Tuesday, June 30, 2020

China imposes sweeping national security law as Hong Kong marks handover anniversary

The law came into effect in Hong Kong in the lead-up to July 1 -- the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British rule to China -- and dramatically broadens the powers of both local and mainland authorities to investigate, prosecute and punish dissenters.
In vague language, the law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers. People who are convicted of such crimes can face sentences up to life in prison.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong police said they had arrested a man for carrying an independence flag -- the first such arrest under the national security law.
Hong Kong is about to be governed by a law most residents have never seen. And it's already having an effect
The night before, police commanders were told in a training session that anybody seen waving an independence flag or chanting for independence will be arrested, a police source said. In addition, the source said anybody searched and found to have independence flags in their possession will be arrested.
Despite a heavy police presence and threat of stricter penalties, hundreds of people turned out in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay on Wednesday, handing out flyers and waving posters. Riot police fired pepper spray into the crowd at one point, and unfurled a purple flag warning protesters of being in violation of the new law.
July 1 is traditionally a day of protests in the city but for the first time since handover, police did not give permission to protesters to hold peaceful demonstrations.
Speaking after the annual flag raising ceremony on Wednesday, Hong Kong's top official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, said the law is a "crucial step to ending chaos and violence that has occurred over the past few months" in the city.
"The national security law is the most important development in securing ties between China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region since the handover," she said, framing criticism of the law as "vicious attacks."
The stringent new legislation and its 66 articles were kept secret from the public until the law went into effect and appear to offer the government, courts, police and authorities a roadmap to quash any hint of the mass anti-government protests that rocked the city last year.
Here are some of the key takeaways of the law, according to a translation from Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
  • The law establishes four new offenses of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers. The maximum penalty for each is life imprisonment.
  • The Chinese central government will establish its own law enforcement presence in Hong Kong, labeled the "Office for Safeguarding National Security."
  • A secretive national security committee for Hong Kong will also be established, comprised of Hong Kong government officials and an adviser appointed by the Chinese central government. According to a summary published by the Hong Kong government, this group's work "shall not be disclosed to the public," and "decisions by the Committee shall not be amenable to judicial review."
  • Activities such as damaging public transport and public services "in order to pursue political agenda" can be considered terrorism -- a provision that appears to target protesters who last year disrupted traffic and the city's infrastructure.
  • A terrorism charge can also include the vaguely worded provision of "other dangerous activities which seriously jeopardize public health, safety or security."
  • The law targets perceived foreign interference in Hong Kong. Throughout the protests, the Chinese government blamed "foreign forces" for interfering in the city's affairs. The law states that anyone who "steals, spies, obtains with payment, or unlawfully provides state secrets or intelligence" to a foreign country, institution, organization or individual will be guilty of an offense under collusion with foreign powers.
  • The law also makes it an offense for people to call on a foreign country, institution, organization or individual to impose sanctions or blockades on Hong Kong. The US said it would impose visa restrictions on current and former Chinese officials over Hong Kong.
  • Working with a foreign government, institution, organization or individual to incite hatred against the Hong Kong or Chinese Central government is now a offense.
  • The law can also be applied to non-permanent residents in Hong Kong and those who are in violation of the law will be deported, regardless of conviction. It also applies to non residents overseas who violate the national security law while abroad. This raises the prospect of foreign nationals being charged for suspected crimes committed while overseas should they visit the territory.
  • Those convicted of a national security crime in court cannot stand for elections or hold public office.
  • Hong Kong's Chief Executive now has the power to appoint judges to handle cases related to national security. National security cases involving state secrets can be tried without a jury.
  • Hong Kong courts will oversee national security cases but Beijing can take over prosecution in certain circumstances, applying Chinese law and prosecution standards.
  • In these cases, Beijing can choose which prosecuting body will hear the case and which court it will be heard in, meaning that cases could potentially be held in the mainland. The anti-government protests last year were sparked over a proposed law that would allow extradition to mainland China.
  • Trials will be held in an open court but when the case involves "state secrets or public order" it can be moved behind closed doors.
  • A new national security unit will be set up in the Hong Kong Police Force that will have the power to search properties, intercept information and perform covert surveillance without a warrant. It can also recruit members from outside of Hong Kong -- potentially allowing mainland officers to operate in the city.
  • The law also directs the Hong Kong government, along with the new commission, to strengthen its management over foreign news agencies and non-government organizations.
  • Ultimately, the national security law trumps local laws: the new legislation states that if there is a conflict with existing Hong Kong law, the national security law will prevail.
The legislation has been widely criticized by opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong, human rights groups and politicians worldwide. Many worry it will be used to target political dissidents, activists, human rights lawyers and journalists amid the central government's continuing crackdown on civil society under Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Opponents of the law say it marks the end of the "one country, two systems" -- a principle by which Hong Kong has retained limited democracy and civil liberties since coming under Chinese control.
Crucially, those freedoms include the right to assembly, a free press, and an independent judiciary, rights that are not enjoyed on the Chinese mainland.
On Wednesday, the Chinese government staunchly defended the law, calling it a perfect embodiment of the "one country, two system" policy.
"If we want to implement 'one country, one system,' things would have been much simpler," said Zhang Xiaoming, executive deputy director of China's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. "We could have directly applied Chinese criminal code, prosecution law and national security law to Hong Kong. Why would we go to such lengths to tailor-make a national security law for Hong Kong?"
Despite the quick passage of the law, officials said it was carefully written, and took into consideration opinions and feedback from Hong Kong. They also brushed aside concerns and fears over the law's impact on freedom of speech, judicial independence and political diversity, reiterating that it targets only a tiny minority of people who intend to do real harm to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam following a flag-raising ceremony to mark the handover on July 1, 2020.
Shen Chunyao, director of legislative affairs commission of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, China's top lawmaking body that passed the new law, said only under "very rare" circumstances would Chinese state security agents and judicial authorities get involved in Hong Kong cases.
"We don't want to see (such occurrences), but we must set up a system that take such risks and factors into consideration," he said.
But Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong media tycoon known for his outspoken support of the city's pro-democracy movement, said the law "spells a death knell to Hong Kong because it supersedes our law and our rule of law."
Rights group Amnesty International said the legislation "represents the greatest threat to human rights in the city's recent history."
On Wednesday, Canada updated its travel advice for Hong Kong, warning its citizens that they "may be at increased risk of arbitrary detention on national security grounds and possible extradition to mainland China."
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was a "sad day for Hong Kong, and for freedom-loving people across China" with the imposition of the national security legislation in Hong Kong.
He said the law "destroys the territory's autonomy and one of China's greatest achievements."

