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After Taking a Pandemic Hit, Billboard Ad Companies See Signs of Hope

Jeremy Male is an executive in a branch of the advertising business — billboards — that took a huge hit in the spring. So he was heartened by what he saw this week on his commute from Greenwich, Conn., to his office in Manhattan.

Through the windows of the Metro North train and on his walk from Grand Central Terminal to the Chrysler Building, Mr. Male saw ads, ads, ads.

He is the chief executive of Outfront Media, a company that sells space on more than 500,000 billboards and other platforms in North America, including the sides of buses and the interiors of subway cars. And like other companies that specialize in so-called out-of-home display ads, Outfront Media has been hurt by the pandemic.

In an earnings report on Wednesday, Mr. Male said Outfront Media’s overall revenue for the second quarter of 2020, a three-month period of pandemic-related lockdowns across the United States, had declined nearly 50 percent from a year earlier.

It was a similar story for Clear Channel Outdoor, which sells space in 31 countries. On Friday the company said that its overall revenue fell nearly 55 percent during the same period. It was even worse for the advertising firm JCDecaux, which has more than 1 million promotional panels worldwide. Its advertising revenue sank nearly 66 percent.

Before worldwide lockdowns went into effect, out-of-home advertising was embracing digital innovation and growing faster than many other parts of the industry. But when the virus hit, budget-strapped companies scaled back how much they spent on marketing in general — and they were especially wary of buying ad space in shopping centers and along travel routes that fewer people were around to see.

To help them through the crisis, many billboard companies took out loans and renegotiated contracts with airports and public transit organizations, and members of JCDecaux’s board cut their compensation for the year by 25 percent.

A second wave of Covid-19 cases has disrupted reopening efforts, sparking renewed discussion about the future of urban living. But during a conference call with analysts this week, Mr. Male, of Outfront Media, said the return of out-of-home ads in New York suggested that cities “are going to be hugely relevant,” even after the pandemic. And that will be good for his part of the ad business: New York and Los Angeles represent 40 percent of Outfront Media’s revenues.

Advertising executives said this week that the worst may be over, as more people return to work or go on road trips. But any recovery will be gradual: Outfront Media expects billboard revenue to decline 25 percent during the third quarter, in comparison with the same period last year (after a second-quarter drop of 38 percent) while also forecasting that its revenue from transit ads will fall 65 percent.

Based partly on his observations, Mr. Male said that young people, a prime target for advertisers, would continue to flock to urban areas. “They ain’t going to be out in Westchester,” he said. “They’re going to want to be here in the city.”

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‘A Big Correction’: Pandemic Brings Change to ‘Bloated’ Ad Industry

The advertising industry’s tendency toward excess — catered parties in Las Vegas headlined by pop stars; unwieldy internal hierarchies stuffed with countless director roles; throw-it-at-the-wall ad placement — has persisted for years despite concerns about wastefulness.

The pandemic may force all of that to change.

Some people in the industry say a correction was necessary. Marketing budgets have dwindled as the coronavirus led to nationwide lockdowns and canceled events, and customers are no longer in the mood for flashy TV commercials or bright, cheerful billboards.

The research firm Forrester predicted last week that advertising spending in the United States would decline by 25 percent this year and would not recover until 2023. For Twitter, advertising revenue fell 23 percent in the most recent quarter. Now the platform has said it is looking into subscriptions and other ways to make money that do not depend on ads.

The ad giant Omnicom Group said on Tuesday that revenue in its second quarter slumped nearly 25 percent and that the decline “is expected to continue for the remainder of the year.” Like many of its peers, it laid off 6,100 employees, shed more than 1 million square feet of space, froze hiring and implemented some pay cuts.

In place of the pre-pandemic parties and dinners, the longtime advertising executive Gaston Legorburu has been going “from war room to war room” at Fortune 500 companies, where he said he found many advertising plans and marketing departments in limbo. His agency, Glue IQ, has placed interim workers at companies that have cut back their staffs.

“There’s a big correction — a lot of these teams have gotten too big and too bloated,” he said. “They’re now having the realization that they can do twice as much with half as many people.”


While the industry tightens, the ads it produces have become simpler and more practical. Campaigns are often produced quickly and on the cheap as companies have tried to adjust to the initial shock of lockdown, worldwide civil rights protests and the seesaw of reopenings that have sometimes been interrupted by new outbreaks.

More clients have asked that their ads be made by and feature a more diverse group of people, while also demanding more evidence that the ads are effective. Agencies have experimented with digital tools to help brands stay relevant, such as a “tension map” that analyzes online conversations around the country.

“This is an industry that is constantly talking about wanting to transform itself, but that is also constantly sticking to very traditional approaches,” said Marcelo Pascoa, the vice president for marketing for the beer brand Coors. “Old habits die hard, but people are being forced out of necessity to adapt faster.”

In 2020 and 2021, agencies will shed 52,000 jobs, according to Jay Pattisall, an analyst with Forrester. Half the jobs will not return, he predicted. Last week, the agency Wieden & Kennedy laid off 11 percent of its work force, citing “an impasse” with the pandemic. Havas, another large ad company that laid off employees, said that recovering “will undoubtedly take more time than hoped.”

“There will be fewer and smaller agencies that are just as capable, if not more capable, because they’ll lean on technology for basic tasks — like a bot that takes notes for you during a call, that processes the paperwork to hire an influencer for a campaign, or does audience analysis for a media planner,” Mr. Pattisall said.

Other work may go to part-time contractors, as companies seek flexibility, said Kenny Tomlin, who recently co-founded the digital agency CourtAvenue. Mr. Tomlin has helped connect Fortune 100 brands with “pre-tired” marketing professionals — workers who are on the cusp of retirement but still want occasional work.

“There are a lot of client engagements right now that are project-based, where they don’t want to sign multiyear retainment agreements, and they don’t know what their long-term budgets are,” Mr. Tomlin said.


Credit…Bud Light

The pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests have forced many companies to take a hard look at their marketing strategies. Visa said this month, during what it called “a time of great introspection and change,” that it would take bids from ad agencies hoping to become its go-to creative partner. The company, which spent $235 million on marketing in the first quarter of 2020, said it would consider candidates’ commitment to diversity in its review.

