31.56 -1.51 (-4.57%)
Pre-market: 9:28AM EDT
|Bid||32.01 x 1300|
|Ask||32.16 x 800|
|Day's range||32.24 - 34.00|
|52-week range||20.00 - 45.86|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||0.78|
|PE ratio (TTM)||20.53|
|Earnings date||24 Jul 2020 - 28 Jul 2020|
|Forward dividend & yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y target est||29.61|
(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.“This will be a Big Day for social media and FAIRNESS!” Trump said in a tweet Thursday morning.Twitter slumped to a session low on Trump’s latest remark, falling more than 5% in early trading.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.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 Twitter shares in fourth 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.
An executive order could mean a lot for social media companies, which are already under the scrutiny of regulators for the way they handle personal data and their privacy policies.
(Bloomberg) -- Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was so confident of her bid to end her U.S. extradition case that she posed with a victory sign last weekend in front of a Vancouver courthouse. Those hopes were dashed Wednesday when a Canadian judge ruled the proceedings would continue, keeping her under house arrest.The ruling marks an early victory for U.S. authorities but is already further straining relations between Canada and China. A Chinese embassy spokesperson in Ottawa on Wednesday called the case “a grave political incident” and urged Canada to let Meng return to China. Two Canadians, detained within days of Meng’s arrest in December 2018, also remain jailed in China.Meng, the eldest daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, has emerged as the highest-profile target of a broader U.S. effort to contain China and its largest technology company, which Washington sees as a national security threat. The U.S. Justice Department charged her with conspiring to defraud banks by tricking them into conducting transactions that violated American restrictions on selling technology to Iran.Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the British Columbia Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed Meng’s request to throw out the case, ruling that it meets a key test of Canada’s extradition law known as double criminality -- or whether the alleged crime in the U.S. would also be a crime in Canada.Meng, 48, appeared in court Wednesday, dressed in black and wearing a face mask. She had argued that the U.S. was disguising its sanctions-violations allegation as a fraud charge in order to get around the double-criminality rule. Had they taken place in Canada, the banking transactions at issue wouldn’t have violated any Canadian sanctions, they said.Holmes rejected the argument, saying fraud can be prosecuted in Canada if a U.S. bank was put at economic risk for violating U.S. sanctions.Meng’s approach “would seriously limit Canada’s ability to fulfill its international obligations in the extradition context for fraud and other economic crimes,” Holmes wrote. “For the double-criminality principle to be applied in the manner Ms. Meng suggests would give fraud an artificially narrow scope in the extradition context.”The judge’s decision helps clarify an issue that’s been in the spotlight in Canada because of the Huawei litigation, said Brian Heller, a criminal defense lawyer not involved in the case.“There was a strong argument to be made by both sides,” Heller said. “It wasn’t a slam dunk. This has been the subject of a lot of analysis and it was a very, very important argument to bring forward.”For more on the judge in this case, click here.The U.S. welcomed Holmes’s decision. “The United States thanks the Government of Canada for its continued assistance pursuant to the U.S./Canada Extradition Treaty in this ongoing matter,” a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department said.Huawei said in a statement posted on Twitter that the company continues to stand with Meng in her pursuit of justice and freedom. It said it expects Canada’s judicial system will prove Meng’s innocence.The judge’s ruling doesn’t end Meng’s battle against handover.She also claims there was an abuse of process when she was arrested in 2018 and has sought additional details from the Canadian government, police and border officials on the circumstances of her detention. The Canadian government claims some documents are privileged and she can’t see them. Her lawyers plan to challenge those claims.After issuing her decision, Holmes canceled hearings that were scheduled for June and will instead determine a new timetable next week. Meng left the court house, slipping out a back entrance and avoiding a throng of media and anti-China protesters on the front steps, where she’d posed assuredly with two fingers in a “V” just days earlier.Meng faces tough odds of beating the U.S. extradition request. Of the 798 such cases received since 2008, Canada has refused or discharged only eight, or 1%, according to the country’s Department of Justice.The pursuit of Meng by U.S. authorities predates the Trump administration. Officials had been building a case against her since at least 2013, three years before Trump was elected president. The extradition case was triggered five years later when Meng was arrested on a U.S. handover request during a routine stopover at Vancouver airport, a city where she owns two homes and often spent summer holidays.But Wednesday’s ruling is also likely to further strain the tensions between China and the U.S., already exacerbated by accusations from President Donald Trump that China was slow to disclose the peril of coronavirus. Trump has threatened consequences for Beijing over its handling of the pandemic and more recently its steps to assert more control over Hong Kong.For more on the U.S. response to Hong Kong click hereThe U.S. is attempting “to bring down Huawei and other Chinese high-tech companies, and Canada has been acting in the process as an accomplice of the United States,” the Chinese embassy spokesperson said Wednesday. Canada should “not to go further down the wrong path,” the spokesperson said.In the weeks after her arrest, China put two Canadians -- Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig -- in jail, halted billions of dollars in Canadian imports and put two other Canadians on death row, plunging China-Canada relations into their darkest period in decades.“The government of Canada’s top priority is and remains securing the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been arbitrarily detained for over 500 days,” François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -- caught between his country’s two biggest trading partners -- has resisted any attempt to interfere, saying the rule of law will govern Meng’s case.Heller said Holmes’s decision Wednesday appeared to bear that out. “It is another example of our judiciary acting independently and what strikes me as remarkable is China’s apparent belief that, acting as it has, it could somehow influence that outcome,” Heller said.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.
