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Opinion | Trump’s Social Media Return — and What Else to Expect in 2022 – The New York Times



I know, I know: “Not another prediction list …” But stick with me. After all, my first forecast from last year came true — although the Capitol siege moved the timetable forward considerably.

I wrote: “Soon after our forever troller in chief leaves office on Jan. 20, his account will be suspended by Twitter temporarily, and then, since he cannot stop breaking rules, he’ll get tossed off, just like his hideous pal, Alex Jones … after Joe Biden is inaugurated, Mr. Trump should be treated like any other mendacious loudmouth, and Twitter will be well within its rights to put a sock in it.”

Because of Donald Trump’s social media behavior around the deplorable events of Jan. 6, Facebook and YouTube also shoved him off (where he remains in a sort-of purgatory).

Which brings me to my first prediction for 2022: Trump will be posting once again on at least one of the giant platforms this year. My guess is it’ll be Meta that lets him back on, even after announcing a two-year suspension that’s meant to run until January 2023. The company, parent to Facebook and Instagram, said it could restore his accounts at the end of the suspension if “the risk to public safety has receded” — so it’s easy to see how Zuck could justify an early parole. While that would invite a heap of negative attention, it’s time to accept that the company that started as a “Mark Zuckerberg Production” could care less what you or I think of it. If you need more evidence, consider what lasting changes it’s made in the wake of the revelations brought forth this year by the whistle-blower Frances Haugen.

That’s why it really is worth listening to Haugen’s insights in a long Sway interview I did with her recently. TL;DR: The drip-drip-drip of information that the company is eroding society has made nearly no difference in Zuckland. Though the rest of us have been waiting for lawmakers to act (and Senator Amy Klobuchar even promised me it would happen in 2022, in a Christmas card she sent me), I think the penny has finally dropped with increasing numbers of consumers, particularly parents.

Polls show a growing distrust of tech companies — yes, the public distrusts the media too, but that’s not new — and are open to new alternatives if they’re presented. That sounds like a golden opportunity for a round of entrepreneurs to come up with new ways of interaction that don’t rely on sucking up more and more data in exchange for free access to digital services. In 2022, we’ll see new forms of social interaction being built on the blockchain, as well as formidable new search (Neeva) and e-commerce alternatives (Shopify) that will slowly leech at the foundations of the larger operations.

And there will be important legislation to help that soon too — just not in the United States. Instead, it will come from Europe, which is trying to finalize the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act, much as they passed the General Data Protection Regulation nearly six years ago. While imperfect, it did set a tone for regulation that has been used worldwide.

In the United States, which never passes up an opportunity to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, Congress is mulling over several important tech-related bills, dealing with everything from privacy to safety to consolidation, none of which is likely to get moving unless the Biden administration gets more aggressive.

The administration signaled that it would with the appointments of Tim Wu as a White House adviser, Lina Khan as chair of the Federal Trade Commission and Jonathan Kanter as head of antitrust at the Justice Department. But without a big push from President Biden and with the altogether likely possibility of a power shift in Congress to the Republicans, a major opportunity to move will have been lost.

Biden should, for example, push hard for the Klobuchar bill, assembled with Senator Chuck Grassley, which would put the brakes on Big Tech platforms preferencing their own products at the expense of others’. This ought to be an obvious thing to do, right?

That’s why I expect that no significant laws will be passed to dampen tech’s reign and I am even less confident on new stuff heading down the pike. I, too, would like to see where the metaverse, blockchain and Web3 lead us, but it is long past time to clamp down on the excesses of Big Tech.

The next few months offer an opportunity for regulators like Khan to make some bold moves, like suing to stop a merger or going back and trying to unwind one. You can’t win if you don’t play, right?

A few more quick predictions for the coming year:

  • Apple will vault ahead of Facebook in virtual reality. There’s a new Oculus headset due, but expect Apple to be the one that creates an experience that’s appealing to regular folks. VR takes quality hardware, which is firmly in Apple’s wheelhouse. But for true mass adoption, prices have to come down.

  • GAS — Gyms as Software. Augmented, rather than virtual, reality will emerge as a major outlet for fitness buffs and regular Joes trying to keep in shape. That said, I have started going to the analog gym again and, refreshingly, use almost no tech at all.

Lastly, it turns out you can use language tech called GPT-3 to create AI versions of prominent podcasters. “Using famous quotes, podcast transcripts and GPT-3, we’ve created AI versions of 10 popular podcast hosts,” like yours truly, according to the folks behind the Shuffle app. Welp, nice knowing ya.

