Facebook takes down certain posts, ads from Trump re-election campaign

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Thursday it took down certain posts and advertisements from U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence related to their re-election campaign, due to violation of the social network’s policy against organized hate.

UPDATE 4-Lloyd’s of London to pay for ‘shameful’ Atlantic slave trade role

LONDON (Reuters) – The Lloyd’s of London insurance market apologised on Thursday for its “shameful” role in the 18th and 19th Century Atlantic slave trade and pledged to fund opportunities for black and ethnic minority people. As part of a global reassessment of history and racism triggered by the death of George Floyd in the United States, some British institutions have begun re-examining their past, especially connections to slavery. The Bank of England also apologised for what it called the “inexcusable connections” of some past governors and directors to slavery, and said it would remove any portraits of them from display anywhere on its premises. About 17 million African men, women and children were torn from their homes and shackled into one of the world’s most brutal globalised trades between the 15th and 19th centuries. Many died in merciless conditions. “We are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd’s market in the 18th and 19th Century slave trade – an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own,” Lloyd’s said in a statement on Thursday. “Recent events have shone a spotlight on the inequality that black people have experienced over many years as a result of systematic and structural racism that has existed in many aspects of society and unleashed difficult conversations that were long overdue,” it added. The world’s leading commercial insurance market, Lloyd’s – which started life in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in 1688 – is where complex insurance contracts ranging from catastrophe to events cancellation are agreed and underwritten. Lloyd’s grew to dominate the shipping insurance market, a key element of Europe’s global scramble for empire, treasure and slaves, who were usually in the 18th Century included in insurance policies in the general rate for ship cargo. Weapons and gunpowder from Europe were swapped for African slaves who were shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas. Related CoverageExplainer: London faces up to former role insuring Atlantic slave tradeThose who survived endured a life of subjugation on plantations, while the ships returned to Europe laden with sugar, cotton and tobacco. ‘INEXCUSABLE’ Although Britain abolished the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807, full abolition did not follow for another generation. Lloyd’s said it would invest in programmes to attract black and minority ethnic talent, review its artefacts to ensure they were not racist and support charities and organisations promoting opportunity for black and minority ethnic people. Among other British institutions reassessing the legacies of the past is Oriel College, part of Oxford University, which said on Wednesday it wanted to remove a statue of 19th century colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Greene King, which describes itself as Britain’s leading pub owner and brewer, apologised for the profit one of its original founders made from the slave trade. Greene King would make investments to help the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community and to support race diversity in its business, chief executive Nick Mackenzie said. The history of several other British financial firms, including Barclays (BARC.L), is also under fresh scrutiny. The bank was named after David Barclay, a Quaker who campaigned actively against slavery in the late 18th century, but it later acquired institutions with links to the slave trade, including Colonial Bank in 1918 and Martins Bank in 1969. “We can’t change what’s gone before us, only how we go forward,” a Barclays spokesman said. The City of London Corporation has launched the Tackling Racism Working Party, which it said will look to promote economic, educational and social inclusion in the City of London and assess the future of statues and monuments.

UPDATE 3-Robinhood trading app back online after major outage

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Robinhood Markets Inc, the fintech startup credited with helping popularize trading with millennials, said on Thursday it resolved an issue that had caused a “major outage” on its platform earlier in the day. “Our systems have been fully restored and our app and web platforms are now functional. We apologize for the trouble and appreciate your patience as we worked to resolve this,” the company said on Twitter. Robinhood, based in Menlo Park, California, has experienced several outages since early March, particularly on days of high trading volumes as the market reacted to news on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Similar to previous outages, customers took to social media to criticize Robinhood, threatening to switch brokerages. “Unacceptable for this to keep happening,” one user said on Twitter. “Give me one reason why I should continue to trade using your platform?” asked another. Robinhood has been at the center of a recent upsurge in day trading by retail investors, who have been homebound due to coronavirus lockdowns. Founded by co-chief executives Baiju Bhatt and Vladimir Tenev in 2013, Robinhood is one of the most popular and well-funded financial technology startups. Last month, it raised $280 million from investors at a valuation of $8.3 billion dollars. The company now has over 10 million user accounts. Customers at the brokerage, which has been credited for helping usher in commission-free trading throughout the retail brokerage industry, have a median age of 31, the company said recently.