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 Opinion) -- My view of the dust-up between Twitter and President Donald Trump is simple: The company should treat him exactly like it would treat any other user. But I’ll also admit to a degree of concern about how it treats other users, particularly the company’s growing determination to regulate opinions expressed on its site.Twitter, long criticized by the left for its refusal to flag or even delete presidential tweets for which a less-known user might be suspended, finally decided to add warnings to a pair of Trump posts fulminating about the possibility of fraud when ballots go by mail. Given the president’s history of tweets that are grossly offensive, actually false or both — like last week’s despicable attacks on Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, which I won’t dignify by repeating or linking to — mail-in balloting is an odd place to draw the line. But the line’s been drawn, and the president’s response is a childish tantrum, threatening to shut Twitter down.Twitter is a private company and it gets to set its own rules. If you break them, the company can alter the terms on which it will serve you. Yes, there are arguments for treating the president differently. For one thing, there’s a case to be made for the respect due the office, whatever one’s opinion of the occupant at a given moment. For another, Trump’s every tweet receives such a level of media scrutiny that flagging what Twitter considers untruths will be redundant. And given the belief by many of the president’s supporters that the news media distort his every word, social media might be his only means to stay in touch with his base.Those arguments are not without force, but they’re not persuasive. I’d rather that Trump used social media less, and with some semblance of dignity. If he’s going to use Twitter, however, he doesn’t get an exemption because of the office he holds.(1)But that’s far from the end of the matter. I worry about the rules Twitter imposes. On the one hand, I admire the company’s efforts to help users sort between bad information and good on such issues as vaccinations, and I’m intrigued by the possibility that the platform might imitate Wikipedia in having users themselves moderate content. On the other, when it comes to arguments over policy and politics, I’d rather that no institution, public or private, set itself up as arbiter.Twitter, for example, has lately adopted a policy of placing labels on “potentially harmful” tweets about Covid-19, including those that go against the advice of public health officials. But that’s a dreadful standard. In the first place, public health officials are government employees, meaning criticism of and disagreement with their edicts should be encouraged. Moreover, they can err. I’m old enough to remember being instructed in no uncertain terms not to buy a face mask.Twitter relies heavily on expert systems to flag falsehoods, but those systems need, let us say, some further work. For instance, tweets about the silly theory that Covid-19 is spread by 5G cell towers are being slapped with warning labels — even if the tweets are about how silly the theory is.Which isn’t to say that humans will do any better. Trying to figure out who’s engaging in hyperbole and who’s lying is a thankless task ... and a highly subjective one. Even with the best will in the world, one’s biases are bound to creep into the work of evaluation.On the right, Twitter’s supposed tendency to lean left in applying its own rules about flagging content has become an article of faith. Even should those criticisms turn out to be correct,(2) Twitter would still be a private company entitled to its biases. True, some think social media platforms have grown so powerful that it’s time to regulate them as public forums, but that’s not a view I share. Even if I did, the rules right now are the rules right now, and if the president wants to use the platform, he has to comply.Still, I find it strange that the company has chosen to draw the line at Trump’s criticism of voting by mail. On the merits, the debate over mail-in ballots is a perfectly legitimate one. Like a lot of people, I have trouble seeing how we can hold an election this fall if everybody has to wait in line as usual. But I believe in debate. Even when I’m for something, I’m eager to understand the arguments of those who disagree. I neither want nor need a parent to warn me not to pay attention.It’s hard to make the case for unfettered debate when we have a president who refuses to stop yammering, and whose tongue (and tweets) far too often tend toward comments unguarded, offensive and inaccurate. But a principle isn’t a principle if you only apply it to the easy cases. And my fear here is the same as always: Once we start down the road of editing error and offensiveness out of the world of argument, not even Orwell knows where we’ll wind up. It won’t surprise you to learn that I’m among those who’d rather not find out.(1) And, not incidentally, the company isn’t preventing Trump from speaking to his base; at the worst, Twitter can be accused of adding a bit of editorializing when he does.(2) Their favorite exhibit is the 2018 statement by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that his company was so liberal that “conservative-leaning” employees “don’t feel safe to express their opinions at the company.” But he cited this as a problem he hoped to address.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and his latest nonfiction book is “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster.” 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 the wake of Twitter's decision to fact-check his tweets for the first time, President Trump has responded with a series of broadsides against the company. Here’s some notable mentions of the company over the years.
(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) -- 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.
