UK lawmakers question tech attempts to stem coronavirus conspiracies

UK lawmakers question tech attempts to stem coronavirus conspiracies

UK lawmakers question tech attempts to stem coronavirus conspiracies

UK lawmakers questioned whether social media giants are doing enough to stop the spread of false information, after a conspiracy theory that 5G technology is contributing to the Covid-19 pandemic led to a spate of attacks on telecom masts and engineers.

Representatives from Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter Inc were asked to appear before the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on Thursday to explain how their companies are tackling disinformation. It didn’t go well.

“We will be writing to all of your organisations with a series of questions and, frankly, we will be expressing our displeasure at the quality of the answers – well, the lack of answers – we received today,” chairman Julian Knight concluded after more than an hour of questioning via conference call.

The Silicon Valley giants outlined measures they’ve taken to combat fake news, such as Facebook’s move to restrict WhatsApp message forwarding and promote official guidance on the pandemic. But the panel of British lawmakers often interjected bluntly and deemed the testimony unsatisfactory.

Legislators demanded to know how Twitter was cracking down on world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, if they spread misinformation. The company’s UK head of government relations, Katy Minshall, was also grilled about the prevalence of bots on the site, which are automated accounts that perform repetitive tasks, such as sharing fake news stories.

“We’re really proud of the progress we’ve made over the past couple of years,” said Minshall, responding to a question about online abuse.

“Well I don’t know why,” interrupted member of Parliament John Nicolson.

Google public policy manager Alina Dimofte was asked why YouTube didn’t tackle 5G conspiracy videos earlier. It banned such videos on April 7 after a spate of attacks on towers and telecom engineers.

‘Astonished’

MP Steve Brine said that, during the session, he found a Facebook post from his district inciting the destruction of a 5G mast, which has been baselessly linked to the spread of Covid-19.

More than 60 telecom masts have been attacked in the UK in the past few weeks as the theory has gained traction and even made it onto mainstream TV shows.

Brine added that he was “astonished” that Facebook’s UK Public Policy Manager Richard Earley had not personally discussed the issues with chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg or its vice president for global affairs and communication, Nick Clegg. Clegg is also the former UK deputy prime minister.

TikTok, the most downloaded app in the world outside of China during the crisis, avoided questioning. The relatively new social media site was not asked to appear despite also hosting conspiracy theories. – Bloomberg

Instagram is bringing new fonts to Stories - Latest News

Instagram is bringing new fonts to Stories – Latest News

Facebook-owned photo-sharing app Instagram is set to bring new fonts to its Stories. This was announced by the company on Twitter, where it said that it is testing it with a small percentage of people.

“New fonts coming to Stories soon*

*We’re testing this with a small percentage of people. Stay tuned for updates,” reads the tweet.

The company did not reveal the percentage or the location of users it is testing these or when the feature is coming to everyone else.

Recently, it was reported that Instagram is soon going to add a memorialisation option for the account of someone who has passed away. This was discovered by reverse-engineer Jane Manchun Wong.

Replying to her tweet, the account of Instagram’s PR team confirmed that this feature is indeed in the works. “Yes, we’re making changes to help people identify if an Instagram account belongs to someone who has passed away. We’ll have more to share on this at a later time,” reads the tweet.

Recently, Instagram rolled out the web support for sending Direct Messages (DMs) along with supports for viewing Instagram Live videos.

The live video streaming happens in the same portrait mode — and in the same size — as it does on users’ smartphones. However, thanks to the bigger screen space, you get to see the comments on the side of the ongoing live video instead of how you see them at the bottom on a smartphone on a transparent window making the viewing experience a little better on the web.

FBI head helped Facebook defend encryption he's now fighting - Latest News

FBI head helped Facebook defend encryption he’s now fighting – Latest News

Christopher Wray, prior to becoming FBI director, argued on behalf of Facebook Inc in defense of encrypted communications as the company was being pressured by the U.S. Justice Department over the issue, according to a court filing and a person familiar with the case.

Wray’s work as a part of a team of attorneys about five years ago appears to be at odds with the international push by the Justice Department and U.S. allies to allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies to bypass encrypted communications.

Wray himself has been a very public part of that campaign, arguing that finding a way around encryption was key to the fight against terrorism and serious crime.

Only last month, Wray told a cybersecurity conference that internet companies were “increasingly shielding indispensable information about those threats from any form of lawful access -through warrant-proof encryption.”

Wray’s work for Facebook, which occurred when he was employed as a lawyer for law firm King & Spalding, has not been previously reported.

The FBI said Wray could not comment on the case.

“When he was an attorney in private practice, however, the Director represented his clients’ interests and advocated on their behalf,” the agency said in a statement.

“Like all other lawyers, his duty of loyalty was to his client, and he did not put his personal views ahead of his clients’ interests or allow them to affect the legal work he did for clients. Today, as Director of the FBI, his duty is to act in the best interests of the American people,” it said.

Alan Rozenshtein, a former U.S. Department of Justice lawyer who now teaches at the University of Minnesota, agreed with that assessment.

“I don’t think it’s anything untoward,” he said in a telephone interview. “There are plenty of attorneys who go from industry to government and argue against the very industry they were representing.”

He added that it might be a good thing that Wray “is not coming into this cold. He understands the perspective of the private sector.”

The 2015-2016 case that pitted WhatsApp against the government has also not previously been reported and remains shrouded in mystery.

Sparse details about the behind-the-scenes battle were released late Wednesday by Facebook in court filings related to a separate lawsuit against Israeli cyber arms dealer NSO Group.

In that case, being heard in California, Facebook has accused NSO of hacking its users through a now-fixed flaw in WhatsApp. NSO denies wrongdoing in that case.

The newly released documents argue that King & Spalding should not be allowed to represent NSO because the firm’s past representation of WhatsApp “necessarily involved the provision and exchange of WhatsApp’s highly confidential information.”

The documents do not specify what the past representation entailed – saying only that it occurred as WhatsApp was implementing its encryption protections and involved the government. A person familiar with the case said it involved an attempt by the U.S. Department of Justice to pressure WhatsApp over the use of encryption but did not provide further detail.

