Geeky Stuff

Tim Cook on Antitrust Investigations: 'There is No Monopoly Here'

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 19:25
In an interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that big companies deserve scrutiny and that he has no issue with Apple being investigated for antitrust issues stating. But at Apple, he said, "there is no monopoly here." From a report: In an interview, Cook stated that he had "no issue" with Apple's being put under investigation, but fervently stated that he believed that once lawmakers heard Apple's story, they would see that the company did not have a monopoly. "I think that big companies deserve scrutiny. And I think that's not only fair but important for the system that we have in America. And so I have no issue at all in Apple being put underneath the microscope and people looking and probing. My hope is that as people heard our story and as they continue to hear our story that it will become as apparent to them as it is to us that we have no monopoly. There is no monopoly here," he said.

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Amazon Restricts How Rival Device Makers Buy Ads on Its Site

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 18:45
Some makers of smart speakers, video doorbells and other hardware hit roadblocks buying key ads in search results on Amazon; gadgets made by e-commerce giant get edge. From a report: Amazon.com is limiting the ability of some competitors to promote their rival smart speakers, video doorbells and other devices on its dominant e-commerce platform, according to Amazon employees and executives at rival companies and advertising firms. The strategy gives an edge to Amazon's own devices, which the company regards as central to building consumer loyalty. It puts at a disadvantage an array of gadget makers such as Arlo that rely on Amazon's site for a significant share of their sales. The e-commerce giant routinely lets companies buy ads that appear inside search results, including searches for competing products. Indeed, search advertising is a lucrative part of the company's business. But Amazon won't let some of its own large competitors buy sponsored-product ads tied to searches for Amazon's own devices, such as Fire TV, Echo Show and Ring Doorbell, according to some Amazon employees and others familiar with the policy. Roku which makes devices that stream content to TVs, can't even buy such Amazon ads tied to its own products, some of these people said. In some cases, Amazon has barred competitors from selling certain devices on its site entirely. The policies show the conflicts between Amazon's large e-commerce platform for sellers and its role as a product manufacturer in its own right. While traditional retailers buy inventory from manufacturers and resell it to consumers, limiting the number of vendors they can work with, Amazon's platform has more than a million businesses and entrepreneurs selling directly to Amazon's shoppers. Amazon accounts for 38% of online shopping in the U.S. and roughly half of all online shopping searches in the U.S. start on Amazon.com. "News flash: retailers promote their own products and often don't sell products of competitors," said Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener in a written statement. "Walmart refuses to sell [Amazon brands] Kindle, Fire TV, and Echo. Shocker. In the Journal's next story they will uncover gambling in Las Vegas."

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Facebook Vows To Restrict Users if US Election Descends Into Chaos

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 18:07
Facebook has said it will take aggressive and exceptional measures to "restrict the circulation of content" on its platform if November's presidential election descends into chaos or violent civic unrest [the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. From a report: In an interview with the Financial Times, Nick Clegg, the company's head of global affairs, said it had drawn up plans for how to handle a range of outcomes, including widespread civic unrest or "the political dilemmas" of having in-person votes counted more rapidly than mail-in ballots, which will play a larger role in this election due to the coronavirus pandemic. "There are some break-glass options available to us if there really is an extremely chaotic and, worse still, violent set of circumstances," Mr Clegg said, though he stopped short of elaborating further on what measures were on the table. The proposed actions, which would probably go further than any previously taken by a US platform, come as the social media group is under increasing pressure to lay out how it plans to combat election-related misinformation, voter suppression and the incitement of violence on the November 3 election day and during the post-election period.

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Russia Wants To Ban the Use of Secure Protocols Such As TLS 1.3, DoH, DoT, ESNI

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 17:30
An anonymous reader writes: The Russian government is working on updating its technology laws so it can ban the use of modern internet protocols that can hinder its surveillance and censorship capabilities. According to a copy of the proposed law amendments and an explanatory note, the ban targets internet protocols and technologies such as TLS 1.3, DoH, DoT, and ESNI. Moscow officials aren't looking to ban HTTPS and encrypted communications as a whole, as these are essential to modern-day financial transactions, communications, military, and critical infrastructure. Instead, the government wants to ban the use of internet protocols that hide "the name (identifier) of a web page" inside HTTPS traffic.

