Disney's Fox Merger is a Privacy Nightmare Waiting to Happen. Here's Why.

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Disney’s acquisition of Fox has increased their catalog of popular
children’s and family franchises. How they use that data should be
a cause for concern.

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Auto1 may consider IPO in future but no need for cash now: CEO

BERLIN (Reuters) – German used-car dealing platform Auto1 said it could seek a public offering in future but a 2018 cash infusion from Japan’s Softbank means it has no immediate need for extra funding of its European growth plans.

FILE PHOTO: A worker loads a second hand car on a car transporter truck at the Auto1.com company grounds in Zoerbig, Germany January 28, 2017.REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch /File Photo

Last year’s Softbank’s deal valued Berlin-based Auto1 at 2.9 billion euros ($3.27 billion), making it one of Germany’s top so-called tech unicorns.

It is virtually unknown to consumers except through its used car buying arm Wir Kaufen dein Auto (We Buy Your Car) in Germany and similar names elsewhere. It operates from Finland to Romania to Portugal, 30 countries in all.

Revenues rose by 32 percent to 2.9 billion euros last year, and although it is profitable in Germany, investments in other markets have led to a loss on group level.

“Currently, an initial public offering is not a topic for us,” Auto1 co-founder Christian Bertermann told Reuters, adding this could change in future.

Auto1 buys cars using its vehicle pricing database to calculate an offer within minutes and then sells the vehicles on to one of its roughly 35,000 dealerships for a commission.

Its platforms helped 540,000 vehicles change hands in 2018.

The company will now also start a retail platform to compete with Scout24’s Autoscout unit or Ebay’s Mobile.de offering, Bertermann said.

He confirmed a Reuters report about Auto1’s talks with Scout24 about an acquisition of Autoscout, adding that these would not lead to a takeover.

Scout24 in February agreed to be acquired by buyout groups Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone.

Auto1 was set up in Berlin by entrepreneur Christian Bertermann after having trouble selling two old cars owned by his grandmother, along with Koc, who previously worked at Rocket Internet-backed firms Zalando and Home24.

Reporting by Nadine Schimroszik,; Writing by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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Walmart teams up with Instacart for same-day delivery in Canada

(Reuters) – Walmart Inc said on Thursday it has teamed up with U.S. home delivery company Instacart to bring some Canadian customers same-day grocery deliveries, raising the stakes in the country’s hotly contested retail space.

FILE PHOTO: A Walmart store is seen in Encinitas, California April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Walmart’s Canada unit said the service, which is part of a pilot program with Instacart, will be available in the Greater Toronto Area from Sept. 13, while customers in Winnipeg can start availing the service later this month.

Like in the United States, retailers in Canada have been facing stiff competition from Amazon.com Inc, pushing a lot of them to invest in online sales and home delivery.

Last November, Canadian grocery and pharmacy chain Loblaw Cos Ltd teamed up with Instacart to offer home delivery service in Toronto and Vancouver. Startup Instacart counts Whole Foods, Costco, Target and more than 100 other retailers as customers for grocery deliveries, and charges a delivery fee for its service.

Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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British air taxi firm takes flight, inspired by F1 racing advances

LONDON (Reuters) – A British energy entrepreneur and one-time Formula 1 racing team owner is entering the race to build new inter-city “flying taxi” services that tap recent aerospace advances while steering clear of more fanciful blue-sky visions touted by tech-focused rivals.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, founder of Ovo Energy, an upstart challenger to the UK’s big six electric utilities, said his new venture will apply lessons from F1 racing to build electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

    Vertical Aerospace, as his self-funded, Bristol-based flying company is known, aims to offer short-haul, inter-city flights carrying multiple passengers using piloted aircraft within four years, Fitzpatrick said.

Since its inception in 2016, the firm has hired 28 veteran aerospace and technical experts from Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Martin Jetpack and GE with extensive experience building certified commercial aircraft.

Unlike the majority of flying-car projects from tech, aerospace and automotive entrepreneurs that have captured the popular imagination by seeking to turn aircraft into pilotless, autonomous vehicles, Vertical believes it can overcome regulatory and safety concerns by delivering piloted, fixed-wing aircraft that capitalize on incremental, existing innovations.

    Vertical is looking to target some of the most congested air corridors in the world with aircraft that don’t require runways but also have enough heft to travel up to 500 miles (800 km), Fitzpatrick said in an interview.

“We are investing in all the technology evolution taking place in aerospace but we are trying to apply that to something that’s real world and is possible to execute four years out,” the Vertical Aerospace founder and chief executive said.

