Twitter makes its political ad ban official

The ban on political ads announced by Twitter two weeks ago has come into effect, and the rules are surprisingly simple — perhaps too simple. No political content as they define it may be promoted; Candidates, parties, governments or officials, PACs, and certain political nonprofit groups are banned from promoting content altogether.

The idea intended to be made manifest in these policies is that “political message reach should be earned, not bought,” as the company puts it. It’s hard to argue with that (but Facebook will anyway). The new rules apply globally and to all ad types.

It’s important to make clear at the outset that Twitter is not banning political content, it is banning the paid promotion of that content. Every topic is fair game and every person or organization on Twitter can pursue their cause as before — they just can’t pay to get their message in front of more eyeballs.

In its briefly stated rules, the company explains what it means by “political content”:

We define political content as content that references a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome.

Also banned are:

Ads that contain references to political content, including appeals for votes, solicitations of financial support, and advocacy for or against any of the above-listed types of political content.

That seems pretty straightforward. Banning political ads is controversial to begin with, but unclear or complicated definitions would really make things difficult.

A blanket ban on many politically-motivated organizations will also help clear the decks. Political action committees, or PACs, and their deep-pocketed cousins the SuperPACs, are banned from advertising at all. That makes sense, since what content would they be promoting other than attempts to influence the political process? 501(c)4 nonprofit organizations, not as publicly notorious as PACs but huge spenders on political causes, are also banned.

There are of course exemptions, both for news organizations that want to promote coverage of political issues, and “cause-based” content deemed non-political.

The first exemption is pretty natural — although many news organizations do have a political outlook or ideological bent, it’s a far cry from the practice of donating millions directly to candidates or parties. But not just any site can take advantage — you’ll have to have 200,000 monthly unique visitors, make your own content with your own people, and not be primarily focused on a single issue.

The “cause-based” exemption may be where Twitter takes the most heat. As Twitter’s policy states, it will allow “ads that educate, raise awareness, and/or call for people to take action in connection with civic engagement, economic growth, environmental stewardship, or social equity causes.”

These come with some restrictions: They can only be targeted to the state, province, or region level — no zip codes, so hyper-local influence is out. And politically-charged interests may not be targeted, so you can’t send your cause-based ads just to “socialists,” for example. And they can’t reference or be run on behalf of any of the banned entities above.

But it’s the play in the definition that may come back to bite Twitter. What exactly constitutes “civic engagement” and “social equity causes”? Perhaps these concepts were only vaguely defined by design to be accommodating rather than prescriptive, but if you leave an inch for interpretation, you’d better believe bad actors are going to take a mile.

Clearly this is meant to allow promotion of content like voter registration drives, disaster relief work, and so on. But it’s more than possible someone will try to qualify, say, an anti-immigrant rally as “public conversation around important topics.”

I asked Twitter whether additional guidance on the cause-based content rules would be forthcoming, but a representative simply pointed me to the very language I quoted.

That said, policy lead at Twitter Vijaya Gadde said that the company will attempt to be transparent with its decisions on individual issues and clear about changes to the rules going forward.

“This is new territory,” she tweeted. “As with every policy we put into practice, it will evolve and we’ll be listening to your feedback.”

And no doubt they shall receive it — in abundance.

This ride-hailing PR pitch shows platforms and digital campaign ‘dark arts’ want democracy to be pay to play

A UK PR firm pitching to run an account for Ola has proposed running a campaign to politicize ride-hailing as a tactic to shift regulations in its favor.

The approach suggests that, despite the appearance of ride-hailing platforms taking a more conciliatory position with regulators that are now wise to earlier startup tactics in this space, there remains a calculus involving realpolitik, propaganda and high-level lobbying between companies that want to enter or expand in markets, and those who hold the golden tickets to do so.

In 2017 Estonia-based ride-hailing startup Taxify tried to launch in London ahead of regulatory approval, for example, but city authorities clamped down straight away. It was only able to return to the UK capital 21 months later (now known as Bolt).

In Western markets ride-hailing companies are facing old and new regulatory roadblocks that are driving up costs and creating barriers to growth. In some instances unfavorable rule changes have even led companies to pull out of cities or regions all together. Even as there are ongoing questions around the employment classification of the drivers these platforms depend on to deliver a service.

The PR pitch, made by a Tufton Street-based PR firm called Public First, suggests Ola tackle legislative friction in UK regions with a policy influence campaign targeted at local voters.

The SoftBank-backed Indian ride-hailing startup launched in the U.K. in August, 2018 and currently offers services in a handful of regional locations including South Wales, Merseyside and the West Midlands. Most recently it gained a licence to operate in London, and last month launched services in Coventry and Warwick — saying then that passengers in the UK had clocked up more than one million trips since its launch.

Manchester is also on its target list — and features as a focus in the strategy proposal — though an Ola spokesman told us it has no launch date for the city yet. The company met with Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, during a trade mission to India last month.

The Public First proposal suggests a range of strategies for Ola to get local authorities and local politicians on-side, and thus avoid problems in potential and future operations, including the use of engagement campaigns and digital targeting to mobilize select coalitions around politicized, self-serving talking points — such as claims that public transport is less safe and convenient; or that air quality improves if fewer people drive into the city — in order to generate pressure on regulators to change licensing rules.

Another suggestion is to position the company less as a business, and more as an organization representing tens of thousands of time-poor people.

Public First advocates generally for the use of data- and technology-driven campaign methods, such as microtargeted digital advertising, as more effective than direct lobbying of local government officials — suggesting using digital tools to generate a perception that an issue is politicized will encourage elected representatives to do the heavy lifting of pressuring regulators because they’ll be concerned about losing votes.

The firm describes digital campaign elements as “crucial” to this strategy.

“Through a small, targeted online digital advertising campaign in both cities, local councillors’ email inboxes would begin to fill with requests from a number of different people (students, businesses, and other members of [a commuter advocacy group it proposes setting up to act as a lobby vehicle]) for the local authority to change its approach on local taxi licensing — in effect, to make it easier for Ola to launch,” it offers as a proposed strategy for building momentum behind Ola in Manchester and Liverpool.

Public First confirmed it made the pitch to Ola but told us: “This was merely a routine, speculative proposal of the sort we generate all the time as we meet people.”

