Morning Consult Tech: Supreme Court Asks Biden Administration to Weigh in on Cases Regarding Florida, Texas Social Media Laws
 

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Essential tech industry news & intel to start your day.
January 24, 2023
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Today’s Top News

  • The Supreme Court has asked the Biden administration for its input on whether the court should review laws passed in Texas and Florida that restrict content moderation on social media platforms. The opinion of the administration could convince the court to take up two cases that challenge the Republican-backed laws, both of which are currently being blocked by lower courts from going into effect. (Reuters)
  • The Department of Justice is expected to bring a lawsuit against Google this week pertaining to the company’s dominance in digital advertising, according to people familiar with the matter. The expected lawsuit will be the fifth major case in the United States targeting Google’s business practices, including three state-level challenges to its online search, advertising technology and app store and a federal case set to go to trial in September alleging Google uses exclusive distribution deals with wireless carriers and phone makers to block competitors. (Bloomberg)
  • Microsoft Corp. announced a new multibillion-dollar investment in OpenAI, the company behind artificial intelligence tools including ChatGPT. The agreement is the third such investment Microsoft has made in the research company since 2019 and will seek to help both companies commercialize AI technology. (CNBC)
  • Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. was affected by a previously undisclosed cyberattack that partially resulted in the issues with ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s tour that plagued the ticketing platform last November, according to prepared remarks that Live Nation Entertainment President Joe Berchtold plans to give during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today. Berchtold is expected to say that the cyberattack allegedly generated three times more bot traffic than Ticketmaster has ever experienced but that hackers failed to acquire any tickets, and two people familiar with the cyberattack said the party responsible is still not known. (Politico)

 

Happening today

  • The Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing titled “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment” on the lack of competition in the ticketing industry, spurred by Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc.’s recent fumbling of ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour.
  • Microsoft Corp. will report its second-quarter earnings.
  • The Federal Communications Commission will host a series of informal working groups as part of the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference. The session on maritime, aeronautical and radar services will be led by representatives from Boeing Co. and the law firm HWG LLP, while the terrestrial services session will feature representatives from Verizon Communications Inc. and Intel Corp.
  • R Street Institute will host a virtual event titled “How should social media companies disclose government content moderation?” Participants in the event will include Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Kaitlin Sullivan, director of content policy at Meta Platforms Inc.
  • The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education will host an event titled “Providing Timely and Clear Data to Support Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Needs.” Guests include Suzanne Nielsen, the deputy assistant national cyber director for workforce, education and training at the Office of the National Cyber Director; and Sarah Brickner, program analyst for the employee services, strategic workforce planning, forecasting and methods team at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
 

Chart Review

 
 

What Else You Need to Know

General
 

Apple ramped up lobbying spending in 2022, outpacing tech peers

Lauren Feiner, CNBC

Apple ramped up its lobbying spending last year, increasing its total for the year by 44% compared to 2021, according to public disclosures.

 

Amazon launches RxPass, a $5/month Prime add-on for all-you-need generic drugs covering 80 conditions

Ingrid Lunden, TechCrunch

More than two years since announcing Amazon Pharmacy to take some of the prescription drugs business away from big (and smaller) drug stores, Amazon is launching a new product to expand its reach in the space. 

 

Elon Musk Says He Could Have Raised Funds to Take Tesla Private

Kalley Huang and Peter Eavis, The New York Times

Elon Musk said on Monday that he had not lied or misspoken about his plan to take Tesla off the stock market in 2018, testifying in federal court that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund had “unequivocally wanted to take Tesla private.”

 

Amazon and Stripe Sign Agreement on Payments, Cloud

Theo Wayt, The Information

Amazon and Stripe have signed an agreement that will see the two companies increase their use of each others’ services, the companies said Monday.

 

Microsoft, Amazon results to highlight softening cloud business

Yuvraj Malik and Aditya Soni, Reuters

Slower cloud spending by inflation-hit businesses is expected to stall the sales momentum at Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp and add to the troubles of the sector that laid off thousands this month.

