“No hurdles for sharing abuse photos”

EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson has warned strongly against weakening the fight against the spread of photos and videos of abused children on the Internet. If there is no interim solution, there will soon be “no obstacles for pedophiles to upload and share,” said the Swede of the German press agency. She spoke of a “global disaster”. The background to this is that companies such as Facebook and Google messages sent via their services will soon no longer be allowed to scan with certain filters in the EU as things stand.

That is why Johansson is promoting the transitional arrangement. “I will never accept that the privacy of users is more important than the privacy of child victims.” It is of the utmost urgency that the EU states and the European Parliament come to an agreement by December 21st.

E-mails fall under the digital secrecy of letters

Because then the update of the code for electronic communication will take effect in the EU. Communication services such as e-mail or messenger programs will therefore in future fall under the EU’s digital confidentiality. Corporations such as Facebook, Google or Microsoft are no longer allowed to scan the messages via their mail and messenger services for abuse. So far, they have used certain technology to filter the messages sent to representations that are already known and have been provided with a type of digital fingerprint. According to its own information, the Federal Criminal Police Office also benefits from the information they receive in this way.

To enable this procedure to continue, the EU Commission proposed an interim solution in September. However, there are major reservations in the European Parliament and among data protectionists. Parliament still has to agree on its own position before it can start negotiations with the EU states.


New laws should allow data access

IIn everyday life, hardly any consumer on the Internet can escape the major operators of platforms that digitally link providers and consumers of products and services through the exchange of information. Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon lead the field for which the acronym Gafa-Ökonomie has become established. Google dominates the general research market with its search engine and the user-generated video business with Youtube. With its App Store, Apple plays a gatekeeper role in the distribution of application software for smartphones and tablets and is consistently expanding its power in the music streaming and download market. Facebook operates the largest social network and reaches countless people with its media sharing app Instagram and the messenger service Whatsapp. Amazon is about to increase its share of German online retail to more than 50 percent.

The economic power of Gafa, combined with their handling of user data, political advertising campaigns, copyrights, neutrality requirements, hate speech and proprietary offers, has led to the digital corporations being viewed critically. The Gafa-Wirtschaft sees itself confronted with a multitude of initiatives aimed at counteracting the social and economic damage that the four players may cause. The federal government has identified “a competition policy for the digital age” as an important lever for limiting the influence of the platforms.

With kid gloves

That is why the Ministry of Economic Affairs presented the draft of a “digitization law” for the law against restraints of competition (GWB), which is considered the constitution of the social market economy in Germany. A central element of the design is a requirement for companies to access data from dominant platform operators. The list of bans on behavior for dominant companies is to be expanded to include the refusal to grant other companies “access to data … for a reasonable fee”. The Bundeskartellamt is to be given the authority to prohibit “companies with overriding cross-market importance for competition” from “erecting barriers to entry” through the exclusive use of data they have collected on dominated markets. The idea behind this is that by collecting and evaluating data from visitors to their platforms, digital giants can tailor offers better than their competitors, provided that the user data is only available to them.

By lowering the barriers to data access claims, it is hoped to strengthen competition so that damage does not occur in the first place. Similar obligations have contributed to more competition and pressure on end customers in other industries such as telecommunications and power supply. Such effects are not to be expected with the digital platforms, because the federal government only handles the powerful players with kid gloves when regulating data access. Four shortcomings are particularly serious.

A big hurdle

First, neither the law itself nor the reasons for the law clarify how broadly the term “data” should be interpreted. In order for access to the platform operator’s data to have the desired effects, it is essential not to limit the entitlement to usage profiles of certain people or “things” that cannot otherwise be obtained with reasonable effort. Such data do not justify the advantages of platform operators. Rather, it is the algorithms with which they are evaluated. The law should therefore be amended so that a precisely defined right extends to access to such programs.


When did the coronavirus occur in Italy?

EA study by the National Institute for Tumor Diseases in Milan and the University of Siena, which became known on Sunday, according to which the Sars-CoV-2 virus is said to have circulated in Italy as early as September 2019, has sparked a heated debate among Italian immunologists. The study provides “no evidence that the corona virus was already present in Italy in September 2019,” wrote Antonella Viola, immunologist at the University of Padua, on her Facebook page.