Coca-Cola is also “reassessing our overall marketing return on investment on everything from ad viewership across traditional media to improving effectiveness in digital,” James Quincey, the chief executive, said during a conference call last week. The company will “be judicious in our use of marketing,” he added, as it tries to track changes in regional lockdown policies.

But there are reasons for optimism. Dentsu, a major advertising holding company, has returned some agency employees to full shifts after moving them to reduced schedules. At the advertising and communications giant WPP, which has had more than 100,000 employees working from home for months, new business plunged early in the pandemic but has since recovered to early 2020 levels.

WPP and the rest of the country have “seen decades of innovation in a few short months,” said its chief executive, Mark Read.

Live sports, a magnet for advertising, may be on their way back, with the National Basketball Association season scheduled to restart July 30 and the National Hockey League set to return Aug. 1.

Ad space attached to four games that helped usher in the Major League Baseball season on Saturday quickly sold out, according to Fox Sports. More than 60 advertisers, such as Hankook Tire and Bud Light, participated. But that space may be at risk: More than a dozen Miami Marlins players and coaches have tested positive for the coronavirus after this weekend’s games, putting the rest of the shortened season in doubt.

Derek Andersen, the chief financial officer of Snap, warned on a conference call last week that the demand for ads in the third quarter of the year had “historically been bolstered by factors that appear unlikely to materialize in the same way they have in prior years, including the back-to-school season, film release schedules, and the operations of various sports leagues.”

The uncertainty has provided a challenge to an industry that tried to gauge the national mood.

“The consumer psyche and what they wanted to hear and needed to hear from brands would just change week to week,” said Chris Brandt, the chief marketing officer of Chipotle.

Filming restrictions meant that the restaurant chain had to turn to “really scrappy” tactics to produce ads, such as using FaceTime and previously created material. A recent campaign shot on a farm in Idaho cost “a fraction of what a full-blown production would have cost,” Mr. Brandt said.

“This is the new standard,” he said. “I don’t want to go back to every spot being half a million dollars.”

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Google Takes Aim at Amazon. Again.

Google is getting serious about competing with Amazon in online shopping — just like it did in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.

But in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grip America, the push to create an online shopping marketplace to compete with Amazon has taken on new urgency as consumers are avoiding stores and turning to the internet to fill more of their shopping needs.

On Thursday, Google announced that it would take steps to bring more sellers and products onto its shopping site by waiving sales commissions and allowing retailers to use popular third-party payment and order management services like Shopify instead of the company’s own systems. Currently, commissions on Google Shopping range from a 5 percent to 15 percent cut depending on the products.

Google is usually the starting point for finding information on the internet, but that is often not the case when consumers are searching for a product to buy. More consumers in the United States are turning first to Amazon to find products that they plan to purchase. This has allowed Amazon to build a rapidly growing advertising business, which is a threat to Google’s main financial engine.

Google’s seven-year battle to take on Amazon has had more lows than highs. In 2013, it started a shopping service called Google Shopping Express, offering free same-day delivery. It offered $95 annual memberships for faster delivery and it tried delivering groceries. Google eventually scrapped the efforts.

Google Express evolved into an online shopping mall filled with top retailers like Target and Best Buy. In 2017, it added Walmart to its virtual mall, but the partnership was short-lived. Last year, Google ditched Google Express for Google Shopping and introduced a buy button to allow shoppers to use credit cards stored with the company to complete the transaction without leaving the search engine.

This year, Google brought in Bill Ready, a former executive at PayPal, to be its president of commerce and to compete more successfully with Amazon.


Google announced in April that it would allow anyone to list products for free on its shopping site, reversing its previous policy of requiring sellers to buy an ad for products to appear. The company also announced that those free listings would appear on its search results. By eliminating the cost of listing and selling products, Google aims to make it more appealing for retailers to put products in front of the search engine’s enormous user base.

In an interview, Mr. Ready said most retailers were already lagging behind in e-commerce before the pandemic hit. And as more consumers moved to shop online in recent months, the gap has widened with much of the growth in online sales swallowed by a handful of players.

“We want to make sure selling online is easy and inexpensive,” he said.

The changes are expected to start immediately in the United States before rolling out to other countries later this year. Google also said sellers that have an inventory of products listed on Amazon can move them over to Google without changing the data format.

While all of Google’s moves are clearly aimed at unsettling Amazon, Mr. Ready wouldn’t address its Seattle rival and refused to utter the A-word even once in a 20-minute discussion. (He even dodged a question about what is the name of the giant rainforest in South America.)

The closest he came was not very close.

“Consumers benefit from a diverse and thriving ecosystem of sellers,” he said. “There is no one player that can serve all the needs of consumers.”

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Anti-Asian Harassment Is Surging. Can Ads and Hashtags Help?

A new public service announcement makes a point that federal leaders have largely overlooked: Asian-Americans are facing a surge of harassment linked to fears about the coronavirus pandemic.

The spot, which debuted on Tuesday, includes testimonials from a firefighter, a nurse, a driver, an artist, the celebrity chef Melissa King and others, who describe being told to “go back to China” or having people spit in their direction.

The somber ad, produced by the nonprofit Advertising Council with help from the Emmy-winning writer Alan Yang, ends with a request: “Fight the virus. Fight the bias.”

Anxiety about the novel respiratory virus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, has fueled xenophobia and bigotry toward people of Asian descent. A coalition of civil rights groups recorded more than 2,100 incidents in 15 weeks; the New York City Commission on Human Rights recently described a “sharp increase in instances of hostility and harassment.” A list of recent cases compiled by the Anti-Defamation League chronicles “surging reports of xenophobic and racist incidents,” including Asian-owned stores defaced with racist graffiti, video chats disrupted by anti-Asian comments and people being beaten or denied entry to businesses.

