How will tech companies cope with an office-free future?

What’s to become of the tech company office, and how do companies function without the structure that working together in the same building has traditionally provided us? That’s a monumental question facing tech companies today as they struggle to define their approach to work in a post-pandemic world.

Sure, there have been fully remote companies like GitLab for some time now, but the conventional wisdom prior to the pandemic was that you mostly needed to be in the same place to get serious work done.

This was certainly true for larger tech companies. Salesforce, Microsoft, Google, Meta, Amazon and Apple didn’t build sprawling campuses or skyscrapers across the world just to abandon them for no reason. They built them to house their workers and show off their sheer economic power. But when the pandemic hit in March 2020, it changed how we think of work, possibly forever.

Suddenly, we had a giant laboratory to experiment with everyone working from home, and while there are certainly some problems, depending on your business, your job, and, frankly, your living situation, it showed that whole categories of workers didn’t need to be sitting in a cubby farm inside a big building to get their jobs done — certainly not five days a week.

I spoke to a variety of people in the tech world, from consultants and investors to startup founders, to try and get a grip on exactly what the next phase of work is going to look like, and without a doubt, tech companies have at least become a lot more flexible when it comes to face time at the office.

Company policies are evolving

There is no one-size-fits-all answer here, but there are enough examples to suggest some shift away from the traditional office setup, even for well-established companies.

Airbnb will no longer offer COVID-19-related refunds beginning May 31

Airbnb today announced that it will soon no longer offer refunds for COVID-19-related circumstances, including cases where a guest or host becomes sick with COVID-19 — reflecting an update to the company’s extenuating circumstances policy. Beginning May 31, Airbnb hosts’ cancellation terms will apply “as usual,” Airbnb said, although certain reservations made before May 31 may still be eligible for a refund if they qualify under the company’s policy.

Airbnb — which just yesterday committed to a fully remote workplace — said that the change was made in consultation with its medical advisors.

“Some in the travel industry stopped this type of policy months ago, while others didn’t provide one at all,” the company wrote in a blog post. “[W]e feel the time is now right to take the same step.”

Early in the pandemic, Airbnb extended its extenuating circumstances policy to cover risks pertaining to the novel coronavirus, allowing guests to cancel and receive a full refund as well as hosts to cancel upcoming reservations penalty-free. The company also committed $250 million to help cover cancellations due to COVID-19, paying hosts 25% of what they’d normally receive through their cancellation policy.

The company’s IPO filing in November 2020 revealed the dramatic extent of the impact, including a 72% decline in revenue leading to 1,800 job cuts in May 2020.

Cost cutting and a doubling down on “experiences” and long-term stays helped Airbnb inch toward recovery. The company beat Wall Street estimates in Q4 2021, reporting $1.53 billion in revenue — up 78% from the $3.89 billion net loss it posted a year earlier. But nights and experiences bookings were down nearly 8% from the prior quarter, a figure which Airbnb is no doubt eager to turn around.

“[A]lmost two thirds of the world’s population have received at least one dose of a vaccination against COVID-19. And many countries have now implemented living with COVID-19 plans, as it becomes part of our world,” the company wrote in the post published today.

Spurred by economic and political pressures, some companies and policymakers have called for a “return to normal.” But health experts warn against prematurely lifting mitigation measures. While Uber and Lyft ended mask mandates in ride-shares and a federal judge in Florida struck down the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s mask rules, caseloads in New York City and Washington, D.C. rose. Just this week, a Princess Cruise Lines ship docked in San Francisco with 143 cases of COVID-19.

When contacted for clarification, an Airbnb spokesperson said that they didn’t have anything to share beyond the post.

COVID rapid tests available on e-commerce in China for the first time

China is allowing the public to take COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests for the first time as infection numbers hit a two-year high in recent days. Online marketplaces including JD.com and Meituan are now taking pre-orders for home test kits from government-approved manufacturers, including Shenzhen-based gene giant BGI. The products will also be available through drugstores nationwide.

For the past two years, China has upheld a “zero-COVID” containment policy that has kept its case numbers low, but the strategy is increasingly tested by the more contagious Omicron variant. China has relied exclusively on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, a type of molecular/nucleic acid test, to identify cases, unlike Western countries that have adopted rapid antigen tests as a commercially available alternative.

