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How to cancel the president

Donald Trump

Good morning! This Friday, social platforms continue to deplatform the president, new apps rise in the wake, Signal's having a moment and your office's free lunch may not be there when you go back.

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The Big Story

Suspended indefinitely

There are two ways to read Mark Zuckerberg's decision — and don't be mistaken, it was absolutely and entirely Mark Zuckerberg's decision — to indefinitely ban President Trump from posting on Facebook and Instagram.

  • Option one: Zuckerberg genuinely changed his mind after witnessing what Trump's words incited at the Capitol this week, and realized that protecting Trump's right to a platform was no longer the most important thing.
  • Option two: As Issie Lapowsky wrote for Protocol, Zuckerberg read the room. He realized that Democrats will now chair every committee that might be interested in making his life harder, and made what amounts to a totally empty gesture, closing the barn door long after the horse had left, in hopes that the new administration will take it easy on him.

My sense is the reality is a bit of both. Zuck has a long history of sticking to his beliefs even when they make his life harder, but there's practically nothing in Zuckerberg's post explaining the move that hasn't also been true every day for the last four years.

  • "We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great," he wrote. "Where've you been?" asked every extremism scholar and trust and safety exec I know.

Facebook is the biggest platform taking action against the president, but far from the only one:

  • Twitch disabled Trump's account, and said it needed to protect its community from "the President's incendiary rhetoric."
  • Shopify took down all Trump-affiliated stores because, it argued, they promoted "organizations, platforms or people that threaten or condone violence to further a cause."
  • Snap locked Trump's account indefinitely, on similar grounds.
  • YouTube increased the penalties for spreading false information on the service, but didn't ban anybody directly.

Jack Dorsey, however, hasn't said anything. His silence has been deafening: Twitter is Trump's most-used platform, the place he spends most of his time and seems to do most of his governing. After Facebook's action, which would have given Dorsey plenty of cover to do almost anything, Twitter's slow reaction felt to a lot of people like an abdication of responsibility.

Every company is going to have to answer these kinds of questions, because issues of moderation and platform health eventually come for everyone. And it's time to dispense with the idea that platforms can be neutral, that having no opinion is the right opinion to have. For Zuckerberg and Facebook, there's no going back. And there shouldn't be for anybody else.

More Social

A new social player?

An entire universe of social networks has been waiting for something like this: a big event that got Trump or a subset of big conservative names kicked off the mainstream platforms, forcing them and their fans to go somewhere else. And now here we are.

The question is, where will the deplatformed go? Where will Trump himself go?

  • Conservative celebs like Dan Bongino and Lin Wood are already all-in on Parler, which is definitely the betting favorite to be Trump's landing spot as well. It's currently higher on the iOS App Store charts than at any time since right after the election.
  • Gab has also seen a big uptick in traffic in the last day or so. It, like Parler, was a popular place for the rioters to organize ahead of their raid on the Capitol.

Both platforms would welcome Trump, but neither would give him the platform and reach that Twitter and Facebook currently do. With one tweet, he can control news cycles; people don't pay attention to Parler the same way. That's why deplatforming works, and it really does work.

That said, if anyone has the gravity to single-handedly bring a social network to the mainstream, wouldn't it be @realDonaldTrump?

Messaging

Signal's day in the sun

Elon Musk, newly-crowned Richest Person in the World, tweeted some messaging-app advice yesterday: "Use Signal."

Why is Signal having a moment? Few things going on here: One, WhatsApp now requires users to agree to share information with Facebook. The company says it's only collecting that data for WhatsApp Business-related chats, and users aren't being required to share data, only to agree to the policy. But the app's new privacy policy allows for way more than that. And you know what they say about Facebook and privacy policies.

  • Bringing that into sharp relief is a newly easy way to understand the security of various messaging apps: Those privacy "nutrition labels" required by the App Store.
  • Under the "data linked to you" section, Signal has zero things. Apple's iMessage has three things. WhatsApp already has 25 … which sounds like a lot! Except that Facebook Messenger has 136. Many people are concerned Facebook will tap WhatsApp in a similar way going forward.

