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What will Trump’s social network look like?

Image: Charles Deluvio / Protocol
Trump

Good morning! Hope you had a great weekend, and sorry to everyone who ever thought they knew anything about college basketball only to have all your brackets brutally busted. This Monday, Trump has plans to get back into social, net neutrality is back, Facebook is defending its moderation efforts and Tesla says it doesn't spy in China.

Also, you'll notice we're back in your inbox a little earlier. After talking with lots of you, we definitely heard how many of you think of Source Code as part of your early-morning routine. And we're so glad to be with you! Thanks as always for the feedback, and keep it coming!

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The Big Story

Trump is coming back to social

He's still not back on Twitter (where he's apparently banned forever), Facebook (we'll see what the Oversight Board decides) or YouTube (probably coming back soon). And he's not on Gab or Parler, both of which would be absolutely delighted to have him. But Donald Trump is getting ready to social again.

"I do think that we're going to see President Trump returning to social media in probably about two or three months here, with his own platform," Trump advisor Jason Miller told Fox News. "And this is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media. It's going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what exactly President Trump does. But it will be his own platform."

  • "Numerous companies" have approached Trump about building a platform, Miller said.
  • This was an easy one to see coming: Jared Kushner and others reportedly told Trump not to join Gab or Parler because they "didn't think they were well managed or could handle the traffic." And it makes perfect sense that Team Trump would want to have a place where it sets the rules … and makes the money.

A Facebook competitor probably isn't in the cards, though details are pretty scarce right now. I'd bet on it looking more like a streaming company than a social one, allowing Trump to get his message out in a way that his supporters can interact with and amplify. Maybe Substack should be more worried than Twitter?

  • I also wouldn't bet on this ever getting off the ground. Especially not by June.
  • But if it does, it'll be fascinating to figure out what kind of product the former president wants for himself, what kind of audience will follow him there and which cloud computing and payment processing companies will sign up to work with it.

What do you think it will look like? Reply to this email with all your best ideas (and names) for Untitled Trump Social Network. If you end up being right, I'll send you a Protocol mug.

Regulation

Net neutrality is back

"Net neutrality simply preserves the environment that has allowed the internet to become an engine for economic growth." That's from a letter to Jessica Rosenworcel, from seven tech companies — Mozilla, Dropbox, Reddit, Vimeo, Wikimedia, Eventbrite and ADT — which are urging the FCC to bring net neutrality back to the law of the land.

  • Those companies wouldn't have worked without net neutrality, they said: "These protections allow for ideas to spread without interference from ISPs; allowing anyone, anywhere to share ideas and freely communicate on an equal footing."

Rosenworcel is obviously going to like this letter. She's been fighting for net neutrality for years, and told Protocol's Emily Birnbaum last year that she opposed the Trump administration's rollbacks on both substantive and procedural grounds.

The question now is one of priorities. While net neutrality is an issue that a lot of people support, it's still a fiercely political one in Washington. Rosenworcel isn't even the official permanent FCC chair yet, so picking that fight right now might not be all that appealing. And anyway, she's made clear that fixing the broadband gap is her No. 1 priority.

  • The tech industry is arguing that those issues are one and the same. "While there are many challenges that need to be resolved to fix the internet," Mozilla's Amy Keating wrote in an accompanying blog post, "reinstating net neutrality is a crucial down payment on the much broader internet reform that we need."
  • And from the letter: "In an environment where users frequently lack meaningful choices between ISPs, net neutrality can ultimately encourage greater long-term investment across the network stack by promoting broadband buildout, faster service, and new applications."

What would reinstatement of net neutrality look like? We're already starting to see some of the effects — and friction — that would come from such a move thanks to California's newly enforceable law. AT&T is awfully cranky about it, for one thing. And while the FCC might do something along those lines, everyone seems to agree that in the long run, the only way off this endless legal seesaw is for Congress to do something. And we know how that's gone so far.

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

A recent report studying voluntary increases to wages by businesses found that when Amazon raised its pay to $15 in 2018, it led to a 4.7% increase in wages for employees at other companies in the same market. The study also found no significant job losses in the community after the wage increase.

