Nov 12, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

I'd like to use this introduction to write about how the 49ers kicked a field goal in overtime to beat the Seahawks and remain undefeated. I'd like to write that, but I can't. (Rather, Seattle made its kick, handing San Francisco its first loss.)

Today's Login is 1,338 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: Why Instagram is hiding "likes"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Several of the biggest social media platforms are beginning to test changes that cut down on scorekeeping and discourage harassment, all in an effort to improve users' well-being, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Why it matters: The unwinding of features such as public "like" counts could have a major impact on on the multi-billion dollar businesses of social media companies, as well as the millions of brands and creators that rely on those features to fuel their own businesses.

Driving the news: Instagram will begin testing the removal of public "like" counts on its platform in the U.S. this week, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said last week at a Wired event.

  • The U.S. test follows similar public tests of removing "like" counts in other countries, like Canada, Australia, Japan, Italy and Brazil.
  • Instagram's parent Facebook began rolling out a similar test to hide public "like" counts on its platform in Australia in September.

Social media companies tried for years to juice engagement with features like increased notification symbols, publicly-facing "like" counts or brighter colors to attract users to more images.

  • Twitter is also deploying a series of tests to motivate users to engage more positively and cut down on harassment and bullying. According to Buzzfeed News, in the next two weeks "Twitter will debut a series of experiments meant to calm us down — subtly motivating us to use the quote-tweet, reply, and retweet in nondestructive ways."
  • YouTube recently updated its terms to give it more power to boot accounts that could be causing harm off the platform. Earlier this year it made changes to the way it displays subscriber counts in real time, blocking third-party sites that had turned the metric into a spectacle of glory and shame for celebrity content creators.

Yes, but: These efforts aren't totally altruistic. The high-engagement environment that platforms have built is also burning out some users.

  • Of the 60% of teens that say they take voluntary breaks from social media, nearly a quarter say that they do so because they are tired of drama and conflict, according to a study from Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Be smart: Most social media firms have warned investors for months that their experiments tied to investments in health and wellbeing initiatives may impact profits.

What's next: One big question will be how these changes affect the millions of online creators and businesses that rely on "like" counts and similar stats to optimize their businesses.

Sara has more here.

Go deeper:

2. Backlash over Apple Card

Photo: Apple

State regulators in New York are looking into whether Apple Card is violating any laws by giving some spouses lower credit limits than their mates.

It all began with a series of tweets that went viral by well-known software engineer (and Ruby on Rails creator) David Heinemeier Hansson, complaining that he was given 20 times as much credit as his spouse (even though she had a higher credit rating).

  • Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak chimed in, saying he and his wife had a similar experience.

Why it matters: Apple has billed its credit card as devoid of the fees and hassles of traditional credit cards; the current incident is a reminder of just how much of Apple Card under the hood is traditional consumer credit.

Between the lines: While the issue appears specific to Apple, it may be exposing a broader industry issue.

  • What's unique about Apple Card is it is always an individual, not a family account.
  • That's meant Apple had a lot of spouses applying for the same card at the same time, highlighting the discrepancy in credit limits.

What they're saying: Apple deferred to Goldman Sachs, which makes the credit decisions as the issuing bank.

In a statement, Goldman said it doesn't know the gender or marital status of applicants, but suspects that affected spouses may have been authorized users and not primary account holders on past credit cards, and thus not building as much credit on their own.

  • Goldman invited customers who think their "credit line does not adequately reflect your creditworthiness" to request a re-evaluation."

My thought bubble: Apple is right to note that Goldman makes the decisions. But it is also true that Apple will get a significant share of the blame, in no small part because the lengths that it has gone in establishing Apple Card as its baby, even using the tag line: "Created by Apple. Not a bank."

3. Microsoft to apply Calif. privacy rules nationwide

Microsoft said in a blog post Monday that it will apply the protections of a new California privacy law for all users in the U.S.

The California Consumer Privacy Act was passed last year, but goes into effect Jan. 1.

Why it matters: The law allows consumers to require companies to disclose what data they are keeping on a consumer, and gives consumers the right to have such data be deleted. Also, starting next July, Californians will be allowed to sue businesses for certain data breaches.

Between the lines: The move isn't a shocker. Microsoft president Brad Smith told me during a Churchill Club interview that California's law would become the "de facto national privacy law."

  • Many of the big tech companies have extended the bulk of Europe's GDPR data protection policies for users around the world.

What's next: A California initiative aimed for the November 2020 ballot would go even further.

Go deeper: The future of privacy starts in California

4. DoorDash claims new plan raises courier pay

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Food delivery company DoorDash says an outside firm, Beacon Economics, has completed a preliminary analysis of courier earnings under its new pay model, and found they're earning more — 12.5% more per work hour, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

Yes, but: The company has only analyzed earnings for the last month under its previous pay model (August) and the first full month under its new model (October).

Flashback: A few months ago, Doordash was heavily criticized for having a pay model similar to the "tipped wages" that service workers like waiters are subject to in many states — meaning, that it counts customer tips as part of the "minimum" earnings quoted for deliveries.

  • Some customers complained that they felt duped to find out tips weren't extra on top of the couriers' earnings.
  • Under the new model, DoorDash assigns a minimum it will pay for each order based on factors like time, distance, and desirability instead of a flat $1 fee.

What they're saying:

  • DoorDash says that overall earnings (including tips) increased from an average of $17.24 per active hour in August to $18.54 per active hour in October.
  • A spokesperson added that "on average, the amount that Dashers see when they’re offered a delivery is higher under our new model because the amount that DoorDash pays has increased." This sometimes includes tips, as customers can choose to include them before checking out.

The bottom line: This report only looks at a short time span, so any conclusions are highly preliminary.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • The Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments over President Trump's effort to end DACA. Microsoft is among those suing the administration, with Smith making his eve-of-the-hearing case here. (Axios' Stef Kight has a preview of the case here.)

(Maybe) Trading Places

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that WeWork is trying to hire T-Mobile US CEO John Legere, an interesting move since former Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure is WeWork executive chairman. Claure and Legere have gotten to know one another quite well as they have looked to sell the T-Mobile-Sprint deal to regulators.


  • Hospital system Ascension allowed Google to access a wide array of patient data, including names and diagnoses, but did not notify patients or doctors about their secret data project until the Wall Street Journal reported the story. (Axios)
  • Sources say Twitter may allow ads that encourage general awareness on an issue, like climate change, without advocating a specific policy. The company is set to broadly ban political ads later this year. (BuzzFeed News)
  • Magic Leap is raising money again. (Variety)
  • Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi issued a statement calling the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi "reprehensible" after earlier calling it simply a "mistake" during an "Axios on HBO" interview. (Axios)
6. After you Login

Photo: Axios

As Sesame Street celebrated its 50th anniversary over the weekend, I wrote for Axios AM on the show's five decades of pushing the envelope, sometimes controversially, on issues of diversity.

And, I also got a chance to talk about the issue with Cookie Monster, Count Von Count, Bert and Abby Cadabby. If you haven't seen it, here's the video.

Ina Fried