California’s net-neutrality rules clear major hurdle as Biden’s DOJ abandons its efforts to block them

GettyImages 974049450 An internet speed test website is seen on a mobile device in this photo illustration on June 11, 2018 in Warsaw, Poland. With the American Federal Communications Commission having repealed law's that protect consumers from companies themselves determining internet speeds, the so called net neutrality rules fears arise that the internet will more and more resembel cable TV where a handful of big companies dominate broadcasting. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
  • The DOJ dropped its legal challenge to California’s net-neutrality rules on Monday.
  • California lawmakers passed the rules in 2018 after Trump’s FCC overturned Obama-era rules.
  • This is a reversal from the Trump administration’s fight against popular net-neutrality policies.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Department of Justice has dropped its legal challenge to California’s net-neutrality rules, the agency said in a court filing on Monday.

The move clears a major hurdle that had prevented the state’s rules from going into effect, and represents a significant departure from the Trump administration’s approach to internet policy.

After the Trump-led Federal Communications Commission voted in 2017 to repeal widely popular Obama-era net-neutrality protections at the federal level, California lawmakers passed a law the following year that aimed to restore some of those protections within its own borders.

But the Trump administration challenged California’s rules, as did internet providers including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter Communications (their legal challenge is pending, and a hearing is scheduled for February 23).

Read more: Everything you need to know about California’s tough net neutrality bill

The Biden administration’s decision to abandon the fight against net neutrality, which comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s nomination of acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel, signals it may take a tougher approach to companies that provide Americans with internet access.

“I am pleased that the Department of Justice has withdrawn this lawsuit,” Rosenworcel said in a press release.

“When the FCC, over my objection, rolled back its net-neutrality policies, states like California sought to fill the void with their own laws. By taking this step, Washington is listening to the American people, who overwhelmingly support an open internet, and is charting a course to once again make net neutrality the law of the land,” she said.

Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the overwhelming majority of Americans – including both Republicans and Democrats – support net neutrality, a policy that prevents internet providers like AT&T and Comcast from “throttling” customers’ internet speeds or forcing certain websites to pay more for “fast lanes.”

In addition to fighting net neutrality, the Trump administration mostly deregulated the industry. Under former FCC chair Ajit Pai’s leadership, the agency faced criticism for being overly friendly toward the companies under its purview, doing little to improve Americans’ internet speeds or ability to access the internet in the first place.

Despite industry arguments that deregulation promotes innovation and cost savings that benefit consumers, the US recently fell out of the top 10 countries for internet speeds globally, according to a report from DecisionData.org, and Americans still pay far more for that service.

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Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is the latest major tech founder to step down as CEO. Here’s what others are up to now.

jeff bezos
Jeff Bezos poses with a Pikachu doll and drill in 1999.

  • Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is stepping down as the company’s CEO.
  • Bezos was among the few founders of major tech companies still running their “startups.”
  • Here’s what the former founder-CEOs of Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants are up to now.

Jeff Bezos started Amazon in his garage in 1994 as a way to sell books online. In 26 years as its CEO, he transformed the company into a behemoth in ecommerce, web services, logistics, robotics, groceries, AI, media, and more. 

On Tuesday, Bezos said he will step down as CEO in the third quarter of 2021, passing the reins to Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy and taking a backseat as executive chairman of Amazon’s board of directors.

Before the pandemic hit, Bezos had spent several years mostly focused on long-term projects. and said in his letter to employees Tuesday that he plans to shift that focus to “other passions” like his space startup Blue Origin, philanthropies (Day 1 Fund and Earth Fund), and The Washington Post, which he acquired in 2013.

Bezos’ plans track closely with those of other high-profile tech founders who ran, and eventually left, their own startups-turned-tech-giants to pursue pet projects and philanthropic endeavors.

He was also one of the few remaining founder-CEOs of a generation of tech companies born in the past 50 years that played major roles in bringing computers, the internet, ecommerce, and social networking to the masses. That shrinking crowd still includes Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO and cofounder Jack Dorsey, and Netflix co-CEO and cofounder Reed Hastings.

But Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others have since bid farewell to the founders who had led their companies for years. Here’s what those tech icons are up to now.

Apple cofounder Steve Jobs died in 2011.

Steve Jobs
Apple cofounder Steve Jobs in 1979.

After Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in 1976, the company had a long line of CEOs. Jobs was eventually ousted after a failed board takeover in 1985, before returning in 1996 with a successful board takeover, eventually transforming the struggling company into the $2.3 trillion giant it is today.

Jobs left Apple in early 2011 as his health deteriorated, turning over the reins to CEO Tim Cook. Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in October 2011.

Wozniak, who left Apple in 1985 but is still technically an employee and is paid $50 per week, has since started multiple companies. Most recently, he launched a cryptocurrency business that helps companies raise money for eco-friendly projects, according to CNBC.

Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates is working on global health initiatives through his philanthropy.

Bill Gates 1998
Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates in 1979.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen cofounded Microsoft in 1975, and by the time Gates stepped down as CEO in 2000, he had helped build the company into such a dominant player in the tech industry that it became the subject of one of the biggest antitrust cases ever.

Gates stayed on the company’s board until March 2020, when he said he would focus full-time on his philanthropic work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has pledged to give away a majority of his wealth within his lifetime — though he and 75% of signatories of the “Giving Pledge” have actually become wealthier since signing on.

Gates has for years focused on global health and warned about the dangers of pandemics, and the Gates Foundation has poured $1.75 billion into coronavirus-related causes.

 

Google cofounder Larry Page is working on secretive flying-car startups.

Larry Page (L), Co-Founder and President, Products, and Sergey Brin, Co-Founder and President, Technology, at Google's campus headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Google, the popular Internet search engine company, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 29, 2004 to raise as much as $2.72 billion in its long-awaited stock market debut. They founded the company in 1998. (Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images)
Google cofounder Larry Page in 2003.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google in 1998, and Page led the company until 2001, when Eric Schmidt was brought in as “adult supervision.” But Page stepped back in as CEO in 2011 and eventually became the CEO of its parent company Alphabet in 2015, working mostly on “moonshot” projects and recruiting talented people.

Page and Brin stepped down as Alphabet CEO and President in December 2019, with then-Google CEO Sundar Pichai taking over, though both remain on the board. Page has since focused mostly on his investments in flying-car startups Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk.

eBay founder Pierre Omidyar has invested in media, social impact fintech startups, and a basic income experiment.

GettyImages 799286 F 343440 11: Chairman and founder Pierre Omidyar and CEO Meg Whitman of EBay.com, the online auction service. California, June 15, 1998. (photo by James D. Wilson / Liaison Agency) ***EXCLUSIVE***
eBay founder Pierre Omidyar in 1998.

Pierre Omidyar launched Auction Web, which ultimately became eBay, in 1995. The company eventually brought in Meg Whitman as CEO in 1998, and Omidyar stayed on the company’s board until September 2020.

After leaving day-to-day operations at eBay, Omidyar — a Hawai’i resident — started a local investigative journalism outlet, the Honolulu Civil Beat, and founded First Look Media, a digital journalism company that owns The Intercept. He also launched a $300 million fund to back social impact-focused fintech startups, and has given to a range of philanthropic causes, including basic income and pandemic response.

 

AOL co-founder and CEO Steve Case got into venture capital and philanthropy.

America Online Inc chairman Steve Case talks to reporters at a Tokyo hotel April 14. In Tokyo to announce the launch of AOL's online service in Japan, Case said he expects the Japanese market to become the largest market outside of the United States of AOL's online services. Case declined to comment on market rumours of merger talks with CompuServe Corp, an affiliate of H&R Block Inc. JAPAN ONLINE
AOL co-founder Steve Case in 1997.

America Online, known to most people as AOL, was founded from the ashes of its short-lived predecessor, Control Video Corporation, by Jim Kimsey, Marc Seriff, and Steve Case.

Case ran AOL from 1991 until 2001, when the company completed its — ultimately ill-fated — merger with Time Warner, becoming chairman of the combined company until resigning that position in 2003 amid criticism from investors.

After leaving AOL’s board outright in 2005, Case launched a venture capital firm, Revolution, that has focused on funding startups outside of Silicon Valley. He has also launched a philanthropic foundation and chairs the board of the Smithsonian Institute.

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Google will pay $2.6 million to workers over claims its hiring and pay practices were biased against women and Asians

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Google is seen at an office building in Zurich, Switzerland July 1, 2020.   REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
Logo of Google is seen at an office building in Zurich

Google has reached a deal with the US Department of Labor, requiring it to pay nearly $2.6 million in back wages to thousands of workers over claims that the company’s pay and hiring practices illegally disadvantaged women and Asians.