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Samsung's Fast, PCIe 4.0-ready 980 Pro SSD Can Future-Proof Your PC Build

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 16:50
Samsung has unveiled its next high-performance NVMe 2280-sized M.2 drive, the 980 Pro. So far, it comes in three capacities shipping this month: 250GB for $89.99, 500GB for $149.99, and 1TB for $229.99. A 2TB model will arrive later this year, but Samsung didn't share a price. From a report: The standout feature of this drive is its compatibility with M.2 slots over the PCIe 4.0 interface. If you have a compatible motherboard, Samsung says the 980 Pro can go on a tear with sequential read / write speeds of up to 7,000MB/s and 5,000MB/s, respectively. It claims that this is two times faster performance than PCIe 3.0 SSDs and nearly 13 times faster than the more affordable but slower SATA SSDs. Of course, to get the best speeds out of this Samsung M.2 drive, you'll need a compatible motherboard with a PCIe 4.0 M.2 slot. Adoption of the tech is starting to ramp up, including mainstream computing products like AMD's third-generation Ryzen CPUs, its Radeon RX 5700 and 5700XT GPUs, and more recently, Nvidia's RTX 3080 graphics card. Sony and Microsoft are also using the technology for their custom SSD technologies in the PS5 and Xbox Series S / X consoles.

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A $50 Phone is Ambani's Weapon To Dominate India Telecom Market

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 16:21
Reliance Industries has asked local suppliers to ramp up production capacity in India so they can make as many as 200 million smartphones over the next two years, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter, a potentially enormous boost for the country's technology ambitions and a warning shot to rivals such as Xiaomi. From a report: India's most valuable company is in talks with domestic assemblers to make a version of its Jio phone that would run on Google's Android and cost about 4,000 rupees ($54), said the people, asking not to be identified since the plans are private. The inexpensive phones will be marketed with low-cost wireless plans from Reliance Jio, the parent company's carrier, they said. Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani is aiming to remake the country's smartphone industry much like he did in wireless services, where his aggressive prices and simple plans quickly made him the dominant force. The billionaire is also aligning himself with the Indian government's plans to build more domestic manufacturing, a possible boost for local assemblers like Dixon Technologies India, Lava International and Karbonn Mobiles.

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Boeing Whistle-Blower Says Proposed 737 Max Fixes Aren't Enough

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: A whistle-blower at Boeing Co. is urging aviation regulators to add additional protections to the grounded 737 Max. Curtis Ewbank, who has previously raised concerns about the plane's design with congressional investigators, said in comments filed with the Federal Aviation Administration that a proposal to mandate fixes to the jet didn't address multiple hazards identified in the two fatal Max accidents and earlier incidents involving the 737. "Clearly more actions are required to revise FAA processes so that it accurately assesses airplane design and regulates in the public interest," Ewbank said in the comments, posted on the Regulations.gov website. The FAA has proposed multiple changes to the plane following the crashes that killed 346 people before allowing it to carry passengers again. The system that was driving the jet's nose down in both accidents would no longer activate repeatedly and various steps were taken to minimize the chances it would malfunction. The agency is also proposing to require multiple other revisions to the plane, such as an improved flight-computer system to improve its redundancy. Ewbank said the FAA and Boeing should do more to prohibit faulty readings from the sensor implicated in both crashes and improve the plane's warning systems. In addition, the agency should do a broader review of how pilots react to emergencies and do a more thorough redesign of the flight-control system, he said.