UPDATE 2-U.S. House panel hears from Facebook, Google, Twitter on election security

(Reuters) – Top officials from Facebook, Google and Twitter were grilled by U.S. lawmakers on Thursday at a virtual hearing on foreign influence and election security ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential contest. Leaders from Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) told the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee that they had not seen evidence of coordinated foreign interference in conversations about absentee voting or about recent protests on anti-racism and policing. However, Twitter’s director of global public policy strategy and development Nick Pickles said the company had seen a shift from platform manipulation to public tweets from state media and government accounts. Democratic Representative Jim Himes pressed Facebook’s head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher on what the company was doing to deal with the concern that its algorithm promotes polarization. “If every single American household is full of toxic, explosive gas, as I think it is today, all it takes is a match from Russia or from Iran or from North Korea or from China to set off a conflagration,” said Himes. Gleicher said Facebook’s users did not want to see divisive content and the platform had refocused to emphasize content from friends and family. The debate over content moderation has intensified in recent weeks. Twitter and Facebook have diverged on how to handle inflammatory posts by President Donald Trump, which Facebook’s Gleicher was pressed on at the hearing. Trump, in turn, has accused social media companies of censorship and called for the government to roll back liability protections for tech platforms. Asked about changes to this law, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Gleicher said the company would comply with the law if Congress made changes, but that the shield it creates is essential for Facebook to do its work. Richard Salgado, director for law enforcement and information security at Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, faced accusations that the company’s lack of transparency had allowed it to avoid the heat other tech firms had drawn. Salgado said Google does provide transparency reports around advertising on the platform.

US STOCKS-S&P 500 muted as virus cases rise, jobless claims weigh

(For a live blog on the U.S. stock market, click or type LIVE/ in a news window) * Weekly jobless claims higher than expected * Carnival Corp falls after warning of annual loss * Spotify rises on signing podcast deal with Warner Bros * Indexes mixed: Dow dips 0.25%, S&P flat, Nasdaq up 0.17% (Updates to early afternoon) By Medha Singh and Devik Jain June 18 (Reuters) – The S&P 500 was little changed on Thursday as coronavirus infections picked up again in parts of the United States and data showed an elevated level of weekly jobless claims, lending weight to predictions of a prolonged economic recovery. Several U.S. states including Texas, Florida and Oklahoma reported a surge in new infections. However, President Donald Trump said late on Wednesday the United States would not close businesses again. The Labor Department’s report showed weekly jobless claims declining for the eleventh straight week, but the pace of declines has slowed as tepid demand and fractured supply chains have sparked a second wave of layoffs. A resurgence in coronavirus infections has kept the S&P 500 and Dow indexes in a narrow range since last week, with the S&P 500 now 8% below its February all-time high after coming within 5% of that level last week. “The market has fully priced in a majority of the gains coming out of this recovery phase and it’s not really going to go much higher until we get better data down the road,” said Andrew Smith, chief investment strategist at Delos Capital Advisors, in Dallas, Texas. At 1:09 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 64.75 points, or 0.25%, at 26,054.86 and the S&P 500 was down 1.35 points, or 0.04%, at 3,112.14. The Nasdaq Composite was up 16.91 points, or 0.17%, at 9,927.44. Technology was the biggest boost to the benchmark index. Real estate and utilities posted the steepest percentage declines. Biogen Inc dropped 6.4% after a U.S. district court ruled in favor of generic drugmaker Mylan NV in a patent dispute over drugmaker’s blockbuster multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera. Mylan NV rose 2%. Spotify Technology SA jumped 13.4% after signing a podcast deal with AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros and DC entertainment featuring popular DC comics characters. Carnival Corp slipped 1.7% after reporting a quarterly net loss of $4.4 billion and warning of a loss for the rest of the year as the pandemic brought its cruise business to an effective standstill. Kroger Co declined 5.5% as it stopped short of raising its annual forecasts, saying a coronavirus-driven surge in demand for essential goods was fading as American households reconsider what they have on their shelves. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.41-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.03-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq. The S&P index recorded five new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 69 new highs and three new lows. (Reporting by Devik Jain and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Arun Koyyur)

Corporate Canada joins travel industry’s push to ease COVID-19 air curbs

(Reuters) – A group of 27 leading executives added to calls for Canada to ease coronavirus-led air restrictions in a letter published in the country’s Globe and Mail newspaper on Thursday. The move lends support to the travel industry’s push to relax air curbs as most international flights to and from Canada remain canceled. The executives, including the CEO of the largest Canadian lender Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial premiers to “find a responsible way to co-exist with COVID-19 until there is a vaccine.” Air Canada’s Chief Executive Officer Calin Rovinescu (AC.TO) and the tourism industry group Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable last week urged the government to lift travel restrictions in an open letter. (bit.ly/316YzXZ) The signatories from Thursday’s ad included heads of Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO), Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd (FFH.TO), WestJet Airlines Ltd WJA.TO Canadian National Railway Co (CNR.TO), Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO) and Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO). “This includes prudently and thoughtfully opening aviation and lifting restrictions to safely resume travel throughout all provinces of Canada, as well as from select countries,” the executives said in the ad. “Air travel is not only important for tourism – it is also critical for the entire Canadian economy,” their message added.

