Image: Brett Jordan
April 26, 2021
Good morning! This Monday, the Indian government is forcing Facebook and Twitter to remove dozens of posts, Elon Musk is hosting SNL and streaming services had a big night at the Oscars.
The Big Story
Social's India conundrum
In response to a huge surge in COVID-19 cases, the Indian government is cracking down … on social media.
India's government ordered about 100 posts be removed from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, The New York Times reported, and all three have so far complied. The government's justification is that the posts are misleading and could incite panic. Most people don't buy it.
- Twitter blocked 52 tweets in the country, MediaNama reported, most of which criticized the Modi government's handling of the pandemic.
- One user, Pieter Friedrich, posted the note he got from Twitter, which said that "Twitter has received a legal removal demand" and was blocking one of his tweets for Indian users. (It's still live on the platform elsewhere, though.)
- Another now-censored tweet, from Reuters photographer Danish Siddiqui, showed mass crematoriums and hospitals overflowing with patients.
India has made these sorts of requests before, and governments around the world have long done the same with Twitter and other platforms. (The Guardian's excellent recent series about how governments force Facebook's hand is a good example.)
- Most social companies say they're just following the law of the land. In this case, the law is India's Information Technology Act, which allows the government to block content "in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above."
- That's a lot of words to say the government can block anything it wants. The penalty for a company failing to comply can include prison time for employees in the country.
- It's particularly fraught for users in India who are using social platforms to coordinate and find care for loved ones, after giving up on getting help from the government.
These are tricky issues for social companies. Twitter, for one, clearly decided the tweets didn't violate its rules, and so left them up for the rest of the world. But Twitter works in India, and thus has to work with India. As India and other governments continue to be more aggressive in policing what people see online, the companies will have to decide how far they're willing to go. Or if they even have a choice.
Other tech CEOs are stepping into the conversation about COVID-19 and India. Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai both expressed their concern about what's happening in the country, and promised to use their corporate resources to help. And Google's Sanjay Gupta noted that "the biggest way we can help is through our core information products," helping Indian citizens find the info they can't through the government.
Saturday Night Musk
Mark your calendars: Elon Musk is hosting Saturday Night Live in two weeks, on May 8. I expect skits about Mars, lots of Dogecoin jokes, weird things happening in self-driving cars, a Joe Rogan-style podcast bit, lots of weed references and more Dogecoin jokes. Musk himself has acknowledged that he's not always the best performer or public speaker, but this is going to be fun.
- And he does have some acting history. He's played himself on "The Simpsons" and "South Park," showed up in "Iron Man 2," and even got to hyper-dramatically deliver the line "get the bastard" in "Machete Kills."
Miley Cyrus is the musical guest, which actually makes perfect sense? "Best of Both Worlds" fits his Mars aspirations perfectly; what describes SpaceX better than "I put you high up in the sky / And now, you're not coming down" from "Wrecking Ball?" Plus, I bet you anything Musk has played "Party in the USA" while announcing the opening of an American Tesla factory. Plus, Cyrus is a big weed fan, so the green room should be a good time. And like Miley taught us and Elon knows, it's the climb.
Musk is a trailblazer here. Only a handful of business leaders — Steve Forbes, George Steinbrenner and longtime NBC president Brandon Tartikoff among them — have hosted the show in its almost five decades, to varying degrees of success. (Steve Forbes's appearance caused protests, so, you know, #goals.) But Musk is the first to not come from entertainment, sports or politics, which are obviously SNL's sweet spots.
- Personally I'm hoping this is just the beginning, and SNL goes from parodying tech moguls to having them all over the show. Let's get Mark Zuckerberg to play Mark Zuckerberg! Think of how much fun SNL could have with Jack Dorsey's … entire personality. Give me a cold-open antitrust hearing, and I'll be set for life.
People Are Talking
On Protocol | Policy: Ro Khanna is pushing the Endless Frontier Act again, and he thinks it's going to work this time:
- "Our argument is foreign policy and economic policy are interlaced. That the future of the 21st century is not as dependent on who has more aircraft carriers — it's more dependent on who will lead on the industries of the future and technology … and that argument has resonated."