Google must also review its pay and hiring practices, conduct a gender pay equity study, and provide updates about its progress toward closing the gender pay gap as part of the deal, which was signed on January 15 and made public by the DOL on Monday. 

The department said that as part of an audit of several Google locations in Washington state, California, and New York, it had identified “preliminary indicators” that Google had failed to comply with a 1965 executive order that bars discrimination in the pay and hiring of federal contractors.

That audit revealed early evidence suggesting that, between 2014 and 2017, Google had paid female engineers at its Mountain View, California, as well as Seattle and Kirkland, Washington, locations “less than comparable male employees,” according to the DOL.

The agency also found evidence suggesting Google had discriminated against female and Asian applicants for engineering jobs at its San Francisco and Sunnyvale, California, locations as well as at the Kirkland facility.

“We believe everyone should be paid based upon the work they do, not who they are, and invest heavily to make our hiring and compensation processes fair and unbiased,” Google spokesperson Jennifer Rodstrom told Insider in a statement.

“For the past eight years, we have run annual internal pay equity analysis to identify and address any discrepancies. We’re pleased to have resolved this matter related to allegations from the 2014-2017 audits and remain committed to diversity and equity and to supporting our people in a way that allows them to do their best work,” Rodstrom added.

In total, around 2,565 women who worked at Google are eligible for back pay over wage discrimination allegations, while around 2,976 women and Asian applicants for Google jobs are eligible for back pay as a result of the alleged hiring discrimination.

In return for agreeing to the DOL’s “early resolution,” Google won’t have 39 of its facilities audited by the agency for five years, though the agency can still bring legal action if Google violates the agreement.

Google has faced allegations of racial and gender bias previously, including an ongoing class-action lawsuit over gender bias claims, and more recently, an employee rebellion over the company’s dismissal of AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Microsoft president Brad Smith candidly confesses politics are pay-to-play in response to criticism over the company’s donations to lawmakers who objected to US election results

microsoft brad smith
Microsoft president Brad Smith.

Microsoft CEO Brad Smith offered his employees a candid take this week on why the company gives money to politicians, shedding light on the heated debate over how corporate America should respond to GOP-led efforts to overturn the results of the US presidential election.

“It plays an important role. Not because the checks are big, but because the way the political process works,” Smith said, according to CNBC. “Politicians in the United States have events, they have weekend retreats, you have to write a check and then you’re invited and participate.”

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

After 147 Republican members of Congress challenged states’ Electoral College votes earlier this month, on the same day protesters violently broke into the US Capitol in a deadly riot, America’s biggest companies – and political spenders – faced criticism for their financial support of the lawmakers who had for months undermined confidence in the election.

One of those companies was Microsoft, which has given more than $178,000 to 61 those lawmakers through its political action committee, MSPAC, during the latest election cycles – the third-most among S&P 500 companies.

Read more: Joe Biden touts transparency, but his presidential inauguration spending remains a money mystery as organizers won’t disclose who’s cashing in

Microsoft temporarily paused all of its MSPAC contributions following pushback from employees. But as critics noted, the company hasn’t specifically committed to stop funding the lawmakers who attempted to overturn the election results – despite Smith signing a letter denouncing those efforts – effectively penalizing lawmakers who upheld the principles espoused in the letter.

Smith argued to employees on Thursday that the contributions are still important because they get Microsoft’s lobbyists access to politicians, which helps them build relationships so the lawmakers are more receptive when Microsoft wants to lobby them on an issue.

“If you work in the government affairs team in the United States, you spend your weekends going to these events; you spend your evenings going to these dinners, and the reason you go is because the PAC writes a check,” Smith said, according to CNBC.

Smith added that the relationships built at these events make it more likely lawmakers will be receptive when he calls them to ask for their help on employees’ immigration cases, as well as “issues around national security, or privacy, or procurement reform. Or the tax issues our finance team manages.”

However, Smith didn’t acknowledge contributions that companies give to candidates who are up for election and depend on those contributions to help them get – or stay – in power. In 2020 alone, Microsoft gave $88,000 to lawmakers up for election who eventually objected to Electoral College results.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: GitHub is facing employee backlash after the firing of a Jewish employee who suggested ‘Nazis are about’ on the day of the US Capitol siege

Microsoft has come under fire from employees over its political support and government work before, and briefly paused its contributions in 2019 before quietly resuming them again just months later, according to Geekwire.

