Mark Zuckerberg beats the FTC; Susan Zirinsky bets on Norah

Byers Market is a daily newsletter from NBC News senior media reporter Dylan Byers that takes you behind the scenes in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, New York and Washington.
Image:  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.Josh Edelson / AFP - Getty Images file

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By Dylan Byers

Good morning. 🇨🇳 While you were sleeping, China announced that its economy is growing at its weakest pace in 27 years amid ongoing trade tensions with the U.S.

• 📦 Today and tomorrow are Amazon Prime Day. Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez were spotted at Centre Court during the Wimbledon final.

Join the Market.


Mark Zuckerberg beats FTC

Moving the Market: The Federal Trade Commission's approval of a $5 billion fine against Facebook, which sources confirmed last week, represents a major victory for Mark Zuckerberg & Co. in their fight against the most punitive forms of government regulation.

• The FTC's fine, which Zuckerberg had been planning forsince April, will cost the company the equivalent of roughly one quarter of its annual profits, or less than 10 percent of its annual revenue.

• More importantly, the fine will leave Facebook's business model unscathed, imposing relatively mild oversight measures that do not stop the company from collecting and monetizing user data.

The big picture: The FTC fine is neither a punishment for, nor a prohibitive measure against, Facebook's data collection practices. It's ultimately just a line item in Facebook's operating budget.

• The market knows this, which is why Facebook stock surged after news of the fine broke on Friday. Never mind that it represents the biggest penalty the FTC has ever imposed on a tech firm.

The other big picture: The FTC's decision to fine Facebook without imposing "structural reforms," as Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., put it, highlights the U.S. government's inability to effectively regulate Silicon Valley.

• Reminder: Every time Zuckerberg says he welcomes regulation, he's reminding us ⁠— intentionally or not ⁠— how bad regulators are at regulating.

What's next: Facebook faces investigations and regulatory efforts in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere around the world "that will probably embroil it in policy debates and legal wrangling for years to come," NYT's Adam Satariano writes.

• In the U.S. alone, "the potential for a federal antitrust investigation looms, several state attorneys general have initiated investigations... and members of Congress are considering a federal privacy law and other restrictions."

And yet... the FTC move suggests that all of this impending pressure may be navigable and that all of the punishments may be tolerable. If you're Zuckerberg, you're singing and dancing.


Pete Buttigieg backs 'erasure'

Big in the Bay, big in the Beltway: Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg tells Recode's Kara Swisher he supports a national “right to be forgotten," similar to the European law that allows citizens to remove certain search results about themselves from the internet.

• "We’ll have to decide the difference between a piece of data that I hand to a company to use and make money off of, and something that is published," he says. "We need a national framework... and we need a national debate."

Plus: Buttigieg addresses the need for government regulation to shift the burden for policy decisions off of big tech, echoing a line often heard from the likes of Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai: "I don’t think a lot of the tech companies want to be adjudicating what hate speech is," he says.

The line that'll stick: “Every time a company the size of YouTube or Amazon or Google or Facebook makes a corporate policy decision, what they’re really doing is making a public policy decision... But they have none of the apparatus to make public policy, and I don’t think they want to."


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🇺🇸 Talk of the Trail 🇺🇸

The Week Ahead: Expect a major focus on race after President Donald Trump told progressive congresswomento "go back" and try to fix the "crime infested places" they "originally came from."

Plus, NYT's Jeremy Peters looks at Buttigieg's life in the closet, and his struggle "to overcome the fear that being gay was 'a career death sentence.'"


James Murdoch bets on V.R.

New wolf diaries: "James Murdoch... has added the biggest reported investment yet to his closely watched portfolio: a bet on the virtual-reality provider called the Void LLC," Bloomberg's Chris Palmeri and Anousha Sakoui report.

• "Murdoch has invested $20 million in the business, according to a person familiar with the transaction. He’s also taken a seat on the board."

• "He joins a high-profile list of investors, including Fidelity Management, Qualcomm Ventures and Walt Disney Co."

• "The company, based in Lindon, Utah, operates interactive entertainment experiences in 11 cities around the world."

The big picture: Murdoch is pursuing "a far-flung range of opportunities" in his new life as an investor following the sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney. "That’s included a Norwegian drone-technology company, a comic-book publisher and the venture capital firm Human Ventures."


Market Links

Ren Zhengfei plans extensive U.S. layoffs at Huawei (WSJ)

Peter Thiel wants the FBI and CIA to probe Google (Axios)

Tim Wu and Steve Hilton find common ground on tech (NYT)

Chris Lehmann pulls a homophobic op-ed from TNR (NBC)

Rahm Emanuel joins ABC News as a contributor (Hill)


Susan Zirinsky's 'News' bet

Big in Midtown: New CBS News chief Susan Zirinsky is in the headlines again ahead of Norah O'Donnell's debut on "CBS Evening News," which is being heralded in the press as a restoration of the Walter Cronkite era.

What's curious: None of these curtain-raisers mention that Zirinsky's other recent relaunch, "CBS This Morning," has been tanking in the ratings from day one — despite the presence of celebrity newswoman Gayle King.

The big picture: Zirinsky's much-discussed "turnaround" at CBS News in the wake of the David Rhodes chaos may not be a turnaround at all if she fails to get both the morning and evening programs off the ground.


'Lion King': Iger eyes China

Talk of Tinseltown: Disney's "The Lion King" opened to $54.7 million in its China debut this weekend ⁠— a promising sign for Bob Iger in the wake of mixed reviews in the U.S. that caught Disney off guard.

• The opening is higher than those of “The Jungle Book,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin," CNBC's Sarah Whitten reports.

• "'The Lion King' is already on track to be one of the most successful Disney titles in the country, according to local projections."

• "The strong opening abroad is a good sign for Disney [after] critics had mixed feelings about the reimagining."

The big picture: "Months after Disney’s 'Avengers: Endgame' became the second-highest-grossing movie in history, the studio has another shot at the upper echelons of the box office," WSJ's Erich Schwartzel writes.

What's next: "Analysts and box-office tracking services expect the new 'Lion King' to open with a domestic debut north of $170 million.... But industry executives are also expecting the movie to keep selling tickets for longer than usual..."

Bonus... Last night in London: Bob Iger, Beyoncé and Jay-Z mingled with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the film's European premiere.

🎬 What next: Brooks Barnes says Netflix's waiting room has become the hottest see-and-be-seen spot in Hollywood.

See you tomorrow.