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Getting censored on social media is the point for the GOP

Protocol Policy

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today, I’m thinking about how social media platforms are about to be involved in meta-political debate — the worst kind of debate. Plus, the FBI’s warnings about LinkedIn scams sort of sound like a LinkedIn scam, Sundar Pichai hits the Hill and Eric Adams rubs elbows with crypto jet-setters.

Being silenced is golden

In 2016, Russia used social media platforms to try to sway the election. In 2020, the fear was domestic actors would inject disinformation into the electoral conversation by buying ads. Ahead of the 2022 midterms, Meta, Twitter and others are finding it’s their own clashes with conservative politicians that could influence races.

The latest battle came over an ad in the race for a Senate seat in Missouri.

  • Eric Greitens, the state’s former governor who resigned in 2018 over revelations of an affair and accusations of sexual assault and blackmail, released an ad in which he went hunting for RINOs — as in, “Republicans in name only.”
  • In the ad, Greitens — carrying a gun — follows a team decked out in tactical gear as they break into a house. “Get a RINO permit,” he intones in the ad. “There’s no bagging limit. There’s no tagging limit.”

Despite Greitens’ claims that the ad is metaphorical, it’s more than hinting that political violence would be cleansing at a moment when the country is learning more about how the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol threatened our democracy.

  • The spot has garnered Greitens national headlines and over 100,000 views on YouTube alone so far. (Videos on his account hardly crack 1,000 views on a good day.) The spot has really taken off on Twitter, though, with more than 3.5 million views.
  • All this despite the bipartisan condemnation, anger from police groups and the removal of the video from Meta. Twitter has added a disclaimer saying it violates its rules for abusive behavior, but it’s being left up because it “may be in the public’s interest.”
  • Greitens, for his part, took a victory lap over the outrage, thanking a Washington Post opinion article for posting the video and using the platforms’ actions as an opportunity to promise he would fight in the Senate “against the disgusting tech oligarchs from stealing any more elections,” a baseless accusation.

In other words, Greitens seems to think — perhaps rightly — that there’s no such thing as bad press.

  • Dropping the inflammatory video seems to be a bet that making enemies among journalists and the big tech companies that conservatives despise will do more to boost his campaign than hurt his ability to spread his message.
  • After all, long before 2022, generating a “controversy” where plenty of your voters are on your side and you stay at the forefront of the conversation is Politics 101, as presidents from LBJ to Trump knew well.
  • Greitens’ campaign didn’t answer me when I asked if prompting backlash was part of its plan.

Either way, this puts the platforms at the middle of the culture war.

  • On the one hand, platforms don’t want to be where candidates go to muse about political violence and assassinations, or to have their rules broken willy-nilly.
  • On the other hand, Meta and Twitter don’t want to become secondary characters in every single election fight as we head into what will almost certainly be a vicious campaign season, with Republicans trying to post messages the companies have declared off-limits.

GOP candidates, meanwhile, could use platforms’ rules as a win-win. Greitens’ ad provides the latest template for how this works.

  • First, post an extremist video. If it gets left up, that’s great for the candidates who want to spread a message.
  • If it does get taken down for violating rules or inciting violence, they get to win attention by complaining of “censorship.”
  • That dynamic is playing out for Greitens right now: The campaign is benefitting from YouTube’s inaction while also complaining about the video being throttled elsewhere.

All this puts platforms in a strange spot.

  • It reminds me of what my colleague Issie wrote last week — that social media’s political ad bans of recent years were designed to confront disinformation concerns, but they may have done more to silence Democrats and upstart candidates.
  • They also seem to have taken the oomph out of more ambitious efforts to stop disinformation.
  • Greitens’ video circumnavigates those ad bans anyways. His campaign didn’t pay to spread it: It’s going far and wide as controversial, but organic, content.

You can’t exactly blame the platforms for trying to fight a problem, and it’s perhaps a bit misplaced to focus on Meta and Twitter when they’re on the receiving end of a “stop hitting yourself” from politicians. But if they don’t see how they’re becoming part of the story — and part of the tactics — it won’t matter that they made calls on ads last time.

— Ben Brody (email | twitter)

In Washington

Meta settled with the U.S. over its housing ad system. In 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development launched a case against what was then Facebook, alleging that it allowed housing advertisers to target based on race. As part of the settlement, Meta agreed to permanent changes for ad targeting in sensitive areas like housing and credit.

President Biden nominated Arati Prabhakar to lead the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. Prabhakar, who got her doctorate in applied physics from Caltech, formerly led NIST and DARPA. Senators from both sides of the aisle welcomed her nomination.

The FBI is worried about LinkedIn fraud. A special agent based out of California warned that fraudsters posed a “significant threat” to the platform and its users, according to CNBC.

