FB Jan 2020 155.000 put

OPR - OPR Delayed Price. Currency in USD
+0.7000 (+19.72%)
As of 12:31PM EDT. Market open.
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Previous Close3.5500
Expire Date2020-01-17
Day's Range4.2500 - 4.2500
Contract RangeN/A
Open Interest9.07k
  • Gun sellers use loophole on Facebook Marketplace
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  • MiMedx Has Changed, But Its Critics Haven’t

    MiMedx Has Changed, But Its Critics Haven’t

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- This is the second of two columns about MiMedx and the short-sellers. Read the first here.Most of the time, Eiad Asbahi, the 40-year-old founder of Prescience Point Capital Management, is a short-seller.According to its website, the firm, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, specializes “in extensive investigations of difficult-to-analyze public companies in order to uncover significant elements of the business that have been overlooked or ignored by others.” Such investigations usually lead to the discovery of problems that will cause the stock to fall once they become known.“But every now and then,” Asbahi says, “we find a company that is incredibly hated and where the shorts have it wrong.” SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., which has been hammered for its treatment of its whales and dolphins, was one such company. Two years ago, Asbahi bought the stock, believing that “the mispricing was extreme.” He was right. Since it bottomed out in November 2017, SeaWorld’s shares have more than tripled.On Jan. 8 of this year, Prescience Point released a report about its latest big investment idea: MiMedx Group Inc., a company that was under siege by Marc Cohodes and a handful of other short-sellers. After six months of research, Asbahi concluded that the thesis developed by the shorts — which had helped push the stock from $18 to $1.15 — was wrong.Contrary to what Cohodes et al were claiming, Prescience Point’s research suggested that MiMedx products were “legitimate and sustainable”; that it had positive cash flow; and that, while “channel stuffing” to improperly boost revenue at the end of the quarter had taken place, the company’s critics had “failed to produce any smoking guns to support their claims of massive fraud.”“In our view MDXG is one of the largest mispricings we have ever identified,” the report concluded. At the time it was issued, MiMedx stock was at $2.16. Prescience Point predicted that it would quadruple.When I spoke to Asbahi a few weeks ago — by which time the stock had topped $5 — he went further in his criticism of Cohodes and the other short-sellers. In his view, MiMedx’s stock had tanked in 2018 as much because of what the shorts had gotten wrong as what they had gotten right.“What we found,” Asbahi said, “is that they had some credible channel stuffing allegations” — and then they made a series of additional, less credible accusations. There was never any bribery or Medicare fraud, Asbahi said. And MiMedx’s products, often maligned by the shorts, were considered “best in class” by many doctors. “It is not a short activist campaign they’re running,” Asbahi concluded. “It is a smear campaign.”Cohodes’s initial allegations were serious enough that the MiMedx board hired a law firm to investigate. That investigation led to the discovery of the channel stuffing and the dismissal of several top MiMedx executives, including chief executive Parker Petit. But as I noted Monday, even after Petit and the others resigned, Cohodes kept MiMedx in his crosshairs, vowing to take down the company “if it’s the last thing I do.” Once Asbahi released his MiMedx report, Cohodes added Prescience Point to his list of targets.Within days of the report’s release, Cohodes was tweeting that it was “false & misleading” and that Prescience Point “will be ruined.” He has kept up a steady drumbeat of criticism ever since. Just a few weeks ago, he called Prescience Point a “pump-and-dump operation,” a charge he’s made several times before.This last allegation is ludicrous. Prescience Point is MiMedx’s largest shareholder, with 7.7% of the stock. In May, it launched a proxy fight that led to the company agreeing to add six new board members. Three of them were Prescience Point’s nominees.When I asked Cohodes what proof he had to back up the pump-and-dump charge, he replied (via email) that it was his understanding that Prescience Point had purchased the stock at between $6 and $10 a share — and was now “obviously attempting