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Bobby Allyn

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.

He came to San Francisco from Washington, where he focused on national breaking news and politics. Before that, he covered criminal justice at member station WHYY.

In that role, he focused on major corruption trials, law enforcement, and local criminal justice policy. He helped lead NPR's reporting of Bill Cosby's two criminal trials. He was a guest on Fresh Air after breaking a major story about the nation's first supervised injection site plan in Philadelphia. In between daily stories, he has worked on several investigative projects, including a story that exposed how the federal government was quietly hiring debt collection law firms to target the homes of student borrowers who had defaulted on their loans. Allyn also strayed from his beat to cover Philly parking disputes that divided in the city, the last meal at one of the city's last all-night diners, and a remembrance of the man who wrote the Mister Softee jingle on a xylophone in the basement of his Northeast Philly home.

At other points in life, Allyn has been a staff reporter at Nashville Public Radio and daily newspapers including The Oregonian in Portland and The Tennessean in Nashville. His work has also appeared in BuzzFeed News, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

A native of Wilkes-Barre, a former mining town in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Allyn is the son of a machinist and a church organist. He's a dedicated bike commuter and long-distance runner. He is a graduate of American University in Washington.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Clubhouse is the new invite-only app that Silicon Valley says is the future of social media. Millions have downloaded it recently, including celebrities, famous musicians and tech CEOs. What's all the hype about? NPR's Bobby Allyn looked into it.

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET

A federal judge has refused to restore the social media site Parler after Amazon kicked the company off of its Web-hosting services over content seen as inciting violence.

The decision is a blow to Parler, an upstart that has won over Trump loyalists for its relatively hands-off approach to moderating content. The company sued Amazon over its ban, demanding reinstatement.

In the days before the insurrection attempt on the Capitol, alternative social media site Gab was lighting up about it.

Some of the discussion on the social media, which is popular among Trump diehards, veered into a level of specificity that caused alarm among outside observers.

"There were directions provided on Gab for which streets to take to avoid the police," said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League. "And which tools to use to help pry open the doors."

Updated 10:05 p.m. ET Friday

Twitter has permanently suspended President Trump's account over a pattern of behavior that violated company rules.

The action was the most sweeping punishment any major social media company has ever taken against Trump, who has used his Twitter account to announce White House policy, attack rivals and widely disseminate misinformation.

Updated 2:10 p.m. ET Friday

After the death of George Floyd, Google engineer Raksha Muthukumar sent an email to colleagues.

In it, she pointed to a list of criminal justice reform groups and bail funds for protesters who were seeking contributions. Soon after, Muthukumar was summoned into a meeting with Google's human relations department.

Facebook said Thursday it is banning President Trump until the end of his presidency and possibly longer. It is the most forceful action a social network has taken against Trump, who has spent months using social media to amplify disinformation and cast doubt on his loss in the presidential election.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that removing or labeling Trump's posts is not enough in the current environment in which Trump has used Facebook to encourage mob violence on the U.S. Capitol.

President Trump has signed an executive order banning business with several leading Chinese technology companies, claiming apps run by the companies have the ability to spy on Americans, including federal employees.

Trump's order seeks to prohibit transactions with eight companies including Alipay, owned by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma; the payment platform on the popular app WeChat; and a Chinese messaging service called QQ owned by the Chinese tech giant Tencent.

Other software apps included in the order are CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, VMate and WPS Office.

The group behind the suspected Russian attack into U.S. government agencies and private companies was able to hack into Microsoft's internal systems and access some of the company's source code, the tech giant said in a blog post on Thursday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Members of a prestigious research unit at Google have sent a letter to the company's chief executive demanding that ousted artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru be reinstated.

Gebru, who studies the ethics of AI and was one of the few Black research scientists at Google, says she was unexpectedly fired after a dispute over an academic paper and months of speaking out about the need for more women and people of color at the tech giant.

The email began, "Hosts like you are a foundation of our company." Tom Krones, an Airbnb host based in Austin, Texas, swiftly discarded it. That was Nov. 16.

Now, Krones says, "I am totally kicking myself."

Since Airbnb made its public debut on the stock market Thursday, shattering expectations and doubling its offering price, regrets are piling up among hosts like Krones, who received the email last month with the less-than-enticing subject line "Airbnb's Directed Share Program."

Google's chief executive Sundar Pichai on Wednesday apologized in the aftermath of the dismissal of a prominent Black scientist whose ouster set off widespread condemnation from thousands of Google employees and outside researchers.

Updated at 9:30 p.m. ET

The Federal Trade Commission and 48 attorneys general across the nation filed much-anticipated lawsuits against Facebook on Wednesday, accusing the social media giant of gobbling up competitive threats in a way that has entrenched its popular apps so deeply into the lives of billions of people that rivals can no longer put up a fight.