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Feds Issue Emergency Order For Agencies To Patch Critical Windows Flaw

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 12:00
The US Department of Homeland Security is giving federal agencies until midnight on Tuesday to patch a critical Windows vulnerability that can make it easy for attackers to become all-powerful administrators with free rein to create accounts, infect an entire network with malware, and carry out similarly disastrous actions. Ars Technica reports: Zerologon, as researchers have dubbed the vulnerability, allows malicious hackers to instantly gain unauthorized control of the Active Directory. An Active Directory stores data relating to users and computers that are authorized to use email, file sharing, and other sensitive services inside large organizations. Zerologon is tracked as CVE-2020-1472. Microsoft published a patch last Tuesday. The flaw, which is present in all supported Windows server versions, carries a critical severity rating from Microsoft as well as a maximum of 10 under the Common Vulnerability Scoring System. Further raising that stakes was the release by multiple researchers of proof-of-concept exploit code that could provide a roadmap for malicious hackers to create working attacks. Officials with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which belongs to the DHS, issued an emergency directive on Friday that warned of the potentially severe consequences for organizations that don't patch. [The agency's statement can be found in the article.] CISA, which has authorization to issue emergency directives intended to mitigate known or suspected security threats, is giving organizations until 11:59pm EDT on Monday to either install a Microsoft patch or disconnect the vulnerable domain controller from the organization network. No later than 11:59pm EDT on Wednesday, agencies are to submit a completion report attesting the update has been applied to all affected servers or provide assurance that newly provisioned or previously disconnected servers will be patched.

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Airbus Reveals Plans For Zero-Emission Aircraft Fueled By Hydrogen

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 09:00
Airbus has announced plans for the world's first zero-emission commercial aircraft models that run on hydrogen and could take to the skies by 2035. The Guardian reports: The European aersospace company revealed three different aircraft concepts that would be put through their paces to find the most efficient way to travel long distances by plane without producing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global heating. UK holidaymakers and business travellers could fly from London to the Canary Islands, Athens or eastern Europe without producing carbon emissions, should the plans become a commercial reality. All three of the aircraft concepts rely on hydrogen as a fuel because the only emissions produced when it is burned is water vapor, making it a clean fuel option for heavy vehicles such as planes, trains and trucks. The first of the Airbus concepts could carry between 120 and 200 passengers more than 2,000 nautical miles by using a turbofan design that includes a modified gas-turbine engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel, which could be stored in tanks located behind the plane's rear pressure bulkhead. The second concept, a turboprop design, would also use a modified gas engine but could carry up to 100 passengers for 1,000 nautical miles on short-haul trips. The aviation giant's plans also include a plane with an "exceptionally wide" body that blends into the plane's wings to open up multiple options for hydrogen storage and the cabin layout. This plane could carry as many passengers as the turbofan design and travel as far too. [...] Airbus said hydrogen planes would also require airports to install hydrogen transport and refueling infrastructure, and government support to upgrade aircraft fleets to allow airlines to retire their older, less environmentally friendly aircraft sooner than planned.

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Proposal Would Give EU Power To Boot Tech Giants Out of European Market

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The EU wants to arm itself with new powers to take on big technology companies, including the ability to force them to break up or sell some of their European operations if their market dominance is deemed to threaten the interests of customers and smaller rivals. EU Commissioner Thierry Breton told the Financial Times that the proposed remedies, which he said would only be used in extreme circumstances, also include the ability to exclude large tech groups from the single market altogether. In addition, Brussels is considering a rating system that would allow the public and stakeholders to assess companies' behavior in areas such as tax compliance and the speed with which they take down illegal content. "There is a feeling from end users of these platforms that they are too big to care," said Mr. Breton, who is leading the overhaul of digital rules in the bloc. "[Under] certain conditions we may also have the power to impose structural separation." The new EU legislation would increase Brussels' powers to scrutinize the way technology companies gather information on users, following concerns raised by independent researchers that the voluntary disclosures groups make are often misleading or partial. Mr. Breton confirmed that the EU would not remove the limited liability that companies have for the content published on their platforms. "The safe harbor of the liability exemption will stay," he said. "That's something that's accepted by everyone." Mr. Breton said draft legislation will be ready by the end of the year. Proposals are being finalized, and once they are agreed they will go through the European Parliament and the European Council.

