Activist groups called on Twitter advertisers Tuesday to boycott the service if it opens the gates to abusive and misinformative posts with billionaire Elon Musk as its owner.
The Tesla chief’s $44-billion deal to buy the global messaging platform must still get the backing of shareholders and regulators, but he has voiced enthusiasm for dialing back content moderation to a legal minimum and no longer banning people for using the platform to instigate real-world harm.
“Your brand risks association with a platform amplifying hate, extremism, health misinformation, and conspiracy theorists,” said an open letter signed by more than two dozen groups including Media Matters, Access Now and Ultraviolet.
“Under Musk’s management, Twitter risks becoming a cesspool of misinformation, with your brand attached.”
The groups urged advertisers to require that Twitter maintain its content moderation policies as a non-negotiable term of doing business with the platform.
Twitter makes most of its revenue from ads, and that could be jeopardized by advertisers’ reaction to content posted on the platform, the San Francisco-based tech firm said in a filing with US regulators.
Ad revenue at Twitter increased 16 percent to $1.2 billion in the recently ended quarter, while revenue from subscriptions and other means decreased to $94.4 million, the company said in the filing.
While Musk has not revealed nitty-gritty details of how he would run the business side of Twitter, he has expressed a preference for making money from subscriptions.
Analysts doubt that Twitter users would flock to pay for premium content or features such as retweeting posts when social media platforms such as Facebook are free of charge.
As of the end of March, an average 229 million people used Twitter daily, an increase of nearly 16 percent from the first three months of last year, Twitter said in the filing.
The user growth was driven in part by the war in Ukraine, with people using the service to find news and support, the company told regulators.
“We believe that our long-term success depends on our ability to improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” the company said in the filing.
Efforts toward that goal include fighting abuse, harassment, spam and “malicious automation,” or when software instead of people manages accounts, Twitter told regulators.
Musk has said he would make fighting such automated “bots” at Twitter a priority.
Twitter estimated that false or spam accounts made up less than five percent of its daily active users in the first quarter of this year, the filing said.
US sues cryptocurrency exchange run by Winklevoss twins
US regulators on Thursday said they are suing the Gemini Trust cryptocurrency exchange, which is run by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, for giving misleading answers in 2017 about a bitcoin project.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission lawsuit filed in federal court in New York accuses Gemini of not being upfront about how easy it would be to manipulate a bitcoin futures project proposed at the time, the agency said in a statement.
The futures contract launched at the end of 2017 and stopped trading two years later, according to blog posts from Gemini and a partner company
Making false or misleading statements to the commission undermines its work to protect market participants, prevent price manipulation, and promote fair competition, acting director of enforcement Gretchen Lowe said in the statement.
“This enforcement action sends a strong message that the Commission will act to safeguard the integrity of the market oversight process,” Lowe said.
The US agency is seeking financial penalties, the surrender of any ill-gotten gains, and an injunction forbidding Gemini from such behavior in the future, it said.
Gemini defended its record when asked about the suit.
“We have an eight year track-record of asking for permission, not forgiveness, and always doing the right thing,” it told AFP, adding: “We look forward to definitively proving this in court.”
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, twin Harvard classmates of Mark Zuckerberg, who sued him over claims he stole the idea for Facebook from them, started and run New York-based Gemini.
The brothers told Gemini employees on Thursday that about 10 percent of them were being laid off as staff is trimmed to endure a “crypto winter” likely to persist for a while, according to a copy of the email posted online by the company.
“The crypto revolution is well underway and its impact will continue to be profound, but its trajectory has been anything but gradual or predictable,” the brothers said.
The industry is in a “contraction phase that is settling into a period of stasis — what our industry refers to as ‘crypto winter'” compounded by macroeconomic and geopolitical turmoil, they added.
NFT market sees first insider trading case in US
US authorities have charged a former manager at a digital exchange platform with fraud and money laundering, in what they said was the first insider trading case involving non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
Nathaniel Chastain was working as a product manager at New York-based OpenSea last year when he secretly bought dozens of NFTs that were about to be featured on the platform’s home page, federal prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.
Chastain, 31, went on to sell the NFTs for two to five times the initial price after they got star billing at the OpenSea website, the criminal case against him states.
NFTs are tokens linked to digital images, collectable items, avatars in games or objects in the burgeoning virtual world of the metaverse.
“NFTs might be new, but this type of criminal scheme is not,” US attorney Damian Williams said in a release. “Nathaniel Chastain betrayed OpenSea by using its confidential business information to make money for himself.”
Chastain was arrested in New York on Wednesday on charges of wire fraud and money laundering that each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.
US media reported that he was later released on bail after entering a non-guilty plea.
The arrest was touted by prosecutors as the first-ever insider trading bust involving digital assets.
“With the emergence of any new investment tool, such as blockchain supported non-fungible tokens, there are those who will exploit vulnerabilities for their own gain,” FBI assistant director-in-charge Michael Driscoll said in the release.
Part of Chastain’s job was to pick NFTs to be featured on OpenSea’s homepage, with the choices kept secret because prices typically jumped after they got top billing, the criminal complaint said.
The likes of Paris Hilton, Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams have boasted about owning NFTs and many under-30s have been enticed to gamble for the chance of making a quick profit.
Prices have fallen and the reputation of the industry has been hammered for much of the year.
Ford to invest $3.7 bn, boosting legacy Midwestern plants
Ford on Thursday announced fresh multi-billion-dollar capital projects in Midwestern factories near its Detroit home, as the auto giant spreads new investments throughout the United States.
The 119-year-old carmaker plans to spend $3.7 billion to add manufacturing capacity for a mix of electric vehicles (EVs) and conventional gasoline-powered autos in the states of Michigan, Ohio and Missouri, much of it at existing plants that have been in the company’s portfolio for years.
The move follows an announcement last September of an $11.4-billion push with SK Innovation, a South Korean battery company, to build greenfield car production and battery plants in Tennessee and Kentucky.
Major car companies are investing billions of dollars in a race to bring EVs to market, develop driver-assistance programs and outfit their products with the latest and greatest digital equipment.
“We’re investing in American jobs and our employees to build a new generation of incredible Ford vehicles,” said Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley.
Thursday’s announcement was made jointly with the United Auto Workers, which agreed to the new projects outside of standard union contract negotiations.
Ford will add more than 6,200 new manufacturing jobs and convert around 3,000 temporary UAW employees to permanent status.
“This announcement is a testament to UAW members who contribute their skill, experience, and knowledge to the success of Ford Motor Company,” said UAW President Ray Curry.
“We are always advocating to employers and legislators that union jobs are worth the investment. Ford stepped up to the plate by adding these jobs and converting 3000 UAW members to permanent, full-time status with benefits.”
About $2 billion of the investment will go to projects in Michigan, including boosting production of the new F-150 Lightning electric truck and the production of new pickup and coupe vehicles.
The company will spend $1.5 billion in Ohio on assembly of new EV models and other projects, and $95 million in Missouri to add a shift at a plant that makes commercial vans and will add an electric van.
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