Creators are already selling videos as NFTs. YouTube wants in on the action.
Every big platform is bracing itself for Web3. NFTs will arrive on Instagram soon. Spotify is hiring for Web3 experts. Twitter already lets users show off their virtual art as profile pictures. YouTube isn’t far behind on its own NFT plans, which are vague at the moment, but CEO Susan Wojcicki said they’ll help relatively small creators jumpstart their platforms.
“We are seeing that creators are selling their videos and memes as NFTs,” Wojcicki told livestreamer Ludwig Ahgren on a recent podcast episode of The Yard. “If creators are selling their videos as NFTs, then that’s an important form of monetization. I don’t think it would be good if that all happened on another platform.”
Wojcicki said allowing creators to sell NFTs on the platform can help smaller influencers who are just beginning to build up their accounts, pointing to musicians who have begun using NFTs as a way to fundraise.
“At the end of the day what YouTube does is, we’re a platform that distributes content and monetization,” she said. “If NFTs are an important part of that equation, then we think we should be there.”
Wojcicki, who owns “a few” NFTs herself, didn’t provide too many details on YouTube’s Web3 plans. But she said YouTube is in the “best position” to verify virtual assets that belong to creators through its Content ID tool, which lets creators track and manage their content. “It would be a problem for you if some other third-party site were selling your videos without knowing that it belonged to you,” Wojcicki added.
Ahgren pushed back on NFTs, saying they’re a “blight” in the gaming world and will only help already big influencers in the long run. Gaming companies that have introduced these tools have gotten their fair share of backlash, both for environmental reasons and because some see crypto in gaming as unnecessary. Wojcicki acknowledged that YouTube’s decision to work on NFTs was “polarizing” but that the platform’s goal behind NFTs is to protect creators. “We’re going to be really careful. I think you are going to be OK with what we do with NFTs,” she said.
YouTube’s $100 million Shorts Fund has also been polarizing for creators. Wojcicki told Ahgren that the money from the program is only a temporary form of revenue. “I don’t think [Shorts funds are] permanent,” Wojcicki said. She added that YouTube is working to make the Shorts program “more scalable” in the future and that the platform is working on a new program for creators to make money. “But I can’t say anything else,” she said.
Ahgren pointed to a video posted by YouTuber Hank Green, who said creator funds aren’t sustainable because the pool of dedicated cash is static even though the number of creators eligible for the fund grows. But Wojcicki said the Shorts Fund was only an initial form of monetization for short-form creators, and the platform is looking to run more ads on short-form content so people can earn money like they would on longer YouTube videos. “YouTube has a great monetization program for long-form creators, and we want to extend that for Shorts,” Wojcicki said.
YouTube’s decision to stop displaying the dislike count may not have been a popular one, but Wojcicki said even though the move got its fair share of backlash, it was made in the best interest of creators.
“I understand there were many people — and yes, we heard loud and clear — why people were unhappy with that decision,” she told Ahgren. “But then we also saw the impact that it was having on a lot of new creators, and that’s bad. We need to have, and continue to support, smaller creators and how they’re growing. That’s really important for the long-term health of our ecosystem.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Ludwig Ahgren’s name. This story was updated on April 11, 2022.
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Sarah Roach is a news writer at Protocol (@sarahroach_) and contributes to Source Code. She is a recent graduate of George Washington University, where she studied journalism and mass communication and criminal justice. She previously worked for two years as editor in chief of her school’s independent newspaper, The GW Hatchet.
As expected, a Twitter shareholder has sued Elon Musk for failing to disclose his ownership stake in the company during the SEC-mandated window, alleging that hiding this fact kept the company’s share price low.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, Twitter shareholder Marc Bain Rasella accused Musk of securities fraud, claiming that because Musk didn’t disclose his sizable stake in the company by March 24, he was able to snap up more shares at a lower price. After Musk revealed that he had acquired more than 9% of Twitter, shares of the company spiked 27% (from $39 to $48) between April 1 and April 4. Rasella wants to represent investors who sold shares of Twitter between March 24 and April 1, the time period between when Musk should have revealed his stake and when he actually did.
“Investors who sold shares in Twitter stock between March 24, 2022, when Musk was required to disclose his Twitter ownership, and before the actual April 4, 2022 disclosure, missed the resulting share price increase as the market reacted to Musk’s purchases and were damaged thereby,” the court filing reads.
Musk acquired 73 million shares — a more than 9% stake — in Twitter last month, but flouted the rules when he did so. Musk didn’t file a Schedule 13G within 10 days of his purchase, which is required if an individual buys a more than 5% stake in a company. Musk paid $2.6 billion for his shares, which are now worth around $3.25 billion, as Twitter’s stock fell on Tuesday to $44.60 per share.
The drama over Musk’s investment in Twitter has been unending in the last week. After announcing that the Tesla CEO would be joining Twitter’s board of directors, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal announced Sunday night that Musk had decided to withdraw. Now Elon watchers — and Twitter employees — are watching to see whether he continues to criticize the company via tweet or decides to put his money where his mouth is and take over Twitter entirely.
Want to make a filter that turns your face into an alien on TikTok? Now you can.
TikTok announced Tuesday that it would open its Effect House, a platform that lets creators make video effects and filters, to all users.
Effect House has been in closed beta since last fall, and TikTok said that 450 effects and filters have been created and published in the months since. Those filters have been used in more than 1.5 billion videos and viewed 600 billion times. When a user has an effect published, it will be linked to their account and show up in a designated tab on their profile.
“Through the expansion of the Effect House beta, we’re looking forward to seeing more of the world’s creative builders develop engaging and exciting effects for our global community,” TikTok said in its press release.
TikTok’s Effect House opens as more social media companies continue to invest heavily in augmented reality. Snap has long devoted resources to its AR Lens studio for creating filters (along with several other AR investments), and Instagram opened its filter creation studio, Spark AR, to the public back in 2019. By opening up Effect House to all users, TikTok is seemingly catching up — and also attempting to keep its captive audience locked inside the app.
