Tech Titans Curb Hiring in a 'Challenging Macro Environment'

Employees have lunch at the canteen at Facebook’s new headquarters in central London on December 4, 2017. (AFP)
Employees have lunch at the canteen at Facebook’s new headquarters in central London on December 4, 2017. (AFP)
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Tech Titans Curb Hiring in a 'Challenging Macro Environment'

Employees have lunch at the canteen at Facebook’s new headquarters in central London on December 4, 2017. (AFP)
Employees have lunch at the canteen at Facebook’s new headquarters in central London on December 4, 2017. (AFP)

From e-commerce colossus Amazon to social networking star Facebook, US tech firms that once grew with abandon have reined in hiring to endure tumultuous times.

Internet giants that saw business boom during the pandemic have taken a hit from inflation, war, supply-line trouble and people returning to pre-Covid lifestyles, said AFP.

Corporate belt-tightening was a common theme as big tech firms reported earnings from the first three months of this year.

Facebook parent Meta told analysts that hiring goals were being adjusted as it continued to look to a bright future.

"We regularly re-evaluate our talent pipeline according to our business needs, and in light of the expense guidance given for this earnings period, we are slowing its growth accordingly," a Meta spokesperson told AFP.

"However, we will continue to grow our workforce to ensure we focus on long-term impact."

Seattle-based Amazon, the second largest employer in the United States, revealed that its ranks are overly plump after ending last year with more than twice as many workers as it had in 2019.

As the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 slowed during the first quarter of this year and workers returned from time off, Amazon "quickly went from being understaffed to overstaffed," chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky told analysts.

Twitter confirmed that it has flat-out suspended hiring, and even showed a few senior executives the exit, as it faces a takeover by Elon Musk, the richest person on the planet.

Musk sent mixed messages Friday about his proposed Twitter acquisition.

In an early-morning tweet, Musk said the $44 billion takeover was "temporarily on hold," pending questions over the social media company's estimates of the number of fake accounts or "bots."

Two hours later, the unpredictable Tesla chief executive tweeted that he was "still committed to acquisition."

"Our industry is in a very challenging macro environment -- right now," Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal said Friday in a tweet.

"I won’t use the deal as an excuse to avoid making important decisions for the health of the company, nor will any leader at Twitter."

At ride-share pioneer Uber, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said they will "treat hiring as a privilege," according to an email to employees seen by CNBC.

While big tech players have steered clear of budget-driven layoffs, such is not the case for stock trading platform Robinhood or Cameo, an app that sells custom video messages from celebrities.

Robinhood said in April that it will cut nearly 350 positions, about 9 percent of its workforce. Cameo terminated the contracts of 80 employees recently, according to news website The Information.

- Reasons behind the cuts -
Reasons for hiring curbs, freezes or cuts vary.

Meta, for example, put some blame on a tweak Apple made to software running its popular mobile devices that stymies the gathering of user data to target ads more effectively.

Uber, meanwhile, reported it was hit with a big loss in the first three months of the year, despite a rebound in its ride-share business.

The loss was due almost entirely to revaluation of its stakes in Grab and Didi in Asia and US-based autonomous driving firm Aurora, the earnings report said.

A common factor for many internet firms, though, was that brisk hiring done while demand was spiking during the pandemic has led to overweight staffing in leaner times.

"Many tech companies have been fulfilling this demand with notable growth in digital services, and as such, recruited and grew their business notably during the past two years," said Terry Kramer, an assistant professor at the UCLA business school.

"A reasonable part of what we're seeing now I believe is the normal maturity of technology adoption – where companies can't/don't need to continue growing at the same rate."

Another factor weighing heavily is inflation, which has driven up costs overall and tightened consumer budgets.

The US central bank has been steadily raising interest rates this year, making it more expensive for companies to borrow money.

On Wall Street, an S&P 500 index comprising tech sector stocks has fallen more than 22 percent since the start of the year, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq is down slightly more overall.

Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives advised investors not to fear a recurrence of the epic Dot-com crash of the late 1990s.

"This is not a Dot-com Bubble 2.0," Ives said in a note to investors.

