Aug 30, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Lots to get to, so let's get to it.

1 big thing: Trump steps up attacks on Big Tech

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump spent a second straight day all over social media getting out his message that conservatives can't get their message out on social media.

Google, Facebook and Twitter, he told reporters, are "trying to silence a very large part of the country," badly mistreating Republican and conservative voices.

For a president who tweets incessantly, the idea that he is being denied a voice strains credulity. Or, as my former boss Kara Swisher put it in the New York Times, "Those who complain loudest about being silenced never ever shut up.”

As "evidence," Trump posted a video — one that appeared uncensored on Twitter — purporting to show Google promoting President Obama's State of the Union addresses from its home page, while failing to do the same for his addresses to Congress.

Google quickly issued a statement, corroborated by screenshots found on the Internet Archive and Reddit, that it had indeed promoted Trump's 2018 State of the Union speech. It had not done the same with Trump's first address to Congress, which was not technically a State of the Union speech, but it noted that it hadn't done so for a comparable 2009 address to Congress by Obama, either.

Yes, but: Regardless of the evidence, it has become accepted truth among many conservatives that Silicon Valley has it out for them. In a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of conservatives said they believe social media intentionally censors conservative voices.

The bottom line: There are plenty of criticisms worth making of Google, Facebook and Twitter, but a vast anti-right wing conspiracy isn't one of them. That said, as Techmeme's Gabe Rivera suggests, if you have a bias for accuracy it could appear to be an anti-Trump bias.

Some of the most damning evidence is the fact that even Google's most ardent critics are refuting Trump's claims, including Yelp spokesman Luther Lowe and DigitalContentNext's Jason Kint.

Google *is* guilty of self-serving search bias, just not the kind Trump is alleging.
Luther Lowe

Kint says that supposed anti-conservative bias will likely dominate next week's congressional hearings rather than real issues of influence and abuse that deserve deeper scrutiny.

Go deeper: Axios' Mike Allen points out that Trump is using the same "fake" playbook against social media platforms that he has used against news organizations.

2. Microsoft to require suppliers to have paid parental leave

CEO Satya Nadella. Photo: Microsoft

In a move that could prompt many more companies to offer paid parental leave, Microsoft is announcing today that it will require all of its U.S.-based suppliers and vendors with more than 50 employees to offer such benefits.

Why it matters: Many leading companies offer paid leave, but others need a push. History shows that when progressive companies require benefits or policies from their suppliers, it can help increase adoption. Microsoft's move alone will mean many thousands of new workers will get paid parental leave, as the company has more than 1,000 partners in the U.S.

Some states already have laws offering or mandating paid parental leave, including California. Microsoft's home state of Washington has also enacted paid parental leave that will go into effect in 2020.

"As we looked at this legislation, however, we realized that while it will benefit the employees of our suppliers in Washington state, it will leave thousands of valued contributors outside of Washington behind," Microsoft general counsel Dev Stahlkopf said in a blog post. "So, we made a decision to apply Washington’s parental leave requirement more broadly, and not to wait until 2020 to begin implementation."

What they're saying: Activists praised the move, with the National Partnership for Women & Families VP Vicki Shabo calling it bold and impressive. She said:

"It showcases the ripple effects that state-level public policy changes — like Washington state's paid family and medical leave program adopted last year — can have in changing private sector practice and behavior."

History lesson: It's not the first time Microsoft has required suppliers to offer specific benefits. Three years ago the company insisted that its partners offer full-time workers at least 15 days of paid time off each year.

3. Jaunt pivots as VR headset adoption slows

Photo: Jaunt

Jaunt, which once aimed to be the Netflix of virtual reality, is trying some different approaches to stay viable in an era where consumers aren't buying VR headsets at nearly the pace originally predicted.

What's happening now: The company is focused on two businesses, both of which don't rely on a direct relationship with consumers.

  1. Studio — Whereas once Jaunt produced and paid for VR content to fill its virtual shelves with options for consumers, the company now only makes content as work for hire from others.
  2. VR as a service — Jaunt says it has packaged up the system it used to create and distribute VR content and made it available to others. " We had built this amazing solution that we were the only ones using," Jaunt VP David Moretti tells Axios. It's also added a portable volumetric capture studio (see above) that the company says offers a cheaper, more portable alternative to fixed locations from Microsoft and 8i.

The whole point of the business shift, Moretti says, was to "separate the future success of the company from the adoption of tethered VR in the home."

Embracing AR: Like other formerly VR-focused companies, Jaunt now talks about a range of mixed reality experiences, broadening its mission to include augmented reality, which has taken off with the inclusion of tools within Android and iOS.

Separately: The Void, a destination VR company, quietly replaced its CEO last month, Variety reported.

4. Micron spends $3B to expand Va. chip plant

Micron's chipmaking plant in Manassas, Va. Photo: Micron Technology

Memory chip maker Micron Technology announced plans yesterday to invest $3 billion to significantly expand a semiconductor plant in Manassas, Va.

Why it matters: Chipmaking is a key area of high-tech manufacturing still done in the U.S. and Micron said this move alone will create more than 1,000 jobs over the next decade.

The details: Micron said the initial expansion will be completed in the fall of 2019, with production beginning in the first half of 2020.

  • The chipmaker also plans to set up an R&D center in Manassas, which is 40 miles west of Washington, D.C., primarily focused on memory and storage for the automotive and industrial markets. That center is expected to employ roughly 100 engineers.
  • Micron's foundation is also investing $1 million in Virginia's universities.
5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Alex Hardiman, head of news products at Facebook, is joining The Atlantic as chief business and product officer. (Axios)


6. After you Login
Photo: Margaret Middleton

Margaret Middleton had a dilemma: Save their girlfriend's plate of pasta from a hungry cat, or get a great shot. Personally, I think they made the right call. (Their girlfriend did too.)

Also, in reporting about this, I found out that the cat in question has cancer, with a Gofundme page set up in case anyone is interested.

Ina Fried