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Jul 30, 2021

Didi is considering going private to appease Chinese authorities and to compensate investors for losses.
Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global just listed on the New York Stock Exchange about 30 days ago, raising $4.4B. The Cyberspace Administration of China stunned investors and the company a few days later and told app-store operators to take down the Didi app. Of course the stock tanked after that going from $18 peak to $8.87, giving the company a market cap of $43B. The plan is still under deliberation and needs approval from Didi's board and major pre-IPO investors including SoftBank's Vision Fund (who lost $4B on Didi). Going private would be funded with money that Didi raised in the IPO. Rumors say the price could be around the $14 IPO price. Link
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Jul 29, 2021

Mark Zuckerberg confirms Facebook's next hardware launch will be their Ray-Ban smart glasses.
Facebook previously confirmed that the glasses are not an AR device and will not have a display (so probably like Snap Spectacles). Zuckerberg said "the glasses have their iconic form factor and they let you do some pretty neat things". The Ray-Ban's are the first step in Facebook's AR strategy, which also includes Project Aria, an experimental research AR prototype (full-fledged AR glasses). There have been rumors, including some confirmations from Facebook, for over a year now about Facebook's Ray-Ban smart glasses, specifically their partnership with EssilorLuxottica (RayBan's parent company). Augmented reality glasses are a key part of Facebook's new plans to build the "metaverse". Last year they said the glasses would launch in 2021 but now Zuckerberg didn't comment when the long-awaited glasses will drop. Link
Photo credits: Facebook
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Jul 28, 2021

Big tech earnings report: Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Tesla all report outstanding results.
Their performance is linked to the pandemic: people are staying at home, shopping online more, and consuming more ads.
Here's a quick rundown of the results these companies reported:

Apple Q3 revenue: up 36% YoY ($81.4B), net income: up ~50% to $21.7B (from $11.2B YoY), services sales: up 32% to $17.4B (from $13.2B YoY), iPhone sales: almost 50% increase from last year! (to $39.6B). Mac revenue: $8.24B. iPad revenue: $7.37B. Earnings report

Alphabet Q2 revenue: up 62% YoY ($61.9B), operating income: up 31% YoY ($19.36B). Total ad revenue: up 69% ($50.44B). Google Cloud operating loss: down to $591M. Earnings report. YouTube Q2 ad revenue: up 84% YoY to $7B (from $3.81B). YouTube says their Shorts feature now has 15B global daily views, up from 6.5B in March. Link

Microsoft Q4 revenue: up 21% YoY ($46.2B), net income: up 47% YoY ($16.5B), commercial cloud revenue: up 36% YoY ($19.5B), LinkedIn revenue: up 46% YoY. Earnings report

Tesla Q2 revenue: $12B (almost double last year), profits passed $1 billion for the first time. Tesla had its most profitable quarter yet, despite supply chain issues. They also said their $1.5B bitcoin investment was now worth $2.48B. Earnings report
Photo by RN in TECH
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Jul 27, 2021

Ecommerce giant Shopify to enable merchants to sell NFTs directly on their stores.
Shopify users previously had to rely on third parties like Rarible and OpenSea to sell NFTs. Shopify will work with Sweet to integrate NFT sales. The ability to sell NFTs will only be available to select customers for now. eBay announced its own NFT selling integration in May. The Chicago Bulls are one of the first to offer NFTs through Shopify. Link
Photo by RN in TECH
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Jul 26, 2021

Intel's Mobileye expands its autonomous self-driving cars test to New York City.
The company is currently testing a camera-only system with a safety driver present. The camera-only system is planned for consumer driver-assist and they'll combine that with their lidar-and-radar system for redundancy in robotaxis. Mobileye is also actively testing in Detroit, Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai, and Israel. According to Mobileye, they plan to launch and operate commercial robotaxi services and bring the technology to consumer vehicles by 2025. Link
Photo credit: Mobileye
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Jul 24, 2021

Facebook brings its cloud gaming service to iPhones and iPads with a progressive web app to get around Apple's App Store rules.
Using a progressive web app (PWA) that people can add to their homescreens like a native app, makes the gaming experience better. The site will let you play simple web games like Solitaire and match-threes and stream graphically intensive titles like racing games. Facebook's games use Facebook Pay for in-game purchases. They said that Apple's requirement for each cloud game to have its own page, go through review, and appear in search listings defeats the purpose of cloud gaming, therefor they went with a PWA. Amazon and Microsoft have also released PWAs for their cloud gaming services to get around the App Store policy.

