Technology

Why it matters: From the Valley to D.C., Big Tech players like Facebook, Google and Amazon are under more scrutiny than ever as new technology develops and privacy and antitrust concerns grow in lockstep with companies’ ambitions.

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59 mins ago - Technology

Samsung debuts Note 20, new foldable smartphone

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Photo: Samsung

Samsung unveiled its crop of new mobile devices Wednesday, including two versions of the Note 20 smartphone, an updated foldable device, two tablets and a watch.

Why it matters: The new devices aim to give Samsung an early start in the second half of the year, with products aimed at parents buying fresh gear for the back-to-(home)school season.

NSA releases guide on data dangers posed by devices and apps

Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

The NSA on Tuesday released a detailed guide on the dangers that cellphones, Internet of Things devices, social media accounts, and vehicle communications may pose to military and intelligence personnel.

The big picture: There are a whole host of ways devices like smartphones can be used to track individuals’ every move, and the NSA concludes that ditching them may be the only surefire way to avoid tracking by a determined adversary.

TikTok sale drama clouds the app's genuine security concerns

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Political and economic motivations behind a sale or shutdown of TikTok in the U.S. are obscuring sincere security concerns raised by the rise of the Chinese-owned social video app.

The big picture: U.S. intelligence officials evince deep worry over Chinese companies’ ability to resist Beijing’s demands for data.

3 hours ago - Technology

A racial equality handbook for tech workers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Collective Action in Tech, a project that documents the tech industry labor movement, released a guide Tuesday to help workers fight for racial equality.

Why it matters: Racial inequality runs deep in the technology industry, and labor organizing remains relatively rare, but both issues have gained new prominence in the pandemic era.

Facebook launches its TikTok rival, Instagram Reels

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook-owned Instagram on Wednesday launched its answer to the popular karaoke app TikTok, whose future remains in limbo.

The big picture: Facebook has a long record — sometimes successful, sometimes not — of adopting features that have proven popular on rival platforms and rolling them out to its billions of users worldwide in an effort to avoid being eclipsed by younger upstarts.

TikTok tightens misinformation rules before 2020 election

Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

TikTok announced new rules for its users on Wednesday to curb misinformation and manipulation ahead of the 2020 election.

Why it matters: The Chinese-owned karaoke app aims to show that its platform won't be vulnerable to election-related mischief and malice, as it weighs a deal to sell itself to Microsoft to forestall a ban by the Trump Administration.

TikTok users are rising but time spent on the app is falling

Reproduced from CivicScience; Note: ±3.0% margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

TikTok has been all over the news in recent days, as President Trump has put the app squarely in his sights.

The state of play: New CivicScience data provided first to Axios show continued growth in TikTok’s user base since the beginning of the year, with 14% of those surveyed saying they use the app.

Ex-Uber engineer gets 18-month sentence for trade secret theft

Anthony Levandowski. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of a year-long legal battle between Waymo and Uber, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of stealing trade secrets, per media reports.

Why it matters: The case, which the companies settled despite still landing Levandowski with criminal charges, made headlines as two of Silicon Valley's best-known companies fought to win the race to build self-driving cars. The exact start date of his prison sentence is delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump's new TikTok threat

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump said twice Monday that the U.S. Treasury would need to get a portion of the sale price of TikTok, as a condition of regulatory approval.

Why it matters: This is akin to extortion — the sort of thing you'd expect to hear on a wiretap, not from the White House in front of reporters.

FCC takes next step on Trump's social media executive order

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Federal Communications Commission Monday took the next step toward enacting a request from President Trump to craft new rules for online content, aimed at ending what he called "censorship" of conservatives. At the same time, the White House withdrew a GOP commissioner's renomination to the agency after he criticized calls for the government to regulate online speech.

The big picture: The FCC's move stems from a May executive order by the president, aimed at scaling back the liability shield that protects platforms from liability for content posted by users.

QAnon's 2020 resurgence

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The strange realities of 2020 have perfectly played to the kind of fear QAnon thrives on, driving record online interest in the conspiracy theory.

Why it matters: QAnon is not just one fringe conspiracy theory — it's a sprawling network of falsehoods that's seeping into the mainstream. Its growing influence is sowing fear and confusion around some of today's most important issues, such as election integrity and the coronavirus pandemic.

America’s meme machine is fueling the populist movement globally

Data: GroupSense; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The QAnon conspiracy is picking up steam abroad, particularly in Europe, where populist movements are on the rise.

Why it matters: "The U.S. has started exporting these domestic-in-origin conspiracy movements to the outside world, "says Zarine Kharazian, Assistant Editor at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab.

The U.S. is now playing by China's internet rules

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's crackdown on TikTok suggests that the U.S. government is starting to see the internet more like China does — as a network that countries can and should control within their borders.

The big picture: Today's global internet has split into three zones, according to many observers: The EU's privacy-focused network; China's government-dominated network; and the U.S.-led network dominated by a handful of American companies. TikTok's fate suggests China's model has U.S. fans as well.

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