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Trump gets deplatformed

Twitter warning

Good morning! Yesterday was awful. Hopefully you're doing OK, and today's a little better. This Thursday, the social platforms take a long-overdue stand against Trump, the Democrats start planning tech's future and Amazon spends big on affordable housing.

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The Big Story

The ban hammer comes for @realDonaldTrump

I detected a touch of something a bit like rage in Twitter's announcement last night, when it said it was locking President Trump's account for at least 12 hours and requiring him to remove three of his tweets.

  • The tweets in questions were those that either implicitly or explicitly cheered on the rioters on Capitol Hill.
  • Twitter also threatened the nuclear option: "Future violations of the Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies, will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account."

Is this too little and too late? Probably. Almost certainly. Yes. But it's also Twitter creeping closer to a line I thought it would never cross: Like so many other platforms, Twitter has warped its rules over the last four years to let Trump do basically whatever he wants, because he's the president. And maybe because he's not president for much longer, or maybe because Twitter had finally had enough, Twitter decided that doesn't work anymore.

Twitter's not the only company that seems to be having a change of heart in the wake of yesterday's events, either.

  • YouTube was the first of the big social platforms to take down a video that President Trump posted, in which he both told rioters to go home … and peddled the same election-steal lies as always.
  • Facebook followed suit, and also banned Trump from posting, including to Instagram, for 24 hours.
  • Mark Zuckerberg sent a note to Facebook staff acknowledging that the team had removed Trump's video. "We are treating this situation as an emergency," Zuckerberg said, "and we are implementing additional measures to keep people safe."
  • Those additional measures: Removing broad swaths of content, changing the way it labels problematic content and making it hard to spread misinformation in groups.

A lot of tech leaders wanted to see Trump banned from these platforms. More than I expected.

  • Chris Sacca's tweet seemed to sum it up: "You've got blood on your hands, @jack and Zuck. For four years you've rationalized this terror. Inciting violent treason is not a free speech exercise. If you work at those companies, it's on you too. Shut it down."
  • Even inside Twitter, NBC reported, employees are changing their minds. Some people on the "we can't ban the president" side of the argument seem to have shifted.

Obviously, social networks aren't the only culprit for the state of things in America (or the world) right now. And the questions facing Facebook and Twitter feel oddly similar to the ones facing the rest of the government, from the senators and representatives who got together last night to certify the vote to the Cabinet members who reportedly debated invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

But for all those who said "take him seriously but not literally," for all those who thought QAnon and #stopthesteal were products of the internet that would stay on the internet — yesterday should change their mind forever. The internet is the real world now. The only difference is, you can do more things and reach more people online — with truth and with lies — than you can in the real world. And every tech company needs to figure out what that means.

Politics

What a Democratic government means for tech

Jon Ossoff was declared the winner of his Senate race in Georgia amid all yesterday's chaos, meaning the Democrats will control the Senate. Protocol's Issie Lapowsky and Emily Birnbaum sorted through what that might mean for tech:

  • A federal privacy bill seems more likely, particularly Sen. Maria Cantwell's COPRA framework.
  • Easing of restrictions on high-skilled immigration is surely coming. Biden has already promised to unwind some of the Trump administration's anti-immigration policies, but the incoming administration could go even further now.
  • The Section 230 fight will continue, but the rhetoric should quieten a bit. Issie and Emily write: "Democrats have primarily expressed concerns about tech companies' lack of moderation and the protections that Section 230 affords them when extremist, violent or otherwise offensive content causes real-world harm."

There's more, too, from strengthening the FTC and FCC to bringing back net neutrality to continuing some of the biggest antitrust battles against Big Tech. With one party in control of both houses and the presidency, tech policy could come faster than we expected.

People Are Talking

Tim Cook condemned the insurrection:

  • "Today marks a sad and shameful chapter in our nation's history. Those responsible for this insurrection should be held to account, and we must complete the transition to President-elect Biden's administration. It's especially when they are challenged that our ideals matter most."

Sundar Pichai did too:

  • "Holding free and safe elections and resolving our differences peacefully are foundational to the functioning of democracy. ... The lawlessness and violence occurring on Capitol Hill today is the antithesis of democracy and we strongly condemn it."

And Marc Benioff:

  • "Our leaders must call for peace and unity now. There is no room for violence in our democracy. May the One who brings peace bring peace to our country. ❤️🇺🇸"

And Arvind Krishna:

  • "IBM condemns today's unprecedented lawlessness and we call for it to end immediately. These actions have no place in our society, and they must stop so our system of democracy can work."

A MESSAGE FROM INTUIT

Intuit A MESSAGE FROM INTUIT

Virtualized service business models previously on the horizon waiting for consumer habits to catch up have accelerated at break-neck speed. And consumers are tapping their feet, waiting for more. Now, think about the dilemma that consumers are faced with going into this tax season. Because of the pandemic, many tax situations seem more complex and are sparking questions never before imagined.

Read more

Number of the Day

2,000,000,000

That's how many dollars Amazon said it plans to spend on affordable housing in the places Amazon has or plans to have lots of employees. (That's Washington, Arlington and Nashville.) The company said in its announcement that the money will create more than 20,000 housing units.

In Other News

  • Alibaba and Tencent might be added to the investment blacklist, The Wall Street Journal reports. That would stop U.S. investors from owning their shares. Meanwhile, the NYSE reversed course once again on its delisting of three Chinese telecom companies, saying that they will now be delisted.
  • Elon Musk might become the world's richest man today. He's just $3 billion behind Jeff Bezos, according to Bloomberg. Tesla, meanwhile, is close to overtaking Facebook's market cap.
  • Waymo doesn't want to call it "self-driving" anymore. The new term of art? "Fully autonomous driving technology." Really rolls off the tongue. It took a thinly-veiled shot at Tesla too, saying "we see that some automakers use the term 'self-driving' in an inaccurate way."
  • The U.K. is investigating Nvidia's Arm acquisition. The opposition party has previously demanded legally-binding assurances over Arm's HQ location.
  • The U.S. won't take action against India, Italy or Turkey's digital services taxes. The Trade Representative's office called the taxes "unreasonable" though, and said it will continue to evaluate retaliatory options.
  • Roblox is now going public via a direct listing, and raised $520 million at a $29.5 billion valuation ahead of the listing. It ditched its initial plans to IPO after DoorDash and Airbnb's massive pops.
  • Facebook is intentionally not calling its smart glasses "augmented reality," Andrew Bosworth said. He said the glasses will come "sooner than later" this year, but won't have digital overlays — instead they sound much more like Snap's Spectacles.
  • WhatsApp users have to agree to sharing data with Facebook. New terms of service come into effect on Feb. 8.

One More Thing

How's that for a business expense?

Tim Cook spent $432,564 on air travel last year, according to a proxy filing from Apple. Which isn't even his fault: Apple now requires its CEO to fly private both for personal and professional reasons. Still, that's a boss move to aspire to. And it's chump change, really, next to his $14.8 million in total comp.

A MESSAGE FROM INTUIT

Intuit A MESSAGE FROM INTUIT

Virtualized service business models previously on the horizon waiting for consumer habits to catch up have accelerated at break-neck speed. And consumers are tapping their feet, waiting for more. Now, think about the dilemma that consumers are faced with going into this tax season. Because of the pandemic, many tax situations seem more complex and are sparking questions never before imagined.

Read more

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and 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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