Nov 21, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

I would think you get enough of me, what with me showing up in your inbox five times a week. But, if you'd like a little bit more, I spent a half hour yesterday talking with CNBC's Jon Fortt about everything from Apple and China to the Slack-Microsoft battle to Google's Stadia streaming game service.

Situational awareness: President Trump tweeted this morning that he "asked Tim Cook to see if he could get Apple involved in building 5G in the U.S.," even though Apple doesn't build wireless networks or equipment (other than iPhones).

And if you are in a hurry, you should be able to make it through the 1,436 words in today's Login in about 5 minutes.

1 big thing: On trade, Huawei wins some, may be about to lose some

Photo illustration: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

After months in which the Commerce Department indicated it might ease some trade restrictions on Chinese tech giant Huawei, some U.S. companies are beginning to receive waivers allowing them to supply Huawei with components, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Why it matters: U.S. companies were making millions of dollars selling chips, software and other components to Huawei until the Trump administration put the company on a trade blacklist, largely over national security concerns.

The big picture: Huawei is just one flashpoint in a broad U.S. dispute with China, one that extends beyond short-term conflicts over tariffs to broader issues like censorship, artificial intelligence, intellectual-property theft, spying and technology leadership.

  • As we have written, both China and the U.S. appear to crave a world in which they aren't reliant on one another in tech, but neither knows how to disentangle itself from the other.
  • The U.S. depends on China for the bulk of electronics manufacturing, while China still relies on a number of American components, including software and chips.

Huawei isn't the only company caught up in the dispute.

  • While its role as one of the key players in next-generation cellular technology has made Huawei a focus, U.S. attention has also fallen on Huawei's smaller Chinese rival, ZTE, as well as TikTok and a number of makers of facial recognition technology.

Meanwhile: Huawei's inclusion on the so-called entity list, which limits the ability of U.S. companies to sell goods and services to Huawei, is just one of several separate U.S. actions crimping the Chinese firm's business.

  • The FCC will consider on Friday whether to ban companies from using federal telecom subsidies to purchase communications equipment from Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE.
  • The Department of Justice has pending actions against Huawei accusing it of both theft of trade secrets from T-Mobile and violating trade sanctions against Iran.
  • A section of the National Defense Authorization Act prohibits Huawei and others from selling certain gear in the U.S. Huawei has sued the U.S. government, saying the law is unconstitutional.
  • A bill in Congress, H.R. 4459, would establish funds to help smaller carriers replace their current Huawei gear with equipment not alleged to pose a national security risk.
  • President Trump signed an executive order in May declaring a national emergency and prohibiting U.S. companies from using telecom services that are solely owned, controlled, or directed by a foreign adversary.

What they're saying:

  • Semiconductor Industry Association CEO John Neuffer said his organization welcomes the export license approvals. "Sales of these non-sensitive commercial products help ensure the competitiveness of the U.S. semiconductor industry, which is essential to national security."
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, speaking to Fox Business: "We've now been starting to send out the 20-day intent-to-deny letters and some approvals."
  • Huawei declined to comment.
Rivals, Facebook diverge on political ad policies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Google, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat all made new announcements this week adjusting their political ad policies, placing themselves on a broad spectrum from anything goes to a near-total ban, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Why it matters: Many social media companies are using the ongoing political ad debate to distance themselves from Facebook, which has received the most criticism for its policies. Facebook's rules are the least restrictive amongst the group, because the tech giant believes that the government should regulate political ads, not private companies.

Driving the news: Google said Wednesday it was changing its political ads policy globally to restrict audience targeting for verified political advertisers. The decision means its policies are less restrictive than Twitter's when it comes to free speech, but more aggressive than Facebook's.

  • Twitter said just days earlier that it would make some exceptions to its newly-announced political advertising ban after it received pushback for allowing for-profits to buy ads that could technically be political in nature. Despite the exceptions, Twitter's policies are still more restrictive than many of its rivals. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey believes the internet's speed and scale "brings significant risks to politics."
  • Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said on Monday that the company has a dedicated team that fact-checks all political ads on its platform. Snap's position puts it at a middle ground between Twitter's ban and Facebook's highly-criticized policy of not fact-checking political ads at all. Spiegel said having political ads on Snapchat is important because Snapchat reaches so many young voters.
  • Pinterest, TikTok and LinkedIn have all opted not to sell political ads over the past year or so.