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Russians hit the reset button for Putin, but questions of legitimacy linger over his long-term rule

At first glance, everything seems to be going to plan for the Kremlin. Back in March, Valentina Tereshkova, a Russian MP from the ruling United Russia party, called in a theatrically staged parliament session for a constitutional amendment that would allow Putin to run for president again after his current term ends in 2024.
A man casts a ballot at a polling station in Moscow on Tuesday.
It was a move laden with patriotic symbolism: Tereshkova, a former cosmonaut and the first woman to fly in space, is a living connection to the days of Soviet achievement.
Putin appeared in the parliament building just an hour and a half later to endorse the proposal, which then sailed through both houses and the country's constitutional court. But plans for a yes-or-no referendum on the constitutional amendments on April 22 were put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the rescheduled balloting is now going ahead, backed by a get-out-the-vote blitz.
But more is at stake than just a resetting of term limits. The vote has also become a referendum on the system that has been built around Putin during his two decades in power. As many observers of Russia note, Putin's system of "vertical power" makes him the final arbiter among elites, and their fortunes are, quite literally, tied to him remaining in charge.
Vladimir Putin strongly hints he will run again for president
Russia in 2020 is not a dictatorship in the classic sense: Putin depends on regular elections as a kind of plebiscite to lend legitimacy to his rule. To be sure, Russia's political system lacks checks and balances: The parliament is packed with loyalists and what Russians call a "pocket" (i.e. powerless) opposition; the president has wide latitude to hire and fire regional leadership; and the courts defer to executive power.
But Putin must follow the letter of the law: After all, he did leave the office to Dmitry Medvedev, staying in power behind the scenes during a four-year interregnum while the new president changed the constitution.
What followed is instructive today: Medvedev introduced a set of constitutional reforms that increased presidential terms to six from four years, and allowed Putin to run again. But widespread allegations of voting fraud that followed 2011 parliamentary elections led to a wave of pro-democracy protests that deeply worried the Kremlin.
Will Wednesday's referendum prompt the same challenge to Putin, or a new wave of street protests? That is difficult to predict, but members of the country's small and embattled opposition have already raised questions about tampering and irregularities in the referendum, which has been opened for early voting since last week, a measure cast by election officials as a coronavirus precaution to allow social distancing.
Voting by mobile ballot box in Moscow on Monday.
Some Russians have taken to social media to show their preference, posting NYET (no) on their profiles. Residents of Moscow and other large cities glued anti-Putin stickers next to pro-amendments posters. Others have taken note of a curious fact: Copies of the constitution recently went on sale in bookstores, with the amendments already included, something widely commented on in social media. That suggested to many Russians that the fix was in.
State-run pollster VTsIOM on Monday released early results from exit polling that suggest Putin will win approval for the amendments: According to those results, around 76% of respondents at 800 polling stations around Russia said they supported the constitutional changes.
Anti-gay viral video stirs outrage ahead of Russian referendum
Putin's popularity has taken a hit during coronavirus, but his approval ratings are still high. And the constitutional amendments include some provisions -- for instance, language that enshrines marriage as being solely between a man and a woman -- that will appeal to a segment of conservative voters.
There is little to suggest the result will not satisfy the Kremlin, but the apparatus of the state has been working overtime to increase the voter turnout to add legitimacy to controversial changes. A massive campaign for the vote launched by authorities on all levels has a range of appeals: TV ads promising great social benefits, billboards showing happy families that voted 'Yes' and brochures with recipes and crosswords plastered on the entrances to residential buildings. But the official ad campaign for the referendum does not highlight that the constitution could solidify Putin's reign until he is 84 and give him immunity from prosecution when he retires.
The same goes for Putin's own messaging. In a short video clip released Tuesday, Putin appears before a new monument to Soviet soldiers and urges Russians to vote for "stability, security, and prosperity," saying a new constitution means a future with good healthcare, education and an "effective government beholden to the public." He makes no mention of the resetting of his term limits.
Putin addresses the nation on the eve of the main day of voting.
Independent voting monitors have also raised questions about widespread reports of voting violations. Even before the vote kicked off last week, independent outlets and NGOs posted dozens of screenshots and audio messages suggesting forced voting by employers of big corporations and state-financed organizations.
"In the past few days we have also seen a large numbers of ballot stuffing, so it feels like at some stage it was clear to [the organizers] that the administrative resources to mobilize controlled electorate are running out, they may also be voting in a slightly different way compared to a desired one and they've resorted to good old ways of rigging," Stanislav Andreychuk, co-charman of the non-governmental group Golos, told CNN.
According to Andreychuk, this plebiscite is way less regulated than previous elections his organization monitored: Voting booths set up on park benches violate the secrecy of voting, the usual restrictions on releasing exit polls are not enforced and unregulated campaigning -- aided by raffles promising apartments to lure voters to stations -- muddy the voter's right to freely exercise their will.
An outdoor polling station in Saint Petersburg.
Asked about anecdotal evidence of voting irregularities, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov questioned reports shared on local media about polling stations being set up in the trunks of cars or on park benches.
"The interest in voting is great, but it's too early to draw conclusions, wait, it's just begun," he said in response to questions on a conference call with reporters.
Putin has already signaled strongly that he will run, and that talk of stepping down from office is a needless distraction. In an interview that aired on state television in the run-up to the vote, Putin said he had "not ruled out" running for another term if voters approve the constitutional amendments.
"If this [constitutional change] does not happen, in two years -- I know this from my own experience -- instead of normal, steady work at various levels of power, everyone will start looking around for possible successors," he said. "We need to get on with work, not look for successors."
Still, the referendum has a chance to cast a cloud on Putin's potential re-election -- and theoretically, on his next two terms in office.

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IMF says Asia's economy will shrink 'for the first time in living memory' due to the coronavirus


IMF Logo is seen at the International Montary Fund (IMF) headquarters in Washington, United States on April 24, 2017.

Samuel Corum | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Asia's economy is expected to shrink this year "for the first time in living memory," the International Monetary Fund said, warning that the region could take several years to recover.  

The fund said in a blog post published Tuesday that Asia's economy will likely contract by 1.6% this year — a downgrade from its previous forecast of no growth in April.

The region is still in a better shape compared to other parts of the world, but a weaker global economy has made it difficult for Asia to grow, Changyong Rhee, director of the Asia and Pacific department at IMF, told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia" on Wednesday.

He said "Asia cannot be an exception" when the whole world is suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The IMF last month slashed its forecasts for the global economy. It projects the world economy could shrink by 4.9% this year before rebounding to grow by 5.4% next year.

What we are worried about Asia is actually the recovery from 2020.

Changyong Rhee

International Monetary Fund

Asia was the first region to be hit by the coronavirus disease — or Covid-19 — which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. After the virus spread globally, many governments imposed measures that restrict people's interactions and movements, which severely reduced economic activity.

Rhee said Asia's economy is expected to rebound strongly to register a 6.6% growth next year. But the level of economic activity in the region would still be lower than what IMF had projected before the pandemic, he added.   

"What we are worried about Asia is actually the recovery from 2020," said Rhee.

He explained that countries in the region have a "heavy dependence" on trade, tourism and remittances — segments of the global economy that were hit hard by the pandemic.

"Even if we develop new medical solutions, the recovery of ... contact-intensive sectors will be slow, tourism for example. So because of that, I think Asia's recovery will be protracted," he said.

And if there is a second wave of infections in the region, many governments may not have the firepower to support their economies like they did during the first wave, Rhee added.

That's especially true for the region's emerging economies, which have "relatively limited" policy space to respond to a resurgence of cases, he explained.

