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Elon Musk: No change to Twitter moderation policy yet

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SpaceX founder Elon Musk speaks at an event in Texas.Getty Images

Billionaire Elon Musk has said there will be no changes to Twitter’s content moderation policies for now after completing his $44bn (£38.1bn) takeover of the platform.

“To be super clear, we have not yet made any changes to Twitter’s content moderation policies,” he tweeted.

Earlier he announced the creation of a new council to moderate posts.

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He also tweeted that “anyone suspended for minor & dubious reasons” would be “freed from Twitter jail”.

“Comedy is now legal on Twitter,” he said.

Senior figures at Twitter have announced their exits since Mr Musk took over after long delays to the deal.

Questions are focused on Mr Musk’s future plans for the site.

The potential changes have drawn scrutiny from regulators and divided Twitter’s own users, some of whom are worried Mr Musk will loosen regulations governing hate speech and misinformation, and some of whom feel the previous management curtailed free speech with overly rigorous rules.

Mr Musk said Twitter would be forming a council with “widely diverse viewpoints”.

“No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes,” he said, shortly before confirming that Twitter had ended artist Kanye West’s suspension from the platform before his acquisition.

Rapper Kanye West, known as Ye, had been suspended from the platform for anti-Semitic comments.

Finance chief Ned Segal was among the senior leaders to announce his exit from the company after Musk’s takeover. Chairman of the board Bret Taylor has also left and it was widely reported that Twitter’s chief executive Parag Agrawal – a target of Mr Musk’s criticism – was among the people fired, although Mr Agrawal still has “ceo @twitter” on his Twitter profile.

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General Motors – the largest US carmaker and a rival to Mr Musk’s Tesla – says it has temporarily halted paid advertising on Twitter. GM said it was “engaging with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership”.

“The bird is free,” Mr Musk wrote on the platform late on Thursday, while assuring advertisers in a public note that he did not want Twitter to become a “free-for-all hellscape”.

He has signalled he wants widespread change at Twitter. A self-styled “free speech absolutist”, he has said he sees the platform as a forum for public debate and is willing to reverse bans on controversial users, including former President Donald Trump.

Ex-finance chief Segal tweeted that his time at the company was the “most fulfilling of my career” and reflected on the strain caused by the uncertainty of the last six months.

“You learn so much when times are challenging and unpredictable, when we are tired or feel our integrity questioned,” Mr Segal said, alluding to Mr Musk’s public criticism of the company’s leadership.

“I have great hope for Twitter,” he added.

In Europe, the commissioner in charge of overseeing the EU’s digital market, Thierry Breton, tweeted: “In Europe, the bird will fly by our EU rules” – suggesting regulators will take a tough stance against any relaxation of Twitter’s policies.

In the US, Stop the Deal, a coalition of left-wing activist groups including Fair Vote UK and Media Matters for America, said Mr Musk had a “thirst for chaos” and his potential plans would make Twitter “an even more hate-filled cesspool, leading to irreparable real-world harm”.

Mr Trump, who was banned from Twitter last year following the Capitol riot in January 2021, said he was happy Twitter was now in “sane hands” while stating his “love” for his own Twitter-like service, Truth Social.

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and current deputy head of the Security Council, also welcomed the new ownership.

“Good luck @elonmusk in overcoming political bias and ideological dictatorship on Twitter,” tweeted Mr Medvedev.

A long road

Until recently it appeared the deal could still fall through.

After building a stake in Twitter at the start of the year, Mr Musk made his $44bn offer in April, a price tag that looked too high almost as soon as it was agreed.

He said he was buying it because he wanted “civilisation to have a common digital town square”, and pledged to clean up spam accounts and preserve the platform as a venue for free speech.

But by the summer he had changed his mind about the purchase, citing concerns that the number of fake accounts on the platform was higher than Twitter claimed.

Twitter executives took legal action to hold Mr Musk to his offer, arguing that he was balking after becoming concerned about the price.

The deal closed on Thursday, when a company controlled by Elon Musk purchased the firm for $54.20 per share, according to a filing on Friday with the US government.

