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Month: October 2021

Ирпень выше Одессы. Forbes назвал украинские города, где легче всего вести бизнес

Киев занял первое место в рейтинге украинских городов по легкости ведения бизнеса в 2021 году, составленному forbes.ua. Рейтинг опубликованна сайте издания.  

Общий показатель Киева составил 701 пункт и столица набрала наибольшее количество баллов среди других городов в категориях “Деловая активность”, “Покупательная способность” и “Транспортное сообщение”. В прошлогоднем рейтинге Киев занимал четвертое место.  

Read the full article here

Facebook failures may be real, but the case for increased censorship is weak

Once the so-called Facebook whistleblower revealed her identity and story, it was only a matter of time before the public imagination of one of the largest social networking sites would go off the rails.

What Frances Haugen released to the Wall Street Journal in her initial leaks, which it dubbed the “Facebook Files ,” detailed how Facebook had made decisions on which accounts to censor, survey data on Instagram use among teens, and the status of the civic integrity team tasked with countering misinformation around political topics.

Many of the revelations are fascinating, and some damning, but they point to a company bombarded with external and internal demands to censor accounts and pages that spread “misinformation” and “hateful” content. Who determines what that content is, and what classifies as such, is another point.

In the days since, Haugen has become a hero to critics of the social media giant on both the Right and the Left, animating these arguments before a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection on Tuesday.

It created the perfect theater for Washington lawmakers and media outlets, elevating conjecture, hyperbole, and feverish contempt for an online platform used by billions of users.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats are united in confronting Facebook, though they are animated by different reasons. Generally, Democrats say the platform does not censor enough content and want it to do more, evoking the “interference” in President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory. Republicans, on the other hand, believe the censorship is pointed in the wrong direction, often targeting conservative content creators, and would like to see more even-handedness.

“Facebook has caused and aggravated a lot of pain and profited off the spreading of disinformation, misinformation, and sowing hate,” said committee chairman Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who days before received ridicule for asking Instagram to ban the “finsta” program. (Finstas are fake Instagram accounts created by teenagers to avoid the prying eyes of parents.)

Facebook’s mistakes, especially when it comes to content moderation, are vast. I have joined countless others in pointing out the troubling examples of censorship that are all too often politically motivated. Considering it is a Silicon Valley firm staffed with tens of thousands of employees who likely lean left, it is not surprising.

But the incentive to censor content exists because of the huffing and puffing in Congress, whistleblowers like Haugen, and media pressure to conform to a narrow version of online free speech that has no parallel elsewhere.

Whether it is through the lens of antitrust, to break apart Facebook’s various divisions such as Instagram and WhatsApp, or by reforming Section 230 to make firms liable for all speech on their platforms, it is clear that heavy-handed social media regulation will have the greatest impact on users and generally make Facebook unbearable.

As much as some might like to castigate the unicorn start-up with tens of thousands of employees and a hefty stock price, it derives its power and influence as a platform for billions of individuals looking for connections.

A number of the posts on Facebook may be atrocious or wrong, and they deserved to be called out by those who see them. But in free societies, we prefer to debate bad ideas rather than relegate them to the darkened reaches of society, where they will only fester and grow unabated.

Expecting or forcing Facebook to ramp up censorship will make the platform a de facto arm of our federal agencies rather than a free platform for connecting with friends and family.

While there are many positive reforms that could be invoked in the wake of the Facebook moment, a national privacy and data law, for example, we know it will be the users of these platforms who will ultimately suffer from misguided regulation.

If we believe in free speech and an open internet, it is our responsibility to advocate sane, smart, and effective rules on innovative technologies, not laws or edicts that only seek to punish and restrict what people can say online. We as users and citizens deserve better.

Originally published here

Consumer group slams Toronto councillor’s ride-hailing proposal

A councillor in Canada’s largest metropolis believes road safety cannot be achieved without implementing the city’s own testing and training programs for ride-hailing drivers — even if that means putting a pause on those services indefinitely while formulating the protocols. 

Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto Centre councillor for Ward 13, fell just short of the majority required to debate her motion that would ban the licensing of any new ride-hailing drivers until the city approves an accreditation program.

Read the full article here

The Digital Economy Minister Crusading to Legalize Vaping in Thailand

By Yaël Ossowski

Thailand’s Minister of Digital Economy and Society Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn

In our work promoting smart policies on harm reduction around the world, the Consumer Choice Center is often engaged in battles to stave off vaping flavor bans or tax hikes that will harm consumers and smokers looking to quit.

And while those efforts are vital to individuals moving away from tobacco in liberal democracies, there are countries outside that sphere that still maintain outright bans or harsh restrictions on vaping and harm-reducing technologies – depriving millions of a less harmful method of consuming nicotine.

That’s why political leaders like Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, Thailand’s Minister of Digital Economy and Society, are worth highlighting.

Recently, Minister Thanakamanusorn has come out in favor of legalizing vaping in order to address the high number of smokers in Thai society. He wants to join the 67 countries around the world that have legalized vaping as a means of giving smokers an option to quit.

Speaking to the Bangkok Post, he’s become convinced of this position because he believes “vaping could be a safer choice for those struggling to quit smoking, adding there were at least 10 million smokers in the country.”

According to Public Health England, vaping products are at least 95% less harmful than combusted tobacco, and they have become integral in reducing smoking rates in developed countries like New Zealand, the UK, the United States, and Canada.

But vaping has yet to achieve significant acceptance or legality in many countries in Asia.

At present, total smoking prevalence among the Thai population hovers around 19%, and approximately 37% of all men.

As such, Thailand has long been a target of anti-smoking activists and health groups over the years to crack down on tobacco use. Both domestic and international groups have spent millions to reach the goal of achieving a total 30% relative drop in tobacco use.

One research organization at Thammasat University in Bangkok has been given grants as part of a $20 million global project by Michael Bloomberg’s charity Bloomberg Philanthropies to “monitor” tobacco regulations and push for bans on alternative technologies like vaping.

This follows Michael Bloomberg’s efforts at depriving adoption of harm-reducing nicotine products in developing countries like the Philippines, India, and others, as we have explored below:

Those funds, as well dispersed amounts from the UN’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, have been granted as a condition of certain regulations.

Thailand became the first Asian country to adopt “plain packaging” restrictions on cigarettes in 2019, and passed a harsh tobacco control measure that outright banned vaping products, restricted tobacco advertisements, and outlawed online sales.

Despite the millions spent, Minister Thanakamanusorn points out that it isn’t as effective as the activists claim, and hence he wants to look at vaping as a sustainable market alternative.

The effort to legalize vaping, however, will come with significant opposition. Both domestic doctor groups and the FCTC, as well as Bloomberg’s foundation, have put pressure on the government to enforce a continued ban on vaping products.

They are joined in their efforts by Thailand’s own state tobacco monopoly, Tobacco Authority of Thailand, which makes an annual revenue of 2 billion USD and would see a significant setback in state revenues if smokers were to switch to vaping products.

Considering the odds stacked against Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn’s vision for legalizing vaping in Thailand, it is clear that more voices will need to be heard in the debate.

Overall, we hope for a future that embraces the science of harm reduction and will allow the citizens of Thailand to use the same products that have helped millions of smokers quit in developed countries – if only the government lets them.

Yaël Ossowski (@YaelOss) is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

Greta Thunberg didn’t win the German elections

The Greens did well, yes, but so did a party of forward-thinking classical liberals

Greta Thunberg is back in business. Previously slowed down by European pandemic restrictions, the Fridays For Future movement has now hit the streets, starting in Berlin. ‘We must not give up, there is no going back now,’ Thunberg told thousands of local protesters. The appeals and influence of her movement have translated, at least somewhat, into a stronger climate-focused youth vote in last month’s German elections. The Green party has made significant advances in Parliament, becoming one of the kingmakers in upcoming coalition talks.

