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Monday, November 30, 2020

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently joined the centibillionaire club. His fortune crossed the $100bn (£76bn) mark for the first time on Thursday. He is the third and the youngest person in the world to secure this place. The first two were Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates who are worth $190 billion and $120 billion respectively.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index identifies those people as centibillionaires whose net worth is more than $100 billion. A majority of  Zuckerberg’s net worth comes from a 13% stake in Facebook which is said to be 1,590,552 times the median U.S. household income.

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Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook announced on Wednesday that they will roll-out a short video-feature called Instagram Reels. This announcement was followed by an increase in his net worth on Thursday, Bloomberg reports.

It is very similar to the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok owned by ByteDance. The CEO of TikTok Kevin Mayer was seemingly enraged by the news and accused Instagram Reels of being a “copycat product.”

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Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram Reels

The feature allows users to create 15-second multi-clip videos. They can use various kinds of audios, effects, and creative tools while making their video. These videos can either be shared with their followers or with the entire Instagram community if they have a public account. The only difference between Mark Zuckerberg’s new feature and TikTok is that while Reels allows users to upload 15-second long videos, Tik Tok lets users upload slightly longer videos lasting up to 30 seconds.

Instagram Reels

The Covid-19 pandemic has decimated many small businesses and has caused huge financial losses to them. It has however served as a boon to tech giants like Amazon, Apple, and Facebook who have seen a massive increase in their revenues. Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth has increased by $22bn (£16bn) while Mr. Bezos’ has risen by $75bn (£57bn) in 2020 itself.

In an earnings call in July, Facebook announced that the number of users of their various applications like Instagram and Facebook had crossed 3 billion for the first time. Their overall revenue has grown at a rate of 11% to approximately 18.7 billion. This increase is due to the high engagement of people online. Most of them are cooped up in their homes in order to protect themselves from contracting the virus.

The introduction of this feature in the US comes as a huge blow to TikTok especially at a time when they have been accused of stealing personal information. They have ended up facing a blanket ban in India with Australia threatening to follow suit.

Steps taken by the Trump Administration 

A day before Facebook’s announcement, US President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order. The order states that the Chinese social media giant will be banned unless they find an American buyer. They have until the 20th of September to carry out this transaction else they will have to bid goodbye to their users in the US. The president also issued a similar order against the Chinese messaging service WeChat.

Facebook

According to Trumps’ order, the US has to take “aggressive action” against TikTok to protect the national security of its citizens and has described it as a national emergency.

The majority of US citizens have Chinese apps on their phones. This is a threat to “the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”

Trump accused the app of illegally storing the personal information of users including location data, search, and browsing histories. These are allegedly provided to the Chinese Communist Party, which allows them to monitor the locations of US government employees.

TikTok has denied all allegations put forward by the Trump administration. In a statement to The Verge last month, a spokesperson of TikTok said that their highest priority is to safeguard the personal information of their users. They want to promote “a safe and secure app experience” for them.

The person further goes on to say: “We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s Response

Despite launching the rival app Instagram Reels, Mark Zuckerberg said during a meeting on Thursday that he is concerned about the potential ban of TikTok by the US. He believes it sets a dangerous precedent that could end up having long-term consequences in countries around the world.Mr. Zuckeberg added that “it needs to be handled with the utmost care and gravity whatever the solution is.”

Mark Zuckerberg has received a lot of criticism these past few years concerning the way they operate. Just last month he had to testify virtually before the members of the Congress alongside Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent Alphabet. The CEOs argued against the accusations that their companies stifle competitions in the tech industry. 

Mark Zuckerberg has also received a lot of flak from many civil rights groups. His company has been unable to stop the spread of misinformation and limit extremist content on Facebook. His company has also been accused of propagating hate within various communities. Additionally, he has been criticized for Facebook’s reluctance in adopting stronger rules to limit voter suppression.

Rashad Robinson, president of the nonprofit civil rights group Color of Change accused him of hypocrisy. He said that Zuckerberg who lectures activists on the “freedom of expression” has very little knowledge of voter suppression. Senator Bernie Sanders also came up with a bill on Thursday to tackle the increase in the wealth of these tech CEOs. He proposed a 60% taxation of the increase in a billionaire’s self-worth from the start of the pandemic and until the end of 2020. He suggested using this money to fund the American healthcare system.

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