UK lawmakers question tech attempts to stem coronavirus conspiracies

UK lawmakers question tech attempts to stem coronavirus conspiracies

UK lawmakers question tech attempts to stem coronavirus conspiracies

UK lawmakers questioned whether social media giants are doing enough to stop the spread of false information, after a conspiracy theory that 5G technology is contributing to the Covid-19 pandemic led to a spate of attacks on telecom masts and engineers.

Representatives from Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter Inc were asked to appear before the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on Thursday to explain how their companies are tackling disinformation. It didn’t go well.

“We will be writing to all of your organisations with a series of questions and, frankly, we will be expressing our displeasure at the quality of the answers – well, the lack of answers – we received today,” chairman Julian Knight concluded after more than an hour of questioning via conference call.

The Silicon Valley giants outlined measures they’ve taken to combat fake news, such as Facebook’s move to restrict WhatsApp message forwarding and promote official guidance on the pandemic. But the panel of British lawmakers often interjected bluntly and deemed the testimony unsatisfactory.

Legislators demanded to know how Twitter was cracking down on world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, if they spread misinformation. The company’s UK head of government relations, Katy Minshall, was also grilled about the prevalence of bots on the site, which are automated accounts that perform repetitive tasks, such as sharing fake news stories.

“We’re really proud of the progress we’ve made over the past couple of years,” said Minshall, responding to a question about online abuse.

“Well I don’t know why,” interrupted member of Parliament John Nicolson.

Google public policy manager Alina Dimofte was asked why YouTube didn’t tackle 5G conspiracy videos earlier. It banned such videos on April 7 after a spate of attacks on towers and telecom engineers.

‘Astonished’

MP Steve Brine said that, during the session, he found a Facebook post from his district inciting the destruction of a 5G mast, which has been baselessly linked to the spread of Covid-19.

More than 60 telecom masts have been attacked in the UK in the past few weeks as the theory has gained traction and even made it onto mainstream TV shows.

Brine added that he was “astonished” that Facebook’s UK Public Policy Manager Richard Earley had not personally discussed the issues with chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg or its vice president for global affairs and communication, Nick Clegg. Clegg is also the former UK deputy prime minister.

TikTok, the most downloaded app in the world outside of China during the crisis, avoided questioning. The relatively new social media site was not asked to appear despite also hosting conspiracy theories. – Bloomberg

HP adopts poison pill after Xerox's buyout attempts - Latest News

HP adopts poison pill after Xerox’s buyout attempts – Latest News

HP Inc has said that it would implement a poison pill plan, a move that comes after Xerox Holdings Corp pushed ahead with its efforts to acquire the PC maker.

Xerox recently raised its offer earlier this month by $2 to $24 per share, following several rejections of its previous buyout offers by the PC maker. HP shares closed up 0.9% at $22.64 on Thursday and were flat in extended trading.

The implementation of the stockholder rights plan, which has a one-year expiration period, aims to stop investors from amassing more than 20% stake in the company.

Among other terms, if any group acquires 20%, all shareholders outside the group will be able to buy additional discounted shares, diluting the ownership of the group.

“The rights will not prevent a combination of HP with another business, but should encourage Xerox (or anyone else seeking to acquire the Company) to negotiate with the Board prior to attempting to impose some combination that is not in the best interests of the HP shareholders,” HP said in its statement.

Xerox did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

“The value of a year-long poison pill is to buy HP time to explore other offers,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures.

“That said, HP is delaying the inevitable given Xerox is their best option.”

Some Wall Street analysts have said a merger would help the companies in a declining printing market, while others have cited challenges to integration, given their different offerings and pricing models.

The U.S. printer maker first made a $33.5 billion (£26 billion) cash-and-stock offer for HP, a company more than three times its size, in November. HP’s board rejected the offer, saying it significantly undervalued the company, with Xerox then threatening to take its bid hostile.

Xerox said last month that it planned to nominate 11 independent candidates to HP’s board and that it had secured $24 billion in financing for the offer.

In December, activist investor Carl Icahn, who has a 4.2% stake in HP and a 10.9% stake in Xerox, urged HP shareholders who had agreed to the merger to reach out to the PC maker’s directors for immediate action.