New York, Jun 28 (AP/UNB) — Europeans and Americans have their Visa and Mastercards. For everyone else, here comes ... Libra?
Facebook's new Libra digital currency is aimed at a huge potential market for financial services — the entire developing world, with billions of people in areas such as India and Sub-Saharan Africa, where financial services are often less sophisticated and many people don't use traditional banking accounts.
Whether or not these billions will want to make the switch is anyone's guess.
The U.S., Europe and most developed economies already have large, efficient payment systems. These allow people to buy and sell goods in real time and send money person-to-person through services like Zelle, PayPal and Venmo. That's why the companies that joined Facebook's Libra association, as well as nonprofits involved with similar projects, say Libra's potential lies elsewhere.
In developing countries, many tens of millions still live far from a bank or money transfer center, or currently use a currency prone to inflation or volatility. Libra could address this issue by providing a universal, stable currency that is easily transferrable between persons or businesses without involving setting up an entire payment infrastructure. It also potentially could work at a lower cost.
In the last decade, citizens of developing countries have widely adopted cellphones as a way to store money, sending text message-based payments either to businesses or persons. It's been a broadly heralded development among policymakers and nonprofits focused on poverty because bank accounts are hard to come by or are too expensive.
"The entire continent of Africa skipped right over cards and went straight into mobile payments," said Sanjay Sakhrani, an industry analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, who covers Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and Western Union.
But these payment systems are often constrained by the type of cellphone carrier each person is using. It's not uncommon in places like Africa to carry multiple cellphones in order to have the necessary access to the right money transfer system.
Libra could solve this problem by creating a universal currency that can be transferred across multiple cellphone networks and across borders. There's also the issue of cost, which is cited by the World Bank as being the biggest issue with financial systems outside of developed markets. Facebook says Libra would have a near-zero cost attached to it.
The Colombian border city of Cucuta, is one of the places where Libra could make a difference.
Every day, thousands of needy Venezuelans cross into this sweltering town to buy food and medicines that are scarce at home. For many the first stop is Western Union, where they line up for hours to pick up cash sent by relatives living in abroad. The demand for cash remittances is so big in fact that migrants sometimes line up outside Western Unions the night before the branches open, sleeping on the sidewalk to keep their place in the queue.
Digital currencies could make it easier to transfer funds to these migrants with no bank accounts, and save them hours of their time. Using them is also safer, says Typson Sanchez, a local software developer, because it prevents robberies.
But despites its obvious benefits, merchants in Cucuta have been slow to adopt digital currencies, and only a handful currently accept it.
"Merchants worry about the volatility" of currencies like bitcoin, says Sanchez, a software developer and co-founder of Panda Exchange, a digital payments start up. Other merchants find existing digital wallets difficult to use, and worry about its legality.
Sanchez hopes that Facebook's Libra could help to overcome some of those obstacles. "They already have a very powerful platform with lots of users" Sanchez says. "They will be able to reach everyday people who are not into technology. And that's something that many companies haven't been able to do yet."
Vodaphone, the Europe-based cell carrier, has a large presence in Africa and other developing countries and operates its own mobile wallet system known as M-Pesa. Already a dominant carrier in Africa, Vodaphone sees the potential in Libra to enable customers to send money across borders at a much lower cost.
There's a lot of room for improvement. The average fee on a cross-border remittance is around 7%, according to the World Bank, with places in Sub-Saharan Africa charging as much as 10% to send a money transfer.
Companies like Vodaphone and organizations involved with Libra like Mercy Corp and Women's World Banking said they've joined at least in part to make sure they have a "seat at the table" in case Libra does take off as a payment method. Libra's real-life use cases are still at least a year off, and much likely longer.
Some would argue that Facebook's Libra is the wrong solution to the issue of accessing financial services in developing countries. In China, the dominant way to pay are WeChat and AliPay, two mobile apps that use messaging to send money either to a business or another person, at extremely low cost. Both apps are used by more than a billion people.
"That to me is the simplest solution for developing countries," said Nicholas Economides, a professor of economics at the Stern School of Business, an expert in electronic commerce and payment systems. "You don't need to create a whole new currency. You just need the right app."
There's a "well, why not?" factor into these companies' involvement. Facebook asked for a minimum $10 million investment in Libra from its for-profit partners. For a company like Visa, which made more than $20 billion in revenue last year, the Libra investment is pocket change. In exchange Visa gets insider access to Libra and its potential technologies, as well as a seat at the table.
Visa declined a request for an interview regarding its involvement in the project, but a spokesman pointed to a blog post one of its executives published Tuesday, in which the company's interest is described as reflecting "a spirit of openness and curiosity."
