Jul 21, 2020

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Join Axios co-founder Mike Allen and health care reporter Caitlin Owens tomorrow at 12:30pm ET with Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Boston University School of Medicine chief of rheumatology and professor of medicine Tuhina Neogi, and American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association CEO and president Randall Rutta for a conversation on how the pandemic is changing health care access for those dealing with chronic pain.

Today's Login is 1,474 words, a 6-minute read.

1 big thing: TikTok, under fire, promises U.S. hiring blitz

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok tells Axios it plans to add thousands of jobs in the U.S. over the next few years — ripping a familiar page from the "companies under fire" playbook.

The big picture: Chinese-owned TikTok is working to distance itself from Beijing in the face of a threatened ban from the Trump administration and broader scrutiny out of Washington, where policymakers are looking to blunt China's influence and economic might.

Driving the news: TikTok plans to add 10,000 jobs in the U.S. in the next three years as user growth explodes, spokesperson Josh Gartner told Axios.

  • TikTok's U.S. job growth has already nearly tripled this year, going from almost 500 employees Jan. 1 to just under 1,400.
  • The company plans to hire for jobs in engineering, sales, content moderation and customer service, with a focus on growing workforces in California, New York, Texas, Florida and Tennessee, Gartner said.
  • "It's supporting the tremendous growth in the country and follows our strategy of building out teams where we have users," Gartner told Axios.

Between the lines: TikTok's ongoing hiring spree also includes the addition of more than 35 lobbyists meant to convince the Trump administration and lawmakers of the company's independence from China, according to a New York Times report.

  • The company also plans to open transparency centers in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., to allow outsiders to observe its content-moderation process.

Context: U.S. policymakers are suspicious about the privacy practices and potential Chinese government ties of TikTok's Beijing-based parent company ByteDance.

  • TikTok doesn't operate in China, where ByteDance instead maintains a near-identical app called Douyin. TikTok says it doesn't share user data with China or even store any there.
  • There's no evidence to date contradicting those claims, but China hawks in Congress and the Trump administration remain skeptical, given the expansive powers Beijing has asserted over companies that do business in China.
  • The House on Monday approved an amendment to a must-pass defense bill banning federal employees from downloading TikTok on government-issued devices, while the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will vote Wednesday on similar legislation from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

The big picture: TikTok's hiring plans follow the playbook of other tech companies highlighting their role as job creators and investors in local economies.

  • Google, facing federal and state antitrust investigations, pledged a $10 billion investment in expanding its footprint across the country earlier this year.
  • Apple in 2018 announced plans to build a $1 billion new campus in Austin, Texas, while also setting up new offices in several cities.
  • Amazon's competition for its second headquarters saw dozens of cities vying to be the tech giant's choice.

Yes, but: Job promises don't always pan out. Just ask the folks in Wisconsin still waiting for the job postings from that big Foxconn factory.

Go deeper: TikTok caught in a U.S.-China vise

2. Apple vows to be carbon neutral by 2030

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Apple pledged Tuesday that within 10 years every product it sells will have a net zero impact on climate change, Axios' Amy Harder reports.

Where it stands: Apple has previously announced other climate goals, like powering all its facilities with 100% renewable energy, but this one is notable for its exhaustive nature covering its supply chains and the relatively quick timeline of 10 years.

Why it matters: Apple's biggest carbon footprint comes from the computers, phones and other devices made in manufacturing plants around the world that it doesn't have direct control over, so this plan will shed light on how to neutralize the climate impact of complex supply chains.

What they're saying: The coronavirus may delay the rollout of the next iPhone, but it won't slow down Apple's climate goals. Lisa Jackson, Apple's chief sustainability officer, told Axios in an interview that businesses should "look at climate change as a challenge which they can continue to tackle even in the face of building back."

How it works: By working with its suppliers around the world and using ever-more recycled material for its products, Apple says it can cut 75% of its emissions within 10 years.

  • The remaining 25% it hopes to reduce by forming what it's calling a "carbon solutions fund," which will invest money (an amount Apple isn't disclosing) in natural ways — i.e., planting and then cutting down trees in a sustainable manner — to offset the remaining quarter of emissions.
  • Among other specific developments, Apple is announcing a new robot the company is calling Dave (to go along with current robot Daisy) that can recover rare earth material from recycled iPhones.

