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The techlash has reached peak nonsense

Donald Trump

Good morning! This Thursday, Trump takes another swing at Big Tech, Planet Labs is going public, Google's getting sued over the Play Store, and nobody can beat built-in apps.

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The Big Story

Techlash silly season

Maybe the easiest way to get attention on the internet is to complain about being censored on the internet. At least that's former President Trump's strategy.

Trump stood behind an American flag-flanked podium at his Bedminster golf club yesterday to announce that he was suing Facebook, Google and Twitter over their decision to ban him. He called on the platforms to restore his account and on the court to toss out Section 230 as unconstitutional. And just like that, Trump was back to being the talk of the very platforms he claims have silenced him.

The suits are fundamentally unserious. Look no further than the Facebook complaint's citation of the 1996 "Community Decency Act" — not the Communications Decency Act — as evidence.

  • But they are a solid bit of PR for a former president who has a failed blog and no platform to call home; who has aspirations of regaining the White House; and who has clearly found tech bashing to be a popular political strategy.
  • After his remarks, Trump's team sent two fundraising texts to supporters, touting the lawsuits and urging people to donate.

It's officially techlash silly season, with laws and lawsuits coming from seemingly every direction that willfully misread the First Amendment and its implications on private businesses. But they don't want to set policy; they just want to score political points.

  • Shortly before Trump's press conference began, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also announced that the agenda for a special session of the legislature would include legislation "protecting social-media users from being censored by social media companies based on the user's expressed viewpoints."
  • That announcement comes a week to the day after a judge blocked Florida's social media bill, which aimed to open tech platforms up to lawsuits for alleged censorship and deplatforming. The judge in that case said the law violated the First Amendment and called it over-broad, likening the bill to "burning the house to roast a pig."

These efforts all attempt to misuse The First Amendment, which prevents the government, not businesses, from infringing on people's speech. The people behind the bills and suits likely know that. They're just hoping their audiences don't.

Trump's team, meanwhile, is using some whiplash-inducing logic to iron out that wrinkle, arguing that the social media platforms banned him under so much pressure from Democrats in Congress that they effectively became state actors themselves.

  • Trump leans heavily on Democrats' threats to repeal Section 230, apparently forgetting about the many and varied threats he made as president to do the same.
  • The argument strains credulity and directly contradicts the case Trump made when he was being sued as president for blocking people on Twitter, and argued that @realDonaldTrump was a personal account, not a public forum.

The absurdity of Trump's argument doesn't mean that governments using pressure campaigns to influence tech companies' decisions isn't an issue worth addressing, as some legal scholars rightly pointed out Wednesday.

  • It is a problem now, just as it was a problem when Trump was president and tweeted incessantly about the tyranny of Big Tech, contributing to lax enforcement against right-wing extremism during his presidency.
  • And it's a problem in countries like India, where police recently visited Twitter's office to investigate a labeled tweet.

But if Trump really wants to crack down on Big Tech, blurring the line between the government and tech platforms in this way would only hurt his case. If something as simple as taking cues from Congress could turn a tech platform into a state actor, as Trump argues, surely that's an argument for even less government oversight of the industry than currently exists.

Perhaps the most ridiculous part of all this is that just last week, Trump's team launched a social network of its own called Gettr. Not only was Gettr immediately hacked, but in its terms of service, it clearly asserted its rights to block content and users as it so pleases — rights Section 230 protects.

Issie Lapowsky (email | twitter)

People Are Talking

The Chinese government isn't trying to cut down its tech industry, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, it's trying to help it:

  • "China's policy of opening-up and supporting the development of internet platforms remains unchanged ... [Beijing] will continue to encourage relevant enterprises to develop global markets and strengthen international exchanges and cooperation."
Steve Wozniak (in a Cameo!) said he's in favor of right-to-repair laws, even though Apple has been fighting them for years:
  • "I believe that companies inhibit it because it gives the companies power, control over everything ... in a lot of people's minds power over others equates to money and profits. Hey: is it your computer, or is it some company's computer?"

Binance is doubling down on its regulatory compliance problem, CEO Changpeng Zhao said:

  • "Binance has grown very quickly and we haven't always got everything exactly right, but we are learning and improving every day."

Satya Nadella proved he deserved to be Microsoft's board chair, former chair John Thompson said:

  • "For me, I think it has more to do with the performance of the company under Satya's leadership than anything else. That is, in my opinion, he's earned the right to be chairman of the board here."

Auto companies should prepare to deal with a chip supply shortage for at least another year, Renault CEO Luca de Meo said:

  • "We've managed in the first half, but of course we have lost volumes."

Making Moves

Ajay Arora is the new SVP of product, commerce and experimentation for Disney's streaming division. Prior to that he was at Netflix, where he worked on lower subscription tiers for emerging markets.

Tracy Maleeff is joining Krebs Stamos Group as a security researcher. She was previously an information security analyst at The New York Times.

Planet Labs is going public. The Earth imaging company is getting SPAC'd by dMY Technology Group and will be valued at $2.8 billion in the deal.

Wise had a big first day on the London Stock Exchange. The fintech company notched an over $11 billion market value, much more than anticipated.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Recently, Micron announced new memory and storage innovations across its portfolio based on its industry-leading 176-layer NAND and 1α (1-alpha) DRAM technology. But what does "1α" mean, and just how amazing is it?

Learn more

In Other News

  • On Protocol: Google is getting sued over the Play Store. A coalition of nearly 40 states alleges that the fees it takes from developers violate antitrust law, and that Google tried to crush Samsung's Galaxy Store so it couldn't compete with Play.
  • Assassin's Creed is getting even bigger. The next entry in the franchise will be called Assassin's Creed Infinity and will move one of the industry's biggest franchises away from the new-version-every-year model.
  • On Protocol: Colorado's privacy bill is now law. It's the third state with a privacy law on the books, and everyone seems to hope Congress will pass a federal bill well before we get to 50.
  • China is busting companies that don't follow its crypto ban. It shut down a Beijing-based software company for allegedly violating the ban after directing major banks and mobile payment providers to stop accepting crypto last month.
  • Imagine saying, "I hire people off TikTok." The app is rolling out a job application portal that requires people to upload a video resume and send it to their desired employer, like Shopify or Target. No word on whether you have to complete any viral challenges, though.
  • Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates will keep working together even after their divorce, but there's a contingency plan: If they realize it's not working out after two years, French Gates will leave the duo's foundation.
  • Built-in apps remain unbeatable. This probably won't surprise you, but Apple and Google make the most popular mobile apps, according to a Comscore study. (Facebook commissioned the study, which also says that Facebook apps are enormously popular … but they can't beat the built-ins.)
  • Microsoft found a huge flaw in Windows. It's called PrintNightmare, and it allows access to the Windows Print Spooler service. You should upgrade ASAP.

One More Thing

Come on Jeffrey, you can do it!

If you haven't yet seen it, immediately add Bo Burnham's "Inside" to your Netflix queue. It's technically a comedy special, but that doesn't quite cover it. It's really a meditation on the internet, social media and life in general.

It also features the bop of the summer, as far as we're concerned. It's called, simply, "Bezos." It's been a big summer for Jeff, really: He has a new job, he's heading to space and he has a hit single about him! Though like Zuck and "The Social Network," this may not be the cultural phenomenon he was hoping to become. The whole thing is seriously worth a watch, though.

Have another rec? Loved "Inside" and want to talk about it? Let us know by replying directly to this email.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Recently, Micron announced new memory and storage innovations across its portfolio based on its industry-leading 176-layer NAND and 1α (1-alpha) DRAM technology. But what does "1α" mean, and just how amazing is it?

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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