“Ola Cabs has no relationship whatsoever with Public First,” it added.

A spokesperson for Ola also confirmed that it does not have a business relationship with Public First. “Ola has never had a relationship with Public First, does not currently have one and nor will it in the future,” the spokesman told us.

“Ola’s approach in the UK has been defined by working closely and collaborating with local authorities and we are committed to being fully licensed in every area we operate,” he added, suggesting the strategy it’s applying is the opposite of what’s being proposed.

We understand that prior to Public First pitching their ideas to a person working in Ola’s comms division, Ola’s director of legal, compliance and regulation, Andrew Winterton, met with the firm over coffee — in an introductory capacity. But that no such tactics were discussed.

It appears that, following first contact, Public First took the initiative to draw up the strategy suggesting politicizing ride-hailing in key target regions which it emailed to Winterton but only presented to a more junior Ola employee in a follow-up meeting the legal director did not attend.

Ola has built a major ride-hailing business in its home market of India — by way of $3.8BN in funding and aggressive competition. Since 2018 it has been taking international steps to fuel additional growth. In the U.K. its approach to date has been fairly low key, going to cities and regional centers outside of high-profile London first, as well as aiming to serve areas with big Indian populations to help recruit riders and drivers.

It’s a strategy that’s likely been informed by being able to view the track record of existing ride-hailing players — and avoid Uber-style regulatory blunders.

The tech giant was dealt a major shock by London’s transport regulator in 2017, when TfL denied it a licence renewal — citing concerns over Uber’s approach to passenger safety and corporate governance, including querying its explanation for using proprietary software that could be used to evade regulatory oversight.

The Uber story looks to be the high water mark for blitzscaling startup tactics that relied on ignoring or brute forcing regulators in the ride-hailing category. Laws and local authorities have largely caught up. The name of the game now is finding ways to get regulators on side.

Propaganda as a service

The fact that strategic proposals such as Public First’s to Ola are considered routine enough to put into a speculative pitch is interesting, given how the lack of transparency around the use of online tools for spreading propaganda is an issue that’s now troubling elected representatives in parliaments all over the world. Tools such as those offered by Facebook’s ad platform.

In Facebook’s case the company provides only limited visibility into who is running political and issue-based ads on its platform. The targeting criteria being used to reach individuals is also not comprehensively disclosed.

Some of the company’s own employees recently went public with concerns that its advanced targeting and behavioral-tracking tools make it “hard for people in the electorate to participate in the public scrutiny that we’re saying comes along with political speech”, as they put it.

At the same time, platforms providing a conduit for corporate interests to cheaply and easily manufacture ‘politicized’ speech looks to be another under-scrutinized risk for democratic societies.

Among the services Public First lists on its website are “policy development”, “qualitative and quantitative opinion research”, “issues-based campaigns”, “coalition-building” and “war gaming”. (Here, for example, is a piece of work the firm carried out for Google — where its analysis-for-hire results in a puffy claim that the tech giant’s digital services are worth at least $70BN in annual “economic value” for the UK.)

Public First’s choice of office location, in Tufton Street, London, is also notable as the area is home to an interlinked hub of right-leaning think tanks, such as the free market Center for Policy Studies and pro-Brexit Initiative for Free Trade. These are lobby vehicles dressed up as policy wonks which put out narratives intended to influence public opinion and legislation in a particular direction without it being clear who their financial backers are.

Some of the publicity strategies involved in this kind of work appear to share similarities with tactics used by Big Tobacco to lobby against anti-smoking legislation, or fossil fuel interests’ funding of disinformation and astroturfing operations to create a perception of doubt around consensus climate science.

“A lot of what used to get sold in this space essentially was access [to policymakers],” says one former public relations professional, speaking on background. “What you’re seeing an increasingly amount of now is the ‘technification’ of that process. Everyone’s using those kinds of tools — clearly in terms of trying to understand public sentiment better and that kind of thing… But essentially what they’re saying is we can set up a set of politicized issues so that they can benefit you. And that’s an interesting change. It’s not just straight defence and attack; promote your brand vs another. It’s ‘okay, we’re going to change the politics around an issue… in order to benefit your outcome’. And that’s fairly sophisticated and interesting.”

Mat Hope, editor of investigative journalism outlet DeSmog — which reports on climate-related misinformation campaigns — has done a lot of work focused on Tufton Street specifically, looking at the impact the network’s ‘policy-costumed’ corporate talking points have had on UK democracy.

“There is a set of organisations based out of offices in and around 55 Tufton Street in Westminster, just around the corner from the Houses of Parliament, which in recent years have had an outsized impact on British democracy. Many of the groups were at the forefront of the Leave campaign, and are now pushing for a hard or no-deal Brexit,” he told us, noting that Public First not only has offices nearby but that its founders and employees “have strong ties to other organisations based there”.

“The groups regularly lobby politicians in the interests of specific companies or big industry through the guise of grassroots or for-the-people campaigns,” he added. “One way they do this is through targeting adverts or social media posts, using groups with benign sounding names. This makes it hard to trace the campaign back to any particular company, and gives the issue an impression of grassroots support that is, on the whole, artificial.”

Platform power without responsibility

Ad platforms such as Facebook which profit by profiling people offer cheap yet powerful tools for corporate interests to identify and target highly specific sub-sets of voters. This is possible thanks to the vast amounts of personal data they collect — an activity that’s finally coming under significant regulatory scrutiny — and custom ad tools such as lookalike audiences, all of which enables behavioral microtargeting at the individual user/voter level.

Lookalike audiences is a powerful ad product that allows Facebook advertisers to upload customer data yet also leverage the company’s pervasive people-profiling to access new audiences that they do not hold data on but who have similar characteristics to their target. These so-called lookalike audiences can be tightly geotargeted, as well as zeroed in on granular interests and demographics. It’s not hard to see how such tools can be applied to selectively hit up only the voters most likely to align with a business’ interests.

The upshot is that an online advertiser is able to pay little to tap into the population-scale reach and vast data wealth of platform giants — turning firehose power against individual voters who they deem — via focus group work or other voter data analysis — to be aligned with a corporate agenda. The platform becomes a propaganda machine for manufacturing the appearance of broad public engagement and grassroots advocacy for a self-interested policy change.