Read more

People Are Talking

Facebook is dedicated to fighting misinformation, Guy Rosen said, and it cares more than you might think:

  • "There are some who believe that we have a financial interest in turning a blind eye to misinformation. The opposite is true. We have every motivation to keep misinformation off of our apps and we've taken many steps to do so at the expense of user growth and engagement."

Teslas aren't used for spying, Elon Musk said, no matter what the Chinese government thinks:

  • "Whether it's Chinese or U.S., the negative effects if a commercial company did engage in spying — the negative effects for that company would be extremely bad … If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down."

Nokia hasn't been crunched by the semiconductor shortage, CEO Pekka Lundmark said, but he's still keeping an eye on it:

  • "It's not only telecoms. It's automotive, it's consumer gadgets, it's the emerging IoT devices. The whole semiconductor industry is actually very busy finding ways to increase capacity."

"Pretend empathy" is a troubling development in tech, Sherry Turkle said:

  • "Living through the pandemic has shown that people need relationships, people need people. We can write programs that mimic us, but I don't want to talk to a robot, something without a body, that isn't a child, that didn't have a mother."

Melinda Gates said one way to fix workplace inequality is to keep women from having to leave the workplace:

  • "We are the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't have a paid family medical leave policy. The US has catching up to do on our entire child care sector and our caregiving sector."

Coming This Week

Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey face Congress again on Thursday, to talk about misinformation. There's going to be a lot of yelling, a lot of talk about bias and probably a lot of strong and misguided feelings about Section 230. So, same as always.

Vizio is expected to IPO this week. The question to watch: Do investors see it mostly as a TV maker or an advertising/software company?

Adobe and Tencent both report earnings this week.

In Other News

  • David Dobrik left Dispo, and Spark Capital severed all ties with the company. Business Insider reported last week on allegations against Dobrik's Vlog Squad, and Spark said that "we have stepped down from our position on the board and we are in the process of making arrangements to ensure we do not profit from our recent investment in Dispo."
  • Democrats are preparing multiple antitrust bills, Rep. David Cicilline said. He said doing lots of small bills rather than one big one would make it harder for Big Tech to oppose them. Meanwhile, the U.K. is reportedly preparing to investigate Facebook over the way it uses Marketplace data to give itself an advantage in classified advertising.
  • Caesar Sengupta is leaving Google. The company veteran was most recently in charge of Google's Payments and Next Billion Users programs.
  • Apple has to pay $309 million for infringing a DRM patent. It lost a court case against Personalized Media Communications, but plans to appeal. Apple was also fined $2 million by Brazil "for misleading advertising, selling a device without the charger and unfair terms."
  • Scott Forstall might testify at the Apple-Epic trial. He's on the list of witnesses, along with Eddy Cue, Facebook's Vivek Sharma, Xbox's Lori Wright, Nvidia's Aashish Patel and Tim Sweeney. Apple will call on Tim Cook, Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi.
  • California needs a new AG. Xavier Becerra was confirmed as the new HHS secretary, requiring Gavin Newsom to appoint his replacement in California.
  • Airbnb is using host groups to lobby lawmakers, The Financial Times reported. The "home-sharing clubs," which are seemingly independent, allegedly receive political tutoring and media training from Airbnb.
  • ByteDance bought gaming studio Moonton for a reported $4 billion. The deal positions ByteDance as even more of a Tencent rival.
  • TSMC capacity is fully booked through the first half of next year, Taiwan's Commercial Times reported (thanks to Dan Nystedt for the translation). Meanwhile, a fire at a Renesas plant threatens to worsen the auto chip shortage, and DRAM's 60% price surge could cause problems for printer manufacturers.

One More Thing

John Cleese NFT

NFT of the day

John Cleese — yes, that John Cleese — drew a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge on his iPad and is selling it as an NFT. It's not very good, but since when does that matter? Cleese set the buy-now price for "Brooklyn Bridge" at $69,346,250.50, which would put him two quarters over Beeple's record. I'd say that's impossible, but he's already up to $50,000 on OpenSea. So watch your back, Winkelmann.

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

A recent report studying voluntary increases to wages by businesses found that when Amazon raised its pay to $15 in 2018, it led to a 4.7% increase in wages for employees at other companies in the same market. The study also found no significant job losses in the community after the wage increase.

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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