- "One of the brightest lights in infosec and probably the kindest soul I knew. The vacuum he leaves behind is impossible to measure."
Britt Caldwell left her job at Webflow, and called attention to the role white women play in exacerbating corporate culture problems:
- "White women often ascend the ranks in supremely toxic work environments, adopting and also benefiting from the same white supremacy that steps on the necks of their sisters and daughters along the way ... Many go on to intentionally inflict the same, or worse, traumas they endured because they believe they are stronger because of it."
Zero trust is the way of the cybersecurity future, Ericom's Chase Cunningham said:
- "No one who actually understands zero trust says abandon the perimeter. But the reality of it is that you need to understand your perimeter's probably already compromised, especially when you're in a remote space."
Sam Lessin is investing in creators, with a classic VC approach:
- "We will buy 5% of everything you do for the next 10 to 30 years … I don't even mind if most of them lose my money, as long as I invest in Jeff Bezos along the way."
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
The internet has changed a lot in the 25 years since lawmakers last passed comprehensive internet regulations. It's time for an update. See how we're making progress on key issues and why we support updated regulations to set clear rules for addressing today's toughest challenges.
Coming Up This Week
There's another tech hearing on Tuesday. Facebook's Monika Bickert, YouTube's Alexandra Veitch and Twitter's Lauren Culbertson will testify on "algorithmic amplification," POLITICO reported. Tristan Harris and Joan Donovan will also testify.
Clubhouse and the NFL are teaming up for draft coverage, which could be a look at how the company plans to do more high-touch, branded programming.
Earnings go crazy this week: Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Twitter and lots of others all report in the next few days.
In Other News
- Apple announced a $430 billion investment in the U.S. over the next five years, including deals with local suppliers and expansions to its teams in Texas, Washington, North Carolina, Colorado and elsewhere.
- Ant plans to offer employees zero-interest loans on their stock options, Bloomberg reported, in an attempt to boost morale after the company's failed IPO.
- Streaming services had a big night at the Oscars, with Netflix and Disney dominating the awards. But Facebook (Facebook!) scored the biggest new prize: It became the first video-game company to win an Oscar, winning best documentary short for "Colette."
- Google Search head Prabhakar Raghavan earned $55 million last year, while chief business officer Philipp Schindler earned $66 million. Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat "only" earned $51 million.
- Panasonic bought Blue Yonder for $7.1 billion, ending Blue Yonder's plans to list. In other acquisitions, Skyworks Solutions bought Silicon Labs's infrastructure and automotive business for $2.75 billion, and Blackstone offered $1.1 billion for a controlling stake in Mphasis.
- Don't miss this story on "the slander industry" from The New York Times. Turns out that the reputation management companies are often the same people spreading online slander in the first place.
- English soccer teams are boycotting social media this weekend, in an effort to protest "discriminatory abuse received online by players."
- Emily Ratajkowski is trying out NFTs. She's selling a photo of herself in front of an artwork of a photo of herself, and she'll get a cut every time it's resold. It's called "Buying Myself Back: A Model for Redistribution," and I'd bet that it'll be very, very lucrative.
Work In The Future
A too-deep-dive into note-taking
There's a corner of the internet that spends most of its time and energy debating the merits of various note-taking apps. (A confession: I am a proud occupant of said corner.) Those folks took over Hacker News this past weekend, after a user asked people to share how "you organize your knowledge."
There's a lot of good information in the comments section, with plenty of mentions of Zettelkasten methods, Obsidian, Roam, and the merits of text files. If you're doing some spring cleaning or some pandemic-induced redesigning of your entire digital life, it's worth a peruse. And if you ever want to talk notes, you know how to reach me.
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
It's been 25 years since comprehensive internet regulations passed. But a lot has changed since 1996. See how we're taking action and why we support updated regulations to address today's challenges — protecting privacy, fighting misinformation, reforming Section 230, and more.
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. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.