HONG KONG (Reuters) - An online education company backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said on Monday that a unit of Softbank Corp had made a strategic investment in the company for an undisclosed amount. The investment in TutorGroup from SBI Group, formerly known as Softbank Finance Group and one of Asia's biggest venture capital firms, follows a capital raising of nearly $100 million for TutorGroup in February from Alibaba, Singapore state investor Temasek Inc and China's Qiming Venture Partners. ...
By Paul Carsten BEIJING (Reuters) - Tencent Holdings Ltd will buy a 15 percent stake in e-commerce firm JD.com for $214.7 million, as the two seek to challenge Alibaba Group Holding's dominant position in online shopping in China. Tencent also plans take an additional 5 percent of JD.com on a post-IPO basis, and Tencent President Martin Lau will take a seat on JD.com's board of directors. Although Alibaba is by far China's most dominant e-commerce firm, it has been losing ground to Tencent on mobile as smartphone and tablet usage has surged over recent years. Under the agreement, JD.com will take control of Tencent's own, unsuccessful e-commerce businesses, which will be 100 percent owned by JD.com.
By Joseph Ax NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York businessman must face criminal fraud charges for trying to claim a billion-dollar stake in social media company Facebook Inc, a federal judge ruled on Friday. Paul Ceglia, 40, is accused of forging a 2003 contract with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that supposedly entitled him to part ownership of the company. After an hour-long hearing in New York, U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter rejected Ceglia's request to throw out the charges, finding he had failed to meet the "high standard" needed to dismiss a grand jury indictment. Ceglia sued Zuckerberg and Facebook in 2010 in a federal court in Buffalo, New York, claiming that he and Zuckerberg had signed a contract while Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard University for Ceglia to invest $1,000 in a planned social networking website.
Visa Inc and MasterCard Inc said they had launched a cross-industry group to improve security for card transactions and press U.S. retailers and banks to meet a 2015 deadline to adopt technology that would make it safer to pay with plastic. The move follows several data breaches at U.S. retailers, including one at Target Corp late last year involving the theft of about 40 million credit and debit card records. The new group - which includes banks, credit unions, retailers and industry trade associations - will initially focus on the adoption of 'EMV' chip technology, MasterCard and Visa said in a statement on Friday. However, the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association, said it had not joined the group because there were no plans to immediately implement the PIN option, making for a "half-baked solution." "They're not serious about reducing fraud, unless they put a pin on," said Mallory Duncan, the NRF's general counsel.
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Infrastructure Minister Alexander Dobrindt said on Friday Berlin will invest the proceeds of planned sales of frequency bands to mobile telephone services in broadband infrastructure expansion. Germany's right-left coalition government aims to have broadband of at least 50 megabits a second available across the country by 2018, up from a coverage level of 60 percent. For the upgrade an estimated 20 to 34 billion euros is necessary. (Reporting by Thorsten Severin and Peter Maushagen, editing by David Evans)
By Daren Butler and Humeyra Pamuk ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's president on Friday ruled out any ban on Facebook and YouTube after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the sites could be shut to stop his foes anonymously posting audio recordings purportedly exposing corruption in his inner circle. In the latest recording, released on YouTube late on Thursday, Erdogan is purportedly heard berating a newspaper owner over the telephone about an article and suggesting the journalists be sacked, in comments that will further stoke concerns over media freedom and Erdogan's authoritarian style of leadership. Erdogan, who rejects any accusations of corruption, blames U.S.-based Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former ally, for the wiretaps which he says have been "fabricated". Gulen, who denies any involvement, has many followers in Turkey, especially in the police and judiciary.
A homeless man wins the lottery, a news anchor quits on national television and celebrities float on hoverboards. Details of these and other most popular YouTube videos on Friday, March 7 can be found below.
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's president on Friday ruled out a ban on Facebook and YouTube after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan threatened such a move to stop political foes posting audio recordings purportedly exposing government corruption. "The closure of them is out of the question," Abdullah Gul told reporters when asked about Erdogan's comments, adding that under a recently passed law authorities could block access to material on such sites if a person's privacy is violated. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gareth Jones)
Beijing police have told prominent users of the microblogging site Weibo to cease comments deemed hurtful, including suggestions that authorities misled the public with accounts of a deadly train station attack blamed on militants from Xinjiang. The warning was issued late on Thursday in response to postings offering different interpretations of the attack by knife-weilding assailants in the southwestern city of Kunming. China says militants from the far western region of Xinjiang, home to a large Muslim Uighur minority, carried out the attack. Li Chengpeng, a writer and former journalist with over seven million Weibo followers, had posted a quote attributed to a Kunming journalist frustrated at the lack of information about the attacks.
