Twitter launches ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ emoji as movement grows

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Social media giant Twitter on Thursday launched an emoji for the Milk Tea Alliance, a global online pro-democracy movement that has united anti-Beijing campaigners in Hong Kong and Taiwan with protesters in Thailand, Myanmar and beyond.

Activists welcomed the announcement of the emoji – a white cup set against a background of three colours representing different shades of milk tea in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan – for the first anniversary of the movement.

The Milk Tea Alliance sprang from a Twitter war that flared after Chinese nationalists accused a young Thai actor and his girlfriend of supporting democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwanese independence.

It is named after a shared passion for sweet tea drinks in the three places.

Use of the hashtag peaked again in February after the military coup in Myanmar, where protesters using the hashtag rallied regional support.

“We have seen more than 11 million Tweets featuring the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag over the past year,” Twitter said in an announcement that pushed the hashtag to among the top trending in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan on Thursday.

Previously, Twitter launched emojis for #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements.

The Twitter emoji showed global recognition and lent greater credibility to the youth movement, said prominent Thai activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, one of the alliance’s leading voices.

“It’s important as it shows the young people fighting for democracy that the world is with them and they’re making an impact,” Netiwit told Reuters. “It’s a sign that online activism can go much further.”

Twitter is blocked in China and its apparent endorsement of a movement with a strong current of opposition to Beijing was unlikely to hurt its business, said James Buchanan, a lecturer at Bangkok’s Mahidol University International College.

“Twitter has plenty to gain by appealing to young people in the Asian markets that are open to them,” he said.

Remote working: Is Big Tech going off work from home?

On Wednesday last week, Google’s Fiona Cicconi wrote to company employees.

She announced that Google was bringing forward its timetable of moving people back into the office.

As of 1 September, she said, employees wishing to work from home for more than 14 days would have to apply to do so

Employees were also expected to “live within commuting distance” of offices. No cocktails by the beach with a laptop, then.

The intention was very clear. Sure, you can do more flexible working than you did before – but most people will still have to come into the office. 

That thinking seemed to fly in the face of much of what we heard from Silicon Valley executives last year, when they championed the virtues of remote working. 

For example, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey made headlines across the world last May, when he said “Twitter employees can now work from home forever”. 

It was speculated that after Covid, the “new normal” for Silicon Valley might be a workforce heavily geared around remote working, with tech companies needing only minimal staff on-site. 

It’s increasingly looking like that’s not going to happen. 

And if you really look at the statements made by tech bosses, some of the nuances were skirted over by the press.

For example, when Mr Dorsey said employees could work at home “forever”, he added: “If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home.” 

That was a pretty important “if”. 

And in fact, Twitter has clarified that it expects a majority of its staff to spend some time working from home and some time working in the office. 

Pretty much every Silicon Valley tech firm has said that it is now committed to “flexible” or “hybrid” working. 

The problem is those terms can mean almost anything. 

Is that Fridays off? Or a completely different working relationship with a brick-and-mortar office? 

A man carries a laptop bag and a medical mask to work

Microsoft envisages “‘working from home part of the time (less than 50%) as standard for most roles” in the future. 

There is a lot of room for manoeuvre in the words “less than 50%”. 

Amazon also issued a statement to employees last week saying: “Our plan is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline. We believe it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.” 

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the new work-from-home age, then. 

Part of the hesitancy is that although many employees want more flexibility, it’s still not at all clear what kind of model works for the companies. 

“None of us have this all figured out,” said Carolyn Everson, vice-president of Facebook’s global business group, when talking about current work-from-home arrangements.

“We are making this up on the fly.”

Remotely attractive

Harvard Business School professor and remote working advocate Prithwiraj Choudhury says that tech companies have long been at the vanguard of remote working.

“The early adopters and the companies that are embracing this model and building the organisation around that remote work model will have a huge advantage in attracting talent”, he says. 

That is certainly the hope. 

No tech business wants to lose able employees to rivals who will allow them to work more flexibly. 

Companies like Spotify now appear to have some of the most “flexible” working practices for its staff. 

In a recent statement it said: “Our employees will be able to work full time from home, from the office, or a combination of the two. 

“The exact mix of home and office work mode is a decision each employee and their manager make together.”

But it did add: “There are likely to be some adjustments to make along the way.” 

So Spotify’s definition of flexible working is very different to Google’s, which in turn is very different to Amazon’s. 

Young office workers masked up look at their laptops in an office setting

Working from home while there is no office open is one thing. But remote working’s biggest test is going to be when the office starts opening up – let’s say at 50% capacity. 

When meetings are being held partially in person and partially on Zoom, is the dynamic going to work quite so well? 

And when some team members develop face-to-face, in-person relationships with managers, will remote workers feel disadvantaged? 

Last week, IBM announced its proposed system of remote working, with 80% of the workforce working at least three days a week in the office. 

“When people are remote I worry about what their career trajectory is going to be,” said IBM chief executive Arvind Krishna.

