Google and Facebook have told most employees to keep working from home for the rest of the year as part of a response by the tech giants to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Chief executive Sundar Pichai told Google staff at an all-hands meeting that its remote work policy will be extended until 2021, the Silicon Valley giant confirmed Friday.
Any return to offices was expected to be incremental and staggered, according to the company.
The news came along with US media reports that Facebook is also letting workers tend to their jobs remotely for the rest of this year.
Google employees who need to return to offices will be able to do that in the next month or two, with added safety measures in place due to coronavirus concerns, but most of the staff will continue working from home.
Facebook’s updated plan is to re-open offices in early July, but let people work from home if they prefer until 2021, according to reports.
When one talks about young Africans using smartphones, the dominant narrative is that these gadgets serve mostly as platforms for connection so that users can communicate and share greetings and information via text and images.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and Signal take pride of place in that description, despite their murkier side. What has perhaps been overlooked is how smartphones are also affecting other facets of young people’s lives. One area is the ever-growing community of sports betting in Africa.
The phenomenon of sports betting among African youths has taken the region by storm. Recent polls and anecdotal reports point to a grim scenario, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. A 2017 GeoPoll survey found that up to 54% of sub-Saharan African youth between 17 and 35 years have engaged in sports gambling. Kenya, with 74% participation in sports betting, had by far the largest percentage of youth involvement in this activity. The survey of some 2,726 African millennials was conducted in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
A core driver of this trend has been the growing ubiquity of mobile telephony around the continent combined with the availability of smartphones. Added to this has been greater connectivity – including satellite access to sport matches – and a ballooning population of young people with high levels of unemployment.
In research on the subject we see that sports betting has brought many ills to young people in sub-Saharan Africa. These include severe gambling addiction and money laundering. Some of these concerns are also experienced in other parts of the world. These include smartphone addiction and a closely related phenomenon: internet addiction. These ills in turn lead to heightened levels of social anxiety and loneliness among the affected population.
Smartphone penetration around the continent has exhibited a remarkable growth rate. Cameroon, for instance, had 72% registered users of social networks among those aged 15 to 24 in 2016. This grew to that level from 43% in the first half of that year. The most popular social networks for that community was Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Twitter. This development has come at a time when there is growing interest in sports betting - the most popular gambling option for African youth. Mobile phones are the preferred avenue for sports betting.
Of course the increasing availability of smartphones is unleashing the innovative potential of many sub-Saharan African youth. The plethora of social media platforms have the potential to change lives around the continent. Many social media adaptions are the result of the ingenuity of sub-Saharan youth, like M-Pesa, Ensbuuko and WorldRemit (financial services); ButterflyiQ, Momconnect, Usalama (health and security); Cityaps, Musanga and Twiga Foods (supply chain platforms); and Ushahidi, tajirat al-Facebook and Kano’s WhatsApp entrepreneurs (to strengthen social cohesion).
Another driver is clever marketing and advances in technology - the digital satellite television space across the continent broadcasts sports events of African clubs and popular European soccer leagues. In Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and across much of sub-Saharan Africa, the advent of DStv (Digital Satellite Television) and other broadcast platforms have brought foreign league matches to viewing centres and hence to the doorstep of individuals who on their own who be hard-pressed to afford watching prized league games in their respective homes.
These viewing centres are in the nooks and crannies of urban centres in all these countries. In turn self-acclaimed fans of some of the biggest clubs in the world like Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Juventus and Paris Germain can keep up with the performance of their teams without ever visiting the homes of these clubs.
A third driver is the youth bulge in Africa. The continent has the youngest population in the world, with an estimated 60% of people under the age of 25. Of the 420 million youth in Africa today, the majority are unemployed, have insecure jobs or are in casual employment. For many on the continent, the slick advertising of sports betting firms provides an irresistible proposition.
Facebook is reportedly set to be slapped with a $5bn (£4bn) fine over data privacy violations.
The social media giant has reached a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), according to Reuters, following a probe into the firm’s use of handling consumer data.
Facebook was under investigation over allegations that it inappropriately shared information belonging to some 87m customers with Cambridge Analytica, a data mining consultancy firm.
The fine, which is the largest ever imposed by the FTC, is in line with what the company had forecasted it would pay in a recent financial update.
hares in the firm, which has come under fire for its data policies in recent years, closed up two per cent on Friday night after reports of the settlement emerged.
In May shareholders at the firm’s annual general meeting voted to allow Mark Zuckerberg to stay on as both chief executive and chairman, despite some investors calling for his removal in the dual role after a troubled year.
The Facebook founder, who has pledged to reinvent the platform’s priorities in the wake of several data rows, owns 60 per cent of the firm’s voting shares.
Mark Zuckerberg's Libra cryptocurrency project may just strengthen his stranglehold on our user data. Financial stability is another huge concern.
