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Google seeks compromise, Facebook opts for defiance


Good morning! This Wednesday, Google is making compromises, Facebook is pushing ahead with its integration plans, and a new Section 230 bill wants to stop online drug deals.

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The Big Story

You can't always get what you want

When the specter of regulation looms, your tech company has two main options. You can dig in, fight back and hope that life carries on as normal. Or you can work with regulators, try to assuage their concerns and make sure that regulation at least partly benefits you.

On Tuesday, Google took the second approach.

"We have been working with the European Commission," a Google spokesperson said, referring to new commitments it's made regarding its Fitbit acquisition. That acquisition is currently under scrutiny by European regulators, who are concerned that the data and hardware-software ties Google gains from the deal might stifle competition.

  • According to The Financial Times, Google made three concessions. It said it wouldn't use Fitbit's data for ad targeting for ten years, rather than the initially proposed 5 years; that third-party wearables would have access to Android APIs; and that third-party apps could continue to use Fitbit users' data, if they consented.

Meanwhile, Google said a compromise was achievable in Australia, over the country's draft legislation that would make platforms pay publishers for news. "We're asking for it to be fair," Mel Silva, Google's managing director for Australia and New Zealand, told Bloomberg, adding that "we really do think we can get there."

Not everyone wants to compromise, though. Facebook has gone on the offensive in Australia, threatening to block users from sharing news if the draft legislation becomes law. (And it's still pushing forward with its Grand Unification — more on that below.)

But it's unclear how wise a hostile approach is, because compromise seems to be working. The FT reported that the European Commission is "poised to approve" the Google-Fitbit deal thanks to Google's concessions, which might not have happened without them. With regulators emboldened, fighting back might no longer work so well.

  • Regulators need to be careful, though, that "compromises" don't end up tilting the balance back in Big Tech's favor — as DuckDuckGo and Ecosia argued about Google's search practices.
  • In a statement about the Fitbit news, the European Consumer Organization said it expects "the Commission to examine these latest proposals from Google in detail and in particular to assess how effective they would be in practice in terms of addressing our concerns in the long term."


E pluribus unum

Speaking of compromise and defiance, Facebook took another step toward resisting regulation on Tuesday with its latest attempt to unify its products. The company announced its Accounts Center, a new section in Facebook, Instagram and Messenger that lets users manage their Facebook account across all those apps.

  • That includes stuff like whether Instagram posts automatically crosspost to Facebook, centralized Facebook Pay settings, and a single sign on.
  • Users can also sync their name and profile pic across Facebook and Instagram.

This is the latest in a series of integration steps. Last month, Instagram started testing a DM redesign that looks an awful lot like Messenger. (It even uses the Messenger icon.) And a couple weeks ago, Facebook launched a tool that allows businesses to manage their accounts across Facebook and Instagram.

  • Notably absent from all these tools is WhatsApp, which has been beset by integration issues from the start. But WhatsApp integration is coming, Facebook said in its Business Suite announcement — it just might take a little longer.

It seems that we're getting very close to Mark Zuckerberg's ultimate vision: One backend, with many interchangeable front ends. Now we just have to wait and see whether regulators try to unscramble the omelette Mark has hurriedly made.


A new Section 230 bill wants to stop drug sales

Emily Birnbaum writes: There's another bipartisan Section 230 bill. This time, it's from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. John Cornyn, and they're targeting the social media platforms for facilitating the online sale of opioids and illicit drugs.

The legislation would require reporting of illegal activity by Facebook, Google and other social media companies when they identify it on their platforms — or else they'd lose their liability protections.

  • "High-level drug offenses, violent crimes like murder, and even acts of terrorism are documented online, and it's past time that technology platforms play a role in standing up for the victims of these types of crimes by saying something when they see something," said Cornyn.

It's an issue that Manchin in particular has been talking about for a long time — which makes sense, considering he's the senator from West Virginia, which has been brutally hit by the opioid epidemic.

Rick Lane, a former lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce and 21st Century Fox who advocated for the bill, said it's significant to see "senators from different parts of the country and different parties agreeing that the sale of illegal drugs online and other major crimes is a critical problem that needs to be addressed on social networking sites."

The See Something, Say Something Online Act probably won't see the light of day this year, but now it's in the mix as Democrats and Republicans get closer to Section 230 reform.