(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. has started fact-checking Donald Trump. The U.S. President didn’t take it lightly.Following years of criticism that the social network let the president spread misinformation, on Tuesday a pair of Trump’s tweets that made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting were appended with links reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”The labels take readers to a page with a collection of stories and reporters’ tweets about the president’s claims, as well as an item apparently authored by Twitter staff titled “What you need to know” that rebuts Trump.It’s the first time Twitter has taken action on Trump’s posts for being misleading, and the president responded shortly afterward, tweeting that the company was interfering with the 2020 election.“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” Trump posted to his 80 million followers.On Wednesday morning, Trump came back to the subject, writing in a tweet that “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservative voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”Twitter shares fell 1.65% in early trading in New York after Trump’s tweet.The labels are part of a policy Twitter expanded earlier this month when it started labeling misinformation related to Covid-19. Posting misinformation is not against the company’s rules, but Twitter is adding links providing more information to tweets “where people may still be confused or misled,” it said at the time. Twitter has expanded that policy to include tweets about voting, according to a spokesperson, who declined to share if this policy included other topics.“Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to ‘a Rigged Election,’” the Twitter-authored item reads. “However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.”Twitter confirmed it had added the fact-checking links to Trump’s tweets.Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said the label was an effort to impede the president’s efforts to get his message to voters. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility,” Parscale said in a statement.Trump shared the same post about mail-in ballots on Tuesday to his Facebook page, where he has more than 29 million followers. That post is still up and doesn’t include any warning or label. Facebook Inc. didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.Twitter was under pressure earlier in the day to remove other Trump tweets -- just not the ones focused on mail-in ballots. The New York Times published a letter written by a man whose wife died in former Representative Joe Scarborough’s office, asking Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey to remove tweets Trump posted encouraging a baseless conspiracy theory that Scarborough murdered the woman, Lori Klausutis.Twitter issued a statement apologizing for the pain Trump’s tweets caused Klausutis’s family but did not say whether the tweets would be removed. They are still visible on the president’s Twitter account and on his Facebook page.(Updates with Trump tweet on social media in sixth paragraph, shares in seventh)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) -- Boris Johnson appealed to the U.K. to “move on” from the controversy over claims that his top adviser broke lockdown rules, as the prime minister tried to fight off a growing revolt from within his own party.Johnson said he was “sorry” for the “pain” and “anguish” the public had suffered since March, when he ordered sweeping restrictions on individual freedoms during the coronavirus pandemic.But he refused to go into details of the furor involving his chief strategist Dominic Cummings, who has faced mounting public anger over his decision to travel 260 miles to seek childcare support from family at a time when the country was in lockdown. Johnson dismissed calls for a government investigation into his aide’s actions.The row has dominated British politics and public discussions for the past five days and has already cost the government a political price, with Johnson’s poll ratings tumbling. If the prime minister cannot close down the argument over Cummings’ actions soon, many Tories fear Johnson risks causing permanent damage to the reputation of his government.“I am sorry for the pain, as I’ve said, the anguish and the heartbreak of so many people in this country,” the premier said under questioning from a parliamentary committee on Wednesday. “What we need to do now as politicians, as leaders, if we possibly can, is to set aside this row -- because I’m afraid a lot of the allegations turned out to be totally false -- and to move on.”Political PainThe Cummings controversy heaps more pressure onto Johnson’s administration, which has spent the past two months battling to get control over the virus and the public narrative over how it handled the crisis. The U.K. has the highest death toll in Europe with more than 37,000 Covid-19 patients having lost their lives.After two months of lockdown, the premier is now seeking to ease the restrictions in the days and weeks ahead and get the economy firing again, though that also contains perils as companies face collapse when government support is withdrawn.How the U.K.’s Test-and-Trace Coronavirus Program Will WorkEarlier Johnson was given a direct warning of the scale of the revolt among his own Conservative party’s members of Parliament after he decided not to fire Cummings.Graham Brady, the chair of the party’s 1922 Committee of rank-and-file members of Parliament, held talks with Johnson and set out the full range of views of his colleagues, according to a person familiar with the situation.So far around 40 Tories have publicly demanded that Cummings lose his job after confirming that he drove his family 260 miles to his parents’ home after his wife began to develop virus symptoms, in an attempt to secure childcare for his son.Public FuryOne minister quit the government in protest, saying it was not possible to defend Cummings in public, while Johnson and other ministers have said they understand the widespread fury over the adviser’s actions.Cummings has denied the central charge of hypocrisy -- that he broke his own government’s rules -- arguing that there’s an exemption for people who need to take steps to care for their children.During the committee session in Parliament, Johnson faced a barrage of highly critical questions over his adviser from MPs, including Tories Bernard Jenkin and Simon Hoare. Speaking to the committee, the premier also said:The U.K.’s test and trace program to contain the virus will be rolled out from ThursdayA full coronavirus economic recovery plan is being written and could be presented to Parliament before the House of Commons breaks for summer recessHe wants to keep taxes “as low as we possibly can” but declined to give details of future fiscal policyThe government is committed to its manifesto pledges to boost infrastructure, policing and the health serviceHe wants to keep air travel rules “as generous as we can” while maintaining a “sensible quarantine scheme,” saying so-called air bridges may be possible with the agreement of other countriesThe hospitality industry may be able to reopen sooner than he originally thought, while observing social distancing rules.Read more: Micro-Lockdowns Could Shut Individual U.K. Offices and SchoolsMeanwhile, Dido Harding, who is overseeing the NHS Test and Trace Service, said there is “huge public support to do the right thing” ahead of the launch of the project Thursday. The measures are designed to move Britain from a model of national lockdown to individual isolation where there are flare-ups of the disease.In a call with reporters, she dismissed concerns that people will refuse to isolate themselves when officials tell them to because of Cummings’ behavior.“Our staff will be saying, ‘This isn’t about Dominic Cummings, this is about advice I am giving you,’” Harding said, when questioned how the 25,000 contact-tracers involved in the program would deal with the issue. “This is about how 60 million of us behave, not one person.”She also said that the scheme would work well even without initially having the coronavirus contact-tracing app.“I view the app as the cherry on the cake, not the cake itself,” Harding said.Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government would force people by law to stay at home, if the public refuses to comply with test and trace service officials’ advice to isolate for two weeks.(Updates with Harding comment in 18th 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.
