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.

Say WeWork and one person comes to mind: Adam Neumann, the lanky founder and former CEO with flowing black hair and a rock-star persona who would carry on about the "energy" of the company's communal work spaces.

He also embraced a "party-boy life style," said Eliot Brown, whose new book with co-author Maureen Farrell, The Cult of We: WeWork and the Great Start-Up Delusion, was published on Tuesday.

Well before noon, Neumann was known to offer potential investors shots of tequila from a bottle he kept behind his desk.

Jeff Bezos stepped down as Amazon's CEO on Monday, exactly 27 years since he started the e-commerce giant in a garage in West Bellevue, Wash.

Bezos is handing day-to-day duties to his longtime deputy Andy Jassy but will continue to hold considerable sway as the company's executive chairman.

Many journalists who cover technology have no idea what Marc Andreessen, one of the most powerful investors in Silicon Valley, has tweeted lately.

American software pioneer John McAfee, 75, was found dead on Wednesday in a prison cell in Barcelona, Spain, according to McAfee's lawyers.

Just hours earlier, a court in Spain had approved the extradition of McAfee to the U.S., where he was set to stand trial on federal tax-evasion charges.

Authorities are investigating the cause of death.

An eccentric and brash millionaire known widely for his eponymous antivirus software, McAfee sold his stake in the company in the mid-1990s and spent his life globe-trotting and stumbling frequently into legal trouble.

The maker of the Snapchat app is eliminating a feature known as the "speed filter" that lets users capture how fast they are moving and share it with friends, NPR has learned.

The move is a dramatic reversal for Snap, Inc., which introduced the feature in 2013.

Updated June 15, 2021 at 4:55 PM ET

President Joe Biden has named Lina Khan as the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, giving the regulatory authority's top spot to one of Silicon Valley's most prominent critics.

The surprise move elevating Khan to one of the most powerful regulatory positions in Washington was announced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., at the start of a hearing on Tuesday. It came shortly after the Senate confirmed Khan as a commissioner in a 69-28 vote.

Buying a coffee and grabbing a train is already possible with an iPhone, but Apple wants to replace the physical wallet completely.

To that end, earlier this week Apple announced a new feature to let users scan their driver's licenses and save it to their iPhones to use as a legitimate form of identification.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump's TikTok and WeChat bans were officially dropped on Wednesday, but scrutiny of the China-owned apps will continue under the Biden administration.

To replace the Trump-era actions, President Biden signed new orders calling for the Commerce Department to launch national security reviews of apps with links to foreign adversaries, including China.

Updated May 21, 2021 at 6:14 PM ET

Hours into Apple CEO Tim Cook's testimony Friday in a lawsuit challenging how his company wields its immense power over mobile devices, a federal judge created the most dramatic moment of the three-week trial brought by the maker of the hit video game Fortnite.

"It doesn't seem to me you feel any pressure or competition to actually change the manner in which you act to address the concerns of the developers," U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers told Cook.

Apple CEO Tim Cook will take the witness stand in person on Friday in a high-stakes trial over whether his company is abusing its market power.

In a courtroom in Oakland, Calif., Cook will be under oath answering questions from Apple lawyers and from attorneys for Epic Games, the maker of the popular videogame Fortnite, which is accusing Apple of being an illegal monopoly.

Why is this a big deal?

While Cook has testified before Congress, this will mark the first time he has ever taken the witness stand in a trial.

In April 1995, Ken Zeran's phone started ringing. And ringing. And ringing.

"Lots of calls. It wasn't like every second. But it was just lots of calls," Zeran said in an interview with NPR.

He ran a real estate magazine in Seattle. But his phone ringing off the hook had nothing to do with that — these callers were irate, often screaming.

"'How could you do this? What a loser you are,'" he remembers them saying. "You can use your own sense and think of what they might be saying given what had just happened in Oklahoma City."

Epic Games, the maker of the hit video game Fortnite, brought Apple to federal court Monday for the start of what is expected to be a weeks-long blockbuster trial centered on Apple's iron grip of a major slice of the mobile economy.

The lawsuit that prompted the trial is about one app developer, Epic, a $29 billion company based in Cary, N.C., but the outcome could have far-reaching consequences for companies in Silicon Valley and the future of how money moves on smartphones and other devices.

For eight years, the civil rights organization Muslim Advocates has reported scores of examples of bigotry and hate promoted across Facebook. It has published reports and met privately with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his number two, Sheryl Sandberg, about its concerns.