Activist investor Carl Icahn told eBay Inc shareholders in a letter on Thursday he has "not yet begun to fight" to get the e-commerce company to spin off its PayPal payments unit. Icahn, who owns just over 2 percent of eBay, also used the letter to lay out new arguments for the split. He has sparred with eBay management via open letters and press releases since January, when eBay said the pugnacious billionaire had made an unsolicited proposal for eBay to hive off PayPal and nominated two directors to the eBay board. In his latest missive, Icahn said a spinoff "could allow two separate management teams to focus more closely on the core businesses" and could also "provide a more compelling currency to attract top talent to the respective companies." He also said an independent PayPal would find it easier to land strategic partnerships with companies that compete with eBay.
By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Privacy advocates have asked U.S. regulators to halt Facebook Inc's $19 billion acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp until there is a clearer understanding of how the company intends to use the personal data of WhatsApp's 450 million users. But there's no guarantee that that commitment will hold true once the service becomes part of Facebook, according to the filing to the Federal Trade Commission by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, both non-profit groups. The complaint asks regulators to investigate the deal "specifically with regard to the ability of Facebook to access WhatsApp's store of user mobile phone numbers and metadata." Facebook, the world's No.1 social network with 1.2 billion users, generates the majority of its revenue by showing ads that target users by age, gender and other traits.
By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets will vastly expand the number of companies who advertise online and will allow Internet companies to reap more revenue than they have from customers on PCs, Google Inc Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora said on Wednesday. Small, local businesses will represent the largest influx of new marketers as they discover the benefits of reaching on-the-go consumers on their mobile devices, Arora said, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco. Google, the world's No.1 Internet search engine, generates the vast majority of its revenue from advertising. But its ad rates, like those of other Internet companies including Yahoo Inc, have been under pressure as more consumers access its online services on small-screened mobile devices, where advertising rates are lower than on PCs.
By Jeremy Wagstaff SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Some of those who have lost bitcoins in the collapse of Mt. Gox have turned to internet sleuthing to find out where their money has gone - but they're unlikely to have much luck. Forum websites like Reddit and internet relay chatrooms have attracted hordes of users as the Mt. Gox debacle unfolded in recent weeks. "The crowdsourcing so far has been a miserable failure," said Emin Gun Sirer of Cornell University, who posted his own analysis challenging several theories about what may have happened at Mt. Gox. The problem, Gun Sirer and others say, is two-fold: users of such forums are not always methodical or disciplined in their research on one hand, and on the other, bitcoin's combination of transparency and complexity invites the unwary to draw false conclusions.
Samsung says the Oscars selfie that went viral was a "surprise for everyone," after reports it was part of a pre-planned marketing stunt by the company, a sponsor of the Academy Awards. But the South Korean tech giant, which earned huge publicity when Ellen DeGeneres used a Samsung device to take the photo, said it would donate $3 million to charities of the Oscar host's choice. The Wall Street Journal reported that the stunt "wasn't entirely unplanned," saying that a Samsung smartphone was used in the show as part of a sponsorship and $20 million advertising deal with Oscar broadcasters ABC. During rehearsals Samsung executives trained DeGeneres in how to use the Samsung Galaxy, it reported.
Facebook Inc and its photo sharing subsidiary, Instagram, will delete posts offering to buy or sell guns without background checks, Facebook announced on Wednesday. In an effort to curb what gun control advocates say is the increasing use of the social networks to circumvent checks and controls on firearms sales, Facebook and Instagram will also bar users under 18 from viewing gun offers posted by individuals or groups. "We will not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law," Facebook said.
By Noel Randewich SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - You can't spend bitcoins at Amazon.com or to pay your mortgage but, as the Winklevoss twins showed on Wednesday, you can use the digital currency to book a trip into suborbital space. Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who famously accused Facebook Inc founder Mark Zuckerberg of stealing their idea, said they used bitcoins to buy tickets for a high-altitude voyage on billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic commercial spaceflight venture. The brothers, Olympic rowers who earned MBA degrees from Oxford University, have become bitcoin evangelists and investors and are planning to launch a fund to make it easy to trade the digital currency on the stock market. In a blog post, Tyler Winklevoss compared Branson's space endeavor and bitcoin entrepreneurs to major historical figures who changed the way the world was perceived, like Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Nicolaus Copernicus.