"It's a massive overcorrection in a higher rate environment that will cause a bifurcated tech tape, with clear haves and have-nots."



Musk Poll Shows X Users Want US Conspiracy Theorist Jones' Account Back

FILE PHOTO: Tesla and SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk pauses during an in-conversation event with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, Britain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Tesla and SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk pauses during an in-conversation event with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, Britain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
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Musk Poll Shows X Users Want US Conspiracy Theorist Jones' Account Back

FILE PHOTO: Tesla and SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk pauses during an in-conversation event with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, Britain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Tesla and SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk pauses during an in-conversation event with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, Britain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

A majority of users on X have voted to reinstate the account of US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in a poll set up by the social media platform's owner Elon Musk.
"Reinstate Alex Jones on this platform? Vox Populi, Vox Dei," Musk posted on Saturday, using a Latin phrase that roughly means "the voice of the people is the voice of God."
The poll was open for 12 hours, and final results showed about 70% voting in favor of reinstating Jones on X.
Reuters could not immediately verify if Jones' account was restored.
In 2018, the platform formerly known as Twitter permanently banned Jones and his website Infowars, saying that the accounts had violated its behavior policies.
The ban came weeks after Apple, Alphabet's YouTube, and Facebook took down podcasts and channels from Jones, citing community standards.


Microsoft Denies Taking Control at OpenAI after UK Review

Microsoft logo.
Microsoft logo.
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Microsoft Denies Taking Control at OpenAI after UK Review

Microsoft logo.
Microsoft logo.

Microsoft denied on Friday that it had taken control of OpenAI after Britain's anti-trust regulator said it was reviewing the nature of their partnership.
"The only thing that has changed is that Microsoft will now have a non-voting observer on OpenAI’s Board, which is very different from an acquisition such as Google’s purchase of DeepMind in the UK," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement.
"We will work closely with the CMA to provide all the information it needs," he said.


'Baldur's Gate 3' Crowned Game of the Year

Actors involved in a 'Fallout' television show being created for Amazon take part in the 2023 Game Awards where a 'Last of Us' series based on the eponymous video game won for best adaptation. Anna Webber / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Actors involved in a 'Fallout' television show being created for Amazon take part in the 2023 Game Awards where a 'Last of Us' series based on the eponymous video game won for best adaptation. Anna Webber / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
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'Baldur's Gate 3' Crowned Game of the Year

Actors involved in a 'Fallout' television show being created for Amazon take part in the 2023 Game Awards where a 'Last of Us' series based on the eponymous video game won for best adaptation. Anna Webber / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Actors involved in a 'Fallout' television show being created for Amazon take part in the 2023 Game Awards where a 'Last of Us' series based on the eponymous video game won for best adaptation. Anna Webber / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

Role-playing hit "Baldur's Gate 3", based in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, was named video game of the year at an awards ceremony in Los Angeles late Thursday.
Set in a fantasy realm of wizards, elves, barbarians and other characters, it is the latest installment in the titular franchise, created by Larian Studios.
"The team at Larian spent their hearts and souls for six years on this game, sometimes under very difficult circumstances," studio founder and chief Swen Vincke said while accepting the award.
"This was our Covid game; along the way we lost quite a few people."
Vincke was dressed in armor, in keeping with a character from the game which has won millions of fans since its release in early August.
Other contenders for the title at the 2023 Game Awards included survival horror game "Alan Wake 2," which took top prizes for direction and narrative.
The game, developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Epic Games, centers on a best-selling author trying to escape an alternate dimension.
"When more than 100 people believe in the same vision and build something out of it we can make miracles, we can make art, and we can be more than the sum of our parts," game director Sam Lake said while accepting an award.
"Our world today could use a bit more of that."
The ceremony featured appearances from celebrities including Matthew McConaughey and Timothee Chalamet, as well as an array of trailers for new titles in the works.
Japanese video game icon Hideo Kojima provided a glimpse at an "OD" game he is making in collaboration with actor and filmmaker Jordan Peele.
Kojima said on stage that he is working with Microsoft's Xbox game studios and its cloud computing team to make "OD" something uniquely immersive.
"It is a game, don't get me wrong, but at the same time a movie; a new form of media," Kojima said through an interpreter.
OD explores the concept of testing one's fear threshold while blurring the boundaries of gaming and film, according to Kojima Productions.
Peele, who directed the movies "Nope", "Us" and "Get Out", described what Kojima was creating as completely immersive and utterly terrifying.
"I grew up watching movies and I'm a game creator, and Jordan grew up playing games and he is a movie director now," Kojima said.
"This collaboration will be really awesome."


