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A war of words over 26 words

Good morning! This Thursday, the heavily debated future of Section 230, what you need to know about the next Android, and a duo of Twitter spies.

People Are Talking

Pete Buttigieg didn't like the implication he used PowerPoint, for some reason:

The internet bubble is real, and it's about to collapse, JP Morgan analyst Marko Kolanovic said:

  • "The ratio of the S&P 500 technology to energy sector is now the same as during the tech bubble … We caution investors that this bubble will likely collapse, i.e. this time is not 'different,' with valuations reverting closer to 2010-2020 average."

China winning the 5G race wouldn't be the end of the world, Ford's John Rich says in this week's Protocol Braintrust:

  • "If there is one global standard, then it really doesn't matter who wins the race. Ultimately, China moving fast to win the race will only help push U.S. and European businesses."

Ashton Kutcher's investment strategy: home screens?

  • "I've solicited my entire Twitter audience at times, like, hey, can I see a snapshot of your home screen, I'd like to see what you're using. Then I just run pattern recognition across thousands or hundreds of home screens and pick off the apps that keep showing up that I don't know what they are. And then I start the investigative process."

Google's HR allegedly gaslighted a former employee, Chelsey Glasson.In an interview with Protocol's Biz Carson, Glasson described her experience of making complaints about sexual harassment:

  • "I remember going into that meeting and expecting HR to be concerned, and immediately it turned into an interrogation. I was immediately asked, 'How much did you have to drink that night?'"

Huawei needs a transparency offensive, said the company's U.S. CSO Andy Purdy:

  • "Let's talk about what it is we do to provide assurance. Let's get the experts to hear the truth, the facts, let's talk about where we are and where we need to go."

The Big Story

A war of words over 26 words

They're "the 26 words that created the internet," and the ones nobody seems able to agree on anymore: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

  • Those 26 words, which I've now officially memorized: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

A room at FBI headquarters buzzed yesterday as researchers, academics, government officials and tech executives — and Protocol's Issie Lapowsky — piled in to talk about what should happen to 230.

  • Attorney General William Barr led on a cautionary note, reaffirming his previous concerns about the rules: "The early days of online public bulletin boards, like AOL, have been replaced by platforms with sophisticated content moderation tools, algorithms, recommendation features, and targeting. With these new tools, the line between passively hosting third-party speech and actively curating or promoting speech starts to blur. "

Issie said that factions were taking root in the discussion before the event even began, with attendees sitting according to their positions. The day focused on child abuse, harassment and non-consensual pornography, though the questions at hand will ultimately apply to so many other subjects.

Not much was decided. In fact, according to Issie, it's clearer than ever that the fight over 26 words is going to take many, many more than that before we find a path forward.


Android embraces privacy, security, and ... bubbles

Google doesn't officially release new versions of Android until the fall, though it talks openly about them in May, and starts letting some people use them earlier than that, usually around March. It honestly makes no sense.

But no matter! Months before it'll come to phones, and a little earlier than most years, Google released early versions of the next iteration of the most popular operating system on the planet.

In addition to a bunch of 5G optimizations and new features and weird ideas about floating notifications called chat bubbles, the most meaningful changes here have to do with privacy and transparency with regard to what Google, and others, can do with your data.

  • Android 11 supports SHAKEN/STIR, the robocall-fighting tech, across all devices.
  • Users will be able to grant an app one-time access to their microphone, location and more, rather than just having to repeatedly flick an on/off switch.
  • Developers now have less access to storage and data outside their own apps, and will have to request specific permission to get it.

Google's also doubling down on the idea of phone-as-security device. Android 11 supports new kinds of biometric security, for instance, and has a secure way to store personal IDs.

Google noted that some of these security changes are going to affect people's apps. (Maybe that's why Android 11 is coming along sooner than usual.)

Is your app affected? Let me know what you make of Android 11:


Built For Better.

Society is demanding corporations help drive meaningful change on some of the world's most difficult topics. Is your company ready?

How Can Your Company Be Built for Better?


The EU's future — and present — of online regulation

As we discussed in yesterday's Source Code, the EU revealed its plan for regulating AI and turning Europe into a tech superpower. The proposal largely mirrors what we expected:

  • The EU wants to make sure "high-risk AI," for health care, hiring and the like, gets tested properly before it's used.
  • It wants to pool the data and resources of the whole EU to support more development and research.
  • Researcher Frederike Kaltheuner has a good tweetstorm summary of everything else.

The EU's overall theme seems to be: Europe is the world's largest single market, it wants to act as such, and it wants to be taken seriously. But as our friends at POLITICO noted, it didn't get much more specific than that.

On Wednesday the EU's Data Protection Commission also published its 2019 annual report, an always-interesting look at what GDPR hath wrought. In this case ... a lot:

  • The DPC received 7,215 complaints in 2019, up 75% over the year before. In the same period, the Commission investigated 165 complaints of "electronic direct marketing," and notified people of 6,069 data breaches.

Helen Dixon, Ireland's commissioner for data protection, said there's still much more to come. "Have no doubt that intensive work is underway" on investigations into big tech companies, she said.

Making Moves

Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike's co-founder and CTO, left the company to start "a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy accelerator." He indicated that Michael Sentonas, most recently vice president of technology strategy at the company, is being promoted into his old job.

Steve Lucas is the new CEO of iCIMS, a recruiting-software company. Lucas had been CEO of Marketo, a maker of marketing automation software, which sold to Adobe in 2018, and has been on iCIMS' board for about a year.

In Other News

One More Thing

A weird route to better batteries.

A team of Stanford researchers has made a huge advance in battery tech, in a brilliantly orthogonal way: They changed how long it takes to test batteries in the lab. Normally that involves waiting for them to charge, waiting for them to die, trying something new, and on and on until their hair falls out. But Stanford researchers found a way to cut testing time by 98%, using machine-learning models to accurately — and much more quickly — predict how a battery will react to different charging methods. Which means you might get that faster-charging, longer-lasting car battery a whole lot sooner. Maybe.


Built For Better.

Society is demanding corporations help drive meaningful change on some of the world's most difficult topics. Is your company ready?

How Can Your Company Be Built for Better?

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to me,, or our tips line, Enjoy your Thursday, see you tomorrow.

Correction: An earlier version of this article mischaracterized Helen Dixon's role. She is Ireland's commissioner for data protection, not the EU's. The article was updated on Feb. 20.

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