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Brian Chesky put out the call — will Big Tech answer?

A vintage trailer in a desert under string lights.

Good morning! This Wednesday, Brian Chesky calls on other billionaires to help Afghan refugees, Coinbase users are really mad, and millions of private records were leaked because someone hit the wrong button.

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The Big Story

Bueller? … Bueller?

As U.S. forces rushed to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Kabul last week, Brian Chesky tasked members of the Airbnb team with figuring out how his company could help with the growing humanitarian crisis.

Yesterday, after consulting with U.S. government agencies and refugee resettlement groups including the International Rescue Committee, Chesky shared the results of that plan.

  • Airbnb will offer 20,000 Afghan refugees temporary housing through its platform, which the company will pay for through contributions from Chesky, Airbnb and its associated nonprofit
  • "The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the US and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time," Chesky tweeted. "We feel a responsibility to step up."

Chesky also called out his billionaire brethren, tweeting: "I hope this inspires other business leaders to do the same. There's no time to waste." A little self-congratulatory, sure, but he also has a point. It's become almost routine for tech CEOs to make public statements of the "our hearts are with" variety — often paired with a public contribution — in the wake of global tragedies and injustices. And yet, very few leaders from big tech companies have spoken up about what's currently unfolding in Afghanistan.

  • Since the Taliban took power a little more than a week ago, Mark Zuckerberg has posted about the Oculus Quest 2 and Facebook's new VR Workrooms, but not Afghanistan.
  • Tim Cook tweeted about the earthquake in Haiti, and announced that Apple would be donating to relief efforts there, but has not announced the same with regard to the situation in Afghanistan.
  • Satya Nadella has tweeted about bringing Microsoft Azure to the International Space Station, and Sundar Pichai tweeted about Google's work to help visually-impaired people with AI. But they don't appear to have said anything about Afghanistan.
  • Neither has the richest person in the world, Jeff Bezos.

Chesky isn't entirely alone regarding Afghanistan, though. Sheryl Sandberg and her fiancé donated $1 million to the International Rescue Committee and launched a Facebook fundraiser for the organization, writing that the "gains made by Afghanistan's women over the past two decades are threatened to be entirely wiped out."

  • It's also possible that CEOs are helping privately. Tech CEOs tend to like to get credit for their good deeds, but given the politically fraught nature of the withdrawal, maybe this time's different.
  • Protocol reached out to Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Only Facebook responded, citing Sandberg's contributions and updates the company made to make it easier for people in Afghanistan to lock down their accounts with a single click.

But there are still questions about Airbnb's plan and how it will be implemented. It's unclear how long refugees will be housed in their Airbnbs, for example.

  • It's also unclear how much the company is spending on this effort or how long it will take to find housing for 20,000 people.
  • We do know that these homes will be scattered around the world, and that has already worked with partners to resettle more than 1,000 refugees from Afghanistan.

Airbnb has largely relied on the kindness of its hosts to respond to disasters in the past, matching them with people in need, but letting hosts front the costs. Airbnb did subsidize a program last year that matched frontline workers with housing, making some 225,000 homes available to them over the course of the year.

  • This program for Afghan refugees will be funded through's $25 million refugee fund, which launched in June.
  • A spokesperson said the company will release further details this week, including how people can sign up to open their homes to refugees for free, beyond the donations Chesky committed to making.

No single statement or contribution from a tech CEO is going to change everything — or even anything — for the people of Afghanistan. But there are undoubtedly ways that tech leaders could use their vast platforms, or at least their vast wealth, to help.

— Issie Lapowsky (email | twitter)


After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. Just as with building a healthier lifestyle, enacting measures of support on the day-to-day level is where lasting change is made.

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People Are Talking

On Protocol | Policy: Apple is well-intentioned in scanning for CSAM, but it's overlooking new risks the feature could create, says Sharon Bradford Franklin from the Center for Democracy and Technology:

  • "Even with the goal of protecting children held up as your metric, Apple's changes are going to create new risks for vulnerable youth."

The IT and auto industries are both thinking about mobility. Battery innovator Akira Yoshino thinks that somewhere down the line, they'll need to converge:

  • "The one to look out for is Apple. What will they do? I think they may announce something soon. And what kind of car would they announce? What kind of battery?"

Gary Gensler says it's time for the SEC to look at financial services companies' data analytics and AI use:

  • "Data analytics and AI can bring a lot of positives, but it means we should look back and think about what does this mean for user interface, user engagement, fairness and bias."

Facebook believes in NFTs, crypto head David Marcus said:

  • "When you have a good crypto wallet, like Novi will be, you also have to think about how to help consumers support NFTs."

Making Moves

Margaret Mitchell is joining AI startup Hugging Face, where she'll work on helping companies create fair algorithms. Mitchell was fired from Google earlier this year.

Josh Sapan stepped down as AMC Networks' CEO after 26 years. He'll become the company's executive vice chair, and Matthew Blank will fill in as interim CEO.

Robert Alvarez joined AffiniPay's executive board. Alvarez is BigCommerce's CFO.

In Other News

  • The White House's cybersecurity summit is today. Execs from Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM and ADP, along with others from finance and energy, are set to talk with the Biden administration about how to stop hackers and ransomware.
  • Coinbase users are mad at the company, CNBC reported. Thousands of people have lodged complaints against Coinbase, claiming they've had money disappear from their accounts and the customer service is slow or sometimes unresponsive.
  • Female entrepreneurs say they're constantly compared to Elizabeth Holmes, even though they could not be more different. They say the issue seeps into their professional lives, affecting their interactions with male founders and forcing them to act twice as hard to prove they belong in the startup world.
  • Tens of millions of private records were accidentally leakedafter a bunch of major companies and government agencies incorrectly changed a setting in their Microsoft software. Employee details and COVID-19 vaccination data were among the information that was exposed.
  • On Protocol | Gaming: Toxicity is rampant in the gaming industry, according to a study by Unity, but the game platform might have a way to address it. Unity bought OTO, an AI firm that can help games monitor online conversations by analyzing voice chats.
  • TikTok is getting into in-app shopping. It's working with Shopify on a feature that lets users buy products directly in the app, following similar pushes into social media shopping by Instagram and Facebook.
  • On Protocol | China: Take a deeper look at China's new data privacy law, which the country passed on Friday. The law will affect data access for the United States, and, more broadly, could set an example for other countries working on their own data privacy rules.

One More Thing

A decade of Tim Cook

This week marks Tim Cook's 10th anniversary as Apple CEO. He's had quite a few hits during his tenure as CEO: AirPods; the Apple Watch; the M1 chip; the push toward services including Apple TV+, Apple Music and Apple Pay; the whole "Apple is a $2.5 trillion company" thing.

And of course there were misses: those awful MacBook keyboards that broke all the time; the 18-karat, $10,000 Apple Watch; the Mac Pro that looks like a trash can. And who can forget the mouse with the plug on the bottom? But even with all that, he's still had quite the run.

Take a walk down memory lane and check out more of what Cook's done over the years, and what the future may hold for him and Apple.


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Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Sheryl Sandberg's relationship with her co-donor; she donated with her fiancé. This story was updated on Aug. 25, 2021.

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