Flash Briefing: Facebook caught cheating advertisers; GameStop’s Roaring Kitty exposed; interest rates; Covid vaccines

  • Inflationary pressures and currency weakness could force central banks in some key African economies to tighten monetary policy, even as the slow rollout of coronavirus vaccines and new mutations of the disease pose risks to economic growth, says Bloomberg. Mozambique and Zambia became the first two countries in the world to raise their benchmark interest rates this year, and Zimbabwe did the same – up to 40% – on Thursday. Three of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest economies – Nigeria, South Africa and Angola – could follow suit, says the news agency.
  • The South African government had been counting on the Pfizer shot, developed with German partner BioNTech, to step up its vaccination programme after administering the first Johnson & Johnson (J&J) doses on Wednesday. But, new research (in the New England Journal of Medicine) suggests it may only have very limited protection against Covid-19.
  • Namibia plans to go ahead with the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine even after neighbour South Africa stalled its use. SinoPharm vaccines from China arrived in Zimbabwe. The new coronavirus strain first detected in South Africa is estimated to account for about 61% of cases in Zimbabwe.
  • A Facebook employee warned that the company reported revenues it “should have never made” by overstating how many users advertisers could reach, according to internal emails revealed in a newly unsealed court filing, reports the London-headquartered Financial Times. In Australia, Facebook blocked news in an unexpected retaliation to a proposed law that will force the company and Google to pay Australian publishers for news content, reports the Financial Times. The world’s largest social media company has since 2018 been fighting a class-action lawsuit claiming that its executives knew its “potential reach metric”, used to inform advertisers of their potential audience size, was inflated but failed to correct it. According to sections of a filing in the lawsuit that were un-redacted on Wednesday, a Facebook product manager in charge of potential reach proposed changing the definition of the metric in mid-2018 to render it more accurate. However, internal emails show that his suggestion was rebuffed by Facebook executives overseeing metrics on the grounds that the “revenue impact” for the company would be “significant”, the filing said. Facebook and Google have ridden on the backs of free content since inception, resulting in the demise of many smaller, independent publishers worldwide – and have also benefited from international tax arbitrage.
  • Keith Gill, one of the most influential voices that pushed GameStop on the WallStreetBets Reddit forum, was hit with a lawsuit that accused him of misrepresenting himself as an amateur investor, says Bloomberg. “Gill’s deceitful and manipulative conduct not only violated numerous industry regulations and rules, but also various securities laws by undermining the integrity of the market for GameStop shares,” the suit said. “He caused enormous losses not only to those who bought option contracts, but also to those who fell for Gill’s act and bought GameStop stock during the market frenzy at greatly inflated prices.” The suit was filed by the securities class action firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.

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