The Morning After: Senate passes the bill that could ban TikTok

President Biden says he’ll sign the bill into law.

NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Senate approved a measure that will require ByteDance to sell TikTok or face a ban, in a vote of 79 to 18. The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act next goes to President Biden. The president has already said he’ll sign the bill into law. (Yes, as predicted, I'm writing about this again.)

TikTok has faced the ire of US politicians for a few years now, but this bill has picked up support across both political parties. It sailed through the House of Representatives before being approved (bundled with a package for foreign aid) by the Senate on Tuesday.

The bill states that TikTok would have up to 12 months to divest from its parent company ByteDance, or face a ban in US app stores and web hosting services. The company, naturally, has protested this push, calling the bill unconstitutional and vowing to mount a legal challenge if the bill is signed into law. If it does so, it could bounce around courts for years before any eventual ban, if the company declines to sell. A few years is a long time in social media. Ask Snap, or worse, Vine.

And who would buy TikTok? While many major tech companies might love to grab the social network’s engaged young audience, many politicians would balk at making a Big Tech company even bigger. Steve Mnuchin, who was Treasury secretary in the Trump administration, told CNBC he was putting together an investor group. What could go wrong?

— Mat Smith

X, for some reason, has a TV app now

The best travel gear for graduates

Adobe Photoshop’s latest beta makes AI-generated images from simple text prompts

​​You can get these reports delivered daily direct to your inbox. Subscribe right here!

Microsoft has unveiled its latest light AI model, called the Phi-3 Mini, for smartphones and other local devices. The aim is to provide a cheaper alternative to cloud-powered large language models (LLMs), allowing smaller organizations to adopt AI, with presumably lower energy burdens and without heady processing costs. According to Microsoft, the new model handily outperforms its previous Phi-2 small model and is on par with larger models like Llama 2. In fact, the company says the Phi-3 Mini responds close to the level of a model 10 times its size. The trick is apparently in the data Microsoft used to train its tiny model.

Continue reading.

Tesla teased ride-hailing features coming to its app ahead of an August robotaxi unveiling. The company released mock-ups of the upcoming feature, which showed the ability to “summon” a ride from the Tesla app. The company has been promising self-driving taxi services for years. Tesla didn’t offer many details, but it seems to have Uber-like functionality and the ability to remotely set the car’s temperature before arrival.

Continue reading.

TMA (Meta)

After a few months of testing, Meta is bringing multimodal AI to its smart glasses. Multimodal AI means the system can process multiple types of information, including photos, videos, text and audio. You might have seen feature showcases of AI-connected devices that can view what a device is looking at and offer extra information — that kind of thing. Meta also announced hands-free video call integration with WhatsApp and Messenger and a few more frame designs.

Continue reading.