Google Bans 2.3 Billion Misleading, Inappropriate Ads To Secure Web

Google announced on Thursday that it has banned 2.3 billion misleading ads that violated its advertising policies in 2018 and has inteoduced 31 new policies. In its 2018 “Bad Ads Report”, the Internet giant said six million bad ads were banned everyday.

“At Google, we take our responsibility to help create a healthy and sustainable advertising ecosystem that works for everyone, seriously. Our ads are meant to connect users with relevant businesses, products and services; but bad ads ruin the experience. “We, at Google, have been working towards protecting the users, advertisers and publishers by investing significant technological resources,” Scott Spencer, Director of Sustainable Ads, Google, said in a statement. 

Through its “Bad Ads Report”, the tech titan shares key actions and data to keep the ecosystem safe through its policies across platforms. “This will continue to remain our top priority as bad ads pose a threat to users, Google’s partners, and the sustainability of the open web itself,” Spencer added. The company also identified and terminated almost one million bad advertiser accounts, which is nearly double the amount that were terminated in 2017. 

Nearly 734,000 publishers and app developers were terminated from the Google ad network and ads were removed completely from nearly 1.5 million apps. Google also took more granular action by taking ads off nearly 28 million pages that violated the publisher policies.

Sony Is In Talks With Zee To Buy 20% Stake

Japanese electronics and entertainment company Sony Corporation is in talks with Subhash Chandra to buy a stake in Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) and form a strategic partnership. 

Chandra is looking to sell 20-25% stake in the BSE-listed company that is struggling to raise funds and pay off debt, said the people cited above, requesting anonymity.

They said the entire amount raised through the stake sale would be used to repay promoter debt worth ₹13,000 crore.

The talks have reached the valuation stage, wherein Chandra wants to sell the stake at a premium of about 30%, said the first of the three people cited above. The sticking point could be the quantum of stake Chandra wants to retain in Zee. Essel Group holds a 41.62% stake in Zee, of which more than half is pledged with lenders, according to latest available data.

“He (Chandra) wants to have at least a 20% stake in the company. He wants it. So, that depends on what price he is getting. Almost 940 million shares are there. At ₹650 level, even if he sells 19%, he gets up to ₹13,000 crore, which will take care of the situation,” said one of the three people cited earlier, whose bank has exposure to Zee.

On Wednesday, shares of ZEEL fell 3.35% to close at ₹448.10, widely underperforming a 0.58% rise in the benchmark Sensex.

A potential deal with Zee—which has as many as 66 television channels across 171 countries—will be a big boost to Sony, the Indian subsidiary of which operates 29 television channels.

Zee has also entered the over the top space with Zee5. Sony, on the other hand, runs the SonyLiv digital platform, which competes with Netflix, Amazon Prime and Fox’s Hotstar, among others. Sony is also active in local film production via its Sony Pictures banner.

Chandra has been in talks with potential buyers to sell the group’s assets, including infrastructure assets and parts of the financial services business. In January, Chandra, who has been under pressure from lenders to pay up, won a three-month reprieve to find a buyer for ZEEL to raise the money.

To be sure, clarity on a potential deal can be ascertained only in the next few weeks as the promoters approach the repayment deadline. Zee managing director Punit Goenka, however, previously claimed that the deadline had been extended beyond April 2019.

A second person aware of the matter said Sony wanted to pick up at least 25%, which would also allow it to have promoter rights. Reliance Industries Ltd had also engaged with Chandra, but the discussions didn’t progress, the person added.

“Moratorium deadline is approaching fast. He might just sell at some discount also,” this person said.

A spokesperson for Sony said the company had “no comment at this time”. A Zee spokesperson said the company does not comment on speculation. “The stake sale process of ZEEL is in steady progress… Any additional details cannot be shared at this stage due to confidentiality agreements,” the spokesperson said.

Tata Harrier Owner Spends ₹75k To Install 19 Inch Aftermarket Accessory

Tata Harrier stock alloys has been a great topic of discussion since its launch. The vehicle does not give options on alloys, even as accessory. As a result of this, some pwners have already started installing aftermarket accessories on the Harrier. 

One such owner is Anil Khanna, who recently shared a photo on Tata Harrier Facebook group, showing the new dual tone alloys of his Harrier. He has replaced the stock alloys and tyres with larger 19 inch. After exchange, the upgrade cost him Rs 75,000. He has also shared a before and after photo of the Harrier, one with 19 inch dual tone upgraded alloys and one with 17 inch stock alloys.

When asked by a member of the group, whether the larger alloys will deteriorate the ride quality, Mr Khanna says – “it has become much more sturdier post the transformation.” Will it hamper the suspension? – “Sir I am a certifies automobile engineer, was associated with premium brands for the past so many years, trust me, nothing goes wrong till the car indicates – if the wheels touch the mudgaurd edges whilst turning, you have made a mistake, if there is 3-4 inch space between the wheel and the wheel arch- you are ok,” Mr Khanna replied.

He might be right. There may not be any issue with 19 inch alloys, as Tata themselves showcased Harrier with 19 inch dual tone alloys in Geneva last week. Images of the same can be seen below.

