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SEC pushes court to hold Elon Musk in contempt over Tesla tweets – TechCrunch

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk is in blatant violation of a settlement agreement reached last year over securities fraud allegations, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a biting response to the court that argued the billionaire entrepreneur be held in contempt.

The response, which was filed late Monday, is the latest salvo in the agency’s fight with Musk that was sparked by the now infamous “funding secured” tweet. The SEC filed a complaint in federal district court in September alleging that Musk lied when he tweeted on August 7 that he had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share.

Musk and Tesla settled with the SEC without admitting wrongdoing. Tesla agreed to pay a $20 million fine; Musk had to agree to step down as Tesla chairman for a period of at least three years; the company had to appoint two independent directors to the board; and Tesla was also told to put in place a way to monitor Musk’s statements to the public about the company, including via Twitter.

It’s that final point about Musk’s use of Twitter that has raised the SEC’s hackles. Last month, the SEC asked a judge to hold Musk in contempt for violating the settlement agreement. The SEC argued that a tweet sent by Musk on February 19 violated their agreement. Musk is supposed to get approval from Tesla’s board before communicating potentially material information to investors.

Musk tweeted Feb. 19 that Tesla would produce “around” 500,000 cars this year, correcting himself hours later to clarify that he meant the company would be producing at an annualized rate of 500,000 vehicles by year end.

The next morning, Tesla announced that its general counsel, Dane Butswinkas, was leaving after just months on the job. Butswinkas said in a statement that he was “grateful for the opportunity” to work with Musk and Tesla and that he plans to return to the Washington, D.C. law firm for which he previously worked 30 years.

The SEC said in this latest response that it was stunned to discover that Musk had not sought pre-approval for a single one his tweets about Tesla.

The Court-ordered pre-approval requirement for Musk’s written communications lies at the heart of the settlement. Musk’s unchecked and misleading tweets about Tesla are what precipitated the SEC’s charges, and the pre-approval requirement was designed to protect against reckless conduct by Musk going forward.

It is therefore stunning to learn that, at the time of filing of the instant motion, Musk had not sought pre-approval for a single one of the numerous tweets about Tesla he published in the months since the Court-ordered pre-approval policy went into effect.

Many of these tweets were about the topics specifically identified by Tesla in its own policies as potentially material to shareholders. Musk reads this Court’s order as not requiring pre-approval unless Musk himself unilaterally decides his planned tweets are material. His interpretation is inconsistent with the plain terms of this Court’s order and renders its pre- approval requirement meaningless.

Musk has argued that the Feb 19 tweet was “immaterial” and complied with the settlement. He also said the SEC’s effort to find him in contempt infringed on the First Amendment and his right to free speech. The SEC has rejected that argument. “Submitting his written statements for pre-approval does not, as Musk baldly asserts, mean that he is prohibited from speaking,” the SEC wrote in its reply to Musk’s order to show cause. 

The SEC told a judge Monday that Musk has regularly published substantive information about Tesla and its business in tweets, beyond the February 19 instance. The SEC pointed to tweets about Tesla vehicle tax credits and pricing, vehicle maintenance costs, plans for expansion of charging stations internationally, the EPA rating of Tesla vehicles, construction and production plans for a new Shanghai factory, and the results of government safety testing of Tesla vehicles as evidence of Musk’s non compliance.

You can read the entire filing here.

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Nokia 9.3 PureView might be a no-show this year

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HMD Global has flooded the market with affordable Android phones but its track record on higher tiers has been less impressive. To date, only the Nokia 8 Sirocco and Nokia 9 PureView can be considered top-tier, at least based on the premium Snapdragon chips they’re carrying. The latter’s successor would have not been on par, at least based on the earliest information we had, but it would have given the PureView brand yet another stab at the market. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening any time soon, as the Nokia 9.3 PureView has reportedly been delayed to 2021.

The Nokia 9 PureView was quite the oddity, though it wasn’t surprising considering HMD Global partnered with mobile camera company Light. It utilized five co-equal cameras to independently take shots of the same scene and stitch them together into a single hi-res image. It mostly delivered on that promise but left plenty of room for a version 2.

By late 2019, Qualcomm seemed to be quite excited for a Nokia 9 PureView successor that would showcase its Snapdragon 765’s capabilities despite not being an 8-series processor. It might have disappointed some who were hoping for a true Nokia premium flagship. For better or worse that successor never came, which ironically leaves the door open for a better device.