Smith’s comments provided a more direct acknowledgment than most executives typically give about how American politics are often “pay-to-play” – particularly following the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United that allowed companies to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence politics.

But they also came at a time when companies are facing unprecedented pressure from employees, customers, and shareholders, to rethink which candidates they support, who they do business with, and the positions they take on important national issues.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Corporate America is pausing its financial support for the 147 GOP lawmakers who challenged Biden’s victory. Here are all the S&P 500 companies who gave them money – and then stopped.

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (center) and Josh Hawley (top) led the GOP effort to challenge Electoral College votes on January 6, which was interrupted as Trump supporters attempted to violently overturn Biden's victory.
  • S&P 500 companies gave $23 million to the 147 GOP lawmakers who contested Electoral College results.
  • After GOP efforts to overturn Biden’s victory led to violence, some companies paused their support.
  • Here’s a list of how much each corporate PAC had given and whether they’ve paused contributions.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On January 6, Congress convened a joint session to formally certify President Joseph Biden’s Electoral College victory, but it was quickly interrupted by a group of Republican objectors who argued, based on little more than conspiracy theories, that Congress shouldn’t proceed because there had been widespread election fraud.

In total, 147 Republicans – roughly 55% of the GOP lawmakers in Congress – objected to certifying the results of at least one state’s Electoral College vote.

But that long-shot effort to overturn democratic election results was itself interrupted by pro-Trump rioters who – citing the same election fraud conspiracies – stormed the US Capitol building in an attempt to violently keep Trump in power, forcing members of Congress to evacuate, leaving five dead and dozens injured.

In the wake of the failed insurrection, corporate America found itself facing backlash for its extensive financial support of Trump and the lawmakers whose repeated amplification of election fraud conspiracies helped fuel the violence.

Political Action Committees backed by S&P 500 companies gave more than $23 million to the 147 GOP election objectors during the most recent campaign cycles (2020 for House members; 2016 and 2018 for senators), according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Critics, from activists to shareholders to other executives, have argued the contributions helped those lawmakers get elected and stay in power, giving them the platform they used to undermine voters’ faith in the election (which Trump’s former top cybersecurity official called “the most secure in American history“).

Read more: Democrats are plotting the death – and rebirth – of a hamstrung Federal Election Commission now that they’ll control the White House and both chambers of Congress

But following reporting from Popular Information and other media outlets, many companies began rethinking their political contributions.

Companies’ commitments have varied widely, however.

Few have permanently blacklisted election objectors, and as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the largest contributions typically happen right before, not after elections, leaving the door open for companies to resume their support once the public’s attention has turned elsewhere. Others have paused all PAC contributions, potentially allowing them to benefit from the positive PR without having to explicitly condemn – or risk alienating – more than half of the Republicans in Congress.

Still, dozens have issued public statements or internal memos announcing they will at least pause contributions while they reevaluate how they use their money to influence politics.

Here’s a list of the S&P 500 companies – some of the largest and most influential businesses in the US – how much they gave to the 147 election objectors in the latest election cycles through their corporate PACs, and whether they’ve pulled their support.

Do you work for one of these companies and have information about how they’re responding to recent events? We’d love to hear how they’re navigating the current political landscape. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal ( +1 503-319-3213 ), email (tsonnemaker@insider.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker ). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please. 

 

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Expensify CEO slams corporate America’s response to the Capitol riots: ‘Defending the free market does not mean standing by as people destroy it’

David_Barrett_Expensify_BI
David Barrett.

  • Expensify CEO David Barrett slammed corporate America’s response to the attacks on the US Capitol.
  • Barrett told Insider that defending free markets requires first defending democracy.
  • He also told Protocol most CEOs are “cowards” for refusing to take those stands.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As more companies publicly condemn the violent attacks on the US Capitol and pause their financial support for the lawmakers who helped fuel an attempted insurrection, Expensify CEO David Barrett has harsh words for the holdouts.

“Most CEOs, it’s not that they’re bad people, they’re just cowards. They’re like, ‘yeah, I would like to take a stand, but I can’t because of investors, customers and things like this,'” he told Protocol in an interview Tuesday.

“It basically comes down to, ‘I care more about hitting the next quarter results than preventing a civil war,’ which is so f—ed up. They’re more afraid of their investors than they are of militants,” Barrett said, according to Protocol.

