The Week in Business: The Post-Lockdown Office

For a four-day workweek, this past one sure felt long. Catch up on what you missed in the business and tech worlds, and get some rest this weekend.

President Trump’s feud with his favorite communication platform is getting ugly. This past week, he signed an executive order to slash legal protections for social media companies, claiming that Twitter has “unchecked power” after it flagged two of his tweets with fact-check labels. Twitter’s spokesman said that the tweets, in which Mr. Trump made false claims about mail-in voting, “contain potentially misleading information about the voting process and have been labeled to provide additional context.” It was the first time the company put warnings on Mr. Trump’s posts, but it wasn’t the last. Early on Friday, the president tweeted that demonstrators in Minneapolis were “THUGS” after protests had escalated there over the death of a black man, George Floyd, while in police custody. Mr. Trump then threatened that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter said his post violated its rules about glorifying violence. But rather than take it down (the normal protocol for such violations), the company put up a “public interest notice” that cautions users about the post’s content before they read it.

… and partisanship, and discord: For the past two years, Facebook has been studying whether its algorithms make people more polarized. The researchers concluded that it does, and recommended changes to the company’s systems to steer people away from echo chambers that promote an “us versus them” mentality. But the company’s top executives decided not to adopt most of the proposed changes. After all, when people get riled up, they tend to rant and comment on their feeds — which ultimately boosts Facebook’s business, even if it narrows people’s worldviews.

For the past few months, tensions between China and the United States have revolved around the coronavirus. Now that bad blood is drifting back to trade, by way of Hong Kong. China has been tightening its grip on Hong Kong for years, and on Thursday, it passed a new law to allow its strict security agencies to operate more widely and openly in the city, quashing the liberties of its residents. In response, Mr. Trump announced on Friday that the United States would no longer consider Hong Kong to be significantly autonomous from China. That’s a big deal for Hong Kong’s economy, which has previously been exempt from the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods. It may not get those special privileges anymore.

Even as more states allow businesses to reopen, the economy remains crippled. An additional 2.1 million people filed unemployment claims last week, bringing the jobless count above 40 million — the equivalent of one out of every four workers. And the real number may be even higher, as many unemployment offices are severely backlogged. To make matters even more precarious, many of the aid programs that Congress passed in March are winding down. As a stopgap, the House passed a bipartisan bill on Thursday that would give small businesses more time and flexibility to use their aid money. But the legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Just as you’ve finally gotten used to working from home (don’t forget to add that new printer to your tax write-offs), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its recommended protocols for the safest way for employers to reopen their offices. If companies follow them, then workers would be checked for coronavirus symptoms whenever they come in, sit six feet away from colleagues and possibly have plastic shields between desks.

In this weird new reality, it’s almost comforting to know that some things haven’t changed — like the standoff over Brexit. Negotiations resume this week, but the process remains deadlocked. Meanwhile, Instagram announced updates that will help creators profit from their audiences. And HBO released its new streaming service, HBO Max, to better compete with its rival Netflix.

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