Jan 29, 2020

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

You know that feeling when you are too tired to write a clever intro? I'm guessing you now have a pretty good idea what it looks like.

Situational awareness: Following the U.K., the EU has issued guidelines that would allow Huawei to be part of 5G networks, albeit with some restrictions.

Moving on. Today's Login is 1,418 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: China looms large in Apple earnings report

Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

China figured prominently throughout Apple's earnings report on Tuesday, helping fuel the company's record holiday quarter, but also playing a role in the uncertainty hanging over the current quarter.

Why it matters: Apple is the latest company to flag that China's coronavirus outbreak could harm near-term business.

A year after weakness in Greater China prompted a rare earnings warning, Apple returned to growth in the region. The company said it saw double-digit growth in sales of the iPhone and in its services and wearables businesses.

Yes, but: China was also the source of caution throughout Apple's conference call on Tuesday.

Specifically, CEO Tim Cook noted that:

  • The company's $63 billion to $67 billion revenue outlook for the current quarter, though better than some analysts had forecast, had a wider range due to uncertainty over the impact of the coronavirus.
  • Apple has closed one of its stores in China, while third-party retailers have closed some distribution points and reduced the operating hours at others. Also, traffic is down at retail stores outside Wuhan.
  • Some suppliers are based around Wuhan, thought to be ground zero for the outbreak, though Apple said it had other sources for all the components it gets there. The impact on suppliers outside of Wuhan is less clear.
  • Factories in China are starting back up later than normal following the Lunar New Year holiday, Cook said, with production due to resume Feb. 10.
  • Apple has limited travel of its employees to China to "business critical" situations. But Apple, of course, has a lot of critical business in China, since nearly all its hardware is manufactured there.

The bottom line: It's too soon to say how great the human impact of the outbreak will be, but it's already a major source of economic risk.

2. Big Tech's effort to go green

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The last few days have made something pretty clear: Big Tech is getting greener — but that's not keeping it out of climate advocates' crosshairs.

Driving the news: New data shows that Google was the global leader in corporate renewable energy procurement last year, signing contracts for 2.7 gigawatts of capacity, Axios' Ben Geman writes.

  • The next 3 biggest buyers were Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, per the research firm BloombergNEF's report Tuesday.
  • It's merely the latest evidence that tech giants are looking to act aggressively on climate and clean energy.
  • This month Microsoft also rolled out a suite of new policies — including a pledge to be carbon-negative by 2030. Amazon toughened its plans in late 2019.

But, but, but: Even as major tech companies announce new green ambitions — and evince existing ones — they're facing heightened pressure to walk the walk when it comes to their products and clients.

What's happening: Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor, who heads the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, this week urged Google to curb false climate information on its hugely popular YouTube subsidiary. She called for steps including:

  • Removing climate "denial" and "disinformation" from YouTube's recommendation algorithm.
  • No longer allowing users to monetize videos that "promote harmful misinformation and falsehoods" about climate.

Also this week, hundreds of Amazon employees, defying communications rules, put their names on statements criticizing Amazon policies on climate (among other topics).

Context: Amazon joins Google and Microsoft in coming under criticism from both their own employee and outside critics — including Sen. Bernie Sanders — for offering sophisticated computing services tailored to help oil companies assess and extract resources.

The bottom line: Tech companies have some of the corporate world's most aggressive climate targets and programs. But this is hardly inoculating them against criticism.

Catch up fast: Castor's letter cites a report this month by the activist group Avaaz which alleges YouTube is "driving millions of people to watch climate misinformation" daily.

  • One finding is that when users search for "global warming," 16% of the top 100 "related videos" in the "up next" feature had climate disinformation.
  • Another is that major brands are often unaware that their ads run on these videos.

The other side: A YouTube spokesperson said the company has "significantly invested in reducing recommendations of borderline content and harmful misinformation, and raising up authoritative voices."

