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Image: Gab / Protocol

Gab’s brand new internet

Gab Dissenter

Good morning! This Tuesday, Gab wants to build a free-speech internet, RingCentral has a plan to take on Zoom and tech companies are stopping their campaign contributions.

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The Big Story

Gab's gift

Gab launched in 2016, and was fairly effectively deplatformed two years later after it was used to plan a shooting in Pittsburgh. Joyent stopped hosting it, GoDaddy forced it to change domain providers, Stripe stopped collecting its money, PayPal turned off its API. Gab seemed dead in the water, just like Parler does right now. But Gab figured it out.

  • Gab got back online with help from Epik, a Seattle-based hosting provider that also hosts The Daily Stormer, InfoWars and other sites that had been kicked off their original hosts, and spent over a year building its own infrastructure, the company said. Parler appears to be Epik's newest client.
  • Gab isn't in the App Store or Play Store, but you can sideload an Android app (which Gab's website says has been downloaded roughly 284,000 times) or a Gab-made browser called Dissenter (513,000 downloads).

And now? Gab seems to be on fire. The service is getting up to 700,000 new users a day, according to CEO Andrew Torba, and has gotten more than 40 million unique visitors in the last week.

  • I can't verify any of these numbers, by the way, and Gab mostly just tweets rude responses to reporters, but those are the numbers it claims. For context, it had about 700,000 total users before going dark in 2018.
  • Torba also told AFP that he's been in contact with President Trump's team about opening an account. At this point, Gab is the clear place for Trump to go, especially if it keeps growing like this.

The company is bent on seizing its moment. In a response to The Atlantic, Gab said (in a tweet that now seems to be deleted) that it's working on a smartphone "free of any and all Big Tech trackers."

  • It also has a messaging service, a video platform and ambitions to build even more. "Gab is not simply a social networking alternative," the company said in that same response. "We are the Silicon Valley alternative. If we need to do so, we will build an entire free speech internet infrastructure from the ground up."

Gab's moderation policies use the same "anything goes if it's legal" approach as other similar services. (Though the company does have a slightly unusual and very aggressive anti-porn stance.) Even as the service has been associated with horrible speech and more horrible acts, Torba has stood by those rules. And absent government regulation or an unlikely change of heart from one of Gab's vendors, there's not much anyone can do about it.

Social

Another way to take on tech giants

RingCentral has seen competitors come and go in its 21 years. The cloud-based communications tool provider knows how to plan for the long game, and its leaders are unfazed by what they see as flash-in-the-pan enthusiasm for Zoom. Protocol's Joe Williams unpacked why RingCentral might have a long and bright future, and how it could successfully take on Microsoft and Zoom.

It all starts with partnerships. Because of its long-standing relationships with legacy companies, RingCentral has agreements with Vodafone, AT&T, Avaya and Alcatel-Lucent, among others, guaranteeing its products will be used when these companies and their customers switch to the cloud. That's hundreds of millions of future users in the bag.

  • There's absolutely no other company with these kinds of partnerships, according to Rosenblatt Securities analyst Ryan Koontz.

Planning ahead doesn't hurt, either. The company spent years developing a videoconferencing tool that it launched in April, and its recent acquisition of AI-backed DeepAffects signals a future with intelligent tools on top of productivity software (think instant meeting transcripts and task assignments at the end of a video chat).

CEO Vlad Shmunis wants RingCentral to grow from a $1 billion company to a $10 billion company. To do that, he recently hired three Microsoft veterans for his exec team, as well as several others from the company's competitors.

  • "Where we want to go is multiple products, completely global [with] meaningful partnerships," Shmunis told Joe.

Did we mention that Protocol launched its newest vertical (and newsletter) this week? You should really subscribe to Protocol | Enterprise.

Politics

Turning off the campaign money

Emily Birnbaum writes: A number of tech companies are rethinking where they donate their money after facing pressure over their contributions to members of Congress who tried to undermine the legitimacy of the election last week.

In light of the violence on Capitol Hill, a number of companies say they will now suspend or rework which candidates their PACs support. Here's a list of the tech giants that are so far pausing or rethinking their political spending entirely.