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People Are Talking

Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg telling him that Facebook is not doing enough to stop disinformation:

  • "Your platform is the nation's foremost propagator of disinformation about the voting process … No company that considers itself a force for good in democracy, and that purports to take voter suppression seriously, would allow this dangerous claptrap to be spread to millions of people."

Dania Rajendra, director of anti-Amazon group Athena, was not pleased by Reveal's report about Amazon hiding rising injury rates at its warehouses:

  • "It is no surprise that the data backs up what workers say. It is time for public officials to force Amazon to follow the law and to tell the truth. Workers and working-class communities pay the high price of Prime Days and of hosting Amazon in our communities to begin with."

Coinbase's Brian Armstrong offered a severance package to employees who want to leave after he published that blog post decrying workplace activism:

  • "Given the clarity we now have about this direction, I know that some of you are thinking about whether Coinbase is the right place for you to stay … To ease this transition, we're going to offer a generous separation package … It's always sad when we see teammates go, but it can also be what is best for them and the company."

Making Moves

Alex Schultz is Facebook's new chief marketing officer. He was on the growth team, and replaces Antonio Lucio.

Shopify had a big management shakeup. Chief product officer Craig Miller is leaving, with CEO Tobi Lütke taking on his responsibilities. Harley Finkelstein is now president, and Toby Shannan replaces him as COO. made lots of changes, too. CEO Walter De Brouwer changed role to chief scientific officer, Sam De Brouwer took over as CEO, and Dr. Nirav Shah is the new chief medical officer.

Charles Phillips joined the board of Compass. He's the third person to join the board this year, as the company reportedly preps for an IPO.

Amazon is leasing around 90,000 square feet of office space in Singapore, reports Bloomberg. Tencent, Alibaba and ByteDance are all reportedly expanding in the city, too.

In Other News

  • CFIUS is looking into Chinese tech investments from almost 10 years ago, reports The Washington Post. The committee has made dozens of requests for information from U.S. companies, while national security officials have reportedly warned VCs about accepting Chinese money.
  • The DOJ-Google lawsuit is reportedly coming next week, with the DOJ currently trying to get state attorneys general to join the lawsuit.
  • China is also preparing an antitrust probe into Google, Reuters reports. The investigation, apparently proposed by Huawei, could look into whether Google has used Android to limit competition.
  • Apple and Epic don't want a jury trial. The two agreed that their claims should be decided in a bench trial by a judge.
  • Seattle established a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers, of $16.39 per hour. The law takes effect on Jan. 1, and is modeled on New York City's approach.
  • The Biden campaign obtained the @Truth Twitter handle, and used it to fact check President Trump during the debate. It tweeted eleven times.
  • Apple gave Tim Cook his first stock package in nine years. He was granted almost 334,000 restricted stock units, and could earn up to 667,984 more if he hits a series of targets. At Apple's current stock price, that's a total potential payday of $114 million.
  • It's time to come home, Googlers. The company reportedly asked employees that have moved abroad for the pandemic to return to the country they're employed in by the end of the year.
  • Amazon launched its own virtual experiences, with a public beta called "Amazon Explore." It's a marketplace remarkably similar to Airbnb, and you can buy things related to the experiences that are then shipped to you. Obviously.
  • Palantir and Asana both go public today. They're both using direct listings, and the NYSE has set reference prices that value Palantir at $15.8 billion and Asana at $3.3 billion. Their performance today could have a big impact on whether other companies decide to use direct listings in future. We'll take a close look at both listings on Protocol later today.
  • Two women filed sexual abuse complaints against Nikola founder Trevor Milton. One was his cousin, who accused him of groping her when she was 15; the other woman also said the incident happened when she was 15. Milton denies the allegations.

One More Thing

The blockchain chorus

The biggest public listing of the year isn't Palantir, or Snowflake: It's Ant Group. And ahead of its listing, it's absolutely crucial that you watch this video, of a senior citizen choir, dressed up as ants, singing about the merits of Ant's blockchain solution. "Store your pretty pics on blockchain, protect copyrights, protect copyrights, do you know?" they sing. If you want mass adoption of your blockchain products, this might be the way to go.



Introducing QuickBooks Commerce, a new way for small businesses to grow

Small businesses need to attract and sell to new customers, but many worry about adding operational complexity – especially right now. QuickBooks Commerce is a new platform to manage multiple online and in-store sales channels and better maintain inventory while getting profitability insights – all from one central hub.

Learn more

Today's Source Code was written by Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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