I decided while studying for my masters in management that I wanted to do an internship at Google. It was quite a bold decision to take, but the staff at Nova School of Business and Economics in Lisbon were very supportive. They understood I saw it as an important move for my career and my personal interests, so we found a way of making it work. To manage my studies while working, I opted exclusively for evening courses for the six months I would be spending at Google.

During the internship, I helped some of Google’s largest clients in Portugal explore how to digitise their business strategies to encourage growth — successfully shifting to digital is a very important mission for Portuguese companies. I spent the six months working in Lisbon, where I live, and at the company’s European headquarters in Dublin. I also spent some time in Google’s Madrid office. It was an amazing experience.

Many people who secure internships at Google have been recommended to the company. That was not the case with me — I had decided to apply after doing a course in digital strategy and transformation in the first semester of my masters at Nova (which is part of the Cems global alliance of 32 business schools). I enjoyed that course, as well as our class on corporate social responsibility, which focused on the long-term vision of companies in terms of strategy.

The masters is a two-year programme. I will spend next year at Copenhagen Business School (also part of Cems), where I will complete my final project with a Danish company. I don’t know yet which company or what the project will be on, but the university in Copenhagen has a focus on disruptive innovation. Before I go I will spend a last semester at Nova, where I have been invited to teach calculus to undergraduates.

I studied economics at Nova for my undergraduate degree but then decided to focus on management. Economics is very specific — it gives you an amazing analytical background and teaches you how to develop frameworks. Management, on the other hand, gives me the opportunity to explore things I enjoy and might want to pursue in the future, such as digital transformation and corporate social responsibility.

My professors at Nova told me from day one that I could have an important role in the world and be part of the most important discussions. That is why I have been trying to do things outside the classroom during my studies. But I am the kind of person who wants to give 100 per cent in everything I do. I used to be a professional ballroom dancer from the age of six — I danced every style, from what you see on Dancing with the Stars to more classical dance. As my interest in technology grew, however, I could no longer give dancing my full attention, so about two years ago I gave it up.

There are only about 30 people on the course, which gives you the opportunity to ask questions and means the professor is more focused on you. The majority of the group is international: about 75 per cent are from outside Portugal. That is one reason why this masters is so successful — every day you speak to people from different cultures with different ways of seeing the world.

I am not sure yet what I want to do in the future, but harnessing technology for a government or an organisation such as the UN is one possibility. Technology will only become more important, but we have to find ways to make it more inclusive and bring more women into Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs.

My parents wanted me to study medicine after I finished high school with top grades, but I told them it was not for me. I did not have a specific goal in going to business school — compared with the career path of a doctor, lawyer or architect — but I had this drive to create. I went to Nova for my undergraduate degree to see if it would work out — and here I am.

Tourists are staying away and retailers are reeling after nearly five months of protests that have dealt a “devastating” blow to businesses in Hong Kong, and pushed the economy to the brink.

Preliminary growth figures due out Thursday are expected to show Hong Kong has entered a technical recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Ahead of the numbers, the city’s leader Carrie Lam warned of a looming recession. She expects the economy to record negative growth for the year.

DBS economist Samuel Tse agrees the upcoming figures will show Hong Kong has sunk into recession – and expects more pain to come.

“We don’t think it will rebound that fast,” Mr Tse says.

‘Devastating effect’

The protests – which began over a proposed extradition bill between the territory and mainland China – have piled pressure on existing economic strains.

Hong Kong has been grappling with the US-China trade war, while a weaker yuan has hit spending from mainland visitors and bruised consumer sentiment.

The controversial extradition bill has been withdrawn, but demonstrations continued and evolved into demands for greater freedoms, and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.

Clashes between police and activists have become increasingly violent, with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs.

Those dramatic scenes have kept tourists away.

In August, arrivals to the city – a popular travel destination and transit hub – hit their worst level since the SARS crisis of 2003. Visitor numbers are expected to plunge nearly 50% in October compared to the previous year.

Many hotels are struggling to fill their rooms and Mr Tse says the vacancy rate is sitting around 60%.

Some hotels have slashed prices in the hopes of winning back tourists, while reports suggest many have forced staff to cut work hours or take leave to cope with the slowdown.