Creating effects for TikTok comes with a long list of rules. All effects must follow TikTok’s Community Guidelines as well as its Effect Guidelines. The Effect Guidelines include both technical requirements for CPU, memory usage and frame rate, and content requirements, which prohibit effects to promote things such as violent extremism, illegal activities, misinformation, dangerous acts or challenges and self harm. Effects also cannot include QR codes, can’t violate intellectual property rights and will include a warning tag if they flash and could trigger photosensitive epilepsy.
TikTok’s Trust and Safety team will review all of the effects submitted to make sure they don’t violate guidelines. If one slips through, users can report it.
Yelp will cover expenses for employees and their dependents who need to travel out-of-state for abortion access, the company announced Tuesday. It joins companies like Citigroup, Apple, Match Group and Bumble in expanding coverage for abortion after Texas’ law came into effect.
The Texas law, which bans abortions after six weeks, went into effect Sept.1. The law also encourages private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a forbidden abortion. It prompted tech companies to consider their responsibilities to Texas-based employees seeking abortions, but also to employees who might be accused of “aiding and abetting” an abortion: For example, an Uber driver giving a ride to the abortion clinic. Lyft and Uber eventually announced they will cover drivers’ legal fees if they’re sued under the Texas law. Match Group and Bumble (based in Texas) told Protocol at the time that they were setting up relief funds for people impacted by the law.
Six months later, women in Texas have turned to self-managed abortions and flooded clinics outside the state. The Florida legislature recently passed its own law banning abortions after 15 weeks, and Oklahoma’s governor signed a near-total abortion ban into law on Tuesday.
Yelp’s Chief Diversity Officer Miriam Warren told the Wall Street Journal that the insurance expansion is in response to the Texas law, which she said limits equality. “When we’re talking about women’s advancement in their careers, trying to diversify boardrooms to see more women in them, and you look at these restrictions, they are absolutely intertwined in a way that I think is very damaging,” Warren said.
Yelp’s policy, which currently covers abortion care, goes into effect next month. The San Francisco-based company has a little over 200 employees in Texas, but will be relevant to employees in other states as more restrictive legislation is passed. Citigroup announced its plan to cover travel costs in a regulatory filing last month; one of the first companies to do so. A Texas lawmaker subsequently threatened Citigroup with legislation preventing the bank from underwriting municipal bonds in the state. Warren told The New York Times that Yelp is not concerned about potential backlash. Rather, she thinks the policy will help Yelp build an inclusive culture. “We want to be able to recruit and retain employees wherever they might be living,” she said.
Remember Clubhouse, the live audio app that was supposed to be the Next Big Thing in social media? Well its 15 minutes of fame may be long over, but the company is now embracing parts of other popular apps to regain relevance.
Clubhouse is currently testing an in-room gaming feature for iOS and Android, TechCrunch reported on Tuesday. The game, called “Wild Cards,” is basically a conversation starter for people who don’t know each other. Users have to answer questions, like the best idea for a TV show or the name of a movie that everyone loves, in a short amount of time.
The feature, currently available only in English, calls to mind a Discord server, which also mixes live audio chats with bots that let users play games together (among other activities). The Clubhouse in-room gaming feature comes just weeks after Clubhouse added an optional text chat feature — similar to what users have long been able to do on platforms like Twitch, YouTube and Discord — which allows users to type their responses rather than needing to use audio. To encourage engagement, Clubhouse also recently announced that it is testing a “wave bar,” which displays which of your friends are online and looks somewhat like the “Stories” bar on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
Clubhouse, which began as an invite-only iOS app, gained popularity early in the pandemic, but it has struggled to hold onto its audience as the world reopened. Clubhouse also has, until recently, been slow to add new features and is also fending off competition from Twitter Spaces, Twitter’s audio chatroom feature, which already has a built-in audience of hundreds of millions of active users. As Clubhouse downloads drop and new users stall, Clubhouse is attempting to play catch-up by adding features that other, more popular apps already offer.
It’s been two weeks since the launch of CNN+, and it’s not living up to the hype: Only 10,000 people are watching daily, according to inside sources who spoke to CNBC. It’s a little early to be ringing the death knell, but the number is reportedly underwhelming executives.
About 773,000 people watch CNN live every day on cable TV, so CNN+ is clearly only attracting a tiny fraction of that viewership. The media institution learned long ago how to keep viewers eyeballs glued to the screen, and the streaming service was supposed to bring that attention-grabbing news content to viewers, on demand. A few newscasts run live — including an evening newscast with anchor Wolf Blitzer — but most of the content, like a serialized documentary about the Murdoch family and Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” are available to stream at any time.
The platform “serves CNN superfans, news junkies, and fans of quality non-fiction programming,” CNN said in a press release upon launch.
The number of daily active users is a weird metric to gauge success — the more common comparison for streaming services is monthly subscribers. But CNBC reporter Alex Sherman tweeted that CNN sources would only provide daily numbers, which makes it tough to compare the fledgling streaming service to its rivals.
However, even as an imperfect estimate, the low number of viewers signals that CNN lags behind some competitors. ESPN+, offered by Disney, has 21.3 million total subscribers, while Peacock, with some news programming, has 9 million paying subscribers. Fox Nation, essentially a mirror of CNN+ from across the political aisle, has never announced its subscriber numbers, instead describing its metrics in terms of percentage increases and decreases.
Other streaming services push entertainment first, news second (or not at all), and those services’ numbers are jaw-dropping by comparison. Netflix, for example, has 222 million monthly subscribers worldwide, and Apple TV+, considered an up-start even with its Best Picture Academy Award, has 25 million monthly subscribers.
CNN is part of Warner Media, along with TNT, TBS and Cartoon Network, but is the only one of these channels with its own standalone streaming service (although we wouldn’t say no to Cartoon Network on demand). Warner Bros. and Discovery completed a merger this week, in what appears to be the beginning of massive consolidation in the streaming market. Insiders who spoke with CNBC said that CNN+ would likely become a part of a bundled offering with HBO Max and Discovery+.
