Thursday's technology stories

Jul 9, 2020 - Health

Schools confront broadband access crisis

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

School districts are taking it upon themselves to help families get connected to the internet as they face down a long future of virtual learning.

Why it matters: In the COVID-19 era of education, broadband is an essential service that families need to stay connected — and that school systems require to equitably educate children in their districts.

SoFi applies for a bank charter (again)

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

SoFi, the fin-tech "unicorn" best known for refinancing student loans, has applied again for a bank charter with the Office of the Currency Comptroller, the company tells Axios.

Flashback: SoFi first sought a bank license in 2017 so it could offer deposit accounts, but withdrew its application following the ouster of former CEO Mike Cagney.

Jul 9, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Intellectual Ventures taps TiVo exec to run patent fund

Intellectual Ventures founder Nathan Myhrvold. Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Intellectual Ventures has hired former TiVo executive Arvin Patel to run its giant patent fund.

Why it matters: The Seattle-area company, run by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold, has become one of the world's largest patent holders through a variety of mean including licensing, strategic partnerships and patent sales.

TikTok caught in a U.S.-China vise

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok, the short-video platform popular among teens for sharing funny moments and dance moves, is getting pulled into the deadly serious geopolitical conflict between China and the U.S.

The big picture: More than any other Chinese-owned app, TikTok has found success outside of its homeland. But as the U.S. sounds security alarms and China turns the legal screws on Hong Kong, the company is fighting to prove that it's not beholden to Beijing — and to forestall a threatened ban by the Trump administration.

TikTok reveals content moderation stats amid growing global pressure

Sign on Beijing headquarters of TikTok parent company ByteDance. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

TikTok offered a detailed look at its removal of videos around the globe Thursday as the popular video-sharing app faces pressure in the U.S. and abroad over its ties to China.

The big picture: The Trump administration says it's considering a U.S. ban on TikTok, which is Chinese-owned. India last month banned the app along with more than 50 other Chinese mobile apps.

Jul 8, 2020 - Podcasts

The TikTok economy at risk

President Trump on Tuesday reiterated that the White House may consider shutting down TikTok due to security concerns over its relationship with the Chinese government, even though the company insists that its U.S. operations run independently.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the business ecosystem growing around TikTok with John Shahidi, who leads one of the U.S.'s top management and studio companies for social media influencers.

Facebook bans accounts linked to Roger Stone and far-right Proud Boys

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook announced Wednesday it removed nearly 100 social media accounts and pages with links to Trump associate Roger Stone and the Proud Boys, a far-right group, for posting misinformation.

Why it matters: Facebook began looking into the accounts as part of an investigation into the Proud Boys' attempt to return to Facebook following a 2018 ban. The accounts posed as Florida residents and shared misinformation about local politics, land and water resource bills as well as misinformation about Stone's trial, books and media appearances.

U.K.-China tension heats up over Huawei

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.K. may further restrict technology from Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, on its 5G networks, due to security concerns, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: The move is seen as a diplomatic victory for the U.S., which has sought to prevent Huawei technologies from being employed in communication networks across the world. China, meanwhile, accuses the U.S. of using security rationales to squeeze Huawei from international markets because it is hostile to economic competition.

Electric scooter racing is coming

Image courtesy of the eSkootr Championship series

There's a new sports league with an EV twist: Tuesday brought rollout of the "eSkootr Championship," which aims to start holding high-speed electric scooter races in major cities starting in 2021.

Why it matters: Organizers say there's a serious message behind the new sport as they promote electric scooters and other emerging mobility services.

Volvo invests in blockchain firm Circulor to help ethically source battery materials

Photo: Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Volvo’s VC arm is investing in the blockchain tech firm Circulor as the company looks to expand its work on tracing the cobalt used in electric car batteries to include other materials too, Volvo said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Extraction of cobalt and other materials in the battery supply chain is linked to human rights abuses, so ethical sourcing of materials is important.

Facebook auditors say it's failing on civil rights

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The findings from a new civil rights audit commissioned and released by Facebook show that the tech giant repeatedly failed to address issues of hatred, bigotry and manipulation on its platform.

Why it matters: The report comes as Facebook confronts a growing advertiser boycott and criticism for prioritizing freedom of speech over limiting misinformation and protecting users targeted by hate speech.

Congress vs. tech's gang of four

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The CEOs of tech's four leading giants will defend their industry's growing concentration of power from critics on both right and left who view them as monopolists when they testify, most likely virtually, before Congress on July 27.

Why it matters: The joint appearance by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Apple's Tim Cook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Google's Sundar Pichai will mark a historic collision between the leaders of an industry that has changed the world and political leaders who believe those changes have harmed democracy and individual rights.

Jul 8, 2020 - Podcasts

The misinformation virus

The spread of misinformation is crippling our fight against the coronavirus. Social media and a deeply partisan divide are fueling what the World Health Organization calls an "infodemic" — just as urgent as the virus itself.

Jul 8, 2020 - Podcasts

Facebook boycott organizers share details on their Zuckerberg meeting

Facebook is in the midst of the largest ad boycott in its history, with nearly 1,000 brands having stopped paid advertising in July because they feel Facebook hasn't done enough to remove hate speech from its namesake app and Instagram.

Axios Re:Cap spoke with the boycott's four main organizers, who met on Tuesday with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives, to learn why they organized the boycott, what they took from the meeting, and what comes next.

Boycott organizers slam Facebook following tense virtual meeting

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Civil rights leaders blasted Facebook's top executives shortly after speaking with them on Tuesday, saying that the tech giant's leaders "failed to meet the moment" and were "more interested in having a dialogue than producing outcomes."

Why it matters: The likely fallout from the meeting is that the growing boycott of Facebook's advertising platform, which has reached nearly 1000 companies in less than a month, will extend longer than previously anticipated, deepening Facebook's public relations nightmare.