Stocks in major technology companies fell steeply Friday, driving a market-wide slide epitomizing just how rough 2022 has been for markets.
In other news, the IRS is facing increased pressure to revamp its free online tax filing offerings after two chaotic filing years.
This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar, Chris Mills Rodrigo and Ines Kagubare. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Tech leads market slip
Stocks took steep losses Friday, closing a brutal month with a deep selloff driven largely by falling shares of technology companies.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed with a loss of more than 930 points, a decline of 2.8 percent, on the final trading day of April. The Dow ended April down more than 6 percent from the start of the month and nearly 10 percent from the beginning of 2022.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite took much heavier losses, dropping 4.2 percent on the day and more than 14 percent since the start of April — its worst monthly loss since 2008. The composite is also in what investors consider a bear market after dropping more than 20 percent from a record high set last year.
The S&P 500 closed with a loss of 3.6 percent and was down roughly 10 percent from the start of the month.
Stocks have fallen steadily through most of the year as a combination of high inflation, economic blowback from the war in Ukraine, stubborn pandemic-related supply challenges and the Federal Reserve’s ongoing interest rate hikes rattled investors. Major technology companies, which powered much of the past year’s sharp rise in the stock market, have been among the biggest losers in the current selloff.
Free online filing finally?
Following two chaotic tax filing seasons resulting in tens of millions of unprocessed returns, the IRS is being urged to develop more free online tax filing tools instead of doubling down on a decades-old program that prevented the agency from competing with private tax preparers.
Since 2002, the IRS has been bound by a non-compete clause in an agreement with Free File Inc., a group of private tax preparation companies that until recently included industry giants H&R Block and Intuit, maker of the popular software TurboTax.
Critics of the Free File program have long accused it of duplicity, saying that while it compels private companies to offer free filing options to lower and middle-income taxpayers, it’s actually designed to keep them using commercial products they shouldn’t have to pay for.
Now, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. government’s internal watchdog, is saying the IRS should reconsider a range of requirements in the program and work instead to “develop additional options for free online filing of tax returns that would reflect current guidelines for federal digital services.”
INTERNATIONAL SURVEILLANCE SPIKE
Court-approved warrants for domestic surveillance declined for the fourth straight year and warrantless surveillance of foreigners reached an all-time high, according to new figures provided by the intelligence community.
The data, released annually by the Office for the Director of National Intelligence, breaks down queries of spy agencies’ use of various surveillance privileges.
In 2021, courts approved warrants for wiretaps or physical searches against 376 targets under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a drop from the 451 served last year. The bulk, 309, were directed at those on U.S. soil who are neither citizens nor permanent residents.
Privacy advocates expressed concern over a significant uptick in the number of warrantless searches allowed under Section 702 of FISA, which permits intelligence agencies to surveil foreigners outside the U.S. who use U.S.-based products like Google without first getting a court’s approval.
AIRBNB EMBRACES REMOTE WORK
Airbnb announced Thursday that its employees will be permitted to live and work remotely anywhere in the country in which they work.
The company also said it would partner with certain locations to help them “attract remote workers.”
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky sent an email to employees Thursday announcing the change and predicting that remote work and flexibility are embedded into the future of the world.
Employees at large will be offered the option to work from home or in the office as they choose, though a few roles will still be required to work from a specific location.
BITS & PIECES
An op-ed to chew on: US needs more than one way to get to the moon — will Congress support competition?
Lighter click: Some can’t stop drinking wine
Notable links from around the web:
Musk told banks he will rein in Twitter pay, make money from tweets (Reuters / Krystal Hu and Anirban Sen)
Instacart Searches for a Direction as Its Pandemic Boom Fades (The New York Times / Kellen Browning and Erin Griffith)
An algorithm that screens for child neglect raises concerns (The Associated Press / Sally Ho and Garance Burke)
The Shadow Crew Who Encouraged Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover (The Wall Street Journal / Rob Copeland, Georgia Wells, Rebecca Elliott and Liz Hoffman)
One last thing: Flocking off
Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to purchase Twitter has prompted some notable users to mull leaving the social media site entirely.
Musk said he was buying Twitter as a way to protect free speech, declaring during a conference earlier this month that his offer was “not a way to sort of make money.”
But some big names, from politicians and activists to athletes and celebrities, have considering leaving a platform owned by the billionaire.
State Rep. Christine Morse (D-Mich.) described her future on the platform as “a wait and see approach.”
“As a Michigan politician, where misinformation and disinformation has been prolific and harmful, I am concerned about what that looks like,” Morse told Politico of a less moderated platform.
“I’m not gonna go log off Twitter at this moment in time, because I’m gonna wait to see what happens,” she added.
Author: Rebecca Klar