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TechCrunch

Alibaba Group will spend $3.6 billion to take control of Chinese supermarket giant Sun Art – TechCrunch

Alibaba Group said today it will spend about $3.6 billion to take a controlling stake in Sun Art, one of China’s largest big-box and supermarket chains. After the transaction is complete, Alibaba Group will own 72% of Sun Art. As in other countries, COVID-19 lockdowns increased demand for online food orders in China, drawing in shoppers who had still preferred to buy groceries in person. Even though lockdowns have lifted, many have continued to purchase online. Alibaba’s new investment in Sun Art will be made by acquiring 70.94% of equity interest in A-RT Retail Holdings from France-based Auchan Retail International. A-RT Retail holds about 51% of the equity interest in Sun Art. After the deal closes, Alibaba will consolidate Sun Art in its financial statements. Sun Art chief executive officer Peter Huang has also been named its new chairman. Alibaba first invested in Sun Art back in 2017, spending about $2.88 billion to pick up a 36.16% share in the chain, whose brands include RT-Mart, as part of its “New Retail” strategy. “New Retail” aims to blur the lines between online and offline commerce through steps like turning physical stores in pickup points for online orders, integrating supply chains and enabling shoppers to use the same digital payment methods on its e-commerce platforms and in brick-and-mortar stores. All of Sun Art’s 484 physical retail locations in China are now integrated into Alibaba’s Taoxianda and Tmall Supermarket platforms for groceries, as well as Ele.me and Cainiao, its on-demand food demand delivery…Continue readingAlibaba Group will spend $3.6 billion to take control of Chinese supermarket giant Sun Art – TechCrunch

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The Next Web

Why Trump’s push to ban WeChat would be hard on the Chinese diaspora

Chinese Americans are waiting nervously to hear whether the Trump administration’s efforts to ban the app WeChat in the US will be successful. Donald Trump issued an executive order on August 6 placing the Chinese-owned app in the firing line, claiming it was a “threat” to US national security. The order propelled the US Department of Commerce into action to propose banning WeChat from US app stores and prohibit money transfers using the app. This move was met with dismay by many Chinese Americans, who rely on the app as a source of both news and connection with family and friends in China. On September 20, a few days before the executive order was due to take effect, a federal judge put a preliminary injunction on the ban, bringing temporary relief to the Chinese diaspora. But the Trump administration has since lodged an appeal, indicating a determination to pursue the ban and leaving WeChat users in America uncertain of the app’s future. Multiple apps in one WeChat, like the video-sharing app TikTok, has been caught up in mounting trade tensions and a growing geopolitical rivalry between the US and China. The ownership of data and the digital technology companies behind popular apps has taken center stage. While Tiktok has a strong presence in the US, with an estimated user base of 100 million, WeChat use is more highly concentrated in the Chinese American community, with an average US monthly user-base of 19 million active daily users. However, WeChat is a…Continue readingWhy Trump’s push to ban WeChat would be hard on the Chinese diaspora

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The Verge

Google says Chinese hackers who targeted Biden campaign are faking McAfee software

Google said in a new blog post that hackers linked to the Chinese government have been impersonating antivirus software McAfee to try to infect victims’ machines with malware. And, Google says, the hackers appear to be the same group that unsuccessfully targeted the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden with a phishing attack earlier this year. A similar group of hackers based in Iran had tried to target President Trump’s campaign, but also was unsuccessful. The group, which Google refers to as APT 31 (short for Advanced Persistent Threat), would email links to users which would download malware hosted on GitHub, allowing the attacker to upload and download files and execute commands. Since the group used services like GitHub and Dropbox to carry out the attacks, it made it more difficult to track them. “Every malicious piece of this attack was hosted on legitimate services, making it harder for defenders to rely on network signals for detection,” the head of Google’s Threat Analysis Group Shane Huntley wrote in the blog post. Google In the McAfee impersonation scam, the recipient of the email would be prompted to install a legitimate version of McAfee software from GitHub, while at the same time malware was installed without the user being aware. Huntley noted that whenever Google detects that a user has been the victim of a government-backed attack, it sends them a warning. The blog post doesn’t mention who was affected by APT-31’s latest attacks, but said there had been “increased…Continue readingGoogle says Chinese hackers who targeted Biden campaign are faking McAfee software