The target voter, meanwhile, is most likely none the wiser about why they’re seeing politicized messaging. It’s that lack of transparency that makes the activity inherently anti-democratic.

The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee raised Facebook’s lookalike audiences as a risk to democracy during a recent enquiry into online disinformation and digital campaigning. It went on to recommend an outright ban on political microtargeting to lookalike audiences online. Though the UK government has so far failed to act on that or its fuller suite of recommendations. (Nor has Facebook responded to increasingly loud calls from politicians and civic society to ban political and issue ads altogether.)

Even a code of conduct published by the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) emphasizes transparency — with member organizations committing to “be open and transparent in declaring their name, organisation and the interest they represent”. (Albeit, the IPRA’s member list is not itself public.)

While online targeting of social media users remains a major problem for democracies, on account of the lack of transparency and individual consent to targeting (or, indeed, to data-based profiling), in recent years we’ve also seen more direct efforts by companies to use their own technology tools to generate voter pressure.

Examples such as ride-hailing giant Uber which, under its founding CEO, Travis Kalanick, became well known for a ‘push button’ approach to mobilizing its user base by sending calls to action to lobby against unfavorable regulatory changes.

Airbnb has also sought to use its platform-reach to beat against local authority rule changes that threaten its ‘home sharing’ business model.

However it’s the opaque tech-fuelled targeting enabled by ad platforms like Facebook that’s far more problematic for democracies as it allows vested interests to generate self-interested pressure remotely — including from abroad — while remaining entirely shielded from view.

Fixing this will require regulatory muscle to enforce existing laws around personal data collection (at least where such laws exist) — and doing so in a way that prevents microtargeting from being the cheap advertising default. Democracies should not allow their citizens to be mirrored in the data because it sets them up to be hollowed out; their individuals aggregated, classified and repackaged as all-you-can-eat attention units for whoever is paying.

And likely also legislation to set firm boundaries around the use of political and campaigning/issue ads online. Turning platform power against the individual is inherently asymmetrical. It’s never going to be a fair fight. So fair ground rules for digital political campaigning — and a proper oversight regime to enforce them — are absolutely essential.

Another democratic tonic is transparency. Which means raising awareness about tech-fuelled tactics that are designed to generate and exploit data-based asymmetries in order to hack and manipulate public opinion. Such skewed stuff only really works when the target is oblivious to what’s afoot. In that respect, every little disclosure of these ‘dark arts’ and the platforms that enable them provides a much-needed counter boost for critical thinking and democracy.

Can America ever rebuild its neighborhoods and communities?

We talk a lot about startup ecosystems around these parts, and for good reason. Strong ecosystems have great reservoirs of talent congregated close together, a culture built around helping one another on ambitious projects, and sufficient risk capital to ensure that interesting projects have the resources to get underway.

Strip off the ecosystem layer though, and you are left with the actual, physical manifestation of a city or region — its housing, its transportation and mobility options, and its infrastructure. And if Charles Marohn’s Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity is any indication, a whole heck of a swath of America has little hope of ever tapping into the modern knowledge economy or creating the kind of sustainable growth that builds “Strong Towns.”

Across the country, Marohn sees evidence of what he dubs a “Municipal Ponzi scheme.” Cities — armed with economic development dollars and consultants galore — focus their energies and budgets on new housing subdivisions as well as far-flung, auto-dependent office parks and strip malls, all the while ignoring the long-term debt, maintenance costs, and municipal burdens they are transferring to future generations of residents. “The growth creates an illusion of wealth, a broad, cultural misperception that the growing community is become [sic] stronger and more prosperous. Instead, with each new development, they become increasingly more insolvent,” the author writes.

He provides a multitude of examples, but few are as striking as that of Lafayette, Louisiana:

As one example, the city of Lafayette, Louisiana, had 5 feet of pipe per person in 1949. By 2015, that had grown to 50 feet, an increase of 1,000%. They had 2.4 fire hydrants per 1,000 people in 1949, but by 2015, they had 51.3. This is a 2,140% increase. Over the same period, median household income in Lafayette grew just 160% from an inflation-adjusted $27,700 to $45,000. And if national trends hold locally in Lafayette, which they almost certainly do, household savings decreased while personal debt skyrocketed. Lafayette grew its liabilities thousands of times over in service of a theory of national growth, yet its families are poorer.

The author contextualizes just how weird the modern American suburb and community is in the grand sweep of human history, where co-location, walkability, and human-scale density weren’t just norms, but necessities. The lack of thoughtful, dynamic planning that allows cities to adapt and evolve over time eventually comes to tear at the vitality of the town itself. “Only the richest country in the world could build so much and make such poor use of it.”

Marohn has spent decades in urban planning and also runs Strong Towns, a non-profit advocacy organization that tries to create more sustainable cities by attempting to guide the urban planning conversation toward better models of adaptable growth. He brings an authority to the topic that is heartening, and the book is absolutely on the right vector on how to start to think about urban planning going forward.

In addition to his discussions around municipal finance, he makes the critical connections between urban planning and some of the most pressing challenges facing America today. He notes how the disintegration of tight-knit communities has exacerbated issues like drug abuse and mental health, and how the focus on big-box retail development has undermined smaller-scale entrepreneurship.

Even more heartening in some ways is that the solutions are seemingly so easy. For example, one is to simply account for the true, long-term costs of infrastructure and economic development dollars, properly accounting for “value per acre.”

Yet, the flaws in the book are manifold, and I couldn’t help but shake my head on numerous occasions at the extent to which movements to improve urban planning always seem to shudder on the weight of reality.

Nowhere are those flaws more glaring than over the actual preferences of the residents of these cities themselves. As anyone who lives in San Francisco or Palo Alto understands, there is a serious contingent of NIMBYs who consistently vote against housing and density regardless of its effects on inequality or urban quality. Kim-Mai Cutler wrote one of the definitive pieces on this topic five years ago right here at TechCrunch, and yet, all these years later, the same dynamics still animates local politics in California and across the world.

