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Day's Range180.92 - 181.70
52 Week Range110.63 - 185.14
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  • Instagram Stories Captures Almost 10% of Ad Spending on Facebook

    Instagram Stories Captures Almost 10% of Ad Spending on Facebook

    Dec.10 -- Bloomberg's Sarah Frier and Eric Haggstrom of Emarketer talk about the growth of ad spending on Instagram. They appear on "Bloomberg Technology."

  • Facebook's video calling Portal devices add WhatsApp login, new features and content

    Facebook's video calling Portal devices add WhatsApp login, new features and content

    Facebook is making its line of Portal-branded smart video calling devices more relevant to consumers, including those who don't even have a Facebook account. The company today says its Portal family of products will now work with just a WhatsApp account, allowing users to make video calls to friends and family, as well as access Portal features like its interactive "Story Time." In addition, the Portal devices are gaining new AR features, support for Facebook's Workplace product for businesses and a number of new streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, FandangoNOW, SlingTV and others.

  • Reuters

    UPDATE 2-Thousands of UK political ads went missing from Facebook archive searches

    Thousands of UK political ads went missing from Facebook Inc's searchable advertising database on Tuesday, hampering researchers' ability to track ads two days before Britain's general election. Facebook's ad library, which it launched in the UK in 2018, is a public tool for users to view political advertising on the platform. The problem, first reported by Sky News, affected ads from the ruling Conservative Party, the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats.

  • These Are The 5 Best Stocks To Buy And Watch Now
    Investor's Business Daily

    These Are The 5 Best Stocks To Buy And Watch Now

    Buying the right stocks at the right time is key to investing. Check out Splunk, Fortinet, AutoZone, Inphi and Pan American Silver.

  • Thousands of UK political ads went missing from Facebook archive searches

    Thousands of UK political ads went missing from Facebook archive searches

    Thousands of UK political ads went missing from Facebook Inc's searchable advertising database on Tuesday, hampering researchers' ability to track ads two days before Britain's general election. Facebook's ad library, which it launched in the UK in 2018, is a public tool for users to view political advertising on the platform. The problem, first reported by Sky News, affected ads from the ruling Conservative Party, the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats.

  • U.S. senators threaten Facebook, Apple with encryption regulation

    U.S. senators threaten Facebook, Apple with encryption regulation

    U.S. senators grilled Apple Inc and Facebook Inc executives over their encryption practices on Tuesday and threatened to regulate the technology unless the companies make encrypted user data accessible to law enforcement. At a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Democrats and Republicans presented a rare united front as they invoked child abuse and mass shooting cases in which encryption has blocked access to key evidence and stymied investigations. "You're going to find a way to do this or we're going to go do it for you," said Senator Lindsey Graham.

  • Apple, Facebook Clash With Senators Over Encryption, Backdoors

    Apple, Facebook Clash With Senators Over Encryption, Backdoors

    (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. clashed again with Washington over law enforcement access to encrypted data.In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushed the companies to let the police and other authorities access personal data that lies behind encryption on devices and technology platforms. Senators threatened to legislate if the private sector doesn’t offer solutions on its own.Republican Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a top ally of President Donald Trump, said the government should be able to search phones if it has a warrant. “I hope the tech community working with law enforcement can find a way to do it. If you all don’t, we will.” Such access increasingly requires company assistance now that many mobile messaging services encrypt user communications by default.“I am determined to see that there is a way that phones can be unlocked when major crimes are committed,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee. “We need to take action.”Facebook wrote to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and top officials in the U.K. and Australia this week to reject their call for so-called backdoors into data, which the company said would expose users to hackers and repressive regimes.“It is simply impossible to create such a backdoor for one purpose and not expect others to try and open it,” Facebook executives Will Cathcart and Stan Chudnovsky wrote in the letter. “That is not something we are prepared to do.”Big tech companies contend that strong encryption on their devices and services, without a backdoor that could be exploited for bad purposes, is vital for the security of their products.“Encryption is the underlying technology providing information security in all modern systems,” Erik Neuenschwander, manager of user privacy at Apple, said in prepared testimony. “We do not know of a way to deploy encryption that provides access only for the good guys without making it easier for the bad guys to break in.”Tech companies and governments have clashed for years over balancing law enforcement access and user privacy, most famously when the U.S. sought access to an iPhone from a terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting spree in San Bernardino, California, in 2015. Apple refused to help, and the FBI eventually was able to hack into the handset.Discussions and debate have continued with little progress. Barr escalated the tension in October when he and officials from the U.K. and Australia pushed Facebook to stop plans for end-to-end encryption of messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Messenger until the countries can ensure lawful access to user communications.The letter from Cathcart and Chudnovsky, released by Facebook on Tuesday, was a response to Barr’s message. The company wants to encrypt its messaging services as part of a plan that emphasizes direct communication between users instead of public and group postings. The move would make it effectively impossible for Facebook to hand over user messages to law enforcement, or proactively scan for dangerous or illegal activity, the company has said, although it emphasizes it’s working on other ways to combat threats.To contact the reporters on this story: Alyza Sebenius in Washington at asebenius@bloomberg.net;Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at btenerellabr@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Martin at amartin146@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Larry LiebertFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • How Facebook Makes Money: advertising, payments and other fees

    How Facebook Makes Money: advertising, payments and other fees

    Facebook, which rakes in billons of dollars in profit selling ad space, is facing rising scrutiny over privacy issues, antitrust violations, and its cryptocurrency named Libra.

  • Billionaire David Tepper Loaded Up These 3 FANG Stocks; Should You?

    Billionaire David Tepper Loaded Up These 3 FANG Stocks; Should You?