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is considering a range of sanctions to punish China for its crackdown on Hong Kong, people familiar with the matter said, as the Trump administration weighs whether to declare the former colony has lost its autonomy from Beijing.The Treasury Department could impose controls on transactions and freeze assets of Chinese officials and businesses for implementing a new national security law that would curtail the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens. Other measures under consideration include visa restrictions for Chinese Communist Party officials, according to two of the people.Inter-agency discussions are ongoing and no decision has been made on whether or how to employ the sanctions, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the moves are still under consideration.President Donald Trump, asked about the possible sanctions at the White House on Tuesday, said his administration is “doing something now” that he will unveil later this week.“It’s something you’re going to be hearing about over the next -- before the end of the week,” Trump said. “Very powerfully, I think.”A Treasury Department spokeswoman declined to comment.China warned that it would retaliate if the U.S. put sanctions on the country or interfered in its affairs.“If anyone insists on harming China’s interests, China is determined to take all necessary countermeasures,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Wednesday. “The national security law for Hong Kong is purely China’s internal affair that allows no foreign interference.” Zhao said it was too early to elaborate on specific responses and that he wouldn’t address hypothetical questions.Asian stocks were mixed in the wake of the latest Sino-American flare-up, and China’s yuan slipped. Contracts on the three main American equity gauges pointed to gains later on Wall Street.Beijing regularly threatens to hit back against the U.S. for placing restrictions on its companies or organizations, though it has yet to say how it would target America specifically over the Hong Kong issue.The Global Times, a hardline Communist Party tabloid, earlier suggested China could place U.S. companies on a so-called “unreliable entities list” in response to new curbs placed on some firms including Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. this month. China announced it was preparing the blacklist in mid-2019 at the height of the trade war with the U.S., but never said who was on the list or detailed the consequences.The State Department is to certify Hong Kong’s autonomy under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act that Trump signed into law last year -- and a negative determination could see the U.S. reconsider Hong Kong’s special trade status. A senior administration official said the certification announcement could come within a week and said it was doubtful that the U.S. could certify Hong Kong’s autonomy under current circumstances.Under the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, Washington agreed to treat Hong Kong as fully autonomous for trade and economic matters even after China took control. That means Hong Kong is exempt from Trump’s punitive tariffs on China, can import certain sensitive technologies and enjoys U.S. support for its participation in international bodies like the World Trade Organization.Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, tweeted on Wednesday that removing Hong Kong’s special status would not be a “powerful” response, and Trump would be bluffing unless he actually sent troops into the city.Sanctioning individual Chinese officials and entities would leave in tact the broader trading relationship, which serves the interests of hundreds of American companies with regional headquarters in Hong Kong. The U.S. wants to maintain influence among Hong Kong residents in order to promote democratic freedoms in the city, which are still more advanced than any territory under China’s control.The Trump administration is under increased pressure from Republicans and Democrats in Congress to respond firmly to China’s plans to assert more control over Hong Kong. Yet the U.S. faces a challenge in hitting back at China because any harsh penalties aimed at Beijing would likely also harm both Hong Kong -- and the U.S.The business and investor community has been anxiously watching tensions rise in recent days. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday called on the Chinese government to preserve Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” framework and on the Trump administration to continue to pursue a constructive relationship between the U.S. and Hong Kong.“It would be a serious mistake on many levels to jeopardize Hong Kong’s special status, which is fundamental to its role as an attractive investment destination and international financial hub,” the business group said in a statement.White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that the president is “displeased” with China’s efforts and “that it’s hard to see how Hong Kong can remain a financial hub if China takes over.” She declined to elaborate about specific actions the president was considering.(Updates with Chinese foreign ministry comment in seventh 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.