News reader company Flipboard said on Wednesday it has bought rival app Zite from CNN and struck a content partnership with the cable news network. The deal is valued at $60 million, according to the CNN Money website. Time Warner Inc's CNN bought Zite, a news reader application that aggregates content for tablets like Apple Inc's iPad in 2011, for around $20 million, according to reports at the time.
Police in southwestern China have detained two men and a woman for "causing concern and worry" about H7N9 bird flu, Chengdu city police department's official website said on Wednesday. Chinese authorities are cracking down on "spreading rumors" which they say is necessary to preserve social stability and prevent false information from causing panic. The three detainees are accused of saying on WeChat messaging that bird flu had killed many people in their home city of Chengdu, a microblog on the police site said. China's government came under heavy criticism for initially trying to conceal an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China in 2002 and killed about one in 10 of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.
The online home for an archive of inspirational talks by speakers at the TED conferences unveiled a redesign on Tuesday. The TED.com re-design was the first major overhaul since the website launched in April of 2007, and comes as the flagship TED gathering behind the talks is poised to celebrate its 30th anniversary. "It is a moment when Ted.com evolves from a site of individual videos to really being a living archive of ideas," TED media executive producer June Cohen told AFP while providing an early look at the redesign. TED speakers are urged to pack "the talk of their lives" into 18 minutes or less, and now the website lets the curious take time to further explore concepts.
Facebook Inc is in talks to buy drone maker Titan Aerospace for $60 million, according to media reports. The high-flying drones would give Facebook, the world's No.1 Internet social network, the ability to beam wireless Internet access to consumers in undeveloped parts of the world, according to the technology blog TechCrunch. TechCrunch first reported the deal late on Monday, citing an anonymous source. The effort would help advance Facebook's Internet.org effort, aimed at connecting billions of people who do not currently have Internet access in places such as Africa and Asia.
By Emily Flitter NEW YORK (Reuters) - Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has sent subpoenas to Mt. Gox, other bitcoin exchanges, and businesses that deal in bitcoin to seek information on how they handled recent cyber attacks, a source familiar with the probe said on Wednesday. At least three exchanges were forced to halt withdrawals of bitcoins on February 7, including Mt. Gox, which was the largest at the time. Mt. Gox never resumed service before going dormant on Tuesday, leaving customers unable to recover their funds. "As there is a lot of speculation regarding Mt Gox and its future, I would like to use this opportunity to reassure everyone that I am still in Japan, and working very hard with the support of different parties to find a solution to our recent issues," Karpeles said in a statement posted on the Mt. Gox website.
Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Tuesday that the government is still trying to figure out what has led to the collapse of the Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox and is not sure whether crime is involved. "(We) don't know if it was a crime or just theft." Mt. Gox, once the world's biggest bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan on Friday, saying it may have lost nearly half a billion dollars worth of the virtual currency due to hacking into its faulty computer system.
By Alastair Sharp TORONTO (Reuters) - Social networking website Meetup.com is fighting a sustained battle against cyber-criminals who are demanding $300 to call off an attack that has kept the site offline for much of the past four days. The site, which enables strangers to meet for shared-interest activities ranging from parents' groups to software development, was back online but still under attack late on Monday afternoon, Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman told Reuters. Heiferman said he was open to the possibility of some financial relief for members who pay between $12 and $17 a month to organize Meetup groups in their geographic and thematic areas of interest.
By Eric Kelsey LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sunday's Oscar telecast drew 43 million viewers in the United States, delivering the biggest audience for the Academy Awards in a decade, but divided critics, who mostly liked host Ellen DeGeneres but thought the show ran too long. Nielsen ratings data on Monday showed the audience that watched slavery drama "12 Years a Slave" capture the best picture honor grew 6.4 percent from last year. The Oscars attract the biggest non-sports TV audience in the United States each year, and the show drew its largest viewership since 2004, when 43.6 million tuned in. Producers' middle-of-the-road approach to the show with DeGeneres hosting gave the Walt Disney Co-owned network similar results among younger viewers compared with last year, when they gambled with edgier comedian Seth MacFarlane as host.