    Wall Street pays attention when David Tepper makes an investment move. Tepper started out his career as a credit analyst with Goldman Sachs in the 1980s, diving right away into risky bonds and other distressed debt assets. Older financial hands noticed that Tepper was right more than he was wrong with this gutsy strategy, and brought in high returns for the firm.Tepper earned a reputation as a go-getter who was not afraid to take hair-raising chances. When he parted ways with Goldman Sachs in 1992, he took that attitude with him when hefounded Appaloosa Management the next year.Starting with $57 million in available capital, Tepper has since built Appaloosa into a behemoth – the fund now has over $17 billion in assets under management. With Appaloosa, Tepper has maintained his preference for high-risk, high-yield distressed debt investments, but among the firm’s assets are $3.4 billion in 13F securities. And the list of stocks that Tepper’s fund has bought into is most interesting.Even though Tepper’s reputation was built on taking risks, Appaloosa’s three biggest investments, comprising 44% of the holdings in the Q3 13F filing, were Alphabet, Facebook, and Amazon – three of the four FANG stocks. Collectively, these companies hold the third, fourth, and fifth spots among the largest publicly traded companies in the world, and none of them are considered “high-risk.” Tepper has put over $1.5 billion dollars into these three companies – with large increases in his holdings of them in Q3.Remember, of course, that Tepper still must ensure that investors receive the returns they were sold on. The FANG stocks, all giants in the high-return tech sector, are one way of doing just that.We’ve opened the TipRanks database to get the lowdown on Tepper’s big FANG investments. A brief look at the TipRanks Stock Screener tool shows that all three have a clear positive upside potential for the near future, and ‘very positive’ investor sentiment – a sign that these stocks are attracting and holding new investors. More importantly, all three have the coveted ‘Strong Buy’ consensus rating from the Wall Street analysts. Let’s dive deeper, to find out what those analysts have to say.Amazon (AMZN)Amazon is the world’s third largest publicly traded company, with a market cap of $872 billion, and has absolutely dominated online retail since the 2000s. The company is a known innovator in warehousing techniques and processes, and has developed a ruthless reputation for improving cost efficiencies.Large capital expenditures in the past year depressed EPS according to the most recent quarterly earnings report. The key metric was down by 9%, at $4.23 against the $4.62 estimate, even though top-line revenues gained 24% and reached $70 billion for the quarter. The company has spent over $1.6 billion in 2019 on promoting and expanding its one-day delivery. Even though management acknowledged that the capex pushed down earnings, they also announced a further $1.5 billion spend in Q4, on expansions of the warehouse network and product lines. Not many companies can react to a bottom line hit from high capex by announcing even higher future capex. Amazon gets away with it due to its size, its economies of scale, and its strong cash flows.Tepper bought up 80,000 shares of AMZN in Q3, an increase of 44% in his stake in the company. Appaloosa’s holding of AMZN shares is now 265,000 and is worth over $460 million at current prices.Of the stocks in this list, Amazon shows the highest potential upside. Youssef Squali, writing for SunTrust Robinson, explains why: “We're incrementally positive on AMZN going into what should be a robust holiday season, given the company's outsized growth within US ecommerce, of which we estimate AMZN will claim ~37% of total GMV this holiday season…”Squali puts a $2,350 price target on the stock, showing his confidence in an impressive 34% upside potential for the stock. (To watch Squali’s track record, click here)Let’s face it, Wall Street agrees with him on this. AMZN shares have a single Hold rating, but a whopping 38 Buys – giving the stock a Strong Buy consensus rating. Amazon shares are famously expensive, at $1,761, and the average price target of $2,151 shows that Wall Street anticipates 22% upside growth. (See Amazon's stock analysis on TipRanks)Facebook (FB)We’ve all heard the ugly details of Facebook’s recent troubles. User privacy breaches, a $5 billion FCC fine, accusations of political censorship, and Mark Zuckerberg’s bungled efforts at PR damage control all took a toll on the stock. And so, despite hitting an all-time high share price back in July of 2018 and giving the impression that the sky was the limit, the company fell hard and fast through 2H18 and has had difficulty regaining traction in 2019.A look at the price chart shows that FB’s troubles may be in the rearview mirror as the stock has been rising through the fourth quarter of this year. Revenues and earnings both beat the forecasts in Q3, with the top line at $17.65 billion and EPS at $2.12. Usage metrics across the company’s apps remain high, with Monthly Average Users meeting expectations at 2.45 billion and Daily Active Users edging over the estimates at 1.62 billion.The sheer size of those numbers opens a window to Facebook’s underlying strength, and the reason the social media giant was able to weather its recent storms: the company is simply huge. With 2.45 billion monthly active users, Facebook is reaching up to one-third of the world’s total population – and a higher proportion of those with internet access. Advertisers will pay handsomely for that kind of reach, and Facebook shares show the result: the stock is up 54% in 2019, more than double the S&P 500’s year-to-date gain.Tepper was impressed enough with Facebook to boost his fund’s holding by 53%. Appaloosa added 975,000 shares of FB to its portfolio in Q3, bringing the total holding to 2.825 million. That’s worth over $503 million today, and makes up 15.9% of Appaloosa’s total 13F portfolio.The view from Wall Street is bullish on Facebook as well. Ronald Josey, of JMP Securities, puts forth the bull case bluntly: “We continue to be impressed with Facebook’s execution both on the engagement and monetization fronts and we do not foresee these trends changing dramatically. On the contrary, usage is improving, and we believe more advertisers are devoting greater budgets to Facebook.”Along with the Outperform rating, Josey’s $250 price target implies a steady upside of 24% to the stock. (To watch Josey’s track record, click here)Also optimistic is Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olsen. In a December 3 note, Olsen initiated coverage of the stock, saying, “Following a turbulent few years for Facebook, we believe the company has emerged well positioned… Ad spend continues to shift online and Facebook is a beneficiary… We are modeling FCF/shr growth to average >20% over the next three years.”Olsen sees continued regulatory issues as a source of risk, but believes the company has the resources to meet the challenge. He puts a Buy rating on the stock, and his $230 price target indicates room for 14% growth on the upside. (To watch Olsen’s track record, click here)Overall, FB shares have a Strong Buy consensus rating, based on an impressive 30 Buy ratings given in the past three months. There are still 2 Holds and 2 Sells on the stock, left over from the company’s difficulties. The average price target, $234.70, suggests an upside of 17% from the current share price. (See Facebook stock analysis on TipRanks)Alphabet (GOOG)GOOG looks like a compelling investment. The stock has outperformed the S&P 500 this year, up 31%. Shares have dipped slightly at the end of October, after the company missed the earnings forecast by 19%. EPS was reported at $10.12 against an estimate of $12.42. Revenues were strong, at $40.5 billion beating the estimate by a half-percent, and the stock has since recouped its loss and then some.Tepper has bought up 229,900 Class C GOOG shares in Q3. Clearly, he’s not interested in controlling the company but is simply seeking a steady return. His purchase of GOOG more than doubled his stake in Alphabet, making the total holding 444,900 shares currently valued at $542 million.Alphabet gets plenty of love from the Street’s analysts, too. Citi’s Jason Bazinet took over his firm’s coverage of GOOG shares last week, and promptly bumped his price target up by 3% to $1,500. He wrote, “We expect Alphabet's growth to slow to mid-teens over next three years. Nonetheless, we believe the company's operating leverage may improve and are not concerned by regulatory headwinds.” Bazinet’s price target suggests a 11% upside to GOOGL. (To watch Bazinet’s track record, click here)Michael Olsen, quoted above on FB, was impressed with GOOG shares. He initiates coverage of the stock for Piper Jaffray with a Buy rating and another $1,500 price target. In his initiation note, he points out, “While there's no question that the company will face ongoing regulatory scrutiny, which could lead to some headline risk, the investor community has, to some degree, become numb to this and we believe the positives of the underlying business will outweigh negative news flow.” (To watch Olsen’s track record, click here)With 32 "buy" ratings against just 3 "holds," GOOGL shares have earned their Strong Buy consensus rating. The stock is not cheap, selling for a hefty $1,353, and the average price target of $1466 implies that there is room for 8% upside growth. (See Alphabet's stock analysis on TipRanks)