PCR tests, while widely recognized as more accurate than antigen tests, require healthcare professionals to collect samples which will then be sent to a lab for results. Antigen tests, in comparison, can be carried out at home and generate results in under an hour.

China’s drug regulator approved five COVID-19 antigen self-test products on Saturday, just a day after the country’s National Health Commission announced antigen detection had been added as an option of public testing.

The introduction of self-test kits is not to be taken as a signal that China is relaxing its zero-COVID strategy anytime soon. The health authority stated that rapid tests are aimed at aiding the early discovery of COVID infections while nucleic acid tests remain the benchmark standard for case confirmation.

At best, home kits will help take some pressure off an overwhelmed PCR testing regime. Local authorities in China usually order mass PCR testing whenever a few locally transmitted cases hit a city. In dense neighborhoods, residents often have to queue up hours for their swabs. The results from their PCR tests will then be digitally synced to a national “health code” on their phones, without which they’d be turned away by apartment compounds, restaurants, office buildings, or public transport.

Exactly how China will regulate the use of these self-test kits remain to be seen; for example, how does the government ensure residents will voluntarily inform the local authority when they receive a positive result at home? At least from what the preliminary government instructions say, home testing will still be monitored by “relevant administrative departments.”

Welcome to the it’s-so-subtle pivot season

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a fresh human-first take on this week’s startup news and trends. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

As late-stage tech startups face the changing environment in the public markets, their early-stage counterparts are in a different world altogether. The cohort has had access to ample capital in recent quarters, giving them a bubble of venture capital that somewhat protects them from rapid changes in the greater economy.

But while the bubble is not popping, it’s changing shape.

While we may not see early-stage startups go through aggressive rounds of layoffs or experience immediately slashed valuations due to shifting market conditions, there’s a different signal worth tracking: pivots. Pivots — a change in business strategy based on a new insight or market trend — are somewhat inevitable for young companies still chasing product-market fit. I’d argue that pivots are more important to track than a financing round because they give a snapshot of a startup reacting to a new tension in the market. Plus, unlike a funding round, a pivot is a definite signal that something is changing, a tension other than a cadre of investors affirming that a founder is onto something big.

After having conversations with a number of investors and founders, it’s clear that the coming weeks and months will include a lot of subtle shifts in how early-stage startups do business. Some may re-prioritize objectives to reduce risk, while others may pursue new, more near-term business models to finally get some revenue in the door.

For my full take on this topic, check out my TechCrunch+ column: “It’s pivot season for early-stage startups.” In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about an Epic deal, fintech going full stack and why one firm is going self-funded. As always, you can support me by sharing this newsletter, following me on Twitter or subscribing to my personal blog.

Deal of the week

Epic, the gaming creator of Fortnite, bought Bandcamp, a music marketplace where any musician can sell their music and keep 82% of the profits. The acquisition comes amid a broader conversation of the role (and power) of platforms in creators’ lives, making platforms like Bandcamp stand out simply due to alignment of incentives. Now that it is within Epic’s comfortable embrace, there’s a new chapter to analyze.

Here’s why it’s important, via Amanda Silberling:

“When artists see that a platform they use to make a living is being acquired, their usual reaction isn’t, ‘Oh, cool, they will have more funds to produce better features to help me monetize my creative work!’ They think, ‘Oh shit, not again.’

It happened when Google bought YouTube, and when Spotify bought Anchor. Artists recognize that when a platform changes ownership, even the smallest tweaks can impact their livelihoods. Why would artists trust Big Tech companies when Spotify payouts are dismal, OnlyFans temporarily made career-endangering decisions for sex workers, and Patreon flirts with the idea of crypto payments, a move many of its creators are strongly against?”

I wonder, of course, if the buy is in light of community, or just in pursuit of capitalism. We’ll talk about it on Equity next week, so tweet us your suggestions!

Honorable mentions:

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Is fintech playing offense or defense today?

On Equity this week, I spoke with Alex and Mary Ann about the state of fintech. It was partially inspired by Ramp’s expansion into travel, and Pipe’s acquisition of an, um, entertainment company (?!).