to generate positive interest to make back its investment.” He also said that Prescience Point had sold MiMedx stock after publishing “glowing information about the company.”In truth, Prescience Point bought the stock at an average price of about $2.60 a share, a fact that can be easily found in government disclosure documents. Although the firm sold some stock, it did so only to avoid triggering the company’s poison pill. Once the proxy fight ended — and the poison pill was a nonissue — Prescience Point bought more stock. “We set up a single-idea fund to invest in MiMedx with a two-year lockup,” Asbahi told me. “Does that sounds like a pump-and-dump scheme?”Today, MiMedx is a very different company from when Petit was running it. Of Petit’s 16 top executives, 13 are gone. Its new chief executive, Timothy Wright, has been a top level executive at a number of biotech and pharmaceutical companies, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, the big generics manufacturer.Among the new directors is Richard Barry, a respected health-care investor. He is so bullish about MiMedx’s prospects that he bought 3% the stock. All of this information is readily available. Yet Cohodes and his allies refuse to acknowledge that MiMedx has changed. Instead they are making the same allegations they’ve been making all along — except louder and more insistently.Why?Cohodes gave me two reasons. The first, he said, was that the company was still engaged in “criminal activity.” “Doctors have been bribed by MiMedx. And all the perps who carried out the fraud are still there doing it,” he told me.The second reason, he said, was that MiMedx’s products are deeply flawed. “This is a public health deal. This stuff is so bad, and they are taking advantage(1) of veterans. I have to speak out.”Let’s examine the bribery issue first. One doctor the shorts have targeted — including online — is Brandon Hawkins, a podiatrist in Bakersfield, California. He is a major buyer of MiMedx’s primary product, a wound graft made from placental tissue called EpiFix. Indeed, Hawkins told me he is probably the fourth or fifth biggest user of EpiFix in California. He has been paid by MiMedx to give occasional lectures, a common practice in medicine, which he discloses. His brother-in-law is a MiMedx salesman. And he lives quite well, something one can glean from the family’s Facebook page.The MiMedx critics have linked these facts to claim that Hawkins is on the take. But Hawkins says he uses EpiFix for a perfectly sensible reason: It works better than competing wound grafts. “Wounds that would normally heal in 12 to 20 weeks sometimes heal in four weeks with EpiFix,” he said. He added that there is a high incidence of diabetes in Bakersfield, and EpiFix has been an important tool in healing the foot ulcers that often develop in diabetics.Matthew Garoufalis,(2) a Chicago podiatrist, explained that diabetics are often “so immunocompromised” that their ulcers don’t heal. Studies show that some 20% of diabetics who develop foot ulcers will eventually have part or all of a leg amputated below the knee. But the placental-cell formula used in EpiFix “stimulates the wound healing cycle” even with ulcers that are not responding to other healing products, Garoufalis said. He also told me there are lots of good data affirming the efficacy of EpiFix. A 2016 study published in the International Wound Journal concluded that the technology used by EpiFix “is superior to standard care” in healing foot ulcers. After my first MiMedx column was published Monday, several of Cohodes’s short-selling allies took to Twitter, saying they had proof that MiMedx was guilty of bribing doctors. As Bloomberg News reported last year, three employees of a South Carolina Veterans Affairs hospital were indicted for accepting payments and other inducements from the company that resulted in “excessive use of MiMedx products.” One of the three was a doctor. The indictment, however, does not allege any wrongdoing by MiMedx. You see, MiMedx had contracts with the three VA employees — just as it has contracts with doctors all over the country. And MiMedx itself didn’t play a part in the conduct that got the VA employees into hot water. The employees were supposed to get the contracts approved by the hospital. But apparently that didn’t happen. The case wasn’t about bribery; it was about violating government rules. Within five months of the indictments, prosecutors had concluded that the case wasn’t worth going to trial over. The three employees agreed to “pretrial diversion,” meaning that if they paid the money back — about $3,500 in two cases, and about $20,000 in the third — the indictments would be dismissed. That happened in April.  