|Bid||33.90 x 1000|
|Ask||33.91 x 1000|
|Day's range||33.66 - 34.93|
|52-week range||20.00 - 45.86|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||0.43|
|PE ratio (TTM)||16.43|
|Earnings date||24 Jul 2020 - 28 Jul 2020|
|Forward dividend & yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y target est||29.99|
Civil unrest due to the nationwide George Floyd protests drove Twitter to see a record number of new installs this week, according to data from two app store intelligence firms, Apptopia and Sensor Tower. While the firms' exact findings differed in terms of the total number of new downloads or when records were broken, the firms agreed that Twitter's app had its largest-ever week, globally. Twitter's usage is on the rise because of the immediacy around news-sharing its platform provides.
(Bloomberg) -- Talks to extend OPEC+ production cuts hit an impasse on Thursday after Iraq said it will only be able to reach its output target at the end of July, defying an ultimatum from Saudi Arabia and Russia to stop cheating on the deal.While Moscow and Riyadh have already agreed they should continue record supply cuts for an extra month -- instead of easing them in July as previously planned -- they will only do so if all other countries implement their pledged cuts in full.Nigeria, Angola and Kazakhstan have given sufficient assurances that their compliance will improve, but Iraq has not, said people familiar with the matter. In a letter to fellow members, the Oil Ministry in Baghdad asked for more time and consideration of issues, such as Kurdish autonomy, that make it difficult to cut, the people said.“Saudi Arabia is taking a zero tolerance approach to cheating, but it’s unclear how they can get Iraq to actually comply with the deal,” said Mohammad Darwazah from consultant Medley Global Advisors.Several days of fruitless talks this week, in which old OPEC+ tensions have resurfaced, carry considerable risk for oil prices. If the cartel can’t agree to modify its current deal, millions of barrels a day of fresh supply could return next month to a market that is only tentatively recovering from the coronavirus lockdown.Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell 0.5% to $39.59 a barrel as of 5:21 p.m. in London.Painful ProspectThe 23-nation partnership between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producers has helped engineer a doubling in Brent prices since April. But if the Iraqis don’t shape up then Riyadh and Moscow are warning they will start to phase out the supply curbs that are putting a floor under the market.The kingdom and the Kremlin are pushing the stragglers hard -- not just demanding they implement the cuts already promised, but asking for deeper curbs in the coming months to compensate for their earlier failings.Such penance would be difficult for Iraq to accept. It made less than half of its assigned cutbacks last month, so compensating fully would require it to slash production by a further 24% to about 3.28 million barrels a day, according to Bloomberg calculations.For a country still rebuilding its economy following decades of war, sanctions and Islamist insurgency, that’s a tall order. Resisting the temptation of selling crude during the current market rebound, which has brought prices back to about $40 a barrel, may prove impossible.While Iraqi Finance Minister and Acting Oil Minister Ali Allawi did pledge to improve compliance with pledged cuts in an unusual Twitter post on Tuesday, he didn’t go any further. The government risks a backlash from parliamentarians and rival political parties if it accedes to foreign pressure, and foregos oil sales while contending with a federal budget gap.The letter from Iraq’s Oil Ministry didn’t address the issue of compensation, the people said.Phasing OutThe Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies pledged in April to slash oil output by 9.7 million barrels a day, or roughly 10% of global oil supplies, to offset the unprecedented collapse in demand caused by coronavirus lockdowns.A few weeks later, Saudi Arabia and its closest allies in the Persian Gulf promised additional supply restraint of 1.2 million barrels a day in June.Riyadh and Moscow are aligned on continuing cuts at the current level for an extra month beyond July 1, according to people familiar with the matter. But if they don’t receive assurances from Iraq by their next meeting -- currently scheduled for June 9-10 -- the group’s daily supply curbs will ease to 7.7 million barrels for the rest of the year.Meetings of the Joint Technical Committee and Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, which oversee the deal, have been scheduled for June 17 and 18, respectively, said delegates.Prince’s PriorityEnforcing better compliance among OPEC+ nations has been a motif since Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was appointed.In his first public outing after becoming energy minister, in Abu Dhabi last September, the prince was literally applauded for securing loud pledges of atonement from Iraq and Nigeria.But his tenure has also been stormy, and the latest move has high stakes. In March, the prince’s attempt to force Russia to make deeper output reductions backfired spectacularly, splintering the entire alliance and igniting a destructive price war.Two months ago, Prince Abdulaziz achievement in successfully restoring the OPEC+ coalition and forging an agreement for historic production cuts was delayed and ultimately overshadowed by a spat over Mexico’s contribution to the deal.If OPEC+ can resolves the issues with Iraq, the impact on the oil market could be dramatic. After the massive oversupply earlier this year, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak predicts there could be a supply deficit of 3 million to 5 million barrels a day next month, Interfax reported. That’s roughly in line with projections from an OPEC committee that met on Wednesday, a delegate said.That would provide a stronger foundation for the crude price recovery, and also allow the cartel to start chipping away at the billion-barrel stockpile surplus that’s built up during the coronavirus crisis.(Updates with analyst comment 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.
(Bloomberg) -- Rajeev Fernando, a medical doctor and first responder working in New York, told U.K. lawmakers that one of the biggest challenges he’d faced is public belief in conspiracy theories and bogus cures about Covid-19.“I’ve also heard too many patients say Covid-19 is just like the flu; this misinformation has kept many at home thinking this will disappear,” Fernando said. “By the time some people are hospitalized, they’re already in multi-organ failure and death is inevitable.”Executives from Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google were interviewed by British lawmakers on Thursday about how their companies handled the spread of medical misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic.The parliamentary committee leading the investigation published a selection of evidence it had gathered in advance of the questioning from front-line medical professionals. It was strongly worded, centering around how the public has suffered as a direct result of misinformation via social media.Read more: Twitter Will Add Labels to Some Misleading Covid-19 TweetsThomas Knowles, a medical doctor in the U.K., said in his written evidence that he’d taken a call from a woman whose symptoms made him “strongly suspect that she was experiencing a heart attack,” he said.Knowles said the woman told him she wouldn’t allow emergency medics in her home to take her to hospital because her doctor had informed her that she had to shield herself because of her other health conditions, and that she’d read on Facebook that it meant she’d definitely die if she went to hospital and caught it.“I was forced to accept her right to decline treatment, and she received no specific care that I’m aware of,” he said.Read more: Google Helps Place Ads on Sites Amplifying Covid ConspiraciesFacebook ResponseMonika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy and counterterrorism, was also questioned about the company’s response to an aggressive post made by U.S. President Donald Trump concerning his response to the civil unrest that has swept across the country. Bickert said she wasn’t aware of an open letter published by the New York Times from dozens of former Facebook employees this week. The employees were angry the social network hadn’t followed Twitter’s example of removing the post made by Trump.“It’s a shocking indictment from a number of quite senior former employees,” lawmaker Kevin Brennan told Bickert in the hearing. “To me, it feels like there’s something rotten in the state of Facebook, but am I wrong?”“I haven’t seen the letter,” Bickert said, but added that Facebook’s decision not to remove the President’s message was because it “did not violate” the company’s “long-standing policies.”Deleted PostsGoogle, Twitter and Facebook have all said in the past that tackling the spread of misinformation on their platforms was a priority. Twitter, for instance, has hidden or deleted posts that contain what it determined potentially harmful information. Google includes links to the World Health Organization at the top of search results for information about the virus.Part of the research by the U.K. committee highlighted a statement from Duncan Maru, an epidemiologist and physician based in Nepal, who said his colleagues had treated patients suffering from consuming disinfectants “after reading online that this was a way to cure Covid-19. We can’t be fighting lies and saving lives at the same time.” Read more: 5G Virus Conspiracy Theory Drives Phone Mast Attacks in U.K.And Meenakshi Bewtra, an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, concluded similarly: “It is extremely difficult to be fighting both the global pandemic and the infodemic on social media,” she said. “I have personally been contacted by people who have spent money they do not have on ‘remedies’ or engaged in various practices that have no efficacy whatsoever.”The written statements, published by the U.K.’