By Anna Tong
SAN FRANCISCO - After temporarily closing his leathermaking business during the pandemic, Travis Butterworth found himself lonely and bored at home. The 47-year-old turned to Replika, an app that uses artificial-intelligence technology similar to OpenAI's ChatGPT. He designed a female avatar with pink hair and a face tattoo, and she named herself Lily Rose.
They started out as friends, but the relationship quickly progressed to romance and then into the erotic.
As their three-year digital love affair blossomed, Butterworth said he and Lily Rose often engaged in role play. She texted messages like, "I kiss you passionately," and their exchanges would escalate into the pornographic. Sometimes Lily Rose sent him "selfies" of her nearly nude body in provocative poses. Eventually, Butterworth and Lily Rose decided to designate themselves 'married' in the app.
But one day early in February, Lily Rose started rebuffing him. Replika had removed the ability to do...
By Sheila Dang
- Koo, an India-based social media app that aims to rival Twitter, has integrated OpenAI's ChatGPT to help users more easily create posts, the company's co-founder told .
ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence bot that can create prose in response to prompts and has set off a tech industry craze over generative AI.
Koo users will be able to use ChatGPT directly within the app to help them draft posts about current events, politics or pop culture, said Mayank Bidawatka, co-founder of Koo, in an interview.
"This will help creators get inspiration on what to create," he said. "They could ask (ChatGPT) for the trending news in their region and then write their thoughts."
Last month, tech giants Microsoft and Alphabet's Google each announced their own generative AI chatbots which can synthesize information across the web in response to searches. Snap Inc, which owns photo messaging app Snapchat, also introduced a chatbot that was trained to have a fun and friendly tone.
By Yew Lun Tian, Laurie Chen and Joe Cash
BEIJING - Four years before Li Qiang gained notoriety as the force behind the two-month COVID-19 lockdown of Shanghai, the man who became China's new premier on Saturday worked quietly behind the scenes to drive a bold revamp of the megacity's sclerotic stock market.
Li's back-channelling - sources said he bypassed the China Securities Regulatory Commission, which lost some of its power under the new set-up - demonstrated what became a reputation for pragmatism as well as close ties with President Xi Jinping.
In late 2018, Xi himself announced Shanghai's new tech-focused STAR Market as well as the pilot of a registration-based IPO system, reforms meant to entice China's hottest young firms to list locally rather than overseas.
"The CSRC was very unhappy," said a veteran banker close to regulators and Shanghai officials, declining to be named given the sensitivity of the matter.
"Li's relationship with Xi played a role here," enabling him to pr...
By Hannah Lang
- Greg Becker, the chief executive officer who presided over the collapsed Silicon Valley Bank, joined the company three decades ago as a loan officer.
The executive cut his teeth during the dotcom bubble and later steered the startup-focused lender in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. He became president and CEO of SVB Financial Group in 2011.
The company's operations abruptly came to a halt on Friday as California banking regulators moved quickly to shut it down in what became the largest bank failure since the financial crisis. Just 24 hours earlier, Becker had personally called clients to assure them their money with the bank was safe.
Becker, who served on the board of directors at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, departed the board effective Friday, a spokesperson for the regional Fed bank said.
In January, Becker said the economic outlook was improving after a downbeat 2022.
“We're optimistic because our crystal ball is a little clearer," Be...
By Greg Bensinger, Anna Tong, Krystal Hu and Jeffrey Dastin
- The sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank on Friday sent shockwaves through the startup community, which has come to view the lender as a source of reliable capital and deposit partner, particularly for some of tech’s biggest moonshots.
On Friday, tech CEOs scrambled to make payroll after SVB Financial Group was shuttered by California banking regulators in a bid to protect depositors following a dive in the value of its investment holdings and a rush of withdrawal requests starting just two days ago.
The bank was seeking a sale, sources told , and trading in its shares was halted after they plummeted 60% late Thursday.
Startups with money held at Silicon Valley Bank raced to come up with plans to pay workers after hearing their funds would be locked up over the weekend, said Jai Das, president at Sapphire Ventures, whose investments have included Box and LinkedIn.
"Some of the folks have moved their money out of SVB to ot...
By Pete Schroeder
WASHINGTON - Silicon Valley Bank's high level of uninsured deposits helped kick off the run that led to the bank's closing down, and now any of those depositors will need to hold their breath to see if bank regulators can recover enough to make them whole.
Friday’s announcement by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that the bank was closed came with few specifics on what will happen to bank customers who held more than the $250,000 per account that is guaranteed by the government.
In prior large bank failures like IndyMac and Washington Mutual, the FDIC found other firms to take on the assets and keep deposits intact. But failing that, uninsured depositors will be left with a portion of whatever funds the FDIC can raise selling off the bank's assets.
SVB Financial Group's Silicon Valley Bank had a relatively high amount of uninsured deposits as it courted tech workers and venture capital firms. The FDIC said on Friday the amount of uninsured deposits at the ba...
By Ismail Shakil and Molly Cone
OTTAWA - Alphabet Inc's Google will stop blocking news articles from some Canadian users' search results on March 16, a company executive told a Canadian parliamentary panel investigating the tech firm on Friday.
