May 23, 2024


The Business & Finance guru

Dave Chappelle responds to Netflix controversy with a video clip from his concert.

ImageDave Chappelle has faced criticism over his latest Netflix special.
Credit…Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Dave Chappelle responded to the controversy over his Netflix standup special “The Closer” — which has been criticized as promoting bigotry toward transgender people — by posting a five-minute video clip to Instagram on Monday in which he denied that he had been invited to speak to transgender employees of the streaming service and refused.

“That is not true,” he said in the video, which was taken during a weekend performance in Nashville. “If they had invited me, I would have accepted. Although I am confused about what we would be speaking about. I said what I said, and boy, I heard what you said. My God, how could I not? You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. It seems like I’m the only one who can’t go to the office anymore.”

The controversy over Mr. Chappelle’s special has put Netflix at the center of a conversation involving transphobia, free speech and employee activism. Last week, a group of Netflix employees in Los Angeles staged a walkout. Some employees working virtually also shut their laptops in solidarity.

Hours before the protest, Netflix released a statement saying that it understood “the deep hurt that’s been caused,” and that it recognized “we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.”

In his video, Mr. Chappelle addressed the transgender community, saying, “I’m more than willing to give you an audience but you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody’s demands.”

Mr. Chappelle said he had three conditions for any meeting: those involved must watch “The Closer” in its entirety, he would choose the time and place, and “you must admit that Hannah Gadsby is not funny.”

Ms. Gadsby, a comedian whose specials have been successful on Netflix, criticized Netflix’s co-chief executive Ted Sarandos this month for defending Mr. Chappelle. Mr. Sarandos had invoked Ms. Gadsby in a statement in which he defended Mr. Chappelle’s right to artistic expression.

Mr. Chappelle also said that a documentary he made chronicling a series of stand-up shows he hosted during the summer of 2020 from a cornfield near his home in Yellow Springs, Ohio, could not find distribution because of the controversy over “The Closer.” Directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, the film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in June, for the reopening of Radio City Music Hall.

Mr. Chappelle said he would release the documentary himself in 10 American cities over the next month. (Ten dates in different cities were listed on the Instagram post.)

“You have to answer the question, am I canceled or not?” he said before dropping the microphone and walking off the stage.

Credit…Kelsey McClellan for The New York Times

Tesla shares vaulted to new heights on Monday, giving the electric-car maker a market capitalization of $1 trillion for the first time.

The latest gain — of nearly 13 percent in the day’s trading — came after Hertz announced that it would buy 100,000 Tesla cars by the end of next year. Electric vehicles would then make up more than 20 percent of its global fleet.

Tesla’s share price has risen more than tenfold since mid-March of last year, in the early days of the pandemic, when it fell below $100. The stock closed Monday at $1,024.86, its first close above $1,000.

The trillion-dollar valuation is the latest sign of how Tesla has disrupted the auto industry. The company is now more valuable than General Motors, Toyota Motor, Ford Motor, Volkswagen, BMW, Honda Motor and several other automakers combined.

Tesla crossed the $1 trillion mark more than three years after Apple became the first publicly traded company in the United States to do so — in August 2018 — making Elon Musk’s electric-vehicle maker the latest member of an elite club of highly valued tech companies that dominate the American markets.

Today Apple is worth roughly $2.5 trillion, while Microsoft is valued around $2.3 trillion. Amazon and Alphabet — the parent of the search giant Google — each carry market capitalizations of more than $1.5 trillion. Facebook, a relative runt, weighs in around $930 billion.

The almost unthinkable value investors have ascribed to these companies underscores both their remarkable profitability and the fact that they face few serious competitive threats. But their huge valuations are also part of a broad transformation of the American economy over the last 30 years.

For decades, the country’s largest companies have been capturing an ever-larger share of business profits. The disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic have only supercharged those dynamics, as more activity shifted to the online economy.

The $1 trillion valuation is also a prominent milestone for Tesla, which struggled to make money for nearly two decades.

When Tesla was founded in 2003, and for many years after, the chances that sales of electric cars would take off seemed slim. Other automakers viewed electric cars primarily as gas savers, but Tesla envisioned using electric power to make fast, exciting and futuristic luxury vehicles. The company also designed its cars to be controlled almost completely by software that it could update and modify the way smartphones can. The concept built a zealous following of customers and investors.

