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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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US Mulls Federal Contract Ban For Companies That Use Products From Huawei and Other Chinese Firms

The Trump administration plans to finalize regulations this week that will bar the U.S. government from buying goods or services from any company that uses products from five Chinese companies including Huawei, Hikvision and Dahua, a U.S. official said. The rule, which was prompted by a 2019 law, could have far-ranging implications for companies that sell goods and services to the U.S. government since they will now need to certify they do not use products from Dahua or Hikvision, even though both are among the top sellers of surveillance equipment and cameras worldwide.

The same goes for two-way radios from Hytera Communications Corp and telecommunications equipment or mobile devices like smartphones from Huawei Technologies or ZTE Corp. Any company that uses equipment or services in their day-to-day operations from these five companies will no longer be able to sell to the U.S. government without getting a U.S. government waiver. The White House action comes amid increasing U.S.-China tension over the handling of the novel coronavirus, China’s actions in the former British colony of Hong Kong and a nearly two-year trade war.

“The danger our nation faces from foreign adversaries like China looking to infiltrate our systems is great,” said Russ Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget in a statement to Reuters. “The Trump Administration is keeping our government strong against nefarious networks like Huawei by fully implementing the ban on Federal procurement.” The U.S. government annually awards more than $500 billion in contracts, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The rule from the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council will take effect on Aug. 13. While there was previously uncertainty in the contracting community surrounding the implementation and enforcement of the rule, given its potential impact on contractors, the White House is making clear it will not be delayed and waivers could be difficult to get. While it is unclear if this will have an impact on current contracts, it could complicate future contracts.

Amazon.com Inc, for example, received 1,500 cameras to take temperatures of workers during the coronavirus pandemic from Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co Ltd in April. Amazon’s cloud unit is a major contractor with the U.S. intelligence community, and it has been battling Microsoft Corp for an up to $10 billion cloud computing deal with the Pentagon. The official said the administration will require agencies to conduct a national security analysis before they grant any waivers, something Congress did not expressly require in the statute.

The official added that the rule is aimed at more than just barring government agencies from using products from Huawei and other named Chinese firms, but is a bid to limit their influence, saying it essentially gives companies a choice: do business with the U.S. government or with the Chinese firms. It is the latest effort by Washington to isolate the Chinese firms.

Last year, the United States placed Huawei, Hikvision and other firms on its economic blacklist, barring the firms from buying components from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval. On June 30, the Federal Communications Commission formally designated Huawei and ZTE Corp as posing threats to U.S. national security, a declaration that bars U.S. firms from tapping an $8.3 billion government fund to purchase equipment from the companies.


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Tech

Twitter Hides US President Donald Trump's "Serious Force" Tweet Targeting Protesters

File photo of US President, Donald Trump.

File photo of US President, Donald Trump.

Twitter’s move escalated the battle between the White House and social media firms which Trump has accused of bias against conservatives, despite his own large following.

  • AFP
  • Last Updated: June 24, 2020, 10:49 AM IST

Twitter on Tuesday hid a tweet from President Donald Trump in which he threatened to use “serious force” against protestors in the US capital, saying it broke rules over abusive content. The move appeared to be the first by Twitter against the president for an “abusive” tweet. In a growing dispute, the platform has recently labeled other Trump tweets as misleading and violating its standards on promoting violence. “There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, DC, as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!” Trump tweeted.

The action by Twitter requires users to click through to read the Trump tweet, with a tag on the message that it “violated the Twitter rules about abusive behavior” but that it would remain accessible “in the public’s interest.” Trump’s tweet referred to the police-free district created by protesters in Seattle, in Washington state, two weeks ago, which has sparked outrage among conservatives.

Twitter’s move escalated the battle between the White House and social media firms which Trump has accused of bias against conservatives, despite his own large following. The president has already signed an executive order which could lead to more government oversight of social media firms, despite doubts about its legal authority. The Trump administration has also signaled it wants to overhaul a law that gives online services immunity from content posted by others, a move that could open the floodgates to litigation.

Twitter said in a statement to AFP it took the action Tuesday because the tweet violated its policy against abusive behavior with “a threat of harm against an identifiable group.” Twitter’s policy in dealing with world leaders in most cases calls for violating messages to be labeled — which limits its reach and prevents others from liking or retweeting it — but leaves the tweets available because if they relate to “ongoing matters of public importance.” The new, aggressive stand by Twitter on rule-breaking by the president stands in contrast with Facebook, which has maintained a largely hands-off policy despite pressure from activists to curb inflammatory content. Facebook did remove a Trump ad last week that contained a symbol used in Nazi Germany for political prisoners, saying it violated the platform’s policy against “organized hate.”


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Tech

Trump to Issue Executive Order In Wake of Twitter Fact-Checking His Tweets

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

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

Twitter on Tuesday for the first time-tagged Trump’s tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact check the posts.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: May 28, 2020, 11:14 AM IST

U.S. President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on social media companies on Thursday, White House officials said after Trump threatened to shut down websites he accused of stifling conservative voices. The officials gave no further details. It was unclear how Trump could follow through on the threat of shutting down privately-owned companies including Twitter Inc. The company declined to comment.

The dispute erupted after Twitter on Tuesday for the first time-tagged Trump’s tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact check the posts. Separately, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by a conservative group and right-wing YouTube personality against Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple accusing them of conspiring to suppress conservative political views.