Here’s why it’s important: Beyond continuing the conversation of fintech going full stack, we worked through our biggest questions on fintech’s maturation at the moment. For example, if all fintechs become the same company over time, how do you differentiate when initially fighting for the same user cohort? The market made the conversation even more relevant, as public market repricings may be one trigger for fintech’s to pursue more proven revenue streams.

So what, SoFi?

Multi Colored Bling Bling Dollar Sign Shape Bokeh Backdrop on Dark Background, Finance Concept.

Image Credits: MirageC / Getty Images

Homebrew goes self-funded

Homebrew has a new cup of tea (or coffee, or beer, or beverage of your choosing). The venture capital firm is leaving its strictly seed-stage roots — and its traditional venture structure — and pursuing a more stage-agnostic evergreen model that is funded solely by Satya Patel and Hunter Walk, Homebrew’s general partners.

Here’s why it’s important: Homebrew’s pivot is happening at a crucial market moment for tech startups. Public tech stocks are being hammered regardless of sector. And while early-stage private startups seemingly remain largely unscathed, owing to an influx of venture capital, later-stage companies are finding themselves in a tougher position right now.

The move is also notable in a market where raising larger and larger (and larger) funds has become routine. Of course, the perennial challenge that comes when raising more capital is that an investor then has more pressure to deliver on those outcomes. You may have been able to provide outcomes at a 5x rate on a $15 million fund, but can you still hit venture-like targets when you ask them to back a $150 million fund? What about $1.5 billion?

Returns on returns:

Image Credits: Cometeer

Across the week

We get to hang out in person! Soon! Techcrunch Early Stage 2022 is April 14, aka right around the corner, and it’s in San Francisco. Join us for a one-day founder summit featuring GV’s Terri Burns, Greylock’s Glen Evans and Felicis’ Aydin Senkut. The TC team has been fiending to get back in person, so don’t be surprised if panels are a little spicier than usual.

Here’s the full agenda, and grab your launch tickets here.

​​Also, follow our newest producer for Equity: Maggie Stamets!

Seen on TechCrunch

Putting the autonomous cart before the robotic horse

YC-backed Blocknom wants to become the ‘Coinbase Earn of Southeast Asia’

Snowflake acquires Streamlit for $800M to help customers build data-based apps

Carl Pei’s Nothing is working on a smartphone

Seen on TechCrunch+

After 2 rejected deals, Zendesk considers its next steps

Corporations are scrambling to get into the venture game

Waabi’s Raquel Urtasun on the importance of differentiating your startup

Just how wrong were those SPAC projections?

What US startup founders need to know about the R&D tax credit

Until next time,

N

Spotify must be more transparent about its rules of the road

With the controversy surrounding Joe Rogan’s podcast, Spotify has officially joined the ranks of media platforms publicly defending their governance practices.

Rogan’s podcast is a harbinger of the company’s future — and that of social media. Platforms that didn’t think of themselves as social are now faced with managing user content and interaction. In the industry, we would say that Spotify has a “Trust & Safety” problem.

Spotify, and every other platform with user-generated content, is learning the hard way that they can’t stay out of the way and rely on users to post appropriate content that doesn’t flout company policies or social norms. Platforms are finding that they must become legitimate, active authority figures, not passive publishers. Research shows that they can start by generating trust with users and building expectations of good conduct.

Rogan is just one example. With Spotify’s acquisition of Anchor and its partnership with WordPress, which enable “access to easier creation of podcasts,” user-generated podcasts discussing politics, health and social issues are part of Spotify’s new frontier.

To this, we can add platform integration: Users can now use Spotify with other platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and Peloton. This means the Spotify user experience is shaped by content created across the internet, on platforms with distinct rules and codes of conduct. Without common industry standards, “misinformation” at, say, Twitter will not always be flagged by Spotify’s algorithms.

Welcome to the future of social media. Companies once believed they could rely on algorithms to catch inappropriate content and intervene with public relations in high-profile cases. Today, the challenges are bigger and more complicated as consumers redefine where and how one is social online.

Tech companies can adapt by working on two fronts. First, they must establish themselves as legitimate authorities in the eyes of their community. This starts by making the rules readily available, easily understandable and applicable to all users.