  • Bloomberg

    Instagram Stories Get Almost 10% of All Ad Spending on Facebook

    (Bloomberg) -- Instagram’s Stories are now making significant contributions to Facebook Inc., drawing almost 10% of all ad spending on the company’s properties at the end of the third quarter, according to a report by Socialbakers.Launched in 2016, Instagram Stories are ephemeral posts of annotated photos and videos. Users tap through each piece of content and ads sometimes pop up between each story. Marketers’ embrace of the feature is important for Facebook because it shows the company’s business is keeping up with shifts in user behavior.More people are starting to post via Stories, which disappear after 24 hours, as opposed to the Facebook news feed or Instagram feed where content stays visible. Facebook executives warned investors in their third-quarter earnings call that it may take a while for advertisers to fully catch on to the trend, and that Facebook ad prices will be lower on average in the meantime.Advertiser spending on Instagram Stories jumped almost 70% from the prior year, according to Socialbakers, a social-media marketing company. Facebook doesn’t disclose how much ad revenue comes from Stories, but says the number of people using the feature continues to climb.Instagram Stories has more than 500 million daily users. The product is getting more attention from advertisers than Facebook Stories, a similar feature that runs on the company’s main social network. Facebook Stories accounted for just 0.3% of total ad spending on Facebook platforms in the third quarter, according to Socialbakers. The firm’s data came from 9,500 Facebook advertising accounts.To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Frier in San Francisco at sfrier1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Alistair BarrFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Financial Times

    Facebook under fire as political ads vanish from archive

    ’s public archive less than 48 hours before the British general election, raising fresh questions over measures introduced to address transparency concerns in online political advertising. Facebook introduced the ad library following the Cambridge Analytica scandal which led to concerns over the way political campaigners could use the social media platform to target and influence voters in elections. The British version of the library went live in October 2018, meaning this Thursday’s vote is the first time such online information about political advertising has been made available.

  • Bloomberg

    Facebook Probe Should Look to Privacy, FTC Democrat Urges States

    (Bloomberg) -- A Democratic member on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission urged states investigating Facebook Inc. to examine whether the company disregarded earlier promises to protect privacy in order to perpetuate its dominance in violation of antitrust laws.“Now, the ball really is in your court,” Commissioner Rohit Chopra told state attorneys general meeting in Washington on Monday. The company faces an inquiry by 45 states who are looking into both competition and data-protection issues, as well as an FTC antitrust investigation and a potential Justice Department probe.Facebook agreed in July to pay $5 billion and add a privacy committee to its board of directors to settle FTC’s claims that it mishandled privacy. Chopra dissented saying the settlement didn’t go far enough. The separate antitrust probe is ongoing.Chopra, an outspoken critic of settlements at the FTC approved along party lines and concentration of corporate power, said he became convinced during the agency’s investigation that Facebook’s privacy violations were done so it could pursue its dominance of social media.“I don’t care what letter is next to your name, we have to all be working together shaping remedies that actually work,” Chopra said, referring to the Republican and Democratic attorneys general in the room.Facebook, which had 2.45 billion monthly active users as of September, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The company says it faces robust competition, and privacy and antitrust issues should remain separate.Data protection and competition have traditionally been distinct areas of law, but some academics and enforcers have insisted that the two issues may have significant overlap for tech giants, particularly Facebook, which harvests data to power its massive and profitable ad-targeting business.”We think that it’s worth looking deeper, so we’re very engaged in that deeper investigation,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in an interview.What Bloomberg Intelligence SaysMany bridges must be crossed before any possible findings that unlawful conduct has occurred. Monopolization is a legal term of art and rigorous standards must be met for liability to be found. Remedies, if needed, would likely be narrowly tailored conduct changes\-- Jennifer Rie, Senior Analyst: LitigationFor a full report click hereOne of the Republican commissioners, Christine Wilson, pushed back at Chopra at the same event, saying provisions in the settlement that require Facebook executives to sign off regularly on privacy practices were already changing the company.“It is having the effect of focusing not only managements’ minds but also those of the employees,” said Wilson, who voted for the settlement.Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is now “on the hook” and in danger of civil and criminal penalties if he deviates from the accord, Wilson said.Some states, including California and Massachusetts, have issued subpoenas or sued Facebook for documents, suggesting the company “has a lot to hide,” Chopra said. He reiterated that the FTC should have interviewed Zuckerberg during its privacy probe.“I hate seeing the FTC conclude an investigation and we still have states working their butts off to get the information that I think we should have gotten,” he said.\--With assistance from Daniel Stoller.To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at btenerellabr@bloomberg.net;Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, Joe Schneider, Peter BlumbergFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Cisco Stock: Shift To Sell Chips To Impact Broadcom, Arista, Juniper?
    Investor's Business Daily

    Cisco Stock: Shift To Sell Chips To Impact Broadcom, Arista, Juniper?

