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Pay Me, Mark Zuckerberg
the industry #3 // the cabal of authoritarian politicians and failing writers demanding money from facebook and google, av chaos continues, and taking up for the oppressed honduran fentanyl dealer
Canada finds out. Last Friday, Canadian politician Pascale St-Onge lambasted Meta’s ‘decision’ to block news links on Facebook in the middle of a wildfire crisis. This was a “reckless” act, she declared. People could be hurt. Why on earth would Mark Zuckerberg do this? Typical evil tech bro shit, she seemed to argue. It was just the latest in Pascale’s days-long campaign against the company, echoed by Justin Trudeau on behalf of the Canadian Liberal Party, in which Facebook’s failure to platform ‘news about wildfires’ received more attention from these famously beside-the-point politicians than the actual wildfires. Naturally, the pearl-clutching was total bullshit: Canadian Facebook never specifically blocked news links to stories about Canadian wildfires, Canadian Facebook blocked all news links in keeping with recent Canadian legislation — which was championed by the Liberal Party.
Earlier this year, Trudeau’s government enacted Bill C-18, which requires Google and Meta, specifically targeted, to pay the Toronto Star every time a ‘Canadian intellectual’ changes her gender (reported four times now, in one fascinating case). Or, more generally I guess, they are forcing Google and Meta to pay “news” sites every time Google and Meta link to said “news” sites. Historically, such action has more often been characterized as: sending free traffic to local “news” sites. But we are living in a new world.
While such policy may sound strange to the average person — Why should a “news” company be paid for a link, and nobody else? What makes something a “news company” rather than, say, a personal blog? Is the news company not already benefiting tremendously from the free traffic provided by giants like Google and Facebook? — the law is perfectly in keeping with the modern western government’s view that the “press” is, in some sense, sacred. In this regard, principle tends not to matter; the press, defined as ‘things Trudeau’s government specifically deems the press,’ is deserving of compensation for a vital service (propaganda). His government is less concerned with the question of where the money is coming from, or whether such legislation is ethical, and is certainly not moved by the fanciful American notion of “free speech,” which hasn’t meaningfully existed in the authoritarian state of Canada for many years.
But here’s where we have fun: as Canada’s new law was sufficiently ambiguous to open Google and Facebook up to potentially unlimited payments to “indigenous” bloggers, and assorted agents of the state, the companies chose to simply stop sharing news links. Thus we arrive at the inevitable conclusion of a quite stupidly crafted piece of legislation.
Now, the thoughtful reader would be correct to question the relevance of anything that happens in Canada. But the Australian government passed similar legislation in 2021, which ultimately led to a backdoor deal (or series of deals) that protected major tech platforms from threat of litigation while paying out a bunch of giant media incumbents, which to this day make a considerable sum of money from the policy. This has captured the imagination of corrupt politicians and failing writers throughout the Anglosphere, including here at home. A similar bill proposed in California has been put on hold until 2024, but the thirst among men in power for a submissive press is — and has been through history — unquenchable. As such press outlets are now routinely failing without assistance from the state, an attempt at state assistance of some kind, in some way, is guaranteed. We will all have to deal with this, regardless of whether or not we live in such deeply silly places as the nation of Canada.
Earlier this year, in reaction to California’s attempt at legislation, Pirate Wires’ managing editor reached out to a representative for Congresswoman Buffy Wicks (fire name, but unfortunately a moron). He asked the following questions, worthy of consideration here:
“Will Google and Facebook be required to pay a full 70% of their ad revenue [‘generated’ from ‘local journalism’] to the government, [on top of the ‘journalism usage fee’ you propose they pay]? What specifically is the vehicle these profits are going to, that will fund journalism jobs? Will these funds be earmarked specifically for local journalism, as opposed to national news outlets? How much money does AB 866 assume it will generate, in funding for journalism jobs (via the 70%)? How much for an average local journalism outlet per month or year? How does the bill plan to calculate profits from an individual news story? For example, Facebook has a newsfeed where the user has to scroll vertically to continue to see content. This content is interspersed with ads. So a user may see, for example, a local journalism story, then an update from a friend, and another, then an ad. How does AB 866 decide that the profit from this ad was the result of the local journalism? In general can you tell me how this works?”
Alas, Erin Ivie, the Congresswoman’s communications director, has yet to respond. Because she couldn’t. None of these questions have answers. The purpose of such legislation is to create a sufficiently chaotic legal environment that tech giants, perceived as rich beyond imagination, are in some way always probably breaking the law, and therefore vulnerable to panhandling from a politically protected class of writer (again: favored state propagandists). In any case, we’ll keep you posted as the story develops.