DuckDuckGo, well known for its privacy-focused search engine, at long last launched its desktop browser for macOS today as an alternative to Google Chrome or Safari. The new app enables Mac users to surf the web and evade data collectors. Previously, users who preferred the privacy-centric search engine could only use it as an extension within Safari or Chrome, or as a standalone app on iPhone and Android.
Since its founding in 2008, DuckDuckGo has attempted to position itself as a more private alternative to search engines like Google and Bing, and has since waded into the browser wars, where it competes with Google, Safari and Microsoft Edge. But without a browser app, the company has trailed behind. The macOS browser is still in beta and requires joining a wait list. Still, it’s a start.
“At DuckDuckGo our mission is to show the world that protecting privacy is simple. We know that in order to do this we must build apps that are a pleasure to use and provide as comprehensive privacy protection as possible, whether you’re on your phone, at your desk, in a hammock, or somewhere that is even nicer than a hammock,” reads a company blog post.
A desktop app is essential for the company to truly take on Google — as Wired noted, 67% of Chrome users are on desktop, and the browser app allows Google to collect a ton of data.
But even so, DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg’s ambitions don’t stop here. He pitches DuckDuckGo as not just a search engine, but a “privacy company” that will make privacy settings accessible for everyday users. DuckDuckGo has a suite of privacy tools that go way beyond search, like an email protection service that removes trackers from your inbox. That service is enabled by default in the new app, and the browser also defaults to DuckDuckGo’s search engine.
That’s the biggest advantage of using DuckDuckGo: the suite of privacy protections. Users even have the option of letting the browser sort through those irritating cookie preference pop-ups (you know the ones). When that setting is enabled, the browser will manage cookie pop-ups about 50% of the time, a ratio that should increase as more people use the beta app, Wired reported.
But there are some drawbacks. There isn’t a bookmarks tab yet, for example — something DuckDuckGo told Wired it’s working on. Users also can’t review their browser history yet. These are pretty critical tools for a web browser.
In some ways, DuckDuckGo’s privacy focus — and the way that is perceived as “less censorship” by some users — has begun to haunt it in recent years. The company recently ended its relationship with Russian search engine Yandex. Now it’s taking an even more proactive role by downranking misinformation about the war while highlighting reputable news coverage.
DuckDuckGo may not have Google’s scale. But with its new browser app, it’s one step closer to breaking Google’s grip on the internet.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations urged the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday to rein in mobile location tracking, following reports that the vast and opaque industry has enabled surveillance of Muslims.
CAIR cited the extensive history of governments’ monitoring of individuals and communities who practice Islam, as well as the revelation in 2020 that the U.S. military bought location data on Muslims. The purchases included information derived from an app with 100 million downloads that helps Muslims know precisely what time of day to pray and in which direction.
Such tracking, the group argued, often relies on insufficient privacy notice by apps, software code that developers and consumers may not be unaware of and even disregard for users’ explicit choices. The petition said such data uses — particularly when they produced information that the government then buys — chill the rights of Muslims to practice their religion and constitute “unfair and deceptive” practices that the FTC is empowered to police.
“This is the low-hanging fruit of all the surveillance that disproportionately affects Muslims,” Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer for CAIR, said during a press conference.
The petition, which was prepared by students at Georgetown University’s law school, comes days after Android banned multiple apps from the Play Store. Researchers had found that the apps, several of which focused on Muslim prayer, were surreptitiously collecting user location data on behalf of a company with ties to a defense contractor. According to the Wall Street Journal, the researchers also shared their findings with the FTC.
Comedian John Oliver, who has previously helped focus and generate public attention on complex tech topics, dove into the data brokers who trade in location information in a recent segment of his show, highlighting just how much personal information is accessible and for sale.
CAIR, in its filing, urged the FTC to consider fines and other enforcement actions as appropriate. The petition also called for a rule-making that would govern mobile operating systems (like Android and iOS) as well as online ad exchanges.
FTC Chair Lina Khan, a Democrat, told a gathering of privacy professionals on Monday evening that the agency is considering regulating digital privacy broadly and even putting limits on unspecified data uses — although, even to begin the years-long process, Khan will likely have to wait for the pending confirmation of a fifth commissioner.
In addition, Republican Commissioner Christine Wilson has previously applauded a bill that would ban the federal government from purchasing commercial data on individuals without a warrant.
The wait is over for the shibheads: Robinhood is finally letting customers buy and sell shiba inu coin, a popular token whose supporters have been lobbying the online brokerage to list it.
Robinhood announced the addition of four cryptocurrencies to the trading app Tuesday, including compound, polygon and solana.
In a statement, Steve Quirk, Robinhood’s chief brokerage officer, said the company was “excited to add more choices for our customers as we work to make Robinhood the best place to invest in crypto.”
Quirk said Robinhood uses “a rigorous framework” in evaluating new assets for listing. CEO Vlad Tenev has said that the company was taking a cautious approach to adding new tokens.
“We’re going to be very careful,” Tenev told analysts on an earnings call last year. “We’re a regulated entity, and we’re hopeful to get some clarity soon on coins.”
Shiba inu coin began as a parody of another meme cryptocurrency, dogecoin. Tad Park, CEO of the crypto investment fund Volt Equity, called it “the joke of a joke.”
But like dogecoin, it has taken off, becoming one of the most valuable cryptocurrencies by market value. Shiba inu coin actually surpassed dogecoin late last year, rising to become the ninth-largest cryptocurrency, before slipping back to the No. 15 spot.
A key strength for shiba inu coin is its base of very enthusiastic supporters who call each other “shibheads” and have lobbied hard for the cryptocurrency to be added to major exchanges.
Coinbase and Public.com added the token last year. Shiba supporters launched a petition drive, which now has nearly 600,000 signatures, to convince Robinhood to follow suit.
Shiba inu rallied on news of the Robinhood listing. Robinhood shares also climbed nearly 4% in late-morning trades.
When your company is under immense media, legislative and regulatory pressure, it might cost a little more to keep top leaders safe. That was the case for Meta, which spent almost $27 million on security last year for Mark Zuckerberg and his family — far more than security costs for other tech leaders, according to a recent regulatory filing first reported by Bloomberg.
