196.80 +0.03 (0.02%)
After hours: 5:25PM EST
|Bid||197.36 x 1000|
|Ask||197.80 x 800|
|Day's range||195.95 - 203.50|
|52-week range||159.28 - 224.20|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||1.08|
|PE ratio (TTM)||30.60|
|Earnings date||21 Apr 2020 - 26 Apr 2020|
|Forward dividend & yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y target est||248.09|
Facebook is aiming to build on its VR hardware launches of 2019 with an investment in virtual reality software. Facebook announced today that it has acquired Bay Area VR studio Sanzaru Games, the developer of "Asgard's Wrath," considered by many enthusiasts to be one of the Oculus Rift's best games. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but the studio will continue to operate its offices in the U.S. and Canada with "the vast majority" of employees coming aboard following the acquisition, Facebook says.
Just under a month ago Facebook switched on global availability of a tool which affords users a glimpse into the murky world of tracking that its business relies upon to profile users of the wider web for ad targeting purposes. Facebook is not going boldly into transparent daylight -- but rather offering what privacy rights advocacy group Privacy International has dubbed "a tiny sticking plaster on a much wider problem". The problem it's referring to is the lack of active and informed consent for mass surveillance of Internet users via background tracking technologies embedded into apps and websites, including as people browse outside Facebook's own content garden.
The planned digital tax, a new bill that could impact encryption, developments on U.S. Google's antitrust case and Amazon's challenge of the JEDI contract and other news is covered in this article.
German Facebook users would want the social media platform to pay them about $8 per month for sharing their contact information, while U.S. users would only seek $3.50, according to a study of how people in various countries value their private information. The study by U.S. based think tank the Technology Policy Institute (TPI) is the first that attempts to quantify the value of online privacy and data. It assessed how much privacy is worth in six countries by looking at the habits of people in the United States, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia and Argentina.
(Bloomberg) -- Lakestar has raised $735 million for its European investment funds, part of a wave of capital that’s fueling the continent’s venture capital scene.The money will be split between two funds with a third going to early stage companies and the rest to more mature “growth” companies, the firm said in a statement on Tuesday.This year has already seen Atomico, the London-based tech investment firm, raise $820 million for its fifth fund targeting European startups. Other significant new funds include Balderton Capital and Northzone, who raised a combined $900 million late last year.“Finally venture capital has become a profitable asset class of its own in Europe,” Lakestar founder Klaus Hommels said in an interview.The firm started raising the fund in 2018, people familiar with the discussions said at the time, the year that Stockholm-based Spotify Technology SA achieved a valuation above $25 billion with its direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange and Adyen NV raised about 947 million euros ($1 billion) in its June debut in Amsterdam.Hommels, an early backer of Spotify Technology SA, Facebook Inc. and Skype, founded Lakestar in 2013. The company now has offices in Switzerland and London, and recent investments include hotel data startup Impala and German-based Scoutbee and Sennder -- companies focused on supply chain and logistics.The money, which will be used to invest in early stage and growth companies, will be split among two funds. One third of the capital will be used to invest in early stage investments while the rest will be allocated to a fund investing in growth companies.Speedinvest GmbH, the Austrian venture capital firm, on Tuesday also announced that it has raised 190 million euros for its third fund, and is planning to invest in fintechs and in startups focusing on the industrial and health sectors.\--With assistance from Matthias Wabl.To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Syed in London at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org, Amy ThomsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world threatened by trade wars. Sign up here. European finance chiefs arrived at a meeting of their global peers in Riyadh demanding the urgent creation of a new global tax system for the 21st century that would capture the profits of tech multinationals. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin responded: it’s not that simple.New rules for taxing companies like Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. have stirred intense debate at this weekend’s Group of 20 meeting of finance chiefs. Finding a solution this year is key to maintaining a tariff truce the U.S. and Europe struck after France agreed to delay the collection of a national levy.While finance ministers from France and Germany were among those expressing confidence on Saturday that a compromise could be found in time, Mnuchin warned that he is somewhat hamstrung. “Let me emphasize: in the U.S., depending upon what the solutions are, these may require congressional approval,” he said during a discussion, sitting alongside France’s Bruno Le Maire.The pair have held tense discussions since France introduced a 3% levy last year on the digital revenue of companies that make their sales primarily online. The move was supposed to give impetus to international talks to redefine tax rules, and the government has pledged to abolish its national tax if there is agreement on such rules.The U.S. has argued the French measure discriminates against American companies, and threatened tariffs as high as 100% on $2.4 billion of French goods. Donald Trump’s government agreed to hold fire on import duties and France pushed back collecting the digital tax until the end of 2020.“One of the things we’re balancing is sticking with the fundamental issue of taxing based upon where companies are -- the more we change that to broaden this, the more we run into other issues,” Mnuchin said. He indicated Congress as a hurdle before any major changes on taxes can be agreed upon, but added “there’s a tremendous desire to get this done.”Spain, Italy and Austria also want to impose a digital service tax. Turkey, a G-20 member, introduced a 7.5% levy in December, targeting companies from Google and Facebook to Netflix Inc.“It is our collective responsibility to reach a global agreement on this issue by the end of this year,” the finance ministers of the euro area’s four largest economy said in an editorial published in European newspapers. “We now have a unique opportunity to recast the global tax system to make it fairer and more effective.”Sticking PointThe key sticking point is a U.S. proposal to make the new digital tax rules a safe-harbor regime. Doing that, the U.S. has said, would address concerns of taxpayers about mandatory departure from longstanding rules. France and others have contested that could render the rules effectively optional, which would make agreement impossible.In Riyadh, Mnuchin countered this interpretation.“What a safe harbor is -- and there’s lots of safe harbors that exist -- you pay the safe harbor as opposed to paying something else, and you get tax certainty,” he said. “People may pay a little bit more in a safe harbor knowing they have tax certainty.”Le Maire said he welcomed Mnuchin’s clarification.“We are in the process of technically assessing what it really means and what might be the consequences of such a solution,” he said. “It is fair and useful to give all the attention to this U.S. proposal.”To get agreement, Le Maire also said France would be open to a “phased” or “step-by-step” approach.German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said there’s more than a 50% chance that a deal is struck before the end of the year.“Everyone has understood that it would be bad to push the debate into the next year or the year after that,” he told reporters. “We need something that helps protect us against the race to the bottom on taxes.”The framework -- developed under the leadership of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development -- will also include a deal on a global minimum tax, which the group is close to agreeing on, according to Mnuchin.Most countries want any OECD deal to be accepted as a package: the digital service tax along with a global minimum tax. The OECD has said both reforms together could boost government tax revenues by around $100 billion.To contact the reporters on this story: Saleha Mohsin in Washington at email@example.com;William Horobin in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at email@example.com, Jana Randow, Paul AbelskyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
According to a report from Bloomberg, the Trump campaign called dibs on some of the most prized ad space online in the days leading up to the 2020 U.S. election. Starting in early November and continuing onto Election Day itself, the campaign will reportedly command YouTube's masthead, the space at the very top of the video sharing site's homepage. YouTube is now the second most popular website globally after the online video platform overtook Facebook in web traffic back in 2018.
