source-codesource codeauthorDavid PierceNEWSLETTER LayoutWant your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get David Pierce's daily newsletter.64fd3cbe9f
×

Get access to Protocol

I’ve already subscribed

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

Protocol Source Code
What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning.

Facebook calls Australia’s bluff

Image: Protocol
Facebook news

Good morning! This Thursday, Google and Facebook have very different answers to Australia's news regulation, Airbnb is betting on Atlanta, and you better make some popcorn because it's GameStop Hearing Day.

(Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to get Source Code every day. And you can text with us, too, by signing up here or texting 415-475-1729.)

The Big Story

What's really happening Down Under

Google and Facebook were both faced with regulation in Australia that would change the way they interacted with news organizations, in that country and potentially around the world. Google and Facebook decided to respond … differently:

  • Google cut deals with several media organizations in the country, including with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which has been yelling "show me the money" to tech companies for years. The deals would limit the impact of any legislation, which exists in part to force deals like these.
  • Facebook simply told the Australian government to shove it. William Easton, Facebook's managing director in the region, said the regulation "has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter." The melodrama!

Australian users won't be able to post any news links on Facebook going forward, and users around the globe won't be able to post links from Australian publishers. A few things, like government communications and COVID-related information, are exempted. (Though a bunch of government pages seem to have been caught in the crossfire.)

  • This is clearly a negotiating tactic as much as anything, just another inch forward in the game of chicken between Facebook and regulators.

This isn't really about paying publishers. I mean it is a little, but not entirely: Most people think Google and Facebook should pay, and both already do so in some countries. Rather, Google and Facebook have continued to take issue with two things:

  • The Australian law says that Google and Facebook must make deals with publishers, and submit to binding arbitration if they can't. That ultimately means the government could decide what tech has to pay publishers … and the government's not likely to take tech's side very often. There's even a vague threat built into the bill, saying that deals made voluntarily "are likely to be less onerous and less unpredictable than the alternative."
  • The law also requires tech companies to notify publishers of meaningful changes to their algorithms. The companies make those changes all the time, and don't want to be in the business of sharing details with others.
  • And that's all before the other complicated questions: Who's a publisher? Do you have to pay Dan Bongino more than The New York Times, because he's very popular on Facebook and loves to yell about bias? Why don't Twitter or LinkedIn have to pay too?

The take I get from folks around the industry is that the Australian law came from a reasonable place — trying to reset the balance between publishers and the distributors that destroyed their business — but has since warped into something totally untenable and with little benefit other than a big check with Rupert Murdoch's name on it.

But if things continue as they are now, we're at least about to get a real answer to a long-asked hypothetical: Do tech companies need publishers more than publishers need tech companies? Does a Facebook-less news industry die faster than a news-less Facebook? I suspect I know the answer, but it'll be interesting to watch.

Offices

Airbnb heads to Georgia

Anna Kramer writes: Airbnb is building a brand new technical hub in … Atlanta. No big move to Miami or Austin for these folks, and the company has one big reason why: It wants its engineering and software development teams to have diverse perspectives, and Atlanta is the place where that might actually happen.

Atlanta is home to more Black college graduates (and engineers) than anywhere else in the country, meaning it has a deep talent pool for companies looking to diversify their workforce.

  • Airbnb wants to hire from that talent pool to help meet its diversity commitments, and having a hub in the city should help with that, Chris Lehane, the company's senior VP for policy and communications, told me.

The location could grow into the company's second-largest, behind its Silicon Valley headquarters, though the company will grow slowly in order to accommodate its own needs and the community's.

  • The new tech hub will eventually house hundreds of engineering and programming jobs, including the company's product development team. While the company won't commit to exactly how many jobs it plans to add, it hopes most of those jobs will go to the local population.
  • "The objective here is to be able to attract and hire talent that's of Atlanta and from Georgia, and in so doing have a sustainable model for your office," Lehane told me.
  • It hasn't selected a facility for its long-term hub there, but some workers should join in the next year in an Atlanta-based office (provided in-person office work is possible) in the meantime.

Airbnb is just the latest tech company to make a big move in the city. Microsoft is building a massive new headquarters in a long-neglected Atlanta neighborhood, T-Mobile announced yesterday that it would work with Georgia Tech to build a 5G incubator and Apple announced last month that it was co-founding a tech education and innovation center for HBCU students and faculty there.

People Are Talking

Robinhood's Vlad Tenev is at the GameStop hearing today, and he's going to come out firing:

  • "Any allegation that Robinhood acted to help hedge funds or other special interests to the detriment of our customers is absolutely false and market-distorting rhetoric. Our customers are our top priority, particularly the millions of small investors who use our platform every day to invest for their future."
  • You can watch the hearing here from 12 p.m. ET, and sign up to Protocol | Fintech for more analysis of the event.

