Uber is finally trading above its IPO price

Uber (NYSE: UBER) closed up 5% Wednesday at $45 per share, trading for the first time since its May 10 debut at its initial public offering price.

The boost comes one day after the quiet period for the dozens of investment banks that underwrote Uber’s IPO came to an end. Which is to say, Uber’s stock price is trading up now that several buy ratings and positive analyst reports were released this week.

Uber raised $8.1 billion in its early May float, achieving an initial market cap of roughly $70 billion. Uber’s IPO was deemed a failure by many, after its share price failed to pop on its first day of trading, opening at a meager $42 apiece. Uber was previously valued at $72 billion by venture capitalists after raising billions of dollars in a 10-year period.

In the last four weeks, Uber’s stock price has remained relatively stable, however, hovering between $40 and $43 per share.

In his first analyst note on the company, Raymond James analyst Justin Patterson wrote that Uber would be a leader in the “offline era,” and gave it a $50 price target.

“In contrast to traditional Internet companies, Uber is a digital app powering offline behavior,” Patterson said, per CNBC. “This elevates cost in the early years, but arguably creates a more defensible long-term position.”

Uber, additionally, released its first-ever earnings report last week, disclosing losses of $1 billion in the first quarter of 2019 on revenue of $3.1 billion. The numbers came in as expected, with analysts anticipating an adjusted net loss per share of 76 cents on earnings of about $3.1 billion.

“Earlier this month we took the important step of becoming a public company, and we are now focused on executing our strategy to become a one-stop shop for local transportation and commerce,” Uber chief Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement regarding the company’s earnings. “In the first quarter, engagement across our platform was higher than ever, with an average of 17 million trips per day and an annualized gross bookings run-rate of $59 billion.”

China says apps should get user consent before tracking

Chinese regulators might follow the European Union’s lead to make life harder for internet companies such as TikTok that closely track behavior of their users in a move that could significantly hurt their revenue.

Last week, Beijing proposed a new set of measures to enforce data security for individuals and the nation overall. According to Article 23 of the draft (see translation from China Law Translate), companies that are “using user data and algorithms to deliver news information or commercial advertisements shall conspicuously label them with the words ‘targeted’ and provide users with functionality to stop receiving information from targeted delivery.”

This is good news for users in China, who could potentially take more control over what they are shown and what tech companies collect about them.

On the flip side of the coin, stepped up data protection will “definitely have an impact” on companies that rely heavily on data crunching business, Michael Tan, partner at law firm Taylor Wessing specializing in data policies, told TechCrunch.

Advances in artificial intelligence have helped adtech players get better at predicting people’s clicks, and, boost their income. Few have done it better in the Chinese mobile age than Bytedance, the startup that operates TikTok and the popular Chinese news app Jinri Toutiao. In between viral videos and news are customized ads that help the eight-year-old company, which was last valued at a whopping $75 billion, make money.

Bytedance’s success with programmatic ads prompted more entrenched tech giants to follow suit. Baidu, which is China’s answer to Google with a lucrative ad business, added a personalized news feed to its search app in 2016 as Toutiao hit the mainstream. Tencent and Alibaba also incorporated customized feeds into their main products.

“Data is too important for internet companies,” a product manager at a Shenzhen-based tech firm told TechCrunch. A lot of businesses, he said, including Bytedance, are well-prepared for regulatory scrutiny so they have plenty of backup plans and have explored alternative revenue streams.

“For instance, the apps might trick you into giving them access to your data,” the person added. “Even if you consent, you still don’t know how your data is being used.”

Traffic control

In mid-2017, China introduced a sweeping Cybersecurity Law as Beijing sought more control over how data flows within its online borders. A lot of the clauses are broad and vague, but the government has taken incremental steps to solidify them overtime, including efforts like the proposed measures for data protection.

“So far there is no unified data protection legal framework in place, though the topic is addressed by various laws and regulations including the PRC Cybersecurity Law,” explained Tan. “This is quite different from many other jurisdictions like that of the E.U. where there is unified protection framework in place with primary focus on personal data and privacy protection.”

