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It’s Biden time

​Joe Biden

Good morning! This Wednesday, it's Inauguration Day, so that's mostly what we'll talk about. But Microsoft is also getting into the self-driving game and Anthony Levandowski was pardoned by Trump.

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The Big Story

All eyes on D.C.

Anna Kramer writes: It's Inauguration Day, and we all just want things to go smoothly (please, world). Tech companies want it perhaps even more than the rest of us, given the blame they received for their role in the Capitol riots. They've all made plans to help prevent violence today, some a bit more performative than others.

  • Airbnb canceled existing reservations in D.C. for inauguration week and prevented the creation of new ones, citing calls from federal and state officials for people to avoid traveling to the city. Vrbo announced yesterday it would be blocking new reservations through the end of the week.
  • After watching calls for violence escalate online, Facebook announced that its ban on ads for weapons, guns and ammunition would extend to weapons accessories, such as safety vests and holsters.
  • Twitter will be working closely with the FBI and DHS to fast-track their requests, according to a Twitter spokesperson.

A lockdown on livestreamingis also being adopted by a number of companies:

  • Facebook will prevent events from being created near the Capitol and White House today, and it will also prohibit some users from even starting livestreams based on their histories on the platform.
  • Along the same lines, YouTube reiterated its commitment to removing live streams that violate its guidelines on election integrity and hate, signaling that the company will be paying special attention to streamers during the inauguration. It also extended its suspension of Trump from the platform for another week over concerns that he may incite violence.
Though none of the ISPs would identify precisely their plans, Brian Dietz, the spokesperson for the cable industry trade group NCTA, told Protocol that companies had been working alongside the DHS and CISA to prevent any threats to internet security. "We will be working closely with CISA throughout the whole inauguration," he said.

More politics

The Biden names we know so far

Emily Birnbaum and Issie Lapowsky write: As his administration begins, newly-inaugurated Biden still has not selected his nominees to the most pivotal tech policy positions, including the head of the DOJ's antitrust division or the chairs of the FTC and FCC. But here's a running list of some of the nominees we know of so far who will matter to tech.

  • Merrick Garland, Attorney General. Garland, who was an antitrust law professor in the 1980s and has written extensively on the topic, will serve as Biden's attorney general, overseeing the Department of Justice's case against Google's alleged search monopoly. Garland, who's known as a moderate, is already facing progressive pressure to broaden the DOJ's complaint against Google.
  • Vanita Gupta, Associate Attorney General. Gupta led the DOJ's civil rights division under President Obama, but more recently, as head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, she took a key role in pushing tech companies, including Facebook, to take action around issues related to voter suppression and election integrity. Gupta is expected to apply those experiences in her role at the DOJ, ensuring that tech platforms and their algorithms don't fall afoul of longstanding civil rights law.
  • Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor. Walsh is known as a "union guy" through and through. He's expected to come down heavily on the side of labor in the ongoing battle over whether gig workers should be classified as employees.
  • Bruce Reed, Deputy Chief of Staff. Reed was Biden's most important tech policy adviser during the campaign and he's expected to play a similar role over the next four years, especially when it comes to the issue of Section 230, which Reed says needs to be overhauled.
Read more: Here's a deeper dive into Biden's tech-related nominees.

Even more politics

The first 100 days

ICYMI: Yesterday was Protocol's First 100 Days event. Some excellent panelists dug into what the Biden administration might do first when it comes to tech.

A few key takeaways, courtesy of Protocol's Penelope Blackwell:

  • More antitrust laws should be implemented, said FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter. "We're seeing really important questions surface about the fact that … decisions are lying in the hands of private companies with enormous market power," she said.
  • Action against Google over antitrust concerns could get bigger, Colorado AG Phil Weiser said. "We would like to see the DOJ broaden their case against Google," he said. "We believe that the breadth of Google's anticompetitive conduct needs to be examined because it hurts consumers by limiting choice and hurts innovation."
  • Bridging the digital divide needs to be top of mind as well, said Brookings Institution's Nicol Turner Lee. "It's about tech for all of reality," she said. "Not just in terms of getting kids online, but the ability to have an environment where people are being trained on how to build the infrastructure and how to use the technology."
Biden's agenda is going to be big, and it's going to start making noise today. Buckle up.



