Elon Musk Might Charge iPhone Users $11 For Twitter Blue



Twitter CEO Elon Musk has told users on his platform to pay $8 for its Blue subscription service so many times that it’s hard to imagine him saying anything else. Yet, a week after someone apparently told him that Apple charges a 30% tax on App Store purchases, Musk may be changing his sales pitch for iOS users to “Pay $11”, Gizmodo reported.

The Information appears to be the first to report that Elon Musk has told some employees that the price of Twitter Blue will change depending on which platform people use to buy it. (Unfortunately, it appears that The Information is requiring people to sign in or enter their email in order to read the whole article).

Gizmodo reported that iPhone users would pay $11 for the subscription service instead of Musk’s previously announced $8. Users who buy Twitter Blue on the web, meanwhile, will pay $7, according to The Information. The change is pricing is likely an attempt by Twitter to offset the 30% cut Apple takes from the App Store to users.

MacRumors reported that prior to when Twitter Blue was paused, Twitter was charging $7.99 for a subscription, but the pricing will change before it relaunches. According to The Information, some employees have been briefed on the new pricing, but Twitter CEO Elon Musk is known for making snap decisions, so it is still not clear if plans could change.

According to MacRumors, the higher price point on the iPhone will allow Twitter to provide Apple with its 30 percent cut of in-app purchase proceeds without significantly cutting into Twitter’s bottom line. The pricing difference will likely encourage most customers to subscribe on the web, allowing Twitter to avoid in-app purchase fees.

MacRumors also reported that the Twitter Blue pricing changes come after a short dispute between Twitter and Apple. Musk last week criticized Apple’s App Store fees and claimed that Apple had “threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store,” but he later walked that statement back following a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook.

iPhone In Canada reported that Twitter’s account verification subscription will cost $7 USD per month on the web, but $11 per month on iPhone when it eventually relaunches (according to a report from The Information).

According to iPhone in Canada, Elon Musk, who completed his long-embattled acquisition of Twitter back in October, reworked Twitter Blue to include account verification and a coveted blue checkmark last month. Unfortunately, the subscription led to rampant impersonation on the platform and had to be pulled almost immediately to work out the kinks.

iPhone in Canada also reported: Musk consequently delayed Twitter Blue’s relaunch indefinitely. It was supposed to relaunch on December 2, but there’s still no sign of it. When it does roll out, though Twitter will reportedly overcharge iOS users buying the subscription to offset Apple’s 30% commission on App Store transactions.

Personally, it is unclear to me whether or not it is legally acceptable to charge iPhone users more money for Twitter Blue than Twitter will charge for those using Android phones (who will be charged $7). It appears that the Elon Musk’s intent is to avoid paying the 30% fees that Apple charges. I wonder what Apple would think about that.


FTC Sues To Block Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision



The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday sued to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of the video game publisher Activision Blizzard, charging that the massive deal would allow the Washington tech giant to suppress its competitors in gaming, The Washington Post reported.

According to The Washington Post, the lawsuit represents the FTC’s most significant effort to rein in consolidation in the tech industry since prominent tech critic Lina Khan (D) became the commission’s chair and was expected to usher in an era of antitrust enforcement characterized by a willingness to bring cases in court rather than pursue settlements with companies.

The FTC lawsuit against Microsoft could foil the company’s ambitions to become a heavier hitter in gaming frontiers. Activision is the owner of popular titles such as Candy Crush and Call of Duty, and its acquisition could bolster Microsoft in its competition with Japanese console makers Nintendo and Sony.

The Washington Post also reported that the commission voted Thursday on a party-line vote to issue the lawsuit in administrative court, with the three Democrats in favor of the complaint and one Republican against it.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) posted the following:

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking to block technology giant Microsoft Corp. from acquiring leading video game developer Activision Blizzard, Inc. and its blockbuster gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, alleging that the $69 billion deal, Microsoft’s largest ever and the largest ever in the gaming industry, would enable Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles and its rapidly growing subscription content and cloud-gaming business.