While the set of data regulations touch on individual privacy, Tan noted that the laws’ real focus is on topics “relating to national security protection.”

For example, Article 29 of the proposed data policies stipulates that “where mainland users visit the mainland internet, their traffic must not be routed outside the mainland.” The authority does not elaborate on what counts as “routing,” though some speculate that it might be targeting people accessing overseas websites through a VPN, the tool that allows them to get around China’s censorship apparatus.

Tan suggested otherwise, arguing that the clause might be introduced “with good intention to prevent fraudulent cases including conscious or unconscious visits to overseas websites which promote illegal business under Chinese law, for example, gambling sites,” although doing so may “inadvertently hurt China-based multinational companies that have their I.T. facilities deployed globally.”

The draft measures for data protection, which were published by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top internet authority, are currently soliciting public comment until June 28.

China says apps should get user consent before tracking

Chinese regulators might follow the European Union’s lead to make life harder for internet companies such as TikTok that closely track behavior of their users in a move that could significantly hurt their revenue.

Last week, Beijing proposed a new set of measures to enforce data security for individuals and the nation overall. According to Article 23 of the draft (see translation from China Law Translate), companies that are “using user data and algorithms to deliver news information or commercial advertisements shall conspicuously label them with the words ‘targeted’ and provide users with functionality to stop receiving information from targeted delivery.”

This is good news for users in China, who could potentially take more control over what they are shown and what tech companies collect about them.

On the flip side of the coin, stepped up data protection will “definitely have an impact” on companies that rely heavily on data crunching business, Michael Tan, partner at law firm Taylor Wessing specializing in data policies, told TechCrunch.

Advances in artificial intelligence have helped adtech players get better at predicting people’s clicks, and, boost their income. Few have done it better in the Chinese mobile age than Bytedance, the startup that operates TikTok and the popular Chinese news app Jinri Toutiao. In between viral videos and news are customized ads that help the eight-year-old company, which was last valued at a whopping $75 billion, make money.

Bytedance’s success with programmatic ads prompted more entrenched tech giants to follow suit. Baidu, which is China’s answer to Google with a lucrative ad business, added a personalized news feed to its search app in 2016 as Toutiao hit the mainstream. Tencent and Alibaba also incorporated customized feeds into their main products.

“Data is too important for internet companies,” a product manager at a Shenzhen-based tech firm told TechCrunch. A lot of businesses, he said, including Bytedance, are well-prepared for regulatory scrutiny so they have plenty of backup plans and have explored alternative revenue streams.

“For instance, the apps might trick you into giving them access to your data,” the person added. “Even if you consent, you still don’t know how your data is being used.”

Traffic control

In mid-2017, China introduced a sweeping Cybersecurity Law as Beijing sought more control over how data flows within its online borders. A lot of the clauses are broad and vague, but the government has taken incremental steps to solidify them overtime, including efforts like the proposed measures for data protection.

“So far there is no unified data protection legal framework in place, though the topic is addressed by various laws and regulations including the PRC Cybersecurity Law,” explained Tan. “This is quite different from many other jurisdictions like that of the E.U. where there is unified protection framework in place with primary focus on personal data and privacy protection.”

While the set of data regulations touch on individual privacy, Tan noted that the laws’ real focus is on topics “relating to national security protection.”

For example, Article 29 of the proposed data policies stipulates that “where mainland users visit the mainland internet, their traffic must not be routed outside the mainland.” The authority does not elaborate on what counts as “routing,” though some speculate that it might be targeting people accessing overseas websites through a VPN, the tool that allows them to get around China’s censorship apparatus.

Tan suggested otherwise, arguing that the clause might be introduced “with good intention to prevent fraudulent cases including conscious or unconscious visits to overseas websites which promote illegal business under Chinese law, for example, gambling sites,” although doing so may “inadvertently hurt China-based multinational companies that have their I.T. facilities deployed globally.”

The draft measures for data protection, which were published by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top internet authority, are currently soliciting public comment until June 28.

