Do Facebook, Twitter and Google Suppress Conservative Speech?

Technology platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube claim to be politically and ideologically neutral platforms for ideas. But there are many who suggest that they are anything but that.

It is not our intention to take sides here and we have no ties with either the Democrats or Republicans. We are keen observers of the latest trends in the world of technology and say it like it is. Read on for our take on this burning issue.

Unless you’d been living under a rock, you’d have heard about this fabulous exchange between Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the latter’s testimony before the Congress.

Sen. Cruz is known to be a brilliant trial lawyer and he clinically tore at Mark Zuckerberg at the Congressional hearing, voicing a concern many Republicans have about Facebook suppressing any pro-Conservative speech.

Senator Cruz started off by asking Zuckerberg, “Does Facebook consider itself a neutral public forum?” 

Zuckerberg said in response: “Senator, we consider ourselves to be a platform for ideas.”

Cruz retorted, “Are you a First Amendment speaker expressing your views or are you a neutral public forum allowing everyone to speak?” 

He added, “There are a great many Americans who I would say are deeply concerned that Facebook and other tech companies are engaged in a pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship.” 

Zuckerberg was forced to admit that Facebook was “an extremely left-leaning place,” but said that he was determined to encourage diversity of viewpoints at his organization.

Many conservative media outlets have been complaining for a long time now that major technology companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (which is a part of Google), were attempting to censor the conservative worldview and suppress online content that was in the favor of President Donald Trump.

In a detailed report titled CENSORED! How Online Media Companies Are Suppressing Conservative Speech, authords Ashley Rae Goldenberg and Dan Gainor have provided numerous examples of how Twitter, Facebook and Google suppress conservative online content.

According to the authors, the biggest culprit is Twitter, which “regularly suppresses conservative points-of-view” and engages in biased censorship. Twitter is by no means as popular as Facebook, it has only 300 million members compared to Facebook’s 2.1 billion.

Twitter, unlike Facebook is a very political medium which is watched closely by journalists, politicians, celebrities and opinion makers. It was because of Twitter that Donald Trump was able to go over the hostile media and reach out to his supporters. Twitter certainly was one of the biggest reasons behind Trump winning the Presidential race.

But the people who run Twitter, such as CEO Jack Dorsey, are very much left wing in their outlook. Twitter staffers have openly admitted on camera about “shadow banning” Conservatives. They have been known to restrict Conservative ads and hashtags and promote left-wing ads and hashtags.

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube talk about using moderators to suppress hate speech. But a question has been raised as to who moderates the moderators. One organization that is used to identify hate speech, for example, is a left-wing group called Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has a clear agenda against conservative online content creators.

Our View: Technology platforms should be politically neutral and should not get caught up in all the political nonsense. After all, if you can’t trust Facebook, Twitter or Google, who can you trust? This creates bad vibes and turns off a major section of the population from using the social media, which we are sure none of these platforms want.

Are Google and Facebook at Risk of a Government Takeover?

Whisper it softly; the word is “nationalization”. Are Google and Facebook at risk of being taken over by the U.S. government?

There is a school of thought in Washington, D.C. that suggests that the Big-4 of technology, represented by Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook, have become too big for their own good. Most members of the U.S. Congress are of the opinion that technology companies have to be regulated by the government.

Are they allowed to do that?

Yes, the U.S. Constitution gives the government the power to take over any private company – provided the actions of that company threaten the sovereignty of the government.

Many governments – not just the U.S. government – have come around the view that the data collected by the big technology companies poses a serious national security risk – enough to overthrow the existing power structures and foster an environment of total chaos.

That is what Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm sought to do with the help of the data obtained from Facebook. Cambridge Analytica used data to control people on the social media, influence their thoughts and actions and thereby influence political outcomes in different countries such as Kenya, United States, India and more.

Cambridge Analytica described their work in the Kenyan elections of 2013 as “the largest political research project ever conducted in East Africa based on the electorate’s real needs (jobs) and fears (tribal violence).” The 2013 election was marked by a brutal cycle of violence in which over  1,000 people were killed.

Mark Turnbull, the managing director of Cambridge Analytica, spoke about his company’s role in ensuring the victory of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in his election campaigns of 2013 and 2017.

He boasted in a Channel 4 report, “We have rebranded the entire party twice, written their manifesto, done two rounds of 50,000 (participant) surveys. Then we’d write all the speeches and we’d stage the whole thing — so just about every element of his campaign.”  

