MENLO PARK, Calif.: Facebook will soon rely on centuries-old technology to try to prevent foreign meddling in U.S. elections: the post office.

Baffled in 2016 by Russian agents who bought ads to sway the U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook’s global politics and government outreach director, Katie Harbath, told a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State in Washington on Saturday that the company would send postcards to potential buyers of political ads to confirm they reside in the U.S.

The recipient would then have to enter a code in Facebook to continue buying the ad. The method will first apply to ads that name candidates ahead of the midterm elections in November, said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone.

The plan was unveiled a day after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians with interfering in the presidential election. Mueller’s indictment described how Russian agents stole social security numbers and other information from real Americans and used them to create bank and PayPal accounts in order to buy online ads. Agents also recruited Americans to do things such as hold up signs at rallies organized to create content for Russian-created social media posts.

Facebook uncovered some 3,000 Russian-linked ads on Facebook and Instagram bought before and after the November 2016 election that it says may have been seen by as many as 150 million users. But ads were only part of the problem, as the Mueller indictments say that Russian agents also set up fake pages with names such as “Secured Borders,” “Blacktivist” and “United Muslims of America” that had hundreds of thousands of followers.

Facebook did not say how the new postcard method of verification would prevent foreign agents from setting up local mailing addresses and hiring people in the U.S. to check them. But Stone said the method was “one piece of a much larger effort to address foreign electoral influence on our platform.”

Facebook’s efforts largely center around verifying people on the platform are who they say they are. To catch duplicitous ad-buyers, for instance, it is now testing out in Canada a system that allows people to see which ads are being bought by a Facebook page — say, a candidate’s — even if the person checking the ad is not in the group to whom the ad was intended to be shown.

Stone said Facebook was also able to detect and remove “tens of thousands” of fake Facebook pages in advance of French, German and British elections last year using improved machine learning techniques.

The company has said it would double the number of people working on its safety and security team to 20,000 this year and add 1,000 people to review advertising content.

Fairlawn polymer company A. Schulman Inc. is being purchased by a plastics and refining company for $2.25 billion.

LyondellBasell Industries, a publicly traded company with $34.5 billion in revenue last year, said it has a definitive agreement to purchase A. Schulman Inc. for $42 a share using cash on hand.

The purchase should be a good deal for both A. Schulman shareholders and its employees, Schulman Chief Executive Officer Joseph Gingo said.

While Gingo said he expects there will be some job and plant consolidations, the new corporate owner plans to invest in and grow Schulman’s business.

“I’m very encouraged. I really am,” he said. “I’m glad it’s a good deal for our shareholders. I also think it’s a good deal for our people.”

The agreement, announced Thursday morning before the stock market opened, will create a $4.6 billion combined business inside the larger corporate parent.

At one point in recent history, A. Schulman, which makes plastic compounds, composites and powders, was on the prowl for “transformative” acquisitions, including a failed $855 million bid in 2013 for specialty chemicals company Ferro Corp.

It ran into unexpected rocky financial waters following its $800 million purchase in 2015 of Citadel Plastic Holdings; A. Schulman subsequently filed a lawsuit claiming it was a victim of fraud in the purchase. The company wrote off about $200 million of the purchase.

In 2016, A. Schulman’s board fired Bernie Rzepka as its chief executive officer following a surprising lower earnings outlook and replaced him with Gingo, then the board chairman and the company’s former CEO who was initially hired in 2008 after 40 years with Goodyear.

About a month after Rzepka left, Schulman announced it had hired advisory firm Citi to help it with a business plan review and to look at strategic options.

All of that led to rumblings that A. Schulman could be putting itself up for sale.

Last September, A. Schulman agreed to expand its board of directors by two members, giving the additional seats to representatives of two of its largest shareholders.

Up until the purchase agreement was signed, A. Schulman was looking at a number of options, including continuing to operate as a standalone company, Gingo said.

“We wanted to look at every option,” he said. The company had an active search for a new CEO to succeed him right up until the sale announcement, he said. (Gingo’s two-year CEO contract expires in August.)

LyondellBasell’s per-share purchase price of $42 is an 8.7 percent premium over A. Schulman’s closing stock price on Wednesday.

A. Schulman shares popped above the $42 offer in trading Thursday. Shares were up $4.10, or 10.6 percent, to $42.75 at market’s close, and reached a 52-week high of $43.35 earlier in the day. Shares are up 14.6 percent since Jan. 1 and are up 26.8 percent from a year ago.

The higher trading range could mean some investors think a higher bid for Schulman may come in. But the more likely reason is investors anticipate Schulman winning a major lawsuit tied to its troubled Citadel acquisition, with the money eventually to be redistributed to shareholders, an industry analyst said.

Thursday’s announcement also raises questions about what will happen with A. Schulman’s Fairlawn presence. The company signed a 20-year lease when it moved into new corporate headquarters off Ridgewood Road in Fairlawn in 2013; it also has other facilities in the Akron area. A. Schulman is one of Fairlawn’s top five taxpayers.

In a conference call Thursday morning with industry analysts, LyondellBasell’s chief executive officer did not offer specifics on what impact the acquisition may have on A. Schulman employees, facilities and its Fairlawn headquarters.

Fairlawn Mayor Bill Roth said he and city leaders want to meet with the new owners to talk about the company’s future in the community. A. Schulman has been in Fairlawn since the 1970s.

“We’ve been told that things will pretty much stay the way they are,” Roth said.

The mayor added that the city has had a positive relationship with Schulman. “Schulman has been a very good company and we hope to continue the relationship,” he said.

Industry analyst Michael Hocevar of Northcoast Research in Cleveland said he would not be surprised if there eventually are local job cuts. He noted that LyondellBasell anticipates $150 million in annual savings, or synergies, after the acquisition and he thinks that dollar figure is “huge.” A. Schulman seems like a good fit with LyondellBasell, he said.

Cost savings could come in form of plant closings, consolidating back office operations and other areas, Hocevar said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are cuts in the Akron area. That’s just a guess on my part,” Hocevar said.

But Gingo said while there may be reductions in corporate overhead and possibly some plant closings, he does not think there will be major cutbacks.

“In my judgment, they are not going to be massive,” he said. There are not many areas where A. Schulman and LyondellBasell overlap in terms of product, he said.

“They are not competitors of ours,” Gingo said.

In addition, there should not be many overlapping jobs involving A. Schulman employees, Gingo said. A. Schulman has about 5,100 employees globally.

It does not make sense for company to pay $2.25 billion for another business to close a lot of plants and cut a lot of jobs, Gingo said.

“It probably creates a lot more developmental opportunities for our people,” said John Richardson, A. Schulman’s chief financial officer.

It’s likely that if A. Schulman had continued as an independent company, it would have experienced slow growth, perhaps coupled with job cuts, because of its significant debt levels and other financial matters related to its Citadel purchase, Gingo and Richardson said.

If the Citadel purchase had not turned out as it did, Gingo said it is his opinion that A. Schulman would be in a better position today.

Gingo said he had bittersweet feelings about the sale of the company because of his personal ties to A. Schulman.

LyondellBasell said it will assume all A. Schulman debt as part of the purchase. The company expects to close on the deal in the second half of the year, pending regulatory and other approvals.