Barrett gained attention in October when he emailed Expensify’s 10 million customers urging them to vote for then-candidate Joe Biden, and defending the move by saying: “Expensify depends on a functioning society and economy; not many expense reports get filed during a civil war.”

Read more: ‘Anything less than a vote for Biden is a vote against democracy’: Expensify’s CEO tells us why the company emailed 10 million customers urging them to vote for Biden

The move stood in stark contrast to companies like Facebook, Google, and Coinbase that had sought to crack down on political discussions internally.

But Barrett told Insider in an interview Tuesday that when it comes to actions as extreme as the attempted insurrection earlier this month by supporters of President Donald Trump, or Republican lawmakers’ attempts to overturn democratic election results, “we’re all obligated to step in.”

That’s especially the case for business leaders, he added, arguing that their companies depend on free markets to be successful and free markets depend on a functioning democracy.

“It’s important for us to step in to defend the pillars of democracy – free speech, access to information, access to services, fair voting, and things like this – in order to maintain that free market,” he said. “We need to defend the free market itself, which cannot be separated from democracy, but defending the free market does not mean standing by as people destroy it.”

Barrett praised companies’ decisions to pause their political contributions to the 147 Republicans who tried to challenge the Electoral College results, but added that those actions only matter if they’re “sustained.”

“Anyone who voted against certifying the results should probably be blacklisted from politics … like, you can’t be part of a democracy and then openly despise it,” he said. “We need to make it overwhelmingly clear to our elected leaders that that is unacceptable. And I think that business owners, CEOs, business leaders, employees, everyone needs to speak with a united voice that democracy is more important than anything else.”

While dozens of major corporations have suspended those political contributions, several have cut all ties to Trump, and one even called on Vice President Mike Pence to remove Trump from office by invoking the 25th Amendment, few companies have committed to permanently cutting financial ties with anti-democratic lawmakers.

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Parler claims it was also dropped by Slack after Amazon and other tech giants cut ties with the controversial social media company

Parler
This illustration picture shows social media application logo from Parler displayed on a smartphone with its website in the background.

  • Parler CEO John Matze claimed in a court filing Wednesday that Slack had “canceled their services” to his company.
  • Matze claimed, in a lawsuit against Amazon’s AWS over its decision to cut ties with Parler, that Slack had cited “a violation of their own terms of service based on AWS’s decision to drop Parler.”
  • “Losing Slack makes it extremely difficult to effectively enforce our terms of service with our almost 600 volunteer and paid Jury members,” Matze said.
  • Major tech companies including Amazon, Twilio, Apple, and Google have cut ties with Parler in recent days amid widespread reports that rioters used the app to organize and incite violence at the US Capitol last week.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Slack has joined the growing list of tech companies refusing to do business with Parler, according to Parler CEO John Matze.

“Slack Technologies, which provided a chat messaging system for coordinating with the Parler Jury that enforces our terms of service, abruptly canceled their services to Parler,” Matze claimed in a court filing Wednesday.

Slack did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Matze submitted the filing as part of Parler’s antitrust lawsuit against Amazon’s cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services.

Parler filed the lawsuit on Monday after AWS cut ties with the controversial social media company amid widespread reports that rioters who seized the US Capitol last week had used Parler to organize and incite violence.

“AWS’s highly publicized break… allowed the media to mischaracterize Parler in ways that have alienated Parler’s partners,” Matze claimed, adding that, in canceling its contract with Parler, Slack cited “a violation of their own terms of service based on AWS’s decision to drop Parler.”

“Losing Slack makes it extremely difficult to effectively enforce our terms of service with our almost 600 volunteer and paid Jury members,” Matze said in the filing.

Parler has faced massive fallout in the wake of last week’s violence as various business partners have cut ties.

Apple and Google removed Parler’s app from their app stores, also citing its alleged refusal to take down violent content. Not long afterward, many of Parler’s service providers, including Twilio, Okta, and Zendesk, removed Parler from their platforms as well.

Parler’s platform was knocked offline over the weekend after AWS suspended its contract, and with Google Cloud, IBM, and Oracle all refusing to take on Parler, the company has reportedly enlisted the services of Epik, a domain registrar known for hosting far-right content.

Read more: Inside the rapid and mysterious rise of Parler, the ‘free speech’ Twitter alternative, which created a platform for conservatives by burning the Silicon Valley script

Parler rose to notoriety in recent months as mainstream social media sites have faced increasing pressure to crack down on hate speech, misinformation, and calls for violence.