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Trump Pushes To Reap Biometric Data From Immigrants, Americans

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 04:05
Six million would-be U.S. immigrants face expanded collection of their biometric data, including iris scans, palm-, and voice-prints, facial recognition images, and DNA, under a proposed federal rule. The Department of Homeland Security also for the first time would gather that data from American citizens sponsoring or benefiting from a visa application. Bloomberg Law reports: Years in the making, the biometrics immigration rule has garnered more than 160 comments since its Sept. 11 publication. The 30-day comment period closes on Oct 13. A final version could be in place by Inauguration Day. Immigration and privacy advocates have voiced concerns over who will have to comply with the new requirements, why President Donald Trump is making this push so late in his term, and what it means for a federal agency already claiming a lack of resources. The 300-plus-page plan updates current biometrics requirements so that "any applicant, petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary, or individual filing or associated with an immigration benefit or request, including U.S. citizens, must appear for biometrics collection without regard to age unless the agency waives or exempts the requirement." The DHS estimates an additional 2.17 million new biometrics submissions will be collected annually, an increase from the current 3.9 million, under the rule. The DHS already collects fingerprints from some visa applicants. The new rule would expand that biometrics-gathering to iris images, palm- and voice- prints. The agency wants authority to require or request DNA testing to prove familial relationships where kinship is in question. The DNA data could be stored indefinitely, under the proposed rule. The DHS essentially has until Dec. 20 to review and respond to public comments and draft a final proposal, said Doug Rand, who worked on technology and immigration policy in the Obama White House and then joined the Federation of American Scientists. "They're really running out of time. And the fact that you'd put out a final regulation on such a far-ranging new policy that touches the lives of millions of people, you're opening up to huge legal vulnerability because any plaintiff can point to the comment period of only 30 days."

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Quibi Reportedly Weighs Selling Itself Less Than 6 Months After Launching

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 03:25
According to The Wall Street Journal, the mobile streaming service Quibi is exploring strategic options including a possible sale. "It is also considering raising more money or going public through a merger with a specially formed company that could help it fund deals," adds CNET. From the report: It declined to comment directly on the report, but Quibi said in a statement that it "has successfully launched a new business and pioneered a new form of storytelling and state-of-the-art platform." It added that CEO Meg Whitman and founder Jeffrey Katzenberg "are committed to continuing to build the business in the way that gives the greatest experience for customers, greatest value for shareholders and greatest opportunity for employees."

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Pandemic Accelerated Cord Cutting, Making 2020 the Worst-Ever Year For Pay TV

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 02:45
According to new research from eMarketer, the cable, satellite and telecom TV industry is on track to lose the most subscribers ever. This year, over 6 million U.S. households will cut the cord with pay TV, bringing the total number of cord-cutter households to 31.2 million. TechCrunch reports: The firm says that by 2024, the number will grow even further, reaching 46.6 million total cord-cutter households, or more than a third of all U.S. households that no longer have pay TV. Despite these significant declines, there are still more households that have a pay TV subscription than those that do not. Today, there are 77.6 million U.S. households that have cable, satellite or telecom TV packages. But that number has declined 7.5% year-over-year â" its biggest-ever drop. The figure is also down from pay TV's peak in 2014, the analysts said. The pay TV losses, as you may expect, are due to the growing adoption of streaming services. But if anything, the pandemic has pushed forward the cord-cutting movement's momentum as the health crisis contributed to a down economy and the loss of live sports during the first part of the year. These trends may have also encouraged more consumers to cut the cord than would have otherwise. "Consumers are choosing to cut the cord because of high prices, especially compared with streaming alternatives," said eMarketer forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence Eric Haggstrom. "The loss of live sports in H1 2020 contributed to further declines. While sports have returned, people will not return to their old cable or satellite plans," he added.