Maine lawmakers pass bill to prevent ISPs from selling browsing data without consent

Good news!

Maine lawmakers have passed a bill that will prevent internet providers from selling consumers’ private internet data to advertisers.

The state’s senate unanimously passed the bill 35-0 on Thursday following an earlier vote by state representatives 96-45 in favor of the bill.

The bill, if signed into law by state governor Janet Mills, will force the national and smaller regional internet providers operating in the state to first obtain permission from residents before their data can be sold or passed onto advertisers or other third parties.

Maine has about 1.3 million residents.

The Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission voted in 2017 to allow internet providers to sell customers’ private and personal internet data and browsing histories — including which websites a user visits and for how long — to advertisers for the biggest buck. Congress later passed the measure into law.

At the time, the ACLU explained how this rule change affected ordinary Americans:

Your internet provider sees everything you do online. Even if the website you’re visiting is encrypted, your ISP can still see the website name, how frequently you visit the website, and how long you’re there for. And, because you are a paying customer, your ISP knows your social security number, full legal name, address, and bank account information. Linking all that information can reveal a lot about you – for example, if you are visiting a religious website or a support site for people with a particular illness.

In its latest remarks, the ACLU — which along with the Open Technology Institute and New America helped to draft the legislation — praised lawmakers for passing the bill, calling it the “strongest” internet privacy bill of any state.

“Today, the Maine legislature did what the U.S. Congress has thus far failed to do and voted to put consumer privacy before corporate profits,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director at the ACLU of Maine, in  a statement.

“Nobody should have to choose between using the internet and protecting their own data,” she said.

UK Internet attitudes study finds public support for social media regulation

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has published a new joint report and stat-fest on Internet attitudes and usage with the national data protection watchdog, the ICO — a quantitative study to be published annually which they’re calling the Online Nation report.

The new structure hints at the direction of travel for online regulation in the UK, following government plans set out in a recent whitepaper to regulate online harms — which will include creating a new independent regulator to ensure Internet companies meet their responsibilities.

Ministers are still consulting on whether this should be a new or existing body. But both Ofcom and the ICO have relevant interests in being involved — so it’s fitting to see joint working going into this report.

As most of us spend more time than ever online, we’re increasingly worried about harmful content — and also more likely to come across it,” writes Yih-Choung Teh, group director of strategy and research at Ofcom, in a statement. “ For most people, those risks are still outweighed by the huge benefits of the internet. And while most internet users favour tighter rules in some areas, particularly social media, people also recognise the importance of protecting free speech – which is one of the internet’s great strengths.”

While it’s not yet clear exactly what form the UK’s future Internet regulator will take, the Online Nation report does suggest a flavor of the planned focus.

The report, which is based on responses from 2,057 adult internet users and 1,001 children, flags as a top-line finding that eight in ten adults have concerns about some aspects of Internet use and further suggests the proportion of adults concerned about going online has risen from 59% to 78% since last year (though its small-print notes this result is not directly comparable with last year’s survey so “can only be interpreted as indicative”).

Another stat being highlighted is a finding that 61% of adults have had a potentially harmful online experience in the past year — rising to 79% among children (aged 12-15). (Albeit with the caveat that it’s using a “broad definition”, with experiences ranging from “mildly annoying to seriously harmful”.)

While a full 83% of polled adults are found to have expressed concern about harms to children on the Internet.

The UK government, meanwhile, has made child safety a key focus of its push to regulate online content.

At the same time the report found that most adults (59%) agree that the benefits of going online outweigh the risks, and 61% of children think the internet makes their lives better.

While Ofcom’s annual Internet reports of years past often had a fairly dry flavor, tracking usage such as time spent online on different devices and particular services, the new joint study puts more of an emphasis on attitudes to online content and how people understand (or don’t) the commercial workings of the Internet — delving into more nuanced questions, such as by asking web users whether they understand how and why their data is collected, and assessing their understanding of ad-supported business models, as well as registering relative trust in different online services’ use of personal data.