What about Cohodes’s charge that MiMedx’s products are creating a public health hazard? This should also raise an eyebrow (or two). The product he is primarily criticizing is AmnioFix. It also uses placental tissue, but it’s processed in such a way that it can be injected. AmnioFix’s primary purpose is to relieve degenerative joint and tendon pain — pain that is currently difficult to treat. It’s a relatively new product, and many of those who are long MiMedx stock think it has blockbuster potential.Cohodes, however, says that AmnioFix has never been proved effective for anything, and that it hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “MiMedx was and is selling unapproved products to an unsuspecting and vulnerable public,” he said in an email. “People in pain often search for solutions in the unapproved drug world when they have run out of options. MiMedx has exploited that vulnerability and that is tragic.”Let me offer an alternate take. In December 2017, the FDA issued new guidelines for injectable tissue — and gave companies three years to come into compliance and get approved indications for their products. With a year and a half to go, MiMedx is in the middle of a Phase III trial for the use of AmnioFix to relieve plantar fasciitis, and a Phase II trial for osteoarthritis. MiMedx bulls think it will have the indications approved by the December 2020 deadline.Studies indicate that the technique MiMedx is pioneering with AmnioFix works: One showed that three months after an injection, 91 percent of patients felt significant pain relief. And the FDA is on record as saying that AmnioFix “has the potential to address unmet medical needs.” My exchanges with Cohodes left me with the distinct impression that he views AmnioFix as some kind of rogue drug, operating outside the FDA system. Based on everything I've learned, it’s not.Digging into Cohodes’s claims, I concluded that Asbahi is probably right: The short-seller and his allies are conducting a smear campaign intended to damage the company. I say this with a heavy heart. I’ve written in the past about companies Cohodes and his former partner David Rocker exposed, and I’m a big believer in the importance of short-sellers. Investors need to listen to skeptical voices as well as bullish ones. As a general rule, those who bet against companies are performing a service for all investors.But it’s also important that short-sellers tell the truth about what they find and have an open mind if a company, say, changes its tactics and its senior management. Stretching the facts to push a stock down is as bad as stretching them to push a stock up. And flogging a misguided narrative about products that could help millions of patients is just wrong. Campaigns like Cohodes’s against MiMedx give short-sellers a bad name.In an email, I asked Cohodes why he remained so obsessed with MiMedx. “You call it ‘obsessed,’ he replied, “but that’s the wrong word. I am committed to truth and always have been.”There was a time when I would have believed him. Not anymore.*****A postscript: On Monday afternoon, Bloomberg and I received a lengthy letter from Cohodes’s lawyer, David Shapiro, claiming that my first MiMedx column was “false and defamatory” and demanding a retraction. The letter reminded me of how this all started for Cohodes: with a presentation at a 2017 investment conference in which he denounced MiMedx and its then-CEO Petit for having sued three of the company’s critics. “Quit intimidating the shorts, the critics, the free speakers,” Cohodes said then. “It has to stop.”Apparently, Petit isn’t the only one willing to use intimidation tactics to quiet his critics.(1) Bloomberg’s standards regarding foul language prevent me from repeating his actual words.(2) I spoke to a third doctor, Raymond Otto of Boise, Idaho, who also praised EpiFix as a superior wound product. I should note that all three doctors have given lectures on MiMedx’s behalf. Garoufalis told me that the typical lecture fee is $1,500 or less.To contact the author of this story: Joe Nocera at jnocera3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Stacey Shick at sshick@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast "The Shrink Next Door."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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  • Benzinga

