Get ready for the Section 230 fight
Good morning! This Wednesday, a look at what's coming in today's Section 230 hearing, inside Google's plans to help voters make sense of the election, Jon Stewart's upcoming Apple TV+ show, and the big, huge, enormous, gigantic PlayStation 5.
Also, did you go back to the office yesterday, now that San Francisco's allowing it again? How'd it go? I'd love to hear your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And join us today for our event on the future of TV. Protocol's Janko Roettgers will moderate a panel of Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi, Cinedigm president Erick Opeka, Wurl CEO Sean Doherty and CBS News Interactive GM Christy Tanner on whether cord cutting has reached a tipping point in 2020. It's at noon ET, and it's going to be great! Sign up here.
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Three of tech's most notable CEOs are in Washington today, where they'll spend who-knows-how-many hours being yelled at about the state of their platforms. And based on their opening testimonies, Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey are all going to say the same thing: Getting rid of Section 230 is not the answer.
It's clear that much of today's hearing will be two sides yelling past each other. One side saying "Section 230 means you can't make decisions about content!" and the other saying "Section 230 is precisely why we can make decisions about content!" I recommend Advil.
Everyone seems to agree that some kind of 230 tweak is necessary. But what that is, when it'll happen, and who gets to decide are all very much up in the air. And until all sides have agreed on the problem, there's not going to be much progress. If I were optimistic, I'd say today's the day that could happen. But I'm not optimistic.
Emily Birnbaum writes: Today's hearing is certain to involve a lot of political theater — posturing, point-scoring, whatever you want to call a hearing with the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google one week out from the election. But what happens could have big consequences for other companies, too.
I talked to Jon Berroya, CEO and interim president of the Internet Association, and Benjamin Lee, Reddit's general counsel, about what they're looking for:
Berroya represents Facebook, Google and Twitter as well as a swath of smaller social media companies. He said there's going to be a lot of criticism but no solutions.
Reddit's Lee said it's "frightening as well as sad" to see what the state of play around Section 230 is right now, and broadly agreed with Berroya. At a time when there's so much antitrust scrutiny around the tech platforms, he warned, many Section 230 reforms could actually benefit the largest players and cement their dominance.
The unequal impact of Section 230 reform has become a common worry among smaller tech companies. They worry that any stringent regulation aimed at Big Tech will actually be a win for any company with the resources to hire an army of compliance experts, while crushing those who can't. Today could offer a glimpse into whether those concerns might play out. Maybe.
Google has a pretty straightforward job during election season, at least as tech companies go: It just has to tell people the right information. Easier said than done, of course, but that's what Google has spent the last few months investing in.
Google didn't say how many people have used these tools, but the volume's clearly enormous. Searches for the phrase "how to vote" peaked on Sept. 22, which was National Voter Registration Day, with more than double the search volume of "donald trump" and about on par with Google's most-searched term, "facebook." (Which, LOL.) For weeks the phrase has been roughly twice as popular as "taylor swift," and about as popular as "lebron james." A lot of people are seeing that box.
It's interesting to see Google — and many others — decide that election season is a time for the company to be much more proactive and selective about the information people see. There's no pretense of getting out of the way or letting the platform do its job. They see this as a moment to step in, to keep watch, to make sure things go the right way.
Join Janko Roettgers today at noon ET to answer the question: Has TV reached a tipping point? You will hear from industry experts including Tubi founder and CEO Farhad Massoudi, Cinedigm President Erick Opeka, Wurl CEO Sean Doherty and CBS News Digital EVP and GM Christy Tanner. The event is presented by Roku.
Reddit's going to let most employees work remotely if they want, and is rethinking its comp structure to match:
Twitch is a seriously useful way to reach voters, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said:
Elon Musk really just won't stop tweeting:
SpaceX is launching its Starlink satellite-internet, but doesn't want anyone to get their hopes up for the "Better Than Nothing Beta":
Jon Stewart is headed back to TV, with a series on Apple TV+. That's a heck of a way for Apple to show it's serious about being a huge streaming platform.
Silicon Valley's richest are spending huge amounts to help Biden win the election. Recode tallied their total contributions at over $120 million. Top of the list: Karla Jurvetson, psychiatrist and wife of investor Steve Jurvetson.
Amazon's hiring 100,000 people to help it manage the holiday rush. That's actually down from recent years, but that's maybe not surprising given the 175,000 or so people the company has already hired this year.
Ankhi Das is leaving Facebook. She was the company's leading public-policy executive in India, and has been the subject of criticism over the way she applied (and didn't apply) hate-speech rules in the country.
Here's what we know about the Playstation 5: It's very large. Everyone on the internet would like you to know it's large. Does it matter that it's quite large? Not really, but such are the nature of review embargoes that "it's large" is about all there is to say about it so far. Point is, it's large. Presumably at some point it will also play some video games. But for now, it's large.
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Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to email@example.com, or our tips line, firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.