While President Trump may be held to the highest account, including his possible removal from office over the assault on Capitol Hill yesterday, social media companies are also facing a reckoning.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat rightly blocked his accounts over posts that continued to claim the US election was a fraud, but for some, the actions were too little too late.
Chris Sacca, one of Twitter’s earliest investors, accused its chief Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg of “having blood on [their] hands”, adding: “For four years you’ve rationalised this terror. Inciting violent treason is not a free speech exercise.”
Facebook and Twitter are undoubtedly guilty of giving President Trump too much rope to vent his often-inaccurate opinions over the past four years, and they have also not acted quickly enough to curb the disinformation campaigns and conspiracy theories spread on their platforms.
There will probably be renewed calls to make them more accountable, along with pressure to revoke Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that gives internet companies blanket immunity for user-generated content posted on their sites.
But John Thornhill argues Rupert Murdoch is more to blame than Mr Zuckerberg or A study by the Harvard Berkman Klein Center on disinformation around mail-in ballots concluded Fox News, the media mogul’s rightwing US TV network, was far more influential in spreading false beliefs than Russian trolls or Facebook clickbait artists as “social media played only a secondary role”.
There is also evidence, he says, to suggest that the insurgents in Washington had largely moved off Facebook and Twitter to alternative platforms and sites, such as Parler, Gab, Telegram and TheDonald.win.
An FT analysis of the participants suggests much of the incitement originated from Twitter messages by popular conspiracists such as Ron Watkins, whose father runs the 8kun imageboard, and L Lin Wood, a pro-Trump lawyer who was suspended from Twitter early on Thursday.
Online urgings for more street protests on inauguration day could follow. “[Wednesday] for them was a success,” said Angelo Carusone of the liberal-leaning non-profit Media Matters for America. “What they saw was they were able to do something significant in storming Capitol Hill . . . my sense is that there’ll be another demonstration on January 20.”
1. Flakes and bubblesSnowflake’s VC investors can start to cash in their holdings from today, with Sutter Hill Ventures set to be the biggest winner from the cloud company’s September listing, with a stake now worth $13.3bn, reports Miles Kruppa. Richard Waters’ column this week looks at the billions in VC money that was lost in the dotcom bubble.
2. Roblox decides to go directThe video game platform Roblox has just been valued at $29.5bn after a new capital raising and has changed its mind about a standard IPO, saying it will go public through a direct listing, the same route taken by Asana and Palantir recently. Fintech company SoFi is to go public in an $8.7bn deal with a blank-cheque company set up by former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya. Fellow fintech Stripe may seek fresh funding rather than an IPO, says Lex.
3. Alibaba and Tencent fall on US fearsShares in Alibaba and Tencent sank around 4 per cent following a report that the Trump administration could prevent US investment in the Chinese tech groups, under the same executive order that is leading to the delisting of Chinese telcos by the New York Stock Exchange.
4. Regulator noted Wirecard’s foreign shortsGermany’s financial regulator discussed the “cultural background” of Wirecard short-sellers and told the country’s finance ministry that it was “striking” that most of those betting against the now-defunct payments group were British and Israeli, we’ve discovered. Critics have long accused German regulators of trying to defend Wirecard against foreign criticism in an attempt to nurture a homegrown success story.
5. Fresh blood for French heart companiesTwo French medtech companies, CorWave and Carmat, have announced progress in developing an implantable heart pump and artificial heart respectively. CorWave has won fresh funding and Carmat will begin selling its heart in the second quarter, although Lex warns the hefty price tag — probably about €160,000 a device — will limit uptake.
The European Union has, for the first time, become a direct shareholder in regional start-ups in a fundamental shift in the way early-stage tech companies are funded. Officials said this week that 42 companies have received between €500,000 and €15m from the new European Innovation Council Fund in return for a 10 per cent to 25 per cent stake. Previously the EU only put money into tech companies through grants or via the European Investment Fund, which invests in venture capital firms. The EIC is set to be a €3bn fund. Officials told Sifted this was a “paradigm shift” in how the EU thinks of backing start-ups and is aimed at helping them compete with the US and Asia.
Elsewhere in European start-ups this week, Sifted looks at the new must-have hire for CEOs — a chief of staff. Elsewhere, a Karakuri robot takes Maija Palmer to lunch, experts make their predictions for European tech in 2021 and John Thornhill talks to venture capitalist Benedict Evans about the end of the American internet and the globalisation of the Silicon Valley start-up model.
Harman, now owned by Samsung, revealed its CES line-up today of audio and in-car products. Its gaming and live concert experiences for 5G-powered cars, equipped with multiple screens and immersive-audio headrests, were presented in concept form and the harder product launches ahead came from its JBL audio brand, which is celebrating its 75th birthday. New headphones, soundbars, speakers and amps will be launched from the Spring and its latest portable speaker is the £160 Charge 5, a waterproof, dustproof Bluetooth speaker in a range of covers, with enough power for 20 hours of playback.