King & Spalding declined to comment.

In a statement, WhatsApp did not comment specifically on Wray’s past position on encryption but said that King & Spalding’s past work for WhatsApp poses “serious ethical concerns for their representation of NSO today.”

Trump fuels China lab theory, Big Tech earnings hit

Trump fuels China lab theory, Big Tech earnings hit

The coverage on this live blog has ended — but for up-to-the-minute coverage on the coronavirus outbreak, visit the live blog from CNBC’s Asia-Pacific team.

Jobless claims have surpassed 30 million over the past six weeks, with Florida now topping California as the state with the most weekly unemployment claims, according to data released Thursday. With unemployment skyrocketing, companies are pushing to return to business. Macy’s is planning to open the doors to all of its stores over the next six weeks, while Ford aims to bring back office workers in June. Read on for more news on how companies are responding to the fast-evolving public health crisis. 

  • Global cases: More than 3.2 million
  • Global deaths: At least 232,817
  • US cases: More than 1 million
  • US deaths: At least 62,860

The data above was compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

All times below are in Eastern time.

7:08 pm: Macy’s CEO on working remotely: ‘It’s much better than expected’

With its stores shuttered for six weeks, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette is trying to guide his company through the Covid-19 crisis. In a wide-ranging interview, Gennette discussed why he expects Macy’s to survive.

Gennette also reflected on what it’s like to work from home. Like many people, he’s juggling video calls and missing the comradery of the office. But there are perks.

“I get to see things I haven’t seen before, with my [team members’] lives,” Gennette said. “I know their dogs’ names. We are more intimate with each other in that way, and it’s much better than expected.”

The downside: The mix between personal and professional life is harder. “We don’t have that decompression time anymore,” he said.

Macy’s has furloughed employees, drawn down credit and is looking for new financing. Gennette also is forgoing his salary. —Courtney Reagan

6:39 pm: Ex-TARP watchdog says Washington is to blame for large companies receiving small business loans

Large companies that received money from the small business loan program are not to blame, according to former TARP watchdog Neil Barofsky.

“You have to go back to the design of the program itself,” Barofsky told CNBC. 

“I mean, Congress went out of its way to carve out businesses that have more than 500 employees but are restaurants, chain restaurants,” he said on “Closing Bell.” “They wanted the money to go to chain restaurants.” 

Barofsky, an attorney, previously served as the inspector general for the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Congress passed to stabilize the financial system amid the 2008 crisis. 

Publicly traded companies such as Shake Shack, Potbelly and Ruth’s Hospitality Group all received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program but have since announced they were returning the money

“They participated because they qualified and then there’s this tremendous political backlash,” Barofsky said, specifically referencing Shake Shack as an example. —Kevin Stankiewicz

6:23 pm: Trump suspects coronavirus outbreak came from China lab, doesn’t cite evidence

President Donald Trump said — without offering any evidence — that he has reason to believe that the coronavirus outbreak originated from a laboratory in China.

“I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that,” Trump said when asked what evidence he has seen to make him believe the virus emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.

Trump initially was asked by a reporter at a White House event on Thursday about the origins of the virus, and answered, “You have heard all different things. Three or four different concepts as to how it came out.”

“We should have the answer to that in the not-so-distant future and that will determine a lot how I feel about China,” the president said.

But he later was asked by a reporter if he had “seen anything that gives you a high degree of confidence, at this point, that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the source of this virus?”

Trump replied, “Yes, I have,” and then repeated that assertion. —Dan Mangan

6:07 pm: Dow futures fall 300 points after Wall Street wraps up best month in three decades

5:30 pm: Delta will require passengers to wear face masks

A Delta Air Lines Inc. employee cleans a counter at the check area at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, April 2, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines on Thursday became the latest airline to require travelers wear masks on board their planes as carriers take steps to try to protect the health of passengers and crew.

Delta’s policy requires travelers to wear a mask or other face covering in the check-in area, premium lounges, boarding gate areas and on board for the whole flight, except during meals. The airline is also urging travelers to wear them on security lines and in restrooms. The policy takes effect May. 4.

Frontier Airlines issued a similar requirement that goes into effect May 8.

JetBlue Airways earlier this week became the first major U.S. airline to mandate masks for travelers. Frontier Airlines took a similar step Thursday.

“We want our passengers to feel comfortable when flying with us by protecting themselves and their fellow travelers as we all navigate the Covid-19 pandemic,” Barry Biffle, Frontier’s CEO said in a release. “This new measure is aligned with CDC recommendations and those of many municipalities within the U.S. that include wearing a face covering when out in public. —Leslie Josephs

5:10 pm: United Airlines swings to $1.7 billion loss in first quarter

United Airlines Thursday posted its biggest quarterly loss since 2008 and expects to burn an average of $40 million to $45 million a day in the second quarter as the coronavirus continues to hurt bookings.

The Chicago-based airline and its competitors are facing a 95% decline in U.S. air travel, just as customers are normally gearing up for summer vacation. The second and third quarters are generally the most lucrative for airlines but the virus and shelter-in-place orders are keeping would-be travelers home.

United swung to a $1.7 billion loss in the three months ended March 31, from a $292 million profit in the same period of 2019. Revenue dropped nearly 17% to $7.98 billion, slightly below analysts’ estimates. —Leslie Josephs

4:58 pm: Apple reports flat revenue and does not offer guidance because of coronavirus uncertainty

Apple shares were down slightly in extended trading after the company’s second-quarter earnings in which it reported $58.3 billion in revenue, a slight year-over-year increase, during a quarter in which supply and demand for Apple’s products was negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

 iPhone revenue was down to $28.96 billion, a 7% year-over-year decrease. The shortfall was partially made up by a 16% rise in services revenue, which include iCloud, Apple Music, and other subscriptions, to $13.34 billion. Total revenue growth for the quarter decreased to 0.5% from 9% a quarter ago.

Apple’s cash hoard now stands at $192.8 billion, down from $207.1 billion at the end of the previous quarter.

