Good morning and happy Friday! I’m Jeanne Whalen, a global business reporter at The Post, where I write about topics like semiconductors, quantum computing and electric vehicles. You can email me at email@example.com.
Taiwan, a major chip supplier to China, pledges to follow U.S. export controls
The Biden administration’s imposition of tough new export restrictions on China had immediate impact on Western semiconductor companies, which suspended some operations in China and announced sales cuts.
But any such curbs are also bound to affect Taiwan, the democratic island that manufactures many of the chips that China — and the rest of the world — rely on.
In an interview last week, Taiwan’s minister of economic affairs pledged that Taiwanese companies will follow the latest U.S. export controls, which seek to deprive China of advanced computing chips that the Biden administration said Beijing needs to modernize its military.
Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua said the restrictions “will hurt some businesses” in Taiwan. But she expressed confidence that the controls won’t overly burden them, saying that the rules affect a small subset of chips used for supercomputing and artificial intelligence and not the much larger world of chips for consumer electronics.
“Because most of the limitations will not concern consumer electronic products, we do not think the impact will be too large. And the quantity, the actual shipments impacted by these new rules will not be a lot,” she said over breakfast at Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel, before heading out to watch Taiwanese and U.S. tech companies sign memos of understanding to explore business opportunities in renewable energy and 5G communications.
The chip restrictions “are falling under the overarching policy of the United States and probably for very good strategic and security reasons, from the U.S. perspective,” Wang added. Taiwan will “follow whatever rules and guidelines are set forth by our trading partners such as the United States. In that respect, we do not have a lot of room to bargain. We will exercise caution as we follow the rules, as we conduct our trade.”
Even as political tensions between China and Taiwan grow, with fears rising that Beijing will someday try to seize the island by force, China and its neighbor remain closely linked by trade. Asked about this paradox, Wang quantified the ties, noting that 42 percent of Taiwan’s exports — and 60 percent of its chip exports — go to China. She also suggested that it is in no one’s interest to rupture these ties.
“A major portion of our exports and chip shipments are closely tied with China’s existing position as a major global factory and the assembly line for the world, and it is very important for them economically to have prosperous economic development to continue that role,” she said.
“And that’s why it’s a big paradox here for any powers involved. Our stance is that we will never provoke anything. Our wish is to ensure that we maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
Among the agreements signed during Wang’s visit, GE pledged to cooperate with Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation on gas turbine projects, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs said. And various U.S. companies, including Intel, agreed to work with Taiwanese counterparts to explore business opportunities in 5G technology, including smart manufacturing.
In 5G, Taiwan “has outstanding capabilities in hardware design and manufacturing, while the U.S. industry is adept in software, services, and branding,” the ministry said in a statement. “Both sides have established a solid foundation for cooperation.”
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Documents detail plans to gut Twitter’s workforce
Interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Post show there will likely be massive cuts to Twitter’s workforce in the coming months — no matter who owns the company, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Faiz Siddiqui, Gerrit De Vynck and Jeremy B. Merrill report.
Elon Musk told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned cuts of nearly 75 percent of the company’s 7,500 worker to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000 workers. A dramatic whittling of the company could impact its ability to moderate harmful content and prevent data security crises.
Musk is expected to close the deal to buy Twitter by next Friday. Planning for its closing appears to be moving forward in good faith despite months of legal battles, people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations told my colleagues.
Twitter already planned to cut around a quarter of the company’s workforce and make cuts to its infrastructure, according to corporate documents and interviews with people familiar with the company’s deliberations.
“The extent of the cuts, which have not been previously reported, help explain why Twitter officials were eager to sell to Musk,” my colleagues write. “Musk’s $44 billion bid, though hostile, is a golden ticket for the struggling company — potentially helping its leadership avoid painful announcements that would have demoralized the staff and possibly crippled the service’s ability to combat misinformation, hate speech and spam.”
Twitter, Musk and his representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment.
TikTok’s viral power creates villains and enables hate, creators say
TikTok users say they love the app’s algorithm, but its opaqueness causes anxiety and it also helps designate viral villains, Drew Harwell and Taylor Lorenz report.
TikTok’s rise has helped supercharge the reality that one great moment can catapult someone into a celebrity, my colleagues report. “But this new era of instant, inexplicable attention has also come at a price,” they write. “In interviews with more than three dozen TikTok creators, many noted that the app’s reach often brings with it relentless demands: from angry commenters, from audience expectations, even from the algorithm itself.”
Harassment is a problem across the internet, and TikTok says it’s working on strengthening its protections for creators, including by letting them automatically block offensive comments. “We want people to feel safe, welcome and in control of their experience,” said Hilary McQuaide, a TikTok spokeswoman. “We pair robust safety policies against bullying, harassment and hateful behavior with tools to empower creators to decide who can watch and engage.” But some creators still say the app’s spotty enforcement and quick popularity leaves creators vulnerable.
Texas sues Google over alleged biometric data collection
In a lawsuit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) accused Google of collecting biometric data on Texans without getting their consent, Reuters’s Diane Bartz and David Shepardson report. It’s the latest suit by a state arguing that Google violated privacy rules like one passed in Texas.
“In blatant defiance of that law, Google has, since at least 2015, collected biometric data from innumerable Texans and used their faces and their voices to serve Google’s commercial ends,” the complaint says. “Indeed, all across the state, everyday Texans have become unwitting cash cows being milked by Google for profits.”
Google pushed back on the claims. “AG Paxton is once again mischaracterizing our products in another breathless lawsuit,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda told Reuters. “We will set the record straight in court.”
Rant and rave
Twitter reacted after my colleagues reported on Twitter’s planned cuts. Reporter Alex Sherman:
Law professor Elizabeth Joh:
Former Twitter product head Jason Goldman:
With the TikTok news today, it’s important to remember that threats to user safety and leaks of personal information don’t even require nefarious intent. It can just be because you’ve fired everyone who knows how the protections work. https://t.co/1yI66NWOAH— Jason Goldman (@goldman) October 20, 2022