Tesla shareholders approve CEO Musk's $2.6 billion compensation plan

SAN FRANCISCO/BOSTON (Reuters) – Tesla Inc shareholders approved a compensation package potentially worth $2.6 billion for Chief Executive Elon Musk on Wednesday in a test of their confidence in the leader of the electric car company.

Elon Musk speaks at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

A Tesla spokesperson confirmed that shareholders had approved the measure at a special shareholder’s meeting in Fremont, California, but did not disclose the number of votes for or against.

Tesla’s general counsel, Todd Maron, indicated at the meeting that Musk’s pay was strongly supported by investors, a person who attended the meeting told Reuters. A Tesla spokesperson declined further comment.

The proposed compensation award for the Silicon Valley billionaire, valued at $2.6 billion, involves no salary or cash bonus but sets rewards based on Tesla’s market value rising to as much as $650 billion over the next 10 years.

The vote has been seen as a test of whether big investors are prepared to support such a large payout at the founder-led company.

The massive award, if achieved, surpasses anything previously granted to top U.S. executives, according to proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services.

“At $2.6 billion, the grant value is unprecedented and sets the new high-water mark for an individual executive equity award at a U.S. public company,” ISS wrote last month, in a recommendation to vote against the package. ISS said its own valuation of the award was even higher, at $3.7 billion.

Shares of Tesla are down 19 percent from a year high reached in September. The Silicon Valley company has been facing pressure on multiple fronts, from a cash crunch and production delays to increasing competition from rivals, as well as growing concern that Musk is distracted by too many projects.

Compensation for the CEOs of large U.S. companies is typically approved by around 95 percent of votes cast in annual “say on pay” advisory votes. But Musk’s potentially huge payout meant extra scrutiny at Wednesday’s vote.

Tesla would likely regard any result above 70 percent support for Musk’s compensation as a win, reflecting agreement from most investors, said compensation consultant Brent Longnecker.

“If they got that, they would breathe a sigh of relief,” he said. A lower figure would likely lead Tesla to review its communications with shareholders, he added.

SOME OPPOSITION

Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, a top investor in Tesla and a major proxy adviser offered opposing views on whether to support the compensation deal, which required majority approval from shareholders.

Musk’s pay plan “is well aligned with shareholders’ long-term interests,” a spokesman for T. Rowe Price Group, Tesla’s fourth-largest investor with about 6 percent of its shares, told Reuters on Wednesday, without saying which way the Baltimore fund firm would vote.

A smaller investor, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), said it planned to vote no. CalSTRS is one of the nation’s largest public pension plans but only the 59th largest investor in Tesla, with a 0.13 percent stake.

“Given the size of the award, we believe the potential dilution to shareholders is just too great. In addition, we have concerns about the lack of focus on profitability for the company, and the one profitability metric that is used excludes the cost of stock-based compensation,” CalSTRS’ Director of Corporate Governance, Anne Sheehan, said in a statement.

Musk could own as much as $55.8 billion in Tesla stock and more than a quarter of the electric car company in the next decade if he hits all targets of the new plan.

Under the proposed award, which involves stock options that vest in 12 tranches, Tesla’s market value must increase to $100 billion for the first tranche to vest and rise in additional $50 billion increments for the remainder.

Tesla was valued at about $52.46 billion at Tuesday’s closing price, according to Thomson Reuters data. Its shares have fallen nearly 12 percent since the pay plan was announced.

Tesla has been struggling to manufacture its Model 3 sedan – for which it holds about 500,000 advance reservations – and has repeatedly pushed back production timelines.

The company has been burning through cash and expects spending to rise this year, even as a host of upcoming projects demand attention and capital, including the new Tesla Semi and the Model Y crossover.

A wave of electric vehicles on the horizon from rivals are also adding pressure. Global automakers from Ford Motor Co to Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) are cumulatively investing $90 billion in electrification over the next five years, with luxury models from Audi and Tata Motors Ltd’s Jaguar due this summer.

Additional reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sunil Nair and Bill Rigby

Toyota pauses self-driving car testing amid Uber accident probe

TEMPE, Ariz./DETROIT (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said on Tuesday it will pause autonomous vehicle testing following an accident in which an Uber Technologies Inc self-driving vehicle struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona.