But just four years ago, Tesla was mired in production difficulties at its plant in Fremont, Calif., that Mr. Musk, its chief executive, described as “manufacturing hell.”

Even after straightening out its production difficulties, Tesla remained on shaky financial footing, and it had to raise capital on several occasions. Mr. Musk has said that in the spring of 2018, as it was trying to produce its Model 3 compact sedan, Tesla was just weeks away from financial collapse.

But the Model 3 proved a hit, and when Tesla opened a new factory in China in late 2019, the company’s bottom line steadily strengthened. It is building additional factories in Austin, Texas, and near Berlin in Germany.

How much higher Tesla stock can go is open to question. The company’s sales continue to rise, and it is on track to sell close to one million cars this year. But it still faces many challenges, one of which is increased scrutiny of its Autopilot and so-called Full Self-Driving systems.

Autopilot, which uses cameras to steer and brake a car with little help from a driver, sometimes fails to see other vehicles, a flaw that has led to a series of crashes, including some that were fatal. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating why Autopilot sometimes fails to see stopped emergency vehicles. It is looking at 12 instances in which Teslas in Autopilot mode crashed into police cruisers or fire trucks with their lights flashing.

On Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board, in a letter to Tesla, chided the company for failing to carry out safety improvements for Autopilot that the agency outlined four years ago.

Tesla has also faced criticism for allowing a small group of customers to test on public roads a more advanced system called Full Self-Driving. The safety board has criticized the name, because the system is not capable of driving a car without a driver’s help, as well as the practice of letting untrained drivers use unfinished safety software.

Over the weekend, Tesla sent new Full Self-Driving software to its test customers but only hours later turned it off remotely after customers found that their cars were braking unexpectedly and making other maneuvers some considered unsafe.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

A fledgling union of employees at four Amazon warehouses on Staten Island demonstrated on Monday that they had enough worker interest to hold an election to form a union, the National Labor Relations Board said. The agency’s determination lays the groundwork for the second unionization vote at an Amazon warehouse in less than a year.

For months, the organizers behind the union push have been collecting signatures on cards that must be submitted to the labor agency to request a vote. Christian Smalls, a former Amazon employee leading the effort, said late last week that he anticipated submitting more than 2,000 employee signatures, though he declined to disclose the final count.

The labor board determined that the submission represents at least 30 percent of the proposed bargaining unit, according to Kayla Blado, the press secretary for the labor board. In the coming days, Amazon must notify workers at the facilities via text notifications and signage of the union petition, and the agency will hold a hearing in mid-November, where Amazon can contest which jobs should be included in the bargaining unit and the terms of the election.

“I have no doubt in my mind that we’re good,” Mr. Smalls said.

Amazon was “skeptical that a sufficient number of legitimate employee signatures has been secured to warrant an election,” Kelly Nantel, a company spokeswoman, said in a statement. “If there is an election, we want the voice of our employees to be heard and look forward to it. Our focus remains on listening directly to our employees and continuously improving on their behalf.”

The Staten Island effort is being organized by current and former Amazon workers aiming to form a new independent union, called the Amazon Labor Union, focused solely on the nation’s second-largest employer.

An election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama early this year, supported by a national retail workers union, was unsuccessful. But the labor agency is considering throwing out the results of that election because of Amazon’s anti-union measures. Amazon has said it would appeal if the vote is invalidated.

Monday’s submission is the result of six months of organizing focused on a massive Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, that serves as Amazon’s key pipeline to New York City and employs more than 5,000 people. Over time, the organizers extended their push to include three smaller Amazon facilities in the same industrial park.

Workers at JFK8 have accused Amazon of illegally interfering with their organizing rights. Staff lawyers at the labor board have found some merit to further pursue three of their cases and is still investigating six additional cases, the agency said.


An earlier version of this article misstated the timeline for a hearing where Amazon can contest which jobs should be included in the bargaining unit and the terms of the election. The hearing is expected in mid-November, not mid-May.

Credit…Kelsey McClellan for The New York Times

Facebook said on Monday that revenue rose 35 percent to $29 billion in the three months ending in September compared with the same period last year, while profit rose 17 percent to $9.2 billion, a sign of the social network’s financial strength as it faces a public relations crisis over troubling disclosures made by a former employee.

Advertising revenue, which is responsible for the vast majority of Facebook’s income, rose 33 percent to $28.3 billion. “Other” revenue, which consists largely of sales of Facebook’s virtual-reality Oculus hardware, rose 195 percent to $734 million.

