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Facebook unfriends Australia: news sites go dark in content row

Australians woke to empty news feeds on their Facebook Inc pages on Thursday after the social media giant blocked all media content in a surprise and dramatic escalation of a dispute with the government over paying for content.

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australians woke to empty news feeds on their Facebook Inc pages on Thursday after the social media giant blocked all media content in a surprise and dramatic escalation of a dispute with the government over paying for content.

The move was swiftly criticised by news producers, politicians and human rights advocates, particularly as it became clear that official health pages, emergency safety warnings and welfare networks had all been scrubbed from the site along with news.

“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote on his own Facebook page, using the vernacular for cutting ties with another person on the site.

“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”

Facebook’s dramatic move represents a split from Alphabet Inc-owned Google after they joined together for years to campaign against the laws. Both had threatened to cancel services in Australia, but Google has instead sealed preemptive deals with several outlets in recent days.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was the latest to announce a deal in which it will receive “significant payments” from Google in return for providing content for the search engine’s News Showcase account.

Google declined to comment on the Facebook decision on Thursday.

The Australian law would require Facebook and Google to reach commercial deals with news outlets whose links drive traffic to their platforms, or be subjected to forced arbitration to agree a price.

Facebook said in its statement that the law, which is expected to be passed by parliament within days, “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between itself and publishers and it faced a stark choice of complying or banning news content.

The tech giant has said news makes up just 4% of what people view on its website, but for Australians Facebook’s role in news delivery is growing. A 2020 University of Canberra study found 21% of Australians use social media as their primary news source, up 3% from the previous year, while 39% of the population uses Facebook to receive news. The same study said 29% of Australian news video content is consumed on Facebook.

BLANK PAGES

The changes made by Facebook wiped clean pages operated by news outlets and removed posts by individual users sharing Australian news, three days before the country begins a nationwide vaccination program to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Lisa Davies, editor of daily The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, owned by Nine Entertainment Co Ltd, tweeted: “Facebook has exponentially increased the opportunity for misinformation, dangerous radicalism and conspiracy theories to abound on its platform.”

The Facebook pages of Nine and News Corp, which together dominate the country’s metro newspaper market, and the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corp, which acts as a central information source during natural disasters, were blank.

Also affected were several major state government accounts, including those providing advice on the coronavirus pandemic and bushfire threats at the height of the summer season, and scores of charity and non-governmental organisation accounts.

“Demand for food relief has never been higher than during this pandemic, and one of our primary comms tools to help connect people with #foodrelief info & advice is now unavailable,” tweeted Brianna Casey, chief executive of hunger relief charity Foodbank.

“Hours matter when you have nothing to eat. SORT THIS OUT!”

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

A News Corp spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. An advertisement on News Corp’s main Australian news site said, “You don’t need Facebook to get your news”, alongside a link to the company’s smartphone app.

SOME PAGES RESTORED

By mid-afternoon, many government-backed Facebook pages were restored but several charity pages and all media sites remained dark, including those of international outlets like the New York Times, the BBC, News Corp’s Wall Street Journal and Reuters.

A Facebook representative in Australia did not reply to a request for comment on the situation. A later Facebook statement said the ban should not affect government pages but “as the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition”.

Facebook’s own page was down for several hours in Australia before being restored.

“This is an alarming and dangerous turn of events,” said Human Rights Watch in a statement. “Cutting off access to vital information to an entire country in the dead of the night is unconscionable.”

Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Jane Wardell and Kim Coghill

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-media-facebook-idUSKBN2AI02A

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Reuters

Chinese social media platforms to “rectify” financial self-media accounts

China’s top social media platforms, Wechat, Douyin, Sina Weibo and Kuaishou, said on Saturday they would begin to rectify irregular practices of “self-media” accounts that publish financial information, reported state media Global Times.

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WeChat app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

SHANGHAI, Aug 28 (Reuters) – China’s top social media platforms, Wechat, Douyin, Sina Weibo and Kuaishou, said on Saturday they would begin to rectify irregular practices of “self-media” accounts that publish financial information, reported state media Global Times.

This follows an announcement by China’s cyberspace regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), that it would look into accounts that have repeatedly released financial news illegally, distorted economic policy interpretation, badmouthed financial markets, spread rumours and disrupted network communications.

The term “self-media” is mostly used on Chinese social media to describe independently operated accounts that produce original content but are not officially registered with the authorities.

Wechat said in a statement on Saturday that from now until Oct. 26, it would investigate and shut down financial self-media accounts that “badmouth the financial market” and “blackmail and spread rumors.”