    Microsoft The Latest To Be Criticized For Using Humans To Listen To User Audio

    Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) is the latest tech company to be criticized for using humans to review audio captured through devices, raising more privacy concerns about in-home tech. Vice reported that contractors working for Microsoft were paid to listen to audio from Xbox users in the hopes of improving the gaming system’s voice command capabilities. The company responded in a statement to Vice that it has stopped listening to voice recordings captured by Xbox systems, though recordings are still made.

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  • 5 Huge Questions About Snap Stock

    5 Huge Questions About Snap Stock

    If I told you in late 2018 that social media company Snap (NYSE:SNAP) would be one of the market's hottest stocks in 2019, you probably would've laughed at me. After all, in December 2018, SNAP was a $5 stock that had lost about 80% of its value over roughly 18 months.Source: ArthurStock / Shutterstock.com But that's exactly what has happened. SNAP stock has turned into one of the market's biggest winners in 2019. So far this year, SNAP stock price is up about 200%.The big question is: will the rally of Snapchat stock continue?InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading TipsIn order to answer that question, we need to first answer five other questions which will give us more insight into how big Snap's opportunity is, how much of that opportunity Snap will capture, and how much higher SNAP stock price can go. * 10 Marijuana Stocks That Could See 100% Gains, If Not More How Much International Growth Potential Does Snap Have?One of the core tenants of the bull thesis on SNAP stock is that this company's overseas user base can increase tremendously.The logic behind this belief is pretty solid. For a long time, Snap had a bad Android. app, but it recently revamped its Android app, and it's finally good. Most overseas consumers utilize Android . Thus, Snap's Android revamp should improve the experience of a ton of its international users. That, in turn, could enable Spark's international growth to accelerate for a long time.Recent data supports this thesis. Following the Android revamp, Snap added 9 million international users in the second quarter versus the first quarter, its largest sequential net increase of overseas users in a long, long time.But, on the other hand, Snap is jumping into an international market that is already saturated with Stories apps. Specifically, Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger apps all have Stories. Thus, why would overseas consumers who are already using any of those four apps to communicate with Stories jump to Snapchat because of the revamp of its Android app?They might not. As a result, there are some question marks surrounding just how much more Snap's international user base can realistically grow. Will Young Consumers Stick With Snap As They Grow Up?A core tenant of the bear thesis on SNAP stock is that it's a "kids only" app. That is, no one over the age of 35 uses the app, and those are the consumers with most of the money, so being dominant among teenagers really isn't that valuable.Bulls reply by telling bears to take a look at Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). That was a "kids only" app at one point in time. Now, over 2 billion people use it all around the world. Bulls argue that Snap will retain its users, too.I have a tough time buying that argument. Facebook launched at a time when there were very few other social media platforms. Thus, as consumers went from their 20s to their 30s, there was no other social media platform to "graduate" into, so consumers just stuck with Facebook. Today, there are plenty of social media platforms which consumers can "graduate" into as they grow older: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), etc.As a result, I still have a tough time buying the argument that there will be a bunch of 30- to 40-year-old consumers running around in five to ten years, snapping each other with as much frequency as they used when they were in their 20s. Instead, I think Snap will forever largely be a "kids only" app. How Valuable Are Young Users to Advertisers?Assuming that Snap does largely remain a "kids only" app for the foreseeable future, then one has to ask just how valuable being a "kids only" app is.After all, kids don't make much money. Sure, they are heavily influenced by what they see on social media and in digital ads. But they don't have much purchasing power. As a result, SNAP stock bears argue that Snap's hold on Generation Z isn't all that valuable, unless SNAP maintains that advantage as those consumers get older.There's merit to that argument. However, brands aren't going to stop spending an arm and a leg on advertisements targeted to Generation Z. Ads get people to think more about companies' products, and that's reason enough to justify the spending.As a result, having a hold on young consumers should prove to be pretty valuable for Snap in the long-run. though not as valuable as attracting other demographics like Facebook and Twitter have,. As a result, Snap's unit revenues look poised to be lower at their peaks than those of FB and TWTR. Where Will SNAP's Margins End Up?One important question regarding Snap's long-term profit potential relates to where exactly its margins will be at the end of the day. Specifically, where will its gross margins wind up?Snap hosts a lot of expensive content. Storing and saving videos and photos in data centers is a lot more expensive than storing and saving texts. Considering pretty much all of Snap's content is photos and videos, the company presumably will have a higher hosting cost rate than pretty much all of its peers.Indeed, Snap's gross margins are depressed today. They are making progress, and they will continue to make progress for the foreseeable future. But will Snap's margins hit Facebook-type 80%-plus levels? Probably not, both due to Snap's lack of size and its higher content hosting rates. What Does Snap Stock Price Reflect Today?Perhaps the biggest question has to do with the valuation of Snap stock; how much is priced into SNAP stock today?Snap has around 200 million daily active users. Twitter has around 140 million daily actives. Yet the market cap of SNAP stock is about 30% below Twitter's market cap.From that perspective, SNAP stock may actually be undervalued.But each of Twitter's users generates way more value than each of Snap's users. Specifically, over the last 12 months, Snap's users have produced an average of about $6 of revenue and no profits. Each user on Twitter has produced an average of over $24 in revenue and tons of profit.Of course, the bull thesis on SNAP stock is that one day, Snap's users will generate as much revenue and profits as Twitter's users, and that because Snap has more users than TWTR, it will be more valuable than Twitter. But that scenario probably won't materialize, given the demographic and content differences I outlined above. If it ever happens, it will take five to ten years to materialize.Thus, SNAP stock is richly valued. Yes, there's runway for it to grow into the valuation. But there's also plenty of room for SNAP to fall if the company doesn't execute as expected. The Bottom Line on SNAP StockI think SNAP is a company that has been firing on all cylinders, but whose future growth outlook relies on a lot of hope, which is clouded by fundamental challenges.I'm not convinced the company's international opportunity is that tremendous, given that Facebook's properties already dominate that market. I'm also not convinced that Snap's user base will stick with it as they grow up, nor am I convinced that Snap can extract that much value out of each user if its user base forever consists of mostly young and broke consumers. Margins are also a big question mark for SNAP stock going forward.The valuation underlying SNAP stock seems to ignore all these risks. But perhaps Snap will execute exactly as expected, and maybe Snap will become the next big thing in social media.I just have a tough time believing that scenario now. There are too many risks facing SNAP stock, and not enough of those risks are reflected by SNAP stock price. As a result, I'll watch the Snap show from the sidelines. Hopefully, I won't be kicking myself in a year.As of this writing, Luke Lango was long FB. More From InvestorPlace * 2 Toxic Pot Stocks You Should Avoid * 10 Marijuana Stocks That Could See 100% Gains, If Not More * 11 Stocks Under $10 to Buy Now * 6 China Stocks to Buy on the Dip The post 5 Huge Questions About Snap Stock appeared first on InvestorPlace.