  • The spokesperson also said YouTube's ad policies give advertisers "tools to opt out of content that doesn’t align with their brand."
3. How cities dictate the pace of 5G deployment

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Just how fast Americans can access 5G wireless service depends, in large part, on how effectively the guts of the network — namely, hundreds of thousands of bulky antennas — are placed in cities, as Axios' Kim Hart reports.

Why it matters: While global tensions mount over pressure to build 5G networks as fast as possible, U.S. cities are in a fight of their own with telecom carriers and federal regulators over how new 5G antennas — or small cells — will be scattered throughout downtowns and neighborhoods.

Driving the news: Next month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, will hear a case between cities and the Federal Communications Commission over the placement of 5G antennas.

  • Dozens of cities have sued the FCC over its 2018 order requiring faster permitting and limiting the fees communities can charge wireless companies to install backpack-sized antennas on city property.

Context: Wireless companies say one of the biggest hurdles to deploying 5G networks is the need to negotiate with city officials for permission to install small cells, and that some cities were charging excessive fees for access to city property.

  • FCC Republicans argue that uniform limits to streamline the permitting process will speed up 5G rollout, and that the money telecom companies save from paying lower permit fees in big cities will help build out the networks in underserved areas faster.
  • "A lot of cities that had high fees have been able to reduce them and reach reasonable agreements with carriers," said Republican FCC commissioner Brendan Carr. "Carriers that are building out need to compromise with cities. Cities need to understand the upside that comes with 5G."

The other side: City leaders, however, say the one-size-fits-all rules undermine their authority to charge market rates for property access. They also say the mandated fee structure weakens their leverage to negotiate wider 5G build-outs that, for example, cover low-income neighborhoods as well as rich ones.

What's next: A decision in the case is expected later this year. Until then, the litigation creates uncertainty for both cities and carriers during what is supposed to be a critical time for 5G roll-outs.

"I don't think, sitting here in Washington, we have the right to tell cities what to do. We've created a lot of anger in cities and states across this country who want to play a role in figuring out what the future of their infrastructure looks like."
— Democratic FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted against the 2018 order

You can check out Kim's related video here.

4. Congressman wants answers from Clearview

Rep. Patrick McHenry, the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, wants facial recognition provider Clearview to explain its data collection practices and is calling on committee Chair Maxine Waters to schedule a hearing on the matter.

Why it matters: Clearview has come under fire following a New York Times report on its use of public images from social media and elsewhere on the internet to create a facial recognition system for law enforcement agencies.

Driving the news:

  • In a letter to the company, seen by Axios, McHenry says Clearview's technology appears to create "serious privacy and public safety concerns."
  • McHenry asks for all documents relating to the technology and the company's data collection practices as well as a list of customers that have purchased Clearview's system. In a separate letter, McHenry asked Waters to schedule a hearing on the issue.
  • Clearview is also being sued in federal court, while state legislators in New York and elsewhere are seeking to halt law enforcement's use of the technology.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • It's another big day for corporate earnings, with Facebook, Microsoft, and PayPal all slated to share quarterly financials after the markets close.
  • House Energy and Commerce's communications subcommittee holds a hearing at 10:30 am ET on getting internet service out to unconnected communities.

Trading Places

  • Salesforce has hired Linkedin product executive Doug Camplejohn as executive VP and and GM of Sales Cloud CRM. He's also chairman of music nonprofit Little Kids Rock.
  • Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg is stepping down, to be succeeded by current president Shar Dubey.
  • Jay Parikh, longtime leader of Facebook's infrastructure and data center efforts, is leaving the company.
  • Ben Smith is leaving BuzzFeed News to write a media column for the New York Times.


  • Facebook announced global availability of a long-awaited tool that lets people see and clear data the company has collected on user activity off of its sites. (USA Today)
  • Separately, Facebook offered more details on how its "Supreme Court"-like content oversight board will be established and run. (CNBC)
  • Google is testing an app that would unite many of the company's business communication tools. (The Information)
  • Amazon's Ring app harvests user data from Android phones and shares it with outside parties, according to a new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (The Los Angeles Times)
6. After you Login

Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to step out of the Wienermobile.

Ina Fried