World Economic Forum Says Tech Firms Must Do More to Tackle Extremism

If tech firms don’t act, governments may impose regulations limiting free speech.

U.S. tech firms such as Facebook fb and Twitter twtr should be more aggressive in tackling extremism and political misinformation if they want to avoid government action, a report from the World Economic Forum said on Monday.

The study from the Swiss nonprofit organization adds to a chorus of calls for Silicon Valley to stem the spread of violent material from Islamic State militants and the use of their services by alleged Russian propagandists.

Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet’s Google goog will go under the microscope of U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday and Wednesday when their general counsels will testify before three U.S. congressional committees on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

For more on Facebook and the spread of fake news, watch Fortune’s video:

The report from the World Economic Forum‘s human rights council warns that tech companies risk government regulation that would limit freedom of speech unless they “assume a more active self-governance role.”

It recommends that the companies conduct more thorough internal reviews of how their services can be misused and that they put in place more human oversight of content.

The German parliament in June approved a plan to fine social media networks up to 50 million euros if they fail to remove hateful postings promptly, a law that Monday’s study said could potentially lead to the takedown of massive amounts of content.

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Facebook Friends With Your Co-Workers? Survey Shows Your Boss Probably Disapproves

You and your colleagues pitch in together on difficult projects, lunch together, and have drinks together after work. You probably think it’s the most natural thing in the world to friend them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter or Instagram. Your boss, though, probably thinks you shouldn’t.

That’s the surprising result of a survey of 1,006 employees and 307 senior managers conducted by staffing company OfficeTeam. Survey respondents were asked how appropriate it was to connect with co-workers on various social media platforms. It turns out that bosses and their employees have very different answers to this question.

When it comes to Facebook, 77 percent of employees thought it was either “very appropriate” or “somewhat appropriate” to be Facebook friends with your work colleagues, but only 49 percent of senior managers agreed. That disagreement carries over to other social media platforms. Sixty-one percent of employees thought it was fine to follow a co-worker on Twitter, but only 34 percent of bosses agreed. With Instagram, 56 percent of employees, but only 30 percent of bosses thought following a co-worker was appropriate. Interestingly, the one social platform bosses and employees seem to almost agree about is Snapchat, with 34 percent of employees thinking it was fine to connect with colleagues, and 26 percent of bosses thinking so too.

What should you do if you want to connect with a colleague on social media–if you get a connection request from a colleague? Here are a few options:

1. Use LinkedIn.

LinkedIn was not included in the OfficeTeam survey, but because it’s a professional networking tool, few bosses will object to you connecting with coworkers there. And LinkedIn has many of the same features as Facebook–you can even send instant messages to your contacts.

2. Keep your social media connections secret.

Most social networks give users the option to limit who can see what they post and who their other connections are. You can use this option to keep your social media interactions limited to the people you choose. If that doesn’t include your boss, he or she may never know that you and your co-workers are connected.

3. Talk to your boss.

He or she may not agree with the surveyed bosses who said connecting on social media was inappropriate, in which case there’s no problem. And if your boss does object, he or she may have some good reasons you hadn’t thought of to keep your professional life separate from your social media one. The only way to find out is to ask.

4. Consider the future.

It may be perfectly fine to connect with your co-workers on social media when you’re colleagues. But what happens if you get promoted to a leadership position? You may regret giving your former co-workers access to all the thoughts you share on Facebook or Twitter. So if a colleague sends you a social media request, or you want to make one yourself, take a moment to think it through. Will you be sorry one day–when you’re the boss yourself?

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Self-driving startups race down a narrowing road

DETROIT/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Lei Xu and Justin Song once worked at electric carmaker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), one of the hottest companies in Silicon Valley. But with interest and investments in autonomous vehicles mounting, they left to pursue what they see as the next big thing.

Nullmax CEO Lei Xu drives a Lincoln MKZ sedan equipped with his company’s prototype self-driving hardware and software in Fremont, California, U.S. on October 9, 2017. REUTERS/Jane Lanhee Lee

Their company, Nullmax, is one of more than 240 startups worldwide, including 75 in Silicon Valley, attempting to design software, hardware components and systems for future self-driving cars, according to a Reuters analysis.