“We are not waiting for huge changes in existing regulations.”

Competitors working toward launching autonomous flying cars early in the next decade range from aerospace giant Airbus to Uber, which is developing an intra-city flying taxi fleet, Volocopter, which is testing drone taxis that resemble a small helicopter powered by 18 rotors, and AeroMobil, with a stretch-limousine concept that can turn into a fixed-wing aircraft.

An image handed out on behalf of Vertical Aerospace shows its prototype of a flying taxi during a demonstration at Costwold Airport, near Kemble, Britain, June 5, 2018. GF Williams/Milltown Partners, handout via Reuters

Several of these projects envision services that can be ordered up, on-demand, via smartphones, from skyhubs in city centers.

FLYING RACE CARS

    Vertical said it had conducted a test flight of an unmanned, single-passenger vertical take-off prototype at an airport in Gloucestershire in western England in June after it was granted flight permission by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The black passenger pod with four rosters set the stage for more ambitious work.

    It is gearing up to produce a fixed-wing, piloted version of its vertical take-off aircraft capable of carrying multiple passengers. It will work with regulators to win certification in the first stage of the air taxi project through 2022, it said.

    In a later stage, Vertical will seek to extend the aircraft’s range, introduce elements of autonomous flight and expand the number of chartered routes it can serve.

Belfast-born Fitzpatrick prides himself on developing business ideas in areas where, at the outset, he has zero technical background.

    He said he spent years studying energy markets before launching his energy utility firm, Ovo, in 2009. It now counts around 680,000 customers, or 2.5 percent of the UK domestic retail energy market, and employs 1,200 staff.

    His first brush with hardware and physical product engineering came when he was a short-term owner of flagging Formula 1 team Manor Racing.

Fitzpatrick said it dawned on him that many racing car advances also applied to aircraft, from high-powered electric batteries to hybrid power trains, lighter structural materials, like carbon fiber and, of course, aerodynamic design.

    “The technology we were using in Formula 1 was just too high-spec to be applied to the challenges of the typical road car,” Fitzpatrick said. “What you can get from an F1 engine has more power density per kilo than a jet turbine,” he said.

Slideshow (5 Images)

Reporting by Eric Auchard in London; Editing by Keith Weir

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Enterprise investments in datacentre infrastructure rebound as component shortage price hikes hit

Following successive quarters of decline, enterprise spending on datacentre infrastructure appears to be rallying, fuelled in part by rising component costs and demand for private cloud deployments.

That’s according to Synergy Research Group’s second-quarter datacentre infrastructure market tracker, which shows a 28% increase in the amount of money spent on datacentre hardware and software over the past 24 months.

Much of this growth can be attributed to the growing demand for public cloud-enabling datacentre hardware and software. This, in turn, has benefited suppliers in this space, which are reporting 54% revenue growth over the same time period.

“We are seeing cloud service revenues continuing to grow by 50% per year, enterprise SaaS [software-as-a-service] revenues growing by over 30%, search/social networking revenues growing by over 25%, and e-commerce revenues growing by over 40%, all of which are driving big increases in spending on public cloud infrastructure,” said John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy Research Group.

According to Synergy’s own calculations, total datacentre infrastructure equipment revenue hit $38bn in the second quarter of 2018, with public cloud-enabling technology accounting for around a third of this spend.

The analyst house has also picked up on a sudden surge in spending on infrastructure for use in enterprise facilities, particularly where private cloud-enabling technologies are concerned.

“Growth for enterprise datacentre infrastructure has been much lower, and spending was actually in slow decline until the recent spike in server demand and pricing gave vendor revenues a boost,” Synergy Research Group said in a statement.

Within the enterprise, it is private cloud infrastructure that is driving spending, with a 45% increase since the second quarter of 2016.”

From a supplier perspective, Dell EMC is leading the private cloud market, followed by Microsoft and HPE, Synergy’s research shows, while on the public cloud-enabling infrastructure side, it is the white-label, original design manufacturers (ODMs) who are ruling the roost.

“ODMs in aggregate account for the largest portion of the public cloud market, with Dell EMC being the leading individual vendor, followed by Cisco and HPE,” said Synergy.

Rising cost of hardware

It is not just the growing demand for private cloud deployments that has caused enterprise spending on datacentre infrastructure to surge. Ongoing component shortages are also driving up the average selling price of kit, which is having an impact too.

It is a trend fellow IT analyst house Gartner has previously flagged as having a dampening effect on server shipments across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in recent quarters, as increased prices have caused some enterprises to delay server refresh projects.

