237.85 -2.43 (-1.01%)
Before hours: 5:57AM EDT
|Bid||238.62 x 1400|
|Ask||238.45 x 1300|
|Day's Range||232.27 - 240.38|
|52 Week Range||137.10 - 245.19|
|Beta (5Y Monthly)||1.20|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||32.97|
|Earnings Date||Jul 29, 2020|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y Target Est||246.70|
Democrats and Republicans have voiced increasing antipathy over Section 230 -- and it could mean costly political trouble for Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Facebook and Twitter have confirmed they have suspended processing demands for user data from Hong Kong authorities following the introduction of a new Beijing-imposed national security law. A spokesperson for Facebook told TechCrunch it will "pause" the processing of data demands until it can better understand the new national security law, "including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts." The spokesperson added: "We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions."
Social media giant Facebook (FB) is quietly testing its new Instagram Reels feature in India, according to a report from Business Insider.Instagram Reels is a video-music remix feature that enables users to record 15-second videos with audio and music, and then share these videos via Stories and direct messages to friends, or to the Explorer tab under a new section called Top Reels.The move comes just days after India banned the extremely popular Chinese video-making app TikTok in the country, along with 58 other Chinese apps, citing privacy concerns.Instagram Reels is already available in Brazil, France and Germany- and should make its way to other countries soon, says the report. It differs from FB’s recently discontinued app Lasso in that the feature comes as part of Instagram, rather than as a separate app.“We’re planning to start testing an updated version of Reels in more countries,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Reels,” they added, “is a fun, creative way for people to both express themselves and be entertained.”In June, Facebook tied forces with Indian music label Saregama, bringing the label’s music catalogue to both the Facebook and Instagram platforms- as well as to Instagram Reels.“We are very proud to partner with Saregama that will allow people on our platforms, globally, to use their favourite retro Indian music to further enrich their content on our platforms,” said Manish Chopra, director and head of Partnerships at Facebook India, in a statement at the time.Shares in Facebook are trading up 17% year-to-date and analysts have a bullish Strong Buy consensus on the stock. That’s with 28 recent buy ratings vs 4 hold ratings. Meanwhile the average analyst price target stands at $249 (4% upside potential). (See FB stock analysis on TipRanks).“For the foreseeable future, we anticipate Facebook will struggle with weak digital ad spending trends and remain vulnerable to a deluge of negative media headlines; however, we believe the stock remains inexpensive and Facebook has an opportunity to emerge from this crisis a stronger company” explained Monness analyst Brian White on July 1.He reiterated a buy rating on the stock and $230 price target, while reducing his 2020 revenue estimate to $72.43 billion from $75.13 billion and EPS forecast to $6.03 from $6.80 previously.Related News: Billionaire Buffett’s Energy Unit To Buy Dominion Energy Assets For $4B Uber Snaps Up Postmates In $2.65B Stock Deal- Report Luckin Coffee’s Chairman Finally Ousted By Shareholders- Report More recent articles from Smarter Analyst: * Buy Into the Shopify Story for the Long-Term, Says 5-Star Analyst * Ad Spend Ban Could Damage Facebook’s Brand, Says 5-Star Analyst * MEI Pharma (MEIP) Stock Takes a Hit but This Analyst Keeps the Faith * 3 Coronavirus Penny Stocks With Triple-Digit Upside Potential
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Soft power means a lot to a country like Britain, which will soon have to live off its wits outside the European Union, even as it discovers that favorable trade deals are as hard to find as Lewis Carroll’s Snark. Might the answer lie in part with the country’s longest-surviving “Firm,” the Royal Family, as much as trade delegations and the U.K. prime minister’s recent upgrading of “Boris Force One” to fly the flag for Britain? Unfortunately, both Boris Johnson’s and the Windsors’ brands have taken a bit of a battering recently. But some of the Royals — Prince William and Kate Middleton uppermost — still have plenty to offer.Help is certainly needed. While the U.K. has always been a leader in securing global good opinion, largely through its world-class culture industries and universities, it has been slipping recently. Last year, France overtook Britain in Portland’s league table of world soft power, while the Nations Brand Index saw the U.K. fall to fourth behind the U.S., China and Japan. The power of the national brand is big business. Foreign direct investment, tourism and attracting international students all depend upon this cultural and political feel-good factor, mixed with respect for institutional integrity and intellectual firepower. With “Global Britain” taking a hit from Brexit uncertainty and a pretty dismal response to the Covid-19 health crisis, some fear the U.K. is losing its luster.Perceptions matter. For instance, although the U.K. has more science research papers cited than Germany or Japan, it is widely supposed to lag behind both those nations. Perhaps Oxford University’s work on a virus vaccine may change the picture. Even London’s appeal as the world capital of theater and the arts is under threat from clumsy coronavirus restrictions. Bars and restaurants may now be open; West End theaters are still dark. This week, the government stumped up a welcome billion-pound plus financial package to help the arts and live entertainment, but Germany and France have provided sums that dwarf that. As we emerge from the Covid and Brexit crises, the country is sorely in need of attractive “brand” ambassadors. Can Johnson rise to the challenge? The prime minister is a famous example of the British sense of humor, but not all foreigners get this particular joke. