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

I’ve already subscribed

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

Where should we send your daily tech briefing?

×
Protocol Source Code
What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning.

It’s pronounced Pih-chai

Image: C-SPAN / Protocol
Sundar Pichai

Good morning! This Thursday, the Section 230 hearing was a disaster, how Reddit used billboards to get out the vote and reports of an Apple search engine.

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

The Big Story

In which we solved nothing about Section 230

Issie Lapowsky writes: What did you expect? A substantive policy discussion of the law that underpins the entire internet?

Even before the Senate Commerce Committee's big Section 230 hearing kicked off on Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was promoting it like a WWE matchup between a hero and a heel. "The free speech champion takes on the czar of censorship," Cruz crowed Tuesday night in a tweet pushing a "Cruz vs. Dorsey free speech showdown."

  • It didn't take long Wednesday for the pro wrestling analogy to pan out: The hearing, featuring Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai and (eventually) Mark Zuckerberg, was just as messy and about as intellectually stimulating.
  • There was shouting. There were props. There was talk of strangling dogs and working refs and at least one excessively unkempt beard. And altogether too many people seemed unable to pronounce Pichai's name correctly.

Like so many hearings before it, this one was just another opportunity for Republicans on the committee to accuse the tech leaders before them of liberal bias and for the Democrats on the committee to accuse the Republicans of partisan bullying.

It also seemed like a great opportunity for Jack to put to use what he's learned on all of those silent meditation retreats. Twitter has been the most aggressive tech company in moderating President Trump's social media activity recently, and Jack defended many of Twitter's recent decisions.

  • He calmly stated that Twitter prioritizes enforcement based on the "severity" of potential offline harm. "There are certainly things that we can do much faster," he said. "But generally, we believe that the policy was enforced in a timely manner, and in the right regard."

In fact, the most substantive proposals for how to update Section 230 came from Jack himself, who laid out a three-point plan for expanding Section 230, including requiring tech platforms to publish their moderation guidelines, institute an appeals process and create a system by which people could choose the algorithms that filter and rank content on their feeds.

After four hours of fighting, those proposals are as far as anyone got. And who could be surprised? Cruz, after all, didn't promise solutions. He only promised a show.

Further reading: The questions the CEOs declined to answer, what Sen. Brian Schatz did instead of asking questions, and what happened in the brief moment everyone actually talked about 230.

Get Out The Vote

Upvotes win elections

Reddit's plan for the 2020 election started with the same principles as every other company has followed: Making sure people have necessary information, know how to vote safely in a pandemic, that sort of thing. Voting comes particularly naturally to Reddit — it's the basis of the platform — so it seemed only right to try to promote voting IRL like users do in the app.

Then Reddit bought a bunch of billboards. The company had planned a big branding campaign, its first ever, for the beginning of this year. The pandemic screwed that up, so Reddit turned it into an election-related campaign called Up The Vote, putting up billboards all over saying things like "This bread stapled to a tree got more votes on Reddit than it took to decide the 2000 presidential election."

  • "It felt right to pivot to something that showcased civic engagement," Reddit public policy director Jessica Ashooh said, "while at the same time showing all of the brilliantly absurd content that's on Reddit."
  • Lots of people posted on Reddit about billboards; Reddit then made those posts into billboards. Everybody loved it.

Because it's a largely anonymous platform, Reddit doesn't have the data on its users that Snapchat or Google might. So instead, it just leaned into being Reddit. It hosted super-practical AMAs with voting experts, in a series that's going to pick up again on Nov. 4 with a series of "what happens now" interviews.

  • "Voters don't want to hear it from us," Ashooh said. "They want to hear it from the experts directly."
  • Engagement numbers on those AMAs have been off the charts, Ashooh said, and seven of them have hit Reddit's front page.

Oh, and don't forget Banana For Congress, hands-down the most compelling candidate on the ballot this year.

Apple

Siri Search cometh?

Apple reportedly gets something like $10 billion a year from Google, just to put it front-and-center in Safari. Soon, if antitrust regulators get their way, that money's about to go *poof.*

But Apple might be building a search tool of its own.

  • Apple is "stepping up efforts" to build its own search tech, the Financial Times reported. You can already see it — when you type a query to Siri, it shows you Apple-sourced web results.
  • Apple is reportedly crawling websites much more aggressively than before, and of course employs John Giannandrea, who ran search at Google for years. (Have you noticed Applebot on your sites more?)

It's hard to imagine Apple rolling out a straightforward rival to google.com. More likely, it becomes another capability for Siri, giving the assistant more knowledge and options when people do a search. And instead of searching with Google on your iPhone, you might soon search with Siri.