I caught up with Emily Oster, a Brown University professor of economics and public policy, and the author of several books, including her most recent, “The Family Firm: A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years.” She gave her thoughts on people’s risk assessment capabilities and the pandemic. I’ve edited her answers.

Everyone now fancies themselves an amateur risk assessment analyst. What tips can you offer to make them better at it, so they don’t drive me — and others — crazy?

I am not sure how to keep people from driving us crazy! The biggest mistake I think people make in analyzing risk is that it’s very hard to understand small probabilities. Humans are just really poor at this. We think of 1-in-100 and 1-in-1,000 and 1-in-10,000 as all kind of similar and small, whereas in reality those are totally different. But since our experience doesn’t give us access to a lot of 1-in-10,000 probability events, it’s not hard to see why we can’t really understand them. The best way I have found to think about small probability events is to find a comparison event. 1-in-30,000 is the risk of an emergency room visit in a given year because of a blanket injury, for example. Another good way to think about it is: “If I took this risk every day, how long would it take before the bad thing would happen?” For a 1-in-10,000 event, this is 27 years.

I just had my fourth child and we really want to protect him, as well as my two-year-old. What is your best advice from an economist’s viewpoint for parents of children who may still be months or years from being eligible for a Covid vaccine?

One of the very lucky things about this terrible pandemic has been that children are much less affected by Covid than older people. For the most part, the older you are, the more dangerous Covid is. Vaccines lower your risk, but given how large the differences in risk of serious illness, vaccinated adults are still at higher risk for this outcome than unvaccinated kids. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t vaccinate kids, but it should give some reassurance to worried parents waiting on the vaccine. With your two-year-old, it makes sense to take the same precautions you do with yourself, but not to be more cautious. Babies are higher risk for all illnesses, so just as in flu season, it likely makes sense to keep the baby a little more isolated if you can, especially from any older sibling’s illness.

You’ve been a proponent of keeping schools open. What should parents and school administrators be thinking in the new year with respect to in-person education?

The biggest issues during the Omicron wave are likely to be staffing and quarantines. Too much sick staff may make keeping schools open difficult. There are a few solutions. One is to replace quarantine with test-to-stay programs, which administrators should start now to think about how to implement, though parents may be needed to help actually implement such programs, given staffing issues. A second key question is how to keep staff in place, a feat which is likely going to be possible only if we shorten quarantine rules for recovered individuals. Basically, I think we should all be prepared for some pretty significant disruptions over the next six weeks.

You recently wrote about what kept you sane in 2021: running, reading and cooking. How will you maintain that in 2022?

Like everyone else I’m desperately hoping for more of a return to normal, but at this point I’m not really expecting it. My big hope for 2022 is less volatility around Covid policy. As the disease becomes endemic, we’re facing a future in which many of these issues — a new variant, need for testing, updated vaccines — will always be present. This next period is the time to face that and figure out how we are going to adapt our policies to those that can be effective in the long term.

With a small Omicron outbreak in my family, which turned me into a hotel manager, maid and full-time caregiver for 10 days since I did not get a case of breakthrough Covid (yet!), I found myself with time to stream the disaster movie “Don’t Look Up” on Netflix and the newest installment of the “Matrix” series on HBO Max. And let me tell you, I caught endless flack on Twitter when I posted that I liked both of them.

Every movie available to be streamed will be streamed in big numbers, or it will suffer a speedy exile into irrelevance. That’s happened to a lot of films that did well only in their theatrical release this year — as I predicted. A lot of Hollywood types strafed me for saying this, but the nearly two years of a pandemic have made analog filmgoing a lot more niche. That is, unless it is an obvious megamovie like “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which can attract a younger demographic, unworried about the pandemic, and is just far more entertaining to see on the big screen.

But I digress: The reason I liked the “The Matrix Resurrections” and “Don’t Look Up” is because these are both stories about the limits of big tech, big media and big politics and the importance of heartfelt, real family connections. These are critically important ideas as we move into the next iteration of tech, which will have a lot more to do with virtualizing everything. How we evolve and connect as humans as the world moves to VR is a critical issue.

The first “Matrix” explored the idea of existing in what was essentially a metaverse — though no one used that term in 1999 — that become reality to most people. The notion of becoming confused over what’s real and what’s fake was profound then, and even more so now that we have become consumed by tech to a level that we still don’t quite grasp. The director and co-writer Lana Wachowski was apparently inspired to plumb this idea after the death of her parents, which is why she revived the main characters Neo and Trinity from the last film, “Revolutions,” in 2003. And, anyway, what is “The Matrix” without Keanu?

