Aarti Shahani

Aarti Shahani is a Tech Reporter on NPR's Business Desk, where she covers breaking news, and does investigative and enterprise reporting.

Since joining NPR's tech beat in May 2014, Shahani has reported from five countries and covered the world's biggest tech events, including the International Consumer Electronics Show.

In her first year, Shahani has shed light on hidden stories, such as the role of cyberstalking in domestic abuse, and the underground world of hackers. Shahani's reports have taken her to unlikely places – including a secretive Hollywood film set using drone cameras.

Before coming to NPR as a Kroc Fellow in 2011-2012, Shahani started a non-profit in her native New York City to help immigrant families facing deportation after September 11th. She notes she first met NPR as a source, pitching NPR a story about a detainee who'd died because of deliberate medical neglect. Of her unusual path to journalism, she notes, "Basically, I spent my 20s with prisoners. I'm spending my 30s with billionaires in Silicon Valley. And I've learned: People are just people."

Her reporting has been honored with a regional award from the Society of Professional Journalists for "Finding Hidden Genius"; a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for "On Immigration, High Tech and Ag Don't Meet, Literally"; and an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award for "Post Mortem: Death Investigation in America" with ProPublica, NPR, and Frontline.

Shahani received a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, with generous support from the University and the Paul & Daisy Soros fellowship. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago.

This week the chief of Facebook made an ambitious announcement, though it would have been easy to miss. It came Thursday afternoon – around the same time that President Donald Trump held his press conference. While the reality-TV icon is a genius at capturing our attention, the technology leader's words may prove to be more relevant to our lives, and more radical.

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I'm Robert Siegel with All Tech Considered.

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Editor's note: This story contains references to child pornography that some readers may find disturbing.

It's tempting to think of Facebook as pure entertainment — the dumb game you play when your boss looks away, or your date goes to the bathroom. But that's underestimating how powerful the Facebook empire has become. For some, the app is more important than a driver's license. People need it to contact colleagues, or even start and build businesses.

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Imagine that one day you're kicked off Facebook. It happens, regularly. You may not know why exactly. It looks like an algorithm may have done it — and now you need to reach a human being at the company to get back on. NPR has interviewed more than two dozen users in that situation — all people who rely on Facebook to do their work, make their living.

Their stories, which we'll share in a separate article, made us wonder: If you needed to reach Facebook, what would you do?

Many people would go online and search for "Facebook customer service."

Facebook is unveiling a new journalism project Wednesday. No, the Silicon Valley giant isn't hiring a team of reporters. Facebook says it wants engineers — the tech talent at local and global publishers — to tag-team earlier on to develop technologies that make Facebook a more powerful platform to distribute news and discuss it.

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For the most part, the tech industry did not support President-elect Trump. But he won, and now Trump is convening a technology summit this afternoon in New York City, and expects Silicon Valley leaders will be there.

One of the industry's luminaries — Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft — was already at Trump Tower Tuesday. He seemed to suggest Trump and the industry will reach an accommodation.

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The post-election uproar over fake news and far-right websites is taking its toll on the advertising industry. Kellogg's announced it is pulling ads from the site Breitbart — which publishes right-wing content. Other brands are planning similar moves. But there's one big reason to believe this is just a short-term reaction in the heat of the moment, not a long-term trend.

Editor's Note: This story contains images and language that some readers may find disturbing.

Mark Zuckerberg — one of the most insightful, adept leaders in the business world — has a problem. It's a problem he has been slow to acknowledge, even though it's become more apparent by the day.

Since Donald Trump's election victory, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has come out not once, but twice, to address the issue of fake news, inaccurate or simply false information that appears on the Web in the guise of journalism.

Mark Zuckerberg says the notion that fake news influenced the U.S. presidential election is "a pretty crazy idea."

In 2016, the polls got it wrong. They failed to predict that Donald Trump was winning key battleground states. But a startup in San Francisco says it spotted it well in advance, not because of the "enthusiasm gap" — Republicans turning out and Democrats staying at home. Instead, the startup Brigade's data pointed to a big crossover effect: Democrats voting for Trump in droves.

The company built an app that asks a simple question: Which candidate are you going to vote for?

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Cybersecurity has plagued this presidential election like no other in U.S. history. Earlier this week, the Obama administration indicated its plans to retaliate against Russia, in some way, for cyberattacks. Hacking came up, again, in the final presidential debate. Yet neither candidate is offering a roadmap for what to do on aggression, or how to handle foreign hackers.

There is a man who is a thorn in the side of Facebook — a problem that just won't go away. In 2008, Facebook sued him, saying he was a hacker and a spammer who was putting users at risk. But in a truly bizarre plot twist, he stood up to the Internet giant — and he has become the unlikely protagonist in a battle for your rights online.

Our protagonist

Steven Vachani and I are sitting at a Starbucks because, he doesn't want to say it, but: He doesn't have an office or a home in Silicon Valley anymore.

There is a startup in the love industry that promised to help people find real relationships — not just sex. But, as with so many things in love, it didn't go according to plan. The app became yet another hookup app. Today, after 10 months of soul-searching, the startup is making a very public commitment to change.

It's called Hinge, and it's based in Manhattan's Flatiron District. Back in January, it was coming to grips with a crisis.

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In Mountain View, Calif., a couple of miles down the road from Google, there's a new pizza shop. Only instead of a dozen blue-collar workers pouring marinara sauce, Zume Pizza has — you guessed it! — robots and algorithms running the show.

Their job is to solve a familiar problem: It's game night. You order pizza for you and your buddies. It arrives later than you'd hoped, aaaand it's cold.

"Pizza is not meant to sit in a cardboard box, ever," Zume co-founder Julia Collins says. "The best pizza you ever had came right out of the oven."

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It is tempting to make every fiasco at Facebook about the power (and the abuse of power) of the algorithm. The "napalm girl" controversy does not neatly fit that storyline. A little-known team of humans at Facebook decided to remove the iconic photo from the site this week.

That move revealed, in a klutzy way, just how much the company is struggling internally to exercise the most basic editorial judgment, despite claims by senior leadership that the system is working.

Zuckerberg's Silence

Computers have already beaten us at chess, Jeopardy and Go, the ancient board game from Asia. And now, in the raging war with machines, human beings have lost yet another battle — over typing.

Think before you post.

That's not the message you typically get from Internet companies. The ethos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is to (over) share. But Nextdoor, a social network, has decided to block users from publishing certain posts, specifically when they appear to be racial profiling.

A techie tackles race

Talking about race and racial profiling does not come naturally to Nirav Tolia, the CEO of Nextdoor. And yet, he's doing it anyway.

Uber and Lyft are fighting, on the same side, to make sure their drivers remain independent contractors — not employees entitled to benefits. So far, no court has compelled these ride-hailing companies to change that. But out in the free market, they're facing an unexpected battle: a new startup that's prepared to offer drivers full employee status.

Juno is not a scrappy, rinky-dink kind of startup. Its headquarters are in the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, 1 World Trade Center, on the 47th floor. There's a majestic view of the Hudson River.

Uber is plowing ahead with its ambitious plan to make self-driving cars a reality. The company will run an experiment in Pittsburgh, rolling out the first-ever self-driving fleet that's available to everyday customers.

Self-Driving Car Tourism

Uber won't specify exactly how many self-driving cars will hit the streets. But in the next few weeks, if you're in Pittsburgh and use your app, you might land in one of them.

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