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Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

How Big Tech is preparing for midterms

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Good morning! This Friday, some companies are ready to tell the world about their midterm election efforts. Meta? Not so much.

Let’s talk about midterms

Some tech companies are eager to tell everyone about their work around the midterms. Others are taking a quieter approach.

Twitter and Google are getting ready for the upcoming elections. Google is making changes to Gmail, and Twitter’s ready to fight election misinformation.

  • Twitter said yesterday that it’s reviving tools to take down false and misleading election posts. It’s also applying its civic integrity policy, introduced in 2018 to stop users from posting misleading claims about elections, to the midterms.
  • Google’s trying to make sure campaign emails stay out of your spam folder after it was criticized for marking too many Republican campaign emails as spam.

Meta is mostly keeping quiet and hasn’t shared anything other than this one-page outline.

  • That’s quite different from how it approached the 2018 election, when the company offered tours of its election response war room.
  • Two New York University researchers, one of whom planned to investigate the spread of disinformation around the Jan. 6 insurrection, had their access to Facebook revoked by Meta.
  • Meta’s also sunsetting CrowdTangle, its tool used for fact-checking and research, and the number of people working on the company’s core election team has dwindled.
  • “They’re not talking about it,” former Facebook policy director Katie Harbath told The AP. “Best case scenario: They’re still doing a lot behind the scenes. Worst case scenario: They pull back, and we don’t know how that’s going to manifest itself for the midterms on the platforms.”

It remains to be seen whether Meta has something more up its sleeves, or if it’s taking itself out of the elections narrative. If it plays out anything like the 2020 elections, though, even if companies set up the most stringent protections and talk about them at every opportunity, they might find themselves face-to-face with lawmakers anyway.

— Sarah Roach

The FTC’s data crackdown

The FTC announced yesterday that it’s taking steps toward cracking down on commercial surveillance and lax security.

That includes exploring new rules around companies “collecting, analyzing, and profiting” from user data. FTC Chair Lina Khan said that the FTC is for now just asking whether it even should regulate in some specific areas.

The effort will likely draw pushback from business and tech groups, Protocol Policy reporter Ben Brody told me. Companies could try to argue that consumers get utility from the data practices in place.

  • They could also say that Congress — not the FTC — should make these decisions.
  • Congress has notoriously dragged its feet on tech regulation, though there has been some movement: The House recently advanced a major data protection bill out of committee.

This kind of rulemaking could have sweeping effects on tech and other industries. The FTC is also probing data collection practices in social media, cybersecurity, AI and health care.

  • But it’s still early days, and the FTC could take a narrower approach in the end.
  • “I don't think any eventual rules will take on all those, but I do think there will be some rules somewhere — and they could take on almost any of those topics,” Ben told me.

For now, the FTC is asking tons of broad questions around everything from biometrics to algorithmic discrimination. The road ahead could be long, but the effort could lead to much tighter limits on how companies can take and use your data.

— Nat Rubio-Licht


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People are talking

Telegram’s Pavel Durov called the App Store’s review process “obscure”:

  • “It's not just demoralizing: It causes direct financial losses to hundreds of thousands of mobile apps globally.”
CJ Moses said AWS is the "blank canvas that allows you to create the Mona Lisa":
  • "What we want to do now is to be able to allow you still to paint the Mona Lisa, but in this case to be able to do so in a secure fashion."

Making moves

Paddy Srinivasan is GoTo’s new CEO. He was previously the company’s chief product and tech officer.

Sarah McAuley is Paperless Parts’ new CMO. She previously held the same role at Quali.

Tatyana Bolton left R Street Institute for Google’s government affairs and public policy team. Bolton was a policy director for cybersecurity and emerging threats at RSI.

Joanna Popper is Creative Artists Agency’s new chief metaverse officer. Popper has worked on VR and marketing for HP and NBC.

Marqeta CEO Jason Gardner and COO Vidya Peters are both leaving the company. Gardner founded the company in 2010, and Peters joined in 2019.

In other news

Amazon wants to add mental health services to Amazon Care and plans to partner with mental health provider Ginger.

Meta’s expanding end-to-end encryption in Messenger, but the company said it has nothing to do with the Nebraska abortion case that resulted in Meta handing over private messages.

California dropped a bill that would've let lawyers sue social media platforms for allegedly addictive features. Meta, Twitter and Snap lobbied against it.

BlackRock launched a bitcoin private trust after seeing “substantial interest” from institutional clients in the U.S.

Australia's competition watchdog fined Google $42.7 million for misleading users on location data collection on their phones.

The vibe has shifted at Google. Employees say they fear harsher disciplinary action as the company extends its hiring freeze.

The California Energy Commission adopted the goal of developing between 3 and 5 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030. It wants to reach 25 gigawatts by 2045.

Don’t quit your day job

Move over, side hustles. The side startup is here.

More and more, workers are using the flexibility of remote jobs to start their own companies. A record number of Americans started their own business last year, as the pandemic caused many people to reassess priorities. But some are doing so without sacrificing the stability of a consistent paycheck, taking lunch hours or late nights to make their startup start.

Is starting a side startup while keeping your job something you would do? Have you done it? Reply to this email and let us know!

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you Sunday.

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