The Week in Business: Facebook Filters Politics


Happy Valentine’s Day. Here’s your quick rundown of the top business and tech stories to know for the week ahead, so you can spend the rest of your day eating (sorry, reading) the candy you bought for your loved ones (or yourself). — Charlotte Cowles

The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal is winding its way through Congress. But many leading economists have argued that the far-reaching rescue plan is overkill and could create runaway inflation. In a speech on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, disagreed, urging policymakers to set aside inflation fears and focus on restoring full employment. He also pointed out that the latest jobless numbers did not tell the full story of the flailing labor market. Employment for higher-wage workers has dipped 4 percent (still a lot), but the bottom quartile of earners have seen a devastating 17 percent plunge.

Capping off its starring role in the GameStop stock-buying furor, the online chat platform Reddit has raised $250 million in new funding. Now valued at $6 billion, the company intends to double its staff and expand its user base. Reddit’s message boards are not only a popular forum for stock tips these days. They have also become a major source of information and community for out-of-work Americans trying to navigate the complex unemployment benefits system during the pandemic.

The 131-year-old pancake and syrup brand officially has a new name: the Pearl Milling Company. Quaker Oats pledged to overhaul the product line, which has long faced criticism for its history of racist imagery, in the wake of widespread protests over racial injustice last June. Its redesigned packaging will appear on shelves this summer. Several other food brands that use racial images in their marketing, including Ben’s Original rice products (formerly Uncle Ben’s), Cream of Wheat cereal and Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup are undergoing similar revamps.

If you’re tired of your crazy uncle’s political rants on Facebook, you may welcome this development: The social media platform is changing its algorithm to reduce political content in people’s news feeds. The new algorithm, which makes political content less prominent but does not remove it, is being tested in several countries and will expand to the United States in the coming weeks. The change comes by popular request: “One of the top pieces of feedback we’re hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive. Not all political posts will be affected, however. Content from official government agencies will be exempt from the change.

Facebook may be toning down political content, but Twitter is fighting to keep it up — in India, at least. The clash began when Indian farmers took to Twitter to protest new agriculture laws. The country’s government ordered Twitter to delete or mute more than 1,100 accounts that it says have encouraged violence or spread misinformation. Twitter complied with some of those demands, but refused to remove accounts of journalists, activists and other figures who are exercising their right to criticize the government and do not violate the company’s policies. Now, the Indian government has accused Twitter of breaking its laws.

Regulators and policymakers are still trying to figure out how to react to the recent GameStop stock-trading frenzy that hijacked the market in January and damaged investors big and small. Congress will hold a hearing on the matter this week, and key players — including leaders from Reddit, the hedge fund Citadel and the stock trading platform Robinhood — have been asked to testify.

A new analysis showed that women’s participation in the U.S. labor market fell to a 33-year low in January. Women accounted for almost 80 percent of workers over the age of 19 who left the work force last month. The company Bumble, which operates a female-focused dating app, had its initial public offering on Thursday, making its 31-year-old founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, a billionaire and the youngest woman to take a company public. The sale of the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to Oracle and Walmart, forced by the Trump administration, has been put on hold indefinitely by the Biden administration while it reviews national security concerns.



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