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Samsung Galaxy S9 launches at Mobile World Congress: Specs, price

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And the electronics titan saw rising competition last year in the high-end smartphone space from Apple and Chinese vendor Huawei.

To counter this, Samsung revealed a new trade-in program in partnership with mobile networks, where users can get money for their old devices. The hope is that it will make buying an expensive phone more palatable and encourage people to upgrade, which will be key for growth in an increasingly saturated smartphone market.

“At the end of the day, if Samsung really wants to keep a user base properly, they need to give the tools for current users to trade in devices to make sure they feel like they aren’t losing money,” Francisco Jeronimo, research director for European mobile devices at IDC, told CNBC by phone ahead of the launch event.

Samsung also showed an improved version of Bixby, its smart digital assistant. In one demonstration, Samsung showed how Bixby could live translate a piece of text. The South Korean electronic giant also unveiled a new version of Dex, which allows a user to connect their smartphone to a bigger screen, to turn it into a full PC experience.

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Publicis’ Levy says social media firms must not decide who has the right to speak

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Social media companies alone must not be able to decide who has the right to speak, according to the chair of one of the world’s largest advertising giants, citing what he described as the “debatable” example of the crackdown on former President Donald Trump.

Maurice Levy, chairman of the supervisory board at Publicis, said on Thursday that it was important to recognize the scale and complexity of managing the future of online safety.

He praised social media companies for adopting a “more active role” in rooting out harmful content on their platforms in recent years, saying they were no longer “in denial” over the need to do so.

However, he questioned the action taken against Trump after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump was banned permanently by Twitter and suspended indefinitely by Facebook, with a string of other tech companies also taking steps to restrict his reach on their platforms.

“It is interesting to see that as long as he was president and despite the fact that he was issuing messages which were not really very accurate, very true and very honest, they have not done anything,” Levy told CNBC’s Karen Tso via videoconference at the virtual Davos Agenda summit.

“It is just that when he was a lame-duck that they decided that, yes, they will act — which is something that is debatable,” he continued. “I believe that when it comes to the authority of who should be speaking and who should not be speaking, we should not let them alone be making the decision.”

‘Dangerous’ precedent

Twitter has defended its decision to permanently suspend Trump’s account.

The social media company said in a statement published on Jan. 8 that the move was taken “due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” adding that Trump’s tweets relating to the Capitol riots had violated its rules on glorifying violence.

Separately, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has since said he “did not celebrate or feel pride” in having to ban Trump’s account. He also warned the move “sets a precedent I feel is dangerous.”

The logos of Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok displayed on a computer screen.

Denis Charlet | AFP via Getty Images

Publicis’ Levy said rules should be the custodian for the future of online safety, adding that he believed there should be a third party to help eliminate and correct hateful content.

“We believe that the platforms have a role but they should not be alone, that there should be a third party that cannot decide who has the right to speak and who (does) not have the right to speak,” Levy said.



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GameStop reverses losses and surges another 30% in the premarket to $450 as mania continues

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Ramin Talaie | Bloomberg | Getty Images

GameStop soared yet again, topping $450 apiece in premarket Thursday, as the Reddit-driven retail momentum continued to heat up.

Shares of the brick-and-mortar video game retailer reversed losses in overnight trading, with it last jumping 31% to $451.10 in premarket trading. The move followed a more than 130% rally on Wednesday in heavy volume, pushing its week-to-date gains to 466%. The stock was worth about $40 just a week ago.

GameStop has been a red-hot target in the “Wallstreetbets” Reddit chat room where an army of at-home retail investors came together in pushing shares higher and squeezing out short-selling hedge funds. The forum, which now has more than four million members, briefly went private Wednesday night as the moderators said they were “unable to ensure Reddit’s content policy.”

One trending post Thursday said “don’t be scared of the drop in $GME $BB. Hedge funds trade after hours to scare y’all…KEEP BUYING AND HOLDING.” The post quickly drew more than 1,000 comments in an hour.

Another top post in the community said “buy high, sell never,” featuring a photo of GameStop.

Some of the passionate Reddit users have been sharing screenshots of their brokerage accounts, showing monstrous returns from trading in GameStop and other names.