The prescriptions offered in Strong Towns are not only correct, they are almost incontestable. “Instead of prioritizing maintenance based on condition or age, cities must prioritize based on financial productivity,” Marohn writes. Public dollars should be spent on the highest-impact maintenance projects. Who is really against that?

But, people are, as evidenced by city council meetings all across the United States and the simple ground truth that cities don’t spend their dollars wisely. Whether your issue is housing, or climate change, or economic development, or inequality, the reality is that residents vote, and their voices are heard. That leads to Marohn writing:

As a voter, as a property owner within a municipal corporation, as a person living cooperatively with my neighbors in a community, I can respect that some people prefer development styles that are financially ruinous to my city. My local government should not feel any obligation to provide those options, particularly at the price points people expect.

Yet, what should one do if 70-80% of a city’s voters literally want to jump off the proverbial cliff?

Ultimately, should cities be responsive to their own voters? If San Francisco refuses to build more transit-oriented development and in the process exacerbates the climate change literally setting the Bay Area on fire, shouldn’t the damn voters burn straight to the ground?

Marohn, who talks over several pages of his political evolution from Republican to complex libertarian communalist, never faithfully addresses this core problem with the Strong Towns thesis, or indeed, the entire activism around urban politics today. “American culture spends a lot of time debating what should be done, but hardly any time discussing who should make the decision,” he writes. But we do — we did — discuss who makes the decisions, and our political systems actively respond to those decision-makers: local voters.

American towns are in a perilous state – and that is precisely what people demanded and received. Marohn criticizes the planning profession for its lack of municipal sustainability, but seemingly is willing to substitute one group of far-flung experts with another to override the locals, presumably just with a different (better?) set of values.

In the final analysis, Strong Towns the book gets the fundamentals right. But will it change minds? I’m doubtful. It certainly doesn’t offer a clear guidebook on how local leaders can start to educate their neighbors and build the kinds of voter blocs required to get local, democratic change on these issues. Ultimately, the book feels like a smaller footnote to the worthy work of Strong Towns the organization, which ultimately will drive the activity needed to build change on these issues.

Exclusive: Tony Blair on regulating Big Tech, Facebook, Russia, China and Brexit

As history tells us, the break-up of “Big Oil” and “Big Telco” in the past led to more competition and innovation. What to do in the era of “Big Tech?” Living in 2019, we know more than ever before about how Big Tech, particularly in the shape of Facebook, Twitter and Google — as the prime arbiters of information and social media online — have shaped and affected politics today. At the same time, we’re about to face several huge sea-changes in the global system, not least of which will be the next U.S. election, Brexit, the rise of China and challenges of the climate crisis.

Speaking at Web Summit in Lisbon this week, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair brought out a new report from the Institute which bears his name to address the turmoil of Western politics from the prism of the backlash against globalisation after the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the rise of populist movements and the effects technology is having on society, politicians and policymakers.

A policy framework designed for the offline world may have served many people well for many decades, but in an age of exponential technology, is it fit for purpose?

Platform companies like Facebook, aggregators like Google, Amazon and Uber have, says the Institute, stripped traditional gatekeepers of their power, delivered real progress for consumers and businesses and increased many freedoms. But they have also brought significant economic upheaval and heightened cultural pressures, along with huge unknowns about the future. The tech wolf has also now concentrated power in the hands of a relatively small number of companies that “all too often wield it clumsily and without sufficient legitimacy.”

This comes at a time when the West’s lead on technology is “facing a clear and present challenge from determined Russian aggression and a concerted push from China to take a global lead in AI.”

Blair’s Institute makes it plain in its new report (“A New Deal for Big Tech: Next-Generation Regulation Fit for the Internet Age”) that the current set of regulations designed for legacy industries is “a poor fit for the pace and scale of the Internet” and a new approach, based on stronger accountability coupled with more freedom to innovate, might be the best way to align private incentives with the public interest.

Blair is calling for a “new generation of regulator” that can take an international outlook, have technical expertise comparable with the big tech companies and be fluent in the same fundamentals of “Big Tech.”

But how? How is all this going to operate? What are Blair’s views on Russia, disinformation on Facebook and Twitter, and whether tech will have an effect on the outcome of Brexit?

TechCrunch sat down with Mr Blair for the following, exclusive, interview.

 

Mike Butcher (MB): You’ve released this new report into regulating Big Tech. Do you want to outline its main thrust?

Tony Blair (TB): Essentially what we’re saying is: there’s no way “big tech” is going to avoid regulation, and regulation that will treat them almost like public utilities because of their power, their reach and their impact. But the question is about getting the right form of regulation. So what we’re trying to do is to make sure that it’s the kind of regulation of big tech that recognizes that [big tech has] actually brought enormous benefits to people, but at the same time protects people, whether it’s on issues around privacy, competition [and] making sure that consumers get adequate access — all of those types of things — and translate this into a set of proper principles. What I say to the big tech companies is that even though you may not want to have a lot to do with politics, as you can see — and I’ve been saying this for several years to them — it’s going to come your way. Because you’re just too powerful not to be under some system of objective regulation, and you can’t just regulate yourselves.

MB: On that note, many big tech companies have actually called for regulation, but do you think that’s a “sop” to governments in order to allow them to build even bigger monopolies? Because then everybody will have to be regulated, including smaller companies?

TB: I think the whole point about regulation is that it can be bad or it can be good. So you really want to make sure that the regulation you’re introducing is not an imposition on the companies for providing the service they do, but it is giving people proper protection and it’s recognizing, as I say, the power that these companies have. People won’t find it acceptable that things continue without proper regulation. The fact that Mark Zuckerberg comes out in favor of regulation… I mean, I think that’s good. But the question is what type of regulation. And there, obviously, he and Facebook should have an input. But they can’t decide that. That’s — in the end — got to be decided by policymakers. And one thing my institute — which Chris [Chris Yiu, executive director, Technology and Public Policy] heads up, which is based in London but has strong links in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the world — is to say there needs to be a dialogue between what I call the “change-makers” and the policy-makers that leads to good policy.

MB: But national governments making policy on their own surely isn’t going to address the issue, given Big Tech is global? What institutions can address this? Some sort of supranational body?

TB: Well, I think, ultimately, on certain issues you’ll need a global agreement. For example cybersecurity, I think we’ll, for sure, need that.