Regulators will be watching closely when Facebook Inc. unveils its cryptocurrency project this week. Their vigilance is warranted.
Mark Zuckerberg, the social network’s founder, isn’t going to gamble with what remains of his public image by replicating the worst excesses of the Bitcoin craze. He’s not trying to create a speculative currency; a potential wave of mom-and-pop investment losses is the last thing he needs. He just wants a digital medium of exchange for use on his apps. Nevertheless, his bid to launch an online payments revolution carries plenty of risks, from antitrust concerns to the threat that it might pose to financial stability.
Weekend media leaks suggest that Facebook’s “Libra” project will be a continuation of its past efforts to expand its payments business and keep customers within the walled garden of its social media apps by creating their very own money.
While Zuckerberg is poised to unveil a team of partners – reportedly including eBay Inc., Farfetch Ltd., Spotify Technology SA, Uber Technologies Inc. and Vodafone Group Plc – so far this feels very much like Facebook’s baby. Tellingly, it’s not one that the big banks or the other Silicon Valley and Seattle giants seem ready to adopt quite yet, unless Zuckerberg surprises us with some bigger names at the launch. The target customer base for these new digital tokens looks certain to be the 2.6 billion-strong users of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
While Facebook will no doubt assure us that this project is all about making the lives of its customers ever easier, giving them the ability to actually buy stuff in a way that Bitcoin has rarely offered, it’s hard to square it away with the political effort to curb Big Tech’s monopolistic tendencies (regardless of that roster of launch partners and their $10 million participation fees).
It’s crucial that Libra doesn’t become a protective glue that binds Zuckerberg’s social networks even more closely together at a time when many regulators want to break them up. Libra will be presented as an open-source partnership whose benefits are available to all, but to what extent will it really be held at arm’s length from the Zuckerberg empire? Indeed, if the financial and business benefits of using Libra accrue mainly to Facebook, it will merely enshrine its market dominance.
As such, regulators must find out who will own the giant new datasets. They might even want to push the case that this kind of data should be made available to governments or rivals to avoid the problems of the past, where a handful of companies ended up owning all of the information about our online activities.
While Facebook barely makes any money from its payments business today – with payments and other fees accounting for less than 2% of last year’s $55.8 billion of revenue – some analysts reckon Libra could change things. Barclays is reportedly predicting $19 billion in additional revenue by 2021 if the tokens gain traction. Libra is scheduled to launch across a dozen countries in 2020. That’s a lot of potential data and new sources of revenue.
Financial stability is a worry too and regulators should ask for transparency on how Libra is structured. The token is expected to be a “stablecoin,” which is pegged to existing fiat currencies such as the U.S. dollar or the euro. That will damp price volatility, unlike the free-wheeling Bitcoin, whose price in the past five years has gone from $600 to $19,000, and now to $9,000. Regulatory oversight of which currencies are held in reserve to back the Libra coin would go some way to building faith in Facebook’s capacity to redeem tokens when customers ask for it.
While no one wants to choke innovation unnecessarily, Facebook hasn’t exactly done much to earn everybody’s trust in recent years. Any chance to put the necessary controls in at the beginning, rather than firefighting down the road, should be grabbed by the regulators.
Read More: Bloomberg
Facebook shares tumbled 7.5% Monday following a Wall Street Journal report that said the FTC will be able to examine the effect of Facebook's practices on digital competition.
Facebook's drop shaved more than $38 billion from its market cap, bringing it to about $469 billion. Facebook is already under investigation by the FTC over its handling of user data and has said it is expecting a fine of up to $5 billion.
Shares of other tech giants took a hit over similar concerns. Amazon's stock fell 4.6% Monday following a Washington Post report that the top U.S. antitrust enforcement agencies have a new agreement on tech oversight. The drop shaved more than $40 billion from its market cap, bringing it to $833 billion.
And shares of Google parent company Alphabet were down 6.1% after the Journal reported Friday that the Justice Department is readying an antitrust investigation of Google. The stock lost about $47 billion from its market cap, bringing it to about $721 billion.
Antitrust regulation has remained a distant threat in recent years as scandals like Cambridge Analytica brought the scale of tech power into focus for the public. In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, "break up big tech" has become a rallying cry for some, including Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
But a new reported agreement between the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice brings that threat a bit closer to reality. The FTC will take the lead on oversight of Amazon, while the DOJ will have greater jurisdiction over Google, according to the Post. The FTC previously closed an investigation of Google without taking action, but now the DOJ will take another look into Google's practices in search and other areas, according to the Journal.
Calls for Mark Zuckerberg's power to be reined in continue to grow louder – not that it matters.
