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.

Microsoft said Sunday it has discussed with President Trump its plan to acquire TikTok's U.S. operations, just as the White House threatens to blacklist the hugely popular Chinese-owned app.

"Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States," the software giant said in a blog post.

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.

Four Big Tech CEOs spent Wednesday being grilled — virtually — by House lawmakers, creating a first-ever spectacle that was by turns revealing and, inevitably, awkward.

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.

Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

Are Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple "emperors of the online economy" that stifle competition and hurt consumers? Not surprisingly, the tech giants' chief executives told Congress: absolutely not. The concern that too much power is concentrated in too few companies is unfounded, they said Wednesday.

Updated at 7:17 p.m. ET

Some of the world's most powerful CEOs are coming to Capitol Hill — virtually, of course — to answer one overarching question: Do the biggest technology companies use their reach and power to hurt competitors and help themselves?

Here's what you need to know:

Who: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Updated 1:55 p.m. ET Tuesday

TikTok is contemplating ways to distance itself from its Chinese parent company as threats from Washington grow louder.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Twitter said on Tuesday it has removed more than 7,000 accounts associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory, a loose group of online provocateurs who support President Trump and spread absurd claims about forces supposedly attempting to topple the president.

Content associated with QAnon will be banned from the platform's trends section and tweets sharing links involving QAnon theories will be blocked, Twitter officials said.

Next week, lawyers for Facebook will be back in court, trying to convince a judge they should be allowed to settle a class action lawsuit that accuses the company of violating users' privacy.

Facebook agreed earlier this year to pay $550 million to settle the case, which claims that the tech giant illegally used facial-recognition technology in its "tag suggestions" service.

Updated 11:30 p.m. ET

Twitter says it was the victim of a "coordinated social engineering attack" by unspecified individuals who targeted Twitter employees with access to sensitive internal administrative systems.

The breach implicated the accounts of some of the richest and most famous people on the social media platform, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, former President Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kanye West and others.

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.

About a year ago, former Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci got a call from an executive with the celebrity video-sharing startup Cameo.

"He called me and he's like, 'Mooch, I'd like to get you on Cameo,'" Scaramucci recalled to NPR. "I didn't even know what it was. He said, 'We're trying to get some guys who are improvisational and can have a little fun with this."

With a Cameo bio of "White House Communications Director for 11 days. Don't say 10, it hurts my feelings!" Scaramucci has found a way to capitalize on his brief tenure.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As protests swept the nation following the police killing of George Floyd, there was a surge of reports that Nextdoor, the hyperlocal social media app, was censoring posts about Black Lives Matter and racial injustice.

In an interview with NPR, Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar said the company should have moved more quickly to protect posts related to Black Lives Matter by providing clearer guidance.

Reddit announced on Monday that it is shutting down a forum dedicated to President Trump's most ardent fans, saying it repeatedly violates the online platform's rules against harassment, hate speech and content manipulation.

Updated 9:05 p.m. ET Wednesday

Police in Detroit were trying to figure out who stole five watches from a Shinola retail store. Authorities say the thief took off with an estimated $3,800 worth of merchandise.

Investigators pulled a security video that had recorded the incident. Detectives zoomed in on the grainy footage and ran the person who appeared to be the suspect through facial recognition software.

A hit came back: Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, 42, of Farmington Hills, Mich., about 25 miles northwest of Detroit.

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

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Apple said Friday it has decided to close 11 stores in four states in which coronavirus infections are surging. The decision comes just weeks after the company had reopened those locations.

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.

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

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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.

For the past six years, an obscure disinformation campaign by Russian operatives has flooded the Internet with false stories in seven languages and across 300 social media platforms virtually undetected, according to new report published on Tuesday by social media researchers.

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.

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

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Updated on June 12 at 12:55 p.m. ET

Amazon announced on Wednesday a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition technology, yielding to pressure from police-reform advocates and civil rights groups.

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.

When Raisha Doumbia, a 20-year-old swimming instructor in Roswell, Ga., first downloaded the video-sharing app TikTok, she made lighthearted posts, like her lip-syncing and dancing to a song by the British girl group Little Mix.

But Doumbia paused the playful routines after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Now she is using her TikTok feed to urge followers to march for racial justice.

"I was just so disgusted that I felt like I needed to say something, so I started to speak out, even though I had like 13 followers," she said.

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