Dan Ives, analyst at Wedbush Securities, said the $44bn price tag would go down “as one of the most overpaid tech acquisitions in the history of M&A (mergers and acquisitions) deals on the Street”.

“As we have discussed, the easy part for Musk was buying Twitter, the difficult part and Everest-like uphill battle looking ahead will be fixing this troubled asset,” he wrote.

Despite playing a large role in public debate, Twitter remains a relatively small social media platform, claiming about 240 million accounts that are active daily, compared with nearly 2 billion on Facebook.

It has struggled with the wider market decline in digital advertising.

It is not yet clear whether the clear-out of senior management is the forerunner to company-wide job cuts. Earlier reports suggested 75% of staff at the social media company were set to lose their jobs.

Departing executives are in line to receive hefty payouts under terms negotiated earlier this year. Mr Agrawal could receive a package worth potentially $60m, while Mr Segal could receive more than $46m, according to a May filing with the US government.

Additional reporting by Laurence Peter and Patrick Jackson in London.

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Consumer debt tops $2.36 trillion in third quarter, up 7.3 per cent from last year – BNN Bloomberg

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Equifax Canada says an increase in borrowers helped push total consumer debt to $2.36 trillion in the third quarter for a 7.3 per cent rise from last year, even as mortgage volumes decline. 

It says average non-mortgage debt rose to $21,183 for the highest level since the second quarter of 2020, with early signs of strain starting to show in auto loans and credit cards.

Overall non-mortgage debt came in at $599.9 billion for a 5.3 per cent climb from last year, and up 1.9 per cent from the third quarter of 2019, as the number of borrowers rose by 3.1 per cent.

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Rebecca Oakes, Equifax Canada’s head of advanced analytics, says the rising debt stems from a combination of growth from immigration, pent-up spending, as well as increased borrowing as consumers feel the strain of higher living costs.

Credit card spending in the quarter was up 17.3 per cent from last year to an all-time high for the time period. 

Average spending put on credit cards was almost $2,447, a 21.8 per cent jump from the third quarter of 2019.

There’s been an increase in credit card spending and new cards issued across all consumer segments, including the sub-prime segments, said Oakes in a statement.

She said there are some signs that borrowers are starting to have trouble covering the bills, with average payment rates for those who carry a balance down from a year ago, she said. 

“Consumers have been making strong payments, but we are starting to see a shift in payment behaviour especially for credit card revolvers — those who carry a balance on their card and don’t pay it off in full each month.”

Delinquencies on auto loans have also started to trend up, especially those opened since late 2021, she said. 

The overall rate of more than 90 day delinquencies for non-mortgage debt was 0.93 per cent, up from 0.87 last year, though insolvencies are still well below pre-pandemic levels.

New mortgage volume dropped 22.7 per cent in the quarter compared with last year and by 14.9 per cent compared with the third quarter of 2019. First-time home buyers are paying over $500 more for almost the same loan amounts as first-time buyers last year. 

Overall insolvency rates are up from a year ago but from a relatively low starting point, and there are some areas of concern including a rise in consumer proposals by seniors, said Oakes.

“The true impact of interest rate hikes could be visible by the end of 2023.” 

 This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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Trudeau, Ford mark opening of Canada's first full-scale electric vehicle plant – CP24

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The Canadian Press


Published Monday, December 5, 2022 5:06AM EST


Last Updated Monday, December 5, 2022 1:17PM EST

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford are celebrating the opening today of Canada’s first full-scale electric vehicle manufacturing plant.

Trudeau says electric delivery vans have started rolling off the line today at the General Motors CAMI production plant in Ingersoll, Ont., which has been retooled to build the company’s BrightDrop all-electric vehicle brand.

The prime minister was joined by Ford and the province’s Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli to mark the milestone.

The provincial and federal governments each invested $259 million toward GM’s $2-billion plan to transform its Ingersoll plant and overhaul its Oshawa, Ont., plant to make it EV-ready.

The federal government says the Ingersoll plant is expected to manufacture 50,000 electric vehicles by 2025.