LyondellBasell, which has its U.S. headquarters in Houston and other corporate offices in London and the Netherlands, describes itself as one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world. It has about 13,000 employees and is valued at about $43.4 billion, based on Thursday’s closing stock price of $109.97 per share.

Adding A. Schulman will help LyondellBasell create what it said is a “premier Advanced Polymer Solutions business with broad geographic reach, leading technologies and a diverse product portfolio.”

The two companies have complementary strengths, Bob Patel, chief executive officer of LyondellBasell, said in a conference call Thursday morning. His company’s $2.1 billion compounding business, with about 1,500 employees, is largely focused on the automotive market, while A. Schulman is in other industries.

He said LyondellBasell has been looking into buying A. Schulman for the last six months.

“It’s a business we thought of as a platform,” Patel said. “It makes us a great full-range compounding company.”

LyondellBasell said it expects to see $150 million in annual synergies in two years and that the purchase will add to the company’s earnings within a year of the deal closing.

“The acquisition of A. Schulman is a natural extension of our current platform. This combination will allow us to provide our customers with a wider range of innovative solutions while adding the ability to serve high-growth end markets beyond the automotive sector, such as packaging and consumer products, electronics and appliances, building and construction, and agriculture,” Patel said in a news release.

The transaction provides A. Schulman Inc. shareholders with a compelling, immediate cash premium, Gingo said in a statement.

“We are delighted to join forces with LyondellBasell, an industry leader we have admired for many years,” Gingo said. “The combined business will be better positioned to address a broader range of customer needs by integrating across applications and offering customers a wider range of solutions in attractive and growing markets. We also expect this combination to create significant opportunities for A. Schulman employees, whose professionalism and expertise will be integral to advancing LyondellBasell’s vision, values and commitment to making a positive global impact.”

Beacon Journal reporter Rick Armon contributed to this story. Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ

Diebold Nixdorf reported it lost money for the fourth quarter and for its full fiscal year even as revenue increased.

The company said it expects a smaller annual loss for the 2018 fiscal year, with revenue staying flat.

The Green ATM maker and financial software services firm reported a fourth- quarter loss of $108.3 million, or $1.43 a share, on revenue of $1.25 billion for the fourth quarter ending Dec. 31. That compares to a loss of $77.8 million, or $1.04 a share, on revenue of $1.24 billion a year ago.

The fourth quarter included a one-time charge of about $95 million because of recent U.S. tax reform. The company had positive adjusted earnings per share of 40 cents for the quarter.

For the full year, Diebold Nixdorf reported it lost $233.1 million, or $3.09 a share, on revenue of $4.6 billion. That compares to a loss of $33 million, or 48 cents per share, on revenue of $3.3 billion for fiscal 2016.

Diebold said it had positive adjusted earnings of $1.13 per share for the full year.

For 2018, Diebold Nixdorf said it expects to lose $40 million to $65 million, or 50 to 80 cents per share, on revenue of $4.5 billion to $4.7 billion. Adjusted earnings are expected to show a profit of $1 to $1.30 a share.

Shares were down 45 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $14.10 as of 3:07 p.m. Shares are down 14.1 percent since Jan. 1 and are down 48.4 percent from a year ago.

Company executives said in a conference call with industry analysts that Diebold Nixdorf was experiencing “challenged hardware sales” of its ATMs, while maintenance, service and software sales were up.

The company has reduced its annual ATM global manufacturing capacity from 180,000 units to 100,000 units, they said. The company also streamlined ATM models by more than 50 percent, they said.

“Our fourth quarter results were in-line with expectations,” Christopher A. Chapman, interim co-CEO and chief financial officer, Diebold Nixdorf, said in a news release. “We’re encouraged by the continued growth in services and software revenue. However, the hardware business continues to be under pressure in the banking market.”

Juergen Wunram, interim co-CEO and chief operating officer, said the company was encouraged by the continued strength of its retail business.

“The company is also experiencing solid demand for services and software, as we expand our leadership position in those areas,” Wunram said.

Shares in Goodyear sold off Thursday after the Akron tire maker reported a fourth-quarter loss.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. also finished fiscal 2017 with higher revenue but significantly lower net income than in 2016.

Goodyear lost $96 million, or 39 cents per share, on revenue of $4.07 billion for the fourth quarter ending Dec. 31. That compares to net income of $561 million, or $2.14 a share on revenue of $3.7 billion a year ago.

The fourth-quarter loss was largely attributable to a one-time $299 million noncash charge related to U.S. tax reform, the company said.

Goodyear had adjusted earnings per share of 99 cents compared to adjusted earnings of 95 cents a year ago.

For 2017, Goodyear had net income of $346 million, or $1.37 per share, on revenue of $15.4 billion. That’s 72.5 percent less than net income of $1.26 billion, or $4.74 a share, on revenue of $15.16 billion the company had in 2016. Full-year tire sales totaled 159.2 million, down 4 percent from 2016.

Shares fell even as Goodyear’s fourth-quarter earnings and revenue beat analyst expectations.

Goodyear reported its results before the stock market opened. Shares closed down $2.72 Thursday at $30.75, a 8.1 percent decline. The broader stock market also experienced a significant selloff Thursday.

Tire sales for the quarter totaled 42 million, up 2 percent from 2016. Replacement tire shipments were up 3 percent while original equipment tire volume was down 1 percent.

“Our fourth-quarter results were highlighted by our performance in the 17-inch-and-larger segment in consumer replacement, which delivered nearly double the industry growth in the U.S. and Europe,” Richard J. Kramer, chairman, chief executive officer and president, said in a news release. “Our strong volume recovery in the quarter gives us positive momentum as we head into 2018.”

Goodyear had 2017 segment operating income of $1.5 billion, down 23 percent from nearly $2 billion for 2016.

Goodyear said it experienced challenging global industry conditions in 2017 that included higher raw material costs, increased competition and weakening demand for original equipment and consumer replacement tires in the United States and Europe.

Full-year 2018 segment operating income is expected to range between $1.8 billion and $1.9 billion, Goodyear said. The company said it expects tire sales to rise 3 percent for the year.

The company also is “highly confident” it will have at least $2 billion of segment operating income in 2020, Kramer said. Segment operating income for 2020 could go as high as $2.4 billion with favorable market conditions and hard work on Goodyear’s part, Kramer said.

Laura Thompson, Goodyear’s chief financial officer, told industry analysts in a conference call that Goodyear’s projections do not contemplate a recession in the company’s key markets.

Goodyear expects strong demand over the next several years for replacement tires, Kramer said.

Goodyear’s introduction of the Assurance WeatherReady tire line in 2017 was the company’s most successful premium tire launch ever, he said.

Kramer said as he looks to 2020, he is confident Goodyear’s will execute its long-term strategy of profitable growth in key market segments and significantly grow earnings.

Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ

A New York investment firm that owns nearly 12 percent of Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises has disclosed it offered to buy all of the company in December.

The publicly traded firm also said in a regulatory filing this week it could try to put financially struggling B&W up for sale or make other significant changes “to enhance shareholder value.”

A B&W spokesman said the company had no comment on the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the SEC filing, Steel Partners Holdings, which owned 11.8 percent of B&W shares as of late January, says it offered on Dec. 15 to buy all remaining shares of the Charlotte, N.C.-based energy technology and coal boiler-maker company.