    Cisco may announce a shift in its business model to sell semiconductors at a "Future of the Internet" event on Wednesday, says one analyst. Cisco's move would challenge Broadcom and Arista.

  • ‘Fangirls’ Defend China From Hong Kong Protesters and the World

    ‘Fangirls’ Defend China From Hong Kong Protesters and the World

    (Bloomberg) -- For Li Mo, the footage of black-clad people clashing with police and vandalizing storefronts proved the final straw. The images of Hong Kong protesters fighting for greater autonomy from Beijing incensed the mainland-born postgraduate student and she could no longer remain on the sidelines. So, she joined China’s fangirl army.Ever since anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong turned violent this summer, China’s celebrity-obsessed young generation have patrolled Facebook, Twitter and Weibo, ready to pounce on perceived slights and defend their motherland. Nicknamed “fangirls” because they exhibit the same fervor most often reserved for pop-culture icons, these women and men flood social media with slogans and memes shaming brands -- sometimes with far-reaching consequences.Fangirls called out Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey for supporting Hong Kong protesters, prompting China’s state broadcaster to drop National Basketball Association games. They triggered boycotts of brands from Coach to Apple. Many got swept up by Facebook and Twitter account takedowns. And in a recent incident, the onslaught of vitriol they directed at Hong Kong pop-star Joey Yung forced her to apologize for a single Facebook selfie, but not before she got canned from a high-profile gala.The Hong Kong unrest spurred Li into action. She quickly picked up typical fangirl behavior -- endlessly liking and re-posting trending anti-protest diatribes on Weibo for example -- encouraged that hundreds of thousands shared her values. “I couldn’t remain silent any longer,” the 28-year-old said. “I don’t idolize anyone, I only idolize China.”Read More: Moment of Truth on China Is Coming for Rest of Corporate AmericaWhile many Westerners, particularly Americans, see China’s citizens as forced into supporting Beijing or muzzled from expressing their true feelings, fangirls suggest more earnest and resilient backing for their country’s government. They show how large pockets of China’s youth are rising up to defend their country against what they perceive as mistreatment and misrepresentation by outsiders, and they underscore a growing sentiment that’s shaping how China interacts with the world.China’s government has increasingly taken its propaganda efforts overseas, but fangirls’ deep convictions set them apart -- and perhaps make them more potent -- from often wooden, state-sponsored online commentators. Known as wumao, or the “50-cent army,” those bloggers are named after the amount they are said to make from each patriotic posting.The emergence of fangirls comes at a time Beijing is trying to engage younger Chinese by using rap music, cartoons and chat-app stickers to deliver Communist Party ideology. Homegrown corporations like Tencent Holdings Ltd. often aid such efforts. A system of education that often stresses the humiliation China suffered at the hands of foreigners also prepared the ground for their rise.They’re also the latest online patriots to hop the Great Firewall dividing the internet in mainland China from the rest of the world -- with a decidedly millennial twist. They call their nation “Brother Ah Zhong” (Brother China), describing it as a pop idol who debuted 5,000 years ago and now boasts a fan base of 1.4 billion.Fang Kecheng, assistant professor of communication and journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong sees state influence working hand-in-hand with young nationalist netizens, including fangirls who take note of the narrative on state media, then act upon it. “That’s not to say they are entirely manipulated, or being passively used as a tool,” he says. “There are things they’re searching for, such as a common identity and the ability to express their opinions.”Read More: Here’s What China Is Telling Its People About Hong Kong ProtestsJack Zhou, a 20-year-old hair stylist in central China, is one of a score of volunteer leaders of a 20,000-strong fangirl community. People like him help focus and channel raw emotions that often threaten to spill out of control. In between haircuts, he monitors a chat group of 400 users on messaging app QQ. Participants are charged with spawning content for the group’s main Weibo account. One of their latest productions is a three-minute video showcasing protester violence in Hong Kong, from setting a man on fire to ganging up on a police officer and trying to snatch his pistol. They called on those who can access sites like Facebook and YouTube to share the clip, which has English captions. “Let the world know the truth,” is their slogan.Zhou’s group has participated in several major online crusades to defend Beijing’s line on Hong Kong over the past three months, he said. They spammed Instagram accounts of pro-Beijing celebrities with emojis of the Chinese flag, infiltrated Facebook live streams to clash with pro-democracy sympathizers, and plastered Communist Party slogans on the sites of news outlets from CNN to the Washington Post. Their hard work paid off when the Communist Party’s Youth League and state media came out in praise of the campaigns, he said.Read More: China Celebrities Help Fan New Generation of NationalistsTheir motivations are widely misunderstood, said Zak Dychtwald, author of Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World. English-language media writing off Chinese pride as a product of propaganda and brainwashing only fans the flames of nationalism, he said. “There’s ardent pride in the country and fangirls want to defend it,” he added. “The energy and sentiment driving the movement in China is genuine.”Zhang Dong, 30, emigrated to Laos in 2013 to work as a tour guide after he graduated from college in China. Only then did he understand how the world depicts his country in such a “horrible” manner. Every day, he churns out dozens of posts on the accounts he registered for the purpose of discrediting Hong Kong’s protesters. He’s called them “cockroaches,” “traitors,” and “HKIS,” juxtaposing images of them with Islamic State terrorists. There’s “essentially no difference” between the two groups, he said.Zhang is proud of his independence. “I’ve never received any money from the Communist Party,” said Zhang. “If we were wumao, the Chinese government would have owed us hundreds of millions yuan by now.”Fangirls represent another front in social media giants’ efforts to curb disinformation campaigns. In August, Twitter suspended nearly 1,000 accounts originating from China, which the company identified as part of a state-backed operation to undermine Hong Kong’s protests. Facebook and Google took similar action. That take down didn’t have a lasting effect as new accounts emerged to replace those that were removed, a study from social media research firm Astroscreen shows.Read More: How Fake News and Rumors Are Stoking Division in Hong KongFangirls like Trista Wang say they have been unfairly targeted by these platforms. “Just one Chinese flag can get your account suspended,” said Wang, a traditional Chinese medicine therapist in the port city of Qingdao. She insists Facebook is biased toward Chinese patriots like her, pointing to Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s recent China-bashing remarks. “I used to have good feelings about Zuckerberg,” Wang said.A Facebook representative said the company only removes content that violates its community standards. In response to inquiries on two specific fangirl accounts that were disabled or restricted, the representative pointed to policy violations in relation to the use of fake identities, bullying and harassment. A Twitter representative said it acts against accounts for policy breaches but declined to comment on individual examples citing privacy and security reasons.Fangirls could disappear as fast as they emerged. That’s because nationalist movements are always a double-edged sword for the government, said Chinese University’s Fang. “When something self-organizes to a certain size, it becomes a taboo -- even if it’s only online.”Or they could morph into something more alarming. Zhou, the volunteer leader, has already become a kind of online vigilante, notifying the police about a China-based Weibo user expressing support for Hong Kong. He said he was content that the police quickly identified and arrested the blogger. “We must rally all the forces we can to eradicate the soil that breeds Hong Kong separatists,” he said.To contact the reporter on this story: Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at zhuang245@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net, Edwin Chan, Colum MurphyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Apple to Speak at CES Conference for First Time in Decades

