Snap puts Trump in the corner
Good morning! This Thursday, inside Snap's decision to stop promoting President Trump, the VC firms trying to fund underfunded entrepreneurs, and a look inside the Dyson car that never was.
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A group of early Facebook employees wrote an open letter saying the company needs new community guidelines:
Investor Pascal Cagni has a three-category system for what he wants to fund going forward:
One way to improve diversity in tech? Start in the boardroom, Ursula Burns said:
There are unintended consequences of social media, and then there are the events of recent weeks. I think we can safely say that when social media companies originally set up moderation policies, they didn't imagine having to debate whether a tweet from the president was newsworthy enough to leave up even though it incited violence. These are, in so many ways, unprecedented times.
Across the social landscape, companies are trying to figure out what to do. What they even can do. Yesterday, Snap charted a new path: After it found President Trump's Snapchat account to have promoted violence, the company decided that it wouldn't delete the account — but it wouldn't promote it either.
I'm told this process started on Saturday, after Trump's tweets about protestors being met with "vicious dogs" and "ominous weapons." Snap decided that Trump violated its principles about how people should act both on and off its platform.
It's a years-old idea: Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom of reach. Even if a platform takes it as gospel that users can say whatever they want, those platforms by definition play a huge role in deciding what happens next. It's virtually impossible for YouTube to keep all the objectionable stuff off its platform, or for Twitter to block every hateful person and tweet — but it's much easier for them to keep those things out of people's news feeds and recommendations. That's not a speech question, but a reach question.
This wasn't a particularly difficult decision for Snap, I'm told. The company's always been clear that it's not a public square — that it plays a huge role in what people see and where, and doesn't prize free speech above all else.
The Trump campaign has been quietly preparing for moves like Snap's for months. In case Trump gets deplatformed, it's been building its own platform: The Trump app, "Trump 2020," launched in April in place of pandemic-canceled rallies. It serves as a direct line to voters now.
Protocol's Sofie Kodner explored the app. Here's what she found:
Another key difference between the two candidates' apps is how you log in. With Biden's app, you sign up by answering 5 questions about yourself (name, email, zip, etc.) and making a 12-digit password. With Trump 2020, you just need one thing: a phone number. According to campaign manager Brad Parscale, in politics, the cellphone number is gold.
Trump's app also tries to keep the user base growing. The app has a carefully crafted reward system, where users earn points for sharing Trump news to social media, getting friends to download the app, and more.
Walmart Debuts Express Delivery
With many American families sheltering in place and relying heavily on online deliveries, Express Delivery will offer Walmart customers another no-contact shopping option – one that arrives in less than two hours.
This phrase has been floating around on social for the last few days: hire or wire. Skip the corporate statements about diversity, people say, and instead either hire that diverse candidate or wire the investment.
Yesterday, two of the industry's biggest investors decided to do just that.
In both cases, the relative amount of money is starting small: TxO is starting with $2.2 million in donations from A16z partners and a matching promise from Ben and Felicia Horowitz of another $5 million. (Already, the donations seem to be pouring in.) SoftBank is spending $100 million, which is a lot! But not from the company that poured almost $20 billion into WeWork's sinking ship.
There was some interesting controversy around the announcements. Backstage's Arlan Hamilton tweeted about starting a "$13 fund for straight white men" to get the marketing and leads. She said it wasn't directed to anyone in particular, but Jones appeared to take it to heart in a tweet that was later deleted.
Mitch Rose is Comcast's new EVP of federal government affairs, overseeing all the company's advocacy and lobbying in Washington.
Google Cloud hired two execs from its rivals: Andi Gutmans from AWS and Abdul Razack from SAP. Both will be VPs in the Cloud organization.
Dyson spent years, and hundreds of millions of dollars, on an electric car project it eventually scrapped. We knew this already. What we didn't know was just how far the company really got — and how completely it had rethought everything about the car. Dyson published a bunch of photos and videos of the car, and Autocar has a great story about the project. If you thought the Cybertruck looked like a prop from a dystopian science-fiction movie, wait till you get a load of this thing. Personally, the steering wheel is my favorite part. I'm curious: What do you make of it?
Walmart Launches a Service that Delivers in Less Than Two Hours
The coronavirus pandemic has upended life as we knew it, and also changed how customers shop – that's why Walmart rolled out Express Delivery, a new service that leverages machine learning to deliver orders in under two hours.
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