Image: Equinix / Protocol
December 30, 2020
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Good morning! This Wednesday, a look back at a long year of fighting about Section 230, Equinix CEO Charles Meyers on how 2020 changed his company, and a big loss in court for Apple.
Quick note: Source Code is taking a break for the next couple of days while we celebrate the New Year (alone, in our homes, probably playing video games), and will be back to its regularly scheduled programming on Sunday. Have a great holiday weekend! Send fun cocktail recipes!
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The Big Story
The year Section 230 lost all meaning
Yesterday Mitch McConnell decided to combine the "$2,000 stimulus check" fight with the "repeal Section 230" fight, creating a bill that has essentially no chance of passing. That means no bigger stimulus checks, and no Section 230 repeal. Count this as yet another way we've lost track of what we're fighting about when we fight about Section 230.
There were a lot of big Section 230 moments this year. There were hearings! There were bills! Letters! Proposals! Yelling! According to Emily Birnbaum's retrospective, there were at least 17 serious Section 230 proposals this year. (Heavy emphasis on the word "serious" there.) Here are a few of the standouts:
- January: Joe Biden called for revoking Section 230. He hasn't brought it up much since then, but, at the time, he told the editorial board of The New York Times: "I've never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he's a real problem."
- May: President Trump signed the "Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship." The EO tried to force the FTC to review allegations that tech companies were censoring conservative perspectives. It also set off a chain of lawsuits and angered just about everyone who has ever given Section 230 even a minute of thought, even the law's most conservative haters.
- October: Clarence Thomas called for Section 230 to be reined in. "Extending 230 immunity beyond the natural reading of the text can have serious consequences," Thomas wrote in response to a Section 230 case before the court, Malwarebytes Inc. v. Enigma Software. He agreed that it was not the appropriate case, but said that "in an appropriate case, it behooves us" to consider the complicated legal questions around the statute.
- October: Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey called for changes to Section 230. In a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, both CEOs acknowledged they were open to Section 230 reform. Neither proposed anything shocking; both were mostly focused on ensuring that the law continues to work as intended.
Now, with just one more day to go in 2020, where are we? Pretty much exactly where we were a year ago, except everyone is both more mad about Section 230 and somehow less aware of what it actually means. But hopefully they read up, because this fight's not going away. And I mean, it's only 26 words. Repeat after me: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." Memorize it. It'll help.
How Equinix re-thought company meetings
To mark the end of 2020, we've asked the same questions of some of the most interesting people in tech to find out what they've learned this year, how their work has changed and what's going to stick going forward. Today, Equinix CEO Charles Meyers.
What was the biggest change to your personal work habits in 2020, outside all the obvious stuff like "more video calls?"
A more flexible schedule and deeper relationships with my colleagues. The shift to work from home has led to more unstructured interactions with colleagues — a quick call to catch-up, messaging chats via Teams and text conversations.
At Equinix, we also implemented "WellBeing Breaks" companywide. Themes ranged from meditation and intention setting, to physical activity, to "hallway conversations," to moments of gratitude. For me, this was a welcomed break during the day for a bit of physical activity. A time when I could jump on my spin bike to relieve some stress, and then jump back into work more refreshed.
We also shortened meeting times across the company to 25 and 50 minutes to provide employees with "passing periods" between back-to-back calls. Additionally, we turned Wednesdays into "Better Way Days," to give everyone a break from meetings and empower them to use the day in the best way to make their work week more sustainable.
Is there anything you wish you or your team had done sooner (in 2020 or even before), knowing what we know now about how the world works?
Before shelter-in-place started, our company was working on redefining our workforce philosophy, and we had plans to redesign our offices to promote more flexibility and collaboration. What 2020 has truly underscored is the need for us to continue to do that work, keeping our foot on the gas and, in some cases, accelerating.