Sundar Pichai is giving a nod to the “three-corners” privacy proposal in Congress, as Tim Cook did before him. The current draft, which is due for a markup in the House later this week, exempts a lot of contextual first-party ad targeting that Google and Apple tend to rely on, although industry representatives have suggested the text’s definitions would get in the way of the practice. Pichai is meeting with lawmakers about antitrust legislation and other issues this week, according to POLITICO.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Elissa Slotkin urged Pichai to stop “misleading Google search results and ads that lead to anti-abortion clinics.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants the inspectors general of the Treasury Department and FTC to probe Intuit’s “abuse of the revolving door” with its hires of former top officials from both agencies.

Republican lawmakers are coming down on TikTok again following a BuzzFeed report that Chinese ByteDance officials had access to non-public user data from the popular app.

The tech-allied Chamber of Progress wants the FTC to probe “Tesla’s misleading advertising of its ‘Full Self-Driving’ features.” The group counts giants like Apple and Google that have self-driving ambitions among its partners — but not Tesla.

In the states

Eric Adams held a Hamptons fundraiser rife with crypto executives. The New York City mayor recently said he would ask Gov. Kathy Hocul to veto a bill that would place a two-year ban on crypto mining in the state.

Employees at an Apple store outside Baltimore voted to unionize,a U.S. first for the company’s retail stores.


Chips are the backbone of our digital economy. We must rebuild the American chip industry or suffer the consequences

Some of the most astounding tech-enabled advances of the next decade, from cutting-edge medical research to urban traffic control and factory floor optimization, will be enabled by a device often smaller than a thumbnail: the memory chip.

Click here to read more from Micron

In the courts

Gig workers filed a lawsuit against Uber and Lyft in California, accusing the companies of fixing prices. The complaint alleges this practice allowed the ride-hailing companies to raise prices for customers while keeping gig worker wages down.

Two former Tesla employees are alleging that the company violated federal labor laws requiring advanced notice of its planned layoffs of 10% of its workforce.

On Protocol

TikTok has responded to EU pressure about ads on the platform. The platform said it would implement a number of features to protect users from misleading ads, particularly to ensure children aren’t tricked “into purchasing goods or services.”

The CEO of Binance.US insisted that the company is positioned to thrive in the so-called crypto winter. “Not only is everything fine for us, we're actually entering the crypto winter from a position of strength,” Brian Shroder told Protocol. Shroder cited the firm’s completed $200 million seed funding round as one of the key reasons for his confidence.

Maureen Ohlhausen, a Republican former FTC acting chair, said that Lina Khan’s plans to regulate privacy could become a “danger” to the agency if they prompt political or judicial backlash. Ohlhausen also said that, despite saber-rattling from some big business interests, most companies would rather Congress pass what lawmakers are starting to agree to (with tweaks) than face the status quo.

Heat pumps could play a critical role in reducing carbon pollution, but Congress needs to act. Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced the HEATR Act in May, which would give tax credits worth up to $1,000 for heat pumps.

Around the world

The New York Times dug deep into China’s biometric surveillance apparatus. Using government contracts and bids, reporters unveiled how the government surveils people in hotel lobbies, collects billions of facial-recognition data points annually in just one city, accumulates voice prints, tracks phones and even screens for Uyghur dictionaries.

The Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office banned Terraform Labs employees from fleeing the country as it conducts an investigation into the collapse of the luna token. The probe comes on behalf of 81 investors who said the company deceived them with claims that the coin — now virtually worthless — would be pegged to the U.S. dollar. The founder of Terraform is also facing scrutiny with the SEC.

Germany’s competition watchdog is scrutinizing Google Maps. The Federal Cartel Office is investigating Maps to determine whether Google is sharing information fairly with competitors.

In the media, culture and metaverse

Google is asking some small businesses to start paying for G Suite licensing, and the little guys aren’t happy. In some cases, those small business owners have been using the free edition of G Suite for years. If they don’t migrate to the paid version, Google will eventually suspend their accounts.

Truth Social gained a rather unexpected new user in California Gov. Gavin Newsom. The Democrat said he joined the Trump-backed social media platform to expose “Republican lies.” His inaugural post discusses gun control policies in Republican-leaning states.

In data

$250 million: That’s how much FTX provided to crypto lender BlockFi in the form of a revolving credit line. The loan underscores how liquidity has become a top concern for crypto companies, as some of the biggest players such as Celsius Network and Babel Finance had to largely suspend operations due to liquidity crunches.


Chips are the backbone of our digital economy. We must rebuild the American chip industry or suffer the consequences

In January 2021, Congress passed the Chips for America Act. This bipartisan legislation authorized a series of programs to promote the research, development and fabrication of semiconductors within the United States. Together, the Fabs and Chip Acts are meant to renew American competitiveness in chip manufacturing, processing, packaging and design.

Click here to read more from Micron

Sore backs and hacks

In the latest example of IoT offering a lot more vulnerability than convenience, a security researcher was able to gain access to the computer systems of several hot tub companies and view owners’ personal data, according to a report from Vice. We can only imagine what some Jacuzzis know about the people in them.

Thanks for reading — see you Friday!

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