Toxic Insta hides the fact

Also in today’s edition: Vi gets a breather, Glassdoor buys Fishbowl, App Annie broke a vow

Good morning! One of the most popular directors of our time, Christopher Nolan, has left Warner Brothers. If you go back to January, Nolan had slammed WB and called HBO Max the worst platform out there. He blamed the streaming platform for Tenet’s lack of success at the box office. Not Covid-19 or that you had to watch the film in reverse or something. He is now going to make a film on an atom bomb. Our only hope is that the film doesn’t take us through space and time just to end up behind a bookcase and believe in the power of love. Just saying.

The Market Signal

Stocks: The union cabinet was the hero of the trading day Wednesday. Benchmark indices set record highs both intra-day as well as at closing. Production-linked incentives for the auto sector and relief for debt-ridden telecom companies boosted sentiment. The bullish trend encompassed the broader market with the 325 stocks on the BSE-500 index moving up.

Vi Gets A Lifeline

An ailing Vodafone Idea (Vi) will finally get some relief. The Union Cabinet has given up to four years to telecom companies to pay dues of its share of revenue known as Adjusted Gross Revenue. Meanwhile, The Economic Times reported that telcos will also be given a choice to convert their dues into government equity. 

Temporary relief: For Vi, which has been struggling to settle the payments, this comes as a big relief. It paid Rs 7,854 crore but still owes Rs 9,000 crore in its next installment. Bharti Airtel will benefit too. Now that there’s time for the payments, the cash flow situation of telcos will improve. 

Revenue deficit: To make up for the revenue loss, the government will charge interest on delayed payments. The relief comes just weeks after Kumar Mangalam Birla stepped down as Vi’s non-executive chairman as losses mounted. Birla had offered to sell his stake to the government. 

Indian telecom companies can also get 100% foreign direct investment without prior approval.


Spill the Tea on Employers on Glassdoor

Want to do a background check on your employer before taking on a new gig? Glassdoor’s new acquisition, Fishbowl, lets you get the details right out of the horse’s mouth. You can chat with present and former employees anonymously to get inside info while also scouring for new jobs.

A lack of workplace interaction because of Covid-19 has drawn people to Fishbowl, with users growing three-fold in just the past year. Glassdoor, with 55 million users, will now get access to new Fishbowl members.

Anti-establishment: Glassdoor has positioned itself as anti-LinkedIn, but targets the same demographics using less manicured reviews. Although LinkedIn has 774 million users, with the acquisition of Fishbowl, which is positioned as a platform for real information and honest opinion about employers, Glassdoor fancies a shot at the California rival.

Cleanup: Even employers have been turning to the grapevine source to monitor genuine feedback and improve work culture. 

Mirror, Mirror On The Web…

Facebook knew. Mark Zuckerberg knew too. That about a third of teenage girls felt bad about their bodies. And Instagram made them feel worse, the Wall Street Journal found in Facebook’s internal research on the image-sharing platform. Facebook did not reveal the findings, even when it was asked.

“The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits,” WSJ quoted CEO Mark Zuckerberg as saying at a congressional hearing in March 2021 when asked about children and mental health.

What: Researchers at the social media company did what was internally termed “teen mental health deep dive” over a year and half. The study, which specifically looked into teen girl body-image issues in 2020, found that social comparison was worse on Instagram when compared to rivals such as Snapchat and TikTok. The Chinese short-video app was performance-oriented while Snapchat kept the focus on the person’s face. Instagram’s core was all about body and celebrity lifestyle. It was the most harmful of its features, the researchers found. It led to eating disorders and depression.  

Young audience: Instagram rakes in more than $100 billion in revenue annually. More than 40% of its users are aged 22 or less. About 22 million US teens log on to Instagram every day compared to a mere five million on Facebook.