Xu and Song are bankrolled by corporate money, but unlike many of their fellow entrepreneurs, they skipped funding from Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Founded in August 2016, Nullmax got $ 10 million from a Chinese firm, Xinmao Science and Technology Co (000836.SZ).

By seeking corporate backing in China, the Nullmax founders managed to sidestep an issue facing other startups in the sector: While big automotive and technology companies are pouring billions into the autonomous vehicle space, Silicon Valley investors so far have been fairly restrained in increasing their bets.

Headlines have been dominated by old-line players such as General Motors Co (GM.N), which jolted the industry last year when it bought a tiny San Francisco software company called Cruise Automation for a reported $ 1 billion. Just this week, top-tier supplier Delphi Automotive PLC (DLPH.N) acquired Boston-based software startup nuTonomy for $ 450 million.

Now, “every startup thinks they will get a billion dollars” in valuation, said Evangelos Simoudis, a Silicon Valley venture investor and an advisor on corporate innovation.

However, investment in untested startup companies remains relatively modest despite all the buzz and lofty expectations. Total funding of self-driving startups from both corporate and private investors has barely topped $ 5 billion, the Reuters analysis of publicly available data shows.

With the notable exceptions of Andreessen Horowitz and New Enterprise Associates, few of the big Valley venture capital firms are heavily invested in the sector. Overall, only seven of the top 30 self-driving startups have received later-stage funding, the Reuters analysis shows, an indication that some venture capitalists are ambivalent about the industry’s potential.

(For a graphic of venture and corporate funding of self-driving startups, see: tmsnrt.rs/2xOX0jN)

Skeptics note that few of the startups are making money. And established auto and parts companies have not demonstrated a clear path to revenue and profitability in autonomous vehicles despite their big bets in the space.

Another sticking point: While the initial wave of self-driving vehicles is expected to begin commercial service in 2019-2020, experts expect the transition from human-driven to automated cars could take a decade or more to roll out.

Cautions Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCHA.MI): “You can destroy a lot of value by chasing your tail in autonomous driving.”

CORPORATE INVESTMENTS

All told, U.S. automotive and technology firms likely have invested some $ 40 billion to $ 50 billion in self-driving technology in recent years, mainly through acquisitions and partnerships. The full extent is hard to know because big players such as Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), whose Waymo subsidiary is considered among the front-runners in the arena, have not revealed the full scope of their investments, although it is believed to be in the billions.

Among the top corporate investors in the sector are Samsung Group [SAGR.UL], Intel Corp (INTC.O), Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), Delphi and Robert Bosch GmbH [ROBG.UL]. Corporate investors also have backed five of the six self-driving startups with valuations of $ 1 billion or more.

(For a graphic on key players in the development of autonomous vehicles, see: tmsnrt.rs/2nYv7gc)

Whether the industry is poised to produce more such unicorns is now a topic of much debate. Two former investors in Cruise Automation, for example, are poles apart in their views of self-driving vehicles and technology.

Veronica Wu, managing partner in Palo Alto-based Hone Capital, said her company continues to invest in “quite a number” of self-driving startups, while acknowledging that the technology will take time to deploy.

“It’s a matter of when, not if,” she said. “We’re fairly optimistic.”

In contrast, Sunny Dhillon of Signia Venture Partners, another Cruise investor, said his firm does not see any attractive investments in the sector right now.

The hefty price paid by GM for Cruise, he said, “made the space very frothy, with every computer vision and robotics PhD student seemingly emerging with a new self-driving car startup.”

In addition, he said many established players “already have made their big investments (and) acquisitions” in the sector. That could limit investors’ potential returns and entrepreneurs’ payoffs down the road.

Quin Garcia, a partner in San Francisco-based AutoTech Ventures, concurs that the space is crowded and valuations are inflated. There may still be “a select few IPOs, but there will be many failures of autonomous vehicle startups” by 2021, he said.

NULLMAX IN CHINA

Those odds haven’t deterred Nullmax founders Xu and Song, who are looking to differentiate themselves.