Among those to have taken a hit is Ovolo Group. The firm, which operates four hotels in Hong Kong, has seen occupancy rates fall by up to 30% over the past three months.

“It’s devastating to see the effect that the recent situation in our city has had on local businesses, particularly those of us in the hospitality industry,” Ovolo Group’s chief executive Girish Jhunjhnuwala says.

Mr Jhunjhnuwala says business is holding up better on weekdays as most guests choose to leave before the weekend, when protests typically kick off. The firm has introduced flexible cancellation policies to help offset uncertainty for guests.

With fewer tourists flying in, airlines have also been knocked. Days of protests at Hong Kong’s airport in August, one of the world’s busiest transit hubs, led to widespread flight cancelations.

Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific has seen a sharp drop in passenger numbers to the territory in the past two months, while Qantas said the protests would hit first-half earnings by A$25m ($17m; £13m).

Shoppers vanish

Lighter tourist flows have weighed on retailers in the city, many already battling with softening consumer sentiment from local shoppers.

Some shops have been forced to shorten trading hours while workers report fears over their safety as protests have turned violent.

Certain businesses have faced direct attacks.

Vandals have targeted big mainland firms like Bank of China and tech company Xiaomi. Stations along Hong Kong’s MTR metro system have also repeatedly been attacked, vandalised or even set on fire.

The chaos has led to a sharp fall in retail sales, down 23% in August, the biggest drop on record. The decline in September is expected to be even worse.

Confidence hit

Additionally, the long-running unrest has shaken business confidence and frustrated investment. That could have a more lasting impact on the economy, Mr Tse says, as questions and uncertainty remain over Hong Kong’s future as a financial hub.

The city has so far injected more than HK$20bn to combat the slowdown including help for the transport, tourism and retail sectors. More relief measures are expected.

But the government argues there’s only so much it can do to stem the economic slide.

“To truly cure the problem, we must always work together to stop the violence, stop the destruction of traffic infrastructure and specific target shops, banks and institutions… and let the society recover as soon as possible,” Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in a blog post.

“Our society and the economy need to take a breather and need to get back on the road.”

UK car production fell by 3.8% in September, due to political uncertainty at home and weaker overseas demand, according to the industry’s trade body.

Fears over a possible no-deal Brexit dampened demand in the UK, while exports fell 3.4%, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

Overall car output for the year-to-date plunged 15.6%, making it the weakest three quarters since 2011.

SMMT added that British car makers had spent £300m on no-deal Brexit measures.

“Another bitterly disappointing month reflects domestic and international market contraction,” said SMMT’s chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Most worrying of all though is the continued threat of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, something which has caused international investment to stall and cost UK operations hundreds of millions of pounds, money that would have better been spent in meeting the technological challenges facing the global industry.”

The trade body said that the latest car production figures, which compare output with the same month a year earlier, capped a 15-month period of decline for the sector.

In addition to dealing with escalating international trade tensions and technological challenges, British car makers also had to “divert huge resources” to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, the SMMT said.

The UK’s automotive industry is closely integrated with European suppliers and markets. Many models rely on a stream of components imported from the EU. And eight out of ten cars built in the UK are exported.

The SMMT has previously suggested that leaving the EU with no transition deal in place would cause “permanent devastation” to the industry.

The agreement to push back the UK’s departure date until January 2020 has meant the immediate prospect of a no-deal Brexit has been avoided.

The government has said it hopes to have a free trade deal with the EU in place by the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020.

However a general election to be held on 12 December will determine future Brexit policy.

Mr Hawes added: “A general election may ultimately provide some certainty, but does not yet remove the spectre of no-deal which will continue to inhibit the UK industry’s prospects unless we can agree and implement a new, ambitious and permanent relationship that safeguards free and frictionless trade.”

Scumbags admit extorting $100k from taxi app biz

Two men have confessed they siphoned confidential information from databases hosted in the Amazon cloud, and then demanded payment to delete their copies of the data.