"So I wonder, if the second wave happens, whether the Asian governments can use the same stimulus as in the ... first crisis," he said. "So we have to be more concerned, more cautious."

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FuboTV increases monthly subscription to $65


FuboTV is the latest virtual TV service to introduce a sharp subscription fee hike, not long after YouTube TV announced that it was drastically increasing its subscription fees to $65 a month.

The company sent out emails to subscribers today letting them know that standard plans are increasing from $55 a month to $65 as of their next billing cycle following August 1, 2020. As part of the hike, people on standard accounts will be rolled into Fubo’s Family Bundle plan, which includes three simultaneous streams, Cloud DVR Plus, and 500 hours of DVR space, according to the email.

Fubo last increased the price of its standard plan in March 2019, going from $45 to $55 a month. Other FuboTV customers posted screenshots on social media of emails received informing them of $5 increases; FuboTV’s family plan currently costs $60 a month. The Verge has reached out to Fubo for more information.

“Sometimes to help us bring you new channels at the best value, and to deliver premium features like live sports in 4K, we need to remove other channels and adjust subscription prices,” the email reads. “Turner networks will be leaving FuboTV as of July 1, 2020, and subscription prices will be changing.”

Quite a bit is changing at FuboTV in the coming weeks. The virtual TV service is receiving a plethora of Disney channels as part of a multi-year deal, including ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, ABC, ABC News Live, FX, FXX, Disney Channel, Freeform, and National Geographic. The service is also set to lose a number of WarnerMedia channels, however, including TNT and TBS. Deadline reports that WarnerMedia and FuboTV couldn’t come to an agreement. As of July 1st, TNT, TBS, CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, truTV, HLN, TCM, CNN EspaƱol and CNN International are expected to not be available.

Price hikes on virtual streaming services often happen when those distributors make agreements to carry more channels. Google made recent agreements to carry WarnerMedia premium channels like HBO and Cinemax, as well as several networks from ViacomCBS like Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, and MTV. Critics speculated that because those deals were being made, and YouTube TV doesn’t have an a-la-carte option — meaning options to purchase a plan without some of the networks carried on YouTube TV — price hikes were imminent. That turned out to be true for both YouTube TV and FuboTV.

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Dreams is getting PlayStation VR support this month


Dreams, the expansive game creation tool for the PlayStation 4, is getting VR support. Development studio Media Molecule made the announcement on the official PlayStation blog, saying that PlayStation VR compatibility would arrive as part of a free update later this month.

There’ll be new tutorials that teach you how to create VR content, and the update will also bring games and experiences that are ready to play right away. There’ll be a lot of flexibility in the interface: VR experiences can be crafted both in and out of the PSVR headset, and PlayStation Move controllers are optional. Sculpting with Move controllers “is a very one-to-one experience and lets you fully immerse in the creation process,” according to Media Molecule, which suggests a Tilt Brush-style UI.

It should be easy enough to discover new VR experiences once the update has been available for a while. Creators will be able to specify whether their content is VR-compatible or not and also give it a comfort rating.

The Dreams “Inside The Box” update will be out for free on July 22nd.

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Apple is reportedly pushing suppliers to cut production delays for its 5G iPhone range


Apple CEO Tim Cook pose next to an image of the new iPhone 11.

Kena Betancur | AFP | Getty Images

Apple is pressuring suppliers to cut production delays for its next-generation iPhone range after coronavirus lockdowns in China and the U.S. put the technology giant behind schedule, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing unnamed sources.

The iPhone maker is slated to release four models in its 5G lineup with three different screen sizes and is facing delays of between four weeks and two months for mass production of those, the Nikkei said. 

Apple was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC. 

Apple assembles most of its iPhones in China but the design team and other functions are at its Cupertino, California headquarters. During the height of the coronavirus pandemic in China earlier this year, the factories which assemble Apple's iPhones were shut. They have since reopened.

But in March, California enacted a "shelter-in-place" order which affected Apple's staff. Some of Apple's employees returned to the company's head office in June to try to get the iPhone released on time, the news publication reported. 

Sources told the Nikkei Asian Review that Apple was now less likely to postpone the launch of the 5G iPhones until 2021. The publication reported that had been the worst-case scenario it was facing three months ago.

Apple typically announces its new iPhones in September. The Nikkei said the reported delays on where the company would normally be in development for that timeline.

One source told Nikkei that some final iPhone assembly could be delayed until early October and that further delays are possible.

Apple's rivals including Samsung and Huawei already have 5G-capable phones on the market. While the next-generation networks are not that widespread, they are developing in some countries like China and South Korea very quickly. Some analysts see the release of a 5G iPhone as a potential catalyst for Apple's stock to rise higher

Apple has also told its suppliers to build more than 45 million units of older iPhone models — the iPhone XR, the iPhone 11 range and iPhone SE — to keep its sales momentum up, the Nikkei reported. 

Read the full Nikkei Asian Review report here

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5 reasons why Singapore's upcoming general election is worth watching


Singaporean voters queue at a polling station to cast their votes in the general election on Sept. 11, 2015.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

Singapore is set to hold its general election on July 10 — a little more than a month after the country started easing restrictions aimed at containing one of Southeast Asia's largest coronavirus outbreaks.

Singapore's ruling party, the People's Action Party, has never lost an election before and has governed the city state since 1959, before the country's independence in 1965.

The upcoming election is gearing up to be different from the previous ones before. Here are five reasons why Singapore's next election is worth watching.

Coronavirus cases are still climbing

The Southeast Asian country is not the first to hold a national vote in the middle of the pandemic. South Korea in April held parliamentary elections that resulted in a decisive win for President Moon Jae-in's party.  

While the South Korean government was largely praised for its handling of the virus at the time of its elections, Singapore's response — which was initially seen as a success globally — lost some of its shine due to an outbreak within dormitories that house migrant workers.

Those workers — usually men from other Asian countries working in low-wage, labor-intensive jobs — account for more than 90% of nearly 44,000 confirmed infections in Singapore, according to the health ministry's data.

The total number of new cases reported daily still hovers in the hundreds. However, a decline in infections outside the dormitories led the Singapore government to ease much of its partial lockdown measures last month, paving the way for the election to be held.

Still, some observers warned that infections in the wider community could climb in the lead-up to the July 10 vote.

"Any surge in community cases ... to the polling day might lead to criticism on the government's decision, and will, therefore, backfire (on) its approval rating," consultancy The Economist Intelligence Unit said in a note last week.

Economic crisis looming

The coronavirus pandemic hit Singapore at a time when its open and trade-dependent economy was already feeling the effects of the U.S.-China trade war.

Singapore is forecasting its worst economic recession since independence in 1965. The economy is expected to shrink by between 4% and 7% this year, according to official estimates.

In the past, times of crises helped the ruling party to score larger electoral wins as voters preferred a steady hand to lead the country. In the 2001 general election — which was held soon after the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. — the party received 75.3% of the votes.

But such "flight to safety" often occurred at the onset of a crisis, not in the middle of it, said Eugene Tan, associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University.

