|Day's range||24.79 - 24.79|
The same day Donald Trump took to Twitter to threaten to regulate or shut down social media sites, the U.S. appeals court in Washington, D.C. dismissed a lawsuit accusing top tech companies of silencing conservative voices. Filed in 2018 by nonprofit Freedom Watch and right-wing gadfly Laura Loomer, the suit accused Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Google of stifling First Amendment rights.
Google is considering buying a stake of about 5% in Vodafone Idea, the FT reported, citing one of the people. Vodafone said it does not comment on market speculation, while Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Last month, Facebook Inc agreed to invest $5.7 billion for a 9.99% stake in Reliance Industries' digital arm, Jio, which competes with Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel Ltd in India's fiercely competitive telecom market.
Two months after Airbnb rolled out a controversial $260 million coronavirus relief package for hosts, rival Expedia Group is slightly upping the ante with an estimated $275 million recovery package for hotels, destinations, and owners and operators of alternative accommodations. One of the common denominators in their respective programs is both companies attracted funding from […]
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump has been raging against Twitter Inc. since the social media platform that helped vault him to the presidency slapped fact-check links on a pair of his tweets.Now, he’s poised to take action Thursday that could bring a flurry of lawsuits down on Twitter, Facebook Inc. and other technology giants by having the government narrow liability protections that they enjoy for third parties’ posts, according to a draft of an executive order obtained by Bloomberg.The companies’ protections against lawsuits apply when they act “in good faith” in taking down or limiting the visibility of inappropriate tweets, videos and other social media posts, but the law doesn’t define bad faith. The draft order would push the Federal Communications Commission to issue rules clarifying the issue, potentially allowing users to sue over takedowns if they were inconsistent with companies’ terms of service, did not provide enough notice or meet other suggested criteria.The White House declined to comment early Thursday morning.The draft order would also convene, through the Justice Department, a working group of state attorneys general to look into deceptive practices and review executive ad spending on the platforms.Shares in Twitter were down 3.2% in pre-market trading in New York on Thursday. Facebook shares were down 1.4%. The move could set off a legal battle between Washington and Silicon Valley.“Big Tech is doing everything in their very considerable power to CENSOR in advance of the 2020 Election,” the president said Wednesday night -- on Twitter. “If that happens, we no longer have our freedom. I will never let it happen! They tried hard in 2016, and lost. Now they are going absolutely CRAZY. Stay Tuned!!!”Word of the executive order came a day after Twitter added links to a fact-checking page on Trump tweets asserting that mail-in-voting leads to rampant fraud.As Trump himself has observed, Twitter gives him the power to dodge the media and speak directly to the American public. It also allows the president and his vast community of followers to instantly spread a steady stream of pro-Trump messages and attacks on his rivals, including exaggerations and outright falsehoods that not even Twitter’s fact-checking links can dent.He has no legal authority to shut down the service, as he threatened to do Wednesday morning, but doing so would mean silencing his loudest megaphone -- as well as what his campaign calls “keyboard warriors” who both amplify his voice and provide him memes and other free content to broadcast to his 80 million followers.Twitter also serves as a valuable punching bag, which he uses to generate outrage and sympathy among his supporters.The social media platform has become even more important for Trump as the coronavirus pandemic prevents him from holding his trademark rallies, and he seeks a free outlet to attack his likely Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.“He’s going to need to continue to use this platform,” said Amy Becker, a professor at Loyola University Maryland, who focuses on political communication. “It’s going to be his random tweets, it’s going to be him attacking whoever criticizes him, there’s going to be a lot of attacks on Biden, the Democrats.”Liability ProtectionsThe order Trump plans to sign Thursday is his latest attempt to exert control over the formidable technology industry. In 2018, he considered issuing an order instructing federal antitrust agencies to open probes into the practices of tech giants like Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook. The possible measure was criticized as politicizing antitrust enforcement and it was never signed.Trump’s attacks on Twitter and other social media companies are often hyperbolic and rarely lead to immediate concrete action. The government could never silence a company like Twitter without violating First Amendment rights to free speech. However, his threats are a reminder of other significant levers that the president and the rest of the federal government have at their disposal.Senator Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, wrote Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey on Wednesday to demand an explanation for the fact-checking links added to Trump’s tweets. He accused the company of choosing to “editorialize.”Hawley repeated a threat that’s been raised by other lawmakers over the years: Revoking the protections that shield Twitter and other platforms from legal liability for content its users post.