With many self-driving startups looking to supply U.S. and European automakers, the Chinese-born entrepreneurs, whose specialties are camera-based vision systems and artificial intelligence, are focused on China. They expect to deliver the first partially automated systems to Chinese automakers by 2020.

The U.S.-educated entrepreneurs, both 35, now work out of a small shop in Fremont, Calif., not far from Tesla’s sprawling home factory. Xu once worked at Tesla as a senior engineer while Song specialized in supply chain and quality engineering. Tesla declined to confirm their prior employment.

Xu said the company employs about 50 people, most of them in a larger office in Shanghai. He said the company wants to keep a foot in California, which is a hub of U.S. tech talent, and where regulators have smoothed the way for testing of self-driving vehicles.

As for how Nullmax plans to cash out, Xu navigated around that question.

“We’re pretty busy,” he said. “We don’t much time to think about an IPO right now.”

Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit and Jane Lanhee Lee in San Francisco; Editing by Joe White and Marla Dickerson

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Millennials and Gen Z Would Rather Text Each Other Than Do This, According to a New Study

You know the stereotypes about Millennials and Generation Z, but are they real?

Are Millennials really glued to their phones? Do the members of Gen Z really refuse to make phone calls at work? 

Actually, um, maybe–yes–at least, according to a new study, in which almost 75 percent of American Gen Z and Millennials told researchers that they prefer to talk with other people via text message–as opposed to actually talking with them.

This is all via a 4,000-person survey conducted last month by the folks at LivePerson, a company that provides mobile and online messaging business solutions, asking participants in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Japan, and France about their digital media and in-person preferences.

The company also surveyed 1,016 adults 35 years old or older in the United States to use as a benchmark to which they could compare the Millennial and Gen Z answers.

“What we see in the research data is the phone truly becoming an extension of the self, and the platforms and apps within it — digital life — occupying more than their offline interactions,” said Rurik Bradbury, global head of communications and research at LivePerson.

Among the other findings:

1. The phone is the new wallet

Given a choice to leave either their wallet or phone at home, just under 62 percent said their wallet. Among the older cohort, 72 percent of those over age 35 said they’d leave their phone and take their wallet.

2. The phone is almost a part of the body

Nearly two-thirds of 18-34 year olds say they habitually bring their phones with them when they use the bathroom, and nearly half say they regularly text while walking in crowds. Also, more than 70 percent of Gen Z and Millenials say they sleep with their phones within reach. Half say they automatically pick it up if they’re awakened during the night. Also, They’re super-impatient.

3. Instant gratification

According to the study, Millennials and Gen Z “expect digital convenience in all aspects of their lives,” or they’ll walk away from a sale.

“For less expensive purchases (under $ 20 or equivalent), 73.4 percent of Millennials will give up on a brand within 10 minutes if they don’t get the answer they need,” the report sys. Forty percent said they’ll wait no more than five minutes.

4. Phones over dollars

More than half of Millennials and Gen Z respondents said it would take more than $ 1 million to convince them to give up their smartphones; in fact just over 43 percent said it would take at least $ 5 million.

5. Forget “digital first,” how about “digital only?”

Seven out of 10 of the 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed said they could imagine a world in which there is no longer any such thing as brick and mortar stores, and all purchases would be made digitally or online. Moreover, almost 20 percent of Americans in that age range said they’d actually prefer to do all shopping digitally, without ever talking with a human being.

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T-Mobile, Sprint ready board committees to decide on merger: sources

(Reuters) – T-Mobile US Inc and Sprint Corp are laying the groundwork for special committees of their board of directors to decide on a merger between the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers, according to people familiar with the matter.

FILE PHOTO: Smartphones with the logos of T-Mobile and Sprint are seen in this illustration taken September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

These board committees are important for the merger because T-Mobile and Sprint are majority owned by Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp respectively, and could be left vulnerable to potential lawsuits from minority shareholders if they don’t establish independent mechanisms to review the deal.