Brandon Charles Glover, 26, of Winter Springs, Florida, America, and Vasile Mereacre, 23, of Toronto, Canada, each pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit extortion involving computers at a San Jose court house in California on Wednesday. In agreeing to admit their crimes, and forgo a lengthy trial, the duo are set to face up to five years in the clink and a fine of $250,000 apiece. They will be sentenced in March.

The two hatched their scam in late 2016: they obtained the private access keys to an Uber backend database hosted by Amazon Web Services-hosted database, and gave the credentials to a “technically proficient hacker,” who used the information to rifle through the repository and seek out interesting archives.

Some 57 million customer and driver personal records were subsequently downloaded by Glover and Mereacre.

Glover and Mereacre then contacted Uber via a Protonmail address, and demanded money to destroy the data from their local storage, enclosing a small sample in the email to prove they had the goods.

Uber: Hackers stole 57m passengers, drivers’ info. We also bribed the thieves $100k to STFU

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Rather than call the police, Uber executives met the pair, and agreed to pay them $50,000 each to wipe the purloined files. The bosses made the duo sign non-disclosure agreements to keep the whole thing hush-hush. Uber also hid the database intrusion from America’s trade watchdog FTC, which was investigating another hacking attack against the taxi app maker.

Emboldened, the two then tried to pull the same stunt with Lynda.com, now owned by LinkedIn. “[P]lease keep in mind, we expect a big payment as this was hard work for us, we already helped a big corp which paid close to seven digits, all went well,” the pair told Lynda’s staff in an extortion note. Lynda told them where to stuff it, and called in the cops.

“We appreciate the ongoing work by the US Attorney’s office to pursue and bring to justice those responsible for the 2016 breach of Lynda user information,” the online education outfit told The Register today. “We’re glad to see the resolution of this investigation.”

Prosecutors were not impressed at Uber’s attempt to cover up the cyber-break-in, and slammed the San-Francisco-based tech upstart.

“Companies like Uber are the caretakers, not the owners, of customers’ personal information,” said David Anderson, United States Attorney for Northern California, in an email to The Reg. “What gets stolen in a computer extortion belongs to your neighbors, not to yourselves. Don’t be so concerned with your image or reputation. Be concerned with the real losses others have suffered. Report the intrusion promptly. Cooperate with law enforcement.”

Uber’s decision to hush things up and pay off the duo ultimately cost it a small chunk of change. It ended up paying US states a $148m settlement, and the decision also cost at least two of its security team their jobs, including Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s former Chief Security Officer during the Cambridge Analytica scandal and now CSO at Cloudflare.

“We’re dealing with the most sophisticated cyber actors in the world,” FBI Special Agent in Charge John Bennett chimed in, bafflingly, via email.

“In order to take on those people on the front lines of the cyber security battle, we rely heavily on our valued relationships and open dialogue with private sector companies in cyber industries. Their willingness to speedily report intrusions to our investigators allows us to find and arrest those who commit data breaches.” ®

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Apple’s business is being tested by ongoing weakening of its iPhone sales.

In the most recent quarter, iPhone sales dropped to $33.4bn (£25.9bn), down almost 10% year-on-year.

The fall extended a streak of declines and hit the firm’s profits in the quarter, which slipped about 3% year-on-year to $13.7bn.

The firm’s profit and revenue for the full financial year also fell for the first time since 2016, weighed down by the iPhone results.

In a presentation after the firm released its earnings, Apple boss Tim Cook hastened to reassure investors that the declines in iPhone sales are slowing, thanks to the popularity of the firm’s latest model, the iPhone 11.

“It’s early but the trends look very good,” he said. “We are bullish.”

Mr Cook added that the firm’s other businesses were healthy – sales of wearables, such as earphones and watches, surged by more than 50%, while services revenue, which includes Apple Pay and the app store, jumped 18% year-on-year.

That lifted quarterly revenue to $64bn (£49.6bn), up 2% year-on-year.

Mr Cook has been working to make Apple’s business less reliant on its phones, with new subscription services for news and television, among other offerings, but iPhones still account for a majority of sales.

Mr Cook said his optimism about the iPhone 11’s appeal is reflected in Apple’s relatively bright forecast for the upcoming quarter, which includes the festive season – typically a time that sees many hardware purchases.

The firm said it expected revenue growth in the quarter of as much as 6%, above analysts’ expectations.

