Twitter Locks Out Chinese Embassy in U.S. Over Post on Uighurs

(Bloomberg) — Twitter Inc. has locked the official account for the Chinese Embassy to the U.S. after a post that defended the Beijing government’s policies in the western region of Xinjiang, where critics say China is engaged in the forced sterilization of minority Uighur women.The tweet, which said Uighur women were no longer “baby-making machines,” was originally shared on Jan. 7, but wasn’t removed by Twitter until more than 24 hours later. It has been replaced by a label saying, “This tweet is no longer available.” Even though Twitter hides tweets that violate its rules, it still requires the account owner to manually delete the post in order to regain access to the account.The account is still locked, a Twitter spokesman confirmed, meaning the Chinese Embassy has not deleted the tweet. The Chinese Embassy account, @ChineseEmbinUS, has not posted since Jan. 8, having published at least a dozen more tweets after the one breaking Twitter’s rules. “We have taken action on this Tweet for violating our policy against dehumanization,” a Twitter spokesman said in a statement. Twitter prohibits the “dehumanization of a group of people based on their religion, caste, age, disability, serious disease, national origin, race, or ethnicity.”Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Thursday said authorities were “puzzled” about why Twitter restricted the account, calling it the embassy’s responsibility to correct “fake reports and information related to Xinjiang.” “We hope Twitter can adhere to objective and fair principles and not display double standards on this issue,” she said at a briefing in Beijing.The move is the latest in a series of escalating steps Twitter has taken in recent weeks to enforce its policies. The suspension of the Chinese Embassy account came shortly after Twitter permanently banned Donald Trump’s account for repeated rules violations, and potentially complicates Beijing’s efforts to reset relations with the U.S. under President Joe Biden.On Tuesday, then-acting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that China’s actions against Uighur minorities amounted to “genocide,” a label that his successor Antony Blinken agreed with during his confirmation hearings this week. China has maintained that it is fighting separatism and extremism in the region, where the United Nations has estimated up to 1 million Uighurs may be held in camps.The decision to suspend the Chinese Embassy account also adds to an already complicated relationship between U.S. tech companies and China. Large social platforms like Twitter, Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google and YouTube are all banned in China, which has some of the world’s strictest controls on the internet. Trump, meanwhile, had previously demanded that Chinese startup ByteDance Ltd. spin off its successful video service TikTok in the U.S.China’s embassy in Washington joined Twitter in 2019 in the midst of heated trade talks between the countries, as more Chinese officials started using the platform to aggressively defend Beijing across the world in what has become known as “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy. Chinese officials and state-run media have used Twitter to accuse the U.S. of hypocrisy, particularly after a deadly riot at the Capitol earlier this month.After the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka’s account was suspended last year, it argued its “freedom of speech” must be honored, even though Twitter posts are blocked in the mainland.Last month, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an apology after Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted a fake photo depicting one of his nation’s troops holding a bloody knife to an Afghan child’s throat. Chinese social media platform WeChat subsequently deleted a post by Morrison after he made a direct appeal to the Chinese community promoting Australia as a “free, democratic, liberal country.”In recent months China has moved to rein its own big tech companies, proposing antitrust policies in November that would give the Communist Party sweeping powers over some of the country’s most biggest corporations.(Updates with China Foreign Ministry comment in fifth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Netflix To Rollout ‘Shuffle Play’ Feature Around The World In Coming Months

Netflix Inc (NASDAQ: NFLX) disclosed during its fourth-quarter earnings report that it will bring “Shuffle Play” to its global userbase in the first half of 2021, the Verge reported Wednesday.What Happened: The feature allows users to forego browsing the catalog as Netflix will randomly pick content for them to watch.Shuffle Play was designed for users to “indicate to us that they just want to skip browsing entirely, click one button and we’ll pick a title for them just to instantly play,” Netflix Chief Operating Officer Greg Peters said, according to the Verge. There is no clarity on what the feature will be called — but Reed Hastings, the video streamer’s co-CEO, previously joked they might call it “I’m Feeling Lucky” in the same way Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google calls its search feature.Why It Matters: The Shuffle Play feature emerged last year in August when Netflix began testing it with a segment of its users worldwide.> Interesting new feature @netflix … but what kind of insane person just says, “yolo, let’s spin the Netflix wheel of fortune”> > — Turner Levison (@TurnerLevison) August 18, 2020The subscription video-on-demand company reported $1.19 in adjusted Q4 earnings per share, missing analyst expectations of $1.39.Netflix added 8.5 million global paid net subscribers in the period exceeding Wall Street estimates of 6.47 million.Price Action: Netflix shares closed 16.85% higher at $586.34 on Wednesday and fell 0.11% in the after-hours session.Read Next: Netflix Is Now A Free Cash Flow Story: Analysts React To Q4 EarningsSee more from Benzinga * Click here for options trades from Benzinga * Amazon Offers To Help Vaccinate 100M Americans In First 100 Days Of Biden Administration * Tesla Sees 63% Rise In California Registrations, Thanks To Model Y(C) 2021 Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

