Saudi Arabia’s tech ambitions just took a black eye with sweeping arrests

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is one of the world’s most prominent tech investors.

Just over one week ago, Saudi Arabian royalty paraded titans of Silicon Valley and Wall Street through the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh as part of a flashy showcase of the nation’s seriousness about global investing.

Now, that same hotel could reportedly house a series of Saudi tech investors who were arrested Saturday in a sweeping series of arrests that raises doubts about the nation’s tech ambitions and is sure to rattle foreign investors eyeing the Saudis as a partner over the next decade.

King Salman, the country’s leader, arrested eleven Saudi princes in an anticorruption probe that most prominently claimed Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is one of his nation’s most visible tech investors. Alwaleed, the chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company, is one of the faces of Saudi tech investing: As of last year he owned 35 million shares of Twitter and with his company owned 5.3% of the ride-hail startup Lyft, a stake he acquired in part by purchasing existing shares from Andreessen Horowitz and Founders Fund.

The arrests come at a precious time for Saudi Arabia: The country is desperately trying to diversify its investments away from oil. So the nation is marketing itself as the next major global tech player, pouring in $ 45 billion from its Public Investment Fund into a $ 100 billion tech fund organized by SoftBank. And that’s just the beginning: The Saudi war chest will grow next year when the nation’s state oil company, Aramco, goes public — money that could immediately be invested in U.S. tech.

President Donald Trump on Saturday, in fact, encouraged the Saudis to list the public offering — which is expected to be the largest IPO ever — in the United States on the New York Stock Exchange.


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The ‘Me too’ movement against sexual harassment and assault is sweeping social media

The movement started on Twitter yesterday; now it dominates Facebook.

“Me too.”

Those two words that have been repeated millions of times in the last 24 hours on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They’re posted by women who say they’ve faced sexual harassment and assault. And they show the power and speed that social media can deploy; this one seems reminiscent of “ice bucket challenge” of 2014, but sharper and faster.

Actress Alyssa Milano kicked off the movement yesterday, when she tweeted that a friend had suggested that women who have faced sexual assault and harassment post “Me too” as a status.

Milano’s original tweet currently has more than 40,000 comments.

While Milano started the “Me too” call to action on Twitter, the movement quickly spread to Facebook where, as of 11:30 a.m. ET on Monday, more than 8.7 million users were posting or “talking” about it. And that number is quickly rising.

A screenshot showing millions of posts of “Me too” to show solidarity and protest sexual assault and sexual harassment victims.

On Twitter, the hashtag #MeToo is trending in several cities. Twitter is giving it an additional push via a moment featuring tweets from actresses Anna Paquin and Debra Messing. And Instagram has more than 300,000 posts associated with the “Me too” hashtag.


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The hot new cyberattack that’s sweeping the nation

On Tuesday, a powerful and terrifying new cyberattackworm emerged in Ukraine, quickly spreading to the Russian Federation and other countries no one cared enough to report on because they weren't the US. It was hard to tell which infection was worse…
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President Trump wants a ‘sweeping transformation’ of government tech, he says at a White House meeting with execs

The leaders of Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft, who met with Trump on Monday, have a few asks of their own.

President Donald Trump on Monday called for a “sweeping transformation of the federal government’s technology,” beginning his push to update the dated inner workings of Washington that drew some praise — and then some public requests — from the top tech executives at Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

After a day of meetings at the White House with those and other tech leaders — some of whom have been his fiercest corporate critics in the past— Trump admitted that the feds had to “catch up” with the private sector. He said federal agencies had to deliver “dramatically better services to citizens,” for example, while buying cheaper, more efficient technology and adopting “stronger protections from cyber attacks.”

The comments officially concluded the inaugural meeting of the White House’s American Technology Council, a new effort chartered by Trump in May to bring the lumbering federal bureaucracy into the digital age. The group has a broad mandate — converting paper-based forms into easy-to-use websites, for example, while helping the government buy better technology and take advantage of new tools like artificial intelligence.

