MONEY stocks

Investors Are Bullish on Facebook Ahead of Earnings Report

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Facebook F8 Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Zuckerberg plans to unveil tools that let application makers reach the social network’s audience while helping the company boost revenue. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg  *** Local Caption *** Mark Zuckerberg
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Facebook F8 Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

Shares in the social media company, which reports its earnings on July 29, are up 20% for 2015.

Investors in social media shares have zeroed-in on Facebook FACEBOOK INC. FB 2.31% piling into stock options to add bullish bets on the company in the days ahead of its Wednesday earnings.

Facebook escaped a rout in social media stocks after last quarter’s results and its shares are up about 20% this year. The stock and a handful of other winners account for the bulk of the S&P 500’s S&P 500 INDEX SPX 1.24% gains this year.

The ascent has made Facebook one of the ten largest S&P companies in terms of market capitalization, with the stock now worth more than $260 billion – surpassing decades-old companies like Wal-Mart WAL-MART STORES INC. WMT 1.01% and Procter & Gamble PROCTER & GAMBLE COMPANY PG 0.33% .

Traders in the options market are betting on more gains for the stock after it reports results Wednesday.

“Facebook is definitely the standout leader in the group,” said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital.

“The stock’s recent performance, combined with the company’s leading position, explains the bullishness of the options activity,” he said.

Earnings seasons are typically choppy for stocks and even more so for social media companies, due to their high valuations and ongoing concern, in some cases, about their business models.

Last quarter, investors spooked by disappointing results sent shares of Twitter TWITTER INC. TWTR 10.95% , LinkedIn LINKEDIN CORP. LNKD 3.55% and Yelp YELP INC YELP -17.76% down by more than 20% the week they reported results.

“These stocks are some of the most expensive stocks in the market,” said Stephen Massocca, managing director with Wedbush Equity Management in San Francisco.

“If numbers are disappointing and either growth or profitability looks out of reach, it’s very easy to see why investors would get out in a hurry,” he said.

The bullishness in Facebook’s recent options trading makes it unique in the sector. The number of open contracts in Facebook’s options has jumped 25% since the start of July, and is the highest since mid-January.

Analysts expect robust mobile pricing and strength in video ads to help the company post strong results when it reports after the close of trading on Wednesday. Strong YouTube viewership helped drive Google Inc’s GOOGLE INC. GOOGL 0.21% second-quarter results, boding well for video on Facebook’s own platform.

In July, open interest in Facebook’s call options, usually used for bets the stock will rise, increased by 24%, twice as much as the increase in puts, which are usually bets on a decline. For every put option, there are now nearly two calls open, the lowest this ratio has been in favor of puts, according to options analytics firm Trade Alert.

“The recent decline in Facebook’s put/call open interest ratio to an all-time low implies long positioning ahead of earnings,” said Jim Strugger, a derivatives strategist at MKM Partners.

In contrast, trading in the options of Twitter, LinkedIn and Yelp suggest high risk of volatile moves in the shares but give little clue to their direction.

Twitter and Yelp are expected to report results on Tuesday afternoon, and LinkedIn’s results are scheduled for Thursday.

So far, there is little to suggest traders are preparing for the kind of selloff that social media shares experienced last quarter, said Anshul Agarwal, equity derivative strategist at Bay Crest Partners in New York.

“For LinkedIn, Yelp, and Twitter, we haven’t witnessed particularly bearish options flow,” he said.

TIME facebook

Here’s Facebook’s Course To Combat Bias In The Workplace

The company is now sharing it with the public

Facebook is a prestigious Silicon Valley company where many people hope to work, and yet it has had trouble building on a truly diverse workforce despite repeated promises to do so.

So on Tuesday, COO Sheryl Sandberg shared in a blog post the company’s latest effort in that area: an anti-unconscious bias course for its employees. The company is now sharing it with the public via a new website, complete with videos and presentations on various topics.

