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from Breakingviews:

Twitter free-speech chirps carry overtone of risk

By Reynolds Holding

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Twitter’s chirping about corporate free speech carries an overtone of risk. After its UK super-injunction tiff, the microblogging service is fighting for the right to disclose secret U.S. demands for data. The two cases show firms have power to resist being muzzled – or forced to speak. That helps check judicial and government overreach, but it could also undermine useful regulation.

The company earned its free-speech stripes three years ago making British privacy guardians look ridiculous. A court order banning reporting on a famous footballer’s alleged affair – including the existence of the order, dubbed a super-injunction – was rendered useless when some 75,000 tweets broke the edict. Attempts to hold Twitter responsible proved futile.

The popularizer of hashtags burnished its First Amendment credentials on Tuesday by suing Uncle Sam for insisting that Twitter and others couldn’t say publicly whether they had been forced to turn over customer records. The government claims such gag orders protect national security but Twitter is arguing, with justification, that the U.S. Constitution sets a higher bar for measures that restrict free speech. One judge has already struck down similar orders.

from Breakingviews:

Facebook and Google catch glimpse of split future

By Richard Beales

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

The likes of Facebook, Google and Alibaba keep dabbling in new, new things. The U.S.-based social network’s $2 billion acquisition of virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR earlier this year is a prime example. At the same time, old-school technology companies are headed for splitsville. They offer a glimpse into the future for their younger counterparts.

from Unstructured Finance:

How Babel became Symphony

The communications platform announced this week went through several different names before Symphony.

The idea for a communications platform went through several names before Symphony.

In late-2012, Goldman Sachs traders started to notice something unusual. News was sometimes breaking on social media faster than it was breaking on sophisticated information terminals that cost the bank millions of dollars each year.

from Breakingviews:

Apple CEO Tim Cook gets $25 billion warning shot

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Shareholders have given Apple boss Tim Cook about 25 billion reasons to worry. That’s how many dollars they have wiped off the company’s stock-market value in the past two days after a botched system update and reports its new iPhones can be bent. It’s a small hit for a $600-billion-odd company. But the 2012 Apple Maps fiasco is a reminder that one-off snafus can presage prolonged pain.

from Breakingviews:

Alibaba IPO highlights SoftBank’s value dilemma

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Alibaba’s runaway initial public offering has turned the spotlight back onto SoftBank’s valuation dilemma. Following the Chinese e-commerce group’s successful New York listing, the Japanese conglomerate’s 32 percent stake eclipses the value of its other businesses. The 5 percent drop in SoftBank’s shares on the morning of Sept. 22 is a reminder the investment is both blessing and burden.

from Counterparties:

Uber, but for lawsuits

Uber is still on a roll. The car-share service may have faced more than its share of controversy and legal challenges, but the company continues to do well — both in terms of its $18.2 billion valuation, and as a convenient metaphor for all the promises of the sharing economy. That doesn’t mean all its problems are over, though. As Kevin Roose points out, startups like Uber, which hire independent contractors to do work traditionally done by full-time employees, may yet be forced to change their practices.

This arrangement, which Roose calls the 1099 economy, means that companies don’t have to worry about paying for things like health insurance or workers comp for injuries. Lydia DePillis, reporting on the home-cleaning service Homejoy, explains the business model as follows: “Theoretically, Homejoy is just organizing the masses of people who already offer their cleaning services independently...and taking a cut in exchange for access to an attractive marketing platform.” But in several states, legal challenges to the 1099 economy model are mounting, hinging on the definition of what counts as an “employee.”

from Breakingviews:

Rakuten’s $1bln U.S. buy stretches loyalty logic

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Rakuten’s latest acquisition stretches loyalty logic. Buying U.S. cash back site Ebates for $1 billion will help Japan’s largest e-commerce group beef up abroad. It also underscores Rakuten’s determination to use loyalty schemes to distinguish itself from rivals like eBay and China’s Alibaba. Yet, as with Rakuten’s other recent chunky deals, it’s unclear how all the parts fit together.

from Breakingviews:

China smartphones set to pick off global giants

By Ethan Bilby

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Not everyone is able to spend $500 on a smartphone. For those lacking funds or wanting better value for money, China’s handset makers increasingly appeal. Today, most of their sales are domestic. Yet low costs are helping them dial in new emerging market customers.'

from Breakingviews:

Snapchat’s valuation soars on tech-land pixie dust

By Robert Cyran

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own

Snapchat’s valuation is soaring on tech-land pixie dust. The disappearing-photo business has turned 100 million users, strong demand for chat services and the $20 million sale of a tiny equity stake into a $10 billion price tag. Trouble is, the company lacks revenue – and none is in sight. It’s a reminder that Silicon Valley dreams often trump real economics.

from Breakingviews:

U.S.-backed China tech shows investment curb folly

By Robyn Mak

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

China’s tech companies may be Beijing’s darlings, but they have U.S. dollar funding to thank. The next generation of upstarts look likely to continue the pattern. Foreign currency funds poured $5 billion into venture capital the first half of this year – three times more than local funds raised. The economic benefits these foreign investors bring make the rules keeping them out harder to justify.

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