(Bloomberg) -- After weathering withering coverage of its response to the pandemic, Amazon.com Inc. is offering its own take on the news.Several local television news stations recently broadcast strikingly similar reports that focused on the safety measures the online retail giant has implemented at its warehouses, according to a video compiled by the Courier, part of a progressive media company with ties to groups supporting the Democratic Party. That similarity is because the segments were based on scripts and footage provided by Amazon, journalists who received similar pitches from the company said on Twitter.“Millions of Americans staying at home are relying on Amazon,” the anchors say in one repeated refrain. Later, they say, “The company is keeping its employees safe and healthy.”Amazon, which confirmed circulating the footage, says offering a video package and accompanying script through press release newswires is a common way for companies to distribute background information. Amazon said it aimed to fill a gap for newsrooms interested in covering the company’s response to the pandemic but unable to send their own reporters.“This type of video was created to share an inside look into the health and safety measures we’ve rolled out in our buildings and was intended for reporters who for a variety of reasons weren’t able to come tour one of our sites themselves,” Alyssa Bronikowski, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.Amazon has served as a lifeline to people sheltering at home during the pandemic, delivering groceries and other essential goods. At the same time, the company has faced criticism from staff, labor groups and politicians for its response to the disease, which has sickened hundreds of its workers and killed several. Employee complaints included a lack of cleaning supplies and close-quarter work conditions that didn’t allow for the kind of social distancing recommended by public health authorities. The company, which has defended its safety record and said it has adjusted its workplaces to allow for separation between employees, has declined to disclose how many of its workers have been diagnosed with Covid-19.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) -- The head of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board says office towers won’t stay out of favor forever.Many banks are planning only a partial return to offices in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and tech companies like Twitter Inc. and Shopify Inc. may never return fully return. But the fund’s chief executive officer, Mark Machin, said the future is still good for prime office towers.“There’s probably going to be still robust demand for great office space in central locations,” Machin said in an interview with Bloomberg TV Tuesday. “Once there is decent immunity across the population or some lowering of the mobility of the disease, you’ll get people wanting to be with each other. This is human nature and the office is a part of that.”Companies will probably even need more space for physical distancing, though he said the longer the pandemic goes on, the more efficient and attractive working from home will become. Elevators for the tall buildings will also pose a challenge when the economies reopen.CPPIB has long invested heavily in hard assets such as office towers. Machin said other real estate such as data centers and warehouses have been buoyed by the e-commerce trend in the pandemic and will probably continue to thrive. Shopping malls will have a more challenging time.Stocks Sap ReturnsThe pension fund returned 3.1% for the fiscal year, its worst showing since the financial crisis, as the selloff in equity markets in February and March dragged down results.Net assets were C$409.6 billion ($295 billion) as of March 31, the fund’s fiscal year-end. That represented growth of C$17.6 billion, consisting of of C$12.1 billion in net income from investments and C$5.5 billion in new contributions, CPPIB said in a statement Tuesday.The numbers mean Canada’s largest pension find suffered about C$15.8 billion in investment losses in the first three months of 2020. The fund had reported C$27.9 billion in investment gains for the nine months ended Dec. 31.“Despite severe downward pressure in our final quarter, the fund’s 12.6% return on a 2019 calendar-year basis, combined with the relative resilience of our diversified portfolio, helped cushion the impact,” Machin said in the statement.‘Experience Economy’The fund’s 3.1% investment gain outperformed its benchmark portfolio’s 3.1% loss, which equates to a value-added return of C$23.4 billion for the year, after deducting all costs, the fund said. Ten-year and five-year annualized net nominal returns were 9.9% and 7.7%, respectively, which “should give Canadians comfort that, even with periodic shocks, their pensions ultimately draw from decades of steady performance,” Machin said.According to Machin, assets related to travel or experience within a small space will likely be impacted for quite a while.“The experience-economy trend is going to be hard, that’s on hold,” he said in the interview. “But then there are a lot of other trends, such as e-commerce, delivery, telemedicine, fintech, these areas have seen an enormous uptick of adoption, online education as well.”While tensions between China and the rest of the world have increased, Machin still sees value in investing in Asia.“The reason we invest in Asia, and any of the big, liquid emerging markets really, is that it is a huge market that we can diversify into that is relatively uncorrelated with the rest of the world. And alpha outperforms the inefficiencies in those markets,” he said.Machin said the current environment will probably be a big test for private credit.“Some of the players who were a little late to the game, and those who were more aggressive to build market share will likely face some pressure,” he said. “We’re going to see more stress on the credit space, depending on how long this goes on.”Losses in ResourcesCPPIB is designed to serve contributors and beneficiaries for decades, so long-term results are a more appropriate measure of performance than quarterly or annual cycles, the fund said.“The Covid-19 pandemic poses a massive challenge for health, societies and economies globally. Amid the significant number of concerns many Canadians have today, the sustainability of the fund is one thing they shouldn’t worry about,” Machin said.The fund’s holdings of Canadian public equities lost 12.2% for the year and emerging markets stocks dropped 9.1%, while foreign stocks generated a return of 1.6%.All credit investments returned 0.5% and real estate returned 5.1%, while infrastructure dropped 1%. Canadian private equity investments lost 5.1%, while foreign PE returned 6%. Energy and resources had the single biggest loss, posting a negative return of 23.4%.