The company did not issue guidance for the quarter ending in June, as it usually does. It withdrew guidance for this quarter in February as the Covid-19 coronavirus spread in China.

Apple had addressed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic while it was still mainly affecting China, but on Thursday CEO Tim Cook struck an optimistic note about worldwide recovery in his interview with CNBC. “There was a significant, very steep fall-off in February. That began to recover some in March, and we’ve seen further recovery in April. So, it leaves us room for optimism,” Cook said. —Kif Leswing, Jordan Novet

4:50 pm: California Gov. Gavin Newsom to close Orange County beaches after weekend crowds

Thousands of beach-goers enjoy a warm, sunny day at the beach amid state-mandated stay-at-home and social distancing mandate to stave off the coronavirus pandemic in Huntington Beach, CA, on April 25, 2020.

Allen J. Schaben | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he plans to close state and local beaches in Orange County, calling the images of huge crowds that occupied the beaches over the weekend “disturbing.” 

“Orange County has been on our list of health concern and they’ve done a wonderful job down there, I just think we can tighten that up a little bit. So we’re going to have a temporary pause down there,” Newsom said at a press conference on Thursday. 

Newsom said beaches in the southern part of California, including those in Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties, have raised alarm bells, including images of people who were congregating there and not following physical distancing guidelines. He said the state wants to work closely with local officials, and if they can create better guidelines, the beaches can “reopen very very quickly.” 

“My job as governor is to keep you safe, and when our health folks tell me they can’t promise that if we promote another weekend like we had then I have to make this adjustment,” Newsom said. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

4:42 pm: Gilead says it can produce ‘several million’ rounds of remdesivir treatments next year

Gilead Sciences said that it can produce “several million” rounds of its antiviral drug remdesivir next year to help patients fight the coronavirus.

The company expects to produce more than 140,000 rounds of its 10-day treatment regimen by the end of May, and anticipates it can make 1 million rounds by the end of this year.

“Our focus at this time is on both our work with remdesivir and our ongoing commitments to the people who depend on our medicines today,” Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said in the company’s first-quarter earnings release.

On Wednesday, Gilead released preliminary results from its clinical trial on remdesivir, showing at least 50% of the patients treated with a five-day dosage of the drug improved. The clinical trial involved 397 patients with severe cases of Covid-19. The severe study is “single-arm,” meaning it did not evaluate the drug against a control group of patients who didn’t receive the drug. — Berkeley Lovelace

4:10 pm: Amazon expects to spend entire $4 billion in Q2 operating profit on pandemic-related expenses

Amazon said it expects to spend its entire $4 billion operating profit in Q2 on coronavirus-related expenses including “hundreds of millions” to develop its own testing capability for the virus.

Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky told CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa he expects the company will spend $1 billion on testing in the full year 2020. Amazon has designated a team of researchers, engineers, procurement specialists and program managers to work on building incremental testing capacity. Amazon said the team is building a lab and has already begun a pilot test of front-line employees.

“We’re not sure how far we will get in the relevant timeframe, but we think it’s worth trying, and we stand ready to share anything we learn,” Amazon said in the release.

Some of the $4 billion will also fund higher wages for workers, personal protective equipment (PPE), better cleaning protocols at facilities and “less efficient process paths” that will allow for social distancing.

“If you’re a shareowner in Amazon, you may want to take a seat, because we’re not thinking small,” Amazon said in the press release. “Under normal circumstances, in this coming Q2, we’d expect to make some $4 billion or more in operating profit. But these aren’t normal circumstances.” —Lauren Feiner

3:45 pm: Schiff calls on Google and Twitter to adopt misinformation policy like Facebook

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has a message for the CEOs of GoogleYouTube and Twitter when it comes to coronavirus misinformation: please be more like Facebook.

It’s an unusual request from a D.C. lawmaker after Congress has spent the past few years scolding Facebook for its misinformation policies. But the coronavirus pandemic has given Facebook an opportunity to reclaim its reputation and at least one lawmaker is taking notice.

Facebook said earlier this month it would notify users if they had engaged with a post that had been removed for including misinformation about Covid-19 in violation of its policies. Facebook will also direct users to myths debunked by the World Health Organization. That marked a major step for Facebook, which has wrung its hands over other forms of misinformation, most notably in political ads. But even while it has refused to fact-check or remove most political ads that contain false information, Facebook said it would remove any that contain misinformation about the coronavirus

Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that investigated Russian meddling in the 2016 election, asked the chief executives at Google, YouTube and Twitter to consider a similar policy to  Facebook’s in letters sent on Wednesday. 

“While taking down harmful misinformation is a crucial step, mitigating the harms from false content that is removed requires also ensuring that those users who accessed it while it was available have as high a likelihood of possible of viewing the facts as well,” Schiff wrote to the CEOs. —Lauren Feiner

3:30 pm: Honda is producing ventilator parts

Honda Motor is joining General Motors, Ford Motor and others in assisting the health-care industry with ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Japanese automaker announced it has started producing and delivering critical components for ventilators to Dynaflo of Reading, Pennsylvania.

Honda is producing diaphragm compressors, a key component of portable ventilators, in a 6,000-square-foot area at one of the automaker’s development centers in Marysville, Ohio.

The companies are aiming to produce 10,000 compressors per month once production reaches capacity, according to Honda. The automaker expects to continue production through August.

Both GM and Ford are building tens of thousands of ventilators under the Defense Production Act with health care partners at auto facilities. —Mike Wayland

3:07 pm: Bill Gates says this is what you need to know about a vaccine

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates laid out what the world needs from a Covid-19 vaccine in order to reopen society.

“Realistically, if we’re going to return to normal, we need to develop a safe, effective vaccine. We need to make billions of doses, we need to get them out to every part of the world, and we need all of this happen as quickly as possible,” Gates said in a blog post

The vaccine only needs to be at least 70% effective to stop the outbreak, Gates said. He added that a vaccine that’s 60% effective is usable, but society would still see localized outbreaks, while anything under 60% is unlikely to stop the virus.