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Major Activision Hack Reportedly Compromises Over 500,000 Call of Duty Players

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 02:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Forbes: According to reports, more than 500,000 Activision accounts may have been hacked with login data being compromised. The eSports site Dexerto has reported that a data breach occurred on Sunday, September 20. The credentials to access these accounts are, Dexerto said, being leaked publicly, and account details changed to prevent easy recovery by the rightful owners. Activision accounts are mostly used by players of the hugely popular Call of Duty franchise. "This is a substantial breach," Martin Jartelius, CSO at Outpost24, said, "in parts, the clean-up will be a large undertaking for Activision, we can only hope backups allow restoring original contact data, resetting access and managing the users who still cannot regain access which should be a smaller group." Changing your password, if you still have access to your account, is vital, as is changing passwords at any other site or service where you use the same password. This should be to something long and strong, the use of a password manager will help you here. Developing...

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Samsung Cancels Developer Conference Due To Ongoing Pandemic

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 01:20
Samsung announced today it has canceled its annual developer conference citing the need to prioritize the safety of its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. XDA Developers reports: There had been speculation that the South Korean tech giant would axe the show, not just due to the ongoing pandemic but because there isn't much to announce. In previous years, Samsung had used the event to announce updates to its software services like its digital assistant Bixby, but these software additions have never caught on with consumers. There have also been rumblings that Google and Samsung are negotiating a deal to replace many of Samsung's native software apps -- think the Galaxy App store or "Samsung Daily" news feed -- with Google ones.

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Chinese Leaders Split Over Releasing Blacklist of US Companies

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 00:41
Beijing has sped up development of a blacklist that could be used to punish American technology firms, but officials say leaders are hesitating to pull the trigger, with some arguing a decision on the list should wait till after the U.S. election. From a report: The debate highlights Beijing's continued grappling with how to respond to the Trump administration without driving the relationship closer to collapse. So far, the Chinese leadership has tried to respond in kind to Washington's actions but has tried to avoid measures that go beyond those of the U.S. A well-timed strike can sometimes work in Beijing's and Chinese companies' favor. After President Trump's campaign for a U.S. company to take over video-sharing app TikTok, Chinese regulators rolled out new export-control rules that have helped TikTok parent ByteDance set terms that could help it avoid losing control of the platform's U.S. operations or crucial technology. China first announced its plan to create a blacklist of U.S. entities in May 2019, soon after the U.S. restricted telecom giant Huawei Technologies's access to U.S. components and technology. But Beijing refrained from specifying any companies or individuals for the list as both countries' trade negotiators were engaged in the talks that eventually led to the signing of a "phase one" trade agreement in January. As the Trump administration has intensified its attacks on some of China's best-known companies -- also including Tencent Holdings, which runs the WeChat messaging and payments app -- the list has gained urgency. In recent weeks, according to people with knowledge of the matter, an interagency group led by Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, who oversees foreign investment and trade, has stepped up finalization of the "unreliable-entity" list -- China's answer to the U.S.'s list of Chinese entities it is targeting for sanctions.

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Facebook Will Let People Claim Ownership of Images and Issue Takedown Requests

Slashdot - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 00:00
Facebook is going to let people take more control over the images they own and where they end up. The Verge reports: In an update to its rights management platform, the company is starting to work with certain partners today to give them the power to claim ownership over images and then moderate where those images show up across the Facebook platform, including on Instagram. The goal is to eventually open this feature up to everyone, as it already does with music and video rights. The company didn't give a timeline on when it hopes to open this up more broadly. Facebook didn't disclose who its partners are, but this could theoretically mean that if a brand like National Geographic uploaded its photos to Facebook's Rights Manager, it could then monitor where they show up, like on other brands' Instagram pages. From there, the company could choose to let the images stay up, issue a takedown, which removes the infringing post entirely, or use a territorial block, meaning the post stays live but isn't viewable in territories where the company's copyright applies. To claim their copyright, the image rights holder uploads a CSV file to Facebook's Rights Manager that contains all the image's metadata. They'll also specify where the copyright applies and can leave certain territories out. Once the manager verifies that the metadata and image match, it'll then process that image and monitor where it shows up. If another person tries to claim ownership of the same image, the two parties can go back and forth a couple times to dispute the claim, and Facebook will eventually yield it to whoever filed first. If they then want to appeal that decision, they can use Facebook's IP reporting forms.

