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Politics

More tech money pours into Zuckerberg-backed California tax measure

Dustin Moskovitz, Irwin Jacobs and Jeff Lawson just put hundreds of thousands of dollars into Proposition 15.

Co-founder Dustin Moskovitz

Facebook and Asana co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna are among the new tech backers of Proposition 15 in California.

Photo: Asana

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson are joining the ranks of tech leaders throwing their support behind Proposition 15, a California ballot initiative that would raise as much as $12 billion for local schools and communities by hiking some commercial property taxes.

Until recently, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were lonely voices in this fight, flooding the Yes on 15 campaign with more than $10 million in support. Despite activists' concerted efforts to get more of Silicon Valley's business leaders to support the measure, even the industry's most socially conscious CEOs were staying silent.

That is, until this week, when Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced he was backing the measure with $400,000 in funding. "We're supporting CA Prop 15 [...] because it's an important step in addressing the resource deficits that both our public schools & local governments face," Benioff tweeted.

That announcement broke the dam, leading to a wave of new contributions from the tech sector. According to newly filed contribution records to the Yes on 15 campaign, Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna, donated $250,000 to the measure. Lawson and his wife Erica gave $100,000. Jacobs and his wife Joan contributed $250,000. And the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which has raised gobs of money in the past from tech billionaires including WhatsApp co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, shelled out $100,000. Moskovitz, Jacobs and Lawson are also all prominent Democratic donors.

"Support for Proposition 15 keeps rolling in because this crisis has further exposed the structural inequities baked into our current system, and tech and business leaders recognize that Proposition 15 will result in an equitable reinvestment in our schools, local communities, and small businesses," Gina Dalma, executive vice president at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, said in a statement.

Proposition 15 will carve large commercial landowners out of California's Proposition 13, which allows property owners to pay taxes on the price of their property when it was purchased, not its current market value. Prop 13 has allowed commercial landowners in California to skirt the higher taxes that younger companies, many of them in the tech sector, currently pay. Proposition 15 would change that, and it has been endorsed by California Sen. Kamala Harris, a flurry of education and labor groups, and most mayors in the state. The opposition, meanwhile, includes a slew of business groups including the California Chamber of Commerce, as well as agricultural organizations, who argue that even though farmland is exempt from the measure, Proposition 15 would lead to tax hikes on "fixtures and improvements" to farmland.

Since Proposition 15 was introduced, a nonprofit group called TechEquity has also been actively seeking out tech sector endorsements for the measure. Catherine Bracy, executive director of TechEquity, was encouraged by the new show of support. "It's very heartening to see tech step up to support what is the most critically important policy to help California recover from the recession," Bracy told Protocol. "We hope this is an indicator that tech leaders realize the importance of addressing structural issues to bring about a twenty-first century economy that works for everyone."

Politics

'Woke tech' and 'the new slave power': Conservatives gather for Vegas summit

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

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.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

Why Biden needs a National Technology Council

The U.S. government needs a more tightly coordinated approach to technology, argues Jonathan Spalter.

A coordinated effort to approach tech could help the White House navigate the future more easily.

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

The White House has a National Security Council and a National Economic Council. President-elect Joe Biden should move quickly to establish a National Technology Council.

Consumers are looking to the government to set a coherent and consistent 21st century digital policy that works for them. Millions of Americans still await public investments that will help connect their remote communities to broadband, while millions more — including many families with school-age children — still struggle to afford access.

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Jonathan Spalter
Jonathan Spalter is the president and CEO of USTelecom – The Broadband Association.
Election 2020

Google says it’s fighting election lies, but its ads fund them

A new report finds that more than 1,600 brands, from Disney to Procter & Gamble, have advertisements running on sites that push pro-Trump conspiracy theories. The majority of those ads are served by Google.

Google is the most dominant player in programmatic advertising, but it has a spotty record enforcing rules for publishers.

Photo: Alex Tai/Getty Images

Shortly after November's presidential election, a story appeared on the website of far-right personality Charlie Kirk, claiming that 10,000 dead people had returned mail-in ballots in Michigan. But after publishing, a correction appeared at the top of the story, completely debunking the misleading headline, which remains, months later, unchanged.

"We are not aware of a single confirmed case showing that a ballot was actually cast on behalf of a deceased individual," the correction, which quoted Michigan election officials, read.

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.

Big Tech is cutting off political contributions. Here are the biggest losers.

Election objectors like McCarthy, Nunes, Jordan and Stefanik all took tech PAC money last year. But they're not the only ones losing out.

Some of tech's biggest critics in Congress have taken money from tech PACs. Now, they're getting cut off.

Photo: Darren Halstead/Unsplash

One day after Twitter banned President Trump and Google and Apple kicked the far-right social network Parler out of their app stores, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik dashed off a tweet: "If you think the American people will quietly accept #BigTechTyranny, You. Are. Wrong."

One detail Stefanik left out: She took $30,000 from corporate PACs linked to Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Intel in the last year alone, according to campaign finance records. During her tenure in Congress, she's raised nearly twice that much from those companies. And now, she's getting cut off.

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
Protocol | Enterprise

Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson explains how he decided to face off with Parler

Also, why he thinks the $3.2 billion purchase of Segment will help Twilio's customers help their customers and why he's OK with being reliant on AWS.

"I think in a society, words matter, actions matter," Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson said. "That's why companies have things like Terms of Service and acceptable use policies."

Photo: Twilio

Cloud computing companies were one of the few segments of society that enjoyed 2020. But even companies like Twilio, whose stock price tripled over the last 12 months, have had enough of 2021 already.

Last Friday, in the wake of the deadly attack on the Capitol, Twilio sent a letter to the right-wing social media app Parler notifying the company that it was violating Twilio's acceptable use policy for two of its authentication services. Parler decided to turn off Twilio's services rather than moderate calls for violence against elected officials on its app, which became a moot point after AWS cut Parler off from its own computing and storage services Sunday evening.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire. He served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure, and most recently produced a leading cloud computing newsletter called Mostly Cloudy.

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