"I think now Singapore is in the eye of the storm, and how the government has handled the crisis so far, I think that's going to come under very robust scrutiny during the campaign period," Tan told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia" last week.

"I don't think it's all clear that this is the general election that will favor the ruling party, the odds are that it would, but we shouldn't exclude the possibility that voters may take a different view," said Tan, a regular commentator of Singapore politics.   

Changing of guards

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had previously said he was ready to step down by the time he turns 70. Lee, who has held the top job since 2004, is now 68 which means the upcoming election could be his last as prime minister.  

Lee is only the third prime minister of Singapore since independence. He's the son of the city state's widely respected founding prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew.

Current Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is tipped to succeed Lee. Heng and a group of cabinet ministers — dubbed the fourth generation, or 4G, leaders — have been at the forefront of the country's response to the coronavirus outbreak.  

Those ministers are expected to play a bigger role in leading the ruling People's Action Party, or PAP, in the upcoming election.

Opposition politics

For only the second time since Singapore's independence, all 93 parliamentary seats that are up for grabs in the election will be contested. The ruling PAP is the only one that has fielded candidates for every seat.

The PAP has won every election since independence — often even before polling day, because opposition parties sometimes fielded candidates for only a handful of seats. The last election in 2015 was the first time that every parliamentary seat was contested.

Last week, the prime minister's younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, joined an opposition party. Although the younger Lee is not contesting in the election, he is expected to help rally support or the opposition. 

Lee Hsien Yang, the son of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and younger brother of current premier Lee Hsien Loong, joins the opposition Progress Singapore Party.

Suhaimi Abdullah | Getty Images

Their father, Lee Kuan Yew, co-founded the ruling party and was Singapore's longest serving prime minister from 1959 to 1990. He was widely credited for the development of Singapore — a former British colony — from a third-world country into the advanced city state that it is today.

Safe campaigning and voting

An election in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak means political parties will have to do away with the traditional way of campaigning. Chief among those is mass rallies — one of the most common methods for candidates to reach out to voters.

Door-to-door campaigning and community walkabouts are still allowed, subject to rules such as limiting each group to five people, mask-wearing and keeping a safe distance, according to guidelines issued by the Elections Department.

To make up for the lack of physical rallies, political parties will get more airtime to campaign on free-to-air television channels, the guidelines said. Candidates can also live-stream online rallies, it added.

On voting day, temperature screening and other hygiene measures will be carried out at all polling stations, the department said. To avoid crowding, there will also be more polling stations, and voters will be allocated a recommended two-hour time slot to cast their ballot, it added.

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A private survey shows China's manufacturing activity beat expectations in June


Results of a private survey released on Wednesday showed China's manufacturing activity expanded and beat expectations in June, hitting its highest level since December 2019.

The Caixin/Markit manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index came in at 51.2. Economists polled by Reuters were expecting 50.5, as compared to 50.7 in May.

PMI readings above 50 indicate expansion, while those below that level signal contraction. The monthly PMI readings are sequential.

"The manufacturing sector continued to expand, as most of the country had the epidemic under control and the economy continued to recover," said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group in a press release.

While overall manufacturing demand recovered at a fast clip, overseas demand remained a drag, Wang wrote.

"New export orders continued to fall amid weak external demand, as the epidemic situation overseas remained uncertain in many places and the number of new daily infections remained high," he said.

But overall demand "improved remarkably" he noted. The subindex for total new orders expanded for the first time since January, as gradual lifting of epidemic control measures allowed production to resume.

Even though supply and demand both improved in June, the employment subindex remained in negative territory for the sixth straight month, and was even weaker than in May.

"Manufacturers remained cautious about increasing hiring," said Wang.

China on Tuesday said manufacturing activity expanded in June with the official PMI coming in at 50.9, but the country's statistics bureau said there still are headwinds caused by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The private survey features a bigger mix of small- and medium-sized firms. In comparison, the official PMI survey typically polls a large proportion of big businesses and state-owned companies.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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China unveils details of the Hong Kong national security law


Pedestrians walks past a government-sponsored advertisement promoting a new national security law on June 30, 2020 in Hong Kong, China.

Billy H.C. Kwok | Getty Images

BEIJING — The central Chinese government passed a sweeping new security law for Hong Kong that took effect just hours before the 23rd anniversary of the city's handover from the U.K to China on Wednesday.

The National Security Law strengthens Beijing's control on Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region with greater democratic freedoms and alignment with international business standards than the mainland. That special status has made Hong Kong an attractive hub for many international companies wanting to tap the Greater China market.

Under the new legislation, many of the activities carried out by protesters in Hong Kong over the last year become punishable by law. What began as largely peaceful mass protests against a controversial extradition bill more than 12 months ago turned into violent clashes with police. 

An official English translation of the new law stipulates that a person who acts with a view to "undermining national unification" of Hong Kong with the mainland faces punishment of up to lifetime, depending on the severity of the offense. Financial support for such activities is also a crime. 

The security law also laid out in broad strokes what could be deemed offenses by "terrorist organizations" and those who collude with foreign entities. 

The text also says those who are not permanent Hong Kong residents can be deported if they break the law. 

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing's decision to move ahead with the law comes despite strong criticism from Europe and the U.S. 

EU Council President Charles Michel said Tuesday that "We deplore the decision," according to a Reuters report. 

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has also taken steps toward eliminating Hong Kong's special trading status with the world's largest economy, beginning with restrictions on defense exports and access to high technology products. 

Other aspects of the law indicated how Beijing would strengthen its hand in Hong Kong's affairs.

A national security advisor designated by the central government will sit in on meetings of a Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the law said.

Hong Kong will also promote national security education through schools and media, according to the law. 

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White House: Yes, Trump reads


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China discovers new swine flu with pandemic potential


Chinese researchers have discovered a new type of virus in pigs that can infect humans and is capable of causing a pandemic, according to a new study. The disease, which researchers called the G4 virus, is genetically descended from the H1N1 swine flu.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci says new virus in China has traits of 2009 swine flu and 1918 pandemic flu


White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that U.S. health officials are keeping an eye on a new strain of flu carried by pigs in China that has characteristics of the 2009 H1N1 virus and 1918 pandemic flu.

The virus, which scientists are calling "G4 EA H1N1," has not yet been shown to infect humans but it is exhibiting "reassortment capabilities," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a hearing. 

"In other words, when you get a brand new virus that turns out to be a pandemic virus it's either due to mutations and/or the reassortment or exchanges of genes," he told lawmakers. "And they're seeing virus in swine, in pigs now, that have characteristics of the 2009 H1N1, of the original 1918, which many of our flu viruses have remnants of that in it, as well as segments from other hosts, like swine."

The H1N1 swine flu and 1918 pandemic flu were both considered horrific viruses that spread across the globe.

The H1N1 swine flu emerged in Mexico in April 2009, infecting 60.8 million people in the United States alone and at least 700 million worldwide. An estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people died from the virus across the globe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is now seen as one of a variety of seasonal flu viruses. 

The 1918 flu, which Fauci has often compared to Covid-19, is estimated to have killed between 30 million and 50 million people, according to the CDC. More than 20 million people died in World War I, by comparison. 