Following the US presidential election in November, Trump supporters flocked to alternative social networks, including Parler, to plan election protests after Facebook and other sites banned groups that pushed debunked conspiracies. From November 3 to November 9, Parler was downloaded around 530,000 times in the US, according to data from Apptopia.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amazon hits back at Parler’s antitrust lawsuit with extensive examples of its violent content, including death threats against Democrats, GOP, tech CEOs, and BLM

Parler logo
Amazon cited more than a dozen examples of content posted to the controversial social media platform Parler that it said violated Amazon’s policies.

  • Amazon responded on Tuesday to a lawsuit filed by Parler that accused the tech giant of violating antitrust laws by banning the controversial social media platform from using Amazon Web Services.
  • In its response, Amazon alleged that Parler violated its contract by refusing to remove more than 100 examples of violent content, including death threats against prominent Democrats, Republicans tech executives, and supporters of Black Lives Matter.
  • Amazon also cited Section 230 as part of its defense against Parler’s claims that Amazon conspired with Twitter to hurt Parler’s business by kicking it off AWS.
  • Major tech companies including Apple and Google cut ties with Parler this week amid revelations that far-right insurrectionists used the social media platform to organize and incite violence at the US Capitol.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amazon filed its response Tuesday to an antitrust suit brought against it by Parler, arguing that the social media upstart’s refusal to remove violent content from its platform violated its contract, and that Parler had failed to prove any antitrust claims. 

Parler sued Amazon on Monday after the tech giant booted the platform from its web-hosting service, Amazon Web Services, amid public outcry over Parler’s role in enabling far-right insurrectionists to organize and plan last week’s attacks on the US Capitol.

“This case is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints. It is not about a conspiracy to restrain trade,” Amazon claimed in the court filing. “Instead, this case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove… content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens.”

Parler did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Amazon cited more than a dozen examples of content posted to Parler that it said violated Amazon’s policies.

“We are going to fight in a civil War on Jan.20th, Form MILITIAS now and acquire targets,” one post said, according to the document, while another read: “White people need to ignite their racial identity and rain down suffering and death like a hurricane.”

Other Parler posts cited included death threats against prominent Democrats such as former President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet.

Parler users also took aim at people of color, Black Lives Matter activists, Jews, teachers, the media, and professional sports leagues including the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL. 

Read more: Parler has been knocked offline for not moderating threats. Screenshots show what Capitol riot supporters posted before, during, and after the unrest.

“There is no legal basis in AWS’s customer agreements or otherwise to compel AWS to host content of this nature,” Amazon said, adding that it had notified Parler “repeatedly” beginning in mid-November 2020 about content that violated the terms of the two companies’ contract, but that Parler “was both unwilling and unable” to remove it.

Amazon also pushed back against Parler’s claims that Amazon’s actions were politically motivated and violated antitrust laws by deliberately favoring Twitter, which also uses AWS, and not taking similar action against it.

“AWS does not host Twitter’s feed, so of course it could not have suspended access to Twitter’s content,” Amazon said in the filing, noting that Twitter eventually blocked the violent content, while Parler refused to take similar steps.

Amazon also cited Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives companies that operate an “interactive computer service” the legal right to remove content as they see fit.

Read more: Inside the rapid and mysterious rise of Parler, the ‘free speech’ Twitter alternative, which created a platform for conservatives by burning the Silicon Valley script

Parler rose to prominence in recent months as mainstream social media sites have faced increasing pressure to crack down on hate speech, misinformation, and calls for violence.

Following the US presidential election in November, Trump supporters flocked to alternative social networks, including Parler, to plan election protests after Facebook and other sites banned groups that pushed baseless conspiracies. From November 3 to November 9, Parler was downloaded around 530,000 times in the US, according to data from Apptopia.

As a pro-Trump mob violently seized the US Capitol building on Wednesday in an attack that left five dead, the armed rioters used Parler and other conservative-leaning social media apps to organize. Apptopia told Business Insider that Parler downloads spiked to around 323% of their average weekly volume from October. 

But as revelations have emerged detailing how the insurrectionists leveraged Parler to carry out last week’s attacks, major tech companies have faced pressure to cut ties. Apple and Google both pulled the app from their app stores earlier this week, and Parler was forced to migrate its web hosting to Epik – a domain registrar known for hosting far-right extremist content – after being booted from AWS.