MB: There’s no “United Nations Declaration” for arms control on cybersecurity for instance.

TB: The one thing I’m noticing about cyber, even in the last year… the number of people I meet whose companies have been subject to actual attacks… In the end, if every country is going to want to protect its business and every country will recognize ultimately that if the big players don’t come together and agree some rules then… I mean, it’s just anarchy.

In regards to regulation, I would like to see Europe and America create a new transatlantic partnership around regulation. This is one of the reasons I’m so opposed to Brexit… You are taking Britain out of that conversation with Europe at the very time that it needs to be in it.

MB: The pace of change at this point is now exponential. The rise of AI, quantum computing etc. Politicians have known about the rapid, changing nature of technology for a number of years. What do you think has been stopping them from grappling with the subject?

TB: It’s partly generational. It’s partly because politicians don’t often understand the technology. It is actually technical. It requires hard work. Some of it is like rocket science. It’s not easy. So that’s part of the problem. And the other problem is that I think the change-makers — the tech developers — their basic attitude, often, to government, is just to just “keep away from it.” And I completely get it. But it’s not sensible. They’ve got to engage with government today, and that’s why we’re trying, through the Institute, to establish that dialogue. And you know, if that doesn’t happen, you’ll find, as we did during the 19th-century industrial revolution, how long it took politics to catch up with the fact that the world was being revolutionized. It took decades to catch up. For a long time, society was subject to one change, and politics was still debating things that were from a different era. I mean, if you look at British politics today, with this debate where, on one side is Brexit, one on the other side is — basically — who spends more money in the next Parliament… we could have had this debate at any point in the last 30 years. It’s got no relevance, really, to how the world’s changing.

MB: Are you concerned about how social media has enabled populism?

TB: Yes, I think social media is a revolutionary phenomenon and it’s revolutionized everything, including politics. And we’ve got to work out ways of dealing with that because it is rupturing politics in a serious way.

The problem is that political leaders are always trying to “step out in front,” but not so much that they lose touch with their people. So that’s a calibration, all the time, between leadership and listening. If the “listening” part of it becomes “instrumentalized” through social media, then the risk is that politicians just lose their compass. They don’t know where they’re going, they are just buffeted by waves of opinion. And then, if you’re not careful, what happens is that the people who rise to the top in those circumstances are the people who ride that.

MB: Should Twitter shut down Trump’s account?

TB: Well how’s that going to help? I mean, honestly, I don’t think that’s relevant.

MB: Facebook has said it’s going to be changing its policy on political advertising, and won’t be regulating disinformation on political ads. What’s your opinion on that?

TB: My opinion is that it’s very hard, if you’re Facebook, to stop people having political ads. But, to me, the the whole concept that Facebook is “self patrolling” as to what should come on the internet or not, is an indication of why you need proper regulation. The decision as to whether something’s fit for consumption or not shouldn’t be left to a few thousand people employed by Facebook, you know, sitting and looking at crazy stuff on Facebook all day. I mean, this is to me just a further indication of why you’ve got to put everything within a proper system of regulation. Otherwise, it’s not actually fair to ask the company to do that. How can they decide what is a political ad or not? But someone should.

MB: What do you think of Twitter’s decision not to take any political advertising?

TB: In some ways I understand that, and in some ways I welcome that, but I think Facebook’s in a slightly different position just in terms of scale, right?

MB: China is deploying technology in its society at a huge, exponential rate, in terms of things like facial recognition and the surveillance of its population. Its ability to hoover-up all this data is effectively giving it enormous power to create, possibly, the next, powerful AI, because the more data you have the more you can improve an AI. Do you think that the Western approach, with its tradition of more democratic institutions that have moved more slowly than a command-and-control system, means that we are effectively going to be left behind by political systems that err towards the more dictatorial?

TB: Well I think there’s a huge debate that’s going to go on about China, more generally, in the West, which is what I call the debate about whether you “decouple.” Do you accept that there’s two systems that are going to remain very distinct, also in technology? This is part of what underpins the Huawei debate regarding 5G. Or do you try to get to what Henry Kissinger calls a form of “cooperative competition?” Now, I prefer the latter, not the former course, because I think decoupling is very difficult. But, what that means, in my view, is that the West has got to get its act together, because otherwise China will achieve superiority in AI and, in some regards, it already is. If you think of all the devices that we use in the West that are Chinese… You can see this with [the rise of] TikTok, for instance.

MB: The U.K. general election is now on and people are using technology to “get out the vote.” There is a lot of talk about “tactical voting” and lots of tactical voting recommendation websites appearing. Do you favour any particular approach?

TB: So, here’s where technology obviously has a beneficial purpose. If people decide that they want to vote tactically — and I completely understand that because of Brexit being mixed up [in the election], and frankly, dissatisfaction with both main parties — then web sites that tell you how to do that intelligently and provide the information, then… great. You’ve got ones from Best For Britain, People’s Vote, Gina Miller has one and there are others. Yeah, fine, people should look at them I think.

MB: Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has been prevented by Number 10 from releasing its intelligence report and it allegedly contains information about how Russia affected British politics and society using technological means in the last few years. What are your concerns about Russia’s incursion into U.K. politics using technology?

TB: I think this is not just a Russian question, although there’s been a lot of focus on what Russia has done. You’ve got to put all of this out on the table and I think, again, Western governments should be cooperating together to say… if there is outside interference — and I don’t really know the scale of it because you’ve got to go into the detail — how people are influencing media, how people are using techniques to try and influence voters, from the outside, trying to destabilize your politics… all of it should be out in the open. Because that’s the best way of stopping it, and then you can take action against people who are doing it. But this is another reason why I think this is a slightly different form of cybersecurity, if you like, but it’s somewhat akin to it. Because, in the end, if you’ve got people, for example, changing their votes — particularly in tight-run elections — changing their votes on the basis of misinformation that’s coming from a foreign government that’s deliberately trying to destabilize your politics, then at least you should know about it. Now, this is going to be a big big issue for the future.

Disinformation ‘works better than censorship,’ warns internet freedom report

A rise in social media surveillance, warrantless searches of travelers’ devices at the border, and the continued spread of disinformation are among the reasons why the U.S. has declined in internet freedom rankings, according to a leading non-profit watchdog.