That much was clear during Facebook's annual shareholders meeting on Thursday, where Zuckerberg faced numerous calls for his power to be checked. On the agenda were four shareholder proposals that called for new checks on Zuckerberg's power:
A proposal calling for more shareholder a power
A proposal calling for an independent board chair (not Zuck)
A proposal which compared Zuckerberg's control of the company to a "dictatorship," for shareholder input in elections to the board of directors
A proposal to explore "strategic alternatives," including breaking up Facebook into separate companies
But going over these initiatives were mostly a symbolic gesture as Facebook's board, once again, easily voted down all shareholder proposals. As Bloomberg pointed out earlier this week, such proposals are all essentially dead on arrival, since Zuckerberg controls the vast majority of the company's most powerful shares.
Zuckerberg seemed mostly unfazed by all this. He said addressing the "social issues" facing the company is one of his top priorities.
"This is an important period for the company...we're fighting to do the right thing every day," he said.
Still, shareholders in attendance made it clear they want to see Facebook change.
During the meeting's Q&A period, one questioner asked Facebook's lead independent director, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, if she was willing to exercise her authority to call a board meeting without Zuckerberg in order to oust the CEO.
She said no. "That's not the direction we want to take the company or the board," she said.
Another attendee posed a similar question to Zuckerberg, asking if he would respond to people who want him to give up some of his power. Facebook's founder sidestepped the question by repeating his calls for increased regulation.
"I do acknowledge there are limits to what an individual company should deciding," he said.
That wasn't really an answer to the question that was asked, but it was a deft move that allowed the CEO to avoid addressing calls for him to step down or relinquish his control directly.
Most of all, it was a powerful reminder to Zuckerberg's critics that he's not going away any time soon.
Social media giants, Facebook said it could face a fine of up to $5 billion as the result of an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, US Today reports.
The agency has been investigating Facebook for possible privacy violations but has not announced any findings yet.
The company set aside $3 billion in its quarterly earnings report Wednesday as a contingency against the possible penalty.
The one-time charge slashed Facebook’s first-quarter net income considerably, although revenue grew by 25% in the period.
The FTC has been looking into whether Facebook broke its own 2011 agreement promising to protect user privacy.
Investors shrugged off the charge and sent the company’s stock up nearly 5% to $190.89 in after-hours trading.
Facebook has had several high-profile privacy lapses in the past couple of years.
The FTC has been looking into Facebook’s involvement with the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica scandal since last March.
That company accessed the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users without their consent.
Facebook has dominated the tech news for months with a variety of privacy issues, from hacked accounts to user data stolen to Russian bots spying on us. But now the social media giant is making headlines for a different reason.
Facebook officials say they want to install a massive underwater fiber optic cable, just not for the U.S.
The multi-stage project is reportedly named "Simba" - yes, like "Simba" from The Lion King. Its goal is to connect the entire continent of Africa to the internet, increasing accessibility while also driving down bandwidth prices significantly, which could make it easier to sign up new users. And it could be a major disruption to the current service provider model. For the most part, internet service connects continents by way of underwater fiber optic cables capable of carrying massive amounts of data. There are a dozen such cables between the Northeastern United States and Europe alone, and many more connecting the hubs of Asia and the Mideast.
But getting into the fiber optic business would be a big jump for Facebook - one already made by some of their rivals. Google has a major investment in running fiber optic cables through its subsidiary, Google Fiber. But Google's plan is to provide far more connectivity than is needed at the moment, hoping to avoid costly upgrades; it's a way of future-proofing what is expected to be an expensive and labor-intensive process. In contrast, Amazon has announced they want to blanket the globe with high-speed internet service using thousands of small satellites, not fiber-optics.
As for when the ring of fiber will be placed around Africa, it's hard to say. The details of the project are still being worked out and there's an obvious lack of infrastructure in many areas at the moment. But Facebook's 'Whatsapp' messenger program is already popular in the region, providing a potential blueprint for how to proceed with the "Simba" project.
- Fox News
Facebook on Friday said it had removed 200 pages, groups and accounts from its social media platforms in the Philippines, citing misleading behaviour to boost messages favouring some politicians in the country.
The move was made ahead of mid-term elections in the Philippines on May 13, when half of the 24-member Senate seats, all House of Representatives seats and tens of thousands of local postings will be up for grabs.
The social media giant said about 3.6 million people were following the 67 pages, 68 accounts and 40 groups on Facebook and 25 Instagram accounts that were taken down following an investigation.
The removed pages, accounts and groups were found to be engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook’s cybersecurity policy unit.
“What we saw is this cluster of pages groups and accounts, a combination of authentic and fake accounts that were basically being used to drive messaging on behalf of, and related to, local candidates,” he said.
Gleicher said the accounts were made to appear as normal and legitimate to boost messages in favour of certain political candidates.
“They were designed to look independent, but in fact, we can see that they were coordinated on the back,” he said in Manila.
“They would post about local news, they would post things about the upcoming elections, local candidates.”
“A lot of messaging was pro, sort of supporting the candidates they were working on behalf of, some would be attacking political opponents of those candidates,” he added.