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Meta to cut 10,000 jobs in second round of layoffs

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(Last Updated On: March 15, 2023)

Facebook-parent Meta Platforms (META.O) said on Tuesday it would cut 10,000 jobs this year, making it the first Big Tech company to announce a second round of mass layoffs as the industry braces for a deep economic downturn, Reuters reported.

Meta shares jumped 6% on the news. The widely-anticipated job cuts are part of a restructuring that will see the company scrap hiring plans for 5,000 openings, kill off lower-priority projects and “flatten” layers of middle management.

They followed the company’s first mass layoff in the fall, which eliminated more than 11,000 jobs, or 13% of its workforce at the time, after a hiring spree that doubled the employee count it had as of 2020.

Worries of an economic downturn due to rising interest rates have sparked a series of mass job cuts across corporate America in recent months. Tech companies have led the way, shedding more than 290,000 workers since the start of 2022, according to tracking site Layoffs.fyi.

Meta’s purge of employees has been one of the sector’s most pronounced. On top of inflation woes, the company is also facing down unique threats to its core digital ads business while spending handsomely on Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s plans to build a futuristic metaverse.

In a message to staff on Tuesday, Zuckerberg said most of the new cuts would be announced in the next two months, though in some cases they would continue through the end of the year, read the report.

“For most of our history, we saw rapid revenue growth year after year and had the resources to invest in many new products. But last year was a humbling wake-up call,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“I think we should prepare ourselves for the possibility that this new economic reality will continue for many years.”

Zuckerberg said he planned to further reduce the size of the recruiting team, which was already hard-hit in the fall layoffs. Restructurings in the tech group would be announced in late April and cuts to business groups would come in May.

Meta also will remove multiple layers of management and ask many managers to become individual contributors, while eliminating non-engineering roles, automating more functions and at least partially reversing a commitment to “remote-first” work that Zuckerberg made amid COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, Reuters reported.

The first of the latest wave of cuts appeared to have started even before Zuckerberg’s announcement. On Friday, Meta said it was exploring “strategic alternatives” for Kustomer, a customer service company it acquired last year.

It also disbanded its skunkworks New Product Experimentation team and reassigned leader Ime Archibong to work on product for Messenger, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. Both changes were initially reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Investors have grown wary of Zuckerberg’s prolific spending as revenue growth from Meta’s main businesses petered out amid high inflation and a digital ads pullback from the pandemic e-commerce boom.

The company also has struggled with Apple-led (AAPL.O) privacy changes and competition for young users from short video app TikTok.

At the same time, Meta has been pouring billions of dollars into its metaverse-oriented Reality Labs unit, which lost $13.7 billion in 2022, and investing in infrastructure to support its artificial intelligence usage.

Wall Street has been rewarding Meta steadily since its November restructuring, after its share price fell more than 70% earlier in 2022. The stock received another boost in February when Zuckerberg dubbed 2023 the “Year of Efficiency,” with new cost controls and a $40-billion share buyback.

The latest downsizing indicates “how desperate the company is to get costs under control as its revenues have fallen amid declining marketing budgets,” said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter, Reuters reported.

“Virtual reality is an expensive business to be in, so while (Meta) maps out a path through an uncertain landscape, it needs to find efficiencies elsewhere,” she added.

In his memo, Zuckerberg made scant mention of virtual reality and instead emphasized the company’s focus on AI, saying Meta’s single largest investment was in “advancing AI and building it into every one of our products.”

Meta has teased AI-powered “creative aids” that can generate images, videos and text but has yet to offer any such products on its apps, even as peers have launched dueling generative AI chatbots and productivity tools in recent months.

With the latest cuts, Meta expects expenses in 2023 to come in between $86 billion and $92 billion, lower than the $89 billion to $95 billion forecast previously, read the report.

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Russia aborts planned test launch of new heavy-lift space rocket

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(Last Updated On: April 11, 2024)

Russian space officials on Tuesday aborted the test launch of a new heavy-lift rocket from its far-eastern launch pad.

The Angara-A5 rocket was scheduled to lift off from the Vostochny space launch facility at 0900 GMT Tuesday, but the launch was aborted two minutes before, AP reported.

Yuri Borisov, head of Roscosmos state space corporation, said the automatic safety system canceled the launch after registering a flaw in the oxidizer tank pressurization system.

He said the next launch attempt was set for Wednesday.

Tuesday’s launch was to be the fourth for the Angara-A5, a heavy-lift version of the new Angara family of rockets that has been developed to replace the Soviet-designed Proton rockets.

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China, Thailand sign pacts on outer space, lunar outposts

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(Last Updated On: April 5, 2024)

China and Thailand signed initial pacts on Friday to cooperate on peaceful use of outer space and international lunar research stations, the Chinese space agency said.

The countries aim to form a joint working group on space exploration and applications, encompassing data exchanges and personnel training, according to the memorandums of understanding.

They also agreed to cooperate on plans for appraising, engineering and managing lunar research stations, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said in a statement.

In 2023, China selected a space weather monitor developed by Thailand for its Chang’e-7 lunar probe mission, the agency added.

To be launched around 2026, the Chang’e-7 mission will explore resources on the moon’s south pole, looking to sustain long-term human habitation. China aims to land astronauts on the moon by 2030.

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UN adopts first global artificial intelligence resolution

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(Last Updated On: March 22, 2024)

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday unanimously adopted the first global resolution on artificial intelligence that encourages countries to safeguard human rights, protect personal data, and monitor AI for risks, Reuters reported.

The nonbinding resolution, proposed by the United States and co-sponsored by China and over 120 other nations, also advocates the strengthening of privacy policies.

“Today, all 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly have spoken in one voice, and together, chosen to govern artificial intelligence rather than let it govern us,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

The resolution is the latest in a series of initiatives – few of which carry teeth – by governments around the world to shape AI’s development, amid fears it could be used to disrupt democratic processes, turbocharge fraud or lead to dramatic job losses, among other harms.

“The improper or malicious design, development, deployment and use of artificial intelligence systems … pose risks that could … undercut the protection, promotion and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the measure says. In November, the U.S., Britain and more than a dozen other countries unveiled the first detailed international agreement on how to keep artificial intelligence safe from rogue actors, pushing for companies to create AI systems that are “secure by design.”

Europe is ahead of the United States, with EU lawmakers adopting a provisional agreement this month to oversee the technology. The Biden administration has been pressing lawmakers for AI regulation, but a polarized U.S. Congress has made little headway, read the report.

In the meantime, the White House sought to reduce AI risks to consumers, workers, and minorities while bolstering national security with a new executive order in October.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said it took nearly four months to negotiate the resolution, but that it gave the world “a baseline set of principles to guide next steps in AI’s development and use.”

Asked on Wednesday whether negotiators faced resistance from Russia or China, senior administration officials said there were “lots of heated conversations,” but the administration actively engaged with countries with which it has different views.

Like governments around the world, Chinese and Russian officials are eagerly exploring the use of AI tools for a variety of purposes. Last month, Microsoft said it had caught hackers from both countries using Microsoft-backed OpenAI software to hone their espionage skills.

In response to the Microsoft report, China has said it opposes what it called groundless accusations while Russia did not respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported.

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