Gates said he’s optimistic a safe and effective vaccine could emerge in 18 months, though it could be as short as 9 months or up to two years. —Jessica Bursztynsky 

2:53 pm: Macy’s CEO says the retailer will emerge from the pandemic as a smaller company

Macy’s Chief Executive Jeff Gennette is sure of one thing: The retailer’s sales will be more “modest” for some time as it emerges from this crisis. 

“We are going to emerge out of this as a smaller company,” Gennette said Thursday afternoon during a virtual fireside chat with Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom. “We don’t really know what the ramp back looks like.” 

Macy’s is, meantime, already planning to see lower volume this holiday season, in part because millions of Americans are now unemployed and without paychecks. Gennette also expects its hundreds of department stores and specialty shops, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury, to reopen in phases. 

Macy’s shares were recently down about 7%, following the conversation with Gordon Haskett’s Grom. The stock has fallen more than 66% this year. Macy’s has a market value of about $1.8 billion. —Lauren Thomas

2:45 pm: House Democrats aim to put more than $80 billion into broadband expansion

House Democrats released a plan to invest more than $80 billion into boosting broadband internet access as the coronavirus forces Americans to work, learn and seek medical treatment from home. 

The proposal by 12 lawmakers resembles bills Democrats have released before to bolster a core piece of U.S. infrastructure. The issue has taken on more urgency, though, as efforts to slow the outbreak’s spread have forced governments to close businesses and schools, leaving millions at home without reliable internet service.

“This broadband deployment is very, very necessary,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., told reporters earlier Thursday in previewing the plan. He said ensuring more households have the internet was “made even more necessary by this current pandemic that we’re trying to respond to.” —Jacob Pramuk

2:30 pm: Vice President Mike Pence wears mask after criticism for Mayo Clinic visit

Vice President seen wearing a face mask at the GM plant in Kokomo, IN with Transport Secretary Elaine Chao and General Motors CEO Mary Barra, after being criticized for not wearing a mask during a recent visit to the Mayo Clinic.

White House Pool

Vice President Mike Pence wore a mask while touring an Indiana facility that is making ventilators, two days after igniting a storm of criticism for failing to put on a mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic despite strict coronavirus restrictions there.

Pence was touring the General Motors plant in Kokomo with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and GM CEO Mary Barra. Photos show others with him wearing masks as well.

Pence, who once served as governor of Indiana, has previously said that he does not need to wear a mask because he is tested regularly for coronavirus, and so far has been shown to be negative for it.

Health experts have disputed that idea, saying the tests are not always accurate, and that there is a risk that Pence could contract the coronavirus in between tests.

The Mayo Clinic has said it told Pence’s staff before he visited there Tuesday that masks were required for all visitors, staff and patients at its Rochester, Minnesota, facility, because of the coronavirus outbreak

Pence was surrounded by people, including patients, wearing masks during his tour. —Dan Mangan

2:13 pm: Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg is developing mobile apps to help New York state trace cases

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is developing three smartphone apps to help New York state trace every person who comes into contact with someone infected with Covid-19 cases to help control the spread of the virus. 

Contact tracing requires scores of people to interview coronavirus patients and track down all of their contacts over the past 14 days so those people can be notified, tested and quarantined. 

The team, led by Bloomberg, is partnering with the health-care nonprofit Vital Strategies to develop the three new smartphone apps. The first app will help contact tracers find information and data quickly, the second will allow the public send data directly to local health departments and the third will provide guidance to people in quarantine and allow them to report any symptoms, Bloomberg said. 

“When social distancing is relaxed, contact tracing is our best hope for isolating the virus when it appears and keeping it isolated,” Bloomberg said from the governor’s press conference in Albany. —Noah Higguns-Dunn, Will Feuer 

1:50 pm: Ford plans health screenings, temperature checks to bring office workers back beginning in June

Ford Motor expects to begin calling back salaried employees who have been working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic beginning in late-June, executives said.

About 124,000 white-collar workers are expected to be in the “final group” of employees to return to their offices, according to Ford Chief Human Resources Officer Kiersten Robinson. She said employees will gradually return starting in late June and into early July.

Plant workers are expected to gradually return to work as early as next month as the company plans to gradually reopen its U.S. plants beginning in the second quarter. The facilities have been shut down since last month due to Covid-19

Farley and other executives said Thursday both groups of workers will return to work with extensive safety measures and protocols in place.

The plans include extensive cleaning; mandatory face masks and, in some cases, face shields. Employees will need to clear a pre-work health assessment and temperature checks, including thermal body scanners and handheld readers, when entering the building. Ford is also redesigning workplaces to allow for social distancing where possible. —Mike Wayland

1:42 pm: Trump says he’s ‘in charge’ of ‘fast track’ work to produce a vaccine

President Donald Trump said U.S. officials and scientists are working as quickly as possible to produce a coronavirus vaccine, and he asserted that he’s in charge of its development in “Operation Warp Speed.”

“I hope we’re going to have a vaccine and we’re going to fast-track a vaccine like you’ve never seen before if we come with a vaccine. I think they probably will,” he told reporters during a White House meeting with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

“I’m not overpromising,” he added. “Whatever the maximum is, whatever you can humanly do, we’re going to do.”

When asked by a reporter who is in charge of the vaccine operation, Trump said, “honestly, I am.” 

“I’m really in charge of it,” he said. “I think probably more than anything I’m in charge.” —Berkeley Lovelace

1:30 pm: ‘It’s safe to go back to work’ — Dow CEO sees its strict plant screenings as ‘best practices’

Dow Inc. CEO Jim Fitterling told CNBC that strict worker screening and the use of personal protective equipment have allowed the material science giant to continue to operate its plants and labs as safely as possible during the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re working safely. We’re sharing those best practices with governments around the world,” Fitterling said on “Squawk on the Street.” “We think it’s safe to go back to work, and we’re going to start to demonstrate that.”

Dow is currently operating with around 14,000 workers in its production facilities, Fitterling said, noting that governments classified many parts of the company as essential “because we supply so materials that are in need today.”