The report also assesses public support for Internet regulation — and on that front it suggests there is increased support for greater online regulation in a range of areas. Specifically it found that most adults favour tighter rules for social media sites (70% in 2019, up from 52% in 2018); video-sharing sites (64% v. 46%); and instant-messaging services (61% v. 40%).

At the same time it says nearly half (47%) of adult internet users expressed recognition that websites and social media platforms play an important role in supporting free speech — “even where some people might find content offensive”. So the subtext there is that future regulation of harmful Internet content needs to strike the right balance.

On managing personal data, the report found most Internet users (74%) say they feel confident to do so. A majority of UK adults are also happy for companies to collect their information under certain conditions — vs over a third (39%) saying they are not happy for companies to collect and use their personal information.

Those conditions look to be key, though — with only small minorities reporting they are happy for their personal data to be used to program content (17% of adult Internet users were okay with this); and to target them with ads (only 18% didn’t mind that, so most do).

Trust in online services to protect user data and/or use it responsibly also varies significantly, per the report findings — with social media definitely in the dog house on that front. “Among ten leading UK sites, trust among users of these services was highest for BBC News (67%) and Amazon (66%) and lowest for Facebook (31%) and YouTube (34%),” the report notes.

Despite low privacy trust in tech giants, more than a third (35%) of the total time spent online in the UK is on sites owned by Google or Facebook.

“This reflects the primacy of video and social media in people’s online consumption, particularly on smartphones,” it writes. “Around nine in ten internet users visit YouTube every month, spending an average of 27 minutes a day on the site. A similar number visit Facebook, spending an average of 23 minutes a day there.”

And while the report records relatively high awareness that personal data collection is happening online — finding that 71% of adults were aware of cookies being used to collect information through websites they’re browsing (falling to 60% for social media accounts; and 49% for smartphone apps) — most (69%) also reported accepting terms and conditions without reading them.

So, again, mainstream public awareness of how personal data is being used looks questionable.

The report also flags limited understanding of how search engines are funded — despite the bald fact that around half of UK online advertising revenue comes from paid-for search (£6.7BN in 2018). “[T]here is still widespread lack of understanding about how search engines are funded,” it writes. “Fifty-four per cent of adult internet users correctly said they are funded by advertising, with 18% giving an incorrect response and 28% saying they did not know.”

The report also highlights the disconnect between time spent online and digital ad revenue generated by the adtech duopoly, Google and Facebook — which it says together generated an estimated 61% of UK online advertising revenue in 2018; a share of revenue that it points out is far greater than time spent (35%) on their websites (even as those websites are the most visited by adults in the UK).

As in previous years of Ofcom ‘state of the Internet’ reports, the Online Nation study also found that Facebook use still dominates the social media landscape in the UK.

Though use of the eponymous service continues falling (from 95% of social media users in 2016 to 88% in 2018). Even as use of other Facebook-owned social properties — Instagram and WhatsApp — grew over the same period.


The report also recorded an increase in people using multiple social services — with just a fifth of social media users only using Facebook in 2018 (down from 32% in 2018). Though as noted above, Facebook still dominates time spent, clocking up way more time (~23 minutes) per user per day on average vs Snapchat (around nine minutes) and Instagram (five minutes).  

A large majority (74%) of Facebook users also still check it at least once a day.

Overall, the report found that Brits have a varied online diet, though — on average spending a minute or more each day on 15 different internet sites and apps. Even as online ad revenues are not so equally distributed.

“Sites and apps that were not among the top 40 sites ranked by time spent accounted for 43% of average daily consumption,” the report notes. “Just over one in five internet users said that in the past month they had used ‘lots of websites or apps they’ve used before’ while a third (36%) said they ‘only use websites or apps they’ve used before’.”

There is also variety when it comes to how Brits search for stuff online, and while 97% of adult internet users still use search engines the report found a variety of other services also in the mix. 

It found that nearly two-thirds of people (65%) go more often to specific sites to find specific things, such as a news site for news stories or a video site for videos; while 30% of respondents said they used to have a search engine as their home page but no longer do.