“Politicians can use the powers of government to make life very difficult for private companies and there’s a long track record of politicians from both parties doing this in the last couple years to social media companies,” said Jesse Blumenthal, a conservative who leads tech policy at Stand Together, part of the political network affiliated with libertarian billionaire Charles Koch.In recent days, Trump had tweeted attacks on cable news host and former Republican Representative Joe Scarborough by pushing a baseless conspiracy theory that he was involved in the death 19 years ago of a woman who worked at his district office in Florida. Her widower sent a letter to Twitter asking the publicly traded company to delete Trump’s tweets, but it chose to leave them online.Scarborough is a frequent critic of the president.80 Million Followers, 52,000 TweetsThe feud with Twitter comes as Trump has been under siege for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that’s infected more than 1.6 million Americans and killed some 100,000. He trails Biden in general election polls by an average of 5.3 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics.There has never been a politician as prolific on social media, which he often uses to call opponents names, spread conspiracy theories, dismiss employees and announce policy changes. He has sent more than 52,000 tweets and has more than 80 million followers.Trump has both acknowledged the power he wields when he tweets and the platform’s impact on his 2016 election. At a July 2019 social media event at the White House he boasted about using Twitter to announce that the U.S. would recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, one of the world’s most contentious foreign policy issues.“Boom,” Trump said of the March 19 tweet. “I press it and, within two seconds, we have breaking news.”At that same event he acknowledged that without the platform he might not have been elected.‘Keyboard Warriors’Trump has a symbiotic relationship with his supporters on Twitter. They often create memes that go viral with his retweets. Earlier this month, he retweeted a meme of himself as the president giving a speech in the 1996 movie “Independence Day,” about an alien invasion. That meme has been viewed 18 million times on Twitter.He’s repeatedly promoted a twitter handle that goes by the name of @sexcounseling that reinforces his messages. Earlier this month he egged on his supporters online with the hashtag obamagate, alleging that President Barack Obama’s administration improperly tried to undermine his election campaign in 2016. His supporters tweeted a series of memes with Obama and Biden.“Thank you to all of my great Keyboard Warriors. You are better, and far more brilliant, than anyone on Madison Avenue (Ad Agencies). There is nobody like you!,” Trump said in a May 14 tweet.Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, defended the president’s use of Twitter.“Most Americans have a pretty clear understanding of the way that President Trump uses Twitter,” Murtaugh said Wednesday on Fox News. “Twitter is a way for the president to connect with his voters. We hear all the time from the president’s supporters that they like the way that the president expresses himself on Twitter because they say to this day they say listen here’s a guy who finally says the things out loud that I’m thinking to myself.”Going back to the 2016 campaign, Trump and his campaign have cultivated a relationship with his supporters online. That part of his base remains engaged, echoing and spreading his messages, said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist.“The most effective endorsement for a candidate is from someone that you already trust, that you already have a relationship with,” Wilson said.(Updates with shares from Twitter, Facebook)For 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) -- Nasdaq 100 Index futures fell on a report Donald Trump is preparing to sign an executive order that could threaten to penalize Facebook Inc., Google and Twitter Inc. for the way they moderate content on their sites.Contracts for June delivery on the Nasdaq 100 fell as much as 0.8%, before paring losses to 0.4% as of 9:32 a.m. in London. Trump’s upcoming executive order aims for federal regulators to review a law that spares tech companies from liability for comments and content posted by users, the Washington Post reported. Investor sentiment was also damped by deteriorating U.S.-China ties.“U.S. tech stocks are dropping on profit taking and risk aversion, as they are at the forefront of the U.S.-China cold war,” said Nader Naeimi, the head of dynamic markets at AMP Capital Investors Ltd. in Sydney. In addition, there is news that “Trump is preparing to sign an executive order that could threaten to penalize Facebook, Google and Twitter.”Trump is poised to take action Thursday that could bring a flurry of lawsuits down on Twitter, Facebook and other technology giants by having the government narrow liability protections that they enjoy for third parties’ posts, according to a draft of an executive order obtained by Bloomberg.While Nasdaq 100 futures declined, contracts on other indexes were mixed. Futures on the S&P 500 were little changed and those on Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 0.4%. The underlying S&P 500 climbed to the highest since early March on Wednesday, holding above 3,000 level and its average price for the past 200 days.It’s possible that Nasdaq futures are falling on reports of an executive order, “but the U.S. First Amendment is pretty clear, and the White House has very little reach over corporate behavior,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets Asia Pacific Pty. “Most traders I speak to see this as a hollow threat.”(Updates prices starting in second paragraph)For 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.