In a complaint issue today, the FTC pointed to Microsoft’s record of acquiring and using valuable gaming content to suppress competition from rival consoles, including its acquisition of ZeniMax, parent company of Bethesda Softworks (a well-known game developer). Microsoft decided to make several of Bethesda’s titles, including Starfield and Redial Microsoft exclusives despite assurances that it had given to European antitrust authorities that it had no incentive to withhold games from rival consoles…

…Activision is one of only a very small number of top video game developers in the world that create and publish high-quality video games for multiple devices, including video game consoles, PCs, and mobile devices. It produces some the most iconic and popular video game titles, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch, and has millions of monthly active users around the word, according to the FTC’s complaint. Activision currently has a strategy of offering its games on many devices regardless of producer.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Sony has been the loudest critic of the planned Activision deal, arguing that it could hurt competition if Microsoft restricts access to Activision games, especially Call of Duty, due to the franchise’s exceptional popularity.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft has said it doesn’t plan to deny Sony and others access to Activision games and that its deal for the company wouldn’t hurt competition. The company has publicly pledged to give Sony and Nintendo access to new Call of Duty games on their consoles for the next 10 years. Though Microsoft doesn’t disclose Xbox sales, it has said it would still be the third-largest video game console maker after Sony and Nintendo after merging with Activision.

What does this mean for gamers? It seems to me that the FTC’s decision to sue Microsoft over the Activision Blizzard acquisition means there could be a lengthy court battle. There is no way to know how a court will decide this case. Based on what I’ve seen on social media, there are a lot of gamers who hoped the acquisition would happen. The FTC’s decision to sue is disappointing.


Apple Advances User Security #1639



Apple Advances User Security in a big way with announcements today about beefing up encryption across many facets of iCloud storage. The FBI of course is not happy about this as they do not have a backdoor to access those encrypted files. At this point, the more security, the better.

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Apple Advances User Security With Powerful New Data Protections



Apple introduced three advanced security features focused on protecting against threats to user data in the cloud, representing the next step in its ongoing effort to provide users with even stronger ways to protect their data.

With iMessage Contact Key Verification, users can verify they are communicating only with whom they intend. With Security Keys for Apple ID, users have the choice to require a physical security key to sign in to their Apple ID account. And with Advanced Data Protection for iCloud, which uses end-to-end encryption to provide Apple’s highest level of cloud data security, users have the choice to further protect important iCloud data, including iCloud Backup, Photos, Notes, and more.

As threats to user data become increasingly sophisticated and complex, these new features join a suite of other protections that make Apple products the most secure on the market: from the security built directly into our customer chips with best-in-class device encryption and data protections, to features like Lockdown Mode, which offer an extreme, optional level of security for users such as journalists, human rights activists, and diplomats. Apple is committed to strengthening both device and cloud security, and adding new protections over time.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is planning to significantly expand its data-encryption practices, a step that is likely to create tensions with law enforcement and governments around the world as the company continues to build new privacy protections for millions of iPhone users.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the expanded end-to-end encryption system, an optional feature called Advanced Data Protection, would keep most data secure that is stored in iCloud, an Apple service used by many of its users to store photos, back up their iPhones or save specific device data such as Notes and Messages. The data would be protected in the event that Apple is hacked, and it also wouldn’t be accessible to law enforcement, even with a warrant.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the FBI said it was “deeply concerned with the threat end-to-end and user-only-access encryption pose,” according to a statement provided by an agency spokeswoman. “This hinders our ability to protect the American people from criminal acts ranging from cyberattacks and violence against children to drug trafficking, organized crime, and terrorism,” the statement said. The FBI and law enforcement agencies need “lawful access by design,” it said.

BuzzFeed News reported that Apple’s Advanced Data Protection is significant because switching it on will only store your key locally on your device and not on Apple’s servers. This will not only keep your backup safe in case a hacker breaches Apple’s data centers, but also prevent Apple from being able to turn over iCloud backups to law enforcement agencies and governments in response to valid legal requests, something the the company has done thousands of times so far, according to its own transparency report.

It sounds to me like this change in policy is good for consumers, because it not only protects their data from hackers, but also makes it impossible for law enforcement agencies to demand that Apple turn over iCloud information to them. Apple won’t have any way to access that information because it won’t have the key.


Apple Will Use Chips Built In The U.S. Arizona Factory



Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that Apple will buy U.S.-made microchips at an event in Arizona on Tuesday, where President Joe Biden also spoke, CNBC reported. Cook said Apple would buy processors made in a new Arizona factory, according to a video from the event.

According to CNBC, the chip factories will be owned and operated by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the biggest foundry company with over with over half of the global market share. TSMC produces the most advanced processors, including the chips in the latest iPhones, iPads and Macs.

The plants will be capable of manufacturing the 4-nanometer and 3-nanometer chips that are used for advanced processors such as Apple’s A-series and M-series and NVIDIA graphics processors.