The high proportion of searches being registered on shopping websites/apps (61%) also looks interesting in light of the 2017 EU antitrust ruling against Google Shopping — when the European Commission found Google had demoted rival shopping comparison services in search results, while promoting its own, thereby undermining rivals’ ability to gain traffic and brand recognition.

The report findings also indicate that use of voice-based search interfaces remains relatively low in the UK, with just 10% using voice assistants on a mobile phone — and even smaller percentages tapping into smart speakers (7%) or voice AIs on connected TVs (3%).

In another finding, the report suggests recommendation engines play a major part in content discovery.

“Recommendation engines are a key way for platforms to help people discover content and products — 70% of viewing to YouTube is reportedly driven by recommendations, while 35% of what consumers purchase on Amazon comes from recommendations,” it writes. 

In overarching aggregate, the report says UK adults now spend the equivalent of almost 50 days online per year.

While, each week, 44 million Brits use the internet to send or receive email; 29 million send instant messages; 30 million bank or pay bills via the internet; 27 million shop online; and 21 million people download information for work, school or university.

The full report can be found here.

Fastly pops in public offering showing that there’s still money for tech IPOs

Shares of Fastly, the service that’s used by websites to ensure that they can load faster, have popped in its first hours of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company, which priced its public offering at around $16 — the top of the estimated range for its public offering — have risen more than 50% since their debut on public markets to trade at $25.01.

It’s a sharp contrast to the public offering last week from Uber, which is only just now scratching back to its initial offering price after a week of trading underwater, and an indicator that there’s still some open space in the IPO window for companies to raise money on public markets, despite ongoing uncertainties stemming from the trade war with China.

Compared with other recent public offerings, Fastly’s balance sheet looks pretty okay. Its losses are narrowing (both on an absolute and per-share basis according to its public filing), but the company is paying more for its revenue.

San Francisco-based Fastly competes with companies that include Akamai, Amazon, Cisco and Verizon, providing data centers and a content-distribution service to deliver videos from companies like The New York Times, Ticketmaster, New Relic and Spotify.

Last year, the company reported revenues of $144.6 million and a net loss of $30.9 million, up from $104.9 million in revenue and $32.5 million in losses in the year ago period. Revenue was up more than 38% and losses narrowed by 5% over the course of the year.

The outcome is a nice win for Fastly investors, including August Capital, Iconiq Strategic Partners, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and Amplify Partners, which backed the company with $219 million in funding over the eight years since Artur Bergman founded the business in 2011.

Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, calls for Facebook to be broken up

The latest call to break up Facebook looks to be the most uncomfortably close to home yet for supreme leader, Mark Zuckerberg.

“Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American,” writes Chris Hughes, in an explosive op-ed published in the New York Times. “It is time to break up Facebook.”

It’s a long read but worth indulging for a well articulated argument against the market-denting power of monopolies, shot through with a smattering of personal anecdotes about Hughes’ experience of Zuckerberg — who he at one point almost paints as ‘only human’, before shoulder-dropping into a straight thumbs-down that “it’s his very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic.”

The tl;dr of Hughes’ argument against Facebook/Zuckerberg being allowed to continue its/his reign of the Internet knits together different strands of the techlash zeitgeist, linking Zuckerberg’s absolute influence over Facebook — and therefore over the unprecedented billions of people he can reach and behaviourally reprogram via content-sorting algorithms — to the crushing of innovation and startup competition; the crushing of consumer attention, choice and privacy, all hostage to relentless growth targets and an eyeball-demanding ad business model; to the crushing control of speech that Zuckerberg — as Facebook’s absolute monarch — personally commands, with Hughes worrying it’s a power too potent for any one human to wield.

“Mark may never have a boss, but he needs to have some check on his power,” he writes. “The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.”

His proposed solution is not just a break up of Facebook’s monopoly of online attention by re-separating Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — to try to reinvigorate a social arena it now inescapably owns — he also calls for US policymakers to step up to the plate and regulate, suggesting an oversight agency is also essential to hold Internet companies to account, and pointing to Europe’s recently toughened privacy framework, GDPR, as a start.