A major problem Facebook has with this approach is that per Apple's rules, they aren't allowed to steer their regular app users to websites featuring purchasing mechanisms that aren't Apple's. So it's unclear how people will find this new Facebook Gaming PWA. Link
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Jul 23, 2021

New bill aims to remove legal protections social media companies have for health misinformation.
Two Democratic senators introduce a bill to strip away the immunity social media companies currently have (under Section 230) when health misinformation is posted on their platforms. It's designed to tackle the spread of COVID-19 misinformation by making companies legally responsible for the content posted by users. The Health and Human Services secretary will determine what's classified as "health misinformation" and a platform would be open to liability if the content is being algorithmically amplified, not through "a neutral mechanism, such as through the use of chronological functionality". The bill would only apply in situations where online misinformation is related to an existing public health emergency like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Link
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Jul 22, 2021

Twitter is testing downvotes on iOS to understand what replies are relevant to a conversation.
The down vote button currently appears for some users on iOS. Twitter officially said it's not a dislike button (but it kind of is). Downvotes won't be public and won't change the order of replies. Upvotes will be shown as likes. Twitter is testing different designs for this, including upvote and downvote buttons, likes and dislikes, and the classic heart along with a downvote, as seen in the image. Link
Photo credit: Twitter
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Jul 21, 2021

Verizon joins AT&T and T-Mobile in switching default SMS to RCS via Android Messages. Will Apple join and also support RCS?
Beginning next year, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile will all support RCS Chat, the next generation text messaging standard (designed to replace SMS), by preloading Android Messages as the default texting app on all Android phones. Verizon was the last of the big three US carriers to get on board. The big remaining question is whether Apple will support RCS, within iMessage and offer interoperability.

RCS improves SMS by offering all the features we're familiar with from iMessage and Whatsapp: end-to-end encryption, improved images, video, read receipts, typing indication, and group chats. Link
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Jul 20, 2021

Pegasus, NSO's signature surveillance tool, discovered to be silently installed on the latest iPhones with updated iOS.
An investigation by Amnesty International into governments using NSO Group's Pegasus mobile surveillance software discovered that Pegasus was silently installed via a text iMessage to the latest iPhone devices. The text made no sound, produced no image, it installed the malware directly onto the phone, past Apple's security systems. Pegasus can collect emails, call records, social media posts, user passwords, contact lists, pictures, videos, sound recordings and browsing histories, according to security researchers and NSO marketing materials. Link
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Jul 19, 2021

Zoom to acquire Five9, which makes cloud-based software for call centers, in an all-stock deal valued at $14.7B.
Five9 has 2K business clients and processes 7B minutes of calls annually. The deal will expand Zoom's "Zoom Phone" offering and is Zoom's first major acquisition. 20-year-old Five9 will become an operating unit of Zoom after the deal. Five9 will sell Zoom's communication products to their business customers and Zoom will cross-sell Five9's solution to their customer base. Link
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Jul 18, 2021

Tesla launches $200-per-month subscription for its Full Self-Driving package.
Up till now, Tesla sold the Full Self-Driving (FSD) package for a one-time payment of $10K, now there's also a subscription option. FSD includes these automated driver-assist features: Navigate on Autopilot, Auto Lane Change, Autopark, Summon, Full Self-Driving Computer, Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control. Tesla's goal is of course to eventually have full, level 5, self driving. Customers who purchased the now-discontinued Enhanced Autopilot package can subscribe for $99 per month. The subscription can be canceled at any time through the mobile app. Link
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Jul 16, 2021

Valve announces Steam Deck, its handheld gaming device with a 7" display, to take on Nintendo Switch.
It'll ship in December for $400 for 64GB, $530 for 256GB, and $650 for 512GB. The device has two thumbsticks, two small trackpads, a D-pad, ABXY buttons, two shoulder triggers on each side, four back buttons, a gyroscope for motion controls, and a seven-inch touch screen. It can connect to external displays, plus there's an optional dock. Steam Deck runs SteamOS which basically means it's a portable Linux machine that can also run Windows games. It's available for reservation now. Link
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Jul 15, 2021

