August 03, 2022
RIP Vin Scully. I spent countless nights listening to him calling the Dodgers’ games in my youth. I feel truly blessed that of all the voices teaching me baseball, I had his.
Today's newsletter is 1,230 words, a 4.5-minute read.
1 big thing: Tech in crossfire as states fight over abortion info
With reproductive rights in flux across the U.S., activists on both sides of the issue are using the uncertainty to pressure tech companies to change the way abortion information gets shared and labeled.
Why it matters: The absence of a nationwide law means that companies will likely have to interpret a patchwork of competing state rules — as they already do with privacy and other tech issues.
- Platforms now face the likelihood of being told by one state to prohibit information that another state requires them to distribute.
What they're saying: "We may be on the verge of a digital civil war, where one group of states has rules on online speech that conflict with rules in another group of states," says Matt Perault, director of the Center on Technology Policy at the University of North Carolina.
Driving the news: Pressure on tech platforms to tighten controls on abortion information comes from both sides of the issue.
- Pro-abortion rights activists and politicians want platforms to more clearly label crisis pregnancy centers — which typically tell abortion-seeking patients to seek alternatives — to differentiate them from medical or health clinics that perform or provide abortions.
- A group of Democratic lawmakers has proposed legislation to crack down on what they say is medical disinformation used by crisis pregnancy centers to show up when people search for abortion information. Meanwhile, a group of conservative attorneys general have sent a letter to Google demanding that crisis pregnancy center information not be limited.
Abortion opponents are pushing for state laws that would criminalize not only helping facilitate an abortion, but also providing information on how to perform an abortion or where to get one.
- A draft bill in South Carolina, based on model legislation from the National Right To Life Committee, would criminalize providing abortion information if the entity doing so knows the information "will be used, or is reasonably likely to be used for an abortion."
- Tech platforms are already coming under fire for the ways in which they are restricting abortion information, especially discussions of abortion medication.
The big picture: With the country increasingly fractured and polarized over abortion, tech platforms have emerged as a key battleground, in some cases as pivotal as courts and legislatures.
- "We should be as concerned about what’s happening with tech and abortion information as with what is happening with the laws," Erin Matson, executive director for abortion rights group Reproaction, told Axios.
The First Amendment narrows the degree to which the government can regulate speech. Tech platforms, by contrast, have wide latitude to highlight or remove content, and advocates from all sides are pushing them to use that discretion.
- "We’re doing a lot of information-based things because it's the most valuable thing we can be doing at the moment," said Kat Green, managing director of Abortion Access Front.
Here's the state of play on key platforms:
Google: Google-owned YouTube announced tighter rules on abortion-related content last month.
- They prohibit videos that "promote or provide instructions" for unsafe or alternative abortion methods not supported by science or approved by medical professionals.
- They also prohibit false claims about abortion, such as that it commonly causes infertility or cancer.
Meta: Critics say Facebook has at times gone overboard in limiting posts on abortion medication, in some cases temporarily banning hashtags that use the name of a medication that can cause abortion.
- Facebook says it is using its standard policy with regard to medication, in which discussion of a medication and its affordability or availability are allowed, but not the sale, gifting or transfer of medication.
- The company sometimes blocks hashtags associated with a high level of rule-breaking content, but Meta has acknowledged "instances of incorrect enforcement" of its policies.
Yelp: Although Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has been a vocal supporter of abortion rights, the site has also taken action against "review bombing" of crisis pregnancy centers by abortion rights advocates.
- The company says it will continue to enforce one of its core policies: that people can only review entities they have personally received services from.
Of note: Perault largely predicted the platforms' quandary in a piece he co-authored for Slate in May, after the Supreme Court's draft abortion decision was leaked.
- "Platforms will be caught in the middle, trying to mediate a culture war with immense consequences for human welfare, while making decisions that please almost no one and anger both Democrats and Republicans," he wrote.
Go deeper: Roe’s overturn is tech’s privacy apocalypse
2. Broadband growth slows to pre-pandemic levels
The broadband internet business, which boomed during the pandemic, is starting to see slower growth, worrying analysts, Axios' Sara Fischer and Margaret Harding McGill report.
Why it matters: Cable companies have managed to stay afloat amid the cord-cutting crisis thanks to their booming broadband businesses. But some analysts see that safety net beginning to fade.
- Jonathan Chaplin, managing partner at New Street Research, wrote in two notes to clients that the firm has lowered its broadband subscriber estimates for the second time this year for both Charter and Comcast.
- "We have limited conviction in a quick recovery, given limited visibility all around," he wrote regarding Charter.
- Read the full story here.
3. Uber drivers set record despite gas prices
Drivers have been flocking to Uber despite high gas prices, Axios Closer's Hope King reports.
Driving the news: The number of Uber drivers and delivery earners reached a record last quarter of nearly 5 million, up 31% from last year, the company reported as part of its earnings announcement on Tuesday.
- New driver sign-ups surged 76%, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told analysts.
Quick take: Drivers' need to make extra income to counteract overall record inflation appears to outweigh the expenses associated with being able to earn that extra income.
- Over 70% of drivers added in the quarter cited the higher cost of living as a reason for joining.
What they're saying: "No one wishes for a tough economic environment or elevated inflation that's affecting so many of us, including Uber drivers," Khosrowshahi said.
- "At the same time, from a competitive standpoint, there's no question that this operating environment is stronger for us."
The big picture: Demand for out-of-home experiences has never been higher — offering more opportunity for drivers to earn.
- Trips given grew 24% from last year to 1.9 billion.
- Monthly active customers on Uber's platform grew 21% to 122 million.
What we're watching: Ride-share competitor Lyft reports earnings Thursday after markets close.
4. Take note
- Today's crop of earnings reports include eBay and Booking Holdings.
- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to question Nathaniel Fick, President Biden’s nominee to run new cyber diplomacy bureau at the State Department, at a hearing this morning.
- Microstrategy said CEO Michael Saylor will shift to executive chairman and focus on the company's bitcoin strategy, with president Phong Le rising to CEO and assuming charge of the company's enterprise software business.
- Tinder CEO Renate Nyborg is stepping down after less than a year on the job. A search is under way for a permanent replacement.
- Online brokerage Robinhood is laying off 23% of its staff. (The Verge)
- In sharp contrast to larger rival Intel, AMD posted better-than-expected quarterly financial results amid growth in its datacenter business. (CNBC)
- A federal judge dismissed three wire fraud charges against former Uber security chief Joseph Sullivan, who was accused of concealing a 2016 data breach in which hackers stole the account information of 50 million customers and 7 million drivers.
5. After you Login
My friend E Gilliam put together this very cool challenge. Each of the letters is from a company logo (though not necessarily the first letter). See how many you can guess and I'll post the answers in tomorrow's Login.