“One of the most important things we can do to promote diversity in the workplace is to correct for the unconscious bias that all of us have,” Sandberg wrote. “At Facebook, we’ve worked with leading researchers to develop a training course that helps people recognize how bias can affect them, and gives them tools to interrupt and correct for bias when they see it in the workplace.”

Google released a similar body of resources and training materials in 2014.

In mid-June, Facebook released its second annual workforce diversity report. Much like the other large companies that have also released such reports in the last two years, not much has changed in Facebook’s numbers. The company saw only a one percentage-point increase in total female employees (32%) and in women in technical positions (16%). Women in senior positions stayed at the same level — just 23% of the company. Facebook also didn’t see much improvement in racial diversity, still mostly hiring white and Asian employees.

“Diversity is central to Facebook’s mission of creating a more open and connected world. To reflect the diversity of the 1.4 billion people using our products, we need to have people with different backgrounds, races, genders and points of view working at Facebook,” Sandberg wrote.

The videos cover four areas: stereotypes and performance bias, performance attribution bias, competence/likability tradeoff bias, and maternal bias. It’s not clear how Facebook has implemented these training materials within the company, although Sandberg notes that people have asked the company to share the course with others.

TIME Algorithms

Coders Are Making More Room for Curators in Silicon Valley

Entertainer Aubrey Drake Graham known as Drake speaks during the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, June 8, 2015. Apple Inc., the maker of iPhones and iPads, will introduce software improvements for its computer and mobile devices as well as reveal new updates, including the introduction of a revamped streaming music service. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Drake
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Entertainer Aubrey Drake Graham known as Drake speaks during the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, June 8, 2015.

Facebook, Apple, Netflix and others are relying on human expertise to complement automated algorithms

It’s been almost a decade since the debut of the Netflix Prize, a $1 million bounty for the person or group that could best improve the company’s movie suggestion algorithm. Netflix’s much-touted recommendation engine was, at the time, one of the driving forces of its success as a DVD-by-mail service. The idea that a computer could churn through thousands of movie cast, plots and genre and pluck out the one or two that a particular viewer might enjoy was novel and exciting. The highly publicized prize proved to be great marketing for the company.

Fast forward nine years and the phrase on the tip of Netflix executives’ tongues isn’t “smart algorithms”—it’s “original programming.” Sure, Netflix still uses software to recommend titles available on its streaming platform, but the company says what’s really driving new subscriptions are the dozen or so originals it has bankrolled over the last two years, including flagship series like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. As The New Yorker’s Tim Wu points out, today Netflix’s most valuable “algorithm” might be chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who’s in charge of picking which programs the company funds.

This is just one example of human expertise and insight complementing automated, data-driven experiences in Silicon Valley. But it represents a broader sea-change in thinking about what humans can do computers simply can’t.

Since the very first Google query in 1998, Internet denizens have been taught that ever-more-intelligent algorithms would one day be able to serve them recommendations that, if not altogether perfect, were at least much better than anything a lowly human could ever muster. Each of us was supposed to have our own personalized, pristine digital experience calculated with such exaction by computers that you’d feel uncomfortable even questioning the algorithm’s authority.

MORE: 5 Reasons to Buy a PlayStation 4 Right Now

But tech companies seem to be jutting up against the limits of what an algorithm can achieve, at least affordably. (The algorithm that won the Netflix prize was never actually implemented because it was prohibitively expensive). Now, the coders are having to make more room for the curators and the creatives across a variety of sectors.

Last month, Apple launched Apple Music, an on-demand streaming service similar to Spotify. Human curators are a core selling point. Music experts hand-select songs for oddly specific but weirdly compelling playlists to serve to users based on their favorite artists and genres. Meanwhile an Internet radio station called Beats 1 has become the centerpiece of the service, featuring live DJs, interviews with artists and songs far afield of the Billboard charts. The old-school format’s launch was followed as closely by the tech press as the inaugural fireside chat.