Microsoft announces Windows 365 Cloud PC that streams Windows 10 or 11 in a web browser or through Remote Desktop.
Windows 365 Cloud PC will let businesses access access a persistent instance of Windows PCs from anywhere, streaming a version of Windows 10 or Windows 11 via any modern web browser. It'll only be available for businesses when it launches on August 2nd, with a per-user monthly subscription cost (prices weren't revealed yet). Windows 365 is designed for one-person businesses all the way up to enterprises with thousands of employees. Link
Photo credit: Microsoft
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Twitter shutting down Fleets, its new Stories product, on August 3 after low adoption.
Fleets, Twitter's take on Instagram and Snapchat's ephemeral Stories, launched in Nov 2020. Twitter is retiring Fleets due to low usage. They were hoping Fleets would increase the number of new people joining conversations, instead it was being used by those already most active on the platform. They will use the area at the top of their timelines to display Twitter Spaces, Twitter's live audio chat rooms. Link
Photo credit: Twitter
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Jul 14, 2021

Apple announces a $99 MagSafe Battery Pack for iPhone 12.
Apple has quietly released a new first-party MagSafe accessory in the form of a wireless battery pack. It attaches magnetically to the back of the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, giving them additional battery life. It charges with a Lightning cable and can passthrough charge to the attached iPhone at the same time. The pack's capacity is 1460mAh and it arrives July 19. There are unofficial third-party MagSafe battery packs, like Anker's, which costs $50 and has 5000mAh (but you know, it doesn't have an Apple logo ūüėÄ). Link
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Amazon acquires Facebook's Satellite Internet Group
It was just revealed that in April Amazon acquired over a dozen staff from Facebook as part of their plan to provide satellite based internet (in competition with SpaceX's Starlink). The team includes experts in physics, prototyping, software engineering, wireless internet, and more. They began working for Amazon in Los Angeles and are developing a constellation of low orbit satellites for broadband internet. The terms of how much Amazon paid Facebook were not disclosed. Link
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YouTube begins global rollout of its short-form video, Shorts, its Tiktok and Instagram Reels competitor.
YouTube Shorts, which is still in beta, previously launched in India and will now be available in over 100 countries. Shorts allows creators to integrate audio from standard YouTube videos, and they're exploring ways to offer quick links from Shorts to YouTube videos they’ve taken samples from. Link
Photo credit: Youtube
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Jul 13, 2021

Amazon gets FCC permission to monitor your sleep using radar.
The FCC will allow Amazon to make a device that uses radar sensors to monitor people's sleep. The radar will remotely sense motion in three dimensions and "enable contactless sleep tracing functionalities". Amazon didn't reveal details about the specific hardware product but said it'll enable users to control its features through simple gestures and movements. The FCC previously approved Google's request to use radar for gesture control with Pixel devices. Link
Photo credit: Amazon Echo by Piqsels
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Apple plans to launch a new redesigned iPad Mini in the fall.
It reportedly will feature smaller bezels, a larger display, faster performance, and a design similar to the new iPad Air from last year. In order to have smaller bezels they'll ditch the home button and have a side-mounted power button with integrated Touch ID. This would be the Mini's most significant redesign to date, in the 9 years since it was launched. Link
Photo credit: Apple, iPad Mini 5
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Microsoft to acquire cybersecurity firm RiskIQ for more than $500M in cash.
San Francisco based RiskIQ has a cloud solution that detects security threats and lets clients understand where and how they can be attacked on their corporate network and connected devices. Its customers include Facebook, American Express, and BMW. They were founded in 2009 and raised $83M. Microsoft announced the deal in a post that says they have 3,500 employees working on security at Microsoft and a mission to help protect customers "from the chip to the cloud". Link
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Jul 12, 2021

WhatsApp is adding disappearing photo and video messages on iOS and Android.
WhatsApp rolled out Snapchat-style disappearing photos and videos to iOS beta testers on Friday. Called "View Once", it lets users send photos and videos that vanish from chats after a single view. Android beta testers got it last month. View Once will not block people from taking screenshots of disappearing photos and videos, and senders will not be notified if screenshots are taken. WhatsApp already lets users send messages that automatically delete themselves after 7 days. Link
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Samsung's next Galaxy Unpacked device lineup may have been entirely leaked.
Noted leaker Evan Blass seems to have revealed that Samsung's unveiling event will be on August 11th. He posted a Twitter thread with what look like official render images of two new Galaxy foldables (Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3), a new Galaxy S21 FE phone, two new Galaxy Watches, and a new set of Galaxy Buds. Samsung hasn't announced any of these products or the event date, but Blass' track record and the detail of the GIFs he shared appear to be quite reliable. Link
Photo credit: Evan Blass on Twitter
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Richard Branson announces a Virgin Galactic spaceflight sweepstakes for two tickets to space.
The flight is estimated for early 2022. The winner and a friend will fly on the VSS Unity spaceplane, the same plane Branson traveled on. You can enter for free, or earn sweepstakes tickets by donating to Space for Humanity, a nonprofit that wants make space accessible to regular people. The sweepstakes will end on Sept 1 and is powered by Omaze. Link
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Jul 10, 2021