Although Freedom House said that the U.S. enjoys some of the greatest internet freedoms in the world, its placement in the worldwide rankings declined for the third year in a row. Last year’s single-point drop was blamed on the repeal of net neutrality.

Iceland and Estonia remained at the top of the charts, according to the rankings, with China and Iran ranking with the least free internet.

The report said that digital platforms, including social media, have emerged as the “new battleground” for democracy, where governments would traditionally use censorship and site-blocking technologies. State and partisan actors have used disinformation and propaganda to distort facts and opinions during elections in dozens of countries over the past year, including the 2018 U.S. midterm elections and the 2019 European Parliament elections.

“Many governments are finding that on social media, propaganda works better than censorship,” said Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.

Freedom House’s 2019 internet freedom rankings. (Image: Freedom House)

Disinformation — or “fake news” as described by some — has become a major headache for both governments and private industry. As the spread of deliberately misleading and false information has become more prevalent, lawmakers have threatened to step in to legislate against the problem.

But as some governments — including the U.S. — have tried to stop the spread of disinformation, Freedom House accused some global leaders — including the U.S. — of “co-opting” social media platforms for their own benefit. Both the U.S. and China are among the 40 countries that have expanded their monitoring of social media platforms, the report said.

“Law enforcement and immigration agencies expanded their surveillance of the public, eschewing oversight, transparency, and accountability mechanisms that might restrain their actions,” the report said.

The encroachment on personal privacy, such as the warrantless searching of travelers’ phones without court-approved warrants, also contributed to the U.S.’ decline.

Several stories in the last year revealed how border authorities would deny entry to travelers for the content of social media posts made by other people, following changes to rules that compelled visa holders to disclose their social media handles at the border.

“The future of internet freedom rests on our ability to fix social media,” said Adrian Shahbaz, the non-profit’s research director for technology and democracy.

Given that most social media platforms are based in the U.S., Shahbaz said the U.S. has to be a “leader” in promoting transparency and accountability.

“This is the only way to stop the internet from becoming a Trojan horse for tyranny and oppression,” he said.

Daily Crunch: Twitter is banning political ads

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Jack Dorsey says Twitter will ban all political ads

Arguing that “internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse,” CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter will be banning all political advertising — albeit with “a few exceptions” like voter registration.

Not only is this a decisive move by Twitter, but it also could increase pressure on Facebook to follow suit, or at least take steps in this direction.

2. Apple beats on Q4 earnings after strong quarter for wearables, services

Apple’s iPhone sales still make up over half of its quarterly revenues, but they are slowly shrinking in importance as other divisions in the company pick up speed.

3. Facebook shares rise on strong Q3, users up 2% to 2.45B

More earnings news: Despite ongoing public relations crises, Facebook kept growing in Q3 2019, demonstrating that media backlash does not necessarily equate to poor business performance.

4. Driving license tests just got smarter in India with Microsoft’s AI project

Hundreds of people who have taken the driver’s license test in Dehradun (the capital of the Indian state of Uttarakhand) in recent weeks haven’t had to sit next to an instructor. Instead, their cars were affixed with a smartphone that was running HAMS, an AI project developed by a Microsoft Research team.

5. Crunchbase raises $30M more to double down on its ambition to be a ‘LinkedIn for company data’

Good news for our friends at Crunchbase, which got its start as a part of TechCrunch before being spun off into a separate business several years ago. CEO Jager McConnell also says the site currently has tens of thousands of paying subscribers.

6. Deadspin writers quit after being ordered to stick to sports

The relationship between new management at G/O Media (formerly Gizmodo Media Group/Gawker Media) and editorial staff seems to have been deteriorating for months. This week, it turned into a full-on revolt over auto-play ads and especially a directive that Deadspin writers must stick to sports.

7. What Berlin’s top VCs want to invest in right now

As we gear up for our Disrupt Berlin conference in December, we check in with top VCs on the types of startups that they’re looking to back right now. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Zuckerberg defends political ads that will be 0.5% of 2020 revenue

As Jack Dorsey announced his company Twitter would drop all political ads, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg doubled-down on his policy of refusing to fact check politicians’ ads. “At times of social tension there has often been an urge to pull back on free expression . . . We will be best served over the long term by resisting this urge and defending free expression.”

Still, Zuckerberg failed to delineate between freedom of expression, and freedom of paid amplification of that expression which inherently favors the rich.

During today’s Q3 2019 earnings call where Facebook beat expectations and grew monthly users 2% to 2.45 billion, Zuckerberg spent his time defending the social network’s lenient political ad policy. You can read his full prepared statement here.

One clear objective was to dispel the idea that Facebook was motivated by greed to keep these ads. Zuckerberg explained “We estimate these ads from politicians will be less than 0.5% of our revenue next year.” For reference, Facebook earned $66 billion in the 12 months ending Q3 2019, so Facebook might earn around $330 million to $400 million in political ads next year. Unfortunately, it’s unclear if Zuckerberg meant 0.5% of ads were political or just from politicians without counting issue ads and PACs.

Zuckerberg also said that given Facebook removed 50 million hours per day of viral video watching from its platform to support well-being which hurt ad viewership and the company’s share price, Facebook clearly doesn’t act solely in pursuit of profit.

We just shared our community update and quarterly results. Here’s what I said on our earnings call. — Before we…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Facebook’s CEO also tried to bat down the theory that Facebook is allowing misinformation in political ads to cater to conservatives or avoid calls of bias from them. “Some people say that this is just all a cynical political calculation and that we’re acting in a way that we don’t really believe because we’re just trying to appease conservatives” he said, responding that “frankly, if our goal was that we’re trying to make either side happy then we’re not doing a very good job because I’m pretty sure everyone is frustrated.” 

Instead of banning political ads, Zuckerberg voiced support for increasing transparency about how ads look, how much is spent on them, and where they’re run. “I believe that the better approach is to work to increase transparency. Ads on Facebook are already more transparent than anywhere else. We have a political ads archive so anyone can scrutinize every ad that’s run.” 