B&W, whose significant power segment division is largely based in Barberton, was unwilling to hold meaningful discussions on the offer, according to the SEC filing.

Shares of B&W closed down 16 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $5.89. Shares are up 3.7 percent since Jan. 1 and are down 64.9 percent from a year ago.

Steel Partners said it offered to pay $6 a share in mid-December for all of the stock it does not own in B&W. The $6 price at that time represented a 33 percent increase over B&W’s share price.

“[Steel Partners] intend to continue to communicate with the issuer’s management and board of directors about a broad range of strategic and operational matters, including, without limitation, a sale of [B&W], as a means of enhancing shareholder value,” the firm said in the SEC filing. Steel Partners said in its filing other options include potential changes in operations, management, board composition and more.

Steel Partners disclosed it owns 5,180,506 shares of B&W through a wholly owned subsidiary, Steel Excel, as of Jan. 26. That works out to 11.8 percent of all shares of B&W.

Steel Partners says on its website it owns companies in 18 nations that generate more than $3.4 billion in revenue and have more than 13,300 employees. It says it prefers to buy profitable companies but will consider “unprofitable bolt-on targets.”

The firm says its holdings are in industrial products, energy, defense, supply chain management and logistics, banking and youth sports. Those holdings include Aerojet Rocketdyne, API, Aviat Networks, JPS Composite Materials, WebBank, Steel Energy and Steel Sports, according to the Steel Partner’s web site.

Steel Partners Holdings stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SPLP.

The company has money to spend. In October, Steel Partners paid more than $100 million to buy the remaining 30 percent of shares it did not own in global industrial company Handy & Harman Ltd.

At Tuesday’s closing price of $5.89 a share, B&W had a market value of $259.5 million, based on number of shares outstanding.

B&W last week hired a new chief executive officer, Leslie C. Kass, 47, who succeeded Jim Ferland. Kass has been with B&W since 2013 and had been head of the company’s industrial segment.

Ferland is staying as executive chairman until the end of June when his employment contract ends.

B&W reported significant financial losses last year and laid off 60 Akron-area salaried employees, leaving about 770 employees in Barberton and Copley. The company in November announced a $45 million annual cost-savings program.

B&W was spun off in 2015 as a publicly traded company from what is now called BWX Technologies Inc.

Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ

The fast-growing Medina County business originally called Concept Services has a simpler name and soon will move — again — to a new headquarters.

The rebranded name, Concept, isn’t a radical departure from the original moniker.

And the future, larger headquarters for the business-to-business firm likewise sits near its current locale in Akron Medina Corporate Park off Medina Road (state Route 18) in Granger Township.

Still, both the shorter name and the bigger space are intended to better position Concept and accommodate continued growth, say the two brothers who 16 years ago in Wadsworth started what has now grown into a 130-plus employee firm.

Keep in mind they and others at the firm like saying the word “concept.” A lot.

“We’ve moved six times in the last X years. We’ve been constantly growing,” said Dan Harsh, Concept’s president and chief executive. He co-owns Concept with his brother, Greg, company vice president. And Jeff Harsh, Dan’s son, is vice president of operations.

Business leads

Concept’s core business, to put it very simply, involves employees making cold sales telephone calls all day long to generate business leads on behalf of clients. Closing a sale remains the primary responsibility of the client.

“We were founded back in 2002. And we were founded on a concept. And that’s how we came up with the name Concept Services,” Dan Harsh said. “We believed you had to separate new business development, lead generation, from any other part of your sales process. That was the concept. Over the years, that was the concept that built the company.”

The company has expanded beyond making sales calls. Other services include inside sales — what happens after successful cold calls — for clients, providing the behind-the-scenes live person engaging customers on chat pop-ups on business websites, and offering what is called customer relationship management, or CRM.

As Concept Services expanded its offerings, the management team also worked to streamline processes, Harsh said.

And that lead to streamlining the company name.

They started to look at rebranding Concept Services in September 2016, rejecting numerous other proposed name changes. They realized that “concept” was their building block, Harsh said.

“Why do we want to move from that?” he said. “We don’t want to say anything else but Concept. The concept has sold from the beginning, the concept sells today, the concept has moved us into all kinds of different areas.”

New logo

The new logo incorporates the name Concept — beginning with just a half, or cut-out, C — and an orange dot at the end.

“We do the front part of the sales process. And the front part of the sales process is represented by this missing C, because that’s what we do,” Harsh said. “We do the front piece so you can do the back end. And so, that’s the whole premise. It’s very clean, it’s very streamlined.”

As part of this latest iteration, Concept will merge its three offices, currently in close proximity to each other, under one roof. The move takes place in a couple of months into another part of the corporate park — when they first moved to the park in 2013 the company had 38 employees.

“This corporate headquarters will be 25,000 square feet,” Harsh said. “It will house up to 200 employees.”

Training facility

The headquarters will incorporate a 2,500-square-foot staff training facility that Concept will let outside businesses use as well.

As it has evolved over the years, Concept also has made changes to improve employee recruiting and retention.

“The nice thing about our business, people want it,” Harsh said. “The difficult thing about our business, it’s not an easy business to manage. It’s a tough job. Making calls all day, it’s not easy. Finding that right person and keeping that person is difficult.”

As a result, Concept’s merit increases are three times the national average for their industry, Harsh said.

The new headquarters also will have recreation and lounge areas, along with other touches that reflect a more modern approach to management and help employees with what can be a difficult job.

Regional expertise

When it comes to hiring, employees often are selected for certain geographic markets, Jeff Harsh said.

Someone who makes cold sales calls to businesses in New York City and New Jersey requires a different character and ability to carry on different type of conversation than would be required when calling on businesses, for example, in South Carolina, he said.

Concept also needs for people with Spanish language skills for customers who have business in South America and French language skills for Canadian business calls.

“We found that Canadian French is a very different type of French,” Jeff Harsh said. “There’s a certain dialect there. We actually had to find that kind of dialect to call into that area.”

In the meantime, Concept has launched a redesigned and rebranded website, http://www.conceptltd.com.

And the company’s executives hope everyone stays put for a while.

“We seem to be moving a lot,” Greg Harsh quipped.

Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ

SAN FRANCISCO: Apple is making more money than ever, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. Not with conspiracy theories swirling around Apple’s secret slowdown of older iPhones while a cloud of uncertainty looms over its high-priced iPhone X.

It’s a reality check for a company accustomed to an unflinchingly loyal customer base. Apple expected buyers to embrace the iPhone X as a revolutionary device worth its $1,000 price.

But it appears many Apple fans aren’t impressed enough with the iPhone X to ante up. Many are instead opting for other recently released models selling for $200 to $300 less.

And consumers disillusioned by the slowdown of older devices may be even less inclined to upgrade now. Apple is replacing old batteries for just $29, which should obviate the slowing.

Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises Inc. has a new chief executive officer.

The Charlotte, N.C., energy technology and coal-fired boiler company, which has a significant presence in Barberton, on Thursday announced that Leslie C. Kass is its new CEO, succeeding Jim Ferland, who is staying as executive chairman until the end of June when his employment contract ends.

Kass, who is 47, will also be a member of B&W’s board of directors.