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a lower court ruling that former President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment rights of critics he blocked on Twitter.

Discord, the group-chat app that has grown rapidly during the coronavirus pandemic, removed more than 2,000 communities dedicated to extremism and other violent content in the second half of last year, the company reported on Monday.

Officials at Discord said that of the 2,212 extremist and violent communities taken down from its platform, about 1,500 were first detected by the company. That is nearly double the number that was banned for extremist content in the first half of 2020.

Social networking platform Discord is having a moment.

What started as a community for gamers has in the past year become a hub for virtually everything: conferences, karaoke, book clubs, group therapy, homework help, sneaker trading and analyzing Wall Street stocks.

It doubled its users during the pandemic, with nearly 150 million worldwide now using the chat app every month.

The co-founder and former CEO of Parler has sued the conservative social media platform over his firing this year. John Matze claims Parler's leadership took away his 40% stake in the company in an "arrogant theft," intimidated and bullied him in an ouster he says was illegal and left him owed millions of dollars.

On Jan. 10, just days after pro-Trump rioters blitzed the U.S. Capitol, Amazon Web Services pulled the plug on the conservative social media site Parler.

Parler grew desperate. It had relied on Amazon's Web-hosting services to reach its burgeoning audience of more than 12 million. After Amazon cut it off, it was rejected by six other Web hosts. It seemed doomed to disappear from the Web.

Until SkySilk showed up.

Two titans of Silicon Valley, Facebook and Apple, are in a bitter fight that centers on the iPhone data of millions of people and whether companies should be able to track that data as easily as they do now.

Facebook believes the answer is yes. On Wednesday, it even unveiled a video voiced by Grace Jones aimed at currying the public's favor.

Updated 8:45 p.m. ET

Facebook said Wednesday that it is preventing people inside Australia from accessing news stories on its platform. In addition, Facebook users elsewhere will not be able to view or share news stories from Australian outlets. The moves are a response to proposed legislation that would force social media platforms to pay Australian news organizations for links shared on its sites.

Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET

Far-right-friendly social media site Parler limped back to life on Monday with a new Web host, retooled community guidelines and a promise that content inciting violence will be removed.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Clubhouse is the new invite-only app that Silicon Valley says is the future of social media. Millions have downloaded it recently, including celebrities, famous musicians and tech CEOs. What's all the hype about? NPR's Bobby Allyn looked into it.

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET

A federal judge has refused to restore the social media site Parler after Amazon kicked the company off of its Web-hosting services over content seen as inciting violence.

The decision is a blow to Parler, an upstart that has won over Trump loyalists for its relatively hands-off approach to moderating content. The company sued Amazon over its ban, demanding reinstatement.

In the days before the insurrection attempt on the Capitol, alternative social media site Gab was lighting up about it.

Some of the discussion on the social media, which is popular among Trump diehards, veered into a level of specificity that caused alarm among outside observers.

"There were directions provided on Gab for which streets to take to avoid the police," said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League. "And which tools to use to help pry open the doors."

Updated 10:05 p.m. ET Friday

Twitter has permanently suspended President Trump's account over a pattern of behavior that violated company rules.

The action was the most sweeping punishment any major social media company has ever taken against Trump, who has used his Twitter account to announce White House policy, attack rivals and widely disseminate misinformation.

Updated 2:10 p.m. ET Friday

After the death of George Floyd, Google engineer Raksha Muthukumar sent an email to colleagues.

In it, she pointed to a list of criminal justice reform groups and bail funds for protesters who were seeking contributions. Soon after, Muthukumar was summoned into a meeting with Google's human relations department.

Facebook said Thursday it is banning President Trump until the end of his presidency and possibly longer. It is the most forceful action a social network has taken against Trump, who has spent months using social media to amplify disinformation and cast doubt on his loss in the presidential election.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that removing or labeling Trump's posts is not enough in the current environment in which Trump has used Facebook to encourage mob violence on the U.S. Capitol.

President Trump has signed an executive order banning business with several leading Chinese technology companies, claiming apps run by the companies have the ability to spy on Americans, including federal employees.

Trump's order seeks to prohibit transactions with eight companies including Alipay, owned by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma; the payment platform on the popular app WeChat; and a Chinese messaging service called QQ owned by the Chinese tech giant Tencent.

Other software apps included in the order are CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, VMate and WPS Office.

The group behind the suspected Russian attack into U.S. government agencies and private companies was able to hack into Microsoft's internal systems and access some of the company's source code, the tech giant said in a blog post on Thursday.

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