Meta overall paid out $26.8 million in 2021 on costs related to Zuckerberg, including the security bill to protect Zuckerberg and his family and homes, an additional $10 million pretax for Zuckerberg’s personal security allowance and $1.6 million for his private aircraft. The bill represents a 6% increase from 2020, when the company set aside $23.4 million. Zuckerberg doesn’t receive a bonus or equity awards, and takes a $1 annual salary.
Meta wrote in the filing that Zuckerberg is “synonymous” with the company, so any negative sentiment regarding the company goes back to him — the perks of being a CEO. The company added that Zuckerberg is one of the “most recognized” executives in the world, partly because of Meta’s expansive user base and partly because of its “continued exposure to global media, legislative and regulatory attention.”
The company has been in the spotlight over the past several months following Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s disclosure of a trove of internal documents that exposed Meta’s role in everything from teen mental health issues to climate change misinformation. Haugen said Meta let these issues slide in the name of user growth, and she’s called for Zuckerberg’s resignation and appeared before Congress to demand the company do better.
But even before Haugen came into the picture, the company was paying far more than other tech giants for executive safety measures. That trend has only continued into 2021. Not including the cost of private aircraft, Google footed a $4.3 million bill for Sundar Pichai; Snap paid $2.3 million for Evan Spiegel; Amazon paid $1.6 million for Jeff Bezos; and Twitter spent almost $64,000 for Parag Agrawal, according to regulatory filings. Meta paid more than all of those companies combined for Zuckerberg alone (it also pays security costs for Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg).
Beginning next year, Meta will also pay for a private aircraft owned by Zuckerberg. “For travel by Mr. Zuckerberg on the aircraft owned by Mr. Zuckerberg, we pay an amount commensurate with market rates,” the company wrote.
Tim Cook said Tuesday that tech antitrust measures could “undermine privacy and security” as Apple continues to push back on competition regulations and proposals around the world by touting the company’s commitment to protecting data.
Speaking at a conference of privacy professionals in Washington, D.C., Cook warned of “profound” unintended consequences and said that lawmakers and regulators could “potentially give bad actors a way around the comprehensive security protections we put in place.”
While he didn’t name particular proposals, Apple is subject to South Korea’s new app store law. Europe is also on the verge of mandating that Apple allow third-party app stores onto iOS, and a committee in the U.S. Senate has advanced legislation with a smaller scale but similar goals.
Apple has not been shy about asserting that these competition proposals would expose users to scam apps and allow big digital ads players like Google and Facebook to track people across apps more easily. Cook himself has reportedly lobbied against antitrust proposals in the House by calling Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Yet his speech comes as both industry allies and the advocates of new competition requirements for tech have escalated their work to try to determine if antitrust bills can pass this year.
Backers of the U.S. tech competition bills say that the tech giants’ lobbying ignores that the measures protect steps that companies take to protect privacy and security, so long as they aren’t pretexts for anticompetitive actions. The would-be reformers say putting new curbs on Big Tech would also allow consumers choices that could weaken the power of online ads firms.
During the speech, Cook urged the audience to “join our efforts to make sure that regulations are crafted, interpreted and implemented in a manner that protects people’s fundamental rights” and promised that Apple would push its side of the fight in the future.
“We will continue to make our voices heard on this issue,” he said.
Injuries at Amazon warehouses accounted for nearly half of all warehouse injuries in the United States in 2021 and increased by about 20% from 2020, according to a new analysis of federal warehouse safety data from pro-union research group the Strategic Organizing Center.
The SOC report found that about 6.8 serious injuries occurred for every 100 Amazon warehouse workers in 2021, compared to 3.3 for every 100 people in other warehouses, based on Amazon’s injury reports to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The nearly 40,000 reported injuries accounted for about 49% of all warehouse injuries in the U.S. according to the analysis, though Amazon only employs about 33% of all warehouse workers. 34,001 injuries were classified as serious, meaning that workers were either shifted to light duty (couldn’t perform their usual tasks) or missed time from work completely.
While Amazon’s injury rates are much higher than other warehouse companies, serious injury rates have declined dramatically in 2020 and 2021 within the company itself; while overall injuries have gone up, the rate of workers who lost time from injuries has declined from five-plus from 2017-2019 to less than three in 2020 and 2021.
Last year’s injuries are part of a years-long pattern, as Amazon warehouse injury rates have hovered at more than double the national average since 2017. A previous 2021 SOC report about working conditions from 2017-2020 showed that Amazon’s serious injury rate was almost more than double that of Walmart’s, one of the company’s primary competitors and the only private employer larger than Amazon.
“Like other companies in the industry, we saw an increase in recordable injuries during this time from 2020 to 2021 as we trained so many new people – however, when you compare 2021 to 2019, our recordable injury rate declined more than 13% year over year. While we still have more work to do and won’t be satisfied until we are excellent when it comes to safety, we continue to make measurable improvements in reducing injuries and keeping employees safe,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, wrote in a statement to Protocol.
A report from Amazon released in January 2022 claims that, based on the company’s internal data, warehouses are getting safer for workers. “We are seeing improvements in our key safety indicators — for example, Amazon’s worldwide Lost Time Incident Rate (LTIR), a measure of the number of injuries, per 100 employees, that resulted in missed work — reduced from 4.0 in 2019 to 2.3 in 2020, a 43% improvement,” the company wrote in the report.
The safety conditions inside Amazon warehouses have prompted state and federal lawmakers to launch investigations and propose a range of bills aimed at reining in the company’s notoriously grueling productivity expectations. After a tornado killed six Amazon workers when a facility collapsed in Edwardsville, Illinois, in December 2021, House Democrats launched inquiries into Amazon’s natural disaster safety procedures as well. Workers at a Staten Island facility voted to unionize for the first time in Amazon’s history on April 1, and union organizers used injury rates and productivity expectations as central pillars of their pro-union campaign.
Amazon did not immediately respond to request for comment.
A collection of heavy-hitter tech companies is dipping a toe — well, actually, more like taking a major plunge — into carbon removal, giving a major signal to researchers, entrepreneurs and other investors in the space that the market has legs.
