Aug 1, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Situational awareness: Sprint's Q1 earnings and revenue surpassed expectations slightly, reporting that profit for the latest quarter fell to $173 million, or 4 cents a share, compared to $206 million, or 5 cents a share, a year ago, per MarketWatch.

But analysts continue to wait for news on the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, Oppenheimer managing director Timothy Horan tells CNBC.

1 big thing: AI as the future of fairness

Illustration: Caresse Haaser, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Nonprofits that work to fight discrimination are increasingly shifting an eye toward artificial intelligence amid rising concern over algorithmic bias.

The latest: Several nonprofits are among the latest members for the Partnership on AI, a group established to address the ethical and other challenges presented by AI. The effort began with big companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, but now includes a growing roster of academic institutions and nonprofit groups.

Why it matters: With human bias, each generation represents an opportunity to break through stereotypes. With algorithms, bias will only reinforce itself and become less clear over time, so it's critical to address the issues when the technologies are in their infancy.

The details: LGBTQ rights organization GLAAD is among the new members, as is the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which was set up in 1970 as a think tank serving black elected officials. Other new members include Deutsche Telekom, PayPal, MIT's Media Lab and the Wikimedia Foundation.

What we're hearing: Joint Center president Spencer Overton said his organization is especially concerned with how AI could disproportionately impact employment in communities of color. Overton said that 27% of black workers are concentrated in 30 jobs at high risk to automation.

Among the first organizations to join the partnership was the ACLU, recognizing the potential civil rights and civil liberties issues raised by machine learning. Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts and board member of Partnership on AI, says:

"In some cities, police are using artificial intelligence to predict where crimes might occur and to deploy officers and surveillance technologies accordingly. Courts in many states are using algorithms to set lengths of incarceration. Disfavored communities and people of color who historically have been targeted for government scrutiny too often bear the brunt of dangers posed by these new technologies."

The partnership aims to spark discussion and collect best practices in areas ranging from fair and transparent AI, AI's impact on the economy, and the impact of AI in safety-critical uses.

What's next: Despite its high profile launch and growing membership roster, the organization is still in its infancy, with just five full-time staffers working out of a largely empty new office space in San Francisco.

The organization has been working to have a more global membership. It currently has members from Europe, India, Japan and North America, but not China — yet.

Read more of the story here.

2. Facebook sidesteps the Russia trap

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

In calling out a new political disinformation campaign — without publicly placing blame on a specific culprit — Facebook drew an important line. The company put a stake in the ground of what it sees as its role and what it believes belongs to the government.

ICYMI: Facebook announced Tuesday that over the past two weeks it had identified and removed 8 pages and 17 profiles on Facebook, as well as 7 Instagram accounts that violate its "ban on coordinated inauthentic behavior."

Why it matters: It ended up being a decent day for Facebook, which just dealt with a grueling week of negative press after its weak earnings report. Facebook managed to avoid a fierce political battle over the disinformation campaign's motive while also getting credit for shutting it down.

Go deeper:

  • Axios' Sara Fischer and David McCabe have more here.
  • See the political disinformation Facebook just axed.
3. Apple hints at strong iPhone launch, TV service

In addition to blowing away expectations for revenue and earnings, Apple on Tuesday offered investors several things to get excited about:

1. In the short term, the company said to expect revenue in the current quarter of $60 billion–$62 billion, ahead of expectations, suggesting the company sees a strong (or early) launch for its next wave of iPhones.

2. In the long term, Apple CEO Tim Cook dropped a few tantalizing hints about the company's forthcoming video content efforts, though he was scant on details.

  • He noted his excitement about a recent deal with Oprah Winfrey and the hiring of some ex-studio executives for a "project," but said he wasn't ready to share the details.
  • Perhaps the most telling comment was this:
"Cord cutting in our view is only going to accelerate and probably accelerate at a rate that is much faster than is widely thought."
— Tim Cook
4. Huawei passes Apple to become world's No. 2

After years of growth, Huawei has now surpassed Apple to become the second largest provider of smartphones, according to market research firm IDC.

Why it matters: Though largely blocked from becoming a serious player in the U.S., the Chinese company has grown to be a major competitor in the markets for both cellphones and the network gear that allows them to communicate with one another.

"The continued growth of Huawei is impressive, to say the least, as is its ability to move into markets where, until recently, the brand was largely unknown," IDC analyst Ryan Reith said in a statement.

Yes, but: Apple could retake the No. 2 spot later this year, when the new iPhone models come out. "It is worth noting that Apple moved into the top position each of the last two holiday quarters following its product refresh, so it's likely we'll see continued movement among the top ranked companies in 2018 and beyond," Reith said.

The bottom line: Apple still accounts for the bulk of the industry's profits and dominates the most lucrative segment of the market. Samsung remains the market leader, but Huawei has emerged as a serious global rival while names like HTC and Sony have faded.

5. LittleBits moves into wearables with Avengers

Photo: LittleBits

Fresh off its work on a build-your-own-R2-D2, educational tech company LittleBits is announcing its first wearable on Wednesday.

The details: The $149 Avengers Hero Inventor Kit aims to let 8-to-12-year-olds imagine their own superhero powers and bring them to life using components like an LED array, accelerometer and sound chip.

  • It'll be available today for preorder on Amazon with shipments starting Aug. 24.

Why it matters: This is a part of a growing trend in STEM products — drawing on well-known brands to promote science, technology, engineering and math. Last week, rival Kano announced a Harry Potter wand kit.

6. Take Note

On Tap

  • Earnings reports today include Tesla, T-Mobile and Yelp.
  • It's also the fifth birthday for the Crisis Text Line, a free service letting young people access peer counseling via text message.

Trading Places

  • The White House has tapped University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Kelvin K. Droegemeier to fill the long-vacant post as director of science and technology policy.


  • A federal judge blocked the release of blueprints for 3D-printed guns.
  • Aiming to grow beyond its roots, DocuSign is buying SpringCM for $220 million.
  • China's Baidu topped earnings and revenue expectations, per South China Morning Post.
  • MoviePass is probably not going to become the first trillion-dollar company.
7. After you Login

This valedictorian was rejected by his parents for his sexuality, but is going to college thanks to $50,000 in crowdfunded donations.

Ina Fried