President Trump has repeatedly described the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” and, in recent weeks, as “kung flu,” despite saying publicly that it is “very important that we totally protect our Asian-American community in the United States” and that the pandemic is “not their fault in any way.” Inflammatory statements from leaders can exacerbate racist behavior, according to researchers and civil rights leaders.

The fight against pandemic-related harassment of Asian-Americans has largely fallen to civil rights groups, marketing agencies, social media accounts and nonprofit organizations, which have promoted hashtags like #IAmNotCovid19, #RacismIsAVirus, #HealthNotHate and #MakeNoiseToday.

Asiancy, an affinity group of the Wieden + Kennedy Portland ad agency, posted a video in May about the repercussions of recent anti-Asian discrimination. The marketing firm IW Group recruited actors, musicians, designers and influencers to participate in the #WashTheHate campaign.

The Ad Council, which also introduced a face mask initiative with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York this month, will roll out the new anti-harassment campaign online and on television.

The issue of racism toward Asians hit “very close to home,” said Mr. Yang, who is known for popular shows like “Parks and Recreation” and “Master of None.” He had just finished directing and publicizing “Tigertail,” a family drama made for Netflix featuring a nearly all-Asian and Asian-American cast.

Credit…The Ad Council

One of the lead “Tigertail” actors, Tzi Ma, was at a Whole Foods store in Pasadena, Calif., early in the outbreak when a man approached in a car and told Mr. Ma that he “should be quarantined,” Mr. Yang said. Later, during an interview with Mr. Yang on Instagram Live, viewers left comments saying he and the interviewer, an Asian man, were the same person.

“This wasn’t an abstract idea to me, something theoretical,” Mr. Yang said. “I knew people this was happening to.” He described the production process as “an emotionally fraught time,” when he toggled between overseeing the shoot over Zoom and attending Black Lives Matter protests.

The result, Mr. Yang said, is a rare example of a nationwide marketing effort focused on Asian issues, represented by Asian-Americans from a wide range of backgrounds.

“It’s very meaningful to me,” he said. “I never saw this growing up.”

In a Pew Research Center survey, 58 percent of English-speaking Asian-American adults said expressions of racist or insensitive views about Asians had become more common since the pandemic began. More than 30 percent said they had encountered slurs or racist jokes in recent months, and 26 percent said they feared being threatened or physically attacked because of their race — a higher percentage than for Black, white and Hispanic adults.

But many Americans, including several non-Asian members of the production team working on the Ad Council’s campaign, have been unaware of pandemic-related racism, Mr. Yang said.

Steven Moy, the chief executive of the Barbarian ad agency, said campaigns like this one were “a good starting point.”

“I don’t know if this is enough, or how effective it will be, but let’s do baby steps and create awareness,” he said. “I have not seen enough of this — we should do more.”

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A Rush to Use Black Art Leaves the Artists Feeling Used

The streets of New York were crowded with protesters when Shantell Martin received an email from an ad agency last month.

M:United, a firm owned by the global advertising company McCann, wanted to know if Ms. Martin, a Black artist, would be interested in creating a mural about the Black Lives Matter movement on Microsoft’s boarded-up Fifth Avenue storefront. And could she do it, the email said, “while the protests are still relevant and the boards are still up, ideally no later than this coming Sunday?”

Several other Black artists received the same email. In an open letter to Microsoft and McCann, Ms. Martin and the other artists described the invitation as “both shocking and somehow predictable.” They also wrote that it “betrays a telling and dangerous opportunism.”

“In their rush to portray a public solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, companies risk reinscribing what got us all here: the instrumentalization and exploitation of Black labor, ideas and talent for what is ultimately their own benefit and safety,” the group wrote.

The efforts of major companies to publicly support the protests against racism and police brutality have rung hollow for some Black workers in creative fields.

Artists, models, designers, copywriters and others said they had been drafted to lend legitimacy to companies that fail to live up to principles of diversity and inclusion. They said they had been pigeonholed for roles in ad campaigns or penalized when they raised objections about efforts they felt were insensitive, and had been underpaid, or not given proper credit for their work.

After Ms. Martin posted on Instagram on June 6 about the mural request, several McCann employees told her that the ad agency had reached out to her and other artists despite some internal objections about how the project was being handled, she said in an interview. Both Chris Capossela, the chief marketing officer of Microsoft, and Harris Diamond, the chief executive of McCann, apologized publicly to Ms. Martin on Twitter.

The language used in the email to Ms. Martin “was flat out wrong,” Mr. Diamond wrote. Microsoft said in a statement that the message was “an unacceptable mistake” and that the company took “full accountability.”

A group of marketing professionals, Lexie Pérez, Julian Cole, Stephanie Vitacca and Davis Ballard, began tracking the flood of company statements of solidarity in an open Google Slides document that they released on June 5. They noted that companies often seemed to be “seeking participation trophies” and trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement with “empty and vague platitudes,” providing no concrete plans for change and ignoring complaints of inequality internally.

“This is the current issue of the day,” said Sonya Grier, a marketing professor at American University. “It has become almost standard for companies to jump in, because everyone expects them to have some kind of social presence explaining how they align on race.”

So-called protest art has appeared on the doors and boarded windows of upscale brands like Free People, 7 For All Mankind and Hugo Boss. Scores of companies participated in #BlackoutTuesday on Instagram last month, posting black squares on their feeds with captions expressing solidarity with the movement.

But consumers are increasingly sensitive to how companies express their positions. Twenty percent of U.S. adults surveyed in late June said they would stop buying from a company deemed to be acting hypocritically on the issues of police violence and racial injustice, the polling and market research firm Opinium said last week.

After the publishing giant Condé Nast and the website Refinery29 publicly backed the Black Lives Matter movement, they faced accusations of mistreating employees of color. Leaked grooming guidelines for store employees of the Australian fashion label Zimmerman, which recently denounced racism and quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu on its Instagram account, were found to discriminate against Black women who wear their hair naturally.

In a statement, Zimmerman said it condemned racism and was “determined to be part of meaningful and positive change in the global fashion industry.”