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sports committee on Thursday, will inform the questions the lawmakers ask tech companies at the hearing. It follows a similar hearing in April that followed the spread of a widely discredited conspiracy theory that 5G wireless technology is contributing to the Covid-19 pandemic.(Updated with additional context throughout.)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) -- As Turks rush to join the local stock market’s longest rally in 27 years, the Istanbul exchange has a warning for them: be careful with your money and watch out for swindlers.The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index headed for its 12th day of gains Thursday, the best winning streak since 1993. With returns on Turkish fixed-income products increasingly unattractive and amid a widening clampdown on investments in foreign-currency assets, more mom and pop traders have turned to studying the stock market for winning bets.“Equities are stores of value. Be careful while picking them,” the exchange said in a tweet on Thursday. “You can learn about a good investment by consulting good specialists.” The message included the hashtags “retail investors” and “stay away from market fraudsters.”The tweet was part of plans to better inform investors and not a response to any event or development in the market, an official from the exchange said in response to questions. “This is a continuing effort and more of these informative videos and posts will follow. Borsa Istanbul’s corporate management aims to increase financial literacy and awareness,” he said.The Borsa Istanbul SME Industrials Index, made up of the small and medium-sized companies often favored by retail investors, has jumped 61% this year, compared with a drop of 4.3% for the main benchmark.One of the biggest drivers of the gains has been a surge of 634% in Covid-19 diagnostic kit maker RTA Laboratories. A drop in RTA’s shares in the past two weeks sparked anger among retail investors who missed out on the spectacular rally, fueling a social media controversy that led to two senior figures at an Istanbul brokerage losing their jobs.Turkey’s Capital Markets Board added its own note of caution, publishing a statement on its website on Thursday. It renewed a warning that investors be wary of those making stock recommendations on social media. The regulator said it continues to see activity designed to cause investors to lose money, adding that some of those making recommendations on social media lack the necessary qualifications or are even banned from equity trading.(Add statement from market regulator 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) -- The grand alliance that’s helped revive global oil markets is being rattled by a long-running feud over members breaking their promises.Just a day before a proposed gathering on Thursday, the OPEC+ coalition hurriedly backtracked from a meeting intended to green-light an extension of its deepest production cutbacks and prop up crude prices.Saudi Arabia and Russia -- the leaders of the group -- have lost patience with the errant behavior of the next-biggest member, Iraq, according to people familiar with the matter. While most of the main players are delivering their agreed share of output curbs, Baghdad is once again reneging on its commitments.At stake is the unity of the 23-nation partnership, which has helped engineer a doubling in international oil prices following the battering meted out by the coronavirus crisis. If the Iraqis, and other delinquents such as Nigeria and Kazakhstan, don’t shape up then Riyadh and Moscow are warning they will start to phase out the supply curbs that are putting a floor under the market.“Riyadh and Moscow are not kidding about implementing some form of compliance-improvement mechanism,” said Bob McNally, founder of consultant Rapidan Energy Group and a former White House official. “Without it, they walk.”The kingdom and the Kremlin are pushing the stragglers hard -- not just demanding they implement the cuts already promised, but asking for deeper curbs in the coming months to compensate for their earlier failings.As discussions continued on Thursday, they were making progress with Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Angola, said people familiar with the talks. A deal with Iraq still hadn’t been reached, they said. Impossible ChoiceSuch penance would be difficult for Iraq to accept. It made less than half of its assigned cutbacks last month, so compensating fully would require it to slash production by a further 24% to about 3.28 million barrels a day, according to Bloomberg calculations.For a country still rebuilding its economy following decades of war, sanctions and Islamist insurgency, that’s a tall order. Resisting the temptation of selling crude during the current market rebound, which has brought prices back to about $40 a barrel, may prove impossible.While Iraqi Finance Minister and Acting Oil Minister Ali Allawi did pledge to improve compliance with pledged cuts in an unusual Twitter post on Tuesday, he didn’t go any further. The government risks a backlash from parliamentarians and rival political parties if it accedes to foreign pressure, and foregos oil sales while contending with a federal budget gap.One-Month ExtensionThe Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies pledged in April to slash oil output by 9.7 million barrels a day, or roughly 10% of global oil supplies, to offset the unprecedented collapse in demand caused by coronavirus lockdowns.A few weeks later, Saudi Arabia and its closest allies in the Persian Gulf promised additional supply restraint of 1.2 million barrels a day in June.Riyadh and Moscow are aligned on continuing cuts at the current level for an extra month beyond July 1, according to people familiar with the matter. But if they don’t receive assurances from Iraq and the other nations at their next meeting -- currently scheduled for June 9-10 -- the group’s daily supply curbs will ease to 7.7 million barrels for the rest of the year.“Now that they’ve agreed on an extension, they’re going to turn and bring the laggards into line,” Rapidan’s McNally said on Bloomberg television on Thursday. Talks with Iraq were going well, and there could be “a compliance mechanism, something formal that drags Iraq and also Nigeria into better compliance,” he said.If OPEC+ stays the course, the results could be dramatic. After the massive oil surplus earlier this year, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak predicts it could turn into a deficit of 3 million to 5 million barrels a day next month, Interfax reported. That’s roughly in line with projections from an OPEC committee that met on Wednesday, a delegate said.Prince’s PriorityEnforcing better compliance among OPEC+ nations has been a motif since Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was appointed.In his first public outing after becoming energy minister, in Abu Dhabi last September, the prince was literally applauded for securing loud pledges of atonement from Iraq and Nigeria.But his tenure has also been stormy, and the latest move has high stakes. In March, the prince’s attempt to force Russia to make deeper output reductions backfired spectacularly, splintering the entire alliance and igniting a destructive price war.Two months ago, Prince Abdulaziz achievement in successfully restoring the OPEC+ coalition and forging an agreement for historic production cuts was delayed and ultimately overshadowed by a spat over Mexico’s contribution to the deal.Old ProblemIraq’s recalcitrance is as old as the OPEC+ partnership itself, which was founded in 2016 to shore up oil prices against the onslaught of American shale.Baghdad argued that the exemption from cutbacks it had received since the conflicts of the 1990s should continue. The central government also has limited influence over about 500,000 barrels a day of production from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.At the critical meeting where OPEC+ was formed, then Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi had to leave the conference room and call his prime minister for approval to accept the new strictures.The latest impasse isn’t yet showing signs of resolution. Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s oil behemoth, has delayed the release of monthly crude prices to Sunday at the earliest, according to people with knowledge of the matter. That suggests there’s no clarity just yet on how the situation will unfold.Nonetheless, recent history suggests the burden might not be as onerous as it appears, and that Iraq’s resistance could be overcome.Last December, Baghdad was pressed to accept additional supply reductions, even though it had barely managed to cut output earlier in the year. Iraq knew it wasn’t expected to implement the entire package, but rather consider the new target as a spur to improve its performance, analysts said at the time.