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Justice Department has sought outside legal help to bolster its antitrust investigations of large technology platforms, according to two people familiar with the matter, in a sign that the government may be preparing a lawsuit against one or more of the companies.The department approached at least one law firm about working on the government’s behalf, said the people. That firm -- Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick PLLC -- declined to take on the assignment because of a conflict, according to one of the people, who asked not to be named because the investigation is confidential.The agency has opened investigations into Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc., following a July announcement of a broad probe into whether tech platforms are stifling competition. It wasn’t clear which case the department was seeking help for, or whether it will ultimately go through with hiring an outside firm.The move, however, may be a sign the Justice Department is preparing for litigation against the tech companies. Attorney General William Barr said in December that the probe was moving “very quickly” and that he wanted to complete it some time this year.A nationwide coalition of states is also investigating the companies and is working with the Justice Department.The Justice Department declined to comment. Michael Kellogg, one of the founding partners of Kellogg Hansen, where Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch once worked, didn’t respond to a request seeking comment.Earlier: DOJ Plans ‘Expeditious’ Antitrust Probe Into Big Tech PracticesWhile the hiring of outside lawyers is rare, it’s not unheard of. The department in the past has turned to private counsel to take on high-profile litigation, most notably when it hired David Boies to spearhead the landmark antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. two decades ago.In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission similarly hired a top Washington litigator, Beth Wilkinson, then a partner with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, to help with its antitrust investigation of Google. The agency ultimately closed that investigation without taking action.An outside firm would enhance the department’s resources if it decided to sue. Litigation against one of the tech giants could be a monumental, years-long undertaking. The Justice Department’s case against Microsoft started in 1998 and ended in 2002, when a court approved a settlement.To contact the reporter on this story: David McLaughlin in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at email@example.com, Paula DwyerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- When it comes to advertising revenue, Alphabet Inc.’s Google continues to dominate Facebook Inc. as the place to spend digital marketing money — except for political campaigns, where Donald Trump’s triumph showed the power of social media. Google still has a dog in the election fight, however. According to a report from Bloomberg News, Trump bought the coveted space atop YouTube’s homepage for the days leading up to his November showdown for a second presidential term, ensuring that he’ll be featured prominently. This isn’t new; Barack Obama did something similar ahead of his election-day battle with Mitt Romney in 2012.Alphabet brought in $135 billion of total ad revenue last year through its Google platforms, almost double Facebook’s $70 billion. That ratio flips when it comes to political advertising. Data from the Center for Responsive Politics show that Facebook took in $67 million in total ad spending by U.S. presidential candidates, double the $32 million that went to Google as of Nov. 14. Figures published just this month and collated by eMarketer — which also track advertising related to federal, state and local politics, including elections and lobbying — put the digital divide in that broader metric at a 3-to-1 ratio in favor of Facebook. Facebook’s powerful role in politics was highlighted by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the consulting firm harvested data from the social media platform and used it for targeted campaign ads, helping Trump win election in 2016. YouTube.com is the world’s second-most popular website behind Google.com, according to rankings from Alex Internet Inc.(1) Yet it accounted for only 9.4% of Alphabet’s revenue last year, with most of the company’s money coming from search-engine advertising. Expect the video platform’s contribution to rise in 2020, however, as candidates take to online video to target voters directly while still holding their attention long enough to watch a video in ways that Facebook cannot. Leading the spending is Michael Bloomberg, who is using his own money to seek the Democratic presidential nomination rather than procuring donations. (Disclaimer: Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.) Bloomberg spent $48 million on Facebook between Jan. 1, 2019, and Feb. 19 this year, almost double the $25 million for Trump during the same period, according to data from the social media company. What’s interesting, though, is that Alphabet isn’t so far behind in drawing presidential campaign dollars. Bloomberg spent $42 million on Google, YouTube and partner properties between May 30, 2018, and Feb. 18, 2020, ahead of Trump, whose campaign teams have spent around $18.1 million, according to data published by Alphabet.(2) This election campaign is shaping up to be the most expensive ever. Presidential candidates have already put together more than $1.18 billion — led by Trump and Bloomberg — with the primary season only just beginning, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By comparison, war chests for the 2016 campaign totaled $1.5 billion, with Hillary Clinton and Trump between them accounting for 60%, data from CRP show.While Facebook’s strength, and a key cause of criticism, is the ability for advertisers to dive deep into audience preferences and political leanings, Google’s platform isn’t entirely useless in terms of targeting. For example, the campaign of former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is competing for the Democratic nomination, took out ads focused on audiences in 10 specific Nevada zip codes ahead of the state’s primary Saturday, according to Google data for the week of Feb. 15.Senator Bernie Sanders, who ranks second in Democrat spending across the two platforms, deployed ads aimed at specific Iowa zip codes ahead of his neck-and-neck finish with Buttigieg in the Feb. 3 caucus. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is fourth in terms of outlays, and Bloomberg have also targeted ZIP codes. The steady flow of advertising videos uploaded to YouTube by candidates shows that they see value in spending money on Google’s video platform. So while Facebook may have earned top spot for campaign dollars, Trump’s big election day purchase shows that YouTube is still in the race.(1) Alex Internet has been a division of Amazon.com Inc. since 1999(2) I count this spending across two organizations: Trump Make America Great Again Committee ($12.69m) and Donald J. Trump for President Inc. ($5.45m). A third, Conservative Buzz LLC, spent $4.76m mostly to promote TrumpTo contact the author of this story: Tim Culpan at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Patrick McDowell at email@example.comThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
