Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

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

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
Protocol Source Code
What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning.
Image: Protocol

Facebook is building ‘Instagram for kids.’ Everybody else hates the idea.

Likes

Good morning! This Tuesday, why everyone hates the idea of "an Instagram for kids," why Peely the Banana became a key character in Epic v. Apple, Roblox had a huge quarter, and why it might be time to turn off your Zoom camera.

(Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to get Source Code every day.)

The Big Story

'Instagram for kids' is just … Instagram?

Facebook is developing a version of Instagram made especially for kids under 13. Pretty much everybody who doesn't work for Facebook hates the idea.

The latest big names to voice their concern were 44 state attorneys general, who sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, Protocol's Issie Lapowsky reported, in order to "urge Facebook to abandon these plans." Broadly speaking, they have two reasons:

  • Being on Instagram is bad for kids, they say. Bad for their mental health, potentially dangerous for their online and offline safety, just bad.
  • Facebook is bad at protecting the kids already on its platform, they argue. It collects too much data, makes them vulnerable to predators and shows them problematic content.

These are extraordinarily popular opinions, by the way. And the backlash to the Instagram for kids idea was swift and has been consistent since BuzzFeed reported the existence of the project in March.

But Facebook thinks it can solve these problems with its new product. The fact of the matter is, lots of kids already are on services like Facebook and Instagram. "As every parent knows, kids are online all the time, whether adults want it or not," the company said. "We want to improve this situation by delivering experiences that give parents visibility and control over what their kids are doing."

  • About 5% of kids under the age of 9 use Instagram, a Pew study found last year, included in the 11% of kids ages 9 to 11. (Only 6% of kids between 9 and 11 use Facebook itself, while 30% use TikTok.) And a few years ago, Facebook's own research showed that 81% of kids were on some kind of social media before they turned 13.
  • As a result, lots of popular apps now have kid-friendly versions. YouTube has a separate app for kids. Netflix and other streaming services also curate their stuff for children. Lots of apps have parental controls for younger users.
  • Facebook's working on tools to better verify people's age, and to stop people from lying, but the reality is for now that a lot of kids use Facebook products, and there's not much it can do about it except try and make safer ones.

Facebook has a lot of people to please here. There are lawmakers, nonprofits, agencies and competitors of all kinds who will be scrutinizing this carefully; as a tech exec said to me recently, online child safety is the only thing everyone agrees on. All these letters and public statements just add to the list of stakeholders.

  • Of course, it's also a win for Facebook: Adam Mosseri acknowledged to Platformer that "this would be good for Instagram over the long run as well."

Ultimately, convincing parents to let their kids on Instagram Kids (or whatever it's called) might be tough for Facebook. But Instagram's party line on this is that convincing kids to use it will be much harder. The app has to be more compelling than regular Instagram, or kids will just keep lying about their age to get on the app. Kids these days!

Epic v. Apple

We have to talk about Peely

I haven't researched this extensively, but I'm reasonably confident that the phrase "naked banana" made its federal court debut on Monday.

Apple has been questioning Epic about the content in the Epic Games Store, and — in a sign of exactly how bonkers this whole thing has become — made the case that Fortnite character Peely (a banana that sometimes wears clothes but is often au naturel) was an inappropriate character.

  • Epic lawyers then asked Epic marketing director Matthew Weissinger if he thought Peely was inappropriate. "It's just a banana, ma'am," he answered, in what I'm confident was also another federal court first.

There is some substance behind all this silliness. Apple has been harping on Itch.io, an indie games store that hosts some games Apple finds objectionable. Epic argues that that's Itch's problem, because all Epic hosts is the store. Apple, though, sees this as a perfect example of what can happen when you let other stores operate inside your store.

But still, I can't imagine anything more fun than the fate of the App Store being decided based on Peely the Banana.

People Are Talking

Transportation's tech revolution isn't just about cars, Pete Buttigieg said:

  • "You have a lot of promising forms of concrete that could be carbon negative, permeable pavements that help with stormwater issues. There's so much that we're just beginning to discover in terms of things as basic and unnoticed as the surfaces that we walk and drive on."

