Category Archives: Big Tech

Sir Tim Berners-Lee: ‘Fake News’ One of Three Challenges Stopping Web From Serving Humanity

Freddy Mayhew reports for Press Gazette:

Inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has pointed to the spread of “fake news” as one of three challenges stopping his creation from being “a tool which serves all of humanity”.

The exchange of personal data for free content and a lack of transparency around political advertising were also highlighted as areas of concern for the computer scientist.

In an open letter on the 28th anniversary of his original proposal for the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee set out a five-year plan to tackle these three “complex problems”.

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Peter Thiel: Donald Trump’s ‘Shadow President’ in Silicon Valley

Eliana Johnson reports for Politico:

170224_peter_thiel_trump_gty_1160.jpg[…] “Once Election Day came and went, Peter Thiel was a major force in the transition,” said a senior Trump campaign aide. “When you have offices and you bring staff with you and you attend all the meetings, then you have a lot of power.” At the Presidio, the old Army fort in San Francisco where Thiel’s investment firms are housed, many of his employees have taken to calling him “the shadow president.”

The notion is not entirely absurd. If Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, is one ideological pillar of the Trump White House, Thiel, operating from outside the administration, is the other. Bannon’s ideology is a sort of populist nationalism, while Thiel’s is tech-centric: He believes progress is dependent on a revolution in technology that has been largely stymied by government regulation.

Thiel is a contrarian by nature, and his support for Trump was a signature long-shot bet that is paying big dividends in terms of access to and influence on the new administration.

Trump’s surprise victory in November also gave Thiel a renewed faith in the possibilities of politics, and he has worked around the clock to push friends and associates into positions that will give them sway over science and technology policy, an area he believes has been routinely neglected under previous administrations.

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How Peter Thiel and Alex Karp’s Palantir Helped the NSA Spy on the Whole World

Sam Biddle reports for The Intercept:

Image result for Thiel and KarpDonald Trump has inherited the most powerful machine for spying ever devised. How this petty, vengeful man might wield and expand the sprawling American spy apparatus, already vulnerable to abuse, is disturbing enough on its own. But the outlook is even worse considering Trump’s vast preference for private sector expertise and new strategic friendship with Silicon Valley billionaire investor Peter Thiel, whose controversial (and opaque) company Palantir has long sought to sell governments an unmatched power to sift and exploit information of any kind. Thiel represents a perfect nexus of government clout with the kind of corporate swagger Trump loves. The Intercept can now reveal that Palantir has worked for years to boost the global dragnet of the NSA and its international partners, and was in fact co-created with American spies. 

Peter Thiel became one of the American political mainstream’s most notorious figures in 2016 (when it emerged he was bankrolling a lawsuit against Gawker Media, my former employer) even before he won a direct line to the White House. Now he brings to his role as presidential adviser decades of experience as kingly investor and token nonliberal on Facebook’s board of directors, a Rolodex of software luminaries, and a decidedly Trumpian devotion to controversy and contrarianism. But perhaps the most appealing asset Thiel can offer our bewildered new president will be Palantir Technologies, which Thiel founded with Alex Karp and Joe Lonsdale in 2004.

Palantir has never masked its ambitions, in particular the desire to sell its services to the U.S. government — the CIA itself was an early investor in the startup through In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital branch. But Palantir refuses to discuss or even name its government clientele, despite landing “at least $1.2 billion” in federal contracts since 2009, according to an August 2016 report in Politico. The company was last valued at $20 billion and is expected to pursue an IPO in the near future. In a 2012 interview with TechCrunch, while boasting of ties to the intelligence community, Karp said nondisclosure contracts prevent him from speaking about Palantir’s government work.

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Lean Out: The deafening post-November silence of Sheryl Sandberg

Sarah Lacy writes for Pando:

[…] The press didn’t make Sandberg into a feminist tech hero, she did. There was no pressure or precedent for female tech leaders to identify so heavily with women’s issues. And that’s why she struck such a chord with so many women. Finally a woman in power was saying all the things we all felt. It was particularly meaningful to me that she openly talked about motherhood– the joys, the challenges, and the strength of it.

This matters because Sandberg is easily the most senior woman in tech, and the most respected despite not being a founder or a CEO. According to First Round’s 2016 State of Startups, Sandberg was the most cited female answer to what tech leader people admire most. She got 1% of overall responses, compared to 6% for Mark Zuckerberg and 5% for Steve Jobs. She got 5% of the write-ins from female respondents. No other female leader came close.