Dow has 36,500 employees at more than 100 manufacturing sites in 31 countries.

Fitterling said that returning workers safely to plants and labs are the focus of the company’s efforts now.

“When we get spaces where they’re tighter, like offices, that will probably come later,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re taking care of the basic functions and the people that are working effectively from home can continue to do that.” —Kevin Stankiewicz

1:19 pm: UK is ‘past the peak,’  PM Boris Johnson says

Britain has officially passed the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

“I can confirm today that for the first time we are past the peak of this disease,” Johnson said in his first appearance at the government’s daily briefing since returning to work after falling ill with Covid-19.

“We’re past the peak and we’re on the downward slope.”

Johnson did not however lay out a roadmap for the U.K. to eventually lift its restrictions on public life, something which countries elsewhere in Europe have been gradually doing. —Ryan Browne

1:09 pm: Top US spy agency says coronavirus was ‘not man-made or genetically modified’

The top U.S. spy agency said for the first time that the nation’s collective intelligence community does not believe that the coronavirus was man-made or genetically modified.

“The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” the Office of Director of National Intelligence said in a rare statement.

“The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” it added.

The statement from the Office of Director of National Intelligence contradicts reports suggesting that the new coronavirus had been developed by Chinese scientists in a government biological weapons laboratory.

The U.S. intelligence community was tasked with examining whether the virus that caused the global pandemic emerged accidentally from a Chinese research lab, current and former U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.  —Amanda Macias

12:48 pm: New York City pauses 24-hour subway service to disinfect trains and buses overnight

New York City is suspending 24-hour subway service to disinfect subway cars during the coronavirus crisis, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

“They (MTA) can disinfect all trains and buses every night, it can best be done by stopping train service from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. every night during the pandemic so they can actually perform this service,” Cuomo said at a news briefing.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the city’s public transit system, will still provide buses as well as for-hire vehicles and “dollar vans” at no cost to essential workers during those hours, said Cuomo. —William Feuer, Noah Higgins-Dunn, Jasmine Kim

12:25 pm: Why the US is facing a hospital bed shortage

12:14 pm: Florida has overtaken California as the US jobless claims capital

Florida has overtaken California as the U.S. state with the most weekly unemployment claims as Tallahassee began to process in earnest its sizable backlog of filings.

Florida, which reported 432,465 jobless claims for the week ended April 25, topped California’s 328,042, marking the first time since the week ended March 21 that the Golden State didn’t lead the nation in the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits.

Though both states reported declines in the number of workers seeking insurance from the prior week, that Florida is now leading the chart is notable since its labor force is about half that of California’s. Texas and Georgia also saw a significant number of claims last week with each state reporting at least 250,000.

The relative surge Florida in claims is likely thanks to an improvement in the state’s ability to process filings. —John Schoen, Tom Franck

11:53 am: She fled Brooklyn to live in Oklahoma — “You’re just in this survival mode”

Lindsey Marvel, 38, moved to New York three years ago because, she said, “I’m literally going big or going home.”

Now she’s going home to Tulsa, Oklahoma to escape the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic that has hit New York harder than any place in the nation. The outbreak’s impact on her personal life, and on the city she loves, was simply too much.

“My neighbor died. Friends were seeing body bags from their windows, and you’re just in this survival mode. I just was terrified,” said Marvel, who lived alone in a rental apartment in Brooklyn. “Things in New York are not easy– and that’s some of the charm, you know—it’s not so easy—and it just became way too difficult.”

Marvel, an optometrist who left Tulsa 20 years ago, actually applied for a program last year called Tulsa Remote. In an effort to attract new employee talent, it offers a $10,000 grant and additional benefits to eligible remote workers who move to and work from Tulsa.

She was accepted, but declined because she just couldn’t bear to leave Brooklyn. She called back last week and asked if they’d still take her. They did. —Diana Olick

11:32 am: It’s ‘unconscionable’ that a New York City funeral home left corpses in vans, Mayor Bill de Blasio says

Workers secure a van full of bodies of deceased people, during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Andrew Cleckley Funeral Home in the Brooklyn, New York, April 29, 2020.

Lucas Jackson | Reuters

It is “unconscionable” and “absolutely unacceptable” that a Brooklyn funeral home left corpses in storage vans as the city’s mortuary system is overwhelmed with coronavirus patients, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

“Why on earth did they not either alert the state who regulates them or go to the NYPD precinct and ask for help?” de Blasio said at a news briefing. “Do something rather than leave the bodies there. It’s unconscionable to me.” 

The mayor was responding to reports that the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services in Brooklyn left corpses to decay in unrefrigerated U-Haul and other rental trucks on a crowded city street on Wednesday. When CNBC reached the funeral home for comment, a man who did not identify himself hung up before any questions could be asked. 

“I have no idea in the world how any funeral home could let this happen,” de Blasio said. “Absolutely unacceptable. Let’s be clear about this.”

New York City’s mortuaries, cemeteries, crematories and morgues have been overwhelmed by the casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed almost five times as many New Yorkers in two months as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.  —William Feuer, Jasmine Kim

11:15 am: NBA team execs, agents call on the league to cancel the rest of the season

A view of the empty AmericanAirlines Arena before the start of an NBA basketball regular season game between the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 in Miami.

David Santiago | Miami Herald | Getty Images

Even though the current NBA season is still technically suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, its return this year seems less and less likely with each passing day. Team executives are starting to feel the pressure, frustrated with the lack of information from the league and pushing for an outright cancellation of the season so everyone can focus on safely resuming play next season.

NBA team executives and players’ agents spoke to CNBC in recent weeks about the challenges in resuming play. They said team owners are concerned with liability issues and are conflicted about whether or not to give up on the current season. The individuals spoke on condition of anonymity as they aren’t authorized to discuss league matters publicly.