    (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. is officially returning to the Las Vegas CES technology conference for the first time in decades to discuss its stance on consumer privacy -- rather than pitch a new hardware product.The company’s senior director of privacy Jane Horvath will be speaking on a “Chief Privacy Officer Roundtable” on Jan. 7, according to the CES agenda.Horvath, along with executives from Facebook Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., and a commissioner from the Federal Trade Commission, will discuss how companies build privacy at scale, regulation and consumer demands.Apple’s last major official appearance at CES was in 1992 when then Chief Executive Officer John Sculley gave a presentation at a Chicago version of the summit to introduce the failed Newton device.More recently, Apple’s technology has influenced CES despite the company not officially presenting. It made news last year for a privacy billboard during the Vegas event that exclaimed, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. also touted Apple launching video streaming directly on third-party TVs.Each year, accessory makers fill the CES exhibit halls with cases and other peripherals for Apple devices. Behind the scenes, Apple managers roam the halls to identify future technology and scan the competitive landscape, while members of Apple’s supply chain team meet with component makers to potentially source parts for future devices.While Apple has taken a backstage approach to the conference, rivals including Google, Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. have used the event to promote their latest voice-based products, spur interest from potential partners and try to beat Apple to the punch ahead of major product announcements.To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Gurman in Los Angeles at mgurman1@bloomberg.net;Ed Ludlow in San Francisco at eludlow2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • New York Is Cementing Its Role as a Tech Hub Despite HQ2 Snub

    New York Is Cementing Its Role as a Tech Hub Despite HQ2 Snub

    (Bloomberg) -- New York is becoming more of a global technology hub, as industry giants tap into the workforce of a region long known as a banking and media stronghold.News late last week that Amazon.com Inc. signed a lease for 335,000 square feet in the Hudson Yards area comes as Facebook Inc. is gobbling up more space nearby. Google, meanwhile, is expanding beyond its base in Chelsea.About 10 months after Amazon abandoned plans for a second headquarters in New York, the technology industry is creeping up on financial services as the top employer in the Big Apple. Facebook and Google, which aims to double its presence in New York over the next decade, are now among the top office tenants in Manhattan, joining the likes of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc.“We know they’re not done yet,” Marc Holliday, Chief Executive Officer of SL Green Realty Corp., Amazon’s new landlord at 410 10th Ave., said during an investor presentation on Monday. “These West Coast companies are migrating to the East Coast in order to tap in to an expanded workforce that doesn’t really exist to the same degree in Silicon Valley.”Even before recent leases by Amazon and Facebook, tech, advertising, and media tenants, known as TAMI, had grown to represent about 24% of Manhattan’s office space, compared with 31% for financial services, according to Cushman & Wakefield. That gap was much wider in 1990, when banks and finance firms accounted for almost 50% of the office market.Amazon’s new offices can fit more than 1,500 workers and are slated to open in 2021. The deal is a key signal that the company is committed to growth in New York, even without the tax incentives that were proposed to draw a second Amazon headquarters to Long Island City. Those plans were abruptly abandoned earlier this year amid public criticism of the project.Then there’s Facebook. The company signed a lease last month for more than 1.5 million square feet across three buildings at Hudson Yards, and is reportedly in talks to take over the Farley Building, a former post office across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station that will have 740,000 square feet of office space.The real estate industry has long tried to position New York as the next Silicon Valley. And while skeptics have argued it can’t challenge San Francisco, a talented pool of workers and boom in venture capital are pushing tech firms to expand in Manhattan.Earlier this year, the real estate brokerage Savills Plc ranked New York first among 30 global tech cities, driven by the growing volume of venture capital cash and talent pool.Venture capital had been a “missing ingredient for putting New York on the tech map,” SL Green’s Holliday said.“You’ve got a bunch of tech companies across the country that are looking for talent and fighting a war for talent against their local competitors,” said Ken McCarthy, an economist at Cushman & Wakefield. “One way to tap into that is to come to other markets like New York.”To contact the reporter on this story: Natalie Wong in Toronto at nwong133@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Giammona at cgiammona@bloomberg.net, Christine MaurusFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Benzinga

    Analyst Names Facebook, Twitter Top Online Media Stock Picks For 2020

    The global advertising business will continue its shift online in 2020, and Bank of America named Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB ) and Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR ) as the two best stock plays in digital media. ...