  • It Looks as If Facebook Stock Could Be the Best of the FAANG Stocks

    It Looks as If Facebook Stock Could Be the Best of the FAANG Stocks

    Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is having a great recovery year in 2019. Up 40.2% year to date through August 20, Facebook stock is closing in on $200, a mere 16% from its all-time high of $218.62. Source: Wachiwit / Shutterstock.com That's got me wondering if Facebook stock the best FAANG stock to buy at the moment. To help me, I'm going to lean on my good friend, free cash flow, to determine the answer. For those of you that are unfamiliar with free cash flow, it is the cash a business generates that's not required to carry on routine operations. Free cash flow can be allocated for dividends, share repurchases, acquisitions, debt repayment, and keeping it in the bank for a rainy day. InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading Tips Free Cash and Facebook StockFacebook's current free cash flow in the trailing 12 months ended June 30 is $17.9 billion. In the first six months of the year, Facebook used $1.65 billion to repurchase 9.3 million shares, an average price paid of $177.42, a return on investment of 3.6% based on a current share price of $183.81. Facebook paid no dividends during the quarter and doesn't intend to in the future. * 10 Undervalued Stocks With Breakout Potential During the first six months of the year, it made no material acquisitions. As for debt, it has a $2 billion credit facility, but none of it has been drawn. It finished the second quarter with $48.6 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, $3.9 billion of which was added in the past six months. A useful metric for determining a stock's relative value is free cash flow yield, which is defined as free cash flow divided by enterprise value [market cap plus debt minus cash]. The company's current enterprise value is $483.6 billion. Its free cash flow yield is 3.7%. Value investors consider 8% to be the bare minimum. However, for a growth stock like Facebook, 3.7% isn't outrageous. How do the other FAANG's rate? Here's a chart. FAANG Free Cash Flow YieldsCompany Free Cash Flow (TTM) Enterprise Value Free Cash Flow Yield (%) Facebook $17.9B $483.6B 3.7% Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) $22.1B $908.1B 2.4% Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) $58.3B $964.5B 6.0% Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) -$3.1B $138.5B N/A Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) $27.4B $703.8B 3.9% The ConclusionsAnyone who follows Netflix knows that it will have negative free cash flow for the foreseeable future because it spends so much money on content for its video streaming service. Earlier this year Netflix did state that free cash flow should improve in 2020 and beyond. However, it's had negative free cash flow every year since 2011. While I like Netflix stock , negative free cash flow eliminates it from contention as best FAANG stock to buy now.Although Amazon has the lowest free cash flow yield at 2.4%, the fact that it has three major revenue streams: e-commerce, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and advertising, provides a strong pathway to higher free cash flow generation and overall revenue growth. I believe 2.4% isn't terrible given the upside potential of its business. Although I'm a big fan of Jeff Bezos and Amazon stock, some of Amazon's business practices are less than friendly. For this reason, I'll pass on AMZN. While Alphabet's got the second-highest free cash flow yield at 3.9%, the fact that it's still a one-trick pony with advertising as its chief revenue generator suggests it doesn't warrant a higher ranking than Amazon. Therefore, it also doesn't make the cut. As for Apple, it's been the value FAANG stock for at least the last two years. Now that its services revenues are coming on and iPhone sales appear to have plateaued, it will have to continue to build the services side of its business. The latest earnings report suggests its plan for growth is working, but investors are failing to recognize this fact. Ultimately, I believe that Tim Cook's strategy will be successful. At a free cash flow yield of 6.0%, there's few better tech buys at the moment. The Bottom Line on Facebook StockThe privacy issues nagging Facebook will continue to act as a headwind on its stock price. That said, at a 3.7% free cash flow yield, you're getting Facebook stock at a reasonable price at the moment despite a 40% YTD increase. For me, I'd rank the best FAANG stocks to buy in this order:* Apple* Amazon* Tie between Facebook and Alphabet* NetflixAt the time of this writing Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. More From InvestorPlace * 2 Toxic Pot Stocks You Should Avoid * 10 Marijuana Stocks to Ride High on the Farm Bill * 8 Biotech Stocks to Watch After the Q2 Earnings Season * 7 Unusual, Growth-Oriented REITs to Buy for Your Portfolio The post It Looks as If Facebook Stock Could Be the Best of the FAANG Stocks appeared first on InvestorPlace.