Is that brand, that admiration solely because she is the COO of the only major super unicorn of the social networking era, and one of a few companies bucking to be the first $1 trillion market cap super duper unicorn? Maybe. But my hunch is her positioning as the flawed and vulnerable and yet commanding and respected woman a top that company, a woman who helps lift up other women, has played a massive role in people’s esteem for her.

So having voluntarily taken on this cause– and let’s face it, benefitted from that it in many ways– Sandberg must be well positioned to be a leader in this precise moment of feminist consciousness, right?

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Silicon Valley Super-Rich Head south to Escape from a Global Apocalypse

Hayden Donnell reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Global Apocalypse new zealandAt the Republican party convention in Cleveland last July, Trump donor Peter Thiel declared himself ‘“most of all, proud to be an American”. So it came as something of a surprise for New Zealanders to discover that the PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member had become an honorary Kiwi – joining a growing band of wealthy Americans seeking a haven from a possible global apocalypse.

Thiel was recently revealed to have bought a £4.5m lakeside property near the New Zealand town of Wanaka in 2015. When New Zealand Herald reporter Matt Nippert asked why Thiel had been allowed to buy land that appears to fit the classification of “sensitive” without permission from the country’s Overseas Investment Office, he was told it wasn’t necessary – Thiel was already a citizen.

The revelation was met with confusion. By the time of his appearance at the Republican convention, Thiel had already bought 193 hectares of pristine South Island land using his rights as a Kiwi. Politicians asked why a billionaire most famous for adamantly supporting Donald Trump and bankrolling the lawsuits that bankrupted Gawker Media had been allowed not only to buy land in New Zealand, but to make the country part of his future and identity. Winston Peters, leader of the New Zealand First party, accused the National government of “selling citizenship” to foreigners.

Thiel, who retains his American citizenship, in fact became a joint US-New Zealand citizen in 2011 and has described the country as “Utopia”, investing heavily in business start-ups.

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Silicon Valley’s Power Brokers Want You to Think They’re Different, But They’re Just Average Robber Barons

Emmett Rensin writes for The Outline:

Image result for Silicon Valley's Power Brokers Want You to Think They're Different, But They're Just Average Robber Barons[…] The press enjoys excitedly praising tech titans by comparing them to fantastical and mythical figures. Zuckerberg is Caesar. Elon Musk, a wizard. Peter Thiel, who believes that he lives in the moral universe of Lord of the Rings, is a vampire. I do not know if these men believe that they have the supernatural powers the media claims. Maybe they do. I do know that they do not mind the perception, or at least have done nothing to combat it, even among those critics who believe that they’re cartoon villains.

This might not be so bad if the phenomenon were limited to daft profiles by fawning magazine writers. But this Hegelian fan fiction is nowhere more potent than from the mouths of the Disruptors themselves. Mark Zuckerberg speaks in the voice of God. Shane Smith, by his own account, is the Stalin of Vice. Silicon Valley investor Carl Icahn was called “evil Captain Kirk” by fellow billionaire Marc Andreessen, before he was himself dubbed Dr. Evil by Rod Dreher, who has evidently not absorbed a cultural reference since 1999. When Elon Musk worries that Larry Page is hurtling toward AI without a sufficient appreciation of the risks, he calls it “summoning the demon.” Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky, a typical case, says his food delivery application for depressed millennials is “disrupting the paradigm” by showing people that “the era of the paper menu” is over. AirBnB’s mission statement laments “the mechanization and Industrial Revolution of the last century,” which “displaced” “feelings of trust and belonging”; their mission is to turn the world back into the “village” of simpler eras by encouraging longstanding residents of gentrifying areas to rent out their homes to monied travelers. Some firms are more modest: HubSpot, a marketing and sales platform, is merely on a mission to make the whole world “more inbound,” which is to say, more reliant on their blogging tips for small businesses.

Even President Obama speaks of Silicon Valley as if it were an industry for madcap geniuses alone, a land of such earth-changing potential that it’s somewhere he might find himself once he’s left the Oval Office. When he chides citizens of the Valley, he chides them like a Dr. Frankenstein warning his monster about hubris: “Sometime we get, I think, in the scientific community, the tech community, the entrepreneurial community, the sense that we just have to blow up the system or create this parallel society,” he told the Frontiers Conference last October. The president believes that sense is wrong, of course, but where did he get the idea that tech CEOs were capable of these feats in the first place?