The new strain that is spreading in pig farms in China has been identified as having "all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus," scientists say.

Fauci said Tuesday there's always "the possibility that you might have another swine flu-type outbreak as we had in 2009."

"It's something that still is in the stage of examination," he said. It's not "an immediate threat where you're seeing infections, but it's something we need to keep our eye on, just the way we did in 2009 with the emergence of the swine flu."

Fauci's comments came as the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread across the U.S., with the seven-day average of new cases growing by 5% or more in at least 40 states, including Arizona, Texas, Florida and Oklahoma, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Public health officials and physicians have criticized the Trump administration's lack of coordinated response to the virus. In recent weeks, President Donald Trump has downplayed the virus, saying the U.S. is nearing the end of the pandemic, contrary to experts in his own administration.

Earlier this month, Fauci said Covid-19 turned out to be his "worst nightmare" come to life as the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread across the globe.

He said the virus is "very different" from other outbreaks such as Ebola and HIV. The virus jumped from an animal host and has a high degree of transmissibility and mortality, he said. It is historically one of the worst pandemics the world has ever experienced, he said, adding people have compared it to the 1918 flu.

First detected in Wuhan, China, about six months ago, the new coronavirus has already infected more than 10.4 million people across the globe, killing more than 500,000.

On Tuesday, Fauci told lawmakers that he is concerned about the rise in new cases in places such as Texas and Florida. 

He said reopening schools in the fall season will depend on the dynamics of the outbreak and the particular location of the school in question. 

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Beyond Meat enters grocery stores in mainland China through Alibaba partnership


Beyond Meat "Beyond Burger" patties made from plant-based substitutes for meat products sit on a shelf for sale on November 15, 2019 in New York City.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

Beyond Meat announced Tuesday that Alibaba's Freshippo grocery stores would start selling its meatless burger patties, marking its entry into supermarkets in mainland China. 

The maker of meat alternatives first entered mainland China in April through a partnership with Starbucks. Yum China's KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut also sell Beyond Meat products in several Chinese cities.

Beyond Burgers will be available at 50 Freshippo locations in Shanghai starting Saturday. By September, the patties will also be available at an additional 48 locations in Beijing and Hangzhou.

"We know that retail will be a critical part of our success in China, and we're pleased to mark this early milestone within a few months of our market entry," CEO Ethan Brown said in a statement.

Shares of Beyond closed Tuesday up 1.9% at $133.98. The stock, which has a market value of $8.34 billion, has risen 77% so far in 2020.

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Microsoft will ban Forza players who add the confederate flag to their digital cars


If you play Forza Horizon or Forza Motorsport, you have some freedom to personalize cars in the game, even adding your own custom designs. One popular example: players have used the feature to recreate the General Lee, the 1969 Dodge Charger from The Dukes of Hazzard, in almost every single Forza game since at least 2007. But the General Lee famously includes the controversial confederate flag on its back — and Microsoft has just announced it will ban players who use that symbol (among others) in the game.

In a statement posted on Twitter last Friday, Microsoft updated its enforcement guidelines to have a zero-tolerance policy for any player using the confederate flag or other symbols that represent “notorious iconography,” including Nazi imagery and the rising sun, which can be a symbol of Japanese imperialism. Microsoft will not automatically ban players that create designs with these controversial images; instead, the original designer will need to be reported by submitting a ticket.

While some players have noticed the ban, it hasn’t sparked a significant backlash yet. Besides, if you want to turn your 1969 Dodge Charger into a General Lee, you don’t need a flag to do that. (Also, here’s the “General Bee.”) Even the real-life General Lee car no longer wears the confederate flag; owner and pro golfer Bubba Watson says he had them removed in 2015.

In recent weeks, debates surrounding the modern display of the confederate flag have resurfaced amid protests in the US against systemic racism. Several institutions, which previously allowed displays of the flag, including the US Marine Corps and NASCAR, have banned the flag and depictions of it in its entirety, while lawmakers in Mississippi voted on Monday to remove the emblem from its state flag.

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White House insists Trump reads intelligence

Announced an hour ahead of time, the briefing came as Trump's election-year rival Joe Biden accused the President of shirking his duties as commander in chief by not acting on the intelligence when it first appeared in the President's Daily Brief, the highly classified summary of the nation's secrets.
The White House has insisted the information was neither verified nor credible, and said it didn't reach Trump because there was no consensus within the intelligence community about its veracity.
Yet the information about Russian bounties was included in a President's Daily Brief sometime in the spring, according to a US official with direct knowledge of the latest information. That assessment, the source said, was backed up by "several pieces of information" that supported the view that there was an effort by the Russian intelligence unit -- the GRU -- to pay bounties to kill US soldiers, including interrogation of Taliban detainees and electronic eavesdropping.
Former Intelligence officials scoff at White House denials that Trump wasn't briefed on Russia bounty
Trump is not known to fully or regularly read the PDB, something that is well-known within the White House. He is instead orally briefed two or three times a week by his intelligence officials.
Without confirming whether the information was included in the written document -- something she claimed she would never "sit here and confirm or deny" -- press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted Trump does read.
"The President does read and he also consumes intelligence verbally," she said when questioned why Trump isn't reading the PDB.
"This President, I will tell you, is the most informed person on planet Earth when it comes to the threats we face," McEnany added, pointing to regular phone calls between Trump and his national security adviser Robert O'Brien. "He is constantly being informed and briefed on intelligence matters. But I'm not going to allow The New York Times to dictate when we give top-secret information and don't give top-secret information."
Tuesday's briefing was the latest attempt to steer questions away from the intelligence -- and Trump's apparent lack of response -- and toward the leaks that allowed the information to come to light. The White House has defended Trump's handling of the matter but hasn't said how he might punish Russia if the information is found to be true.
After briefing Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the matter this week, McEnany said Trump had been been updated as well. She had declined to make that announcement a day earlier.
"The President has been briefed on what is unfortunately in the public domain," McEnany said. "He has been briefed, but that does not change the fact that there is no consensus on this intelligence that still has yet to be verified."
But she wouldn't say whether Trump was reconsidering inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to a meeting of the G7, a step Trump has already announced as he hopes to convene the group in September. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier Tuesday that Russia should "absolutely not" be readmitted into the group, but McEnany said she hadn't discussed the matter with the President.
In the hour before Tuesday's briefing was announced, Biden delivered a speech and answered questions in which he excoriated Trump's handling of the situation.
"The idea that somehow he didn't know or isn't being briefed, it is a dereliction of duty if that is the case," the former vice president said during an event at a high school in Wilmington, Delaware. "If he was briefed and nothing was done about this, that's a dereliction of duty,"
Despite McEnany's claims, multiple officials have told CNN that Trump is not an avid consumer of the PDB, the highly classified written document prepared before dawn by intelligence analysts that is meant to provide the commander in chief with an update on global issues.
Even after intelligence analysts added more photos and charts to appeal to Trump's learning style, the document often went unread, according to people familiar with the matter.
Instead, Trump prefers an oral briefing a few times a week. But even in those sessions, participants have described the President as occasionally distracted by whatever is bothering him that day, which often includes a negative cable news segment or newspaper article, causing his intelligence briefings to be derailed.
A former senior administration official who was part of the team that delivered Trump's intelligence briefings said the President typically relies on a graphic-driven summation of current threats accompanied by an oral briefing, instead of reading through the material compiled by national security aides.
"He processes things by discussing them," the official said. "So the presentation of the PDB has been tailored to that. The briefers will always want to get key points across. But he drives discussion how he wants."
The official said Trump often complained about the information presented to him at the briefings, preferring to have potential solutions to national security threats offered to him rather than just the problems.
"He's typically frustrated with intelligence because it shows a problem but doesn't provide an answer," the official said.

