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Snapchat Permanently Bans Donald Trump From Platform

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Image-centric social network Snapchat on Wednesday said it has permanently banned US President Donald Trump from the platform, as voices are raised against keeping him off the Internet stage.

Trump’s access to social media has been largely cut off since a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington DC in a deadly attack on January 6.

Operators fear that Trump could use his Snapchat account to foment more unrest in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“Last week we announced an indefinite suspension of president Trump’s Snapchat account,” Snapchat said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“In the interest of public safety, and based on his attempts to spread misinformation, hate speech, and incite violence, which are clear violations of our guidelines, we have made the decision to permanently terminate his account.”

After the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, social media including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube began to bar him from using their platforms.

Google and Apple pulled Parler apps from their shops for digital content shops stating that the right-leaning social network was allowing users to promote violence.

Amazon Web Services later ousted Parler from its data-centres, essentially forcing the social network offline due to lack of hosting services.

“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here,” Twitter chief Jack Dorsey wrote in a tweet Wednesday.

“After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter.”

The actions angered ardent defenders of Trump, who was impeached by the House of Representatives on Wednesday was for inciting “insurrection.”

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton on Wednesday said he is demanding that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter explain why Trump is not welcomed on their platforms.

Paxton maintained that the “seemingly coordinated de-platforming” of Trump “silences those whose speech and political beliefs do not align with leaders of Big Tech companies.”

The state attorney issued administrative subpoenas calling on the technology companies to share their policies and practices regarding content moderation as well as for information directly related to Parler social network.


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Bitcoin Extends Slide, Heads for Worst Week Since March 2020

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Bitcoin fell heavily on Friday and was heading toward its sharpest weekly drop since last March, as worries over its technology and regulation extended a pullback from recent record highs.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency fell more than 5 percent to an almost three-week low of $28,800 (roughly Rs. 21 lakhs) in the Asia session, before steadying around $30,000 (roughly Rs. 21.8 crores). It has lost 15 percent so far this week, the biggest drop since a 33 percent fall in March.

Traders said a report posted to Twitter by BitMEX Research, suggesting that part of a Bitcoin may have been spent twice, had hurt confidence in the technology underlying the asset class and also that a pullback was overdue after a huge rally.

“You wouldn’t want to rationalise too much into a market that’s as inefficient and immature as Bitcoin, but certainly there’s a reversal in momentum,” said Kyle Rodda, an analyst at IG Markets in Melbourne, in the wake of the BitMEX report. “The herd has probably looked at this and thought it sounded scary and shocking and it’s now the time to sell.”

Bitcoin is now around 30 percent below the record high of $42,000 (roughly Rs. 30.6 lakhs) it hit two weeks ago, losing ground amid growing concerns that it is one of a number of financial market price bubbles and as cryptocurrencies catch regulators’ attention.

During a US Senate hearing on Tuesday, Janet Yellen, President Joe Biden’s pick to head the US Treasury, expressed concerns that cryptocurrencies could be used to finance illegal activities.

That followed a call last week from European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde for global regulation of bitcoin.

Still, some said the pullback comes with the territory for an asset that is some 700 percent above the 2020 low of $3,850 (roughly Rs. 2.8 lakhs) hit in March.

“It’s a highly volatile piece,” said Michael McCarthy, strategist at brokerage CMC Markets in Sydney. “It made extraordinary gains and it’s doing what bitcoin does and swinging around.”

Second-biggest cryptocurrency ethereum also dropped to a one-week low, of $1,041.22 (roughly Rs. 75,950), before recovering to steady around $1,144 (roughly Rs. 83,450).

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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Alphabet Shutting Down Loon, Its Balloon-Based Internet Alternative to Cell Towers

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Google parent Alphabet is shutting down its Internet balloon business, Loon, which aimed to provide a less expensive alternative to cell towers, saying on Thursday that “the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped.”

Founded in 2011, Loon aimed to bring connectivity to areas of the world where building cell towers is too expensive or treacherous by using balloons the length of tennis courts to float solar-powered networking gear high above the Earth. But the wireless carriers that Loon saw as buyers of its technology have questioned its technical and political viability.

“While we’ve found a number of willing partners along the way, we haven’t found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business,” Loon Chief Executive Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post.

Alphabet executive Astro Teller said in a separate blog post that despite Loon’s “groundbreaking technical achievements” over the past nine years, “the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped.”

Westgarth said Loon’s legacy would include advancing helium balloons to last hundreds of days in the sky and developing communications equipment that could deliver cell coverage across an area 200 times bigger than an average tower can.

But among challenges were that a carrier would need several balloons at once, and each balloon cost tens of thousands of dollars and lasted only about five months.

Loon launched a pilot project in Kenya in 2020, years behind schedule after regulatory delays. Its partner, Telkom Kenya, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The technology previously proved successful in short projects to provide cell coverage in Peru and Puerto Rico when cell towers were downed by natural disasters. The company had pitched countries and international organisations on contracting with Loon to fly in during future emergencies, but gained little traction.

Loon said it may share its technology with carriers, governments or nonprofit groups aiming to bring high-speed internet to the last few places in the world.

The company employed 200 people as of 2019. It drew a $125 million (roughly Rs. 910 crores) investment that year from SoftBank’s HAPSMobile, which is working on floating cell equipment with drones.

HAPSMobile declined to comment on the financial effect of Loon’s shutdown but said it would “continue to work toward our goal of developing a commercial business.”

Separately, companies backed by billionaire entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos, continue to look at offering Internet connections using satellites in near-Earth orbit.

Alphabet previously shuttered what it calls “other bets,” or entities separate to Google, such as one working on power-generating kites. Alphabet has pressed some “bets” to raise funding from other investors or become self-sustaining. Loon struggled to attract investment.

The company maintains at least one “bet” tackling the skies – Wing, which is aiming to commercialize goods delivery by drone.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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