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The Texas abortion law will make tech answer some ugly questions

Downtown, Houston, Texas, United States

Good morning! This Friday, the new Texas abortion law raises some big issues for tech companies, the Elizabeth Holmes trial finally has a jury, and China's getting a new stock exchange.

Oh, and some quick housekeeping: Source Code is taking a break for Labor Day, so we'll be back in your inboxes on Tuesday. Enjoy your long weekend!

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The Big Story

Tech can't hide from Texas's abortion law

The focus of concern around Texas's abortion ban this week has rightly been on the people who will be effectively barred from receiving an abortion in the state and the providers who now face grave legal risk for doing their jobs.

But the broadness of the law — which allows anyone to be sued for aiding and abetting an abortion, even unknowingly — also creates a whole bunch of ugly questions for the tech industry. Questions that tech companies are, by the way, not really answering. So we've asked.

The first potential issue is over user data. What would tech companies do if, say, an abortion rights advocate were sued for hosting a Facebook fundraiser to raise money for a woman seeking an abortion? Or if an advertiser got sued for targeting Google ads with information on obtaining an abortion at women in Texas? Would those companies respond to a subpoena for user data?

  • Tech companies comply with legal requests for data all the time. They routinely publish reports documenting the hundreds of thousands of requests from government agencies they receive each year and what percentage they comply with (the majority).
  • The sort of civil suits the Texas bill is opening the door to wouldn't have as much access to data as governments could. Plaintiffs can't, for instance, get access to the content of communications through the discovery process. But they can still subpoena metadata like users' name, IP address and email address.
  • With people potentially facing legal risk for fundraising or even sharing information about abortions, it's not such a leap to imagine that tech companies hosting those fundraisers and posts might get dragged into the legal battle too and asked to fork over information on their users.
  • "Anyone who fundraises for abortion patients, providers or tells someone how to get to a clinic etc. could be at risk," said Priscilla Smith, a resident fellow at Yale Law School. "Short answer is they could probably get a subpoena to get Google to turn over information about who bought Google Ads."

Tech workers could also find themselves in trouble: The law has implications for companies whose workers may be accused of aiding and abetting an abortion.

  • The most frequently cited example of this are Uber and Lyft drivers who drive people to get an abortion.
  • The question before the companies now: Would they pay their drivers' $10,000 fines and legal fees if they got sued? So far, neither company is saying.

Then there are corporate responsibility questions facing tech companies doing business in Texas now. That's especially true for companies that have recently ditched Silicon Valley for Austin and other parts of the state.

  • When Indiana passed a law allowing businesses to deny service to same-sex couples, Marc Benioff cancelled all of Salesforce's business in the state. When North Carolina passed its infamous "bathroom bill," Paypal cancelled plans to hire 400 people at a new facility in Charlotte.
  • Will the industry's calculus really be the same now that rights of women are being curbed not in Indiana or North Carolina, but in the country's second largest state?
  • So far, Elon Musk, who made a big to-do about moving Tesla from California to Texas, has been pretty noncommittal. "In general, I believe government should rarely impose its will upon the people, and, when doing so, should aspire to maximize their cumulative happiness," he said in a tweet. "That said, I would prefer to stay out of politics."
  • Oracle, which also made a show of relocating to Texas, didn't respond to Protocol's request for comment.

There are some outliers among the overwhelming silence from the tech industry. Shar Dubey, the CEO of Match Group, which is based in Texas, and Bumble, the dating app founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd, both said Thursday they planned to launch relief funds in response to the Texas law.

  • In a statement, Dubey condemned the law, speaking, she said, not as a CEO, but as a "mother and a woman who has fervently cared about women's rights."
  • "I immigrated to America from India over 25 years ago," Dubey wrote, "and I have to say, as a Texas resident, I am shocked that I now live in a state where women's reproductive laws are more regressive than most of the world, including India."

Issie Lapowsky (email | twitter)

A version of this story appeared on Read it here.


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People Are Talking

Setting a vaccine mandate is easy. Enforcing one consistently and making it mesh with client policies is the hard part, Deloitte's Jason Girzadas said:

  • "The chessboard here gets pretty complicated."

Health care can never be fully remote, but telehealth can help offset what's usually done in person, K Health CEO Allon Bloch thinks:

  • "We can tremendously reduce the volume of people needlessly waiting for an in-person doctor visit, paying exorbitant fees, and potentially getting sicker as they wait for answers."

Spotify's Daniel Ek doesn't think Apple's App Store changes get to the heart of the problem:

  • "App developers want clear, fair rules that apply to all apps. Our goal is to restore competition once and for all, not one arbitrary, self-serving step at a time."

Making Moves

Three WilmerHale partners will defend Twitter against Donald Trump's free speech lawsuit. Earlier this week, YouTube also picked a team of lawyers from Wilson Sonsini to represent it and Sundar Pichai in its similar case.

Reddit might be heading toward an IPO. It's seeking a valuation above $15 billion, Reuters reported, and wants to go from "the place people talk about meme stocks" to meme stock of its own.

Gwendolyn Regina is joining Binance as the firm's investment director. She was previously running a VC partnerships team at Facebook.

China will organize a Beijing Stock Exchange. Chinese President Xi Jinping made the announcement during a speech on Thursday night Asia Time.

Miles Jennings joined the a16z crypto team as general counsel. He was most recently a partner at Latham & Watkins.

Babak Taheri is resigning from Silvaco. He served as the company's CEO for two years.

In Other News

  • The Elizabeth Holmes trial now has a jury, which includes 12 residents of Northern California and five alternates. Finding jurors who hadn't heard of Theranos was hard; the process spanned two days and involved questioning of about 100 potential jurors.
  • Some people in tech are getting an extra-long weekend. Pinterest and Yahoo both gave staff the day off today to help people relax and unwind.
  • Amazon wants to get tougher on its cloud service policies. The company will reportedly hire a team within AWS that will look for future threats, like emerging extremist groups whose content could show up on its servers.
  • Don't want some people seeing your tweets? You might not need to worry about it soon, because Twitter plans to test out new privacy tools that include removing followers and hiding liked tweets from certain people.
  • General Motors fell victim to the worldwide chip shortage.Again. The automaker is pausing production at six North American factories, affecting some of its most lucrative products like pickup trucks and SUVs.
  • A lawsuit against Apple can proceed with its claims that Siri violates users' privacy, a federal judge decided, after the complaint was first dismissed in February.
  • Russia wants Apple and Google to remove an app that encourages people to vote against Russian President Vladimir Putin's party. The country's internet censor is threatening to fine the two companies if they don't.
  • Alibaba is dropping $15.5 billion on social causes like tech innovation and economic growth. It's all part of Beijing's "common prosperity" drive, which Alibaba and others have unsurprisingly embraced as the country continues to rein in powerful tech companies.

One More Thing

What to watch on Labor Day

SpaceX is preparing for a big mission later this month: it's launching Inspiration4, the first all-civilian spaceflight, which will orbit Earth for three days. Leading up to it, Netflix is premiering a documentary series called "Countdown: Inspiration Mission to Space" that takes you behind the scenes of the mission.

So mark your long weekend calendars for Monday, when the first two episodes of the series will be released. Netflix will continue to roll out episodes over the course of the next couple weeks, before the mission takes off no earlier than Sept. 15, so there's plenty to look forward to if you like the first part of the series. Have a relaxing long weekend!


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