As is the tradition, we go around the world and highlight those tech news items that caused conversations. The ones that put a smile on our faces, the ones that made us turn our heads, the ones that made us go back to read over and again. We call it the Global Tech Roundup because we know, here, you will find all you missed through the week.
For Nigerians, let’s toast to another round of holidays as we catch up on trending tech stories from across the world.
In this edition:
Elon Musk has a new baby, Twitter
Elon Musk finally sealed a deal to buy Twitter Inc. for $44 billion cash on Monday in a transaction that will shift control of the social media platform populated by millions of users and global leaders to the world’s richest person.
In a statement announcing the deal, the company’s independent board chair, Bret Taylor said, “The Twitter Board conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process to assess Elon Musk’s proposal with a deliberate focus on value, certainty, and financing.”
The announcement follows weeks of resistance to Musk’s initial overtures by Twitter’s board. On April 15, the 11-member board adopted a poison pill defense to put Musk’s interest and search for another potential buyer.
But, the board soon came under increased pressure from large shareholders to take a critical look at Musk’s bid. The company’s stock has languished in recent months, having lost nearly 60% of its value in the 12 months preceding Musk’s disclosure in early April that he had made a large investment in Twitter shares.
Musk will push his ”free speech” drive further once the deal is completed later in the year.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”
Political activists expect that a Musk regime will mean less moderation and reinstatement of banned individuals including former President Donald Trump. But, Trump says he won’t return. Conservatives cheered the prospect of fewer controls while some human rights activists voiced fears of a rise in hate speech.
Musk, 50, is chief executive of both electric car maker Tesla Inc and aerospace company SpaceX, and it is not clear how much time he will devote to Twitter or what he will do.
Musk’s move continues a tradition of billionaires’ buying control of influential media platforms, including Jeff Bezos’ 2013 acquisition of the Washington Post.
Tech giants duped into giving up data
Major technology companies have been duped into providing sensitive personal information about their customers in response to fraudulent legal requests, and the data has been used to harass and even sexually extort minors, according to four federal law enforcement officials and two industry investigators.
Per Bloomberg, The companies that assented to the bogus requests include Meta Platforms Inc., Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Snap Inc., Twitter Inc. and Discord Inc., according to three of the victims. The people requested anonymity to speak frankly about the devious new brand of online crime that involves underage victims.
The fraudulently obtained data has been used to target specific women and minors, and in some cases to pressure them into creating and sharing sexually explicit material and to retaliate against them if they refuse, according to the six people.
Law enforcement and other investigators say the tactic is the newest criminal tool to get personally identifiable information that can be used not only for financial gain but to extort and harass innocent victims.
It’s not clear how often the fraudulent data requests have been used to sexually extort minors. Law enforcement and the technology companies are still trying to assess the scope of the problem. Since the requests appear to come from legitimate police agencies, it’s difficult for companies to know when they have been tricked into giving out user data, the people said.
The data provided varies by company, but generally includes the name, IP address, email address and physical address. Some companies provide more data.
Facebook returns to user growth
Facebook stopped losing users as 2022 got underway, even as its parent company, Meta, reported its slowest revenue growth in a decade.
The number of daily active Facebook users grew to 1.96 billion in the first three months of the year, Meta reported on Wednesday. That marked an improvement (an increase of 4% year-over-year) on last year’s figures, when the social network reported a decline in users for the first time.
The drop wiped billions from the firm’s market value. Since executives disclosed the fall in February, the firm’s share price has nearly halved.
But shares jumped 19% in after-hours trade on Wednesday.
While user growth is a positive sign following last quarter’s dropoff, Insider Intelligence analyst Evelyn Mitchell pointed out that most of this growth came from outside the US and Canada, which makes less money for the company.
New EU rules could make tech companies pay billions in fines
The world’s biggest technology companies could pay billions of pounds in fines for breaches of new European Union legislation. The landmark Digital Services Act, DSA, is the EU’s answer to what it sees as a failure by tech giants to combat illegal content on their platforms.
With the DSA, companies including Facebook, Google, and Amazon will have to do more to police themselves. The DSA also makes it easier for users to flag problems.
Noncompliance could cost companies as much as 6 per cent of their global annual sales when the rules go into effect as early as 2024.
Failures could be extremely costly. Based on their reported 2021 annual sales, Amazon, for instance, could face a theoretical fine of as much as 26 billion euros ($28 billion) for future noncompliance with the DSA, or Google as much 14 billion euros.
All websites will be accountable to the DSA, but platforms with over 45 million users will have to abide by stricter rules such as paying Brussels a supervisory fee of as much as 0.1 per cent of their global annual revenue to enforce the law and providing regulators with annual reports about illegal and harmful content on their sites.
An agreement on the text of the DSA will be the second major piece of legislation in Brussels’ digital rulebook to be cemented in a month. On March 24, the EU finalized its Digital Markets Act, a related framework that requires “gatekeepers” to adhere to strict antitrust rules.
Both laws were designed to address market dominance and internet safety. But while the previously announced DMA targets about a dozen major, mostly US-based tech companies, the DSA sets basic standards for all.
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!