Even in areas where it seemed as though algorithms had decidedly won out, human input is gaining greater importance. Facebook’s News Feed is controlled by a closely guarded algorithm that sorts through the thousands of posts available to a given user each day and shows only the ones that it thinks will be most interesting to each individual person. For the last year, though, the company has been paying hundreds of people around the country to grade the News Feed’s quality and offer suggestions for improvements. Insight from these everyday users has led to algorithm improvements that a computer program seeking to boost engagement metrics could never discern, such as the need to show sad or serious posts prominently even though they may not garner a lot of “Likes.”

MORE: YouTube Is About to Look Very Different

The approach seems to be paying off. Facebook’s number of users and the average time spent on-site has continued to climb as it has made its algorithm more human. The human elements of Apple Music, such as Beats 1, have received high praise even as people have griped about the service’s confusing interface and rocky stability. Even newcomer Snapchat has gotten in on curation. It’s hard to imagine an algorithm replicating the mini-narratives that emerge in Snapchat’s “Live Stories,” the 24-hour local pastiches the burgeoning social network curates from snaps from its 100 million users. These stories now attract 20 million viewers a day, and the format has been so successful that Twitter is planning to imitate it this fall with Project Lightning, an upcoming feature that will show a human-curated feed of interesting tweets, photos and videos tied to major events.

Algorithms are here to stay, of course. They have the ability to analyze millions of pieces of data faster than a team of humans ever could. The emergence of Big Data—the vast trove of data generated by people and devices—is only likely to make them more crucial. But in the future, recommendation systems that meld human and algorithmic input may be more commonplace. Apple Music analyzes a user’s past listening activity to decide which human-curated playlists to present, for instance. Netflix uses its massive trove of data about people’s viewing habits to determine what types of shows to bankroll (though, Sarandos and other executives give the final green light).

We increasingly rely on computers to guide us in the right direction, but we may still need a living, breathing human to be that final arbiter of taste.

TIME LGBT

Exclusive: Facebook, Corporate Giants Back New LGBT Protections

The leading companies aim to expand LGBT rights and also their customer base

The makers of Cheerios cereals and Nike sneakers will join the makers of iPhones and Ziploc baggies Tuesday in supporting proposed sweeping legislation that would ban discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans at their jobs, homes and schools.

Food conglomerate General Mills, Nike, American Airlines and Facebook were set to sign onto anti-discrimination legislation known as the Equality Act, the companies said in statements obtained by TIME ahead of their release. The corporate giants, long supporters of gay rights, are joining peers Apple, Dow Chemicals and Levi Strauss in lobbying Congress for that legislation. It was the latest sign that opponents of gay rights are finding themselves standing opposed to business interests. And while the public messaging is clear — the makers of such everyday goods want LGBT Americans to have easier everyday lives — there is an admitted financial interests in adding loyal customers to these brands.

“At General Mills, we have a long history of supporting LGBT equality and the time has come in this country for full, federal equality for the LGBT community,” said the food-maker behind Cheerios, Haagen-Dazs ice creams and Progresso soups. “Ensuring fairness in our workplaces and communities is both the right thing to do and simply good business.”

Indeed, it is that business case that has begun to break through. When Indiana lawmakers moved forward with a bill earlier this year that would have made it more difficult for gay and lesbian employees of major corporations to go about their daily lives, industry worked with liberal activists to beat back the legislation. Apple, American Airlines, Salesforce and the NCAA college leagues all threatened action unless Indiana lawmakers reverse course.

It’s a model that organizers are hoping to replicate with Congress.

Federal lawmakers now are considering a sweeping non-discrimination law that would bar individuals from being denied services — including housing and jobs but also mortgages and education — based on their sexuality or gender identity. Although the Supreme Court ruled that all Americans have the right to wed, regardless of whether the couple is heterosexual or homosexual, many gays and lesbians still face discrimination in their everyday lives.

More than 206 million Americans — nearly two thirds of the country — live in states where employers can fire someone for being gay. Only 18 states and the District of Columbia prohibit housing discrimination based on a tenant’s sexuality or sexual identity. Three others prohibit discrimination based on sexuality. The remaining 166 million Americans live in states where landlords can evict someone for their sexuality.