In a project known as Frontier, Alphabet, McKinsey, Meta, Shopify and Stripe have put forward a $925 million advance market commitment to speed the development of technologies to pull carbon dioxide from the air. The funds will be spent between now and 2030 “to purchase permanent carbon removal from suppliers building promising new solutions,” the group of companies said in a press release.
Carbon dioxide removal is increasingly likely to be a necessity when it comes to averting climate catastrophe. A certain amount of global warming is already locked in by the greenhouse gases that have already been put in the atmosphere, and keeping the temperature increase to within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial temperatures will likely require removing billions of tons of carbon dioxide. But the technology to do so is not ready yet, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report made clear. (The report was also clear we need to be building out renewables right now.)
Enter the advance market commitment, or AMC. It essentially functions as a guarantee of demand to those working on or investing in the technology. The model was originally used to develop vaccines for low-income countries, but it has never been used for carbon removal at scale. But with governments failing to really incentivize carbon removal at this stage of the game or penalize carbon emissions, Frontier could be an important nudge to keep innovation churning while waiting for a larger market to develop to pull carbon from the air.
“With Frontier, we want to send a loud demand signal to entrepreneurs, researchers and investors that there is a market for permanent carbon removal: Build, and we will buy,” said Stripe’s head of Climate Nan Ransohoff.
Frontier will work in two ways. For early-stage suppliers piloting new technologies, it will provide funds by entering into low-volume pre-purchase agreements. And for those ready to scale their technologies, Frontier will facilitate advance purchases between individual buyers and suppliers. Buyers will promise to purchase future tons of carbon removal if and when the suppliers can make it happen, which enables those suppliers to secure financing.
The factors that Frontier will consider as it identifies the technologies worth the investment are fivefold: permanence, physical footprint, cost (and scalability), capacity and environmental justice. Frontier will operate as a subsidiary of the financial services company Stripe, and will also be funded by the businesses purchasing carbon removal via Stripe Climate.
More than 14,000 Etsy workers started striking Monday to protest the company’s hike in transaction fees from 5% to 6.5%.
The fee increase kicks in today, which is why sellers are striking. According to a petition penned by campaign organizer and Etsy seller Kristi Cassidy, the strike aims to “call on Etsy to hold itself accountable to sellers and buyers.” The strike will last from April 11-18.
The petition, addressed to Etsy CEO Josh Silverman, calls on the company to cancel the fee increase, take down resellers who offer “mass-produced goods,” introduce a faster seller support system, allow sellers to opt out of off-platform advertising and end the “Star Seller” program, which was introduced last year and gives sellers a badge if they can keep sales up.
“Etsy has strayed further and further from its founding vision over the years, what began as an experiment in marketplace democracy has come to resemble a dictatorial relationship between a faceless tech empire and millions of exploited, majority-women craftspeople,” Cassidy wrote in the petition, which has been signed by close to 55,000 people as of Monday afternoon.
Etsy COO Raina Moskowitz said in a statement to Protocol that the company is “receptive to seller feedback and, in fact, the new fee structure will enable us to increase our investments in areas outlined in the petition, including marketing, customer support, and removing listings that don’t meet our policies.”
Etsy posted revenue gains of more than 106% in 2020 at $10 billion, and topped those earnings again in 2021 by 31%, raking in over $13 billion. Etsy has also been growing: The company acquired popular resale website Depop for more than $1.6 billion last June, then acquired Elo7, referred to as the “Etsy of Brazil,” less than a month later for $217 million.
Though 18,000 is just a fraction of Etsy’s 5.3 million sellers, the petition also encourages buyers to boycott the site this week, which could have a big effect on the company’s bottom line.
“As individual crafters, makers and small businesspeople, we may be easy for a giant corporation like Etsy to take advantage of,” Cassidy wrote in the petition. “But as an organized front of people, determined to use our diverse skills and boundless creativity to win ourselves a fairer deal, Etsy won’t have such an easy time shoving us around.”
Meta is starting to let some VR content creators make money in Horizon Worlds, its social metaverse platform. A small number of creators will be able to sell virtual items within Horizon, or effectively put parts of their virtual worlds behind a pay gate. Meta will also award goals-based bonuses to some creators if they hit certain engagement metrics.
Mark Zuckerberg announced these new monetization tests in a video recorded in Horizon on Monday afternoon, in which he argued that it was necessary to experiment with these kinds of monetization opportunities to settle on a winning formula. “This will be a really iterative process,” he said. “We’ll see what resonates with the people using the worlds, and then we’ll build the next round of tools.”
Meta’s test will initially be limited to “a handful of creators,” according to a press release. The Horizon monetization tests will be available in the U.S. and Canada, and purchases will be limited to Horizon users who are at least 18 years old.
A screenshot shows an in-world purchase denominated in U.S. dollars. Though Meta has suggested in the past that its cryptocurrency efforts might prove relevant to its metaverse projects, it has more recently focused its financial business, now known as Meta Financial Technologies, on conventional payments for VR environments. That unit’s head, Stephane Kasriel, said the name change signified its plan to “build for the metaverse.”
The company is also hoping to attract more creators to Horizon. Last fall, Meta launched a $10 million fund for Horizon creators, and on Monday the company said that it would start releasing assets to simplify the creation of Horizon worlds.
Amazon has launched a slew of sustainability initiatives over the years with the goal of meeting more ambitious emissions targets than those set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. But the company’s efforts don’t account for Scope 3 emissions — i.e., emissions up and down the supply chain — which results in an “F” grade from some climate accountability groups.
Amazon’s latest climate initiative also doesn’t do anything about Scope 3, but now Alexa device users can make themselves feel a little better about the earth by telling the voice-activated assistant: “Alexa, grow a tree.” Climate crisis solved?
Your smart speaker is obviously not planting any trees. Instead, Amazon has partnered with the nonprofit One Tree Planted to plant trees in Appalachia, northern California, Washington, Oregon and India as part of reforestation initiatives. Every time users ask Alexa to grow a tree, they can donate $1 to the charity to pay for one seedling. Amazon is also donating $1 million to the nonprofit to plant one million trees from April through December 2022.