Think of this as the rules of driving, another large-scale system that works by ensuring people know the rules and can share a common understanding of traffic lights and rights of way. Simple reminders of the rules, like stop signs, can be highly effective. In experiments with Facebook users, reminding people about rules decreased the likelihood of ongoing bad behavior. To create safety on platforms facing thousands, if not millions, of users, a company must similarly build out clear, understandable procedures.

Try to find Spotify’s rules. We couldn’t. Imagine driving without stop signs or traffic lights. It’s hard to follow the rules if you can’t find them. Tech companies have historically been resistant to being responsible authority figures. The earliest efforts in Silicon Valley at managing user content were spam fighting teams that blocked actors who hacked their systems for fun and profit. They legitimately believed that by disclosing the rules, users would game the platform and that people would change behavior only when they are punished.

Try to find Spotify’s rules. We couldn’t. Imagine driving without stop signs or traffic lights. It’s hard to follow the rules if you can’t find them.

We call this approach “deterrence,” which works for adversarial people like spammers. It is not so effective for more complicated rule-breaking behaviors, like racist rants, misinformation and incitement of violence. Here, purveyors are not necessarily motivated by money or the love of hacking. They have a cause, and they may see themselves as rightfully expressing an opinion and building a community.

To influence the content of these users, companies need to drop reactive punishment and instead take up proactive governance — set standards, reward good behavior and, when necessary, enforce rules swiftly and with dignity to avoid the perception of being arbitrary authority figures.

The second key step is to be transparent with the community and set clear expectations for appropriate behavior. Transparency means disclosing what the company is doing, and how well it is doing, to keep things safe. The effect of reinforcing so-called “platform norms” is that users understand how their actions could impact the wider community. The Joe Rogans of the world start to appear less attractive as people look at them as threatening the safe, healthy experience of the wider community.

“We’re defining an entirely new space of tech and media,” Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek said in a recent employee meeting. “We’re a very different kind of company, and the rules of the road are being written as we innovate.”

That’s just not true. Sorry, Spotify, but you are not that special. There are already proven “rules of the road” for technology platforms — rules that show great promise for building trust and safety. The company just needs to accept them and follow them.

You’ll still have incidents of online “road rage” once in a while, but the public might just be more forgiving when it happens.

Hopin’ into lessons from Peloton

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a fresh human-first take on this week’s startup news and trends. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

In the beginning of the pandemic, we learned which companies were unprepared to handle a cataclysmic event. Now, as the world slowly starts to reopen in light of vaccinations, we’re learning which companies that soared during the pandemic also lost their discipline amid it.

Over the past two years, tech rightfully became more critical than ever for the services that it provided to the average human, whether it was empowering an entirely distributed workforce or helping us get access to health services via a screen. It also became vulnerable. Pandemic-era growth has always had a caveat: The tech companies that found product-market fit, and demand beyond their wildest dreams, are the same tech companies that knew their win was at least partially dependent on a rare, once-in-a-lifetime event that (hopefully) would go away one day.

Every growth round, mega-valuation, impressive IPO pop and total-addressable-market bump gave the appearance of strength amid the crisis. But the same tailwinds that drove so much value creation also quieted money-saving conversations and planning for a future deceleration.

Yet, a reckoning, or at least a re-correction, is starting to play out, as shown by recent layoffs at Peloton and Hopin. In Peloton’s case, the layoff is less of a response to a pandemic jolt, and more of a deflation after experiencing a surge of pandemic-fueled demand. Live events platform Hopin is facing a similar mountain. On the podcast over a year ago, we called Hopin the fastest growth story of this era. This week, I heard that Hopin cut 12% of its staff, citing the goal of more sustainable growth.

For my full take on this topic, check out my TC+ column: It’s not a startup reckoning, it’s a re-correction.

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll crawl into the metaverse and the Big Takeaway from some recent tech twitter drama. We’ll also learn about why Udemy execs left to build a better Udemy. As always, you can support me by sharing this newsletter, following me on Twitter or subscribing to my personal blog.

Deal of the week

Former president of Udemy Business, Darren Shimkus, left the edtech company months before it went public to investigate a feeling. The result, after six months of interviewing heads of data, talent development and engineering, was Modal.

