Oct 27, 2018

Facebook's lip-sync app and other tech news you missed

The Future Investment Initiative FII conference in Riyadh. Photo: Fayes Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

In the middle of a continued moral reckoning in the tech industry, a number of the major public companies announced their quarterly earnings this week, with mixed results. Here are five stories in tech news you may have missed.

Catch up quick: Facebook is reportedly building a lip-syncing app for teens to rival Tik Tok; Saudi Arabia signed business deals worth $50 billion at the Future Investment Initiative; conservative political apps are taking off; Vancouver has hot and cold relations with Chinese investments; and stock trading on Alexa is not as simple as it sounds.

Facebook is reportedly building a lip-syncing app for teens to rival Tik Tok (TechCrunch)

  • Why it matters: Facebook is notorious for trying to thwart competitors by building its own version of their social apps. Its lip-syncing app project also reminds us that the company continues to grapple with teenagers' decreasing interest in its flagship social network.

Saudi Arabia signs business deals worth $50 billion at Future investment Initiative (CNN)

  • Why it matters: Saudi Arabia signed agreements with international companies despite a number of business names bailing on its conference this week over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has poured Saudi money into domestic tourism projects and global tech companies as part of an effort to diversify the economy.

Conservative political apps are taking off (The New York Times)

  • Why it matters: Facebook and YouTube have been accused of creating a hostile environment toward right-learning viewers, which has prompted Republican consultants to build apps with chatrooms and news feeds for conservative groups. And like the big social networks, these apps do collect data about their users.

Vancouver’s hot and cold relations with Chinese investments (Bloomberg Businessweek)

  • Why it matters: Vancouver was the first major Western city to experience the tidal wave of Chinese cash — and its unforeseen aftermath. But now, officials say a substantial proportion of the money stems from corruption or crime. High housing prices and an economy distorted by wealthy outsiders is giving rise to anger. British Columbia’s left-leaning government is now focusing on policies meant to restrain the arrival of Chinese money.

Stock trading on Alexa is not as simple as it sounds (Axios)

  • Why it matters: This is a big task for Alexa, which is notorious for mishearing verbal commands. Buying stocks via home assistant won't be a one-step process anytime soon. That's a good thing, since any errors in making investment transactions could be more disastrous than, say, accidentally ordering too many dollhouses.

Go deeper

HBCUs are missing from the discussion on venture capital's diversity

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Venture capital is beginning a belated conversation about its dearth of black investors and support of black founders, but hasn't yet turned its attention to the trivial participation of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as limited partners in funds.

Why it matters: This increases educational and economic inequality, as the vast majority of VC profits go to limited partners.

Unemployment rate falls to 13.3% in May

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May, with 2.5 million jobs gained, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The far better-than-expected numbers show a surprising improvement in the job market, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The difficulty of calculating the real unemployment rate

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Note: Initial traditional state claims from the weeks of May 23 and 30, continuing traditional claims from May 23. Initial PUA claims from May 16, 23, and 30, continuing PUA and other programs from May 16; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The shocking May jobs report — with a decline in the unemployment rate to 13.3% and more than 2 million jobs added — destroyed expectations of a much worse economic picture.

Why it matters: Traditional economic reports have failed to keep up with the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and have made it nearly impossible for researchers to determine the state of the U.S. labor market or the economy.