Monday through Friday, Marketplace’s Molly Wood demystifies the digital economy in less than 10 minutes. Reporting from Oakland, California, she looks past the hype and ask tough questions about an industry that’s constantly changing.
July 30, 2021
The Activision Blizzard walkout could bring a reckoning for the video game industry
On Wednesday, hundreds of employees of video game company Activision Blizzard walked out. The protest followed a lawsuit from California regulators accusing the maker of World of Warcraft and Call of Duty of unfair pay and lack of advancement for women and a “frat boy drinking culture” at the company. Management eventually apologized for its initial, dismissive response to the lawsuit and promised to investigate. Sarah Needleman covers video games and technology for The Wall Street Journal. She said men have dominated the video game industry for years, despite a roughly 50-50 split among players.
July 29, 2021
When it comes to electric car charging, it’s all about location, location, location
Yesterday, the show focused on how the growing market for electric vehicles is affecting the supply chain for batteries. Today, how about where to charge all those batteries? Many people have electric cars, and a lot more will by 2025. Global sales will triple by 2025, according to IHS Markit. But it’s not just about the number of cars, it’s also about the number of available chargers. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Jessika Trancik, a professor at MIT who recently co-wrote an article on charger placement for Nature Energy. Trancik says for the EV market to grow, we’re going to need more chargers in the right places, especially at home.
July 28, 2021
The road to an electric vehicle future is paved with lithium
The electric vehicle market, while still small, has grown rapidly this year. Of course, a global shortage of microchips could slow things down. In the long term, there’s also the issue of availability of lithium, a soft, silvery metal that’s the key component in electric car batteries. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks to Chris Berry, a strategic metals consultant and president of House Mountain Partners. He says demand for lithium is expected to triple in the next five years which is why some automakers, like GM, have taken the unusual step of making deals with lithium mines directly.
July 27, 2021
Why it’s so hard for biographies about women to stay on Wikipedia
When you search for someone notable on the internet, one of the first things that often pops up is a link to their Wikipedia page. But if you’re looking for a notable woman, that might not be the case. There are about 1.5 million biographies on Wikipedia. Only about 19% of them are about women. And those that do get published are much more likely to be targeted for deletion, compared to biographies of men. That’s according to research by Francesca Tripodi, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks to Tripodi about her recent paper, “Ms. Categorized: Gender, notability, and inequality on Wikipedia.”
July 26, 2021
How technology is changing what happens after you flush
Let’s talk about gardening technology. Not some fancy gadget for monitoring water or sunlight, but technology that feeds the dirt itself. Washington, D.C.’s wastewater-treatment plant is one of the largest high-tech plants in the world. It uses a process akin to pressure cooking to turn what’s flushed down the toilet into fertilizer fit for planters at home. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams takes a tour to learn more about thermal hydrolysis tech.
July 23, 2021
How important is broadband to the $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan?
Optimists in Washington, including President Biden, are hoping debate on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package could start as early as Monday, just before the August recess. Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote to start that debate this week, pushing for more time to hammer out details. You’ve got the usual talk of roads and bridges, yes, but broadband is another key part of the bill, with a draft showing $65 billion devoted to expanding high-speed internet access across the country. Details are starting to emerge about what form that might take. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams interviews John Hendel, a technology reporter at Politico, who is covering the blow-by-blow.
July 22, 2021
Augmented reality may change how we see the world. Until then, we have Pokémon.
It’s been five years since Pokémon Go launched, sending kids and adults alike out into the streets, capturing Pokémon through their smartphones. It was one of the first massively successful augmented reality games, generating maps populated with the fantastical creatures based on actual maps. It tracks where players are in the real world to determine which Pokémon they can see. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks with John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, about the future of augmented reality.
July 21, 2021
Robots are making progress on space exploration, along with billionaires
High profile trips by billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have more people thinking about the future of space tourism. There’s a long way to go before that’s common, but one destination for would-be space explorers is Mars. NASA scientists are working on robots to help explore more of the planet first. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams talks with Ali Agha, a principal investigator and research technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who’s testing a fleet of robots, including ones from Boston Dynamics called Spot by sending them into caves in Northern California.
July 20, 2021
New evidence that your smartphone isn’t nearly as private as you hope
Seventeen international news organizations dropped the results of a sprawling and detailed investigation over the weekend. It’s called the Pegasus Project, and it found that Israeli surveillance tech firm NSO sold its software to clients who used it to spy on human rights activists, journalists and politicians. One surveillance tool, called Pegasus, could infect people’s smartphones, sometimes just by sending a text. It could collect emails, calls, social media posts, passwords, even activate the camera or microphone. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams and Molly Wood talk about the story.
July 19, 2021
The right to repair broken tech is key to farmers
The Federal Trade Commission is turning its attention to the right-to-repair movement — a pushback against manufacturers limiting who can repair the equipment they make. The agency put out a report on this in May that found “the burden of repair restrictions may fall more heavily on communities of color and lower-income communities.” The FTC is set to vote on Wednesday on next steps. One group watching this debate is farmers, as some companies that make farm equipment only allow repairs at their own dealerships. Kimberly Adams speaks to Terry Griffin, an agricultural economist with Kansas State University. He grew up on a farm in northeast Arkansas and says back then, DIY equipment repairs were just a part of life.
