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Illustration:Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Constant Washington shocks have resulted in the underplaying of one of the most consequential stories of our time: Big Tech is facing rising scrutiny and controversy, with many Americans rethinking their online relationships.

With tech having lost its luster, the industry is now facing more skepticism from all directions, Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried points out.

  • This week was a microcosm of that.
  • And stories about unhappy employees have emerged from all of the social media companies in the past month, Sara Fischer says.

We're getting more peeks inside tech's machinery and culture. And data now shows some people turning away from ubiquitous platforms. Just yesterday ...

... In the financials:

  • Snap beat revenue forecasts but reported that daily active users (186 million) were down 1% from the previous quarter, and predicted the decline would continue next quarter.
  • Google's parent, Alphabet, reported surging profit but "slightly slower growth in revenue ... at a time when it is also dealing with a growing backlash from regulators and turmoil in its own corporate culture." (Wall Street Journal)
  • Twitter, which has been trying to purge spammy accounts, reported a 1% decline (4 million) in monthly active users (to 326 million) but outperformed Wall Street expectations for revenue and profit.
  • Amazon "posted its second straight quarter of record profitability, but its recent string of blistering revenue growth is cooling." (WSJ)
  • Why it matters, from Sara: Data shows that the growth of many digital services is plateauing in North America, due mostly to saturation.  

... And in the culture:

  • Under the headline "How Google Has Protected Its Elite Men," the N.Y. Times reports that the search giant handed Andy Rubin, creator of Android mobile software, a $90 million exit package when he left the company in 2014 after being accused of sexual harassment by an employee.
  • The Wall Street Journal interviewed more than 70 current and former Netflix employees for a fascinating front-page article that reported a "culture of fear" about firings and "radical transparency," but also a study showing Netflix has some of the happiest employees among large U.S. corporations.

I asked the Axios tech team for their quick thoughts, and these smart bombs came pinging back:

  • The Google and Netflix culture stories both show the tech companies' confident exceptionalism colliding with the real world of human flaws and hyper-charged culture-war passions. (Tech Editor Scott Rosenberg)
  • A common theme is that these big public tech companies are being pushed to acknowledge their responsibilities in the workplace and society, and can no longer hide behind the idealism of "changing the world." (Kia Kokalitcheva)

Be smart: There are no signs that the tech giants' season of scrutiny will abate.

  • Privacy will be one of Capitol Hill's biggest debates next year, Axios' David McCabe notes, as the companies push for federal regulations to preempt California's new rules before they take effect in 2020.
  • And Google CEO Sundar Pichai is to testify later this year before skeptical House lawmakers.
  • But Dan Primack points out that amid terrible P.R. + hearings + user complaints + hacks, new federal regs are nowhere near passage.
Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.