Some 3.6 billion people now use one of Facebook’s apps every month, up 12 percent from a year earlier.

“We made good progress this quarter and our community continues to grow,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive. “I’m excited about our road map, especially around creators, commerce and helping to build the metaverse” — a vision of the future espoused by technologists in which disparate parts of the digital world will merge with portions of the offline world. Mr. Zuckerberg has said he hopes for Facebook to be known as a “metaverse company” in the years ahead.

The results were a continuation of the company’s strong financial performance during the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed people indoors toward their computers and other devices.

In recent weeks, though, Facebook has faced intensifying political pressure. Frances Haugen, a former employee who became a whistle-blower, has shared thousands of pages of internal documents and has said that the company chose “profits over people.” The disclosures by Ms. Haugen, first publicized in The Wall Street Journal, ignited a firestorm of criticism from lawmakers, regulators and the public. Lawmakers have focused largely on reports showing how Facebook knew Instagram was worsening body image issues among teenagers, among other issues.

On Monday, more than a dozen news organizations, including The New York Times, published articles based on the Facebook Papers, a cache of documents Ms. Haugen took before she left the company. A few hours later, she testified before British lawmakers, saying that the company was unwilling to stop the harmful aspects of its products because doing so could jeopardize profits and growth.

Executives have pushed back vociferously on the coverage. “My view on what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to create a false picture about our company,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in a call with investors on Monday.

“Any honest account should be clear that these issues aren’t just about social media,” he added. “That means that whatever Facebook does, we’re never going to solve them alone.”

Facebook appears to be setting itself up for long-term, expensive growth plans. The company said it would break out its Facebook Reality Labs segment into a different reporting unit on its quarterly earnings statements. That segment will be separate from the rest of the company’s so-called “Family of Apps” — Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook proper.

Facebook Reality Labs, or F.R.L., is heavily investing in technologies like virtual and augmented reality. Mr. Zuckerberg’s long-term goal is that the department helps Facebook become a significant player and creator of the so-called metaverse. But now, the unit spends more than it makes — and will for some time.

“We are committed to bringing this long-term vision to life and we expect to increase our investments for the next several years,” the company said in its earnings statement Facebook expects F.R.L. to bring down its overall 2021 profit by close to $10 billion, but Mr. Zuckerberg said he expected the metaverse would bring a “massive creator economy” over the long term. The next few years, he noted, will be spent building out the infrastructure to support his vision.

The company is also retooling some of its advertising systems to deal with recent changes to Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, which has limited the amount of information companies like Facebook can learn from iPhone owners. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said the company was building a way to do advertising analysis with less information from users.

Shares of Facebook jumped 2.6 percent to $337.25 in after-hours trading.

For weeks, Facebook has been shaken by revelations that have ignited a firestorm of criticism from lawmakers, regulators and the public.

Reports by The Wall Street Journal from research documents provided by a whistle-blower put Facebook under a microscope. Those reports showed how Facebook knew Instagram was worsening body image issues among teenagers, among other issues.

The whistle-blower, Frances Haugen, went public during an interview on “60 Minutes” in early October. On Oct. 5, Ms. Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee for more than three hours. She said Facebook had purposely hidden disturbing research about how teenagers felt worse about themselves after using its products and how it was willing to use hateful content on its site to keep users coming back. In her testimony, she encouraged lawmakers to demand more documents and internal research, suggesting the documents she had provided were just the tip of the iceberg.

After Ms. Haugen testified, executives publicly questioned her credibility and called her accusations untrue. But internally, they tried to position their stances to hang on to the good will of more than 63,000 employees and assuage their concerns.

Reporters have since covered more internal documents from the company, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp in addition to the core Facebook social network. Documents about Instagram, for instance, reveal a company that is struggling with retaining, engaging and attracting young users.

Other documents raise questions about Facebook’s role in election misinformation and the pro-Trump attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. Company documents show the degree to which Facebook knew of extremist movements and groups on its site that were trying to polarize American voters before the election. Employees believed Facebook could have done more, according to the documents.

In India, Facebook’s biggest market, the problems are bigger, too. Internal documents show a struggle with misinformation, hate speech and celebrations of violence. Dozens of studies and memos written by Facebook employees provide stark evidence of one of the most serious criticisms levied by human rights activists and politicians against the world-spanning company: It moves into a country without fully understanding its potential impact on local culture and politics, and fails to deploy the resources to act on issues once they occur.

