Ahead of another holiday weekend here (#techFT returns on Tuesday), we've the stories on how model fighter planes are shooting down commercial drones' prospects, Warren Buffett has made his first Amazon investment and SoftBank may float its $100bn Vision Fund. But first, it's your Friday Facebook news feed on a busy week for the social network:
Facebook takes down extremist accounts
The service is clearly ramping up its efforts to fight misinformation and hate speech on its platform with a decision to ban a number of outspoken far-right figures, including Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos, for violating its policies on hate speech, deeming them “dangerous individuals”. The move is likely to irk free speech activists. Some have accused Facebook of being tougher on voices with a conservative political ideology.
Facebook tells US regulators: 'Maybe you should help us with this privacy stuff?'
Facebook has told the Federal Trade Commission it is willing to submit to greater oversight of its data-collection practices — from the launching of new services to the decisions of its top executives — in order to end a wide-ranging federal probe into a series of privacy abuses that came to light last year, according to the Washington Post. A settlement could also require Facebook to undergo more rigorous, regular check-ups by an independent, third-party watchdog that must be approved by the FTC.
Facebook is building a cryptocurrency-based payments system
Facebook is planning to launch a full payments network (rather than just remittances) and is in discussions with Visa and Mastercard, payments processors such as giant First Data as well as large e-commerce merchants to support the launch, according to The Wall Street Journal (via The Block). A stablecoin will be the currency of the payments system in order to eliminate credit card fees for merchants.
Facebook attempts to forge a new social contract with users
Richard Waters' Inside Business column examines what we learnt about Facebook's pivot to private at its annual developer conference this week. He says: “Leaving aside the political need to show a more responsible face to the world, Facebook is pursuing the same goal it always has: Mass engagement.”
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Model plane enthusiasts clip drones' wings
The Academy of Model Aeronautics has proved itself to be one of the most effective lobby groups in the US against new rules that would allow widespread commercial drone flying. Kiran Stacey in Washington reports the AMA is frustrating tech companies' drone plans by objecting to regulations that could force them to put $1,000 transponders on their models to allow them to be identified remotely by law enforcement or other agencies.
2. Entourage's Ari Gold would be incandescent
Last month, the writer David Simon took his agents to court after likening them to the bent public officials who he encountered as a newspaper reporter in 1990s Baltimore and later turned into the hit series The Wire. The lawsuit, joined by seven other writers and two big unions, marks a sharp escalation in a contract dispute that has prompted thousands of screenwriters and producers to fire their representatives. Mark Vandevelde's analysis from Los Angeles explains the trend of agencies taking stakes in productions is breaking the link between what agents take home and how much their individual clients earn.
3. Buffett invests in Amazon
Prime investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has invested in Amazon for the first time. In a CNBC interview, Mr Buffett said one of his deputies had bought the stake. The Sage of Omaha said he had been a “fan” of Amazon for some time and “an idiot for not buying” before.
4. SoftBank could sell shares in its massive start-up fund
SoftBank is considering an IPO of its $100bn Vision Fund, according to this Wall St Journal scoop (paywall), and the launch of a second fund of at least that size. More immediately, it is said to be negotiating with the sultanate of Oman for an investment of several billion dollars in the existing fund.
5. Killer Apps — The Real Dangers of an AI Arms Race
For each country engaged in an AI arms race, the real danger is not that it will fall behind its competitors in AI but that the perception of a race will prompt everyone to rush to deploy unsafe AI systems, says Foreign Affairs (registration). “In the wrong situation, AI systems go from supersmart to superdumb in an instant. When an enemy is trying to manipulate and hack an AI system, the risks are even greater.”
Tech tools - Spotify’s podcast/music mash-up
It's such a brilliantly simple idea, I can't believe no one else has done this yet. But then, there are few services out there that have both podcasts and music to mix together. Spotify has been making podcasting acquisitions and it has designs on challenging regular radio broadcasters in in-car listening. Now a test seen by The Verge shows several short podcast episodes placed alongside personalised music suggestions in a playlist meant for the drive to work and back. “Spotify doesn’t have a widely available podcast recommendation tool or offer curated podcast playlists right now, so this appears to be a look at what’s to come.”
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