As the council begins its task, though, Trump sought the tech industry’s help, convening a day of private brainstorming sessions with top executives on Monday afternoon — and several of those leaders, flanking Trump at a table later in the evening, responded with a few asks of their own.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos called on the U.S. government to take advantage of commercial technology — the sort of tools his own company sells. Palantir CEO Alex Karp said he had offered his support in private sessions, earlier in the day, about ways to tap big data in order to spot fraudulent federal spending. And Apple CEO Tim Cook — who also acknowledged that the U.S. had much work to do to modernize — said Washington should make coding a requirement in schools.

On the surface, the White House and the tech industry seem aligned in the push to modernize government — not least because companies like Amazon, Google and Palantir increasingly seek new ways to sell their devices and services to federal agencies.

But Trump and tech have long maintained an icy relationship, most recently battling over the president’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from an international climate agreement. The move led Elon Musk, the leader of SpaceX and Tesla, to skip the high-profile Monday summit, after sources said he previously planned to attend.

In recent days, however, White House officials have sought to downplay any tension between the Trump administration and the tech giants. The president’s leading spokesman, Sean Spicer, stressed on Monday that the president is not fazed by political differences with the likes of Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet who backed Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.

“I think it’s pretty telling that the president brings these kind of people together,” Spicer said. “We will work with individuals, regardless of what their past political beliefs are, to further the president’s agenda and to bring ideas to the table.”

Among the invitees Monday included the leaders of Adobe, Akamai, Amazon, Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and Qualcomm, as well as some of Silicon Valley’s leading investors, like Peter Thiel, who previously advised Trump during his presidential transition. Opening the day’s events, Jared Kushner — one of Trump’s top advisors — emphasized that the government’s tech troubles are legion.

Federal agencies maintain more than 6,000 costly data centers, Kushner told tech executives, some of which are decades old and cost taxpayers great sums. Portions of the Pentagon still rely on floppy disks, he charged. And some of the government’s most egregious tech troubles have great consequences: At the Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, it remains too difficult for former servicemen and women to obtain their electronic health records, Kushner said.

The executives in attendance then broke up into smaller groups, some focused on areas like big data and others on workforce development, as the White House explores new ways to convince tech employees to serve tours of duty in the U.S. government. Still a third group focused on high-skilled immigration, a major flashpoint for Trump and the tech sector.

The top tech companies have lambasted the president for signing a second executive order targeting refugees from majority-Muslim countries, and many fear that Trump might seek to limit high-skilled immigration, citing his comments on the campaign trail. Trump, however, noted during his public remarks on Monday that he sought to “solve” the issue once and for all — and without providing specifics, the president said he wanted to help Silicon Valley “get the people you want.”

Following the meeting Monday, the White House plans to continue its so-called “tech week” push. For one thing, it will convene another round of companies and investors to discuss “emerging” technologies on Thursday.

At that session, top officials at the FAA will huddle with drone companies about the regulatory and safety challenges facing their industry, according to a source familiar with the White House’s plans. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also will be on hand, as the Trump administration looks to solicit the tech industry’s thoughts about 5G wireless technologies and the “internet of things,” the source told Recode. And other senior White House aides will discuss how to finance those devices and services alongside Silicon Valley’s top investors.

The White House plans to announce additional tech reforms targeting the Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday. That agency’s leader, David Shulkin, will travel to Arkansas this week, partly for a meeting at Walmart headquarters, “to learn about their logistical supply chain program and how its best practices can be adapted to help the VA.”

In many ways, Trump’s efforts during “tech week” continue the work of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who spent eight years trying to modernize the U.S. government. Obama also targeted and tried to improve agencies like the VA, and upon his departure from the White House, he left two tech “swat teams” to help agencies come into the digital age. Those organizations, like the U.S. Digital Service, remain in place, even though Trump has yet to fill other, key government science and technology positions.

Trump, though, did not acknowledge that work. At one point, he calculated the companies in attendance totaled “$ 3.5 trillion dollars of market value in this room,” which he said amounted to “almost the exact number we have created since my election.” Later, he quipped about the poor cybersecurity of his Democratic opponents during the 2016 presidential election.

“Government needs to catch up with the technology revolution,” Trump said. “We’re going to change that with the help of great American businesses like the people assembled.”


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