Google Sidelines Second Artificial Intelligence Researcher

(Bloomberg) — Google locked out artificial intelligence researcher Margaret Mitchell from its corporate systems, making her the second outspoken critic at the company to be sidelined. Mitchell was a vocal supporter of her colleague Timnit Gebru, who departed under acrimonious circumstances last month.Mitchell leads Alphabet Inc.’s Ethical AI unit, which is responsible for developing the company’s technology in a socially responsible manner. Gebru tweeted on Tuesday that Mitchell’s “corp access is now locked” and that the researcher had been told she would remain locked out “for at least a few days.”Mitchell didn’t respond to a request for comment. A Google spokesman said the company is actively investigating the matter and provided the following statement:“Our security systems automatically lock an employee’s corporate account when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered. In this instance, yesterday our systems detected that an account had exfiltrated thousands of files and shared them with multiple external accounts. We explained this to the employee earlier today.”The Alphabet Workers Union, which counts Mitchell as a member, said it was concerned by the suspension of her systems access, calling the move an “attack on the people who are trying to make Google’s technology more ethical.”“Regardless of the outcome of the company’s investigation, the ongoing targeting of leaders in this organization calls into question Google’s commitment to ethics — in AI and in their business practices,” the union said Wednesday in a statement. “Many members of the Ethical AI team are AWU members and the membership of our union recognizes the crucial work that they do and stands in solidarity with them.”Google’s statement on the matter was an attempt to tarnish Mitchell’s reputation despite a typical practice of refusing to comment on personnel matters, the union added.Gebru, best known for showing how facial recognition algorithms are better at identifying White people than Black people, left Google in a storm of controversy in December. She has said she was fired after the company demanded she retract a research paper she co-authored that questioned an AI technology at the heart of Google’s search engine. The company has said she resigned.Close to 2,700 Googlers and more than 4,300 academics and civil society supporters signed a petition in favor of Gebru. Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai emailed an apology to employees and said he is investigating the incident.Read more: Google Researcher’s Departure Ignites New Conflict Over EthicsMitchell has been a vocal supporter of Gebru on social media and a critic of the shortcomings of Google and other tech companies in how they address issues of race, gender and systemic bias.The company has increasingly clashed with employees in recent years over AI projects, especially with the military, and workplace diversity.Earlier this month, several employees unveiled the Alphabet Workers Union to pressure the company on issues including compensation and ethical concerns such as the kinds of work Google engages in.On Dec. 21, April Curley, who spent six years as a Google diversity recruiter, said she was fired for speaking out internally about her concerns that the company wasn’t sufficiently interested in diversifying its workforce. In a Twitter thread, she said Google does not “want Black talent.”Subsequently, HBCU20x20, an organization that pairs students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities with companies, canceled an agreement to work with Google, which was signed last year.Pichai will meet with several of these colleges on Jan. 29 to discuss representation in the technology industry, according to an official from Florida A&M University.In addition to the president of Florida A&M, representatives from Howard University, Morgan State University, Prairie View A&M University, North Carolina A&T University and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund are expected to take part in the virtual meeting, the Florida A&M official said.“We are dedicated to hiring and retaining Black+ and other underrepresented talent at Google, and we’re committed to strengthening our partnerships with HBCUs,” a Google spokeswoman wrote in an emailed statement. “This work is critical — in 2019 we welcomed graduates from 19 HBCUs and over the past decade, we’ve expanded our recruiting efforts to more than 800 schools.”(Updates with statement from Alphabet Workers Union starting in fifth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.