Google won't disappear from the iPhone if it loses its antitrust case against the government, obviously. But if that happens, Apple would have two incentives for trying to shake up the market: a newly wide-open space in the search box and billions of dollars it needs to make up.

A MESSAGE FROM ROKU

OneView

Introducing the OneView Ad Platform. From Roku.

A single platform for marketers and content owners to reach more cord cutters and measure performance using TV identity data from the No. 1 TV streaming platform in the US. Advertisers can manage their entire campaigns — including OTT, linear TV, omnichannel, and more — all in one place.

Learn More

People Are Talking

I think the President coined a new term yesterday?

  • "Why isn't Twitter trending Biden corruption? It's the biggest, and most credible, story anywhere in the world. Fake Trending!!!"
  • (Can't wait for the inevitable Fake Trending hearing.)

After Alex Jones — who Spotify kicked off the platform in 2018 — told a bunch of lies on the Joe Rogan Podcast, Spotify's Horacio Gutierrez told staff to defend the episode:

  • "We appreciate that not all of you will agree with every piece of content on our platform. However, we do expect you to help your teams understand our role as a platform and the care we take in making decisions."

Here's a name you need to know: Twitter general counsel Vijaya Gadde, described thusly by a former colleague:

  • "When it comes to going to war, Jack is the president who gives the order. Vijaya is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs."

You can't separate business from politics anymore, Moxxie's Katie Jacobs Stanton said:

  • "It's disingenuous and it's also the luxury of the privileged to say, 'We don't have a point of view.'"

Lime is growing fast again, CEO Wayne Ting said, and it's not because COVID is over:

  • "I think it's because we're seeing a mode shift away from traditional forms of transportation, and particularly the car, into other forms of transportation."

Making Moves

Thuan Pham is the new CTO at Coupang. The South Korean ride-hailing company should be familiar ground for the longtime Uber exec.

Anthony Albanese is a16z's newest crypto partner. He was previously the chief regulatory officer at the NYSE.

In Other News

  • Antitrust investigations just won't stop coming. Italy announced it's investigating Google for abuse in the advertising market, while Germany launched an investigation into Amazon's third-party marketplace. And ahead of the EU publishing its Digital Services Act, due Dec. 2, Google has reportedly launched a 60-day lobbying push.
  • Republican secretaries of state asked Facebook to discontinue its voting information center. The six secretaries called it "redundant and duplicative" of what election officials do, and said it could foster "misinformation and confusion." Some seem to have changed their minds though: The office of Alabama's John Merill said that Facebook made changes to the platform after the letter was sent.
  • Masa Son told Marcelo Claure to "use whatever excuse" possible to postpone SoftBank's payment to WeWork shareholders, new court documents revealed. Claure replied saying, "I am turning good at excuses like someone I know very well :)" Meanwhile, new WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani said he and Adam Neumann "chitchat twice a month," because Neumann "wants to know what I'm doing." But Son seems to have a new golden boy: He told Jensen Huang this morning that he was the new Steve Jobs.
  • The NSA dodged a question about whether it still puts back doors in tech products. Sen. Ron Wyden asked for information on the new guidelines, put in place after the Snowden leaks, but his aides said he'd been rebuffed.
  • Paul Sciarra, Evan Sharp and Ben Silbermann had a good Wednesday. Collectively, the Pinterest co-founders made $750 million yesterday after the company's shares soared on strong earnings. Apple helped out: The company said around 4 million people used Pinterest for iOS 14 customization inspiration.
  • Coinbase is launching its crypto debit card in the U.S. The card, previously available in Europe, lets customers spend any crypto in their wallet, and offers a Bitcoin and Stellar rewards scheme. In other cards news, SoFi launched a credit card, because absolutely every tech company wants a slot in your wallet.

One More Thing

When the livestream goes sideways

Imagine spending $375,000 on a box full of ultra-rare Pokémon cards, then switching on a YouTube livestream to open it … only to discover everything inside was fake. It sounds like a "Black Mirror" episode! It's also exactly what happened to Chris Camillo, of the Dumb Money channel. (I'm not going to make that joke.) It turned out OK in the end, but within this Guardian story are about a hundred cautionary tales about being a bit too confident in the internet.

A MESSAGE FROM ROKU

OneView

Introducing the OneView Ad Platform. From Roku.

A single platform for marketers and content owners to reach more cord cutters and measure performance using TV identity data from the No. 1 TV streaming platform in the US. Advertisers can manage their entire campaigns — including OTT, linear TV, omnichannel, and more — all in one place.

Learn More

Update: This story has been updated to correctly spell Jessica Ashooh's name.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

Recent Issues

Remembering Tony Hsieh

Up and to the right