In a newly released interview, AT&T President and COO John Stankey says he’s “really concerned about the concentration of economic power” in big tech companies and how they approach their “platforms’ influence on society.”
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Bitcoin is back, sort of. The original cryptocurrency hasn’t regained the lofty highs of its bubble peak in late 2017, but it has climbed back up to about $10,000:Predictions that Bitcoin would collapse have not borne fruit. Despite its bubbles and crashes, the cryptocurrency is now a semi-permanent feature of the global financial landscape.What it is not, however, is a generally accepted currency. Although many retailers now accept Bitcoin, the overwhelming majority of day-to-day payments are done in regular old fiat currency. The mere fact that the dollar price of Bitcoin remains an important metric indicates that Bitcoin’s central value is as a speculative asset, rather than its usefulness as a medium of exchange.It’s fairly obvious why. Because of Bitcoin’s price volatility, people don’t want to hang onto it for very long. No one wants to get their paycheck only to find that it has halved in value by the time it comes to buy groceries. Also, optimists who think Bitcoin’s value will continue to go up on average over time will be reluctant to part with it in exchange for something ephemeral like a pizza; better to hang onto the BTC and buy pizza with depreciating dollars instead. (Disclosure: I still own a small amount of Bitcoin.)In fact, these two reasons are just different sides of the same coin: Basic finance theory says that in a reasonably efficient market, high expected returns come at the expense of high volatility. An asset like Bitcoin, or the U.S. dollar, can be a good investment or can be good for buying stuff, but unless the economy is deeply dysfunctional, it can’t be both.Some economists, however, are thinking about how this situation might change, and whether Bitcoin — or some alternative cryptocurrency — might actually replace fiat money as the standard means of payment. This has big policy implications, because if it did become real money, cryptocurrency could interfere with central banks’ ability to manage the economy and the price level. It also matters for crypto investors’ wallets.One possibility is that nothing needs to be done, and eventually Bitcoin will settle into a new low-volatility equilibrium, making it more suitable as a means of payment. Economists Michael Choi and Guillaume Rocheteau have made a model in which this happens. The problem is that the model sees Bitcoin competing with other commodity-like forms of money, such as gold or other cryptocurrencies. Their result relies on the idea that liquid assets will always be in short supply. In reality, Bitcoin is competing against fiat currencies that can be produced more or less costlessly.A more plausible prediction comes from economists Jonathan Chiu and Thorsten Koeppl. Like other economists who have theorized about Bitcoin, they view cryptocurrency’s fundamental challenge as that of preventing double-spending — in other words, verifying electronically that someone really has the money when they make a payment. This issue of digital trust, after all, is the problem Bitcoin was designed to solve.Chiu and Koeppl suggest that to become useful as a form of money, a cryptocurrency should be inflationary. The people who verify Bitcoin transactions, called miners, are now compensated for their usage of computing power by being awarded new Bitcoins, but the rewards are decreasing over time. One of the basic ideas of Bitcoin, which stems partly from the hard-money beliefs of its creators, is that the cryptocurrency should be deflationary — that its supply should be limited, and its value should increase over time due to increasing scarcity. This means that eventually, miners will have to be rewarded with transaction fees instead of new Bitcoins.Chiu and Koeppl say this is a bad idea. Transaction fees, they note, are levied on a small population — that is, whoever is doing the transaction. To make it worth the miners’ while, the fees must be very high, which discourages people from transacting in Bitcoin. If miners are instead paid with inflation, the cost gets spread out among everyone who owns Bitcoin. Also, transaction fees make a double-spending attack more potentially lucrative, because creating a fake transaction would also save money on the fee. Thus, they recommend sticking with the inflation method of payment, and letting cryptocurrency depreciate over time like the U.S. dollar does.This could be exactly what cryptocurrency needs in order to turn into real money. Negative expected returns — essentially, a low and stable inflation target — would make Bitcoin less attractive as a long-term investment. Instead of hoarding it, people would be fine getting rid of it in exchange for pizza. The currency’s value might then stabilize, as speculation decreased.Abandoning the dream of deflationary digital gold might be hard for Bitcoin’s adherents to accept. But other cryptocurrencies, such as ZCash, Monero, Dash or Facebook Inc.’s Libra might step in to fill the gap. Of course, they would still have to overcome the technical problem of being able to handle large transaction volumes as cheaply and easily as a credit card company, but Chiu and Koeppl are confident that this is possible.So ironically, cryptocurrency might only become a currency if it acts more like the U.S. dollar, with a low but predictable inflation target.To contact the author of this story: Noah Smith at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Stacey Shick at email@example.comThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Noah Smith is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He was an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University, and he blogs at Noahpinion.