News Corp's education division Amplify on Monday unveiled a digital curriculum aimed at middle school students in a move to kick-start growth in the unit after years of investment. The curriculum is for English Language Arts aimed at sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students, and features content from a library of e-books, dramatic readings by actors, story animations, and role-playing games about classic authors such as Edgar Allan Poe. "If this succeeds, teachers will want to use this to orchestrate their lessons," said Joel Klein, the chief executive of Amplify and former New York City schools chancellor. Amplify is betting on the changes roiling U.S. school districts, which are spending billions of dollars on digital technology at the expense of textbooks.
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday that online television service FilmOn X LLC cannot intervene in support of competitor Aereo Inc, which is being challenged by the four major U.S. broadcasters over its use of television broadcast signals. In a brief order the court said on Monday that it had rejected FilmOn X's request to participate in the one-hour oral argument and in the written briefing of the case. The broadcasters, Walt Disney Co's ABC network, CBS Corp, Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, sought high court review after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled for Aereo in April. FilmOn X has been involved in litigation similar to that faced by Aereo.
By Lisa Baertlein LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Is this the year the "selfie" stole the Oscars? A self-portrait of host Ellen DeGeneres and stars including Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper taken during Hollywood's annual Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday quickly became the most shared photo ever on Twitter. "We got an email from Twitter and we crashed and broke Twitter. We have made history," DeGeneres said shortly after access to the social media site was disrupted due to sharing of her star-studded picture.
(Reuters) - EBay Inc founder and Chairman Pierre Omidyar rejected investor Carl Icahn's call to separate the company's fast-growing PayPal payments unit, saying the businesses were better off together. Omidyar, who is the largest shareholder in eBay with a stake of 8.37 percent, said separating PayPal from eBay was not a new idea and the board had evaluated the option but decided to keep the businesses together. Icahn, who disclosed a 2.15 percent stake in the e-commerce company last week, had also accused two long-time eBay board members, Marc Andreessen and Scott Cook, of having business interests that directly competed with eBay.
Sears Holdings Corp said Friday it has launched an investigation to determine whether it was the victim of a security breach, following Target Corp's revelation at the end of last year that it had suffered an unprecedented cyber attack. "There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach," Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said in a statement on Friday. He did not say when the operator of Sears department stores and Kmart discount stores had begun the investigation or provide other information about the probe. Sears Holdings Corp operates nearly 2,500 retail stores in the United States and Canada.
A motorsport pro poses as a taxi cab driver, Hollywood actor Paul Rudd enters a lip sync sing-off, and Godzilla stamps its footprint on 12 million eyeballs. Details of these and other most popular YouTube videos on Friday, February 28 can be found below.
By Li Hui and Ben Blanchard BEIJING (Reuters) - A scathing report on corruption at the company that built China's $59-billion Three Gorges dam, the world's biggest hydropower scheme, has reignited public anger over a project funded through a special levy paid by all citizens. The report by the ruling Communist Party's anti-graft watchdog last week found that some officials at the Three Gorges Corporation, set up in 1993 to run the scheme, were guilty of nepotism, shady property deals and dodgy bidding procedures. Between 1992 and 2009, all citizens had to pay a levy built into power prices across China to channel money to the dam's construction, a project overshadowed by compulsory relocations of residents and environmental concerns. The Three Gorges Corporation published a statement on its website on Tuesday saying it would look into the issues the probe raised, and strictly punish any corrupt conduct and violations of the law and party discipline.
By Julia Fioretti LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's spy agency GCHQ intercepted millions of people's webcam chats and stored still images of them, including sexually explicit ones, the Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday. GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 provided to the newspaper by the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, revealed that the surveillance program, codenamed Optic Nerve, saved one image every five minutes from randomly selected Yahoo Inc webcam chats and stored them on agency databases. Optic Nerve, which began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, was intended to test automated facial recognition, monitor GCHQ's targets and uncover new ones, the Guardian said. It said that under British law, there are no restrictions preventing images of U.S. citizens being accessed by British intelligence.
The seemingly intractable problem of identity theft led the list of top consumer complaints once again in 2013, with U.S. consumers reporting that they lost over $1.6 billion to various types of fraud, the Federal Trade Commission said in a report released on Thursday. Of the 2 million consumer complaints that the commission received last year, 290,056, or about 14 percent, were related to identity theft, the FTC said. "This (identify theft) has topped the list since at least 2006," said David Torok, director of the FTC's Division of Planning and Information. A total of 43 percent of fraud victims were reached through email, while 21 percent were telephoned and another 20 percent were defrauded through a website, the FTC said.