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to order a review of a law that has long protected Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet's Google from being responsible for the material posted by their users, according to a draft executive order and a source familiar with the situation. News of the order comes after Trump threatened to shut down websites he accused of stifling conservative voices following a dispute with Twitter after the company decided to tag Trump's tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact-check the posts. On Wednesday, officials said Trump will sign an executive order on social media companies on Thursday.
Google said on Wednesday its Threat Analysis Group saw new activity from "hack-for-hire" firms, many based in India, that have been creating Gmail accounts spoofing the World Health Organization (WHO). Google said it continued to see attacks from hackers on medical and healthcare professionals, including WHO employees.
"When consumers try to opt out of Google's collection of location data, the company is continuing to find misleading ways to obtain information and use it for profit," Brnovich said in an interview with the Washington Post. In February, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sued Google, alleging that its educational software collects young students' personal information without the required parental consent.
Appeals court judges unanimously reaffirmed that online platforms' rules against hate speech don't violate the First Amendment, because tech companies aren't part of the government.
(Bloomberg) -- A federal appeals court rejected claims that tech giants Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google conspired to suppress conservative views online.The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Wednesday affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit by the nonprofit group Freedom Watch and the right-wing YouTube personality Laura Loomer, who accused the companies of violating antitrust laws and the First Amendment in a coordinated political plot.A three-judge panel held in a decision only four pages long that the organization didn’t provide enough evidence of an antitrust violation and that the companies aren’t state entities that can violate free speech rights.“In general, the First Amendment ‘prohibits only governmental abridgment of speech,’” the judges wrote, quoting a previous decision.Larry Klayman, a lawyer for Freedom Watch and Loomer, said in an interview that he’d file a petition to have the case reheard by an enlarged, “en banc” panel of the court’s judges and take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary. He said he believes the court chose Wednesday to issue its decision as a response to President Donald Trump’s threat to regulate or shutter social media companies for their alleged anticonservative bias.Klayman said the brief decision gave “short shrift” to an important social issue.Two of the three judges on the appellate panel were appointed by Republican presidents and one by a Democrat. The district court judge who dismissed the case, Trevor McFadden, was appointed by Trump.The companies said in a joint brief in March that courts had repeatedly rejected claims that operating a widely used forum for speech by others “is a public function that amounts to state action.” Subjecting private companies to First Amendment requirements would chill efforts to police pornography and cyberbullying, they said.“Private property owners, no matter their social importance, are not the government and are not subject to the constitutional constraints that limit governmental regulation of speech,” the companies said.Read More: Trump Retweets Far-Right Activists in Attack on Social MediaThe case is one of several filed by conservatives linking social media bans to the market dominance of big tech companies. The suit blamed an illegal conspiracy by the companies for a “complete halt” of Freedom Watch’s organizational growth and Loomer’s 30-day ban from multiple social media platforms after she said Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, favors Sharia law and is “anti-Jewish.”The D.C. Circuit’s decision comes after two unlikely allies weighed in on behalf of Freedom Watch and Loomer, asking the court not to affirm the dismissal of the suit without a full proceeding. The District of Columbia’s government and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed briefs challenging the trial judge’s conclusion that the D.C. Human Rights Act doesn’t ban discrimination online.