Mastercard has been looking into technology that underpins bitcoin and other digital technologies for some time, said Jorn Lambert, executive vice president of digital solutions at Mastercard. The company was attracted to Libra because it's private, unlike bitcoin which operates on an open network, and it's backed by reserve currencies.
"This is a thing that could provide real consumer benefits, particularly in the developing world," Lambert said.
Women's World Banking, a nonprofit focused on financial inclusion for women particularly in developing countries, also joined the association. WWB wanted to make sure the issues of women in developing countries — who are often less technologically literate than their male counterparts — were addressed.
"Women are more than half of the unbanked population in the world. We wanted to be at the table to address women's needs," said Karen Miller, vice president of knowledge and communications.
San Francisco, Jun 28 (AP/UNB) — Presidents and other world leaders and political figures who use Twitter to threaten or abuse others could find their tweets slapped with warning labels.
The new policy , announced by the company on Thursday, comes amid complaints from activists and others that President Donald Trump has gotten a free pass from Twitter to post hateful messages and attack his enemies in ways they say could lead to violence.
From now on, a tweet that Twitter deems to involve matters of public interest, but which violates the service's rules, will be obscured by a warning explaining the violation.
Users will have to tap through the warning to see the underlying message, but the tweet won't be removed, as Twitter might do with a regular person's posts.
Twitter said the policy applies to all government officials, candidates and similar public figures with more than 100,000 followers. In addition to applying the label, Twitter won't use its algorithms to "elevate" or otherwise promote such tweets.
"It's a step in the right direction," said Keegan Hankes, research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, who focuses on far-right extremist propaganda online. But, he added, Twitter is essentially arguing "that hate speech can be in the public interest. I am arguing that hate speech is never in the public interest."
Twitter refused to comment on whether any of Trump's past tweets violated its rules and would not say what role, if any, his Twitter activity played in the creation of the new warning-label policy.
The new stance could fuel additional Trumpian ire toward social media. The president routinely complains, without evidence, that social media sites are biased against him and other conservatives.
Twitter's rules prohibit threatening violence against a person or group, engaging in "targeted harassment of someone," or inciting others to do so, such as wishing a person is harmed. It also bans hate speech against a group based on race, ethnicity, gender or other categories.
Up to now, the company has exempted prominent leaders from many of those rules, contending that publishing controversial tweets from politicians helps hold them accountable and encourages discussion.
But there have been longstanding calls to remove Trump from the service over what some have called abusive and threatening behavior.
Some activists complained this week after the president threatened Iran with "obliteration" in some areas if it attacks the U.S. Trump has also tweeted a video of himself beating up a man with a CNN logo in place of his head and retweeted seemingly faked anti-Muslim videos.
"Donald Trump has changed political discourse on Twitter and everywhere else, given the level of toxic statements he has made about vulnerable communities in America," Hankes said.
Other politicians could likewise become subject to warning labels.
In 2018, French prosecutors filed preliminary charges against far-right French politician Marine Le Pen for tweeting brutal images of Islamic State violence. Twtter prohibits material that is "excessively gory."
And in March, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stirred outrage by sharing a video on Twitter of a man urinating on the head of another man during a Carnival party.
Insults and mockery fall into a gray area. Calling someone a "lowlife, a "dog" or a "stone cold LOSER," as Trump hasdone , may not in itself be a violation. But repeated insults against someone might amount to prohibited harassment.
Jennifer Grygiel, a social media expert and professor at Syracuse University, said Twitter "obviously" enacted the new policy because of Trump's Twitter activity.
But Grygiel said the new rule doesn't go far enough. Because of the president's outsize ability to start wars, move stock markets or influence other world events, Twitter should instead review leaders' tweets before they are sent out and block them if necessary, Grygiel said.
Twitter's new policy doesn't apply to past tweets.
Twitter said it is still possible for a government official or other figure to tweet something so egregious that it warrants removal. A direct threat of violence against an individual, for instance, would qualify.
The company said warning-label decisions will be made by a group that includes members of its trust and safety, legal and public policy teams, as well as employees in the regions where particular tweets originate.
San Francisco, Jun 28 (AP/UNB) — A newspaper is reporting that Apple will manufacture its new Mac Pro computer in China, shifting away from a U.S. assembly line it had been using for that product in recent years.
The Wall Street Journal reported the plan Friday, citing unidentified people familiar with the move. Apple issued a statement saying the new Mac Pro will be designed and engineered in California, but wouldn't say where it will be assembled.
Apple has been assembling Mac Pros in Austin, Texas, since 2013 as part of a $100 million commitment that CEO Tim Cook trumpeted in a national television interview. The Journal says the new $6,000 Mac Pro will be assembled in a factory near Shanghai.