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- In the immediate run up to the U.S. presidential election and on Election Day, the homepage of YouTube is set to advertise just one candidate: Donald Trump.The president’s re-election campaign purchased the coveted advertising space atop the country’s most-visited video website for early November, said two people with knowledge of the transaction. The deal ensures Trump will be featured prominently in the key days when voters across the country prepare to head to the polls Nov. 3.While the bulk of digital ad spending typically focuses on targeting specific messages to certain audiences, the top spot on YouTube is more akin to a Super Bowl TV ad. About three-quarters of U.S. adults say they use YouTube, exceeding the reach of even Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center.Ads on the YouTube masthead—as the video on the top of the homepage is known—generally run for an entire day. The exact duration of Trump’s ad buy and financial details were unclear, but estimates for the space range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million a day.YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, lets advertisers target users based on a variety of factors, though it recently limited those options for political content. The Trump campaign bought the digital real estate nationwide, one of the people familiar with the deal said, both of whom asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.YouTube declined to comment on the deal but said it’s common for political advertisers to purchase masthead ads. After buying an ad, candidates can choose to surrender the space or restrict it to certain regions, a spokeswoman for the company said. “In the past, campaigns, PACs, and other political groups have run various types of ads leading up to Election Day,” she wrote in an email. “All advertisers follow the same process and are welcome to purchase the masthead space as long as their ads comply with our policies.” A spokesman for the Trump campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment.The move is likely to reinforce a feeling among many political analysts that Trump’s embrace of digital advertising gives him a distinct advantage over his Democratic rivals. The Trump campaign could spend as much as $500 million on digital ads and strategies, Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign manager, has said.In 2012, President Barack Obama’s campaign bought the YouTube masthead for Election Day before Mitt Romney had even secured the Republican nomination, according to Teddy Goff, Obama’s former digital director. “This gets to a structural problem inherent in having a contested primary against an incumbent,” said Goff, now co-founder of Precision Strategies, a consulting and marketing firm. Trump and Hillary Clinton each ran masthead ads at various times in 2016. Trump spent more money online that year than Clinton and continues to outspend most Democratic rivals now. A major exception is Michael Bloomberg, whose campaign has spent $36.9 million on Google ads, according to statistics released by Google. That’s double what Trump has spent with the company. Both Trump and Bloomberg ran YouTube masthead ads last year. (Bloomberg is the founder and owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)Susan Wojcicki, the chief executive officer of YouTube, said in an interview with “60 Minutes” aired in December that some of Trump’s ads were rejected for violating company policies. The news program reported that more than 300 video ads submitted by the Trump campaign were taken down by Google and YouTube.Many digital ads are bought and sold through automated systems, but that wasn’t an option for Trump’s Election Day purchase. To reserve space this far in advance, advertisers must work directly with Google sales representatives.Online political advertising in the current election cycle will total $1.34 billion, more than double the levels of the last presidential election, according to EMarketer. The research firm estimates that digital spending will account for 19% of all political advertising. Facebook Inc. is the favorite platform of political campaigns, and its lenient policies have been a subject of controversy. The social network allows politicians to make false claims in their ads, whereas Google does not. Facebook offers far more granularity for campaigns to target people who fit a specific profile.After Google limited campaigns’ abilities to use demographic targeting last November, some at the company have debated going further. Google has bristled at repeated accusations of political bias, particularly from Trump and other Republicans. One potential policy discussed inside Google was to disallow masthead ads on Election Day in favor of a nonpartisan banner reminding Americans to vote, said a person with knowledge of the deliberations. Ultimately, Google decided to keep its standard practice in place.(Updates with YouTube CEO’s comments in the 10th paragraph.)To contact the authors of this story: Mark Bergen in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.orgJoshua Brustein in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Milian at firstname.lastname@example.org, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The head of the World Health Organization called for nations around the globe to boost funding to fight the coronavirus while the outbreak is still mostly confined to China, and the airline industry forecast the first annual decline in global passenger demand in more than decade.Almost 60 police officers in Hong Kong are being quarantined after a colleague was infected. A report in the Washington Post described a dispute among U.S. officials over how to handle the evacuation of American patients from Japan.Hubei, the province at the center of the outbreak, reported a sharp drop in new cases, but another change in the way China diagnoses infections called into question the reliability of the data.The global death toll climbed to 2,129 and confirmed cases reached 75,730. Results from two early trials of treatments are expected in three weeks, the WHO said.Key DevelopmentsChina death toll rises to 2,118, with cases at 74,576Hubei adds 108 deaths, new cases up by 349; 1,209 dischargedInvestor anxiety rises as virus spreads outside ChinaJapan is becoming a new hotbed of casesClick VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the novel coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.Disagreement Over Japan Patients Returned to U.S. (4:37 p.m. NY)Officials from the U.S. State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagreed over how to handle 14 people from a cruise ship who tested positive for the coronavirus while in the process of being repatriated to the U.S., according to the Washington Post.According to the report, CDC officials wanted to wait and have the people who had tested positive for the virus travel separately from about 300 people being sent back to the U.S. after a long stint on a cruise ship where the virus broke out. State Department officials disagreed and pushed for the patients to be included.The group was eventually flown back together, and the patients are being treated. Fifty-Nine Hong Kong Police Are Quarantined (1:24 p.m. NY)A group of 59 Hong Kong police officers are being quarantined after a fellow officer preliminarily tested positive for the virus, the city’s police force said in a statement on Facebook.Two days before being tested because he was feeling sick, the police officer had a meal with the 59 other officers at a restaurant in Hong Kong.