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July 01, 2022

We'll be off Monday for the Fourth of July, but back in your inbox on Tuesday.

đź”” Situational awareness: The EU has agreed to rules aimed at reining abuse, manipulation and environmental impact in the crypto market, Reuters reports.

Today's newsletter is 1,177 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Online abortion information is the next post-Roe battle

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Conservative activists, having won their goal of being able to criminalize abortion, are now aiming to limit or ban online information-sharing on the topic, Axios' Ashley Gold reports.

Driving the news: In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, tech platforms are already struggling to moderate abortion-related content and fight misinformation around the topic.

Why it matters: Those seeking to share information online about abortion, whether it's about the procedure itself or where to legally access it, will be in the crosshairs of restrictive state laws and changing social media policies.

What's happening: Confusion reigns around what can and can't be said about abortion in different online spaces.

  • Motherboard reported Monday that Facebook was "removing the posts of users who share status updates that say abortion pills can be mailed, and in some cases temporarily banning those users."
  • Meta, whose policies prohibit people from purchasing and selling "non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana" on the platform, said some posts were incorrectly removed.
  • Shout Your Abortion, a campaign that promotes abortion access and education, posted this week that Instagram was putting "sensitive material" warnings on posts mentioning abortion, abortion pills or criticizing the Supreme Court's decision. (Instagram tweeted it was looking into sensitivity labels being incorrectly used.)

What they're saying: "We are worried about censorship, we have been censored by social media sites already," Elisa Wells, director of Plan C, a website with information about medication abortion, told Axios. "We have a right to free speech to put this information out there."

  • "But we're still preparing for additional shutdowns of the flow of [information about access to abortion pills]," Wells said. "We're at a point where so many people are sharing the information that it becomes sort of unstoppable."

Misinformation is a problem, too. New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, wrote to Google this week asking the company to correct search results directing people seeking abortions to "dangerous and misleading anti-abortion clinics in New York" on Google Maps.

  • Online claims about abortion pills making women infertile or being deadly proliferate on online forums. Videos promoting unsafe methods of herbal abortion are popular on TikTok, Rolling Stone reported.

State of play: Beyond social media platforms' crackdown, conservative legislatures may pass laws criminalizing online speech about abortion on websites and internet services.

  • New anti-abortion model legislation from the National Right to Life Committee, which the organization encourages states to adopt, would criminalize “aiding and abetting” an illegal abortion via instructions on the internet, and “hosting or maintaining a website that encourages or facilitates efforts to obtain an illegal abortion."
  • Already, Texas' anti-abortion law, S.B. 8, enables individuals to sue any person or institution for facilitating abortions, which free-speech advocates have said has chilling effects and creates fear of litigation for sharing information about abortion online.

Be smart: These laws could violate both the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which largely shields websites from liability for what their users post online.

The bottom line: In an environment that's increasingly hostile to First Amendment rights, neither governments nor private companies are in a strong position to protect online speech.

  • Some advocates say the Supreme Court's decisions and subsequent action by state legislatures are a wake-up call to maintain strong legal free-speech protections.
  • "Rather than spending tens of millions fighting in court, many online platforms will instead 'race to the bottom' and comply with the most restrictive state laws," Evan Greer and Lia Holland of digital rights group Fight for the Future wrote in a Wired op-ed.

2. Uber saw sexual assault decline

An Uber sign outside an office in San Francisco
Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Thousands of U.S. Uber drivers and riders reported being sexually assaulted over a two-year period according to a safety report Uber released on Thursday — its second ever, covering 2019-20.

Between the lines: The 3,824 reported sexual assaults is actually a decline of 38% from the prior report, which covered 2017 and 2018. However, the number of deaths due to physical assaults and crashes both increased.

  • According to Uber, 20 people were killed in assaults and 101 died in crashes, both increases from the prior report.
  • In a note accompanying the report, Uber legal chief Tony West noted that Uber's fatality rate is half the national average. At the same time, he said that 2020 was the deadliest year on American roads since 2008 amid an increase in drunk driving, speeding and other risky behavior. "Uber's platform was not immune to those broader trends," West said.

Of note: These numbers cover a period in which Uber provided significantly fewer rides thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in early 2020.

What they're saying: Gig Workers Rising, which aims to represent the interests of those who work for on-demand services like Uber, said in a statement that the report shows how driving for ride-share services is "inherently dangerous."

  • "One murder on the job is too much," said Cherri Murphy, a former Lyft driver and spokesperson for Gig Workers Rising. "Yet Uber's own reporting reveals that 20 people were killed in assaults in 2019 and 2020."
  • "When a worker is tragically killed while driving for Uber, their business model locks workers out of crucial safety net programs like workers compensation, disability, etc.," Murphy said.

3. Quick bits: Wired faces Prime Day strike

1. The union representing roughly 65 editorial workers at Wired, the tech publisher owned by Condé Nast, is threatening to strike for two days if it can't reach a contract agreement with management by July 12 — the start of Amazon Prime Days, when the publisher earns extra revenue via product-recommendation referrals.

  • What they're saying: "We've been asking for exactly the same terms that the New Yorker writers got in their contract, but CondĂ© Nast won't even discuss this with us," Wired veteran Steven Levy said in a statement to Axios.

2. At some point in the coming months, players who log into Ubisoft's video game Riders Republic will discover that part of the extreme sports game's virtual forest is on fire, per Axios' Stephen Totilo.

  • Driving the news: The in-game wildfire, which the publisher says won't be announced in advance, is one of several initiatives video game companies are using to raise awareness about threats to the environment.

3. Micron warned in its quarterly earnings report of declining smartphone demand, while Meta's product chief sent staff a memo urging teams to prepare for slowing growth, per Reuters.

  • The big picture: In different ways and to differing degrees, many tech companies have announced plans to slow hiring or cut jobs amid signs of a wider economic slowdown.

4. Take note

Trading Places

  • Longtime NBCUniversal executive Maggie Suniewick is joining Twitter as VP of partnerships, CFO Ned Segal said in a tweet.

ICYMI

  • A former Apple legal executive pleaded guilty to insider trading charges. (Marketwatch)
  • Samsung said it has become the first company to mass produce chips using a new, thinner three-nanometer wiring process, beating rival TSMC. (Reuters)

5. After you Login

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