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Andy Rubin debuts the Essential Phone at Code Conference 2017. Photo: Asa Mathat for Vox Media
Not that long ago, what people wanted from a tech conference was to hear from executives about the next shiny object coming down the pipeline.
But nowadays, tech CEOs aren't talking about what's fresh from their corporate ovens — instead, they're the ones being grilled.
What's happening: At this week's Code Conference, not one product debuted on stage, and there was precious little discussion of what companies had in the works.
Mostly, though, speakers from the Big Tech companies were pressed on what they were doing to fight hate and misinformation.
Contrast that with years past, where the event (and its predecessor, the D: All Things Digital conference) regularly served as a product launch pad, such as...
To be sure, Code has shifted focus some over the years, and there are still plenty of tech enthusiasts and lots of venues devoted exclusively to product launches.
The bottom line: Some people want the latest gadget. Some people want answers to what's gone wrong in tech. And some of us want both.
Rivals Uber and Lyft have joined forces, a rare event, to oppose a California legislature bill that would make it harder for them to classify workers as independent contractors in their home state, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
Driving the news: A bill that would codify last year's Dynamex decision by the state's Supreme Court passed California's Assembly (51-11) last month, and will soon be in the hands of the state Senate.
Background: The Dynamex decision was the result of a 2005 lawsuit brought against a courier and delivery company of that name by its drivers, which it started to classify as independent contractors in 2004.
Details: AB5, which California's Senate will soon consider, would not only codify Dynamex's more stringent requirements into the state's laws, but also go beyond its original scope of wages and also guarantee other benefits and protections.
What they're saying: In a joint opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, the heads of Uber and Lyft argue that the flexibility of being independent contractors is crucial for their drivers.
Yes, but: Critics say that the companies' proposals don't go far enough. AB5 sponsor Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) told the SF Chronicle that they had previously suggested paying 2.5% of wages into a fund to cover benefits, far below the 6.2% of salaries contributed into Social Security alone.
Meanwhile, Assembly Republicans have sponsored a competing bill, AB71, that would roll back the Dynamex provisions. The bill is still being reviewed by an Assembly committee.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty
Next month, the San Francisco District Attorney's office will begin using a computer program developed at Stanford to strip police reports of names, neighborhoods and other proxies for race like eye color or hairstyle.
Why it matters: The effort is meant to remove bias, Axios' Kaveh Waddell reports. Prosecutors decide whether to charge suspects based on police reports and evidence — but they're liable to be swayed by their own biases, which could lead them to bring charges more often against people of color.
The big picture: The U.S. criminal justice system is chock-full of racial disparities. Our prisons are disproportionately black and Hispanic — the two groups make up 56% of incarcerated people, but only 28% of the U.S. adult population.
"We want to make sure that when we're charging somebody, race doesn't come into it," a spokesperson for the SFDA's office tells Axios. "If we're able to take implicit bias out of even 90% of these cases, that's a huge achievement."
How it works: The system replaces racial proxies with generic placeholders — Person 1, Officer 2, Neighborhood 3. The idea is that a prosecutor reading a sanitized report will focus on the narrative rather than being influenced by their own preconceptions.
Go deeper: Kaveh has more here.
Scoot scooters in San Francisco. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Bird on Wednesday said that it has acquired Scoot, which provides on-demand rentals of mopeds, scooters and bikes, Kia reports.
Why it matters: This looks to get Bird access to the San Francisco market, where Scoot has an operating permit, but Bird did not. Scoot will be able to continue operating in San Francisco post-acquisition.
What's new: A San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesperson tells Axios...
"We approved the continued use of the permit based on a review of the request and on their assurances to meet the goals of Scooter Share Pilot."
"These efforts include the promotion of safety as a top priority and improving equity to ensure underrepresented communities can actively participate in the program."
Background: Scoot was founded in 2011 and spent its first several years focused on moped rentals in San Francisco.
The bottom line: It was only a matter of time before the scooter rental market began to consolidate.
Actually, sometimes you do have to reinvent the wheel.