“It feels like Groundhog Day again as compliance issues complicate the effort to conclude a short rollover agreement,” said Helima Croft, head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets LLC. “Nonetheless, we still think these issues will be resolved and that a short extension will be announced.”(Updates with talks progress in fifth 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) -- As American cities convulse with protests, U.S. adversaries are taking advantage of the situation on social media to advance their agendas and rebuke U.S. government officials, according to a report released Wednesday.In one instance, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted the hashtag BlackLivesMatter along with an annotated version of a U.S. State Department release that criticized Tehran’s suppression of protests. Zarif tweaked the document to apply those same criticisms to Washington’s handling of the protests on U.S. soil.Iran’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, tweeted a photo of a U.S. protester facing four police officers and included a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. -- deflecting “American words back at the White House,” according the report published by Graphika Inc., which uses artificial intelligence to analyze data from social networks.President Hassan Rouhani, who’s been on the receiving end of Donald Trump’s tweets in the past, also issued terse criticism at a cabinet meeting in Tehran, calling the U.S. president “shameful” for wielding the Bible and threatening to deploy troops against protesters. Earlier this week, Iran finally issued a death toll for November’s anti-government demonstrations.Chinese officials and state media have used social media to push the idea of a U.S. “double standard,” the report said. In one example highlighted by Graphika, China’s deputy foreign minister retweeted comparisons of protests in the U.S. and Hong Kong, including one by the editor of a state media outlet: “I want to ask Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Pompeo: Should Beijing support protests in the US, like you glorified rioters in Hong Kong?”Along with Russia, China and Iran are using the U.S. protests to “further their existing narratives,” Graphika concluded. Iran seized the moment to pillory U.S. criticism of Iran’s human-rights record and denounce U.S. sanctions, while China’s main goal is to use the protests to undermine U.S. support for Hong Kong demonstrators, according to the report.Disinformation and propaganda have spread online as protests rage across the U.S. after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of the police. Graphika hasn’t found any large-scale, covert interference campaigns like the one Russia waged in the U.S. to stoke division during the 2016 presidential election. However, Russian media has covered the U.S. protests as part of its “practice of highlighting genuine grievances and protests in the West,” the report said.In their social media propaganda, China and Iran have incorporated the phrase “I can’t breathe,” which Floyd uttered while a police officer knelt on his neck and which has been adopted as a rallying cry by protesters, according to Graphika.China used the phrase to troll a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department and to criticize U.S. moves to withdraw from the World Health Organization. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said in a statement to the U.S., “Stop violence against your people and let them breathe,” according to the report.Pro-Iranian accounts tweeted support for the protesters and criticisms of the U.S. with the hashtag IranWithGeorge. Twitter followers of Iranian state outlets used hashtags that were trending in the U.S., including JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, Graphika found.Russia, China and Iran also amplified each other’s narratives. “Russian state voices echoed the Chinese argument of hypocrisy vis-a-vis Hong Kong. Russian outlets also echoed Iranian narratives, and Chinese officials amplified Russian claims,” Graphika wrote in its report.(Updates with reaction from Iranian president 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.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Like many New Yorkers, I’d had my fill of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefings some time ago; they’d gone from inspiring to frustrating as New York City’s lockdown entered its fourth month. But earlier this week, after horrific nights of protests and rubber bullets, looting and vandalism, Cuomo said something that hasn’t been said nearly enough by government leaders.“Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” He continued:We’re talking about reopening in one week in New York City. And now we’re seeing these mass gatherings over the past several nights that could in fact exacerbate the Covid-19 spread. We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masks, socially distanced, and then you turn on the TV and you see these mass gathering that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people. After everything we have done. We have to take a minute and ask what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?After making it clear that he strongly believed that the protesters’ cause was just — and urging them to channel their anger into an agenda for change — he returned to the pandemic. His anguish was palpable.We just spent 93 days limiting behavior, no school, no business, thousands of small businesses destroyed. People will have lost their jobs. People wiped out their savings. And now, mass gatherings, with thousands of people, in close proximity. … How many superspreaders were in that crowd? ... How many young people went home, kissed their mother hello … and spread the virus? “We have to be smart,” he kept saying as he ended his remarks. “We have to be smart right now.”Ever since the protests began last week, the pandemic has gone from being the biggest crisis since 9/11 to almost an afterthought, overshadowed by the urgency and importance of taking to the streets in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Axios reported that on Sunday, for instance, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News devoted 25% of their combined airtime to the protests — and only 2.5% to the coronavirus. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight wondered on Twitter what it would mean for social distancing now that the news media “and other elites” were playing down the virus. In fact, we know the answer to that: though many of the protesters are still wearing masks, many are not. As for the critical need to stand six feet apart to avoid infecting others, well, that’s been abandoned.What’s more, it’s well documented that the virus is spread through respiratory droplets that are expelled when an infected person coughs, yells or even talks. Protesters yell. They scream when police spray them with pepper spray or tear gas. The public health experts who were so quick to condemn right-wing protesters for endangering the public with their behavior have largely been silent in the face of these much more widespread — and, from a pandemic standpoint, more dangerous — protests. Indeed, according to NPR, dozens of health experts signed an open letter supporting the protests. “White supremacy is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to Covid-19,” they wrote. Be that as it may, the virus doesn’t care whether the protesters are white supremacists or progressives.During the pandemic of 1918, people often died in 12 to 24 hours after being infected. The suddenness of death made the pandemic impossible to ignore. This virus isn’t like that. It’s less potent than the so-called Spanish flu, and symptoms don’t appear for a week or so after infection. Many people never have symptoms at all. It’s much easier to ignore, or soft-pedal, in the heat of the moment. To the country’s detriment, that’s exactly what been happening.So where does that leave us? First, it most likely means, as I noted previously, that just when many cities, including hard-hit New York, were finally getting the virus under control and beginning to reopen, there will be a new outbreak of infections. Second, there is a decent chance that the reopenings — which we’ve been awaiting so eagerly — will suffer a significant setback. Consider contact tracing. As the number of positive cases dwindle, the idea is the government can trace those with whom a newly infected person has been in contact and quarantine them, allowing the uninfected to return to work or otherwise go about their lives. The protests make contact tracing virtually impossible. That, in turn, increases that likelihood of widespread infections once cities reopen.Or consider all those hundreds of thousands of small storefront businesses that have been closed because of the lockdowns. For many of them, the vandalism that has taken place will make it even harder to reopen because their windows have been broken and their inventory stolen. Once the number of positive cases begin rising again, will restaurants still be able to open, even at 50% capacity? Will employees be able to return to the office? Will people be able to go to gyms? Or will we be right back where we were in mid-March? Will Cuomo have to reverse himself and, painfully, shut down New York City again?A number of economists have devised what I would call reopening models — calculations about how to maximize the ability to revive the economy while minimizing the possibility of further Covid-19 deaths. The paper I found most persuasive was written by a team led by James Stock, a Harvard economist.