Ifeoma Ozoma, a former manager for the image-sharing web service Pinterest, said on Twitter that she and another Black woman had recently left the company after they were subjected to racist and sexist behavior. That behavior included negative feedback from a manager after Ms. Ozoma pushed back against the promotion of plantation weddings on the platform, she said.

The company said in a statement that it planned to diversify its board and commission an external review of employee pay.

Many creative workers are self-employed and are not protected by human resources departments or represented in corporate surveys. Many independent Black artists, like Ms. Martin, said they were frequently asked to provide input on diversity initiatives, but were not compensated as consultants.

Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times

Last month, the fashion designer Dionne Clouser saw a design from her Dionne by T brand replicated on the Instagram account of the fast fashion label Pretty Little Thing. She had seen her work borrowed without credit before, but this time, the theft seemed especially brazen. Just a few months earlier, Ms. Clouser said she had turned down an offer to be a brand ambassador for Pretty Little Thing.

But as a small-business owner with limited funds, she opted not to take on the far larger company in court. Pretty Little Thing declined to comment.

“I’ve gotten used to it, but it leaves a bad taste for me,” Ms. Clouser said.

Lydia Okello, a Black queer influencer who uses the pronouns they and them, said they also felt powerless pushing back against large fashion companies. Mx. Okello received an offer from Anthropologie of a free outfit if they published content on Instagram and provided several images to the company for a social media campaign pegged to Pride month. Mx. Okello responded with their standard rates, but said the producer who had reached out repeatedly evaded their request for payment — treatment that they did not believe a straight, white influencer would have experienced.

URBN, the company that owns Anthropologie, said in a statement that it “handled our overture to Lydia poorly.” The company said it was evaluating how to make future interactions with influencers more transparent and respectful while clarifying guidelines for compensation.

“I’ve worked as a Black creative all my adult life, and I’ve noticed that there’s often an assumption that you should feel flattered that this large company is reaching out to you, that it has noticed you, and that reflects a greater cultural narrative that the creative work of marginalized groups is less valuable,” Mx. Okello said. “It’s like, ‘Just shut up and take it, or we’ll find someone else.’”


Credit…Hannah Rebecca Ackeral

Exacerbating the problem is a lack of diversity in leadership roles in the industry. Ad agencies and marketing executives from companies such as General Motors, McDonald’s and Walmart vowed in a public letter to address the issue.

But the messages of solidarity, while encouraging, “ring hollow in the face of our daily lived experiences,” according to a letter signed by hundreds of Black advertising employees in June.

“You have extremely limited people of color in positions of authority at the same time that the marketplace itself is becoming much more diverse,” said Judy Foster Davis, a marketing professor at Eastern Michigan University, who has studied the troubled history of brands like Aunt Jemima. “Then, over the past few years, you see all sorts of marketing blunders.”

Recent gaffes have included racist ads and images from Volkswagen, Dove and H&M.

Saturday Morning, a creative collective focused on racial justice, which has worked with companies like Procter & Gamble and Spotify, issued a call last month for brands to “take bold steps.”

“In order for us to find true equality, there has to be sacrifice and not just sympathy,” said the group of Black advertising executives behind Saturday Morning. “Otherwise this moment will fade away like so many before it.”

Elizabeth Paton contributed reporting.

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Facebook Fails to Appease Organizers of Ad Boycott

SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s two top executives, met with civil rights groups on Tuesday in an attempt to mollify them over how the social network treats hate speech on its site.

But Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and Ms. Sandberg, the chief operating officer, failed to win its critics over.

For more than an hour over Zoom, the duo, along with other Facebook executives, discussed the company’s handling of hate speech with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Color of Change and other groups. Those organizations have recently helped push hundreds of companies, such as Unilever and Best Buy, to pause their advertising on Facebook to protest its handling of toxic speech and misinformation.

The groups said they discussed about 10 demands with Facebook’s leaders on Tuesday to help prevent vitriol and hate from spreading on its site. Those included Facebook hiring a top executive with a civil rights background, submitting to regular independent audits and updating its community standards, according to a statement from the Free Press advocacy group, whose co-chief executive, Jessica J. González, was on the call.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg agreed to hire a civil rights position, but they did not come to a resolution on most other requests, representatives of the groups said. Instead, they said, the Facebook executives reverted to “spin” and firing up its “powerful P.R. machine.”

“The company’s leaders delivered the same old talking points to try to placate us without meeting our demands,” Ms. González said.

Other civil rights leaders called the meeting “very disappointing” and blasted Facebook for being “functionally flawed.” In a media call after the meeting, Rashad Robinson, head of Color of Change, said of Facebook’s executives: “They showed up to the meeting expecting an A for attendance. Attending alone is not enough.”

Facebook said in a statement that the groups “want Facebook to be free of hate speech and so do we.” It reiterated it was taking steps to “keep hate off of our platform” and added, “We know we will be judged by our actions not by our words and are grateful to these groups and many others for their continued engagement.”

The wave of criticism showed how far Facebook is from reassuring its detractors, which is likely to lead to continued problems for the Silicon Valley giant. For weeks, the social network has faced increasing pressure to tackle toxic speech and misinformation on its site, fueled by inflammatory posts from President Trump and a backdrop of racial unrest in the country.

Rivals like Twitter and Snap have recently moved to label or play down untruthful or incendiary posts from Mr. Trump on their platforms, but Facebook has resisted labeling his posts as hate speech or taking the messages down. Mr. Zuckerberg has defended the hands-off approach by stressing the importance of free speech and arguing that Facebook is not an arbiter of posts.

That position has caused anger. Facebook’s own employees have pushed back, staging a virtual “walkout” last month to protest Mr. Zuckerberg’s position. Several weeks ago, the civil rights groups also organized an effort called “Stop Hate for Profit,” urging hundreds of advertisers to stop spending on Facebook because it had failed to curtail the spread of noxious content.

As the ad boycott has grown, Facebook executives have taken an increasingly conciliatory tone with advertisers and others. The company has about eight million advertisers whose spending accounts for more than 98 percent of its annual $70.7 billion in revenue.

As part of its response, Facebook said it planned to release the final part of a yearslong audit of its civil rights policies and practices on Wednesday. The auditors have been examining how Facebook handles issues like hate speech, election interference and algorithmic bias.