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Only one major Asia Pacific index notched gains in the first half of 2020


Employees and visitors wearing protective masks walk past an electronic stock board at the Shanghai Stock Exchange in Shanghai, China, on Monday, March 2, 2020.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Only one major index in Asia Pacific ended the first half of 2020 in positive territory.

China's CSI 300, which tracks the largest stocks listed on the mainland, has gained 1.64% in the past six months.

The rest of the major markets in the region painted a bleak picture of continued pain inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. That's despite many countries in Asia Pacific garnering international praise for their efforts in curbing the virus' spread.

In New Zealand, a country that has arguably had the greatest success in containing the coronavirus outbreak domestically, the NZX 50 index still sat approximately 0.4% lower so far this year. Taiwan's economy has been hailed as having held up "extremely well," but the Taiex has still fallen more than 3% in 2020.

Southeast Asia's best-performing market was Malaysia's FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index — but even that was more than 5% lower for the year so far. In Vietnam, another country often lauded for its success in containing the virus, the VN-Index is still around 14% lower year to date. 

Here's how other major Asia Pacific markets have performed so far in 2020, based on data from Refinitiv Eikon as well as CNBC calculations as of their Tuesday close:

Roller coaster 2020

The year initially started on a high note as the U.S. and China signed a phase one trade deal. That brought some relief from the protracted tensions between the two economic powerhouses, which slapped punitive tariffs on each other's goods.

But the rapid spread of the coronavirus left economies effectively frozen, as authorities around the globe scrambled to contain its spread through lockdown measures.

The drop off in economic activity created a panic in global markets, which sold off in March. They have since surged from their lows as governments and central banks globally took unprecedented steps to support financial markets.

Still, more uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus may lie ahead in 2020. A recent surge in cases stateside has raised questions over the possibility of economies going back into lockdown. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned Monday that "the worst is yet to come."

"Although many countries have made some progress, globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up," he said during a virtual news conference from the agency's Geneva headquarters. "We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives, but the hard reality is that this is not even close to being over." 

So far, more than 10 million cases of coronavirus infections have been reported globally while at least half a million lives have been taken, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In a Friday note, Shane Oliver, AMP Capital's head of investment strategy and chief economist, highlighted "three big risks" ahead for markets:

  1. A second wave of coronavirus cases resulting in a renewed shutdown that could "drive a much deeper fall" in stocks.
  2. "Collateral damage" from the shutdown leading to a "stalling" in the recovery following the initial bounce.
  3. The upcoming U.S. presidential election in November where incumbent Donald Trump is expected to appeal to his base by ramping up tensions with China and possibly, even Europe.

"After a strong rally from March lows shares remain vulnerable to short term setbacks given uncertainties around coronavirus, economic recovery and US/China tensions. But on a 6 to 12-month horizon shares are expected to see good total returns helped by a pick-up in economic activity and massive policy stimulus," Oliver said.

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Spotify brings real-time lyrics to 26 countries, not including the US


Spotify is launching a new real-time lyrics feature in 26 markets today, including India and countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America, TechCrunch reports. Where available, users can access them by tapping the “lyrics” card at the bottom of the service’s “Now Playing” screen. The new feature uses lyrics provided by Musixmatch, and will be shown in the song’s language.

Lyrics have a complicated history on Spotify. The service has actually worked with Musixmatch previously, before breaking ties with the company in 2016. That same year, Spotify started working with Genius on its “Behind the Lyrics” feature, which gives background information about select tracks, alongside the lyrics themselves. It’s an interesting feature, but this background information gets in the way if you just want to sing along with a song. This new real-time lyrics should be a much better fit for karaoke sessions.

Where available, the new feature brings Spotify up to speed with Apple Music, which has provided lyrics from Genius since 2018.

TechCrunch reports that the following markets are getting the new real-time lyrics feature at 10am ET today: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador, Uruguay, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Of these, TechCrunch notes that Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Mexico previously included some lyrics support from other providers, as does Japan.

There’s no word on if or when the new real-time lyrics feature might expand beyond the new markets. However, last year Spotify confirmed it was testing the real-time lyrics feature in markets including Canada, which hopefully means the feature could arrive in more places soon.

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The Facebook boycott advertisers have the right company but the wrong diagnosis


It was a big news day for bans: Twitch temporarily banned Donald Trump, Reddit banned The_Donald, YouTube banned a group of far-right creators, and India banned TikTok. But I still haven’t written about the Facebook ad boycott, which accelerated since last I wrote — so let’s talk about that today, and we’ll get to the rest later this week.


A social media advertising boycott that began with some outerwear brands picked up steam over the weekend, and has been joined by some of the giants of consumer brand advertising. Unilever, Verizon, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Clorox are among those who have pulled their ads. (Microsoft did so quietly in May.) Some pulled their ads for a month; some put their ads on an indefinite “pause.” Some pulled their ads from Facebook only; others pulled them from Twitter and YouTube as well. Some joined an official boycott led by a coalition of civil rights groups that includes the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP; others nodded respectfully at the boycott but said they were doing their own thing.

Most of the attention has focused on the Facebook-related aspects of the boycott, so let’s start there: What exactly do the advertisers want? The civil rights group put up a web page with some “recommendations,” starting with hiring a “C-suite level executive with civil rights expertise to evaluate products and policies for discrimination, bias, and hate.” (My sense is that Facebook’s chief diversity officer does at least some of this already, if somewhat informally.) It also asked Facebook to “submit to regular, third party, independent audits of identity-based hate and misinformation.” (Like this one?)

Then there’s a part where they ask for their money back:

Provide audit of and refund to advertisers whose ads were shown next to content that was later removed for violations of terms of service.

The remainder is a mix of requests for things Facebook already does or has a policy against (“stop recommending or otherwise amplifying groups or content from groups associated with hate”; “removing misinformation related to voting”); sort of already has a policy against (“Find and remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism”); and things it thought about doing but decided not to (fact-check political ads).

To be fair, there are some original ideas in here. (My favorite, and something every platform should absolutely do: “Enable individuals facing severe hate and harassment to connect with a live Facebook employee.”) But in their public statements, most of the brands have spoken as if Facebook doesn’t ban hate speech at all.

Take Unilever, which removed ads from Twitter as well as Facebook. Here are Suzanne Vranica and Deepa Seetharaman in the Wall Street Journal:

“Based on the current polarization and the election that we are having in the U.S., there needs to be much more enforcement in the area of hate speech,” Luis Di Como, Unilever’s executive vice president of global media, said.

“Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society,” Unilever said. The ban also will cover Instagram.

If advertising Hellmann’s mayonnaise on Facebook and Twitter was “adding value to people and society” before, it’s news to me. But the larger point is that what Unilever and other brands say they want — “more enforcement” — is so vague as to be nearly meaningless.

For instance, take a look at the statement Adidas and Reebok made when they pulled ads on Facebook and Instagram through July: “Racist, discriminatory, and hateful online content have no place in our brand or in society.” And here is Facebook’s policy on hate speech: “We do not allow hate speech on Facebook because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.”

This would suggest that what is at stake here, to the extent that the boycott is actually about hate speech, is not what is allowed but what is enforced. And if that’s the conversation you want to have, you need to ask different questions. Questions like: How swiftly should violating content be removed? How much of it should be identified by automated systems? And how many mistakes are you willing to tolerate, both for posts removed in error and posts left up in error?

What makes the last one tricky is that given Facebook’s vast size, even a 1 percent error rate means that thousands of mistakes will be made every day. It’s not possible to let 1.73 billion people a day post freely on your services and have them all comply with your rules. Maybe your reaction to that is that it’s OK, some mistakes are fine. Maybe your reaction is that’s terrible, we should get rid of the law that makes all that posting possible. (This is the stated position of the Republican and Democratic candidates for president.)

Or maybe your reaction is, how did Facebook get so big in the first place? Did it maybe buy up its main competition and maneuver other competitors out of the market? Is that why so many of its decisions around content moderation suddenly feel like national emergencies?

So much of what has been discussed over the past week is framed as a discussion about policy and enforcement, when what it’s really about, it seems to me, is size.


The traditional reason to demand an advertiser boycott of a media company is to increase pressure on the media company to take an action by hurting its bottom line. It seems unlikely that this will happen to Facebook, at least not unless the boycott grows by an order of magnitude.

The reason is that there are two main kinds of advertising on Facebook. One is brand advertising, in which a company like Coca-Cola shows you a charming ad about sugar water to make you have warm feelings about it, making you more likely to buy it at some point in the future. The other is direct-response advertising, where a company like Zynga asks you to install a poker app on your phone, or an e-commerce brand asks you to buy a toothbrush right inside the Facebook app.

It’s the brand advertising companies that are leading the boycott. And the problem for them, or anyone rooting for them, is that brand advertisers represent a small minority of Facebook’s customers. Brian Fung explained the situation at CNN:

Of the companies that have joined the boycott so far, only three — Unilever, Verizon and the outdoor equipment retailer REI — rank among the top 100 advertisers on Facebook, according to data compiled by Pathmatics, a marketing intelligence firm. In 2019, Unilever ranked 30th, spending an estimated $42.4 million on Facebook ads. Verizon and REI were 88th and 90th, respectively, spending an estimated $23 million each.

The highest-spending 100 brands accounted for $4.2 billion in Facebook advertising last year, according to Pathmatics data, or about 6% of the platform’s ad revenue.

In other words, brand advertisers could all quit Facebook permanently tomorrow and Facebook would still have more than 90 percent of its revenue. And that’s assuming the brand advertisers won’t eventually come back to Facebook — an assumption that, at least for the moment, no one is making. There’s a reason Facebook has more than 7 million advertisers, and the reason is that the ads work.


At the same time, it’s not like you can’t make a good brand safety argument about pulling your ads from Facebook. Each day journalists bring a fresh set of stories about bad posts found on the site: Boogaloo groups, repackaged racist fear-mongering, Holocaust denial, and so on. And advertisers are antsy about seeing their content next to news on a good day — ask any publisher right now how many of these same brands tweeting fervently in support of Black Lives Matter would take out an ad next to a story about police brutality. I doubt even one would.

And so it would be rational after hearing Facebook say it removed 9.6 million pieces of hate speech from the network in the first quarter of 2020 to decide, you know what, maybe let’s just buy a billboard ad somewhere? How about a radio campaign? I hear podcasts are big these days. Sure, your ad is probably not going to run next to a Holocaust denial post. But if it did, would you even know?

If the real issue underlying the ad boycott is Facebook is too big to effectively moderate its own platform — well, that seems like a harder issue for Facebook to argue. It’s just difficult to imagine the company taking it too seriously unless one of the boycotting brands actually says it out loud.


Inside Facebook, there’s a sense that all of this will blow over eventually. One, it always has before. Two, Facebook still has the direct-response advertisers on its side. And because it has millions of them, the company is insulated from most of the economic fallout.

Facebookers I’ve spoken with tend to be suspicious of the advertisers’ motives. They have noted that, amid the global pandemic, advertisers have been reducing their advertising spending anyway. (Unilever announced it would do so in April.) They have noted that big advertisers have historically disliked Facebook’s auction-based ad system, which affords them less pricing power than they have over other media buys. The fact that, in a recession, a bunch of advertisers would now like refunds for ads that already ran, does not feel entirely like a coincidence. Going on Twitter to say “Facebook should do better,” and collecting your retweets and getting a nice news story out of it, while saving some money in the process, is perhaps less a profile in courage than it has sometimes been presented as over the past few days.

It seems clear that advertisers want to see some sort of concession from Facebook so they can declare victory and move on. And if Facebook does offer some minor concession, and advertisers do readily accept it and move on, then I think those who are skeptical of the motives behind the boycott can make a case that the whole thing was essentially opportunistic.


That said: there will be more bad posts, on Facebook and everywhere else, and these issues will likely flare up anew. Facebook will again be held liable for the worst things people post on it — at least in the court of public opinion — and advertisers might once again stop their spending.

The much-discussed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act mostly protects companies like Facebook from lawsuits over what their users post. But the ad boycott shows that there are other ways to hold companies accountable, and some of those ways may prove to be more damaging than a court case. I’m skeptical that the ad boycott will have much of a long-term effect on Facebook’s stock price. But a week of big brands making statements that they see Facebook as a home for hate speech seems likely to leave a mark.

I don’t think the boycott advertisers have diagnosed the real problem here, and I’m sympathetic to those who question their motives. But all that may be beside the point — you don’t always have to be right to land a punch.

The Ratio

Today in news that could affect public perception of the big tech platforms.

Trending down: Amazon warehouse workers went on strike in Germany after staff at several logistics centers tested positive for the coronavirus. The strikes are taking place at six warehouses across the country. (Sam Shead / CNBC)

Trending down: Grindr is continuing to let users filter by ethnicity after saying the feature would be removed. The news comes nearly a month after the company pledged to remove its ethnicity filter in support of Black Lives Matter protests. (Kevin Truong / Vice)


Twitch temporarily banned President Trump for airing “hateful content” on the platform. One of the streams in question was a rebroadcast of Trump’s infamous 2015 kickoff rally, where he said that Mexico was sending rapists to the United States. Here’s Jacob Kastrenakes at The Verge:

The suspension arrives a week after Twitch swore it would crack down on harassment within the community following reports of assault and harassment from streamers. It’s a sign that Twitch may be starting to take moderating streams a lot more seriously — the racist language it banned Trump for is often allowed on other platforms due to his role as a politician and President of the United States.