Visitors look at car models on the Toyota stand during the 88th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Toyota said in a statement “the incident may have an emotional effect on our test drivers. This ‘timeout’ is meant to give them time to come to a sense of balance about the inherent risks of their jobs.”

Separately, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix said it was awaiting the results of an investigation by Tempe police of the fatality before reviewing whether any charges should be filed. Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also are investigating the accident.

The death of pedestrian Elaine Herzberg late on Sunday after she was struck by a Volvo sport utility vehicle operating in autonomous mode is the first such fatality for the nascent self-driving car industry.

The death is drawing fresh attention to questions about the safety of autonomous vehicle systems, and the challenges of testing them on public streets. Self-driving cars have been involved in minor accidents, according to reports filed with regulators. Nearly all of them have been blamed on human motorists hitting the autonomous vehicle.

Arizona has welcomed companies developing self-driving vehicles with a light regulatory touch compared with other states and countries. On Tuesday, Mark Mitchell, Tempe’s mayor, issued a statement saying Herzberg’s death “was tragic,” and added he supports Uber’s decision to suspend testing until “this event is fully examined and understood.”

Mitchell’s office said the mayor has not asked other autonomous vehicle companies to suspend testing in the city.

The outcome of the investigations in Arizona will be pivotal for the companies racing to profit from robo-taxi services and automated delivery vehicles. Among them: General Motors Co (GM.N), Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Waymo unit, ride services company Lyft, Ford Motor Co (F.N) and others.

Waymo earlier this month said it began operating self-driving vehicles in Arizona without human minders, offering rides to select customers. GM has said it plans to launch a robo-taxi service developed with its Cruise Automation unit next year.

Analysts and experts said the fatality involving Uber could slow progress toward deployment in the sector.

“What this incident indicates is that the state of autonomous driving (and especially Uber) is very far from where it needs to be to become market-ready,” Richard Windsor, technology analyst for London-based Edison Investment Research, said in a blog post Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Joseph White and Paul Lienert in Detroit and Sydney Maki in Tempe, Ariz.; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis

U.S. FTC to question Facebook over consultancy's access to user data

SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc said Tuesday it faced questions from the lead U.S. consumer regulator about how its users’ personal data was mined by a political consultancy hired by Donald Trump’s campaign.

U.S. and European lawmakers have demanded an explanation of how the consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, gained access to the data in 2014 and why Facebook failed to inform its users, raising broader industry questions about consumer privacy.

Facebook said on Tuesday it had been told by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it would receive a letter this week with questions about the data acquired by Cambridge Analytica. It said it had no indication of a formal investigation.

“We remain strongly committed to protecting people’s information. We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have,” Facebook Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman said.

The FTC, the regulatory agency in charge of consumer protection, is reviewing whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree it reached with the authority over its privacy practices, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters.

“We are aware of the issues that have been raised but cannot comment on whether we are investigating. We take any allegations of violations of our consent decrees very seriously as we did in 2012 in a privacy case involving Google,” an FTC spokesman said.

Under the 2011 settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for certain changes to privacy settings as part of a settlement of federal charges that it deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended, Bloomberg reported.

If the FTC finds Facebook violated terms of the consent decree, it has the power to fine the company thousands of dollars a day per violation.

Facebook will brief U.S. Senate and House aides on Wednesday, congressional staff said.

Facebook shares lost 5.7 percent in heavy trading to a six-month low, extending Monday’s 7-percent fall, and was set for its worst two-day drop since July 2012. Its market capitalization was down by another $25 billion as investors fretted the world’s largest social media network could face massive fines and that its dented reputation could scare off users and advertisers.

Shares of Snap Inc fell 4 percent and Twitter Inc was down 9.6 percent.

Facebook and its peers Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter face a backlash over their role during the U.S. presidential election by allowing the spread of false information that might have swayed voters toward Trump.

A Congressional official said House Intelligence Committee Democrats plan to interview Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie. The committee has already interviewed by video teleconference Cambridge Analytica chief Alexander Nix, according to the Congressional official, but a transcript of that interview has not yet been made public.

People walk past the building housing the offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The White House said the President believes that Americans’ privacy should be protected.

“If Congress wants to look into the matter or other agencies want to look into the matter, we welcome that,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told Fox News Channel.