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iOS 14 Resets iPhone's Default Apps To Apple's Safari and Mail After Reboot

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 23:24
Users have found a major bug in Apple's iOS 14 iPhone software. The free software upgrade, which Apple made publicly available last week, includes features many users had long asked for, such as better ways to organize apps, living programs called widgets on the home screen, and the ability to change which default apps the phone uses to browse the web or send an email. That last one doesn't appear to work. From a report: A growing chorus of Twitter users has been posting about the bug in Apple's default email and default web browser options. What happens is that whenever they set the default browser to Google's Chrome, for example, it works as expected, and tapping any link in an app or browser will open Chrome on the iPhone. But then if they restart the phone, iOS 14 changes that default back to Apple's Safari. "We are aware of an issue that can impact default email and browser settings in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. A fix will be available to users in a software update," Apple said in a statement.

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Gig Economy Company Launches Uber, But For Evicting People

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 22:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: SINCE COVID-19 MANY AMERICANS FELL BEHIND IN ALL ASPECTS," reads the website copy. The button below this statement is not for a GoFundMe, or a petition for calling for rent relief. Instead, it is the following call to action, from a company called Civvl: "Be hired as eviction crew." During a time of great economic and general hardship, Civvl aims to be, essentially, Uber, but for evicting people. Seizing on a pandemic-driven nosedive in employment and huge uptick in number-of-people-who-can't-pay-their-rent, Civvl aims to make it easy for landlords to hire process servers and eviction agents as gig workers. Civvl aims to marry the gig economy with the devastation of a pandemic, complete with signature gig startup language like "be your own boss," and "flexible hours," and "looking for self-motivated individuals with positive attitudes:" "FASTEST GROWING MONEY MAKING GIG DUE TO COVID-19," its website says. "Literally thousands of process servers are needed in the coming months due courts being backed up in judgements that needs to be served to defendants." The company, at first glance, appears to be some kind of _Nathan For You-_esque prank: siccing precarious gig jobs onto vulnerable people. But Civvl is connected to a larger -- and real -- gig economy company called OnQall, which describes itself as an app that provides "on-demand task services to non-urban communities beyond main city areas." OnQall is the developer behind other, more believable TaskRabbit-esque apps, like LawnFixr, CleanQwik, and MoveQwik. Given the fact that Civvl is advertising all over the country and that OnQall, though not popular, does exist, it seems as though Civvl actually is an attempt to simplify the process of evicting people who cannot pay their rent during a pandemic.

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Nikola Founder Trevor Milton Steps Down as Chairman in Battle With Short Seller

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 22:05
Nikola founder Trevor Milton has stepped down as executive chairman after a short seller accused Milton and the hydrogen and electric truck startup of misleading investors and overstating the value of a business deal. From a report: Milton has also resigned from the company's board, Nikola said in a statement on Sunday. The company has previously denied the allegations and threatened legal action against the research company that made them. Stephen Girsky, a former vice chairman of General Motors (GM) and current board member at Nikola, will take over as chairman, effective immediately. "The focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me. I intend to defend myself against false accusations leveled against me by outside detractors," Milton said in a statement posted on Twitter. As part of the transition agreement that Nikola filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, Milton agreed to revise any references to the positions he held at Nikola on his social media profiles so it's clear he no longer holds them. He also agreed to check with lawyers for Nikola before posting anything about the company. By late Monday morning, Milton had made his Twitter account private, but his LinkedIn account remained public and active.

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