Microsoft Confirms It Is in Talks to Buy the U.S. Arm of TikTok as Trump Threatens Ban

(NEW YORK) — Microsoft confirmed Sunday it is in talks with Chinese company ByteDance to acquire the U.S. arm of its popular video app TikTok and has discussed with President Donald Trump his concerns about security and censorship surrounding such an acquisition.

In a statement, Microsoft said Microsoft and ByteDance have provided notice of their intent to explore a deal resulting in Microsoft owning and operating the TikTok service in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The company said it expects those talks to conclude by Sept. 15.

Trump said on Friday that he would soon ban TikTok in the United States. Trump and CEO Satya Nadella have spoken, the company said, and Microsoft was prepared to continue exploring the purchase of TikTok’s U.S. operations after their conversation.

“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” the Microsoft statement said.

The White House did not immediately comment on the Microsoft statement.

Previously, there were reports that Microsoft was in advanced talks to buy the U.S. operations of TikTok, which has been a source of national security and censorship concerns for the Trump administration. Earlier Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again raised the administration’s warnings about social media platform.

“These Chinese software companies doing business in the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat — there are countless more … are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party, their national security apparatus,” Pompeo said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

“Could be their facial recognition patterns. It could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they’re connected to. Those — those are the issues that President Trump has made clear we’re going to take care of,” Pompeo said.

In its statement, Microsoft said it may invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in the purchase of TikTok. Financial terms were undisclosed.

TikTok’s U.S. user data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access, and its biggest investors come from the U.S., the company said earlier Sunday. “We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform,” a TikTok spokesperson said.

A federal committee has been reviewing whether Trump could ban …read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

Facebook Complies With Brazilian Judge’s Order to Block 12 Accounts Accused of Running a Fake News Network

(BRASILIA, Brazil) — Facebook announced Saturday it has obeyed a Brazilian judge’s order for a worldwide block on the accounts of 12 of President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters who are under investigation for allegedly running a fake news network.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes said Friday night that the company had failed to fully comply with a previous ruling ordering the accounts to be shut down, saying they were still online and publishing by changing their registration to locations outside Brazil.

Facebook issued a statement saying it complied due to the threat of criminal liability for an employee in Brazil.

But it called the new order “extreme,” saying it poses a “threat to freedom of expression outside of Brazil’s jurisdiction and conflicting with laws and jurisdictions worldwide.” The company said it would appeal to the full court.

Facebook also argued it had complied with the previous order by “restricting the ability for the target Pages and Profiles to be seen from IP locations in Brazil”.

“People from IP locations in Brazil were not capable of seeing these Pages and Profiles even if the targets had changed their IP location”, the company said.

Moraes said that Facebook ought to pay $ 367,000 in penalties for not complying with his previous decision during the last eight days.

He also had ruled Twitter should block the accounts. While Twitter said then the decision was “disproportionated” under Brazil’s freedom of speech rules and that it would appeal, the targeted profiles were disabled.

Moraes is overseeing a controversial investigation to determine whether some of Bolsonaro’s most ardent allies are running a social media network aimed at spreading threats and fake news against Supreme Court justices.

The probe is one of the main points of confrontation between Bolsonaro and the Supreme Court.

The president himself filed a lawsuit last week demanding the accounts to be unblocked.

…read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

President Trump Says He Will Act to Ban TikTok in the U.S. as Soon as Saturday

(NEW YORK) — President Donald Trump said he will take action as soon as Saturday to ban TikTok, a popular Chinese-owned video app that has been a source of national security and censorship concerns.

Trump’s comments came after published reports that the administration is planning to order China’s ByteDance to sell TikTok. There were also reports Friday that software giant Microsoft is in talks to buy the app.

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters Friday on Air Force One as he returned from Florida.

Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enforce the action, insisting, “I have that authority.” He added, “It’s going to be signed tomorrow.”

Reports by Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal citing anonymous sources said the administration could soon announce a decision ordering ByteDance to divest its ownership in TikTok.

There have been reports of U.S. tech giants and financial firms being interested in buying or investing in TikTok as the Trump administration sets its sights on the app. The New York Times and Fox Business, citing an unidentified source, reported Friday that Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok. Microsoft declined to comment.

TikTok issued a statement Friday saying that, “While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.”

ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, then bought Musical.ly, a video service popular with teens in the U.S. and Europe, and combined the two. A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users.

TikTok’s fun, goofy videos and ease of use has made it immensely popular, and U.S. tech giants like Facebook and Snapchat see it as a competitive threat. It has said it has tens of millions of U.S. users and hundreds of millions globally.

But its Chinese ownership has raised concerns about the censorship of videos, including those critical of the Chinese government, and the potential for sharing user data with Chinese officials.

TikTok maintains it doesn’t censor videos based on topics sensitive to China and it would not give the Chinese government access to U.S. user data even if asked. The company has hired a U.S. CEO, a former top Disney executive, in an attempt to distance itself from its Chinese ownership.

U.S. national-security officials have been reviewing the Musical.ly acquisition in recent months, while U.S. armed forces have …read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

Florida Teen Charged Over Massive Twitter Hack, Bitcoin Scam

(LONDON) — A Florida teen hacked the Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around globe out of more than $100,000 in Bitcoin, authorities said Friday.

The 17-year-old boy was arrested earlier Friday in Tampa, where the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case. He faces 30 felony charges, according to a news release.

The hacks led to bogus tweets being sent out July 15 from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked.

The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.

Twitter previously said hackers used the phone to fool the social media company’s employees into giving them access. It said targeted “a small number of employees through a phone spear-phishing attack.”

“This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” the company tweeted.

After stealing employee credentials and getting into Twitter’s systems, the hackers were able to target other employees who had access to account support tools, the company said.

The hackers targeted 130 accounts. They managed to tweet from 45 accounts, access the direct message inboxes of 36, and download the Twitter data from seven. Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders has said his inbox was among those accessed.

Spear-phishing is a more targeted version of phishing, an impersonation scam that uses email or other electronic communications to deceive recipients into handing over sensitive information. Twitter said it would provide a more detailed report later “given the ongoing law enforcement investigation.”

The company has previously said the incident was a “coordinated social engineering attack” that targeted some of its employees with access to internal systems and tools. It didn’t provide any more information about how the attack was carried out, but the details released so far suggest the hackers started by using the old-fashioned method of talking their way past security.

British cybersecurity analyst Graham Cluley said his guess was that a targeted Twitter employee or contractor received a message by phone asking them to call a number.

“When the worker called the number they might have been taken to a convincing (but fake) helpdesk operator, who was then able to use …read more

Source:: Time – Technology