First there was “Trendghazi.” Now there’s “Thielgate.”
If you don’t know what either of these are, chances are you clicked on the wrong newsletter. But allow me to explain. The former, a scandal over anonymous allegations that Facebook workers purposely omitted conservative-leaning stories from the website’s “trending” list, erupted in early May. The latter, the revelation that billionaire and Facebook investor Peter Thiel bankrolled a $140 million lawsuit against Gawker Media, is still erupting.
The two controversies are different sides of the same coin—a coin that came from Thiel’s pocket, apparently. In both cases, the PayPal co-founder’s money is illustrating that it can (at least theoretically) influence the dissemination of information.
Facebook has said it found no evidence of employee wrongdoing in curating the news feed on its “Trending Topics” page, though it is still changing the news selection process on the site. But its dedication to keeping its information fully free from potential bias would gain more credibility if it addressed this growing issue: Thiel, who has admitted to funding lawsuits against Gawker, is on Facebook’s board.
Whether or not you think of Gawker and its now-defunct Silicon Valley gossip site Valleywag—which publicly revealed Thiel as gay in 2007—as a news site or complete rubbish is irrelevant. At least in Thiel’s case, the company didn’t do anything illegal. And yet he called his campaign to crush Gawker “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done.”
Others don’t quite see it that way. Take, for example, Jeff Bezos, another billionaire with a more overt news agenda: growing the audience for The Washington Post, which he bought in 2013 (oh yeah, and running a little company called Amazon).
“I don’t think a billionaire should be able to fund a lawsuit to kill Gawker,” Bezos said Tuesday during an interview at the ongoing Code Conference in Ranch Palos Verdes, Calif. “The best defense against speech you don’t like is a thick skin. If you can’t tolerate critics, then don’t do anything new or interesting.”
Well said, from one billionaire to another.
BITS AND BYTES
Salesforce just proposed its biggest acquisition ever. It will pay $2.8 billion for e-commerce specialist Demandware. That’s a bit more than the $2.5 billion it paid for marketing software company ExactTarget in 2013. (Fortune)
Judge: Dell shareholders should have been paid more. A Delaware court has ruled that the $24.9 billion buyout of tech giant Dell by Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners shortchanged shareholders who weren’t in favor of the deal. The buyers could wind up paying “tens of millions of dollars” more to those who opposed the transaction. The damage could have been far greater, up to $100 million, plus the ruling could still be appealed. (Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
Microsoft courts virtual reality developers. The tech giant is opening up its Windows Holographic technology, which is the operating system that controls its HoloLens headset. Technically, the code isn’t commercially available. The idea is to get other software and hardware companies to build products on the platform. (Fortune)
Apple may raise $1 billion with Taiwanese bonds. The company is considering a first-time issue in the country, which is home to a big portion of its supply chain. The island is an increasingly popular market for bond issues by multinationals. Intel raised $915 million there last December. (Reuters)
Marketo will go private in $1.8 billion buyout. The marketing software company is selling out to Vista Equity Partners. Rumors that it was seeking a buyer—in part because of fierce competition from much larger companies like Oracle and Salesforce—have been circulating for weeks. The offer price is about 9% more than the company’s value last Friday. (Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
EU wants member states to make nice with Uber and Airbnb. A proposal anticipated later this week would create a common framework for how the union’s 28 member states regulate “on demand” or “sharing economy” startups. Right now, organizations like Uber and Airbnb must deal with policies on a nation-by-nation basis. (Fortune)
HP Inc. won’t contribute financially to Republican convention. Historically, its predecessor company was a big supporter of GOP activities. That’s not surprising, considering that CEO Meg Whitman, who now runs Hewlett Packard Enterprise, was once Republican nominee for the governor of California. Microsoft is also withholding financial support for the Republican convention, although it will donate to the Democratic one. (New York Times)
Jawbone plans health-focused wearable device. Although reports suggest the company is selling out its existing inventory of UP fitness trackers to exit the category, Jawbone insists it remains committed to the technology. Instead, The Verge reports, it will tailor the devices for clinical-grade health data tracking. (Fortune)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: We should settle Mars ‘because it’s cool.’ When Jeff Bezos laughs, it comes from deep within. It’s a hearty laugh that starts at the belly and rises up, observes Fortune senior editor Andrew Nusca.
The reaction doesn’t come often—the Amazon founder and chief executive is far too analytical for that. When it does, watch out.
On Tuesday night, Bezos told an audience of technologists at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., why Blue Origin, his mysterious spaceflight company, carries so much potential. He spent several minutes outlining his desire to develop outer space. Humans should move heavy industrial facilities off the planet and into space, Bezos argued, where energy from the sun is limitless and available around the clock. Earth ought to be “rezoned” for residential and light commercial use.
Then, sensing the obvious next question from the audience, Bezos interrupted himself to declare: “We will settle Mars. And we should, because it’s cool.”
His reassured audience chortled as Bezos let out a great big laugh of his own. More on Bezos’s space development plans, on free speech, and on future Amazon ambitions.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
3 reasons bitcoin is booming again, as price nears $550
by Jeff John Roberts
Qualcomm aims new chip at kids, old people, and pets by Aaron Pressman
Smartphone maker Xiaomi and Microsoft team up by Scott Cendrowski
‘Sneaky’ Windows 10 updates raise ruckus by Barb Darrow
Why Facebook should ask Peter Thiel to resign from its board
by Eleanor Bloxham
Social marketing specialist Spredfast scores $50 million by Heather Clancy
Caltech is Apple’s latest patent foe by Don Reisinger
Eric Holder: Edward Snowden ‘performed a public service’
by Robert Hackett
ONE MORE THING
Elon Musk confessions: All the stupid things Tesla has done. The electric car maker’s annual shareholder meeting Tuesday was partly a trip down memory lane, partly a confessional of early missteps, and partly a series of thank you’s to partners and employees who helped build Tesla over its 13-year history. (Fortune)
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.