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News & Analysis

Your 90-second guide to the day in tech

- January 25, 2021 3 MIN READ

Hello and welcome to a Monday many Australians are taking off as a holiday ahead of celebrating the Big Day Off.

Here’s the news that caught our eye.

 

1.  Dry spell over

Vinomofo co-founder Justin Dry is stepping down as CEO, replaced by the company’s chair, Paul Edginton, from next week.

Edginton has chaired the online wine retailer’s board  since July 2019. The move comes as the company, founded in South Australia nine years ago, positions for a potential listing.

Dry will move to new role as Chief  Entrepreneur. 

“I’m an entrepreneur at  heart so my passion has always been finding new and better ways of doing things, and my  new role will allow me to spend more time doing what I love while continuing to drive the  growth of Vinomofo,” Dry said. 

The business is also getting two new non-exec directors, Giselle Collins and Patrick Tapper, with Tapper, also chairman of BenchOn, taking over the board helm from Edginton. 

 

2. Jay-Z goes pro on pot investing

Rapper Jay-Z is launching a US$10 million seed investment fund backing early stage cannabis startups.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Shawn Carter, aka Mr Beyonce, said he wanted to tackle the imbalance for people of colour, who suffered the brunt of the war on drugs, while now missing out on the legalised market. He’s talking about giving each startup US$1 million (AU$1.3m) to get cracking.

“We were the ones most negatively affected by the war on drugs, and America has turned around and created a business from it that’s worth billions,” he said.

Carter is the public face of The Parent Company, California’s largest cannabis platform and the $10m move will come through its  “Social Equity Ventures” fund, with plans to make a further annual contribution of at least 2% of net income, and focus on diversifying both the business leadership and workforce of the cannabis industry.

 

3. Gov v Googles

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have returned fire against Google following its Australian MD’s extraordinary claim during Friday’s Senate hearings that the tech giant will pull its search function if the government’s plans to make Google and Facebook pay media companies for news becomes law.

Morrison was typically blunt on who sets the rules in this town, saying they “don’t respond to threats”.

“That’s done in our parliament. It’s done by our government. People who want to work with that, in Australia, you’re very welcome, but we don’t respond to threats.”

Frydenberg said: “It seems the digital giants keep changing goalposts. They were originally against what we were putting forward on algorithms and against what we were putting forward on a final arbitration model. Now, it seems they are against paying for any clicks on a search.”

The Senate committee into the News Media Bargaining Code legislation continues on Feb 1.

 

4.  Tackling conspiracy theories

A newly formed coalition of health and technology experts wants Canberra to force Big Tech companies to reveal how much Covid-19 misinformation is circulating on their platforms. The coalition, led by ​Reset Australia​, includes the ​Immunisation Coalition​, the I​mmunisation Foundation of Australia​, ​Coronavax ​and the ​Doherty Institute​ and wants a ​Big Tech ‘Live List’ of the most popular coronavirus-related material being shared online.

Reset Australia executive director Chris Cooper, said misinformation on social media may deter widespread take up of vaccinations, and the Live List could be used by public health officials, academics and journalists to track and trace misinformation.

“Social media has supercharged conspiracy theories and misinformation, pushing some people into echo chambers where false information is all they see,” he said.

One thing they don’t tackle is how to deal with MPs responsible for some of this misinformation.

5. Biden’s big tech buster

Columbia law professor and competition and monopolies expert Lina Khan is reportedly a front runner to become on of US President Joe Biden’s new Federal Trade Commissioners, Recode reports. Khan is widely viewed as a nemesis to Big tech.