 
Antitrust and Competition
 

The FTC orders HomeAdvisor to pay up to $7.2M for lying about lead quality and other matters

Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has ordered home services marketplace HomeAdvisor up to $7.2 million for its use of deceptive and misleading tactics in selling home improvement project leads to service providers, including small businesses operating in the gig economy.

 

Banks Plan Payment Wallet to Compete With PayPal, Apple Pay

AnnaMaria Andriotis, The Wall Street Journal

Big banks are teaming up to launch a digital wallet that people can use to shop online.

 

Google seeks end to RNC email drama

Ashley Gold, Axios

Google is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit from the Republican National Committee accusing the tech giant of bias in its handling of email, as it ends a pilot program that allowed senders of campaign emails to bypass users’ spam folders, per a filing seen by Axios.

 
Artificial Intelligence/Automation
 

ChatGPT is ‘not particularly innovative,’ and ‘nothing revolutionary’, says Meta’s chief AI scientist

Tiernan Ray, ZDNET

The public perceives OpenAI’s ChatGPT as revolutionary, but the same techniques are being used and the same kind of work is going on at many research labs, says the deep learning pioneer.

 

CNET’s AI Journalist Appears to Have Committed Extensive Plagiarism

Jon Christian, Futurism

CNET’s AI-written articles aren’t just riddled with errors. They also appear to be substantially plagiarized.

 

How Microsoft’s Stumbles Led to Its OpenAI Alliance

Kevin McLaughlin and Aaron Holmes, The Information

For more than a decade, Microsoft Research, the company’s in-house research group, has touted artificial intelligence breakthroughs such as translating speech to text and software that could understand human language or recognize objects in images.

 

ChatGPT users report $42 a month pricing for ‘pro’ access but no official announcement yet

James Vincent, The Verge

Earlier this month, OpenAI said it was exploring ways to monetize its AI chatbot ChatGPT, giving users the opportunity to sign up for early access to “ChatGPT Professional.” Now, some users say they’ve been granted access to a pro tier which costs $42 a month.

 
Telecom, Wireless and Internet Access
 

Vermont anchors 100/100 broadband model, municipal approach

Masha Abarinova, Fierce Telecom

Vermont, one of the least populated states in the U.S., has to contend with plenty of broadband-related challenges. But state legislation and municipal providers have made bridging the digital divide a little easier.

 
Mobile Technology
 

Apple wants to manufacture 25% of its iPhones in India, minister says

Arjun Kharpal, CNBC

Apple is looking to manufacture 25% of all of its iPhones in India, the country’s commerce minister said Monday.

 
Cybersecurity and Privacy
 

A Murderer Targeted Pregnant Moms In A Private Facebook Group, Feds Say. Its Moderators Claim No One Told Them.

Thomas Brewster, Forbes

An alleged killer joined a Facebook group for passing on kids’ items to find pregnant mothers and possibly kidnap them, according to a search warrant. Some moms in the group say neither the FBI nor Meta informed them that their data was caught up in a murder investigation.

 

FBI says N. Korea-related hacker groups behind U.S. crypto firm heist

Sneha Bhowmik, Reuters

Two hacker groups associated with North Korea, the Lazarus Group and APT38, were responsible for the theft last June of $100 million from U.S. crypto firm Harmony’s Horizon bridge, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Monday.

 
Social Media and Content Moderation
 

How Apple’s Upcoming Mixed-Reality Headset Will Work

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg

Apple Inc.’s long-anticipated mixed-reality headset is an ambitious attempt to create a 3D version of the iPhone’s operating system, with eye- and hand-tracking systems that could set the technology apart from rival products.

 

Ex-Twitter engineer tells FTC security violations persist after Musk

Joseph Menn, The Washington Post

A new Twitter whistleblower has emerged, supporting last year’s surprising testimony about the dismal state of the company’s privacy protections and saying the company continues to violate its legal obligations under new owner Elon Musk.