But the audit is “only as good as what Facebook ends up doing with the content,” Mr. Robinson said. Otherwise, he said, “it’s like going to the doctor, getting a new set of recommendations about your diet and then not doing anything about it and wondering why you’re not getting any healthier.”

Credit…Yana Paskova/Reuters

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the civil rights groups had sent over their list of 10 demands. Ms. Sandberg had appeared to offer an olive branch in a Facebook post on Tuesday morning, saying the company had a “big responsibility” to catch and remove hate speech. She also wrote that the company was “making changes — not for financial reasons or advertiser pressure, but because it is the right thing to do.”

“Being a platform where everyone can make their voice heard is core to our mission, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for people to spread hate,” she wrote. “It’s not.”

But the meeting itself was largely a retread of the “same conversation from the past two years,” in which Facebook executives have a pleasant dialogue, but then set “no actionable steps,” Derrick Johnson, chief executive of the N.A.A.C.P., said in an interview.

He said he was particularly disappointed that no Facebook executive had any specific answer or reply to their list of demands, aside from platitudes.

“Over the two years that the N.A.A.C.P. has been in conversation with Facebook, we’ve watched the dialogue blossom into nothingness,” Mr. Johnson said. “They lack this cultural sensitivity to understand that their platform is actually being used to cause harm, or they understand the harm that the platform is causing and they have chosen to take the profit as opposed to protecting the people.”

Later on Tuesday, the Facebook executives met with another group of civil rights experts, including Vanita Gupta from the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights.

Ms. Gupta said in an interview after that voter suppression and misinformation on the platform were “still not being adequately addressed.” She added that Facebook faced multiple pressure points from the boycott and its own employees, meaning that “the asks of the civil rights community are unified, but there are different strategies being deployed.”

There are questions as to how effective the ad boycott will ultimately be in moving Facebook to make changes. In a private meeting last week with employees, Mr. Zuckerberg said he expected advertisers to eventually return to purchasing ads on the platform.

Some boycott participants are pulling ads from Facebook for only the month of July, while others have pledged to stay away until the company makes major changes to its content moderation policies. Several advertisers, such as Unilever, decided to exclude multiple social platforms, such as Twitter.

Most of the protesting companies are still using Facebook to reach consumers, often by posting unpaid content. But this week, the publisher Stuff, New Zealand’s largest media company, said it would experiment with stopping all activity on Facebook and Instagram, having already backed away from advertising on Facebook last year.

The leaders of the ad boycott said that beyond Facebook, all social media companies needed to do a better job of policing content and defending against hate speech on their platforms. But given that Facebook was the largest social network, they said, it deserved the most scrutiny.

Even if Facebook did not feel accountable to the civil rights groups, said Ms. González of Free Press, Mr. Zuckerberg will be testifying in front of Congress on July 27 as part of an antitrust hearing with the chief executives of Apple, Google and Amazon.

“Is he going to come over to the right side of history, or face accountability in other ways?” Ms. González said.

Mike Isaac reported from San Francisco and Tiffany Hsu from Hoboken, N.J. Nicholas Corasaniti contributed reporting from Brooklyn.

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Reddit’s Steve Huffman on Banning ‘The_Donald’ Subreddit

On Monday, Reddit — a site that for years was considered one of the internet’s dirtiest sludge pits — barred more than 2,000 communities as part of a broad crackdown on hate speech.

The crackdown’s most notable casualty was Reddit’s largest pro-Trump community, r/The_Donald. The group, which had nearly 800,000 subscribers, served as a virtual gathering place for President Trump’s fans, and a source of countless memes, slogans and conspiracy theories that made their way into the broader online conversation. (In more recent years, it had devolved into a cesspool of racism, violent threats and targeted harassment.)

These actions were a major shift for Reddit, which spent years resisting the idea of moderating users’ posts and refused to remove all but the worst content on its platform. Steve Huffman, Reddit’s co-founder and chief executive since 2015, when he returned to the company after six years away, has faced pressure to reckon with the site’s legacy of bigotry. This year, hundreds of Reddit moderators signed an open letter to Mr. Huffman and Reddit’s board demanding changes to the site’s policies.

On Monday, after the bans were announced, I interviewed Mr. Huffman about the decision to take down The_Donald and many other subreddits. These are edited excerpts from our conversation.

Can you explain, in the most succinct way possible, why you decided to take down these subreddits?

STEVE HUFFMAN Yes. We updated our content policy to add an explicit rule banning hate on Reddit, which has long been an implicit rule, somewhat by design. But not being explicit about it, I think, has caused all sorts of confusion over the years. And so we updated the rule.

And then any time we make a rule change, we evaluate communities against the rule change. And so, as a result, there were a number of communities we ended up banning.

A few weeks ago, you wrote a letter to your employees about Black Lives Matter and where Reddit stood on issues like hate and racism. How much do you think the political climate and the protests and the kind of reckoning we’re seeing played into this decision?

The current events certainly added more urgency to it. Now, that said, we’ve been working on an update to our content policy for quite some time, and we had a sense of where the gaps were, and the rough patches.

A few years ago, you were asked about banning The_Donald specifically, and you said “there are arguments on both sides, but ultimately, my view is that their anger comes from feeling like they don’t have a voice, so it won’t solve anything if I take away their voice.” What changed?

So The_Donald is complex, and I think reducing that community or any large political group to one thing or one viewpoint is impossible. One aspect of The_Donald is that it’s a very large political community that, at one point in time, represented the views of many Americans. Political speech is sacred in this country, and we applied that to Reddit as well.

At the same time, that community had rule-breaking content — content that was harassing or violence or bullying. And so our strategy has been to try to get that community to come in line with our content policies. We made moderator changes, different technical changes to try to bring The_Donald into line, some more successful than others, but ultimately not to the extent that we needed.

Something I’ve said many times is that the only way to scale moderation online is by working alongside our community members and the moderators, because they have the context to decide whether an individual piece of content is hateful or not, for example. Which means that if we don’t have agreement from our moderators and our communities that these are the rules that we’re all going to abide by, then a community that’s not willing to work with us has no place on Reddit. And I think that became abundantly clear with The_Donald over the years, and even the past few months.