  • The Venture-Capital Firm That No One Needed

    The Venture-Capital Firm That No One Needed

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Andreessen Horowitz is lauded today as one of the most influential and innovative firms in venture capital. But when it started a decade ago, the approach taken by co-founders Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, this week's guest on Masters in Business, was derided as “crazy.” At the time, in the midst of the 2009 financial crisis, Horowitz was told “nobody needed yet another venture capital firm.” But they pushed ahead anyway.  The result was firm that disrupted the Silicon Valley disruptors. Today, A16Z (as it is known) has $12 billion in assets under management across multiple funds. It was an early investor in startups such as Facebook, Airbnb, Lyft, Groupon, Twitter, Pinterest, Box and many more.Horowitz also credits the firm’s general partners, most of whom came of age in technology as founders, operators, chief executive officers or chief technology officers. He describes their experiences building successful companies as “crushingly hard,” and very much influencing the firm's thinking about startups. His latest book is “What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture.” His first book was “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers.” His favorite books can be seen here; a transcript of the conversation is here.You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on Apple iTunes, Overcast, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.Next week, we speak with Peter Mallouk, CEO of Creative Planning Inc., a $46 billion investment advisory firm, and author of "The 5 Mistakes Every Investor Makes and How to Avoid Them."To contact the author of this story: Barry Ritholtz at britholtz3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and was previously chief market strategist at Maxim Group. He is the author of “Bailout Nation.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • TV Industry Suffers Steepest Drop in Ad Sales Since Recession

    TV Industry Suffers Steepest Drop in Ad Sales Since Recession

    (Bloomberg) -- Global TV advertising sales fell almost 4% in 2019, the steepest drop since the depths of the economic recession in 2009, in the latest sign that advertisers are following viewers to the internet.Declines in TV viewership have suppressed the medium’s advertising dollars, according to research firm Magna Global, which released the data as part of report on the global ad business. Viewership fell sharply in Europe, compounding the trend in the U.S., China and Australia.Traditional television has hemorrhaged viewers in recent years, as people trade cable and satellite packages for online services Netflix and YouTube. Cord cutting has been especially pronounced in the U.S., the world’s largest media market, and should continue to accelerate as media giants Walt Disney Co. and AT&T Inc. introduce their own streaming services.Even with the retreat from TV, overall ad revenue climbed for the 10th year in a row. The industry was buoyed by digital sales, which rose 15%.The TV business had previously eked out gains in advertising sales by charging higher prices. And it’s still seen as a useful medium when marketers need to reach a large, live audience. Technology companies excel at allowing advertisers to target individuals who have searched for a sweater on Google, liked a movie’s page on Facebook or looked for detergent on Amazon.Yet declines in viewership now outpace the rise in TV ad pricing. So-called linear TV viewership has been declining by 10% in the U.S., Australia and China for a few years, according to Vincent Letang, the author of the report. European TV channels suffered drops of 7% to 8% among viewers age 18 to 49, worse than the 5% decline last year.Worldwide Decline“Almost everywhere now, we have linear viewing declining double digits, or high single digits,” Letang said in an interview. He blamed the proliferation of streaming services, which took hold in Europe a few years later than in the U.S., as well as the slowing economies in the region.U.S. TV ad sales will return to growth in 2020 thanks to the Summer Olympics and the presidential election, but that is a temporary boost.The TV industry isn’t the only one suffering. Technology companies Google and Facebook Inc. have siphoned advertising dollars away from print publications and radio in recent years. Online companies garnered more than half of global advertising sales in 2019 for the first time, accounting for $306 billion of the $595 billion spent globally.Radio advertising sales stabilized in 2019, while the out-of-home category -- namely, billboards -- was the only traditional media to actually grow. That’s due in part to technology companies, which use billboards to tout their services. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google all rank among the 20 largest out-of-home advertisers.To contact the reporter on this story: Lucas Shaw in Los Angeles at lshaw31@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Blaming Document Dumps on Russia Won’t Cut It