“Just breaking up Facebook is not enough. We need a new agency, empowered by Congress to regulate tech companies. Its first mandate should be to protect privacy,” he writes. “A landmark privacy bill in the United States should specify exactly what control Americans have over their digital information, require clearer disclosure to users and provide enough flexibility to the agency to exercise effective oversight over time. The agency should also be charged with guaranteeing basic interoperability across platforms.”

Once an equally fresh faced co-founder of Facebook alongside his Harvard roommate, Hughes left Facebook in 2007, walking away with what would become eye-watering wealth writing later that he made half a billion dollars for three years’ work, off of the back of Facebook’s 2012 IPO.

It’s harder to put a value on the relief Hughes must also feel, having exited the scandal-hit behemoth so early on — getting out before early missteps hardened into a cynical parade of privacy, security and trust failures that slowly, gradually yet inexorably snowballed into world-wide scandal — with the 2016 revelations about the extent of Kremlin-backed political disinformation lighting up the dark underbelly of Facebook ads.

Soon after, the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal shone an equally dim light into similarly murky goings on Facebook’s developer platform. Some of which appeared to hit even closer to home. (Facebook had its own staff helping to target those political ads, and hired the co-founder of the company that had silently sucked out user data in order to sell manipulative political propaganda services to Cambridge Analytica.) 

It’s clear now that Facebook’s privacy, security and trust failures are no accident; but rather chain-linked to Zuckerberg’s leadership; to his strategy of neverending sprint for relentless, bottomless growth — via what was once literally a stated policy of “domination”. 

Hughes, meanwhile, dropped out — coming away from Facebook a very rich man and, if not entirely guilt-free given his own founding role in the saga, certainly lacking Zuckerberg-levels of indelible taint.

Though we can still wonder where his well-articulated concern, about how Facebook’s monopoly grip on markets and attention is massively and horribly denting the human universe, has been channelled prior to publishing this NYT op-ed — i.e. before rising alarm over Facebook’s impact on societies, democracies, human rights and people’s mental health scaled so disfiguringly into mainstream view.

Does he, perhaps, regret not penning a critical op-ed before Roger McNamee, an early Zuckerberg advisor with a far less substantial role in the whole drama, got his twenty-cents in earlier this year — publishing a critical book, Zucked, which recounts his experience trying and failing to get Zuckerberg to turn the tanker and chart a less collaterally damaging course.

It’s certainly curious it’s taken Hughes so long to come out of the woodwork and join the big techlash.

The NYT review of Zucked headlined it as an “anti-Facebook manifesto” — a descriptor that could apply equally to Hughes’ op-ed. And in an interview with TC back in February, McNamee — whose more limited connection to Zuckerberg Facebook has sought to dismiss — said of speaking out: “I may be the wrong messenger, but I don’t see a lot of other volunteers at the moment.”

Facebook certainly won’t be able to be so dismissive of Hughes’ critique, as a fellow co-founder. This is one Zuckerberg gut-punch that will both hurt and be harder to dodge. (We’ve asked Facebook if it has a response and will update if so.)

At the same time, hating on Facebook and Zuckerberg is almost fashionable these days — as the company’s consumer- and market-bending power has flipped its fortunes from winning friends and influencing people to turning frenemies into out-and-out haters and politically charged enemies.

Whether it’s former mentors, former colleagues — and now of course politicians and policymakers leading the charge and calling for the company to be broken up.

Seen from that angle, it’s a shame Hughes waited so long to add his two cents. It does risk him being labelled an opportunist — or, dare we say it, a techlash populist. (Some of us have been banging on about Facebook’s intrusive influence for years, so, er, welcome to the club Chris!) 

Though, equally, he may have been trying to protect his historical friendship with Zuckerberg. (The op-ed begins with Hughes talking about the last time he saw Zuckerberg, in summer 2017, which it’s hard not to read as him tacitly acknowledging there likely won’t be any more personal visits after this bombshell.)

Hughes is also not alone in feeling he needs to bide his time to come out against Zuckerberg.