Meta Makes End-to-End Encryption a Default on Facebook Messenger

The META logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France on June 14, 2023. (AP)
The META logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France on June 14, 2023. (AP)
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Meta Makes End-to-End Encryption a Default on Facebook Messenger

The META logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France on June 14, 2023. (AP)
The META logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France on June 14, 2023. (AP)

Meta is rolling out end-to-end encryption for calls and messages across its Facebook and Messenger platforms, the company announced Thursday.

Such encryption means that no one other than the sender and the recipient — not even Meta — can decipher people’s messages. Encrypted chats, first introduced as an optional feature in Messenger in 2016, will now be the standard for all users going forward, according to Messenger head Loredana Crisan.

"This has taken years to deliver because we’ve taken our time to get this right," Crisan wrote in a blog post. "Our engineers, cryptographers, designers, policy experts and product managers have worked tirelessly to rebuild Messenger features from the ground up."

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised, back in 2019, to bring end-to-end encryption to its platforms after the social media company suffered a string of high-profile scandals, notably when Cambridge Analytica accessed user data on Facebook. Privacy advocates again shined a spotlight on Meta after Nebraska investigators reviewed private Facebook messages while investigating an abortion that violated a state 20-week ban.

Meta, whose WhatsApp platform already encrypts messages, said the feature can help keep users safe from hackers, fraudsters and criminals.

Meanwhile, encryption critics, law enforcement and even a Meta report released in 2022 note the risks of enhanced encryption, including users who could abuse the privacy feature to sexually exploit children, facilitate human trafficking and spread hate speech.

"What will Meta’s bosses say to children who have suffered sexual abuse, whose trauma will be compounded by their decision not to preserve their privacy? How will they justify turning a blind eye to this illegal and harmful content being spread via their platforms?" said Internet Watch Foundation chief executive Susie Hargreaves.

"The company has a strong track record in detecting large amounts of child sexual abuse material before it appears on its platforms. We urge Meta to continue this vital protection."

The new features will be available immediately, but Crisan wrote that it would take some time for the privacy feature to be rolled out to all of its users.


X to Start Hiring Engineers in Japan

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk 's X account is seen in this illustration taken, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk 's X account is seen in this illustration taken, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
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X to Start Hiring Engineers in Japan

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk 's X account is seen in this illustration taken, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk 's X account is seen in this illustration taken, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Social media platform X will start hiring engineers in Japan, chief executive Linda Yaccarino said in a post on Thursday.
Nikkei earlier reported Yaccarino as saying X would start hiring engineers in 2024 and establish an app development team to develop functions and advertising products for the Japanese market.
The development team will create a mechanism for low-cost ads in order to explore demand from small and midsize businesses in Japan, the report added.
X has struggled to retain advertisers since Elon Musk acquired the company in October 2022, and faced a fresh exodus from major brands including Apple, Walt Disney and Warner Bros Discovery in recent weeks over rising concerns about antisemitic content.
Musk has offered a "full apology on the issue and full explanation", Nikkei quoted Yaccarino saying, adding that X would also reinforce to its team in Japan to deal with inappropriate content.


Saudi Delegation Discusses Technology and Innovation Partnerships with US Companies

The Saudi digital economy, space and innovation delegation has held meetings with US technology companies. SPA
The Saudi digital economy, space and innovation delegation has held meetings with US technology companies. SPA
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Saudi Delegation Discusses Technology and Innovation Partnerships with US Companies

The Saudi digital economy, space and innovation delegation has held meetings with US technology companies. SPA
The Saudi digital economy, space and innovation delegation has held meetings with US technology companies. SPA

The Saudi digital economy, space and innovation delegation has held meetings with US technology companies to foster partnerships for advancing the digital economy and enhancing innovation in the Kingdom.