“If they want to become a people manager, if they want to get increasing responsibilities, or if they want to build a culture within their teams, how are we going to do that remotely?” he asked.

Tantalisingly, we are about to find out what works and what doesn’t, because there are so many differing approaches being taken by tech companies. 

And like so much of modern day life, other businesses are looking over at the west coast of America to see what’s working here – and what isn’t.

Source: BBC

Russia extends moves to slow down Twitter’s traffic until May 15

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s state communications regulator said on Monday it would extend its move to slow down Twitter until May 15, but that the U.S. social media company was deleting content banned in Russia at a faster rate than it had been.

Russia said on March 10 that it was slowing down the speed of Twitter in retaliation for what it described as a failure to remove banned content, threatening to block the U.S. platform outright if it did not comply with its deletion demands.

Russian court fines Twitter over failure to delete content

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court on Friday fined Twitter 3.2 million roubles ($42,011.29) over its failure to delete what the authorities said was banned content.

Moscow said last month it had slowed the speed of U.S.-based Twitter inside Russia and on March 16 threatened to ban the social media service outright in a month over content ranging from child pornography to drug abuse.

There was no immediate comment from Twitter. It said earlier that it was worried about the impact on free speech of the Russian action, and denied that it allowed its platform to be used to promote illegal behaviour as alleged by Russian authorities.

($1 = 76.1750 roubles)

Wales election: Fears over ‘anonymous’ social media adverts

Voters could see political adverts on social media during the Senedd election campaign without knowing who is behind them.

Leaflets and print adverts must say who has produced and paid for them.

Campaigners said the Welsh government “missed an opportunity” to update election laws so the same rules applied to digital advertising for May’s vote.

The Welsh government said it wanted to work with other governments to create new regulations.

Mandatory digital imprints, which make clear who is responsible for the political adverts, will be introduced for Westminster general elections under plans outlined by the UK government.

That would mean voters could see who was trying to influence them and help watchdogs keep track of campaign spending.

Although ministers in Cardiff support the idea, it is too late for the Senedd to change the law before the election on 6 May.

Digital imprints are being made compulsory in Scotland, where devolved elections are happening on the same day.

Online advertising spending has risen sharply in British elections since 2010.

It is thought to have accounted for more than half of campaign spending at the 2019 general election and social media is predicted to be even more important now that Covid has restricted traditional canvassing.

Electoral Reform Society Cymru director Jess Blair said: “It’s a real missed opportunity that the Welsh government haven’t legislated around digital imprints for the Senedd elections this year.

“We’ve seen Scotland go ahead and do this for their elections. The legislation isn’t perfect but it’s a lot better than what we have in place in Wales.”

She said the Welsh government should not wait for UK government legislation

“You shouldn’t be waiting for the slowest person in the race,” she said.

“You should be trying to win that race and actually deliver better democracy and better transparency in our elections.”

Campaigners say the Welsh government has "missed an opportunity" to update election laws
image captionCampaigners say the Welsh government has “missed an opportunity” to update election laws

The Welsh government said it was “committed to fair and transparent elections and digital campaigning has become an increasingly significant portion of democratic engagement from political groups”.

A spokesman said it was not possible to legislate in time for May’s election, but “we will be working closely with the other administrations of the UK to ensure there will be a robust and transparent system in the future”.

The UK government said its legislation on digital imprints would “increase transparency” and “ensure greater scrutiny”.

Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith said it was a “complex” issue, adding: “We need to be mindful not to impose excessive regulation of free speech by individuals, nor force campaigners to publish their home addresses as part of the imprint requirement.”

The Electoral Commission previously said it was “disappointed” the rules were not changed in time for May’s Senedd election.

It has launched a campaign to help voters “think critically” about political advertising. 

Spokesman Craig Westwood said: “Political adverts are an important part of how voters find out about who are standing as candidates, and what they think about key issues, but we know that people are increasingly concerned about online adverts, if they can’t easily tell who is targeting them, and why.”

Facebook said it was “constantly working to increase ad transparency and election integrity” on its platforms.

“We do not allow political ads to run without a disclaimer providing more information about who is running them,” a spokesman said.

“This includes ensuring anyone running a political ad goes through a verification process to prove who they are and that they are based in the UK, and that ads carry a ‘paid for’ disclaimer if targeting people in the UK.”

Plaid Cymru said: “Plaid Cymru will support any move to make our elections more open and transparent and digital imprints would play a key role in upholding the integrity of our elections.”

The Welsh Conservatives said the party supported digital imprints.

Welsh Liberal Democrats leader, Jane Dodds, said the party supported “transparency and fairness” in digital campaigning.

She added: “We would also, however, urge platform-owners, such as Facebook and Twitter, to make available digital imprint tools to easier facilitate this process.”