He mentioned that political ads are run by “Google, YouTube, and most internet platforms”, seeming to stumble for a second as he was likely prepared to cite Twitter too until it announced it would drop all political ads an hour earlier. He omitted that Pinterest and TikTok have also banned political ads.

It doesn’t help that hundreds of Facebook’s own employees have called on their CEO to change the policy. He concluded that no one could accuse Facebook of not deeply thinking through the question and its downstream ramifications. Zuckerberg did leave himself an out if he chooses to change the policy, though. “I’ve considered whether we should not [sell political ads] in the past, and I’ll continue to do so.”

Dorsey had tweeted that “We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.” Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed support for Twitter’s move while Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale called it “a very dumb decision”

Twitter’s CEO took some clear swipes at Zuckerberg, countering his common arguments for allowing misinformation in politician’s ads. “Some might argue our actions today could favor incumbents. But we have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow.” Given President Trump had outspent all Democratic candidates on Facebook ads as of March of this year, it’s clear that deep-pocketed incumbents could benefit from Facebook’s policy.

trump 2020 facebook ads 1558042973182 facebookJumbo v10 1 1

Trump continues to massively outspend Democratic rivals on Facebook ads. Via NYT

Miming Facebook’s position, Dorsey tweeted “It‘s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!”

Twitter doesn’t earn much from political ads, citing only $3 million in revenue from the 2018 mid-term elections, or roughly 0.1% of its $3 billion in total 2018 revenue. That means there will be no major windfall for Facebook from Twitter dropping political ads. But now all eyes will be on Facebook and Google/YouTube. If Sundar Pichai and Susan Wojcicki move in line with Dorsey, it could make Zuckerberg even more vulnerable to criticism.

$330 million might not be a big incentive for Facebook or Zuckerberg, but it still sounds like a lot of money to earn from ads that potentially lie to voters. I respect Facebook’s lenient policy when it comes to speech organically posted to users, organizations, or politicians’ own accounts. But relying on the candidates, press, and public to police speech is dangerously idealistic. We’ve seen how candidates will do anything to win, partisan press will ignore the truth to support their team, and the public aren’t educated or engaged enough to consistently understand what’s false.

Zuckerberg greatest mistakes have come from overestimating humanity. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to bring the world closer together. Without safeguards, Facebook’s tools can help tear it apart. It’s time for Facebook and Zuckerberg to recognize the difference between free expression and paid expression.

Jack Dorsey says Twitter will ban all political ads

CEO Jack Dorsey just announced, via tweet, that Twitter will be banning all political advertising — albeit with “a few exceptions” like voter registration.

“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey said.

While it’s not totally clear how broad those exceptions will be, it sounds like the ban will apply to both ads endorsing candidates and ads advocating a position on political issues.

Dorsey said the company will share the final policy by November 15, and that it will start enforcing that policy on November 22.

“Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes,” he wrote. “All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”

So why not continue accepting ads while trying to stamp out misinformation? He argued that the company “needs to focus our efforts on the root problems, without the additional burden and complexity taking money brings.”

A blanket policy could also help Twitter avoid the headache and controversy of making these determinations of truthfulness on a case-by-case basis.

This comes after Facebook, in particular, has faced heavy criticism around its refusal to fact-check political advertising (even as it took steps to fight election-related misinformation elsewhere), with Facebook employees writing an open letter objecting to the company’s stance.

At the same time, one of the ads that prompted the recent controversy — in which the Trump campaign promoted a conspiracy theory about Joe Biden — also ran on YouTube and Twitter (and on some TV networks, although CNN refused to air it).

So even though the discussion has focused on Facebook, the broader questions of permissiveness and responsibility are ones that all the major internet platforms have to face.

Over the summer, in fact, Twitter said it would start blocking state-run media outlets from running ads on its platform after it identified an operation to “sow political discord” around the protests in Hong Kong, which involved hundreds of accounts linked to the Chinese government.

The idea that Facebook should just ban all political ads is a solution that’s been floated by a number of pundits, including our own Josh Constine. Before today, that might have seemed like an extreme or unrealistic step. Suddenly, it looks much more possible — or at least like Mark Zuckerberg will have to keep answering questions about this for a while.

Dorsey didn’t mention Facebook by name in his tweets, but he seemed to allude to the company’s position when he wrote, “For instance, it‘s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want! 😉'”

It’s also interesting that Twitter chose to announce this just as Facebook released its latest earnings report.

Dorsey also acknowledged that Twitter is “a small part of a much larger political advertising ecosystem,” but he said, “We have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow.”

In a statement, eMarketer senior analyst Jasmine Enberg said the move is “in stark contrast to Facebook,” but also noted “it’s likely that political advertising doesn’t make up a critical part of Twitter’s core business.”

Github removes Tsunami Democràtic’s APK after a takedown order from Spain

Microsoft-owned Github has removed the APK of an app for organizing political protests in the autonomous community of Catalonia — acting on a takedown request from Spain’s military police (aka the Guardia Civil).

As we reported earlier this month supporters of independence for Catalonia have regrouped under a new banner — calling itself Tsunami Democràtic — with the aim of rebooting the political movement and campaigning for self-determination by mobilizing street protests and peaceful civil disobedience.

The group has also been developing bespoke technology tools to coordinate protest action. It’s one of these tools, the Tsunami Democràtic app, which was being hosted as an APK on Github and has now been taken down.

The app registers supporters of independence by asking them to communicate their availability and resources for taking part in local protest actions across Catalonia. Users are also asked to register for protest actions and check-in when they get there — at which point the app asks them to abide by a promise of non-violence (see point 3 in this sample screengrab):

image1 2 1

Users of the app see only upcoming protests relevant to their location and availability — making it different to the one-to-many broadcasts that Tsunami Democràtic also puts out via its channel on the Telegram messaging app.

Essentially, it’s a decentalized tool for mobilizing smaller, localized protest actions vs the largest demos which continue to be organized via Telegram broadcasts (such as a mass blockade of Barcelona airport, earlier this month).

A source with knowledge of Tsunami Democràtic previously told us the sorts of protests intended to be coordinated via the app could include actions such as go-slows to disrupt traffic on local roads and fake shopping sprees in supermarkets, with protestors abandoning carts filled with products in the store.