(Adds Klayman quote and context below it)For 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) -- French lawmakers from the National Assembly voted in favor of a contact tracing app meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus, following an intense debate over privacy rights as the government prepares to lift more lockdown measures next week.The application, dubbed StopCovid, was designed by a state-led task force, including the leading phone carrier Orange SA, software company Dassault Systemes SE, as well as Inria, the institute for research in digital science and technology. User data collected on the app will be sent to the nation’s health authorities in a bid to contain any re-emergence of the deadly virus.National Assembly lawmakers backed the app use with 338 votes in favor and 215 votes against. The project has drawn criticism from privacy activists in France, who argue such tools accelerate state-surveillance technology on citizens. Digital Minister Cedric O defended the project and said it includes guarantees protecting privacy rights. He said downloading the app is voluntary and data collection and the app itself are both meant to be temporaryFrance started to relax lockdown rules on May 11 and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is expected to further ease controls next week. The app will be available to download on June 1 on the Apple and Alphabet’s Google app stores, O said on Wednesday.Read More: Apple-Google Virus-Tracking Rules Put Apps in a Privacy BindStopCovid will work with a smartphone’s bluetooth technology and will send out an alert to its user if they come within a meter of a person carrying the virus for more than 15 minutes. In case of exposure, the user will be asked to self-isolate quickly, reach out to their doctor and get tested. The app received the backing from the privacy watchdog CNIL on Tuesday.The approval didn’t come without warnings from lawmakers. Damien Abad, member of the National Assembly for opposition party Les Republicains criticized the app, associating it with a “nightmarish Orwellian society,” of state surveillance in a debate before the vote on Wednesday. Other lawmakers like Virginie Duby-Muller argued this app wasn’t enough to compensate for a lack of testing since the pandemic struck.Read More: The World Embraces Contact-Tracing Technology to Fight Covid-19Contact tracing apps have had a mixed result across the world so far. Singapore was one of the first to launch TraceTogether in March but due to its relatively low adoption, a lockdown couldn’t be avoided in the country. In Australia, which launched its own tool last month, only one person has been identified using data from it, the Guardian reported on May 23. There are still “strong doubts” about StopCovid’s compatibility with similar apps from other European countries, O told lawmakers on Tuesday.The French app, which is similar to one being developed in the U.K., is designed by national players, unlike the apps in Switzerland and Germany, which are based on a platform jointly developed by Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.Read More: France Says Apple Bluetooth Policy Is Blocking Virus TrackerO pushed for the homegrown solution and criticized Apple for not changing its bluetooth settings to allow the French state to ease its app’s use. France’s conflict with Apple is part of a broader debate about how much data U.S. tech giants should collect and who should have access to it.StopCovid is “too serious a hindrance to our right to secrecy,” Sacha Houlie, member of the National Assembly for Macron’s party said before the vote on Wednesday. “I fear the surveillance society.”For 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) -- Adobe Inc., the maker of Photoshop, said some of its applications were knocked offline Wednesday by “major” technical issues.There were four major issues, down from 13 earlier, and 12 minor issues affecting Creative Cloud, Experience Cloud, Adobe Services and the Adobe Experience Platform as of 2 p.m. in New York, the San Jose, California-based company said. Adobe’s engineers were also trying to resolve other potential issues in progress.“We’re working urgently to get back online as soon as possible,” Adobe told users in a tweet. A spokesman said the technical issues aren’t security related.Major public-cloud vendors Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google reported no service issues, so the problems appear to be isolated with the software company. Adobe’s shares declined 1.6% to $370.76. The stock gained 14% this year through Tuesday’s close.Millions of people rely on Adobe’s creative and document apps. The company said its Creative Cloud apps have been downloaded 376 million times, and users opened 250 million PDFs with an Adobe program in the last year. Many businesses use Adobe’s marketing, advertising and analytics tools, which were disrupted by the technical problems.For 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) -- Fairness is a theme running through the writings of Michael Lewis, our second guest this week on Masters in Business, and author of bestsellers such as "Moneyball" and "The Big Short." Because fairness is critical in sports, Lewis developed a podcast, "Against the Rules," now in its second season, drawing on some of the parallels between sports and life.He says podcasting allows him to exercise a very different set of muscles from writing. He works with an ensemble to help tell different stories in a different way. The first season of the podcast was about referees while the second season, now underway, is about coaches.Lewis also sees analogies between sports and government. His most recent book, "The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy," looks at what happens when the leaders of various government departments don’t show up to begin their jobs -- ever.Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was appointed head of the Trump transition team after the 2016 election, created a set of tools to help the president-elect assume management of the federal government and its 9.1 million employees. It is required by the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (updated in 2015), legislation that establishes the formal mechanism for the orderly transfer power after a presidential election.Alas, in 2017, it was not meant to be, and Donald Trump fired the entire Christie-assembled transition team. The result is that there are thousands of government positions still unfilled, including key posts at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which perhaps accounts for the U.S.'s chaotic response to the coronavirus pandemic. Lewis describes the transition as a unique failing in presidential history, a refusal to discharge legal obligations in an intelligent, coherent way. Hence, Lewis says, the U.S. as presently governed is “uncoached.”His favorite books are here; a transcript of our conversation is here.You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras, on Apple iTunes, Spotify, Overcast, Google, Bloomberg and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and was previously chief market strategist at Maxim Group. He is the author of “Bailout Nation.”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 Opinion) -- President Donald Trump says a lot of things on Twitter that aren’t true. Twitter has a set of formal policies designed to combat misleading information. This week, Twitter applied its policies to two of Trump’s tweets, in which the president made misleading claims about voting by mail.Trump responded with a threat:Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.The threat had an immediate effect on the stock of Twitter Inc.; it fell dramatically afterward.To understand the controversy, we need to step back a bit. Social-media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are not subject to the Constitution at all. The First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, applies only to the government. If Twitter denied a platform to Trump, or if it allowed only Republicans or only Democrats to have access to its platform, it would not be violating the Constitution.Nonetheless, Twitter has good reason to allow something like a free-for-all. Its whole purpose is to permit plenty of diverse people to say plenty of diverse things. That’s its business model. And if it’s providing a public service, as I believe that it is, it should not favor any particular side. It should certainly not appoint itself as the truth police.At the same time, the company has to draw some limits, and it does. Suppose that someone tweets that the presidential election will be held on Nov. 5 this year (it will actually be held on Nov. 3), or that people will not be allowed to vote unless they are at least 30 years old. Twitter does not allow that.Or suppose someone says that “social distancing is not effective” to combat Covid-19, or that “walking outside is enough to disinfect you from the coronavirus.” Twitter will not allow that either.It doesn’t try to remove every falsehood, but it also doesn’t want its platform to be used to compromise public health. So in narrowly defined circumstances, it will remove material that it considers harmful.This month, Twitter announced an updated approach to misinformation in general. Its basic approach consists of labels — warning people that what has been tweeted may not be true, and linking to sources that correct the record. If the potential harm is sufficiently severe, a tweet might be removed.That is the background for the current controversy. In two tweets, Trump said that voting by mail is likely to create a significant increase in fraud. One said this:There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out and fraudulently signed.Twitter appended a short label, saying, “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” As a spokesperson for Twitter explained, the president’s tweets “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”It should be clear that Twitter’s approach was fully in line with its current policies and also that it was quite mild. Twitter did not remove Trump’s tweet. It did not say that it was false. Indeed, it did not even declare that it was misleading. It said publicly that it was only “potentially misleading.” Its small label informed people how to “get the facts.”It is perfectly acceptable for a newspaper or magazine to correct the record about public officials — to say, for example, that President Bill Clinton misled the public about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.But social-media platforms are not newspapers or magazines, and they have to strike a difficult balance. They cannot be expected, and should not be asked, to take down every falsehood that appears on their platforms. But it is legitimate for them to adopt neutral policies that are designed to educate and inform users about misinformation, or about potentially misleading material.There is an irony here. Trump rightly emphasizes the value of freedom of speech, and even though Twitter is unconstrained by the First Amendment, he is correct to say that the company should respect that value. At the same time, a central purpose free speech is to ensure an informed public. With respect to misleading tweets, Twitter’s policy promotes that value — which means that it should be praised, not threatened.