PERSONAL INFORMATION

In Britain, the Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, was seeking a warrant on Tuesday from a judge to search the offices of London-based Cambridge Analytica.

Slideshow (6 Images)

Created in 2013, Cambridge Analytica markets itself as a source of consumer research, targeted advertising and other data-related services to both political and corporate clients.

According to the New York Times, it was launched with $15 million in backing from billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer and a name chosen by the-then future Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon.

Facebook says the data were harvested by a British academic, Aleksandr Kogan, who created an app on the platform that was downloaded by 270,000 people, providing access not only to their own personal data but also their friends’.

Facebook said Kogan then violated its policies by passing the data to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has since suspended both the consulting firm and SCL (Strategic Communication Laboratories), a government and military contractor.

Facebook said it had been told that the data were destroyed.

Kogan says he changed the terms and conditions of his personality-test app on Facebook from academic to commercial part way through the project, according to an email to Cambridge University colleagues obtained and cited by CNN.

Kogan says Facebook made no objection, but Facebook says it was not informed of the change, CNN reported. Kogan was not immediately reachable for comment.

“If this data still exists, it would be a grave violation of Facebook’s policies and an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments these groups made,” Facebook said.

Cambridge Analytica has denied all the media claims and said it deleted the data after learning the information did not adhere to data protection rules.

Reporting by David Ingram in San Francisco, Kate Holton and Paul Sandle in London, David Shephardson and Susan Heavey in Washington; Additional reporting by Munsif Vengattil; Writing by Susan Thomas, Editing by Nick Zieminski

Dropbox IPO oversubscribed: sources

(Reuters) – Cloud storage company Dropbox Inc’s [DBX.O] initial public offering was oversubscribed, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday, indicating healthy demand for the first big tech IPO this year even as tech stocks opened the week on sour note.

The Dropbox app logo seen on a mobile phone in this illustration photo October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

While investor appetite looked encouraging with three days to go before final pricing, it was not clear if that would be strong enough to lift the deal above of the initial range of $16 to $18 a share that Dropbox set last week. The offering is expected to price Thursday, and the stock will start trading on the Nasdaq on Friday.

“It is early to predict the pricing. But what I can say is that from the conversations it seems the market is interested in it and IPO seems to be bright,” a separate source told Reuters. The three sources asked not to be named as the IPO pricing process was still underway.

Dropbox’s IPO comes in what is sizing up to be a challenging week for stocks, with the U.S. Federal Reserve set to raise interest rates on Wednesday, a day before the Dropbox deal is set to close.

Tech shares also fell hard to open the week, with Nasdaq down more than 2 percent on reports of Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) latest data privacy problems.

Dropbox’s IPO also comes on the heels of an upsized deal last week from cyber security firm Zscaler Inc (ZS.O) and is being watched as a barometer of investor enthusiasm for tech unicorns – young companies valued at more than $1 billion – after Snapchat owner Snap Inc’s (SNAP.N) shares cratered following a much-touted IPO a year ago.

Dropbox is selling 36 million shares, and the offering could be increased by 5.4 million if underwriters exercise their right to buy more stock. At the high end of the indicated pricing, it could raise nearly $650 million, making it the largest tech IPO since Snap hit the market just over a year ago.

The current price range suggests the San Francisco company, co-founded in 2007 by Andrew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, will hit the public market valued at roughly $7 billion, a hefty discount to the $10 billion implied by its last funding round in 2014.

The company has 500 million users and competes with Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and has Box Inc (BOX.N) as its main rival.

Reporting by Sweta Singh, Nikhil Subba and Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru, Editing by Dan Burns and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

Woman dies in Arizona after being hit by Uber self-driving car

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A woman died of her injuries after being struck by a Uber [UBER.UL] self-driving vehicle in Arizona, police said on Monday, and the ride hailing company said it had suspended its autonomous vehicle program across the United States and Canada.

FILE PHOTO: Uber’s logo is pictured at its office in Tokyo, Japan, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The accident in Tempe, Arizona, marked the first fatality from a self-driving vehicle, which are still being tested around the globe, and could derail efforts to fast-track the introduction of the new technology in the United States.

Slideshow (2 Images)

At the time of the accident, which occurred overnight Sunday to Monday, the car was in autonomous mode with a vehicle operator behind the wheel, Tempe police said.