In an interview with Fox News Channel on Wednesday, Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said censoring a platform would not be the “right reflex” for a government worried about censorship. Fox played a clip of the interview and said it would be aired in full on Thursday. Facebook left Trump’s post on mail-in ballots on Tuesday untouched. The American Civil Liberties Union said the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution limits any action Trump could take. Facebook and Google declined to comment. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,” Trump said in a pair of additional posts on Twitter on Wednesday. The president, a heavy user of Twitter with more than 80 million followers, added: “Clean up your act, NOW!!!!”

Republican Trump has an eye on the November election. “Big Tech is doing everything in their very considerable power to CENSOR in advance of the 2020 Election,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday night. “If that happens, we no longer have our freedom.”

STRONGEST THREAT YET

Trump’s threat is his strongest yet within a broader conservative backlash against Big Tech. Shares of both Twitter and Facebook fell on Wednesday. Last year the White House circulated drafts of a proposed executive order about anti-conservative bias which never gained traction. The Internet Association, which includes Twitter and Facebook among its members, said online platforms do not have a political bias and they offer “more people a chance to be heard than at any point in history.”

Asked during Twitter’s annual meeting on Wednesday why the company decided to affix the label to Trump’s mail-in ballot tweets, General Counsel Sean Edgett said decisions about handling misinformation are made as a group. “We have a group and committee of folks who take a look at these things and make decisions on what’s getting a lot of visibility and traction …,” he said.

In recent years Twitter has tightened its policies amid criticism that its hands-off approach allowed fake accounts and misinformation to thrive. Tech companies have been accused of anti-competitive practices and violating user privacy. Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon face antitrust probes by federal and state authorities and a U.S. congressional panel. Republican and Democratic lawmakers, along with the U.S. Justice Department, have been considering changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law largely exempting online platforms from legal liability for the material their users post. Such changes could expose tech companies to more lawsuits.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley, a frequent critic of Big Tech companies, sent a letter to Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey asking why the company should continue to receive legal immunity after “choosing to editorialize on President Trump’s tweets.”



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Categories
Tech

Huawei May Finally Feature in USA's 5G Services After All as Latter Drafts New Rule

image for Representation
(Reuters)

image for Representation
(Reuters)

Engineers in some U.S. technology companies stopped engaging with Huawei to develop standards after the Commerce Department blacklisted the company last year.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: May 7, 2020, 4:57 PM IST

The U.S. Department of Commerce is close to signing off on a new rule that would allow U.S. companies to work with China’s Huawei Technologies on setting standards for next-generation 5G networks, people familiar with the matter said. Engineers in some U.S. technology companies stopped engaging with Huawei to develop standards after the Commerce Department blacklisted the company last year. The listing left companies uncertain about what technology and information their employees could share with Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker.

That has put the United States at a disadvantage, said industry and government officials. In standards-setting meetings, where protocols and technical specifications are developed that allow equipment from different companies to function together smoothly, Huawei gained a stronger voice as U.S. engineers sat back in silence. The Commerce Department placed Huawei on its “entity list” last May, citing national security concerns. The listing restricted sales of U.S. goods and technology to the company and raised questions about how U.S. firms could participate in organizations that establish industry standards.

After nearly a year of uncertainty, the department has drafted a new rule to address the issue, two sources told Reuters. The rule, which could still change, essentially allows U.S. companies to participate in standards bodies where Huawei is also a member, the sources said. The draft is under final review at the Commerce Department and, if cleared, would go to other agencies for approval, the people said. It is unclear how long the full process will take or if another agency will object.

“As we approach the year mark, it is very much past time that this is addressed and clarified,” said Naomi Wilson, senior director of policy for Asia at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which represents companies including Amazon.co Inc, Qualcomm Inc and Intel Corp.

The U.S. government wants U.S. companies to remain competitive with Huawei, Wilson said. “But their policies have inadvertently caused U.S. companies to lose their seat at the table to Huawei and others on the entity list.” The rule is only expected to address Huawei, the people familiar with the matter said, not other listed entities like Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision.

In adding Huawei to the list last May, the Commerce Department cited U.S. charges pending against the company for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran. It also noted that the indictment alleges Huawei engaged in “deceptive and obstructive acts” to evade U.S. law. Huawei has pleaded not guilty in the case.

A Department of Commerce spokesman declined to comment. A Huawei spokeswoman also declined to comment. “I know that Commerce is working on that rule,” a senior State Department official told Reuters on Wednesday. “We are supportive in trying to find a solution to that conundrum.”

The White House and departments of Defense, Energy, and Treasury did not immediately respond to requests for comment. “International standard setting is important to the development of 5G,” said another senior administration official, who also did not want to be identified. “The discussions are about balancing that consideration with America’s national security needs.”

Six U.S. senators, including China hawks Marco Rubio, James Inhofe and Tom Cotton, last month sent a letter to the U.S. secretaries of Commerce, State, Defense and Energy about the urgent need to issue regulations confirming that U.S. participation in 5G standards-setting is not restricted by the entity listing.

“We are deeply concerned about the risks to the U.S. global leadership position in 5G wireless technology as a result of this reduced participation,” the letter said. In the telecommunications industry, 5G, or fifth-generation wireless networks, are expected to power everything from high-speed video transmissions to self-driving cars.

Industry standards also are big business for telecommunications firms. They vie to have their patented technology considered essential to the standard, which can boost a company’s bottom line by billions of dollars.

The ITIC’s Wilson said the uncertainty has led U.S.-base standards bodies to consider moving abroad, noting that the nonprofit RISC-V Foundation (pronounced risk-five) decided to move from Delaware to Switzerland a few months ago. The foundation oversees promising semiconductor technology developed with Pentagon support and, as Reuters has reported, wants to ensure those outside the United States can help develop its open-source technology.