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s high moral tone right now is more appropriate and better appreciated. One metric for soft power is the ability to work with other governments, yet the U.K.’s post-Brexit trade negotiations with Brussels are stormy and the special relationship with Washington only gets intermittent interest from a White House in election year.Given the limited appeal of the political class — not every country thrills these days to the thought of an upcoming visit from the British Foreign Secretary — the royal family is still the U.K.’s chief attraction. Almost 2 billion people watched the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, with millions more Americans and Indians glued to their television screens than loyal natives. The young royal couple, disliked by many traditionalists for their “woke” opinions, were in tune with young people’s concerns about race, gender, sexual identity and history. Nothing new here: Queen Elizabeth II famously disagreed with her powerful prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, on the importance of the Commonwealth and supported a firmer line against apartheid South Africa.Sadly, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have now sought voluntary exile in a Californian McMansion, pursued by vengeful tabloid newspaper furies. Meanwhile, the Queen’s favorite son, Prince Andrew is mired in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and the two men’s mutual friend Ghislaine Maxwell is in the custody of the Feds. A photograph of her lolling with actor Kevin Spacey on the Queen’s and Prince Philip’s thrones in Buckingham Palace is acutely embarrassing. Prince Charles long ago proclaimed that the royals should be slimmed down to a small active core, but until his brother’s latest scandal he did little to make that ambition real.The Windsors still have a golden asset, however: William and Kate. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are successfully carrying the public relations burden at home, a picture-perfect couple who loyally fulfill their duties despite the scrutiny of a world press that hunts eagerly for flaws even as it offers treacly adulation.In my meetings with Prince William, I have found him to be a steelier, sharper-edged figure than his public image or soft-toned voice suggest. He’s nobody’s fool. Many of his barbs are aimed at organizations like Facebook Inc., which think they can easily patronize him or deflect him from his concerns about the malign effects of social media on the mental health of young people. That steel was in evidence when his brother, for so long a comrade-in-arms after the death of their mother, Diana, appeared to go off the reservation and embarked upon a war against the press. In the unlikely venue of a south London pub during a televised England football match against the Czech Republic, William, in that oblique way the royals speak, told me he couldn’t “put his arms around his brother’s shoulder” any more. Not long after, Prince Harry was off on his American travels.Don’t underestimate William’s importance to the British brand. The Foreign Office looks to his star appeal and that of his wife. Former Prime Minister David Cameron and Ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne relied on them to help woo the emerging superpowers of Asia — China and India, as well as old friends and allies. The couple’s tour of Narendra Modi’s India in 2016 was designed to assuage his fear that Britain put the prize of Beijing’s favor first and to counter Merkel’s own attempt to win Indian business.Back home, the Union is under threat from a Scottish National Party whose prestige has grown throughout the corona crisis: Polls for the past six months have consistently shown majority support for Scotland’s independence. Last year William was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and Kate had begun making flying visits north of the border before the lockdown. With so many royals in semi-retirement, one hard-working pair is still trying to protect the U.K. brand.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Martin Ivens was editor of the Sunday Times from 2013 to 2020 and was formerly its chief political commentator. He is a director of the Times Newspapers 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) -- ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok will pull its viral video app from Hong Kong’s mobile stores in coming days, becoming the first internet service to withdraw after Beijing enacted sweeping powers to crack down on national security threats.That announcement came after internet giants from Facebook Inc. to Google and Twitter Inc. voiced opposition to national security legislation that grants the Hong Kong government sweeping powers to police the online and public spheres. TikTok, which has insisted it operates independently of Beijing despite its Chinese ownership, may be able to argue the withdrawal is a move to escape requests to censor content or share user data.But its retreat could also benefit the Communist Party by removing a forum pro-democracy protesters have used to post videos calling for an independent Hong Kong. The Chinese-owned company didn’t explain its decision but said its Hong Kong exit could occur within days.“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson for the service said.ByteDance, the world’s most valuable startup, operates some of the world’s most popular social media platforms. TikTok in just a few years became the destination of choice for mainly younger Americans and lip-syncing, dancing Indians. Its Chinese-only twin Douyin and other services such as Toutiao have grown into major venues for more than 1.5 billion people in its home country and beyond.But that virality is provoking scrutiny around the globe about both its control of valuable personal data -- particularly of youths -- and censorship policies deemed pro-Beijing. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told Fox News “we’re certainly looking” at a ban on Chinese social media apps including TikTok. It’s also the largest and most prominent of 59 Chinese services India has banned, reflecting growing tensions between the neighboring countries after a deadly border skirmish in the Himalayas.Sensor Tower data showed that as of September 2019, TikTok had about 1.8 million downloads in Hong Kong, a city of 7.4 million people. It’s unclear if ByteDance plans a substitute for TikTok -- Douyin, its closest cousin, is available only in China.On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam sidestepped a question about how her administration will respond to decisions by Google, Facebook and Twitter to suspend processing user data requests, over concerns about suppression of free speech. Pompeo blasted the Communist Party’s “Orwellian censorship” in a statement.While TikTok’s withdrawal may be viewed as support for the pro-free speech camp, the Chinese-owned service -- which likes to portray itself as mainly a fun venue for self-made music videos -- has come under fire repeatedly for censorship.TikTok has faced persistent allegations its decisions on content align with Beijing’s priorities. It has targeted videos related to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the mistreatment of Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region,and standoffs at the India-China border. Last year, a ByteDance spokesman told Bloomberg TikTok didn’t remove videos from the Hong Kong protests for political reasons, saying they may have instead been taken down for violating guidelines around violent, graphic, shocking or sensational content.TikTok in June took a major step toward burnishing the service by hiring Kevin Mayer, the architect of Walt Disney Co.’s direct-to-consumer video strategy. Mayer, who runs TikTok globally, may help smooth relations with U.S. lawmakers and interest groups while attracting talent and new content to speed its international expansion.(Updates with details on TikTok’s business from the 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.