Twitch said last week that it would begin issuing permanent bans to streamers in response to the allegations coming out. The first major ban that came down appears to be on Dr Disrespect, one of the site’s most popular streamers. Twitch has repeatedly declined to confirm why (or even whether) Dr Disrespect was banned — there were not public allegations against him — and the streamer has said he has not been told why his channel has disappeared.

Dr Disrespect also disappeared from Twitch late last week, leading to rumors that he had been banned. The disappearance came two days after Twitch said it would begin issuing permanent suspensions for streamers as it cracked down on accusations of harassment and sexual misconduct. (Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge)

YouTube banned several prominent white supremacist channels, including those belonging to Stefan Molyneux, David Duke, and Richard Spencer. According to the company, the channels repeatedly violated YouTube’s policies by alleging that members of protected groups were inferior. (Julia Alexander / The Verge)

Reddit banned more than 2,000 subreddits, including r/The_Donald and r/ChapoTrapHouse, as part of a major expansion of its content policy targeting hate speech. The update comes three weeks after several Reddit forums went dark in protest of the company’s lax policies around hosting racist content. (Casey Newton / The Verge)

The Indian government banned TikTok, along with 58 other apps developed by Chinese companies. Officials said the decision was made over concerns that the apps threatened India’s national security. (Manish Singh / TechCrunch)

The Trump administration is calling on Facebook and Twitter to take action against posts that call for people to break curfews and topple statues in connection with the protests nationwide. Officials classified the posts as “criminal activity” that puts Americans’ security at risk. (Tony Romm / The Washington Post)

Trump fans and conservative politicians are flocking to the social media app Parler. “We’re a community town square, an open town square, with no censorship,” said Parler’s CEO. “If you can say it on the street of New York, you can say it on Parler.” (Ari Levy / CNBC)

President Donald Trump promoted a video on Twitter on Sunday morning showing a man in a golf cart with Trump campaign gear shouting “white power.” The tweet was later removed, and the White House said in a statement Trump hadn’t heard the phrase. (Allan Smith / NBC)

Any decision from Twitter on President Trump’s tweets is going to be the least bad option rather than a genuinely good one, argues this scholar. That’s because Trump himself has demolished the norms that would make a genuinely good response possible in the first place. (Jonathan Zittrain / The Atlantic)

The “TikTok Grandma” has been recruited by the Biden Digital Coalition to put her TikTok skills to work supporting Joe Bide’s campaign. Mary Jo Laupp made the viral TikTok video urging people to reserve tickets to President Trump’s rally in Tulsa — and then not show up. (Kellen Browning / The New York Times)

Critics of President Trump are trying to lock up Trump-branded merchandise by leaving thousands of products from his online stores in shopping carts. But while the attack has become a kind of resistance meme, it’s unclear whether the hoax actually worked. (Adi Robertson / The Verge)

Organizers of Facebook advertising boycott campaign are calling on major companies in Europe to stop buying ads on the platform. This represents a global expansion of the protest effort. (Sheila Dang / Reuters)

Some employees at Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), find it difficult to be part of an organization that’s closely tied to Facebook. Like employees at the social media giant, workers at CZI are taking issue with Zuckerberg’s reluctance to take action on Trump’s inflammatory posts. (Theodore Schleifer / Recode)

Facebook has been more deferential to right-wing users than other platforms, this piece argues, and President Trump is the reason why. When Facebook executives declined to remove a 2015 video from the then-candidate calling for a ban of Muslims entering the United States, it marked the start of what some have criticized as an appeasement strategy toward conservatives. (Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg and Tony Romm / The Washington Post)

Pinterest hired a team of outside lawyers to investigate the company’s culture following public complaints from former employees who say they faced racial discrimination. The lawyers will report to a special committee of Pinterest board members. (Kurt Wagner / Bloomberg)

Amazon workers say the company hasn’t been consistent in enforcing new health and safety protocols meant to protect them from COVID-19. The company has also fired at least six workers who were involved in recent employee protests or who spoke out about working conditions at Amazon. (Shirin Ghaffary and Jason Del Rey / Recode)

About a year into the antitrust probe of Apple, lawyers at the Justice Department are looking into the rules that govern the App Store. These rules require many app makers to use the company’s payment system for subscriptions — and allows Apple to pocket up to a 30 percent cut. (Mark Gurman and David McLaughlin / Bloomberg)


Tencent, China’s largest company, is rolling out a live-streaming service similar to Amazon’s Twitch in the US. The service, called Trovo Live, closely resembles Twitch in its appearance and functionality. Here are Zheping Huang and Vlad Savov at Bloomberg:

Tencent dominates gaming and social media in its domestic market and may be one of the few companies with the resources to challenge Twitch. But the WeChat operator has met with mixed results in its efforts to build online users abroad and Trovo for now is only an embryonic service.

Still in beta testing, Trovo has gone largely unnoticed outside the gaming community. Its best-attended live streams have only a few dozen viewers at a time, though its Discord chat channel numbers more than 5,000 members. It has attracted some experienced creators from Twitch, YouTube and Microsoft Corp.’s soon-to-be-defunct Mixer platform.

Facebook expanded its fan subscription program to help streamers make money on the platform. Eligible creators in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States can now participate. (Anthony Ha / TechCrunch)

Facebook is testing a dark mode for its mobile apps. The company already launched a dark mode for its desktop interface. (Kim Lyons / The Verge)

Google employees are pushing CEO Sundar Pichai to detail the company’s future work from home policy. Pichai said the company was still considering the possibilities but was not likely to announce more permanent changes before the end of summer. (Nick Bastone and Alex Heath / The Information)

Companies have been trying for decades to make working from home work. Many reversed their decisions after finding employees were more productive in the office. (David Streitfeld / The New York Times)

Tech companies are asking their black employee groups to fix Silicon Valley’s race problem for free. Executives are asking employee resource groups to put together programming for Juneteenth, host panels on race, and vet executive statements — without offering them any additional compensation for the extra work. (Nitasha Tiku / The Washington Post)

Young women feeling alienated by dating apps and bar culture are finding love on their For You pages on TikTok. For lesbians, it’s becoming the next Tinder. (Lena Wilson / The New York Times)

TikTok signed a deal with Prince’s estate to bring the late artist’s “full catalog” to its app. It’s the “first short-form video app” to gain access to Prince’s complete discography. (Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge)

TikTok is still able to access some of Apple users’ most sensitive data, including passwords, cryptocurrency wallet addresses, account-reset links, and personal messages. The app can read any text that happens to reside in clipboards, though the company said earlier this year it would stop doing so. (Dan Goodin / Ars Technica)

Things to do

Stuff to occupy you online during the quarantine.

Read another great edition of Subtweet. It’s just a bunch of really good tweets, some funny commentary, and almost nothing else.

Get psyched for Hamilton. It’s coming Friday to Disney+.

Those good tweets

Talk to us

Send us tips, comments, questions, and brand hypocrisy: casey@theverge.com and zoe@theverge.com.

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