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Cass R. Sunstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is the author of “The Cost-Benefit Revolution” and a co-author of “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness.”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 Opinion) -- Amazon.com Inc.’s interest in acquiring a self-driving car pioneer is the prime example (pun intended) of how expectations for driverless vehicles have been recalibrated.The e-commerce giant is in advanced talks to buy Zoox Inc. for less than the $3.2 billion at which it was valued in 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. Given the California-based startup’s approach to autonomous cars, its fate is particularly instructive.In a very crowded field, Zoox was practically alone in aiming to build a whole new kind of electric-powered vehicle, and to operate the fleet itself. Peers such as Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, General Motors Co.’s Cruise unit, Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG’s joint venture Argo AI, and Aurora Innovations Inc. have focused solely on developing the self-driving technology that could subsequently be fitted into vehicles.Zoox wanted to be Tesla Inc., Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc. all rolled into one.Back in 2015, that seemed like an attractive proposition. If the triple threat to the automotive industry was autonomous technology, electric drivetrains and ride-hailing, why not embrace all three? After all, there were expectations that by 2020 robotaxis would ferry you around the world’s metropolises. Capital flowed into self-driving car startups, typified by the $1 billion GM spent acquiring Cruise in 2016.Those dreams, needless to say, have failed to materialize. Companies that had aimed to jump straight to the fourth of five levels of autonomy have quietly downshifted. (The first level of self-driving encompasses driver-assistance functions such as cruise control, and the fifth is full automation.) Bloomberg New Energy Finance doesn’t expect vehicles with Level Four automation to start gaining traction until 2034. Even then, they will likely represent just 831,000 of the 95 million-unit global car market that year.What’s more, the expense of developing, building and operating a fleet of self-driving cars would be considerable. Even deep-pocketed Alphabet and GM have sought outside investment for their efforts. Established carmakers are meanwhile focusing their capital on electric cars, a more imminent threat. And owning and operating a fleet is expensive too. Zoox had a tough sell to investors: In 15 years’ time, it might have been an attractive business.Which brings us to Amazon. Even if robotaxis aren’t coming any time soon, there are alternative applications for autonomous technology that fall squarely in the Seattle-based firm’s wheelhouse, namely, logistics. Given Amazon’s shipping costs are set to hit $90 billion a year, tech from Zoox could help save $20 billion in shipping costs, according to Morgan Stanley analysts. Its solutions could be used across warehousing and distribution. Buying Zoox could take Amazon's other moves in this field — an existing investment in Aurora and experiments with self-driving truck specialist Embark and electric vanmaker Rivian — to a whole new level.Amazon has become the fantasy acquirer for any number of companies seeking a soft landing: theater chains, brick-and-mortar retailers, food deliverers, mobile carriers, real estate brokers, dental suppliers, film studios and plenty more besides.Sometimes, just sometimes, those deals make sense. Zoox is one of them.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.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) -- Instagram will let creators profit directly from their videos, helping popular users generate more revenue during the Covid-19 crisis, while moving into more direct competition with YouTube.Starting next week, Instagram will show ads before clips that run on its IGTV service for longer-form videos. The company plans to share 55% of the revenue with creators, the same portion that YouTube gives its stars.The company will also start testing a way for users to sell digital badges in their live videos. If viewers buy a badge, their names will stand out among fans’ comments, designating them as supporters. The video host will receive all the money directly for the first few months of the test, until Instagram starts taking a share of the revenue later this year or in 2021, Instagram said.Influencers with large fan bases typically make their money from deals with brands to post about their products or events, negotiated without Instagram’s involvement. But some of that business has dried up during the pandemic lockdown. Travel influencers, for instance, aren’t being paid to stay in resorts while using certain brands.