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Peter Thiel Insider Picked to Oversee Donald Trump’s Defense Department Transition

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Image result for TRAE STEPHENSTrae Stephens, a principal at billionaire Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm Founders Fund, was appointed last week by Donald Trump to help lead the transition effort at the Defense Department.

Thiel, who made a $1,000,000 donation to a pro-Trump Super PAC, is Trump’s highest-profile supporter in Silicon Valley.

At Thiel’s Founder Fund, Stephens “focuses on startups operating in the government space,” according to his official biography. Before that, he worked at another Thiel-backed firm: Palantir, a highly controversial data analysis firm that is currently competing for Defense Department contracts.

“Trae was an early employee at Palantir Technologies, where he led teams focused on growth in intelligence and defense as well as international expansion,” says the biography.

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Your Government Wants to Militarize Social Media to Influence Your Beliefs

Nafeez Ahmed reports for Motherboard:

Image result for Your Government Wants to Militarize Social Media to Influence Your BeliefsA global conference of senior military and intelligence officials taking place in London [last week] revealed how governments increasingly view social media as “a new front in warfare” and a tool for the Armed Forces.

The overriding theme of the event is the need to exploit social media as a source of intelligence on civilian populations and enemies; as well as a propaganda medium to influence public opinion.

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last month revealed how a CIA-funded tool, Geofeedia, was already being used by police to conduct surveillance of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to monitor activists and protesters.

Although Facebook and Twitter both quickly revoked Geofeedia’s access to their social feeds, the conference proves that social media surveillance remains a rapidly growing industry with no regulatory oversight. And its biggest customers are our own governments.

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The Disturbing Facebook Scandal We’re All Ignoring

David Dayen writes for The Fiscal Times:

Image result for Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by RaceImagine if a report came out showing evidence that Wells Fargo violated the Fair Housing Act by hiding certain home listings from African-Americans. Every politician in Washington would condemn the bank for illegal practices. The Justice Department would be inundated with letters demanding prosecution. Congressional committee chairs would schedule hearings to give members an opportunity to yell at executives. Wells Fargo would put out a sober apology expressing deep sorrow and vowing to make everything right. In other words, we have a context for bank misconduct, and everyone dutifully plays their part.

When the same circumstance occurs with Facebook in the role of the villain, however, nobody knows how to react. There are no assigned roles when a tech firm with a glimmering reputation creates a controversy. We implicitly give them a break, regardless of the merits. That’s a bias we should probably correct.

On Friday, ProPublica revealed that Facebook allows advertisers a tool that enables them to exclude “ethnic affinities” like African-Americans or Hispanics from viewing their ads. (Facebook does not ask users about their race, but collects data based on posts they like or comment on.) This goes well beyond targeting different styles of advertising to certain groups, which is common. Instead, it specifically prevents a black or Hispanic Facebook user from seeing a particular ad.

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Mark Zuckerberg Accused of Abusing Power After Facebook Deletes ‘Napalm Girl’ Post

Julia Carrie Wong reports for The Guardian:

Norway’s largest newspaper has published a front-page open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, lambasting the company’s decision to censor a historic photograph of the Vietnam war and calling on Zuckerberg to recognize and live up to his role as “the world’s most powerful editor”.

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief and CEO of Aftenposten, accused Zuckerberg of thoughtlessly “abusing your power” over the social media site that has become a lynchpin of the distribution of news and information around the world, writing, “I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.”

“I am worried that the world’s most important medium is limiting freedom instead of trying to extend it, and that this occasionally happens in an authoritarian way,” he added.

The controversy stems from Facebook’s decision to delete a post by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland that featured The Terror of War, a Pulitzer prize-winning photograph by Nick Ut that showed children – including the naked 9-year-old Kim Phúc – running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. Egeland’s post discussed “seven photographs that changed the history of warfare” – a group to which the “napalm girl” image certainly belongs.

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Google Program to Deradicalize Jihadis Will Be Used for Right-Wing American Extremists Next

Naomi LaChance reports for The Intercept:

A Google incubated-program that has been targeting potential ISIS members with deradicalizing content will soon be used to target violent right-wing extremists in North America, a designer of the program said at an event at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday.