UPDATE 5-UK ditches homegrown COVID-19 tracing app to use Google-Apple model

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will switch to the Apple and Google model for its COVID-19 test-and-trace app, ditching an attempt to develop an app by itself after the homegrown system did not work well enough on Apple’s iPhone, the government said on Thursday. The test-and-trace programme is key to reopening the country but has been dogged by problems. A smartphone app developed by the National Health Service (NHS) was initially expected to be rolled out nationwide in May but did not materialise. Health minister Matt Hancock appeared to blame Apple in part for the pivot, adding that the decentralised Google-Apple system would benefit from work done on the abortive NHS app. “As it stands, our app won’t work because Apple won’t change their system, but it can measure distance. And their app can’t measure distance well enough, to a standard we are satisfied with,” he said at the daily news conference. “So we’ve agreed to join forces with Google and Apple, to bring the best bits of both systems together.” Dido Harding, head of the test-and-trace programme has described the app as the “cherry on the cake” of the overall test-and-trace system, playing down its centrality to the programme. But figures for the second week of England’s test-and-trace showed that while over 85,000 people who had tested positive for the new coronavirus had been reached in the first two weeks, over 25% of positive cases could not be reached. Officials running the programme admitted that the change of tack on the app was unplanned but denied that it was a setback, emphasising that they did not want to rush out an app which fell short of standards. But the opposition Labour party said that warnings about the homegrown app had not been heeded. “This is unsurprising and yet another example of where the government’s response has been slow and badly managed. It’s meant precious time and money wasted,” Labour health spokesman Jon Ashworth said. Britain’s adoption of the ‘decentralised’ approach for its app followed a growing number of European countries, including Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. But Apple and Google’s model has frustrated governments, as they undercut the technology’s usefulness by prioritising user privacy. The pivot happened after the NHS app, which was being tested on the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England, was found to work well on Google’s Android operating systems but not on Apple iPhones. However, Britain wants further improvements to the Google-Apple platform, meaning that the original hope of a launch in May is set to be missed by months rather than weeks. “We’re not going to put a date on it I’m afraid because I’m absolutely determined that whilst this technology can help, it’s got to be working effectively,” Hancock said.

LATAM Airlines says operations to plunge 50% by year´s end

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – LATAM Airlines Chief Executive Roberto Alvo said on Thursday he expects the region´s largest carrier to be operating at half of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2020, and that a full recovery was unlikely for at least 3-4 years. LATAM filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection last month, aiming to restructure $18 billion in debt. It was the world’s largest airline to date to seek an emergency reorganization due to the coronavirus pandemic. Alvo said the company plans to file a $2 billion plan with the U.S. bankruptcy court in the coming days to address the crisis.

UPDATE 1-Facebook sues individuals for offering to extract data, gather likes

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc said on Thursday it filed lawsuits against individuals in Europe and the United States for abusing its platforms to offer automated tools for scraping users’ personal data and gathering likes. The social network said the defendant in the U.S. lawsuit operated a data scraping service, called “Massroot8”, which improperly collected data by asking users to provide their Facebook login credentials. The defendants in the European lawsuit operated a Spain-based fake engagement service that provided automation software to receive fake likes and comments on Instagram, Facebook said. “This is one of the first times a social media company is using coordinated, multi-jurisdictional litigation to enforce its Terms and protect its users,” the company said here in a blog post.

UPDATE 2-European shares end lower on second wave concerns

(Reuters) – European shares closed lower on Thursday as a spike in COVID-19 cases in China and some U.S. states triggered fears of a second wave of infections, while a 60% plunge in Wirecard shares over missing cash balances weighed on the STOXX 600 index. Investors scaled back on risk as the daily count of cases hit new highs in California and Texas, two of the United States’ most populous states, while Beijing ramped up movement curbs. [MKTS/GLOB] “The faster economies reopen, the more likely we will see a second wave of infections translate into new lockdowns. Hence, the path over the coming months will be murky,” said Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at FXTM. The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 0.7% after two straight days of gains, as hopes of a swift recovery from the pandemic-led economic slump were knocked back. Dragging down the index was Wirecard (WDIG.DE), which plummeted 61.8% after the German payments company’s auditor refused to sign off its 2019 accounts over a missing $2.1 billion as the firm warned the delay could cause billions in loans to be called in as early as Friday. Aggressive monetary and fiscal stimulus and less-than-dire economic data have helped European indexes regain about 36% from their March lows, but analysts say another wave of infections could lead to worries of more restrictions and weigh on consumer behaviour. “For all the optimism that central bank and government stimulus will help alleviate more permanent economic scarring, there is rising concern that any recovery is likely to be less V-shaped and more a long U-shaped type of rebound,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK. Madrid-listed shares of Siemens Gamesa (SGREN.MC) tumbled 7.6% after the wind turbine maker replaced Chief Executive Markus Tacke with Andreas Nauen and warned of an operating loss in the third quarter late on Wednesday. German online fashion retailer Zalando (ZALG.DE) rose 7.1% to the top of STOXX 600, after forecasting a bigger increase in sales and operating profit in the second quarter than analysts’ expectations as the pandemic prompts more people to shop online. Cyclical stocks led declines, including miners .SXPP which fell 1.9%. The European Council is in focus as it meets on Friday to discuss a recovery proposal by the bloc’s executive arm to raise 750 billion euros worth of debt to top up spending from joint coffers to be worth 1.1 trillion euros in 2021-27.