(Bloomberg) -- Google, Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Twitter Inc. won’t process user data requests from the Hong Kong government amid concerns that a new security law could criminalize protests.Last Wednesday, when the law took effect, Google paused production on any new information requests from Hong Kong authorities, said a spokesperson for the Alphabet Inc. unit. “We’ll continue to review the details of the new law,” the spokesperson added.It’s unclear what types of actions will violate the new law, but police arrested a man last week for brandishing a Hong Kong independence flag. Protesters have rallied against the law, and the government has threatened fines and imprisonment for service providers that fail to remove messages. In response, the U.S. has revoked some trade benefits with Hong Kong related to sensitive technology. American officials have expressed fears that the new law signals Beijing’s intention to take full control of Hong Kong, which has operated with more autonomy and freedom than cities on the mainland.Microsoft is pausing responses to such data requests as it examines the new law, a company spokesperson said in a statement. The company said it “typically received only a relatively small number of requests from Hong Kong authorities, but we are pausing our responses to these requests as we conduct our review.”In 2019, the Hong Kong government requested data from Google users 105 times, according to the company’s reported figures.Facebook typically works with law enforcement to follow local laws where the company operates, but said it has paused sharing user data with Hong Kong authorities while it conducts a “human-rights” assessment. The pause applies to all Facebook properties, including its core social network, Instagram and WhatsApp.“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “We have a global process for government requests and in reviewing each individual request, we consider Facebook’s policies, local laws and international human-rights standards.”Twitter operates in much the same way and paused data requests immediately following the law’s implementation last week, a Twitter spokesperson said, adding that the company has “grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law.”Facebook and Twitter don’t operate in China but do in Hong Kong, where they have offices. Google has a significant presence in Hong Kong, which includes sales staff that works with Chinese companies running digital advertising outside of China.(Updates with Microsoft’s statement 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.
(Bloomberg) -- Palantir Technologies Inc. said it filed confidentially with U.S. regulators for a public stock listing, taking a major step toward a market debut that has been many years in the making.The secretive Silicon Valley company, which sells data analysis software used by governments and large companies worldwide, is seeking to go public by the fall, Bloomberg previously reported, though the timing could change.Palantir has been weighing a direct listing of its shares on an exchange against an initial public offering, people with knowledge of the deliberations have said.The company said in a statement Monday that it had filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a “public listing” of its stock, wording that has been used by other companies planning to pursue a direct listing. Such announcements typically specify a company is planning an IPO when that is the case. Palantir may still decide to pursue a traditional IPO to raise capital for the business.Palantir is in the process of raising $961 million, $550 million of which it has already secured, according to a filing earlier this month with the SEC. That includes a $500 million investment from Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Holdings Inc. and $50 million from Fujitsu Ltd.Those sums make listing the stock directly a more accessible path for Palantir, following in the footsteps of Spotify Technology SA and Slack Technologies Inc.A direct listing wouldn’t let Palantir raise money by issuing new shares, but it would allow it to bypass an investor roadshow and other formalities of an IPO, while letting current stockholders sell their shares at the opening bell rather than waiting until the end of a lock-up period.Billionaire Peter Thiel founded Palantir in 2003 with a group of business partners including Alex Karp, the chief executive officer. In 2015, Palantir reached a valuation of $20 billion, though in recent years stockholders have sold blocks of shares for much less. It isn’t clear what valuation the company would seek in going public.Breaking EvenThe company told investors this year that it expects to break even in 2020 on revenue of about $1 billion.In June, Palantir added three directors including the first woman to serve on its board, former Wall Street Journal reporter Alexandra Wolfe Schiff.Dozens of law enforcement and government agencies around the world use Palantir to compile and search for data on citizens with the intent of combating crime, hunting terrorists and in recent months, tracking the spread of Covid-19. The pandemic has boosted business as companies use its products to help determine how to reopen.However, Palantir is highly controversial for the way its tools have been used to compromise privacy and enable surveillance. Its use by police and immigration officials, in particular, has sparked numerous protests.Valuation ConcernThe Palo Alto, California-based company had long resisted a public offering to avoid getting valued as a consultancy, and to stay out of the public eye as it worked toward profitability, people familiar with the matter have said.Its dependence on engineers customizing software for each client and bloated cost structure also resulted in consistent annual losses. That heightened the possibility that it wouldn’t be valued as a software company despite its Silicon Valley credentials.That changed last year, with customers using a new more automated product that has put Palantir on the path toward profitability.Palantir’s funders include Founders Fund, the venture capital firm started by Thiel. Other investors include Morgan Stanley, BlackRock Inc. and Tiger Global Management.Thiel, a co-founder of Pay PayPal Holdings Inc., has helped launch or advance Silicon Valley firms including Facebook Inc., where he has been a board member since 2004. Through Founders Fund and other investments, his influence has been extended to an array of technology companies. Thiel has also served as an adviser to President Donald Trump, chastising other technology companies, in particular Alphabet Inc.’s Google, for their reluctance to work with the Defense Department.(Updates with statement details 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.
Social media platforms and messaging apps including Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Google and Twitter will deny law enforcement requests for user data in Hong Kong as they assess the effect of a new national security law enacted last week.
