Hello from Davos, Switzerland. It's Login's first visit to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (and the first time I am returning since attending as a cub tech reporter 20 years ago). I am interested to see how much Davos has changed since 1999; I know I have changed a lot.
Today's Login, meanwhile, is about the same as usual, 1,483 words, a 5-minute read.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel says his company has managed to avoid heavy criticism over speech issues by clearly dividing private, largely unregulated communications from heavily moderated public broadcasts.
Why it matters: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all struggled in recent years over where to draw the line on permitted speech.
What they're saying: Responding to a question from Axios while speaking at the DLD conference in Munich on Sunday, Spiegel said that Snapchat has modeled how it treats speech after existing institutions
"One of the things we have been able to do is borrow significantly from history," Spiegel said.
Online platforms' biggest problems lie in the middle ground between these two, Spiegel said — here, there have been powerfully positive uses of social media but also incredibly damaging ones.
Snapchat plays in the middle ground, too, but it does so cautiously, whereas that space is where Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all built their empires.
Be smart: Spiegel's "look to the broadcasters" argument is one he's been refining for years (here he is making it in 2018). That means he's learned another old rule of broadcasting: You have to tell people the same thing over and over again before they will get the message.
Esther Dyson. Photo: Dominik Gigler for DLD/Hubert Burda Media
From 1998 to 2000, Esther Dyson was the founding chairman of ICANN, the group that oversees how Web addresses are handed out. Now, she is urging that organization to block the administration of .org domains from being turned over to a private company in a deal valued at more than $1 billion.
Why it matters: .org domains have traditionally been used by nonprofits and organizations rather than commercial entities.
Driving the news: The Internet Society has announced the sale of Public Internet Registry, the entity that controls the .org domain, to Ethos Capital, a private equity firm.
Dyson is a board member of Cooperative Corporation for .ORG Registrants, a group that is seeking to create an alternative to the sale.
History lesson: The Internet Society, which dates back to 1992, seeks to promote openness and continued technology development for the internet. Its major funding source is the Public Internet Registry. Of its $51 million in 2019 revenue, more than $44 million came from the PIR, per its financial statements.
The big picture: There is significant opposition to the .org domain falling into private hands. Dozens of nonprofits, led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have called on the Internet Society to call off the deal.
Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei. Screenshot: Axios
Huawei chief Ren Zhengfei said today that he is prepared for any further U.S. "attacks," but he believes the world can avoid splitting into two separate technology systems.
Why it matters: The U.S. and China are locked in a fierce trade battle, with restrictions already limiting Huawei's ability to sell phones around the world.
"We are more confident we can survive even further attacks," Zhengfei said, appearing at the WEF Annual Meeting.
The backdrop: Last year, citing security concerns. the U.S. imposed a variety of restrictions that further limited Huawei's ability to do business in the U.S. as well as hampering its global operations by limiting its access to U.S. chips and software. The U.S. is also pressuring allies not to use Huawei's networking technology for their 5G systems.
Meanwhile: The panel with Zhengfei, which also featured Israeli philosopher Yuval Noah Harari, included a lot of harkening back to the Cold War and the race to build the atom bomb.
Yes, but: Harari ended on a hopeful note, pointing out that, in theory, powerful emerging tech could end up enhancing individual rights. Surveillance technology could keep tabs on big business and government, and antivirus software could detect efforts to manipulate your mind.
Photo: Carsten Koall/Getty Images
Google and IBM have both called for global regulations on artificial intelligence in recent days, warning that the technology has the potential to bring significant negative consequences along with potential good, as Axios' Ursula Perano, Kyle Daly and I report.
Why it matters: Lawmakers are largely scrambling to play catch-up on AI regulation as the technology continues to grow. Pichai did not provide specific proposals, but did urge while speaking at the Bruegel European economic think tank Monday that "international alignment" between the U.S. and the EU will help ensure AI is used primarily for good.
Our thought bubble: The U.S. government is also urging transatlantic consensus on AI regulation, which would deliver a unified counter to China's authoritarian use of the technology. But it would also ensure Europe doesn't charge ahead with more stringent AI regulation than Silicon Valley is prepared to accept.
Flashback: Google has long grappled with the nuances of AI and government. The company in 2018 announced it wouldn't renew a controversial Pentagon contract to analyze drone footage via AI, citing a conflict with its own principles.
Of note: In the same speech, Pichai suggested that Google would support a temporary "waiting period" on introducing facial recognition technology until a regulatory framework is in place. Europe is weighing such a temporary ban on public use of facial recognition.
The other side: Microsoft president Brad Smith argued against such a move, saying, "There is only one way at the end of the day to make technology better and that is to use it," per Reuters.
There's been a lot of mocking of how NFL players and coaches use the Microsoft Surface, some of it misplaced. This, though, is a little too on the nose.