Read the full article here

The fight over Facebook’s content censor button will make all users lose

By Yaël Ossowski

Once the so-called Facebook whistleblower revealed her identity and story, it was clear the narrative about the future of one of the largest social networking sites would soon go off the rails.

What Haugen revealed in her initial leaks to the Wall Street Journal, which they dubbed the “Facebook Files,” were documents and research on how Facebook had made decisions on which accounts to censor, survey data on Instagram use among teens, and the status of the civic integrity team tasked with countering misinformation around political topics.

Many of the revelations are indeed fascinating —and some damning — but they generally point to a company constantly embattled with external and internal demands to censor and shut down accounts and pages that spread “misinformation” and “hateful” content. Who determines what that content is, and what classifies as such, is another point.

Among her allegations in her first public interview on 60 Minutes, she posited that the disbanding of the civic integrity team, of which she was a part, was directly responsible for the January 6th riot at the Capitol building. 

In the days since, Haugen has become a hero to critics of the social media giant on both the right and the left, animating these arguments before a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection on Tuesday. 

It created the perfect Two Minutes Hate session in Washington and on major media, allowing unchecked conjecture, hyperbole, and feverish contempt for a platform that allows ordinary people to post online and small businesses to run ads on their products.

Unusual for DC, Republicans and Democrats are united on confronting Facebook, though they are animated by different reasons. Generally, Democrats say the platform does not censor enough content and want it to do more, evoking the “interference” that led to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. Republicans, on the other hand, believe the censorship is pointed in the wrong direction, often targeting conservative content creators, and would like to see more even-handedness.

The picture painted by all lawmakers, however, is of a company adding to general societal discord.

“Facebook has caused and aggravated a lot of pain and profited off the spreading of disinformation, misinformation, and sowing hate,” said committee chair Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who days before received ridicule for asking Instagram to ban the “Finsta” program (Finstas are fake Instagram accounts created by teens to avoid the prying eyes of parents).

The comments of Blumenthal and others were indeed hyperbolic, considering the vast majority of Facebook product users post images, videos, and text to their friends and family and can in no way be considered objectionable, but it helps lead to their ultimate aim.

But considering the premise of these hearings and investigations on Capitol Hill is to frame and inform future legislation, it is clear that regulation will soon be directly targeted at social media content and users, not the company itself, will be the ones to suffer.

As much as one would like to castigate the Silicon Valley firm with tens of thousands of employees and a stock ticker, it derives its power and influence as a platform for billions of individuals with something to say. A select number of the posts on Facebook may be atrocious or wrong, and they deserved to be called out, but they still are the posts of individuals and groups. Users have the option to flag posts for inappropriate content.

What makes many of the allegations leveled at Facebook interesting — albeit insincere (content designed to elicit an angry response, body image issues, unverified stories, etc.) — is that many of these can also be lobbed at traditional institutions: clickbait partisan journalism, Hollywood and the modeling industry, and tabloids that operate as rumor mills. In the age of social media, however, these are dying breeds.

The fact that many media outlets are openly advocating against social networks, technologies that directly compete with them, also makes this quite conflicted as we have seen in Australia.

When regulations do come to pass, and we can only assume they will, the only significant action will be to restrict what can and cannot be posted on the platform. Whether it is the mandatory hiring of a certain number of moderators, a veto process for third parties, or mandatory ID verification, which advertisers are already subject to, it will mean limiting and censoring the platform. This will harm users and consumers.

While there are many positive reforms that could be invoked in the wake of the Facebook moment — a national privacy and data law, for example — likely it will be the users of these platforms who will ultimately suffer.

The new Internet age has led most of the world to untold levels of growth and prosperity. Being able to connect with friends and family wherever they may be is a public good that we have only begun to understand and appreciate.

If we allow regulators to deploy content censorship buttons and restrict our ability to post and interact online, who is to say that only the “bad guys” will be caught up in the net?

If we believe in free speech and an open Internet, it is our responsibility to push for sane, smart, and effective rules, not those that only seek to punish and restrict what people can say online.