Expanded Coverage Module: capitol-siege-module

 

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The 10 stories that defined tech in 2020 – and reveal what to expect in 2021 and beyond

2020 is almost over (finally). 

But before we close the book on this difficult and eventful year, it’s worth reviewing some of the big developments in tech that defined 2020 and will shape the months and years to come.

Readers of the Insider Tech newsletter have followed all the industry’s twists and turns in this weekly report (subscribe here to get Insider Tech in your inbox every Wednesday). Highlighted below, in this special edition of this newsletter, are some of the top stories reported by Business Insider’s crew of intrepid journalists this past year.

Note: Insider Tech will be back to its regular schedule on Wednesday, January 6. Happy New Year!


Meet the SPAC King: Chamath Palihapitiya’s ego and a scattershot strategy gutted his venture-capital firm. Now the investor has a new playbook that could put him back on top. By Melia Russell

In May, Melia reported that Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital had found a new investment vehicle maybe better suited to his ambitions: a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The rest of the year saw a SPAC boom – with Social Capital and Palihapitiya as major players. 

chamath palihapitiya profile controversial silicon valley 4x3


Jeff Bezos is back in the trenches at Amazon. Insiders describe working with a more deeply involved CEO. By Eugene Kim

After having spent the past few years almost exclusively focused on long-term initiatives, the Amazon CEO is responding to a plethora of disruptions caused by COVID-19, including supply-chain lockdowns and shipment delays. as well as new competition from Shopify.


Former Pinterest employees describe a traumatic workplace where managers humiliate employees until they cry, Black people feel alienated, and the toxic culture ‘eats away at your soul’ By Julie Bort and Taylor Nicole Rogers

Eleven former Pinterest employees told Business Insider that despite the company’s upbeat product, it was a toxic and difficult place to work, especially for Black employees. Julie and Taylor’s reporting oo Pinterest’s workplace culture caused CEO Ben Silbermann to admit to employees: “I’m embarrassed.”


The 199 days that doomed Quibi: How $1.75 billion couldn’t save the most hyped app of the year from a pandemic and apathetic users By Rob Price, Meghan Morris, and Becky Peterson

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman merged Hollywood and Silicon Valley connections, but it wasn’t enough to save Quibi. They missed warning signs and took costly missteps in the leadup to and after its debut, and the short-form video app died after only six months.

quibi rise and fall 4x3


Inside Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s quiet agreement with Sundar Pichai that has forced Google’s CEO to distinguish his leadership style By Hugh Langley

When Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped away from Alphabet last year, they struck a deal with CEO Sundar Pichai: you can call us, but we won’t call you. It’s propelled Pichai into a tough job: Google has been in a midlife crisis for some time. Now it’s faced with an antitrust lawsuit and renewed criticism, and Pichai is at the center of the mess.


Is Silicon Valley finally dead? By Meghan Morris and Berber Jin 

Silicon Valley’s mix of startup-friendly features made it the world’s tech capital. As tech CEOs and VCs move away, the region faces difficult questions.


Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman, one of the most successful female founders, is fighting to save her company By Becky Peterson

Becky spoke with more than two dozen of Hyman’s colleagues and former coworkers – and spent hours talking to Hyman – to see firsthand what it looks like when a talented entrepreneur confronts an unprecedented challenge.

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How a video-game wunderkind raised $446 million for a robot revolution that mesmerized SoftBank but went off the rails: The inside story of Zume Pizza By Meghan Hernbroth

Alex Garden founded Zume Pizza with a bold vision of harnessing a robot army and upending an industry. But the revolution didn’t go according to plan.


Tony Hsieh sold Zappos for $1.2 billion in his 30s. He was dead by 46. Inside his final Park City months, where he hoped to deliver more happiness as he spiraled. By Meghan Morris and Connor Perrett

Meghan and Connor’s thoughtful exploration into Tony Hsieh’s tragic final months show an eccentric entrepreneur who gave generously, isolated himself from longtime friends, and developed a fascination with fire and nitrous oxide.

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Aggressive and misleading sales tactics by Yelp employees knowingly prey on small businesses during the pandemic, insiders say By Rob Price

Yelp insiders detailed the company’s hyper-aggressive approach to sales and its high-pressure corporate culture. Some said they knowingly sold to small business owners who they didn’t think understood what they were buying and regularly heard complaints from business owners about unexpected bills.