This is just an example of how third parties – with or without the knowledge of Facebook and other major technology companies have been subverting the democratic process around the world.

There is a growing fear in the U.S. and other countries a hostile power could use the data obtained from major social media platforms to influence political outcomes in their countries. That is why a strong need has been felt to nationalize technology companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter before they get out of hand.

Could the U.S. government take over Facebook just like that? Yes. But they might adopt a simpler approach than that.

The FTC has a consent decree with Facebook which has already been violated. If the U.S. government wants to, they can impose a severe penalty on Facebook amounting to billions of dollars, which even a company of the size of Facebook would be unable to pay.

Google has so far escaped the same level of scrutiny, but there is no question that Google has far more data about people than Facebook has. In terms of data, you may refer to Google as a superset of Facebook.

We don’t know how any of this is going to pan out, but we can tell you that the powers that be at Silicon Valley are a deeply worried bunch. Stay tuned to this blog for the latest developments in this story.

Amazon’s Brilliant Long Term Strategy for the International Market

Amazon has just delivered a massive first quarter earnings report, which has sent the stock up to an unprecedented new high. The revenue has gone up by 43%, going up to $51 billion for the quarter. The net income was as high as $1.6 billion, up from $734 million for this period last year.

Amazon stock is now worth $1,572 and the company has a market cap of $734. This is a stunning new high for a company that began its life as a website that sold books.

The increase in revenue can be attributed to many factors. Amazon Prime subscription, for example, has been a huge success. The company already has 100 million paid Prime subscribers globally. In the U.S., the company has decided to increase Prime subscription prices from $99 to $119 per year starting from May 11 this year.

Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky explained, “We always evaluate the price of Prime. There’s all kinds of new features we’ve continually added to the Prime program…it’s a reflection of the cost value of the program.”

Another major factor behind Amazon’s impressive revenue growth has been Amazon Web Services. This cloud-based service has procured total revenue of $5.4 billion for the company, up by 49% since a year ago. Amazon Web Services provides cloud computing, database and storage services for web developers, online companies, academic institutions and governments.

Speaking about AWS, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, “AWS had the unusual advantage of a seven-year head start before facing like-minded competition, and the team has never slowed down.”

Amazon’s international sales were up by 34%. However, the fact is Amazon is losing money over its international business, to up to $622 million this quarter.

Amazon seems to be more interested in growing its international market than making money out of it. In fact, it is strange that even as Amazon’s profitability has increased across the board, internationally they have been losing more and more money every year.

There is, of course, a grand strategy behind it. Bezos is basically playing 3D chess here with a very long-term view.

Amazon competes with many local champions abroad, such as FlipKart and Snapdeal in India, Rakuten in Japan, Alibaba in China and MercadoLibre in Latin America.

These companies already have a loyal customer base which Amazon wants to attract. Amazon is trying to do that by outspending the competition, even at a loss.  Already these companies are in a lot of pressure because of Amazon and have been outspending to keep up themselves, but the question is for how long.

Amazon has limitless cash reserves, and the same can be said about Alibaba and Rakuten. But Flipkart, Snapdeal, MercadoLibre and other local champions will run out of cash and will be forced to sell their business to Amazon or bow out of the race.

That seems to be the strategy Jeff Bezos has in mind. It’s brutal and it is all too apparent, but like a slow moving train crash, nobody can do anything about it!

How the Electronics Industry Has Been Caught in the Middle of the Trade War Between the United States and China

A trade war has been brewing between the United States and China recently, and a direct effect of that will be on the electronics industry. So far the electronics industry has been spared from the tariffs, but the global electronics ecosystem has been hit nonetheless.

China has gone about strategically in its trade warfare against the United States, hitting mainly food products and commodities that are produced in states that are politically significant in the United States.

The United States is retaliating in kind. The U.S. has banned technology transfers to China and China has banned technology transfers to the U.S.

But what does that mean for an electronics company? Let’s say you have a U.S. based mobile phone company. This company makes use of a mobile processor for which the intellectual property comes from a number of different countries in North America, Asia and Europe. The chip is designed in the U.S., fabricated in Germany, assembled and tested in Singapore.

The processor is then integrated into the smartphone which is designed in Hong Kong and assembled in China.  The memory and display are obtained from South Korea, and the operating system is Android, which is made by an American company – Google.

