under Chinese ownership. The law mandates all businesses to share any and all information that the Chinese Government may ask for. This is something that is worrying governments around the world, including India.

It is also not clear what Microsoft’s potential purchase of TikTok would mean for the structure of the social network’s operations in the country, and whether any Chinese investors would retain a stake in the company. It is believed that the US administration is weighing its options whether it can force ByteDance to sell its US operations or whether the company can be added to the “entity list” that prevents American companies from conducting any business with these companies. Chinese tech company Huawei was on this list last year, and suspicions continue to circle around Chinese tech companies regarding the data they share with the Chinese government.

At this time, Microsoft’s social media stakes rely heavily on LinkedIn, a network aimed more at working professionals rather than a more casual and friend-driven approach that Facebook has, for instance. Yet, Microsoft must also consider the implications of such an acquisition, if at all. Earlier this week, the big tech companies, Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon testified at the US Congress antitrust hearing about business practices and regulation. Microsoft has managed to stay under the radar and out of the attention of regulators in the US mostly because it focused on business consumers. With a TikTok purchase for instance, which is as consumer centric as it can be, Microsoft might come under scrutiny.

TikTok has more than 800 million users worldwide. It was acquired by ByteDance in 2017 and is incredibly popular with the demographic that is also the target audience for the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Snap.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Indian authorities are scanning as many as 275 more apps for potential user privacy violations and national security threats. This follows the ban on 59 Chinese-owned apps last month, a list that included the very popular social media app TikTok. It is believed that the latest list of apps under the scanner include the incredibly popular game PUBG Mobile, ecommerce platform AliExpress and another popular game Ludo World.


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Tech

Is Instagram Luring Top TikTok Creators With Money to Join Reels Ahead of Global Launch?

Is Instagram Luring Top TikTok Creators With Money to Join Reels Ahead of Global Launch?Instagram is reportedly offering financial incentives to some popular TikTok creators in a bid to make them use Reels, a video-music remix feature that the Facebook-owned platform plans to unveil next month in the US, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. Some of the top creators could receive offers worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to use Reels which offers TikTok-like functionalities, said the report, citing sources.

The development comes at a time when the Donald Trump administration is considering a ban on TikTok, a popular short video-sharing platform owned by Chinese unicorn ByteDance. Scrutiny on TikTok increased after India decided to ban it along with 58 Chinese apps in June.

Instagram acted fast to fill the vacuum created due to the TikTok ban in India. Earlier this month, it announced the extension of the testing of Reels which allows users to record, edit and share short multi-clip videos, to India. India became the fourth country, after Brazil, Germany and France, to have this new format when this announcement was made. According to a report in TechCrunch, Instagram is now aiming to bring Reels first in the US and followed by 50 other markets in early August. TikTok is also making some efforts to keep its creators on the platform. Last week, the platform launched a $200 million fund to offer financial support to top creators in the US.

Called the TikTok Creator Fund, it will encourage those who “dream of using their voices and creativity to spark inspirational careers”. “The US fund will start with $200 million to help support ambitious creators who are seeking opportunities to foster a livelihood through their innovative content,” Vanessa Pappas, General Manager, TikTok US, said in a blog post.


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Tech

Facebook Begins Labelling Posts from Trump and Biden Related to Voting in 2020 US Elections

Facebook has started labelling controversial posts from US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden about voting as election inches closer. The social network flagged a Trump post that claimed current rules on postal votes could lead to a “corrupt” election, reports the BBC,

The social network has also labelled several posts from Biden on voting. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month said that they will start labelling some of the content because it is deemed newsworthy in the US election year.

“We’ll add a prompt to tell people that the content they’re sharing may violate our policies. Similarly, there are no exceptions for politicians,” he said. “Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down”.

Twitter began labelling some of Trump’s tweets in May. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg has stressed there is no deal of any kind’ with Trump. He told Axios: “I’ve heard this speculation, too, so let me be clear: There’s no deal of any kind. Actually, the whole idea of a deal is pretty ridiculous”.


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Tech

Twitter Disables Trump's Retweet Video After Linkin Park Copyright Complaint

File photo: US President Donald Trump (Image: Reuters)

File photo: US President Donald Trump (Image: Reuters)

Twitter has several times disabled by Trump because of what it said were copyright complaints or violations of a policy against threatening violence.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: July 20, 2020, 11:31 AM IST

Twitter Inc disabled a campaign-style video that President Donald Trump retweeted on Saturday, citing a copyright complaint. The video, which included music from the group Linkin Park, disappeared from the president’s Twitter feed late Saturday with the notification: “This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.”

Twitter removed the video, which Trump had retweeted from White House social media director Dan Scavino, after it received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice from Machine Shop Entertainment, according to a notice posted on the Lumen Database which collects requests for removal of online materials. Machine Shop is a management company owned by the rock band Linkin Park, according to its LinkedIn page.

“We respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorized representatives,” a Twitter representative said in an email statement. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Twitter began challenging Trump’s tweets in May and has repeatedly clashed with him since. The social media company has several times disabled or commented on tweets by the president because of what it said were copyright complaints or violations of a policy against threatening violence.