Matthias Rüb

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta, based in Rome.

First, the tests carried out by the scientists from Milan and Siena would have to be checked by other laboratories. In addition, from the presence of antibodies against coronaviruses, it cannot simply be concluded that they were formed as a reaction to the specific Sars-CoV-2. The presence of antibodies that were formed after contact with coronaviruses other than Sars-CoV-2 has been described in detail in the scientific literature. In addition, far more samples than the blood samples from 959 people used in the study would have to be examined, especially as a control test comparable samples from the years 2017/18.

Institute director defends his study

The virologist Massimo Galli from the Milan Institute for Tumor Diseases was also skeptical. “If the virus has actually been present in Italy for so long, then you have to ask yourself why breeding grounds did not develop earlier,” said Galli in the daily newspaper “La Repubblica” on Monday.

The researchers from Milan and Siena had retrospectively examined blood samples from 959 people who had participated in voluntary screenings for a possible tumor disease of the lungs between September 2019 and March 2020. In a total of eleven percent of the samples taken at the time, they had found antibodies against the coronavirus. 14 percent of the samples that subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus were taken in September 2019, 30 percent of the positive tests came from February 2020. More than half of all positive samples (53.2 percent) came from the northern Italian region of Lombardy. Lombardy was particularly badly affected during the first wave of Sars-CoV-2 infections in spring and also has the highest numbers of infections and diseases in the current second wave.

Giovanni Apolone, head of the Milan Institute, defended the results of the investigation against criticism. The presence of the Sars-CoV-2 virus in Italy as early as September 2019 could have been proven by the study “beyond all legitimate doubts”, Apolone told the “Corriere della Sera” on Monday. The antibodies found in the examination of the blood samples were not formed against known coronaviruses, but clearly against Sars-CoV-2 viruses. Apolone said this was the result of test examinations by the state universities of Milan and Siena.

The results of the study were also defended by Maria Abbracchio, professor of pharmacology at the University of Milan. “The scientific data are very clear: The procedure used to detect the antibodies is highly specific to Sars-CoV-2,” said Abbracchio of the daily newspaper “La Repubblica”. In addition, there are numerous other studies in Europe and China that indicate a significantly earlier presence of this specific coronavirus than previously assumed. Further studies are necessary to clarify, said Abbracchio.

In a next step, after consulting the institute’s ethics advisory board, the researchers want to get in touch with the people from whom the blood samples were taken at the time. The aim is to ask whether the person concerned developed symptoms at that time that could be traced back to a Covid 19 disease. The first positive test for Covid 19 disease was only found on February 21, 2020 in a patient with atypical bilateral pneumonia in Codogno in Lombardy.


Joy short-lived

WWhy wander into the distance? Prosus boss Bob van Dijk actually wanted to go on an international shopping spree. He announced that when he went public a year ago in Amsterdam. The cash register of the company, the largest consumer-oriented internet company in Europe, is well filled. But the choice of properties is limited and the prices are high. That’s why Prosus is now buying from itself. The company recently announced a $ 5 billion share buyback program to keep shareholders happy. It was a sensible and timely use of capital, it said in a message.

Claudia Bröll

Prosus is a spin-off from the South African IT group Naspers. In contrast to Apple, Facebook or Amazon, it is a holding company with a colorful collection of investments in IT and e-commerce companies around the world, including the German food supplier Delivery Hero. The companies are often the market leaders in their respective countries, and Prosus is often the main investor.

By far the largest “fish in the pond”, however, is the Chinese games and internet company Tencent. Koos Bekker, billionaire and former Naspers boss, had a stroke of luck when Tencent was still in the start-up phase. Tencent’s enormous success story meant that Naspers eventually became too big for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The management therefore decided to spin off the international holdings and go public on a European stock exchange. There it wanted to attract international tech investors to fund further expansion outside of Tencent.

The first Prosus investors benefited from the buyback plans at least until the end of last week. The share price has climbed by around 30 percent since going public. The share also defies the corona crisis. But many investors look jealously to the Far East, where the Tencent price had risen even more.