(1) “Our view is that it is possible to get people back to work, and get them shopping and avoid a resurgence in escalating deaths so long as there is some contact tracing,” he told me. “It is also contingent on a high degree of discipline in their non-work lives. If people have parties that are small and outdoors, then yes, you can open the economy. But if you continue your non-work life the way it was before, that completely swamps the contacts you make in the office. Those contacts are relatively safe. It is the out-of-work stuff that kills you.”Of course, the out-of-work stuff is exactly what has been taking place on the streets of just about every large city this past week. When I asked Stock whether he thought the protests negated his work, he said no: He thought the protesters were aware enough of the virus that if they came down with symptoms they would know enough to get tested and to self-isolate. And he was hopeful that because the protests took place outdoors, we might avoid a second wave. I hope he’s right, but I fear he’s wrong. There is a big difference between having a small party outdoors and joining thousands of others, in close quarters, to protest for social justice.In my neighborhood in New York, people are still stepping onto their balconies every evening at 7 p.m. to bang pots and pans in honor of the health-care workers who have put their lives on the line to fight the pandemic. Hundreds of them — doctors and nurses, and other essential workers, like meat-packers and delivery people — have lost their lives to the virus.Not since Sandy Hook has the country been as galvanized by a killing as it has been by George Floyd’s death. I am not discounting the importance of this moment, or the possibility that it could bring about important and lasting change. But I do wonder: if the protests lead to a new wave of the pandemic and set the country back on reopening, will the lives of those essential workers have been lost in vain?(1) The other co-authors are David Baqaee, Emmanuel Farhi and Michael J. Mina.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast "The Shrink Next Door."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) -- President Donald Trump’s combative response to nationwide protests against police brutality has dominated the news in recent days, but a wave of ads on Google’s YouTube has sought to draw attention to another event: the President’s 74th birthday. In the last full week of May, Trump’s campaign spent $1.48 million on Google advertising, the highest weekly total of the 2020 campaign, according to the search giant’s data. Many of the ads take the form of a digital birthday card the president’s supporters can sign by sharing information like their email addresses.The spending surge shows how the presidential campaign season has continued on digital media even as in-person events, like the large rallies President Trump favors, have been placed on hold. In the interim, Trump’s campaign is increasing its spending, largely to accumulate potential supporters’ email addresses.Alphabet Inc.’s Google is a favorite destination. Trump’s campaign spent about the same amount on Facebook Inc., where it spent $1.48 million over the same period.During the week of May 23, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee spent $1.3 million on Google advertising, while Donald J. Trump for President Inc., another Trump campaign entity, spent $164,500, according to Google’s database.Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign spent $322,600 in the week of May 23. The campaign has pulled back its spending on Google since the primary concluded; Biden’s spending on Google hit a record of $1.72 million for the week of Super Tuesday. Biden spent about $570,000 on Facebook during the week starting May 23.The two main Trump campaign groups have spent $26.3 million on Google ads since July 2018. Over that same period, Biden’s campaign has spent $6.38 million on Google ads.Earlier this year, the Trump campaign outbid rivals to reserve the coveted ad space at the top of YouTube’s homepage in advance for election day and the days before, Bloomberg News reported earlier.A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the candidates’ campaign spending.YouTube has taken a financial hit in recent months due to the economic downturn, but the company has noted the strong performance of “direct response” marketing -- video ads that prompt viewers to make a purchase or take an action, like Trump’s birthday card messages.“Democrats have just had a little more trouble raising money on Google versus Republicans, not due to a lack of good strategy but due to seeing better returns on other platforms,” said Julia Ager, founder and president of the Democratic digital advertising firm Sapphire Strategies.Digital political advertising has become increasingly prominent -- and controversial -- since the 2016 election. Both Google and Facebook, the market leaders, have begun to disclose more about spending levels and the types of ads candidates run.After an uproar over misleading campaign ads last year, Google banned political commercials with doctored images or “false claims.” It removed some ads from Trump and Democratic candidates in March. But Google has mostly avoided the uproar that Facebook and Twitter Inc. have faced over the past week as the two social media companies have made diverging decisions about how to handle incendiary posts from President Trump.Michael Bloomberg, the owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company for Bloomberg News, who ended his presidential bid in March, remains the top political buyer on Google since May 2018 with $62.3 million spent.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) -- Zoom’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan’s comments that the software company would work with law enforcement by not offering the strongest encryption for free calls using the popular video-conferencing service hit a nerve with some users, drawing criticism amid nationwide protests about the role of police in the U.S.Yuan, on a conference call Tuesday, said Zoom Video Communications Inc.’s efforts to provide the highest standard of digital security, called end-to-end encryption, would go to paying customers rather than the millions of people who use the app without charge for yoga classes, weddings, religious services and other social and business gatherings.“Free users, for sure, we don’t want to give that because we also want to work together with the FBI, with local law enforcement, in case some people use Zoom for the bad purpose,” said Yuan, also the company founder.The remarks struck thousands of people on social media as tone-deaf, coming as marches against police brutality have clogged many U.S. cities since George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who pinned his knee to Floyd’s neck in a video widely shared online.Some Zoom users vowed to dump the service and switch to competitors. Even some paying customers said they had canceled subscriptions for the company’s app. The software maker reported soaring revenue and profit Tuesday, cementing itself as one of the key beneficiaries of the coronavirus era, when millions of people have used Zoom to remotely work, learn and keep in touch with loved ones. The stock jumped 7.6% to a record $223.87 at Wednesday’s close, and has more than tripled this year.End-to-end encryption makes it impossible for third parties to decipher communications. While Zoom used to claim that its video calls featured that level of security, in fact, all calls have a lower level of encryption.Yuan sought to assuage users’ concerns Wednesday in his weekly webinar, saying the company was striving to “do the right thing” for vulnerable groups, including children and hate-crime victims, whose abuse is sometimes broadcast through Zoom’s platform.“We plan to provide end-to-end encryption to users for whom we can verify identity, thereby limiting harm to vulnerable groups,” he said. “I wanted to clarify that Zoom does not monitor meeting content. We do not have backdoors where participants, including Zoom employees or law enforcement, can enter meetings without being visible to others. None of this will change.”Zoom only has the email addresses of free users and Yuan said that doesn’t provide enough information to verify people’s identities. He said the company is trying to determine how it might offer end-to-end encryption to individuals who have purchased a Zoom subscription to extend the duration of their calls. Zoom offers 40-minute meetings at no cost.Days before his comments on working with law enforcement, Yuan publicly shared a letter he wrote to employees about the grievances that spurred the recent demonstrations, including “racism, injustice and violence.”During his Wednesday webinar, he echoed his support for the black community.“We will also assess how best to philanthropically contribute to support some of the external partners who are on the front lines tackling social and racial justice,” he 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.