Using research and targeted advertising, the initiative by London-based startup Moonshot CVE and Google’s Jigsaw technology incubator targets potentially violent jihadis and directs them to a YouTube channel with videos that refute ISIS propaganda.

In the pilot program countering ISIS, the so-called Redirect Method collected the metadata of 320,000 individuals over the course of eight weeks, using 1,700 keywords, and served them advertisements that led them to the videos. Collectively, the targets watched more than half a million minutes of videos.

The event at Brookings was primarily about the existing program aimed to undermine ISIS recruiting. “I think this is an extremely promising method,” said Richard Stengel, U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Ross Frenett, co-founder of Moonshot, said his company and Jigsaw are now working with funding from private groups, including the Gen Next Foundation, to target other violent extremists, including on the hard right.

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The World Wide Cage

Nicholas Carr, author of Utopia Is Creepy, writes for Aeon:

Image result for The world wide cage[…] In the early 1990s, I launched a browser for the first time and watched the gates of the web open. I was enthralled – so much territory, so few rules. But it didn’t take long for the carpetbaggers to arrive. The territory began to be subdivided, strip-malled and, as the monetary value of its data banks grew, strip-mined. My excitement remained, but it was tempered by wariness. I sensed that foreign agents were slipping into my computer through its connection to the web. What had been a tool under my own control was morphing into a medium under the control of others. The computer screen was becoming, as all mass media tend to become, an environment, a surrounding, an enclosure, at worst a cage. It seemed clear that those who controlled the omnipresent screen would, if given their way, control culture as well.

‘Computing is not about computers any more,’ wrote Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in his bestseller Being Digital (1995). ‘It is about living.’ By the turn of the century, Silicon Valley was selling more than gadgets and software: it was selling an ideology. The creed was set in the tradition of US techno-utopianism, but with a digital twist. The Valley-ites were fierce materialists – what couldn’t be measured had no meaning – yet they loathed materiality. In their view, the problems of the world, from inefficiency and inequality to morbidity and mortality, emanated from the world’s physicality, from its embodiment in torpid, inflexible, decaying stuff. The panacea was virtuality – the reinvention and redemption of society in computer code. They would build us a new Eden not from atoms but from bits. All that is solid would melt into their network. We were expected to be grateful and, for the most part, we were.

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Google employees have enjoyed revolving door during Obama administration

Johnny Kampis reports for Watchdog.org:

Photo illustration from LinkedIn photosMore than 250 people have moved from Google and related firms to the federal government or vice versa since President Barack Obama took office.

The Google Transparency Project, the work of Campaign for Accountability, poured over reams of data to find 258 instances of “revolving door activity” between Google or its associated companies and the federal government, national political campaigns and Congress since 2009.

Much of that revolving door activity took place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where 22 former White House officials went to work for Google and 31 executives from Google and related firms went to work at the White House or were appointed to federal advisory boards by Obama. Those boards include the President’s Council on Science and Technology and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Regulation watchdogs may be just as keen about the moves between Google and the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission. Those government bodies regulate many of the programs that are at the heart of Google’s business, and there have been at least 15 moves between Google and its lobbying firms and those commissions.

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Today’s Tech Oligarchs Are Worse Than the Robber Barons

Joel Kotkin writes for The Daily Beast:

A decade ago these guys—and they are mostly guys—were folk heroes, and for many people, they remain so. They represented everything traditional business, from Wall Street and Hollywood to the auto industry, in their pursuit of sure profits and golden parachutes, was not—hip, daring, risk-taking folk seeking to change the world for the better.

Now from San Francisco to Washington and Brussels, the tech oligarchs are something less attractive: a fearsome threat whose ambitions to control our future politics, media, and commerce seem without limits. Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Uber may be improving our lives in many ways, but they also are disrupting old industries—and the lives of the many thousands of people employed by them. And as the tech boom has expanded, these individuals and companies have gathered economic resources to match their ambitions.

And as their fortunes have ballooned, so has their hubris. They see themselves as somehow better than the scum of Wall Street or the trolls in Houston or Detroit. It’s their intelligence, not just their money, that makes them the proper global rulers. In their contempt for the less cognitively gifted, they are waging what The Atlantic recently called “a war on stupid people.”