Daniel Ives, analyst at Wedbush Securities, said Apple also impressed investors with the resilience of its performance in its Greater China region, which accounts for nearly 20% of its business. Sales there declined less than 3%.

On a call with investors, Mr Cook predicted additional growth in the region and expressed confidence that the US and China would reach an agreement that would avoid additional tariffs.

“The tone, I think, has changed significantly,” he said.

Apple shares gained almost 2% in after-hours trade.

Lawmakers, ISPs and cable companies all vying to get a piece of the action

Analysis It’s amazing how a couple of billion dollars focuses the mind.

This week, Congress in the US held a second hearing about an important ongoing issue when it comes to the build-out and adoption of next-generation 5G mobile broadband: namely, where the radio frequencies and bandwidth are going to come from to make it work.

The frequency spectrum is cluttered, and no one wants to give up their portion of this space to 5G. At least not until they get a fat check.

There are two pieces of spectrum that are currently under consideration by telco watchdog FCC for 5G transmissions: a 3.5GHz band, and a section of the so-called C-Band at 3.7 to 4.2 GHz. Together these chunks of spectrum are worth a fortune; possibly tens of billions of dollars. One projection says the C-Band section is worth $60bn, although estimates of spectrum value in recent years have been several magnitudes larger that what they have actually reached at auction.

And auction is how this limited resource is going to be allocated. There are different types of auction, and a group of satellite companies that currently uses the space, going under the name C-Band Alliance, have very strong views over which is best. The C-Band Alliance is pretty confident that a private auction – where it just so happens that all the proceeds will go to the satellite companies themselves – is the best way forward.

That has riled up some lawmakers, who have been arguing equally vociferously that it should follow the precedent of other auctions and be a public affair, with the proceeds going to the US Treasury. And by US Treasury, what they mean is, to their states and constituencies through a massive broadband development fund that will draw all its money from a cut of the auction proceeds.

Enter the Donald

There’s another person keen on the idea of public auctions for much the same reason. President Donald Trump is never one to miss the opportunity to bring in money, and he sees the vast sums of dosh as a useful pot that could be drawn on for pet projects.

The most significant of those is, of course, the construction of a vast border wall with Mexico that Congress has repeatedly refused to foot the full bill for. 5G auction funds could be a useful solution to that political impasse.

As such, it was no coincidence that in advance of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Tuesday on the topic, the C-Band Alliance suddenly announced it would able to free up even more spectrum for 5G communications than it had previously estimated: from 200MHz to 300MHz.

Amazing stuff but with it comes with one small condition: the auction would, of course, have to be a private one. The alliance is also keen to say that it would contribute some of the subsequent proceeds to the Treasury, although it has been extremely difficult to pin down an exact figure or percentage.

With lawmakers and the president, and precedent, behind a public auction, however, why are we even discussing the possibility of a private auction? Speed. The C-Band Alliance has made it plain that not only would a private auction be very swift – freeing up 5G spectrum within months – but that any efforts to force it to give up spectrum for a public auction would result in it putting up a hell of a fight.

The Rebel Alliance is playing off a years-long false sense of urgency that the mobile industry has pumped into Congress and the FCC in order to get its own way on rules, such as controversial rules to force local councils to hand over pole space to 5G base stations for a flat fee. Lawmakers have been crowing on about the “race to 5G” for years and are now being asked to put their money where their mouth is – literally.

New law

There is a bipartisan law bill [PDF] in the works that would mandate a public auction and provide the basis to pull the spectrum away from the satellites companies, though this is itself a process and will face all kinds of legal hurdles. The C-Band Alliance is trying to figure what kind of deal it can strike to get lawmakers to back away and make it rain for everybody.

“Given the need to encourage rural broadband, are there some requirements that the FCC could incorporate into its order to make a private sale much more rural friendly?” asked Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN), basically asking if the FCC can guarantee her state will get $$$ from the auction. Yes, it could, she was told.

Others have more ethical concerns. A private auction for spectrum is “an untested, unproven model,” warned party-pooper Phillip Berenbroick, policy director of public interest group Public Knowledge.