Tesla rolls out long awaited version 9 (beta) of the Full Self-Driving feature.
The over-the-air update enables thousands of owners who purchased FSD to use Autopilot's advanced driver-assist features on local, non-highway streets. Elon Musk has been promising this version since 2018 and it's been delayed multiple times. It also adds improvements to the cabin camera's driver monitoring to check for attentiveness, and larger visualizations on the in-car display. Autopilot is still considered Level 2 ("partially automated") by the Society of Automotive Engineers' standards (and by Tesla's lawyers), and requires that drivers keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Link
Photo credit: Youtube James Locke
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Jul 9, 2021

TikTok launches "TikTok Resumes" in an attempt to be Gen Z's LinkedIn.
Launched on Wednesday, TikTok Resumes allows users to apply to jobs with short videos. Companies can list open positions on the website that's also accessible from the TikTok app. Chipotle, Target, WWE, Alo Yoga, and Shopify are among the first companies on the program and have posted primarily entry-level jobs. The idea is for users to give an elevator pitch or work experience summary using video in a unique way. Link
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Jul 8, 2021

Niantic's mobile AR game Pokémon GO passes $5B in revenue, 5 years after launching.
The free-to-play game has 632M downloads and in-app purchases where players spent $2.7B on the Google Play Store and $2.4B on the Apple App Store. 36.6% of revenues were from the US (the game's top market), and 32% from Japan. Link
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Donald Trump sues Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and their CEOs, claiming the companies have violated his First Amendment rights.
Trump announced the action against Facebook, Twitter, and Google's YouTube, along with their respective CEOs Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai, and demanded that his accounts be reinstated. Under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, social media platforms are allowed to moderate and remove content that violate standards, so long as they are acting in "good faith". Immediately after Trump's announcement he started fundraising to raise money to fund the lawsuits.

Trump has been suspended from the platforms since January, when his followers violently stormed the Capitol, trying to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden's win. The companies cited concerns that Trump would incite further violence and have kept him locked out. Link
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Jul 7, 2021

Pentagon cancels $10B JEDI cloud contract which was awarded to Microsoft but faced legal challenges from Amazon.
Microsoft got the contract in 2019, and Amazon sued saying that President Trump's animosity toward Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos influenced the decision. The Pentagon decided to seek new proposals from cloud service providers, including both Microsoft and Amazon, instead of waiting for the legal process. The 10-year Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract would have helped the Department of Defense move data to the cloud.

Happy first day, Andy Jassy :)

Link
Photo credit: Youtube Trump White House Archived
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Nintendo announces new Switch with a larger 7" OLED display, 64GB storage, improved audio, but same CPU and RAM, on sale Oct. 8 for $350.
Aside from the new screen, the new model has a more flexible kickstand, double the built-in storage, and a LAN port in the dock. There are no major internal changes and it still doesn't support 4K. Nintendo says battery life will be up to 9 hours, same amount as the current Switch. So overall, it's pretty much $50 more for a brighter screen. Link
Photo credit: Nintendo
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President Biden pushes for new right-to-repair rules that will let consumers fix their devices anywhere.
Biden is preparing an executive order that forces companies to make it easier on consumers to repair their devices on their own and at independent shops. The FTC will decide on the final rules, which would require manufacturers to allow consumers and repair shops to obtain the components and documentation required to fix mobile phones and other products. Caterpillar, John Deere, and Apple have fought such rules. Link
Joe Biden
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Jul 6, 2021