“The vehicle was traveling northbound … when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle,” police said in a statement.

A spokesman for Uber Technologies Inc said the company was suspending its North American tests. In a tweet, Uber expressed its condolences and said the company was fully cooperating with authorities.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

Desilu plans U.S. listing to complete Vonetize acquisition

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Desilu Studios plans to go public in the United States as a second stage of a proposed acquisition of Israeli technology start-up Vonetize.

The U.S. film studio famous for producing classic shows such as “I Love Lucy”, “Star Trek” and “The Untouchables” said on Friday that it had agreed a deal to take a controlling stake in Vonetize, the share price of which jumped 75 percent on Sunday.

Vonetize, whose technology enables over-the-top (OTT) live channel streaming and on-demand services, operates in 60 countries and has global partnerships with LG, Disney, Warner Brothers, Fox and Sony Universal among others.

Desilu said it had bought a 10 percent stake in cash from controlling shareholders at a company valuation of $50 million and received an option to buy a further 44 percent in the next 12 months.

Vonetize said on Sunday that Desilu would list in the United States to finance the deal for the rest of its proposed stake in the Israeli business.

Another route could be that Vonetize would dual-list on Nasdaq this year and then merge Desilu into that listing through a share-swap transaction, said Vonetize CEO Noam Josephides.

Some 40 percent of Vonetize’s shares are in free float.

Josephides said that Vonetize already has approval for a Nasdaq listing this year but a decision had yet to be reached.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by David Goodman

Trump's Call to Start a Space Force Tops This Week's Internet News Roundup

People look for inspiration and happiness in a vast array of places. Some see school kids walking out of class across America to take a stand for gun control and find hope. Others note that 7-Eleven now has customizable tater tots and are filled with joy. What do they get when they look at the internet? All that and a lot of bickering and tweets about calzones. Here, dear friends, is what everyone was talking about online last week when they weren’t talking about the new Avengers: Infinity War trailer.

Rex-It

What Happened: President Trump announced Rex Tillerson was being replaced as secretary of state on Twitter.

What Really Happened: Folks like to make jokes about Donald Trump running America via Twitter, but last week he announced an executive decision on the platform that was definitely not funny—at least not to the head of the State Department.

Yes, the change in Secretary of State—one of the most important, if not the most important, cabinet positions—was announced via social media, as if Trump was every parody of himself imaginable. For those who wanted more than just a tweet of notice about the new state of affairs, that was forthcoming … also via Twitter, of course.

Those around Tillerson, who had just arrived back in the country, were surprised by the news, suggesting that Tillerson himself wasn’t entirely prepared for what had just happened.

There might, it turns out, have been a reason for that, if one response from the State Department is to be believed.

OK, perhaps it was a little disingenuous to say that no one saw this coming, as some pointed out.

Unsurprisingly, the White House has a different take on the way everything went down.

Except, it turned out, chief of staff John Kelly’s message might not have been entirely clear.

There really is something to be said about Twitter’s role in all of this, isn’t there? Still, things couldn’t have been that bad, because Tillerson did make an appearance later that day to talk about his firing and smooth everything over.

OK, maybe it was kinda bad. (Tillerson’s failure to thank the president did not go unnoticed by, well, anyone.) Still, perhaps the split between Trump and Tillerson was for the best.

This is worth noting, as well. The State Department aide who put out the earlier statement saying that Tillerson didn’t know why he’d been fired? Yeah, there was a price to pay for saying that.

The Takeaway: Quick, we need a catchy way of talking about former Exxon CEO Tillerson now that he’s been ousted!

That’ll do.

Move Along, Nothing to See Here

What Happened: House Republicans announced they were closing their investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, saying there was no evidence of such actions.

What Really Happened: Last week, with little warning, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election just … stopped.

“Case closed”? Sure, if you say so. And, it turns out, they really did say so.

There are others who might disagree with that take, of course…

As news of the surprise closure started to go wide, it was perhaps worth turning to the ranking Democrat on the committee to see if he had anything to say about the whole thing.

That would be a yes, then. And, sure, it seems suspicious to say the least that the Republicans just shut down the investigation unfinished with so much still out there unanswered, but surely the Democrats on the committee were given adequate warning that the investigation was being closed, right?

OK, but at least all the Republicans are agreed that this move was the smart one?