“After learning of the incident, the police have immediately arranged that all colleagues immediately stop police work, avoid contact with the public, and go home to wait for quarantine arrangements,” the department said in the statement.The officer works with a riot team in Hong Kong’s Eastern Police District. Members of the riot control unit that the sick officer is part of aren’t being considered close contacts subject to quarantine, the department said.Drug-Trial Results Expected in Three Weeks, WHO Says (11:53 a.m. NY)Preliminary results from two clinical trials of treatments prioritized by the World Health Organization are expected in three weeks, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva Thursday.One of the trials is for a pill combining the anti-retroviral medicines lopinavir and ritonavir, a brand-name combination of which is sold by AbbVie Inc. The second trial is testing the experimental injected drug remdesivir, which is being developed by Gilead Sciences Inc.The trials are being run in China, where health officials are seeking ways to treat patients infected with the coronavirus using existing and experimental therapies.Airlines Expect First Global Traffic Drop Since 2009 (11:20 a.m. NY)The airline industry expects the first annual decline in global passenger demand in 11 years, after tallying up the initial impact of the thousands of flights canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak in China.The estimate shaves about 4.7 percentage points off of a passenger-growth forecast issued just two months ago, with almost all of the impact in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the International Air Transport Association. That may be conservative: The projections assume the loss of demand will be limited to markets linked to China.The drop would be the first overall decline since the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Global passenger demand is now seen contracting by 0.6% this year, compared with a December forecast for 4.1% growth, IATA said.WHO Says More Funding Needed to Fight Virus (10:50 a.m. NY)The head of the World Health Organization urged countries to boost funding to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, saying that the response to its call for $675 million has been limited.“This is the time to attack the virus while it is manageable,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva Thursday.Tedros said he’s surprised donations have been low and that countries aren’t treating the outbreak seriously enough. If the response isn’t strong now, the spread outside of China, which so far has been manageable, may become a wider threat, he said. “The virus is very dangerous, and it’s public enemy No. 1.”Foxconn, Norwegian Cruise Warns on Virus Impact (7:57 a.m. NY)Apple Inc. supplier Foxconn said the virus will impact 2020 revenue. Separately, Norwegian Cruise Line said the outbreak has caused it to cancel, modify or redeploy 40 Asia voyages, hurting projected earnings. Earlier, Air France-KLM slumped after it said the outbreak will wipe as much as $216 million from earnings and Qantas Airways Ltd. said it is slashing capacity on international flights in Asia.Lenovo Group Ltd. warned of “short-term volatility and challenges” because of disruptions at its suppliers, but said most of its plants had re-started operations and demand should rebound once the outbreak stabilizes. A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S is also positioning itself for a “strong rebound” based on an expectation that the fallout of the coronavirus on global trade may soon peak.Goldman Sees High Risk of Stock Correction (7:36 a.m. NY)Investors may be underestimating the negative impact of the coronavirus on corporate earnings, which poses a threat to the stock market rally, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s chief equity strategist.While coronavirus fears triggered a worldwide sell-off in January, those losses proved short-lived. Global equities are trading near record highs on optimism that the impact from the epidemic will be limited and China will step up support for its economy. Goldman’s Peter Oppenheimer cautioned against complacency.“While a sustained bear market does not look likely, a near-term correction is looking much more probable,” Oppenheimer, chief global equity strategist at Goldman, wrote in a note.China Urges More Production Resumption (6:56 a.m. NY)Local governments should seek to increase the rate of resumed production, China Central Television reported, citing Premier Li Keqiang.Deutsche Bank Singapore Employee Infected (6:42 a.m. NY)An employee at Deutsche Bank’s Singapore office, located at One Raffles Quay, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The bank said it deep cleaned the office, and completed contact tracing when first notified.Baselworld Watch Fair Still On (6:52 p.m. HK)The watch industry trade fair will go ahead as scheduled in late April. Organizers are in contact with health authorities and will take precautions including more frequent cleaning and disinfecting.Hubei Asks Firms Not to Resume Work Before March 11 (6:14 p.m. HK)Producers of drugs, medical equipment and protective items are not subject to the requirement, according to a statement from the Hubei provincial government.All Westerdam Crew Tested Negative for Coronavirus (6:13 p.m. HK)The Cambodian Ministry of Health confirmed all 747 crew on board the Westerdam ship have tested negative for the coronavirus, according to an emailed statement from Holland America Line which owns the vessel.Separately, Dream Cruises said it will suspend the Genting Dream Cruise from Singapore until March 27.China Considers Prolonging Electric-Car Subsidies (6:10 p.m. HK)Beijing may extend subsidies for electric-vehicle purchases beyond this year in an effort to revive sales in the world’s biggest market, people familiar with the matter said. The move could add to state aid being considered in wake of virus.Policy makers have been discussing the possibility after China’s first annual decline in sales of new energy vehicles, according to the people. Though the talks predate the emergence of the coronavirus as a global threat, the outbreak has piled more pressure on the auto industry by causing production halts and keeping people away from showrooms.Iran Reports Three Confirmed Cases After Two Deaths (5:18 p.m HK)Iran reported three more cases, a day after confirming two people had died from the outbreak. Two residents in Qom and one in Arak and have been hospitalized, state-run Iranian Students News Agency said, citing the country’s health ministry.China Says 29 Foreigners Infected (4:51 p.m. HK)Ten people were diagnosed in the Hubei province, Ding Xiangyang, deputy secretary-general at the State Council said. Two foreign nationals have died and 18 have been discharged.Indonesia Cuts Rates, Lowers Growth Forecast (4:30 p.m. HK)Indonesia’s central bank cut its benchmark interest rate after a three-month pause, and lowered the growth forecast as the spread of the coronavirus threatens the outlook for Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.South Korea Reports First Death (4:24 p.m. HK)South Korea reported its first fatality from the coronavirus as confirmed cases more than tripled within a day. The bulk of the increase is tied to a cluster from a religious sect and the outbreak has raised renewed concerns about the virus in the country after a lull in reported cases last week.South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of