“I couldn’t have my mom and dad, yet suddenly I had Neo and Trinity, arguably the two most important characters in my life,” Wachowski said earlier this year, adding, “It was immediately comforting to have these two characters alive again.” She said, “You can look at it and say: ‘OK, these two people die and OK, bring these two people back to life and oh, doesn’t that feel good.’ Yeah, it did! It’s simple, and this is what art does and that’s what stories do: they comfort us.”

So, too, Adam McKay’s much-maligned “Don’t Look Up.” If you ask me, you should ignore the critics. Yes, there are some obvious plot points and over-the-top characterizations, but ultimately it’s a story about the gravity of humanity, however doomed it becomes because of its most pernicious members. That includes, particularly, the tech billionaire Peter Isherwell, a part played to geek perfection by Mark Rylance, who has managed to cohesively mash together the worst parts of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Zuckerberg.

Isherwell’s character hits it on the nose with his know-it-all certainty and data-driven lunacy, calling to mind tech’s ruling class, with its proclivity to be frequently wrong but never in doubt. And within the movie is a caution, that we ought not let Big Tech alone govern the world we share. “We really did have everything, didn’t we?” says the feckless astronomer played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie’s last scene.

Well, as it turns out, we do still have everything, so join me and look up in 2022 and beyond. And not at dumb spaceship stunt rides by billionaires, but at the things we really need to focus on — like the humanity in the rest of us.

Kara Swisher writes a weekly newsletter and is the host of “Sway,” the twice-weekly interview podcast about power.

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Social Media Buzz: NYPD Death, Roe v. Wade , M&Ms Get Makeover – BNN



(Bloomberg) — Here’s what’s buzzing on social media this morning:

Two New York City Police Department officers were shot in Harlem on Friday, one fatally. Officer Jason Rivera, 22, was killed after 10 to 15 shots were fired when he and other officers responded to a 911 call from a woman who said she was in a dispute with her son. The second officer is in critical condition. 

Mayor Eric Adams called it an attack on the city of New York.

Saturday marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationally. Soon, a conservative-majority Supreme Court will rule on whether a Mississippi ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy is constitutional.

Pro-choice advocates worry that this could be the last anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Anti-abortion supporters called on the Supreme Court to overturn the court decision on Friday at the 49th annual March for Life rally. 

Mars Inc. updated M&M mascots with the goal “to reflect the more dynamic, progressive world that we live in,” according to a company press release. The green M&M has lost its “sexy” boots and will sport sneakers. Likewise, the brown M&M will wear lower block heals, ditching high stilettos and the orange M&M “will acknowledge his anxiety.”

Ian Alexander Jr., only child of actress Regina King has died at the age of 26 from a suicide, People reported. “Our family is devastated at the deepest level by the loss of Ian,” King said in a statement to People. “He is such a bright light who cared so deeply about the happiness of others.” Alexander Jr., who was a DJ, turned 26 on Wednesday. 

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Scooped: it was the ‘mainstream media’ that brought Boris Johnson low – The Guardian



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Scooped: it was the ‘mainstream media’ that brought Boris Johnson low  The Guardian

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Buyer Be Careful In The SPAC/Trump Media Deal – Forbes



Like many special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) deals, the proposed merger of Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC) and the Trump Media and Technology Group is complex, which poses a risk to investors who do not understand SPACs. But this complexity is compounded by the fact that DWAC shares are trading as a meme stock with their own reddit forum, r/DWAC. It is possible, however, to dig into the details of the deal and make some conjectures about the future of the DWAC/Trump Media merger and what that might mean for its stock price movements.

The Deal

In September 2021, DWAC conducted its IPO by selling 30 million units (shares plus warrants) to 11 institutional investors, as well as the founder, at $10 per unit, raising around $300 million. The SPAC is currently trading over $70 per share, so the SPAC is worth more than $2 billion today. For the original IPO investors, the SPAC has been a great deal thus far, earning them at least a 500% return. However, whether it will be a great deal for the investors who bought in after the IPO is questionable. 

In October 2021, DWAC announced its merger deal with Trump Media, valuing Trump Media at a minimum of $875 million for a company that is still not operational. Depending on the merged entity’s stock price during the three-year period following the merger close, Trump Media shareholders will receive up to 127.5 million shares in the merged entity plus $1.2 billion in working capital. At the current share price, the market is valuing the merged entity at over $10 billion. 

In December 2021, DWAC raised an additional $1 billion via a private offering known as a private investment in public entity (PIPE). These PIPE investors have forward agreements to invest $1 billion in convertible preferred shares in the listed Trump Media as part of the merger closing. The number of common shares they can convert to is based on the value-weighted average price (VWAP) over the 10 days after the closing, known as the VWAP period. The lower the VWAP, the more shares allocated.