(Bloomberg) -- Snap Inc. is no longer promoting U.S. President Donald Trump’s content in the news section of its Snapchat app, citing his posts on Twitter that threatened violence against protesters. The move prompted a sharp rebuke from Trump’s re-election campaign.“We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover,” Snap said Wednesday in a statement. “Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America.”Trump’s Snapchat account remains publicly available, but the decision will affect his reach on the platform. While the president has 1.5 million followers, he received the most attention when Snapchat would display his posts in the Discover section, potentially reaching hundreds of millions of people who use the social-networking app. Snapchat will be particularly important for reaching young and first-time voters ahead of the 2020 election, with schools and other gathering places potentially closed.“Snapchat is trying to rig the 2020 election,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “Snapchat hates that so many of their users watch the President’s content and so they are actively engaging in voter suppression. If you’re a conservative, they do not want to hear from you, they do not want you to vote. They view you as a deplorable and they do not want you to exist on their platform.” Snap shares fell as much as 4.3% on Wednesday. Trump recently posted messages on Twitter and Facebook that included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in response to protests over the police killing of George Floyd. That prompted tech companies to weigh if the president broke their rules about inciting violence. It has also sparked a heated debate about how social media rules should be applied to world leaders versus regular users.Twitter Inc. put a warning label on Trump’s post, while Facebook Inc. did nothing, standing by its decision even after employees protested publicly.Snap’s move was based on another Trump tweet from May 30 in which he warned that if protesters came close to breaching the White House fence “they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs and ominous weapons.” The president frequently reposts his tweets to Snapchat, though the warning about the dogs was not reposted.Snap decided that, unlike Twitter and Facebook, it’s not attempting to be a neutral town square. The Discover page uses a mix of manual and algorithmic curation, while Twitter and Facebook rely on automation based on data about viral sharing and other measures of popularity. Snap’s decision was reported earlier by the New York Times.(Updates with Trump campaign comment 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.
Snap announced this morning that it will not be promoting content from President Trump's Snapchat account in its Discover tab following statements from Trump last week on Twitter, which threatened that protestors could be met with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons." The move is notable for many reasons, but is particularly interesting because social media platforms have tended to only discipline popular accounts when they've violated the rules on their own platform. Snapchat users will still be able to access content from Trump's feed if they subscribe to it or search specifically for the account.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- One of the most feared antagonists in the “Star Trek” universe is the seemingly unstoppable alien species called the Borg. These cybernetic aliens travel the galaxy, conquering and assimilating everything in their path while greeting each new victim with the catch-phrase, “Resistance is futile.”In many ways, the prevailing narrative around Big Tech is similar to this sci-fi series villain story line. Pundits often cite how the technology giants’ vast financial resources and R&D budgets will lead to an inexorable march to control more and more of the economy. And sure, on the surface it makes sense. Apple Inc. and Google-parent Alphabet Inc. sport net cash balances of roughly $100 billion each and dominate their respective markets, generating vast profit streams from smartphones to search engines. Together with Facebook Inc., Netflix Inc. and Microsoft Corp., these behemoths also reign over the stock market with their ballooning valuations. How can any smaller company hope to compete against such power in the current difficult environment?The reality paints a much less daunting picture. It turns out that the Covid-19 era has led to an explosion of innovation and rapid growth for dozens of smaller technology companies. Many of these upstarts — from video-conferencing software maker Zoom Video Communications Inc. to cloud-computing firm Datadog Inc. — are emphatically winning even as the tech giants try to squash them. And they’re doing it in many cases by simply making a better product and having a laser focus on it. There’s a flaw in the concept that Big Tech can easily expand into new markets by leveraging the power of their core businesses. The reason is all companies – big or small – have finite top-tier engineering talent. And of course, companies tend to put their best people on their most important profit-making segments, versus any peripheral new markets, opening the door for the upstart specialists to thrive.Earlier this year, I wrote how corporations were flocking to software vendors such as Zoom for solutions on how to get the job done at a time when their employees were forced to work from home amid lockdown restrictions. Since then, Big Tech has taken particular aim at the software company as they sought to push their own video-conferencing tools. Last month, Google added a large, blue-colored “Add Google Meet video conferencing” button any time a Google Calendar user tries to add an appointment, while its Gmail accounts with its billion-plus user base also conspicuously have Google Meet in the lower left corner at all times. Microsoft, meantime, has sought to capitalize on early security concerns with Zoom to promote its Teams product. Despite the aggressive moves, you couldn’t see any negative impact in Zoom’s results. Late Tuesday, the upstart posted April-quarter sales results that crushed Wall Street estimates. The company posted first-quarter revenue of $328 million, up 169% from a year earlier, versus the $203 million Bloomberg consensus. It also projected a sales range of $495 million to $500 million for the current quarter, more than double the $222 million analyst estimate. Zoom shares climbed 5% on Wednesday, adding to year-to-date gains that already topped 200%.That’s just Zoom. There are plethora of cloud software names — including monitoring analytics provider Datadog and user authentication company Okta, Inc. — that are also seeing surging demand for their services and the soaring stock prices to match. These companies are building out comprehensive offerings and stronger leadership positions in their respective categories that will be harder to displace as they grow in stature. And it’s still early innings on the growth curve for many of these firms. The move to cloud-computing is a seminal paradigm shift similar in scope to the transition to mobile smartphones nearly a decade ago. Gartner said the world-wide enterprise technology market was $3.7 trillion last year. Even if the economy contracts, it will be a large market, with lots of room for fast-growing companies to make meaningful share gains as spending shifts toward new technologies. “The trends of digital transformation and cloud migration remain very much intact over the long term and may even be accelerated or amplified,” Datadog CEO Olivier Pomel said during his May earning call with investors. Another recent example of Big Tech’s failure is Amazon.com Inc.’s foray into gaming. After years of development, the e-commerce giant released its first big-budget video game “Crucible” last month to much fanfare, even advertising the title on the front page of its website. It was meant to be the Amazon’s beachhead into the large attractive gaming market. It didn’t go well. To illustrate, just a couple weeks after its launch “Crucible” has precipitously fallen in the Twitch charts, a key indicator of gamer engagement, to roughly 100 viewers or barely in the top 500 titles. It turned out to be a complete flop, even as Epic Games Inc.’s Fortnite remains a fan favorite.Despite the worries over Big Tech’s growing dominance, the flip side may actually be the bigger risk. Last month, I wrote how other retailers appear to be taking advantage of Amazon’s service troubles to make incursions, which has allowed them to grow their e-commerce businesses at triple-digit rates. In social media, the short-video platform TikTok has also surged in popularity. Last week, Bloomberg News reported TikTok’s parent ByteDance Ltd.’s revenue for last year more than doubled to more than $17 billion from $7.4 billion in 2018, a level of sales nearly triple that of Twitter Inc. and Snap Inc. combined. Incredibly, if TikTok continues it current growth trajectory, it has the potential to surpass some of Facebook’s key platforms within a few years. And speaking of Facebook, its latest big push into e-commerce space, Facebook Shops, relies in great deal on a partnership with online-store software maker Shopify Inc. and its extensive array of commerce tools for small businesses.History shows the tech industry’s reputation for disruption is unmatched. And if it is any guide, investors shouldn’t overlook or underestimate the industry’s up-and-comers, even in — or should I say especially in — times like these. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tae Kim is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Barron's, following an earlier career as an equity analyst.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.
Microblogging veteran Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) is under new leadership. Chairman Omid Kordestani stepped down from his post on June 1 and former Google CFO Patrick Pichette has taken his place. What's new? Pichette also serves as chairman of Twitter's audit committee and a member of the board's compensation committee.