Billions of dollars are on the line if the NBA can’t rescue its season. NBA teams split the roughly $2 billion per year in national TV money the NBA receives from ESPN and Turner Sports. But clubs also gain revenue from local media deals with Regional Sports Networks. —Jabari Young

11:05 am: McDonald’s says this quarter’s same-store sales will be worse

McDonald’s is expecting steeper same-store sales declines in the second quarter as international restaurant closures due to the coronavirus pandemic continue to weigh down sales. McDonald’s global same-store sales shrank 3.4% in the first three months of the year after plunging 22% in March.

“Looking at comparable sales, we expect the second quarter as a whole to be significantly worse than what we experienced for the full month of March,” CEO Chris Kempczinski told analysts on the conference call.

More than half of restaurants in McDonald’s international operated markets segment, which includes France and Australia, are closed. Four countries in the segment — the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and France — have closed down restaurants entirely to slow the spread of the virus. In April, the segment’s same-store sales are down about 70%. —Amelia Lucas

10:57 am: US wind industry installed over 1,800 megawatts in Q1, but the outbreak remains a risk

The first quarter of 2020 saw the U.S. wind industry install more than 1,800 megawatts (MW) of new capacity, a report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has revealed. According to the AWEA’s report, 11 new projects with a total capacity of 1,821 MW commenced operations in the first three months of the year.

The AWEA noted that this represented more than double the installations compared with the first quarter in 2019, AWEA said in a statement issued Wednesday.

While there are clear positives in the report – which also said construction activity hit a new record in the first three months of the year – the coronavirus is casting a shadow over the sector. Citing its own analysis from March, the trade association said an estimated 25 gigawatts of planned projects – which represent $35 billion in investments – were at risk. —Anmar Frangoul

10:32 am: Tyson temporarily closes Nebraska beef plant for cleaning

Tyson Foods said it was temporarily suspending operations at a large Nebraska beef processing that serves as the largest employer for neighboring Sioux City, Iowa, after a surge of coronavirus cases in the area. Tyson said it would close the Dakota City plant Friday through Monday to perform a deep cleaning of the facility.

State health officials in recent days have reported hundreds of new coronavirus cases in both Nebraska’s Dakota County, where the plant is located, and Woodbury County, Iowa, where Sioux City is located. Tyson previously disclosed that some workers at the plant had tested positive for the virus, but it has not said how many. The Arkansas-based company said it was screening Dakota City employees for the virus this week with the help of the Nebraska National Guard.

The Dakota City facility is one of the largest beef processing plants in the country, employing about 4,300 people. The move follows recent closures of other meat processing facilities across the country due the coronavirus, which spreads rapidly among workers who often stand shoulder to shoulder on production lines. —Associated Press

10:30 am: Denmark says virus spread has not accelerated since reopening began

Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark

Kun Tawan | Twenty20

The spread of Covid-19 in Denmark has not accelerated since the country began a gradual loosening of restrictions in mid-April, the State Serum Institute, which is responsible for preparedness against infectious diseases, said.

The so-called R rate, which shows the average number of infections one person with the virus causes, has increased slightly in the past two weeks but remains below 1.0, the institute said.

“However, there are no signs that the COVID-19 epidemic is accelerating,” it said. —Reuters

10:20 am: ‘The lasagna guys’ collected $1.26 million to feed NYC’s hospital workers

Restaurateur Luca Di Pietro and his team have become known as the “lasagna guys” among New York City’s frontline workers. That’s because Di Pietro and his team have helped deliver more than 64,000 meals to health-care workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The lasagna is always a big hit,” Di Pietro, 50, who is the owner of owner Tarallucci e Vino restaurant group in Manhattan and now the founder of Feed the Frontlines NYC, told CNBC Make It. “It puts a smile on my face. It’s hard times…at least they get to eat something good. To think the food has been brought by and prepared by New Yorkers is a morale boost for frontline workers.”

Di Pietro started Feed the Frontlines NYC, a for-profit initiative, to raise funds for his restaurant, Tarallucci e Vino, and other local restaurants. It also provides hospital hospital workers in the country’s hardest hit city with free and delicious food. So far the initiative has raised over $1.26 million in donation to pay for meals, and its success has even inspired others to create their own Feed the Frontlines initiatives in other cities.

Beyond feeding local hospital workers fighting the pandemic, Feed the Frontlines has helped keep participating restaurants alive and their workers employed. —Taylor Locke

10:01 am: Mike Pence touring Mayo Clinic without a mask ‘sets an example of recklessness,’ says Jim Cramer 

Vice President Mike Pence visits with lab physicians and techs while touring Mayo Clinic facilities supporting coronavirus disease (COVID-19) research and treatment in Rochester, Minnesota, U.S., April 28, 2020.

Nicholas Pfosi | Reuters

CNBC’s Jim Cramer blasted Vice President Mike Pence for not wearing a coronavirus mask while touring the Mayo Clinic earlier this week.

“Until we get this under control, we can’t have the vice president of the United States go to the Mayo Clinic without a mask because that sets an example of recklessness,” Cramer said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

Cramer’s commentary on Pence came as the “Mad Money” host praised Costco for its new policy, starting Monday, that requires all shoppers to wear a face covering in its stores. Costco already requires its employees to wear masks.

“I think this will be the standard of care two weeks from now,” Cramer said, predicting people won’t be going anywhere without a mask. —Matthew J. Belvedere

9:33 am: Dow drops more than 200 points to end April after more dismal economic data 

Stocks fell on the last day of April, as investors digested another round of dismal economic data along with the latest batch of major tech earnings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded down 252 points, or 1%. The S&P 500 slid 0.7%. The Nasdaq Composite chopped around the flatline in early trading. 

The Labor Department said another 3.84 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the six-week total to more than 30 million. U.S. consumer spending also dropped 7.5% in March on a year-over-year basis. —Fred Imbert, Thomas Franck

9:26 am: Elon Musk’s F-bomb rant against lockdowns reflects ‘growing sentiment,’ says Dr. Scott Gottlieb 

The feeling behind Tesla CEO Elon Musk‘s expletive-filled tirade against state government stay-at-home orders is shared by a growing number of Americans, Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC.

“I think that reflects a growing sentiment in this country where that’s going to tug against what the governors have to do,” Gottlieb said on “Squawk Box.” “They have tough decisions to face this month.” 