Both T-Mobile and Sprint have formed committees comprising independent board directors to decide on whether the deal should be signed once the merger agreement has been finalized, which is currently expected in the next three weeks, the sources said.

The companies’ special board committees have also hired financial advisers to help them deliver fairness opinions, the sources added.

As with many all-stock mergers, T-Mobile and Sprint have decided there is no need to give their minority shareholders a vote on the deal, the sources said.

An alternative would have been to make the merger subject to approval by a majority of their minority shareholders. However, the companies’ advisers have determined this is not legally necessary, and could even jeopardize the deal were minority shareholders to organize against it, according to the sources.

Some T-Mobile minority shareholders believe Sprint should not be offered any premium for its shares, the sources said. However, T-Mobile and Sprint have tentatively agreed on a range for a stock exchange ratio which, even at its low end, would offer Sprint a modest premium to where its shares are trading currently, the sources added.

This could result in SoftBank and other Sprint shareholders holding close to 40 percent of the combined company based on where the shares are currently trading, the sources added. The exact share exchange ratio will be determined by looking at the volume-weighted average stock price of the companies over the last few months, one of the sources added.

T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s due diligence on each other is almost complete, and much of their focus now is on working out a business plan for the combined company, as well as an integration strategy, according to the sources.

Sprint and T-Mobile declined to comment, while Deutsche Telekom and SoftBank did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker in New York; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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The $1,000 Bagel Is Here. Run For the Hills

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Society has a way of showing its undergarments, even as it insists that it’s dressed for a wedding.

These days, we know there’s something askew in the world, yet there are those who can’t help but parade their excesses.

Because, I don’t know, America. Or something.

Here, then, is a delicacy for which so many have been apparently screaming. 

The $ 1,000 bagel.

Courtesy of the Westin New York — yes, the one in Times Square — this is an item you will surely covet.

“Serious thought was put into the creation of the city’s first outrageous bagel to ensure the hefty price tag doesn’t just get patrons an overpriced piece of bread,” said the Westin’s press release.

If there’s one thing New York is desperate for, it’s more outrageous windbaggery.

I’m sorry, I mean windbagelery. 

Why, though, is this bagel worth $ 1,000?

Well, it’s whole wheat.

And then there’s, oh, let the creator take over. 

Frank Tujague, the hotel’s executive chef, explained to NPR: “I used a Mascarpone cream cheese, which is an Italian cream cheese. It’s a little less sweet. And I paired it with a wine jelly. So it’s not your normal grape smear that you get in the morning.”

Do you have time for a grape smear in the morning? Is that on Starbucks’ secret menu? I can barely smear a little Aquafresh on my teeth, never mind some grape concoction.

But wait, Tujague isn’t done.

He pours truffles over all this. Because truffles are decadent, expensive and entirely pointless first thing in the morning.

That’s still only worth, oh, a few discarded shillings and some tattered Louis Vuitton luggage. So what else is on this thing?

Why, gold, of course. Edible gold. 

Which, you might imagine, tastes very similar to, say, a dirty penny.

“It’s pretty neutral in taste,” insisted Tujague.

“So why put it there?” I hear you scream.

Oh, it’s for the color. And the decadence. And for some exalted oaf to declaim in a meeting on Wall Street that they’ve already stuffed their face with gold this morning.

Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time the hotel has served this homage to spiritual despair.

It was first offered in 2007. 

Yes, not long before the huge crash that enveloped everyone but those in certain fine banks.

And now it’s back by popular demand. Or should that be elitist demand?

Is this bombastic bagold a portent of doom? Or is it just another mindless indicator of the gap between rich and poor?

Perhaps mindful of this, the Westin is, I understand, giving 100 percent of all the proceeds to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

Of course, it could just get guests to give $ 1,000 to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

But where’s the PR in that?

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AT&T Earnings: Brace For Impact

After a good day in telecom marked by the solid results released by peer Verizon (NYSE:VZ), AT&T (NYSE:T) will be the next U.S. giant in the space to report on its own 3Q performance. Quite a bit of the surprise factor might be absent from the print, however, as AT&T’s management has issued a partial pre-announcement in the wake of the season’s natural disasters, softness in legacy video subscription (well covered by Stone Fox Capital) and fewer handset equipment upgrades.

