Bobby Allyn | New Hampshire Public Radio

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.

Families are suing TikTok in what has turned into a major legal action in federal court.

Dozens of minors, through their parents, are alleging that the video-sharing app collects information about their facial characteristics, locations and close contacts, and quietly sends that data to servers in China.

Updated at 11:51 a.m. ET Saturday

President Trump has announced he plans to ban TikTok, the hugely popular video-sharing app, from operating in the U.S. as early as Saturday.

Trump's announcement comes after reports Friday that software giant Microsoft was in talks to acquire the app's U.S. operations. The president made it clear that he does not approve of the proposed acquisition.

The CEO of TikTok, the popular app for sharing short-form videos, is attacking Facebook for planning the launch of a "copycat" product, accusing the social media giant of trying to smear TikTok and put it out of business in the U.S.

Apple landed a major victory on Wednesday when the second-highest court in the European Union declared that the tech giant does not have to pay $14.8 billion in taxes to Ireland that regulators in Europe claim the company owes.

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Big Tech companies — Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook — are writing mega checks to organizations like the NAACP and the Brennan Center for Justice. Twitter, TikTok, Spotify and Lyft have all declared Juneteenth a paid holiday.

As the tech industry joins the growing national chorus supporting greater racial equality in society, some Silicon Valley Black workers are responding with a degree of hesitation.

Updated at 9:54 p.m. ET

Facebook on Thursday said it removed campaign posts and advertisements from the Trump campaign featuring an upside down red triangle symbol once used by Nazis to identify political opponents.

The posts, according to a Facebook spokesperson, violated the social network's policy against hate.

"Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group's symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol," the spokesperson told NPR.

Angered by items that appeared in a e-commerce newsletter, six former employees of eBay sent the publishers, a couple living in Massachusetts, live cockroaches and spiders, pornography, a bloody pigface mask, a preserved pig fetus and a funeral wreath, and attempted to secretly install a tracking device on the couple's car, federal authorities allege in criminal charges unsealed on Monday.

IBM will no longer provide facial recognition technology to police departments for mass surveillance and racial profiling, Arvind Krishna, IBM's chief executive, wrote in a letter to Congress.

Krishna wrote that such technology could be used by police to violate "basic human rights and freedoms," and that would be out of step with the company's values.

A technology policy nonprofit organization on Tuesday sued President Trump over his executive order attempting to strip away a legal protection long enjoyed by social media platforms.

President Trump has a new rallying cry in his escalating crusade against Twitter. As he put it in a tweet Friday: "REVOKE 230!"

Updated at 9 p.m. ET

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday aimed at limiting the broad legal protections enjoyed by social media companies, two days after he tore into Twitter for fact-checking two of his tweets.

Updated at 9:59 p.m. ET

Twitter has placed a fact-checking warning on a pair of tweets issued by President Trump in which he claims without evidence that mail-in ballots are fraudulent.

Twitter's move on Tuesday marks the first time the technology company has sanctioned Trump as criticism mounts about how the president has amplified misinformation to more than 80 million followers on the social media platform.

Trump responded by accusing Twitter of stifling free speech.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Updated at 7:55 p.m. ET

Nearly half of the Twitter accounts spreading messages on the social media platform about the coronavirus pandemic are likely bots, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University said Wednesday.

Researchers culled through more than 200 million tweets discussing the virus since January and found that about 45% were sent by accounts that behave more like computerized robots than humans.

There are a lot of people trying to reach celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk. Sometimes, though, they get Lyndsay Tucker, a 25-year-old skin care consultant.

Tucker, who works at a Sephora beauty store in San Jose, Calif., had never heard of the Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO until a couple years ago, when she began fielding a steady stream of calls and text messages intended for him.

Apple Stores are beginning to reopen after the company in mid-March closed hundreds of its locations in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 100 stores, or about a fifth of the tech giant's worldwide storefronts, are now open, including locations in Alabama, Florida, California and Washington state.

About 25 additional stores in the U.S. in seven states are set to open their doors this week, according to Apple.

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

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Facebook will pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a settlement agreement announced on Tuesday between the tech giant and lawyers for the moderators.

Updated Thursday at 6:51 p.m. ET

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users' data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Airbnb says it's cutting 1,900 employees — about 25% of its workforce — in one of the largest layoffs to hit Silicon Valley as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The global pandemic is the "most harrowing crisis of our lifetime," Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said in an email to employees on Tuesday. The virus's devastating blow to the travel industry means the company's 2020 revenue is forecast to be less than half of what the startup pulled in last year, he said.

The CEO of Airbnb has made a lot of chocolate-chip cookies since the coronavirus pandemic began.

"People call it stress-baking," Brian Chesky said. "If that's the case, I'm going to be a Michelin chef pretty soon, because I got enough stress to do a lot of baking."

That's no surprise given that the lure of Airbnb — to have a unique experience by staying in a stranger's home — has lost considerable appeal as the pandemic courses its way through the world, paralyzing travel.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The short-term rental company Airbnb is in trouble. The pandemic has nearly stopped travel and made staying in a stranger's home less appealing. So what now? NPR's Bobby Allyn has been talking with the company's CEO.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: His name is Brian Chesky. These days, he's holed up in his San Francisco home all by himself, and he told me over Zoom he's been making lots of chocolate chip cookies.

Bill Hinshaw's phone has been ringing off the hook lately.

From his home in Gainesville, Texas, which Hinshaw describes as "horse country," he runs a group called the COBOL Cowboys. It's an association of programmers who specialize in the Eisenhower-era computer language. Now their skills are in demand, thanks to the record number of people applying for unemployment benefits.

Updated at 9:12 p.m. ET

President Trump doubled down Sunday on the suggestion that people facing the coronavirus should consider taking an anti-malaria drug that has not been proven to be an effective treatment.

Former Vice President Joe Biden says the Democratic National Convention may need take place virtually as a result of the deepening coronavirus outbreak.

On Thursday the party delayed the presidential nominating convention from mid-July to mid-August over pandemic fears, but Biden on Sunday raised the specter of Democrats choosing their White House nominee online for the first time.

The federal government on Thursday relaxed restrictions on receiving blood donations from gay men and other groups as the country confronts a severe drop in the U.S. blood supply that officials described as urgent and unprecedented.

Updated Thursday at 3 a.m. ET

In describing steps the military is taking to confront the coronavirus pandemic within its ranks, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that some are calling for the U.S. military to cease operations.

"There seems to be this narrative out there that we should just shut down the entire United States military and address the problem that way. That's not feasible," said Esper during the White House's coronavirus task force briefing.

During Tuesday's White House press briefing, President Trump said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is "a great governor" who "knows exactly what he's doing" in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Vice President Mike Pence added to the DeSantis accolades, saying the Republican governor has "been taking decisive steps from early on."

But according to public health experts, thousands of heath care workers and a pending lawsuit, DeSantis' leadership has been woefully inadequate.

Michigan now ranks third in the country for coronavirus-related deaths, trailing only New York and New Jersey, after the Midwest state on Tuesday reported a new surge of cases.

State officials confirmed another 1,117 cases, bringing the coronavirus tally in Michigan to 7,615.

Officials on Tuesday said the virus claimed the lives of 75 more people, pushing up the number of COVID-19 fatalities to 259.

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