The delegation is headed by Minister of Communications and Information Technology (CIT) Eng. Abdullah bin Amer Al-Swaha.
During the visit to Silicon Valley, Al-Swaha met with Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi to explore cutting-edge business solutions leveraging data and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as investment opportunities in the Kingdom.
Deputy Minister of CIT Eng. Haytham AlOhali engaged in discussions with the leadership team of NVIDIA to explore avenues for research and innovation in deep technologies, while maximizing the economic and social value through AI.

AlOhali also met with Salesforce President and Chief Product Officer David Schmaier to explore partnership opportunities in solutions and software to support innovative business solutions.


China Launches New Homegrown Supercomputer

People walk past a building with a Christmas decoration in Beijing, China December 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
People walk past a building with a Christmas decoration in Beijing, China December 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
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China Launches New Homegrown Supercomputer

People walk past a building with a Christmas decoration in Beijing, China December 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
People walk past a building with a Christmas decoration in Beijing, China December 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

China unveiled a new domestically developed supercomputing system on Wednesday that state news agency Xinhua said was many times more powerful than a previous version. The supercomputing system called "Tianhe Xingyi", was unveiled by the National Supercomputing Center in Guangzhou, at an industry event in the capital of southern China's Guangdong Province, Xinhua said.
Xinhua did not give more details on the new system's computing power.
But the report cited Lu Yutong, director of the center, as saying that the new computer used domestically designed architecture and has outperformed Tianhe-2, one of China's fastest supercomputers, in capacities such as CPU computing power, networking, storage, and applications.
Tianhe-2 is being developed by the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) and is hosted at the National Supercomputing Center in Guangzhou, Reuters reported.
Tianhe-2 topped a list of the world's 500 fastest systems for three consecutive years from 2013 but dropped out of the top position in 2016, the year after the US government placed the NUDT on a blacklist that eliminated the university's access to the Intel processors it uses in its supercomputers.
Other prominent Chinese supercomputing systems include Sunway TaihuLight, developed by the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, which ranked seventh on the June 2023 list while Tianhe-2 placed tenth.


Saudi Arabia Ranks First Globally by Winning Largest Number of Medals in WAICY

Saudi Arabia Ranks First Globally by Winning Largest Number of Medals in WAICY
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Saudi Arabia Ranks First Globally by Winning Largest Number of Medals in WAICY

Saudi Arabia Ranks First Globally by Winning Largest Number of Medals in WAICY

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was awarded the first position for winning the largest number of medals in the World Artificial Intelligence Competition for Youth (WAICY), in which 18,000 male and female students from 40 countries in the world participated, topping the United States, India, Greece, Canada, and Singapore.

In the global competition organized by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) in cooperation with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), 18 Saudi projects won, including 11 got gold, silver, and bronze medals, and 7 other projects were in advanced positions out of 6,039 projects, while the United States won 10 medals, India and Greece won two medals for each country, and Canada and Singapore won one medal for each country, according to SPA.

The Kingdom was represented in the competition by general education students from the levels, primary, intermediate, and secondary schools from the schools of Misk, Dhahran, Madac, KAUST, Aramco, AlUla, and NEOM. They all competed in the three competition tracks: AI Showcase, AI-Generated Art, and AI Large language model.

In light of this Saudi excellence, SDAIA and KAUST received the Outstanding Organization Award at the global level for their efforts and commitment to developing artificial intelligence education.


Wikipedia, Wrapped. Here Are 2023’s Most-Viewed Articles on the Internet’s Encyclopedia

Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023. (AP)
Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023. (AP)
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Wikipedia, Wrapped. Here Are 2023’s Most-Viewed Articles on the Internet’s Encyclopedia

Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023. (AP)
Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023. (AP)

Remember what you searched for in 2023? Well, Wikipedia has the receipts.