(Photo Credit: Business Insider)

The Street is betting on revenues of $ 40.1 billion, suggesting a -2% YOY decline that will be caused, to a small extent, by the U.S. storms and the earthquake in Mexico. Likely driving a larger piece of the drag will be legacy video, expected to see a record high, and a worrisome decrease in the subscriber base of 390,000. The projected strong user metrics on the DirecTV Now side of the business will probably not be enough to counter the DirecTV and U-verse headwinds, considering the lower per user revenue generated by the online platform. EPS is estimated to come in at $ 0.75, no lower than the earnings expectations from before the pre-announcement.

On the wireless side, and if Verizon can be used as a leading indicator, I would not be surprised to see margins dip in the YOY comparison. The Big Four carriers in the U.S. have been fighting a fierce competitive war that saw all players introduce unlimited postpaid plans in 2017 (Business Insider covered the plan comparison across the industry very well). As I have argued recently, the likely impact of these initiatives will be lower pricing and network cost pressures to support the large data services. On a more positive note, AT&T shareholders are probably hopeful to see postpaid net adds maintain the momentum gained in 2Q17, as well as churn at or around 1% – which would be in line with management’s October statement that it “continues to see low postpaid phone churn levels.”

Considered by me to be one of AT&T’s less-talked-about jewels, Mexico mobility could have a tough 3Q17 in the wake of the natural catastrophe in the country. But regarding this piece of the business, I continue to hold a long-term view that the runway is set for AT&T to continue to generate solid growth in the region.

My thoughts on AT&T stock

The last few months have not been a walk in the park for the giant Dallas-based telecom company. With headwinds hitting from many directions (at times literally so, in the case of September’s hurricanes), the stock has suffered a rarely seen -10% decline in a short period of only two weeks and is now back to February 2016 levels.

Chart

T PE Ratio (Forward) data by YCharts

Company/Ticker Forward P/E LT EPS Growth Forward PEG
AT&T (T) 12.2x 3.8% 3.3x
Verizon (VZ) 13.2x 3.3% 4.0x

The silver lining, however, is that T hasn’t looked this inexpensive in a while – since January 2016 on a forward P/E basis, to be more precise. Assuming that its dividends will be safe (check out this great article on the subject) and, better yet, will continue to grow in a near-straight line like they have over the past 30 years, the company’s impressive 5.5% trailing yield makes an investment in the stock look more like a convertible bond play. In other words, investors that buy T today collect on the very rich quarterly payments with the option of benefiting from the eventual appreciation in the stock price over time.

Call me a biased shareholder, but despite the known challenges, I find an investment in T at the current depressed levels a rare opportunity ahead of what I believe will be positive long-term catalysts for the company.

Note from the author: If you have enjoyed this article and would like to receive real-time alerts on future ones, please follow D.M. Martins Research. To do so, scroll up to the top of this screen and click on the orange “Follow” button next to the header, making sure that the “Get email alerts” box remains checked. Thanks for reading.

Disclosure: I am/we are long T.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Startup CEO Arrested for Child Abuse, Assault, and Attempted Murder

News broke on Friday that Zain Jaffer, ex-CEO of mobile ads startup Vungle, was arrested for child abuse (including a charge of oral copulation of a person under 14), assault, and attempted murder. 

The company replaced Jaffer as CEO a day before the allegations were reported in the tech press. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s website indicates that an inmate named Jaffer is being held at the Maple Street Correctional Center in Redwood City, California. 

Jaffer was featured as part of Inc.’s 35 Under 35 Coolest Entrepreneurs package in 2014.

A Vungle spokesperson wasn’t immediately available. Earlier today, a company representative told VentureBeat: “While we do not have any information that is not in the public record at this point, these are extremely serious allegations, and we are shocked beyond words.” The charges are “obviously so serious that it led to the immediate removal of Mr. Jaffer from any operational responsibility at the company,” the rep told VentureBeat.

Jaffer’s next scheduled court date is Nov. 1, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s records.

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