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Big Revolution - Picking sides

Welcome to Monday's newsletter, and thanks to those of you who sent over congratulations on reaching
August 19 · Issue #501 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Monday’s newsletter, and thanks to those of you who sent over congratulations on reaching 500 editions over the weekend. Here’s to the next 500. I’m thinking the format should have a shakeup relatively soon, so if there’s anything you’d like to see added or removed, you can hit reply to any of these emails to send me a note.
— Martin from Big Revolution

Big things you need to know today
  • Tim Cook’s argument to Donald Trump: Apple will lose its edge against South Korea’s Samsung if it continues to suffer sanctions against Chinese imports. Trump says Cook made a good case.
  • Americans who have made money on cryptocurrencies are being chased for unpaid tax. The Internal Revenue Service has received information from crypto exchanges and is cracking down on perceived tax dodging.
The big thought
Hong Kong could be tricky for Twitter. Credit: Florian Wehde on Unsplash
Picking sides
An interesting thread did the rounds over the weekend, looking at how Twitter takes money from Chinese propaganda outfits aiming to discredit the protesters in Hong Kong.
“Here’s the question: a bunch of young people in Hong Kong are standing up to their government, at terrific personal risk, to fight for basic human rights. Will a bunch of Twitter employees, at far less risk, stand up to their CEO and refuse to be used as a weapon against them?”
It’s a question that keeps on coming back, is it possible to run a modern, global, social media platform and avoid picking sides in political disputes?
What’s happening in Hong Kong is a clash of cultures, where Western values are meeting Chinese values in a territory transitioning from one to the other. Taking a standpoint on whether China’s news agency can pay to promote its view against the protesters is about deciding where you stand in the world, because you can’t stand everywhere.
Twitter generally accepts political ads as long as they comply with local election laws. But when those political ads make a stand against values many in the West take as basic tenets of life, the company has to make a decision about where it stands.
“I think there should be congressional hearings on the role of Twitter in advancing a coordinated Chinese disinformation campaign. We are approaching a U.S. election year and need to know what controls and internal safeguards Twitter has, beyond ‘ask the underfed half-time CEO.’”
We’re at a point where I believe many tech companies need to have a political and moral compass from the start. It really is impossible to be everything to everyone because as we see time and time again, these companies must make ostensibly political decisions when they choose to ban certain content.
It’s fine to have a rule banning antisocial behaviour whoever commits it, but if you start to make exceptions for the President, or for a country where acting a certain way might have implications for your business later, or because the group you should really ban makes a noise about your so-called political bias, you’re making a political decision.
If we know where a company stands politically, we know what to expect from it and we won’t get disappointed when it acts a way we don’t like.
One big read
Terrorists Turn to Bitcoin for Funding, and They’re Learning Fast Terrorists Turn to Bitcoin for Funding, and They’re Learning Fast
“The authorities have begun to raise alarms about a steady uptick in the number of militant groups using the hard-to-trace digital currency.”
One big tweet
Alex Konrad
Crazy to think how much we all cared about custom ringers a few years ago... now your phone not being on mute is a good sign you're over 45
1:11 AM - 19 Aug 2019
Is this a real age distinction? (I’m under 45 and just about always have my phone on mute, BTW).
That’s all for today...
Back tomorrow with more. See you in your inbox then.
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