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Facebook to rule on possible Trump return to social media platform

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Facebook’s oversight board will decide today whether to uphold the company’s indefinite suspension of former US president Donald Trump, in a much-awaited verdict that may signal how the company will treat rule-breaking world leaders in the future.

The company indefinitely blocked Trump’s access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts over concerns of further violent unrest following the January 6th storming of the Capitol by supporters of the former president.

At the time of the suspension, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a post that “the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”

The company later referred the case to its recently established board – which includes academics, lawyers and rights activists – to decide whether to uphold the ban or restore Trump.

“Both of those decisions are no-win decisions for Facebook,” said Kate Klonick, an assistant law professor at St. John’s University who embedded at Facebook to follow the board’s creation. “So, offloading those to a third party, the Oversight Board, is a win for them no matter what.”

Binding verdict

The binding verdict marks a major decision for the board, which rules on a small slice of challenging content decisions and which Facebook created as an independent body in response to criticism over how it handles problematic material. Facebook has also asked the board to provide recommendations on how it should handle political leaders’ accounts.

Tech platforms have grappled in recent years with how to police world leaders and politicians who violate their guidelines.

Facebook has come under fire both from those who think it should abandon its hands-off approach to political speech and those who saw the Trump ban as a worrying act of censorship.

If the board overturns Trump’s ban, it will restore to the former president a social media megaphone he has lacked since being barred in January from platforms including Twitter, which permanently banned him from posting to his more than 88 million followers, and Snap. Facebook will have seven days to act on the board’s decision.

Trump, who has been sending out short, emailed press releases, continued to promote election misinformation in one on Monday, saying, “the Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!”

On Tuesday, he launched a new webpage to share messages that readers can then re-post to their Facebook or Twitter accounts.

Facebook has said Trump, who has 35 million Facebook followers, would be subject to the same policies as ordinary users after the end of his presidency. This means that if Trump returned to the platform, his posts would now be eligible for fact-checking.

Following a widening of the board’s scope in April, Facebook users would also be able to appeal the former president’s posts to the board.

Trump’s suspension was the first time Facebook had blocked a current president, prime-minister or head of state.

Its oversight board said it received more than 9,000 comments from the public on the Trump ban, the most it has had for a case so far.

Several academics and civil rights groups have publicly shared their letters urging the board to block Trump permanently, while Republican lawmakers and some free expression advocates have criticised the decision.

Calls for consistency

Since taking action on Trump, social media companies have faced calls from some rights groups and activists to be more consistent in their approach to other world leaders who have pushed or broken their rules, such as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Leader Ali Khamenei, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and lawmakers linked to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Oversight Board, an idea that Zuckerberg first publicly floated in 2018, currently has 20 members, including former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and several law experts and rights advocates. Decisions need only majority approval.

The board, which some have dubbed Facebook’s “Supreme Court,” has been hailed as a novel experiment by some researchers but blasted by other critics who have been sceptical over its independence or view it as a PR stunt to deflect attention from the company’s more systemic problems.

It is funded through a €100 million trust created by Facebook and has so far made rulings on a small number of cases involving issues ranging from hate speech to nudity.

Facebook’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said in January that he was “very confident” of the company’s case on Trump’s ban and said “any reasonable person” looking at Facebook’s policies and the circumstances would agree. – Reuter

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AnaCap secures €59m loan for Paris office deal (FR)

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Tristan Capital Partners’ TIPS One “Income Plus” Real Estate Debt Fund has provided senior debt financing to funds advised by AnaCap Financial Partners, to support the €59.25m acquisition of South Station, a freehold office asset located in Massy, in the second ring of Paris. South Station is a high-quality property ideally located in Massy – the largest economic centre in the Southern Paris area – and is adjacent to the town’s main transport stations (RER and TGV). The asset is one of the most attractive buildings in the submarket offering modern A-grade office space with excellent amenities.

 

The sale and partial leaseback acquisition will see the vendor CGG, a geophysics specialist, remain as the majority tenant. Pramena Investment will act as the asset manager for the property.

 

Ashil Sodha, Director, Debt Investment at Tristan Capital Partners, said: “As TIPS One continues to diversify, we are pleased to have closed our first loan in France. We are focused on lending on high-quality assets with the right ESG characteristics and we believe this loan exemplifies this strategy well. We look forward to working alongside AnaCap and Pramena and supporting them in optimising their strategy for this asset.”