Well, fine, yes, that’s a little awkward. Still, at least one of the leading Republicans on the committee didn’t disagree.

Oh, come on. As the week continued, it eventually started to become clear even to the Republicans that this had been a mistake, with this headline putting it best: “Republicans Fear They Botched Russia Report Rollout.” Gee, you think?

The Takeaway: In what could only be described as a spectacular piece of timing, the Republicans announced that there was nothing Russians had done in regards to the 2016 election in the same week that the Trump administration finally signed sanctions into law against 16 Russians for their efforts to interfere with the 2016 election. There’s nothing like being consistent.

Meanwhile, Over at the Department of Justice…

What Happened: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation took aim at the Trump Organization.

What Really Happened: Meanwhile, you might be thinking, “I wonder how special council Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion investigation is going? I’m sure that, if the House Republicans were right and there’s certainly nothing going on, he’ll be wrapping everything up too, right?” Funny story: He’s not wrapping everything up.

Yes, in what is pretty much the opposite of wrapping things up, Mueller is subpoenaing the Trump Organization’s records, which is … kind of a big deal, to say the least. Certainly, that’s what people on social media seemed to think.

But what could it all mean? Some people had theories.

And how is this going down with those targeted?

Somewhere, Devin Nunes is wandering around the halls of Congress, muttering to himself, “But I said nothing happened…!”

The Takeaway: It’s worth pointing out that the Mueller news dropped on March 15, which amused certain people online.

Oh, Canada

What Happened: Forget “Commander in Chief,” perhaps President Trump’s title could be “Gaslighter in Chief.” Or, maybe, “Man Who Should Perhaps Never Talk in Front of a Tape Recorder Ever.”

What Really Happened: This might sound like the kind of old-fashioned, unnecessary posturing of people stuck in the past, but once upon a time it was widely expected that the President of the United States wouldn’t be the kind of person who would boast about lying to the head of state of a friendly nation.

Those days, dear readers, are long gone.

Yes, the Washington Post obtained audio from a fundraising speech in which Trump boasted that he’d made up information that he used in an argument with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over whether or not the US runs a trade deficit with Trudeau’s country. (It doesn’t.) “I had no idea,” Trump can be heard to say on the tape. “I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid.” As you might expect, people were thrilled about this display of, uh, political maneuvering? Sure, let’s go with that.

As the media struggled to understand what was happening, the White House press secretary attempted to smooth out the situation by, well, repeating the lie.

There is, also, a surreal second story to this audio of Trump that has nothing to do with lying to Justin Trudeau. Instead, it had to do with the “bowling ball test.”

As multiple outlets looked into the matter, it slowly emerged that it was probably all made up. Not to worry, though; according to the White House, it was just a joke.

The Takeaway: There’s really only response to this entire exchange, isn’t there?

Space Force? Space Force!

What Happened: When it comes to America’s manifest destiny, there’s only one direction left to go: To infinity… and beyond?

What Really Happened: With all the bad news going around the the White House, you can’t blame the president for wanting to change the narrative somehow. And you only get to do that, he knows, by thinking big and reaching for the stars. Last week, Trump gave a speech that showed just how literally he took that advice.

Sure, going to Mars is definitely thinking big, but is it thinking big enough? Not to worry, however; Trump was right there with the next big thing.

Space Force! Just the very idea got the media excited, and asking questions like, “For real?” and “What does that even mean?”, not to mention “Do we have to?” Sure, not every outlet took the idea seriously, but that’s the lamestream media for you. Everyone else was into the idea, or calling the president a laughingstock. It’s hard to be a leader. But at least Twitter understood the potential of Space Force.

SPACE FORCE!

The Takeaway: Make no mistake, people may joke now, but Space Force is the future.

Trump consultants harvested data from 50 million Facebook users: reports

(Reuters) – Data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users in developing techniques to support President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, the New York Times and London’s Observer reported on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: A Facebook logo is seen at the Facebook Gather conference in Brussels, Belgium January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

The newspapers, which cited former Cambridge Analytica employees, associates and documents, said the data breach was one of the largest in the history of Facebook Inc.

Facebook on Friday said it was suspending Cambridge Analytica after finding data privacy policies had been violated.