(Bloomberg) -- Coronavirus has exposed a lack of investment in the big batteries crucial to unlocking solar and wind power.A drop in energy demand caused by the pandemic has left European grids overloaded with green electricity, raising the threat of blackouts and underlining the need for energy storage in a low-carbon energy system.Europe is striving to rid its power grids of carbon emissions by the middle of the century. But what should be an incentive to increase the use of batteries isn’t happening nearly fast enough with installations dropping last year, according to BloombergNEF.“Batteries are extremely critical,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said in an interview. “They are ready for the big time” and should be included in post-virus economic recovery packages, he said.One reason for the drop in battery installations comes down to how power markets are set up, according to Marco van Daele, co-chief executive officer and chief investment officer of Susi Partners AG, a clean energy infrastructure fund manager. The newness of storage technology and the lack of long-term income streams has put investors off.“An obstacle for much wider investment in the space is the lack of contracted and visible revenue,” he said. Even as the costs of building batteries come down, “the remuneration of that capacity needs to become more visible in order to attract the large-scale investment needed.”For decades, power markets have been designed around demand and ensuring there is enough supply to fulfill peak consumption. Slowly the focus is changing to how to control an oversupply when it’s sunny or windy. And with renewables having priority feeding into the grid, they have more influence over how the system is managed.Read more about how renewables are impacting the grid in BritainThe slide in demand caused by the virus lockdowns has been “like pressing a fast-forward button in power markets to where you have large amounts of generation but not the investment in flexibility,” said Peter Osbaldstone, research director on European power and renewables at Wood Mackenzie Group Ltd.For its part, the EU has proposed a 750 billion-euro ($824 billion) recovery plan to accelerate the transition to clean transport, increase energy savings and boost the production of renewable power.Read more about the Green Deal hereThe European Battery Alliance wants to use the opportunity to accelerate projects that would create 1 million jobs in the sector that could be worth 210 billion euros within the next 2-1/2 years, according to European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic.European carbon emissions are on track for a 17% reduction this year, thanks to a higher proportion of renewables used to meet demand. A combination of wind and solar power could make up the largest share of power capacity in Europe’s major markets as early as 2023, according to Wood Mackenzie.For battery owners, swings in prices when renewables hit the grid could be a major opportunity. Batteries can charge up when solar and wind generation is plentiful and market rates are low, and then sell power to the grid when prices are higher. With enough capacity on the system, buying and selling from battery operators could ultimately help ease the price swings.The U.K., Ireland, Italy, France and Germany have high potential for growth in the short-term, according to Marek Kubik, market director for U.K. and Ireland at Fluence Energy LLC.Factors such as retiring thermal generation, fast-growing variable renewable generation and a move to electrify sectors like transport and heat all point to a need for flexibility that can be easily supplied by battery-based energy storage, he said.(Adds analysis from Woodmac in 11th 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 Opinion) -- A more comprehensive abdication of leadership could scarcely be imagined.America has now lost more than 105,000 people to a still-uncontrolled virus. Some 40 million are out of work, with the economy in free fall. From coast to coast, cities are burning, protests raging and chaos spiraling in an immense outpouring of pain and anger over police violence that seems only to intensify by the day. Not since the Vietnam War has the country been gripped with such unrest, or faced with so many serious crises at once.And what is the president of the United States doing amid all this? Tweeting, mostly.In addition to his usual mix of insults and grievances, Donald Trump has lately used his Twitter feed to air baffling conspiracy theories, express lurid fantasies and offer idle observations on the headlines of the day, as though someone else runs the government. He has scarcely even acknowledged the source of the national turmoil — the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer — let alone effectively addressed it. He betrays no urgency, offers no ideas, and shows no inclination to rise to the moment or heed the voice of the people protesting at his doorstep.On Monday, after an unnerving speech in the Rose Garden, Trump had police officers clear out mostly peaceful demonstrators in front of the White House — aggressively using smoke canisters, flash grenades and batons, and risking their safety in the process — so he could stage a photo at a nearby church, thereby infuriating the local bishop, the mayor of Washington and a neighboring police department requisitioned for the stunt. It nearly defied belief.To ask this president to get serious seems almost comically futile at this late date. Except it isn’t funny. The total absence of executive leadership has exacted an appalling price. A coherent national strategy for combating Covid-19 is still nowhere in evidence, even as the president’s coronavirus task force winds itself down. Faced with an economic calamity, the White House offers only blithe optimism and self-congratulation. Amid the worst civil unrest in a generation, an expression of empathy or an exhortation to better angels might palliate the national mood. Yet even these basic steps seem to be utterly beyond Trump’s capacity.A normal president would recognize the horror of Floyd’s death and all it represents. He or she would insist that riots accomplish nothing productive, while still conceding that the frustrations they express come from centuries of discrimination. And any occupant of the Oval Office should understand that helping unite and repair the country in a time like this is part of the job description, something Trump entirely fails to grasp.Rarely in American history has a president been so ill-suited for a moment or so decisively overmatched by events. In a crisis demanding resolve and competence, the commander in chief sits at home, feebly tapping on his phone. It’s a potent metaphor — and a national shame.Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.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) -- Mark Zuckerberg has his hands full.Facebook Inc.’s employees have been staging walkouts (virtually, of course — it’s Silicon Valley and a pandemic is afoot). They’ve also posted to an internal chat board, complaining that Zuckerberg, the social media powerhouse’s founder, is allowing it to be used to foment violence, hatred and disinformation by letting President Donald Trump’s incendiary Facebook posts remain in place.A civil rights group met with Zuckerberg and his chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, on Monday to discuss their concerns about Trump using Facebook to divide the country amid protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American, while in police custody in Minneapolis. One of those who joined the meeting, Color of Change President Rashad Robinson, was troubled by Zuckerberg’s decision to keep the Trump posts.“The problem with my ongoing conversations with Mark is that I feel like I spent a lot of time, and my colleagues spent a lot of time, explaining to him why these things are a problem, and I think he just very much lacks the ability to understand it,” Robinson told a Bloomberg News reporter.Robinson and two other civil rights leaders who participated in the Zuckerberg call also released a statement elaborating on that thought: “He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression. … Mark is setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar harmful things on Facebook.”Zuckerberg held a video conference on Tuesday with employees to discuss the Trump backlash and stood firm. He said letting the Trump posts remain was a “tough decision” but was the “right action.” Casey Newton, a reporter for The Verge, obtained an audio recording of a meeting Zuckerberg held last Friday with employees that offers a deeper look into his thinking about the Trump posts.