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How the midterms could hit tech

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Good morning! From climate tech to gig work, the midterm races stand to impact the tech industry. Here's your guide to the issues you should be watching.

Tech in the midterms

Some of tech’s biggest issues are on the ballot next month. A few Senate candidates have Big Tech in their sights, mainly focused on content moderation policies, and ballot measures across the country will guide the future for climate tech and address concerns related to workers’ rights, Protocol's Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu writes.

Two states have climate on the ballot. Residents of California and New York, two of the states with the most ambitious EV plans, will vote on even more green initiatives.

  • In California, Proposition 30 would impose a 1.75% tax on people who have an income of more than $2 million. The tax would generate $5 billion annually for the state’s aggressive EV plans..
  • New York’s Proposal 1 would allow the state to borrow $4.2 billion to fund climate initiatives, including $1.5 billion toward climate change mitigation and $1.1 billion toward flood risk reduction.

Workers’ rights laws are attracting attention in a time when tech workers are demanding more from their employers.

  • Illinois’ Amendment 1 would amend the state’s constitution to give employees the explicit right to organize and collectively bargain over wages, hours, and working conditions.
  • In Washington state, voters are taking part in a nonbinding advisory vote on HB 2076, already passed by the state legislature, which expands gig drivers’ rights, including setting a per-trip pay floor and giving drivers paid sick leave.

And there are three state races to pay attention to. Elections in Arizona, Ohio, and Texas could have an impact on the tech companies that operate there.

  • In Arizona, Republican Blake Masters has received significant backing from his billionaire ally Peter Thiel, despite being very publicly critical of tech. His incumbent, Democrat Mark Kelly, is projected to win.
  • Republican J.D. Vance Vance is running in Ohio against incumbent Democrat Tim Ryan. Vance has been vocal about his criticism of social media content-moderation policies, despite his ties to Big Tech.
  • The race between Beto O’Rourke and Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas is especially important given the laws passed in Texas with Abbott’s blessing. That includes a wide-ranging social media content-moderation law.

Read more: The tech issues on the midterm ballot

The anti-crypto crusader

Molly White was just a teenager when the crypto revolution began. And now, more than a decade later, she’s become one of its biggest critics, Protocol's Ben Pimentel writes.

White wasn’t a crypto contrarian from the start. She was aware of it vaguely as a way for people to buy drugs online, but as she learned more, she grew to appreciate its potential and understood why people would even invest in it. Then she grew “increasingly concerned.”

  • “I really started to become concerned in the summer of 2021. It felt like suddenly people were marketing crypto to the average person,” she said, adding that she reached a tipping point when people began talking about how crypto would be the future of Web3.
  • White bets that even some software engineers who work in crypto don’t see a future for it. “It’s just a great paycheck,” she said.

As crypto soared, White noticed an increase in scams and hacks that were flying under the radar. In December 2021, she started her blog, Web3 is going just great, to bring awareness to some of the issues with crypto.

  • Crypto fanatics became White’s haters. “There's people in the crypto community who are just hostile to any sort of negative reaction or negative coverage of the space,” she said.
  • White isn’t too concerned about those folks, though: “The goal of the site is not really to change the minds of the bitcoin maximalists … but to encourage average people who are seeing the ads and seeing the stories about people becoming millionaires overnight.”

White said she still has lots of work to do. She’s worried about how well regulators understand crypto, and she’s begun to speak with politicians about the industry at large, she told Ben. Her blog is also well-maintained and has highlighted the fallout of the Voyager and Celsius crashes. “I’m just trying to make as much impact as I can as far as where this industry might go, how unregulated it might be allowed to continue to be,” she said.

Read more: Inside Molly White’s campaign against crypto

How social audio can save itself

If you look at Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, and Meta’s Soundbites, it’s clear that platforms still haven’t figured out how to crack social audio. AI may present a solution, Protocol's Lizzy Lawrence writes.

Social audio looks great on paper, but hasn’t been able to catch on. While the podcasting industry has grown substantially, with more than one-third of Americans listening to podcasts regularly, there so far hasn’t been a similar market for short-form audio.

  • Social audio is already at a disadvantage, given that listening is an inherently passive experience, experts told Protocol’s Lizzy Lawrence. It's much harder to capture people’s attention without a visual component.
  • Audio is also more difficult to share online. You can’t skim it easily, and snipping out quotes is harder to do.
  • Because of this, it’s hard to get creators to invest in the very cost-intensive practice of recording audio.

AI might be able to help. A social audio platform that focuses on short audio clips could help people be more engaged, experts told Lizzy. AI could chop podcasts into shareable chunks, making the audio easier to consume and a social audio platform more viable.