Canada intends to bar the sale of new internal-combustion engines in passenger vehicles by 2035.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

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Food prices in Canada: Families to pay $1,065 more in 2023 – CTV News

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HALIFAX –

Canadians won’t escape food inflation any time soon.

Food prices in Canada will continue to escalate in the new year, with grocery costs forecast to rise up to seven per cent in 2023, new research predicts.

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For a family of four, the total annual grocery bill is expected to be $16,288 — $1,065 more than it was this year, the 13th edition of Canada’s Food Price Report released Monday said.

A single woman in her 40s — the average age in Canada — will pay about $3,740 for groceries next year while a single man the same age would pay $4,168, according to the report and Statistics Canada.

Food inflation is set to remain stubbornly high in the first half of 2023 before it starts to ease, said Sylvain Charlebois, lead author of the report and Dalhousie University professor of food distribution and policy.

“When you look at the current food inflation cycle we’re in right now, we’re probably in the seventh-inning stretch,” he said in an interview. “The first part of 2023 will remain challenging … but we’re starting to see the end of this.”

Multiple factors could influence food prices next year, including climate change, geopolitical conflicts, rising energy costs and the lingering effects of COVID-19, the report said.

Currency fluctuations could also play a role in food prices. A weaker Canadian dollar could make importing goods like lettuce more expensive, for example.

Earlier this year the loonie was worth more than 80 cents US, but it then dropped to a low of 72.17 cents US in October amid a strengthening U.S. dollar. It has hovered near the 74 cent mark in recent weeks, ending Friday at 74.25 cents US.

“The produce section is going to be the wild card,” Charlebois said. “Currency is one of the key things that could throw things off early in the winter and that’s why produce is the highest category.”

Vegetables could see the biggest price spikes, with estimates pegging cost increases will rise as high as eight per cent, the report said.

In addition to currency risks, much of the produce sold in Canada comes from the United States, which has been struggling with extremely dry conditions.

“The western U.S., particularly California, has seen strong El Nino weather patterns and droughts and bacterial contaminations, and that’s impacted our fruit and vegetable suppliers and prices,” said Simon Somogyi, campus lead at the University of Guelph and professor at the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics.

“The drought is making the production of lettuce more expensive,” he said. “It’s reducing the crop size but it’s also causing bacterial contamination, which is lessening the supply in the marketplace.”

Prices in other key food categories like meat, dairy and bakery are predicted to soar up to seven per cent, the researchers found.

The Canadian Dairy Commission has approved a farm gate milk price increase of about 2.2 per cent, or just under two cents per litre, for Feb. 1, 2023.

“The increase for February is reasonable but it comes after the unprecedented increases in 2022, which are continuing to work their way through the supply chain,” Charlebois said of the two price hikes of nearly 11 per cent combined in 2022.

Meanwhile, seafood is expected to increase up to six per cent, while fruit could increase up to five per cent, the report said.

Restaurant costs are expected to increase four to six per cent, less than supermarket prices, the report said.

Rising prices will push food security and affordability even further out of reach of Canadians a year after food bank use reached a record high, the report said.

The increasing reliance on food banks is expected to continue, with 20 per cent of Canadians reporting they will likely turn to community organizations in 2023 for help feeding their families, a survey included in the report found.

Use of weekly flyers, coupons, bulk buying and food rescuing apps also ticked up this year and is expected to continue growing in 2023, the report said.

“We’re in the era now of the smart shopper,” said Somogyi, also the Arrell Chair in the Business of Food.

“For certain generations, it’s the first time that they’ve had to make a list, not impulse buy, read the weekly flyers, use coupons, buy in volume and freeze what they don’t use.”

Last year’s report predicted food prices would increase five to seven per cent in 2022 — the biggest jump ever predicted by the annual food price report.

Food costs actually far exceeded that forecast. Grocery prices were up 11 per cent in October compared with a year before while overall food costs were up 10.1 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

“We were called alarmists,” Charlebois said of the prediction that food prices could rise seven per cent in 2022. Critics called the report an “exaggeration,” he said.

“You’re always one crisis away from throwing everything out the window,” Charlebois said. “We didn’t predict the war in Ukraine, and that really affected markets.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

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