domestic cases had reached 104. The CDC didn’t provide many details on the fatality but gave its location as a hospital near Daegu, one of the country’s biggest cities where infections have been found among members of the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, formerly known as Shincheonji Church of Jesus.The center said at least 28 new cases confirmed on Thursday involved those who attended church services with a person confirmed with the virus earlier this week. The pastor told JoongAng Ilbo newspaper in an interview that some 1,000 people attended the same service.Hubei Region Sells First Bonds Since Lockdown Began (3:46 p.m. HK)The Chinese province at the center of the outbreak sold about 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) of bonds in its first public fundraising effort since Beijing quarantined its capital.Japan Confirms Two From Cruise Died From Virus (2:14 p.m. HK)Japan confirmed two people who were on the cruise ship off Yokohama died from the novel coronavirus. The fatalities were a man and woman, both Japanese nationals in their 80s, who had existing medical conditions, NHK reported.The cruise ship has the most infections anywhere outside China, with more than 600 confirmed cases. Following 14 days of quarantine, Japan on Wednesday allowed passengers to start disembarking from the Diamond Princess liner, despite worries the country hasn’t done enough to prevent the spread of disease from the vessel.China Premier Says Don’t Halt Grain Planting (2:10 p.m. HK)Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told local governments to make sure farmers don’t miss the crucial grain planting season during a critical time for controlling the spread of coronavirus. Government officials are worried that the epidemic could spread to rural areas, where medical facilities are less developed than urban locales.“If we miss the planting season, we’ll be unable to make up for it, which will have an impact on the economic foundation and social stability of the whole year,” Li said in a release posted on the government’s website. “We are holding the rice bowl for 1.4 billion people in our own hands.”Fecal Transmission May Be Behind Virus’s Rapid Spread (12:37 p.m. HK)The novel coronavirus is shed in the feces of infected people, which may help explain why it’s spread so fast, according to Chinese researchers. The finding of live virus particles in stool specimens indicates a fecal-oral route for coronavirus, which may be why it’s caused outbreaks on cruise ships with an intensity often seen with gastro-causing norovirus, which also spreads along that pathway.Hong Kong Extends Work-From-Home for Civil Servants (12:23 p.m. HK)Hong Kong will extend work-from-home arrangements for civil servants to March 1 to reduce social contacts and the risk of spread of novel coronavirus in the community, according to an official statement. The government previously announced it would extend the work-from-home arrangement for civil servants to Feb. 23.U.S. Condemns China’s Expulsion of WSJ Reporters (11:04 a.m. HK)U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized China’s move to revoke the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters over a controversial headline, a decision that comes as Beijing continues to lash out at countries that fault its handling of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.China Loan Rate Drops After Central Bank Eases Policy (9:48 a.m. HK)China’s banks lowered the benchmark borrowing costs for new corporate and household loans after Beijing slashed a range of policy rates this month to blunt the economic impact of a deadly virus outbreak. Earlier this month, the central bank cut the rates on its short-term funds and one-year loans to commercial lenders.Hubei Adds Fewer New Cases (7:50 a.m. HK)China’s Hubei province reported 349 additional confirmed cases for Feb. 19, a sharp drop from almost 1,700 the previous day. No explanation was given for the decline, although it came a day after national guidelines advised the province to only report two numbers in its overall count: confirmed cases and suspected cases. Prior to that, the province reported whether cases were confirmed via CT scans, or testing kits.China has faced questions about the transparency of its data as it repeatedly adjusts how it reports coronavirus cases. Last week, a shift in methods resulted in a surge of almost 15,000 new Hubei cases.(An earlier version of this story was corrected the story after an airline industry group revised its statement to say it would be first drop in travel since 2009, not 2003, in the 11:20 a.m. update)\--With assistance from Michelle Fay Cortez, Jason Gale, Peter Pae, Jihye Lee and Siddharth Dahiya.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Thomas Mulier in Geneva at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Adveith Nair at firstname.lastname@example.org;Jeff Sutherland at email@example.comFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Facebook, Netflix, NextEra Energy, GlaxoSmithKline and T-Mobile US
(Bloomberg) -- Google should move to limit any privacy and data protection risks before it seeks European Union approval to take over health tracker Fitbit Inc., European privacy authorities warned Thursday.“The possible further combination and accumulation of sensitive personal data regarding people in Europe by a major tech company could entail a high level of risk to privacy and data protection,” the regulators, known as the European Data Protection Board, said in an emailed statement. The companies should “mitigate possible risks to the rights to privacy and data protection before notifying the merger to the European Commission.”Data regulators are “ready to contribute” advice to the EU’s merger authority, according to the statement. National data agencies can fine companies for breaches and privacy violations but don’t have a role in approving deals. The European Commission, which will look at the transaction, usually focuses on the economic effect of combining firms and has never probed how a company’s acquisition of more data might affect privacy rights.Google said it plans “to work constructively with regulators to answer their questions” about the deal and won’t sell personal information to anyone.“Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data,” the company said in an emailed statement.There’s heightened concern in Europe over big tech takeovers that allow already powerful firms move into new areas. Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of the maker of smartwatches and fitness trackers, announced in November, would add wearable devices to the internet giant’s hardware business. It also advances the ambitions of Google parent Alphabet Inc. to expand in the health-care sector by adding data from Fitbit’s more than 28 million users.Regulators have been criticized for being too permissive in allowing tech deals such as Facebook Inc.’s $19 billion takeover of messaging service WhatsApp in 2014 and its $1 billion purchase of photo-sharing service Instagram in 2012.To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at email@example.com, Christopher Elser, Jonathan BrowningFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Using Facebook Inc.’s “like” or “share” button to distribute right-wing or anti-semitic material could be a crime if the information ends up being circulated to a third party, Switzerland’s top court ruled.The Swiss Federal Court upheld a fine imposed on a man for “repeated defamation” by a Zurich court, ruling that “activating both ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons in Facebook can improve visibility and thereby contribute to the dissemination within the social network of marked content.”In the case under review, the liked and shared content reached people who weren’t part of the subscriber circle of the original author, meaning he was responsible for wider distribution of the right-wing and anti-semitic content, the court said.While the Swiss court stressed that each case must be examined to determine the impact of the sharing action, the decision is a potential blow to one of Facebook’s most iconic features. The social-media giant Mark Zuckerberg founded in his college dorm room 15 years ago has become the target of privacy regulators on both sides of the Atlantic and faces accusations it allows misinformation to flourish on its platform.A spokesperson for Facebook declined to immediately comment.The Zurich court must go back and render a fresh decision on whether the man’s underlying comments were indeed hateful and defamatory “because it had so far wrongly refused the accused the opportunity to prove the reality of the disputed accusations,” the federal court said.To contact the reporter on this story: Hugo Miller in Geneva at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at email@example.com, Christopher ElserFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Facebook's content moderation plan, its IRS lawsuit, Amazon's defense in JEDI, Google Cloud deploying AMD Epyc and other stories are covered here.
(Bloomberg) -- Attorney General William Barr is taking aim at a legal shield enjoyed by companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. as the provision comes under increasing fire from both liberals and conservatives.Barr has accused social media companies of hiding behind a clause that gives them immunity from lawsuits while their platforms carry material that promotes illicit and immoral conduct and suppresses conservative opinions.The attorney general convened a workshop Wednesday, featuring many of the tech companies’ critics, to explore potential changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was passed in 1996 and has been credited with allowing the then-fledgling internet to flourish.“The Justice Department is concerned about the expansive reach of Section 230, but we’re not here to advocate for a position,” Barr said in his opening remarks. “Rather, we are here to convene a discussion to help us examine 230 and its impact in greater detail.”Barr said 230 liability is relevant to the Justice Department’s ability to “combat lawless spaces online.” He could instruct his Justice Department to explore ways to limit the provision, which protects internet companies from liability for user-generated content.The technology platforms warn that any changes in their legal shield could fundamentally alter their business models and force them to review every post, making it impossible for all but the biggest companies to operate.Barr and lawmakers from both political parties have blamed Section 230’s sweeping legal protections for allowing what they see as irresponsible behavior by the big technology companies.“We are concerned that internet services, under the guise of Section 230, can not only block access to law enforcement -- even when officials have secured a court-authorized warrant -- but also prevent victims from civil recovery,” Barr said. “Giving broad immunity to platforms that purposefully blind themselves -- and law enforcers -- to illegal conduct on their services does not create incentives to make the online world safer for children.”FBI Director Christopher Wray also addressed the workshop, along with a range of lawyers, academics, child advocates, tech critics, and trade groups. Some of the speakers, such as a representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, have expressed concerns about how the law is currently written, or called for changes.Others argue that the law should be left alone, including the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a tech trade group that counts Google and Facebook as members. The Justice Department also plans to host private listening sessions.Representatives from Google and Facebook didn’t respond to questions about whether they’d received invitations. A spokeswoman for Twitter Inc. declined to comment.Liberal groups say internet platforms don’t do enough to stop the spread of hate speech or police political disinformation from foreign and domestic operatives. Conservatives say the tech companies censor right-wing viewpoints.Both groups seek changes to the shield that would increase companies’ liability as a solution. Lawmakers and tech policy experts from both sides of the aisle worry about children’s safety online as well as drug sales, harassment and stalking, among other issues.“A lot of people are angry for different reasons at the large platforms,” said Jeff Kosseff, a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who has written a history of the law and is also scheduled to address the workshop. “Section 230 is a pretty attractive proxy for that anger.”While the Justice Department can make recommendations, only Congress can change the law. Some legal experts say they are perplexed by the department’s role in the Section 230 debate, which doesn’t tie the government’s hands in prosecuting violations of criminal law.“DOJ is in a weird position to be convening a roundtable on a topic that isn’t in their wheelhouse,” said Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and longtime defender of Section 230, who is also set to speak.Lawmakers are exploring an array of possible changes to the law, looking to use it to make companies police content in a politically “neutral” manner, rein in use of the shield by short-term home-rental companies or protect voters from misinformation. Democratic presidential hopefuls including former Vice President Joe Biden have weighed in with calls to repeal or change the law.When it comes to cases where online material exploits children, a draft bill from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a top Trump ally, would only allow the companies to keep the liability shield if they follow a set of best practices. For example, they would be required to report and delete the material, but also preserve it for law enforcement. Critics worry that the measure would also undermine encrypted communications because encoded platforms can’t see what material the law would prompt them to report.In 2018, in the first successful effort to chip away at the shield, Congress eliminated the liability protection for companies that knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking.The critics propose a range of changes -- from raising the bar on which companies can have the shield, to carving out other laws, to repealing Section 230 entirely. Uniting them, however, is the belief that the provision enables an online environment rife with political misinformation, drug dealing, child abuse and other ills.Technology companies counter that Section 230 allows social media startups to flourish because they don’t have to monitor postings and protects free speech. It also fosters their efforts to remove offensive content because the law allows them to take down material without facing penalties.