(Updates to add comments from interview with CEO)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) -- The recent Twitter spat between “Black Swan” author Nassim Nicholas Taleb and quant investing pioneer Cliff Asness over hedging against highly remote events reminded me why Luke Skywalker needed two droids: R2-D2 to ignore chaos and calmly proceed with the long-term plan, and C-3PO to point out all the exotic dangers that make everything hopeless.The comparison, though, is not fair to Taleb. In the comic-book universe of Star Wars, we know the good guys prevail. But in real life, the small number of Taleb’s warnings that prove accurate can have more influence on long-term outcomes than the far more numerous times when things go as expected. Yes, C-3PO is annoying, but he has to be; no one wants to hear all the ways things might go wrong. (I’ve known Taleb for 35 years and I worked for Asness for 10 years and consider them both friends.)If you read their publications instead of their tweets, you might be surprised to see that their views on so-called tail-risk hedging have a lot of overlap. Where the two agree, all investors should pay attention. But there is fundamental disagreement as well.When Asness’s AQR Capital Management LLC discusses tail events, it refers to the worst events in history for investors, such as the 5% worst one-month returns for the S&P 500 Index. An important AQR paper showed that steep declines that last three months or less do little or no damage to 10-year returns. It’s the longer-term periods of mediocre returns, particularly three years or longer, that can kill performance for a decade.Taleb defines “tail events” not by frequency of occurrence in the past, but by unexpectedness. He is scathing about strategies designed to do well in past disasters, or based on models about likely future scenarios. Taleb’s tail events go far beyond changes in the S&P 500 to include all the unexpected and novel things that happen at the same time.This is a difference of emphasis only. AQR papers discuss the challenges of surviving tail events that go beyond market losses. But it’s fair to say AQR’s main concern is designing portfolios with the highest probabilities of delivering acceptable long-term returns, rather than the ones that will be most pleasant to hold during the bad times.Taleb prefers tail-risk hedges that deliver lots of cash in the worst times. In his view, surviving a crisis takes more than waving a research report showing the 10-year plan is still on track. Investors are likely facing a host of challenges, both financial and nonfinancial, and cash is better than talk for addressing them.Moreover, the strategies AQR recommends usually involve leverage and unlimited-loss derivatives, which to Taleb just add new risks. Just as Taleb often rejects taking pills that are backed by medical studies, he is often opposed to hedges backed by financial studies. In both cases because he believes the downsides are much greater than the upsides.AQR responds with studies showing that Taleb’s preferred strategies are so expensive that they don’t reduce risk. If you buy put options on stocks, for example, you get a big payoff in sharp market crashes. Unfortunately that always leads to prices on put options going up so much, that you quickly give back your gain. It’s like an insurance company that raises your premium after a claim, so you end up paying for the claim yourself in a few years.What’s worse, most people adopt these strategies after a crash, so they pay the high premiums but get tired of paying for them during the good times of the recovery, so they miss the payout on the next crash. Both AQR and Taleb discuss psychological pressures, but Taleb emphasizes the bad decisions people make during panics, while AQR spends more time discussing the bad decisions people make afterwards.Taleb fires back that he has developed methods to deliver cash in crises that are cheap enough that they actually add to long-term returns while reducing risk. A key is asymmetry, in that it takes a 100% gain to make up for a 50% loss. If you can reduce both by 25%, so you have a 25% loss followed by a 75% gain, you end up with better than a 30% net return. Your hedge does not have to actually make money; in this case it broke even with a 25% gain during the crash and a 25% loss during the recovery, but it still turned a break-even result to a 30% gain.There is one final difference. AQR has a long track record of actual results and publishes papers in peer-reviewed journals, with data easily downloadable for anyone who wants to check. Taleb’s arguments are harder to evaluate empirically. He advises a tail-risk fund, Universa Investments LP, for which we only have selective leaked information. While some of that information seems to support Taleb’s claims, it is not entirely consistent. Until Universa widely provides actual results, I’ll regard the ability to provide large cash profits during the worst times while adding to long-term portfolio returns as unproven. If it’s indeed possible, everyone should do it.Investors need both R2-D2 to focus on the horizon, and C-3PO to point out all the things — however unlikely — that might go so wrong as to sink the ship before the horizon is reached. Both AQR and Taleb have written extensively on tail-risk hedging, and investors would do well to read them both. But it never hurts to have a public fight expose the disagreements in dramatic fashion.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Aaron Brown is a former managing director and head of financial market research at AQR Capital Management. He is the author of "The Poker Face of Wall Street." He may have a stake in the areas he writes about.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) -- Tencent Holdings Ltd. is buying a 20% stake in Japan’s Marvelous Inc., giving the smaller company capital to develop its game franchises and sending its shares soaring.China’s biggest game company, through affiliate Image Frame Investment, will spend about 7 billion yen ($65 million) to buy stock in the company, the Japanese games maker said in a statement. Marvelous will sell 8.62 million new shares for 576 yen apiece, while shareholders Amuse Capital and Nakayama Hayao will sell 2.83 million and 708,600 shares respectively at the same price.Marvelous plans to use the money to build out its existing game franchises and launch new ones over the next three years. Its current titles include Story of Seasons and Deamon X Machina. Shares popped 17%.Tencent has been one of China’s most aggressive overseas investors, backing everything from technology startups to coffee-and-donuts chain Tim Hortons Inc. Among game developers, Tencent has taken stakes in Epic Games Inc., the North Carolina-based company behind Fortnite, and South Korean studio Bluehole, which fostered PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.“Tencent’s reason for the investment is probably to learn how to make console games from Japanese companies, one of the last frontiers for the Chinese tech company’s game business,” said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute. “The investment will help Marvelous ride through the period of global economic uncertainty, and release more of its domestically-popular titles to the Western market.”Tencent and Marvelous have already been working together, with the Chinese company making a game with the Story of Seasons intellectual property. Marvelous said it decided to expand the relationship so it could invest more in its games, launch new initiatives and expand globally.Marvelous said it expects Covid-19 and fifth-generation wireless services will serve as catalysts to bring changes to the game industry. Gamers will demand more from each title, requiring companies to step up their efforts.(Updates with shares from first 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.
(Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro defended the right to “freely trade” with Iran, rejecting criticism following the arrival of a gasoline vessel sent from the Middle East country to aid the fuel-starved South American nation.Two of five Iranian vessels bringing millions of barrels of gasoline and components have arrived in Venezuela under military escort since Sunday. The latest entered the Latin American country’s waters on Monday, the Defense Ministry wrote in a tweet.Socialist leader Maduro thanked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei for the deliveries, saying Venezuela has “good and brave friends” in the world, according to a TV statement on Sunday. He defended the deal as part of a previous cooperation agreement.“We, Venezuela and Iran, want peace,” Maduro said. “We have the right to freely trade products throughout the seas of the world.”The first tanker, named Fortune, is anchored at the state-owned PDVSA El Palito refinery on the Caribbean coast, Vice President for Economy and Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami said.The shipments mark Iran’s latest effort to help Maduro’s regime. Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, is nearly out of gasoline following years of mismanagement and U.S. sanctions on its oil. Over the past two months, authorities have imposed rationing at gas stations nationwide, handing control over to military personnel.The Trump administration is reviewing a host of options to deter Iran’s support for Maduro, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Advisers to the president are urging a measured approach that doesn’t flare up U.S.-Iran tensions over a small supply of fuel, the person said.Iran’s foreign ministry has said any attempt by the U.S. to stop them will be met with “a swift and decisive response.”A crew of Iranian technicians is already at work at state-run Petroleos de Venezuela’s Cardon and Amuay refineries, as part of a broader assistance plan that’s brought over workers, supplies and parts in exchange for about 9 tons of gold, or $500 million worth.(Updates with second fuel tanker arriving with military escort)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) -- With his bombastic demeanor and populist agenda, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has often been compared to Donald Trump. That was before Covid-19.Ford’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has turned his political fortunes around. At his daily news conferences, the 55-year-old leader of Canada’s largest province delivers a calm, factual assessment of the pandemic and the government’s efforts to combat it. He defers to experts. Sometimes he cracks a joke. Occasionally, he chokes up.A pugnacious politician who once taunted public spectators at Toronto city hall and ridiculed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a “camp counselor and part-time drama teacher,” Ford is now getting high marks for his empathy. That’s helped send his approval rating to 76% in early May from a dismal 29% in early February, according to Campaign Research Inc. polling.It’s a textbook example of how to manage a crisis, experts say. Ford is doing the one thing that’s required by leaders in times of unease, said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, a polling organization: He’s assuming the office.“In a crisis like this, your job is not about being political or being partisan,” she said. “Your job is about being premierly and executing the role of premier.”Global leaders have seen their political fortunes rise and then fall through the pandemic. Trump’s approval rating has fluctuated but is now at 41%, similar levels to before the pandemic, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s popularity has declined lately as the government began to ease lockdown restrictions. French President Emmanuel Macron has come under fire for dithering.Ford, who leads a province with more people than 46 U.S. states, may eventually suffer the same fate. But not yet.Tears at the PodiumFord, who swept to power in June 2018 on a platform of smaller government, lower taxes and a promise to fight “for the little guy,” has found the reality of office much harder. He’s faced teachers’ strikes as his government moved to cut costs and start digging the province out from under the world’s biggest sub-sovereign debt pile. Net debt will reach C$404 billion ($288 billion) by the end of March 2021, a 13% increase from the previous year, according to the province’s fiscal watchdog.He’s had to reverse course on a number policies –- including a cut to autism funding that was seen as heartless -- and went to war with Trudeau over a carbon tax. Things went so badly that he did a major cabinet shuffle after one year in office and replaced his finance minister.All that has faded into the distance since the pandemic.David Soberman, a marketing professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, notes two things Ford is doing right: he listens to experts and has surrounded himself with a strong team.“Typically populists are very dismissive of people who come from an expert or academic background,” Soberman said. But Ford was among the first in Canada to release epidemiological models of virus projections and has relied on medical officials to craft his government’s policy response. Unlike Trudeau, who appears alone in front of his Ottawa residence most days to deliver virus updates, Ford brings along cabinet ministers and steps to the background while they answer questions.It’s the empathy he displays that is most surprising to many. At an April news conference, he almost came to tears talking about a newspaper picture that depicted the terrible damage the virus has wreaked on long-term care homes. “You see a loved one with their elderly parent and they put their hand up against the window, that’s heartbreaking,” said Ford, whose own mother-in-law contracted Covid-19.That doesn’t mean he hasn’t had missteps. Most of Ontario’s 2,073 fatalities have been in long-term care homes, highlighting the shortcomings of a system that cares for vulnerable citizens. His government has also struggled to ramp up testing.After people flocked to Toronto parks as temperatures soared on Saturday, Ford admonished people for getting too close, saying he thought it looked like a “rock concert.” He urged people to get tested for the virus, but said the province would only announce a detailed strategy to get the numbers up in the coming week.Ford himself has been criticized for breaking his own emergency orders, having his adult daughters over for a visit on Mother’s Day and traveling to his cottage outside of Toronto. He often sounds robotic when reading from a teleprompter and while he comes alive when answering questions, he can be as evasive as the next politician.Debt