Johnson & Johnson Ordered To Pay $29 Million To Woman Who Acuuses It Of Mesothelioma

A jury of California ordered Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday to pay $29 million to a woman who claimed that asbestos in its talcum-powder-based products caused her mesothelioma. 

The Johnson’s Baby Powder also includes this, she said. 

The verdict, in California Superior Court in Oakland, marks the latest defeat for the healthcare conglomerate, which faces more than 13,000 talc-related lawsuits nationwide.

J&J said it was disappointed with the verdict and would appeal, citing “serious procedural and evidentiary errors” in the course of the trial.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company denies that its talc causes cancer, saying numerous studies and tests by regulators worldwide have shown that its talc is safe and asbestos-free.

The lawsuit, brought by Terry Leavitt, was the first of more than a dozen J&J talc cases scheduled for trial in 2019. The nine-week trial began on Jan. 7 and included testimony from nearly a dozen experts on both sides.

The jury deliberated for two days before delivering its verdict, which was broadcast online by Courtroom View Network.

Board Loses Faith In Chanda Kochhar, Husband’s Disclosure, Lack Of Transparency Blamed

Former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar’s fate was sealed after her husband acknowledged dealings with the Videocon Group continuing over several years in April last year and the board found it difficult to believe her explanation of the sequence of events leading up to the disclosure.

Conversations with officials having direct knowledge of the events show the board lost faith in Chanda Kochhar after her husband’s disclosures and her own attempts to explain the lack of transparency.

Deepak Kochhar, Chanda’s husband and the man at the centre of the controversy, wrote to the board in April 2018 acknowledging his relationship with the Videocon Group. The disclosure came a few weeks after media reports about alleged conflict of interest and the relationship between him and Videocon Group.

This followed a Sebi directive to the ICICI board, asking it to seek a formal letter from Deepak Kochhar detailing his dealings with the VN Dhoot-promoted group.

The letter, which ran contrary to Chanda Kochhar’s assertions, forced the board to confront her and revisit her disclosures under the bank’s code of conduct rules.

Kochhar did not reply to email, SMS or WhatsApp messages. ICICI Bank also did not respond.

Board officials were peeved that Chanda Kochhar had continued to claim even after the events of 2016 that there were no business dealings between her husband and the Videocon Group.

‘Deliberate Non-Disclosure’

The year 2016 is important because this was when media reports first surfaced about the alleged conflict of interest.

Responding to an internal ICICI inquiry, Kochhar had said there were no business dealings.

While the declarations filed in previous years may have been out of misjudgement, that she maintained there was nothing to disclose even after the initial charges in 2016 led some in the board to believe the non-disclosure may have been “intentional”.

“It is difficult to believe that even in 2017 and 2018 she did not mention anything about the dealings in her filings,” said one of the persons who did not want to be identified. “She may have asked her husband after the first round of charges. If even after that the dealings did not come out, then it was not professional conduct.”

Chanda Kochhar, who was the CEO of ICICI Bank for nearly a decade, and her husband Deepak are facing investigations on several fronts for alleged corrupt practices in sanctioning of loans by the bank as well as payments by businessmen to Deepak’s business. These payments were allegedly made for loans sanctioned by ICICI Bank.

Board members were also stumped by Chanda Kochhar’s explanation of the events and her reasons for not acknowledging the business dealings. It was Kochhar who had submitted to the board a sealed envelope from her husband containing the acknowledgement. When queried about the turn of events, she said she was merely acting as a messenger and that she had no clue about the contents of the envelope.

She had claimed that she and her husband did not share any business details with each other. She cited RBI rules about confidentiality of clients and said she wasn’t aware of his clients either.

In May last year, Chanda Kochhar admitted to the board during a solo presentation that she had learnt about her husband’s business dealings only days earlier. The board found it difficult to believe her and felt the non-disclosure was deliberate.

The board then hired retired justice BN Srikrishna to conduct another probe. Kochhar went on leave of absence in June 2018, and quit in October before the Srikrishna panel could submit its report.

Kochhar’s resignation was converted into a dismissal in January this year and the board decided to claw back the entire bonus paid to her since 2009. The board also revoked all her future entitlements, including medical expenses, and vested and unvested options.

Remembering Stan Lee’s Cameos, Spider-Man: Far From Home Might Feature One

With the great Comic book writer Stan Lee  passing away in November 2018, it was felt that the audience would stop getting cameos of Lee in Marvel films sooner or later. 

And in a new interview over the weekend, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige hinted at when we can expect that to happen, in addition to confirming that the highly-awaited Avengers: Endgame does have a Stan Lee cameo. Spider-Man: Far From Home is also believed to feature a Stan Lee cameo.

Mild spoilers ahead for Captain Marvel 

The latest release, Captain Marvel, not only has a Lee cameo — it comes during the train scene, when Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is chasing one of the shape-shifting alien Skrulls — but it also includes a touching tribute at the beginning, with the Marvel Studios logo animation transformed to have Lee’s face instead of the superheroes that usually make up the whole thing.