Polls find most Americans think these rights are already protected for LGBT residents. Activists and businesses are counting on that false but widespread belief to minimize political opposition that is fading in numbers but not in intensity for those who remain. Social conservatives are willing to buck the Wall Street wing of the Republican Party on this issue, and it is likely to be a driving factor as a crowded field of hopefuls vies for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

In crafting the bill, lawmakers consulted a coalition that included the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and National Council on La Raza in the hopes of pitching the new legislation as a civil rights bill for the 21st Century. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Women’s Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign also offered their advice.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest civil rights group for LGBT Americans, has been aggressively lining up corporate backing, too. The lobbying group already scores major corporations on how well they serve their gay and lesbian employees and is enjoying momentum after a rapid expansion of public support for same-sex marriage. The group helped General Mills, Nike, American Airlines and Facebook come out in support of the proposals.

Nike, a global brand of sporting gear headquartered in Oregon, explained why it was backing the bill, co-authored by its home-state Sen. Jeff Merkley. “We believe that diversity drives innovation and allows us to attract and retain world class talent. We need fair and equitable laws that prevent discrimination,” the company said in a statement.

The nation’s largest airline in passenger traffic said it was good for morals as well as the bottom line. “We at American Airlines are proud of our long history of supporting LGBT equality,” the airline said in a statement. “Now is the time for full equality for the LGBT community in the United States.”

At the same time, Facebook said in a statement of its own: “Ensuring fairness in the workplace is a fundamental principle at Facebook and we support legal protections for LGBT Americans as outlined in the Equality Act.”

For the Human Rights Campaign, a million-dollar lobbying organization with a shining headquarters in Dupont Circle, the new allies were merely the most recent additions to its victories. Yet the group has shown no signs of receding after the marriage victory and is expanding its efforts to states to end their laws that sanction discrimination against LGBT neighbors.

“We are tremendously grateful to these corporate leaders for their support of the Equality Act and the basic principle that all Americans should be able to live their lives free of discrimination,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said. “These companies agree: equality is good for business and the time for full federal equality is now.”

TIME beauty

U.K. Fashion Retailer Topshop Drops ‘Ridiculously Shaped’ Mannequins After Complaints

The company has been accused of showing a lack of concern for body-conscious youth

British high-street retailer Topshop has agreed to stop using unrealistically thin mannequins in its stores after a shopper’s complaint went viral.

Laura Berry posted a photo to Topshop’s Facebook page of a “ridiculously shaped” mannequin at a store in a shopping mall in Bristol, reports the Guardian, and said the company was showing a “lack of concern for a generation of extremely body conscious youth.”

“We’ve all been impressionable teens at one point, I’m fairly certain if any of us were to witness this in our teenage years, it would have left us wondering if that was what was expected of our bodies,” wrote Berry, a customer-service assistant from Gloucestershire, England.

Topshop says the mannequin is based on a standard U.K. size 10 (U.S. size 6), but Berry points out she’s not sure that it even looks like a U.K. size 6 (U.S. size 2).

“Perhaps it’s about time you became responsible for the impression you have on women and young girls and helped them feel good about themselves rather than impose these ridiculous standards,” Berry said.

Topshop responded to the post publicly saying the mannequin was “not meant to be a representation of the average female body,” but said it was “not placing any further orders on this style of mannequin.”

[Guardian]

TIME Social Media

Facebook Co-Founder Eduardo Saverin Confirms News of Wedding in Facebook Post

The Brazilian-born billionaire tied the knot in June

Eduardo Saverin, the billionaire co-founder of Facebook, confirmed that he got married last month in a post on the social-media website Sunday.

Saverin posted a photo of himself with his bride, Elaine Andriejanssen, with a message in English and Portuguese. “I am incredibly happy and thankful to have married the love of my life,” the post said. “I look forward to building a family together and to contributing our time and resources to make the world a better place.”

Andriejanssen is of Indonesian-Chinese descent and works in the finance industry, Singapore’s Straits Times reported. She met Brazilian-born Saverin when he was at Harvard University in Massachusetts and she was a student at nearby Tufts University.

