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Facebook to restore news pages for Australian users in coming days

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Facebook has reached an agreement with the Australian government and will restore news pages in the country days after restricting them.

The decision follows negotiations between the tech giant and the Australian government, which is set to pass a new media law that will require digital platforms to pay for news.

“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them,” Facebook said in an updated statement.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has introduced last-minute changes to the proposed media bargaining code that is in Parliament and is expected to be voted into law soon.

Those changes include a two-month mediation period to allow digital platforms and publishers to broker deals before they are made to enter arbitration as a last resort.

The arbitration clause in the media bargaining code has been one of Facebook’s main points of objection.

It states that the arbitrator will rule either in favor of either party — the digital platform or the publisher — with no room for a middle-ground agreement, according to experts.

Under the amendments, the Australian government will take into account commercial agreements that digital platforms like Google and Facebook have already made with local news media businesses before deciding if the code applies to the tech giants.

The government will also give the digital platforms one month’s notice before reaching the final decision.

The amendments are expected to provide “further clarity” to digital platforms and news organizations on how the bargaining code will be implemented, the government said.

CNBC’s Will Koulouris contributed to this report.

This is a breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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India authorizes use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

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File labelled “Sputnik V coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine”, March 24, 2021.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

India has granted emergency use authorization for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, shortly after overtaking Brazil to become the world’s second-most affected country by the coronavirus.

The move, announced Tuesday by the Drug Controller General of India, makes India the 60th and most populous country to adopt the shot. Sputnik V is now approved for use across a total population of 3 billion people, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund. 

“Approval of the vaccine is a major milestone as Russia and India have been developing an extensive cooperation on clinical trials of Sputnik V in India and its local production,” RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said in a statement. The deal includes partnerships between RDIF and some of India’s pharmaceutical companies to produce “over 850 million doses” of Sputnik V in India annually, meaning enough of the two-shot vaccine for 425 million people, Dmitriev said. 

India on Tuesday reported more than 161,736 new Covid cases — the eighth straight day that more than 100,000 infections were registered. The country of 1.3 billion has now had more than 13.87 million total confirmed cases and over 172,000 deaths. Sputnik V joins two other vaccines to become the third authorized for use in India. 

At less than $10 a shot, the relatively low-cost vaccine touted by Russia’s leadership has rapidly gained approval in developing countries as many regions experience second and third waves of the virus. Among the countries that have approved it for use are Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, Hungary, the UAE, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq,  Myanmar, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, the Republic of the Congo, Vietnam and the Philippines. Russia’s health authorities declared its efficacy rate at 91.6%. 

People wait to board passenger buses during rush hour at a bus terminal amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mumbai, India, April 5, 2021.

Niharika Kulkarni | Reuters

The shot, developed by the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, has been criticized by many in the Western scientific community for what they saw as rushed development and a lack of transparency. A month before the launch of Sputnik’s efficacy trial last September, Russian authorities made the highly controversial move of approving the vaccination for people outside of a clinical trial, which the Gamaleya Center said was used for health workers and high-risk groups.  

But the highly-reputed medical journal The Lancet in February reported the Russian jab’s high efficacy rate in late stage clinical trials, writing that Sputnik V’s “vaccine efficacy, based on the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases from 21 days after the first dose of vaccine, is reported as 91.6%, and the suggested lessening of disease severity after one dose is particularly encouraging for current dose-sparing strategies.” 

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that he had received his second dose of a coronavirus vaccine. He has declined to say which one it was.

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Ireland probes social media giant after reports of data leak

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Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Erin Scott | Reuters

LONDON — Ireland’s Data Protection Commission announced Wednesday it is investigating Facebook for potentially breaching Ireland’s Data Protection Act and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation.

It comes after a dataset of 533 million Facebook users worldwide was made available on the internet.

After speaking to representatives from Facebook Ireland, Ireland’s DPC said it believes Facebook may have breached one or more laws, adding that the company may still be breaching certain provisions.

It’s unclear how long the investigation will last.

Facebook did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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Coinbase to debut on Nasdaq in direct listing

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Coinbase shares were indicated to open at about $350 per share on the Nasdaq Wednesday morning after providing a reference price of $250 per share Tuesday evening. Shares are expected to start trading Wednesday afternoon.

Skirting the traditional IPO process, Coinbase will list its stock directly, allowing employees and existing shareholders to sell shares immediately at a market-based priced. Nasdaq provided a reference price of $250 on Tuesday, but that does not necessarily mean any shares changed hands at that level.

Founded in 2012 as a way to simplify the purchase of bitcoin, Coinbase has emerged as the most popular crypto exchange in the U.S. and soared in value alongside digital currencies bitcoin and ethereum. The service now has 56 million users, up from 43 million at the end of 2020 and 32 million the year before that. In its last private financing round in 2018, investors valued Coinbase at $8 billion.

Coinbase is hitting the public market as a record amount of cash pours into cryptocurrencies and tech investors are thirsty for high-growth stories. Snowflake, Palantir, DoorDash, Airbnb and Roblox have all gone public in the past six months and have market capitalizations ranging from $45 billion to $106 billion.

Relative to those companies and others in the IPO pipeline, Coinbase’s recent growth is unparalleled. The company said last week in announcing preliminary first-quarter results that revenue in the period surged ninefold from a year ago to $1.8 billion, and net income climbed from $32 million to between $730 million and $800 million. The number of monthly transacting users (MTUs) climbed from 2.8 million three months earlier to 6.1 million.

For the full year of 2020, revenue more than doubled to $1.28 billion, and the company swung from a loss in 2019 to a profit of $322.3 million.

Most transactions on Coinbase involve the purchase of bitcoin or ethereum, which have been on a historic tear, climbing over 800% and 1,300%, respectively, in the past year. The company has said that its short-term performance will largely be determined by crypto prices.

Bryan Armstrong, Coinbase’s co-founder and CEO, owns 39.6 million shares. In August, Armstrong was granted a multibillion-dollar performance award tied to the company’s stock price, potentially letting him purchase up to 9.29 million options at $23.46 over 10 years. 

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