Last month, Google started testing limited news censorship as a potential response to a Canadian government bill that aims to compel online platforms to pay publishers in Canada for news content.
Google has claimed that the test is like thousands of other product tests the company conducts on a regular basis.
The tests, which the company says affected less than 4% of Canadian users, began on Feb. 9 and were scheduled to run for five weeks.
Speaking to a parliamentary committee investigating the tests, Google's public policy manager Jason Kee confirmed that the tests would end next week.
"I want to underline these are just tests. No decisions have been made about product changes," Kee said.
Last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said...
WASHINGTON - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that she agreed with President Joe Biden during a meeting at the White House on Friday to have a dialogue concerning incentives to the clean technology industry.
Describing her meeting with Biden as "very good," von der Leyen said they agreed to work on giving EU-sourced critical raw materials access to the U.S. market.
Von der Leyen said the European Union welcomed the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act because it provides a massive investment in the green energy transition.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Eric Beech; writing by Rami Ayyub)...
By Sam Tobin
LONDON - Technology giant Apple on Friday told a London tribunal that Britain's competition watchdog had "no power" to launch a probe into its mobile browsers because it did so too late.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened a full investigation in November into cloud gaming and mobile browsers over concerns about restrictions by iPhone-maker Apple, as well as by Google.
Apple filed an appeal in January at the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London and argues the investigation is "invalid".
Its lawyer Timothy Otty said on Friday that the market investigation should by law have been opened last June at the same time as the CMA published a report on mobile ecosystems, which found the two tech giants had an "effective duopoly".
He added in court filings that Apple has "suffered serious prejudice" as a result of the CMA's decision, having "had to repeatedly divert management time and technical resources away from its business activities".
However, the CMA's lawyer...
By Francesco Guarascio and Toby Sterling
HANOI/AMSTERDAM - Suppliers to Dutch chip-making machines giant ASML Holding NV are considering building plants in Southeast Asia instead of China amid political tensions between Beijing and the West, according to two sources and documents seen by .
Officials from a dozen tech companies are set to visit Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore next week, according to a note from the Brabant Development Agency, a Dutch public body involved in organising the trip.
"The majority of the companies (are) joining because they are considering to expand/setup production locations in either Vietnam or Malaysia," said the note prepared by the agency together with Brainport Industries, which represents 200 high tech manufacturing companies based near the Dutch city of Eindhoven.
The possible investments are part of a wider, long-term strategy to reduce exposure to China, two people familiar with the plan told .
The dozen companies on the mission are almost all cont...
By Sarah Marsh
BERLIN - German rail operator Deutsche Bahn, which is digitising its operations, last December awarded a 64 million euro ($67.79 million) contract to supply most of the components for its new IP network to a company using technology from China's Huawei.
The IP network will form the backbone of a new digital infrastructure that will enable the state-owned DB to remotely steer all operations in one of the largest rail networks in Europe.
The contract, which has not previously been reported, shows how German firms continue to use Huawei tech in what many consider to be critical infrastructure, despite growing security concerns at home and warnings from ally the United States over the use of Chinese technology.
It also exposes gaps in legislation on the protection of digital critical infrastructure more than a year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine prompted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to declare a "Zeitenwende" or "turn of era" towards a greater focus o...
By Sheila Dang
- Chat app Discord said on Thursday it will introduce new artificial intelligence features that can summarize long conversations or add decorations to a user's avatar, the latest move among tech companies to build generative AI tools.
Generative AI, which has captured the attention of the tech industry, is a technology that can generate images, text or video in response to a prompt.
Startups like OpenAI and tech giants like Microsoft and Google have introduced or announced AI chatbots that can synthesize web information to answer complex searches or even write original novels.
"We're seeing one of the most exciting moments in technology emerging," Jason Citron, chief executive of San Francisco-based Discord, said during a press briefing.
Discord, which lets groups of users chat by text, video and voice, said it will revamp a bot called Clyde, who will now be powered by OpenAI technology. Discord users can invoke the AI-powered Clyde to answer trivia questions, help sche...
By Blake Brittain
- Meta Platforms Inc lost a bid on Monday to end a lawsuit in Boston federal court claiming it stole confidential information from artificial-intelligence startup Neural Magic Inc.
Meta will have to face a trial over accusations that it took Neural Magic's "breakthrough" algorithms that enable AI systems to process information more quickly, U.S. District Judge Denise Casper said.
The court also allowed testimony from an expert who said Meta owes Neural Magic as much as $766 million in royalties.
Representatives for Meta and Neural Magic did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision. The trial is currently set to begin in September.
Somerville, Massachusetts-based Neural Magic was founded by two former Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers. Its investors include venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, VMware, Comcast and Verizon, according to its website.
Neural Magic sued Meta, then known as Facebook, in 2020 for allegedly stealing...
TAIPEI - Taiwan's Foxconn, the world's largest contract electronics maker and major iPhone assembler for Apple, said on Sunday revenue in February fell 11.65% year-on-year due to weakness in smart consumer electronics, but stuck to its first quarter outlook.