Clover Health is under scrutiny from all sides, and CEO Vivek Garipalli took out his frustration on a Forbes reporter:

  • "Look at every single market we're in. It is the lowest-fucking-cost product in every fucking market. The most fucking flexibility in every fucking market. I'd die on a fucking hill for our consumers. And you're posting a fucking article saying we're not."

Mailchimp's Kelly Ellis quit her job as a principal engineer yesterday after a "conversation about comp went really south":

  • "I dealt with sexism and bullying, and found out that I, as the only female principal eng, was paid less than the other (male) principals outside of Atlanta. I would not recommend friends work at Mailchimp, especially women."

A Facebook product manager wanted to change its audience reach metrics, which a lawsuit alleges the company knew were inflated but didn't fix because of the potential revenue impact:

  • "It's revenue we should have never made given the fact it's based on wrong data."

China is way ahead in its crypto planning, an unnamed Wall Street exec said:

  • "Chinese policymakers are by far the most advanced in their thinking about a digital currency. They are thinking about things that the rest of the world is nowhere near thinking about yet. The digital renminbi will put every transaction on to the radar of the People's Bank of China."

Amazon is trying to involve customers earlier in its product-development process, Simon Joinson said:

  • "The idea is simple: We'll periodically present you with some of our favorite concepts, and you tell us which ones you want to see built by pre-ordering them. If a concept reaches its pre-order goal in 30 days, we'll begin to build it."

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

Amazon

Amazon saw an immediate positive impact when we increased our starting wage to $15 an hour in 2018. The investments we made in our hourly employees were quickly transferred to local businesses and economies, showing the benefits far transcend the workplace. We're ready to see this done on a larger scale. It's time to raise the wage.

Making Moves

Melissa Strait is Coinbase's new chief compliance officer. She joins from Stripe.

Benjamin Lyon is Astra's new chief engineer, after more than two decades building stuff at Apple.

iHeartMedia bought Triton Digital for $230 million, as the podcast industry consolidation continues.

Sinch bought Inteliquent for $1.14 billion, in an effort to go head-to-head with Twilio in the U.S.

Ford is spending $1 billion on an electric vehicle facility in Germany, overhauling an existing plant.

Google is reportedly restructuring its Responsible AI teams. The groups will now all report to Marian Croak, Bloomberg reported, who will in turn report to Jeff Dean.

In Other News

  • Amazon gave preferential treatment to certain sellers in India, Reuters reported. Internal company documents also reportedly show that 35 sellers accounted for around two-thirds of all Amazon sales in the country; and that one 2014 presentation urged the company to "test the boundaries of what is allowed by law." In response to the allegations, an Indian retail group called for Amazon to be banned.
  • Congressional Democrats are discussing Big Tech regulation with the White House. Section 230 reform is part of the discussions, while Rep. Cicilline has reportedly discussed antitrust enforcement.
  • Twitter employees are only getting 57% of their bonus target, The Information reported, after the company missed revenue and profit goals. Employees will get 100% of their personal performance bonus, regardless of their actual performance, but only 7% of the corporate performance bonus.
  • The SolarWinds hack was executed from within the U.S., the White House said, though it still thinks Russia was responsible. It said 100 companies and nine federal agencies were compromised.
  • On Protocol: Amazon is rethinking content-centric TV interfaces. It's looking to rein in the chaos by re-emphasizing apps.
  • Coinbase helped Tesla buy $1.5 billion of Bitcoin, The Block reported. Coinbase's prime brokerage business is reportedly working with more than five Fortune 500 companies.
  • Three North Korean hackers were charged as part of a cyberattack conspiracy. The DOJ alleged that they tried to steal more than $1.3 billion in money and cryptocurrency.
  • JD.com announced plans to list its logistics business. The IPO could reportedly raise $5 billion at a $40 billion valuation.

One More Thing

Last decade's internet

Ah, 2011. Simpler times. I think? Who can remember. But with this very fun Internet Archive-powered site built by Neal Agarwal, you can tunnel back a decade and see what was happening everywhere online, from Apple.com to YouTube to Amazon to The New York Times. Am I crazy, or was the internet much nicer to look at 10 years ago? Except YouTube. Boy was YouTube ugly.

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

Amazon

Amazon saw an immediate positive impact when we increased our starting wage to $15 an hour in 2018. The investments we made in our hourly employees were quickly transferred to local businesses and economies, showing the benefits far transcend the workplace. We're ready to see this done on a larger scale. It's time to raise the wage.

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

Recent Issues