The company already makes the iPhone and most other devices in China.
Dhaka, June 28 (UNB) - PUBG Corporation, the developer behind the massively popular PUBG game for PCs and consoles, is creating a new game studio to build a new “original narrative experience” for the game, set in the same universe. The company believes that PUBG can be a lot more than just Battle Royale. The new game studio will be called Striking Distance and to helm it, the company has tapped industry veteran Glen Schofield, who is best known for the original Dead Space and Call of Duty games, reports NDTV.
The company made the announcement in a Twitter post, which was accompanied by a video featuring Schofield. He said, “we are working together to build the studio from ground up, so we can begin crafting an original narrative experience in the PUBG universe.”
As the announcement was light on specifics, there are a lot of unknowns out there. Schofield did reveal on Twitter that they won't be working on sequel.
“The only thing I can say now is that I'm not working on a sequel to PUBG, but an original narrative in the PUBG universe,” he noted.
While there probably aren't many people out there who were looking to see a story-driven experience in PUBG, the association of Glen Schofield certainly make this move very interesting. Given his experience with Dead Space and Call of Duty franchise, he certainly has the chops to create something memorable.
There is no timeline of when this original narrative will be available on PUBG.
“As a company, we have focused on developing and making content available for global audiences through close collaboration with international teams located across the US, Europe, and Asia. That vision is taken to the next level as our development and service portfolio expands and diversifies with Glen Schofield and Striking Distance,” said C.H. Kim, CEO at PUBG Corporation in a statement. “We are thrilled to welcome Glen to the company. His unique blend of proven leadership and boundless creativity will help us create great synergy.”
Dhaka, June 28 (UNB) - One of Huawei's biggest rivals - Nokia - has said the UK should be wary of using the Chinese firm's equipment, reports BBC.
The Finnish company said Huawei's telecoms kit had vulnerabilities that meant it posed a risk to 5G networks.
Nokia and Sweden's Ericsson are competing with Huawei to sell next-generation telecoms equipment.
Huawei is seen as leading the race in many markets, but the US is putting pressure on allies, including the UK, to bar the firm over security fears.
Nokia's chief technology officer Marcus Weldon said the pressure from the US was serving as a counterbalance to unfair financial advantages that Huawei had enjoyed in the past.
"It's fairness returning to the market," he told the BBC.
"We were disadvantaged in the past relative to the practices that the Chinese were allowed to have in terms of funding mechanisms."
Huawei has denied that its equipment poses a security risk.
"These comments are misleading," said a spokesman.
"We believe secure, resilient networks can only be delivered by collaboration across the whole industry, working to common standards on privacy protection and cyber-security, so that all participants can be judged equally.
"We have a proven track record of delivering secure, trustworthy and high quality products to every major telecoms operator in Europe. Cyber-security remains Huawei's top priority and here, in the UK, we are subject to the most rigorous oversight compared to any competitors in our sector."
Mr Weldon said Nokia's equipment was "a safer bet" for mobile operators. He pointed to a new report from US security firm Finite State, which detailed vulnerabilities in Huawei enterprise networking equipment.
"In virtually all categories we studied," the report said, "we found Huawei devices to be less secure than comparable devices from other vendors."
In the UK, Huawei equipment has been subject to close scrutiny by a unit staffed by GCHQ. It has produced reports severely critical of the security of some software, although it has not found backdoors in the firm's products.
"We read those reports and we think OK, we're doing a much better job than they are," said Mr Weldon. He conceded that Nokia's equipment was not subject to the same checks in the UK as Huawei, but said it did face scrutiny around the world.
He said Huawei's failings were serious: "Some of it seems to be just sloppiness, honestly, that they haven't patched things, they haven't upgraded. But some of it is real obfuscation, where they make it look like they have the secure version when they don't."
The UK government has been conducting a review into the security of the telecoms supply chain, and has been under pressure from the United States to ban Huawei from any involvement in 5G.
Mr Weldon said the government needed to take this issue very seriously as 5G would play a vital role in key infrastructure.
"That means being wary of adding Chinese vendors into network infrastructure, as long as these security vulnerabilities are either provably there or likely to be there based on past practices," he added.
He said Huawei represented a risk relative to Nokia and Ericsson.
It was reported in April that the prime minister had decided that, while the Chinese firm should not be allowed into the heart of 5G networks, it would not be banned completely. Downing Street has insisted that a final decision has yet to be made
UK mobile operators are beginning to roll out 5G networks and are all using some Huawei equipment. They have warned that a ban on the Chinese firm would mean a lengthy delay in the 5G rollout and added costs due to a lack of competition.