Money Quote Dec. 12 2017

Khanna Walks the Fine Line, SF Loses A Mayor, Bannon Targets Twitter

What a week for news, and it’s only Tuesday.

Busy day for news, sad day for San Francisco, big day for Alabama and the US Senate hanging in the balance, and plenty of antitrust chatter. Onwards…

Ro Khanna, freshman Congressman from Silicon Valley, has a fine line to tread on antitrust, net neutrality, and big platforms, as the above piece in NY Magazine points out. Perhaps in anticipation of that, Khanna pens an OpEd on net neutrality for Fast Company (first link). MQ (from Khanna’s piece): “Many feared when Chairman Pai took over that net neutrality would die a death of a thousand cuts through a lack of enforcement. Instead he’s trying to scrap the rules altogether. At a time when the vast majority of the world seeks to make the internet freer for citizens, Chairman Pai is most concerned with the revenue of big ISPs like Verizon and Comcast. This is a sad chapter, however fleeting, for the nation that invented the internet.”

This is my two part series on the role of data in our society, the power of tech platforms, and antitrust (much in the news). It revolves around a modest proposal at the end. It’s doing better than nearly anything I’ve written in many months, mostly because Medium decided to put it on their “home page” today. Thanks, Medium!

The Facebook alumni are turning on the platform that made them rich. MQ: “Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

Meanwhile, there’s Pinterest, a company I’ve been wanting to write about for months (I’m spending more time there next week). The company actually focuses on “time well spent” for its users, instead of time on site or engagement. MQ: “At a time when partisan shouting has taken over many apps and websites, Pinterest’s 200 million monthly users turn to the service to literally picture a better life, be that in the form of a cozier living room, an adventurous trip, or a healthy snack. They’re not looking for food porn, a la Instagram, but everyday meals they can actually cook: Ninety-eight percent of Pinterest users report trying new things they find on the service, according to a Nielsen study.” Look for my piece soon.

This makes me so damn angry. MQ: “Yet, as Alabama’s story today tells, the Voting Rights Act was not ironclad. As the cornerstone of the movement for the franchise, Alabama has also played the part of headquarters of resistance, a long legal and legislative guerrilla war against voting rights that culminated in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder case, one where officials in the Alabama county successfully sued for all of the former dominion of Jim Crow to be released from federal VRA oversight. That victory, and the structural barriers to voting erected in its aftermath, are a serious — and largely unacknowledged — impediment to Democrat Doug Jones’s chances in the special election for the state’s open Senate seat on Tuesday.”

Big time debut for Bitcoin on the financial world stage, the currency did not tank, and the shorts have not won (yet). MQ: “the futures’ launch has cast a spotlight on the market’s shaky foundations. Bitcoin exchanges were plagued with glitches in recent weeks, even as the price of the virtual currency soared to records — passing $17,000 on Thursday, from just $968.23 at the start of the year, according to CoinDesk.”

I wrote about this a while back, but this story builds that narrative out. MQ: “If cities thwart map apps and ride-share services through infrastructure changes with the intent to slow traffic down, it has the effect of slowing down traffic. So, the algorithm may tell drivers to go down another side street, and the residents who’ve been griping to the mayor may be pleased, but traffic, on the city whole, has been negatively affected, making everyone’s travel longer than before. “It’s nuts,” says Bayen, “but this is the reality of urban planning.”

Hmmm. That’s what I say, hmmmm. Maybe Google can save the independent web and beat Facebook at the same time? Hmmmm. MQ: “It’s basically a flip from the beginning of the year: In January, Facebook provided nearly 40 percent of publishers’ external traffic; now that’s down to 26 percent. And Google, which started the year at 34 percent, now generates 44 percent of traffic. Parse.ly’s data comes from some 2,500 publishers that use its analytics service, including the Wall Street Journal, Time Inc., Mashable and Huffington Post.”

Ed Lee was a complicated figure, but he was a really nice person who kept San Francisco, a notoriously hamstrung place, politically moving forward. Very sad day for those of us who knew him and live and work there. MQ: “Lee initially said he wasn’t interested in being mayor, but relented and took the job after a public campaign led by Chinese American civic leaders — the slogan was “Run, Ed, Run!” He said he wasn’t interested in a full term, but after solid job reviews and months of urging from former Mayor Willie Brown, now a Chronicle columnist, the late Chinatown power broker Rose Pak and, ultimately, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Lee changed his mind.”

Eww. This whole story is so icky. MQ: “While social media companies have become regular targets of the pro-Trump right, Bannon’s focus on Twitter — which has struggled to define and enforce its policies on harassment, abuse, and free speech — underscores how vital a battleground the platform is in the current culture war. And it illustrates how these companies, desperate to be seen as neutral actors, have been dragged out of that position by dogged political forces.”

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