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Tech
Lawmakers slam Big Tech 'monopolies' in new report

A congressional report called for sweeping changes to antitrust laws and enforcement in response to the growing power of Big Tech firms, but Republican lawmakers declined to endorse the findings. WASHINGTON: A House of Representatives panel said in a report Tuesday that four Big Tech firms are “monopolies” which abuse their market dominance and called for sweeping changes to antitrust laws and enforcement, which could potentially lead to breakups of the giant firms. But the report by the staff of the House Judiciary Committee failed to win the endorsement of Republican members, highlighting a partisan divide despite widespread criticism of the tech giants. The 449-page document concluded that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google “engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves.” “To put it simply, companies that

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TOT chipping in with SpaceX funding

Mr Morakot (right), with Mu Space founder James Yenbamroong, says the prime minister has agreed in principle with the 10-billion-baht investment. State telecom enterprise TOT, through collaboration with strategic satellite business partner Mu Space and Advanced Technology, plans to invest 10 billion baht in the next funding round of US rocket company SpaceX’s low Earth orbit (LEO) Starlink satellite project in early 2021. The next funding round is expected to raise US$3 billion (93.69 billion baht). TOT set aside an initial budget of 10 billion baht for the investment as it ventures into the global satellite business. The state telecom enterprise aims to provide gateway stations for LEO satellites, space internet data centres and space digital platforms. PM’S GREEN LIGHT TOT acting president Morakot Thienmontree said the state enterprise conducted a feasibility study of the investment plan starting last month. The plan has been reported to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has agreed in

Tech
QAnon conspiracies go global in pandemic 'perfect storm'

QAnon conspiracy theories have found believers in dozens of countries around the world during the coronavirus pandemic. HONG KONG: Powered by fear, anger and big tech’s algorithms, the QAnon conspiracy movement has exploded from the US political fringe into the global mainstream during the pandemic. Its influence can be seen at anti-lockdown and anti-mask rallies from Los Angeles, to London, Berlin and Melbourne — with protesters warning, without evidence, that the pandemic is a conspiracy by a cabal of satanist paedophiles who control the world. Experts say QAnon has grown sharply during the pandemic because it acted as a binding force — mixing its core tenet with long-running conspiracy theories about vaccines and 5G mobile technology, anti-Semitic and white supremacist tropes, as well as far-right and libertarian politics. “In some ways, the pandemic has created the perfect storm for conspiracy theories like QAnon to grow,” Mackenzie Hart, a disinformation researcher at the London-based ISD think tank, told AFP. “Not only are people

Tech
Twitter bans Trump death wishes, sparks debate

Twitter’s move to ban comments wishing for the death of President Donald Trump sparked calls for the platform to enforce that policy for everyone. SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter is removing tweets hoping for the demise of US President Donald Trump — a move which opened up the social platform to criticism that it should enforce the same policy for everyone. San Francisco-based Twitter drew a line on caustic commentary after Trump’s Covid-19 hospitalization Friday, telling users that expressing hope for the death of anyone violates policies against abusive behavior at the one-to-many messaging service. “Tweets that wish or hope for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against anyone are not allowed and will need to be removed,” Twitter said in a post. Attached was a link to a Twitter policy page that said it does not tolerate content that wishes, hopes, or expresses desire for someone to die

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How Excel may have caused loss of 16,000 Covid tests in England

A million-row limit on Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software may have led to Public Health England misplacing nearly 16,000 Covid test results, it is understood.The data error, which led to 15,841 positive tests being left off the official daily figures, means than 50,000 potentially infectious people may have been missed by contact tracers and not told to self-isolate.PHE was responsible for collating the test results from public and private labs, and publishing the daily updates on case count and tests performed.But the rapid development of the testing programme has meant that much of the work is still done manually, with individual labs sending PHE spreadsheets containing their results. Although the system has improved from the early days of the pandemic, when some of the work was performed with phone calls, pens and paper, it is still far from automated.In this case, the Guardian understands, one lab had sent its daily test report to PHE in the form of a CSV file – the simplest possible database format, just a list of values separated by commas. That report was then loaded into Microsoft Excel, and the new tests at the bottom were added to the main database.But while CSV files can be

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Stepping in as new travel habits form

