Sep 25, 2019

Axios Login

Ina Fried

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Situational awareness: Devin Wenig has stepped down as Ebay's president and CEO, WSJ reports. CFO Scott Schenkel will step in as interim CEO as the company searches for Wenig's replacement.

Today's Login is 1,137 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: The right to be forgotten, and the wrong

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The uniquely European "right to be forgotten" will be limited to that continent, per a ruling by the European Union's top court on Tuesday.

Driving the news:

  • Google has won a major case in Europe over the EU's "right to be forgotten," meaning the search giant will not be forced to filter search results for Europeans outside of the region.
  • The New York Times this week told the story of Italian journalist Alessandro Biancardi, who refused to pull an article about a fight between 2 brothers just because one of them wanted it removed.

History lesson: A 2014 ruling granted European citizens the right to ask search engines to remove sensitive or outdated information from listings about their past. The French government wanted the ruling to be applied globally.

  • Google has been a frequent target, telling the Times it has received more than 3.3 million requests to delete search results, including news items, criminal convictions and posts from social media. Per the Times, Google has removed the items in 45% of cases, while either rejecting or fighting the remainder of the requests.

Between the lines: Many people inside and outside of Europe question the wisdom and legitimacy of the right to be forgotten.

  • "Nobody will ever convince me that a law forcing you to delete truthful news can exist," Biancardi told the Times.

What's at stake: The debate balances two important ideas — the understandable human desire to be able to start afresh against society's interest in keeping an accurate record of people's actions in the past.

Our thought bubble: The well-intentioned law aims to keep people's mistakes from living forever online. But at a time where we are having enough trouble learning the lessons of history, giving anyone the right to erase the past might cause more problems than it solves.

2. WeWork CEO officially steps down

Adam Neumann. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for WeWork

As had been speculated would happen this week, Adam Neumann ceded his role as CEO of WeWork's parent company on Tuesday, though he will remain non-executive chairman of The We Company.

Why it matters: Neumann's exit is seen as one needed step if WeWork's IPO is going to have any chance at proceeding. However, his departure may prove necessary but not sufficient — as many would-be investors still have concerns over the company's core business.

Go deeper: Silicon Valley's fraying "Cult of the Founder"

3. Teaching entrepreneurs to look beyond profits

A group of recent Stanford Threshold Venture Fellows. Photo: Heidi Roizen

There are lots of classes in Stanford's engineering school that will help would-be founders learn skills like growth hacking and finding a product-market fit. But what about the ethics needed to become a truly good entrepreneur?

Stanford's Tom Byers and Tina Seelig saw the gap 5 years ago and set up a fellowship program for Masters students at Stanford, enlisting veteran venture capitalist Heidi Roizen, then a partner at DFJ, to help it get off the ground.

Why it matters: As the record of startup meltdowns in recent years (Uber, Theranos, et al.) has shown, the need for such training is huge.

  • "Every entrepreneur is going to have their ethics tested, guaranteed," Roizen said in an interview.

It's not just ethics that make the job hard, Roizen says. She notes that many founders naively launch a company without fully understanding how isolating the job is, how much pressure they will be under or how likely they are to fail.

"These jobs are really hard," Roizen said.

Between the lines: There's real debate over whether successful startups need to break rules to change the world.

  • For her part, Roizen thinks startups can be both ethical and profitable. "I maintain a belief one can innovate and disrupt things without having to break those boundaries."

What's next: The program is accepting applications through Oct. 31 for its next class of fellows.

4. Rivals report strong-arming by tech giants

Smaller competitors to Google and Facebook that for years kept their legal grievances about the companies silent are beginning to speak up, as regulators crank up probes into anti-competitive behavior by the 2 Silicon Valley giants.

Why it matters: Many smaller tech companies once hesitated to call foul on Facebook and Google's dominance, fearful that doing so would make them look weak or unable to compete, Axios' Sara Fischer reports. Now that regulators are reaching out for information, more smaller rivals are stepping up.

Driving the news: Facebook competitors, including Snapchat, are gathering intelligence for Federal Trade Commission officials about ways the tech giant may have exploited its dominance to punish Snapchat, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Snapchat's legal team has reportedly kept a set of documents dubbed "Project Voldemort" for years with evidence of the allegation.
  • According to the report, Snapchat executives have suspected that Instagram was "preventing Snap content from trending on its app."
  • While some Google competitors, with Yelp in the lead, have long charged the search giant with monopolistic behavior, the current wave of antitrust investigations means those complaints may get a thorough examination.

Be smart: A similar scenario broke out earlier this year with YouTube when the Justice Department was considering an antitrust investigation into Big Tech companies.

  • Bloomberg reported that YouTube competitors AppNexus and Vevo were beginning to speak out publicly against the video giant's anti-competitive practices.
  • The report details several examples in which YouTube stifled competitors who were looking to compete against it in video advertising sales.

The big picture: A Senate Judiciary Committee antitrust subcommittee hearing Tuesday looked at whether big tech platforms' acquisitions of smaller rivals posed a problem for the digital marketplace.

  • Witnesses pointed to the rise and fall of services like Google Plus, once seen as a competitor to Facebook and now defunct, as examples of the difficulty of determining the health of competition in online markets.
  • During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the same topic this summer, Facebook's head of global policy development cited TikTok as an example of an app that was growing rapidly and threatening its own business model.

Meanwhile, per the New York Times, the House Judiciary Committee has requested information from more than 80 companies about how they may have been harmed by Facebook, Google, Apple, or Amazon.

Go deeper:

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Amazon is expected to unveil a slew of new devices at an event in Seattle. Bottom line: Expect Alexa to go to some new places, along with updates to existing products.

Trading Places

  • Lime has hired former Airbnb executive and longtime U.S. government security and intelligence leader Nick Shapiro as its first Global Head of Trust and Safety.
  • Stack Overflow named former Rackspace executive Prashanth Chandrasekar as new CEO. Exiting chief Joel Spolsky will remain board chairman.

ICYMI

  • After years of scaring people only through demos and YouTube videos, Boston Dynamics now plans to lease out its Spot robot to actual customers. (Wired)
  • In a rare move, Kickstarter allowed a sex toy to be listed for backing, citing its educational mission and inclusivity. (TechCrunch)
  • Microsoft is urging Windows users to install an emergency update designed to protect against a flaw that could allow users to take over a system. (TechCrunch)
  • Meanwhile, Microsoft posted to GitHub the code for its ElectionGuard security software. (Axios)
  • A Fremont, Calif. police officer had to bow out of a chase because his Tesla's battery was running out. (Mercury News)
6. After you Login

Who wants a sea otter cam? Silly question, we all do.

Ina Fried