Tree-planting campaigns have long been a popular way for people to show they care about the earth. Who doesn’t love a good tree-hugging photo op? But research indicates that planting trees is a relatively inefficient way for large companies to actually slow down climate change. Done improperly, invasive species of trees can throw local ecosystems off-kilter. And even if it’s done carefully, trees would need to replace swaths of farmland to slow climate change at scale.
But that doesn’t stop large companies from launching their own tree-planting programs year after year. Salesforce plans to grow 100 million trees by 2030. Samsung aims to plant twice as many trees in Madagascar as Amazon does overall. And Microsoft planted thousands of trees in 2020 through a partnership with Ecosia.
Planting trees is all well and good, but last week’s landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report suggested even more meaningful ways that people can reduce carbon emissions to slow the warmth of our planet. Asking Alexa to donate $1 for a seedling isn’t quite as impactful as, say, using public transit or riding an e-bike.
Coinbase and Bored Ape Yacht Club are teaming up to produce a trilogy of animated short films, featuring Bored Apes as characters. The films will reportedly tie into the crypto exchange’s long-anticipated NFT marketplace launch.
The movies will be helmed by Coinbase’s new entertainment team, and Bored Ape owners can submit their apes for consideration to be cast in the films. The first installment, titled “The Degen Trilogy,” will premiere at NFT.NYC in June. However, after the initial release, users will need a Coinbase wallet and to connect it with the exchange’s site before they can watch the movies, CoinDesk reported.
While BAYC parent company Yuga Labs has deferred direct control over the films’ production to Coinbase, the company will still be indirectly involved, according to Coinbase’s entertainment and culture marketing director, William Swann.
The announcement comes after several weeks of hype around BAYC, after the ApeCoin airdrop last month and the acquisition of rival CryptoPunks by BAYC’s parent company Yuga Labs.
Google employees who have signed concealment clauses can still talk about assault, harassment, discrimination or retaliation they experience at work, the company wrote in a proxy statement ahead of its annual meeting on June 1. It’s the most detailed public statement the company has made regarding these legal protections, which states including California and Washington are beginning to require employers to use in non-disclosure agreements.
Google’s statement came in response to a shareholder proposal that would have required Google to issue a public report studying the impact of concealment clauses on harassment and discrimination claims. Apple recently lost its fight against a similar proposal, after first trying to get the proposal excluded altogether.
In its new proxy statement, Google opposed the proposal, arguing that the company’s NDAs already give employees the flexibility to discuss these kinds of workplace violations. “Specifically, [Google’s] employment agreement provides that ‘nothing in this Agreement limits any right I may have to discuss terms, wages, and working conditions of employment, as protected by applicable law,’” the proxy statement reads. “In addition, its severance and settlement agreements provide that ‘consistent with applicable law, nothing in this Agreement prevents you from disclosing the facts or circumstances underlying your claim or action for sexual assault, sexual harassment, workplace harassment or discrimination, the failure to prevent workplace harassment or discrimination, or retaliation for reporting or opposing harassment or discrimination.’”
The language is similar to text that has recently been written into law in California and Washington state in each’s respective Silenced No More Act. One of the women who inspired and helped craft that law in California, former Pinterest employee Ifeoma Ozoma, has also been a driving force behind the Apple and Google shareholder proposals.
Ozoma told Protocol she is proud of the progress she and her coalition have made in getting Google to state these policies outright. That coalition includes consulting firm Whistle Stop Capital, nonprofit Open MIC and philanthropic group Minderoo Foundation. But Ozoma expressed frustration that Google had slipped this information into a regulatory filing and wasn’t being more public about the rights that employees apparently have. “They have to know that most workers do not pay attention to the annual meeting/proxy season,” Ozoma said.
Google did not immediately respond to Protocol’s request for comment. But what’s written in the proxy statement doesn’t appear to be a change of policy so much as a clear articulation of it. Google told Protocol last year that the company “does not require Googlers or members of its extended workforce to sign a NDA that prohibits someone from disclosing the facts and circumstances underlying such claims,” but the company did not specify how long that had been the case.
Ozoma said Google has been unwilling to be as public about those policies as it was, for instance, when the company ended its policy of forced arbitration in the wake of a sexual misconduct scandal. Going public with these policies, Ozoma argued, is an important part of letting workers know they have those rights to begin with. “Using a statement of opposition in a proxy is just about the worst way to make an announcement that impacts your workforce’s legal ability to speak to unlawful conduct. That is unless, of course, if that’s the point,” Ozoma said.
Still, in making this statement at all, Ozoma said Google has more or less satisfied the requests of her coalition. Ozoma had initially reached out to Google Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker by email last fall, asking the company to consider adopting language from the Silenced No More Act into its own employment and contracting agreements. That strategy didn’t get Ozoma very far, which is why the coalition planned to take the decision to Google shareholders.
Of course, there are some upsides to the fact that these details came out in an SEC filing, not a blog post. Now, it’s a promise to workers that Google is legally bound to keep.
This week could have been another long one for Twitter employees: They were scheduled to berate the company for bringing Elon Musk onto its board in a rare AMA with the controversial board member himself, but the town hall has been canceled now that Musk will no longer join the board, Bloomberg reported.
Twitter planned to hold an “ask me anything” meeting where workers could express their worries about Musk directly to him. Employees have raised concerns internally that Musk could erase some of the progress Twitter has made toward curbing hate speech and misinformation, given his criticism of the platform’s content moderation policies. Those concerns were raised outside of Twitter as well.
Now, employees can breath a sigh of relief (and according to some of their tweets, they are relieved indeed). Musk reportedly decided not to join the board, though reasons why are still unclear, and workers now don’t need to prepare any questions for this AMA. The timing could not be more perfect for the company, which is giving workers Monday off as a monthly day of rest, according to Bloomberg.