 

The rise of Esther Crawford in Elon Musk’s ‘hardcore’ Twitter

Hannah Murphy, Financial Times

Her critics and supporters describe a rare leader from social media company’s old guard to win new owner’s favour.

 

Twitter Headquarters Landlord Sues Elon Musk’s Company, Alleging Unpaid Rent

Alex Corse, The Wall Street Journal

Twitter Inc. is being sued over allegedly unpaid rent at its headquarters building in San Francisco, adding to legal battles between the social-media company and vendors since Elon Musk acquired the business last year.

 

Messenger’s encrypted chats get themes, emoji reactions, and more

Emma Roth, The Verge

Meta’s bringing Messenger’s core customization features to end-to-end encrypted (E2EE) chats on the platform. 

 

Layoffs are a nail in the coffin for whatever the metaverse is

Hasan Chowdhury, Insider

Silicon Valley’s next big idea is getting a reality check. Last week saw both Apple and Microsoft pause on speculative projects involving augmented reality and virtual reality, per reports. 

 

An ex-Instagram employee explains why creators might have seen views plummet recently — and whether he thinks the platform is ‘dead’

Sydney Bradley, Insider Premium

One former Instagram employee recently tried to spell out why some creators may have experienced slumps in views.

 

WhatsApp reportedly plans to let users send photos in original quality

Jon Porter and Jess Weatherbed, The Verge

WhatsApp could soon allow users to send photos at full quality without having to worry about image compression, if code discovered in the latest beta version of the Android app is anything to go by. 

 

India Blocks Social Media Posts on BBC Documentary on 2002 Riots

Ashutosh Joshi, Bloomberg

The Indian government has asked social media giants Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube to take down videos and tweets about a BBC documentary on 2002 religious riots in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat. 

 
Tech Workforce
 

Intel Chairman Omar Ishrak steps down

Chavi Mehta, Reuters

Intel Corp said on Monday Chairman Omar Ishrak had stepped down and the chipmaker appointed board director Frank Yeary as his replacement.

 

Gemini is Laying Off More Staff, Citing ‘Bad Actors’ in Crypto Industry

Aidan Ryan, The Information

Gemini, the crypto startup whose customers have been caught up in the Genesis bankruptcy, is laying off 10% of staff, according to an internal message viewed by The Information. 

 

Google to Reduce Top Executive Bonuses, CEO Sundar Pichai Says

Miles Kruppa, The Wall Street Journal

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said top executives would take pay cuts following the largest round of layoffs in the company’s history.

 

TikTok Warns Remote Employees They Risk Losing Jobs

Kaya Yurieff, The Information

TikTok is cracking down on remote work, telling some U.S. workers they could lose their jobs unless they show they have already moved near their assigned offices.

 

What tech layoffs mean for the future of tech startups

Dan Primack, Axios

Tech layoffs continued this morning, with Spotify announcing plans to fire around 600 employees. That brings the monthly total to over 56,000, per tracking site Layoffs.fyi. including last week’s monster cuts at both Alphabet and Microsoft.

 

Blizzard Manager Departs In Protest of Employee Ranking System

Jason Schreier, Bloomberg

A manager at video game developer Blizzard Entertainment said he was ousted after refusing to give a low evaluation to an employee that he felt didn’t deserve it in order to fill a quota. 

 

Google’s Pichai Tells Staff Cuts Avoided ‘Much Worse’ Issues

Julia Love and Morwenna Coniam, Bloomberg

Google’s chief executive officer told employees on Monday that job cuts were made in a bid to act decisively as the company’s growth slowed.

 

An engineer laid off after over 16 years at Google says ‘faceless’ tech giants see staff as ‘100% disposable’

Sawdah Bhaimiya, Insider

A Google engineer laid off after over 16 ½ years at the firm said in a LinkedIn post that the tech giant viewed staff as “100% disposable.”