The latest revelations, published on Monday morning, show internal research that undercuts the heart of social networking — “likes” and sharing — that Facebook revolutionized. According to the documents, researchers determined over and over that people misused key features or that those features amplified toxic content, among other effects. In an August 2019 internal memo, several researchers said it was Facebook’s “core product mechanics” — meaning the basics of how the product functioned — that had let misinformation and hate speech flourish on the site.

Without government-mandated transparency, Facebook can present a false picture of its efforts to address hate speech and other extreme content,Ms. Haugen told Britain’s Parliament. The company says artificial intelligence software catches more than 90 percent of hate speech, but Ms. Haugen said the number was less than 5 percent.

“They are very good at dancing with data,” she said.

Credit…Dado Ruvic/Reuters

PayPal, the digital payments giant, said late on Sunday that it was not interested in buying the social media network Pinterest, ending efforts to draft a potential $45 billion deal that would have been one of the biggest consumer internet takeovers in a decade.

In a brief statement, PayPal said it was “not pursuing an acquisition of Pinterest at this time.”

A transaction would have been among the biggest ever by PayPal since being spun off from eBay in 2015 and would have bolstered its presence in e-commerce. Pinterest is best known for allowing its 454 million users to pin images and links to their online pinboards and letting them buy goods directly through so-called “buyable pins.” Pinterest largely makes money through advertising instead of online shopping.

PayPal had offered $70 for each share of Pinterest, according to people with knowledge of the discussions, a 25 percent premium to where the digital pinboard’s stock had been trading before news of the talks emerged last week.

Investor reaction to a potential deal was mixed. Shares in Pinterest jumped on the news, while those in PayPal tumbled sharply.

Pinterest has performed well over the last year, with its revenue rising nearly 50 percent in 2020 because of a pandemic-fueled jump in online shopping. But some analysts questioned the logic of a deal and suggested the talks underscored PayPal’s difficulties with tougher competition in its core digital payments business.

Credit…Adam Amengual for The New York Times

FaZe Clan, the e-sports conglomerate, announced on Monday that it planned to join the public markets in a deal that involves merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, which would value it at about $1 billion.

Founded in 2010, FaZe Clan is an influencer marketing agency, e-commerce company and e-sports team all in one. (The company’s chief executive, Lee Trink, once described it as “Dallas Cowboys meets Supreme meets MTV.”) It will be one of the first prominent e-sports companies to go public — and it‘s likely to draw attention from the retail traders who helped fuel the SPAC frenzy.

Mr. Trink is a former Hollywood entertainment manager who worked with Kid Rock. The company’s 85 influencers, who live together in its California gamer compound, produce viral social media clips, compete in professional gaming leagues for money and accolades and foster a devoted fan base. FaZe has built on that following by starting an online store and branded merchandise and signing advertising deals with the likes of Burger King.

SPACs are blank-check companies that go public first with the goal of finding a private company to merge with. These can be a way for smaller companies to go public by allowing them to bypass the traditional regulatory scrutiny that comes with initial public offerings.

“We didn’t spend that much time really ideating on a traditional I.P.O. strategy,” Mr. Trink said in an interview, noting that a SPAC deal allows FaZe Clan to talk about future opportunities as it prepares to go public, while a traditional I.P.O. would not.

FaZe, which isn’t profitable, brought in about $38 million in revenue last year and expects to report more than $50 million this year. Mr. Trink said FaZe would use the SPAC to “double down” on content.

“This is the beginning of gaming’s further ascent into the cultural zeitgeist,” he added.

The $176 billion video game industry exploded during the pandemic, although some worry sales may slow as the pandemic eases. E-sports is expected to become a billion-dollar business this year; already, the e-sports team Evil Geniuses received an investment from China’s Fosun Sports Group that valued it at more than $250 million.

  • Stocks on Wall Street rose on Monday ahead of the release of a string of Big Tech earnings reports this week. The S&P 500 rose 0.5 percent, reaching a record, while the Nasdaq composite jumped 0.9 percent.

  • Tesla led the gains in the S&P 500, rallying more than 12 percent after Hertz, the car rental agency, said on Monday that it had placed an order for 100,000 Teslas. The gains left Tesla with a market value above $1 trillion for the first time — a milestone only reached by a handful of other publicly traded companies.

