Twitter will allow users to charge followers for access to additional content like bonus tweets or newsletter subscriptions, a dramatic move for a social network that has never charged users in the 14 years it has been online.
The payment feature, named Super Followers, was announced on Thursday during the Twitter’s investor day.
During the presentation, the company shared a hypothetical example in which a user could charge a follower $4.99 (£3.60) per month for extras.
It comes as social networks, which benefit from high profile names and publishers to increase engagement on the website, are being pressured to pay artists and writers for their work.
Direct payment tools between followers and artists have been hugely successful for Patreon, YouTube and newsletter publisher Substack.
Following in their footsteps, Twitter will probably take a cut, but did not disclose any details during the announcement.
Australia this week passed a new law which would see Facebook and Google paying news publishers for its content, a proposal that caused Facebook to temporarily ban all news from and for Australians in retaliation.
Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister and Facebook policy chief said the rules were “like forcing car makers to fund radio stations because people might listen to them in the car – and letting the stations set the price.”
This week, however, the Australian government agreed to changes that gave Facebook room for negotiations without the threat of imminent independent arbitration.
Google said it had signed a revenue sharing deal with several newspapers including Rupert Murdoch’s empire which includes The Sun and The Times.
‘Change is coming’ for Big Tech in the US
US politicians today gathered to discuss how best to curb the power of dominant technology companies like Facebook and Google, hearing from witnesses who urged major breakups were necessary.
The House antitrust panel is hearing from antitrust experts on how best to remedy what they claim is an unfair playing field in the software industry.
The hearing is one of many that seeks to work out what remedies to put in place after an investigation by the house found Facebook and Google to be acting in a way that stifled competition and harmed consumers by using this advantage to exploit consumer privacy.
“Republicans and Democrats agree that these companies have too much power, and that Congress must curb this dominance,” Representative David Cicilline said. “Mark my words, change is coming, laws are coming. Every day, policymakers around the world are undertaking a similar process.”
Google to change research paper policies after internal revolt
Executives at Google’s research unit are testing new ways to improve how scientists’ work is reviewed, bowing to employee pressure.
It comes after the technology company ousted two high ranking women in its ethical AI unit who say their work was unfairly rejected.
According to Reuters, Maggie Johnson, Google’s chief operating officer, and Jeff Dean, the research unit chief, told employees at an internal meeting last week that Google was working to regain trust among employees.
Google last week fired Margaret Mitchell, one of the chiefs of its ethical unit, escalating employee tensions after the highly criticised handling of the departure of Timnit Gebru, another researcher on the same team.
Mitchell was sacked a month after claiming she had been locked out of her corporate account after voicing condemnation of Google for letting Dr Gebru go. Google said she was fired after an investigation found she was sharing internal information outside of the company.
Dr Gebru, co-lead of its ethical AI research team was let go following her refusal to retract a paper on language-generating AI. She accused the company of reviewing her work differently because she was black and for marginalising employees from underrepresented backgrounds. Thousands of employees signed a letter in her support.
Google said it refused to sign off her research paper because it lacked accurate data and when she threatened to quit if she was unable to see the review process, they took that as her formal resignation.
In last week’s meeting Dean he again made an example of the paper, stating that “we want responsible AI and ethical AI investigations” but that it was problematic to include data that was “off by close to a factor of a hundred” and ignoring more accurate statistics as well as Google’s efforts to reduce emissions, he said.
Internal emails seen by Reuters showed that Google’s legal department had modified a research paper to make it more favourable for the company, requiring edits such as changing the word “concerns” to “considerations,” and “dangers” to “risks.”
Lawyers also required deleting references to Google technology; the authors’ finding that AI leaked copyrighted content; and the words “breach” and “sensitive,” the email said.
Google did not respond to request for comment.
Google AI for breast cancer
Google Health is working on a new clinical research study to explore whether artificial intelligence (AI) could help reduce the time to diagnosis of breast cancer.
It is working with American healthcare company Northwestern, who is asking women to take part in the study. They will have their mammograms reviewed by an AI which flags scans for immediate review by a radiologist if they show a higher likelihood of cancer.
If a radiologist determines that further imaging is required, the woman will have the option to undergo this imaging on the same day.