Twitter user @Nokia_anew now claims that the Nokia 9.3 PureView has been pushed back to 2021. When that will be is still unknown but it might be sometime in the first half of the year. That potentially means HMD could switch to using a Snapdragon 875 but, considering its preferences for mid-range to entry-level chips, we won’t be too optimistic about the chances.

Even more concerning, however, is the absence of a Nokia PureView in 2020, which could call into question HMD Global’s ability to even make one now that Light is out of the mobile market. The company still has to come out with a new high-end phone but, then again, Nokia was better known for flooding the market with innumerable phones anyway.

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Samsung NEON artificial humans could be on Galaxy phones soon

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AI and machine learning have become the buzzwords of today’s tech world and news but, save for a few exceptions, people envision them as disembodied voices like Siri or even impersonal bits and bytes that silent work miracle behind computer screens. At CES 2020 earlier this year, Samsung and its subsidiary Star Labs showed off AI that was both relatable but also eerily too human. As if it wasn’t enough to have them standing at arms’ length on wall-mounted displays, it seems that Samsung is toying with the idea of bringing NEON to phones soon.

The idea behind NEON is just as bewildering as it sounds. These artificial humans aren’t Siri, Cortana, or Alexa made digital flesh. They are, instead, mean to be virtual equivalents of persons, using AI to express emotions and reactions in a human-like way. Rather than being virtual assistants, they are more like virtual friends.

The COVID-19 pandemic that exploded just a few weeks later may have thrown a wrench in Samsung’s plans to demonstrate the kind of product it wants NEON to be. While the idea of a virtual companion might be attractive to some, having those confined to a life-sized screen on a single wall in your house breaks the illusion it tries to offer. For better or worse, it seems that Samsung wants you to take your NEON with you in the future.

Star Labs president and CEO Pranav Mistry, whose list of achievements include the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Samsung Project Beyond 3D capture system, revealed on Twitter that NEON was already running on his phone. Given his employer, we can only presume it’s some high-end Samsung Galaxy phone. He also shares that the public will be able to see this combination next month.

That still doesn’t exactly clarify what NEON is for, aside from being a showcase of Samsung’s AI chops. Granted, it might have more practical value on a mobile device than on a wall but it will probably be only a matter of time before uncanny valley makes humans uncomfortable with their digital counterparts.

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Apple Watch becomes an iPhone viewfinder with this odd mount

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One of the earliest promises of smartwatches was that they’d let you control your smartphone from your wrist. As the years passed, however, that functionality has taken a backseat as smartwatches become more fitness and health-centric. In fact, aside from media playback and calls, there are very few apps that take advantage of the ways a smartwatch can actually control smartphones. One of those ways is to remotely take photos or videos, something that an odd accessory from an unknown company is capitalizing on.

There are smartwatch apps and even camera apps that can turn the wearable into a shutter button. Sometimes they can even display what would usually be on the camera app’s screen, functioning as a small viewfinder. While that is often presented as a way to take selfies using the main rear cameras of a phone, camera accessory maker Ulanzi is turning the concept into a useful tool for vloggers and live streamers.

The Ulanzi ST-09 Phone Tripod Mount is pretty much a clamp for an iPhone that also has a mount for an Apple Watch. The idea is that you attach the mount to the back of an iPhone and then attach the Apple Watch, making it seem like the smartwatch is sticking to the back of the phone. Thanks to an accompanying Apple Watch app, that smartwatch becomes a small viewfinder that makes the impossible possible. It makes it dead easy to see and frame your shot using the rear cameras.

That setup might seem overkill or even ridiculous just for a high-quality selfie but mobile vloggers and streamers might beg to differ. The iPhone’s FaceTime front cameras have never been their strongest point and video creators have always had to compromise on that point just to use the otherwise excellent main iPhone cameras. This way, the only compromise is the small Apple Watch screen that might actually be familiar to those who use action cameras.

Presuming you already own an Apple Watch, the discounted $19.95 price of the Ulanzi ST-09 Phone Tripod Mount doesn’t look that bad. It even has a cold shoe mount on top to attach other filmmaking accessories, as if trying to tell you it is really designed for pros. The clam seems to be big enough to support even the largest iPhone widths but the accessory might be compatible with the Apple Watch Series 5 and later only.

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