Despite this, and as a direct consequence of the price hikes, the amount of revenue generated by sales of these servers has risen.

In particular, it is the supply of semiconductors, and consequently dynamic random access memory (DRAM), that appears to have hit the datacentre infrastructure market hard in recent months.

Industry watchers have attributed the shortages to a mix of issues, including the explosion in hyperscale cloud datacentres, growing demand for internet-connected devices, and the supply chain disruption caused by a series of mergers and acquisitions in the server component space.

There is also evidence, Synergy said, to suggest enterprises are also buying more expensive datacentre equipment, as they opt for systems that can handle the increasing workload complexities associated with running hybrid cloud environments.

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India's top digital payments firm bets on local expertise to fend off rivals

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – India’s top digital payments firm, Paytm, is betting on its local expertise and a deep pool of backers to fuel business growth and fight off global rivals in a rapidly growing market, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: An advertisement of Paytm, a digital wallet company, is pictured at a road side stall in Kolkata, India, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/File Photo

Paytm, which started in 2010, became a household name in the country after a ban on high-value currency notes in late 2016 led to a cash crunch and spurred the use of digital payments.

“The fight is no more about one company, it is about ecosystem players,” Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm’s parent One97 Communications, told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a private equity and venture capital conference organized by DealStreetAsia.

“If you have a standalone payments company, you definitely have an opportunity in the market. But there is a bigger game being played in the ecosystem level – there the revenue gets made or the value gets created,” Sharma said on Tuesday.

Paytm, which counts Alibaba Group and SoftBank Group Corp among its investors, is transforming into a financial services start-up with forays in banking, mutual funds and later insurance. Sharma has also started an e-commerce venture, on which payments are driven by Paytm.

Paytm competes with Alphabet Inc’s Google Pay and faces an expected launch by Facebook’s WhatsApp in India’s digital payments sector.

Credit Suisse estimated the value of transactions industry-wide to grow five-fold to $1 trillion by 2023.

With 95 million monthly active users, Paytm has been growing by 5 percent to 6 percent month-on-month. It aims to reach 500 million users by 2022, Sharma said.

Paytm has set a target to increase its offline merchants to 15 million by March 2019, from 9 million now.

“Paytm has gone into a network effect right now,” said Sharma, 40, whose net worth Forbes estimates at $2.2 billion.

As more customers start using Paytm, more merchants join, spurring further use, he added.

Many Paytm users have bank accounts, but it has simplified its app to reach India’s vast unbanked population, especially in smaller towns and cities. The app is also available in about 11 languages.

The Unified Payment Interface (UPI), a state-backed open platform, allows people to send money to each other and directly into bank accounts by linking mobile numbers.

The platform has reshaped the payments arena and Paytm and other mobile wallet firms are adding services to retain users.

Last month, Berkshire Hathaway Inc joined as an investor in a deal that valued Paytm at more than $10 billion, media said.

Sharma said Paytm had no need to raise more funds.

“There is an advantage of being a private company,” he said. “And we always have capital requirements three years forward in our bank. So for three years, we are sorted.”

Reporting by Anshuman Daga and Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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‘You Can See Almost Everything.’ Antarctica Just Became the Best-Mapped Continent on Earth

Antarctica might not be the hottest tourist destination, but for anyone who does visit, scientists now have an incredibly high-resolution map of the white tundra. According to the scientists at Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota who created the imagery, Antarctica is now the best-mapped continent on Earth.

The Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA) was constructed using hundreds of thousands of satellite images taken between 2009 and 2017, Earther reports. A supercomputer assembled the massive amounts of data, including the elevation of the land over time, and created REMA, an immensely detailed topographical map, with a file size over 150 terabytes.

The new map has a resolution of 2 to 8 meters, compared to the usual 1,000 meters, says an Ohio State press release. According to The New York Times, the detail of this new map is the equivalent of being able to see down to a car, or smaller, when before you could only see the whole of Central Park. Scientists now know the elevation of every point of Antarctica, with an error margin of just a few feet.

“Up until now, we’ve had a better map of Mars than we’ve had of Antarctica,” said Ohio State University glaciologist Ian Howat, head of the REMA project, in a press release. “At this resolution, you can see almost everything. We can actually see variations in the snow in some places. We will be able to measure changes in the surface of the continent over time.”

The map will be a vital instrument for research projects, providing data on snow cover, the motion of ice, thinning glaciers, and river and volcano activity. Scientists will better be able to monitor the effects of climate change, and it’ll be easier for researchers to plan field expeditions.

