×

Sign up for Source Code — David Pierce’s daily newsletter on everything that matters in tech.

Not today, thank you!

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

Source Code: What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning

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

How Kamala Harris feels about Big Tech

Image: Phil Roeder / Alice Noir / Protocol

Kamala Harris

How Kamala Harris feels about Big Tech

Good morning! This Tuesday, Kamala Harris has thoughts on Big Tech, Airbnb might really go public this time, and Walmart has another partner in the fight against Amazon.

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

The Big Story

What the veepstakes results mean for the tech world

Here's a question: How much sway does a vice president have when it comes to policy, particularly tech policy? Hard to say, but generally speaking … not much? Suffice to say, though, the tech world in general is psyched that Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris to be his running mate.

  • Sheryl Sandberg posted on Instagram: "There's no denying Kamala Harris is ambitious — and that's something we should be celebrating." Sandberg said she's hopeful Harris inspires more Black women and girls "to run for office at every level."
  • Aaron Levie just tweeted: "Boom."
  • And don't forget, former Apple exec Cynthia Hogan was one of the four people tasked with helping Biden find and vet his running mate.

As for what Harris herself thinks about tech, we do have some evidence:

  • She told The New York Times last year that "I believe the tech companies have got to be regulated in a way that we can ensure, and the American consumer can be certain, that their privacy is not being compromised." But she declined to say she'd break up Big Tech companies, which is surely one reason for CEOs to be happy it's Harris.
  • She once tried to get Twitter to suspend President Trump's account, calling it a "grave injustice when rules apply to some but not equally to all, and particularly when the rules that apply to the powerless don't apply to the powerful."
  • She co-sponsored the SESTA bill, which eventually became FOSTA / SESTA, to fight sex trafficking online and off.
  • She was also, of course, California's Attorney General from 2011-2017. Which you might refer to as The Time When Big Tech Got Really Big And Had More Or Less Unchecked Power.
  • She has a long list of tech donors, though that's hardly shocking. Surprise! Tech employees tend to donate to Democrats.

There's one other way in which Harris is a bit of a tech story: As our friends at POLITICO wrote last year, she's been the subject of a remarkably widespread disinformation campaign.

No doubt the relationship between the tech industry and the Biden-Harris administration would be complicated: The pair is getting huge tech money and tech-exec support, but continues to promise to be hard on tech and to keep looking into antitrust, Section 230 and other issues. And there's a lot of talking left to do between now and Nov. 3.

IPOs

Airbnb's unlikely rebound

Biz Carson writes: In April, Brian Chesky described the coronavirus pandemic as a "torpedo" that hit what was once a very nice ship. The $31 billion startup had been on the verge of going public before the pandemic, then it lost $1 billion in bookings and was forced to lay off 25% of its staff.

In perhaps the most remarkable turnarounds of 2020, Airbnb is now not a torpedo-sunk ship but a company that's reportedly filing to go public by the end of the month, according to The Wall Street Journal.

  • Though we're still mid-pandemic, Airbnb's business has recovered somewhat. On July 8, the company said that 1 million nights' worth of future stays were booked on Airbnb, the first time it hit that level since March.
  • Chesky, who has been quarantining with his mom during the pandemic, also issued a mea culpa earlier this week for Airbnb's impact on cities. "We need to stop talking about changing the world or assuming everything we're doing is good," he told The Times. "The world needs to hear us be humble and to see us take responsibility."

Remember: Airbnb has pressure to go public ASAP after two years of imminent-IPO speculation. Some of Airbnb's early employee shares expire as early as November, so it's a tight window.

  • It's also a good time to IPO: Shares of companies like Lemonade and Warner Music Group surged in their public market debut. DoorDash and Palantir are also waiting in the IPO wings, according to the Journal.

Shopping

Walmart picks its team to fight Amazon

In its ongoing quest to keep Amazon from taking over the entire shopping industry, Walmart's again choosing to partner rather than build. This time, it signed up with Instacart to do same-day grocery delivery.

  • This is a win for Instacart, which now gets to send its shoppers to the largest American grocery store. The largest by, like, a mile: Walmart did $341 billion in food and consumables sales last year, per Progressive Grocer.
  • It's a win for Walmart, too. Instacart has been one of the big winners of the pandemic, becoming something close to the default grocery-delivery app. And shoppers can get virtually everything Walmart sells right in the app.

This isn't to say Walmart's not also pursuing The Full Amazon, trying to own the whole experience. Walmart+ is reportedly coming soon (it was supposed to be weeks ago, but got delayed), and the company has experimented with all sorts of delivery strategies. It even owned a video service for a while, and made a bunch of crappy tablets, because if you're going to copy Amazon, you might as well do the whole thing.