Out on Wall Street, sentiment can shift at the drop of a hat. Facebook’s (FB) closing price on June 23 was 242.24 per share, representing an all-time high. While less than two weeks have passed, sentiment has soured considerably in the meantime.The “Stop Hate For Profit” campaign calls for a boycott on ad spend on the platform, due to Zuckerberg's limp reaction to hate speech and other harmful content. A growing list of companies have joined the fray (currently over 400), and the question to ask now is how much damage will the boycott have, on not only the company’s balance sheet, but also on a less tangible asset – its brand.“Brands embed a brand promise and imply consumer trust. FB and Instagram's brands are under attack by brand advertisers, who are the subset of revenue that value brands most,” said Needham analyst Laura Martin.The 5-star analyst believes the damage to Facebook’s brand could wipe off a big chunk of its EV (enterprise value). This is based on a Forbes calculation that Facebook’s brand value (including Instagram and WhatsApp) totaled $90 million at the end of 2019.“By implication,” Martin said, “The valuation at risk by FB's falling brand value represents about 15% of its total EV today.”The problem is further compounded by COVID-19’s devastating impact on SMBs (small medium businesses), which make up the bulk of Facebook’s 7 million active advertisers. Martin estimates many will not be able to withstand the pandemic’s ruinous effect, and might never open again. Even among those that do manage to make it through COVID-19, many are likely to slash ad budgets. Facebook’s reliance on well-known brands advertising on the platform is also problematic, in Martin’s opinion.“It's not good for shareholders that FB is irritating its brand advertisers, who are the ad spenders most likely to survive COVID-19,” the analyst warned.As a result, Martin reduced her 2Q20 Facebook revenue estimate. The analyst now expects revenue of $16.625 billion, which reflects a 2% year-over-year drop and is 5% lower than her previous forecast.Additionally, Martin reiterated a Hold rating on Facebook without specifying a price target. (To watch Martin’s track record, click here)The Needham analyst is currently among the minority on Wall Street. Of the 32 analysts that have posted a review over the last three months, 4 recommend to Hold, while all 28 others say Buy. With an average price target of $249.07, the upside potential comes in at 7%. (See Facebook stock analysis on TipRanks) To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights. More recent articles from Smarter Analyst: * MEI Pharma (MEIP) Stock Takes a Hit but This Analyst Keeps the Faith * 3 Coronavirus Penny Stocks With Triple-Digit Upside Potential * The Rise of E-Commerce and Cloud Services Positions Amazon (AMZN) for the Win * Facebook Faces More Ad Boycotts, But This Analyst Expects Minimal Impact
(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. said it is “assessing” a new Hong Kong security law that has sparked concern about criminalizing protests.The Cupertino, California-based technology giant also said it has not received requests for Hong Kong user data since the law kicked in last week, and noted that it doesn’t get requests directly from the government there.“Apple has always required that all content requests from local law enforcement authorities be submitted through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in place between the United States and Hong Kong,” the company said. Under that process, “the U.S. Department of Justice reviews Hong Kong authorities’ requests for legal conformance.”On Monday, other tech companies, including Google, Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. said they would pause processing user data requests from the Hong Kong government as they review the new law.On its website, Apple said that in the first half of 2019, it received 358 requests for user device information, 155 requests related to fraudulent transactions, and two requests for account data from Hong Kong.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 chief executive officers of Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc. will testify on July 27 before a congressional panel investigating competition in the technology industry, according to an announcement from the House Judiciary Committee.Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Tim Cook are likely to face a torrent of critical questions from lawmakers on the panel’s antitrust subcommittee as the investigation builds a case for revamping antitrust enforcement.Bezos may be in for a particularly tough session. Unlike the other chiefs, the world’s richest man will be addressing Congress for the first time, and his company has sparred with subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline over previous testimony by another company official and allegations of anticompetitive conduct.The appearances may be virtual, according to the Monday evening announcement, which said additional details on the format would be forthcoming.“Given the central role these corporations play in the lives of the American people, it is critical that their CEOs are forthcoming,” said Cicilline and Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler in a joint statement. “As we have said from the start, their testimony is essential for us to complete this investigation.”Some of the companies had been reluctant to send their top executives even though Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, has said he would be willing to subpoena CEOs. He has said he wants to use their appearances to inform a final report recommending changes to antitrust law.Antitrust scrutiny of giant technology companies is accelerating. Facebook and Alphabet’s Google both face competition inquiries by federal enforcers and nearly all 50 states. Amazon is under investigation in California, Bloomberg has reported, and both the e-commerce giant and Apple are facing scrutiny from the European Union.The Judiciary Committee had previously announced that the four men would testify, but had not set a date or format.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.
WhatsApp will no longer assist Hong Kong law enforcement with user data sharing, and Loup Ventures' Gene Munster told CNBC that this is consistent with parent company Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) wanting to "do the right thing."What Happened: Facebook is trying to balance human rights issues in China with a commercial business, but its decision marks yet another "catch 22" for the company, Munster said.By restricting its cooperation with authorities in Hong Kong, Facebook risks seeing limitations on its WhatsApp platform, the research analyst-turned-venture capitalist said. The messaging platform accounts for less than 5% of Facebook's total revenue, he said. Why It's Important: Despite what appears to be a fresh headwind for Facebook, the stock continues to trade near all-time highs, with a valuation of around $650 billion, Munster said.At the same time, the market is assigning such a high valuation to a company whose core product is a "toxic platform" from a rhetoric perspective, he said, adding that Instagram is "more benevolent."What's Next: Looking forward, Facebook could see more of its advertisers taking a closer look at how the platform curates its content, Munster said.By definition, if Facebook curates the content on its platform, it will become a "publisher," and that comes with different rules and regulations, he said. At the end of the day, investors "love to sleep well at night" knowing the company is moving in the right direction, Munster said. But in Facebook's case, he said the latest Hong Kong update along with more ongoing headwinds will lead to monetization concerns.Related Links:Apps Like Pinterest, Twitter, Netflix See Surge In Downloads During CoronavirusWhy Facebook's WhatsApp Launched Its Payments Service In Brazil See more from Benzinga * Is A 'Find A New Home' Trend Replacing 'Stay At Home'? * Facebook Likely To Parrot TikTok, As It Did With Snapchat: Wedbush Analyst * Section 230 'Going Nowhere,' But Google Has True Antitrust Risk, Munster Says(C) 2020 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.