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Julian Assange Warns of Close Ties Between Hillary Clinton and Google

During the Green Party convention in Houston, Texas, over the weekend, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke via video stream about his book “When Google Met WikiLeaks” and the relationship between Hillary Clinton, the State Department and the internet giant Google. (Democracy Now!)

Donald Trump, Peter Thiel and the death of democracy

Ben Tarnoff writes for The Guardian:

[…] Most of the media is baffled by Peter Thiel’s endorsement of Donald Trump. And it’s true that at first glance the two men aren’t an obvious match. Trump is an authoritarian populist who promises to abolish free trade. Thiel is a self-described libertarian who worships capitalism. Thiel is also one of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley – and Silicon Valley hates Trump.

So why would Thiel embrace Trump? So far, observers have offered two explanations. One is Thiel’s contrarianism; another is his lifelong crusade against “political correctness”. Thiel certainly enjoys courting controversy, whether it involves funding a lawsuit to destroy Gawker or funding a fellowship to induce kids to drop out of college. And Thiel shares Trump’s antipathy to the “politically correct” rhetoric of diversity and multiculturalism, as well as to affirmative action.

But neither of these reasons speak to Thiel’s deeper affinities with Trump. What Trump offers Thiel isn’t just an excuse to be contrary and politically incorrect. Trump gives Thiel something far more valuable: a way to fulfill his long-held ambition of saving capitalism from democracy.

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In suspending Milo Yiannopoulos, has Twitter played the man rather than the ball?

Will Gore writes for The Independent:

[…] The permanent suspension from Twitter of Milo Yiannopoulos for violation of the site’s “hateful conduct policy” has thrown the issue into particular focus. Yiannopoulos, a conservative writer and provocateur, appeared to criticise the actress Leslie Jones for expressing concern at racist and sexist abuse she had received from other users. He referred to Jones “playing the victim” and criticised her acting ability. He was accused not of direct racism himself but of fanning the flames of harassment.

Reaction to his suspension was inevitably mixed, with some lauding Twitter for taking decisive action against a man who has had run-ins with the social media giant before. Others meanwhile decried the decision as a gross overreaction, noting that individuals with a lower profile remain at large despite posting much more venal content.

The problem on this occasion is that Twitter appears to have played the man rather than the ball. Yiannopoulos might well be a disagreeable prat, but banning him from social media will do more to whip up those whose postings really do go beyond the pale than his continued presence ever could. His voice and his ability to be heard extend beyond the confines of the Twittersphere – hard though that may be for Jack Dorsey to believe.

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The Guardian’s Katharine Viner: ‘Social media companies have become overwhelmingly powerful’

Jessica Davies reports for DigiDay:

Guardian News and Media’s editor-in-chief Katharine Viner’s prognosis of news publishing in an algorithm- and platform-dominated world is bleak.

Viner addressed a room full of senior marketers yesterday in her keynote at advertiser trade body ISBA’s annual lunch in London. During her speech she reinforced just how much technology and the rise of platforms have changed publishing, and redirected advertising spend.

She referred to a recent Reuters report that revealed a trove of information on people’s current news-consumption habits and showed just how dominant Facebook has become as a platform on which people find news.

“Social media companies have become overwhelmingly powerful in determining what we read and whether publishers make any money,” she said. “The idea of challenging the wide-open worldwide web has been replaced by platforms and publishers who maximize the amount of time you spend with them and find clever ways to stop you leaving. That may be great news for advertisers and the platforms themselves, but it’s a real concern for the news industry.”

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A Short History Of Facebook’s Cat-and-Mouse Game With Publishers

Alyssa Bereznak reports for The Ringer:

On Wednesday, Facebook announced that it will make yet another tweak to its ever-changing, all-mysterious algorithm. The platform’s News Feed — the main source of updates for the company’s 1.65 billion monthly active users — will now favor posts from friends and family members over those of media organizations.

For you, this probably means more baby photos, gym selfies, and arguments with family members who support Trump. But for the many media organizations who rely on this platform as a way to distribute their stories, it is an existential threat. As The New York Times diplomatically put it, the change is yet another reminder that “publishers rank lower on Facebook’s list of priorities.”