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Trump tells Apple to make products in U.S. to avoid China tariffs

(Reuters) – U.S. President Trump tweeted on Saturday that Apple Inc (AAPL.O) should make products inside the United States if it wants to avoid tariffs on Chinese imports.

FILE PHOTO: An attendee uses a new iPhone X during a presentation for the media in Beijing, China October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

The company told trade officials in a letter on Friday that the proposed tariffs would affect prices for a “wide range” of Apple products, including its Watch, but it did not mention the iPhone.

Trump, speaking on Friday aboard Air Force One, said the administration had tariffs planned for an additional $267 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Trump tweeted that “Apple prices may increase because of the massive Tariffs we may be imposing on China – but there is an easy solution where there would be ZERO tax, and indeed a tax incentive. Make your products in the United States instead of China. Start building new plants now.”

Apple declined to comment.

The technology sector is among the biggest potential losers as tariffs would make imported computer parts more expensive. Apple’s AirPods headphones, some of its Beats headphones and its new HomePod smart speaker would also face levies.

“The burden of the proposed tariffs will fall much more heavily on the United States than on China,” Apple said in its letter.

Reporting by Christopher Bing; Editing by Richard Chang

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Gadget Lab Podcast: Can Facebook and Twitter Be ‘Fixed?’

Facebook and Twitter went to Washington. Almost immediately afterwards, controversial Internet troll Alex Jones was kicked off Twitter. Now what? WIRED senior writer Issie Laposwky joins the Gadget Lab podcast this week to break down the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, tell us what it means for Facebook and Twitter (and Google – which didn’t send its CEO to the hearings), and to help us answer the question that’s become one of the more pressing questions in modern times: Is social media to blame, or are the humans who do terrible things on social media to blame?

Show notes: Issie wrote all about the hearings, as well as Alex Jones getting booted off Twitter, this week.

Recommendations this week: Issie recommends the Dr. Death podcast, about murderous surgeon and the health care system that failed to protect his patients. Mike recommends a podcast, too: The Bob Lefsetz podcast. Lefsetz is a music industry insider and “gadfly,” as Mike describes him; his guests are fascinating. Arielle recommends checking out the @Sweden Twitter account, the “last good thing on Twitter,” before it shuts down at the end of the month. For several years now, the account has been curated by a rotating cast of Swedes who were tasked with representing life in Sweden. Lauren recommends “Glow,” on Netflix. It’s a show about a show about women’s wrestling in the 1980’s. You won’t regret it.

Send the Gadget Lab hosts feedback on their personal Twitter feeds. Arielle Pardes is @pardesoteric. Lauren Goode is @laurengoode. Michael Calore can be found at @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Our theme song is by Solar Keys.

How to Listen

You can always listen to this week’s podcast through the audio player on this page, but if you want to subscribe for free to get every episode, here’s how:

If you’re on an iPhone or iPad, open the app called Podcasts, or just tap this link. You can also download an app like Overcast or Pocket Casts, and search for Gadget Lab. And in case you really need it, here’s the RSS feed.

If you use Android, you can find us in the Google Play Music app just by tapping here. You can also download an app like Pocket Casts or Radio Public, and search for Gadget Lab. And in case you really need it, here’s the RSS feed.

We’re also on Soundcloud, and every episode gets posted to wired.com as soon as it’s released. If you still can’t figure it out, or there’s another platform you use that we’re not on, let us know.

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Infosys to expand in SE Asia with Temasek joint venture

(Reuters) – India’s second-largest software services exporter Infosys Ltd said on Friday it formed a joint venture with Singapore state investor Temasek as it expands its presence in Southeast Asia.

A woman passes a logo of state investor Temasek Holdings at their office in Singapore July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

Temasek looks to enhance its IT services through the venture in which Infosys will hold a 60 percent stake and Temasek 40 percent, Infosys said in a statement bit.ly/2NlWDEm.

The Infosys logo is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

The joint venture will integrate teams from Infosys and the operations of Temasek’s unit in Singapore, Trusted Source Pte Ltd, which currently delivers IT services to Temasek and a number of other clients.

Headquartered in Singapore, the joint venture will have more than 200 employees and contractors from Trusted Source, while Infosys staff will join over time.

The companies named Shveta Arora, Infosys vice president and regional head in South East Asia, as chief executive officer of the new venture.

Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Gopakumar Warrier

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Robinhood, the Zero-Fee Stock and Crypto Trading App, Is Planning to Go Public

Robinhood—the fintech startup that offers stock, option, and cryptocurrency trades with zero fees—is taking steps to go public, starting with the hiring of a chief financial officer.

Robinhood co-founder Baiju Bhatt, speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference Thursday, confirmed the company’s plans for an IPO and CFO hire. Both tasks will need to be handled with care. Bhatt said that Robinhood’s business model has subjected it to constant audits from the SEC and other financial regulators.

In the past couple of years, Robinhood has grown from a quixotic idea—no fees to trade stocks—to one of the more intruiging startups in the fintech space. Robinhood raised $110 million at a $1.3 billion valuation in April 2017. It’s now valued at $5.6 billion.

But Robinhood, like many tech startups planning to go public these days, is still losing money. And it’s branching out into areas like stock options and cryptocurrencies that will incur losses as Robinhood pushes for market share. “We don’t intend to make very much money on it at all for the foreseeable future,” Robinhood co-founder Vlad Tenev told Fortune in June.

The thing is, investors in IPOs are willing to tolerate losses as long as they will be turned soon enough into growing profits. And they’ve learned to distrust CEOs who talk cavalierly about losing money. Witness the downfall of Groupon after its manic growth failed to deliver profits, or Uber, which has had to retool its expensive global ambitions.

But given that few fintech startups have matured into companies that traditional Wall Street investors are comfortable sinking their assets into, Robinhood’s approach to the public stock market will be closely watched. In May, Robinhood’s active user accounts reached 4 million, surpassing E*Trade, a trading platform long beloved by daytraders.

Robinhood’s push into cryptocurrencies has helped it sign up more users. The company is not only helping small investors in a market that sometimes seems stacked against them, it’s looking like the most disruptive financial startup since E*Trade shook things up in the 1990s with low commissions and real-time stock quotes. Whether its expensive business model will be welcomed by IPO investors remains to be seen.

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​Hollywood goes open source

Out of 200 of the most popular movies of all time, the top 137 were either visual-effects driven or animated. What did many of these blockbusters have in common? They were made with open-source software.

That was the message David Morin, chairman of the Joint Technology Committee on Virtual Production, brought to The Linux Foundation‘s Open Source Summit in Vancouver, Canada. To help movie makers bring rhyme and reason to open-source film-making, The Linux Foundation had joined forces with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to form the Academy Software Foundation.

The academy is meant to be a neutral forum for open-source developers both in the motion picture and broader media industries to share resources and collaborate on technologies for image creation, visual effects, animation, and sound. The founding members include Blue Sky Studios, Cisco, DreamWorks Animation, Epic Games, Google Cloud, Intel, Walt Disney Studios, and Weta Digital. It’s a true marriage of technology and media-driven businesses.

You know those names. You probably don’t know the name of the open-source, special-effects programs, such as Alembic, OpenColorIO, or Ptex, but Morin said, “they’re very instrumental in the making of movies”.

And they’re more important than you think. “The last Fast and the Furious movie, for instance, while it looks like a live-action movie, when you know how it was made, it’s really by-and-large a computer generated movie,” Morin said. “When Paul Walker passed away in the middle of production, he had to be recreated for the duration of the movie.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which you know best from the Oscars, started looking into organizing the use of open-source in the movies in 2016. The group did so because while open-source software was being used more and more, it came with problems. These included:

  • Versionist: As more libraries were being used it became harder to coordinate software components. A production pipeline, which had been perfected for a 2016 movie, was likely to have out-of-date components for a 2017 film.
  • Organization: While volunteers tried to track these changes, they didn’t have the funding or resources needed to go beyond recording changes.
  • Funding: Many open-source programs had lost their maintainers due to getting jobs elsewhere or for lack of funding.
  • Licensing: As all open-source developers know, sooner or later licensing becomes an issue. That’s especially true in the motion-picture industry, which is hyper aware of copyright and other intellectual property (IP) issues.

So, the overall mission is to increase the quality and quantity of open-source contributions by developing a governance model, legal framework, and community infrastructure that makes it easier to both develop and use open-source software.

In more detail, the goals are:

  • Provide a neutral forum to coordinate cross-project efforts, establish best practices, and share resources across the motion picture and broader media industries.
  • Develop an open continuous integration (CI) and build infrastructure to enable reference builds from the community and alleviate issues caused by siloed development.
  • Provide individuals and organizations with a clear path for participation and code contribution.
  • Streamline development for build and runtime environments through the sharing of open-source build configurations, scripts, and recipes.
  • Provide better, more consistent licensing through a shared licensing template.