Saverin, portrayed by actor Andrew Garfield in the 2010 Facebook biopic The Social Network, moved to Singapore in 2009 and gave up his acquired U.S. citizenship two years later. The 33-year-old is said to be worth more than $5 billion.

TIME apps

YouTube Is About to Look Very Different

Google Holds Event For Creators At YouTube Tokyo Space
Kiyoshi Ota—Bloomberg/Getty Images An employee holding recording equipment walks past Google Inc.'s YouTube logo displayed at the company's YouTube Space studio in Tokyo, Japan, on March 30, 2013.

On your cellphone, at least

The horror of watching a vertical YouTube video on your cellphone marred by enormous black borders will soon be behind us.

The video site announced Thursday that its redesigned mobile app features a vertical video mode that will better display such content, CNN Money reports. Vertical videos have long been the scourge of the Internet, but they better fit the aspect ratio of smartphones and have become popular among young users thanks to Snapchat, which encourages them.

In addition to improving video playback, the new app features a subscriptions tab that allows users to see a stream of new videos from channels they follow, as well as improved editing tools for shooting video directly within the app. The updated app is available now on Android and coming soon to iOS.

More than half of YouTube’s views now come from mobile devices. The Google-owned brand, which is facing ever-increasing pressure from competitors like Facebook, also revealed that its total watch time is up 60% year-over-year.

[CNN Money]

TIME Terrorism

Could Twitter and Facebook Stop the Next Terrorist Attack?

Social Media Illustrations
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Legislation would require them to alert law enforcement of possible attacks

Tech firms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo are fighting another battle in Washington of late, this time to resist pending legislation that would require them to alert law enforcement of possible terrorist attacks, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The legislation, which has been proposed as a part of a larger intelligence bill, is now under review by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It’s inspired by the fact that terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State have increasingly used social media to recruit and disseminate propaganda. Nevertheless, the tech firms feel that the language in the proposed bill is too broad, and “would potentially put companies on the hook legally if they miss a tweet, video or blog that hints of an attack,” the AP said.

The firms have also reportedly said in private meetings that they are already doing their part by banning “grisly content like beheadings and [alerting] law enforcement if they suspect someone might get hurt, as soon as they are aware of a threat.”

MONEY privacy

Your Facebook Photos Are Fair Game for Prosecutors

facebook-privacy-new-york-court
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

A state appeals court ruling this week has big privacy implications.

A New York state court ruled Tuesday that Facebook must comply with search warrants allowing government prosecutors to sift through users’ photos, messages and personal account information as part of an investigation of Social Security fraud.

The appeals court ruling said that the social network cannot challenge search warrants for 381 users’ Facebook data, although individual defendants can move to suppress the evidence. New York law enforcement agents have used Facebook photos showing public employees riding jet skis, playing golf and performing martial arts to prove that the defendants were lying about physical disabilities, Reuters reports.

“In many cases, evidence on their Facebook accounts directly contradicted the lies the defendants told to the Social Security Administration,” a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office told Reuters.

So far, 108 people have pleaded guilty to felony charges, and they must pay back about $25 million, according to Bloomberg.

A Facebook spokesman told Reuters that the company—which has argued that the search warrants give prosecutors too much access to private information—is considering an appeal.

TIME georgia

This Adorable Photo of Two Dogs ‘Hugging’ Saved Their Lives

An anonymous vet saved the day

Puppy pals Kala and Keira were going to be put down if they weren’t rescued by the end of the day on Tuesday. Then Angels Among Us, a Georgia pet rescue charity, posted a photo of the two in an embrace.

“We’re so scared in here,” the post said, taking the voice of Kala, who is seen clinging to Keira, a boxer mix. “The people working in the shelters see how scared we are but just told each other that today is our deadline. We have to have someone rescue us or we’ll be ‘next.'”

Two hours and six minutes later, the two were adopted by an unnamed vet, the shelter said.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com