Typically, women might wait days or weeks before a radiologist can review a scan and provide screening results, and some need two visits and sets of scans before receiving a diagnosis, prolonging time when treatment could be administered.
Numerous NHS trusts work with Google Health for different AI services including Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation.
DeepMind, the British AI startup bought by Google, was recently absorbed into Google Health.
Transcription app Otter.ai raises $50m
Otter.ai, an automated transcription start-up, has raised $50m (£35.3m) in a funding round that was led by US investor Spectrum Equity.
The company, which has developed software that can turn audio into text in real-time, plans to triple its headcount in the next year.
Staff that will work in AI, deep learning, and natural language processing will be hired as part of the spree.
Otter’s revenue soared last year by more than 800pc with the company claiming it has transcribed over 100 million meetings to date.
Sam Liang, Otter’s chief executive and founder, said:
“Over the past year, the world as we know it has inexorably changed by meeting and interacting online; and even after the pandemic is long behind us, our living, learning, and working online will persist.
“This new mode of online interaction, however, has exposed an existing chasm between our need for meetings and the lack of their effectiveness.”
Liang said the company’s vision was to create “more effective” meeting spaces through advances in AI and machine learning.
GameStop gains $5.9bn in two days as Reddit favourite surges again
GameStop has added $5.9bn to its valuation in the last two days as retail investors revived interest in the Reddit-favourite stock.
The video-game retailer opened up as much as 85pc to $170 in New York in early trading, hitting its highest point since February 1. It still remains some way off its January 27 peak of $347.
Other stocks favoured by the meme crowd, including cinema chain AMC Entertainment and Nokia were up 13pc and 7.4pc respectively.
The latest surge in GameStop stock was spurred by final-hour trading on Wednesday that brought the biggest advance in the stock since the end of January. More than 23 million shares changed hands within the first 15 minutes of today’s session.
The recent rally bears the hallmarks of the last rush driven by the subreddit thread r/WallStreetBets, which captured the attention of traders and regulators alike.
A number of explanations have circulated as to what has caused the sudden rush. On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Jim Bell, the company’s chief financial officer, was pushed out in a disagreement over strategy to make way for an executive more in line with the vision of activist investor and board member Ryan Cohen.
The latest surge has puzzled analysts who had ruled out another short squeeze of the stock, which had battered some hedge funds. Some Twitter users point out a cryptic tweet of an ice-cream cone photo from activist investor Mr Cohen.
Shift toward online grocery shopping drives massive restructuring at Asda
Asda is set to slash thousands of jobs in a major restructuring as it prepares for new ownership under the Issa brothers. My colleague Laura Onita reports:
Up to 5,000 staff could be affected by the move to simplify the management structure in shops; the closure of two sites and a push into online grocery. The supermarket is also seeking to hire 4,500 roles to support internet orders.
Like its rivals Asda has seen a boom in home delivery since March last year. It has increased its online capacity by 90pc to 850,000 weekly slots and plans to get to one million by the end of the year.
To support the growth, more employees are required to pick products off the shelves as well as new manager roles.
Read the full story here.
Twitter plans to double revenue to more than $7.5bn by 2023
Social media site Twitter said it plans to more than double its annual revenue from the $3.7bn (£2.61bn) it accrued last year to $7.5bn by 2023.
In a regulatory filing on Thursday, the company also said it would reach “at least” 315 million monetisable daily active users (mDAU) by the end of that year. That would result in a massive jump from its existing base of 152 million mDAU.
Twitter also said it would “double development velocity”, which meant the number of features shipped per employee would double.
Shares in Jack Dorsey’s firm were up about 10pc on the news.
Europe’s Big Tech watchdog hits out at “ludicrous” criticism
Europe’s Big Tech privacy watchdog has hit out at the “ludicrous” criticism levelled against it for being too slow to reign in tech companies.
Helen Dixon, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, said that just because someone resorts to social media to flag a possible breach of privacy does not mean her office should instantly “write up a letter and fine a company”.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Ms Dixon said there had been “far too much encouraging and setting of an expectation” that action should follow after someone tweets that an infringement has taken place.
“There has to be an end to the encouraging of superficial commentary,” she said.
