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Twitter rebrands to ‘X,’ hackers infect Call of Duty, and foreign visitors to China go cashless on July 29, 2023 at 8:15 pm

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Hey, friends, welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s roundup of the week in tech news. Life getting in the way of your daily TechCrunch habit? Not to worry. WiR will get you caught up in no time.

This week, WiR covers the improving quality of AI porn generators and the ethical dilemmas they raise; Twitter rebranding to “X”; and hackers infecting Call of Duty with self-spreading malware. Elsewhere, we dive into a North Korean hacking group, foreign Chinese visitors’ newfound ability to go cashless, and the rollout of Sam Altman’s Worldcoin eyeball-scanning crypto project.

As always, it’s a lot to get to, so let’s not delay. But first, a reminder that if you haven’t already, sign up here to get WiR in your inbox every Saturday.

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Twitter rebrands to “X”: This week, Twitter removed its iconic bird logo and adopted “X” as its new official branding. The move, which Elon Musk announced over the weekend, is a harbinger of the platform’s shift — perhaps more aspirational than concrete — to deemphasize text tweets in favor of audio, video, messaging and payment and banking.

Now it’s my X: Twitter’s rebranding to X hasn’t been faring exceptionally well. In addition to a haphazard rollout that saw parts of the site referencing “X” while others still implored you to “search Twitter” or push a blue button to “Tweet,” the company didn’t even make an attempt to secure the @x Twitter handle, owned by Gene X Hwang of the corporate photography and videography studio Orange Photography. Twitter later wrested control of the handle without notifying or compensating Hwang.

Hackers infect Call of Duty: Hackers are infecting players of an old Call of Duty game, Modern Warfare 2, with a worm that spreads automatically in online lobbies. As Lorenzo writes, Modern Warfare 2 was released quite a bit ago — 2009 — but still has a small community of players. Call of Duty publisher Activision said in a tweet that it would bring the Steam version of the game offline as it “investigates report of [the] issue.”

Foreign visitors to China go cashless: This week, China’s two dominant mobile payment solutions, WeChat Pay and Alipay, announced that foreign users can now pay at Chinese retailers by linking their foreign credit cards, including Visa, Mastercard and Discover. Previously, using WeChat Pay and Alipay in China required a local bank account, making it challenging for short-term visitors to use these payment methods.

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Worldcoin launches its eyeball-scanning project: Worldcoin, Sam Altman’s audacious eyeball-scanning crypto startup, has begun the global rollout of its services to help build a reliable solution for distinguishing humans from AI online. People can download World App, the startup’s protocol-compatible wallet software, and visit an Orb, Worldcoin’s helmet-shaped eyeball-scanning verification device, to receive a unique “World ID.”

North Korean hackers expose themselves: Security researchers say they have high confidence that North Korean hackers were behind a recent intrusion at enterprise software company JumpCloud because of a mistake the hackers made. Mandiant, which is assisting one of JumpCloud’s affected customers, attributed the breach to hackers working for North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, or RGB, a hacking unit that targets cryptocurrency companies and steals passwords from executives and security teams.

Waymo puts the brakes on trucks: Waymo is tapping the brakes on self-driving trucks and shifting most of its capital, resources and talent to one commercial bet: ride-hailing. Kirsten writes that the move, which was announced Wednesday in a company blog post, comes six years after Waymo first tested its autonomous vehicle system in Class 8 trucks. The company emphasized the decision was driven by the commercial opportunities in applying its autonomous vehicle technology to ride-hailing.

SEC probes Bolt ex-CEO: Ryan Breslow, co-founder of the e-commerce software outfit Bolt, was subpoenaed along with the company last year by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Christine reported this week. A letter authored in April by a lawyer representing Bolt investors said the SEC was investigating whether federal securities laws were violated in connection with statements made when Bolt was raising money in 2021.

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In need of a podcast to fill the hours? You’re in luck. TechCrunch has a roster of new episodes to keep you both entertained and informed.

On Equity this week, the crew dug through the headlines of the past few days, starting with AngelList’s acquisition of Nova, Waymo steering toward robotaxis and the latest on interest rates from the Fed. They also touched on earnings for Big Tech and how more limited partner capital can funnel into diverse venture funds.

Found featured a conversation with Mandy Price, the co-founder and CEO at Kanarys, a software-as-a-service startup that helps companies tackle their diversity and inclusion problems with data. Mandy talked about why she started the company after a decade-long career as a lawyer and why she didn’t want Kanarys to just be focused on hiring metrics, as many other diversity, equity and inclusion platforms are.

And on Chain Reaction, Deana Burke and Natasha Hoskins, the co-founders of Boys Club, spoke about their social decentralized autonomous organization for the “crypto curious.” Originally designed to get women and nonbinary people into the web3 world, Boys Club now aims to be an open space for anyone looking to get into the space.

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TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are a few highlights from this week:

Why SAFE rounds are safe: SAFEs, simple agreements for future equity, have long been touted as a founder-friendly structure for signing venture deals. But is it really fair to call them that? Rebecca investigates.

Positivity in the face of toxicity: Dominic writes about how prioritizing positive company culture is just as important — or at least, should be as important — as investor returns.

Playing the long AI game: Microsoft’s and Alphabet’s results indicate the AI game is more of a long-term strategy, Alex writes.