This phone is now sold all over the world, including in the United States and China. Can you see the confusion it would cause if China and the United States were to get into a trade war over this?

That would be disastrous for the American company that makes the smartphone and could lead to the loss of tens of thousands of American jobs, not to mention thousands of jobs in electronics companies in China, Germany, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and Korea – all of the countries that were involved in the manufacture of this phone.

We took the example of a smartphone. The same thing would repeat itself in the case of personal computers, TV, smartwatch, embedded electronic devices such as control boards and so on.

The question is whether the trade war is really worth it? The world we know is completely different from how it was 15-20 years ago. Then, a trade war could have been carried out without much collateral damage.

But now, with all intellectual property, electronic components and embedded systems developed in multiple nations around the world, shipped from one country to another, to make a single unified product – the trade war looks like a very foolish idea indeed.

The issue is not just the tit for tat tariffs imposed by the US and China against each other. Every country has at least some sort of a protectionist mechanism in place, which is playing havoc with the electronics industry.

The electronics industry is one of the biggest employment generators in the world; countries risk meddling with it at a cost to their own economies.  Protectionism has become a curse on the electronics industry, which has been hampering its growth. One hopes that better sense prevails and things get back to normal again.

The Next iPhone to Come with Amazing New Features

The next iPhone is expected to be launched sometime in 2019. There are already speculations about the advanced new features it would have.

To begin with, the new iPhone will have gesture control and a curved display. Apple has wanted these features for the iPhone for a while now, but they had been in the experimental stage so far.

What’s Gesture Control?

Gesture control is a highly innovative feature that will allow a user to perform tasks without even touching the screen. This technology can be used for so many things, such as answering calls, launching apps and much more.

Gesture control allows you to do whatever you want with your iPhone with just a gesture, which could be a touch, voice or biometric. You can, for example, ignore a phone call by waving your hand. The iPhone would pick up the gesture and shut the call.

Gesture control makes use of advanced technological concepts such as artificial intelligence, voice, augmented reality, mixed reality and gesture experiences. This feature can be very useful in situations when your hands are wet or dirty and you cannot use the phone.

Also, gesture control could help those who are visually impaired handle the phone easily with a mere gesture. This is one of the most important applications of this feature.

Why the Curved Display?

The other feature of the next iPhone that has been talked about a lot is curved display. Curved displays have been seen before. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ have curved displays. The latest iPhone X has a small curve at its bottom as well.

Apple has apparently tried many models with curved displays in the experimental stage only to discard them at the last moment. That’s because the OLED displays of the past were not as developed as they are today.

Curved displays are highly flexible, they allow you to bend the screen as you like, so that the phone fits into the natural shape of your hand. Curved displays have been used before in the design of TVs and smartphones, but they don’t seem to have attracted much attention from consumers so far.

All of that could change with the next iPhone. Apple plans to implement the curved display in a way that fits well into the iPhone product line. It is not going to be a drastic change from the iPhones we have had so far, but will be different in subtle ways.

Apple does not believe in making a break with tradition when it comes to iPhones unless it really has to. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were the first iPhone models with a large screen and that was in response to the huge success Samsung was able to achieve with bigger displays.

The curved display will be a change that is forced upon Apple for the same reason. Samsung has already started coming out with smartphones with curved displays and Apple has no choice but to follow suit.

6 Historically Popular Jobs Made Redundant By Technology

You may have noticed that a lot of jobs people used to take for granted when you were growing up are no longer around. Technology has been changing at an unprecedented rate. Things such as automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing have changed a lot about how people live and work.

So many jobs, careers and professions have been made redundant because of automation. Many more will be made redundant sooner or later. For instance, did you know call centers are no longer such big employment creators in countries like India and the Philippines?

That’s because automated voice agents have been fast replacing human customer service reps. Customer support reps are only called into action when the automated voice agent cannot solve the problem.

Here’s a look at 6 historically popular jobs that have been made redundant by technology

#1: Film Projectionists

Do you remember going to the movies in the 1970s and 1980s? Bank then, there was a guy up in the projection room called as a film projectionist. It was his job to load the film onto the projector. Right – today there are no film projectionists. Their jobs have been taken over by digital technology in multiplexes. There are no projection rooms anymore either – just a small but highly sophisticated digital projector that takes care of your entire movie watching experience.

