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Facebook’s Giphy acquisition sounds antitrust alarms in Congress – The Verge

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A bipartisan group of senators are sounding the antitrust enforcement alarm Friday over Facebook’s newly announced acquisition of Giphy, a GIF-making and sharing website.

On Friday, Facebook announced that it would acquire Giphy for the reported price of $400 million. Giphy is one of the largest GIF sites on the internet and social media and messaging services like Twitter, Tinder, Slack and iMessage already have Giphy integrated into their apps.

In a Friday blog post, Facebook said that half of Giphy’s traffic comes from Facebook apps and that the gif website would be rolled into Instagram, a Facebook-owned product. In that same post, Facebook suggested that Giphy’s core function as a GIF-sharing app across social media would not change and that developers would “continue to have the same access” to its services.

Still, that pledge hasn’t quieted the growing chorus of congresspeople concerned over potential anti-competitive behavior from Facebook. In statements Friday, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Democrats Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) were skeptical of the deal.

“Facebook keeps looking for even more ways to take our data,” Hawley said in a statement to The Verge. “Just like Google purchased DoubleClick because of its widespread presence on the internet and ability to collect data, Facebook wants Giphy so it can collect even more data on us. Facebook shouldn’t be acquiring any companies while it is under antitrust investigation for its past purchases.”

Over the last few weeks, Democrats like Warren, Klobuchar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) have called for heightened scrutiny over large corporate mergers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Warren and Ocasio-Cortez announced plans to introduce the “Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act” that would impose a moratorium on large mergers until the Federal Trade Commission “determines that small businesses, workers, and consumers” were “no longer under severe financial distress.”

In a statement Friday, a Warren spokesperson pushed for the passage of this bill in light of Facebook’s Giphy purchase. “Facebook’s acquisition is yet another example of a giant company using the pandemic to further consolidate power – this time it’s a company with a history of privacy violations gaining more control over online communications,” the Warren spokesperson said.

Earlier this week, Klobuchar signed onto a letter with Warren and Cicilline to the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department requesting that they halt all mergers between large companies that received “bailout” funding from Congress’ coronavirus relief packages. Klobuchar said in statement Friday that the “Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission must investigate this proposed deal.”

Klobuchar continued, “Many companies, including some of Facebook’s rivals, rely on Giphy’s library of shareable content and other services, so I am very concerned about this proposed acquisition.”

Republicans have largely pushed back on the Democrats’ calls for a merger moratorium. In a letter earlier this week, Republicans asked the Justice Department and FTC to refuse any changes to antitrust enforcement during the pandemic. “Unfortunately, these ideas are part and parcel of the latent socialism embraced by many modern Democrats, which represents an existential threat to America’s economic superiority,” the Republicans wrote.

Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department’s top antitrust enforcer, told CNBC Wednesday that it would be “misguided to just block all attempts for transactions.”

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Microsoft lays off journalists to replace them with AI – The Verge

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Microsoft is laying off dozens of journalists and editorial workers at its Microsoft News and MSN organizations. The layoffs are part of a bigger push by Microsoft to rely on artificial intelligence to pick news and content that’s presented on MSN.com, inside Microsoft’s Edge browser, and in the company’s various Microsoft News apps. Many of the affected workers are part of Microsoft’s SANE (search, ads, News, Edge) division, and are contracted as human editors to help pick stories.

“Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement. “This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, re-deployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic.”

While Microsoft says the layoffs aren’t directly related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, media businesses across the world have been hit hard by advertising revenues plummeting across TV, newspapers, online, and more.

Business Insider first reported the layoffs on Friday, and says that around 50 jobs are affected in the US. The Microsoft News job losses are also affecting international teams, and The Guardian reports that around 27 are being let go in the UK after Microsoft decided to stop employing humans to curate articles on its homepages.

Microsoft has been in the news business for more than 25 years, after launching MSN all the way back in 1995. At the launch of Microsoft News nearly two years ago, Microsoft revealed it had “more than 800 editors working from 50 locations around the world.”