Still, it’s not exactly surprising. In fact, the company’s change of heart is just the latest entry in a long history of the platform’s Ramsay Bolton–esque games with publishers. Today, it seems publishers could be right back where they started: the dazed and helpless captive of a cruel and unpredictable ally.

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Why Facebook’s New Algorithm Is Bad News for Media

Maya Kosoff reports for Vanity Fair:

Earlier this year, Facebook began looking for ways to reverse an insidious issue with its platform: while users’ feeds were filled with news stories, people had begun to share less about their own lives. A lack of original user-generated content could eventually lead to the erosion of activity on Facebook, which is something of an existential problem for a social network. Naturally, this makes Mark Zuckerberg nervous—the less people share on Facebook, the more likely they are to migrate their personal lives onto private platforms like Evan Spiegel’s Snapchat.

In a possible attempt to stop the decline, Facebook announced Wednesday that it would be tweaking the algorithm behind its News Feed. “Our success is built on getting people the stories that matter to them most,” Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president of product management, said in a post accompanying Wednesday’s news.“If you could look through thousands of stories every day and choose the 10 that were most important to you, which would they be? The answer should be your News Feed. It is subjective, personal, and unique—and defines the spirit of what we hope to achieve.” You will, in other words, see see more posts from your friends and family, while publishers get the shaft.

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LinkedIn Bought by Microsoft for $26.2 Billion in Cash

Alex Hern and Jana Kasperkevic report for The Guardian:

Microsoft is buying the business-focused social network LinkedIn for $26.2bn (£18.5bn) in cash, its biggest ever purchase, the two companies announced on Monday.

The agreed deal – at $196 per LinkedIn share – was announced by both companies before the market opened on Wall Street. LinkedIn’s shares soared 49% on the news while Microsoft’s dipped close to 3%.

Microsoft said that after the acquisition, LinkedIn will “retain its distinct brand, culture and independence”. Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s chief executive, said the deal “gives us a chance to change the way the world works”.

LinkedIn has 430 million members, which means the deal values each member at more than $60. The network was founded in 2002 and floated in New York in 2011 with a value of $4.25bn.

The acquisition comes as LinkedIn has struggled. In February this year, its shares plunged 43% on the New York Stock Exchange, after the business network forecast much weaker than expected growth in 2016. The price collapse wiped $11bn off the value of LinkedIn in a single day, which left its share price down at a three-year low of $101.

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Retired SOCOM Commander and LinkedIn Chairman Join New Pentagon Innovation Effort

Dan Lamothe reports for The Washington Post:

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Friday that the retired Navy SEAL who oversaw the U.S. raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the executive chairman of LinkedIn, and a historian who leads a Washington think tank are joining a new board the Pentagon has created to press for innovation.

Retired Adm. Bill McRaven, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson are the first members named to the Defense Innovation Board since Carter created it in March and announced that it would be led by Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., the Silicon Valley parent company of Google. It was formed as Carter pushes for closer alliances with Silicon Valley and other sectors of the business world that the Pentagon wants to work with to develop new military technologies.

Carter said the board members will begin their work this summer, and will deliver their first set of recommendations to him by the fall. He announced their additions at a “tech summit” in Washington sponsored by the media organization Defense One. There could eventually be as many as 12 members on the board, he has said previously.

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How Facebook Warps Our Worlds

Frank Bruni writes for The New York Times:

Those who’ve been raising alarms about Facebook are right: Almost every minute that we spend on our smartphones and tablets and laptops, thumbing through favorite websites and scrolling through personalized feeds, we’re pointed toward foregone conclusions. We’re pressured to conform.

But unseen puppet masters on Mark Zuckerberg’s payroll aren’t to blame. We’re the real culprits. When it comes to elevating one perspective above all others and herding people into culturally and ideologically inflexible tribes, nothing that Facebook does to us comes close to what we do to ourselves.

I’m talking about how we use social media in particular and the Internet in general — and how we let them use us. They’re not so much agents as accomplices, new tools for ancient impulses, part of “a long sequence of technological innovations that enable us to do what we want,” noted the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who wrote the 2012 best seller “The Righteous Mind,” when we spoke last week.

“And one of the things we want is to spend more time with people who think like us and less with people who are different,” Haidt added. “The Facebook effect isn’t trivial. But it’s catalyzing or amplifying a tendency that was already there.”