She joined B&W in 2013 and recently was head of the company’s Industrial segment. She accepted the job of CEO on Wednesday.

B&W had promoted Kass in May to senior vice president, Industrial. Her previous jobs included vice president of retrofits, the largest business line in the company’s Power segment. Before joining B&W, Kass worked at Westinghouse, Entergy and Duke Energy.

B&W said Kass also has experience working with the financial community, shareholders and potential investors.

According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Kass will be paid a base salary of $750,000 per year. She also will have a target annual bonus equal to her annual salary and will be eligible for other bonuses and benefits, including an equity award valued at $1.5 million, according to the filing. She will receive 160 hours of vacation annually.

B&W said in its filing it continues to expect that the role of board chairman and CEO will remain separate.

B&W also has created a new committee that will work with management on initiatives started last year to improve the company’s finances and operations. Kass will be a member of the committee.

In addition, B&W named Mark A. Carano, senior vice president, Industrial and Corporate Development, as head of its Industrial segment. He joined B&W in 2013.

The changes come after B&W reported significant financial losses last year and laid off 60 Akron-area salaried employees, leaving about 770 employees in Barberton and in Copley. The company in November announced a $45 million annual cost-savings program.

B&W was spun off in 2015 as a publicly traded company from what is now called BWX Technologies Inc.

Ferland was named CEO of the former combined Babcock & Wilcox Co. in 2012. He previously was president of Westinghouse Electric Co.’s Americas division.

Upon the 2015 spinoff, Ferland became CEO of B&W Enterprises, which makes and services coal-fired boilers and pollution control equipment for power plants and is involved in related industries.

Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ

BOSTON: Child development experts and advocates are urging Facebook to pull the plug on its new messaging app aimed at kids.

A group letter sent Tuesday to CEO Mark Zuckerberg argues that younger children — the app is intended for those under 13 — aren’t ready to have social media accounts, navigate the complexities of online relationships or protect their own privacy.

Facebook launched the free Messenger Kids app in December, pitching it as a way for children to chat with family members and friends approved by parents. It doesn’t give kids separate Facebook or Messenger accounts. Rather, the app works as an extension of a parent’s account, and parents get controls such as the ability to decide who their kids can chat with.

The social media giant has said it fills “a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want.” But critics see the move as a way for Facebook to lure in a younger audience before they could move on to a rival service such as Snapchat.

“TARGETING YOUNGER CHILDREN”

A group of 100 experts, advocates and parenting organizations is contesting Facebook’s claims of filling a need. Led by the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the group includes psychiatrists, pediatricians, educators and the children’s music singer Raffi Cavoukian.

“Messenger Kids is not responding to a need — it is creating one,” the letter states. “It appeals primarily to children who otherwise would not have their own social media accounts.” Another passage criticized Facebook for “targeting younger children with a new product.”

In a statement, Facebook said on Monday that the app “helps parents and children to chat in a safer way,” and emphasized that parents are “always in control” of their kids’ activity. The social media giant added that it consulted with parenting experts and families, and said “there is no advertising in Messenger Kids.”

KIDS AND FACEBOOK

A variety of experts and technology insiders have begun questioning the effects smartphones and social media apps are having on people’s health and mental well-being — whether kids, teens or adults. Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, said late last year that the social media platform exploits “vulnerability in human psychology” to addict users. A chorus of other early employees and investors piled on with similar criticisms.

Many preteens have already found their way onto Facebook and more youth-oriented social media platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook’s own Instagram, despite internal rules that require users to be at least 13 years old. Those rules are based in part on federal law, which prohibits internet companies from collecting personal information on children without their parents’ permission and imposes restrictions on advertising to them.

Some companies have offered parental controls as a way of curbing unauthorized preteen use of their platforms. But Facebook’s new kid-focused app, which features animations and emojis, seems to cater to a younger audience, said Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

“It looks like something that would appeal to a 6-year-old or 7-year-old,” he said.

He said the app gets those younger ones used to Facebook’s platform “and then they transition to the mature version of Facebook.”

UNCERTAIN IMPACT

Facebook wouldn’t answer questions about how popular the messaging app has been. But App Annie, an app analytics firm, said Messenger Kids has been downloaded about 80,000 times on Apple’s iOS devices — iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch — since it launched on Dec. 4. It’s been in the top 40 most popular kids’ apps since then. That sounds like a lukewarm reception at best.

University of Michigan developmental behavioral pediatrician Jenny Radesky, who co-signed the letter, said she’s never met a parent who was clamoring to get their children onto social media at an earlier age.

“One can only assume that Facebook introduced it to engage users younger and younger,” Radesky said.

That’s troubling, she said, because younger children haven’t yet developed the cognitive skills that enable them to think about and regulate their thoughts and actions and “allow them to realize when persuasive technology design might be manipulating them.”

At the time it launched Messenger Kids, Facebook said it won’t show ads or collect data for marketing to kids. And it stressed that it won’t automatically move users to the regular Messenger or Facebook when they get old enough — though it might give them the option to move contacts to Messenger down the line.

———

Ortutay reported from New York.

Akron small businesses will be taking part in a first-of-its-kind initiative with eBay.

The 12-month pilot program, called Retail Revival, was announced Friday morning by Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and eBay Inc. President and CEO Devin Wenig.

Akron is the first U.S. city selected by eBay to take part in Retail Revival.

“We decided Akron was the place to try something really new,” said Wenig, eBay CEO since 2015.

As many as 40 brick-and-mortar businesses — primarily from Akron plus some from nearby Warren — likely will participate, according to the announcement inside the new Northside Marketplace off Furnace Street.

The local businesses will get exclusive support and resources, including training, to market their products and services on eBay. Discussions between Akron and eBay began about six months ago.

Horrigan called the Retail Revival program a “transformational new partnership” between the city and the $9 billion San Jose, Calif., e-commerce and online auction company.

“A partnership that will help make Akron a leader in the digital economy,” Horrigan said. “The program exists to help small local businesses and the broader community harness the power of technology and participate in the global marketplace.”

The city will work with eBay to identify businesses to participate in the program, Horrigan said. “It’s time we share our exceptional goods and customer service with the rest of the world.”

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said some people wrongly associate Northeast Ohio with the stigma of being the “Rust Belt.”

“That’s a very old perception. And that’s very definitely not who we are now,” he said. “And eBay has validated that.”

Plenty of potential

The Retail Revival initiative has regional and even statewide potential, Horrigan said.

Some Akron small business owners said they found out just recently that they were selected to be part of the experiment. The owners said they still needed to learn more on how the program will work. Retail Revival may formally kick off in March.

“One of the reasons we are here is because we feel wanted,” Wenig said. “We feel wanted by the small businesses. … We feel wanted by two very progressive local governments that say it’s time for change and we can revitalize our small business engine. And the entire U.S. economy is in a period of transition. We’re moving to a digital economy.”

While this was his first time in Akron, Wenig said, eBay has been in Ohio for nearly all 21 years of the company’s existence. Last year Ohio businesses did a billion dollars in sales on eBay, Wenig said.

“Summit County, almost $100 million,” he said. “There is a quiet economy that you may not even know about that is thriving on digital platforms like our own.”

Retail Revival is about helping small businesses grow and thrive in the digital economy and get on the global “digital highway,” Wenig said. The goal is not to just help Akron businesses grow locally but also help them grow around the world.