According to CNBC, TSMC currently does most of its manufacturing in Taiwan, which has raised questions from U.S. and European lawmakers about securing supply in the potential event of a Chinese invasion or other regional issues. Chip companies such as Nvidia and Apple design their own chips but outsource the manufacturing to companies like TSMC and Samsung Foundry.

The Verge reported that the Phoenix, Arizona plant include not only Apple, but also AMD and NVIDIA as customers. The new facility means a more secure supply of chips and quicker production timelines. The chip fabricator, TSMC, also said today that it would start construction on a second factory in Phoenix next year, increasing the site’s annual output.

According to The Verge, TSMC is a dedicated foundry, meaning it builds the chips designed by other companies. Apple, AMD, and NVIDIA are among its largest customers, and even Intel relies on TSMC to make the most advanced processors.

The first Phoenix fab will make 4nm processors (improved from the originally disclosed 5nm), with production slated to begin in 2024. The second fab will come online in 2026 and produce 3nm chips, which are the smallest and most complex processors in production today.

Engadget reported that the combination of the two plants will together make about 600,000 chip wafers per year. TSMC is spending $40 billion on the factories, but they’ll be partly subsidized by the U.S. government through the CHIPS and Science Act meant to incentivize US semiconductor manufacturing.

According to Engadget, while the plants won’t come online for two years, news of the expansion comes at an appropriate time. Apple has warned of iPhone 14 Pro manufacturing setbacks due to China’s COVID-19 policies. In theory, American facilities would have reduced the impact of those restrictions. Although many parts could still be made overseas even after TSMC’s expansion, there could soon be a greater chance of Apple devices reaching your door in a timely fashion.

Overall, I think this might be a good thing for American workers because the two plants are going to need to hire a lot of people. This can also be good for American companies that rely on the chips the plants will make, and also for consumers who use the product that require those chips.


Meta’s Oversight Board Criticizes ‘Cross Check’ Program For VIPs



Meta Platforms Inc. has long given unfair deference to VIP users of its Facebook and Instagram services under a program called “cross check” and has misled the public about the program, the company’s oversight board concluded in a report issued Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the report offers the most detailed review of cross check, which Meta has billed as a quality-control effort to prevent moderation errors on content of heightened public interest. The oversight board took up the issue more than a year ago in the wake of a Wall Street Journal article based on the internal documents that showed that cross check was plagued by favoritism, mismanagement and understaffing.

Meta’s Oversight Board posted information titled: “Oversight Board publishes policy advisory opinion on Meta’s cross-check program”. From the information:

Key Findings: The Board recognizes that the volume and complexity of content posted on Facebook and Instagram pose challenges for building systems that uphold Meta’s human rights commitments. However, in its current form, cross-check is flawed in key areas which the company must address:

Unequal treatment of users. Cross-check grants certain users greater protection than others. If a post from a user on Meta’s cross-check lists is identified as violating the company’s rules, it remains on the platform pending further review. Meta then applies its full range of policies, including exceptions and context-specific provisions, to the post, likely increasing its chances of remaining on the platform.

Ordinary users, by contrast, are much less likely to have their content reach reviewers who can apply the full range of Meta’s rules. This unequal treatment is particularly concerning given the lack of transparent criteria for Meta’s cross-check lists. While there are clear criteria for including business partners and government leaders, users whose content is likely to be important from a human rights perspective, such as journalists and civil society organizations, have less clear paths to access the program.

Lack of transparency around how cross-check works. The Board is also concerned about the limited information Meta has provided to the public and its users about cross-check. Currently, Meta does not inform users that they are on cross check lists and does not publicly share its procedures for creating and auditing these lists. It is unclear, for example, whether entities that continuously post violating content are kept on cross-check lists based on their profile. This lack of transparency impedes the Board and the public from understanding the full consequences of the program.

NPR reported that the board said Meta appeared to be more concerned with avoiding “provoking” VIPs and evading accusations of censorship than balancing tricky questions of free speech and safety. It called for the overhaul of the “flawed” program in a report on Tuesday that included wide-ranging recommendations to bring the program in line with international principles and Meta’s own stated values.

Personally, I don’t think it is fair for Meta to pick and choose which users are exempt from Meta’s rules about what people can, and can not, post. Hopefully, the Oversight Board’s review will require Meta to treat all users equally.


Twitter Files Revelations for Big Tech, MSM & Politicians #1638



Twitter Files announcements are huge revelations for Big Tech, MSM & Politicians and should wake people up if they can leave their politics at the door for 10 minutes. Everything today is about messaging and controlling the narrative. Why can’t the narrative be the narrative? We will see if Musk can find where the rest of the dead bodies are buried.

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