By “the Facebook effect” he didn’t mean the possibility, discussed extensively over recent weeks, that Facebook manipulates its menu of “trending” news to emphasize liberal views and sources. That menu is just one facet of Facebook.

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Facebook’s Using Its Muscle To Remake The Ad Tech World

Garett Sloane writes for Digiday:

Ad tech ate the world, but Facebook is eating ad tech, at least from the perspective of the industry that was born before the social network began dominating internet advertising.

Last week alone, Facebook shut down its last pure programmatic ad exchange FBX, put the final nail in the LiveRail platform, and expanded its Facebook Audience Network, which is a closed platform. These changes, dripped out over months, have put a scare in the ad tech ecosystem of intermediaries that often bid on ad impressions in open exchanges.

“It’s clear that Facebook is going for a totally walled-garden strategy and abandoning all the real-time exchanges,” said Ari Paparo, CEO of ad tech company Beeswax.

Facebook also made changes to the Facebook Audience Network, which sells ads on apps and websites outside the social network but using Facebook user data. Now, Facebook will serve ads on outside properties to users who aren’t even members of the social network.

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The Weird Truth About Peter Thiel

Maya Kosoff writes for Vanity Fair:

[…] Thiel, 48, is a complicated and contradictory character. An avowed libertarian, Thiel is both a big believer in privacy from the government and a co-founder of Palantir, a multi-billion-dollar start-up that collects data about its clients’ users and monetizes their personal information. The C.I.A.’s venture-capital arm has invested in Palantir. And while Thiel has been footing the legal bills that could shutter one news organization, he has also extended his financial support to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit foundation that defends “the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.”

Thiel believes that monopolies are a good thing for society, and that college is a waste of time and money. (His foundation selects and funds young adults under 20 years old every year to build new products and start-ups.) He has donated to conservative-libertarian pro-L.G.B.T. organizations, and has said he wishes politics could return to an era that more closely resembles the 1920s—before the New Deal, and the creation of the modern welfare state. “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron,” he wrote.

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Can Europe Innovate a Way Out of Its “Lost Decade”?

R. Sean Randolph writes for The Wilson Quarterly:

Long before the words “Grexit” or “Brexit” entered the popular lexicon, the economic news out of Europe was difficult. Since the 2008–9 recession, Eurozone countries have been treading water, bobbing up and down in the wake of the economic storm: falling into recession in spring 2008, rising out in spring 2009; falling again in late 2011, rising again to growth of 1 to 1.5 percent in 2014 and 2015. Across the Eurozone, success is piecemeal and has varied by region and country. In 2015, Germany’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.5 percent, while Italy’s economy followed two negative years with 0.8 percent growth; resilient Poland, one of only two European Union (EU) member states able to avoid the Great Recession altogether, grew by 3.5 percent.

Whatever the metric or perspective, much of Europe has experienced a lost decade. With punishing austerity and high debt-to-GDP ratios in many countries, and slow growth across the board, how can Europe find its way again? Trade, consumer spending, and business investment — which have seen muted growth at best — are the traditional routes to economic recovery. But while Europe struggled, the global economy shifted to a more abstract foundation: innovation, especially digital innovation, from which trade and investment follow.

Innovation can be either incremental or transformative. Incremental innovation — the improvement of an existing process — is important to creating value, but by its nature it is often about building on existing creations; its returns are less explosive, but often are more stable. Transformative innovation, as its name suggests, can be game-changing, causing disruption of existing industries and processes, creating new industry leaders, and sometimes fundamentally changing the way people live. While Europe is rich in both human capital and technology and boasts many highly competitive international companies (Siemens, SAP, Philips, Bayer, and Ericsson, to name a few), the innovation stemming from these sources tends toward the incremental. Europe simply is not generating transformative innovation at a high level. With a few notable exceptions (e.g., Spotify, the music-streaming giant founded in Sweden), the nations of Europe are failing to generate and grow new cutting-edge technology companies.

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Silicon Valley Billionaire Peter Thiel Has Been Secretly Funding Hulk Hogan’s Lawsuits Against Gawker

Ryan Mac and Matt Drange report Forbes:

One of Silicon Valley’s best-known investors has been footing a former wrestler’s legal bills in lawsuits against a shared enemy.