Facebook VP of Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson told Axios Monday that the company is still considering changes to its ads policy and nothing is off the table, including changes to ad targeting.

  • But sources say that despite the criticism, Facebook is unlikely to make any sweeping changes to its policies, which it believes support free speech.

The big picture: Facebook is under enormous pressure in both directions from Democrats, Republicans and industry leaders.

  • The Trump campaign launched an attack on Facebook Wednesday after Facebook told Axios that it was still considering changes to its targeting policies.
  • Democrats have criticized Facebook over both targeting and its decision not to fact check political ads, because they think it has helped the Trump campaign spread falsehoods.

Go deeper:

3. Uber tests ad displays for its cars

Some Uber drivers have independently been putting ad displays on top of their cars, but now the ride-hailing company has teamed with startup Cargo for a small test officially deploying ads to drivers in Atlanta.

Why it matters: This could be a new revenue source for Uber, which has been under heavy pressure to move towards profitability, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

The details: Drivers who put the ads on their cars can make $40 for their first 20 hours of driving each week, with an extra $10 for every five additional hours, with a maximum of $150 per week. There's a $150 security deposit as well.

  • The displays are provided by Cargo, a New York-based startup and existing partner best known for its boxes of snacks and other items that ride-hailing drivers can sell to passengers for extra cash.
  • Like the snack boxes, the ad deal can help drivers make more money and offset some of their frustration with declining earnings.
  • "This is a very limited pilot, which we would look to expand only if successful," an Uber spokesperson told Axios.  

The intrigue: As part of Uber's partnership with Cargo for these car tops, Uber, as well as Cargo, will get a cut of the advertising revenue, Axios has learned.

4. FCC will free auto airwaves for WiFi

FCC chairman Ajit Pai offered a path forward Wednesday for the cable industry to gain access to airwaves for WiFi after a long-running spectrum battle with automakers.

Yes, but: The move will pit the FCC against the Department of Transportation, which wants to see these airwaves fully dedicated to auto safety communications, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill writes.

The big picture: Car companies and cable providers have been feuding over a swath of spectrum known as the 5.9 GHz band that was set aside 20 years ago for vehicle safety communications but never widely used for that purpose.

Driving the news: Pai's proposal, to be voted on at the commission's Dec. 12 meeting, would allocate the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed use such as WiFi, while setting aside up to 30 megahertz for vehicle safety technology.

What they're saying: Despite Pai's plans, a DOT spokesperson said all 75 megahertz of spectrum in the "safety band" should be preserved for transportation safety.

  • The Intelligent Transportation Society of America was more blunt, accusing the FCC of trading safety for more connectivity. "It comes down to priorities — we can save and protect people’s lives, or we can ensure it's easier to place online orders from our cars," ITS America Shailen Bhatt said.
  • But Pai's proposal was cheered by cable companies, Public Knowledge and the 5G Automotive Association, which backs the cellular-vehicle-to-everything technology that Pai’s plan would accommodate.

Democratic FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a longtime proponent of opening these airwaves for WiFi, said, "Opening this band for WiFi could add up to $100 billion to our economy. This is long overdue."

5. Take note

On Tap

  • The annual Slush conference takes place today and tomorrow in Helsinki.
  • Dreamforce continues in San Francisco; speakers include President Obama and Megan Rapinoe.

Trading Places

  • Jeanette Manfra, a top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security plans to step down, per CyberScoop.


  • Mark Zuckerberg had a previously undisclosed dinner with President Trump (and Facebook board member Peter Thiel) during his visit to D.C. last month to testify about Libra. (NBC)
  • PayPal is paying a whopping $4 billion to acquire deal-finder Honey. (The Verge)
  • Sonos spent $37.5 million to buy voice technology firm Snips, though it says it isn't looking to crate a full-scale voice assistant. (Variety)
  • Alphabet subsidiary Loon has signed a deal with Telefonica to use its balloon-based Internet service to cover parts of the Amazon rain forest in Peru. (Medium)
  • Intel sent a letter to customers Wednesday apologizing for PC chip shortages, which it says remain a problem. (Anandtech)
6. After you Login

I love a good nap. Trust me, I spent a good chunk of yesterday afternoon trying to figure out a way to take one. But some jobs mean you probably shouldn't take one. For example: wanted criminal.

Ina Fried