Right now, Facebook is facing an advertiser boycott — companies pulling their ads in protest of the company’s policies and their failures to keep misinformation and hate speech off the platform. Reddit also has advertisers, who presumably have some of the same concerns. Was this a business decision?

No, although, of course, what you say is true — we have advertisers who care about these things. But this was a decision — a series of decisions, really — to make Reddit better.

The mission of Reddit is to bring community and belonging to everybody in the world. And we’ve long had this debate on Reddit and internally, weighing the trade-offs between speech and safety. There’s certain speech — for example, harassment and hate — that prevents other people from speaking. And if we have individuals and communities on Reddit that are preventing other people from using Reddit the way we intend, then that means they’re working directly against our mission.

In a call this week, you said something about how you were struggling to balance your values as an American with your values around human decency. Can you explain more what you meant by that?

I think this is something that a lot of people in the United States are going through right now.

When we started Reddit 15 years ago, we didn’t ban things. And it was easy, as it is for many young people, to make statements like that because: 1) I had more rigid political beliefs; and 2) I lacked perspective and real-world experience.

Over the years, we’ve been increasingly confronted with difficult decisions, and we have to weigh these trade-offs. And so here we are, believing that free speech and free expression are really important, and that’s one of the things that makes Reddit special, but at the same time, seeing that allowing everything is working against our mission.

The way out, for us, has been through our mission: What are we trying to accomplish on Reddit? And what’s the best path to get there?

You used to joke that you were Reddit’s “totally politically neutral C.E.O.” For a long time, it seemed like neutrality was sort of the aspirational goal of being a social media platform. And now it seems like a lot of platform leaders, you included, are admitting that that’s not a good goal, or at least not one that produces good outcomes. Do you think the era of the neutral platform is over?

I’m going to reject that statement just a little bit, in that banning hate and violence and bullying and harassment is less a political statement and more a statement of what are largely common values in this country. And there’s certainly the political debate over how far free speech should go. But just as in the United States, there’s no such thing as unfettered free speech, there are limits. And I will point out that the Supreme Court has also wrestled with this over hundreds of years, because these are really challenging debates.

I’m baiting you a little bit, so don’t ask the obvious follow-up question, but … although I have political views, they don’t surface through Reddit. And nobody, in all of my years on Reddit, has actually asked me my political views.

Well, OK What are your political views?

You’d have to give me a specific case. But I think my previous point stands, which is that working in service of our mission is not a hot take. Banning harassment is not a hot take.

But in today’s political environment, even saying something like “Black Lives Matter” places you on one side of a cultural divide and political divide. So how do you think about the fact that even if you don’t mean for these to be partisan decisions, people will interpret them as such?

You know, I think the answer is in your question. I think making statements, or making changes to our policies in the name of human decency, may be perceived as political statements. But for us, it’s doing the right thing and doing the practical thing.

In the past couple of weeks, the President has threatened to revoke legal protections for online companies, and he’s gone after Snapchat and Twitter and other platforms that have taken action against him. Are you worried about becoming a target of the president and his allies?

Well, I believe the latest thing through the Department of Justice was demanding that these platforms consistently enforce their terms of service. And so we are simply doing what he asked by enforcing our own terms of service.

I’m sure that will be a satisfactory answer to everyone in the Trump administration.

[Laughs] I think we’re good, right?

One thing that was said about social media for a long time, and that some platforms are still saying, is that social media is just a mirror for society. Like, the problems that exist on social media are just a reflection of the problems that exist in society, and the good things are a reflection as well. Do you think that analogy still holds?

Yes, but let me expand on that a little bit.

So when one looks into a mirror, the first thing they do is they see themselves. And the second thing they do is they fix their appearance. They brush their hair a little bit, or whatever. Mirrors aren’t one way, in that sense. It’s an opportunity to see what we really look like and decide, is that what we really want to be?

Nilay Patel, the editor in chief of The Verge, had an interesting tweet. The conversation was all about the political and legal and financial reasons that platforms might want to crack down on objectionable speech. And he said, “sometimes the answer is as simple as people looking at the thing that they’ve made and deciding that they would like to be more proud of it than they are.” Does that resonate with you?

It does. And to be honest, I’ve said those words at Reddit. When I came back my first day of 2015, I told the company “one of my goals is for you to be proud to work here.” Because back then, the company was not in a good place. The people who worked at Reddit simultaneously loved Reddit — you wouldn’t be at Reddit in 2015 unless you loved Reddit — and were not willing to wear their swag in public.

Like, their Reddit sweatshirts and T-shirts?

Precisely. And that made me sad. It’s, I think, a very natural human thing to want to make the world a better place. I know those words are cheap in this town, but some of us believe it.

Your general counsel said on Monday that there’s a place for President Trump on Reddit. But given how the president has been testing the limits and rules of all the platforms that he’s on, and creating all these headaches for their leaders, do you really want Mr. Trump on Reddit?

Look, nobody wants to be in an echo chamber, right? It’s boring and unhelpful to read a one-sided view of any issue. So we welcome political views across the spectrum. I think Trump’s rhetoric and campaign style is deliberately antagonistic, and that makes it easy to run afoul of our policies. But we have many conservatives on Reddit, and we have Trump supporters on Reddit who are perfectly capable of staying within our rules. And we hope that continues to be the case going forward.

Your co-founder Alexis Ohanian recently stepped down from Reddit’s board, saying that he wanted to make space for a Black board member. And when he made that announcement, he said that part of the reason that he did that was so that he’d have an answer when his daughter asked, “What did you do?” I don’t think you have kids, but when you’re making decisions like these, how much are you thinking about how future generations will look back on Reddit?

You know, when I look back on this time, and — hopefully — if I get to tell my kids about it, I can say that I didn’t quit, I was a part of this, and I did everything I could to stand up for my and our values, even though at times it’s very difficult.