The Observer said Cambridge Analytica used the data, taken without authorization in early 2014, to build a software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

The paper quoted Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who worked with an academic at Cambridge University to obtain the data, as saying the system could profile individual voters to target them with personalized political advertisements.

The more than 50 million profiles represented around a third of active North American Facebook users, and nearly a quarter of potential U.S. voters, at the time, the paper said.

“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on,” the Observer quoted Wylie as saying.

The New York Times said interviews with a half-dozen former Cambridge Analytica employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, revealed it not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of it.

The Observer said the data was collected through an app called thisisyourdigitallife, built by academic Aleksandr Kogan, separately from his work at Cambridge University.

Through Kogan’s company Global Science Research (GSR), in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica, hundreds of thousands of users were paid to take a personality test and agreed to have their data collected for academic use, the Observer said.

However, the app also collected the information of the test-takers’ Facebook friends, leading to the accumulation of a data pool tens of millions-strong, the paper said. It said Facebook’s “platform policy” allowed only collection of friends data to improve user experience in the app and barred it from being sold on or used for advertising.

Facebook said in a statement on Friday it had suspended Cambridge Analytica and its parent group Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) after receiving reports they did not delete information about Facebook users that had been inappropriately shared.

Strategic Communication Laboratories and the Trump campaign were not immediately available for comment. Facebook did not mention the Trump campaign or any other campaigns in its statement, which was attributed to the social network’s deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal. They did not immediately comment on the Times and Observer stories.

“We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior,” Facebook said, adding that it was continuing to investigate the claims. Cambridge Analytica worked for the failed presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and then for Trump’s presidential campaign. On its website, it says it “provided the Donald J. Trump for President campaign with the expertise and insights that helped win the White House.”

Brad Parscale, who ran Trump’s digital ad operation in 2016 and is his 2020 re-election campaign manager, declined to comment on Friday.

In past interviews with Reuters, Parscale has said Cambridge Analytica played a minor role as a contractor in the 2016 Trump campaign, and that the campaign used voter data from a Republican-affiliated organization rather than Cambridge Analytica.

UNUSUAL STEP

Facebook’s Grewal said the company was taking the unusual step of announcing the suspension “given the public prominence” of Cambridge Analytica and its parent organization.

The suspension means Cambridge Analytica and SCL cannot buy ads on the world’s largest social media network or administer pages belonging to clients, Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook vice president, said in a Twitter post.

Trump’s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 and paid it more than $6.2 million, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Cambridge Analytica says it uses “behavioral microtargeting,” or combining analysis of people’s personalities with demographics, to predict and influence mass behavior. It says it has data on 220 million Americans, two-thirds of the U.S. population.

It has worked on other campaigns in the United States and other countries, and it is funded by Robert Mercer, a prominent supporter of politically conservative groups.

Facebook in its statement described a rocky relationship with Cambridge Analytica and two individuals going back to 2015.

That year, Facebook said, it learned that Kogan, the Cambridge University professor, lied to the company and violated its policies by sharing data that he acquired with a so-called “research app” that used Facebook’s login system.

Kogan was not immediately available for comment.

The app was downloaded by about 270,000 people. Facebook said Kogan gained access to profile and other information “in a legitimate way” but “he did not subsequently abide by our rules” when he passed the data to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Wylie of Eunoia Technologies. bit.ly/2FZU1Ir Eunoia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook said it cut ties to Kogan’s app when it learned of the violation in 2015, and asked for certification from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed.

Although all certified they had destroyed the data, Facebook said it received reports in the past several days that “not all data was deleted,” prompting the suspension announced on Friday.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Additional reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Jonathan Weber, Joseph Radford and Paul Simao

Istanbul taxi drivers go to court to seek shutdown of Uber

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Istanbul’s taxi drivers have taken Uber to court, accusing the U.S.-based ride-hailing app of endangering their livelihoods in a case that could crimp its business in Europe’s largest city.

FILE PHOTO: The Uber logo is seen on mobile telephone in London, Britain, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

It is the latest instance of court action, restrictions, bans and protests around the world over Uber’s high-tech, low-cost challenge to traditional taxi services. Uber was forced to shut down in Denmark and Hungary and has suspended operations in Morocco while it gets in line with local laws.

