from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: July 27, 2018

A booth of U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm is pictured at an expo in Beijing, China in September 2017. Stringer/Reuters

This week: Qualcomm deal sinks, Facebook briefly enters China, and Russia doesn't like fake news. 

July 27, 2018

A booth of U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm is pictured at an expo in Beijing, China in September 2017. Stringer/Reuters
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Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:

1. I make the best deals. Qualcomm was forced to walk away from its $44 billion deal to buy Dutch chip manufacturer NXP Semiconductors after not gaining approval in time from the Chinese anti-trust regulators. The deal was in the works for two years and was approved by every other regulatory body necessary, but recent U.S.-China trade disputes complicated the Chinese government’s willingness to approve the agreement. The move comes a week after the Senate dropped a provision in a must-pass defense authorization bill that would have reinstated a ban on Chinese telecom company ZTE from buying from U.S. suppliers. The White House fought hard against the ban, which President Donald J. Trump called a “personal favor” to President Xi Jinping in an effort to obtain concessions on trade and to ease the approval of the Qualcomm deal. So much for the art of the deal.

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2. Almost had it. The Chinese government withdrew Facebook’s approval to build a new innovation center in Zhejiang a matter of hours after getting the green light. The swift reversal was likely a result of Chinese bureaucratic politics, wherein local officials in Zhejiang failed to adequately consult the Cyberspace Administration of China--the country's top internet regulator. Facebook has been blocked in China for about a decade, but the company still has persistently tried, and mostly failed, to gain access to the world’s largest market over the last few years. In contrast to Facebook’s efforts, Google, whose main services are also blocked in China, successfully launched a WeChat app last week in the form of an AI-powered game named Guess My Sketch (猜画小歌). Google has also had other successes in the country, such as its recent announcement that it will build an upcoming artificial intelligence research lab in Beijing, and its recent $550 million investment in JD.com, a major Chinese e-commerce company. Facebook's troubles highlights the continued difficulty U.S. tech companies face when trying to break into the heavily guarded Chinese market.

3. A Russian ban on fake news? Russian lawmakers have proposed a new bill to counter the spread of domestic “fake news.” The bill would specifically target social media companies, requiring them to remove factually “inaccurate” posts and comments made by users within 24 hours of the content’s discovery, or face an $800,000 fine. If this bill passes, social media companies could be pressured into having offices in Russia, and therefore operate under their domestic jurisdiction--something that companies have evaded for some time. This proposed bill comes at a time when a handful of other countries such as Kenya and Malaysia have also pursued different avenues for legal action to limit fake news. However, Russian officials have taken those arguments to fit their own narrative that is focused on domestic dissent, not foreign meddling. Critics say that the new bill would “become an instrument of censorship” and continue to aid the Russian government in limiting freedom of speech. 

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