“This has been a trying time, where creators have been there for their fans,” said Justin Osofsky, Instagram chief operating officer. “It’s a time of uncertainty with less paid work generally.”But the move isn’t just to support influencers -- it’s for Instagram and parent Facebook Inc. to make money off a surge in attention. As people shelter in their homes, they’re on Instagram more than ever, with views of live videos surging 70% from February to March, the company said in a blog post. Still, stars had less incentive to create interesting clips, because there were more ways to make money on YouTube. Now Instagram will have a new way to retain this digital talent, while building another source of revenue.The video ads start after users click a 15-second video preview in their main Instagram feed and are taken to IGTV to watch the full clip. This design gives creators an incentive to make more compelling videos to entice users to jump over to IGTV.The effort could make Instagram a bigger contributor to Facebook’s overall sales. In 2019, Instagram’s advertising accounted for about a quarter of Facebook’s revenue, or roughly $20 billion, people familiar with the matter have said.Instagram, founded almost 10 years ago, long debated whether to become a direct source of income for its popular users. But now, with much of the world sheltering in place, it has become even more obvious that some users are building businesses from their Instagram content -- without the company’s help. Creators have turned to the app to recreate experiences they might have otherwise hosted in person, some accepting tips via Venmo, or relying on outside services like Patreon to make money from their fan bases.Instagram sees an opportunity to handle some of this commerce itself. Food influencers are doing home cooking classes; illustrators are teaching followers how to draw; music artists are going live from their living rooms. Now, their audiences can pay to support these efforts with badges at three different price points: 99 cents, $1.99 and $4.99. The badges only last for the duration of the video.“We’re hoping badges will be a tool to support a broad range of uses,” Osofsky said. But, he emphasized, it’s a test and the plan could change. “We’re definitely in the early days.”For 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.
Activision Blizzard, Walt Disney, Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft highlighted as Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day
(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc.’s talks to buy driverless vehicle startup Zoox Inc. has analysts speculating the deal could save the e-commerce giant tens of billions a year and put auto, parcel and ride-hailing companies on their heels.Shipping costs are one of Amazon’s largest expenses and may reach $90 billion in the coming years, Morgan Stanley’s internet, auto and transport analysts wrote in a report Wednesday. An autonomous offering could save the company more than $20 billion annually, they estimate.“Autonomous technology is a natural extension of Amazon’s efforts to build its own third party logistics network,” Morgan Stanley’s analysts wrote. They see the company being a “clear” competitor to the likes of Tesla Inc. and General Motors Co. and the potential for Amazon to compete in ride-sharing and food delivery. United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. also “will have to respond to keep up.”Other companies in the automotive and chip industries have also held talks with Zoox about a potential investment, according to people familiar with the matter. At least one other business besides Amazon has offered to buy the company, they added. Zoox is unlikely to sell for less than the more than $1 billion that it has raised, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private negotiations.“Zoox has been receiving interest in a strategic transaction from multiple parties and has been working with Qatalyst Partners to evaluate such interest,” the startup said Tuesday. It declined to comment on Amazon’s interest. A spokeswoman for Amazon declined to comment.Zoox had outsize ambition and financial backing. The startup wanted to build a fully driverless car by this year. However, after a 2018 funding round that valued Zoox at $3.2 billion, the startup’s board voted to oust Chief Executive Officer Tim Kentley-Klay. The executive criticized the move, saying the directors were “optimizing for a little money in hand at the expense of profound progress.”Dow Jones reported that Amazon is in advanced talks to buy Zoox for less than the $3.2 billion valuation from 2018.Amazon is willing to spend heavily to automate its e-commerce business. The online retail giant purchased warehouse robot-maker Kiva Systems Inc. in 2012 for $775 million and now has tens of thousands of robots in warehouses around the world.But paying drivers to deliver packages is still one of the biggest costs in the company’s operation. