Protocol - Big Tech’s disinfo pact

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By Nat Rubio-Licht and Sarah Roach
June 17, 2022


Good morning! This Friday, the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation is finally here, and it has some big names attached. Though not every company signed onto every commitment, it could result in more transparency from some of the world’s biggest platforms.

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Don’t crack the Code

 

Some of the biggest names in tech have officially signed onto the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation. Meta, Google, TikTok and Microsoft now must abide by rules that force them to be radically transparent on disinformation-fighting practices.

The code aims to make tech companies demonstrate that they’re mitigating risk, or at least tying, and complying with the Digital Services Act in Europe.

  • Some of the promises include demonetizing disinformation, more transparency on political ads through “dedicated searchable ad repositories,” and biannual progress reports from “very large platforms” with more than 45 million monthly active users.
  • Notably, Apple, Amazon and Telegram, which was a key player in the spread of misinformation regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, did not sign onto the code at all.

Not every company agreed to every promise. Google, Twitter, TikTok and Meta didn’t sign onto any measures that would make them implement tools such as “trustworthiness indicators” that would help users make informed decisions when encountering potential fake news.

  • Twitter said it wanted to explore the “feasibility” of these tools, and Meta said there are other ways to get the job done. TikTok said it didn’t think these kinds of tools were “practical or implementable.”

The code could bring a new level of transparency to tech. But companies walking away from certain commitments might have the leeway to do what they want while claiming they’re trying their best.

— Nat Rubio-Licht (email | twitter)

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Musk talks shop

 

Elon Musk met with Twitter employees Thursday, and it went pretty much how you'd think it would go.

Employees were worried about layoffs, Musk’s view of remote work and content moderation. Musk kind of addressed those concerns and talked about aliens for some reason.

  • Musk said really good employees can work remotely, but he’s not a fan of it overall.
  • He also said Twitter should consider layoffs on a performance basis.
  • As for content moderation, Musk thinks people should be allowed to “say what they want.”

Musk didn’t really say anything new, and he didn’t exactly win employees over. He showed up 10 minutes late, and people had a hard time hearing him. But he agreed to stay a little later (thanks?).

  • Musk reiterated his stance on bots and scam advertising, sharing a story about how he got tricked by a scam YouTube ad to emphasize that point.
  • He also shared some ideas for making Twitter more profitable, including a subscription model and making people pay to be verified, which would make the platform too expensive for a “bot army.”

Did this make shareholders happy? Unlikely. He didn’t address the biggest issue at hand, which is whether he was actually committed to buying Twitter at all. And it didn't seem to have made employees happy, either: A Twitter Slack channel exploded after the event.

Sarah Roach (email | twitter) and Nat Rubio-Licht

​​Fast delivery slows

 

The pitch for fast delivery was straightforward: Get your ice cream, toilet paper, loungewear and stand mixers while you’re still wearing your pajamas. The pandemic clearly got that party started. Now it’s safe to say the party’s over.

Jokr is leaving the U.S., and even though it never really took off in the states, it’s not the only fast delivery company that’s losing its mid-pandemic momentum:

The fact that people are now able to actually leave their homes may have fast-tracked these startups’ failures. But there’s also something to be said for the fact that groceries don’t really need to be delivered quickly.

  • Getting items delivered in an instant is certainly nice. But “there’s the question of whether consumers really need 15 min grocery delivery; immediacy is not the key feature (as in ride-hailing or restaurant delivery),” investor Sheel Mohnot said.
  • Fast delivery is also harder to pull off than, say, DoorDash or Uber Eats. “They require local infrastructure, local people and local operations which are expensive to build out,” ex-StubHub CEO Jeff Fluhr said.

The writing might be on the wall for fast delivery, but some aren’t ready to slow the party down just yet: Amazon will be testing drone deliveries in California later this year, and Instacart announced “Priority Delivery,” which gets items to people’s doors in 30 minutes.

— Sarah Roach

A MESSAGE FROM VERSAPAY

Fewer than half of executives (44%) see better communication with customers as a benefit of digitizing AR. Meanwhile, 72% state that their AR department isn't customer-oriented enough, implying that executives understand the need for customer-oriented AR departments, but aren't aware that they can close that gap as part of their AR digitization project.

Learn more

People are talking

 

Giving workers Juneteenth off isn't just a signal to Black talent, DocuSign's Iesha Berry said:

  • "It’s a signal to multigenerational, multiethnic talent that we’re looking to bring into an organization."

TikTok's Blake Chandlee said the platform is not like Facebook and doesn't want to be:

  • “We are an entertainment platform. The difference is significant. It’s a massive difference.”

Jason Portnoy said Peter Thiel invests in things that other people “don’t realize yet”:

  • “He does the same thing with people. He meets a person, he says ‘I think this person has potential that other people don’t see yet. I’m going to take a chance.’”

Making moves

 

Reddit bought Spell, a machine learning and AI tool. Spell’s team already joined Reddit.

Amazon Prime Day is July 12 and 13 this year.

Mike Mahan joined Fanatics to lead its trading cards and digital collectibles business. Mahan was the CEO of Dick Clark Productions until 2020.

Firefly Aerospace is looking for a new CEO after co-founder Tom Markusic stepped down. Peter Schumacher is the interim CEO.

In other news

 

In other Elon Musk news: The CEO, as well as Tesla and SpaceX, are being sued for $258 billion for alleged Dogecoin racketeering.

And speaking of SpaceX, employees wrote an open letter that begs Musk to tweet less. The company is firing those involved with the letter.

Binance.US is about to announce it has raised more funding. It's a sign of continued investor interest despite the crypto downturn, CEO Brian Shroder told Protocol's Benjamin Pimentel.

The Celsius accounts freeze is being investigated. Regulators in Alabama, Kentucky, New Jersey, Texas and Washington are leading the probe.

What was Andy Jassy’s first year like? He dealt with the fast growth and painful decline of ecommerce after the pandemic, and he’s now trying to find a replacement for Dave Clark, who ran the company’s consumer business.

Snap's trying a subscription service. It's testing Snapchat Plus, which will gives users early access to tools and lets them designate a No. 1 BFF (middle school kids must be screaming), among other things.

The rise of EVs has some unintended consequences, including a potential increase in gas guzzlers being exported abroad.

IBM is releasing recommendations this morning on how the U.S. can safely enter the crypto space. The suggestions include forming a digital assets bank consortium and a team that can build understanding of the space among state and national regulators.

Don’t miss this bonkers story about Google and Fellowship of Friends, a religious group that sent Google into a legal battle after a former employee complained about its influence. You should also read the blog post from the ex-employee who filed the lawsuit.

Title inflation > regular inflation. Managers are giving employees fancy titles to keep them around, but that phenomenon might not last much longer.

Your data point of the day: Spending on the metaverse across gaming, socialization, fitness, commerce and remote learning could reach $5 trillion by 2030, according to a McKinsey report.

Fight! Fight! Fight! 

 

Faire’s Marcelo Cortes loves debate. In fact, his weekly meeting with other execs at the company is called “Debate” because he wants people to get comfortable with conflict. They talk about everything from fundraising to media events, as well as issues that should be brought up to the whole company. Cortes’ only rule is that people keep the fights PG-rated.

A MESSAGE FROM VERSAPAY

A resounding 96% of respondents claimed that there is work to do in digitizing their AR departments, yet 60% agreed that their AR departments haven’t been prioritized as much as other departments for digitization. At a time when the importance of securing cash flow is higher than ever, many businesses are not putting enough focus on it.

Learn more

 

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. We will be off Sunday and Monday to celebrate Juneteenth. Enjoy your day, see you Tuesday.

 

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