Naspers investors in South Africa are used to price differences. The shares of holding companies often show a price discount compared to the sum of the individual parts. In the case of Prosus, however, the discount is particularly high. The entire holding company with a market value of almost 140 billion euros is worth less than the 31 percent share in Tencent.

The price discount has therefore been a central topic at general meetings for years. Again and again the demand is made to outsource the Tencent stake and distribute it to the shareholders. Such a move would also enable a valuation of the other holdings that are overshadowed by Tencent and that are seen in the market as impairing. But management and the supervisory board do not want to know anything about it. The shareholders hardly have any influence, because the voting rights are concentrated on so-called A shares, which are held by a small group around the supervisory board chairman Bekker. Only “N shares” are available on the market.

De Bruyn: “A smart move”

With the share buyback, Prosus could now appease some investors. At least in the short term, the discount will decrease, says Wayne McCurrie, asset manager at First National Bank in Johannesburg. Buying back shares leads to a shortage of supply on the market and theoretically drives up the price. Renier de Bruyn, analyst at Sanlam Private Wealth, spoke of a smart move. In view of the high valuations in the technology sector, the management should rather use its cash reserves to buy back its own shares. Other analysts, however, warned against excessive expectations. The price discount will only decrease “marginally”.

For investors who had relied on further major acquisitions by the agile Prosus boss and possibly a second Tencent, however, the hopes have for the time being fizzled out. Since the IPO, Prosus has checked several thousand potential transactions according to its own information. But the big coup has not yet succeeded. In January, Prosus gave up in the multi-billion dollar takeover battle for British food supplier Just Eat. Even in the struggle for Ebay’s online advertising business, Prosus did not win the bid. Van Dijk from the Netherlands focuses on the financial technology, online retail and food delivery services sectors. The first two did well, says McCurrie. The food delivery services are still far from breakeven.

The share buyback program is scheduled to begin on November 22nd after the half-yearly figures have been presented. As predicted, the stock has risen since the announcement. But the joy was short-lived, the high dependence on Tencent strikes again. Shareholders have parted with the papers since the Chinese government announced that it would regulate Internet companies more closely. Prosus has lost more than 12 percent since the beginning of the week, roughly the same as Tencent on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The big question remains: why invest in Prosus when the stock price is firmly in the wake of Tencent?


Whatsapp Pay starts in India

Dhe Facebook subsidiary Whatsapp starts its payment service in the world’s largest digital growth market. Only hours after Indian regulators gave the go-ahead after a two-year wait, Whatsapp Pay officially announced that it would penetrate the subcontinent.

Christoph Hein

Christoph Hein

Business correspondent for South Asia / Pacific based in Singapore.

The number of participants is initially limited to 20 million people, all of whom must have a credit card and account. Whatsapp Pay is initially offering its service in ten regional languages. The third largest economy in Asia is the most important market for the dialogue service, which now has more than 400 million users.

Send money back and forth for free

The approval opens another door for Americans to the vast market, which they see as an opportunity to move beyond the political risks in China. Whatsapp Pay makes it possible not only to send short messages but also to send money back and forth free of charge. The service was launched in Brazil in June. Shortly afterwards, however, he had to withdraw again because the central bank vetoed competition concerns.

“India is the first country that enables Whatsapp Pay,” said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Friday. He had a very difficult start in India because people felt taken by surprise by Facebook’s offers. On Friday, Zuckerberg also praised the Indian Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which controls the traffic for various payment apps. More than 140 banks work with him. Whatsapp Pay has signed deals with industry giants ICICI, HDFC, Axis, State Bank of India and Jio Payments.


Why large online networks are a danger to the public

It is common to find out who yells the loudest – and not the best, differentiating argument.
Image: Shutterstock

The large online networks allow mass communication to be carried out individually. This has fatal consequences – our public is in danger. A guest post.

GMutually shared and verified information is a prerequisite for a functioning public in a democracy. Freedom of information includes the security that information that everyone receives is shared by others – and that it is not just tailored to the individual.

At this point, a conflict has long arisen with the incentive mechanisms and functions of social media, which have represented a steadily growing part of communication over the past few years: Because the large online networks allow mass communication to be carried out in a personalized manner.