Locall Thailand, part of the Satarana social enterprise network, helps connect unemployed motorcycle-taxi drivers and tour guides to local restaurants in need of delivery services. In the post-pandemic world, where technology plays a more crucial role in reshaping habits, travel tech companies are connecting the space between technology and travel and accelerating the reboot of Thai tourism after being hit hard by the global health emergency. When safety becomes the primary concern, new lifestyles that require social distancing practices are needed. Online booking processes can help make this available. TRAVEL DIFFERENTLY Rungsun Promprasith, chief executive of QueQ, a queue-management application, said that after the Covid-19 outbreak the company partnered with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to provide tourist advance reservations via the QueQ app to limit the number of tourists. There is plenty of demand from tourists asking for online payment channels,

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YouTubers promote digital token trading

YouTubers promote digital token trading Bitkub tries to make trend flourish locally From left Mr Sakolkorn, Kyutae Oppa, SpriteDer SPD, Kaykai Salaider, Bie The Ska and VRZOchannel at the launch of $FANS. While many Thais are quick to name their favourite YouTuber, fewer could tell you their favourite cryptocurrency. This is why Thai blockchain startup Bitkub Capital Group Holdings is partnering with five of Thailand’s top YouTube influencers to launch fans tokens ($FANS): free tradable digital tokens that fans can trade for access to the celebrities, aimed at boosting the popularity of the technology trend in the country. The YouTubers are Bie The Ska (with 12 million subscribers), Kaykai Salaider (14 million subscribers), SpriteDer SPD (4 million subscribers), VRZOchannel (650,000 subscribers) and Kyutae Oppa (560,000 subscribers). “Fans tokens are not fundraising, but rather the process of converting the reputation [of influencers/celebrities] to tokens,” said Sakolkorn Sakavee, chairman of the board at Bitkub. The free

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On 10th birthday, Instagram no longer an escape from reality

Content on Instagram has taken a more political edge, after first becoming popular 10 years ago for its users’ often upbeat photos. WASHINGTON: Artful photos of sunsets and ice cream are being challenged by more activist content on Instagram as it turns 10 years old in a time of social justice protests, climate crisis, and the pandemic. Founded in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the app had one billion users two years and has grown fast since then, after first capturing the public’s attention with its image filters, and easy photo editing and sharing tools. But playful pictures, once a hallmark of Instagram, are increasingly seen as off-key when people are “losing jobs, being sick, isolated and depressed, then on top of that the BLM (Black Lives Matter) protests and everything going on with the US election,” reasoned Rebecca Davis. In 2016 she created ‘Rallyandrise’, an account devoted to helping

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TikTok chases monetisation possibilities

Ms Kornnikar says short, creative videos help brands increase impulse buying and engage with customers. Thais found an outlet for their boredom during the lockdown. In Thailand, the pandemic has almost doubled the number of TikTok users to 15 million compared with 8 million last year, according to Media Intelligence, a media planning and creative agency. “During the lockdown, we saw growth in our user numbers and time spent along with a massive rise in advertisements, as Thai people are fun and creative by nature,” Kornnikar Niwatsaiwong, Thailand head of client partnership at TikTok, told the Bangkok Post. Average time spent on TikTok has surged to 61 minutes a day, compared with 35 minutes before the outbreak. Popular content encompasses comedy, talent shows, food and drink, travel, basic dance, fashion and beauty, and education. After the outbreak eased in the country, people aged 18-34 accounted for 60% of total TikTok users, up from 50% before the pandemic. “The rise was mainly from those aged 25-34, who

Tech
Ultra productive

Ultra productive The Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra is a sleek work beast The new Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra is one of the sleekest phones the Korean manufacturer has ever produced, but don’t be fooled. Hidden beneath its glossy sheen is a powerful smartphone that could possibly do away with the need of a tablet. Is this a good enough reason for you to spend your hard-earned cash on it? Read on. THE AESTHETICS The Note20 Ultra is big, that’s for sure, but its size is just right so that it doesn’t feel clunky in your hands. Its weight isn’t an issue either since it’s not too heavy despite its size. The metallic finish on the back of the phone is a much better alternative than the glass on some of Samsung’s other phones as it didn’t retain oily fingerprints as much. Meanwhile on the front, the Note20 Ultra sports a 6.9″ Gorilla glass display, which Samsung boasts as the toughest ever on a smartphone. Though I didn’t do a drop test, I think it’s safe to assume that this doesn’t necessarily mean the glass is unbreakable and that you can go around