But even though the AMA is off, there are still lots of questions about what happens now that Musk won’t join Twitter’s board. The move itself is unsurprising: He would have been beholden to Twitter’s code of conduct as a board member, and his stake would have been limited to 14.9%. Musk’s weekend tweets, in which he suggested everything from converting Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters into a homeless shelter to eliminating advertising from the company’s Twitter Blue subscription service, indicate that the whole conduct thing would’ve been a nightmare. It’s also possible Musk wants to acquire more of the company. The Tesla CEO holds a large stake in Twitter — about 9% — but he’s no longer the company’s biggest shareholder after Vanguard bought an even bigger portion.
Oracle-backed server processor startup Ampere Computing said Monday that it plans to go public, filing initial confidential paperwork with the SEC.
A public listing would give Ampere an infusion of cash and potential access to more investment further down the line via public markets after Oracle has quietly invested $426 million in Ampere, which is run by former Intel president Renée James. The funding will likely aid Ampere’s efforts to carve out a space in the data center for rivals to Intel and AMD, which currently dominate the server market.
The confidential treatment allows Ampere to proceed with the listing process without making significant disclosures around its operations and financial performance in recent years. Some companies file prospectuses and never go public, or end up getting acquired along the way.
Oracle’s latest quarterly earnings report implied that it had taken a 20% to 50% stake in Ampere, based on accounting rules. James sits on Oracle’s board but it stopped treating her as an independent member after Oracle first took a stake in the Silicon Valley company.
Bloomberg News reported in October that Oracle was in talks with SoftBank for a stake that would have valued Ampere at about $8 billion, but that the company didn’t need to raise money at the time.
Ampere designs server chips based on Arm architecture that aim to challenge chips made by Intel and AMD that run on x86-based designs. Microsoft and Oracle are two of Ampere’s larger customers, the latter of which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the startup.
Sometimes, Google is actually happy to go to court.
The search giant filed a lawsuit in California federal court on Monday against a person who allegedly took money for puppies that were never delivered, and it wants you to know it’ll be taking similar action in the future.
The complaint alleges that a person who lives in Cameroon ran a network of websites as part of “multiple international non-delivery scams” that used Google services to communicate or receive payment, particularly for basset hounds and other “adorable puppies.”
The websites “exploit[ed] the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting high demand for puppies in the U.S.,” Google claims, and in addition to violating the company’s terms of service, the puppy operations cost Google “substantial resources in excess of $75,000 to investigate and remediate.”
A request for comment to an email address cited in the complaint as being tied to the puppy websites did not immediately yield a response.
That $75,000 sum is, of course, a mere trifle for Google, and there’s plenty to be gained from publicly trying to punish alleged international scammers and protect would-be pet owners who fell in love with pictures of dogs they would never receive. Puppies may even outrank apple pie in terms of popular causes, and the number of presumably sympathetic dog parents in the U.S. has literally increased by millions thanks to COVID-19.
Still, Google spokesman José Castañeda told Protocol in an email there would be additional consumer-protection lawsuits in the future, designed to bring “more enforcement and attention to other areas of online fraud and scams that especially impact commonly targeted groups like… seniors and veterans.” (One of the people who paid for a puppy and did not receive it appears to have reported her experience through AARP, an organization for Americans age 50 and older.)
Google has also previously sued over botnets and against alleged fraudsters who impersonated the company.
There is, in fact, no scarcity of online fraud — some of it exacerbated by the increased loneliness and time online that have come from the pandemic. In 2021, people lost $770 million in social media scams alone, especially romance hoaxes, according to a recent Federal Trade Commission report. Those figures are way up from prior years, and according to the Better Business Bureau, more than a third of online shopping scam reports in 2021 involved pets.
Fortnite maker Epic Games announced its biggest-ever round of funding on Monday with a $2 billion infusion from existing investor Sony and The Lego Group parent company Kirkbi. Including the new funding, Epic now has a valuation of $31.5 billion.
This is Sony’s third investment in Epic, after it pumped $450 million into the game developer over two separate investments in 2020 and 2021. It’s the first for Kirkbi, right on the heels of a statement last week from Epic and The Lego Group in which the two companies said they were “entering a long-term partnership to shape the future of the metaverse to make it safe and fun for children and families.”
Neither company, however, comes close to owning as much of Epic as Tencent does,. The Chinese gaming and entertainment giant acquired 40% of the company back in 2012 for $330 million, long before Fortnite was released, and Epic’s primary business was its Unreal Engine platform.
It’s unclear why Epic is still seeking funding rounds, given how lucrative Fortnite has been and how much it stands to make with its recently released Unreal Engine 5, which is already become the game engine of choice for major projects under development such as the new Mass Effect from BioWare and CD Projekt Red’s upcoming Witcher game. But it’s clear Epic has grand ambitions around the metaverse and the opportunity game platforms have to shape what it looks like going forward. Partnering with the creator of PlayStation and the company behind Lego will certainly better enable Epic to compete with its major tech competitors, which now include Meta and Microsoft in addition to Apple and Google.
“As we reimagine the future of entertainment and play we need partners who share our vision. We have found this in our partnership with Sony and KIRKBI,” Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said in a statement. “This investment will accelerate our work to build the metaverse and create spaces where players can have fun with friends, brands can build creative and immersive experiences and creators can build a community and thrive.”
Elon Musk will not join Twitter’s board of directors, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said Sunday.
Agrawal announced in a tweet (of course) that the Tesla CEO’s appointment was subject to a “background check and formal acceptance.” Musk’s appointment was set to become effective Saturday, but he told the company he would not be joining the board that morning, Agrawal wrote. The proposal to name Musk to Twitter’s board emerged as he and Twitter discussed his recent accumulation of shares in the company, amounting to a 9.1% stake he belatedly revealed on Monday.
The appointment of a director who had broken securities laws, allowed racism to run rampant at his manufacturing plants, and proposed changes to Twitter that would undermine its progress on moderating hate speech had generated considerable concern among Twitter employees. Management planned to hold a town hall with him to address those concerns. It’s not clear if that meeting will still happen.
As a condition of joining the board, Musk agreed to limit his stake to 14.9%. As a board member, he also would have been bound by Twitter’s code of conduct. Musk, whose past behavior suggests a studied lack of respect for rules, will not have to abide by those ones.