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Engadget

Chinese app offers a peek over the Great Firewall, with big catches

There’s also the challenge of finding the app. It had vanished from Huawei’s Android app store as of October 10th, and a website TechCrunch linked was down as we wrote this. It’s not certain what prompted these moves, but it wouldn’t be shocking if even that peek past the usual censorship was too much for officials. There could be consequences either way. The developer, Shanghai Fengxuan Information Technology Co., is 70 percent owned by a subsidiary of Chinese security firm Qihoo 360. Whether or not Qihoo greenlit the app, it could face questions if the government didn’t approve the release. Source linkContinue readingChinese app offers a peek over the Great Firewall, with big catches

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The Verge

US tightens trade restrictions on Chinese chipmaker SMIC

The US Commerce Department has added China’s largest chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), to its entity list, after it determined there an “unacceptable risk” that equipment SMIC received could be used for military purposes, Reuters reported. The move blocks US computer chip companies from exporting technology to SMIC without an export license. SMIC is the latest major Chinese firm to be put on the entity list; the Trump administration added phone manufacturer Huawei to the list in 2019. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Commerce Department wrote in a letter to the computer chip industry on Friday that exporting products to SMIC would “pose an unacceptable risk of diversion to a military end use in the People’s Republic of China.” In April, the administration tightened export rules on shipping goods to China. It claims it’s seeking to keep US companies from selling products that could be used to help strengthen the Chinese military. SMIC told Reuters in a statement that it makes semiconductors and provides services “solely for commercial end-users and end-uses,” and that it has “no relationship with the Chinese military and does not manufacture for any military end-users or end-uses.” Source linkContinue readingUS tightens trade restrictions on Chinese chipmaker SMIC

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The Next Web

Facebook removes Chinese network of fake accounts that used AI-generated faces

Facebook has taken down a China-based network of fake accounts that used AI-generated faces to spread government propaganda across the platform, according to research by analytics firm Graphika. The social network announced on Tuesday that it had removed 155 accounts, 11 Pages, nine Groups, and six Instagram accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity.” The fake accounts predominantly focused on Southeast Asia, where they posted about events including Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea and developments in Hong Kong. But a smaller cluster posing as Americans posted content that both supported and criticized then-presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Donald Trump. Before the takedown, Facebook asked Graphika to analyze the data. The Pentagon-linked firm found that some accounts had stolen their profile photos from real people, which can be exposed as inauthentic through reverse image searches. Others tried to evade detection by using Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN) to create fake pictures, a tactic that Graphika says “has exploded in the last year.” [Read: Are EVs too expensive? Here are 5 common myths, debunked] The company found 12 profile pictures that it suspects were AI-generated, due to their distorted backgrounds and asymmetrical peripheral features such as ears, glasses, and hair. Credit: GraphikaNine superimposed profile pictures show the alignment of their eyes, “an indicator of synthetic image generation,” according to Graphika. Graphika spotted some of these signals by rendering the images opaque and then superimposing them on top of each other to expose the alignment of the features. The firm…Continue readingFacebook removes Chinese network of fake accounts that used AI-generated faces

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VentureBeat

Facebook removes ‘inauthentic’ Chinese accounts for U.S. political interference

(Reuters) — Facebook said Tuesday it had removed a network of inauthentic Chinese accounts that were interfering in Asian and American politics, including some that posted material supporting and opposing U.S. President Donald Trump. The social networking company said it suspended 155 accounts on its main platform along with six Instagram accounts. The most widely followed accounts and pages were in the Philippines, where they shared content supporting China’s actions in the contested South China Sea and President Rodrigo Duterte. The U.S. accounts had fewer followers and posted content fueling both sides of the American election that will be held on Nov. 3, the company said. Facebook cybersecurity policy chief Nathaniel Gleicher said that the takedown was the company’s first of Chinese-based accounts on foreign-interference grounds with any engagement in U.S. politics. But he said the American accounts and groups seemed aimed mainly at building an audience. “The volume of content is so low, it’s very hard to assess what their goal is,” Gleicher said. Trump and his intelligence officials have said China was favoring Democratic challenger Joe Biden, while Democrats in Congress have said Russia is being more aggressive. The Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond immediately to an email seeking comment. The network of accounts, pages and groups used virtual private networks and other tools to make it appear they were operated from somewhere other than China, Facebook said. Fewer than 3,000 people followed the fake American pages, while more than 100,000 accounts tracked those in Philippines.…Continue readingFacebook removes ‘inauthentic’ Chinese accounts for U.S. political interference