“We love entrepreneurs. We’re builders,” Wenig said. “And the sense I get is, Akron is a building town. That’s why we’re here. … Akron’s a building city, so let’s build something together.”

EBay will know the program is a success if the Akron retailers increase sales and hire more staff at the end of 12 months, Wenig said. The pilot program will be limited to a maximum of 50 businesses.

Akron small business owners who will be part of this initial Retail Revival program said they look forward to it.

“It’s still too soon to figure out exactly how it is going to work,” said Pete Smakula, owner of Electric Pete’s E-bikes at 331 S. Main St. He hopes to increase business and get more exposure.

Frank Miller III and Preston Clark, partners in 7th Floor Clothing, likewise hope the eBay program will increase sales and exposure. The small clothing company has already been highlighted by Akron native and NBA superstar LeBron James.

Filling the gap

Dominic Falcione, owner of Krunchworks, a custom furnishings and fixtures business, said because Retail Revival is about e-commerce, the online sales will help him fill a gap in his one-person shop in Akron.

John Buntin Jr., owner of Kenmore Komics & Games, also praised the initiative.

“This could actually work,” he said. While Buntin said he has sold on eBay “off and on” for about 20 years, he said the Retail Revival program appears to be more comprehensive. If the program helps local businesses such as his, then the city and county will also be participating in the success, Buntin said. “We’ll all grow and prosper.

Reporter Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected].

NEW YORK: Amazon is raising the price of its Prime membership monthly plan by nearly 20 percent. The fee of $99 for an annual membership will not change, the company said Friday.

The online retailer had added the monthly payment option about two years ago as a way to hook shoppers — especially during the holiday season — who wanted faster free shipping, but didn’t want to commit to an annual fee. The Seattle-based company does not disclose how many Prime members it has.

Besides free two-day shipping, Prime members get other perks, such as access to Amazon’s video and music streaming services.

Starting Friday, new monthly members will pay $12.99 a month, up from $10.99. Qualifying college students will pay $6.49 a month, up from $5.49. Amazon.com Inc. said existing monthly members will start paying the higher fees next month.

Amazon said its $5.99-a-month Prime membership for low-income people who receive government assistance is not affected by the price increase. Amazon launched the discounted Prime membership last year for people who have a valid Electronic Benefits Transfer card.

Associated Press

NEW YORK: Amazon narrowed its search for a second headquarters city Thursday to 20 locations, concentrated mostly in the East and the Midwest. Toronto made the list as well, as the company kept its international options open.

The online retailing giant said that after sorting through 238 proposals, the potential locations still include tech-strong places such as Boston and New York. Other contenders: Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; and Los Angeles, the only West Coast city to make the list.

Among those that didn’t make the cut were Detroit, a disappointment for those excited about progress since the city came out of bankruptcy, and Memphis, Tennessee, where Mayor Jim Strickland said the city gave it its “best shot.”

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough,” said Holly Sullivan, who oversees Amazon’s public policy. “All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.”

The Seattle-based company’s announcement last fall that it was looking for a second home touched off a fierce competition among states and cities looking to lure Amazon and its promise of 50,000 jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion.

Both Texas and Pennsylvania had two cities that made the cut: Austin and Dallas, and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the South, Miami and Atlanta are being considered.

Officials in cities that made the shortlist took the opportunity to further tout their cities, with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney noting “all that Philadelphia has to offer” and officials in Allegheny County, including Pittsburgh’s Mayor William Peduto, citing the region’s “world-class talent pool” and other advantages.

The other contenders: Denver; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; Northern Virginia; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Amazon said it will make a final selection sometime this year.

“It’s a long list, for a shortlist,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at job site Indeed.

He said Amazon may use the list to pit the locations against each other and get better tax breaks or incentives. Two metro areas, New York and Washington, have more than one location that made the list, increasing competition there, he said.

“It’s hard to say whether all these places are in play or Amazon wanted to encourage continued competition,” Kolko said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether locations would be able to change their proposals or offer better incentives, but said in a statement that it would “work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals.”

State and local governments played up the amenities they think make their locations the best choice for Amazon’s second headquarters. Some pulled off stunts to stand out, such as New York, which lit the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Some stunts didn’t work: Tucson, Arizona, which sent a 21-foot cactus to Seattle, did not make the list. Neither did Birmingham, Alabama, which installed giant replicas of Amazon’s Dash buttons.

The company had stipulated that it wanted to be near a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people; be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand the headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

But Amazon also made it very clear it wanted tax breaks, grants and any other incentives.

Some state and local governments have made public the details of the financial incentives they are dangling. Boston’s offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others. Before he left office Tuesday, Republican Gov. Chris Christie approved a measure to allow New Jersey to offer up to $5 billion to Amazon. Newark also proposes to give Amazon $2 billion in tax breaks.

But many of the state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the tax breaks or other financial incentives they offered. Of the 20 finalists, 13, including New York, Chicago and Miami, declined requests from The Associated Press to release their applications.

Several said they don’t want their competitors to know what they’re offering, a stance that open-government advocates criticized.

Amazon plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters, and the second home base will be “a full equal” to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had said.

The extra space will help the rapidly growing company, which had nearly 542,000 employees at the end of September, a 77 percent jump from the year before. Some of that growth came from Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition last year of natural foods grocer Whole Foods and its 89,000 employees.

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Associated Press writer Josh Cornfield in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

SAN FRANCISCO: Apple is planning to build another corporate campus and hire 20,000 workers during the next five years as part of a $350 billion commitment to the U.S. that will be partially financed by an upcoming windfall from the country’s new tax law.

The pledge announced Wednesday comes less than a month after Congress approved a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code championed by President Donald Trump that will increase corporate profits.

Besides dramatically lowering the standard corporate tax rate, the reforms offer a one-time break on cash being held overseas.

Apple plans to take advantage of that provision to bring back about $252 billion in offshore cash, generating a tax bill of roughly $38 billion. It’s something that Apple CEO Tim Cook promised the company would do if it could avoid being taxed at the 35 percent rate that had been in effect under the previous tax law.

About $75 billion of the $350 billion in U.S. investments will be paid from money that had been overseas, Apple estimated.

Companies who bring back money stashed overseas this year will be taxed at a 15.5 percent rate, below the new 21 percent rate for U.S. corporate profits under the new law. As a whole, corporate America has an estimated $2.6 trillion in overseas cash, with most of that concentrated in the technology industry, with Apple sitting at the top of the heap.

Analysts have been predicting that most of the overseas profits coming back to the U.S. would be plowed into paying shareholder dividends and buying back stock, something that happened the last time a one-time break on offshore profits was offered more than a decade ago.

While Apple is likely to return some of its overseas money to its shareholders, Wednesday’s announcement is designed to be a show of faith in the U.S. — the company’s largest market. The public show of support to the U.S. also helps the optics of a company that will still continue to make most of its iPhones, iPads and other gadgets in factories located in China and other faraway countries that offer cheaper labor.

“Apple is a success story that could only have happened in America, and we are proud to build on our long history of support for the U.S. economy,” Cook said.