English Wikipedia raked in more than 84 billion views this year, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit behind the free, publicly edited online encyclopedia. And the most popular article was about ChatGPT (yes, the AI chatbot that’s seemingly everywhere today).

Since its launch just over a year ago, OpenAI's ChatGPT has skyrocketed into the public's consciousness as the technology makes its way into schools, health care, law and even religious sermons. The chatbot has also contributed to growing debates about the promise and potential dangers of generative AI, much of which is documented on its Wikipedia page.

The second most-read article on Wikipedia in 2023 was the annual list of deaths, which sees high traffic year after year — taking the #4 and #1 spots in 2022 and 2021, respectively. Individual entries for notable figures who passed away also garnered significant interest this year, including pages for Matthew Perry and Lisa Marie Presley.

Meanwhile, the highly anticipated 2023 Cricket World Cup took third place — alongside three other cricket-related entries in Wikipedia’s top 25 articles this year, including the Indian Premier League at #4, marking the first time cricket content has made the list since the Wikimedia Foundation started tracking in 2015.

“Barbenheimer," Taylor Swift and more also appeared to sway our 2023 internet-reading habits. Here are this year's top 25 articles on English Wikipedia.

1. ChatGPT: 49,490,406 pageviews

2. Deaths in 2023: 42,666,860 pageviews

3. 2023 Cricket World Cup: 38,171,653 pageviews

4. Indian Premier League: 32,012,810 pageviews

5. Oppenheimer (film): 28,348,248 pageviews

6. Cricket World Cup: 25,961,417 pageviews

7. J. Robert Oppenheimer: 25,672,469 pageviews

8. Jawan (film): 21,791,126 pageviews

9. 2023 Indian Premier League: 20,694,974 pageviews

10. Pathaan (film): 19,932,509 pageviews

11. The Last of Us (TV series): 19,791,789 pageviews

12. Taylor Swift, 19,418,385: pageviews

13. Barbie (film): 18,051,077 pageviews

14. Cristiano Ronaldo: 17,492,537 pageviews

15. Lionel Messi: 16,623,630 pageviews

16. Premier League: 16,604,669 pageviews

17. Matthew Perry: 16,454,666 pageviews

18. United States: 16,240,461 pageviews

19. Elon Musk: 14,370,395 pageviews

20. Avatar: The Way of Water: 14,303,116 pageviews

21. India: 13,850,178 pageviews

22. Lisa Marie Presley: 13,764,007 pageviews

23. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: 13,392,917 pageviews

24. Russian invasion of Ukraine: 12,798,866 pageviews

25. Andrew Tate: 12,728,616 pageviews

According to the Wikimedia Foundation, this top 25 list was created using English Wikipedia data as of Nov. 28. Numbers for the full year are set to be updated by the nonprofit on Jan. 3, 2024.

The top countries that accessed English Wikipedia overall to date in 2023 are the United States (33.2 billion) and the United Kingdom (9 billion) — followed by India (8.48 billion), Canada (3.95 billion) and Australia (2.56 billion), according to Wikimedia Foundation data shared with The Associated Press.


Saudi Communications, Space, and Technology Commission Joins Digital Sustainability Alliance with ITU

The Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) logo
The Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) logo
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Saudi Communications, Space, and Technology Commission Joins Digital Sustainability Alliance with ITU

The Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) logo
The Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) logo

The Saudi Communications, Space, and Technology Commission (CST) has joined the Digital Sustainability Alliance (DSA) with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The announcement was made in the presence of ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin on the sidelines of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) held in Dubai.

The alliance of DSA and ITU aims to stimulate opportunities for partnerships and expand the scope of coordination with the communications and technology community to participate in finding and developing digital solutions to address climate challenges, through the transition to digital infrastructure that enables sustainable environmental solutions.

CST said in a statement that by joining the alliance, it seeks to come up with sustainable digital solutions to address climate challenges, develop and implement regulations that enable the circular economy to contribute to reducing carbon emissions and the effects of climate change, and move to an environment-friendly digital infrastructure through cooperation with partners in the government and private sectors and UN organizations.