And if I personally start receiving regularly scheduled fat checks from Mark Zuckerberg? Then okay nevermind this policy is great.
Last week, we published our interview with Peter Thiel. Read it, watch it, spam it to your five most elite friends, etc.
THE FIFTH ESTATE
NOTABLE INDUSTRY TRENDS
In some apparent attempt at navigating labor’s anti-automation FUD campaign, Cruise has reduced the number of cars on the road (NYT does a great job dishonestly framing the issue here).
People can’t stop lying about driverless car accidents. (@Austen)
Is a momentarily confused self-driving car on a quiet street the most important issue facing San Francisco? Yes, according to this local reporter.
A day earlier, a young child was killed by a reckless human driver (still waiting for comment from People Who Care).
Speaking of ‘blocked traffic’ in San Francisco, brand new cause of causes for the city’s activist class, there was a lot of it over the weekend, all courtesy of motorcyclists (possibly for some inscrutable activist purpose?); one full half of the Golden Gate Bridge was taken out of commission. We eagerly await word from the communist Board of Supes on this clear and present danger to society.
The New York Times has really picked up its clownish reporting on the issue, here covering such comically minor incidents as that time a Cruise got stuck in wet concrete.
Physicist and AI doomer Max Tegmarck, co-founder of the Future of Life Institute, the organization that ran the “Open Letter to Pause All Giant AI Experiments” signed by famed technologist and intellectual luminary Ja Rule, tells the Wall Street Journal we’re doomed if we don’t regulate AI. (WSJ)
Hysterical AI “tests” continue, in which hackers attempt to prod an artificially intelligent chatbot into saying incorrect things — which we know the chatbot sometimes does when provoked to do so — which it then, of course, does. (NYT)
NEW RESEARCH: apparently, ChatGPT shows a “significant and systematic political bias toward the Democrats in the U.S., Lula in Brazil, and the Labour Party in the U.K.” (Washington Post)
Art generated by AI tools can’t be copyrighted under current law, a U.S. district court judge ruled. (The Hill)
Google merged DeepMind with Brain, its CA-based AI team. Now they’re working on an AI life coach. (New York Times)
Spies are targeting our space companies, per NYT. FWIW I’ve reached out to a few different companies, and they have each quickly and casually confirmed this is true lol.
Bye, bitch. TikTok is now banned from New York government phones. Meanwhile, at the federal level, a draft of TikTok’s deal to avoid a national ban shows the company will grant the U.S. government a wild, unprecedented degree of control / oversight of the platform (editor’s note: Don’t care. Ban this app, Mr. President). (Forbes)
Rep. Jim Jordan called on the anti-tech activist organization Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) to provide documents related to US government financial ties, and the CCDH responded with a letter essentially saying Jordan doesn’t understand CCDH. Then, they shared information with the Washington Post that “undermines accusations [the org] ‘colluded’ with the Biden administration.” For what it’s worth, this really just looks like another rando activist group funded by rich British losers, presented by activist journalists as a legitimate research institute in an effort to manipulate the public. I’m not really sure that constitutes a conspiracy, at this point. But we’ll keep you posted as the story develops (at the moment, only the WaPo seems to have seen the secret docs, and as a major booster of the org, they’re definitely not trustworthy on the matter). (Washington Post)
Yes, the “we are so back” narrative is complicated — with some (narrow) wins in both San Francisco and New York. But the Covid era financial exodus cost New York state and California in excess of $1 trillion according to hard data published by Bloomberg.
Breaking from The Verge: have you heard about DIDTok, this fascinating new trend in which our nation’s youth appear to be developing rare mental disorders, on TikTok, in the thousands, in real time? Anyway, we covered this in extensive detail a month and a half ago.
Speaking of old news: former Vice employees just launched a ‘cool’ new tech blog, not like other tech blogs, leading with a feature in which they ask porn stars how they feel about AI generated porn, just like we did seven months ago.
We love our fans: making the rounds this week, the New Yorker ran a 10,000-word hit piece on Elon Musk, lamenting his success, and questioning his mental stability. ‘Where is Trump,’ I find myself wondering. These people clearly need a target for their pseudo-sexual fascist fantasies, but we already have a designated witch to burn in this regard. Isn’t there a debate coming up or something? Oh, right.
