Smaller services are coming under scrutiny now that the big platforms have warmed to aggressive moderation

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Illustration: Matt Chase

Glenn Greenwald was pissed. The Columbia Journalism Review had just asked whether Substack should remove the writer Andrew Sullivan from its service. And having recently joined the email newsletter platform himself, Greenwald attacked.

“It was only a matter of time before people started demanding Substack be censored,” he said, taking it a step further than the CJR.

Last October, Greenwald left The Intercept, a publication he founded, claiming the publication’s editors, who previously hadn’t touched his work, “censored” him ahead of the 2020 election. So he moved to Substack, which advertises itself as a home for independent writing. …

Big Technology

‘There’s a difference between banning him completely and banning the algorithmic spread of his statements’

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Ryan Mac

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts — edited for length and clarity — with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast.

Over the past week, both Facebook and Twitter suspended President Donald Trump’s account. These companies don’t take such aggressive action lightly, and it took Trump sending a mob toward the U.S. Capitol, which they eventually breached, to force the issue.

For years, BuzzFeed News senior reporter Ryan Mac and I have been watching these companies’ every move. Previously as colleagues at BuzzFeed. Mac joined me this week on the Big Technology Podcast for a discussion on whether the social platforms’ moves were merited, where they go from here, and how he thinks about all the internal Facebook communication he’s obtained in his reporting. …

Big Technology

What happens when those spurned by Facebook and Twitter migrate elsewhere?

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Photo: SOPA Images/Getty Images

Four years ago, startup founder Andrew Torba emailed me about a social network he was building, one that offered users near-absolute free speech. A pro-Trump conservative, Torba saw an opening for his venture after Twitter started removing people for harassment. Wary of moderation, he created an alternative.

“What makes the entirely left-leaning Big Social monopoly qualified to tell us what is ‘news’ and what is ‘trending’ and to define what ‘harassment’ means?” he told me. “It didn’t feel right to me, and I wanted to change it.”

Torba’s network, Gab, debuted a few months ahead of Trump’s 2016 election. Soon after, it grew into an established hangout for right-wing types online. Gab, by its nature, attracted some people with views too extreme for mainstream networks. Before killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, Robert Bowers, the shooter, posted about it on Gab. …

Big Technology

The New York Times’ Kevin Roose and researcher Mark Ledwich join the Big Technology Podcast for a debate on whether YouTube actually radicalizes its users

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Mark Ledwich and Kevin Roose

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts — edited for length and clarity — with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast.

In June 2019, New York Times reporter Kevin Roose wrote The Making of a YouTube Radical, a story about how a 26-year-old man, Caleb Cain, was radicalized through YouTube. For the story, Roose examined Cain’s entire YouTube history and plotted the path he took toward radicalization. …

Big Technology

“We predispose ourselves into being vulnerable because we dismiss cults as crazy”

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Rick Alan Ross

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

This week, we’re joined by Rick Alan Ross, a professional cult deprogrammer. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast.

Community as we know it is in a state of decline. People today have fewer friendships than ever, they are lonelier than ever, and religious participation is at an all-time low, with 23% of people in the U.S. declaring themselves as having no religion. Technology has played a big role in this decline in community, with most people preferring to sink into the internet instead of strengthening physical bonds. …

Big Technology

The Austin surge that wasn’t. Plus booming Seattle, miraculous Madison, and sluggish San Francisco.

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Seattle, Washington. Photo: Abbie Parr/Stringer

Preamble: This is Big Technology’s final edition of the year. If you’ve found value from this free newsletter, would you be willing to share it? You can forward it to a friend, drop it in Slack, tweet it, or post it on LinkedIn. In the holiday spirit, will you help us grow? Thanks again for reading and being part of this community. Looking forward to keeping it up in 2021.

There’s a narrative that the tech industry’s future lies in Texas and Florida. That tech workers and executives — sick of California’s oppressive policies and sky-high real estate costs — are moving en masse to Miami and Austin this year. That these cities are building dominant talent foundations that will persist for years due to the pandemic. …

Big Technology

Peloton is now worth more than Ford. Instructor Emma Lovewell gives us a look inside the company’s pandemic boom.

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Emma Lovewell

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

This week, we’re joined by Peloton instructor Emma Lovewell. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast.

With the pandemic forcing people to stay home for nearly 10 months now, many have turned to interactive fitness companies, such as Peloton, to stay active and perhaps fill a social void. Peloton has more than 3 million users, members are averaging 24 workouts per month, and this past September, the company announced its first profitable quarter. …

Big Technology

Without political pressure, the FTC waited to rally state attorneys general in a broad, bipartisan case against Facebook’s anticompetitive behavior

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Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Today, the Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook for a slew of antitrust violations, targeting the way the company eliminated its top competitors via the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. More than 40 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit mirroring the FTC’s, displaying broad, bipartisan coordination rare in an age of polarized, dysfunctional government.

By acting together, the state attorneys general will make Facebook’s life difficult, bringing a more robust lawsuit than the Department of Justice’s case against Google. There, only 11 state AGs joined, all of them Republican, giving Google an opportunity to play them off their counterparts. …

Big Technology

Plus, more insight on the social app’s future after a remarkable 2020

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Gary Vaynerchuk and Blake Chandlee

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

This week, Gary Vaynerchuk, owner of digital ad agency VaynerMedia, and Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s head of global business solutions, join the podcast in an episode recorded at Web Summit. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast.

TikTok is in a state of limbo as the U.S. government decides whether to ban it. In August, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning the app from operating in its current form in the U.S. The order gave TikTok a 45-day deadline, but after a few extensions, we’re now in December, and TikTok is still running. As TikTok twists in the wind, Gary Vaynerchuk, owner of digital ad agency VaynerMedia, and Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s head of global business solutions, join the Big Technology Podcast to discuss the app’s present and future. …

Big Technology

The tech industry can sideline the press. But should it?

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Zappos founder Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/Getty Images

Over Thanksgiving break, a spectacle developed over a forthcoming New York Times story about Coinbase. News of the story first appeared on Coinbase’s blog, where the company posted an email to employees warning of an impending negative article. “The story,” it said, “will allege that several Black employees had negative experiences at Coinbase over the last few years.”

Soon after Coinbase’s post went up, a chorus of tech insiders implored their peers to cut off the press, and tell their stories themselves. “Build your own media arm, hire an [editor-in-chief], and go direct,” Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale tweeted. “The quality of traditional publications is declining simultaneously with our need for them,” said Y-Combinator co-founder Paul Graham. …

About

Alex Kantrowitz

I write the Big Technology newsletter. Sign up here: https://bigtechnology.substack.com.

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