Late Wednesday, Musk lashed out, even dropping the F-bomb, on the electric vehicle maker’s earnings call, saying that lockdowns meant to help slow the spread of the coronavirus are “fascist.” He also said the orders amounted to “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes against all their constitutional rights.”

A number of states across the country, such as GeorgiaColorado and Tennessee, have recently eased up on some of the coronavirus-related business restrictions. Other states, such as Ohio, have announced details of a phased reopening to begin in May. —Kevin Stankiewicz

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina. 

9:01 am: How states are reopening businesses and lifting coronavirus restrictions 

Across the country, states have shut down businesses and ordered people to work from home if they can and stay indoors as much as possible to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, with cases beginning to level off, states are looking to jump-start economies hit hard by the virus. Millions of Americans who have been put out of work by lockdown efforts are also eager to get back in the workforce. 

Governors have taken different tactics in developing plans to loosen stay-at-home orders, each taking different paths in removing social-distancing restrictions. States in the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast have formed coalitions to usher in a regional recovery. Other states have faced criticism for already allowing nonessential businesses to resume in-person operations. Some governors have yet to release any sort of reopening plan.

Here is a rundown of how every state in the U.S. has responded to Covid-19 in terms of lifting restrictions on citizens and businesses. This list will be updated each day with new developments. —Hannah Miller 

8:53 am: New cases reported daily by region

8:50 am: How Mercedes-Benz reopened an Alabama auto plant 

Mercedes-Benz reopened its U.S. plant this week in Alabama, becoming one of the first manufacturers to resume operations since the coronavirus pandemic halted auto production across the country last month.

Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, said it took “robust and best practice safety measures” to ensure that the reopening of the plant was safe for its 4,200 workers who produce the Mercedes-Benz GLE, GL and GLE Coupe SUVs.

New protocols to reduce the spread of the virus include the mandatory wearing of face masks, temperature checks at entry and separation of employees in break rooms, cafes and common areas.

Only one of the plant’s three shifts of workers was initially called back Monday as the plant ramps up production and the safety measures are implemented. —Michael Wayland 

8:42 am: US weekly jobless claims hit 3.84 million, topping 30 million over the last 6 weeks 

First-time filings for unemployment insurance hit 3.84 million last week as the wave of economic pain continues, though the worst appears to be in the past. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting 3.5 million.

Jobless claims for the week ended April 25 came in at the lowest level since March 21 but bring the rolling six-week total to 30.3 million as part of the worst employment crisis in U.S. history. Claims hit a record 6.87 million for the week of March 28 and have declined each week since then. 

The surge in unemployment has come amid efforts to contain the coronavirus spread. While some states and municipalities have begun to bring their respective economies back online, much of the key U.S. infrastructure remains locked down. —Jeff Cox

8:31 am: The latest on US hot spots

8:30 am: Energy demand is set to see record drop this year

The International Energy Agency said it expects global energy demand to plunge this year in what the Paris-based agency called the biggest drop since World War II. 

With roughly 4.2 billion people around the world subject to some form of lockdown in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the IEA is forecasting a 6% decline in energy demand for the year. In absolute terms this is the largest on record. Percentage wise, it’s the steepest decline in 70 years.

The demand hit from the pandemic is expected to be seven times greater than the decline in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008.

“In absolute terms, the decline is unprecedented — the equivalent of losing the entire energy demand of India, the world’s third largest energy consumer,” the agency’s Global Energy Report said. —Pippa Stevens

8:22 am: Macy’s plans to have all stores reopened in 6 weeks

8:18 am: Gov. Newsom expected to close all California beaches

Thousands of beach-goers enjoy a warm, sunny day at the beach amid state-mandated stay-at-home and social distancing mandate to stave off the coronavirus pandemic in Huntington Beach, CA, on April 25, 2020.

Allen J. Schaben | Los Angeles | Getty Images

The California Police Chiefs Association told members in an email Wednesday that Gov. Gavin Newsom will announce Thursday that all beaches would be closed as of Friday to prevent the kind of crowding seen over the weekend, when warm weather prompted thousands to flock to the Orange County coastline.

State parks are also expected to be closed.

The email, which appeared to include a memo, was confirmed to NBC News by two law enforcement sources. —NBC News

8:09 am: Quarterly results reveal pressure

A handful of quarterly reports from major U.S. companies revealed pressured resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s who offered updates Thursday morning.  

—Sara Salinas

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.

7:08 am: Prada has gradually resumed production, will use antibody tests

Victor Sokolowicz | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Italy’s Prada said it had gradually resujmed production in several sites across Italy after almost two months of lockdown imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The fashion company said it had reopened its industrial sites in Tuscany on April 20 and those in the central regions of Umbria, Marche and the northern region of Veneto — one of the hardest-hit areas — after that.

It said some workshops in its Milan headquarters were also back at work. The group said it implemented a full range of security measures for its staff, including a double-screening method for staff and the use of antibody tests. —Reuters

7:01 am: UK researchers should know by July if vaccine is effective

Live samples in test tubes are held in a container Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, on April 22, 2020.

Andrew Milligan | WPA Pool | Getty Images

The U.K. will know by July whether its Covid-19 vaccine is effective, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said.

The company said it has partnered with Oxford University to help develop and distribute the vaccine being researched by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group. Under the agreement, AstraZeneca would be responsible for the worldwide manufacturing and supply of Oxford’s vaccine, which entered phase one clinical trials last week.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told BBC Radio 4′s “Today” show that the company would know within months whether the coronavirus vaccine was effective.

“By June, July we will already have a very good idea of the direction of travel in terms of its potential efficacy,” he said. —Chloe Taylor

5:44 am: Japan is preparing to extend emergency for about a month

Japan is preparing to extend its state of emergency for about a month, government sources told Reuters. It was originally set to end next Wednesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament he will consult infectious disease experts on whether to extend the emergency, which he declared on April 7 for seven prefectures including Tokyo. The meeting will take place on Friday, the economy minister said. —Holly Ellyatt

5:32 am: Spain’s daily death toll falls to lowest in nearly six weeks

A nurse and a firefighter talking are seen in the Villalba General Hospital on April 05, 2020 in Madrid, Spain.