  • Facebook rose 1.3 percent ahead of its earnings report, which was due after the close of trading on Monday. The release comes the same day as Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who has leaked internal Facebook research, testified before Britain’s Parliament as part of her campaign to attract political support for new regulation in the United States and Europe.

  • Microsoft, Twitter and Alphabet will release their quarterly reports on Tuesday. Amazon and Apple will release their financial performance reports on Thursday.

  • PayPal rose 2.7 percent after the digital payments giant said on Sunday that it was not interested in buying the social media network Pinterest. Shares of Pinterest fell 12.7 percent. Last week, shares of PayPal dropped after reports that it offered to buy Pinterest in a deal that valued the site at $45 billion.

  • Economists are also watching the development of President Biden’s infrastructure and social spending plans. To pay for the package, billionaires could be taxed on unrealized capital gains on their liquid assets, including stocks and real estate, Democratic officials said on Sunday. The move comes amid a dispute to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent.


The image on the left loads normally, but the same image on the right takes eight times longer to load, simulating what a Twitter user in Russia would experience with the government’s technology in use.

Russia is putting in place perhaps the world’s most ambitious digital censorship effort outside China. It is using the censorship technology to gain more leverage over Western internet companies in addition to other strong-arm tactics and legal intimidation.

The world got its first glimpse of Russia’s new tools in action when Twitter was slowed to a crawl in the country this spring. It was the first time the filtering system had been put to work, researchers and activists said. Other sites have since been blocked, including several linked to the jailed opposition leader Alexei A. Navalny. READ THE ARTICLE →

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times
  • Facebook earnings: The company is set to publish its financial performance report for the three months that ended in September. Investors are looking for any signs that recent privacy changes in Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, preventing tracking by some advertisers, hurt Facebook’s ad business.

  • Facebook whistle-blower: Frances Haugen, who once worked at Facebook, is expected to testify before the British Parliament. The testimony opens her European tour to meet with policymakers pushing for tougher regulation of Silicon Valley giants. Ms. Haugen is scheduled to visit Paris, Berlin and Brussels.

  • Twitter earnings: Investors will look for any clues about whether Twitter will miss revenue expectations because of Apple’s privacy changes. Twitter’s shares slumped after Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, reported lower-than-expected revenue on Thursday.

  • Google earnings: Alphabet, Google’s parent company, will report its financials for its third quarter. In July, the company reported a profit of $18.5 billion for the second quarter, more than it made in all of 2015.

  • Boeing earnings: Investors will be looking for an update on how quickly Boeing can resolve production issues with the 787 Dreamliner and start delivering the wide-body jet. The company announced in July that it would temporarily slow production of the model after identifying new work that needed to be done.

  • Auto earnings: Ford Motor and General Motors will report their financials for the most recent quarter. Investors will be looking at how a global chip shortage affected both companies’ profits. Ford has already reported that sales of new vehicles in the United States fell about 27 percent in the three months that ended in September.

  • G.D.P.: The Commerce Department will publish data on gross domestic product in the United States. Economists will look for evidence that supply-chain disruptions and labor shortages are constraining the recovery and prompting inflation.

  • Amazon earnings: Investors will be looking for whether Amazon’s sales continued to decelerate as businesses opened in the three months that ended in September.

  • Apple earnings: The company will report its financial performance for its fourth quarter, and investors will be watching for the effects that supply chain snarls have had on Apple’s production ahead of the holiday season.

  • E.C.B. meeting: Christine Lagarde, the European Central Bank’s president, may offer some insight on when the bank will scale back its bond-purchase programs. Officials are also expected to provide their outlook on inflation.

  • Oil earnings: Investors will find out whether Exxon Mobil and Chevron benefited from a global energy crunch that pushed oil prices up to seven-year highs. The report captures the period when Hurricane Ida damaged oil platforms and infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico in late August.

When will the shortages end? Why are new cars so hard to find? What happened to all the giant container ships?

In an era in which we’ve become accustomed to clicking and waiting for whatever we desire to arrive at our doors, we have experienced the shock of not being able to buy toilet paper, having to wait months for curtains and needing to compromise on the color of our new cars. The pandemic ushered in many of the problems the world now faces, but the end of the pandemic will not instantly fix things.

We answer the questions above and more with a look at the global supply chain. READ THE ARTICLE →