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​ Hey, friends, welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s roundup of the week in tech news. Life getting in the way of your daily TechCrunch habit? Not to worry. WiR will get you caught up in no time. This week, WiR covers the improving quality of AI porn generators and the ethical dilemmas they raise; 

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Business

TikTok Sues US Gov’t

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TikTok is suing the US government to stop the enforcement of a bill that seeks to force the app’s Chinese owner to sell the app or face a ban. The lawsuit argues that the bill violates constitutional protections of free speech and is an “unprecedented violation” of the First Amendment.

Visit of Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok, to the European Commission

Background

  • The bill, the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, was passed last month.
  • The lawsuit was filed in the US Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, DC.
  • TikTok argues that the bill is a permanent, nationwide ban on a single speech platform and restricts free speech without sufficient reason.

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Government Response

  • The Department of Justice has not commented on the lawsuit.
  • A White House spokesperson directed a request for comment to the Justice Department.
  • John Moolenaar, chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, stated that TikTok poses a grave risk to national security and the American people.

Legal Proceedings

  • The lawsuit is expected to add to an already lengthy timeline for a potential ban or sale of the app.
  • ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese owner, already had over a year to make a move, and legal proceedings will pause the timeline, meaning it could be years before a ban goes into effect.

TikTok’s Efforts

  • TikTok has made efforts to assure the public and US officials that it takes data security seriously.
  • In 2022, the company started “Project Texas,” a move meant to provide data security and transparency around the information the app collects about US users.

Conclusion

  • The lawsuit states that Congress has not offered any evidence suggesting that TikTok poses data security risks or foreign propaganda spread that could justify the law.
  • TikTok claims the law violates the right to due process under the Fifth Amendment and is an unconstitutional bill of attainder.

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Business

Universal Music Group & TikTok Partner in New Licensing Agreement

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In a monumental move, Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok have announced a pioneering licensing agreement that will transform the music landscape. This historic deal unites UMG’s vast music catalog with TikTok’s massive user base, unlocking unprecedented opportunities for artists, songwriters, and fans worldwide.

Visit of Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok, to the European Commission

A New Era for Music Consumption and Monetization

The agreement marks a significant milestone in the UMG-TikTok relationship, allowing users to once again create videos featuring music from global superstars and emerging talent. The deal also paves the way for innovative monetization opportunities, with TikTok investing in artist-centric tools and campaigns to support UMG artists across genres and territories globally.
A Shared Commitment to Valuing Music and Creativity
Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of UMG, and Shou Chew, CEO of TikTok, hailed the agreement as a “new chapter” in their partnership, built on a shared commitment to promoting the value of music, human artistry, and the welfare of the creative community.

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of UMG on the left of the photo.

Addressing Generative AI Concerns
The deal also tackles concerns around generative AI, with TikTok committing to work with UMG to ensure that AI development in the music industry protects human creativity and the economics that flow to artists and songwriters.
Deeper Connections and Responsible AI Development
Ole Obermann, TikTok’s Global Head of Music Business Development, emphasized that the agreement will “create deeper connections between artists, creators, and fans” and ensure that AI tools are developed responsibly to enable a new era of musical creativity and fan engagement.
Transformational Partnerships and Advancements
Michael Nash, Chief Digital Officer and EVP of UMG, welcomed the renewed relationship with TikTok, citing the potential for “transformational partnerships” and “significant advancements” in commercial and marketing opportunities, as well as protections for UMG’s industry-leading roster.
A Win for the Music Industry
This groundbreakingagreement is a major victory for the music industry, which has long sought to strike a balance between promoting artistic creativity and protecting the rights of artists and songwriters in the digital age. With UMG and TikTok working together, the possibilities for innovation and growth are endless, and fans can look forward to enjoying music from their favorite artists in new and exciting ways.
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House of Lords to Host Nigerian Innovators

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Clean Cyclers, alongside Sustainability Unscripted and other sustainability partners, is gearing up to host the 3rd Edition of the Global Sustainability Summit in the United Kingdom. Scheduled for March 28 – 29, 2024, at the prestigious House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster, the summit aims to raise awareness, promote collaboration across disciplines, tackle global challenges with local solutions, and advocate for social equity.

Canon Otto, the organizer and founder of Clean Cyclers, emphasized the summit’s commitment to inclusivity, prioritizing climate action, environmental stewardship, and identifying policy pathways for sustainable development. Under the theme “Advancing Sustainability, a Journey Towards a Greener Future,” the summit will gather leading visionaries, experts, innovators, and change-makers from global corporations, organizations, and government agencies to brainstorm strategies for adopting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainability Businessman Otton Canon

The summit will feature panel sessions addressing urgent topics such as climate action, circular economy, renewable energy revolution, sustainable cities, biodiversity conservation, green finance, sustainable agriculture, and climate justice. Additionally, it will recognize and celebrate companies, governments, organizations, and individuals demonstrating commitment to sustainability through practical initiatives and the realization of short-term objectives and long-term goals.

In a statement, the organizers highlighted the broad spectrum of sustainability practices, policies, and innovations aimed at mitigating climate change, conserving biodiversity, protecting natural resources, and promoting social equity. The theme “Advancing Sustainability” underscores the need for a shift from short-term exploitative approaches to long-term regenerative ones, reflecting humanity’s ability to learn, adapt, and innovate.

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The summit aims to foster knowledge exchange, collaboration, and actionable solutions over two days of physical gathering at the House of Parliament in London. Participants will explore diverse perspectives, share knowledge, and work together to shape strategies that drive meaningful change and accelerate progress towards a sustainable future.

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