Peter Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and one of the earliest backers of Facebook, has been secretly covering the expenses for Hulk Hogan’s lawsuits against online news organization Gawker Media. According to people familiar with the situation who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, Thiel, a cofounder and partner at Founders Fund, has played a lead role in bankrolling the cases Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hogan, brought against New York-based Gawker. Hogan is being represented by Charles Harder, a prominent Los Angeles-based lawyer.

A spokesperson for Thiel declined to comment.

The involvement of Thiel, an eccentric figure in Silicon Valley who has advocated for teenagers to skip college and openly supported Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, adds another wrinkle to a case that has garnered widespread attention for its implications over celebrity privacy and a publication’s First Amendment rights. During court proceedings, which ended in late March with a $140 million victory for Hogan, there had been rumors that a wealthy individual had funded Hogan’s case though there was never any hard evidence that surfaced to prove that was true.

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What’s Driving Silicon Valley to Become ‘Radicalized’

Elizabeth Dwoskin reports for The Washington Post:

Like many Silicon Valley start-ups, Larry Gadea’s company collects heaps of sensitive data from his customers.

Recently, he decided to do something with that data trove that was long considered unthinkable: He is getting rid of it.

The reason? Gadea fears that one day the FBI might do to him what it did to Apple in their recent legal battle: demand that he give the agency access to his encrypted data. Rather than make what he considers a Faustian bargain, he’s building a system that he hopes will avoid the situation entirely.

“We have to keep as little [information] as possible so that even if the government or some other entity wanted access to it, we’d be able to say that we don’t have it,” said Gadea, founder and chief executive of Envoy. The 30-person company enables businesses to register visitors using iPads instead of handwritten visitor logs. The technology tracks who works at a firm, who visits the firm, and their contact information.

In Silicon Valley, there’s a new emphasis on putting up barriers to government requests for data. The Apple-FBI case and its aftermath have tech firms racing to employ a variety of tools that would place customer information beyond the reach of a government-ordered search.

The trend is a striking reversal of a long-standing article of faith in the data-hungry tech industry, where companies including Google and the latest start-ups have predicated success on the ability to hoover up as much information as possible about consumers.

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Peter Thiel: The Only Living Trump Supporter In Silicon Valley

John Naughton writes for The Guardian:

The most interesting discovery of the week was not that IBM, Citigroup and Microsoft were unwittingly running ads on (and therefore providing funds to) an Indonesian jihadi website – though they were – but that Peter Thiel is supporting Donald Trump in his bid to become the next president of the United States.

“Peter who?” I hear you say. Mr Thiel is not exactly a household name in these parts, but in Silicon Valley he’s a big cheese, as a co-founder of PayPal and the first investor in Facebook. He is therefore rich beyond the dreams of avarice. But he is also: a philosophy graduate; a lawyer; a former bond trader; a hedge-fund manager; a venture capitalist; a philanthropist; a far-out libertarian; and an entertaining author. So what is a guy like that doing supporting Trump?

One answer might be that he’s as much of an irritant to the Silicon Valley crowd as Trump is to the Republican establishment. Although the Valley’s tech titans like to portray themselves as non-statist disruptors, in fact most of them are – politically speaking – Democratic party supporters, albeit of an unusual kind. They may detest trade unions, for example, but they’re very keen on immigration – so long as the immigrants have PhDs from elite Indian or Chinese universities. And they’re not opposed to big government, so long as it’s “smart”, whatever that means.

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Google’s Big Bet: Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence Will Be Its Secret Sauce, Winning Formula

Larry Dignan writes for ZDNet:

google-entities.jpgBuilt-in search, artificial intelligence, machine learning and a knowledge graph connecting billions of entities is how Google plans to ultimately compete and win in many markets where it isn’t first today.

It’s easy to note the me-too items outlined at Google I/O. Android N has a few new features, but doesn’t advance the ball that much. Mobile platforms have hit the service pack, incremental update mode. Google Home is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo. Google’s Assistant, Duo and Allo are all catch-up efforts. Android Wear 2.0 is gunning for Apple’s Watch OS. Virtual reality for Google is setting up for a Facebook showdown. Instant Apps were an interesting advance, but overall there wasn’t a lot of wow developments at Google I/O’s first day.

So the story is done right? Google is playing from behind and isn’t advancing the ball much.

Not so fast.

The glue for all of these play-from-behind items is artificial intelligence, context, personalization and sheer computing power.

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