However, when information is individualized, the individual cannot rely on the fact that it is also recorded and controlled by others. But there can be no individual truths, except as those “felt truths” which are often rampant today and which are so often not true.


Assignment of blame after the terrorist attack in Vienna

NAfter the terrorist attack in Vienna by a supporter of the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS) who had already been convicted, the investigation was followed by the search for possible errors and consequences. Above all, it is about possible omissions in the assessment of the perpetrator, who armed with a rapid-fire rifle, a pistol and a machete killed four people and injured 23, some seriously. Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said on Wednesday afternoon: “According to the current state of knowledge, a lot went wrong before the attack took place.” A commission is now to work on possible errors.

Johannes Ritter

The 20-year-old Kujtim F. was already in the sights of the security authorities. He was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 after trying to take part in the war in Syria as a fighter for IS, but was released in December. He had become conspicuous again in the summer of this year when he tried to buy large quantities of ammunition in Slovakia for the weapon he used in his act.
The Slovak police confirmed on Wednesday that the young man tried to buy ammunition there over the summer. The attempt had failed. Immediately afterwards, the Austrian security authorities were informed. The Austrian Ministry of the Interior confirmed that the information was received at the end of June “at the intelligence service level”; there were also several queries. In response to media reports that access to the man and his network was specifically planned for the beginning of this week, which he then anticipated with his act, Minister Nehammer said he could not confirm that.

In any case, the authorities were aware of an international network of the man. The two accomplices of his arrested in Switzerland had “physical contact” with the later assassin, according to the Justice Minister in Bern. Austria has also sent requests for administrative assistance to the North Macedonian government. The perpetrator, himself a native of Vienna, comes from an Albanian family from North Macedonia and had passports from both countries.

“Communication gone wrong”

Before he traveled to Turkey at the end of 2018 to go to Syria, he had already tried another “front” of jihadism: In August of the same year he tried to travel to Afghanistan, but failed because of the lack of a visa. He was arrested in Turkey and sent back to Vienna after a few weeks in detention. There Austrian officials took him into custody as a “foreign fighter”, which is now a criminal offense.
In terms of possible mistakes, Nehammer first mentioned that the man had “perfectly fooled” the deradicalization program and had been released early from prison. The question arises, “How can we deal with threats in such a way that they pose fewer real threats”. The Minister of the Interior also mentioned the fact that, according to the Slovak information about the attempted purchase of ammunition, “something went wrong in communication”.

Nehammer added that those who were deceived in the judiciary were “people who act there to the best of their knowledge and belief”. With this and with the admission of possible errors in his own area of ​​responsibility, Nehammer seemed to want to counteract the impression of a blunder game between departments and authorities, which had increasingly emerged since Tuesday. Nehammer and Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had mainly reprimanded the release from prison. That was “definitely wrong,” said Kurz on ORF television. “If he had not been released from prison, the terrorist attack could not have taken place like this.” Justice Minister Alma Zadic rejected this criticism and defended the early release of the later perpetrator. Because Kurz and Nehammer belong to the Christian Democratic ÖVP, but Zadic to the Greens, this dispute had to be interpreted as a sign of disagreement in the Vienna coalition.


Biggest weekly loss since March – Dow Jones in descent

EDisappointing quarterly reports from well-known tech giants like Apple and Facebook weighed on the American stock exchanges on Friday. In addition, the new corona infections, which have triggered sharp price drops since Monday, continue to cause concern. The at times heavy daily losses in the Dow Jones Industrial fell sharply in the last hour of trading, however.

Ultimately, the Wall Street Index went out of business at a moderate discount of 0.59 percent to 26,501.60 points, after having lost almost 2 percent at times. The minus since the beginning of the week amounts to 6.5 percent, his monthly loss to 4.6 percent. The Dow had not slumped so strongly since March, on a weekly or monthly basis.

The number of new infections in one day hit a new high in the United States on Friday at 90,155 cases. 91,254 new infections were recorded on Thursday.