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos announced plans for drone delivery in 2013, though they have yet to materialize at scale. Last year, Amazon revealed an experimental delivery robot called Scout in the Seattle area that rolls on sidewalks like a shopping cart.Last year, Amazon invested along with Silicon Valley venture firm Sequoia Capital in self-driving startup Aurora Innovation Inc., a startup led by the former heads of Google’s driverless car project and Tesla’s Autopilot team. Amazon also backed Rivian Automotive Inc., the electric pickup and SUV maker. Those bets left Morgan Stanley’s auto analyst questioning earlier this month whether Tesla’s rich valuation is warranted given the competitive threats the company faces.“We often hear from investors that Tesla could potentially be the Amazon of transportation,” Adam Jonas, who rates Tesla the equivalent of a hold, wrote in a May 17 report. “But what if Amazon is the Amazon of transportation?”For 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) -- TikTok’s parent ByteDance Ltd. generated more than $3 billion of net profit on over $17 billion in revenue last year, figures that show the world’s most valuable startup is still growing at a brisk rate, according to people familiar with the matter.The revenue for last year was more than double the company’s tally of about $7.4 billion in 2018, propelled by phenomenal growth in user traffic that’s drawn advertisers away from Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Baidu Inc. The people asked not to be identified because the financial details are private.ByteDance has emerged as one of the tech industry’s most surprising success stories, an innovative Chinese company that is challenging the global dominance of U.S. internet giants. It draws some 1.5 billion monthly active users to a family of apps that includes the TikTok short-video platform, its Chinese twin Douyin and the news service Toutiao. This month, the company poached Walt Disney Co. streaming czar Kevin Mayer to become chief executive officer of TikTok.The company owes much of its success to TikTok, now the online repository of choice for lip-synching and dance videos by American teens. The ambitious company is also pushing aggressively into a plethora of new arenas from gaming and search to music. ByteDance could fetch a valuation of between $150 billion and $180 billion in an initial public offering, a premium relative to sales of as much as 20% to social media giant Tencent thanks to a larger global footprint and burgeoning games business, estimated Ke Yan, Singapore-based analyst with DZT Research.“None of the Chinese tech companies has achieved this level of success in the global market before ByteDance,” he said, adding neither social media company harbors much debt. “The fact that ByteDance is making profit, if true, and sitting on a $6 billion cash pile means that it is not in a rush at all to come to market to raise capital, and therefore less likely to offer the shares at a more reasonable price for IPO investors.”ByteDance, led by Zhang Yiming, is becoming a viable rival to the dominant American online behemoths, Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc. Facebook unit Instagram brought in about $20 billion in advertising revenue in 2019, Bloomberg previously reported. Google said its video unit YouTube recorded $15.1 billion in ad sales last year.ByteDance representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment.That success has come despite American lawmakers raising concerns about privacy and censorship. In a rare bipartisan effort in Washington, Republican Senator Tom Cotton and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last year urged an investigation into TikTok, labeling it a national security threat.President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to regulate or shut down social media companies, tweeting that the platforms attempt to silence conservative voices. Twitter Inc. on Tuesday added a fact-checking link to two of Trump’s tweets to his 80 million followers.ByteDance is strengthening its operations in newer arenas such as e-commerce and gaming. This year, it kicked off a wave of hiring and envisions hitting 40,000 new jobs in 2020, hoping to match headcount of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. at a time technology corporations across the globe are furloughing or reducing staff.The company had very preliminary discussions about an initial public offering last year, but is in no rush to go public given its financial performance, people have said. It now has more than $6 billion of cash on hand, the people said.ByteDance, which is backed by SoftBank Group Corp., General Atlantic and Sequoia, is already the world’s most valuable startup, according to researcher CB Insights. Some private trades recently valued the Chinese company between $105 billion and $110 billion on the secondary markets, Bloomberg News previously reported. It has also traded as high as $140 billion, one person said, making it one of the most highly valued private companies of all time.(Updates with Trump tweets in ninth paragraph.)For 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.