The Week in Business: Facebook Filters Politics
Happy Valentines Day. Here’s your quick rundown of the top business and tech stories you should know for the week ahead, so you can spend the rest of your day eating (sorry, reading) the candies that you want for loved ones (or for yourself) bought. – Charlotte Cowles
What’s happening? (February 7th to 13th)
The inflation debate
The Biden government’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus proposal winds its way through Congress. However, many leading economists have argued that the sweeping bailout plan is excessive and could lead to out-of-control inflation. In a speech on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell disagreed, urging policymakers to reduce inflation fears and focus on restoring full employment. He also pointed out that the latest unemployment figures do not tell the full story of the volatile labor market. Employment for workers with higher wages is down 4 percent (still strong), but the lower quartile of the workforce has seen a devastating 17 percent decline.
Reddit is raising the bar
The online chat platform Reddit has completed its lead role in buying GameStop stock and raising $ 250 million in new funds. The company is valued at $ 6 billion and plans to double its workforce and expand its user base. Reddit’s message boards are not just a popular forum for stock market tips these days. They have also become an important information and community resource for unemployed Americans trying to navigate the complex system of unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
Aunt Jemima’s makeover
The 131-year-old pancake and syrup brand officially has a new name: Pearl Milling Company. Quaker Oats pledged to revamp the line, which has long been criticized for its history of racist imagery, following widespread protests against racial injustice last June. The redesigned packaging will hit the shelves this summer. Some other food brands that use racist imagery in their marketing, including Ben’s Original Rice Products (formerly Uncle Ben’s), Wheat Cream Muesli, and Mrs. Butterworth’s Syrup, are currently undergoing a similar makeover.
What’s next? (February 14-20)
Keep it civil
If you are tired of your crazy uncle’s political abuse on Facebook, welcome this development: the social media platform is changing its algorithm to reduce the political content in people’s newsfeeds. The new algorithm, which makes political content less prominent but does not remove it, is being tested in several countries and will be rolled out to the US in the coming weeks. The change comes in response to popular requests: “One of the most important feedback we are currently hearing from our community is that people don’t want politics and struggles to take over their experience of our services,” said Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook. However, not all political offices are affected. Content from official government agencies is excluded from the change.
India takes on Twitter
Facebook may tone down political content, but Twitter is struggling to keep it up – at least in India. The clash began when Indian farmers took to Twitter to protest new farming laws. The country’s government ordered Twitter to delete or mute more than 1,100 accounts alleged to have promoted violence or spread misinformation. Twitter complied with some of these requests, but refused to remove reports from journalists, activists, and others who are exercising their right to criticize the government and not violate company policies. Now the Indian government has accused Twitter of breaking its laws.
The fallout continues
Regulators and policymakers are still trying to figure out how to react to the recent GameStop stock trading frenzy that hijacked the market in January and harmed investors large and small. Congress will hold a hearing on the matter this week, and key players – including Reddit executives, hedge fund Citadel and stock trading platform Robinhood – have been asked to testify.
A new analysis found that women’s participation in the US labor market fell to a 33-year low in January. Almost 80 percent of workers over the age of 19 who left the labor force in the past month were women. Bumble, a company that runs a dating app for women, went public on Thursday, making its 31-year-old founder Whitney Wolfe Herd, a billionaire and the youngest woman to go public. The sale of Chinese social media app TikTok to Oracle and Walmart, forced by the Trump administration, has been suspended indefinitely by the Biden administration while national security concerns are investigated.