Google paid a star self-driving engineer $120 million. Then he quit, joined a rival, and headed to prison. By Alex Davies

Together, Anthony Levandowski and Chris Urmson launched the self-driving car industry. Their rivalry threatened to tear it apart. Alex dives even deeper into the rivalry in his book, “Driven: The Race to Create the Autonomous Car,” which hits shelves January 5.

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Thanks for reading, and if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.

See you in 2021!

– Alexei

Read the original article on Business Insider

McConnell ties $2,000 stimulus checks to Trump-proposed poison pills on Section 230 and election fraud, likely sinking push for additional COVID-19 relief

mitch mcconnell donald trump scotus
Senate Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump

  • Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell introduced a bill Tuesday linking $2,000 stimulus checks to a repeal of Section 230 and a new commission to study election fraud, a move likely to doom the increased checks.
  • McConnell’s proposal came just hours after he blocked a House-passed bill that would have also boosted Americans’ stimulus payments, but without tackling the other items — both of which are top Trump priorities.
  • Trump and some Republicans have repeatedly railed against Section 230 — which shields internet companies from being sued over user-posted content — and made baseless accusations about election fraud, while Democrats have opposed them on both issues.
  • McConnell’s decision to tie increased stimulus checks to a Section 230 repeal and election fraud commission may sink the effort by pressuring Democrats to vote against the bill or help Trump notch three wins.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday introduced a bill tying $2,000 stimulus checks to unrelated items on President Donald Trump’s agenda: a full repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the creation of a new Congressional committee to further investigate the integrity of the 2020 US elections.

By linking the increased payments to measures that Democrats oppose, so-called poison pills, McConnell’s bill will likely sink efforts to get Americans additional COVID-19 relief.

McConnell’s move comes just hours after he blocked a separate attempt by Democrats to hold a vote on $2,000 checks that didn’t include language on the other two issues.

“Senator McConnell knows how to make $2,000 survival checks reality and he knows how to kill them,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a press release.

“If Sen. McConnell tries loading up the bipartisan House-passed CASH Act with unrelated, partisan provisions that will do absolutely nothing to help struggling families across the country, it will not pass the House and cannot become law – any move like this by Sen. McConnell would be a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check,” Schumer added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had called for an immediate vote in the upper chamber on legislation known as the CASH Act, which was passed by the House on Monday night with the support of 44 Republicans and all but two Democrats.

McConnell has repeatedly opposed additional direct COVID-19 relief payments to Americans, previously calling them “crazy policy.” But he has also faced pressure recently from Democrats, Trump, and even some Republicans – ahead of pivotal runoff elections in Georgia for control of the Senate – to raise the amount to $2,000 from the $600 that Congress and Trump signed off on earlier this week.

Read more: $600 checks for most people, help for entertainment venues, airlines and public transit. Here’s what else is in the $900 billion stimulus Trump just signed.

Trump had threatened to veto the stimulus bill, because the checks were not for $2,000, but he eventually singed the $900 billion relief package.

On Tuesday, following McConnell’s decision to block the House proposal that would have done exactly that, Trump lashed out again, while also pushing Republicans to link the increased payments to his crusades against the tech industry and the presidential election results. 

“Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $600 IS NOT ENOUGH! Also, get rid of Section 230 – Don’t let Big Tech steal our Country, and don’t let the Democrats steal the Presidential Election. Get tough!” Trump tweeted.

By linking the $2,000 checks to Trump’s other demands – both of which Democrats have opposed – McConnell’s bill will likely pressure Democrats into voting down the measure, which in turn could give Republicans political cover to say they weren’t responsible for tanking the increased payments to Americans.

Trump has repeatedly railed against Section 230, a legal provision that shields internet companies from lawsuits over content posted on their sites by users and gives them the ability to regulate that content. Trump and some Republicans have mistakenly interpreted the law as requiring social media companies to be politically neutral, and have long complained – despite evidence to the contrary – that social media is biased against conservative viewpoints.

Trump has also repeatedly advanced baseless claims alleging widespread voter fraud in the 2020 US elections – and his lawyers have won zero out of least 40 lawsuits making such claims. (President-elect Joe Biden earned 306 Electoral College votes earlier this month, more than the 270 needed to win the presidential election, and won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes).

Read the original article on Business Insider