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Jeff Bezos bares all

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Thank you to everyone who pointed out that I messed up the link to The Interface survey yesterday, an
 
February 7 · Issue #286 · View online
The Interface
Thank you to everyone who pointed out that I messed up the link to The Interface survey yesterday, and managed to take it anyway! If you have a couple minutes, I’d appreciate you telling me how we can make this newsletter more useful for you. I swear that link actually works.
So, read any good Medium posts lately?
Every office in Silicon Valley came to a screeching halt around 3P PT on Thursday, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos published a blog post that we will be talking about for years to come. I realize this is not exactly a social networks-and-democracy story: but it is a story about platforms and democracy: how one of the world’s richest men, who owns both one of its most consequential companies and influential newspapers, found himself a target of a close associate of the president of the United States.
It is also a story about how he used two other platforms — Medium and Twitter — to get out ahead of an extortion attempt.
Assuming Bezos wrote this post himself — and it’s extremely hard to imagine him outsourcing the first draft — the first thing to say is that he is a very good writer. (All those years of writing six-page papers before every meeting paid off!)
In a moment that must be extremely stressful, he manages to project an air of calm amusement — and not a small amount of self-satisfaction, that he has got his enemies to put all their oafish demands into writing, where they can be shared with all of us. Bezos also lets slip that he has hired the best person in the world to investigate his enemies, and given that person an unlimited budget with which to pursue his vengeance:
To lead my investigation, I retained Gavin de Becker. I’ve known Mr. de Becker for twenty years, his expertise in this arena is excellent, and he’s one of the smartest and most capable leaders I know. I asked him to prioritize protecting my time since I have other things I prefer to work on and to proceed with whatever budget he needed to pursue the facts in this matter.
The facts leading up to the post’s publication are as complicated as you might guess. Bezos is going through a divorce, and recently the National Enquirer published some intimate texts that he sent to his new girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez. Bezos had his investigators look into how the Enquirer got a hold of these texts, and the team began pursuing a theory that the publication of the texts was politically motivated.
Bezos, after all, owns the Washington Post, and is regularly subject to the Twitter ire of President Donald Trump. The paper has published courageous, path-breaking journalism in the wake of the murder of its columnist, the Saudi Arabian dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
David Pecker, the Trump ally who runs the company behind the Enquirer, reportedly had business interests in Saudi Arabia. And the company, AMI, has been on thin ice legally since entering into an immunity agreement with the federal government last year over payments the president made to silence two women who reported having affairs with Trump. AMI, it seems, was extremely worried about the information that Bezos’s team was digging up, and it was desperate to silence him.
When matters get this complicated, one really has little choice but to write a Medium post about them.
Some immediate takeaways:
  • At a time when Bezos is under fire for lots of good reasons — the Los Angeles Times reported just today that Amazon is likely stealing tips from its delivery workers — the publication of this blog post generated a ferocious amount of goodwill. Almost everyone has nudes, and if you’ve ever worried that someone would leak them you are almost certainly on Bezos’s side here. Revenge porn is wrong, and anyone who blackmails you over your nudes is a goat.
  • The sex columnist Dan Savage has prophesied a day when so many people have had their nudes leak that the threat of them leaking will diminish, and people will no longer have to fear losing their jobs over them. Bezos’s post feels like an important move in that regard — even if the nudes do eventually leak, his move helped to normalize the act of taking them and sharing them. Five years ago, if your nudes got leaked, the blame was generally on you; going forward, the blame is going to be on the jerks that stole them.
  • That said, the goodwill earned by championing the rights of revenge porn victims would not seem to translate naturally into, say, shoring up support among New York lawmakers for your plan to accept many billions of dollars in tax incentives for building a regional office there.
  • This move seems likely to ratchet up tensions between Bezos and Trump, and therefore also between Amazon and the US government, in ways I won’t even try to predict.
  • This was the first good day on Twitter since the 2018 Women’s March. (I told some jokes.)
  • This was the best day on Medium of all time.

A Guide to The Interface
The Interface
Democracy
Facebook ordered to stop combining WhatsApp and Instagram data without consent in Germany
Senators want answers on Facebook and Google’s controversial research apps
How Facebook’s Tiny China Sales Floor Helps Generate Big Ad Money
Google Is Pulling Websites From Searches At Russia's Request
How Misinformation Fueled Anti-Immigrant Sentiment in the Tijuana Border Region
Amazon’s Home Security Company Is Turning Everyone Into Cops
Many popular iPhone apps secretly record your screen without asking
Elsewhere
Twitter finally shared how big its daily user base is — and it’s a lot smaller than Snapchat’s
Facebook is still trying to figure out what teens are interested in
Women Haven’t Given Up on Sheryl Sandberg
I Cut the 'Big Five' Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell
Delay, Deny, and Deal Flow: Two New York Times Reporters Cash in on Seven-Figure Facebook Opus
Snap Lays Off Researchers in Co-Founder Bobby Murphy's Group
TikTok Doubles Down on US with Hire of Veteran YouTube Exec
Launches
Facebook will reveal who uploaded your contact info for ad targeting
Facebook adds new Group tools as it looks for ‘meaningful’ conversations
Facebook to help you donate blood with tool used in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Brazil
Instagram is putting IGTV previews in your main feed
Businesses can now respond to Instagram messages from Facebook, starting in the U.S. and Brazil
Takes
Facebook Would Suffer From User Data Ban in Germany
Now is the time to fix the EU copyright directive
And finally ...
‘What A Crew!’ Comments Man On Instagram Photo Of Fucking Backstabbing Traitors Who Couldn’t Be Bothered To Invite Him To Margarita Night
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions, and your favorite Bezos-related tweets: casey@theverge.com.
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