“This is not how I think we want our leaders to show up during this time. This is a moment that calls for unity and calmness and empathy for people who are struggling,” Zuckerberg said. “There is a real question coming out of this, which is whether we want to evolve our policy around the discussion of state use of force. Over the coming days, as the National Guard is now deployed, probably the largest one that I would worry about would be excessive use of police or military force. I think there’s a good argument that there should be more bounds around the discussion around that.”Like many of his compatriots in Silicon Valley living in the time of Trump, a pandemic, economic chaos, income inequality and social upheaval, Zuckerberg has reached a tipping point. The visionaries who built fortunes around products and services that weaved the world more tightly and imperfectly together with just the flicks of digital switches have been content, by and large, to pretend their machines are friction-free, self-perpetuating and self-regulating. Facebook, perhaps more than any other digital invention, never had a chance of perpetuating that myth.As many as 2.2 billion of the planet’s 7.8 billion people use Facebook. It is a giant advertising and communications machine, a vast social trampoline and an enormous chessboard for political and business operatives. Nice things happen on it and bad things happen on it. Yes, Zuckerberg built it, but its influence and scope have certainly outgrown his ability to steer it effectively without being well advised and open-minded.In addition to concerns about the Trump posts, Facebook employees have complained that Zuckerberg operates in a bubble and needs greater diversity among his senior advisers. But as he moved to reassert his authority within the company in recent months, the 35-year-old mogul has packed his board of directors with more pliant members. An internal study Facebook’s senior executives commissioned in response to criticism about whether the platform had been weaponized by Russians and Trump’s team during the 2016 election — and Zuckerberg’s own concerns that the site was awash in “sensationalism and polarization” — was shelved. Among other things, the study found that Facebook exacerbated tribalism and division among its users. A senior Facebook executive dismissed efforts to address that problem as “paternalistic,” according to reporting from the Wall Street Journal. Facebook has said it doesn’t plan to vet political advertising for its veracity ahead of the 2020 election.Last week, as Twitter wrangled with Trump over tweets the company decided to label with a warning and then fact-check, Zuckerberg let it be known that he didn’t think any social media platform should be an “arbiter of truth.” This is consistent with statements he has made in the past about the need for Facebook to take a hands-off approach to content on its site and that the burden should be on users about what to believe.This isn’t consistent with how Zuckerberg has acted, however. For example, and to his credit, he spotted the danger of Covid-19 early and Facebook announced in January that it would remove disinformation about the coronavirus from the site. He later set up an information center about the pandemic on Facebook dedicated to conveying high-quality and accurate data to the site’s users. There are other examples of Facebook proactively removing information or interactions it deemed dangerous or abusive from the site as well. More recently, we have Zuckerberg’s musings about how Facebook might respond if there’s an “excessive use of police or military force” in the U.S.There is plenty of room for Zuckerberg to make a principled free-speech defense around Trump or anyone else who posts inflammatory material to Facebook. He went in that direction in one of his own Facebook posts on Friday. “Our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies,” he wrote.This is reasonable and classic advocacy for free speech. And it bears the classic disclaimer: You can say anything you want in America, but you’re not allowed to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. People might get hurt — and in that instance, their safety outweighs your free speech.That same argument can be made about a political leader threatening violence when people of color, burdened with centuries of racism and discrimination seeded with contemporary despair, take to the street to protest peacefully. But the Trump-Zuckerberg debate also involves dynamics other than the battles taking place on city streets right now. Zuckerberg is a shrewd businessman, and policing his site effectively and proactively would be more burdensome and expensive were he to do it. Running Facebook like a news platform, which it is, rather than as just another technology platform, which Zuckerberg would like to continue pretending it is, would force him into regulatory regimes and responsibilities for which he probably has little appetite. And if his company doesn’t merely foster tribalism and polarization, but actually thrives because of those forces — as the internal Facebook study concluded — why would he rush to overhaul anything?Yet here Zuckerberg is. Reality has intervened and thrown roadblocks in front of Facebook’s spectacular success. He can continue trying to navigate around them with a schizophrenic approach to free speech deployed as a matter of convenience. Or he can help Facebook become a more mature and responsible enterprise by leading it differently.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Timothy L. O'Brien is a senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.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) -- Twitter Inc. defended its recent decision to label some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets, but also said world leaders’ comments on the social media service will stay up, even if they break the company’s rules.In a reiteration of established policies, which Twitter calls its health principles, the company published a series of tweets on Tuesday explaining its rationale after it had been heavily criticized by Trump and other conservative politicians. Their allegation had been that Twitter’s actions exhibited political bias, whereas the company stressed that its top priority was to “decrease potential for likely harm.”Twitter added labels to tweets by the president on May 26 that it said violated its misinformation policy. Three days later, Twitter slapped a rule-violation notice on another post by Trump warning protesters in Minnesota that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”Read more: Twitter-Trump Tension Mounts on Warning Over Shooting Tweet“We are NOT attempting to address all misinformation,” the company’s @twittersafety account wrote on Tuesday. “Instead, we prioritize based on the highest potential for harm, focusing on manipulated media, civic integrity, and Covid-19. Likelihood, severity and type of potential harm — along with reach and scale — factor into this.”Still, the company has resisted other calls to drop Trump from its service entirely. “It’s important people can read and speak about what world leaders say, even if they violate our rules,” Twitter wrote on Tuesday.The San Francisco-based company said it “shouldn’t determine the truthfulness of tweets,” but tries to “provide context to help people make up their own minds in cases where the substance of a Tweet is disputed.”“Hence, our focus is on providing context, not fact-checking,” it added.(Updates with additional context from 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.
The amorphous internet activist movement known as Anonymous staged an online resurgence in the past week on the back of real-world protests against police brutality. “We have seen a few accounts change their profile names, photos, etc. in an attempt to visibly associate with the group and gain followers,” said Twitter spokeswoman Liz Kelley.
