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Protocol | Policy

Trump officials and conservatives are quietly meeting in Las Vegas to discuss 'woke tech'

An agenda for the event, hosted by the Claremont Institute, listed speakers including U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Trump officials and conservatives are quietly meeting in Las Vegas to discuss 'woke tech'

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute. The speakers include U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as a who's-who of far-right provocateurs.

Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

Conservative investors, political operatives, right-wing writers and Trump administration officials are quietly meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to discuss topics including China, "woke tech" and "the new slave power," according to four people who were invited to attend or speak at the event as well as a copy of the agenda obtained by Protocol.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that says its mission is to "restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." A list of speakers for the event includes a combination of past and current government officials as well as a who's who of far-right provocateurs. One speaker, conservative legal scholar John Eastman, rallied the president's supporters at a White House event before the Capitol Hill riot earlier this month. Some others have been associated with racist ideologies.

Government officials listed on the agenda include United States Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading a multi-state antitrust lawsuit against Google and is currently under federal investigation. A source familiar with Kratsios' planned remarks said he intended to speak about artificial intelligence and China. Also on the agenda: Josh Steinman, the White House National Security Council's recently departed senior director for cyber, who now describes himself as the founder of a "stealth startup" on LinkedIn.

Newly confirmed FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington was also listed on the agenda, but he told Protocol he did not end up attending. "Despite initial plans to do so, I did not attend or otherwise participate in the Claremont event this weekend, and I did not prepare or submit remarks," Simington said.

The event is happening as Las Vegas experiences a spike in COVID cases.

Claremont Institute President Ryan Williams refused to answer Protocol's questions about "the new slave power" panel, what COVID-19 safety protocols are in place during the in-person gathering or the range of speaker backgrounds on the agenda.

"The Claremont Institute has been a leading voice against political censorship by the Big Tech oligarchs, and we have no interest in commenting on an obvious hatchet job by a publication so clearly beholden to the pieties of Silicon Valley," Williams said in an email to Protocol. "Your questions are riddled with false premises, but we welcome the fire."

The list of speakers included several people with controversial pedigrees. One speaker, blogger Curtis Yarvin, otherwise known as Mencius Moldbug, has written that there is "no question that biological differences made Africans better slaves than indigenous Americans" because they were less susceptible to tropical diseases. He also once wrote in a blog post, "although I am not a white nationalist, I am not exactly allergic to the stuff." Yarvin was listed to speak on the panel about "the new slave power," along with Michael Anton, former deputy national security adviser under President Trump, who recently wrote an essay in Claremont's The American Mind publication suggesting that Democrats were "openly talking about staging a coup."

Another speaker on the agenda, Adam Candeub, is the current acting head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Previously, as a lawyer, he represented white nationalist Jared Taylor in a lawsuit against Twitter. Eastman recently retired from his position as a law professor at Chapman University amid an uproar over a speech he gave alleging election fraud at the pro-Trump rally preceding the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.

One of the final speakers listed on the agenda, Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart, made waves earlier this summer with a 5,300-word blog post about why he supported hip-hop artist Kanye West for president. "I am so sick of politics. Politics are suddenly everywhere," he wrote, before jumping into a lengthy post about Joe Biden, why the media is "actually evil" and the importance of biofuels.

One attendee said they had not been given any information on who would be speaking as of midday Friday, hours before the event was set to kick off, and Claremont Institute did not appear to be promoting the event on social media Saturday as the first panels began. "Maybe they're trying to keep it under wraps," the attendee said.

The attendee said they understood that the tenor of the weekend would be "very critical of tech, very pro some type of intervention."

"There's going to be some discrepancy and debate around what intervention looks like," the attendee said.

The other topics on the agenda include a panel on "restoring law" and a fireside chat titled, "What happened?" The summit takes place 10 days after a violent mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol Hill complex, resulting in five deaths and forcing a reckoning within the Republican Party over its alignment with Trump and right-wing conspiracy theorists.

Protocol | Workplace

In Silicon Valley, it’s February 2020 all over again

"We'll reopen when it's right, but right now the world is changing too much."

Tech companies are handling the delta variant in differing ways.

Photo: alvarez/Getty Images

It's still 2021, right? Because frankly, it's starting to feel like March 2020 all over again.

Google, Apple, Uber and Lyft have now all told employees they won't have to come back to the office before October as COVID-19 case counts continue to tick back up. Facebook, Google and Uber are now requiring workers to get vaccinated before coming to the office, and Twitter — also requiring vaccines — went so far as to shut down its reopened offices on Wednesday, and put future office reopenings on hold.

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The continued swell of reported burnout is a concerning trend for employers everywhere. Not only does it harm mental health and well-being, but it can also impact absenteeism, employee retention and — between the drain on morale and high turnover — your company culture.

Crisis management is one thing, but how do you permanently lower the temperature so your teams can recover sustainably? Companies around the world are now taking larger steps to curb burnout, with industry leaders like LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Bumble shutting down their offices for a full week to allow all employees extra time off. The CEO of Okta, worried about burnout, asked all employees to email him their vacation plans in 2021.

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Protocol | China

Livestreaming ecommerce next battleground for China’s nationalists

Vendors for Nike and even Chinese brands were harassed for not donating enough to Henan.

Nationalists were trolling in the comment sections of livestream sessions selling products by Li-Ning, Adidas and other brands.

Collage: Weibo, Bilibili

The No. 1 rule of sales: Don't praise your competitor's product. Rule No. 2: When you are put to a loyalty test by nationalist trolls, forget the first rule.

While China continues to respond to the catastrophic flooding that has killed 99 and displaced 1.4 million people in the central province of Henan, a large group of trolls was busy doing something else: harassing ordinary sportswear sellers on China's livestream ecommerce platforms. Why? Because they determined that the brands being sold had donated too little, or too late, to the people impacted by floods.

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Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
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The video game industry is bracing for its Netflix and Spotify moment

Subscription gaming promises to upend gaming. The jury's out on whether that's a good thing.

It's not clear what might fall through the cracks if most of the biggest game studios transition away from selling individual games and instead embrace a mix of free-to-play and subscription bundling.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Subscription services are coming for the game industry, and the shift could shake up the largest and most lucrative entertainment sector in the world. These services started as small, closed offerings typically available on only a handful of hardware platforms. Now, they're expanding to mobile phones and smart TVs, and promising to radically change the economics of how games are funded, developed and distributed.

Of the biggest companies in gaming today, Amazon, Apple, Electronic Arts, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, Nvidia, Sony and Ubisoft all operate some form of game subscription. Far and away the most ambitious of them is Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass, featuring more than 100 games for $9.99 a month and including even brand-new titles the day they release. As of January, Game Pass had more than 18 million subscribers, and Microsoft's aggressive investment in a subscription future has become a catalyst for an industrywide reckoning on the likelihood and viability of such a model becoming standard.

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Protocol | Policy

Lina Khan wants to hear from you

The new FTC chair is trying to get herself, and the sometimes timid tech-regulating agency she oversees, up to speed while she still can.

Lina Khan is trying to push the FTC to corral tech companies

Photo: Graeme Jennings/AFP via Getty Images

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