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Barratt and David Wilson invest €45.5m in UK resi market

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Harworth Group plc has sold two residential land parcel at its Waverley and Thoresby Vale developments to Barratt and David Wilson Homes, for a total consideration of €45.5m (£39m).

 

At Waverley in South Yorkshire, Harworth has competed a €33.8 (£29m) land sale which will see the delivery of approximately 450 homes, of which over 30% will be affordable. This represents Harworth’s largest-ever serviced residential land sale by number of plots. The new homes will represent Barratt and David Wilson Homes’ fifth phase at the site and will be situated adjacent to both Highwall Park and the Waverley Lake, benefitting from unique water frontage in an area of the development known as Waverley Waterfront. Construction will follow a bespoke design code, devised in partnership between Harworth and Barratt and David Wilson Homes, that complements the existing Waverley development while maximising the amenity value of the area’s waterfront location. The development will include a pedestrianised promenade, further enhancing the site’s placemaking and connectivity.

 

At Thoresby Vale in Nottinghamshire, Harworth has exchanged on the sale of serviced land capable of delivering 174 homes, for €11.6m (£10m). This represents the second phase of the Thoresby Vale development, following the sale of two land parcels at the site to Harron Homes and Barratt and David Wilson Homes in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Alongside the new homes, Barratt and David Wilson Homes will provide a new surface water attenuation pond and a multi-use path and associated landscaping, which will enhance connectivity and link to the site’s planned primary school and local centre, for which site preparation works are currently underway. The sales conclude an active first half for Harworth’s residential developments, during which over 100% of its budgeted residential land sales for the year were completed, exchanged or under offer, and it also launched its first single-family Build to Rent portfolio.

 

Andrew Blackshaw, Chief Operating Officer at Harworth, commented: “Barratt and David Wilson Homes is a trusted and valued partner to Harworth, and we are pleased to be developing our relationship with these two significant land sales. Harworth is particularly well-placed in volatile markets as our serviced land provides housebuilders with a product which is de-risked and ready to build on from day one. The acceleration of both our Waverley and Thoresby Vale sites will see Harworth stepping through its strategy to take advantage of the placemaking and levelling up that these schemes ultimately bring to these communities. In addition, these sales will enhance the maturation of these socially diverse neighbourhoods when delivered alongside our recently launched single family Build to Rent product, Project Spur.”

 

Ed Catchpole, Joint Regional Director for Yorkshire & Central at Harworth, added: “Barratt and David Wilson Homes has a proven track record of high-quality housing delivery at Harworth sites, and these transactions will help to further accelerate the build-out and placemaking at Waverley and Thoresby Vale. Both sites are also set to benefit from additional investment which will see the creation of new Build to Rent homes and local amenities.”

 

Mark Cotes, Managing Director at Barratt and David Wilson Homes North Midlands, said: “We’re thrilled to have secured the land for an extension to our Thoresby Vale development and will look forward to another opportunity to meet the growing demand for housing in Nottinghamshire. Our growing community in Edwinstowe will continue to provide new jobs for local people and we’ll be making further ecological and financial investments as the development progresses.”

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Stokrotka to acquire 14 grocery stores (PL)

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Retail grocery chain Stokrotka signed an agreement to take over 14 grocery stores that are operating in Poland in the Masovian Voivodeship. The transaction is planned to be completed until the end of 2022, subject to certain conditions to be fulfilled according to the agreement, including antitrust approval. Target sales of 14 stores operations to be taken over are expected to reach more than €25m. Stokrotka is a Polish grocery retail chain and at the end of 2021 operated over 800 own and franchised stores, its turnover amounted to over €1bn. Stokrotka belongs to Maxima Grup? since 2018.

 

“Following the takeover of eight stores which was finalised at the end of 2021, the recently signed takeover of 14 stores in the area of Masovian Voivodeship will further strengthen our position in the region and allow us to expand in addition to the planned organic growth”, said Arunas Zimnickas, Managing Director and President of the Management Board of Stokrotka.

 

“Despite challenging times, we believe in this region in terms of both security and growth opportunities. Therefore,  we are further investing and were able to carry out a second acquisition within one year time frame. The transaction contains real estate element, which corresponds to our direction of strengthening real estate portfolio. We are keeping our focus to expand in the Polish market, both through organic growth and M&A activities with the main criteria that it would be a good fit within Stokrotka’s business model. Ar?nas Zimnickas with his team are doing a great job, managing to maintain the expansion of the chain by almost hundred stores a year“, said Mantas Kuncaitis, Maxima Grup? CEO and Chairman of the Board.

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