Yaël Ossowski is the deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

The EU mandated harmonisation of charging ports will negatively impact innovation

Last month, the European Commission unveiled its plan to harmonise charging ports for electronic devices. With the new legislation, USB-C will be the required standard port for all smartphones, cameras, tablets, headphones, portable speakers, and video consoles. When the EU first proposed a common charger in 2009, they believed it would be the micro-USB standard.

The EU claims that this approach is needed to solve ‘consumer inconvenience’ and tackle the e-waste problem, but that logic falls short of making sense. This regulation will have a negative impact on innovation, do nothing to help the environment, and consumers will end up being the ones who have to foot the bill. The best thing the EU can do to help consumers and not impede innovation is to stay technology neutral.

Even though USB-C seems like the most efficient charger at the moment, we can’t predict how this technology will develop in the future. For example, in 2009, when the European Union first proposed a common charger, micro-USB was considered the standard Had this common charger been passed then, would European consumers have lost out on the now more-popular USB-C devices that are the new standard? Time has shown us that there are always better and more efficient technologies waiting in the wings. By legislating one common charger, the EU will be responsible for delaying innovation that will deprive consumers of choice not only now, but in the future. Adopting this proposal by the European Parliament and the Council could take many more months, by which time many companies may even find better solutions than what is currently proposed.

With fast-developing technology, there’s no guarantee that USB-C will still be considered the most efficient charging technology even months from now. Plus, as more and more companies are experimenting with wireless chargers it is very likely that charging cables will become obsolete. If this proposal is accepted, companies will be forced to provide the plug anyway. 

When Apple decided to drop the headphone port for iPhones in 2016, many were skeptical about the move. But consumers eventually came to appreciate wireless technology and not having to deal with wires that always mystically entangle the moment you put it in the pocket. Had the EU or any other government body tried to intervene and fix the “inconvenience”, we probably wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the benefits of them.

More disturbingly, this decision specifically targets Apple, the only company that uses a unique lightning cable for its products. Considering how many iPhone users exist in Europe, this proposal would have an immediate impact, forcing users to trash their existing wires and have to purchase new ones. It is hard not to be skeptical about this move. Innovators will keep innovating and we have new and improved versions of the products that pop up in the market almost daily. What we need is more competition, which is the main driving force behind innovation. Common charger mandates will do nothing but infringe on this entrepreneurial spirit, and mandate technology that will likely soon be obsolete. 

With this proposal, the EU is choosing favourites and endorsing a specific technology, when in reality it should be practicing technology neutrality. Rather than force companies to adopt a commission-favoured solution, the EU should simply issue general recommendations, leaving it up to the companies and consumers to make the ultimate choice of which charging wire they want to use.

Cannabis Freedom Alliance Doubles Membership with Addition of New Values Members and Working Groups

Today, the Cannabis Freedom Alliance (CFA) added a new class of membership, Values Members, who share a vision with CFA of ending prohibition in a manner consistent with helping all Americans achieve their full potential and limiting the number of barriers that inhibit innovation and entrepreneurship in a free and open market; and three new working groups focused on CFA’s core values: Successful Second Chances and Competitive Open Markets.

CFA congratulates, and is proud to welcome, the newest additions to the coalition: Consumer Choice Center (CCC), End It For Good (EFIG), Nevada Policy (NP), R Street Institute (RSI), and Students for Liberty (SFL).

Read the full article here

A Europe without the sharing economy: scary tale or real future?

The latest legal challenges to Uber are yet another example of policymakers giving sharing economy platforms an unnecessarily hard time despite the flexibility and independence they offer both workers and consumers.

Uber’s fight for existence in Brussels is a win-or-lose moment for the sharing economy in the European Union. The clash comes at a time when steadfast legislative and court actions across the bloc aim to reclassify platform workers as employees and upend opportunities for contractors. Unless the worrying trend is reversed, European consumers will find themselves cut off from innovation and choice.