Developers interested in learning more or contributing can join Academy Software Foundation mailing list.

Morin added, “In the last 25 years, software engineers have played an increasing role in the most successful movies of our time. The Academy Software Foundation is set to provide funding, structure, and infrastructure for the open-source community, so that engineers can continue to collaborate and accelerate software development for movie making and other media for the next 25 years.”

Rob Bredow, SVP, executive creative director, and head of Industrial Light & Magic, said, “Developers and engineers across the industry are constantly working to find new ways to bring images to life, and open source enables them to start with a solid foundation while focusing on solving unique, creative challenges rather than reinventing the wheel.”

If you’d like to get into the movie business, now’s your chance. “We’re welcoming all the help we can get to set up the foundation,” Morin concluded. “Writing code today is perhaps the most powerful activity that you can do to make movies. If you’re interested, don’t hesitate to join us.”

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Jon Kyl Will Take McCain's Senate Seat

On Tuesday, Arizona’s governor appointed former Republican senator Jon Kyl to fill the US Senate seat vacated by the late John McCain. The appointment could spell even more government scrutiny for tech giants like Facebook and Google—even though Kyl has only committed to serving until the start of the next Congressional session in January, though he may stay through 2020.

While McCain, who passed away on August 25, never focused his energies on the practices of technology platforms, Kyl has taken up the cause in his private endeavors, particularly as the head of an internal probe at Facebook into whether the platform is biased against conservatives, which was announced in May.

The results of that investigation have not been made public, and it is still ongoing. A Facebook spokesperson said that Kyl would leave the audit, but that it would continue with the team from law firm Covington and Burlington that he had led. Kyl did not immediately return a request for comment. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, also held meetings with Facebook executives about the question of liberal bias as part of the inquiry.

Kyl’s appointment comes just one day before representatives from Twitter, Google, and Facebook are set to testify again before the Senate over concerns about privacy, political bias, and anti-competitive practices. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will also tomorrow appear separately before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to address similar concerns.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing is slated to focus on “foreign influence operations use of social media platforms,” but tech executives will likely also face questions about whether their platforms are biased against certain political viewpoints.

Over the next several months, Jon Kyl will arguably be the senator best-equipped to ask such questions, having ostensibly spent the summer examining Facebook’s treatment of conservative viewpoints, both internally and on its platform. In late August, The New York Times reported that an extremely small group of Facebook employees have internally argued that the company isn’t welcoming to conservative viewpoints.

In recent months, a number of conservative lawmakers, including President Trump, have also accused tech companies like Google and Facebook of suppressing right-wing content, and have questioned whether they should be regulated as a result.

In April, for example, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, half a dozen Republican lawmakers questioned whether the social network had suppressed content produced by conservative commentators Diamond and Silk. Just last week, President Trump accused Google of purposely favoring negative coverage about his administration in its news product.

The belief that tech companies intentionally censor certain political beliefs is also increasingly held by voters, especially Republicans, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in June.

For years, conservatives on Capitol Hill have alleged that prominent tech companies are biased against their beliefs. They often cite a 2016 Gizmodo article as evidence, which reported that Facebook employees suppressed the reach of conservative outlets in its trending product. But while Silicon Valley is notoriously a hub for liberal tech workers, many lawmakers’ specific accusations have largely been unfounded. Still, their complaints highlight the amount of power over Americans’ speech and access to information that a handful of California companies have consolidated.

Kyl appears well-poised to ramp up the questioning over whether Google and Facebook can keep that power while avoiding more government oversight. Aside from his experience with Facebook, the senator also has a history of pushing for the regulation of some internet activities. In the early aughts, he was one of the first lawmakers to advocate for the criminalization of some categories of online gambling and he ultimately helped to pass the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Act.

As a lobbyist at Covington and Burlington, where Kyl has worked since declining to seek reelection in 2013, he has represented clients like Walmart, Georgetown University, and the conservative political organization Judicial Crisis Network. His clients have also included some technology companies, like San Diego-based Qualcomm.

Kyl has also busied himself with more than just auditing Facebook this summer. In a sign of his deep commitment to conservative interests, Kyl has also been guiding Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, through his Senate confirmation hearings.

As Kyl’s fellow senators mull over proposed legislation like a national privacy law, that commitment may also increasingly mean towing the Republican line on regulating big tech. No one is poised better to lead the effort than Kyl.

UPDATED: 9/4/2018, 4:52 PM EST: This story has been updated with comment from Facebook


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