Microsoft has gradually been moving towards AI for its Microsoft News work in recent months, and has been encouraging publishers and journalists to make use of AI, too. Microsoft has been using AI to scan for content and then process and filter it and even suggest photos for human editors to pair it with. Microsoft had been using human editors to curate top stories from a variety of sources to display on Microsoft News, MSN, and Microsoft Edge.

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Residents being advised of potential coronavirus exposure at Halifax store – Globalnews.ca

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NSHA Public Health is advising customers of a building supply store of potential exposure to COVID-19.

They say the risk of contact with the virus happened at Rona on 6055 Almon St., Halifax on May 23, 25 and 28.

“Public Health is directly contacting anyone known to be a close contact of the person(s) confirmed to have COVID-19. While most people have been contacted, there could be some contacts that Public Health is not aware of,” NSHA said in a statement on Saturday.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia reports 1 more death at Northwood, 1 new case of coronavrius

According to NSHA, anyone exposed to the virus on the announced dates at this location may develop symptoms up to 14 days from the last date they were at this location. This would be up to, and including, June 11, 2020.

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People are being asked self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Fever (chills, sweats, etc.)
  • Cough (new or worsening)
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle aches
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Hoarse voice
  • DiarrheaUnusual fatigue
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Red, purple or blueish lesions, on the feet, toes or fingers without clear cause

If an individual has any COVID-19 symptoms, they are being asked to call 811 for assessment, to self-isolate until they receive 811 advice on what to do next and not to go directly to a COVID-19 assessment centre without being directed to do so.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Sony CEO Opens Up on PlayStation 5 Pricing Strategy – Essentially Sports

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Sony is finally opening-up on its next-gen console, PlayStation 5, after having kept mum for most of the year. With a game reveal showcase now confirmed for June 4, we can expect further news to start flowing in. While next week’s showcase is sure to give us something about the console itself, do not expect too much. Sony is bound to continue keeping its cards close to its chest. However, Sony PlayStation’s CEO, Jim Ryan, did touch upon a few elements regarding the console in a sit-down with gamesindustry.biz.

The reports, mostly unconfirmed, about PlayStation 5 have surely given the console’s loyal community a bit of anxiety. The first half of the year has more or less been about how Sony has run into trouble due to the pandemic ravaging our globe. Be it a possibility of a delay, or the disturbance in the production capacity of the new console, the news was pretty grim until this month.

The biggest letdown was perhaps the news report claiming the launch price of the console could be around $450-500. A Bloomberg report claimed the high production cost of the units would force Sony to hike up the launch price. But would that work for them? After all, back when it hiked up the launch price for PS3, it suffered dearly.

However, this month has brought in a much-needed sense of relief among the fans. The tech giant’s financial reports confirmed the console launch was on track. Moreover, we also got an official word of a “compelling lineup of games.”

PlayStation 5 CEO assures “best possible value proposition”

In his chat with gamesindustry.biz, Jim Ryan did brush upon the subject of the price, unsurprisingly, though, refrained from giving us an estimate. He did admit that times are a bit unusual, and vowed to offer the “best possible value proposition.”

“Now, who knows how this recession is going to look, how deep it will be and how long it will last.

“I think the best way that we can address this is by providing the best possible value proposition that we can. I don’t necessarily mean lowest price. Value is a combination of many things. In our area it means games, it means number of games, depth of games, breadth of games, quality of games, price of games… all of these things and how they avail themselves of the feature set of the platform.”

While this sounds quite noncommittal, let’s hope the PS3 debacle compels them to keep the price on the lower end of the spectrum. However, there is a good possibility that Sony will hike the price up from the PS4 launch ($399). Unless, of course, it is ready to bear some significant initial losses.

“Increase in development budgets”

Ryan admitted that the new-age graphical capabilities of the PlayStation 5 will also increase the game-development costs.

“I think, to the extent that the technology enables the graphics side of it to become more interesting and life-like, (the games) will become slightly more human-intensive and capital intensive to produce. So yes, we think there probably will be an increase in development budgets. We don’t see it as being a massive increase, and that’s why we want to do more faster than we have ever done before, to provide a fertile install base for people who make games to be able to monetize against.” 

We better expect the next-gen console and games to put a strain on our wallets. Well, at least in the initial phase. But then again, it has never really been all that cheap, has it?

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