The current Brussels Uber ban is based on an archaic 1995 law that prohibits drivers from using smartphones. While it should be a great shame for all of Belgium that such a law has remained untouched till today, it is also hardly surprising. Brussels’ taxi lobby has long been unhappy with the emergence of ridesharing, and these restrictions play to their benefit.

Uber began operating in Brussels in 2014 and had to continuously resist the system and fight back through costly court appeals and restrictions to survive. In 2015, the Belgian commercial court banned UberPOP — a traditional peer-to-peer service — by ruling in favour of Taxis Verts, a cab firm, just to name one example. Since then, Uber drivers have had to get a special licence to operate, which made the service more expensive and less accessible.

However, consumers in Brussels still enjoy the services of Uber. Over 1200 residents of the EU capital signed a petition against the smartphone ban, arguing that “there is no valid and digital alternative to the platform in Brussels at the moment”. On the supply side, there are currently about 2000 drivers using the Uber app. The fact that the Brussels government is selectively enforcing an old law only now, after multiple attempts to get rid of Uber, shows that the company crossed the Rubicon of success, and it has become too inconvenient and competitive to the taxi lobby.

Recently, in Brussels, there have also been calls to reclassify self-employed drivers as employees. This witch hunt after the gig economy mirrors the recent Dutch court ruling about employment benefits for ridesharing drivers and Spanish “riders” law, which concerns the status of delivery workers. Under the pretence of providing security and stability, these interventions threaten the very nature of the sharing economy and are oblivious to the drivers’ needs and flexibility.

Sharing economy platforms give their contractors flexibility and independence, and that is exactly what those choosing to ride share or deliver food are seeking. By surveying 1,001 active Uber drivers in London, a 2018 study by the University of Oxford and Lund University found that they joined the platform because of autonomy, scheduling flexibility, or improved work-life balance that the sharing economy provides. Moreover, the flexibility was so valuable to them that they would only accept fixed schedules on the condition of significant earnings increases.

Being an independent contractor is linked with “greater enjoyment of daily activities, a decrease in psychological strain, and a greater ability to face problems”, according to a study at the Paris School of Economics. In pursuit of “better” labour standards, it is easy to forget that value is subjective, and that one size doesn’t fit all. Drivers who make a living through platforms make a conscious choice in favour of flexibility and autonomy, and their freedom to do so must be preserved.

By providing value to thousands of consumers and giving platform contractors a chance to plan their time better through alternative work arrangements, the sharing economy makes our lives easier, better, and more exciting. But some European policymakers are giving the sharing economy in the EU — and especially ridesharing — a hard time, which it doesn’t deserve. It’s time for that to stop.

Originally published here

Laboratórios europeus pressionam Brasil contra quebra de patente

Já quando o assunto é câncer metastático, SUS não tem atualização de novas tecnologias para tratar pacientes.

No último dia 23, 12 membros do Parlamento Europeu, de cinco nacionalidades diferentes e dos mais diversos partidos políticos expressaram preocupações com o futuro das relações entre Brasil e UE aos presidentes da Câmara dos Deputados, Arthur Lira; e do Senado Federal, Rodrigo Pacheco. Na carta, os parlamentares questionam como as indústrias europeias, de vários setores que dependem de proteção de PI, podem investir e comercializar no Brasil após a Lei nº 14.200 de 2 de setembro de 2021, que prejudica o ambiente de propriedade intelectual (PI) no Brasil, ser aprovada. Esta semana, os parlamentares devem votar se mantém ou não os artigos que foram vetados por Bolsonaro na Lei nº 14.200, em especial os parágrafos 8, 9 e 10 que falam sobre a transferência de conhecimento (know-how) do objeto protegido.

Para Fábio Fernandes, diretor global de comunicação da associação de consumidores Consumer Choice Center, esta decisão preocupa muito consumidores e pacientes brasileiros pois decidirá se no futuro medicamentos para doenças crônicas estarão disponíveis no mercado nacional.

Read the full article here

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