Biden gets the power to ban TikTok, Microsoft Exchange Online goes offline and Twitter has second thoughts about its unrestricted free speech policy.


Welcome to Hashtag Trending for Wednesday, March 2nd. 

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US – here’s today’s top tech news stories.

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs has now approved a bill giving President Biden the power to ban TikTok.

It is unclear how the ban would work but it gives Biden the power to ban any transactions with TikTok, which could effectively prevent anyone from accessing the app in the US.

The bill would also require Biden to impose a ban on any entity that “may” transfer sensitive personal data to an entity subject to the influence of the Chinese government.

TikTok is used by over 100 million Americans, but it has been banned on state-owned devices in over 30 states across the US.  Canada and the EU are also in the process of enacting bans.

Representative Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the committee who sponsored the bill said: “Anyone with TikTok downloaded on their device has given the CCP (Communist Party of China) a backdoor to all their personal information. It’s a spy balloon into their phone.” .

Democrats, are urging caution saying the decision is rushed and requires more deliberation.  Some have also pointed out that the ban would be too broad and might require the U.S. to sanction Korean and Taiwanese companies that supply Chinese companies with semiconductor chips and other equipment.

In response to the vote, a TikTok spokesperson said that “A U.S. ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion people who use our service worldwide.”

While the committee is the first step in the legislative process, the bill has yet to be passed by the full House and U.S Senate before it can go to President Biden to be signed into law.

Source: Reuters

Microsoft is investigating yet another worldwide outage, this time affecting Exchange Online, its cloud-based email service. The problems reportedly began early yesterday morning.

An alert was issued later during the day, when a potential Directory Based Edge Blocking (DBEB) issue was identified. DBEB allows administrators to reject messages sent to invalid recipients in Exchange Online.

 The company said that “impact is specific to users who are served through the affected infrastructure in North America, Europe, and the United Kingdom.”

Later in the afternoon, Microsoft tweeted: “We’ve confirmed that rerouting EOP traffic to alternate infrastructure has resolved the user impact.”

Another worldwide outage took down multiple Microsoft 365 services in late January after a router IP address change led to packet forwarding issues between routers in Microsoft’s Wide Area Network (WAN).

Source: IT World Canada

Elon Musk is backpedaling on his promises for unbridled “freedom of speech” on Twitter. 

In an updated policy, introduced on Monday, users are no longer allowed to express wishes of harm and similar sentiments on others. 

“This includes (but is not limited to) hoping for others to die, suffer illnesses, tragic incidents, or experience other physically harmful consequences,” the rules state.

Twitter allowed these statements in its previous policy, saying they are not against the platform’s rules and are not likely to cause serious or lasting injury.

The new updated policy also prevents people from threatening to “damage civilian homes and shelters, or infrastructure that is essential to daily, civic, or business activities.”

 Twitter has now reviewed its speech rules several times, despite Musk’s push for unrestricted speech since his takeover. The company’s rules around doxxing were the first to change.

The company has noted in a series of tweets that it may suspend accounts breaking the rules or force them to delete the tweets in question.

Source: Engadget

The Volkswagen Group is launching its own in-car app store which will include Spotify, TikTok, Yelp, Weather Channel and more.

The app store will launch with certain new Audi models this year and will be rolled out to additional cars and brands, like Porsche, Lamborghini, and Bentley, later on.

The app store was developed with Harman, an automotive supplier that’s now a Samsung subsidiary. 

Last month, Mercedes-Benz also announced that its new cars, starting with the 2024 E-Class, will include built-in apps for TikTok, Zoom, the Vivaldi web browser, and more.

Curiously, Volkswagen’s app store will also be made available on current-model internal combustion cars like the A4 and Q5— not just the next-gen electric vehicles where connected services and over-the-air updates will likely become the norm. But Volkswagen said that the app store is crucial for its future plans to fully shift to connected and autonomous vehicles.

“If you talk about 40 million connected vehicles by 2030, this is relevant for developers to say, hey, why not [curate] my application also in that ecosystem?” Dirk Hilgenberg, the CEO of Cariad, VW Group’s in-house software division said.

The new app-store will also be a big software test for Volkswagen which has faced intense competition from Tesla, and others and often led the carmaker to release software that was not ready for prime time, despite its advanced features

Source: The Verge

Researchers from the University of British Columbia have discovered a material that could one day make our everyday electronics and even cell phones cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

A tool supplied by the University of Saskatchewan, called the REIXS beamline of the Canadian Light Source (CLS) was also critical in quantifying the material’s behaviour.

The material, discovered by lead researcher, Alannah Hallas is known as a high-entropy material, which means that it is composed of a disordered mixture of five or more elements. While an entropy or a disordered system is usually a disadvantage, this material proved to have useful properties such as adjustable magnetism.

For those who might have just a little problem with that description, a little easier terminology saying the new material is made of common elements that could replace the scarce, expensive and often highly toxic materials used in today’s equipment.

“This type of research could be promising for any application that needs magnetic materials. Just by changing the ratios of the atoms, we can elicit a wide range of behaviours and strengths,” said Hallas.

Source: Canadian Light Source

And if you think that’s a breakthrough, a group called the Unconventional Computing Laboratory in the UK is searching for how mushrooms may be able to carry out computing functions.

This is not as crazy as it sounds. Scientists have known for some time that the branching and web-like root structure of the fungus, is capable of sending and receiving electric signals, as well as retaining memory. They have speculated that these root network could also capture dynamics that usually escape the ones and zeros of classical computers.

As quirky as this sounds, the pairing of mushrooms and computers is just one of the many new approaches to computing that are being investigated by scientists. 

As the problems we try to solve with computers get more and more complex, entirely new systems may have to supplement or replace our current chip based digital computation.

Quantum computers have garnered a lot of attention, because they process information in different ways and provide more precise calculations for certain problems. 

But they are only one avenue of finding ways to handle large complex problems. Chemical and even living systems are also viable potential options. Human neurons for example, process information at highly complex levels. 

The goal is to figure out if information can be processed in new ways. 

So, by decoding the language that mushrooms use to send signals, scientists may be able to better understand our underground ecosystems and tap into them to improve our own information systems.

While mushroom computers cannot ever match the speeds of today’s modern machines, they can self-generate and be more fault tolerant, reconfigure by naturally growing and evolving and most importantly, they consume very little energy.

Source: Popular Science

That’s the top tech news stories for today

Links to these stories can be found in the article posted on You can also find more great stories and more in-depth coverage on or in the US on

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with a daily newscast and we have a special weekend edition with an interview featuring an expert in some aspect of technology that is making the news.

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I’m your host Jim Love – Have a great Thursday!

The post Hashtag Trending March 2nd- Biden gets the power to ban TikTok, Microsoft Exchange Online goes offline and Twitter reviews unrestricted free speech policy. first appeared on IT World Canada.

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