ConcernsWhat happens to his popularity once the pandemic is over will depend on the economic recovery and the decisions he makes to advance his political ideals of smaller government. The deficit is poised to soar to C$41 billion in 2020-21 as its economy shrinks 9% this year, according to the fiscal watchdog. That will send the province’s net debt as a proportion of the economy to almost 50% in this fiscal year, up from about 40%.Kory Teneycke, managing partner at Rubicon Strategy Inc., dismisses detractors who say this new Ford is just a show. “There’s a self-deprecating honesty in him which is kind of endearing,” said Teneycke, campaign manager for the Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party during his winning election run. “Your personality is your personality.”At times, Ford has found ways to lighten the mood. Urging patience on the reopening of golf courses, he made fun of his own rotund shape. “I understand people want to get out there get a little bit of fresh air, get a little bit of exercise,” he said. “God knows I need a little bit of exercise myself.”He also talked about his love of cherry cheesecake and followed up by holding a cooking session online, like a master chef. His recipe contains no less than three packages of Dream Whip.During a May 9 news conference, a reporter slipped and addressed him as “Prime Minister.” Ford didn’t miss a beat. “Not yet,” he said. “You called me prime minister and I just said, not yet.”Managing a crisis well is no guarantee of future political success, of course. Winston Churchill lost the election almost immediately after leading Britain to victory in World War II, points out Richard Ciano, principal at Campaign Research. “You can’t get a case where someone played their role as a leader better than Winston Churchill did in WWII.”(Updates with testing plan in Tears at the Podium section.)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) -- Silicon Valley’s main data-protection watchdog in Europe came under attack from one of the region’s leading privacy advocates for taking too long to wrap up probes into Facebook Inc. and its Instagram and WhatsApp units.Max Schrems’s group Noyb in an open letter on Monday called on European Union authorities to “take action” against the Irish Data Protection Commission, which has yet to issue any significant fines exactly two years after strict EU rules empowered the regulator to levy hefty penalties for serious privacy violations.The letter comes just days after the Irish authority said it’s edging closer to delivering its first major sanctions under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation after finalizing a draft decision in a probe concerning Twitter Inc. and completing a further procedural step in a separate probe concerning WhatsApp.“With about 10,000 complaints in two years and no fines at all against private actors, it is obvious that Ireland does not effectively implement EU law,” Schrems’s group said in the letter.Schrems also accused the regulator of “secret cooperation” with Facebook during 10 meetings before the GDPR took effect -- putting the Irish authority in a situation where it is now “structurally biased because it is essentially reviewing its own legal advice to Facebook on how to bypass” rules on getting user consent.“There were no ‘secret meetings’ held between the DPC and Facebook,” Graham Doyle, deputy commissioner at the data protection commission, said in an email. “We regularly engage and meet with companies from all sectors as part of our regulatory enforcement and supervision functions” just as other EU data regulators do.GDPR empowered regulators to levy penalties of as much as 4% of a company’s annual revenue for the most serious violations. The biggest fine to date was a 50 million-euro ($54.5 million) penalty for Google by France’s watchdog CNIL.(Updates with response from Irish authority in final 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.
(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp are in the firing line as Europe’s leading privacy watchdog for U.S. tech giants edges closer to delivering its first major sanctions under the region’s tough data-protection rules.The Irish Data Protection Commission said on May 22 that it finalized a draft decision linked to a data breach at Twitter and has asked its peers across the European Union for their sign-off.The regulator said it’s also completed a draft decision in a probe of WhatsApp’s transparency around data sharing. The Facebook service will be asked to give its comments on any proposed sanctions before EU counterparts can weigh in.The Irish authority’s probes have been piling up since the bloc’s tough General Data Protection Regulation took effect in May 2018 -- but with no final decisions to date. The regulator is the lead data protection authority for some of the biggest U.S. tech companies, including Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple Inc.GDPR empowered regulators to levy penalties of as much as 4% of a company’s annual revenue for the most serious violations. The biggest fine to date was a 50 million-euro ($54.5 million) penalty for Google by France’s watchdog CNIL.The Irish regulator said it has also made progress in a number of its other pending cases, including an investigation into obligations of Facebook’s local unit “to establish a lawful basis for personal data processing,” adding that this “inquiry is now in the decision-making phase.”Twitter and WhatsApp representatives declined to comment on the Irish probes.While sanctions in the two cases wouldn’t be the first under the new GDPR rules, they will be the first to test the cooperation between all 27 EU data authorities. Due to the EU-wide effects of the alleged violations in the two cases, the Irish regulator has to share its draft decisions with other regulators, allowing them to weigh in and either approve or object to its findings.(Updates with company response in seventh 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.
About 50% of Facebook workers could work remotely in the future but this may lead to salary cuts for those living in cheaper cities.
Twitter may be the first big technology firm to face a fine by the EU's lead regulator under the region's tougher data protection rules after it submitted a preliminary decision in a probe into the social media firm to other member states. Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) also said on Friday it had sent a preliminary decision to Facebook-owned WhatsApp for their submissions and made further progress in three other investigations related to Facebook. Ireland hosts the European headquarters of a number of U.S. technology firms, making the DPC the EU's lead regulator under the bloc's General Data Protection Regulation's (GDPR) "One Stop Shop" regime introduced in 2018.