“I don’t know what public interest protections and oversight the FCC can exercise over the process,” he warned, adding that the traditional public auction “ensures transparency, accountability and allows for competition issues [and] a diverse range of bidders.”

But even that may not be entirely true if you listen to the concerns of some groups taking part in the other piece of 5G auctioning: 3.5GHz.

The Rural Wireless Association (RWA) and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) have written to the FCC this week complaining that its public auction plan for this bit of spectrum is weighted toward the monster mobile and cable operators that dominate the US market.

Under the current plan, organizations will be able to place bulk bids for chunks of spectrum, giving those with deep pockets and large resources a significant leg up. The whole plan is “an attempt to benefit large nationwide carriers seeking to aggregate counties in large metropolitan areas,” the RWA complained [PDF].

Acquisition

WISPA agreed [PDF]. The setup “creates an incentive for the large companies to increase their bids for rural, or less populous counties, that they would otherwise not have an interest in acquiring,” it warned.

In other words, the system will be used to maintain the current market for broadband’s biggest problem: fiercely protected local monopolies where cable companies divide up the country into small chunks and keep out competition while making it look, on a national level, like there is lots of real competition. In this case, huge companies will buy up spaces that they aren’t particularly interested in and are unlikely to invest in, simply to prevent the competition from getting a leg hold.

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“WISPA supports the Commission’s goal that all consumers nationwide, including in rural areas, should ultimately have access to 25/3 Mbps service,” it generously noted. “However, WISPA believes that, in this instance, the Commission has not yet allowed the unsubsidized market to mature sufficiently, and threatens private investment in areas that would have no service but for the presence of an unsubsidized provider.”

As for the FCC itself, its chairman Ajit Pai has been uncharacteristically quiet on both the public/private auction debate for C-Band spectrum, and on the rules that benefit the large corporate cable companies in the 3.5GHZ band.

His fellow Republican FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly has made a few noises about how the speed of the process may be the best thing, pointing to a private auction. But the sad truth, based on years of evidence-free policy making at the FCC under Pai, is that he is probably waiting on the assessments of companies like his former employer Verizon on which approach is going to save them the most money.

Because as much as everyone wants a cut of the billions going into spectrum, someone is still going to have to pay out that money. And that will be Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and the usual suspects. As soon as those companies have made up their mind on which approach best suits their bottom line, you can expect their supposed regulator to make up its mind very swiftly afterwards. ®

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Twitter says a bug in macOS 10.15.1 aka Catalina stops users of the social network’s desktop Mac app from entering certain letters in account password fields.

When attempting to type their passwords into the application to log in, some characters are ignored, specifically ‘b’, ‘l’, ‘m’, ‘r’, and ‘t’. That would make it impossible to submit passwords using those keys to sign into Twitter accounts; pass phrases can be cut’n’pasted just fine.

According to Twitter in-house developer Nolan O’Brien, these particular keypresses are gobbled up by a regression associated with the operating system’s shortcut support. Normally, users can press those aforementioned keys as shortcuts within the app to perform specific actions, such as ‘t’ to open a box to compose a new tweet.

Something changed within macOS to capture those shortcut keys, rather than pass them to the password field in the user interface as expected. So, in other words, when you press a shortcut key in Twitter when entering an account password, the keypress is ignored in that context rather than handled as a legit password keypress.

Other programs may also be similarly affected.

Here’s how O’Brien put it, referring to Apple’s UIKit API:

And here’s a video of the regression in action:

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There’s no word yet on when a patch for the issue might be out. Apple did not respond to a request for comment. Chalk this up as another potential weird bug of the week.

This is one of several headaches that Mac fans who opted to update to Catalina are having to deal with in the early days of Apple’s latest OS edition.

Developers have lamented the sorry quality of the release, in some cases even likening it to Windows Vista, while users have reported a number of performance and stability bugs introduced by the update.

Those who have not yet updated to macOS 10.15 may want to hold off for a bit longer while both Cupertino and third-party devs iron out most of the wrinkles in the platform. ®

PS: Apple’s fiscal 2019 full-year financial numbers were out on Wednesday: $55bn profit, down seven per cent year-on-year, off $260bn in sales, down two per cent, in the 12 months to calendar September 28.