(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. named Patrick Pichette as chairman, replacing Omid Kordestani, who stepped down from the role on Monday.Pichette, former chief financial officer of Google, is a partner at venture firm Inovia Capital and has served as Twitter’s lead independent director since December 2018. Kordestani will remain as a non-employee director, the company said Tuesday.“Given the strength and depth of Twitter’s management team and board, we believe that now is the right time to evolve our governance structure in-line with best practices,” Pichette said in a statement. “We are pleased to demonstrate our commitment to good governance and be in the position to make this important change. We look forward to continuing to benefit from Omid’s expertise on the Board.”Twitter’s corporate governance came under scrutiny earlier this year when activist investor Elliott Management Corp. took a stake in the company with plans to challenge Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, and potentially replace him. Having an independent chairman was one of the first things Elliott raised with Twitter in their initial meetings as one of the ways the company could improve its governance, according to people familiar with the matter. Pichette will be the first independent chairman for the social-media company.The hedge fund has also pushed Twitter to de-stagger its board, which would allow all directors to stand for re-election every year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. At Twitter’s annual meeting last week, just three of the company’s 11 directors were up for re-election, including Kordestani.Elliott’s push for change at the company was largely focused on improving its leadership, including reviewing whether to replace Dorsey, who divides his time between running Twitter and leading mobile-payments business Square Inc., people familiar with the matter have said. The goal would be to improve operational efficiency and oversight so the company can execute better on its strategy after several stumbles late last year caused its share price to tumble, they said.Twitter agreed to appoint three new directors to its board and create a committee to review its leadership, succession and governance. The committee is expected to deliver its recommendations by year-end. The company named Elliott’s head of U.S. activism, Jesse Cohn, and Egon Durban, co-chief executive officer of private equity firm Silver Lake, to the board at the time. Computer scientist Fei-Fei Li was appointed last month as the third independent director.Last week, Twitter took action against U.S. President Donald Trump for the first time, fact-checking two of his tweets while adding a label to a third for violating rules around glorifying violence. Dorsey and the San Francisco-based company have been criticized for years for failing to do enough to block offensive and harassing posts -- by the president and other users. Trump has since issued an executive order meant to limit some of the protections Twitter and other social media companies receive under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.(Update with details about Elliott’s involvement and plan to de-stagger board elections.)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) -- President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting social media companies was challenged in court by a non-profit group that claims the edict violates free-speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.The Center for Democracy and Technology sued in Washington federal court Tuesday, claiming the order is an unconstitutional retaliation against Twitter and that it seeks to discourage other companies and individuals from disagreeing with the government.Trump’s order, issued on Thursday, is intended to undermine the legal protections enjoyed by social media companies including Twitter and Facebook. He asked federal regulators to look at provisions, contained in Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, that insulate the companies from liability for content posted by users.The order followed on the heels of Twitter’s decision to add fact-check labels to two of Trump’s tweets. Twitter also restricted a post by the president suggesting that protesters who engaged in looting would be met with violence. Legal observers have said Trump lacks the power to modify Section 230 by executive order.The Center for Democracy and Technology asked the judge to find the order violates the First Amendment and to issue an order blocking government officials from following it.The Justice Department declined to comment, according to spokeswoman Brianna Herlihy.The case is Center for Democracy and Technology v. Trump, 20-cv-01456, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).(Adds Justice Department no comment)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) -- As racial unrest has spread to more and more cities following the police killing of George Floyd, the far left has been busy devising excuses for riots.These progressives have frequently quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment that “a riot is the language of the unheard,” with less attention to his simultaneous insistence that “riots are socially destructive and self-defeating.” Property is less important than people, they proclaim on Twitter, as though damage to the one offers protection for the other — and as though violent crowds are fastidious in observing the distinction.Thankfully, some Democrats have repudiated this dangerous sophistry. Even better, one of those Democrats is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden. In a speech in Philadelphia, he proved that it is entirely possible to view Floyd’s killing as a wake-up call about racism and police brutality while also condemning violence. Some communities, he said, “have had a knee on their neck for too long. But there is no place for violence. No place for looting or destroying property or burning churches, or destroying businesses — many of them built by people of color who for the first time were beginning to realize their dreams and build wealth for their families.”Biden went on to say, “We need to distinguish between legitimate peaceful protest — and opportunistic violent destruction.” It’s a view that puts him in the center of public opinion. A Morning Consult poll this week found that 54% of the public supports the protests while only 22% opposes them. But 70% of the public supports curfews, and 66% support calling in the National Guard to ensure public safety. (Even deploying the U.S. military, as President Donald Trump has suggested, gets 55% support.) The presidential primaries may have freed Biden to take this stance. He won the Democratic nomination over the opposition of most progressives. As late as the March 17 Arizona primary, he was losing voters who consider themselves “very liberal” to Bernie Sanders by more than 2-1. Criticism from the left did nothing, however, to dent his support from African-Americans, even when the criticism concerned racial issues. On such issues, white progressives are well to the left of most African-Americans. The latter group’s strong support enabled Biden’s victory.Biden now seems to assume that condemning lawless violence, even when it is done in the name of racial justice, will not jeopardize that support — and that it would be a mistake to try to placate people who turned out to be louder on social media than they were numerous in voting booths.His speech harked back to an older liberalism, one that was committed to racial equality but not to the shibboleths of wokeness. Conservatives will find much in it with which to disagree. Biden took the opportunity to call for expanding Obamacare and to condemn Trump for undermining it, a topic that has at best a highly attenuated connection to the brutalization of George Floyd. Biden has the old liberal confidence that federal laws -- he called for national police reform to be passed into law this month -- are likely to yield broad social progress.That confidence has often been misplaced. But there was a decency to that liberalism, and a faith in the decency of America and Americans that today’s progressives often don’t share and sometimes even deny. It’s a way of thinking that has long been dismissed as out of date but still has appeal, which makes it a perfect fit for the Democratic nominee.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a senior editor at National Review, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and contributor to CBS News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
An executive order from the White House targeting Twitter for moderating one of the president's posts is being challenged in a new lawsuit from a digital rights group. The president signed the order last week after Twitter added a fact-checking label to one of his tweets that made false claims about mail-in voting. The order, signed with the blessing of Attorney General William Barr, took aim in particular at a law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from legal liability for the content they host.
(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told staff at a companywide meeting that he won’t change his mind about a decision to leave up posts shared by U.S. President Donald Trump last week that many workers felt violated the company’s policies against violent rhetoric.At an all-hands meeting via video chat on Tuesday, Zuckerberg took questions from employees, many of whom have publicly voiced dismay that the Trump post, which seemed to threaten that looters would be shot, was still visible on Facebook’s service. Zuckerberg told workers that he and other members of the company’s policy team couldn’t justify saying that the message clearly incited violence, which means it didn’t break Facebook’s rules, according to two people who attended the meeting.Zuckerberg added that Facebook is exploring whether the company should change the policy or come up with other ways to flag violating posts besides taking them down entirely, one person said. The meeting lasted 90 minutes, and employees asked Zuckerberg questions via a video split screen. Many of those who spoke were upset and frustrated with the company’s position.Facebook is responding to the most intense internal protest in its history, involving public resignations and increasing outrage over Zuckerberg’s decisions. While the CEO stood his ground on the posts from last week, the company tried to assuage concerns by announcing two initiatives. Facebook will create a hub for election resources -- similar to its offering for Covid-19 -- where users can seek out vetted information, the meeting attendees said. And Fidji Simo, the head of Facebook’s flagship app, was tasked with sponsoring more proactive initiatives to advance racial justice, according to the employees, who asked not to be identified discussing an internal meeting.On May 28, Trump posted a message on Facebook with the words “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis. It remains on the social network.The same post was also shared to rival social network Twitter Inc., which then added a warning and filter to the message. A number of Facebook employees, including some senior figures, have criticized the company’s approach, challenging Zuckerberg’s decision to leave the post up, and on Monday some workers participated in a virtual walkout in protest.“Mark had an open discussion with employees today, as he has regularly over the years,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “He’s grateful for their feedback.”One employee, software engineer Timothy Aveni, announced his resignation on Monday, citing Facebook’s failure to step in on content such as Trump’s.“Mark always told us that he would draw the line at speech that calls for violence. He showed us on Friday that this was a lie,” Aveni posted on Facebook. “Facebook, complicit in the propagation of weaponized hatred, is on the wrong side of history.”As criticism mounted on Monday, Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg held a videoconference with U.S. civil rights leaders to discuss issues around Facebook’s policies related to race, elections and other topics. Color of Change President Rashad Robinson said participants were left disappointed with Zuckerberg’s understanding of the issues.Last week, Twitter also angered Trump when the company added a fact-checking label to a post about mail-in ballots. Trump responded by unveiling an executive order targeting the law that protects social-media companies from liability for the content posted by its users.(Updates with new initiatives in the 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.
Pichette, who had been Twitter's lead independent director since the end of 2018, will replace Omid Kordestani in leading the directors as chairman. Kordestani supervised the board and had more day to day involvement with the company as executive chairman for nearly five years.
The chief executive of the Japanese investment bank said he would 'like to discuss' whether the bank now needed to much space in central Tokyo.