“The action in GameStop’s stock is a game of musical chairs and my advice for investors is to sell before the music stops,” said David Trainer, CEO of New Constructs. “As fickle as the trading mob has been to select GameStop as one of their favorite stocks, they could be just as fickle as to when to let the stock drop.”

The Reddit crowd started targeting other heavily shorted names including Bed Bath & Beyond and AMC Entertainment.

AMC skyrocketed 300% on Wednesday alone, bringing its weekly rally to over 450%. In the previous session, more than one billion shares changed hands in AMC, marking its highest volume day ever. Bed Bath & Beyond has also surged 75% this week. The duo dipped slightly in premarket trading on Thursday.

The extreme speculative behavior among rookie investors is unnerving many on Wall Street as mounting losses by hedge funds could spill over to other areas of the market. Some also believe this buying frenzy could hurt overall market confidence and destabilize the conditions.

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered their biggest loss since October on Wednesday as concerns about the mania deepened.

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Systemic change and climate action are key to achieving green goals

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From geopolitical tensions to the coronavirus pandemic and disputes over trade, modern life can often feel bewildering, insecure and disjointed.

One area where there does seem to be some renewed sense of unity is the environment. Just last week, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order to re-join the Paris Agreement on climate change, reversing the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the accord. 

A landmark deal reached at the COP21 summit in December 2015, the Paris Agreement aims to keep global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and “pursue efforts” to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In a statement reacting to Biden’s decision, the European Commission stressed the need for collaboration and consensus going forward. “The climate crisis is the defining challenge of our time,” the EU’s executive arm said, “and it can only be tackled by combining all our forces.”

The role of finance

Politicians are not the only ones focusing on the environment. In a panel discussion moderated by CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick, the financial sector’s role in efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change was touched upon in some detail. 

“In the finance industry, compared to where we were in 2015, there is just this undeniable and accelerating momentum,” Rhian-Mari Thomas, chief executive of the Green Finance Institute, said.

“We’re seeing huge inflows into … environmental, social and governance aligned funds,” she went on to state, going on to explain that the scope of change taking place was widespread.

“As well as the interesting innovation that we’re seeing and the pledges and commitments of individual finance firms and providers, what we’re really seeing is change at the systemic level,” she said.

According to the trade body for U.K. investment managers, the Investment Association (IA), the period between January and October 2020 saw £7.8 billion ($10.72 billion) placed into what it described as “responsible investment funds.”

This, the IA said, accounted for 47.5% of all net money placed into funds and was four times higher compared to the same period in 2019.

In October 2020 alone, more than £1 billion was placed into these funds, a figure the IA described as the “highest monthly total on record.” Still, work needs to be done: the IA said responsible investment funds’ “overall share of industry funds under management” amounted to just 3.0% at the end of October.

Reinforcing her point of systemic change, Thomas referred to the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System, or NGFS. Launched in 2017, the NGFS is made up of central banks and supervisors.

Breaking things down, it consists of 83 members and 13 observers. The latter includes institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and OECD, while members range from the Bank of England and European Central Bank to the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The presence of such big hitters is not lost on Thomas. “All the world’s systemically important banks and many other financial institutions are now supervised by members of the NGFS that are committed to ensuring that the financial services system is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement,” she said.

The challenge facing business

While the big picture may be changing thanks to global initiatives and collaborations, the issue of how individual companies tackle issues surrounding sustainability and the environment is also important.

Another member of CNBC’s panel, Covestro CEO Markus Steilemann, sought to highlight the challenge facing his firm, a major player in polymers.

“We have two transitions to master,” he said. “Number one is our massive energy intake needs to become climate neutral, carbon dioxide emission neutral,” he added.

“And secondly, we have to master the raw material transition, so, going completely away from raw materials that come from coal, oil and gas towards renewable sources.”

Steilemann also highlighted the importance of pursuing a circular economy rather than a linear one, an idea that’s started to gain more and more traction in recent years. 

“The materials we put out there do not need to end up — and must not end up — in landfill, and must not end up in the oceans … they must be recycled,” Steilemann said.

“Secondly, we need to make sure that also our feedstock we are using is not coming from a linear business model and is not extracted from the ground.”

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