Here is a sneak peek into four tech stocks, which hold promise for stellar performances in the upcoming earnings season despite the coronavirus crisis.
Big advertisers are pulling ads from Facebook as part of the first organized boycott against the social media giant -- but will that change the company's outlook?
(Bloomberg) -- Major brands are getting caught up in the MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault that’s sweeping through video-game streaming, the fast-growing but insular world of watching amateurs and professionals play live online.In the past month, dozens of women -- often, former girlfriends or fellow streamers -- have accused more than 150 people of everything from rape to groping underage girls to cheating.Nvidia Corp., which makes powerful chips used in gaming PCs and runs a gaming service, is among the big companies contending with the problem. The company was working on a sponsorship project this year with Samuel Earney, a streamer on Amazon.com Inc.’s Twitch platform. Then the allegations hit.On June 22, a former girlfriend accused Earney, known on Twitch as IAmSp00n, of sexual and emotional abuse. She said he lorded his sponsorship deal with an unnamed PC-part manufacturing company over her as part of that mistreatment.The ex-girlfriend’s statement helped to explain the apology Earney had issued the previous day. “My actions haven’t been proper or appropriate,” he said, adding that he would ask his sponsors and partners to remove him “from programs and services so that they aren’t held responsible.” Soon after, Twitch closed his account; the site wouldn’t provide reasons for the ban.“We have ceased all engagement with Samuel Earney (IAmSp00n),” Nvidia said in a statement. “We condemn such behavior and commend those who come forward to support the safety of our gaming community.”Twitch BansNvidia isn’t alone. Twitch, by far the largest streaming site, recently banned a handful of streamers and said it will report some cases to the authorities. Facebook Gaming banned one streamer as well, and is investigating some personalities from rival service Mixer who are supposed to join the platform. Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube said it’s investigating allegations as well; many streamers banned elsewhere still have a presence there. All streaming sites’ terms of service prohibit harassment of other users, and many of the accusers are also streamers.While the streaming industry has been accused of sexism and harassment of women for years, in the past many accusers faced a backlash, said Isabelle Briar, who streamed under the name of LadyNasse before retiring recently.“You may speak up about something, and you might want to work with a brand, but you get turned down, and you don’t know why,” Briar said. “This can damage your hireability.”But this time around -- possibly because of the broader MeToo movement in entertainment and business -- “reaction was wildly different,” she said. Accusers have received a wave of support in comments on Twitter and elsewhere. And some brands are breaking ties with the accused, withdrawing the advertising and sponsorship fees that make up the lion’s share of the most popular streamers’ earnings.Many industry insiders say this is just the tip of the iceberg, in large part due to streaming culture, particularly among gamers.“Every streamer feels the need to push some sort of boundary in order to differentiate themselves,” said Lewis Ward, an analyst at IDC. “You are trying to fix something that’s embedded into gaming culture.”Apologies, DenialsSome of the accused streamers have posted lengthy apologies. Others deny any wrongdoing. Facebook said on June 22 it suspended streamer Michael “Thinnd” McMahon while it investigates abuse allegations from an ex-partner. McMahon categorically denied the allegations. He now advertises his YouTube channel on Twitter, instead.Headsets maker 1More, a past sponsor, said McMahon’s contract expired more than a year ago. “To our knowledge we have not sponsored any other streamers accused of harassment, nor would we if the information was brought to our attention,” 1More said in a statement. “We hold our partners to a high standard, and will continue to do so for any future sponsorships.”After being accused of sexual misconduct, Omeed Dariani, chief executive officer of the streamer-management firm Online Performers Group, vacated his position. “I believe women, I recognize that I am not innocent and have contributed,” he said in a tweet. Today, OPG’s website lists no clients, amid reports that many streamers have left the company. OPG and Dariani didn’t respond to requests for comment.On June 29, OPG said it hired a consulting firm to investigate claims against Dariani. In the past, the firm had helped streamers strike deals with the likes of Yum! Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell, according to San Diego Business Journal. Taco Bell didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.As a result of all this, major brands are expected to step up their vetting.“Sponsoring streamers has been sort of the Wild West over the past few years,” said Doug Clinton, managing partner at Loup Ventures, a research-driven venture-capital firm. “The industry has grown so quickly, I think brands have been forced to adapt to the opportunity and probably take some chances that they may not be as comfortable with in the future.”Still, small and thirsty brands may not be so picky -- simply because having a streamer gulp down your drink, wear your glasses or point out your gaming gear during a session is marketing gold.“When trying to target gamers, there aren’t many better ways than through streaming,” said Matthew Kanterman, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.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) -- If you’re not clear on Environmental, Social and Governance investing, you’re not alone. The Department of Labor appears to be just as confused. Luckily, Facebook Inc. may serve as an example to help clarify the burgeoning investing movement. The Labor Department issued a proposed rule recently that is being widely interpreted as a ban on ESG investing in retirement accounts. A news release said the rule “is intended to provide clear regulatory guideposts” for corporate pensions and 401(k) plans around ESG investing. What it’s actually doing, however, is sowing utter confusion. “Private employer-sponsored retirement plans are not vehicles for furthering social goals or policy objectives that are not in the financial interest of the plan,” Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said. But ESG has nothing to do with furthering social goals or policy objectives. By definition, ESG investing is strictly a financial endeavor, an attempt to improve the performance of portfolios by limiting their exposure to companies whose environmental, social or governance policies, or lack of them, are deemed risky. In that regard, it’s no different from striking a balance between stocks and bonds, investment-grade bonds and junk, stocks of large and small companies, or any number of decisions investors routinely make to manage risk and attempt to boost risk-adjusted returns. Consider Facebook. The social media behemoth has problems. A growing number of big corporate advertisers such as Coca-Cola Co., Starbucks Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are