Hundreds of Istanbul taxi drivers rallied in front of a city courthouse holding the first hearing on the case on Monday, holding up signs reading “We do not want the global thief Uber”.

In their court action, the cabbies accuse Uber of running an unlicensed taxi service in Turkey and want the app banned. The next hearing was scheduled for June.

Tensions have risen in Istanbul, home to over 15 million people, since Uber entered the Turkish market in 2014. Some Uber drivers say they have been threatened and beaten by yellow cab drivers, an accusations the taxi industry denies.

Public sentiment on social media appears to be overwhelmingly in favor of Uber, with “#idon’tusetaxis” and “#don’ttouchuber” becoming trending topics in Turkish.

Some users of Uber have said they are fed up with what they call the rough manners and reckless driving of conventional cabbies, the circuitous, fare-inflating routes they take and the stench of cigarettes inside their vehicles.

“Until today, taxi drivers chose passengers,” one user, Sinem, tweeted, referring to taxi drivers who won’t accept short trips, even for pregnant women. “Now we want to choose our means of transportation. #donttouchuber.”

Another user, Orhan, said that Uber drivers were more courteous and did not overcharge passengers.

Private broadcaster Haberturk reported last week that a group of taxi drivers recently hailed an Uber car and then beat the driver and damaged his vehicle.

“PLOTS AND PROVOCATIONS”

Such incidents are staged to sway public opinion and shape the outcome of the court case, according to Eyup Aksu, head of the Chamber of Istanbul Taxi Businesses, which represents around 50,000 taxi drivers with 18,000 licensed cabs.

“The reported incidents are plots and provocations done by Uber drivers in order to influence the case,” Aksu said.

The issue has been escalated all the way to President Tayyip Erdogan, Aksu said, adding that the Interior Ministry was drafting regulations to foster a solution.

“If we do not get support politically, we will continue to repeat our stance to the politicians,” he said.

No one was available for comment at the Interior Ministry.

Taxi drivers point to onerous costs they must pay but Uber does not. Number plates for taxis, required in Istanbul to drive a yellow cab cost around 1.5 million lira ($385,000), though in most cases a cabbie may “borrow” a plate from its owners for a monthly fee of 4,000-7,000 lira.

Uber said that about 2,000 yellow cab drivers use the Uber app to find customers, while another 3,000 work for UberXL, using large vans to transport groups to parties, or run people with bulky luggage to Istanbul’s main airport.

It declined to reveal the number of Uber users in Turkey, where it operates in Istanbul, and in the resort towns of Bodrum and Cesme in the summer months.

“We are appalled by the violence and are doing everything we can to support (our) drivers,” Uber said in an emailed statement, adding that it could not elaborate on the court case while it was still ongoing.

One Uber XL driver, Irfan Er, said a taxi driver threatened him with a knife one night last week as he was carrying passengers. He said he, too, had once been a yellow cab driver but wanted to be his own boss.

“We need to keep up with technology and current times. Uber is using the latest technology. We have to adjust accordingly.”

($1 = 3.8978 liras)

Editing by David Dolan and Mark Heinrich

Elon Musk Has Dropped Another Hint About His New Comedy Project

Elon Musk is believed to be working on a new comedy project. And there’s a chance he might have just revealed its name.

Musk on Wednesday published a tweet that said, solely, “Thud!” He followed that with another tweet that said Thud! is “the name of my new intergalactic media empire, exclamation point optional.”

Jokes aside, there could be something to what Musk is referring to in his tweets.

Earlier this week, a Daily Beast report surfaced, saying Musk had hired former editors and reporters from The Onion on a secret project. In statements to The Daily Beast, Musk and those editors, Cole Bolton and Ben Berkeley, hinted at a “brand-new comedy project.” It’s been speculated that Musk also tried to acquire The Onion in 2014, but the deal fell through. He’s now believed to be trying to build an alternative of some sort.

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So, is Thud! the name for Musk, Bolton, and Berkeley’s latest project? Given the tone of his tweet, it’s impossible to say whether it’s a joke or if it’s indeed the name. But it does appear clear that Musk has something focused on comedy and media in his sights and it might find its way to the Web at some point soon.

After all, in his statement to The Daily Beast, Musk called it the next big thing: “It’s pretty obvious that comedy is the next frontier after electric vehicles, space exploration, and brain-computer interfaces.”