In the latest episode of the Pirate Wires podcast, the staff joins Solana to discuss Snow White and Rachel Zegler, whether or not the plane lady is real, homelessness in SF, and the Maui wildfire tragedy. Don’t miss it, and please subscribe to us on YouTube, thanks.
Today in Platform War:
Meta’s launching a free open source competitor to OpenAI’s Github Copilot. (The Information)
Further development on the topic of ‘Elon milking his cash pigs’: Tweetdeck users have to pay for X Premium subscriptions, now. (Washington Post)
A handful of media sites experienced a loading lag on X for a day or so; some believe Musk is targeting sites he dislikes. A silly suspicion IMO, obviously this has definitely happened? And this is obviously the future of X. Elon has been very clear: if content isn’t produced in app, the content should die on Twitter. Very wild watching the MSM scratch their heads over this following what happened to the bad boys of Substack.
Related, IMO: X is removing headlines and subhead text from link posts. Henceforth, only the image will appear. The poster, presumably, will have to type the headline out? Musk: “This is coming from me directly.” (@xDaily)
Europe’s Digital Services Act is entering effect: Google and Apple will have to introduce features that grant users more choice around the apps they use, in ostensibly ‘anti-competitive’ legislation from a continent that has not produced actual competitors in something like a century. (The Information)
As of September 5, three days of in-person work per week will be mandatory at Meta. Lmao.
They really do be shuffling these people around like old baseball cards. Paypal discussed its CEO role with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar, per WSJ; ultimately the position went to Intuit executive Alex Chriss.
JPow will speak at a Fed symposium in Jackson Hole Friday. In a Bloomberg survey, 80% of those surveyed expected the speech to reinforce the message of a hawkish hold.
British mobile phone semiconductor operation Arm Ltd., owned by SoftBank after acquiring it for $32B in 2016, with clientele such as Apple and Qualcomm, filed for IPO in what may be the “biggest of the year.” It could rank near, or even just below, the tech industry’s largest-ever IPOs — check out Pirate Wires’ friend John Coogan’s video on the listing.
Instacart plans to IPO in September — analysts are expecting this to add momentum to an IPO market that seems to be warming in fits and starts. (Bloomberg)
Coinbase just bought a stake in stablecoin issuer Circle; the stablecoin USD Coin, which both companies co-founded in 2018, will launch on six new blockchains in the next two months or so. (WSJ)
Nvidia will do its earnings call today, testing the wave of enthusiasm the stock’s ridden since last quarter’s earnings greatly exceeded expectations, and amid AI hype. (WSJ)
WeWork is looking quite fucked, frankly. The company’s stock dropped 11% to $0.13 after its 1-for-40 reverse stock split announcement, designed to keep the stock price above NYSE’s required $1 minimum. Late yesterday the exchange announced they will suspend trading of WeWork warrants and “initiate proceedings to delist” them (though WeWork’s Class A common shares continue to trade). With a market cap currently around $300M, we sort of have to note (and I’m sorry, no one wants to beat a dead horse) the company was once valued at $47B. (CNBC)
Databricks, after a $380M loss, is now in talks to raise more cash. (The Information)
Fintech company Ramp just raised a $300M Series D at a $5.8B valuation. Note: yes I also work for Founders Fund, an investor, but Ramp is one of the few companies that has unambiguously made my life easier while building Pirate Wires. I love them for this. Hooray for Ramp. And no, they have not paid me for to advertise (yet (call me, gentlemen)).
Pirate Wires up-and-comer Sanjana Friedman published a meticulously detailed and in-depth piece on homelessness in San Francisco last week. It’s the only thing you’ll ever need to read if you really want to understand why it’s gotten so bad in the city — check it out below.
Martin Shkreli, the legendary ‘Pharma Bro’ who went to prison and returned a Born Again shitposter, has transitioned from giving advice to SBF on surviving the clink to proposing policy for tackling the fentanyl problem in San Francisco. His expert opinion on the matter: simply raise the drug prices. Brilliant, frankly. Welcome home, sir.
Wait, another feel good story from my beloved San Francisco: A Honduran fentanyl dealer who has already been deported once, and who has, over the course of his Bay Area career, been arrested fourteen times, was just arrested for the 15th time in possession of a gun, fentanyl, coke, meth, and heroin, after selling coke to a man that killed him.
What do you think guys? Should we deport him? Jk I would never suggest so clear a violation of this man’s god given right to enter the country illegally, and participate in literal murder.
Thank you for your service, murderous Honduran man. And see you next week!