pulling their ads, fearing they might appear alongside hate speech, misinformation and other divisive content routinely posted on the platform. Facebook also faces a slew of antitrust inquiries from Congress, the Justice Department and a coalition of state attorneys general, as well as increasing bipartisan calls to remove legal protections that limit the company’s liability over content posted by users. Complaints about Facebook aren’t new. There have been widespread concerns about how the company handles user data since at least 2018, when news surfaced that Cambridge Analytica had obtained personal data of up to 87 million users. But Facebook has largely ignored its critics, mainly because co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg controls the company and doesn’t appear to share the concerns, at least not enough to do anything meaningful about them. So far, Zuckerberg has made mostly symbolic gestures, such as rolling out a new voter information hub and agreeing to meet with civil rights groups who organized the advertising boycott. Zuckerberg no doubt prefers to wield absolute power, but it’s a risky proposition for Facebook’s shareholders. There is growing evidence that companies with strong governance generally perform better and are less likely to fail than those with weak governance, which also makes them a less volatile and better-performing investment over time. The best ones have policies that hold management accountable and balance the competing demands of shareholders, creditors, workers, suppliers, customers and regulators. Suffice it to say, while Zuckerberg is on the throne, Facebook has few of those checks and balances.That’s a problem because Zuckerberg is the sole arbiter of what is and isn’t a hazard for Facebook, even if all indications are to the contrary. And clearly, not everyone at the company agrees with Zuckerberg’s sanguine outlook. Facebook employees recently staged a virtual walkout, and some senior figures publicly expressed their disapproval of Zuckerberg’s laissez-faire approach to policing content. If there were a greater diversity of opinion in Facebook’s decision-making process, perhaps it would have been more attune to the many threats it now faces. The risk posed by Facebook’s strongman governance is the “G” in ESG. Not surprisingly, Facebook receives poor marks for governance. Institutional Shareholder Services, a leading provider of ESG ratings, gives Facebook a 10 for governance, the highest risk score on its 10-point scale. And according to various governance metrics tracked by Bloomberg, such as percentage of independent directors and board size, governance has weakened at Facebook over the last decade. For investors worried about the governance risk around Facebook, reducing their exposure to the company, or even eliminating it entirely, is a reasonable financial move — one that is consistent with, in fact prescribed by, the Labor Department’s “longstanding position” that retirement plans “select investments and investment courses of action based on financial considerations relevant to the risk-adjusted economic value of a particular investment.” It’s also the essence of ESG.Scalia and the Labor Department appear to confuse ESG with what would more accurately be called socially responsible investing, or SRI, which attempts to align investors’ portfolios with their values by excluding companies and industries that conflict with those values, regardless of financial impact. It’s no less odd that the Labor Department wants to ban SRI. While I suspect SRI investors will pay a price for mixing their money and their values, there’s little evidence so far that SRI is a drag on portfolios or that it would undermine the “retirement security of American workers,” as Scalia seems to fear. So if 401(k) participants and pension beneficiaries want their money aligned with their conscience, it’s not clear why the Labor Department should stand in the way, particularly when it’s part of an administration that professes devotion to deregulation, small government and religious freedom. But at the very least, the Labor Department should clarify that it’s targeting SRI, not ESG.If the rule stands, one silver lining is that it might promote a clearer separation between ESG and SRI, which would help investors navigate the growing social investing landscape. Funds that blend the two are a particular source of confusion. The iShares ESG MSCI USA ETF, for example, both invests in stocks with strong ESG scores and excludes tobacco and weapons companies. The Labor Department’s proposed rule would presumably disqualify it from inclusion in retirement plans, and thereby discourage more funds from mixing ESG and SRI. However the rule shakes out, one thing should be clear: When ESG takes issue with companies such as Facebook, it’s about money, not values. If the Labor Department finds that confusing, imagine how ordinary investors must feel. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Nir Kaissar is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the markets. He is the founder of Unison Advisors, an asset management firm. He has worked as a lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell and a consultant at Ernst & Young. 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.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB) is partnering with an Indian government-run school body, the Central Board of Secondary Education, to provide a curriculum designed for secondary school students.What Happened The social media giant will offer courses related to digital safety, online well-being, and augmented reality for both students and teachers in India, in partnership with the school board, reported TechCrunch.The program is aimed at helping students prepare for current and emerging jobs. It will also help students stay safe on the internet and help them make "well informed choices."In the first phase of the program, training will be provided to 10,000 teachers, and in the second phase, 30,000 students will receive instruction. Why It Matters India's Union Home Minister of Human Resources Development, Ramesh Pokhriyal, said that teachers and students could begin applying Monday for the programs, reported TechCrunch.The three-week AR training will cover the use of Facebook's Spark AR Studio. Facebook and CBSE will also utilize its Instagram Toolkit for Teens in the program.Last year, Facebook launched a digital literacy drive in India called "Digital Udaan" in collaboration with Reliance Jio, an Indian cellular and internet services provider. The Facebook-Jio initiative, provided in 10 languages, targets first-time internet users and engages users on Internet safety and mobile application use, reported Mint, an Indian business publication.In April, Facebook invested $5.7 billion in Jio and picked up a nearly 10% stake in the Indian internet services firm.Price Action Facebook shares traded 0.21% higher at $233.90 in the after-hours session on Thursday. The shares had closed the regular session 1.74% lower at $233.42.See more from Benzinga * Tesla Website Crashes As Musk Puts 'Short Shorts' On Sale * Uber Buying Postmates In All-Stock Deal Valued At .65B: Report * SoftBank Shuns Elliot Management's Call For Board Oversight Of Vision Fund(C) 2020 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.