But by signing up with Instacart, by partnering with Shopify, by opening up its marketplace to third-party sellers, Walmart's also playing nicely with others. Amazon's not known for that. Amazon also has a giant, decades-long advantage over Walmart in digital, but there are worse ways to play catch-up than to find the best, most popular companies in your space and partner with them. It's Amazon vs. The World now, and the world's looking pretty powerful.

A MESSAGE FROM ITI

ITI

During the upcoming 2020 National Political Conventions, Protocol will host a two-event series on the tech and policy needed to enable a diverse future workforce and a strong economy. The events feature Republican and Democrat policy and political leaders and C-Suite leaders from Dropbox, Cognizant, IBM, Adobe, and more. This series is hosted in partnership with ITI.

Register here.

People Are Talking

Françoise Brougher, Pinterest's former COO, sued the company for firing her after she complained of sexist treatment:

  • "It is time to eliminate the 'boys clubs' that dominate far too many companies and make room for more women leaders and their ideas."

Twitter's making it easier to control who can reply to your tweets, and director of product management Suzanne Xie said it's a safer space already for the Twitter-famous:

  • "Some people use these settings to have more sensitive conversations about politics and social issues. Those with a lot of followers use these settings to share more feelings, opinions, and personal news."

Floyd Abrams, a well-known First Amendment attorney, is now defending Clearview AI. Why? Because he said it's a story of our times:

  • "I found it really interesting. Here we have 21st-century judges addressing 21st-century technology to see if they're consistent with an 18th-century document."

Masa Son isn't quite back on offense yet, but he said the Vision Fund's fortunes are looking up again:

  • "It's a bit too soon to say right now that the Vision Fund will be completely in the black from now on. Still, compared to when things were worst, the fund is steadily improving."

Making Moves

Dhivya Suryadevara is the new CFO of Stripe. She joins from GM, where she had the same job, as Stripe continues to round out its executive team. John Stapleton will replace her at GM.

Lisa Lewin is the new CEO of General Assembly. She joins from Ethical Ventures and has a history in education. She's GA's second boss ever and replaces Jake Schwartz.

In Other News

  • On Protocol: Why is Amazon struggling so much with gaming? The company has a lot of strengths, but Seth Schiesel found that internal politics at the company are making an already-hard task even harder.
  • Qualcomm won a monopoly fight. A U.S. appeals court overturned an FTC ruling that said Qualcomm stifled competition in the wireless industry, saying that while Qualcomm may have "acted with sharp elbows," it didn't do anything anticompetitive.
  • Your phone could help detect earthquakes. If it's an Android phone, anyway: Google's using accelerometers to detect earth-shaking and collect data it could one day use to alert people of what's going on. For now, though, it'll just show up in search results.
  • On Protocol: Facebook shared data about how a more automated approach to content moderation has helped — and hurt — its fight to remove bad content from the service. Turns out human intervention still matters.
  • TikTok may have violated Google's Android rules by tracking users' device IDs, the WSJ reported. Josh Hawley immediately called for Google to ban TikTok from the platform.
  • Tesla's joining the stock-splitting party, doing a five-for-one split on its shares at the end of this month. Somewhere a bunch of Robinhood traders just got really excited.
  • Elizabeth Holmes' trial was delayed again, this time to March 9, 2021. There's also a new charge in the case, for fraud related to a Theranos blood test.
  • Verily's getting deeper into the COVID testing process. It built a lab in South San Francisco, which it says can process "several thousand tests a day." The company's trying to solve an increasingly problematic gap between test and result.
  • Uber and Bolt are in another legal battle, this time in Lagos, Nigeria, where the country is rolling out new regulations for the ride-hailing industry. They'll include a service tax and a licensing fee for any company in the space.

One More Thing

I'm late. Blame my iPhone.


Kanye West's presidential campaign ran into trouble after it failed to file Wisconsin ballot papers on time. It missed the deadline by 14 seconds, then proceeded to argue that actually, the seconds between 5:00:00 and 5:00:59 are still technically part of 5 o'clock. Best of all, a lawyer for the campaign said that videos of the late arrival couldn't be believed, because they relied on iPhone clocks. Which are, apparently, "notoriously faulty." Good news, friends! Every time you're late for anything, ever, just blame your phone. Can't even tell the time.

A MESSAGE FROM ITI

ITI

During the upcoming 2020 National Political Conventions, Protocol will host a two-event series on the tech and policy needed to enable a diverse future workforce and a strong economy. The events feature Republican and Democrat policy and political leaders and C-Suite leaders from Dropbox, Cognizant, IBM, Adobe, and more. This series is hosted in partnership with ITI.

Register here.

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

Recent Issues

Apple vs. app fairness