The market-wide S&P 500 lost 1.21 percent to 3269.96 points on Friday. The Nasdaq 100 lost 2.62 percent to 11,052.95 meters and thus lost 5.5 percent in the past five trading days. This also means the largest loss for the Nasdaq selection index since March. The monthly minus adds up to a more moderate 3.2 percent.

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Better than expected economic data initially only had a positive effect at the start of trading and dampened losses. The business climate in the important economic region of Chicago deteriorated less than expected in October. In September, incomes and consumer spending also rose faster than forecast.

On the corporate side, Apple was the main disappointment: the delayed market launch of the iPhone 12 broke the tech heavyweight down in earnings last quarter. For the success-used share, which had only climbed to a record high after a share split in early September, it fell 5.6 percent at the end of the Dow. In the year to date, however, there has been an increase of 50 percent.

— (–)

To the detailed view

Facebook sagged 6.3 percent at the end of the S&P 100. Although the business of the social network benefited from the fact that more companies were relying on digital platforms during the Corona crisis, Facebook also warned of considerable uncertainty in the coming year. Among other things, reference was made to the unforeseeable development in the advertising business due to the pandemic.

The world’s largest online retailer Amazon is also one of the beneficiaries of the corona crisis and reported a great business, as the trend towards shopping on the Internet continues. The shares gave up 5.5 percent. Since the beginning of the year, they have already done extremely well with a price increase of around 70 percent.

— (–)

To the detailed view

There was a particularly steep downward trend for the shares of Twitter with a discount of around 21 percent, making them the largest daily loss since 2014. The short message service gained only one million new users in the past quarter, despite the great attention it received from the American election campaign. That was a huge disappointment for investors.

Alphabet shares, on the other hand, jumped 3.8 percent. Booming advertising income and a strong cloud business resulted in a leap in profits for the Google parent company in the third quarter, despite the corona pandemic.

The euro was trading at $ 1.1644 at the close of Wall Street. The European Central Bank previously set the reference rate in Frankfurt at 1.1698 (Thursday: 1.1704) dollars. The dollar cost 0.8549 (0.8544) euros.

On the US bond market, the futures contract for ten-year Treasuries (T-Note Future) lost 0.24 percent to 138.13 points. The yield on the ten-year bond was 0.875 percent.


Islamophobia: Failed action by a right-wing extremist

RAsmus Paludan was in Berlin twice this week. Once he didn’t get far, the second time the stay was longer, but in police custody. Paludan is the chairman of the right-wing extremist, Islamophobic Danish party “Stram Kurs”. On Facebook earlier this week, he called on his followers in Danish and over the picture of a burning car to meet on Wednesday “in the Islamized area” on Sonnenallee in Berlin’s Neukölln district, where many immigrants of Arab origin live. There they want to show the German people what Islam is. “We bring the Koran with us!” Paludan had written.

Matthias Wyssuwa

Matthias Wyssuwa

Political correspondent for Northern Germany and Scandinavia based in Hamburg.

The Berlin police and the interior administration had been warned that the extremist from Denmark, who had already caused a stir in his home country by burning the Koran, wanted to come to the German capital. On Tuesday, Paludan landed at Tegel Airport with three companions coming from Copenhagen. Federal police handed him the refusal of entry while still on the plane. Paludan flew back with the same machine, so he did not step on the soil of the Federal Republic.


Former bobsledder Richard Adjei died at the age of 37

Dhe former German bobsledder Richard Adjei died on Monday at the age of 37. His brother Jason announced this on Facebook. As a pusher, the former football professional won silver in the two-man bobsleigh at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with pilot Thomas Florschütz. In 2011 Adjei celebrated the European Championship and World Championship title with pilot Manuel Machata in a foursome.

“Unfortunately, Richard Adjei passed away last night at the age of 37 in the arms of his wife and me,” wrote Jason Adjei on Tuesday: “His wife gave him all the love in the world on his last journey.” There is nothing about the cause of death known.

The Olympic luge champions Tobias Wendl / Tobias Arlt (Berchtesgaden / Königssee) said goodbye to Adjei on Instagram. “We will always remember you and wish your family a lot of strength”, it said in the post.

Born in Düsseldorf, Adjei played as a linebacker in NFL Europe for Rhein Fire in his hometown from 2004 to 2006.