Facebook, Google and Twitter have all said they will temporarily block Hong Kong’s authorities from accessing user data, after the semi-autonomous city threatened jail terms against companies that did not comply with a new Chinese national security law. Facebook, which has a global process for government requests, on Monday said it was acting to support the right of people to express themselves “without fear for their safety”. Google said it was reviewing the law, while Twitter said that it had “grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law”.
(Bloomberg) -- As U.S. authorities ready the biggest antitrust case of the new century, there are lessons to be learned from Europe’s attempt to inject more competition into search, one of the most lucrative digital markets.Two years after a record fine and an order to give Europeans more choice, Alphabet Inc.’s Google retains a vice-like grip on this business. In May 2018, just before the European Commission acted, Google had 97% of the mobile search market in the region, according to StatCounter. Its share for May this year was even higher.“We don’t want them to copy the current EU model because it’s fundamentally flawed,” said Gabriel Weinberg, chief executive officer of rival search service DuckDuckGo, referring to the Justice Department and state regulators. The firm spoke recently with those authorities about Google’s dominance.How U.S. regulators proceed, and whether they learn from Europe’s experience, will help determine the fate of what is likely to be the most important antitrust case since the DOJ sued Microsoft Corp. more than two decades ago. With more than $100 billion in cash, and quarterly profit exceeding $6 billion, big fines have little impact on Google. So regulators are increasingly looking to remedies that may change the company’s behavior and offer consumers more choice. The DOJ reached out to at least one European company, Ecosia, to discuss versions of Google’s remedy in the EU case, the German search engine has said.In 2018, Europe’s antitrust authorities focused on the subtle but important factors that solidified Google’s grip on the region’s mobile search market. Getting a service pre-installed on smartphones often leads to big user gains, as does appearing on the home screens of handsets. Google has used deals tied to its popular Android mobile operating system to ensure its search engine gets such prized placements, leaving little room for rivals.The EU ordered Google to stop bundling its search and browser apps with Android. Google reacted by charging phone manufacturers to license Android. It also opted to appease regulators by offering choice to users -- but only on new Android phones from March 1 and only via a “choice screen” of three alternative search apps shown once when people switch on the handsets for the first time.There’s a precedent for approaches like this working. In 2017, Russia’s antitrust watchdog ordered Google to let competing search engines and other apps be pre-installed on Android smartphones in the country. The company also had to create a “choice window” for devices already in the market, so users could choose their default search engine when they next updated the software on their devices. Since that ruling, Russia’s Yandex NV has grown its search market share in the country by 20 percentage points to 58%, according to Bernstein Research estimates.Europe’s choice screen has failed to produce similar results so far. In March and April, rivals DuckDuckGo, Givero and Seznam.cz AS won slots to appear but got no new downloads for their search apps. DuckDuckGo was offered to customers across Europe while Givero bid to appear only in Denmark and Seznam in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.In May, Seznam said it got fewer than 1,000 downloads. Two other search providers said the choice screen has brought them no new customers. They asked not to be identified, citing a non-disclosure agreement with Google. Another search app, PrivacyWall, saw “no major market share shifts,” according to CEO Jonathan Wu. Microsoft’s Bing, a well-financed and capable challenger to Google, has barely appeared on the choice screen, winning just one slot in the U.K. from May to June. Microsoft and other search companies declined to comment.Bernstein analysts have already concluded that the choice screen is “unlikely to be a major disrupter to Google in its current form,” according to a June 18 research note.Google declined to give details on how many times the choice screen has been shown to European consumers. Android “provides people with unprecedented choice in deciding which applications they install, use and set as default on their devices,” the company said. “In developing the Choice Screen for Europe, we carefully balanced providing users with yet more choice while ensuring that we can continue to invest in developing and maintaining the open-source Android platform for the long-term.”The internet giant may be maintaining its lead in Europe because consumers think it has the best search engine. Google invests billions of dollars a year to provide quick, accurate answers to queries. Wall Street analysts often say users would switch back to Google after using alternatives, and they’ve been right before. However, the case of Yandex suggests otherwise. Many Android phone owners in Russia have been using Yandex’s search engine for at least a year and the market share data indicate there’s been no big switch back to Google.It isn’t the European Commission’s job to force Google to be smaller or less dominant. Instead, the antitrust authority tries to set up mechanisms to trigger more choice and remove roadblocks. That means even if the choice screen is seen billions of times by consumers in the region, Google’s market share could remain at 97%.“The European Union probably did the best job they could with the rules that they had,” said Aitor Ortiz, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “The problem is maybe the rules were not fit for the purpose.”The real reason the European choice screen has flopped so far is that the remedy was designed poorly, according to Google rivals in the region.While Russia ordered Google to show consumers search alternatives on Android phones, the EU merely asked Google to choose how it could remedy alleged bad behavior and a lack of competition. Google mimicked a pop-up menu first used in 2009 by Microsoft to resolve an EU antitrust probe into web browsers. Showing users other browser options even helped Google’s Chrome gain ground against Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.Microsoft didn’t charge rivals to appear in this browser choice screen and showed as many as 12 rivals. In contrast, Google is using a paid auction to pick rival apps for each country. The highest bidders appear in three slots on the Android choice screen alongside Google. The company only gets paid when another app is downloaded, but it also gets valuable data on rivals’ business strategies.The approach “lets the fox watch the hens,” said Brian Schildt Laursen, owner of Denmark-based Givero. Apps “have to tell Google what markets are important to us, and what we are willing to pay to get into these markets.”“A general misunderstanding was that EU citizens from March 1 had a free choice of search engine on Android,” he added. “This was not the case.”Successful bidders are supposed to get monthly invoices from Google showing how many of their apps have been downloaded. That data should help rivals tweak their bidding strategies. But DuckDuckGo’s Weinberg said these reports have been pretty useless so far. “We’ve gotten two that are just flat zero,” he said. “We have not seen any real activations or any evidence that any real user has seen the preference menu.”DuckDuckGo has proposed changes that include scrapping the auction and replacing it with a non-pay-to-play model that includes far more than four search options for consumers.Weinberg and Schildt Laursen also blame another part of the process for delaying new Android phones that come with the choice screen. Unlike the Russian order, which applied to existing handsets, the EU remedy gives consumers a one-time prompt that will only pop up on new phones.Android phone manufacturers must update their software and get Google to sign off on the new versions before shipping the latest devices. This means few smartphones even have the choice screen yet. The Covid-19 pandemic has also curbed purchases of new handsets and disrupted some production, adding to delays.Schildt Laursen said no new Android phones with the choice screen have come out in Denmark. DuckDuckGo and PrivacyWall said the only phone that has been approved and shipped to Europe recently is the Xiaomi Mi 10, which is relatively pricey and not widely available.The problems with the Android auction echo another EU antitrust order for Google’s shopping search that critics say enriches Google without delivering much real traffic to competing product search firms. While the EU hasn’t weighed in on whether these remedies are effective, it is preparing a legal pathway that would let it demand fast changes to anticompetitive behavior instead of big fines.Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s top antitrust official, has voiced frustration about her inability to increase competition in tech markets. During a recent webinar, she blamed the pandemic for the initial poor results of the choice screen remedy, saying “very few Android phones have been shipped due to the Covid crisis.”More phones and more time may give a clearer picture on whether users will pick another search app when they are given the choice, she argued.For DuckDuckGo’s Weinberg, though, there’s already one clear lesson for the U.S.: Do it differently.A choice screen done right “could actually work,” 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.
Alphabet just became the fourth U.S. company with trillion-dollar status. There’s only one other company with a market value above even $500 billion.
A loose network of Facebook groups that took root across the country in April to organize protests over coronavirus stay-at-home orders has become a hub of misinformation and conspiracy theories that have pivoted to a variety of new targets. Their latest: Black Lives Matter and the nationwide protests of racial injustice.
The first time Apple mentioned antitrust issues in Securities and Exchange Commission filings was Dec. 12, 1980. In its prospectus, Apple disclosed a lawsuit for $70 million—roughly $210 million in today’s dollars—filed by a disgruntled distributor in Oklahoma who claimed Apple pressured it to drop competitive products. Forty years later, (AAPL) (ticker: AAPL) Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has agreed to testify before a congressional antitrust committee that has been investigating his company for more than a year, looking into its behavior and assessing whether existing antitrust and competition laws are adequate.
Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) is shutting down two of its apps this month, Lasso and Hobbi. Lasso was a clone of TikTok, providing tools to create and share short videos. Hobbi looked a lot like Pinterest (NYSE: PINS), giving users a place to collect images and ideas related to their hobbies.
Facebook, Google and Twitter suspended processing government requests for user data in Hong Kong, on Monday (July 6). The moves come in response to China's establishment of a sweeping new national security law for Hong Kong. And in an illustration of worries about the law, short-form video app TikTok announced -- it would be pulling out of the Hong Kong market. Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, said in a statement that it was pausing reviews of all of its services "pending further assessment of the National Security Law." Google, and Twitter said they suspended their reviews of data requests from Hong Kong authorities immediately after the law went into effect last week. Although the social network declined to comment, Twitter cited quote "grave concerns" about the laws implications. Google said it would continue reviewing Hong Kong goverment requests for removing user-generated content from its services, while Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. Tech companies have long operated freely in Hong Kong, where internet access has been unaffected by the firewall imposed in mainland China, which blocks Google, Twitter and Facebook. Social networks often apply localized restrictions to posts that violate local laws. And in the second half of last year Facebook restricted nearly 400 such pieces of content in Hong Kong. Adding to the Monday announcements -- TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, said it would pull out of Hong Kong within days. A source told Reuters that the move was made because it was not clear if Hong Kong would now fall entirely under Beijing's jurisdiction in light of the new law. Asked about the moves by the U.S. tech firms and prospects for media freedom, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday "the law would not undermine human rights and freedoms." Since the law came into force some Hong Kongers have started reviewing or deleting social media posts they thought would be too sensitive. On the streets many Hong Kongers say they're worried about online freedom of expression. "Meanwhile the fear has already spread over Hong Kong about cyber expression, the freedom here." Messaging app Signal, which promises end-to-end encryption, has seen a surge in sign ups in Hong Kong.
JoAnne Feeney, Partner and Portfolio Manager at Advisors Capital Management, joins The Final Round to discuss her top picks in the tech sector and areas to look for opportunity.