  • Facebook: "Following last week's awful violence in D.C., we are pausing all of our PAC contributions for at least the current quarter, while we review our policies."
  • Google: "We have frozen all NetPAC political contributions while we review and reassess its policies following last week's deeply troubling events."
  • Microsoft: "Microsoft's political action committee decided last Friday that it will not make any political donations until after it assesses the implications of last week's events. The PAC regularly pauses its donations in the first quarter of a new Congress, but it will take additional steps this year to consider these recent events and consult with employees."
  • Airbnb: "The Airbnb PAC will update its framework and withhold support from those who voted against the certification of the presidential election results."
  • T-Mobile: "T-Mobile has supported many elected officials in a bipartisan approach to advancing a policy agenda that keeps the U.S. on the forefront of wireless technology. In light of recent events, we intend to reevaluate our PAC giving, and we look forward to working with the incoming administration."
  • AT&T: "Prior to Wednesday's Congressional votes, we publicly supported the U.S. Chamber and Business Roundtable in opposing efforts to delay or overturn the certification of Electoral College votes. As is their standard practice, the employees who serve on our PAC committee will weigh candidates' positions, votes cast and actions taken when making decisions about future PAC support."
  • Intel: "While Intel's PAC will continue bipartisan contributions, we will not contribute to members of Congress who voted against certification of the Electoral College results as we feel that action was counter to our company's values."

Verizon and Oracle did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Twitter dissolved its PAC last year. Apple and IBM do not make contributions to political parties or candidates.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron

For Raj Hazra, who is senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications at Micron, there has never been a more thrilling time than this golden age of data. In this interview, Hazra describes how "we are now at the doorstep of taking things that we thought were science fiction and making them real, and it's only going to be exponentially faster going forward". Read more from Micron's Raj Hazra.

People Are Talking

The laws governing tech companies should be decided by lawmakers, not CEOs, a spokesperson for Angela Merkel said:

  • "The fundamental right [of freedom of expression] can be interfered with, but along the lines of the law and within the framework defined by the lawmakers. Not according to the decision of the management of social media platforms."

Facebook isn't a neutral platform, Adam Mosseri said, because there's no such thing:

  • "We're not neutral. No platform is neutral, we all have values and those values influence the decisions we make. We try and be apolitical, but that's increasingly difficult, particularly in the U.S. where people are more and more polarized."

On Protocol: The last week has shown how important Section 230 really is, said TechFreedom's Berin Szóka:

  • "Even if certain forms of awful speech could be made unlawful, requiring tech sites to clean it up would be even more constitutionally difficult. It's one thing to do that with child sexual exploitation material, which is generally readily identifiable. It's quite another to make a website both judge and jury in cleaning up the speech of others."

Intel CEO Bob Swan said the company wants to remain an integrated device manufacturer, but could license other companies' manufacturing tech:

  • "Is there a scenario in which Intel might use another's process technology in our own manufacturing? That's certainly possible."

An anonymous former Alibaba executive had thoughts on China's Jack Ma crackdown:

  • "I don't think Alibaba is going to get broken up. It's just that the methods by which they fight for the market are going to be more regulated."

Making Moves

Roy Austin is Facebook's new VP of Civil Rights and deputy general counsel. He's a longtime civil rights lawyer, and the kind of hire Facebook seemed petrified of making in the Trump era.

Manny Rivelo is the new CEO of Forcepoint. Dave Stevens is also the company's new SVP of strategy and execution, and John DiLullo is the CRO. All the changes come as Francisco Partners closes its deal for the company.

Musa Tariq is GoFundMe's new CMO. He was most recently running marketing for Airbnb Experiences.

Jim Lucier is leaving SAP Concur, after more than a decade with the company.

In Other News

  • On Protocol: Trump wants to strike back at Big Tech, but there's not much he can do. One Republican technology adviser told Protocol: "I don't think he has any power."
  • Bitcoin fell as much as 20% yesterday. Ethereum was also hit in the selloff, which came after weeks of surging prices.
  • On Protocol: Walmart is creating a fintech startup with Ribbit Capital, the VC firm behind Robinhood, Affirm and Credit Karma. Walmart will own a majority stake in the new company.
  • Parler was hit by a huge data scrape, revealing profile data, deleted posts and location data. It was achieved by archiving the site using publicly available information.
  • Pinduoduo employees have to work 380 hours a month, according to a former employee. The company's work culture has come under intense scrutiny after two workers died.
  • A former SoftBank employee was arrested, with Japanese police saying he illegally took 5G trade secrets to Rakuten, his current employer.

One More Thing

Biggest. Stream. Ever.

David Martinez, better known as TheGrefg, absolutely destroyed Twitch's record for most-watched stream ever. He had more than 2.4 million people simultaneously watching him reveal a Fortnite skin. The previous record for an individual stream was 635,000 viewers, just to give you a sense of how big this was.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron

For Raj Hazra, who is senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications at Micron, there has never been a more thrilling time than this golden age of data. In this interview, Hazra describes how "we are now at the doorstep of taking things that we thought were science fiction and making them real, and it's only going to be exponentially faster going forward". Read more from Micron's Raj Hazra.

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.

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