July 16, 2021
In the face of mass protests, the Cuban government turned off the internet
This week in Cuba, journalists, influencers and regular citizens posted scenes online from the country’s largest anti-government protests in decades. That is, until the government restricted access to a number of social media platforms. According to the internet monitoring firm NetBlocks, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and WhatsApp were all disrupted. There are reports that access returned by midweek. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams spoke with Isabella Alcañiz, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center at the University of Maryland, about the growing importance of internet access in Cuba.
July 15, 2021
The EU has led the charge on regulating Big Tech. What about disinformation?
Arguably one of the biggest problems facing the world right now is disinformation. It’s fueled everything from the spread of QAnon conspiracy theories to the Capitol Insurrection to anti-vaccination movements — all of which undermine democracy and public health. Lawmakers and researchers in the U.S. have demanded that social media platforms do more to deal with disinformation. But what about the European Union, which has aggressively regulated tech in other ways and has historically been more willing to police speech than the U.S. has? Host Molly Wood interviews Margarethe Vestager, executive vice president of the European Commission. Vestager oversaw an EU legislative proposal, the Digital Services Act, which would require online platforms to do more to tackle things like hate speech.
July 14, 2021
Europe shows a new way to think about regulating tech companies
The European Union has led the charge on regulating Big Tech companies for years now. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation was the first major rule on the transfer and tracking of personal data. The EU has also given the rest of the world a new way to think about tackling the American giants: Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon. Last year, the EU produced two proposals for regulation that labeled the biggest tech companies “gatekeepers” meaning they control or restrict access to other companies, apps or services. Host Molly Wood speaks with Margrethe Vestager, the executive vice president of the European Commission who oversaw the proposals.
July 13, 2021
Big Tech dodged one tax bullet, but another one is coming
European Union leaders said Monday they will delay, for now, plans for a digital tax that would require Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google to pay taxes anywhere they do business. That’s because, this weekend, leaders from the world’s 20 biggest economies agreed to try to create a global minimum tax. Host Molly Wood speaks to Margrethe Vestager, the executive vice president of the European Commission, who oversees competition and digital policy. She says the digital tax isn’t off the table, but tech will have to pay either way.
July 12, 2021
What does it take to get people to be kind online?
The neighborhood social media platform Nextdoor is planning to go public at a valuation of around $4.3 billion. The company says it saw astronomical growth in active users this past year. Its shares will trade under the ticker symbol “KIND” because part of the company’s mission, it says, is to cultivate kindness. At the same time, the platform has struggled to deal with hate speech and the spread of misinformation. Nextdoor says it is willing to accept a decline in user engagement if that means the platform has less racist speech. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks to Susan McGregor, a scholar with the Data Science Institute at Columbia University. McGregor says that even though people may know one another on Nextdoor, it doesn’t necessarily make them nicer.
July 9, 2021
What technology can and can’t do to aid first responders in Surfside
About two weeks ago, part of a 12-story condominium in Surfside, Florida, collapsed. Dozens of people were killed, and dozens more are unaccounted for. Images of cranes and giant shovels, along with lines of first responders carefully removing buckets of debris, reveal the scale of the difficult task of finding those still missing. While sniffer dogs and emergency personnel working by hand are still doing most of the work, there is a variety of technology, old and new, aiding them. First, in the attempt to rescue any survivors; now, for the recovery of victims and as part of the effort to understand why the building collapsed. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks with Robin Murphy, director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue.
July 8, 2021
Ever watch something on YouTube and wished you hadn’t? You’re not alone.
Most of what people watch on YouTube is recommended by YouTube’s algorithm. Finish one video on how to save a dying houseplant, and it might suggest more. But that system can also send users down rabbit holes that radicalize and misinform. For almost a year, the Mozilla Foundation has been tracking the viewing habits of more than 37,000 volunteers who installed a browser extension letting them identify videos they called “regrettable.” Mozilla found YouTube’s algorithm recommended 70% of those problematic videos. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks to Brandi Geurkink, senior manager of advocacy at Mozilla, who led the research effort.
July 7, 2021
There will be no return of the JEDI contract
If you land a contract with the Department of Defense, that’s usually big money. Unless, of course, the government changes its mind. That’s what happened to Microsoft this week when the Pentagon canceled the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud computing contract. The government controversially awarded that $10 billion contract to Microsoft in late 2019; Amazon immediately sued, saying former President Donald Trump exerted undue influence over the decision, which led to a long legal battle. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks with “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood about why the old contract no longer met the Pentagon’s needs.
July 6, 2021
Big social media firms commit to protecting women online, but what’s actually going to change?
More than a third of women report personal experiences with online violence. This month, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Google all signed on to new commitments to address online abuse and women’s safety on the web. The companies say they will test out new tools, including one that would give users the chance to put the brakes on a video that unexpectedly goes viral. Facebook, Twitter and Google didn’t make specific pledges about when they would be testing the new tools, but TikTok said its tests will start as early as this year.
July 5, 2021
There’s a new boss at the FCC … let’s … talk about the internet, shall we?
This episode originally aired May 5, 2021. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been focused on how the internet is everything. When it comes to federal policy governing the internet, the Federal Communications Commission is everything. Among other roles and responsibilities, the FCC maps out broadband access nationally and its maps are used to determine which areas receive billions of dollars in federal subsidies to help build out more infrastructure. But the data used to create those maps is flawed at best. Last year, Congress passed a law requiring the agency to correct that. Host Molly Wood speaks with the new acting chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, about expanding access — starting with those maps.