The WhatsApp founders, who jumped the Facebook mothership last year, kept their heads down and their mouths shut for years, despite a product philosophy that boiled down to ‘fuck ads’ — only finally making their lack of love for their former employer’s ad-fuelled privacy incursions into WhatsApp clear post-exit from the belly of the beast — in their own subtle and not so subtle ways.

In their case they appear to have been mostly waiting for enough shares to vest. (Brian Acton did leave a bunch on the table.) But Hughes has been sitting on his money mountain for years.

Still, at least we finally have his critical — and rarer — account to add to the pile; A Facebook co-founder, who had remained close to Zuckerberg’s orbit, finally reaching for the unfriend button.

FBI has seized Deep Dot Web and arrested its administrators

The FBI have arrested several people suspected of involvement in running Deep Dot Web, a website for facilitating access to dark web sites and marketplaces.

Two suspects were arrested in Tel Aviv and Ashdod, according to Israel’s Tel Aviv Police, which confirmed the arrests in a statement earlier in the day, Local media first reported the arrests.

Arrests were also made in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Brazil.

Deep Dot Web is said to have made millions of dollars in commission by offering referral links to dark web marketplaces, accessible only at an .onion domain used specifically by the Tor anonymity network. Tor bounces internet traffic through a series of random relay servers dotted across the world, making it near-impossible to trace the user.

Its .onion site displayed a seized notice by the FBI, citing U.S. money laundering laws. Its clear web domain no longer loads.

Tuesday’s arrests follow an earlier operation by U.S. and German authorities earlier in the week that took down the Wall Street Market, one of the largest remaining dark web marketplaces. Thousands of sellers sold drugs, weapons and stolen credentials used to break into online accounts.

Efforts to reach Deep Dot Web over encrypted chat were unsuccessful.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the FBI did not immediately comment. A spokesperson for the Israeli consulate in New York did not respond to a request for comment.

We are leaving older adults out of the digital world

May is national Older Americans Month, and this year’s theme is Connect, Create, Contribute. One area in particular threatens to prevent older adults from making those connections: the digital divide.

Nationally, one-third of adults ages 65 and older say they’ve never used the internet, and half don’t have internet access at home. Of those who do use the internet, nearly half say they need someone else’s help to set up or use a new digital device. Even in San Francisco – the home of technology giants like Twitter, Facebook, and Google – 40% of older adults do not have basic digital literacy skills, and of those, more than half do not use the internet at all.

Mastering digital technology has become a key component of what it means to fully participate in society. If we do not provide technology access and training to older adults, we shut them out from society, worsening an already worrisome trend of isolation and loneliness among the elderly.

As a researcher working directly with isolated older adults to provide low-cost internet, tablets, and digital training through the Tech Allies program, led by the non-profit Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, I regularly hear this sentiment from seniors.

I visit Tech Allies participants – whose ages range from 62 to 98 – both before and after their eight weeks of one-on-one technology training. We talk about their experiences with and perspectives on technology today. In reflecting on why he and other older adults would want to learn to use the internet, one elder told me, “We feel like we’re standing outside a building that we have no access to.”

Another woman shared that because she doesn’t have internet access or know how to use technology, she feels, “I’m just not part of this world anymore. In certain facets of society, I just can’t join…. Some [things] just are not possible if you are not in the flow of the internet.”

In contrast to concerns about technology use increasing isolation among younger populations, the communication and connection possible online can be especially valuable for older adults who are homebound, live far away from family, or have lost the loved ones they relied on for social support in their younger years. Elders can use online tools to connect with friends and family via messaging platforms, video chat, and social media even if they can no longer physically visit them.

Older adults can find online support groups for people who share their medical conditions. And they can engage with the outside world through news, blogs, streaming platforms, and email, even if they are no longer able to move about as easily as they once could. As one elder told me, “I can’t really move that easily without a caretaker and I only have her a few hours a day so [the tablet] … has been a great companion for me and it gets me connected with other people.”