#2: Bank Tellers

Remember how one of the safest and most boring jobs around was that of a bank teller? Every bank used to have thousands of them. But when was the last time you’d seen a bank teller? They have been largely replaced by ATMs. While there are still some who remain, even their jobs will be taken over by machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms.

#3: Typists

When did you last see a typist? Remember the offices of the 1980s? Every company or organization used to employ dozens of typists, mostly young women, who were furiously at work typing away hundreds of documents every day. Right, that has now changed since the 1990s and today personal computer and printers are a ubiquitous presence in every office.

#4: Video Store Clerks

Another job that was very popular well unto to the 2000s but is nowhere to be found is that of a video store clerk. You just don’t have these guys any more. Who buys DVDs or VCDs anyway? You can order any number of movies you want for a small monthly fee of under $10 on Amazon Prime or Netflix. How things have changed!

#5: Telegraph Operator

One job that was very popular back in the early to mid-20th century was that of the telegraph operator. These were men who studied Morse code to interpret messages. Telegraph operators played a stellar role in the World Wars One and Two. But obviously, nobody uses these things any more. That is another job that has been lost to history.

#6: Switchboard Operator

“Switchboard operator” was a very popular job with young women right until the 1970s and early 1980s. All calls were routed through them. Things changed soon after that as technology got better. Switchboards were used for long-distance calling only.  Then, in the 1990s, telecom operations were fully digitized, so that’s another job that has been lost to technology.

Hewlett-Packard on the Comeback Trail Because of 3D Printing

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has been making a strong comeback in recent years. HP is one of the oldest companies in the Silicon Valley, which has been around since the 1940s. They have been the leaders of the technology world for many decades, but fell out of favor for the last 10-20 years.

But things have been changing slowly at HP and there is every chance that HP could be the next turnaround story. As of today, the HP stock is worth $21.82 and the company’s market cap is just over $35 billion. This is nothing compared to companies like Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon, but HP is on the way up.

HP’s top line growth was 10 percent in its last quarterly report. HP computer and printer sales have been picking up. HP probably missed out on a lot of revenue by not coming up with a smartphone. Otherwise, they would be doing even better than they are doing right now.

HP was split into companies by the then-chairwoman Meg Whitman, who spun out a different company called Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE). HPE was supposed to be the new HP, which had nothing to do with traditional products such as printers and PCs. This was a company that focused singularly on the cloud.

But it didn’t really work out so well for HPE. That company’s cloud efforts largely failed and HPE could not even outperform the traditional business, HP.

HP did better than HPE despite the fact that it was forced to take on all of the old debt of the old company. It held on to two businesses – PCs and printers – that everyone said were a dead end.

But surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, HP has gone on from strength to strength.

HP’s turnaround story is similar to that of Apple’s in the late 1990s. Back then, Apple was down in the dumps like HP is right now. But thanks to Steve Jobs visionary leadership and flagship products such as iPod and then the iPhone and iPad, Apple woke up from its prolonged slumber and emerged as the biggest company on the planet.

For HP to be like Apple, they need to have a product that goes viral like the iPod did. They need to come up with a number of popular new products that captures the imagination of consumers.

HP is doing just that. They are the industry leaders in the manufacture of 3D printers, which could potentially be the greatest technological innovation of the 21st century, even superior to the iPhone.

3D printer is a revolutionary technology which allows anyone to create products out of thin air. Wikipedia defines 3D printing as, “any of various processes in which material is joined or solidified under computer control to create a three-dimensional object, with material being added together.”

It could, for example, allow you to create a toy, a pen, a computer or even a car out of thin air. There is a lot about 3D printers that could have come out straight from science fiction, but it is for real.

HP’s leadership in the 3D printing technology could potentially leapfrog it from an also-ran to one of the most important companies in the world. Time will tell.

Could BlackBerry Make a Comeback?

Remember how Blackberry was once the most admired company on the planet? Every professional or business executive used to have a Blackberry or wanted to have one. A Blackberry phone was the ultimate status symbol.

That was before the iPhone was launched in 2007 and the rest, as we all know, is history. Blackberry has been pushed out and nobody cares about the company anymore. Blackberry is all but dead and buried.

Blackberry is still alive, but in a different form. It is no longer a company that makes phones, but more of a software company. In John Chen, they have a very smart, technologically inclined CEO, who is like Steve Jobs in a lot of ways.