As a tech journalist for the website The Verge, Casey Newton established himself as something of a Silicon Valley institution. Known for a mix of original reporting and gimlet-eyed analysis, his writing has become essential reading for those who want to better understand the industry.

This fall, he quit his steady job at The Verge to start an email newsletter with Substack, a San Francisco-based startup.

After a three-year pause, Twitter is going to let you ask for those little blue check marks again.

The company said Tuesday it will start reviewing applications in 2021 under newly released guidelines.

The blue check, which means Twitter has verified a user's identity, is seen as a status symbol on the platform but the process by which the checks were issued has long been murky and inconsistent.

Now that the coronavirus pandemic has transformed Zoom from a corporate videoconferencing app into a ubiquitous tool for governments, schools, karaoke parties and even "Zoomsgiving" celebrations, the company is having to do the dicey work of deciding what is permitted on its platform.

And not everybody is allowed on it.

Apple on Wednesday agreed to pay $113 million to settle consumer fraud lawsuits brought by more than 30 states over allegations that it secretly slowed down old iPhones, a controversy that became known as "batterygate."

Updated at 12:13 p.m. ET

TikTok has, yet again, caught a break. This time, it's because the Trump administration has failed to enforce a deadline it set for the app to sever ties from its China-based parent company.

Instead, on Friday, the Trump administration gave TikTok 15 more days to find an American buyer.

Last week, millions of Americans turned to cable news to watch election returns pour in. Some refreshed their Twitter feeds to get the latest tallies. And nearly 300,000 others kept an eye on the YouTube channel of 29-year-old Millie Weaver, a former correspondent for the conspiracy theory website Infowars, who offered right-wing analysis to her followers in a live-stream that carried on for almost seven hours the day after the election.

At times, her pro-Trump commentary veered into something else: misinformation.

Like the man he's set to replace, President-elect Joe Biden doesn't plan to play nice with Silicon Valley. He has promised to go hard on Big Tech, both taking Facebook to task for not doing enough to curb disinformation and backing the repeal of a law that has long protected the technology industry.

A trio of Silicon Valley's biggest names will be in the hot seat on Wednesday for a U.S. Senate hearing focused on a decades-old legal shield that is newly under fire.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter's Jack Dorsey and Google's Sundar Pichai are appearing virtually at 10 a.m. ET in front of the Republican-controlled Senate Commerce Committee to answer questions under oath about whether being insulated from lawsuits has enabled Big Tech's "bad behavior."

A former Uber driver in San Diego sued the ride-hailing company on Monday for racial discrimination in how it uses passengers' reviews to evaluate drivers.

The company relies on a star rating system, which the lawsuit says disproportionately leads to the firing of people who are not white or who speak with accents.

Buried on Page 36 of the Justice Department lawsuit accusing Google of abusing its monopoly power is this remarkable figure: $8 billion to $12 billion.

That's the hefty sum Google allegedly paid Apple for one of the most prized pieces of real estate in the world of online search: default status on iPhones and all other Apple devices.

Updated at 3:24 p.m. ET

The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit Tuesday against Google alleging the company of abusing its dominance over smaller rivals by operating like an illegal monopoly. The action represents the federal government's most significant legal action in more than two decades to confront a technology giant's power.

Updated 10:14 p.m. Monday ET

TikTok is toughening its stance against the QAnon conspiracy theory, expanding its ban to all content or accounts that promote videos advancing baseless ideas from the far-right online movement.

Apple on Tuesday announced the iPhone 12, the first Apple smartphone with 5G-enabled technology that eventually will let data flow at much faster speeds.

"Today is the beginning of a new era for iPhone," Apple CEO Tim Cook said. "This is a huge moment for all of us."

But not exactly a huge moment for most consumers, at least not yet.

Nathan Apodaca's truck had already logged some 320,000 miles. One morning last month, it couldn't go a mile more. The truck broke down on a highway in Idaho Falls, Idaho, about 2 miles from the potato warehouse where Apodaca has worked for nearly two decades.

Luckily, he had a skateboard in his truck, along with a bottle of Ocean Spray's Cran-Raspberry juice.

Sen. Roger Wicker hit a familiar note when he announced on Thursday that the Commerce Committee was issuing subpoenas to force the testimony of Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and other tech leaders.

Tech platforms like Facebook, the Mississippi Republican said, "disproportionately suppress and censor conservative views online."

When top tech bosses were summoned to Capitol Hill in July for a hearing on the industry's immense power, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan made an even blunter accusation.

Updated 2:56 p.m. ET Saturday

The Trump administration is accusing the chief executive of ByteDance, the owner of video-sharing app TikTok, of being "a mouthpiece" for the Chinese Communist Party and alleging that the tech company has a close relationship with Beijing authorities that endangers the security of Americans.

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