Welcome to the Weekly Scan. Here’s what we’re following for the week of October 19, 2020.
Hashtag hunting for a fight. Twitter and Facebook found themselves in a political battle last week when they blocked two unsubstantiated New York Post articles about Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and his alleged relationship with Ukranian company Burisma Holdings, as well as another article about the Bidens. Twitter ultimately allowed the stories to appear with a reader warning. Facebook, meanwhile, said that it would have a third party review the articles for misleading information. But some politicians have argued that tech companies don’t have the authority to limit access to the articles. And the Senate Judiciary Committee said it would subpoena Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg, the CEOs of the social media companies, to testify in front of Congress about how they’ve handled the information.
- The takeaway: Republicans have argued that social media companies have overstepped their authority in their management of election information. They’ve said that tech companies are censoring users and displaying anti-conservative bias. Facebook and Twitter have taken steps in recent months to manage the spread of misinformation on their platforms. Facebook recently announced it would block political advertising the week before and after the election. And Twitter has started adding a screen over tweets that reportedly contain misleading information about the election or Covid-19.
FICO Frenzy. The average credit score in the U.S., as determined by the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), reached a new record of 711 in July, 2020, up from 708 in April, 2020. (Remember that credit scores range from 300 to 850, with 850 being perfect.) The average credit score in the U.S. has been steadily on the rise over the last decade. This record high comes even as the pandemic keeps many people from working. Some experts say however, that it can take time for the average FICO score to reflect economic conditions. In fact, during the Great Recession, credit scores didn’t hit a low point until a year after Lehman Brothers collapsed in September, 2008.
- The takeaway: Stimulus payments, forbearance programs, and extra unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act in March might be contributing to high credit scores. Consumer debt has decreased during the pandemic, with 7.3% missing a payment in July, compared to 8.1% in January. However, now that many of the stipulations in the CARES Act have expired and with Congress at a standstill over a new stimulus package, it remains to be seen how credit scores and consumer debt will be affected.
Please pay at the door. Video-conferencing software company Zoom announced a new function called OnZoom that will allow users to hold virtual events and charge attendees via PayPal or credit card. This feature is a response to an increase in virtual gatherings and events as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Anyone who already pays for a subscription to Zoom in the U.S. will be able to hold events with OnZoom and anyone with an account in the U.S. will be able to join. Zoom said that for the time being, it will not charge users extra for this service and not take a cut. Zoom also announced a new tool called Zapps that would allow some of the most commonly used productivity applications to integrate with Zoom. Thirty-five partners will launch with the new tool, including apps like Slack, Dropbox, and SurveyMonkey.
- The takeaway: 2020 has been a big year for Zoom, with people working and socializing from home for much of the year because of the pandemic. Zoom brought in $328 million in revenue between February and April, 2020, more than doubling its revenue from the previous year. Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of Zoom, also became one of the 400 richest people in the U.S. this year. Meanwhile, 2020 has been a difficult year for live artists and venues as many live events have been canceled or postponed. OnZoom could provide a source of income for them as the pandemic continues.
Max to lift off in Europe. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said that Boeing’s 737 Max could begin flying in Europe before the end of 2020 as a result of the changes made to the plane’s design. The nod of approval from EASA marks the first big assurance that the revised aircraft is safe to take flight again. The 737 Max has been grounded internationally since two crashes in March 2019 killed 346 people. Boeing has since revisited the plane’s design and safety measures. In September, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives released a report saying that Boeing knowingly minimized problems with the plane’s anti-stall software, which contributed to the fatal crashes.
- The takeaway: Prior to the crashes, the 737 Max had been Boeing’s fastest-selling plane, bringing in billions for the company. Boeing has been eager to get the 737 Max back in the air safely since. The Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing’s main certifying body, must sign off on changes and improvements before the 737 Max returns to the skies.
Find out what we covered in last week’s Scan.