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People Are Talking

On Protocol: Expensify's David Barrett is not impressed with tech's response to the Capitol riots:

  • "As business leaders, it's just shameful to just sit out this entire thing. It's like, 'Oh, remember that one time when we almost had civil war? What did you do about it? Oh, fucking nothing? Oh, good job.'"

Every company needs to get into social commerce, said Shopify's Ian Black:

  • "It allows brands to engage with their customers while enabling authentic connection … TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are just some of the channels that enable merchants to reach new audiences."

Adam Mosseri reiterated that Facebook would very much like to be regulated:

  • "Mark and I would like to move more decisions from us to actual governments. Decisions like what can and cannot be on our platform. So, pick an issue: inciting violence, hate speech, et cetera."
  • Also, on what worries him most: "The thing that I care about most in the U.S. is polarization. I think what we're seeing is the country becoming increasingly polarized year after year."

The SolarWinds hackers went after Malwarebytes too, Marcin Kleczynski said:

  • "We, like many other companies, were recently targeted by the same threat actor. We can confirm the existence of another intrusion vector that works by abusing applications with privileged access to Microsoft Office 365 and Azure environments."
  • Want to know if they came after you, too? There's a tool for that now.

Making Moves

Anthony Levandowski was pardoned by Trump. The former Google and Uber engineer will now avoid his prison sentence (already delayed by COVID-19) for what a judge called the "biggest trade secret crime" he'd seen. The pardon was supported by Peter Thiel and Palmer Luckey, among others.

Rio Caraeff is the new chief commercial officer at Syng. He was previously chief content officer at Magic Leap. (Our Janko Roettgers wrote about what Syng is up to last month.)

Andrew Fong is now CTO at Vise. He joins from Dropbox.

Abhishek Pani got a promotion at Bright Machines. He's now the company's chief product officer.

Plaid's going on a European hiring spree. Now that the Visa acquisition fell through, it's planning to grow its European workforce from 40 to 100 people.

In Other News

  • National security, meet … Peloton? President-as-of-today Joe Biden has one, he wants to take it to the White House, and it turns out that's pretty complicated.
  • Cruise is now worth $30 billion, after getting more than $2 billion in new investment from Microsoft and others. Cruise and GM will also work with Microsoft on Azure-related projects.
  • Rivian raised $2.65 billionof its own new capital as it gets ready to launch its long-awaited (and much-funded) electric vehicles.
  • Citrix bought Wrike for $2.25 billion, with plans to add the product to its Workspace platform. Everybody wants to be Microsoft Office!
  • Trump signed an executive order mandating that American cloud providers maintain records of foreign clients to help U.S. authorities track cyber crimes.
  • India wants WhatsApp's new privacy policy scrapped, NDTV reported. Since India is WhatsApp's biggest market, Facebook's sure to be listening.
  • Google is at loggerheads with another AI ethicist.Axios reported that the company is investigating Margaret Mitchell and has locked her email account, over claims she may have been scraping messages to find "examples showing discriminatory treatment" of fired fellow AI ethicist Timnit Gebru.
  • Paramount+ is launching March 4, as ViacomCBS looks to improve on the fortunes of CBS All Access. Or as I call it, "the streaming service I always forget when I write a list of streaming services."
  • Jack Ma is back! He made his first appearance since laying low after Ant Group's cancelled IPO.

One More Thing

That's what I call a headphone case

In a real "paint both sides of the fence" move, Samsung is going big on the cases (yes, the cases) for its new Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds. One of them stashes your headphones inside a device that looks just like a late '90s flip phone. It's perfect! The best part of flip phones was the fidget factor, and now you can open and close the clamshell to your heart's content without having to, you know, actually use a flip phone.



Contactless payments are no longer a nice to have.

At Synchrony, we understand the challenges of running a business. Our financial and technology solutions, like touchless payment tools, help you offer your customers more tailored experiences, so they keep coming back.

Learn more about our solutions.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Abhishek Pani's first name. This story was updated on Jan. 20, 2021.

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