    Blaming Document Dumps on Russia Won’t Cut It

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- If it’s true that the leak of trade negotiation readouts between the U.K. and the U.S. was part of a Russian influence operation, it’s the third such document dump ahead of a major nation's election in as many years. This has created a new knee-jerk reaction among affected politicians: Blame the Russians to dismiss the leak. It would be more responsible on the part of political leaders to deal with the substance of the documents — especially since none of the three dumps has been particularly damaging. It goes without saying in today’s almost borderless world that foreign powers will have favorites in important countries’ elections. Democratic countries may try to subtly influence the vote through statements, winks and nudges; Russia seems to take a different approach. In this case, voters may have at least been given more information about their choice than the government was prepared to share. At the weekend, Reddit, the discussion website, said it believed that a post from a month ago, containing links to the trade negotiation documents, “was part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.” The tortured phrasing reflects the difficulty of proving something like this. Researchers can only rely on similarities with previous campaigns. In the case of the Reddit post by a user going by the moniker Gregoratior, the connections first were made by Ben Nimmo, director of investigations for the social network analysis firm Graphika, in a report published earlier this month. Nimmo wrote that the post was amplified, using disposable “burner accounts,” on a number of German- and English-language sites also used in an operation discovered by Facebook earlier this year, dubbed Secondary Infektion. It involved planting and boosting false stories meant to sow discord in Western societies: anti-immigrant ones, those pitting Germany or the U.K. against the U.S., those stoking religious tensions in Ireland. As during that effort, linked to Russia because of typical English grammar errors and alignment with Russian geopolitical interests, links to the Reddit post were tweeted directly at journalists and politicians to get the leak noticed.The timing of the U.K. document dump, just before a U.K. national election, brings to mind two other leaks also attributed to Russian intelligence services: The Wikileaks publication of emails stolen from John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s U.S. presidential campaign in 2016, and the dissemination of emails lifted from Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 election campaign in France through the 4chan message board popular with the U.S. alt-right. Both have been linked to Russia — the U.S. one, ultimately, by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the French one by cybersecurity firms. It makes sense that Russia should be stoking tensions ahead of the U.K. election. Its propaganda machine and troll armies have agitated for Brexit; indeed, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suppressed a parliamentary report on Russian interference in U.K. politics until after the election, possibly because it could reveal embarrassing links between Brexiters and Russia. But now that Johnson’s Conservatives lead in the polls, making Brexit likely to happen, it benefits Russia to add fuel to the U.K. domestic political fire by weighing in on the other side — that of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, an advocate of a less adversarial relationship with Russia. Corbyn, indeed, has embraced the leaked documents, saying they show the U.K.’s vaunted National Health Service will be “for sale” to Americans after Brexit as part of a one-sided trade deal. In the U.S., the Clinton campaign’s response to the Podesta emails consisted of blaming Russia and refusing to comment on individual emails. In France, the email dump was released just 24 hours before the election, so nobody had the time to delve into their contents. The Macron campaign commented that the dump was an attempt at “democratic destabilization, like that seen during the last presidential campaign in the United States.” Johnson’s response? A promise to investigate the leak while broadly dismissing its substance.Drawing attention to leaked documents’ provenance is a cop-out. It’s the duty of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to investigate leaks and work out why sensitive data weren’t protected. And it’s up to experts to thrash out whether Russian intelligence actually stole the documents or Russian trolls merely helped get them noticed. The two situations require different security responses. On another level, it’s worth discussing what goals the Kremlin might be pursuing in either case and whether some sort of policy or diplomatic response is needed.But ultimately, when the documents are genuine and not tampered with, as both the Podesta emails and the U.K. trade documents appear to be, the politicians on the receiving end of the damaging material must react to its substance — or be seen as dishonest.The Clinton campaign should have figured out how deal with the revelations from the emails so that Donald Trump couldn’t turn his campaign into an anti-corruption one. Blaming Russia didn’t really help. Johnson, for his part, should be able to reassure British voters that he’s not about to pull the country into some kind of common market with the U.S. on American terms — that he’s not about to lower food safety standards, for example, or privatize the U.K. health care system to let U.S. pharmaceutical companies sell medication to Britons at higher prices. He’s repeatedly denied these things on the campaign trail, but brushing them off as akin to photos purporting to show a UFO isn’t engaging with the substance.  Clinton probably thought she could dodge the issues and still win. Johnson’s poll lead likely gives him similar ideas, though he has been more conscious of the way claims about compromising the NHS cut through to voters. He may well have done enough to assuage concerns for now. But at the end of the day, political opponents and the public never quite forget revelations left unanswered, and the questions will not go away even if he manages to sweep them under the rug and come out on top this time.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Financial Times

    State-backed crypto is a contradiction

    Chiefly what they have to say about the rise of “crypto”. When Facebook announced Libra, its new cryptocurrency payment system, earlier this year, the conversation hit all levels of society and politics. Facebook, with its potential user base of over 2bn, has the potential to disrupt the payment industry send the use of cryptocurrencies in to the mainstream.

  • Amazon Faces U.K. Antitrust Decision to Allow Stake in Deliveroo

    Amazon Faces U.K. Antitrust Decision to Allow Stake in Deliveroo

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.Amazon.com Inc.’s bid to buy into one of the U.K.’s most successful startups may get caught up in antitrust authorities’ fear that they made mistakes in the past.The Competition and Markets Authority has until Wednesday to decide whether to continue a two-month-old probe that froze Amazon’s bid of around $500 million for a minority stake in food-delivery service Deliveroo.“The CMA is very interested in tech giants extending their tentacles into other markets,” said Alan Davis, a competition lawyer at Pinsent Masons in London. Antitrust regulators “are paranoid about it at the moment because they are concerned they have not looked at these mergers enough in the past, like Facebook-WhatsApp.”Authorities were put off over Facebook Inc.’s change of position on how it handled data from WhatsApp, prompting EU officials to accuse the company of misleading them to win approval for the takeover in 2014. Big Tech is a flash point now for antitrust across the globe. In the U.S., there are probes into Google, Facebook and Amazon over allegations they unfairly hinder competition. The CMA is investigating how Google plans to use Looker Data Sciences Inc. data before approving that $2.6 billion takeover.While the CMA’s mission is in part to ensure big deals won’t hamper competition, it doesn’t usually investigate bids for minority stakes. It may have been moved to act this time because of Amazon’s access to an unending reservoir of data from its many businesses. And CMA’s Chief Executive Officer Andrea Coscelli has said that it was a mistake to allow deals like Facebook’s purchase of Instagram.“U.K. regulators may have some antitrust concerns with the proposed investment,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Aitor Ortiz and Diana Gomes. “One of them could be whether Amazon could get access to Deliveroo’s user data, leveraging the delivery giant’s position in other markets besides on-demand restaurant delivery, such as online groceries.”Amazon, Deliveroo and the CMA declined to comment on the matter.Cut-Throat CompetitionThe food-delivery business is no stranger to the regulator’s attention. Two years ago the agency began investigating Just Eat Plc’s merger with a smaller rival Hungryhouse, eventually allowing it to go through because of the competition in the sector.Since then the delivery business has seen a wave of acquisitions and international expansion. Just Eat agreed to a 5 billion-pound merger ($6.6 billion) with Dutch firm Takeaway.com NV in July, while Uber Technologies Inc. was reported to be showing interest in Spanish startup Glovo. However, according to food-service consultant Peter Backman, competition in the sector remains strong.“It’s getting more intense because the pressure to get scale is becoming more intense,” said Backman, a former director of Horizons FS. “Although the market has gotten bigger, they are under huge pressure to become profitable.”Deliveroo has never turned a profit, losing 232 million pounds last year despite a 72% increase in global sales. A ruling against Amazon would be a setback for the U.K. company, which has already raised $1.53 billion in investor funding.In August, it was forced to make an abrupt retreat from Germany after struggling to get a grip on the market.For Amazon, the stakes aren’t as high, but if the CMA decision goes the wrong way, it faces yet another embarrassing exit from a market it has found difficult to crack. It closed its own U.K. food delivery unit Amazon Restaurants U.K. in December 2018, with its American counterpart following suite last summer.To contact the reporter on this story: Eddie Spence in London at espence11@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net, Christopher Elser, Molly SchuetzFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    France’s Le Maire Calls on U.S. to Back Global Digital Tax Plan