China orders the removal of the Didi ridehailing app from stores, accusing the ride-hailing company of illegally collecting personal data.
The suspension comes days after the company's New York IPO. China's cyberspace agency accused the company of "serious violations" of collecting and using user data. Didi responded that it would comply and make necessary changes. Registration of new users has been suspended and users who have downloaded the Didi App can still use it. Didi's valuation is about $86B (Uber currently is $93B). Link
Photo credit: Pingwest
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Following Apple's tracking changes, spending on iOS ads fell one-third between June 1 and July 1, while Android spending rose.
Ever since Apple began requiring apps to get iPhone and iPad users’ permission to track them (since iOS 14.5), advertisers have shifted their spending patterns. The tracking change started in April and less than 33% of iOS users opt in to tracking (according to ad-measurement firm Branch Metrics). As a result, mobile ads pricing for iOS have fallen, while prices for ads targeting Android users have jumped. Link
Photo credit: Flickr/Saad Irfan
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Jul 5, 2021

Jeff Bezos officially steps down as Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy takes over.
Bezos left 27 years (to the day) after founding the company. He's now listed as executive chair on Amazon's investor relations site and Andy Jassy is listed as CEO. Jassy joined the company in 1997 and has led AWS since its founding in 2003. This transition was announced in May. Link
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More than 1,000 businesses worldwide were hit this weekend by the biggest global ransomware attack of its kind.
It started with a Florida IT company called Kaseya, which provides security software to cybersecurity contractors. After hackers breached Kaseya's servers on July 2, they got into at least 40 cybersecurity contractors' systems and from there they infected hundreds of businesses with ransomware over the weekend. The hackers encrypted infected businesses' data, locked them out of their IT systems, and then demanded ransoms of $50,000 from smaller companies and $5M from larger companies in exchange for a key to decrypt their data and resume normal operations.

Cybersecurity experts say Russia's REvil gang, who successfully extorted $11M from meat processor JBS earlier this year, infected thousands of victims in at least 17 countries. It was no accident it happened before the 4th of July weekend, when IT staffing was generally thin in the US.
Link

Update 1: In a post on their blog, REvil takes credit for the Kaseya attack, claims it infected 1M+ systems, and demands $70M in Bitcoin for a universal decryptor. Link

Update 2 (July 22, 2021): Kaseya says it got a universal decryptor for the REvil ransomware and is helping customers recover their data. It's not clear if Kaseya paid the ransom to get it. Link
Photo credit: ABC News
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Jul 3, 2021

Google removes 9 Android apps that were downloaded 5.8M times from Google Play, after researchers found they steal users' Facebook login credentials.
The apps included various utilities like photo editing and framing, exercise and training, horoscopes, and removal of junk files from Android devices. All of the identified apps offered users an option to disable in-app ads by logging into their Facebook accounts. The apps would then hijack the entered Facebook login credentials. The majority of the downloads were for an app called PIP Photo. Link
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Jul 2, 2021

Robinhood files for IPO, first-quarter revenue more than quadrupled year-over-year to $522M.
The company shared that it will set aside up to 35% of shares for their customers, most are retail investors who rarely get to buy at a company's IPO price. They ended the quarter with 18M funded accounts (almost all are active monthly), more than doubling from last year. Their profits were $7.5M on $959M in revenue for the entire year of 2020, up from 2019 where they lost $106M on $277M of revenue (the pandemic was good for them). The company also reported a loss of $1.4B related to emergency fundraising (around the GameStop story in January). Their expected ticker on Nasdaq is HOOD. Link
Photo credit: Marco Verch / Flickr
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Jul 1, 2021

Tiktok is rolling out support for longer videos, up to 3 minutes.
The previous limitation was one minute videos, after initially starting with 15 second clips. Tiktok has been testing support for 3 minute clips since December but those were limited to select users. Over the coming weeks they'll be rolling out to all Tiktok users. The current 60 second format had since been copied by newer competitors, like Snapchat Spotlight and YouTube Shorts. Before expanding to 3 minutes, creators would work around by telling people to follow for part 2. It did help gain some followers but was annoying for viewers who had to scroll through creators' videos to find part 2 (or 3, 4...). Link
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Amazon wants the FTC's new chair removed from any decisions surrounding Amazon because of her past criticisms of the company.
Amazon filed a petition for the new FTC chair Lina Khan to recuse herself from any decisions, including the FTC's current review of Amazon's MGM acquisition, and any Amazon antitrust investigations. They claim her past publications about Amazon demonstrate bias against the company. In 2017, Khan gained notoriety in the tech and antitrust law worlds when she wrote a widely-read paper titled "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox" about how Amazon has escaped antitrust scrutiny. Link
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