DarkSide, the hacking group that shut down the Colonial Pipeline, apologized for hitting such a high-profile target:

  • "Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future."

But it's not just the pipeline: Hackers are going wild all over the internet, Cloudflare's Matthew Prince said:

  • "I think what's going on, anecdotally, is that attackers think their time may be coming to an end with, around the world, governments thinking of cracking down more and more on these cybersecurity incidents."

Starboard nominated four people to Box's board of directors, and is planning to push for big changes inside the company:

  • "Unfortunately, despite repeated promises by management and the Board to address these issues over the past two years and to create shareholder value, performance has not sufficiently improved and Box is still deeply undervalued versus its peers. In fact, the valuation gap has further widened during this time."

YouTube's researchers found the most common opening words to a video, and here they are:

  • "Hey, guys."

A MESSAGE FROM SNYK

As companies rapidly adopt cloud native computing, it's no surprise to find that 60% have increased security concerns. In fact, a recent Snyk survey reveals that 56% of organizations suffer from misconfigurations and known vulnerabilities incidents. Read the full 2021 State of Cloud Native Application Security report for more insights.

Learn more

Making Moves

Antonio García Martínez joined Apple's ad platform team. He was a key part of Facebook's early efforts in advertising, and the author of "Chaos Monkeys."

Cathie Wood is joining the board at Amun Holdings, to help grow 21Shares in the crypto space.

Lauren Wirtzer-Seawood is SoundCloud's new chief content and marketing officer. She joins from UnitedMasters, but was previously Instagram's head of music partnerships.

Harley-Davidson is spinning out LiveWire, its electric motorcycle division, into its own company. You could say it hopes to be the … Harley-Davidson of the industry.

In Other News

  • Tobi Lütke made Shopify's #belonging Slack channel read-only in the wake of internal criticism of a noose emoji in the company's Slack and a parody rap video made by employees, Business Insider reported. Lütke said "fundamentalism" had emerged in the channel, then sent a letter to management warning of "victimhood thinking" and "us-vs-them divisiveness."
  • Seven Apple suppliers were accused of using forced Uyghur labor, The Information reported. At least five of the suppliers reportedly received Uyghur and other minority workers at specific locations that supplied Apple.
  • On Protocol | Policy: Cable is in for the fight of its life with Biden's broadband plan, which has set off a David vs. Goliath fight over who gets to build the country's broadband future.
  • Citi downgraded Alphabet and Facebook stock, saying that ad revenue growth will decelerate in the near future. Both stocks fell on the report.
  • On Protocol: Roblox revenue soared in its first earnings report as a public company. Daily active users were 42.1 million last quarter, up 79% year-over-year.
  • Autopilot wasn't engaged in the Texas Tesla crash, the NTSB said. Only adaptive cruise control could have been engaged on the part of the road where the crash happened.
  • On Protocol | China: Every Chinese tech company wants to make EVs. The market is red-hot, and Alibaba, Baidu, Xiaomi, Didi, Huawei, 360 and Oppo are all getting in on the action.
  • Huawei's CEO told employees to "reduce and clean up email," and advised employees to chat in person instead. That's potentially in response to recent scandals that have involved internal documents.

Work In The Future

Zoom-free Fridays

Are camera-off Fridays the new casual Fridays? HSBC, Citigroup and others are starting to enforce Zoom-free Fridays, trying to allow for deeper work and some decompression after a week of staring at each others' faces on screens.

It's a good idea, and a spin on the no-meetings days that some tech companies have had for years. But I'd go one step further: normalize cameras-off meetings! By default, it seems, most companies have gravitated to having cameras on unless otherwise specified, but I think it's time for a reversal. Unless "cameras on" is specified in your meeting invite, everyone who wants to can be audio-only. Just make sure you upload an awesome avatar so your team doesn't just have to stare at a blank square.

A MESSAGE FROM SNYK

As companies rapidly adopt cloud native computing, it's no surprise to find that 60% have increased security concerns. In fact, a recent Snyk survey reveals that 56% of organizations suffer from misconfigurations and known vulnerabilities incidents. Read the full 2021 State of Cloud Native Application Security report for more insights.

Learn 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.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Amun Holdings. This story was updated on May 11, 2021.

Recent Issues