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.

Coinbase, a San Francisco startup that allows people to buy and sell digital currency, became the first major cryptocurrency company to go public when it made its stock market debut on Wednesday.

Trading began around $381 a share, pushing the company's valuation close to $100 billion. That's about what Facebook was worth when it had its initial public offering in 2012.

For eight years, the civil rights organization Muslim Advocates has reported scores of examples of bigotry and hate promoted across Facebook. It has published reports and met privately with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his number two, Sheryl Sandberg, about its concerns.

Discord, the group-chat app that has grown rapidly during the coronavirus pandemic, removed more than 2,000 communities dedicated to extremism and other violent content in the second half of last year, the company reported on Monday.

Officials at Discord said that of the 2,212 extremist and violent communities taken down from its platform, about 1,500 were first detected by the company. That is nearly double the number that was banned for extremist content in the first half of 2020.

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a lower court ruling that former President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment rights of critics he blocked on Twitter.

Social networking platform Discord is having a moment.

What started as a community for gamers has in the past year become a hub for virtually everything: conferences, karaoke, book clubs, group therapy, homework help, sneaker trading and analyzing Wall Street stocks.

It doubled its users during the pandemic, with nearly 150 million worldwide now using the chat app every month.

The co-founder and former CEO of Parler has sued the conservative social media platform over his firing this year. John Matze claims Parler's leadership took away his 40% stake in the company in an "arrogant theft," intimidated and bullied him in an ouster he says was illegal and left him owed millions of dollars.

On Jan. 10, just days after pro-Trump rioters blitzed the U.S. Capitol, Amazon Web Services pulled the plug on the conservative social media site Parler.

Parler grew desperate. It had relied on Amazon's Web-hosting services to reach its burgeoning audience of more than 12 million. After Amazon cut it off, it was rejected by six other Web hosts. It seemed doomed to disappear from the Web.

Until SkySilk showed up.

The power struggle that led to conservative social media site Parler abruptly firing its founder and CEO John Matze last month became so acrimonious that when Matze was sacked, he was also involuntarily stripped of his entire stake in the company, according to people familiar with Matze's exit.

Two titans of Silicon Valley, Facebook and Apple, are in a bitter fight that centers on the iPhone data of millions of people and whether companies should be able to track that data as easily as they do now.

Facebook believes the answer is yes. On Wednesday, it even unveiled a video voiced by Grace Jones aimed at currying the public's favor.

TikTok has agreed to pay $92 million to settle dozens of lawsuits alleging that the popular video-sharing app harvested personal data from users, including information using facial recognition technology, without consent and shared the data with third-parties, some of which were based in China.

Updated 8:45 p.m. ET

Facebook said Wednesday that it is preventing people inside Australia from accessing news stories on its platform. In addition, Facebook users elsewhere will not be able to view or share news stories from Australian outlets. The moves are a response to proposed legislation that would force social media platforms to pay Australian news organizations for links shared on its sites.

Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET

Far-right-friendly social media site Parler limped back to life on Monday with a new Web host, retooled community guidelines and a promise that content inciting violence will be removed.

Efforts to ban TikTok under then-President Donald Trump were put on ice on Wednesday, as the Department of Justice signaled in a new court filing that the Biden administration is backing off the pressure on the Chinese-owned video-sharing app.

Citing national security concerns, Trump had attempted to force the sale of TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, to an American company. If no deal was reached, Trump said TikTok would be effectively blacklisted in the U.S.

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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.

When websites flooded with hate speech or harmful disinformation become too radioactive for the Internet, the sites often turn to one company for a lifeline.

That company is run by Rob Monster, a 53-year-old Dutch-American.

"If you wanted to cast a villain who was going to be the Lex Luthor of the Internet, Rob Monster is about as good as it gets," he joked during a recent interview at his lakeside home in the former logging community of Sammamish, Wash., outside Seattle.

Updated 6:21 p.m. ET Thursday

Parler, the far-right-friendly social media site that was knocked offline after the violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, has fired its CEO.

John Matze said the company removed him as chief executive, following a fight with conservative donor Rebekah Mercer, who controls Parler's board, after an apparent fight over the future of free speech on Parler.

"I did not participate in this decision," Matze, 27, who is based in Henderson, Nev., said.

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.

Twitter on Wednesday put President Trump on notice: If he does not stop breaking the platform's rules, he will be permanently banned.

The stern warning followed another step never before taken by Twitter: It locked Trump out of his account for 12 hours after the removal of three tweets that the company said were a "severe violation" of Twitter's rules.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Facebook on Wednesday removed a video message by President Trump, citing "the risk of ongoing violence."

Facebook executive Guy Rosen called the pro-Trump mob swarming the Capitol an "emergency situation," suggesting the president's video message had the potential of worsening the chaos.

"We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence," Rosen tweeted.

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.

Updated at 10:18 p.m. ET

When Google unceremoniously ousted Black researcher Timnit Gebru, she felt targeted.

"My theory is that they had wanted me out for a while because I spoke up a lot about issues related to black people, women, and marginalization," Gebru said in an interview on NPR's Morning Edition.

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.

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