    (Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire urged the U.S. to support a global overhaul of how the digital economy is taxed.Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the U.S. supports the efforts of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, but he has suggested the first part of the OECD’s plan should be optional. Le Maire said on Sunday that this proposal “won’t work.”The U.S. needs to show “good faith” in the talks, Le Maire said on France 3 television, calling on Washington to back the plan that’s on the table. If no global deal can be reached, Europe will restart talks on introducing its own tax, he said.Read more: Why Digital Taxes Are the New Trade War Flashpoint: QuickTakeThe debate over how to tax big tech companies is heating up, with the U.S. threatening to impose tariffs on about $2.4 billion of French products in retaliation for a new French digital levy. Washington maintains that the tax will discriminate against U.S. companies, including tech giants such as Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.Le Maire said the French tax isn’t discriminatory, because it also hits European and Asian companies. Any retaliatory tariffs would have no legal basis, and France is prepared to fight them in the World Trade Organization if necessary, he said.“This is uselessly aggressive toward France,” Le Maire said.To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Patrick Henry, James AmottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    The Plan to Turn Your Car Into a Virtual ATM

    (Bloomberg) -- Chris Ballinger came away from a year of crunching numbers at Toyota Motor Corp.’s Silicon Valley skunkworks convinced that his dream of automotive automation was no more fanciful than his bosses’ ambition to make a vehicle that can drive itself.So the former derivatives trader who spent 14 months as finance chief at Toyota’s innovation hub launched a non-profit that aims to turn cars into rolling wallets able to autonomously make and receive payments in a virtual currency. Drivers would earn small sums for sharing data on everything from traffic congestion to weather and be debited for infrastructure use and contribution to pollution.‘’Everyone focusing on autonomous vehicles thinks they’ll be able to drink cognac in the back, but machines will do many other things autonomously before they can surmount a problem of driving around somewhere like Bangalore or in particularly bad weather,” said Ballinger, a 62-year-old resident of Los Angeles, where he runs his Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative. “It’s a very hard engineering problem, but setting up machine-to machine payments is comparatively very simple.”Simple is a relative word. The vision is as futuristic as it is ambitious. It depends on a myriad of technological advancements, not to mention regulatory change and cooperation among traditional rivals. While cars already have ever more computing power, changing long-held views on infrastructure funding, vehicle ownership and even the nature of money could prove insurmountable. And then there’s the law of unintended consequences.“When tech is applied to cities and transportation by smart people who understand tech but don’t understand cities, the outcome can actually be bad for cities and create new or bigger problems,’’ says Brent Toderian, former chief city planner in Vancouver. “There’s a danger to boosterism with these kinds of ideas, and a need to be cautious and critical in a way that tech folks often aren’t.’’  As an example, he said new technology could lead to more driving, reducing any positive environmental impact such advances were supposed to deliver.Whatever the challenges, the mobility sector is -- in industry jargon -- a burning platform, meaning urgent change is required to head off obsolescence. While artificial intelligence and blockchain could make Ballinger’s vision possible, the dominance of a small club of Silicon Valley heavyweights means automakers risk being left behind in the digital age, said Jamie Burke, an adviser to MOBI and founder of Outlier Ventures, which invests in companies developing such technologies.Facebook Inc.’s Libra stablecoin, a global currency that social networking behemoth is developing, is like gasoline on the burning platform he said.“We don’t have the luxury of tinkering around anymore, we need to get our acts together to accelerate action toward what is moving already,” said Ballinger. “Everybody is asking should every market have its own token and do we need to have one?”Ballinger co-founded MOBI last year with the likes of BMW AG and Ford Motor Co among its founding members. The consortium, which now has about 90 members from International Business Machines Corp. to Honda Motor Co., is exploring how blockchain and related technologies can contribute to a safer and more efficient transport system, while also reducing congestion and pollution.The first blockchain — a public ledger -- was created to track Bitcoin transactions, and the technology has since been adopted far beyond the realm of cryptocurrencies for everything from enabling international payments to verifying products in a supply chain. The digital currency universe has also expanded rapidly in the past decade, with low-volatility digital tokens known as stablecoins among the fastest growing sub sectors.For the vision to materialize, city infrastructure will have to be equipped to communicate with vehicles. Smart cities, urban metropolises pulsating with sensors and powered by artificial intelligence, are on the drawing board. Alphabet Inc.’s urban innovation unit Sidewalk Labs LLC is working on creating a “city of the future” on Toronto’s waterfront.The building blocks exist, making the bigger challenge getting the various technologies and devices to communicate, according to Maria Minaricova, head of business development at Fetch.ai, a Cambridge, U.K.-based company focused on AI, blockchain and internet of things technologies that is also a member of the MOBI consortium.“There are already so many sensors -- cars have sensors, so do traffic lights and cameras, and so on -- but they’re currently disconnected and what’s also missing is interoperability,” said Minaricova. “Historically if you produced somethingm, you would keep it on your platform and it could only communicate with your devices, but the new generation will need to open this up so all devices can speak to each other.”MOBI is now working with BMW, Ford, Honda, General Motors Co. and Renault SA to develop a trusted digital identity for vehicles as a first step toward enabling a mobility payments network. Last month MOBI hosted a gathering of industry executives in Los Angeles to discuss how such a payments system might work.MOBI could develop an industry stablecoin, as low volatility virtual currencies are known, or use an existing coin to make and receive micropayments on a blockchain network, says Ballinger. The project would not only change how vehicles and cities interact but could also provide a real world use case for digital currencies beyond speculation.“Everyone is excited by the promise of technology and waiting for the first killer app, for what will be to digital currencies what email is to the internet,” he says. “That is, where does it get used in a way that consumers find it adds value compared to existing payment systems, and we think mobility and machine-to-machine payments are likely to be one such area because we have big issues with funding public infrastructure and charging for congestion and carbon.”To contact the author of this story: Alastair Marsh in London at amarsh25@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.