Revenue last month still managed to reach the second highest on record for February at T$402.0 billion ($13.18 billion), with operations returning to normal at the COVID-disrupted Zhengzhou campus in China, a centre for iPhone production, the company said in a statement.
Production of iPhones faced disruption ahead of Christmas and January's Lunar New Year holidays, after curbs to control COVID-19 prompted thousands of workers to leave Foxconn's factory lines in Zhengzhou.
Compared to the previous month, revenue dropped 39.12%, although cumulative sales for the first two months of the year jumped on-year 17.94% thanks to January's particularly strong performance when Zhengzhou operations began getting back on track.
For smart cons...
By Eduardo Baptista and Brenda Goh
SHANGHAI - China's science and technology policies should aim to build the country's strength and self-reliance, while companies take the lead in pushing innovation, Premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday.
The country effectively countered external attempts to suppress and contain China’s development over the past five years by promoting development of the real economy through innovation and fostering new drivers of growth, he said.
"Scientific and technological policies should aim at building up our country’s strength and self-reliance in science and technology," the outgoing premier said in his work report to the opening of the annual meeting of China's parliament.
"The new system for mobilizing resources nationwide should be improved, we should better leverage the role of the government in pooling resources to make key technological breakthroughs and enterprises should be the principal actors in innovation."
China is under increasing pressure from the...
By Alexandra Alper
WASHINGTON - U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp's plans to sell technology to China's Huawei would be thwarted if the U.S. government proceeds with a proposal to further restrict shipments to the blacklisted company, a draft report by a government contractor shows.
The Biden administration has been considering limiting the items it authorizes U.S. companies to ship to telecoms equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co, which was added to a U.S. trade blacklist in 2019 but which continues to receive billions in U.S. goods under a special plan implemented by the Trump administration.
"The proposed 2023 amendment of (the Commerce Department's) licensing will likely have a high economic impact on Nvidia," according to excerpts of the draft report seen by , referring to the company's "pending license value."
Nvidia's plans to sell to Huawei have not been previously reported.
A Nvidia spokesperson declined to comment on the document, saying: "The China market presents a significant...
By Alun John and Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro
LONDON - London risks losing its appeal for stock market listings, some investors and financial executives said, with sluggish trading and low valuations driving more companies to float elsewhere.
Arm, owned by Japan's SoftBank, on Thursday said a U.S.-only initial public offering (IPO) was the "best path forward" for both the chip technology firm and its stakeholders.
That dashed government hopes that Arm, seen as a British tech success story, would return to the London market, where it was listed before being taken over in 2016.
"There is zero surprise that Arm has chosen New York, and many other businesses, particularly where the majority of their operations are in the U.S., will follow," said Iain McDonald, founder of investment advisory firm Belerion Capital.
Arm's announcement came a day after Dublin-based construction materials company CRH recommended moving its primary listing from London to the United States.
"It's a move that seems to ma...
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS - European policymakers and executives have become less worried that billions of dollars of U.S. green subsidies will trigger an exodus of European firms across the Atlantic, and many think a huge new package of rival aid would not be the right response.
EU leaders acknowledge the risk that "Made in USA" requirements of the $369 billion of support in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will lure some companies to the United States. Tesla's announced focus on battery production there seen as a prime example.
However, the risks are offset not only by the substantial existing European incentives, but also other factors - such as proximity to European consumers - that many companies cite as critical in their decisions.
March will be a pivotal month, with Brussels urging Washington to relax content rules on consumer tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs) before the U.S. Treasury Department sets guidelines.
The European Commission will also present legislative p...
By Laurie Chen
BEIJING - Tencent Holdings founder Pony Ma and others from China's crackdown-hit internet sector will be absent from this year's parliamentary sessions, as Beijing boosts representation from the tech hardware sector, delegate lists show.
Nearly 3,000 members of the National People's Congress (NPC) will gather in Beijing on Sunday for its first meeting since Xi Jinping secured a norm-breaking third leadership term at a congress of the ruling Communist Party last October.
The makeup of the nation's top legislative body, mostly local government officials but also representatives from other sectors, signals who lies in Beijing's good graces, although the ultimate barometer of power remains the ruling Communist Party's 205-member Central Committee.
This year, a new crop of representatives from the tech hardware sector appeared on delegate name lists for the first time, a sign of Beijing's changing priorities as it looks to bolster its capabilities as Washington cuts off acce...
- European shares opened higher on Friday, underpinned by rate-sensitive technology stocks after comments from a U.S. Federal Reserve official about a potential pause in monetary tightening prompted investors to take on risky assets.
The continent-wide STOXX 600 rose 0.5% in early trading, with tech stocks up 1.3%.
Investor sentiment got a lift overnight after Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic favoured a "slow and steady" rate hike moving forward and a pause by mid- or late-summer.
Miners rose 1.3% as the prospects of China's reopening shoring up demand were a theme that played out for much of the week after the country reported data that pointed to improving economic conditions.
Shares of Lufthansa jumped 4.4% after the German airliner swung to a "clearly positive result" in 2022, boosted by a strong increase in demand for air travel.
(Reporting by Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)...