  • Financial Times

    Facebook’s attempt to prove impartiality looks doomed to failure

    Any day now, Facebook will conclude its global hunt for 40 men and women wise and impartial enough to decide what speech should be allowed in the world’s digital town square. The infallible 40 on its planned Oversight Board represent an attempt at a new kind of supranational governance. A supreme court for social discourse, set to rule on whether Facebook applies its own content rules fairly, it is meant to create a bulwark against claims that the company itself exercises too much control over the world’s speech.

  • Facebook shuts dozens of Myanmar social media accounts over 'inauthentic behavior'

    Facebook shuts dozens of Myanmar social media accounts over 'inauthentic behavior'

    Facebook Inc said on Thursday it had shut 216 social media pages, groups and accounts in Myanmar, some tied to the army, to stymie efforts to "manipulate or corrupt public debate". The company closed 89 Facebook accounts, 107 pages, 15 groups and five Instagram accounts, some of which had hundreds of thousands of followers, it said in a blogpost. The social media giant has previously removed hundreds of accounts, including that of Myanmar’s army chief, after criticism it had failed to act on hate speech amid violence against Rohingya Muslims in the country.

  • GuruFocus.com

    Facebook Inc (FB) COB and CEO Mark Zuckerberg Sold $23.4 million of Shares

    COB and CEO of Facebook Inc (30-Year Financial, Insider Trades) Mark Zuckerberg (insider trades) sold 125,600 shares of FB on 08/19/2019 at an average price of $186.36 a share. Continue reading...

