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Social media’s ultimate test is here

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Good morning and Happy National Sandwich Day! This Tuesday, it's all election, all the time. And I want to know: What's your election plan? Cable TV all night? Furiously refreshing Twitter? Screw it and play Among Us until it's 2022? Send me all your best ideas: david@protocol.com.

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The Big Story

Facebook and Twitter prepare for craziness

For social networks, the last four years of policy making, partisan bickering and deep introspection have all led to today: An Election Day in the U.S. in which misinformation is expected to come from all corners, including the candidates themselves, as we try to figure out who won and who lost.

I'd argue the best thing you can do today is vote, then log off every platform and spend the day watching TV. ("The Queen's Gambit." Do it.) The second best thing: Pay attention to how social media companies manage their platforms.

  • Twitter and Facebook have promised to label posts from parties and politicians prematurely claiming victory or spreading misinformation. Twitter's also going to show a warning to anyone trying to RT unverified claims, and Facebook's putting a banner at the top of the News Feed directing users to more information.
  • What matters most is execution, of course: Can the platforms keep up, getting things labeled properly before they go viral? They'll be paying more attention than ever, but the content volume looks like it will be unprecedented. As the night goes on, it's going to get even wilder.
  • If they can't keep up, the "your platform is just too big" arguments are going to look pretty convincing.

This election is going to change things for social companies, however it plays out. Protocol's Emily Birnbaum has a great piece on the Election Integrity Partnership and the Disinformation Defense League, two groups trying to fight the tide of misinformation and disinformation, as well as working out what can be done better next time.

  • They could also provide a good model for how researchers want to work with companies in the future. "I think for future elections and future discreet political events," said Emerson Brooking, a researcher on the project, "this is the kind of model we'll need: something where you can have civil society groups that stand between government and social media platforms, ensuring there's speedy action whenever this sort of content is encountered."

More reading: The tech industry learned a lot of lessons from the 2016 election, about everything from political ads to foreign influence on social media. But the folks who worked at Facebook, Google and Twitter four years ago aren't sure the companies have made enough progress since then.

More Election

Some things won't change

Anna Kramer writes: No matter who wins this thing, politics won't be leaving the workplace anytime soon. A Biden victory doesn't mean workplace activists are going to shut up and keep their politics at home — at least, that's what many of them told me.

The last four years have taught some workers a lot. Kary Campbell, Airbnb's former director of design (she left in the spring to help her son with remote schooling), said that "like many people, I was politically engaged before 2016, but that was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back."

  • After George Floyd's killing, more than 3,000 tech workers (including Campbell) volunteered with the political nonprofit Tech for Campaigns to help local and state-level Democrats, according to Jessica Alter, the political group's CEO. "While tech company CEOs are debating whether to take a stand on a particular issue, their employees are stepping up and taking action," she told me.
  • Working for a large corporation can leave you feeling politically powerless, Michael Danahy, a VP at adtech company TrueX, explained: "I'd love to think that someone like me would have some influence over how these companies make these decisions, but in reality I don't." He and his wife, who works at Google, both volunteered with Tech for Campaigns as a way to cope with that sense of helplessness.

Brian Armstrong's Coinbase memo clarified the importance of politics in the workplace (the opposite of what it was intended to do internally) for Outschool's Amy Jenkins.

  • "Politics does impact work, and vice versa. To me, separating them out feels incredibly hard to do. It's asking employees to do something that feels impossible," she said. "I think George Floyd was a bit of a wakeup call for some people who have been able to successfully ignore things that are happening to date."

The activists aren't going anywhere. Campbell isn't sure where she'll take her product design chops next, but she knows she'll only be working for places with a values-oriented business model. "Companies and societies can no longer just exist to create profitable numbers for their shareholders," she said. "We need to evolve as human beings to be more creative than that."

People Are Talking

One Big Tech employee worried that if Trump wins, Big Tech will get all the blame even if it doesn't deserve it:

  • "The thing that worries me the most is that it will end up being laid solely at our feet, and not the feet of the massive engine that created and enabled Trump."

In all the 2020 chaos, SEC chairman Jay Clayton warned, you can't stop thinking about corporate security:

  • "I know companies are burdened in many ways. Our registrants are burdened in many ways right now, but this is one of those things we just can't lose sight of."

Reid Hoffman wants all business leaders to get involved this week:

  • "I have been speaking out about why a vote for business is a vote for Biden. However, I also think that it's important for business leaders to lead on politics, including (what should be) non partisan issues in counting every vote, election legitimacy and patience, and rule of law."

READ NOW

CCC READ NOW

Today's online marketplaces gather millions of sellers, hundreds of millions of buyers, and generate billions of dollars in economic benefits. Specifically, the Connected Commerce Council (3C) research shows that the value marketplaces bring to small and medium-sized businesses exceeds $145 billion annually. Read more on why we should celebrate the benefits of digital tools and the businesses using them.

Read more here.

Making Moves

Jack Dorsey is safe as CEO of Twitter. After a long review from Elliott Management, the company said in an SEC filing that, "The Committee expressed its confidence in management and recommended that the current structure remain in place."

Everyone's leaving SoftBank's Vision Fund. Chief operating officer Ruwan Weerasekera retired, while partners Penny Bodle, Avi Golan, Ted Fike and Justin Wilson have also left in recent days.

Vijay Sankaran is Ford's new chief software and information officer. He joins from TD Ameritrade.

Mark Adams is Adobe's new CSO. He held the same role at Blizzard.

Janet Napolitano is Zoom's newest board member. The former governor of Arizona and Homeland Security secretary now teaches at Berkeley, and will help Zoom understand both government and education customers.

Russell Griffin is the new CRO at AudioEye. He was previously at ShipStation.

Tom Barsi is Expanse's new VP of business development. He joins from VMware.

In Other News

  • Matthew Brimer, Mark Cuban and Joe Gebbia came out in support of Biden. The "Biden Means Business" campaign said it likes Biden for his support of small businesses and fact-based governance approach.
  • Arm China's CEO controls almost 17% of the company, the Financial Times reports. SoftBank's attempts to negotiate his departure don't seem to be working, which could cause big problems for Nvidia's Arm acquisition.
  • Spotify's algorithms are going pay-to-play. It's testing a new service that lets artists flag songs for priority in your recommendations, with Spotify paying a lower royalty rate on those plays.
  • A Senate candidate in the country's closest race didn't have a Wikipedia page for most of the campaign, sparking a fight so contentious that Jimmy Wales got involved. Theresa Greenfield finally has a page, but the process raised questions about whether Wikipedia's "notability" policies favor incumbents — and men.
  • Macs with Apple chips are coming next week, Bloomberg reports. The Intel-free devices are expected to be the focus of Tuesday's "One More Thing" event.
  • Rumble.com is fast becoming the right-wing YouTube. The platform has been embraced by Dan Bongino, Dinesh D'Souza and a whole bunch of other big-name right-wing commentators.
  • Chinese state-owned carmaker FAW invested in Pony.ai and will use Pony.ai's self-driving tech in its cars and trucks. In other self-driving news, lidar company Aeva is going public via a SPAC. (Obviously.)

One More Thing

Record shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo

We have a new YouTube champion! "Baby Shark Dance" is now the most-watched video on YouTube, with more than 7.04 billion views. Per the BBC, that's roughly 30,187 years' worth of Baby Shark streaming. And oh, what's that? You want an election tie-in that will be stuck in your head forever? I got you.

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.

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