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Twitter, the everything network

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Good morning! This Wednesday, how "The Social Dilemma" is changing tech policy, Twitter tries to be the uber social network and why everyone's leaving San Francisco.

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The Big Story

The Social Dilemma Effect

Well, we had another hearing. The takeaway? Everybody wants more regulation and nobody knows what it should look like.

One thing did stick out, though: Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg if they'd seen "The Social Dilemma," and then urged them both to watch it when they said they hadn't. It was an eye-opening exchange and made clear that this summer's hottest data-privacy blockbuster is going to frame the debate about the internet for a long time to come.

  • I suspect everyone in tech has been bombarded with questions about the documentary, which seems to have brought issues about addictive tech and data privacy into the mainstream like no Senate hearing or news story ever could.
  • Critics of the film say that it oversells concerns about the addictive properties of social media, that it does a lot of fear-mongering without offering any real solutions and falls into the age-old "new technology will destroy everything" trap.
  • But fans of the "The Social Dilemma" say it makes real all the questions about algorithms and technological manipulation that tech companies would rather you not notice.

I tend to side with Meredith Whittaker, who said she didn't like that "The Social Dilemma" made tech out to be some superhuman, unstoppable truth. "I think it also paints a picture that this technology is somehow impossible to resist, that we can't push back against it, that we can't organize against it," she said in a recent interview.

That is what the hearing should have been about: what it looks like to push back against the tech companies. But there's a fundamental disconnect: The government wants a set of clean, enforceable rules, and companies like Twitter and Facebook run platforms that are too complicated to be policed that way.

  • Almost every fight about tech becomes about everything in tech, when what's needed are careful, specific conversations. Talking about voter fraud, Section 230 and antitrust in the same line of questions doesn't help anyone.

If you haven't, by the way, watch "The Social Dilemma." If only because I bet you're going to be asked about it at Thanksgiving.

Social

Don't call them Twitter Stories

Anna Kramer writes: Ah yes, just what we were anxiously awaiting, another version of Stories. Twitter Fleets are here, and with them Twitter plants a flag in the groundbreaking idea … that others had four years ago. But to be fair, Twitter branching into the popular format is likely a good thing for the company's future, even if it is more than fashionably late to the party.

  • Twitter hasn't innovated much beyond text in years, and at the same time has seen a gradual ebb in user growth compared to other, younger social networks. The company needs to prove it has room to grow, and Fleets — an easier and lower-pressure way to stay engaged — may be the first step.

And there's more to come. Yesterday, Twitter also introduced the concept of live audio Spaces, which look like a cross between Clubhouse and Discord.

  • While Spaces hasn't rolled out to everyone just yet, the new feature will be a live, audio-based group hangout. The company rejected the notion that Spaces is a Clubhouse copycat, instead comparing it to a "well-hosted dinner party."
  • Twitter likely wants nothing to do with the Clubhouse analogy because of the criticism piled onto the exclusive app for failing to protect users from abuse. For now, Spaces will be rolled out to a select group of women and people from other marginalized groups in an effort to collect their feedback before it launches to everyone.

"User safety" is a key phrase here. As the company tries to grow with new products like these, questions about safety are only going to get bigger (there are already a few about Fleets). Twitter's product team says it's determined to get the changes right, but these are not easy problems to solve. I'm eager to watch how its commitment plays out in practice, and I'm wondering how creative it can get.

People Are Talking

On Protocol: As you're rethinking how your company works, don't forget the small things, Dropbox's Drew Houston said:

  • "Even just something like, 'How's everyone doing today, and what are we working on?' That's a question that's very easy to answer when you're physically together and very difficult to answer when you're not."

A number of groups said they really, really don't want Eric Schmidt on the Biden administration:

  • "It risks alienating an overwhelming majority of the electorate, including within the Democratic base, who want to see the economic power of major corporations reined in."
  • Also, Recode found that this could all be for nothing because there may have been no talks between Biden and Schmidt yet anyway.

Even as Trump continues to disregard the election result, a White House source told Issie Lapowsky that the Biden transition team continues to impress:

  • "These are not just smart people, but they're people with experience running these agencies. Cristin Dorgelo may be one of the best people if not the best person to ever run [the Office of Science and Technology Policy]. It's only been four years and people like Cristin Dorgelo haven't forgotten how to run OSTP."

Masa Son said things are going to get worse before a vaccine helps make them better, and he's preparing as such:

  • "In the next two or three months, any disaster could happen. So we're just preparing for the worst case scenario."
  • He also had a good answer for why he didn't invest in Tesla or Amazon: "I'm so stupid."

A MESSAGE FROM SAMSUNG NEXT

SamsungNext

Welcome to the age of synthetic media

Content generated or manipulated by AI through machine or deep learning is changing how we create, distribute, consume, and democratize media. What does synthetic media have the power to change next?

Learn more

Making Moves

Paul Heard is the new CIO at Zuora. He joins from Micro Focus, and has done stints at HPE and DaimlerChrysler.

Jay Simons is the newest member of Zapier's board. The Atlassian president is Zapier's first external director.

Conan O'Brien is coming to an HBO Max app near you, becoming one of the biggest stars to jump to streaming.

Chris Krebs is out as the director of CISA. Trump said he fired Krebs for saying the 2020 election was secure.

In Other News

  • Apple is cutting its App Store commission to 15% for developers with under $1 million in annual App Store revenue. The changes come in to effect on Jan. 1, and developers have to opt in to the new system.
  • On Protocol: YouTube wants YouTube Music to rival Spotify and Apple Music. The team's finally back in the industry's good graces, but can it convince customers to actually sign up?
  • ICE is looking for a new cloud contractor to manage and expand its AWS and Azure systems. It's planning on spending $100 million over five years.
  • NXP and Amazon are partnering on a new car chip design. It will supposedly help cars better communicate with AWS data centers. More details are coming tomorrow.
  • Tesla, Uber, Rivian and others launched the Zero Emission Transportation Association, a lobbying group for electric vehicles. They want all new car sales to be electric by 2030, a policy that the U.K. government announced itself today.
  • Robinhood is thinking about an IPO next year, Bloomberg reports. Wonder what app the shares will be available in?
  • Apple's M1 Macs were met with rapturous reviews. That's excellent news for Apple — and disastrous news for Intel. Om Malik has a good explanation of how this transition might reshape computing, too.
  • You can now get same-day Instacart delivery from Best Buy. Which will be very useful the next time you realize you've lost one of the dongles for those new Macs.

One More Thing

Everybody's leaving SF

124,131. That's how many people requested a change of address in San Francisco between March and November this year, and a large majority relocated outside of the city. The data's not comprehensive and we don't know whether each change of address is permanent or temporary, but the destinations give a pretty good hint: Las Vegas; Palm Beach, Florida; and Seminole County, Florida were the top three. Sounds like a nice extended vacation, folks.

A MESSAGE FROM SAMSUNG NEXT

SamsungNext

Welcome to the age of synthetic media

Content generated or manipulated by AI through machine or deep learning is changing how we create, distribute, consume, and democratize media. What does synthetic media have the power to change next?

Learn 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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