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TikTok Launches Legal Action Against Pending App Store Ban

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While all parties have agreed, in principle, to the proposed Oracle/Walmart lead takeover of TikTok, which seemingly meets both the US and Chinese Government’s requirements for the deal to proceed, the actual details are still being worked out, with some disagreement over what, exactly, will be included in the sell-off of the app.  

Which now leads to the next potential problem for the app.

Originally, TikTok had until September 20th – last Sunday – to arrange a separation deal, or it would face removal from the US app store. That came close to happening, until the Oracle/Walmart deal was seemingly on track for approval, and as such, the US Department of Commerce agreed to give TikTok an extra seven days to finalize the new arrangement.

Which means that the app’s deadline is now this Sunday, and if the takeover deal is not signed off by then, TikTok will indeed be removed from US app stores, meaning that while current users will still be able to use the app, no one else will be able to get it until the deal gets the final go-ahead.

TikTok is still adding new users at a solid rate, and as such, it’s fairly keen to avoid an app store ban – and now, as a sort insurance policy in case the Oracle deal drags on, TikTok has requested an injunction against its pending app store ban, citing a lack of evidence and just cause in the White House executive order.

And it may well get it – late last week, a US Magistrate ruled that the same ban on WeChat, which was also named in the original White House Executive Order, could not go ahead due to lack of evidence in relation to the concern that the app is a threat to national security.

As per Judge Laurel Beeler

“While the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China (regarding technology and mobile technology) is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest”.

TikTok could argue the same. In fact, it’s already stated that case in its commentary on the proposed US Government ban, in a post entitled ‘Why we are suing the Administration‘ published last month.

As per TikTok:

The Executive Order issued by the Administration on August 6th, 2020 has the potential to strip the rights of [our] community without any evidence to justify such an extreme action, and without any due process. We strongly disagree with the Administration’s position that TikTok is a national security threat and we have articulated these objections previously.”

Indeed, while various concerns have been raised about TikTok’s potential links to the Chinese Government, and while the app has been banned for use on US, UK and Australian military-issued devices, the actual evidence of TikTok or parent company ByteDance sharing data with the Chinese regime seems very thin – or at least it’s not available publicly.

TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, which, as a Chinese company, is beholden to China’s strict cybersecurity laws, which require businesses to share their user data on request, would seemingly have to share such, if the CCP requested it. But we have no evidence that any such demand has been tendered, nor will be any time in future. 

Speculation also exists around TikTok’s algorithms and its potential to amplify pro-China messaging, but again, the actual evidence is limited in TikTok’s specific case. Moderation guidelines used by employees of the Chinese version of the app, ‘Douyin’, were leaked to the press late last year, and they clearly showed that its moderators had been advised to censor anti-China content. But Douyin and TikTok are not the same, and TikTok has explained these specific guidelines were never applied in its app.

So while the concerns are valid, and there is some basis to the considerations, the evidence for enforcement may not hold up in court. At least, it didn’t in WeChat’s case.

That could mean that TikTok will be able to avoid an app store ban, if a takeover deal is not reached, which would definitely not look good for the Trump administration and its stated intention to restrict the app.   

That could, once again, put TikTok in the spotlight, and make the US Government even more determined to force a full sell-off of the app to US-based ownership. 

Basically, the TikTok takeover saga is not over yet, and while it still seems likely that the parties will come to some form of agreement to let TikTok continue operating in the US, that’s still not a given, and it could face removal from app stores in just a few more days.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

Correction: February 2, 2023 This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how much Meta expected to spend on its deal with the virtual reality start-up Within. It is $400 million, not $400 billion. Meta’s stock surged on Thursday …

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.



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Meta ‘Year of Efficiency’ call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

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Meta 'Year of Efficiency' call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., center, departs from federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With one simple slogan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg temporarily quelled investor discontent with his company’s multibillion-dollar investment into the futuristic metaverse.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said as part of the release of Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Following a 64% plunge in Meta’s share price in 2022, Wall Street cheered the report, sending the stock up almost 20%, extending a rally that began late last year. Based on after-hours pricing, Meta is trading at its highest since July.

Growth is not what’s getting investors excited. Meta reported better-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter, but sales still sank 4% from a year earlier, marking the third straight quarterly decline. And the forecast range for the first quarter suggests that year-over-year revenue could increase, but it could also fall again.

Rather, Zuckerberg’s commitment to cost cuts and efficiency is a sign that increasing profitability is important to Meta, which was known as a growth machine prior to last year’s slump.

“The first 18 years I think we grew it 20%, 30% compound or a lot more every year,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “And then obviously that changed very dramatically in 2022, where our revenue was negative for growth, for the first time in the company’s history.”

In looking to the future, Zuckerberg struck a realistic tone.

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue,” he said, regarding the recent drop in revenue. “But I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.”

Meta lowered its estimates for total expenses in 2023 to be in the range of $89 billion to $95 billion, down from its prior outlook of $94 billion to $100 billion. In November, the company announced it would lay off over 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff.

Zuckerberg said Meta will be more “proactive on cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be crucial” and that it will emphasize “removing layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”

Meta is also reducing spending as it builds new data centers that are intended to be more efficient while still able to power the company’s various artificial intelligence technologies. Capital expenditures are now expected to be in the range of $30 billion to $33 billion for 2023 instead of $34 billion to $37 billion.

Zuckerberg is selling investors on a story they want to hear, acknowledging that the company got bloated and needed more financial discipline. One of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, wrote a personal essay just a few days ago echoing that sentiment.

Still, Meta has plenty of challenges ahead, in terms of both costs and reviving its core ad business.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for developing the nascent metaverse, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Finance chief Susan Li told analysts that the company isn’t planning for any reduction in that unit anytime soon. Zuckerberg still sees it as the company’s future.

Digital advertising, meanwhile, is suffering from a struggling economy, and Li gave no indication that companies are planning to dramatically increase their spending in 2023.

Meta has also yet to recover from Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update that made it harder to target users with ads. Li said the company has been improving its online advertising system, but Apple’s update is “still certainly an absolute headwind to our revenue number.”

During the question and answer part of the call, Zuckerberg was asked about Meta’s progress in generative artificial intelligence, which has become the latest hot thing in Silicon Valley. His answer indicated that Meta is pursuing opportunities there, but will be cautious in how quickly it proceeds. Running these programs is expensive, and Meta needs to ensure it can develop them affordably, he said.

Zuckerberg said that while Meta is researching how best to incorporate the new technology, he wants “to be careful not to get too ahead of the development of it.”

Correction: Meta’s earnings report and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments occurred after the market close on Wednesday. An earlier version misstated the day.

WATCH: Meta grows in daily active users, shares pop on revenue beat

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