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TechCrunch

Chinese propaganda network on Facebook used AI-generated faces – TechCrunch

Facebook removed two networks of fake accounts spreading government propaganda on the platform Tuesday, one originating in China and one in the Philippines. In its latest report on this kind of coordinated campaign, the company says it took down 155 Facebook accounts, 11 pages, 9 groups and 7 Instagram accounts connected to the Chinese activity and 57 accounts, 31 Pages and 20 Instagram accounts for the activity in the Philippines. Both operations broke Facebook’s rules against “coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity.” The company released the report Thursday in coordination with Graphika, a social analytics company that specialized in disinformation. Graphika regularly analyzes this kind of activity in coordination with Facebook and its reports dive into more depth about techniques. In a sign of the times, Graphika found that the Chinese network of fake accounts employed faces created through an AI technique known as GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks). Those fake faces are employed to elude detection, but because their visual signature often ends up with subtle quirks and anomalies, GANs can sometimes be easily detected. “This form of AI is readily available online, and its use (or abuse) by covert operations has exploded in the last year,” according to Graphika’s report, which identified a dozen GAN-generated images from the Chinese information operation. “A year ago, this was a novelty,” Graphika’s Ben Nimmo wrote on Twitter. “Now it feels like every operation we analyse tries this at least once.” GANs examples via Graphika The Chinese campaign,…Continue readingChinese propaganda network on Facebook used AI-generated faces – TechCrunch

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TechCrunch

Gangster capitalism and the American theft of Chinese innovation – TechCrunch

It used to be “easy” to tell the American and Chinese economies apart. One was innovative, one made clones. One was a free market while the other demanded payments to a political party and its leadership, a corrupt wealth generating scam that by some estimates has netted top leaders billions of dollars. One kept the talent borders porous acting as a magnet for the world’s top brains while the other interviewed you in a backroom at the airport before imprisoning you on sedition charges (okay, that might have been both). The comparison was always facile yes, but it was easy and at least directionally accurate if failing on the specifics. Now though, the country that exported exploding batteries is pioneering quantum computing, while the country that pioneered the internet now builds planes that fall out of the sky (and good news, we’ve identified even more planes that might fall out of the sky at an airport near you!) TikTok’s success is many things, but it is quite frankly just an embarrassment for the United States. There are thousands of entrepreneurs and hundreds of venture capitalists swarming Silicon Valley and the other American innovation hubs looking for the next great social app or building it themselves. But the power law of user growth and investor returns happens to reside in Haidian, Beijing. ByteDance through its local apps in China and overseas apps like TikTok is the consumer investor return of the past decade (there’s a reason why all the IPOs this…Continue readingGangster capitalism and the American theft of Chinese innovation – TechCrunch

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TechCrunch

TikTok’s Chinese rival Kuaishou becomes a popular online bazaar – TechCrunch

In China, short video apps aren’t just for mindless time killing. These services are becoming online bazaars where users can examine products, see how they are grown and made, and ask sellers questions during live sessions. Kuaishou, the main rival of TikTok’s Chinese version (Douyin), announced that it accumulated 500 million e-commerce orders in August, a strong sign for the app’s monetization effort — and probably a conducive condition for its upcoming public listing. On the heels of the announcement, Reuters reported that Kuaishou, a Tencent-backed company behind TikTok clone Zynn, is looking to raise up to $5 billion from an initial public offering in Hong Kong as early as January. The company declined to comment, but a source with knowledge of the matter confirmed the details with TechCrunch. There are intricacies in the claim of “500 million orders.” It doesn’t exclude canceled orders or refunds, and Kuaishou won’t reveal what its actual sales were. The company also said the number made it China’s fourth-largest e-commerce player following Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo. It’s hard to verify the claim as there are no comparable figures from these firms during the period, but let’s work with what’s available. Pinduoduo previously said it logged over 7 billion orders in the first six months of 2019. That means it averaged 1.16 billion orders per month, more than doubling Kuaishou’s volume. Kuaishou’s figure, however, does indicate that many users have bought or at least considered buying through its video platform. The app, known for its…Continue readingTikTok’s Chinese rival Kuaishou becomes a popular online bazaar – TechCrunch