Image courtesy of Getty Images

For older adults in particular, the risks associated with social isolation are profound. Loneliness among older adults has been associated with depressioncardiovascular disease,functional decline, and death. Technology can serve as an important tool to help reduce these risks, but only if we provide older adults with the skills they need to access our digital world.

But we can close this gap. Our research shows that Tech Allies measurably improves older adults’ use of technology and confidence in key digital skills. Programs like this, which embed technology training in existing community-based organizations, should be expanded, with increased funding prioritized at local, state, and federal levels and with greater involvement of technology companies and investors. If we spent even a fraction of the $8 billion invested in digital health companies alone last year on tailoring these tools for older adults, we could drastically expand usability, training, and access to broadband and devices.

Support from technology companies could take many forms. Beyond expanding device donation programs, technology companies should design devices specifically for older adults (when your hand is shaky, swiping can be tough…) and should have tech support call lines tailored to older adults less familiar with the internet (cache and cookies and clouds, oh my!).

Furthermore, broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T should streamline the enrollment process for their affordable internet programs and expand eligibility. Partnerships between service providers and community-based organizations focused on older adults will be key in ensuring that these efforts actually meet the needs of older adults.

To be sure, many older adults also express a lack of interest in technology. For some, this reflects a true lack of desire to use digital tools. But for others it reflects an underlying fear of technology and lack of skills. Appropriate training can help to quell those fears and generate interest. In particular, great care must be paid to online safety training. Older adults are more likely to fall victim to online scams, putting their personal information at risk, but with tailored digital literacy training, they can learn to navigate the internet safely and securely.

The importance of digital inclusion is not going to disappear with the generational changes of the coming decades. Technology is continuously evolving, and with each new digital innovation come challenges for even younger adults to adapt.

With greater investment in providing accessible devices, broadband, and digital training, technology has the potential to become a powerful tool for reducing loneliness among older adults, empowering them to connect, create, and contribute online. As one elder put it, “It’s time to catch up, you know, and join the world.”

China’s Ctrip now owns half of India’s MakeMyTrip following share swap with Naspers

China’s Ctrip, the world’s second largest online travel company, is doubling down on India after it announced a deal to increase its ownership of travel company MakeMyTrip to nearly half.

Ctrip will boost its ownership of MakeMyTrip, which is listed on the Nasdaq like Ctrip, to 49 percent through an exchange deal that sees Naspers, the South African internet giant and early backer of Tencent, swap its shares for 5.6 percent of Ctrip. Ctrip said the investment leaves it with four percent of MakeMyTrip’s voting power.

On paper, each stake is worth around $1.3 billion. MakeMyTrip has a current market cap of $2.69 billion while Ctrip’s current share price gives it an overall valuation of $23.5 billion. In the industry, only Booking Holdings is valued higher with a current market cap of $84 billion.

There’s a long history between the three companies. Ctrip and Naspers invested $330 million into MakeMyTrip two years ago, a move that saw Naspers deepen its involvement after its portfolio company Ibibo merged with MakeMyTrip in January 2017. Prior to that, Ctrip invested $180 million into the India company in January 2016.

“Over the past years we have witnessed the great achievements of MakeMyTrip, and we are confident that MakeMyTrip will extend its success in the future,” read a statement from James Liang, co-founder and executive chairman of Ctrip.

“We are also delighted to welcome Naspers to become our shareholder. Ctrip will continue to work hard to create greater value to our customers, our partners and all shareholders,” added Ctrip CEO Jane Sun.

MakeMyTrip co-founder and co-CEO Rajesh Magow said the deal would take his company’s partnership with Ctrip “to the next level.”

The deal comes as Naspers prepares to list its international business, which includes advertising giant OLX and stakes in numerous internet companies, in the Netherlands.

Ctrip’s past deals have included the $1.74 billion acquisition of Scotland-based Skyscanner and the undisclosed purchase of U.S-based travel discovery app Trip.com. It has also invested $463 million in China Eastern Airlines and swapped shares with Chinese rival Qunar.

Today’s share swap deal is forecast to close in this current Q2, according to an announcement from Ctrip.