Musk’s recent tweets don’t seem to address his decision not to join the board. He continued to suggest Twitter product changes and proposed that Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters be turned into a homeless shelter.
Musk also found time to violate a nondisparagement agreement he made in the settlement of a lawsuit with Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard, whom he called “pure poison.” (It’s not the first time he breached that agreement.)
In an apparently unrelated development, Musk may no longer be Twitter’s largest shareholder. Mutual fund group Vanguard reported a 10.3% stake in the company as of Friday in a new filing.
SpaceX reportedly received millions from the U.S. for its help in sending terminals for its Starlink internet service to Ukraine, according to The Washington Post.
The United States Agency for International Development paid for 1,333 terminals at $1,500 per terminal, as well as $800,000 in transportation fees for the terminals, totaling $3 million including other costs, according to The Washington Post. In a press release from USAID on April 6 that was later altered to exclude these details, SpaceX donated 3,667 Starlink terminals worth roughly $10 million; USAID purchased the additional 1,333, aerospace reported Joey Roulette tweeted on Wednesday.
The USAID press release now calls the donation a “public-private partnership” rather than a “private sector donation.” It’s currently unclear whether SpaceX sent Ukraine its standard terminals, which retail for $600, or its advanced terminals announced in February, which retail for $2,500, according to The Washington Post.
“The Starlink satellite terminals will enable unlimited, unthrottled data connectivity from anywhere in Ukraine,” the altered press release reads. “The terminals will allow public officials and critical citizen service providers to continue to communicate within Ukraine and with the outside world.”
USAID spokesperson Rebecca Chalif said in a statement to The Washington Post that the donation was “made possible by a range of stakeholders, whose combined contributions valued over $15 million and facilitated the procurement, international flights, ground transportation, and satellite Internet service of 5,000 Starlink terminals.”
The donation was originally sparked by tweets from Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine and its minister of Digital Transformation, in late February asking SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to provide internet service to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion of the country. Musk responded “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.” Starlink terminals first arrived March 1, with a second shipment arriving March 9.
In mid-November, one Doordash share was worth just under $246. Today, it’s worth about $108.
Doordash stock has taken a massive tumble in the new year, and that’s hurting employees’ pocketbooks and retirement plans. According to an internal memo obtained by Business Insider, Doordash plans to offer employees who joined after the 2020 IPO “top-up” equity grants to offset the losses.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen significant differences in the value of equity compensation driven by someone’s start date and the volatility in our stock price,” the memo reads. “Going forward, we are designing a compensation program to ensure that performance is what drives differences in pay — even in the face of stock volatility.”
According to compensation comparison tool levels.fyi, equity makes up anywhere from 23.3% to 55.5% of a software engineer’s total compensation at the company, where 6.25% of stocks vest on a quarterly basis. That’s similar to what employees in similar roles are paid at competitors like Instacart and UberEats, but a slightly higher proportion of equity compared to Big Tech firms like Google and Meta.
Doordash is among a slew of tech stocks that have taken a tumble in the first quarter of the year. Shopify, for example, will increase employee base pay starting in July, after shares have fallen more than 60% since November. It’s also giving employees more flexibility between stock and cash options, according to The Globe and Mail. When Instacart’s valuation fell, the company adjusted an internal accounting measure so that employees were essentially gaining shares at a lower price. Robinhood, Snap, Roku and Uber have also offered increased equity to employees.
According to Pitchbook, the slump is hitting early-stage startups, too. In a survey of VC funding in Q1 of 2022, it found that VCs only invested $70.7 billion over the past three months — the lowest quarter since 2020 — with very few companies choosing to IPO. In contrast to the IPO and SPAC flurry last year, Pitchbook said that poor public market performance is influencing the change in startup funding, too.
Texas belt buckles. Super-sized silver cowboy boots. Drones making a giant Doge in the sky.
Elon Musk offered up several meme-able moments at Thursday’s “Cyber Rodeo” to open Tesla’s Austin Gigafactory. But the one thing Tesla watchers are all talking about is the Cybertruck, which the world’s richest man announced would be available in 2023. Attendees were shown the latest prototype, electrically dropping rear glass and all.
“We can’t wait to build this here,” said Musk as the vehicle rolled onto the stage. “Sorry for the delay, but you’re going to have this next year and it’s going to be great.”
It’s not the first time Musk has made such a promise. He’s been teasing the angular, electric truck since 2019, when he said it would go to market in 2021. As time went on, that became early 2022, then late 2022. In January, Musk told investors that a 2023 delivery was “likely” — not guaranteed. Along the way, the price for the Cybertruck also disappeared from the order page.
But that hasn’t deterred the Tesla true believers, who have been clamoring for the truck since it was announced. Leading up to the evening event, plenty of speculation circulated on Reddit and Twitter that the “cyber” in Cyber Rodeo meant there would be big news about the truck. Now, we have the news, which amounts to a promise on a road littered with them.
There’s no doubt a market for electric trucks. The Ford F-150 is the most popular vehicle in America. While Tesla is the biggest EV seller in the U.S., the Cybertruck delays have allowed other companies to take the lead. Ford, for example, will start selling an electric version of their popular pickup this summer. Reservations for the F-150 Lightning have been so brisk, Ford said in January that it plans to crank out 150,000 of them per year to meet demand. Rivian also released its battery-powered truck late last year with much fanfare, though it’s struggled with production holdups since. An electric Chevy Silverado is also coming soon, and a Hummer EV for some reason. In short, it’s a market growing more crowded by the day and Tesla could well be slipping behind its competitors.
The prototype Tesla let fans examine up close Thursday is clearly far from final. There were large gaps between sheets of steel on the vehicle’s sides, while parts of the interior had low-quality finishes that seemed like placeholders. (Hopefully, anyways, for future Cybertruck owners’ sakes.) It also still had the Model X yoke, with no airbag.
As the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” While Musk’s promise of a 2023 Cybertruck rollout sure sounds nice, it might be a mistake to count on Tesla delivering the goods.