In addition to taking a job-persona based approach to tailor our employee experience when our employees begin returning to offices around the world, they will begin to see a work environment that is more open and collaborative, with lots of different meeting spaces. We've also completely removed all of our offices for everyone, including for members of our leadership team as well as myself.
What's one thing that was new to you or your team in 2020 that you're definitely going to carry over in 2021?
As we move toward building a company where everyone can confidently say, "I'm safe, I belong, and I matter," we sought to create space for courageous and vulnerable conversations between colleagues. Following the killing of George Floyd, thousands of our employees from around the world united together as a company through 24 hours of conversations about differences, inequality and making change to build a world with unequivocally equal human rights.
This global employee event, where over a third of our workforce came together, could not have happened at such a grassroots and global scale without the equalizer of seeing each other through a Zoom screen. And it was amazing to see thousands of our employees from around the world boldly step up and generously share their voices to help us build a better world at Equinix and beyond.
In the future, we'll continue to rethink the ways in which we best engage with our customers, partners and employees, now knowing that virtual can be an incredibly impactful format.
What company, other than your own, have you been most impressed to watch this year?
I've been extremely impressed with PwC, a key partner of Equinix. They have shown a tremendous amount of leadership in 2020, especially in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion, and they've played an invaluable role in the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion coalition. In partnership, we've selected three full-time employees to participate in this fellowship program and, following their example, we've also reached out to several of our own partners to encourage their participation.
What 2020 tech story or trend are you most interested in following next year?
I'm most excited for the evolving edge and how the implementation of 5G will propel that forward. 5G brings significant improvements over previous wireless technologies in terms of throughput, latency, reliability and massive machine connection capabilities. All of which make it easier for 5G to enable edge computing by bringing compute and storage resources proximate to each other. Over time, this is expected to broaden the overall cloud opportunity to include non-public cloud resources.
Bonus question: What's the best tech-related gift you've gotten or given recently?
Before the pandemic I would cycle at home, but soon I became inspired by my soon-to-be son-in-law and took up road-biking as a way to get outside, disconnect and help clear my head. I use my road bike quite a bit, but one thing I miss is having data on my performance like I do on my spin bike.
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.
In Other News
- Apple lost a copyright fight with Corellium. Apple alleged the security firm was illegally allowing security researchers to run virtual iPhones on their computers for testing purposes. A judge said that's allowed, but some of Apple's claims are still pending.
- VMware is suing former CTO Rajiv Ramaswami, who left the company just a few weeks ago to be CEO at Nutanix. VMware says Ramaswami broke his contract, and should have told his employer he was interviewing with a competitor.
- Dan Loeb said Intel should think about splitting its design and manufacturing operations. In a letter to Intel's chairman, the activist investor reportedly said the company should also consider divesting failed acquisitions. Intel's stock surged on news of the intervention.
- Instagram Stories, coming to search results near you? TechCrunch reported that Google is testing a new carousel that would bring Instagram and TikTok videos to search results. Which sounds truly horrible and sort of sensible.
- More bad news for Coinbase: The New York Times obtained data that shows the company pays women about 8% less than men in comparable jobs, and pays Black employees about 7% less than everyone else. The disparity is reportedly worse than the rest of the tech industry, which is already a pretty low bar.
- One of Apple's suppliers has been accused of using forced labor in its China factories. The company, Lens Technology, is only the latest to come under scrutiny since Apple promised to pay more attention to conditions in its supply chain.
- In less awful Apple news, ever wondered how the company tests its secret stuff in public? Here's a possible look, courtesy of an Apple Watch prototype dressed up like an old iPod Nano.
One More Thing
'Get your rebel on'
Introducing the 2020-est app of 2020: Vybe Together, an app for finding private parties in the time of COVID. It was promoted all over TikTok, sparked controversy on Twitter, and got kicked off the App Store all in the course of a few days. Now it's mostly gone. And we're all just going to keep partying at home. Hopefully not for much longer.
Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or our tips line, email@example.com. Happy New Year, see you Sunday.