Apple, which just spent an estimated $5 billion building a Cupertino, California, headquarters that resembles a giant spaceship, plans to announce the location of a second campus devoted to customer support later this year. The company didn’t say how big the second campus will be, or how many of the additional 20,000 workers that it plans to hire will be based there.

One thing is certain: Cities from across the U.S. will likely be offering Apple tax breaks and other incentives in an attempt to persuade the company to build its second campus in their towns.

That was what happened last year after Amazon announced it would build a second headquarters in North America to expand beyond its current Seattle home. The online retailer received 238 proposals from cities and regions in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Amazon is expected to announce the winning bid later this year.

MILWAUKEE: The next phase in data collection is right under your feet.

Online clicks give retailers valuable insight into consumer behavior, but what can they learn from footsteps? It’s a question Milwaukee-based startup Scanalytics is helping businesses explore with floor sensors that track people’s movements.

The sensors can also be used in office buildings to reduce energy costs and in nursing homes to determine when someone falls. But retailers make up the majority of Scanalytics’ customers, highlighting one of several efforts brick-and-mortar stores are undertaking to better understand consumer habits and catch up with e-commerce giant Amazon.

Physical stores have been at a disadvantage because they “don’t have that granular level of understanding as to where users are entering, what they’re doing, what shelves are not doing well, which aisles are not being visited,” said Brian Sathianathan, co-founder of Iterate.ai, a small Denver-based company that helps businesses find and test technologies from startups worldwide.

But it’s become easier for stores to track customers in recent years. With Wi-Fi — among the earliest available options — businesses can follow people when they connect to a store’s internet. One drawback is that not everyone logs on so the sample size is smaller. Another is that it’s not possible to tell whether someone is inches or feet away from a product.

Sunglass Hut and fragrance maker Jo Malone use laser and motion sensors to tell when a product is picked up but not bought, and make recommendations for similar items on an interactive display. Companies such as Toronto-based Vendlytics and San Francisco-based Prism use artificial intelligence with video cameras to analyze body motions. That can allow stores to deliver customized coupons to shoppers in real time on a digital shelf or on their cellphones, said Jon Nordmark, CEO of Iterate.ai.

With Scanalytics, Nordmark said, “to have (the sensors) be super useful for someone like a retailer, they may need to power other types of things,” like sending coupons to customers.

Scanalytics co-founder and CEO Joe Scanlin said that’s what his floor sensors are designed to do. For instance, the sensors read a customer’s unique foot compressions to track that person’s path to a digital display and how long the person stand in front of it before walking away, he said. Based on data collected over time, the floor sensors can tell a retailer the best time to offer a coupon or change the display before the customer loses interest.

“Something that in the moment will increase their propensity to purchase a product,” said Scanlin, 29, who started developing the paper-thin sensors that are 2-square feet (0.19-sq. meters) as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2012. He employs about 20 people.

Wisconsin-based bicycle retailer Wheel and Sprocket uses Scanalytics’ sensors — which can be tucked under utility mats — to count the number of customers entering each of its eight stores to help schedule staff.

“That’s our biggest variable expense,” said co-owner Noel Kegel. “That sort of makes or breaks our profitability.”

Kegel wants to eventually have sensors in more areas throughout his stores to measure where customers spend most of their time and what products are popular, but he said it’s too expensive right now.

The cost of having the sensors ranges from $20 to $1,000 per month, depending on square footage and add-on applications to analyze data or interact with digital signs, Scanlin said. He said he’s working with 150 customers in the U.S. and other countries and estimates that about 60 percent are retailers.

The emergence of tracking technologies is bound to raise concerns about privacy and surveillance. But Scanlin noted his sensors don’t collect personally identifying information.

Jeffrey Lenon, 47, who was recently shopping at the Shops of Grand Avenue mall in Milwaukee, said he wasn’t bothered by the idea of stores tracking foot traffic and buying habits.

“If that’s helping the retailer as far as tracking what sells and what no, I think it’s a good idea,” Lenon said.

These technologies have not become ubiquitous in the U.S. yet, but it’s only a matter of time, said Ghose Anindya, a business professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“In a couple of years this kind of conversation will be like part and parcel of everyday life. But I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said.

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Facebook is once again tweaking what you see to focus more on personal connections and take the spotlight off brands and news articles.

Facebook says it will highlight posts you are most likely to engage with and make time spent on social media more “meaningful.” That means cutting back on items that Facebook users tend to passively consume, including video.

To try to keep you glued to Facebook, it regularly updates the formula that decides what posts you see. With the latest update, the company says it’s focusing on what Facebook is for — connecting with people you know.

Here’s a look at some of the ways the company has changed the posts appearing in users’ customized news feeds, which launched in 2006, as well as some of the factors it uses in deciding what makes up those feeds.

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MAKING FACEBOOK “MEANINGFUL”

Last June, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would tweak its formulas to try to boost membership in “meaningful” groups. Whenever someone spends at least 30 minutes a week in a group, Facebook classifies it as “meaningful.” The company estimates that 130 million of its users are in such groups. It wants to increase that to more than a billion by 2022.

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DOWN WITH CLICKBAIT?

Facebook tweaked its news feed in 2014 to clamp down on “clickbait,” posts with grabby headlines like “you won’t believe what happened next” yet ultimately disappoint.

More clicks mean the posts would move higher in people’s news feeds, even if people don’t really want to see them. How does Facebook decide what’s clickbait? For one, it knows how much time you spend reading an article. A quick click generally means you’re not really interested in the post that was shared.

Facebook’s push worked. You’re much less likely to see clickbait these days.

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YOUR PERSONAL “NEWSPAPER”

In 2013, Zuckerberg said he wanted the news feed to look more like a digital newspaper, filled with information tailored to each user. The company gave you more ways to decide what you want or don’t want to see.

Later, the company expanded these tools to let you choose the friends and brands whose posts you want to see first. That means a news hound can choose to highlight news articles, for instance. You can also unfollow a specific friend’s posts, while still staying connected on Facebook; you can decide to follow that person again later.

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ADS ARE SEPARATE

The changes won’t affect how often you see advertisements, or as Facebook calls them, “sponsored posts.”

However, you can tell Facebook not to show a particular ad again, and Facebook will stop showing you that and will show something else instead. Over time, Facebook will tailor the ads it shows you based on such feedback.

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DATA RULES

It’s in Facebook’s best interest to show its more than 1 billion daily users stuff that will keep them interested — and keep them coming back. To that end, the company says it surveys tens of thousands of users each day to get a more complete picture of what people want to see.

——————————————————————————-

Q&A: WHAT FACEBOOK’S LATEST SHIFT COULD MEAN TO USERS, BUSINESSES

NEW YORK: In coming days, Facebook users will see fewer posts from publishers, businesses and celebs they follow. Instead, Facebook wants people to see more stuff from friends, family and other people they are likely to have “meaningful” conversations with — something the company laments has been lost in the sea of videos, news stories (real and fake), and viral quizzes on which “Big Bang Theory” character you are.

Here are some frequently asked questions about what users and businesses might expect from the changes.

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WHY IS FACEBOOK DOING THIS?

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been doing a bit of soul-searching about the negative effects his company may be having on society and its users’ psyches. He’s come a long way since November 2016, when he dismissed the notion that fake news on Facebook could have influenced the U.S. presidential election as a “pretty crazy idea .”