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PSA Group, the French owner of Peugeot, is set to announce a merger with its US-Italian rival Fiat Chrysler shortly, reports say.

A deal between the two carmakers would create a business with a combined market value of nearly $50bn (£39.9bn).

This is Fiat Chrysler’s second attempt at a merger this year after it pulled out of an agreement with Renault in June.

Fiat Chrysler shares jumped more than 9% in trading on Wednesday.

Sources have told Reuters, AFP and the Wall Street Journal that the merger could be announced as early as Thursday.

The potential merger would face significant political and financial hurdles.

Discussions remain in the early stages and there is no guarantee of a final deal. However, if the two companies do combine, PSA chief executive Carlos Tavares is expected to lead the enlarged group.

John Elkann, Fiat Chrysler’s chairman and the head of Italy’s Agnelli industrial dynasty, which controls the business, would retain the same position at the new company.

The talks come months after a proposed tie-up between Fiat Chrysler and French carmaker Renault collapsed with Renault in June.

Mr Elkann broke off talks after French government officials intervened and pushed for Renault first to resolve tensions with its Japanese partner Nissan.

After ditching the proposed merger Mr Elkann confirmed the group’s bid to pursue an alternative deal.

Car makers face huge investments for electrification, emission reduction and autonomous driving technologies, which gives them an incentive to merge.

A merger of the two groups would create one of the world biggest car makers, and bring a number of brands under one roof including Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Jeep, Opel, Peugeot and Vauxhall.

Morningstar senior equity analyst Richard Hilgert said that the total sales of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, including China joint venture partners, were 8.7 million vehicles last year.

This would rank the eventual combined group fourth behind Volkswagen, Toyota and the Renault-Nissan Alliance, each at more than 10 million units.

“We view the combination of these two companies as reasonable given global competition, high capital intensity, and industry disruption from electrified powertrain as well as autonomous technologies, Mr Hilgert said.

Fiat Chrysler had described its bid for Renault as a “transformative” proposal that would create a global automotive leader.

It’s almost as if social media giant has ill-considered, naive, spectacularly stupid policies

Comment Facebook’s controversial policy to exempt political ads from factual review has taken another dive after the social media giant appeared to state it gets to decide which politicians the policy applies to.

One California marketer is so incensed at the antisocial network’s politicians-can-lie-with-impunity policy that he started running false ads through a Political Action Campaign (PAC) to highlight what he sees as the obvious stupidity of the approach.

When Facebook banned those ads following complaints, the man in question – Adriel Hampton – registered as a candidate for the governor of the US state, posting his registration on Twitter this week and stating that he now intended to run false ads on Facebook in his personal capacity as a political candidate.

Up until this point, Facebook has stuck rigidly to its policy, refusing a request from presidential candidate Joe Biden to take down false and misleading ads posted by others about his interests in Ukraine. It also left up a series of ads posted by other presidential frontrunner, Elizabeth Warren, in which she purposefully made false statements about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a way of highlighting the logical inconsistency of the company’s approach.

But in the case of Hampton, Facebook has seemingly decided that its blanket policy may be less of a blanket and more a loosely woven throw.

“This person has made clear he registered as a candidate to get around our policies, so his content, including ads, will continue to be eligible for third-party fact-checking,” a Facebook spokesperson said in response to Hampton’s baiting.

Let’s see if it holds

If Facebook now claims that it gets to decide who is a politician and who is not, even if that person is registered as a candidate through the proper channels, then it is not only inserting itself directly into the issue but claiming greater authority over the democratic process than the political institutions that define it.

It’s almost as if having a policy allowing a specific group of people to say whatever they want without any form of checking or retribution on a publishing platform that reaches billions of people is an ill-considered, naive, intellectually dishonest and pathetically weak position.

Certainly several hundred Facebook employees think so, having signed and sent a letter to their boss – Zuckerberg – on Monday complaining about the approach. “Misinformation affects us all,” the letter said. “Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for. We strongly object to this policy as it stands.”

Facebook has been desperately trying to regain control of its messaging, persuading several of its executives – some of whom have gone to some lengths to highlight their journalistic experience – to write posts arguing in favor of the policy. But those efforts have been met with disdain and mockery, particularly an attempt to justify the inclusion of right-wing bait-box Breitbart as a “trusted source” of news.

