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Bits: The Week in Tech: Facebook Is Desperate to Shape Tech Regulation. Should It?

Each week, we review the week’s news, offering analysis about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.Hi, I’m Jamie Condliffe. Greetings from London. Here’s a look at the week’s tech news:Mark Zuckerberg has a vision that he’d like Congress to share.Lawmakers seem to agree that there are too few tech companies with too much power, and that Big Tech needs to be regulated. What they can’t agree on is how do it: Break companies up, tax them more, apply privacy rules, remove liability protections. The list goes on. There are lots of options, none particularly well developed,…

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Australia Passes Law to Punish Social Media Companies for Violent Posts

Australia passed sweeping legislation Thursday that threatens huge fines for social media companies and jail for their executives if they fail to rapidly remove “abhorrent violent material” from their platforms.The law — strongly opposed by the tech industry — puts Australia at the forefront of a global movement to hold companies like Facebook and YouTube accountable for the content they host.It comes less than a month after a gunman, believed to be an Australian white nationalist, distributed a hate-filled manifesto online before using Facebook to live-stream the massacre of 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.“These platforms should not be weaponized for these purposes,” said…

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News Analysis: Countries Want to Ban ‘Weaponized’ Social Media. What Would That Look Like?

SYDNEY, Australia — What if live-streaming required a government permit, and videos could only be broadcast online after a seven-second delay?What if Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were treated like traditional publishers, expected to vet every post, comment and image before they reached the public? Or like Boeing or Toyota, held responsible for the safety of their products and the harm they cause?Imagine what the internet would look like if tech executives could be jailed for failing to censor hate and violence.These are the kinds of proposals under discussion in Australia and New Zealand as politicians in both nations move to address popular outrage over the massacre this…

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Tech We’re Using: How an App Creates ‘Disturbingly Agile Millennial Thumbs’

How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Isabella Kwai, a correspondent in Sydney, Australia, discussed the tech she’s using.What are the most important tech tools for doing your job, and how do you use them?At this point, my iPhone 6S is basically another limb. We don’t have desk phones in our bureau and everyone bounces around, so it pays to be as mobile as possible. I have Slack, Google Hangouts and the Google Docs app downloaded on my phone. I’ll also take pictures and videos to remind me of scenes when I’m reporting a feature. I’ll use Facebook,…

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The Strange Experience of Being Australia’s First Tech Billionaires

SYDNEY, Australia — Atlassian is a very boring software company. It develops products for software engineers and project managers, with hits like Jira (for software project management and bug tracking) and Fisheye (a revision-control browser). And who could forget Confluence (an enterprise knowledge management system)?So why are its two founders household names in Australia?Because Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes, both 39, are the country’s first start-up-to-I.P.O. tech billionaires. And because in the last year, they have started to make noise.Until recently, they largely stayed out of the public eye, even as Atlassian grew to become a $20 billion company. Now, as Australian politics tilt toward the right…

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Did Australia Poke a Hole in Your Phone’s Security?

SYDNEY, Australia — A new law in Australia gives law enforcement authorities the power to compel tech-industry giants like Apple to create tools that would circumvent the encryption built into their products.The law, the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018, applies only to tech products used or sold in Australia. But its impact could be global: If Apple were to build a so-called back door for iPhones sold in Australia, the authorities in other countries, including the United States, could force the company to use that same tool to assist their investigations.The Australian law went into effect last month. It is one of…

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How ‘Subtle Asian Traits’ Became a Global Hit

SYDNEY, Australia — The Facebook group was supposed to be a fun distraction from high school exams.Its creators, a crew of Melbourne students who had bonded over weekends in Chinese language school, had noticed a Facebook group called “Subtle Private School Traits.” They started joking about their own experiences: the struggles and joys of being a first-generation immigrant. “We were like, what if we made a ‘Subtle Asian Traits’ page,” said Anne Gu, 18.The concept was simple: Share jokes about the traits, subtle or otherwise, that characterized the Asian-Australian experience, from cultural clashes with parents and the sanctity of bubble milk tea, to the groan-worthy pickup lines…

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Arrest Shakes Huawei as Global Skepticism of Its Business Grows

It is one of China’s proudest corporate success stories, a colossus in cutting-edge technology that elbowed out Western rivals to become the biggest supplier of the hardware that connects our modern world.Now, all around the globe, the walls are going up for Huawei.The United States, which for years has considered the Chinese telecommunications giant a security threat, aimed a straight shot at the company’s leadership when it secured the arrest, in Canada, of Huawei’s chief financial officer.But lately, Huawei’s setbacks have come on multiple fronts, from New Zealand and Australia to Britain and Canada. China sees the company as a pivotal driver of its ambitions for global…

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Australian Government Passes Contentious Encryption Law

CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian Parliament passed a contentious encryption bill on Thursday to require technology companies to provide law enforcement and security agencies with access to encrypted communications.Privacy advocates, technology companies and other businesses had strongly opposed the bill, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government said it was needed to thwart criminals and terrorists who use encrypted messaging programs to communicate. “This ensures that our national security and law enforcement agencies have the modern tools they need, with appropriate authority and oversight, to access the encrypted conversations of those who seek to do us harm,” Attorney General Christian Porter said.Opponents of the bill argued that it…

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Amazon Lifts Ban on Australians Shipping From Its Main Site

SYDNEY, Australia — Amazon will grant Australians access to products from its main website, walking back a decision made earlier this year that angered its customers in the country.The online retailer had announced that it would redirect Australians to a local website to comply with changes to Australian tax law. That law requires online retailers to impose a 10 percent goods and services tax on items sold and shipped from overseas.But customers complained that the move would raise prices and bar them from millions of products, some difficult to find otherwise. And it appears those concerns were heard.“As a result of customer feedback, from 22 November Amazon…

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