(Before that, Lee’s multiple voice cameos in the Oscar-winning Spider- Man: Into the Spider- Verse— which released last December — meant more than usual for fans, in the wake of his death.)

Asked by Entertainment tonight if Endgame will have another Lee cameo, Feige replied in the affirmative. And when the publication pressed him on whether there will be a Lee cameo in Spider- Man: Far From Home, which opens a few months after Endgame, Feige said: “We’ll see. We’re heading — we shot a couple of others, so we’re coming up on the last of them, yes.”

His comment — “a couple of others” — indicates that Endgame and Far From Home might be “the last of” Lee’s cameos. It’s possible that he means “a couple of others” in addition to his previous confirmation for Endgame, in which case he’s likely being vague since Marvel Studios isn’t currently talking about its post-Far From Home slate, deliberately. We will just to have wait and see.

Avengers: Endgame opens April 26, 2019, followed by Spider-Man: Far From Home on July 5, 2019.

Redmi Note 7 India Likely To Get A Dedicated Night Camera Mode

The recently surfaced Redmi Note 7 is alreadg getting a significant update for the camera software. It has put on a dedicated Night mode, which was seen in the Mi Mix 3 and the International Redmi Note 7. 

The phone didn’t launch with the Night mode initially in India so Xiaomi is now bringing the software feature over an OTA update. And it appears that it’s a big one too – it’s 500MB in size and carries a build number MIUI 10.2.7.0.PEGINXM. However, the March security patch isn’t included.

Facebook Undergoes New System Outage, Weighs Refunding Advertisers

Facebook is rolling out one of its largely spread system outages, with users across the world unable to access its social network and services from Instagram to Messenger for almost whole of the Wednesday.

From about noon New York time, users encountered only partially loaded pages or no content at all, accompanied by a message saying an error had occurred. Several brand marketers tweeted that Facebook’s ad-buying system was down as well. As of about 6:30 p.m., Facebook said it was still investigating the overall impact, “including the possibility of refunds for advertisers.”

Ad sales are the company’s lifeblood and persistent difficulties could be costly. Based on 2019 sales estimates, Facebook Inc. is projected to generate average daily revenue of about $189 million.

Reports on Downdetector, a website for reporting problems on applications and websites, have ranged from troubles logging into accounts to an inability to post comments or photos. Regions affected include the New York area, parts of California and the Seattle region, according to Downdetector. Other problem locations include Japan, the Philippines, Peru and major cities in Australia.

Users cited snags not only with Facebook, but also its photo-sharing site Instagram, the messaging tools Messenger and Whatsapp and Oculus virtual reality devices.

Some users encountered a message indicating the site was down for maintenance. “We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps. We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” according to a Facebook spokesperson.

The timing of a major outage is sub-optimal for Facebook, already embattled by revelations it failed to safeguard user data or stanch the spread of hate speech, fake news and other forms of disinformation. Facebook’s reputation was tarnished after its platform was used by Russian trolls to interfere in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

A U.S. Justice Department investigation into the company’s data-sharing practices broadened to include a grand jury, a person with knowledge of the matter said Wednesday.

The stock had climbed less than a percent to $173.37 as of the close of U.S. trading, and it has lost more than 20 percent since reaching a peak on July 25.

Former RBI Governor Says Softer Inflation In India Gives Way To Support Indian Economy

The former governor of Reserve Bank of India Bimal Jain said on Tuesday that softer inflation in the country puts the central bank in a state of supporting economic growth. 

“We are in a very good situation so far as inflation is concerned,” said Jalan who lead the RBI between 1997 and 2003. 

“There is some uncertainty about the rate of growth. That needs to be strengthened.”

New RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das surprised economists by easing monetary policy in February, and data since then suggests Asia’s third-largest economy could do with some more stimulus. Economic growth slowed to 6.6 percent in the three months through December as political uncertainity ahead of a general election compounded challenges posed by weak domestic demand and a global slowdown.

At the same time inflation remains benign and well below the RBI’s medium-term target of 4 percent, stoking expectations for back-to-back rate cuts at the April 4 policy meeting. Jalan declined to comment specifically on what the RBI should do at that meeting or on other policy settings.

Jalan said the RBI should decide how much it can do to facilitate credit flow and investment in the economy, given global risks and elections at home.

The former governor currently heads a central bank-appointed panel, which is studying how much of the RBI’s surplus capital can be transferred to the government.

He declined to discuss the panel’s deliberations, saying “our report will be sent to the RBI next month and they will decide what needs to be done.”

Dividend Pressure

The RBI pays a dividend to the government every year from the profit it earns from investments, the printing of banknotes and other operations, while retaining a small portion as capital reserves. The government estimates the central bank holds at least 3.6 trillion rupees ($52 billion) more capital than it needs, with finance ministry officials suggesting last year that the money can be used to bolster weak state banks.

The government’s pressure was opposed by the RBI under its previous Governor Urjit Patel, who quit abruptly in December following a public spat with the state over the central bank’s autonomy. Das, a former bureaucrat, is seen as an ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The use should be for the government to decide,” Jalan said, when asked if the transfer of the funds should be conditional.