In a section of Github’s site detailing government takedowns the request from the Spanish state to remove the Tsunami Democràtic app sits alongside folders containing historical takedown requests from China and Russia.

“There is an ongoing investigation being carried out by the National High Court where the movement Tsunami Democràtic has been confirmed as a criminal organization driving people to commit terrorist attacks. Tsunami Democràtic’s main goal is coordinating these riots and terrorist actions by using any possible mean,” Spain’s military police write in the letter sent to Github.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment on Github’s decision to remove the app APK.

In a note about government takedowns on Github’s website it writes:

From time to time, GitHub receives requests from governments to remove content that has been declared unlawful in their local jurisdiction. Although we may not always agree with those laws, we may need to block content if we receive a valid request from a government official so that our users in that jurisdiction may continue to have access to GitHub to collaborate and build software.

“GitHub does not endorse or adopt any assertion contained in the following notices,” it adds in a further caveat on the page.

The trigger for the latest wave of street demonstrations in Catalonia were lengthy jail sentences handed down to a number of Catalan political and cultural leaders by Spain’s Supreme Court earlier this month.

These were people involved in organizing an illegal independence referendum two years ago. The majority of these Catalan leaders were convicted for sedition. None were found guilty of the more serious charge of rebellion — but sentences ran as long as 13 years nonetheless.

This month Spanish judges also reissued a European arrest warrant seeking to extradite the former leader of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, from Brussels to Spain to face trial.  Last year a court in Germany refused his extradition to Spain on charges of rebellion or sedition — only allowing it on lesser grounds of misuse of public funds. A charge which Spain did not pursue.

Puigdemont fled Catalonia in the wake of the failed 2017 independence bid and has remained living in exile in Brussels. He has also since been elected as an MEP but has been unable to take up his seat in the EU parliament after the Spanish state moved to block him from being recognized as a parliamentarian.

Shortly after the latest wave of pro-independence demonstrations took off in Catalonia the Tsunami Democràtic movement’s website was taken offline — also as a result of a takedown request by the Spanish state.

The website remains offline at the time of writing.

While the Tsunami Democràtic app could be accused of encouraging disruption, the charge of “terrorism” is clearly overblown. Unless your definition of terrorism extends to harnessing the power of peaceful civil resistance to generate momentum for political change. 

And while there has been unrest on the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan towns and cities this month, with fires being lit and projectiles thrown at police, there are conflicting reports about what has triggered these clashes between police and protestors — including criticism of the police response as overly aggressive vs what has been, in the main, large but peaceful crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators.

The police response on the day of the 2017 referendum was also widely condemned as violently disproportionate, with scenes of riot gear clad police officers beating up people as they tried to cast a vote.

Local press in Catalonia has reported the European Commission response to Spain’s takedown of the Tsunami Democràtic website — saying the pan-EU body said Spain has a responsibility to find “the right balance between guaranteeing freedom of expression and upholding public order and ensuring security, as well as protecting [citizens] from illegal content”.

Asked what impact the Github takedown of the Tsunami Democràtic app’s APK will have on the app, a source with knowledge of the movement suggested very little — pointing out that the APK is now being hosted on Telegram.

Similarly, the content that was available on the movement’s website is being posted to its 380,000+ subscribers on Telegram — a messaging platform that’s itself been targeted for blocks by authoritarian states in various locations around the world. (Though not, so far, in Spain.)

Another protest support tool that’s been in the works in Catalonia — a live-map for crowdsourcing information about street protests which looks similar to the HKlive.maps app used by pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong — is still in testing but expected to launch soon, per the source.

This is the gig worker ballot initiative Uber, Lyft and DoorDash are backing

A group of Lyft, Uber and DoorDash drivers are announcing a statewide ballot measure for the November 2020 ballot this morning in Sacramento. Called the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act — funded by Uber, Lyft and DoorDash — the measure aims to ensure drivers and couriers can continue to be independent contractors with flexible work hours.

The ballot measure looks to implement an earnings guarantee of at least 120% of minimum wage while on the job, 30 cents per mile for expenses, a healthcare stipend, occupational accident insurance for on-the-job injuries, protection against discrimination and sexual harassment, and automobile accident and liability insurance.

This initiative is a direct response to the legalization of AB-5, the gig worker bill that will make it harder for the likes of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig economy companies to classify their workers as 1099 independent contractors.

“The new law could take this flexibility away – potentially eliminating hundreds of thousands of work opportunities and forcing app-based drivers into rigid employment schedules whether they prefer it or not,” the group wrote in a Q&A. “Furthermore, if rideshare and delivery drivers are forced to be classified as employees with set shifts, it could significantly limit the availability and affordability of these on-demand services that benefit consumers, small businesses and our economy.”

However, as driver and protest organizer Annette Rivero previously told TechCrunch’s Greg Epstein, “AB5 doesn’t take away anybody’s flexibility, it’s the companies that take away the flexibility. Because I know that that’s something that everyone’s stuck on right now, and it’s a lie. There’s no truth to it.”

In August, Uber, Lyft and DoorDash each put $30 million toward this ballot initiative. Following the passage of AB-5, Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West said Uber would be willing to put additional money toward the initiative, and plans to keep defending its worker model.

On the other side of this battle is Gig Workers Rising, an organization with hundreds of gig workers who have consistently demanded better pay, workplace protections and driver-led unions.

“This is yet another example of corporations and billionaires trying to exempt themselves from the democratic process by using wealth and fear tactics,” Gig Workers Rising organizer and driver Edan Alva said in a statement. “For years, these companies have refused to pay drivers fairly or treat us with respect. After working 80 hour weeks, sleeping in our cars and surviving on poverty wages, drivers organized and won support for AB5 from both the public and lawmakers. Now, instead of obeying the law, Uber, Lyft and Doordash want to spend $90 million to avoid accountability – all while claiming it will “protect” drivers. Uber and Lyft were nowhere to be found for the past many years when drivers like me needed healthcare or basic labor protections. We call on the people of California to resist the corporate lies, to stand with drivers and against the billionaires.”

Coming up next week, Gig Workers Rising along with other organizations are protesting outside the homes of those who will cash out from Uber’s IPO.

I’ve reached out to Uber, Lyft and DoorDash and will update this story if I hear back.