May 7, 2020

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

My musing from last night: It's amazing how tired one can get without even leaving the house.

Situational awareness: Uber is leading a $170 million investment round in Lime, in a deal that will see Lime absorb Uber's own scooter division, Jump.

Today's Login is 1,517 words, a 6-minute read.

1 big thing: How domestic abusers tap tech — and how to stop them

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With much of the world sheltering in place, there has been a marked increase in domestic violence, as experts had feared. Not all abuse is physical, though: Many abusers are using smartphones and apps to inflict additional pain.

Why it matters: Technological forms of abuse, which can include hacking accounts and using digital tools for stalking, can persist even after survivors have physically escaped their abusers.

Of note: Abuse facilitated by technology is now the most common form of domestic abuse, followed by in-person psychological abuse, physical and sexual abuse, according to Alison Marganski, an associate professor at New York's Le Moyne College.

The big picture: The rise in home technology has made it possible for abusers to spy on their partners' online accounts, track their physical movements and share personal information.

  • Among other techniques, abusers share intimate photos; monitor their partners' internet history, texts and emails; and deploy spyware and camera-based surveillance.
    They also sometimes withhold access to tech, which, during the pandemic can cut partners off from work, friends and access to medical care.

A clinic at Cornell University provides help to those that find themselves in such a situation. But it’s not always possible for technological abuse survivors to safely contact such resources, noted Sarah St. Vincent, who runs the clinic.

  • "If people are concerned their accounts are being monitored, that makes it even harder for people to reach out to us for that very problem," she said.

Where it stands: COVID-19 has only made things worse.

  • Helping people in abusive relationships has gotten even trickier amid the pandemic, since they have less opportunity to be physically separate from their abuser.
  • But the Cornell team has found other ways, such as offering step-by-step by step guides and the ability to speak indirectly, through a friend.
  • "We've really been having to innovate in response to this," St. Vincent said. "So far it's been working really well."

Yes, but: Technology-based abuse doesn't necessarily end even after a survivor has been able to physically escape.

  • "Tech abuse is sticky," St. Vincent said. "It can enable abusers to control their partners even after the person has left house or relationship."

What's next:

  • Tech companies should build their products with an eye toward how they could be misused by abusers, experts say. That means, among other things, limiting how much information is collected and stored and making privacy settings easier to find and control. "The tech industry could do a better job from the ground up," St. Vincent said, including ensuring that women and people with diverse backgrounds are contributing to engineering and design.
  • Lawmakers should make sure that existing harassment and abuse laws cover the many ways that technology can be exploited, Marganski said, while also offering enough flexibility to enable restorative justice rather than just incarceration.
2. Facebook puts faces on independent Oversight Board

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook named the leadership for its Oversight Board Wednesday and cut the ribbons on the project, which will now operate independently of the company to handle appeals of its most thorny content moderation decisions, Axios' Scott Rosenberg and Sara Fischer report.

The big picture: The board is a first-of-its-kind internet governance body, which Facebook spent $130 million to fund.

Details: The board also named a slate of 20 members out of a projected full membership of 40 as part of its official launch.

  • The membership spans the political spectrum and includes legal experts as well as people with backgrounds as human rights activists, journalists, political leaders and victims' advocates.

How it works: Users who are unhappy with a content takedown or other moderation decisions by Facebook will be able to file an appeal with the board, which will choose a handful of key cases to decide.

  • Facebook says it will treat individual content judgments by the board as binding, but responsibility for implementing board decisions will rest solely with the company.
  • Board members say they are committed to carefully balancing freedom of expression with other human rights, to operating transparently, and to representing global diversity.

What they're saying: On a press call before the announcement, the board's four co-chairs described their work as novel and experimental and said they expect to make mistakes.

  • "It's one thing to complain about content moderation and the challenges involved in it. It's another to actually try to do something about it," said co-chair Jamal Greene, a Columbia Law School professor.

One huge challenge will be sifting through a perpetually growing pile of potential controversies to pick the few that the organization will be able to adjudicate.

History lesson: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first discussed the idea of a Supreme Court-like independent board in April 2018 as a way to counter criticism that the company was inconsistent and unaccountable in its decisions to take content down or leave it up.

Our thought bubble: The board is full of expertise in law, free speech, and human rights. It may find itself wishing for deeper knowledge of misinformation, disinformation, and the complexities of algorithmic media.

