It’s still too early to call, but Facebook looks like it could be winning at this election.
Its shares lead rallying Big Tech stocks with a rise currently of more than 8 per cent today as it handled a tight presidential race without significant controversy and investors saw the possibility of a gridlocked political system failing to curb the powers of the major tech companies for the foreseeable future.
Tech stocks have also taken on the appearance of safe havens in uncertain times this year and the undecided election also helped lift Alphabet and Amazon by 6 per cent, Apple by 4 per cent and Netflix by almost 2 per cent.
The main actions taken by Facebook and Twitter overnight have been to issue notifications and slap warning labels on President Trump’s posts that claimed victory and alleged voter fraud, with the Democrats trying to “steal” the election from him.
Politico reports Twitter also put a warning label on a Democratic Party leader’s tweet for prematurely claiming that Joe Biden had won Wisconsin, but it also notes that foreign interference in the election has been nowhere near as problematic as it was in 2016 and domestic disinformation is the bigger threat.
“We are seeing instances of attempts of foreign interference,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab. “The main caveat is that it is not having as much audience impact as it has in the past . . . because we’re up on the guard for it.”
Tech shares receiving the biggest boost today were ride-sharing rivals Uber and Lyft, jumping 12 and 10 per cent respectively as Proposition 22 was passed on the ballot in California. Gig economy companies had poured money into supporting a measure that would provide exemption from a law forcing them to treat their drivers as employees, with associated health coverage, holiday pay and other benefits.
While California has been the battleground state on the issue, analysts said Uber could expect its victory to give it momentum in defending its business model elsewhere.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Why China turned anti-Ant
It’s not been made clear why regulators have blocked the $37bn listing of Ant Group and I’m not sure Beijing’s explanation is helpful that it was to “better maintain the stability of the capital markets and to protect investors’ interests”. Our analysis suggests there was concern about defaults on its substantial loans business taking off in the event of a sharp economic slowdown. The FT View is that regulators — in China or the US — cannot afford to let fintech become an Achilles heel. John Thornhill says the saga shows both how capitalist China has become and how Communist it remains, and our #techAsia newsletter reports Ant’s founder Jack Ma has miscalculated and made enemies.
2. Palantir may help UK test and trace
The UK government has held talks with US data analytics company Palantir in an attempt to bolster its struggling test-and-trace programme and provide deeper insights. Meanwhile, the government has signed at least 10 contracts with companies based in the UK, US and China, totalling more than £1bn, for its rapid testing “moonshot”.
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3. US sells drones for Taiwan’s defence
The US has approved the sale of four sophisticated drones to Taiwan, which will help Taipei spot Chinese preparations for an attack. US defence experts said the deal was vital if Taiwan was to deter an invasion or counter a blockade by the vastly more powerful People’s Liberation Army. Meanwhile, in Europe, Arianespace is looking vulnerable after the latest delay to its €4bn next-generation Ariane 6 rocket.
4. March of the robots checked
Walmart has given up on a five-year effort to introduce stock-checking robots in its stores, but the victory for human workers may be temporary, says Lex, in its assessment of the progress of automation.
5. Conspiracy theorists theorised
For a last word on the election, Gillian Tett looks at how Big Tech can best tackle conspiracy theories. Research suggests that 51 per cent of Americans now partly believe at least one of the major theories floating around and ethnographers are identifying new approaches to counter them.
Tech tools — pBone plastic trombone
A preview collection of exhibits from the new virtual Museum of Engineering Innovation is being published today on Google Arts & Culture for This is Engineering Day. It includes the Factory-in-a-box, developed by King’s College London, which minimises the space and equipment needed for high-volume vaccine manufacturing, and the pBone, which is the first 3D printed plastic trombone. Weighing less than a kilo, the recyclable instrument uses fewer resources than its brass cousin and is designed to encourage younger players who have difficulties with the weight and balance of a normal trombone.