  • Kevin Smith, CEO of AI startup Snipd, said his platform lets users manually clip podcasts. It also automatically segments podcasts into highlights and chapters, and has a “for you” page full of clips with transcripts.
  • Smith says Snipd’s AI features may make the process of creating clips less time-intensive, while also making it more likely users find audio they like.

In order for this to catch on, podcast giants Apple and Spotify need to be on board. Small startups may have big audio ideas and ambitions, but the future of social audio depends on support and investment from major platforms.

Read more: Why audio will never capture the hearts of social media users


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People are talking

Figma’s Dylan Field said the company’s sale to Adobe allows it to grow its productivity tools:

  • “I started to form a thesis of ‘creativity is the new productivity’ and we don’t have the resources to just go do that right now at Figma.”

Flexport’s Ryan Petersen said supply chain woes have let up a little:

  • “That’s really happy news for any company that’s sourcing overseas and ultimately for consumers buying those goods.”

FDIC’s Martin Gruenberg wants bank regulators to give crypto firms better guidance:

  • “We must understand and assess the risks associated with these activities the same way that we would assess the risks related to any other new activity.”

Daniel Jeffries — the CIO of Stability, which built the Stable Diffusion AI image generation tool — explained why the next version of the software won't be released so quickly:

  • "What we do need to do is listen to society as a whole, listen to regulators, listen to the community. We are forming an open source committee to decide on major issues like cleaning data, NSFW policies and formal guidelines for model release. "

Elon Musk said Tesla is “recession-resilient”:

  • “Let’s say 2023 is a brutal recession year. Even then, we generate meaningful cash."

Making moves

Starry is laying off half its workforce. The ISP also froze hiring and stopped nonessential spending, among other cost-cutting measures.

Collin McCune joined a16z as head of government affairs. McCune most recently worked on the House Financial Services Committee.

Joshua Mandel joined Graphite Health’s advisory board. Mandel is Microsoft’s chief architect for health care.

Aaron Iovine joined JPMorgan to lead digital assets regulatory policy. Iovine was a Celsius exec who left last month.

Tanvi Chaturvedi is EVgo’s new CRO. Chaturvedi was most recently head of growth for Google Nest.

Instacart probably won't IPO this year, The New York Times reports, despite earlier plans to do so. For fairly obvious reasons.

Microsoft may increase its investment in OpenAI, according to The Wall Street Journal. It previously invested $1 billion in 2019.

It's not privacy vs. security anymore

In the last few years, the roles of privacy and security executives — and the budgets they control — have grown significantly as organizations have worked to stymie the growing threat of cyberattacks and navigate the ever-changing landscape of data regulation.

In this event we will explore how the chief privacy and chief information security officer roles will evolve and how each can support the other best when the company needs it most. Join us 11 a.m. PT Oct. 27. RSVP here.

In other news

Twitter may face massive layoffs, according to The Washington Post. Elon Musk told investors he’d likely cut staff by 75%, though Twitter reportedly told staff that there were no such plans. Also: U.S. officials are considering reviewing the Musk-Twitter deal on national security grounds, according to Bloomberg.

A sign of things to come from Snap: The first ad-dependent tech company to report earnings this quarter, its revenue growth has dipped into the single figures, at 6% for Q3 compared to a year earlier. Shares are down 25% in pre-market trading.

A federal appeals court struck a major blow against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ruling that the office's funding structure violates the Constitution. The CFPB is expected to challenge the ruling.

ByteDance planned to track some Americans’ locations through TikTok, according to material reviewed by Forbes. TikTok said it already collects location data, but new documents show that ByteDance wants to surveil individual Americans.

Mailchimp’s former CEO didn’t want people to share pronouns at the start of meetings, according to a 1,400-word email he sent to staff. That may have led to his resignation a month later, Platformer reported.

Amazon is facing a $1 billion lawsuit in the U.K. over allegations that the company took advantage of its place in the online marketplace by favoring its own products.

Google was fined $162 million by the Competition Commission of India over anticompetitive practices related to the Android platform.

Texas and Google have some bad blood. The state is suing Google for allegedly breaking Texas' biometric data law on user consent and facial recognition.

Plaid released Wallet Onboard, which aims to help consumers connect crypto wallets to their apps. The tool integrates hundreds of wallets including Coinbase Wallet and Ledger.

Quiet layoffs

Quiet quitting is out. Quiet layoffs are in. The concept refers to nudging employees to leave without exactly laying them off, Axios reports. That could mean forcing workers to go back to the office, which could force people to leave, or cutting teams and giving affected employees a deadline to find another place in the company. It’s not pretty, but some companies are seemingly trying to save face.


USD Coin (USDC) is the institutional grade stablecoin. Monthly attestations show exactly what reserves back USDC, and businesses all over the world are using USDC to build the next generation of financial services and global payment applications.

Learn why institutions trust USDC at Circle’s Transparency & Stability Hub

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you Sunday.

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