Last week I suggested the long knives are out for Facebook from multiple corners. Regulators, politicians, the social media company’s publisher-partners, its own advertiser customers: They are all increasingly fed up with Facebook.
It’s not just Facebook, of course. The same groups are annoyed to a greater or lesser degree with Google. And Twitter has done its fair share to poison the well of civil discourse—the corollary to the glory of free speech. But Facebook is the greater devil of the moment, relative to Google, and Twitter elicits more pity than enmity right now.
Here are a things to read on the state of play to start your week:
* The Wall Street Journal published an illuminating article over the weekend that details how Silicon Valley’s “darling” status has more or less ended in Washington, D.C. It would be tempting to read this as an ideological shift from the Democratic Obama administration to the Republican Trump administration. I think that would be a mistake. Rancor over a concentration of power and a realization that “the Internet industry” no longer needs the protection accorded a fledgling is an increasingly bipartisan emotion.
* Also over the weekend, the conscientious Mike Allen of Axios articulated Facebook’s perspective on all this. Why his take matters: Facebook is fully aware they have a political hot potato on their hands.
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* The intelligentsia is all in on going after Big Tech. Exhibit A is the new book by former New Republic Editor Franklin Foerr, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech. Exhibit B is the oft-quoted Jonathan Taplin’s book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. Exhibit C is this penetrating opinion piece that recently came to my attention by University of Chicago professors Luisi Zingales and Guy Rolnik that argues for the legislation of the transfer of ownership all user-generated data from the social media companies to the users who created the data.
Not public yet. The fast-growing workplace messaging app Slack raised $250 million from investors, including SoftBank’s Vision Fund, at a valuation of just over $5 billion, the Financial Times reports. With revenue still on pace to more than double annually, CEO Stewart Butterfield says: “If it was 10 years ago we’d be public by now.” Expect that debut next year instead, he adds.
Fourth to market. The autonomous car push at General Motors is progressing well and the unit, Cruise Automation, will soon open a ride-hailing service for people outside the company, Reuters reports. Only Alphabet’s Waymo, Uber, and startup nuTonomy have reached that milestone.
Stamp out the hate. Facebook and Google moved to quash the controversy over the ability to use hateful terms to target advertising on their networks. Facebook had to turn off one of its automated advertising suggestion tools. Google stopped its main ad system for search from suggesting offensive phrases.
Can you hear me now. After T-Mobile decided to give its unlimited data plan customers free Netflix, which followed AT&T’s free HBO offer for its unlimited customers, Verizon may have something similar in the offing. CEO Lowell McAdam says the company is putting together its own content deals and will likely announce one by the end of the month.
Nuttiness premium. Pre-orders for the new Apple iPhone 8 and 8 Plus started Friday and the smartphones quickly sold out for first day delivery on September 22. Apple’s web site now shows a one to two week delay. Over on eBay, a dozen crazies paid up to $1,989 to buy phones from early pre-orderers.
Not so clean. Hackers hid a malware program in legitimate copies of the popular PC maintenance app CCleaner from Avast Software for about a month, possibly infecting up to 4 million computers. The hack looks to have been an inside job, according to security firm Cisco Talos, which discovered the hidden program.
Internet rules. The Emmys were big again for online streaming services. Netflix won 20 total awards, more than any other outlet except HBO which won 29. Hulu won 10 awards, including for best drama series, and Amazon won two. “Yet another year that broadcast TV appears irrelevant,” BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield quipped to CNN’s Brian Stelter.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Computer scientist Alan Kay helped conceptualize or invent many of the most popular innovations of our high tech world, including the graphical user interface and the tablet computer. But in an interview with Fast Company, Kay is concerned about the impact of smartphones, which may be dumbing down the world.
If people could understand what computing was about, the iPhone would not be a bad thing. But because people don’t understand what computing is about, they think they have it in the iPhone, and that illusion is as bad as the illusion that Guitar Hero is the same as a real guitar. That’s the simple long and the short of it. What’s interesting is, the computational ability of an iPhone is far beyond what we need to do good computing. What you wind up with is something that has enough stuff on it and is connected to enough stuff, so it seems like the entire thing.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Google Sued by Gab, the Twitter for People Banned from Twitter by David Z. Morris
What You Should Do This Weekend to Protect Your Credit From the Equifax Data Breach by John Patrick Pullen
Spotify’s New iMessage App Makes it Easier to Text Songs to Friends by Tom Huddleston, Jr.
A Longtime Hardware Exec Steps Down at Dell Technologies by Barb Darrow
Social Capital’s CEO Aims to Get Billion-Dollar Startups ‘Liquid Sooner’ by Polina Marinova
BEFORE YOU GO
Smartphones and computers may have shaken up our culture but the impact is even more stark in the Amish community. The New York Times had a masterful profile of how the technologies are infiltrating even this society that has resisted the trappings of the modern world for so long.