“Section 230 encourages services to fight misconduct and protect users from online harms by removing disincentives to moderate abusive behavior,” Matt Schruers, the president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, said in an excerpt from his prepared remarks.David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance, a trade group representing publishers, doesn’t favor repealing the law but proposes “limiting the exemption for just the very largest companies, who both derive the most benefits from Section 230 and have the greatest capacities to take legal responsibility,” according to a copy of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg.Chavern’s group blames the advertising practices of Google and Facebook for the decline of journalism and advocates for policies to rebalance the relationship.(Updates with comments from Barr from eighth paragraph)\--With assistance from Naomi Nix.To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at email@example.com, Paula Dwyer, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. and Chinese firms hoping to deploy artificial intelligence and other technology in Europe will have to submit to a slew of new rules and tests, under a set of plans unveiled by the European Union to boost the bloc’s digital economy.The legislative plans, outlined on Wednesday by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, are designed to help Europe compete with the U.S. and China’s technological power while still championing EU rights. The move is the latest attempt by the bloc to leverage the power of its vast, developed market to set global standards that companies around the world are forced to follow.Big U.S. companies, like Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, won’t get any reprieve from the Commission, which in its Digital Services Act plans to overhaul rules around legal liability for tech firms, and is also exploring legislation for ‘gate-keeping’ platforms that control their ecosystems.“It’s not us that need to adapt to today’s platforms. It’s the platforms that need to adapt to Europe,” European Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said at a press conference in Brussels. If they can’t find a way adapt to the bloc’s standards, “then we will have to regulate and we are ready to do this in the Digital Services Act at the end of this year.”On artificial intelligence, users and developers of AI systems used in high-risk fields, such as health, policing or transportation, would face legal requirements, including tests by authorities, which could also certify the data used by algorithms, the Commission said. High-risk AI could also face sanctions, while lower-risk applications should abide by a voluntary labeling program, the body said.Facial RecognitionFacial recognition, which falls under the high-risk category, generally can’t be used for remotely identifying people under current EU rules – with some exceptions. The bloc is planning to start a debate on the topic to determine where European citizens would accept those exceptions.The EU also said it would propose plans to encourage data sharing among businesses and with governments, with the aim of pooling large sets of high-quality industrial data. The AI plans will be open for public consultation until late May and will aim to propose legislation based on the feedback as soon as the end of year.U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios encouraged the EU to “pursue an innovation friendly” approach that doesn’t overly burden companies, in a statement reacting to the EU’s announcement. “The best way to counter authoritarian uses of AI is to ensure the U.S. and its allies remain leaders in innovation,” he said.Tech PlatformsAs part of its Digital Services Act, the EU said it was considering rules for large powerful platforms that act as gate-keepers to ensure their markets remain fair and contestable. The possible legislation is seen as a way to complement antitrust law, which some have criticized for being to slow to restore balance in markets harmed by dominant firms’ behavior.“Some platforms have acquired significant scale,” the commission said in its document. “We must ensure that the systemic role of certain online platforms and the market power they acquire will not put in danger the fairness and openness of our markets.”In a statement, Edima, the platform association that represents platforms like Facebook and Google, said it “is committed to working with the European Commission to clarify roles and responsibilities within the online ecosystem.”Read more: Barr Takes Aim at Legal Shield Enjoyed by Google, FacebookThe EU’s package will also take aim at platforms’ liability as a global debate continues to simmer around who’s legally responsible for content on social media sites, amid the spread of disinformation, hate speech, and violent content.Under current EU rules, tech companies aren’t responsible for what users post on their sites unless illegal content has been flagged to them. The rules were drafted almost 20 years ago in an effort to encourage tech firms to grow and innovate, and companies worry that axing the provision could potentially force them to censor posts.Content Liability“We ask the commission to tread carefully as they look at how to tackle issues that will ultimately determine the future of tech,” said Raegan MacDonald, head of EU public policy at Mozilla Corp. “Instead of seeing tech as all the same - which it is not - the EU needs to be clear which companies and what practices and processes should be the focus of intervention.”Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg met with EU officials in Brussels on Monday as he called on governments to devise a different liability system for platforms -- somewhere between newspaper publishers, who can be sued for what journalists write in their pages, and telecommunications companies, who aren’t liable for customer conversations.Commissioner Breton dismissed Zuckerberg’s framing, saying his comparison to telecom companies was “not relevant.” The comment suggests the EU could lean toward much more onerous requirements on liability for platforms.(Updates with throughout with details of the plan, starting in third paragraph)\--With assistance from Aoife White.To contact the reporter on this story: Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at email@example.com, Amy Thomson, Nikos ChrysolorasFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.