Going back to the year that signaled the end of Research In Motion, the company behind Blackberry, what Steve Jobs did was truly phenomenal. Nobody really expected Jobs to cannibalize his own product, the iPod and create a new product that would effectively kill iPod sales.

Back then, remember, the iPod was Apple’s #1 company. Only a genius like Jobs would kill his company’s #1 product to come up with something new and untested and that too in a highly competitive field that had clear leaders such as Blackberry and Nokia.

What happened later, everyone knows. Apple was transformed and the iPhone became one of the most important technological innovations in history. Research in Motion, the once proud and indomitable company that looked set to take over the world, was demolished.

Much has changed since those days. Today’s Apple is not the same innovative company that it was during Jobs’ time. They now have a very bureaucratic CEO in Tim Cook who has nothing whatsoever in common with Steve Jobs.

Apple in recent years has been witness to the death of the iPod, and the flagging sales of the iPad. The iPad does not seem to be such a hot product anymore. It is only the iPhone that is holding fort for the company.  Even the iPhone sales have remained stagnant, with the iPhone X not really taking off as expected. New products like the Apple Watch have been embarrassing failures.

Also, with every country moving from 4G to 5G, there is much greater bandwidth than before and more and more people are now choosing cloud hosted applications rather than buy apps from the Apple app store.

This presents a unique opportunity for Blackberry. Blackberry is still a leader when it comes to security and safety of online applications. Even today, where security concerns are of the greatest importance such as in the government and the military, officials use Blackberry devices and systems, not iPhones or Android devices.

Blackberry does not make hardware anymore, but licenses other manufacturers to make Blackberry devices. Blackberry-licensed devices of today run Android, but they run it on top of a proprietary security layer. This makes phones that run on Blackberry far more secure than either Android devices or iPhone.

Also, Blackberry is based in Canada, which is a neutral country, which means neither the United States or China will have any objection if their government departments and private organizations make the switch to Blackberry. There is hence a good reason for a savvy investor to bet on Blackberry making a comeback.

Apple Takes on Amazon in the eBook Market

Amazon is the unquestioned leader in the eBook market. Amazon’s Kindle sales have been going through the roof year after year. Kindle has completely transformed the publishing industry, making it possible for practically anyone to write and self-publish their own books.

No need to pitch their idea to any publisher or make the rounds of publishing houses. Remember the story of how celebrated novelist Stephen King’s first book “Carrie” was rejected 30 times by different publishers before it was finally published? Well, now, all a young writer has to do is to self-publish his or her book on Amazon and start making money, if the book is any good.

Apple has been watching silently as Amazon has been walking away with all the sales for self-published books. They have only recently decided to revamp their e-Book app for iPhone and iPad and improve their eBook services.

Their eBook app will soon listed as “Books” rather than “iBooks”. It is currently in the final stages of its development and the news from sources is largely positive.

The new Books app will have a much better interface and will highlight the book that is being read currently in a section named as “Reading Now”. The app will also have access to a comprehensive digital bookstore with a dedicated tab for audio books. This is going to be similar to the redesigned App Store.

Of course, Apple won’t have it easy against Amazon, which dominates the eBook market. Also, Apple has been hamstrung by a Supreme Court ruling that went against it for eBook price-fixing. They had to pay a fine of $450 million, which was a big amount even for a company like Apple.

Amazon is a colossus in the eBook market, controlling 80% of the eBook sales in North America, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Amazon owns only 10% of this market – which is the most important market for eBook sales. The rest are divided amongst small players such as Kobo and Smashwords. Google also has a small presence in the eBook market.

Most people who read books on their iPhones or iPads, prefer to buy the eBooks from Amazon, and not from Apple’s eBooks store. Amazon completely dominates the Apple ecosystem when it comes to eBooks. This is resented by Apple and they are determined to fight back.

The redesign of the iBooks app is a part of that. It is possible that Apple will introduce mechanisms to block the Kindle app on the iPhone and iPad. If iPhone and iPad users cannot access Kindle books from their devices, it is more likely that they will buy the books from Apple’s store rather than buy a Kindle Fire or a compatible device like that.

Of course, such a decision will not make Apple popular with its own consumers, but that is a price that Apple is willing to pay to stop Amazon’s dominance of the lucrative eBook market. How Amazon responds to that, only time will tell.