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June 27, 2019

Words here, get your words. I've got 1,143 of them and they are all for you.

1 big thing: Strong reactions to Facebook's content oversight plan

A black and white illustration of a founding father with a Facebook thumbs up icon as a hand

Illustration: Aida Amer/Axios

Facebook is taking the next step in its effort to create an independent review board to make calls on what content should be allowed on the site.

What's new: It's releasing a report today summarizing the feedback from more than 2 dozen forums and roundtable meetings over the last 5 months.

  • The report focuses on 3 main areas: membership, content decisions, and the board's independence and governance.

Our thought bubble: Establishing such an oversight entity is super complicated, and the feedback shows that even experts are split over how to handle the mechanics.

  • Also, Facebook will have to really be willing to empower the board and support its independence or it will be easily undermined. 

Key takeaways from today's report:

  • Plenty of people wanted the board to increase its scope to include AI, privacy and misinformation, among other topics. But Facebook plans to keep the scope narrowly focused on content issues.
  • There was concern about Facebook choosing the board's members, but no consensus on a better alternative. There was also disagreement over whether board membership should be a full-time job, which could limit the applicant pool.
  • And while there was unanimity around a need for diversity, there was debate over whether all members should be active Facebook users, or at least active in social media broadly.
  • Other points of contention include how cases will be chosen for review, the board's role in establishing broader content policy, and degree of contact with Facebook staff.

What's next: The company plans to release a final version of the board's charter in August, but wanted people to be aware of the feedback it has gotten.

  • "The next step going forward is going to be to try to lock down some of these decisions, make some of these decisions over the next few months and launch this independent oversight board by the end of the year," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video the company is releasing today.

Zuckerberg also defended Facebook's decision to keep the focus on content issues rather than expand to other topics, so that the effort "doesn't collapse under its own weight."

  • But he added several times that he's open to the board's role broadening over time.

History lesson: Zuckerberg expressed a desire for some sort of independent oversight in early 2018 and offered more details in November. A draft charter was released in January.

Meanwhile, in an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Wednesday, Zuckerberg defended the company's decision to leave up a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but admitted other actions could have been taken sooner.

Go deeper: Facebook's constitutional moment

2. Scoop: Waymo hires ex-Anki CEO for truck effort

Waymo trucks

Photo: Waymo

Waymo is hiring more than a dozen former Anki workers, including co-founder and former CEO Boris Sofman, Axios has learned. The new hires will help lead the Alphabet unit's nascent trucking initiative, Joann Muller reports.

Why it matters: Waymo, a leader in robotaxi development, wants to adapt its self-driving technology to other platforms, including commercial trucks. Hiring Sofman and his all-star engineering team from Anki could accelerate that effort.

Background: Anki was a high-profile consumer robotics startup that came out of Carnegie Mellon University's robotics program. Despite $200 million in funding, the company folded in April, laying off its entire staff after failing to raise additional capital.

Details: Sofman will report to Waymo CTO Dmitri Dolgov and lead Waymo’s commercial truck efforts from San Francisco.

  • Sofman is not new to self-driving cars. As a student at CMU, he worked with some Waymo alumni in the autonomous vehicle labs.
  • The group includes 5 PhD engineers.

Go deeper: Joann has more here.

3. Federal privacy legislation hits a snag

Efforts toward a bipartisan privacy bill in the Senate have hit a snag in recent days amid tensions within the Commerce Committee, multiple sources tell Axios' David McCabe.

Why it matters: Talks among 6 panel members are seen as one of the more serious efforts to create a national privacy law that could address consumer concerns about data collection by companies like Google and Facebook.

Yes, but: Sen. Maria Cantwell, the committee's top Democrat, told Chairman Roger Wicker on Tuesday that she wants to negotiate one-on-one on a privacy bill, according to 3 sources familiar with the matter.

  • That approach would be at odds with how the larger group of committee members has been handling its work.
  • In addition to Wicker and Cantwell, that group includes Republicans Jerry Moran and John Thune and Democrats Brian Schatz and Richard Blumenthal.

What they're saying: "A little bit of a pause button [has] been hit here lately but I think it will get pulled back together," Thune said. "We were going to meet today and that got pushed, but I think it will get back on track."

The bottom line: Getting the consensus necessary to pass a national privacy law, potentially governing countless industries and the data rights of hundreds of millions of people, was already hard. This likely makes it harder.

Go deeper: David has more here.

4. Giving business card scanning another go

A promotional image for Hi Hello's business card-scanning feature

Image courtesy of HiHello

Two decades after the Palm Pilot allowed people to beam their contact info to one another, there still isn't a great replacement for the old-fashioned paper business card.

There was an app for that, Bump, that let cellphones physically touch to share info, but Google bought it in 2013 and it faded into in obscurity.

  • Another one, CardMunch, scanned business cards, but it was acquired by LinkedIn, neglected and eventually handed off to Evernote.

What's new: The founder of CardMunch, venture capitalist Manu Kumar, is giving it another try. His company, HiHello, is using a similar approach to CardMunch: human-verified card scanning.


  • HiHello, available for iOS and Android, will offer users 5 free business scan cards per month, while paid options from $5 to $20 per month offer more scans.
  • HiHello launched last year as a means for creating and sharing digital business cards to anyone with a smartphone.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • MWC Shanghai continues.
  • Bloomberg's Players Technology Summit takes place in San Francisco. (And yes, I'll be there.)

Trading Places

  • Former Walmart executive John Rittenhouse is now CEO of Brandless, as The Information first reported in an article detailing a range of issues facing the SoftBank-backed packaged goods startup. He replaces co-founder Tina Sharkey who stepped down in March. The company also hinted in a statement it's planning additional distribution beyond its own direct-to-consumer website.
  • Legal tech company Relativity hired former LinkedIn executive Mike Gamson as its new CEO.
  • Parsable named former Google Cloud sales leader Nathan Rader as chief revenue officer.


  • Google and the University of Chicago are facing a lawsuit over a partnership in which the school's hospital shared data with the search giant in a way that allegedly revealed personally identifiable information. (NYT)
  • A federal jury in Texas ruled that Huawei stole trade secrets from a Silicon Valley startup, but awarded no damages, saying it didn't benefit from the misappropriation. (AP)
  • The FCC says Verizon can lock cellphones to its network for 60 days after purchase; Verizon said it wanted the ability to deter theft. (Ars Technica)
  • Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo wrote a joint letter to President Trump articulating how proposed Chinese tariffs would raise the cost of game consoles by a total of $840 million. (Vice)

6. After you Login

Arby's really does have the meats. It has developed the notion of a "megetable" — that is, a vegetable made from meat. First up is the "marrot," a carrot made from sous vide-cooked turkey.

It's an interesting, if disturbing, counterpoint to the growing trend of using plant-based proteins to replace meat.