I'm back. Well, my body is anyway. My brain is somewhere between Europe and the U.S. (Let me know if you see it.)
Meanwhile, D.C. readers are invited to News Shapers: Health Care in America, tomorrow morning at 8am.
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A lawsuit filed against Salesforce by 50 victims of sex trafficking pushes responsibility for bad acts that happen via a web platform deeper into the internet economy than ever before, Axios' David McCabe reports.
Why it matters: If this suit succeeds, it could raise the specter of liability from beyond the platforms to the many other companies that serve them.
What's happening: Last week, the trafficking victims filed a lawsuit in California against Salesforce, the enterprise software company, alleging it aided Backpage.com, a classified ads site whose founders were indicted last year on charges of facilitating prostitution.
What makes the Salesforce lawsuit distinctive is its focus on a vendor providing a service to a platform. The suit alleges that Salesforce “designed and implemented a heavily customized enterprise database tailored for Backpage’s operations, both locally and internationally.”
That's worrying some legal experts.
The other side: Annie McAdams, the Texas lawyer bringing the lawsuit, said Salesforce should bear legal responsibility because evidence will show that its employees “not only knew who they were dealing with, but they knew what the content was they were working with.”
What they’re saying: “We are deeply committed to the ethical and humane use of our products and take these allegations seriously; however we don’t comment on pending litigation,” said Salesforce in a statement about the lawsuit last week.
The big picture: Policymakers have been fighting over exactly this question in recent years.
Web services have proposed their own systems for moderating content.
Yes, but: Efforts to regulate the platforms have caused concern in the industry that more responsibility for content will inevitably land on the services that keep others online, from internet service providers to domain registrars to companies that protect them from attacks.
What’s next: This suit — along with the other Backpage-related matters — will proceed, and its outcome could ripple throughout the industry.
Photo: Friso Gentsch/picture alliance via Getty Images
The U.S. is tied for first place with China in global 5G "readiness" and has more planned 5G deployments this year (92, to be exact) than rival countries, Axios' Kim Hart reports.
Why it matters: Those findings, according to a report out today by research firm Analysys Mason, will give some comfort to those who've been wringing their hands about falling behind China in the competition for the first-mover advantage.
The big picture: At CTIA's annual policy conference Thursday, wireless industry execs will reiterate that a market-based approach to telecom infrastructure is superior to an idea for a government-mandated "national" network.
Yes, but: China's Huawei is on pace to gain a substantial chunk of the 5G market, with contracts to install its equipment in dozens of countries. U.S. operators aren't using Huawei equipment because of the federal government's national security concerns.
More than 1,000 Google employees are calling for Google to rescind its decision to include Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James on a key AI advisory panel, pointing to her history of anti-gay, anti-transgender and anti-immigrant comments.
"Her record speaks for itself — over, and over, and over again," the Google employees said in a petition. "Google cannot claim to support trans people and its trans employees — a population that faces real and material threats — and simultaneously appoint someone committed to trans erasure to a key AI advisory position."
Google last week named James to its Advanced Technology External Advisory Council.
What they're saying: The company declined to comment. However, a source familiar with the situation said Google isn't budging and that the company likes the perspective she brings, including her NASA experience and free market thinking.
Between the lines: There is also a feeling in Google leadership that the company can't be seen as having to put all its management decisions up for a popular vote.
Flashback: Google refused for months to pull down an Android app that LGBT groups said engages in a form of conversion therapy.
Education tech startup LittleBits is working with Disney and UC Davis to expand its efforts to teach more girls to code.
What's new: A new project, Snap the Gap, will offer LittleBits tech products along with training and mentorship for 15,000 California girls as part of a pilot program.
Why it matters: There's still a big gender gap in the tech industry, with far fewer girls than boys learning the basics of software and engineering.
“Over the past decade, billions of dollars have been spent but the rate of women in STEM careers still hasn’t changed,” LittleBits CEO Ayah Bdeir said in a statement. “Not only do we need to start earlier, but we have to give girls more support throughout their journey."
Our thought bubble: Engaging more girls early on is one piece of improving the gender gap. But the tech industry still has a lot of work to do to make itself a more welcoming field for women.
Here's what an erupting volcano looks like from space.