July 29, 2022
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today, we’re wondering: between celebrities and the platforms who keep them famous, who really needs whom more? Also: Congress is suddenly incredibly busy with Chips-Plus and an unexpected climate package ahead of the looming recess. And it’s a Friday in July – wouldn’t you rather be on the beach or at the pool than working from your dining room table?
For a while, the whole point of signing up for a social media platform such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter was to connect with people who interest you. At first, those might have been your friends, your family and your professional networks (*waves to journalism Twitter*), but it wasn't long before that list began to include celebrities and other content creators.
That era of social media was a win-win: The rich and famous got to control their own message and manage contact with fans and audiences, becoming even bigger names (and making more money) in the process. Fans got a chance to feel a deeper parasocial connection to the objects of their affection. And the networks got to bask in the cool factor: If my friends from college AND this person from that show I like are both here, well, I'm going to create an account too.
That arrangement more or less worked for all parties for a while, but cracks began to emerge by 2016; in 2022, they’re becoming frightening maws.
When a social network’s power users get too big, it loses the ability to set its own terms. The power users' preferences instead become de facto rules of engagement.
And plenty of non-politician, non-CEO celebs also wield enormous power online. As we’ve been reminded just this week, the whims and preferences of power users can make or break a feature rollout.
Every day, those power hierarchies become ever more clear. With TikTok dominating the download charts, it’s obvious who needs whom the most. Meta can bail on a partnership with news publishers because Facebook and Instagram don’t need the New York Times to survive — but they can’t get by without giving fans a place to keep up with the Kardashians (or a host of other athletes, musicians and TV personalities). And that, in turn, means billions of the rest of us regular schlubs are living in whatever social media world those power users — presidents, CEOs and reality TV stars — like best.— Kate Cox (email | twitter)
Chips-Plus passed — now what? Protocol has Max Cherney on the case to figure out how the $280 billion legislative package will be distributed, and what impact it could have.
Build Back Better is back on the table for the third time. Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they agreed to a deal, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, that would allocate $369 billion for climate and clean energy funding. Protocol’s Brian Kahn broke down some of the key takeaways:
S. 2992 could break digital services like Google Search, Amazon Prime, and your phone's security. Americans are feeling the squeeze of record inflation; why do some members of Congress want to set the economy back by an estimated $319 billion?
Federal Trade Commission staff didn’t want to block Meta’s acquisition of VR game developer Within. Commission Chair Lina Khan overruled the recommendation of staff lawyers and economists, breaking the commissioner split, leading to the lawsuit filed earlier this week to block the acquisition.
Twitter’s courtroom showdown with Elon Musk has an official date. The company and its no-longer-wannabe new CEO will square off in the Delaware Court of Chancery Oct. 17-21.
Jack Ma is touring Europe, a sign of easing regulatory scrutiny from China’s government. Earlier in the week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Ma agreed to give up his majority stake in Ant following a prolonged period of regulatory scrutiny that stemmed from the planned November 2020 IPO. Ma had previously been warned not to leave China.
Research firm Reset says Russian “cyber soldiers” have taken to Telegram to disseminate pro-Russia talking points. Protocol’s Ben Brody reports the group used Telegram as a means of getting around more proactive monitoring on larger services such as Instagram, YouTube and FacebookChina government officials aren’t pleased with the Chips-Plus Act. Officials in the commerce ministry warned that the massive subsidy package would actively monitor the implementation of the bill, as it has the potential to distort supply chains and disrupt trade.
Some policymakers are intent on passing S. 2992—flawed legislation that could undermine free and reliable digital services that families use daily. Without Amazon's guaranteed 2-day shipping, Google search, or phone security, consumers' finances will be squeezed even further.
0.9%: That’s how much the U.S. economy shrank year-over-year in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. It wasn’t as bad as the 1.6% contraction in the first quarter of 2022, but in either case, it doesn’t bode well. Still, the Biden administration has been very hesitant to say we’re in a recession — even as ominous warnings from business leaders suggest otherwise.
Is it ok to work from a bathtub? A pool? Surely a hot tub might impact productivity, with the lightheadedness and all … but some HR leaders told Protocol’s Sarah Roach that it shouldn’t matter where we work, as long as work is getting done. They cautioned — with a little bit of a buzzkill — that it requires some common sense, too. I definitely recommend reading the full article, with reflections on work life from a watermelon floatie.
Thanks for reading — see you Monday!