Saudi Shakeup Shakedown Shakeout

In the mid-2000s the Arabic version of “Who wants to be a Millionaire” helped to transform the Saudi-based Middle East Broadcasting Company (MBC) into the region’s largest media empire. Now the company’s founder — a millionaire at least a thousand times over — has been forced to surrender the company to the Saudi government in order to secure his freedom.

Waleed bin Ibrahim al-Ibrahim was one of more than 150 wealthy elites locked up in the Riyadh Ritz Carlton last fall as part of an anti-graft crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, was also released in recent days, reportedly in exchange for a large cash payment.

Three quick thoughts here:

Is this a shakeup or a shakedown? Absent any kind of real judicial review or accountability, it’s hard to avoid the perception that what was billed as an anti-graft campaign is actually a bid to concentrate economic and media power in Prince Mohammed’s hands before he becomes king.

Taking MBC gives the Crown Prince a powerful tool to shape the Saudi public’s perceptions of his ascent to power and his controversial reform agenda.

It’s also a platform to shape regional views as tensions rise. MBC’s main rival is the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network, which has always irked the House of Saud. And there’s no love lost between Saudi Arabia and the Qataris at the moment.

So who wants to be a millionaire in today’s Saudi Arabia? To be honest, millionaire is probably the sweet spot — rich enough to be rich, poor enough to stay rich. It’s the billionaires who are in trouble.

Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to child online protection. First and foremost, as a technology company, it has a responsibility to create software, devices and services that have safety features built in from the outset. Last week, in furtherance of those commitments, Microsoft shared a grooming detection technique, code name "Project Artemis," by which online predators attempting to lure children for sexual purposes can be detected, addressed and reported. Developed in collaboration with The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik and Thorn, this technique builds off Microsoft patented technology and will be made freely available to qualified online service companies that offer a chat function.

Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

Vladimir Putin has ruled Russia for twenty years, but he has a problem: his current presidential term ends in 2024, and the constitution prevents him from running for re-election then.

As a result, the question of what he'll do in 2024 has been on the minds of Russia's oligarchs, spooks, bureaucrats, and a lot of ordinary folks, as well. After all, over the past two decades, Putin has made himself, for better and for worse, the indispensable arbiter, boss, and glue of Russia's sprawling and corrupted system of government. As the current speaker of Russia's legislature once said, "Without Putin, there is no Russia." Not as we currently know it, no.


Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.

It's been nine years since Libya's long-time despot Muammar Qaddafi was killed in a violent uprising, bringing the oil-rich country to the brink of civil war. That conflict entered a new stage last year when violence between warring factions competing for territory intensified around Tripoli, Libya's capital, leading to the displacement of some 300,000 civilians. In recent weeks, fighting has intensified again, and ceasefire talks have failed. Here's a look at who's who and how we got here.


Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, discusses combating cyberbullying, CCPA and tech "fashion":

What is a "troll score" and is it a realistic way to combat online bullying?

Something that Kayvon Beykpour, head of product at Twitter and I talked about, and the thought was: Twitter doesn't give you a lot of disincentives to be a jerk online. But what if there were a way to measure how much of a jerk someone is and put it right in their profile? Wouldn't that help? I think it's a pretty good idea. Though, you can see the arguments against it.