This week I published a first look at the stealthy business, built by Shimkus and former Udemy CEO Dennis Yang, and its recently capitalized strategy of cohort-based learning for the enterprise. Ironically, it’s the duo’s second swing at building the world’s biggest enterprise education company, albeit with an entirely different approach from their shared alma mater.

Here’s why it’s important: At a high level, Modal’s product is simple, and refreshing workforces is clearly in demand, given the spree of financing rounds for upskilling and reskilling companies. The moonshot instead is that edtech veterans are betting on the concept of curated, cohort-based learning, instead of asynchronous learning, as the future of how people comprehend information.

Honorable mentions:

Illustration of a woman opening a large book to represent problems in education,.

Image Credits: Malte Mueller (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The one time tech twitter drama actually taught me something

Last week, right after I finished up this newsletter, I turned to Twitter and saw controversy over whether venture capitalists should charge founders for advice on their pitch decks. The anger came from the potential that founders could get confused on whether that advice could lean to a future investment from the same VC. In other words, does offering this as a service create a “pay to pitch” type of environment?

Here’s why it’s important: It struck a chord. People were upset about what this says about ethics in a founder-friendly era, why underrepresented founders could be disproportionately impacted by these services and how important it is to be explicit when you are a person in a position of power. It made us ask how much a pitch deck is truly worth, and if we should change our expectations for emerging fund managers versus a GP at Accel.

Ultimately, the Equity team landed on the fact that this type of set up is common among small fund VCs simply as a way to monetize talent and supplement income, but specificity and clarity is necessary when offering services.

distorted twitter logo

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Crawling toward the metaverse

Alex and I jumped on the mic this week to unpack a big question: Will work, or play, bring the metaverse mainstream? Virtual worlds aren’t anything new, but investment in a new metaverse from Facebook and Microsoft has left us scratching our heads on what the future holds.

Here’s why it’s important: I vote that the most effective use case of the metaverse will thus be a little bit more nuanced than our current work stack of productivity tools, calendar, e-mail, Zoom and Slack. The metaverse is best when it feels like a place to congregate around a shared reason or event, unpack a big question or celebrate. Kind of like my Twitter DMs whenever something controversial happens in tech twitter. Check out our three views on metaverse use cases that just dropped on TC+, as well.

All the news that’s fit to tweet:

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

In the DMs

Nothing too scoop-y from my end this week, other than my piece about Hopin’s layoffs. I’d love to work on a follow-up story, so if you are a current or former employee at Hopin, or just recently laid off at any tech company, contact me on e-mail at natasha.m@techcrunch.com or on Signal, a secure encrypted messaging app, at 925 609 4188. You can also direct message me on Twitter @nmasc_.

Across the week

Thanks to all who tuned into our first-ever Equity Live of the year. We’ll be back in two weeks, but in the meantime, how about tuning into our newest podcast and its live debut? Here’s what you need to know: 

Found, TechCrunch’s podcast that focuses on the stories behind the startups, talks to founders about the peaks and pits of running a business, including the fundraising process, hiring, leadership tactics and the reality of what it’s like to be a founder.

My favorite recent episode featured Elizabeth Ruzzo from Adyn. From the co-hosts: “Not only did she develop the only test for women to ensure they are prescribed the birth control that will be the least likely to have detrimental side effects, she also founded the company and fundraised as the sole employee of the company. She talks to Darrell and Jordan about the challenges she faced as a solo founder/employee raising money for a solution for birth control, why she decided to leave academia, and the complicated regulatory maze she had to navigate to get adyn off the ground.”

Seen on TechCrunch

A Twitter slap fight goes wrong

How Texas is becoming a bitcoin mining hub

Donation site for Ottawa truckers’ ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest exposed donors’ data

The Spotify-Rogan saga highlights the distinction between publishers and platforms

Peter Thiel to leave Facebook board, which you probably forgot he was still on

Seen on TechCrunch+

Why Affirm’s stock is getting hit, and what the selloff means for the BNPL startup market

What’s driving China’s autonomous vehicle frenzy?

3 warning signs that your investor will leave you on the sidelines

Dear Sophie: How can early-stage startups compete for talent?