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As Facebook Boycott Grows, Advertisers Grapple With Race

At this time of year, hordes of advertising executives are usually striking deals on yachts in the French Riviera or at meetings in Manhattan, not sitting at home worrying about their future.

But the industry, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, has watched its glamorous midyear calendar morph into a procession of video presentations recorded in bathrooms and backyard sheds. The discussions about audience metrics and targeting technologies have now expanded to include difficult reflections on systemic racism and concerns about an economy in recession.

The annual Cannes Lions advertising festival, which was supposed to take place this week in the south of France, was replaced by several days of online sessions featuring companies like Unilever and guests like Chelsea Clinton. The NewFronts, a separate series of springtime events in New York intended to showcase digital platforms such as Snap, TikTok and Roku, were instead streamed online this week. (YouTube sent out thousands of pizzas to accompany personalized videos.)

But many in the industry were distracted during the week by a growing boycott against Facebook, which Unilever, one of the largest advertisers in the world, joined on Friday. The effort involves dozens of advertisers, such as Honda, Verizon and Patagonia, that are displeased with the social media giant’s hands-off attitude toward posts from President Trump amid widespread protests against racism and police brutality.

Unilever said it would not run advertising on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter in the United States for at least the rest of the year, during a “polarized election period.” The company added in a statement that “continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society.” Unilever spent $42.4 million advertising on Facebook in the United States last year, according to the advertising analytics platform Pathmatics.

Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, said in an online speech for Cannes Lions on Wednesday that the company would not be “advertising on or near content that we determine is hateful, denigrating or discriminatory.” A spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble declined to say where the company advertises. Ad agencies like IPG Mediabrands said they were working with companies that wanted to cut ties with Facebook.

Coca-Cola said on Friday that it would stop all paid ads on social media platforms globally for at least 30 days, but would not join the official Facebook boycott. The company’s chief executive, James Quincey, said in a statement that it would use the time to re-evaluate its advertising standards and would inform the platforms that “we expect greater accountability, action and transparency from them.”

Coca-Cola spent $22.1 million on Facebook ads last year and more than $18 million on Twitter, according to Pathmatics.

Facebook spends billions of dollars a year to keep its platforms safe and works with outside experts to review and update its policies, the company said in a statement on Friday. But it added that “we know we have more work to do.”

The worldwide uproar over race after the police killing of George Floyd last month was never far from the NewFronts and Cannes presentations this week.

YouTube prefaced its session with a message from Susan Wojcicki, its chief executive, that highlighted black YouTube creators like Marques Brownlee and Greta Onieogou. Hulu kicked off its segment with the rapper RZA calling on viewers to “take action, help us fight against this systemic racism,” saying “you have the platform — use it.” Cannes Lions released a study on bias that found that people of color represented more than 46 percent of screen time in ads last year, but were less likely than white characters to be shown working or portrayed as “smart.”


Vice Media Group announced a plan at the NewFronts to expand its coverage of racism, which it called “The 8:46 Project,” a reference to the nearly nine minutes a police officer spent kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Vice also asked advertisers to reconsider the “antiquated practice of keyword blocklists,” which it said had recently hurt revenue by keeping ads from appearing next to content that mentions terms like “Black Lives Matter,” “protest” and even “Black people.”

The Vice presentation glossed over Refinery29, the women’s lifestyle publication it acquired last year, which faced accusations of discrimination from former employees this month.

Condé Nast’s presentation, however, dealt directly with what one executive called “the elephant in the kitchen”: concerns about racism that led to recent leadership changes at the food publication Bon Appétit and the Condé Nast Entertainment studio. Roger Lynch, Condé Nast’s chief executive, said in a live address that the company had been forced to “hold a mirror up to ourselves” and would create an antiracism advisory council.

“As society is changing, Condé Nast is changing,” he said.

Many of the NewFront sessions were also shot through with anxiety about the advertising industry’s health. Ad spending this year, excluding political advertising, will slump 13 percent in the United States and grow 4 percent next year, according to a forecast this month from GroupM, the media investing arm of the ad giant WPP. That estimate assumes that the reopening of the economy will continue without a resurgence of coronavirus cases pushing the country back into lockdown.


“When advertisers can’t predict what’s going to happen in July, it’s hard to make any substantial commitments for the remainder of the year,” said Christian Juhl, the global chief executive of GroupM. “The underlying economic understanding just isn’t in place right now for people to make a good bet.”

The reluctance to lock down long-term contracts has already led to calls for television networks to adjust how they sell space for commercials during the broadcast year, which starts in October. This week, while previewing programs during their Newfront presentations, many digital platforms tried to address the uncertainty by promising performance guarantees and flexibility in contracts.

Roku offered clients a range of options, including 14-day cancellations and the ability to quickly remove ads from areas where they are no longer relevant (for example, if local stay-at-home guidelines shift).

“The beauty of digital has always been the flexibility and fluidity; unlike linear television, where you commit to a year and you have some limited flexibility, there is a lot more agility built into the digital ecosystem,” said David Cohen, the president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau trade group, which organizes the Newfronts.

But this year, he said, “regardless of the media type, there’s not going to be a wholesale appetite for committing to a long-term deal without the opportunity to optimize or cancel based on business performance.”

The presentations also promoted technology that would allow viewers to shop directly from commercials. Using QR codes and push notifications on smartphones, Hulu said, viewers will be able to buy directly from companies like Sweetgreen and TheRealReal through ads made using its new GatewayGo format. Condé Nast’s Prime Shoppable technology will be featured in online programs from Vogue and GQ. “The Drop,” a show on Snapchat, will feature fashion collaborations that viewers can purchase while watching.

More than 12,500 people registered for the NewFronts, which wrapped up on Friday afternoon with a plea from the event’s host, the comedian Scott Rogowsky. “If you’re a brand, don’t be scared,” he said. “Stand up — this is your moment.”

Mike Isaac contributed reporting.

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For-Profit Colleges, Long Troubled, See Surge Amid Pandemic

In March, as colleges and universities shuttered campuses under a nationwide lockdown, Strayer University updated its website with a simple message: “Great things can happen at home.”