Go deeper: Facebook's constitutional moment

3. Zynga CEO: Pandemic leading people back to classic online games

Zynga CEO Frank Gibeau. Photo: Zynga

Zynga CEO Frank Gibeau told Axios that even though COVID-19 has meant all of the online gaming firm’s employees are working from home, the company hasn’t missed a beat.

The big picture: Video game usage has picked up substantially amid the crisis, as plenty of single adults and students sheltering at home have more time on their hands. That looks to be the case across the board, from hardcore console gaming to casual mobile games.

Driving the news: Zynga on Wednesday beat first-quarter revenue expectations and upped its top-line guidance for the year.

  • The company did post a significant $103 million loss, which Gibeau said was largely due to increased payouts owed to acquired companies, after their games fared better than expected.

Of note: Zynga has also seen an increase in lapsed players returning to classic games like Words with Friends and Farmville. "People are going back to brands and fantasies and universes that they love," he said.

Meanwhile: Gibeau, who has no set timeframe in mind for when Zynga employees will return to the office, says he doesn’t anticipate a need for layoffs.

  • "We're growing and we're hiring," he said. "We feel like we are well positioned to navigate this."
4. Lyft and Grubhub: A tale of two earnings reports

As tech's pandemic earnings season continues, results from Lyft and Grubhub illustrate how hard it is for most companies to get through the crisis unscathed, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

The big picture: Lyft's ride-hailing service is way down, Grubhub's food delivery business is up, yet both companies posted mixed results, and Lyft's stock rose while Grubhub's dropped.

Driving the news: Lyft's stock price shot up by 15% in after-hours trading after the company yesterday yet also posted a loss per share more than double what analysts expected. 

  • Yes, but: The company admitted that its rides volume dropped 75% in April compared to a year earlier, and its stock is still down 70% from its high, despite incremental increases in recent weeks. 

Meanwhile: GrubHub saw its stock price drop 5% after posting widening losses and a decrease in daily average orders despite beating revenue expectations. 

  • Unlike ride-hailing, delivery services like GrubHub are in growing demand from consumers as people have shifted from eating out to ordering food for pick-up and delivery. 
  • Yes, but: "Grubhub is using nearly all of our profits in the second quarter to generate as many additional orders for our restaurant partners as possible," CEO Matt Maloney said in a press release

 The big picture: Several other tech companies also posted earnings Wednesday.

  • Peloton: The company best known for its stationary bikes bested expectations, telling analysts that it paused marketing in March as word of mouth proved highly effective. 
  • PayPal: Though its stock price rose, the company missed all analyst estimates for the quarter. 
  • Square: The company's stock dropped amid growing losses, as Square's small-business clients struggle during the shutdown.
  • Twilio: The firm, which provides communication tech like messages and calls, blew past all analyst expectations, sending its stock price soaring. 
  • Etsy: The online marketplace posted mixed results for the quarter, withdrawing its 2020 forecast, though it remains profitable. 
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Earnings reports include Uber, Dropbox, Roku and Booking Holdings — the parent of Kayak, Priceline, Booking.com and other travel sites.
  • This afternoon at 2pm ET, Axios' Kim Hart will be moderating a virtual panel, "Smart cities in the era of COVID-19," including remarks from Seattle's chief privacy officer Ginger Armbruster. Register here.

Trading Places

  • The Libra Association, the group in charge of the Facebook-backed digital currency, has named Stuart Levey as its first CEO. Levey is a former Treasury undersecretary in both the Bush and Obama administrations and currently chief legal officer of global financial institution HSBC.
  • Zoom, which has been beefing up its D.C. policy apparatus, is adding former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster to its board of directors.

ICYMI

  • Remember how we said there would be product delays? Well, Google said Wednesday that the beta of the next version of Android has been pushed back by about a month, though it still plans a final release in the third quarter. (Android Developers Blog)
  • Liberty Global's Virgin Media will merge with Telefonica's O2 to form a $39 billion U.K. broadband giant. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Epic Games' Fortnite now has more than 350 million registered players, making it one of the biggest video games ever. (The Verge)
  • Uber is laying off 3,700 employees, some 14% of its workforce. (Axios)
  • Sinclair will pay a record $48 million to settle FCC investigations into its practices, including claims it misled the agency in connection with its failed bid for Tribune. (Axios)
  • Nintendo massively outsold original expectations for its Switch console and sold more than 13 million copies of mega-hit Animal Crossing in the first calendar quarter. (Wall Street Journal)
6. After you Login
Giphy

Today is World Password Day. Instead of making you read a story on the worst passwords of 2020 or 20 tips to a secure password, I will just leave you with this classic scene from "Spaceballs."

Ina Fried