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.

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

Updated 9:05 p.m. ET Wednesday

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

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

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

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Updated at 9:54 p.m. ET

Facebook on Thursday said it removed campaign posts and advertisements from the Trump campaign featuring an upside down red triangle symbol once used by Nazis to identify political opponents.

The posts, according to a Facebook spokesperson, violated the social network's policy against hate.

"Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group's symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol," the spokesperson told NPR.

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

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

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

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

President Trump has a new rallying cry in his escalating crusade against Twitter. As he put it in a tweet Friday: "REVOKE 230!"

Updated at 9 p.m. ET

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday aimed at limiting the broad legal protections enjoyed by social media companies, two days after he tore into Twitter for fact-checking two of his tweets.

Updated at 9:59 p.m. ET

Twitter has placed a fact-checking warning on a pair of tweets issued by President Trump in which he claims without evidence that mail-in ballots are fraudulent.

Twitter's move on Tuesday marks the first time the technology company has sanctioned Trump as criticism mounts about how the president has amplified misinformation to more than 80 million followers on the social media platform.

Trump responded by accusing Twitter of stifling free speech.

There are a lot of people trying to reach celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk. Sometimes, though, they get Lyndsay Tucker, a 25-year-old skin care consultant.

Tucker, who works at a Sephora beauty store in San Jose, Calif., had never heard of the Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO until a couple years ago, when she began fielding a steady stream of calls and text messages intended for him.

Apple Stores are beginning to reopen after the company in mid-March closed hundreds of its locations in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 100 stores, or about a fifth of the tech giant's worldwide storefronts, are now open, including locations in Alabama, Florida, California and Washington state.

About 25 additional stores in the U.S. in seven states are set to open their doors this week, according to Apple.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

With its ride-hailing business devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, Uber is in talks to acquire online food delivery company Grubhub.

If the two sides can reach a deal, the combined company would emerge as the dominant food-delivery app with 55% of the U.S. market, according to analyst Dan Ives with Wedbush Securities.

After two weeks of working from her Brooklyn apartment, a 25-year-old e-commerce worker received a staffwide email from her company: Employees were to install software called Hubstaff immediately on their personal computers so it could track their mouse movements and keyboard strokes, and record the webpages they visited.

They also had to download an app called TSheets to their phones to keep tabs on their whereabouts during work hours.

Twitter is now labeling misleading, disputed or unverified tweets about the coronavirus. It is even removing content it believes could lead to harm, the company announced Monday.

The labels warn users about the problematic tweets and steer them to authoritative sources, including public health agencies and credible news outlets.

Yoel Roth, Twitter's head of site integrity, said on a call with reporters that the mission is not to "fact-check the entire Internet," but rather to limit the spread of potentially harmful tweets.

Business was humming for Airbnb host Josep Navas Masip in Philadelphia. So he purchased a second home and planned to renovate it and add it to his Airbnb offerings.

"In the middle of the renovation, the coronavirus crisis hit," he said. "I had to cancel my renovations, and I had to tell the contractor to stop working."

Navas Masip, 44, was bringing in about $2,000 a month from the two rooms he was renting from his South Philadelphia home.

Updated Thursday at 6:51 p.m. ET

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users' data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Airbnb says it's cutting 1,900 employees — about 25% of its workforce — in one of the largest layoffs to hit Silicon Valley as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The global pandemic is the "most harrowing crisis of our lifetime," Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said in an email to employees on Tuesday. The virus's devastating blow to the travel industry means the company's 2020 revenue is forecast to be less than half of what the startup pulled in last year, he said.

Dan Munro changed his Twitter handle to "Dan is interviewing" after finding out he lost his job via a Zoom call.

The method of firing is becoming the norm in the tech industry during the coronavirus recession.

"No one enjoyed it," Munro said. "It was pretty rough for everyone because we're a pretty small company and everybody knows each other pretty well."

The CEO of Airbnb has made a lot of chocolate-chip cookies since the coronavirus pandemic began.

"People call it stress-baking," Brian Chesky said. "If that's the case, I'm going to be a Michelin chef pretty soon, because I got enough stress to do a lot of baking."

That's no surprise given that the lure of Airbnb — to have a unique experience by staying in a stranger's home — has lost considerable appeal as the pandemic courses its way through the world, paralyzing travel.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The short-term rental company Airbnb is in trouble. The pandemic has nearly stopped travel and made staying in a stranger's home less appealing. So what now? NPR's Bobby Allyn has been talking with the company's CEO.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: His name is Brian Chesky. These days, he's holed up in his San Francisco home all by himself, and he told me over Zoom he's been making lots of chocolate chip cookies.

Bill Hinshaw's phone has been ringing off the hook lately.

From his home in Gainesville, Texas, which Hinshaw describes as "horse country," he runs a group called the COBOL Cowboys. It's an association of programmers who specialize in the Eisenhower-era computer language. Now their skills are in demand, thanks to the record number of people applying for unemployment benefits.

The middle of an economic downturn may seem like an odd time to debut a new iPhone, but Apple on Wednesday announced its latest model — a cheaper, smaller version that may just fit with the times.

The new iPhone SE features a new and improved processor and camera. But for the most part, it looks and feels like models of yore. With a smaller size and screen, it is nearly as compact as the iPhone 6, which launched in 2014. It also features the home button that disappeared in the most recent models.

Updated at 9:12 p.m. ET

President Trump doubled down Sunday on the suggestion that people facing the coronavirus should consider taking an anti-malaria drug that has not been proven to be an effective treatment.

Former Vice President Joe Biden says the Democratic National Convention may need take place virtually as a result of the deepening coronavirus outbreak.

On Thursday the party delayed the presidential nominating convention from mid-July to mid-August over pandemic fears, but Biden on Sunday raised the specter of Democrats choosing their White House nominee online for the first time.

The federal government on Thursday relaxed restrictions on receiving blood donations from gay men and other groups as the country confronts a severe drop in the U.S. blood supply that officials described as urgent and unprecedented.

Michigan now ranks third in the country for coronavirus-related deaths, trailing only New York and New Jersey, after the Midwest state on Tuesday reported a new surge of cases.

State officials confirmed another 1,117 cases, bringing the coronavirus tally in Michigan to 7,615.

Officials on Tuesday said the virus claimed the lives of 75 more people, pushing up the number of COVID-19 fatalities to 259.

More than 1,200 people have now died of the coronavirus in New York, but the worst of the outbreak has yet to arrive, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

Cuomo said the coronavirus is overtaxing the state's health care workers. He asked for the assistance of medical volunteers from other parts of the country as the pandemic continues to devastate New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

Updated 8:13 p.m. ET

President Trump said on Sunday that federal guidelines urging Americans to social distance to slow the spread of the coronavirus will remain in place for another month and could last until June.

Under the recommendations, the Trump administration is imploring people to avoid restaurants, bars and other situations involving more than 10 people and restrict traveling to trips deemed essential.

The nation's leading expert on infectious diseases and member of the White House's coronavirus task force says the pandemic could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans and infect millions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said based on modeling of the current pace of the coronavirus' spread in the U.S., "between 100,000 and 200,000" people may die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

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