  • Twitter Helps Beijing Push Agenda Abroad Despite Ban in China

    Twitter Helps Beijing Push Agenda Abroad Despite Ban in China

    (Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. removed hundreds of accounts linked to the Chinese government this week meant to undermine the legitimacy of Hong Kong protests. It also said it would no longer allow state media to purchase ads on its platform.What Twitter didn’t mention in its series of blog posts this week was the increasing number of Chinese officials, diplomats, media, and government agencies using the social media service to push Beijing’s political agenda abroad. Twitter employees actually help some of these people get their messages across, a practice that hasn’t been previously reported. The company provides certain officials with support, like verifying their accounts and training them on how to amplify messages, including with the use of hashtags.This is despite a ban on Twitter in China, which means most people on the mainland can’t use the service or see opposing views from abroad. Still, in the last few days, an account belonging to the Chinese ambassador to Panama took to Twitter to share videos painting Hong Kong protesters as vigilantes. He also responded to Panamanian users’ tweets about the demonstrations, which began in opposition to a bill allowing extraditions to China.China’s ambassador to the U.S. tweeted that “radical protesters” were eroding the rule of law embraced by the silentmajority of Hong Kongers. The Chinese Mission to the United Nations’ Twitter account asked protesters to “stop the violence, for a better Hong Kong,” while social media accounts of Chinese embassies in Manila, India and the Maldives shared articles from China’s state media blaming Westerners for disrupting the city. “Separatists in Hong Kong kept in close contact with foreign elements,” one story says above a photo of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.“We know China is adept at controlling domestic information, but now they are trying to use Western platforms like Twitter to control the narrative on the international stage,” said Jacob Wallis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre.It’s unclear if any of these diplomats were set up on the service by Twitter, but the state-backed attempt to discredit Hong Kong protesters continues to reach millions of global Twitter users. In many cases, the Chinese officials are promoting views similar to those in 936 accounts Twitter banned on Monday.The practice of supporting Chinese officials who use Twitter to spread the Communist Party agenda highlights how difficult it is for the social media company to balance its commitment to root out disinformation and allow the expression of varying opinions. It also raises concerns around why Twitter is helping Beijing make its case to a global audience when the service is banned in China, where dissenting voices are prohibited and officials sometimes detain users accessing the platform through virtual private networks.Twitter’s recent effort to curtail China’s government-directed misinformation campaigns, which provoked outrage from state media, seems at odds with continuing to welcome pro-Beijing accounts that attack Hong Kong protesters, said Wallis.“There’s a clear tension for Twitter here having seen that Beijing is willing to use the platform in deceptive and manipulative ways, whilst desiring to use the platform for state diplomacy,” Wallis said.The tweets are part of a broader campaign by China to reshape the narrative over Hong Kong, particularly in Western nations more sympathetic to the democratic aspirations of protesters. China this week also sent a 43-page letter to senior editors at foreign news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and Bloomberg.Twitter says it works with public officials and politicians around the world, not just in China, and that everyone deserves a voice in the public discourse, as long as they follow its rules and policies. The company has used the same argument to defend hosting tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump, which some users have questioned. Twitter has said it aims to “advance global, public conversation” and that public figures “play a critical role in that conversation because of their out-sized impact on our society,“ in a blog post last year.On Monday, Twitter said in a blog post that it would block more than 900 accounts because they appeared to be part of a “coordinated state-backed operation” to “sow political discord in Hong Kong.” Some of the accounts accessed Twitter from unblocked IP addresses within mainland China, it said, suggesting the state condoned their activities. Twitter also said it would stop accepting advertising from state-controlled media: “Any affected accounts will be free to continue to use Twitter to engage in public conversation, just not our advertising products.”Twitter’s embrace of Chinese officials on the platform also highlights how some American tech companies try to make inroads in the enormous market, despite government restrictions on their services. Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg, for example, has repeatedly expressed a desire to enter China. Twitter oversees the China business from offices in Hong Kong and Singapore.Like Google, Facebook and other sites blocked in China, Twitter sells advertising to Chinese companies like Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. that are trying to reach overseas users. Before Twitter’s policy change this week, it had also sold ad space to Chinese state media companies that used them to push the narrative that Hong Kong protests were orchestrated by foreign forces and angry mobs unrepresentative of the city’s majority.Facebook said it has trained Chinese state media entities to use its services, but declined to comment on whether it also works with government officials. “We provide a standard set of guidance and best practice training to groups around the world including governments, political parties, media outlets, and non-profits so they can manage their Facebook Pages,” the company said in a statement, noting that their guidance is publicly available online.YouTube, part of Alphabet Inc., doesn’t have a specific policy that bars state-funded media, but the company’s ad policies require government-funded channels to be labeled as such. This week, state media including the Global Times published videos about the Hong Kong demonstrations, including an interview with a police officer who said he was “critically injured by violent protesters.” The company didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the matter.Both Twitter and Facebook have established programs to make sure public figures around the world sign up for their sites and understand how to use them effectively. The idea is that people who have a following — athletes, actors or singers — will create interest for their other users in the website. For years, the work has extended to politics, with the social networks signing up and training political figures. For example, Facebook has embedded staff with or trained Trump; Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, known for encouraging extrajudicial killings; and Germany’s anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party (AfD) in how to most effectively use the platform, Bloomberg News has reported.Twitter and Facebook have implemented terms of service that ban certain practices, including bot accounts that appear to be real people and promote misinformation. But government officials and state media still have wide latitude to say what they want.“If Trump is going to use Twitter to deliver his message to the Chinese government, then it makes perfect sense China should be using this medium to send signals back,” said Samm Sacks, cybersecurity policy and China digital economy fellow at think tank New America. “But then we get into this coordinated state misinformation domain and it raises problematic questions around what is propaganda and what is misinformation.”(Updates with Facebook’s comment five paragraphs from the bottom.)\--With assistance from Mark Bergen, Kurt Wagner and Daniel Ten Kate.To contact the reporters on this story: Shelly Banjo in Hong Kong at sbanjo@bloomberg.net;Sarah Frier in San Francisco at sfrier1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net, Edwin ChanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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