Sina Weibo, Douyin and Kuaishou also released similar statements on Saturday, reported the Global Times, with Sina Weibo and Kuaishou adding that they would severely crack down on accounts that violate the rules.

The announcements come amid a recent crackdown by Beijing on the tech sector, with the latest regulations targeting “chaotic” celebrity fan culture and algorithms that technology companies use to drive their business. read more

China is also framing rules to ban internet companies whose data poses potential security risks from listing outside the country, including in the United States. read more

Reporting by Emily Chow. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The term “self-media” is mostly used on Chinese social media to describe independently operated accounts that produce original content but are not officially registered with the authorities.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinese-social-media-platforms-rectify-financial-self-media-accounts-2021-08-28/

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Reuters

Death toll rises to 77 from Turkey floods, 47 reported missing

The death toll from flash floods that swept through several towns in Turkish Black Sea provinces last week has risen to 77 people and emergency workers are continuing to search for 47 who are missing, authorities said on Monday.

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A damaged vehicle and a partially collapsed building are seen following the flash floods that swept through towns in the Turkish Black Sea region, in the town of Ilisi, in Kastamonu province, Turkey, August 15, 2021. REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Caliskan

ISTANBUL, Aug 16 (Reuters) – The death toll from flash floods that swept through several towns in Turkish Black Sea provinces last week has risen to 77 people and emergency workers are continuing to search for 47 who are missing, authorities said on Monday.

The floods last week brought chaos as torrents of water tossed dozens of cars and heaps of debris along streets, destroyed buildings and bridges, closed roads and damaged electricity infrastructure.

Sixty-two people died as a result of floods in Kastamonu province. Another 14 people died in Sinop and one in Bartin, the Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said.

Forty-seven people were reported missing in Kastamonu and Sinop, it said, adding that seven others were receiving treatment in hospital.

Drone footage showed massive damage in the town of Bozkurt in Kastamonu province, where rescue teams searched demolished buildings at the weekend.

More than 2,000 people were evacuated from affected areas, some with the help of helicopters and boats, AFAD said, adding that more than 8,500 personnel were involved in the emergency response efforts.

Weather forecasters warned of further flooding due to expected heavy rainfall on Monday in Black Sea provinces to the east of the regions affected last week.

Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans and Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Drone footage showed massive damage in the town of Bozkurt in Kastamonu province, where rescue teams searched demolished buildings at the weekend.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/death-toll-rises-70-turkey-floods-47-reported-missing-2021-08-16/

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Reuters

Chipmaker TSMC says too early to say on Germany expansion

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) (2330.TW) said on Monday that it was too early to say whether it will build factories in Germany and that talks were in early stages, as the EU seeks to reduce chip imports amid a supply shortage.

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The logo of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is pictured at its headquarters, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Jan. 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ann Wang

TAIPEI, July 26 (Reuters) – Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) (2330.TW) said on Monday that it was too early to say whether it will build factories in Germany and that talks were in early stages, as the EU seeks to reduce chip imports amid a supply shortage.

The European Commission had held discussions with global chip giants, including Intel (INTC.O) and TSMC, as the EU seeks to boost semiconductor production and shield itself from shocks in the global supply chain. read more

Taiwan and TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer, have become central in efforts to resolve the pandemic-induced chip shortage that has forced automakers to cut production and hurt manufacturers of smartphones, laptops and even appliances.

“We are currently doing reviews on Germany seriously, but it’s still in very early stages,” TSMC chairman Mark Liu told an annual shareholder meeting when asked about building chip fabrication plants in the EU country.

“We continue to communicate with our major clients in Germany to see whether this is most important and effective for our clients,” he said. “It’s too early to say.”

TSMC signalled in July plans to build new factories in the United States and Japan amid concern over the concentration of chipmaking capability in Taiwan, which produces most of the world’s most advanced chips and is geographically close to political rival China. read more

On TSMC’s $12 billion factory in the U.S. state of Arizona, Liu said the expansion would support client demand, especially in infrastructure and national security.

“Clients are the backing of our global expansion. We will move very cautiously,” Liu said, adding that the company’s customers would help share costs of overseas operations.

TSMC announced this year plans to invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity, riding on what it called a “multiple years of growth opportunities”, as the COVID-19 pandemic and new technologies drove global demand for advanced chips.

Reporting By Yimou Lee. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Taiwan and TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer, have become central in efforts to resolve the pandemic-induced chip shortage that has forced automakers to cut production and hurt manufacturers of smartphones, laptops and even appliances.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/chipmaker-tsmc-says-too-early-say-germany-expansion-2021-07-26/

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