David Benito

The number of new coronavirus-related deaths in Spain fell to 268, its health ministry said, marking the lowest tally in nearly six weeks, Reuters reported.

The total number of deaths rose to 24,543 on Thursday, up from 24,275 on the previous day, the ministry said. The total number of cases in Spain now stands at 213,435, up 1,309 from the previous day. —Holly Ellyatt

5:15 am: Sweden had no lockdown but the economic damage could be just as bad

People walk at Strandvagen in Stockholm on March 28, 2020, during the the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. – Sweden, which has stayed open for business with a softer approach to curbing the COVID-19 spread than most of Europe, on March 27, 2020 limited gatherings to 50 people, down from 500.

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND

Sweden has attracted global attention for not imposing a full lockdown, as seen in most of Europe, to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Nonetheless, data released from the country’s central bank and a leading Swedish think tank show that the economy will be just as badly hit as its European neighbors.

Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, gave two possible scenarios for the economic outlook in 2020 that “depend on how long the spread of infection continues and on how long the restrictions implemented to slow it down are in place.” Both possible scenarios are bleak.

In the first scenario, gross domestic product contracts by 6.9% in 2020 before rebounding to grow by 4.6% in 2021. In the more negative prediction, GDP could contract by 9.7% and a recovery could be slower with the economy growing 1.7% in 2021.

In both predictions, unemployment will rise and could reach 10.1% in 2020 in the worst-case scenario, up from 7.2% currently. —Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s coverage from CNBC’s Asia-Pacific and Europe teams overnight here: Euro zone economy sinks; Spain’s daily deaths at lowest tally in nearly 6 weeks.

Facebook defies gravity but can’t deny reality: Tae Kim

Facebook defies gravity but can’t deny reality: Tae Kim

By: Bloomberg |

Published: April 30, 2020 1:56:41 pm


Facebook, Facebook earning, Facebook profit, Facebook COVID-19, Facebook Coronavirus, Facebook performance, Facebook profit, Facebook loss, WhatsApp, Instagram The company’s CFO David Wehner also added the ad industry contraction could be more severe going forward. (Image: Bloomberg)

Going in to Facebook Inc’s earnings on Wednesday, investors were braced for bad news — specifically, that advertising revenue had dried up as the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic forced customers to pull back on spending. Instead, they got a surprise. The social-media giant reported better-than-expected first-quarter financial results and gave an update for its business so far in April that was better than feared.

Facebook posted earnings per share of $1.71, in line with the Bloomberg consensus, while generating $17.74 billion of revenue in the quarter, slightly higher than the $17.27 billion average analyst estimate. Even more important, Facebook said that while it did experience a “steep decrease” in its ad sales last month, it saw “signs of stability” during the first few weeks April, with ad revenue about flat versus the prior year. Facebook management added on the earnings call they also saw relative strength from the company’s gaming, technology and e-commerce segments as those clients took advantage of lower ad prices. The stock rose about 9 per cent in post-market trading following the commentary.

As encouraging as this news was, the reality is that the internet ad recession sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic is likely only just beginning. Even management seemed to caution the environment may get worse. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the economic fallout from the coronavirus may last longer than people anticipate. The company’s CFO David Wehner also added the ad industry contraction could be more severe going forward. Consequently, Facebook didn’t provide any guidance for the second quarter and full year.

But while many analysts and investors were laser-focused on the current trajectory of Facebook’s ad business and how long a downturn is going to last, they should also keep an eye on the dramatic changes occurring in the current digital landscape. Netflix Inc CEO Reed Hastings has famously said he considered the streaming-video company’s true competition to be the other ways consumers spend their time, specifically citing activities such as sleep and the game Fortnite. So where are people spending their time now?

Also Read: Digital-ad downturn may complicate life for Google, Facebook

One easy way to find out is to look at the most popular apps in Apple Inc’s App Store. Video platform TikTok has been ranked first or second for much of this year, while Zoom Video Communications Inc’s video-conferencing app has taken hold of the No 1 spot since mid-March. Both apps are several places ahead of Facebook’s major apps such as Instagram, Messenger and Facebook, pointing to their rising relative engagement.

This certainly has Zuckerberg’s attention. In the past, the executive has been prescient in acquiring companies with apps that were getting traction with users. For example, Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for about $1 billion. Moreover, it purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014 and reportedly even tried to acquire Snap. In the current environment, where Facebook is facing antitrust scrutiny for its previous deals, purchasing the next rising star probably isn’t an option.

While TikTok has been popular over the past year as the viral short-video platform of choice, the story of the moment is the parabolic rise of video-conferencing pure-play Zoom. The company announced last week it surpassed 300 million daily participants, up from 200 million in March and 10 million at the end of last year.

Also Read: Lots of companies now want your video chats — even Facebook

And Zoom’s parabolic rise is unprecedented. Earlier this month, veteran internet analyst Mary Meeker said the company had a faster ramp than either Instagram or Fortnite, both of which took 2 years and 18 months, respectively, to reach 100 million users. Zoom achieved that milestone in less than three months.

With hundreds of million people — young and old — now spending hours a day on Zoom, it threatens all the tech giants. Google, Microsoft Corp and Facebook have all frantically announced new Zoom-like video-conferencing features over the past month for their competing-services, hoping to catch some of the magic. But it may be too late for the goliaths. Historically, when a best-of-breed category winner reaches a certain momentum, it isn’t easily dislodged.

Also Read: Reliance-Facebook deal opens up WhatsApp’s entire user base for Mukesh Ambani

And the biggest signal that Facebook may be worried? Last Friday, Zuckerberg did several one-on-one interviews with major media outlets to announce the roll-out of its latest Zoom-competing feature Messenger Rooms. The fact he’s going out of his way to promote it shows how seriously he is thinking about Zoom. As for ad revenue? It’s a sure thing he’s thinking about that, too.

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