By Sophie Knight TOKYO (Reuters) - Any regulation of the bitcoin crypto-currency should involve international cooperation to avoid loopholes, Japanese vice finance minister Jiro Aichi said on Thursday. Commenting on the closure this week of Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, once the world's biggest exchange for the bitcoin virtual currency, Aichi said the ministry would respond to the problems "if necessary", after finding out exactly what happened. "As for its legal position, a currency (under Japan's jurisdiction) would be coins or notes issued by the Bank of Japan. A document circulating on the internet saying that more than 744,000 bitcoins - worth around $423 million at current rates - were missing from Mt. Gox was created by a Tokyo-based consulting firm, said Ryan Selkis, a blogger who initially leaked scans of the document.
By Brian Leonal SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Pirates and imitators on the Internet are the bane of many aspiring artists. For Gavin Aung Than, creator of the popular Zen Pencils comic, the Web was where he started doing what he loves. After eight "miserable" years as a graphic artist at an Australian newspaper, he finally decided to go online with his creative depictions of poems such as William Ernest Henley's "Invictus" and Bruce Lee's famous quote "Be like water".
By Esteban Israel SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian hackers are threatening to disrupt the World Cup with attacks ranging from jamming websites to data theft, adding cyber warfare to the list of challenges for a competition already marred by protests, delays and overspending. In a country with rampant online crime, a challenging telecommunications infrastructure and little experience with cyber attacks, authorities are rushing to protect government websites and those of FIFA, soccer's governing body. Furious about the 33 billion reais ($14 billion) in federal funds being spent on World Cup preparations, more than a million Brazilians took to the streets last June in a wave of mass demonstrations, calling for better public services, greater transparency, and a crackdown on corruption. "We are already making plans," said an alleged hacker who goes by the nom de guerre of Eduarda Dioratto.
A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday ordered Google Inc to remove from its YouTube video-sharing website an anti-Islamic film that had sparked protests across the Muslim world. By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Google's assertion that the removal of the film "Innocence of Muslims" amounted to a prior restraint of speech that violated the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiff, Cindy Lee Garcia, had objected to the film after learning that it incorporated a clip she had made for a different movie, which had been partially dubbed and in which she appeared to be asking: "Is your Mohammed a child molester?" In a statement, Google said: "We strongly disagree with this ruling and will fight it." Cris Armenta, a lawyer for Garcia, said she is delighted with the decision. "Ordering YouTube and Google to take down the film was the right thing to do," Armenta said in an email.
Facebook highlighted on Wednesday two ad campaigns in an attempt to persuade advertisers that its massive membership base and ability to home in on specific audiences makes it a more effective advertising platform than broadcast TV. The No. 1 social network revealed in a blog post some details about marketing campaigns from AARP and the American Legacy Foundation to show how Facebook can target specific age groups among its audience of more than 1 billion global users, which rivals the number of people watching TV. Facebook is hoping to tap some of the billions of dollars that advertisers dedicate to television commercials to reach large groups of people. "For an advertiser, in Facebook's view their users are more engaged than when they are watching TV," said Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at research firm eMarketer.
By Dhanya Skariachan and Jim Finkle NEW YORK/BOSTON (Reuters) - Target Corp shares made strong gains after it reassured investors that customers were beginning to return to its U.S. stores, suggesting that the impact of a massive data breach may not be as severe as some had feared. The third-largest U.S. retailer said on Wednesday that customer traffic had started to improve this year after falling significantly at the end of the holidays when news of the cyber attack and theft of payment card data spooked shoppers. Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan said on a conference call he expected first-quarter sales at its established U.S. stores to be flat to down 2 percent and so far in February, they have been running within that range and nearly flat to last year. Target shares, which had fallen 11 percent since news of the breach broke before Wednesday, were up 6.8 percent at $60.37, their highest level for almost six weeks.
By Mark Hosenball WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A House of Representatives committee with broad investigative jurisdiction has turned up the heat on Target Corp, demanding that the No. 3 U.S. retailer turn over internal documents and messages describing how and when it learned of a recent massive consumer data breach. In a letter made available on Tuesday to Reuters, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requested that Target turn over all documents or communications generated between November 1 and December 13, in which Target employees or "agents" discuss "any suspicion" that a data breach had occurred. The committee set a deadline of March 10 for Target to turn over the materials. Several analysts expect Target to slash its share buybacks as it copes with costs tied to the breach, which some estimate will cost the company $500 million to $1.1 billion.