Ms Dixon’s office has 27 privacy probes open against the likes of Apple and Google. Facebook also accounts for nine of the investigations opened by the commissioner’s agency.
Digital currency exchange Coinbase files to go public
Coinbase, an exchange that allows users to trade cryptocurrencies, is set to go public after it filed appropriate documents with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company posted $1.28bn in revenue last year, almost double that of its 2019 haul, as trading soared. The S-1 document also showed the company is profitable with around 43m active users.
Myanmar military banned from Facebook with immediate effect
Facebook has banned the Myanmar military from using its platforms, which also include Instagram, with immediate effect.
The ban comes after weeks of demonstrations in the Southeast Asian country after the military seized power.
“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban,” Facebook said in a blog post.
“We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) on Facebook and Instagram are too great.”
Myanmar’s military seized power this month after it alleged fraud in a November election that was swept by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. The military detained her and much of the party leadership.
Google pledges changes to research oversight after internal revolt
Alphabet-owned Google has pledged to change its procedures for reviewing its scientists’ work in an effort to quell internal uproar over the integrity of its AI research, it has been reported.
In a town hall meeting last Friday, Google Research executives said they were working to regain trust after two prominent women were ousted from the company and had their work rejected, Reuters reported having heard audio of the meeting.
Maggie Johnson, Google’s chief operating officer, said that teams were already trialling a questionnaire that will assess projects for risk and help scientists navigate reviews.
Tensions inside Google grew in December after the company let go of Timnit Gebru, the co-lead of its ethical research team.
Facebook to strike media deals in Canada ahead of Australian-style law
Facebook is preparing to sign licensing agreements with a series of Canadian publishers as the country prepares to introduce its own Australian-style regulation. My colleague James Cook writes:
The Canadian government has publicly committed to following Australia’s example in tabling legislation that will require Silicon Valley businesses to pay for news.
A source familiar with Facebook’s plans told Reuters that the situation in Canada is different to Australia. “You’re looking at a country that is by and large dominated by one large media conglomerate that has a very heavy influence on government and government policies,” the source said of Australia.
Experts have questioned the long term impact of Facebook’s decision to remove news from Australia for several days, a decision that led to fears that conspiracy theories would fill the vacuum.
Read the full story here.
Tesla temporarily halts California production of Model 3
Tesla workers have been told their production line in Fremont, California will be temporarily halted, it has been reported.
The Model 3 line will be down from February 22 to March 7, Bloomberg reported citing unnamed sources.
Workers were told they would be paid for February 22 and February 23 but not paid for February 28, March 1, 2, and 3. Tesla told staff to take vacation time if they had it.
While details behind the outage are not disclosed, Tesla did say last month that it was trying to mitigate effects of a global semiconductor shortage.
Adam Neumann to leave WeWork board for a year under proposed deal
Adam Neumann, the former chief executive of flexible office space firm WeWork, would give up his role on the company’s board for at least a year as part of a legal settlement currently being discussed, it has been reported.
The deal would remove Neumann’s seat as a board observer for 12 months, after which he could request to attend meetings, Bloomberg reported citing people familiar with the matter.
An agreement could bring a long-running legal battle between Neumann and SoftBank, WeWork’s biggest investor. The 41-year old would get $50m (£35.3m) to cover legal fees as part of the deal, which could still change.
Consumers set for £482m compensation after watchdog warns phone tech giant
Elsewhere this morning, it has emerged that Apple and Samsung phone owners could be in line for up to £30 compensation as part of a landmark legal action against a microchip company.
The consumer watchdog Which? has launched a case against smartphone chip giant Qualcomm arguing its business practices unfairly increased the price of iPhones and Samsung Galaxy handsets, writes Mike Wright.
Qualcomm has already faced investigations from other regulators in the US, Europe and Asia over alleged anti-competitive practices.
A Qualcomm spokeswoman said: “There is no basis for this lawsuit. As the plaintiffs are well aware, their claims were effectively put to rest last summer by a unanimous panel of judges at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States.”
Rise of the digital holiday as locked down jetsetters turn to virtual reality
As travel restrictions remain in place for some of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, adventure-hungry travellers have had to content themselves with logging into live-streamed or “virtual” trips.