Capella University, owned by the same company as Strayer, has run ads promoting its flexibility in “uncertain times” and promising would-be transfer students that they can earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as a year.

Online for-profit colleges like these have seen an opportunity to increase enrollment during the coronavirus pandemic. Their flexible programs may be newly attractive to the many workers who have lost their jobs, to college students whose campuses are closed, and to those now seeking to change careers. The colleges’ parent companies often have substantial cash reserves that they can pump into tuition discounts and marketing at a time when public universities and nonprofit colleges are seeing their budgets disintegrate.

Few of the largest for-profit colleges operating primarily online have track records to justify the optimistic advertising pitches. Some have put students deep in debt while posting dismal graduation rates amid a history of investigations by state and federal agencies, including many that have led to substantial financial settlements.

Still, there is evidence that interest in the schools has increased.

“I hate to call anybody a winner in this crisis,” said Jeffrey M. Silber, managing director at BMO Capital Markets, a financial services company, “but I think growth will increase this fall and could continue thereafter.”

For-profit colleges have long devoted large sums to advertising, spending almost $400 per student in 2017, according to research from the Brookings Institution. For nonprofit institutions, that figure was $48, and for public colleges it was $14.

“Unfortunately, because of the financial distress a lot of not-for-profits are facing, they may have to cut back on marketing,” Mr. Silber said. “I think the for-profits may be at a competitive advantage.”

Ashford University has received so many new inquiries in recent months that it has announced plans to hire 200 additional “enrollment advisers” to field them. Another for-profit school that operates largely online, Grand Canyon University, says it has had a surge in enrollments. Capella and Strayer have also reported increases in requests for information.

The trend concerns many student-protection advocacy groups, which point out that the colleges that stand to gain are among those with the most troubling records. For the most part, the largest online for-profit universities have poor graduation rates — often no higher than 25 percent, and sometimes as low as in the single digits. Several have been accused of intentionally misleading students about potential job prospects to persuade them to enroll and often to take on tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Eileen Connor, the legal director at the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, said she was worried by the prospect of a resurgence for online, for-profit schools.

“In times of economic downturn, that’s when the for-profit colleges start to thrive,” she said. Online colleges “have a running start, especially now, when there’s an economic downturn keeping people in their homes,” she added. “That is a perfect storm for the thing that they’re trying to do.”

These schools often attract low-income, nontraditional college students who tend to have lower completion rates than those who enroll straight from high school and attend full time. Many have family pressures that interfere with study.

In recent earnings calls, many companies emphasized the quality of the education they provide. Karl McDonnell, the chief executive of Strategic Education Inc., the parent company of Capella and Strayer, told investors in March, “We’re going to continue to focus on maintaining the highest possible academic quality figuring that that’s really the best way to sort of position yourself vis-à-vis any kinds of regulatory or legislative initiatives.”

In the first quarter, Strategic Education took in $46.5 million in profit, up from $36.7 million over the same quarter last year. Its executive chairman, Robert Silberman, told investors that the company had a “fortress balance sheet with over $500 million in cash.”

Before the broad market decline last week, Strategic’s stock price had climbed steadily since early April, as had those of other publicly traded companies that own universities and college-related education services, including Grand Canyon Education Inc., Perdoceo Education Corporation and Zovio. But for many of their students, the future is precarious.

At Capella, only 11 percent of undergraduates earn a degree within eight years, according to the most recent federal statistics. At Strayer, graduation rates range from 3 percent at its Arkansas campus to a high of 27 percent in Virginia.

Fewer than a third of students at Perdoceo campuses graduate within eight years. The company’s schools were recently barred from receiving G.I. Bill money from new students after the Department of Veterans Affairs found that they had used sales and enrollment practices that were “erroneous, deceptive or misleading.”

Ashford University, owned by Zovio, had a 25 percent graduation rate, according to the most recent federal data. Those completing degrees had a median debt of $34,000 on leaving. Zovio is being sued by the California attorney general, accused of making false promises to students and using illegal debt collection practices. The company denies any wrongdoing.

For-profit schools made a similar play for students during the 2008 recession, as people searching for work in a shrinking job market sought new credentials at low cost. Enrollment at for-profit colleges climbed 24 percent at the height of the recession, according to an analysis by BMO Capital Markets.

Along with that surge came increased scrutiny. Government investigators concluded that two of the biggest for-profit operators, Corinthian Colleges Inc. and ITT Technical Institute, had mismanaged or failed to account for millions of dollars in federal financial aid. They were subsequently barred from receiving such aid, which led to their collapse. The companies were also accused of pushing students to take loans they could never expect to repay.

The Obama administration put rules in place to shut down programs whose graduates didn’t earn enough to pay back their student debt and to make it easier for students who had been defrauded to have their loans forgiven. Experts say conditions are ripe for new growth in the for-profit sector because the Trump administration has rolled back those changes.

“A lot of the pieces are in place to be right back where we were in 2008, and the regulations that had come out of lessons learned are being whittled away,” said Yan Cao, a fellow at the liberal-leaning Century Foundation who studies higher education.

The Trump administration’s Department of Education has disputed criticism of its oversight of for-profit colleges. It notes that it has expanded information on its websites to help students make informed choices.

Credit…Caitlin O’Hara for The New York Times

Shawn Cooper, an Air Force veteran, said he was twice given approval for his dissertation project at Capella and worked on it for months, only to be told that he needed to start over with a new topic. He said he was forced to leave, despite a 4.0 grade-point average.

Mr. Cooper says he owes more than $100,000 in student loans after his time at Capella. “At the end of the day, I feel like it’s all just a facade on their end,” he said. “Get people in, take their money and get them out, usually without anything to show for it.”

A lawsuit was filed against Capella seeking class-action status for students like Mr. Cooper who say the school intentionally and needlessly prolonged their doctoral programs, costing them tens of thousands of dollars. Last year, a judge allowed three counts in the suit to continue, all regarding the time it took a “typical” student to complete programs, but dismissed most other counts, including those about how long the programs were “designed” or “structured” to take.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 16, 2020

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.