The Signal

In the Grimms’ fairy tale Little Snow-White when the truth-speaking mirror tells the queen that she was no more the fairest in the land, she takes fright and turns yellow and green with envy. Her violence is then directed at Snow-White. Instagram is no truth-telling mirror. It is a looking glass nevertheless, one that algorithmically reads its teen users and manipulates their reality. They become their own queen and Snow-Whites, turning on their own bodies as manufactured anxieties gnaw at their self image. Instagram gently nudges them to the feel-good industry.

Two senators have now asked for the research to be made public. When researchers wanted Instagram to tone down on beauty and lifestyle, one former executive questioned the idea: “People use Instagram because it’s a competition,” the former executive said. “That’s the fun part.”


App Annie Didn’t Take Consent

Analytics platform App Annie lied. It claimed that it took customer consent before sharing data but did just the opposite. Now the company and its co-founder Bertrand Schmitt have to pay $10 million for fraud to the US Securities and Exchange Commission in the first such case.

Anonymity broken: App Annie gave data to trading firms on mobile applications’ usage and performances. The condition here was that personal data would be excluded. But the platform broke this promise by tweaking data to include private details so that trading firms find it useful. Clients didn’t know that the data was deceptive. It’s a violation because decisions to buy or sell stocks were made based on the data. 

Now what? Its Beijing employees also manually altered data to suit wealthy clients. The company has neither admitted nor denied the charges but will pay the penalty. Schmitt has been fined an extra $300,000 and is barred from directorship in public companies for three years. 

Pizza with GST. Tasty.

Alright, fun time’s over. First, the companies added delivery fees. Then they added a surge. Then the restaurants raised prices. Now, if all that’s not enough, the government wants to tax it all. So, your next order is going to cost more. 

Wait, more? Look at your next order carefully. How does it break down? Food, “packing charges”, delivery and surge if you order during peak hours. Now, the government wants to charge 5% GST on that bill. 

Who pays for it? Lol. You. Swiggy, Zomato, and Dunzo are all trying to get you to increase your average order value. The way they make money is through commissions on the food from the restaurant and you for delivery. You think they’re going to absorb these new costs?


What Else Made The Signal? 

Sale time: Will Air India become Tata Airlines once again? The government has received bids from Tata Sons and SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh to buy the national carrier, founded in 1932 by JRD Tata. 

Give us deets: Ireland suspects TikTok is sneaking out data to China. The Irish Data Protection Commission is investigating how the company processes data of children under 18 and whether it transfers it to China. 

Blockbuster IPO: In what is set to be India’s largest public offering, the government of India is looking to list Life Insurance Corporation at a valuation between ₹8 lakh crore ando ₹10 lakh crore. 

Auto sops: Car makers will get incentives worth Rs 26,058 crore under the Production-Linked Incentive Scheme to boost production and hiring. Drone makers will get incentives worth Rs 120 crore too. 

Unicorn games: Mobile Premier League is India's latest unicorn and the second in the gaming industry after Dream11. It has raised funds at a valuation of $2.3 billion. 

Linking business: Networking app, Anar is trying to be LinkedIn for small and medium enterprises, with already more than two lakh registered businesses. It has raised $6.2 million in a funding round.


Dog fight: Meme crypto dogecoin has another fun twist to add to its name: a trademark controversy. Dogecoin was created as a joke and the creators did not feel the need for a trademark. That is, until the joke became serious money. The Shiba Inu-inspired coin now has a market value of ~$31 billion and is now waiting among a dozen others to be granted rights over the name. Whoops.

Sweet departure: To bid German Chancellor Angela Merkel farewell after her 16-year service to the country, a confectioner is making Merkel marzipan that will last for two years. “…people can extend Merkel's time for another two years,” the confectioner said.

Drink to that: German vineyards are selling soiled bottles of wine, sullied during the 2021 floods. The mud-caked bottles, which are selling for €30 as against the usual €10 to €14 apiece, are helping raise money for the region’s devastated wine and tourism industry. 

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