Now it’s his personal goal for 2018 to fix the site and weed out hate, abuse, meddling by malicious nation states, while also making it more “meaningful” and less depressing for users.

While he acknowledges that Facebook may never be completely free of malign influences, Zuckerberg says that the company currently makes “too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing the misuse of our tools.”

The company also faces pressure from regulators in the U.S. and abroad, and a growing backlash from academics, lawmakers and even early executives and investors about the ways in which social media may be leaving us depressed, isolated, bombarded by online trolls and addicted to our phones.

Facebook would much rather make changes on its own than have its hand forced by regulators — or to see disillusioned users move on to other, newer platforms.

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HOW WILL IT AFFECT THE COMPANY’S BUSINESS?

Facebook’s stock price dropped almost 6 percent on Friday morning before regaining some ground. That suggests investors take Facebook seriously when it says the move will likely make users spend less time on its service. Less time, of course, means fewer advertising eyeballs at any given time.

This is a huge shift for Facebook, which until recently has been laser-focused on keeping users glued to the service by offering a bevy of notifications and “engaging” but low-value material.

Facebook has been doing very well financially. Its stock hit an all-time high earlier this month, and the company’s market value is more than $522 billion. Its quarterly results routinely surpass Wall Street’s expectations.

So arguably the company can afford to shift its focus a bit away from quarterly profit gains and metrics like “user engagement” that get advertisers salivating. Zuckerberg already signaled this would happen late last year, when he said the company’s planned investments in preventing abuse would hurt profitability.

While the changes could hurt Facebook’s business in the short term, happier users could make for better profits over the long term. At least, that’s what the company hopes.

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IS THIS THE END FOR BRANDS AND PUBLISHERS ON FACEBOOK?

Many news organizations, bloggers and businesses have grown reliant on Facebook to spread information — articles, videos, infomercials — to their followers without paying for ads. The changes could jeopardize that route to their audiences, though some speculate it could be a ploy to force these companies to buy more Facebook ads.

“It’s obvious that the days of getting exposure as a business on Facebook are coming to an end,” said Michael Stelzner, the CEO of social media marketing company Social Media Examiner. While Facebook has made plenty of changes to its news feed algorithm in the past, he said, this time might be different.

That’s because Facebook is being “far more explicit” in its wording about what sorts of posts will diminish. “It has never been this black and white,” Stelzner said.

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WON’T THIS JUST REINFORCE THE “FILTER BUBBLES” THAT TRAP USERS AMONG THE LIKE-MINDED?

Do you enjoy arguing with people you disagree with? Maybe, maybe not. But Facebook’s goal is to make people happier using the site — not to expose them to opposing views. So yes, this is possible.

That said, company says this is how people make friends and interact with each other offline. We gravitate toward people like us. And Facebook says its own research shows that users are exposed to more divergent views on its platform than they would be otherwise. Of course, this is difficult to verify independently, since the company doesn’t often show that data to outsiders.

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ARE PEOPLE REALLY GOING TO SPEND LESS TIME ON FACEBOOK?

Admitting that its changes will likely reduce the time people spend on Facebook less was a big deal for the company. Video, especially, has been a big focus for the social media giant — and videos have been especially good at keeping users around. This latest move, however, will de-emphasize videos too.

While it’s too early to tell what users will do, there’s little reason not to trust Facebook on this particular question.

NEW YORK: Facebook is changing what its users will see to highlight posts they are most likely to engage with and make time spent on social media more “meaningful.”

By cutting back on items that Facebook users tend to passively consume, the change could hurt news organizations and other businesses that rely on Facebook to share their content.

The idea is to help users to connect with people they care about, not make them feel depressed and isolated.

“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post Thursday.

“We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”

Under the revised regime, there will be fewer posts from brands, pages and media companies and more from people. There will be fewer videos, which Facebook considers “passive.” People will likely spend less time on Facebook as a result, the company says.

That’s because even if people read such content on Facebook, they don’t necessarily comment or interact with it in other ways.

But Facebook gave scant details about how it would define what’s “meaningful.”

The changes could shrink the social media giant’s role as a major news source for many people.

“It’s in the same direction that Facebook has been pursuing for a while: offering a place for discussion among individuals, a community space, rather than being a news source,” said Oh Se-uk, a senior researcher on digital news at the Korea Press Foundation.

“It wants people who have been friends to become even closer, to have deeper discussions (on Facebook). Traffic to news media’s websites via Facebook will likely fall,” he said.

The move will not affect advertisements — users will continue to see the same ads they have before, “meaningful” or not.

But businesses that use Facebook to connect with their customers without paying for ads will also feel the pain.

Facebook has long been criticized for creating “filter bubbles,” the echo chambers of friends and like-minded people whose views are reinforced by their friends’ posts on the platform.

NEW YORK: Yahoo Sports will livestream all four divisional playoff games this weekend and the conference championships as an appetizer for next season when every game from the preseason to the Super Bowl will be livestreamed on its sports app.

Watching NFL games on your phone used to be mainly limited to Verizon customers but that changed now that Verizon owns Yahoo. So, now anyone is able to watch football games on the go for free on Yahoo’s app regardless of mobile network.

Fans have to download the Yahoo Sports app on iOS or Google Play and enable location services on their phone.

Saturday’s games are the Falcons-Eagles at 4:35 p.m. EST and Titans-Patriots at 8:15 p.m. Sunday’s games are at 1:05 p.m. (Jaguars-Steelers) and 4:40 p.m. (Saints-Vikings).

Yahoo Sports also will livestream the conference championships Jan. 21 and the Pro Bowl on Jan. 28.

Beginning next season, users will be able to stream in-market and national NFL games, including preseason, regular season, playoff games and the Super Bowl on the Yahoo Sports app regardless of mobile network.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP—NFL

NEW YORK: Now that federal telecom regulators have repealed net neutrality, it may be time to brace for the arrival of internet “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.”

The net neutrality rules just voted down by the Federal Communications Commission prohibited such “paid prioritization,” as it’s technically known. That’s when an internet provider such as Verizon or Comcast decides to charge services like YouTube or Amazon for faster access to users. Firms that decline to pay up could wind up in bumper-to-bumper slow lanes.

The Associated Press queried seven major internet providers about their post-net-neutrality plans, and all of them equivocated when asked if they might establish fast and slow lanes. None of the seven companies — Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Sprint and T-Mobile — would rule out the possibility. Most merely said they had “no plans” for paid prioritization, and a few declined to answer the question at all.

By contrast, several of these firms promised not to block or slow down specific internet sites and services, two other practices prohibited by the expiring net-neutrality rules. (Those rules won’t formally end until sometime in early 2018.) Any such move could set off a public uproar and might even trigger an antitrust investigation.

Here are the net-neutrality promises from the country’s biggest wireless and cable companies.

VERIZON

— FAST LANES: No specific response

— BLOCK OR SLOW DOWN SITES: Says it doesn’t do so, but declined to address the future

THE WORDS: In a Nov. 21 statement , Verizon senior vice president Kathy Grillo said: “We continue to believe that users should be able to access the internet when, where, and how they choose, and our customers will continue to do so.” Asked whether Verizon will continue not to block or throttle content or whether it will charge internet companies to get better access to customers, Young said Verizon “does not block or throttle content and that’s the bottom line.”

