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Digital Digest – 18 March

In this week’s Digital Digest we take a look at a move to ban cyberflashing as part of the online safety bill and a UK chip designer cutting 1000 jobs.

We then take a look at big tech as Chinese tech giants put investors in a difficult position, plus Elon Musk’s US court dealings.

Closer To Home

Cyberflashing to be banned in the revised Online Safety which is due to be published at the end of the week. 

The government is expected to ban cyber flashing in a move to strengthen the Online Safety Bill. Cyberflashing, which involves the sending of unsolicited sexual images to victims through social media, dating apps or through sharing services such as Bluetooth and Airdrop, is to become a criminal offence, with perpetrators facing up to two years in jail. The practice will now hold the same punishment as indecent exposure. Recent research reveals the extent of the issue, with Professor Jessica Ringrose finding that 76% of girls between the ages of 12-18 had been sent unsolicited images of boys or men. 

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “The forthcoming online safety bill will force tech companies to stop their platforms being used to commit vile acts of cyberflashing. We are bringing the full weight on individuals who perpetrate this awful behaviour.”

Whilst the proposed changes are a welcome start, there are some who say the government’s bill does not go far enough. Clare McGlynn, a professor of law at Durham University and an expert in the legal regulation of image-based sexual abuse, said that, ”the current proposal will only cover offences where you can prove that the person sent the image for sexual gratification or to cause distress … what we need is a comprehensive straightforward law that’s much more easy to prosecute.”

Arm to cut up to 1,000 jobs as the UK chip designer prepares for public listing next year

The UK chip designer confirmed that 1,000 jobs, representing around 15% of its workforce, would be axed as the company seeks to streamline the business ahead of an IPO next year. The Cambridge-based designer employs more than 6,500 people globally but confirmed that the proposed cuts would be to their UK and US workforce and with the majority of the jobs cuts to be within administrative and other non-engineering functions. 

Arm commented that, “like any business, Arm is continually reviewing its business plan to ensure the company has the right balance between opportunities and cost discipline. Unfortunately, this process includes proposed redundancies across Arm’s global workforce.”

The announcement comes just a month after Softbank, the Japanese owners of Arm, failed to seal a $40bn sale of the company to US rival Nvidia. The deal would have been the largest in the semiconductor industry but collapsed due to “significant regulatory challenges preventing the consummation of the transaction, despite good faith efforts by the parties”.

Big Tech

Pro-Putin Chinese tech giants put foreign investors in a difficult position 

China’s private technology groups, such as Tencent, Sina Weibo and ByteDance, are playing a critical role in spreading official misinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The pro-Putin position of these tech companies is problematic for their foreign investors, as such sentiment conflicts with corporate and social responsibility commitments and public statements condemning the war. 

At the beginning of the conflict false reports of Ukraine’s president Zelensky fleeing Kyiv and Ukrainian troops surrendering were widely disseminated across the internet platforms of these tech giants, whilst this week Russian disinformation reports of US-run biological laboratories in Ukraine with “large quantities of dangerous viruses” were widely repeated. 

Tech companies find themselves in a unique position in this conflict as their services have become invaluable resources and their platforms virtual battlegrounds. Whilst Western tech giants such as Apple and Meta have restricted their services and publicly condemned the war, their Chinese counterparts are refusing to do the same. Foreign investors in the Chinese market undoubtedly face difficult decisions in the weeks ahead.

Musk wants to break free

Tesla boss Elon Musk has reportedly filed documents to federal court in the US, asking a judge to terminate the agreement he had previously agreed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Musk is now waging a legal battle against regulators to remove the decree – which has meant having to consult a Tesla lawyer every time before issuing written communications about anything pertaining to the finances of the company.

However, lawyers and legal analysts suggest his efforts may be in vain. According to a partner at one New York City law firm, agreeing to a consent decree usually means being stuck with the terms of the agreement. Courts tend to favour the SEC, which is perhaps not surprising, given that Musk has a history of interpreting the terms of the agreement loosely, as well as having repeatedly mocked the regulatory body in his posts. Given that the SEC is acutely aware of the power his tweets have over the finances of Tesla, it is unlikely that we will see him tweet without constraints anytime soon.

Also In The News

  1. Intel is pouring €30bn into boosting chip manufacturing in Europe. The EU is seeking to become less dependent on Asian chipmakers. See here.

  2. The Home Office is under investigation for extracting data from hundreds of migrants’ phones, this could result in a £17m fine. See here.

  3. Spotify has struck a deal to sponsor Barcelona Football Club. This will see the Spanish giant’s stadium renamed as the Spotify Camp Nou. See here.

  4. Scientists are launching a trial of an artificial intelligence technology that could reduce the risk of stillbirths and other conditions. See here.

  5. The US astronaut Mark Vande Hei now faces the difficult task of riding a Russian capsule back to Earth in the midst of tension between the two countries. See here.

Worth A Read

  1. Financial Times: Russians bid hasty farewell to Instagram

  2. Daily Telegraph: Nick Clegg walks the Facebook free speech tightrope

  3. Wired: China’s Gig Workers Are Challenging Their Algorithmic Bosses


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