Until next time,

N

The pandemic trade is over

News broke today (shoutout CNBC for the scoop) that Peloton is halting production of its hardware for a bit. Compare and contrast the following headlines, the first from May 2020 via our friends at Quartz:

And today:

Calling an event after it has happened is lazy newswriter cliche, but it is fair today to say that the pandemic trade is over.

The concept was pretty simple: As COVID-19 spread across the planet, lockdowns and a general desire by many to avoid infection led to huge changes to how people lived and worked. The impact was wide-reaching.

First, the stock market did its best impression of a falling rock, crashing lower and lower as fears about economic decline spread. Even the ever-ebullient venture capital class took a brief pause from normal levels of investing exuberance.

But then folks realized that, yes, some businesses were going to suffer thanks to the new economic landscape that COVID brought, but not all. So they bid up the value of those assets above their perhaps fair value, as many other investments were risky. This made the value of some firms escalate into orbit.

Software, in particular, was a winner, with the valuations of tech companies rising sharply in the back half of 2020 through much of 2021. Then, as last year reached its final weeks, that began to change.

The worth of publicly trade software companies fell sharply enough that, on the year, all gains for cloud firms were wiped out. The selloff continued into 2022, with further declines now cutting into software valuation gains from even 2020.

The pandemic trade for software is over, and valuations are coming back to Earth. The same thing is happening to other companies, including those who made a mint in the home exercise markets, like Peloton. The value of Peloton, which went public in 2019, shot higher and many people were very stoked.

But the shine has come off the silver:

Image Credits: YCharts

Shares of Peloton are off around 20% today alone.

The pandemic trade was fun while it lasted. It lasts no more.

US residents can order free, at-home COVID-19 tests starting on January 19th

One year, 10 months and eight days after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans will be able to order free, at-home tests from the government. Starting on January 19th, you’ll be able to visit COVIDTests.gov and request tests, which will be mailed to your home.

For now, the website only has a landing page in English and Spanish. It notes that the shipping costs will be covered too.

The Biden administration is buying one billion at-home, rapid tests to give to US residents for free. The hope is to make sure everyone has a test on hand when they need it. The White House said 500 million of those tests will be available on January 19th. At the outset, you’ll be able to order four per residential address.

A phone line is being set up so those who can’t access the website can place an order. The administration says it’s working with national and local organizations to help people in at-risk and hard-hit communities to secure tests.

One important thing to note: the tests will usually ship within 7-12 days of ordering. That timeline won’t be incredibly useful for people who show symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with a positive case and don’t have an at-home test handy.

Still, it’s worth stocking up on these free tests, especially given how in-demand they are. Even Twitter accounts known for helping people secure new gaming consoles are providing stock alerts for COVID-19 tests these days.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

Twitter bans Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene’s personal account over COVID-19 misinformation

Twitter has permanently suspended the personal account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) “for repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation policy,” according to the company. Her official government account remains active.

Rep. Greene has been prolific in the posting of articles and statistics supposedly pertaining to the pandemic but often are misleading or flat-out wrong. This is one of the topics on which Twitter has drawn a line in the sand, as misinformation on the virus, how it spreads, the efficacy of the vaccines, etc has a serious effect on public health.

Twitter’s COVID-19 policy is outlined here; in a statement, the company said “We’ve been clear that, per our strike system for this policy, we will permanently suspend accounts for repeated violations of the policy.”

The permanent ban comes after several shorter account locks and warnings, which occurred and were reported on throughout 2021. Greene complained then of violations of her “freedom of speech,” despite Twitter being a privately owned and operated platform with clearly stated rules, and made a final complaint in a statement this morning: “Twitter is an enemy to America and can’t handle the truth. That’s fine, I’ll show America we don’t need them and it’s time to defeat our enemies.”

It’s unclear whether this statement means that she will discontinue her own use of this “enemy” platform she claims not to need. Her official U.S. Representative account remains online, though it has not been used in a week. I’ve asked Twitter whether this account too has been put in jeopardy by her violations, and will update this post if I hear back.

Twitter regularly issues bans to fringe figures who have violated rules on inciting violence, publishing false or private information, or spreading false information regarding the pandemic.

This story is developing, check back later for updates.