Context:

  • Microsoft announced earlier this year it would be carbon neutral by 2030 and cancel out all its emissions since its 1975 founding.
  • Amazon, which has faced the most criticism for its climate policies from its own employees, said in September 2019 that it will be carbon neutral by 2040. While 10 years earlier than the Paris Climate Agreement, that goal is fast becoming a laggard in the tech space.

Reality check: Tech companies' climate change policies raise awareness of the topic. But the corporate climate goals that matter most are those of the producers of oil, natural gas and coal, since those fuels are the biggest drivers of climate change.

Go deeper:

3. Hate speech soars online after George Floyd's death

Since May 26, the day after George Floyd's death, a digital measurement firm found that online hate speech in the U.S. has nearly tripled, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

By the numbers: On June 3, at the height of nationwide protests, DoubleVerify, which uses its own technology to scan pages online so advertisers can avoid objectionable content, says instances of hate speech were more than 4.5 times higher than usual — the highest-ever rate it has measured.

Details: States with heavy protests experienced the highest levels of hate speech online.

  • Minnesota, the District of Columbia, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Virginia saw the highest spikes, per DoubleVerify.

Hate speech had been in a "pretty significant downward trend" prior to the protestsDoubleVerify VP of marketing Heather McKim tells Axios.

  • The company defines hate speech as content featuring "biased or derogatory language or behaviors directed toward an individual or group, based on their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or ability."

The big picture: The spikes in hateful content, especially as it related to race and violence, have put pressure on tech companies to take action.

  • Last week, Axios reported that the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), an industry body consisting of the world's biggest advertising companies — including a few Big Tech companies — has agreed to try to define hate speech across the entire industry.

Our thought bubble: The entire internet, from Facebook and Google on down, is groaning under the weight of hateful posts. Pressed by concerned advertisers on one side and outraged users and employees on the other, tech giants have tried to take countermeasures, but they haven't been able to keep up.

4. What Intel has learned from its COVID response

Intel has now spent $30 million of the $50 million it pledged in April to help address the coronavirus outbreak, including money for remote health and distance learning. The company says it has learned some key lessons along the way.

Why it matters: Lots of tech companies announced large pandemic relief plans. It's worth checking back to see how those efforts turned out.

One of the big lessons — which some countries (namely the U.S.) seem to be learning the hard way — is that one can't separate reviving the economy from containing the pandemic.

  • "People's health will be critical to the world's economic recovery, just as the economic recovery will be key to everyone's health," Intel VP Rick Echevarria said in a blog post.

Echevarria said the technologies where Intel invested heavily — digital health and distance learning — are bound to outlive the pandemic.

"Life will be different for everyone around the world after the coronavirus is history. Doctors and patients will communicate from a greater distance. Educators will find lessons in distance learning to make online classes more effective and meaningful. Cures for many more diseases will come from the private, safe and efficient sharing of data."
— Intel VP Rick Echevarria
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Microsoft's Inspire conference (formerly its Worldwide Partner Conference) takes place virtually today and tomorrow.
  • Today's earnings reports include Snapchat parent Snap Inc.

Trading Places

  • Adobe has hired Marc Levoy, who worked on computational photography at Google, including key features for its Pixel phones.
  • Cognizant hired former Trump administration technology appointee Anil Cheriyan as executive VP of strategy and technology. Cheriyan, who also previously served as CIO for SunTrust Banks, headed the government's Technology Transformation Services effort.

ICYMI

  • IBM earnings beat expectations as the company says it is seeing its cloud business accelerate due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Reuters)
  • Logitech saw its quarterly sales up 23% from a year earlier and raised its financial outlook for its fiscal year, which runs through March. (Logitech)
  • U.S. smartphone sales, meanwhile, were down 25% from a year ago in the second quarter, according to a new report, as the pandemic hampered an already stagnanting mobile device market. (9to5Mac)
  • eBay is selling a majority stake in its classified-ads business in a deal that values the unit at $9.2 billion. (Axios)
  • Microsoft president Brad Smith reportedly met with House antitrust investigators to talk competition, including his company's concerns on how Apple runs the App Store. (The Information)
  • LinkedIn is cutting nearly 1,000 jobs as the coronavirus pandemic bites into demand for its recruitment products. (Reuters)
6. After you Login
Screenshot: @inafried (Twitter)

The other night I discovered that 2020 has come for my frozen treats, too.

Ina Fried