It all added up to a big day for Signal, which was getting so many new users it couldn't send out verification codes fast enough. And it helped prove exactly how powerful those nutrition labels are going to be. No wonder Facebook hates them so much.

A MESSAGE FROM INTUIT

Intuit A MESSAGE FROM INTUIT

Virtualized service business models previously on the horizon waiting for consumer habits to catch up have accelerated at break-neck speed. And consumers are tapping their feet, waiting for more. Now, think about the dilemma that consumers are faced with going into this tax season. Because of the pandemic, many tax situations seem more complex and are sparking questions never before imagined.

Read more

People Are Talking

On Protocol: Ajit Pai said he won't be going going forward with Section 230 rule-making:

  • "The reason is, in part, because given the results of the election, there's simply not sufficient time to complete the administrative steps necessary in order to resolve the rule-making. Given that reality, I do not believe it's appropriate to move forward."

Innovating in fintech is different than in other businesses, Chime's Chris Britt said:

  • "This is a category where you can't just be renegade. We have a core value on our walls that says 'Respect the rules,' which is like the least Silicon Valley thing you could ever have. But in this category, it's required."

Facebook's moderation bed was made a long time ago, Chamath Palihapitiya said:

  • "Unfortunately the skeptical part of me says that we optimized for short-term profitability at the sake of our democracy, and what we left in tatters was any sense that there was any sort of ethical or moral imperative that would govern decision making at that company."

Making Moves

Nick Giovanni is Instacart's new CFO. He joins from Goldman Sachs, and replaces Sagar Sanghvi.

Simple, one of the earliest online banks, is shutting down. All its accounts will be transferred to BBVA, which bought the company in 2014.

SoFi is going public via a Chamath Palihapitiya SPAC, and will be valued at $8.65 billion.

Hopin bought StreamYard for $250 million as it tries to quickly scale up a full-fledged consumer video platform.

Hipcamp raised $57 million, making the Airbnb-for-camping app a $300 million company.

Katia Vaskys is the new GM of IBM Brazil, running the company's operations in the country. IBM also named Martin Schroeter the CEO at NewCo, the company's managed infrastructure spinoff.

SolarWinds hired Chris Krebs as a consultant. He'll work with Alex Stamos to lead its crisis response to the hack.

In Other News

  • The U.S. won't retaliate against France's digital services tax, ditching initial plans to apply tariffs to French imports. It said it would instead pursue a coordinated response to France and other countries with similar taxes.
  • Hyundai said it's in talks with Apple about developing an electric car: though now a journalist was told that Apple may well look for another partner. Separately, Bloomberg reported that an Apple car would be autonomous, but is at least five years away.
  • In other EV news, Baidu will reportedly make EVs using Geely plants. The company is looking to raise over $3.5 billion in a secondary listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
  • Bitcoin briefly hit $40,000, and the total market value of cryptocurrencies hit $1 trillion for the first time.
  • On Protocol: TripActions pivoted to work-from-home expenses. Its credit line product, initially designed to cover travel expenses, is now available to cover other purchases.
  • China told Chinese media to censor coverage of the Alibaba antitrust investigation, according to The Financial Times. Related: Protocol | China launches soon and you can sign up here.
  • Wayfair raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour. More than 40% of its hourly employees in supply chain and customer service roles got a pay raise.
  • European users won't have to share WhatsApp data with Facebook. Facebook said the new rules, which apply in the rest of the world, won't apply in the region.

One More Thing

No more free lunch

Literally! Tech companies all over are rethinking corporate perks, and Bloomberg reports that many are looking at cutting the same one: the company cafeteria, filled with free food all day and night. After all, what good is an office full of food when nobody's in the office anymore? Turns out, though, that the tech-company-food industry is a big one, and it's not going to be easy to adapt.

A MESSAGE FROM INTUIT

Intuit A MESSAGE FROM INTUIT

Virtualized service business models previously on the horizon waiting for consumer habits to catch up have accelerated at break-neck speed. And consumers are tapping their feet, waiting for more. Now, think about the dilemma that consumers are faced with going into this tax season. Because of the pandemic, many tax situations seem more complex and are sparking questions never before imagined.

Read more

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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