In its SEC filing for the PIPE offering, DWAC disclosed that it was under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It is illegal for a SPAC to have substantive merger discussions with possible targets prior to their listing and then it is fraud to state otherwise. It has been reported that DWAC and Trump Media discussed the deal prior to their IPO and allegedly lied about it in multiple SEC filings. The SEC investigation into this deal reportedly continues, the latest in a series of reported probes into the Shanghai-based Arc Capital, which was the sole advisor in the creation of DWAC.

Possible DWAC/Trump Media Price Movements

To form conjectures about future price movements, we need to distinguish among three groups of investors: the current investors, the PIPE investors, and the shareholders of Trump Media. The current investors with long positions would like the price to increase as much as possible. Speculators who have short positions, of course, want the price to fall. PIPE shareholders want it to fall during the VWAP period so they will be allocated more shares, and Trump Media shareholders want the price to rise after the merger so they can also be allocated more shares. 

Starting with the motivations of the PIPE investors, it is clear that they want the price during this VWAP period to decline to at least to $16.67 to get their maximum share allocation of 100 million shares. The PIPE investors can potentially dump 30 million or more shares on the market during the VWAP period to achieve their goal. Furthermore, the PIPE investors can also short at any price above $33.60 during the VWAP period. Therefore, it seems logical to expect the price to be pushed down during the VWAP period, as close as possible to $16.67.

Clearly, current buyers, including the meme players, expect the merger will get SEC approval and that the listed Trump Media will do well; they also may not understand the motivations of the PIPE investors. Meanwhile, for the current sellers there are two expectations: no SEC approval and an understanding of the PIPE investors. Thus, the current buyers and sellers are playing against each other, generating the current stock price. 

To illustrate, let’s assume that there is a 50% chance for SEC approval and a share price of $70.00. Some of those who are short selling expect SEC rejection, and therefore have a price expectation of $10.20, the approximate price at which DWAC shares can be redeemed. Those who expect the deal to go through have an implied price target of around $130 because 50% (130.00) plus 50% ($10.20) gives us the share price of $70.00. 

There are two factors that are affecting this expected price. First, the meme buyers are irrationally acting as if the probability of SEC rejection is small if not zero, which seems implausible given the evidence. Second, given the limited number of shares to short, there is excess demand from short sellers. According to Bloomberg, DWAC had the highest short borrowing costs of any stock in the fourth quarter, at 86%. These costs put a cap on how much the short sellers can push the price down. All these factors are causing DWAC’s current elevated share price, now above $70. 

Of course, the price of DWAC will jump if the SEC approves the deal, which would be a good time to sell or short and not the greatest time to buy given the expected actions of the PIPE investors. Informed traders know the motivations of the PIPE investors; therefore, given SEC approval, as the merger closure approaches, we can expect some of these traders to sell their shares if they have not already, and others will short sell, pushing DWAC’s price down. If desired, they could buy back during the VWAP period. In addition, immediately after the merger, during the VWAP period, we can expect an increase in share sales and short selling by the PIPE investors. 

Post-VWAP period we can expect the shorts to be covered and the stock price to be driven by meme investors, putting upward pressure on the price. However, post-merger, the number of shares available to trade will likely rise from my estimated 15 million shares today to include an additional 45 million shares from the PIPE investors and current institutional investors. Moreover, Trump Media shareholders and the founder will also be able to start selling their shares immediately after the closing if the merged entity’s stock price is above $12 for a sustained period, which would add a minimum of another 95 million shares to the market. What remains to be seen is whether there will be enough post-merger demand to soak up all these potential shares.

Which Way from Here

Investors must take into account two critical issues: the possibility that the SEC rejects the deal and the motivation of the PIPE investors, both of which would  likely put downward pressure on DWAC’s share price. Currently, short sellers are assuming that one or the other of these outcomes will cause the price to fall. The meme players appear to ignore these two possibilities, and hence their continued upward hopes for the stock price. Post-VWAP period, Trump shareholders and buyers of the stock will want to price to climb; but there could be almost ten times the number of shares trading at that time.

Unless investors currently own or are shorting DWAC stock, now is a risky time to buy and an expensive time to short. For those who currently own the stock, it may be wise to sell before the merger, and shares could be bought again post-VWAP period. If you are currently short, hold on to your short as long as possible given the cost of shorting. Whatever the strategy, it’s wise with any SPAC merger deal—and especially this one—for investors to know what they’re doing and why.

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