Twitter removed an image the president tweeted on June 30, which included a picture of Trump, because of a complaint from the New York Times, whose photographer had shot the image. The company also put a tweet from the president behind a warning label in late May, saying that he had violated its rules against “glorifying violence” when he advocated that Minneapolis authorities be tough in responding to protests over the death of George Floyd.


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Tech

US Tech Giants Join Lawsuit Against Trump Administration's New Student Visa Rule

File photo of US President Donald Trump.

File photo of US President Donald Trump.

The July 6 directive will make it impossible for a large number of international students to participate in the CPT and OPT programmes.

  • PTI
  • Last Updated: July 14, 2020, 10:20 AM IST

More than a dozen top American technology companies, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, on Monday joined a lawsuit filed by the Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) latest rule that bars international students from staying in the United States unless they attend at least one in-person course.

Seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, these companies, along with the US Chamber of Commerce and other IT advocacy groups, asserted that the July 6 ICE directive will disrupt their recruiting plans, making it impossible to bring onboard international students that businesses, including amici, had planned to hire and disturb the recruiting process on which the firms have relied on to identify and train their future employees.

The July 6 directive will make it impossible for a large number of international students to participate in the CPT and OPT programmes. The US will “nonsensically be sending…these graduates away to work for our global competitors and compete against us…instead of capitalising on the investment in their education here in the US”, they said.

The Curricular Practical Training (CPT) programme permits “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education or other types of required internship or practicum offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with a student’s school”.

On the other hand, the Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme allows up to one year of temporary employment that is directly related to an international student’s major area of study, which can occur either before the student graduates and/or after his studies are complete. Students in STEM fields may obtain a two-year extension of their post-graduate OPT, they said.

Closing off more than half of all international students from participating in the recruiting pipeline for American businesses will thus harm companies and the entire economy, and disrupt reliance expectations based on prior policies permitting international students to remain in the US, the firms said.

Asserting that international students contribute substantially to the US economy when they reside in the United States, the legal brief said the departure of these students threatens the ability of US educational institutions to sustain critical mass — which they need in order to maintain their standards of excellence, to train the American students who will make up the talent pool available to amici and other US companies in the future, and to perform the research that keeps US businesses on the cutting edge of innovation.

“International students are an important source of employees for US businesses while they are students and after they graduate. Finally, they become valuable employees and customers of US businesses whether they remain in the United States or return to their home countries,” the companies said.

According to the IT companies, international students residing in the US make a substantial contribution to the country’s GDP and have a particularly significant impact in towns and cities where colleges and universities are located. During the 2018-2019 academic year, there were more than 10 lakh such students attending institutions of higher education in the US.

Reducing by half or more the number of international students residing in the United States — even for a single school year — will hurt the economy, amplifying the adverse economic effects of the ongoing pandemic. International students contribute billions of dollars to the US economy each year. In the 2018-2019 academic year alone, “international students at US colleges and universities contributed nearly USD 41 billion to the US economy and supported 458,290 jobs”, the companies said.

Observing that for every seven international students living in the US, three jobs are supported due to their presence, the companies said international education “ranked as the country’s fifth-largest service export” in 2019. Small businesses — from coffee shops to bookstores — in communities around the country benefit significantly from the presence of international students, they said.

The companies told the court that if these students are barred from studying in the US until the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic ends, many of them will not return: they will switch to programmes of study elsewhere in the world. And without international students, many the US STEM programmes will contract sharply and ultimately cease to exist.


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Tech

US Govt Mulls Action Over French Digital Services Tax But Likely to Defer Move

File photo of US President Donald Trump.

File photo of US President Donald Trump.

The actions, expected to be announced on Friday, are tied to a U.S. Section 301 probe into France’s digital tax.

  • Reuters Washington
  • Last Updated: July 10, 2020, 11:45 AM IST

The Trump administration will announce actions against France over its digital services tax but will defer them while France defers tax collections from U.S. technology firms, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Thursday. The actions, expected by industry to be announced on Friday, are tied to a U.S. Section 301 probe into France’s digital tax, which Washington says discriminates against U.S. tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Apple Inc.

The United States last month withdrew from multilateral talks to reach a global solution on digital services taxation, citing a lack of progress in the negotiations. “We’re going to announce that we’re going to be taking certain sanctions against France, suspending them like they’re suspending collection of the taxes right now,” Lighthizer told an online event hosted by the London-based Chatham House think tank.

Officials from the European Union delegation and French Embassy in Washington were not immediately available to comment. One industry source said USTR could announce an action on Friday reserving the right to impose tariffs on around $500 million worth of French goods that were included in a larger list published in December while deferring implementation.

USTR in December said it could slap punitive duties of up to 100% on $2.4 billion in imports from France, including goods such as Champagne, handbags and cheese, after concluding the French tax would harm U.S. tech companies. The list targeted some products that were spared from 25% tariffs imposed by the United States over disputed European Union aircraft subsidies, including sparkling wines, handbags and make-up preparations.

Spokespeople for the European Union delegation in Washington and the French embassy could not immediately be reached for comment. The issue will be a topic when finance ministers from both the Group of Seven advanced economies and the Group of 20 major economies meet in coming weeks.