Different rules

A different journalistic dig into the unusual popularity on Facebook of another aggressively slanted right-wing website, The Daily Wire, revealed that the site was running roughshod over many of Facebook’s own policies in order to promote itself. The website has set up a network of 14 different Facebook pages that purport to be independent of The Daily Wire but which seemingly coordinate closely with one another to promote the title’s stories.

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Facebook again took the side of the website, claiming to have run an investigation and found that “these are real pages run by real people in the US and do not violate our policies.” That response was met immediately with evidence that the “independent” pages had all posted the same article from The Daily Wire within four seconds of one another.

In the past 24 hours, Facebook has taken a different tack: suing several companies for bad behavior in a transparent effort to make itself appear as a responsible corporate force for good.

On Tuesday it sued Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group for allegedly using malware to hack into the phones of lawyers, political dissidents, and human rights activists via its WhatsApp messaging service. And on the same day, it also sued domain name registrar OnlineNIC in an effort to take down 20 websites that Facebook alleges sell hacking and phishing tools.

For outside observers, it remains baffling that Facebook as a multi-billion-dollar media goliath with a huge readership – 2.5 billion active monthly users – and responsibility appears incapable of making the kind of solid, justifiable decisions that other large organizations make all the time.

That persistent failure to make intelligent, adult decisions is thought to be a direct result of the overweening influence of CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Whoever gets into Mark’s ear and persuades him of the “right” approach gets to set company policy, no matter how obviously flawed that may be. ®

Updated to add

Twitter has made it all look super easy today by just banning political ads from its platform, starting November 22:

Meanwhile, Facebook’s Q3 2019 financial figures [PDF], out today, show revenue up 29 per cent year-on-year to $17.65bn, and a profit of $6.09bn, up 19 per cent.

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The US central bank has cut interest rates again, hoping to shield the economy from the impact of trade wars and a global slowdown.

The Federal Reserve lowered the target for its benchmark rate by a quarter point, to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%. The move was the third cut in four months.

The decision comes as US economic growth slowed to an annual rate of 1.9% in the most recent quarter.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell implied the bank would hold off on further cuts.

“We feel that policy is well-positioned,” he said at a press conference in Washington at the end of the Fed’s two-day meeting.

Since the last meeting, he said risks to the economy have subsided, pointing to the possibility of a limited “phase one” US-China trade pact and reduced odds of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Powell suggested he does not expect the bank to change rates again unless economic conditions worsen unexpectedly.

“We see the current stance of policy as likely to remain appropriate,” he said.

Economic signals

Wednesday’s cut was expected. Eight policymakers voted in favour of reducing the rate, while two opposed the action, preferring to hold the rate steady.

The divide reflects mixed economic signals. While growth has slowed, it has held up better than expected, decelerating only slightly from the 2% rate seen in the three months to 30 June.

The expansion has been bolstered by spending by consumers, who are enjoying some of the lowest unemployment rates in almost 50 years.

However, manufacturing and business investment continues to fall, as firms grapple with uncertainty generated by the US-China tariff war and other trade disputes.

Global economic growth has slowed and inflation also remains lower than the Fed would like, moderating fears that further rate cuts will trigger a damaging acceleration in prices.

‘Normal context’

As growth has softened, US President Donald Trump has sought to pin responsibility on the Fed. He has repeatedly called on the bank to cut rates more aggressively, pointing to lower borrowing costs in other countries.

Mr Powell said the cuts to date have already helped certain sectors sensitive to borrowing costs, such as housing. The full effects will be felt over time, he added.

Dr. Kerstin Braun, president of Stenn Group, an international provider of cross-border trade finance, said looking to the Fed to solve the issues in the economy won’t work.

“The US needs to end uncertainties about global trade while also implementing fiscal policies that foster investment in infrastructure and innovation,” she said.

With the cuts, the Fed is “squandering” its power despite lack of a real crisis, she added.

“The stock market is peaking, consumers are still spending, and the tariff war could be resolved,” she said. “This isn’t the normal context for lowering interest rates.”