This morning, we spoke to some of those who have jetted away – albeit virtually.
Pat Carroll found himself in the middle of Venice last month, ferried around by “a really knowledgeable local guide”. “At one point, we tried to go into a chapel, but were told we couldn’t because of Covid restrictions.”
Gwen Tarvares, who is launching her own VR travel service Virtually Visiting, she says there is a huge market for people who are physically unable to travel.
“We’ve had an email from a lady who said she’d always wanted to take her husband to see the Northern Lights, but he was in a wheelchair and she was caring for him full time. She felt VR was the only way that she could do it”.
UK will take ‘more sophisticated’ approach to regulation than others, Google says
Google says Britain “will be much more sophisticated” as it plots regulation for tech firms, as the row over Australia’s new media law rumbles on.
The search engine’s UK boss Ronan Harris said the Government is looking at “how they use regulation to attract even more inward tech investment, and that can be used to push forward the UK’s competitiveness in the process as well”.
“Britain will be much more sophisticated technologically as they think about what the right regulations are for the future”.
Harris made reference to the situation in Australia, where new media laws were today passed requiring internet firms to pay for news. The introduction of the new laws prompted Facebook last week to block all news content, ultimately agreeing concessions with the Australian government which led it to reverse its ban.
“In other markets, there have been things that have been put in place where it restricts use of technology, where it gets in the way of innovation. That’s clearly not on the agenda of the UK Government,” said Harris. “It’s quite the opposite.”
It came as Google released a call for the UK to “position itself at the forefront of innovation and economic growth”.
“At Google, we want to play our part in helping the Government build back better,” the company said.
Mail chairman Lord Rothermere says Australia has given into ‘blackmail’ from Facebook
The chairman of the Daily Mail and General Trust, Lord Rothermere, has waded into the row over Facebook’s moves in Australia, saying the social media site has “won the battle” after resorting to “blackmail”.
Lord Rothermere, whose company owns the Daily Mail, wrote in a letter in the Financial Times that “politicians should be very worried about events in Australia”.
“News publishers and governments have worked together to fight for fair treatment. In the UK, a new digital regulator is being set up; in Australia, parliament has been debating a law to force platforms to pay for content. The platforms responded with blackmail.”
Lord Rothermere said in the case of Google, this was a threat to withdraw search in Australia, whilst “Facebook cancelled news”.
“A nation was held to ransom — and it surrendered. As long as the platforms persuade enough desperate news publishers to sign take-it-or-leave-it deals, there will now be no fair, independent arbitration.”
GameStop surges again to double in late trading
Shares in GameStop doubled in late trading yesterday, in a sign that the retail investing frenzy which gripped markets in January could be set to return.
As James Titcomb reported overnight, GameStop shares climbed by 104pc until trading was halted minutes before Wall Street markets closed for the day. Most of the surge occurred in the final hour of trading. Shares doubled again in after-hours trading.
The increase, which appeared to be linked to reports that activist investors had been responsible for the recently-announced departure of GameStop’s chief financial officer, raised the prospect that the trading frenzy surrounding the stock could return.
Last month, GameStop’s shares climbed to $483 from less than $20 at the start of the year, as online investors backed the struggling video game retailer in what was portrayed as a David and Goliath battle with professional short sellers.
Five things to start your day
1) GameStop shares jumped over 100pc in sign of renewed trading frenzy Trading was halted minutes before markets closed but surge again in late trading.
2) NHS faces legal challenge over £23m Palantir data deal Critics say deal will lead to public mistrust in the health service at a time when it is needed most
3) Zuckerberg has clumsily miscalculated in Facebook’s fight with Australia Facebook’s threatening behaviour won’t do it many favours in the court of public opinion as antitrust suits loom
4) Forcing Facebook to pay for news is like ‘forcing car makers to fund radio stations,’ claims Clegg The former leader of the Liberal Democrats was defending Facebook’s move last week to block the country’s news publishers.
5) Locked down jetsetters are turning to virtual reality Hundreds of people are going on ‘virtual tours’ around some of the world’s most popular destinations
Coming up today
3pm: US House Antitrust Committee questions policy experts on tech competition
9pm: Airbnb results