By Daniel Davies
BBC Wales political correspondent

Twitter services down for some users – Downdetector

(Reuters) – Thousands of Twitter Inc users were unable to access the social media platform on Monday, according to outage monitoring website Downdetector.com. (bit.ly/3m0fBPP)

As many as 18,000 users reported issues with the micro-blogging site, according to Downdetector, and several users took to Twitter to complain about the outage, using the hashtag “#twitterdown”.

“Taking forever to load tweets on app and website,” said a user with Twitter handle @WillontheRadio. (bit.ly/2PI8Ci8)

Downdetector tracks outages by collating status reports from a series of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform. The outages could have affected a larger number of users.

Twitter’s Dorsey called out for trolling Congress during hearing

(Reuters) – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted his frustration with U.S. lawmakers’ questions on the social media platform during a hearing about misinformation on Thursday, leading one member of congress to call out his multi-tasking. ( here)

VIEW ORIGINAL TWEET ON TWITTER

Lawmakers grilled Dorsey and the CEOs of Facebook and Google’s parent Alphabet for almost five hours. Tensions were high as they asked them to answer “yes or no” to questions ranging from whether their platforms bore any responsibility for the Jan. 6 riot to whether they understood the difference between the two words.

During the hearing, Dorsey tweeted “?” with a poll asking Twitter Inc users to vote “yes” or “no.” Democratic Representative Kathleen Rice asked: “Mr. Dorsey, what is winning, yes or no, on your Twitter account poll?”

Dorsey told her that “yes” was winning, to which she replied: “Your multi-tasking skills are quite impressive.”

Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet Inc CEO Sundar Pichai were also witnesses at the joint hearing by two subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Lawmakers from both parties tried throughout the hearing to pin down the tech CEOs with questions needing only “yes” or “no” answers, interrupting them when they tried to give longer ones. Lawmakers quizzed the executives over concerns from COVID-19 misinformation, harassment, hate speech and extremism.

As the hearing took place, Dorsey also liked tweets criticizing aspects of the session, including asking why members of Congress were mispronouncing Pichai’s name, and replied to a tweet confirming that he was barefoot during the call. His poll on Thursday afternoon had more than 71,000 votes.

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey’s first tweet sold for $2.9 million as an NFT

LONDON (Reuters) – Twitter boss Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet as an NFT for just over $2.9 million dollars on Monday.

The tweet is in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT) – a kind of unique digital asset that has exploded in popularity so far in 2021.

Each NFT has its own blockchain-based digital signature, which serves as a public ledger, allowing anyone to verify the asset’s authenticity and ownership.

The tweet – “just setting up my twttr” – was Dorsey’s first tweet, made on March 21, 2006.

The NFT was sold via auction on a platform called Valuables, which is owned by the U.S.-based company Cent.

It was bought using the cryptocurrency Ether, for 1630.5825601 ETH, which was worth $2,915,835.47 at the time of sale, Cameron Hejazi, the CEO and co-founder of Cent confirmed.

Cent confirmed the buyer is Sina Estavi. Estavi’s Twitter profile, @sinaEstavi, says he is based in Malaysia and is CEO of the blockchain company Bridge Oracle. Estavi told Reuters he was “thankful” when asked for comment about the purchase.

On March 6, Dorsey, who is a bitcoin enthusiast, tweeted a link to the website where the NFT was listed for sale. He then said in another tweet on March 9 that he would convert the proceeds from the auction into bitcoin and donate them to people impacted by COVID-19 in Africa.

Dorsey receives 95% of the proceeds of the primary sale, while Cent receives 5%.

Cent CEO Cameron Hejazi said that his platform allows people to show support for a tweet that goes beyond the current options to like, comment and retweet.

“These assets might go up in value, they might go down in value, but what will stay is the ledger and the history of ‘I purchased this from you at this moment in time’ and that’s going to be in both the buyer, the seller and the public spectators’ memory,” Hejazi said, adding that this was “inherently valuable.”

Naga Munchetty: BBC Breakfast host sorry for liking flag tweets

TV host Naga Munchetty has apologised for liking “offensive” tweets referencing a flag that appeared in an interview with a government minister.

On Thursday, she and BBC Breakfast co-host Charlie Stayt drew attention to a flag and a picture of the Queen behind Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

Ending the interview, Stayt jokingly mentioned the size of his union jack.

Munchetty said she had removed the likes and that they did not “represent the views” of her or the broadcaster.

“I liked tweets today that were offensive in nature about the use of the British flag as a backdrop in a government interview this morning,” Munchetty posted on Twitter. “I have since removed these likes.”

She added: “This do not represent the views of me or the BBC. I apologise for any offence taken.”

The BBC declined to comment. In September, the corporation’s incoming director general Tim Davie warned BBC staff about their use of social media

SEC sues California trader for social media fraud scheme

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday charged a California-based trader for allegedly spreading false information about a defunct company via Twitter, while profiting by selling his own holdings of the company’s stock.

The SEC alleged Andrew L. Fassari, or @OCMillionaire on Twitter, tweeted false statements about Arcis Resources Corporation during December 2020, shortly after purchasing over 41 million shares of the stock, the SEC said in a statement.