AT&T

— FAST LANES: No specific response

— BLOCK OR SLOW SITES: Says it “will not” do so

THE WORDS: Spokesman Mike Balmoris didn’t specifically answer when asked if AT&T will create fast lanes. In a Nov. 30 blog post , AT&T senior executive vice president Bob Quinn said: “We will not block websites, we will not throttle or degrade internet traffic based on content, and we will not unfairly discriminate in our treatment of internet traffic.”

COMCAST

— FAST LANES: Has “no plans” to create them

— BLOCK OR SLOW SITES: Says it “will not” do so

THE WORDS: In a Dec. 14 blog post , senior executive vice president David Cohen said: “We will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content on the Internet; we will be fully transparent with respect to our practices; and we have not entered into any paid prioritization arrangements, and we have no plans to do so.”

CHARTER

— FAST LANES: Says there are no plans to create them

—BLOCK OR SLOW DOWN SITES: Says it doesn’t do so and has “no plans” to change that

THE WORDS: In a Dec. 14 blog post : “We don’t slow down, block, or discriminate against lawful content. Simply put, we don’t interfere with the lawful online practices of our customers and we have no plans to change our practices.”

COX

— FAST LANES: Does not plan to create them

—BLOCK OR SLOW DOWN SITES: Says it doesn’t do so and has no plans to

THE WORDS: In an emailed statement on Dec. 14: “We do not block, throttle or otherwise interfere with consumers’ desire to go where they want on the Internet.” A spokesman said the company has no plans to block or throttle content or enter into paid prioritization agreements.

SPRINT

— FAST LANES: No specific response

—BLOCK OR SLOW DOWN SITES: Says it doesn’t block sites, but declined to address the future

THE WORDS: In a press release on Dec. 14, Sprint wrote: “Our position has been and continues to be that competition is the best way to promote an open internet.”

From its “open internet” website : “Sprint does not block sites based on content or subject.”

T-MOBILE

— FAST LANES: No response about future plans

— BLOCK OR SLOW DOWN SITES: No response about future plans

THE WORDS: A company spokeswoman pointed to a February 2015 statement from T-Mobile CEO John Legere: “We have always believed in competition and in a free, open Internet with rules that protect net neutrality — no blocking, no discrimination and transparency.”

FirstEnergy Corp. will build a $37 million, 88,000-square-foot Center for Advanced Technology building off Mull Avenue near its West Akron campus on White Pond Drive.

The Akron utility on Thursday announced plans for the center, which will be used to evaluate, test and train staff on new digital grid technologies. Once FirstEnergy gets the necessary permits from the city, it expects to break ground in the spring.

The training facility will support FirstEnergy’s efforts to modernize the electric grid across its six-state territory, the company said. The company has more than 24,000 miles of transmission lines in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York.

The new center is designed to provide engineers and other technicians with a hands-on environment for upgrading and maintaining the power grid by simulating real-world conditions on the electric transmission system, according to FirstEnergy.

The training center will be staffed by 20 to 25 FirstEnergy employees.

The new grid technologies FirstEnergy said it will train employees on include digital relay devices that can remotely pinpoint the location of an equipment failure. The facility also will be used for evaluating and testing equipment to ensure that it complies with the latest industry standards, including cybersecurity, FirstEnergy said.

The facility will have classroom space for up to 50 people.

“The center will directly support FirstEnergy’s efforts to design and build a smarter energy infrastructure,” Carl Bridenbaugh, vice president, transmission, said in a prepared statement. “Across our system, we’re replacing older, mechanical devices with new digital devices that can be remotely monitored and can react to real-time issues on the electric grid. Having a facility where we can evaluate and test these technologies under real-world conditions will help us keep power flowing to our customers around the clock.”

The center will support Energizing the Future, a multiyear initiative aimed at upgrading FirstEnergy’s transmission facilities with advanced equipment and technologies to reinforce the power grid and help reduce the frequency and duration of outages, the company said.

FirstEnergy expects to submit this project to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, meaning if it qualifies the center would meet the highest possible green building standards.

ATM maker Diebold Nixdorf’s job openings now include chief executive officer.

The Green company on Wednesday announced that Andreas “Andy” W. Mattes has resigned as its president and CEO, effective immediately.

Until a new CEO is hired, Diebold Nixdorf will have two interim co-presidents and co-CEOs, Christopher A. Chapman, 43, senior vice president and chief financial officer, and Juergen Wunram, 59, senior vice president and chief operating officer.

Diebold’s board of directors said it has created a search committee and hired executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles to find a new CEO.

Diebold Nixdorf shares closed down 50 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $18. Shares are down 28.4 percent since Jan. 1 while the broad S&P 500 index is up 19 percent and the tech-stock heavy NASDAQ composite is up 27.8 percent over the same period. Diebold Nixdorf shares are down 27.4 percent from a year ago.

Mattes, 55, a former Hewlett-Packard Co. and Siemens executive, was hired as Diebold’s CEO in the summer of 2013, succeeding Thomas Swidarski, who was fired in January that year after Diebold missed earnings targets. Swidarski also was criticized for not moving fast enough to transform the long-established $3 billion maker of automated teller machines and security systems.

Mattes engineered Diebold Inc.’s $1.8 billion purchase in 2016 of German ATM maker Wincor Nixdorf, with the newly merged company renamed Diebold Nixdorf. He also worked to speed up the company’s transition away from manufacturing to software and services.

But during Mattes’ tenure, Diebold Nixdorf reported some significant quarterly losses and its stock price fell.

The company in October reported a third-quarter loss of $35.4 million and also lowered its earnings and revenue outlook for the full year.

Mattes will be entitled to receive unemployment compensation under his employment agreement because the job termination was without cause, a Diebold Nixdorf filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed.

Having interim dual CEOs should not cause confusion within Diebold Nixdorf, company spokesman Mike Jacobsen said.

“The board felt it was the right thing for us to implement that kind of leadership structure,” he said.

Diebold Nixdorf has seasoned executives who are aligned with the company’s expectations, Jacobsen said. “Everybody knows what to do.”

Diebold Nixdorf Board Chairman Henry D.G. Wallace, 71, said in a statement, “Over the past several years, the company has achieved a great deal, including the acquisition of Wincor Nixdorf AG which created an industry leader with increased global scale and market diversity. We have made great strides in our integration through the launch of the DN2020 transformation program, and capturing substantial synergies with more on the way. We now look forward to a bright future as a unified company. We thank Andy for his vision and leadership, including overseeing the transaction and integration, and for bringing us to this point in our history.”

Gary G. Greenfield, 62, a partner in private equity firm Court Square Capital Partners, will become board chairman on Jan. 1. He has been a Diebold Nixdorf board member since 2014.

Greenfield said in a statement, “Given the significant changes taking place in our industry, now is the time for Diebold Nixdorf to leverage the full strength of the organization and enhance its focus on the new era of global connected commerce. I look forward to helping the board conduct a rigorous review of a diverse set of CEO candidates, so we can bring the expertise and knowledge necessary to lead Diebold Nixdorf into its next phase of growth.”

Diebold Nixdorf reaffirmed its full-year 2017 guidance of approximately $4.6 billion in revenue and adjusted earnings of $1.05 to $1.15 a share.

Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ.