Garbage in, Garbage Out

The Future of the Open Internet

By Keith Teare • Issue #5 • View online

That Was The Week 2021, #5


Open or Policed Internet?
Solutions for an Open Internet
The Clubhouse Phenomenon
Subscriptions and Unicorns
Remote Work — The Inevitable is now Happening
The End of Retail Banking?
UK Investing
Africa Rising
Tweet of the Week


Another week, another impeachment, and it does not even reach my newsletter. The foregone conclusion of the Senate trial – an acquittal – was overshadowed, at least in my reading list, by thousands of words about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Democrats unveiled their initial “Bill”, supported by Amy Klobuchar. It contained enough of a threat to the way the Internet currently works to provoke a reaction on all sides.

Fred Wilson, on his avc blog well expresses the core. He quotes the famous “26 words” of the original:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

These words basically say that you (the platform I use) cannot be held responsible for what I (the publisher) write or convey on it. That is true even if you editorialise by removing or changing the content of another publisher in other circumstances. He then goes on to quote Jeff Kosseff:

“First, we haven’t agreed on what the problem is. There are very different conceptions of what is wrong. Half of Washington thinks that there should be more moderation and that the platforms should be more restrictive. The other half thinks that the platforms need to be less restrictive, and in many cases say they shouldn’t do any moderation at all.

Also there’s this: If you’re saying that there should be more moderation and less harmful content, the big problem with that is that we still have the First Amendment.”

My point of view is that there is not a problem to solve. Section 230 already provides the right balance. It allows me to publish on your platform without you becoming liable. It allows you to take down what I post if you have a solid enough reason. It does not expect you to scrutinise everything published. It works. So the drive for change is not rational; it is political and driven by two competing ideologies. One ideology comes from the “left” and seeks to force platforms to remove content it disapproves of. This is generally called de-platforming or “cancel culture”. It is driven by a belief that there is only one “truth” and that all else is “fake” or “lies” and damaging to the civic mindset. Banning it is the goal, and forcing Twitter, Facebook and others to do so is part of the method. Section 203 is a readymade instrument to be changed to facilitate that.

On the other side are those who are angry with Twitter and Facebook for de-platforming Donald Trump and want to force them to act less often. This is mainly the new, “Trumpist” right.

I have no time for either movement. Leave 230 alone and let’s get on with enjoying our Trump-free era. So, as the title says – if the debate is garbage, the proposals are also likely to be. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Lots more content this week about Clubhouse. The opinions are varied. Philip Greenspun gives an excellent first-timers overview.

Open or Policed Internet?

Pro-Publica has an excellent interview with Jeff Kosseff, the author of The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet, a book about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Those 26 words are: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another […]


“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow The deplatforming of Donald Trump and his alt-right coterie has led to many discussions of free speech. Some of the discussions make good points, most don’t, but it seems to me that all of them […]


The SAFE TECH Act, introduced by Sens. Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono, and Amy Klobuchar on Friday, seeks to reform several key provisions in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. But critics warn it could have dangerous consequences for the open internet.


NOTE: This is an expanded version of an older post. I’ve added seven additional studies since the original version, most recently with the help of Max Levy.

The “Over-Removal” Issue

Most intermediaries offer legal “Notice and Takedown” systems — tools for people to alert the company if user-generated content violates the law, and for the company to remove that content if necessary. Twitter does this for tweets, Facebook for posts, YouTube for videos, Google for search results, local news sites for user comments, etc. National law varies in terms of what content must be removed, but some version of Notice and Takedown exists in every major legal system. Companies receive a remarkable mix of requests — from those identifying serious and urgent problems, to those attempting to game the Notice and Takedown system as a means to silence speech they disagree with, to those stating wildly imaginative claims under nonexistent laws.


The Senate bill would defend civil rights and take on a range of online harms.


Solutions for an Open Internet

“That is something that not only we can host but we can participate in.”


Is it time for a Kerner Commission-style report on disinformation? Or would it just add more fuel to the politics of resentment?


One of the nation’s two major political parties has abandoned democracy and reality. We must now move a vast swath of America back into a fact-based pro-democracy society


Facebook, Twitter, Fox News — by blurring the truth, all pose a risk to democracy itself, says Guardian columnist Timothy Garton Ash


The Clubhouse Phenomenon

The exclusive invitation-only social networking app is a hybrid of conference calls, talkback radio and Houseparty

Part talkback radio, part conference call, part Houseparty, Clubhouse is a social networking app based on audio-chat. Users can listen in to conversations, interviews and discussions between interesting people on various topics — it is just like tuning in to a podcast but live and with an added layer of exclusivity.

Continue reading…


If you’re as late to the party as I always am, see “What Is Clubhouse? The Invite-Only Chat App Explained” (PC Mag). Note that, to ensure that only the insufferable can be heard, this is iPhone-only (preferably with Apple DouchePods in everyone’s ears).

I joined last week. The big rooms are frustrating, like draggy unprepared TED talks. There might be hundreds or thousands of muted listeners, perhaps partly because the app highlights the most popular rooms. Maybe this could be improved with a text chat option so that the muted listeners could chat amongst themselves a bit. This was valuable in our 500-student Zoom class (version of our MIT ground school) back in January. While one teacher was talking, the other could scan the Zoom chat to see if there were open questions that should be answered. There is no way to give a “thumbs up” to a speaker when he/she/ze/they says something interesting or profound.


Blocking is an important part of privacy — but it could be better


I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!


Pattern MatchingThe hot new social app has found success by replicating real-world social structures rather than exploding themPhoto Illustration: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Clubhouse, the exclusive group-voice-chat app that launched last year to fanfare from the venture capital set, erupted into the headlines this week when Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dropped in for conversations with other tech luminaries. “Elon Musk’s Clubhouse banter with Robinhood CEO triggers stampede for Clubhouse app,” Reuters reported. “Clubhouse’s Moment Arrives,” Platformer’s Casey Newton declared. Both cameos strained the app’s capacity; Zuckerberg’s apparently broke it, at least briefly.


Mark Cuban is co-founding a podcast app where hosts can talk to fans live and monetize their conversations

The Verge

Mark Cuban is getting in on the audio and podcasting hype. Alongside co-founder Falon Fatemi, he’s planning to launch Fireside, a “next-gen podcast platform” that facilitates live conversation, according to an email sent to possible creator partners seen by The Verge. The app idea is similar to the buzzy live audio startup Clubhouse, except with the ability to natively record conversations. A source close to Fireside says the app plans to launch publicly this year.

Subscriptions  and Unicorns

Monthly Recap January 2021: VC Funding, Just Shy Of $40B, Hits All-Time High And Produces A Record Number Of New Unicorns

Crunchbase News

Venture funding in January 2021 hit at an all-time monthly high of $39.9 billion, an analysis of Crunchbase data shows.

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January’s funding total topped the previous monthly high of the last two years; July 2020 at $38.5 billion. A larger proportion of dollars in these funding spikes was also invested in late-stage venture capital — around 69 percent — with the lion’s share of capital going to Series C+ and private-equity rounds in venture-backed companies.

Sectors which grew in January include delivery, robotics, logistics, automotive, fintech, and cloud computing.

Apps saw record downloads and consumer spending in 2020, globally reaching somewhere around $111 billion to $112 billion, according to various estimates. But a growing part of that spend was subscription payments, a new report from Sensor Tower indicates. Last year, global subscription app revenue from the top 100 subscription apps (excluding games), climbed 34% […]


Remote Work — The Inevitable is now Happening

Most workers for San Francisco’s biggest private employer will come into an office just one to three days a week

Salesforce has become the latest tech company in San Francisco to signal a transition away from in-person work, declaring the “9-to-5 workday is dead”.

The city’s largest private employer announced on Tuesday it would permanently allow many employees to work from home, even after it becomes safe to return to offices following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Continue reading…


It’s quite a symbol of the times: the company that owns the tallest building in San Francisco telling its employees they don’t have to go to it anymore. “An immersive workspace is no longer limited to a desk in our Towers,” Salesforce’s Brent Hyder said yesterday. “The 9-to-5 workday is dead; and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks.”

Salesforce’s plan for the future sounds a lot like Dropbox’s Virtual First strategy, and is starting to become something like the new hybrid normal:


I’ve listened to a lot of startup leaders, and most seem to break into one of two camps: Staying 100% distributed. Perhaps with local mini-hubs, but staying 100% distributed. Going… Continue Reading

The post Salesforce Says We’ll Go Back To The Office … 1–3 Days a Week appeared first on SaaStr.


The End of Retail Banking?

Over the last decade, U.S. bank locations have closed down at an alarming rate. Are we nearing the end of branch banking?

The post Why Branch Banking is Dying in America appeared first on Visual Capitalist.


UK Investing

UK angels may have been cooped up at home for much of last year, but that didn’t stop them investing.

The last 12 months have seen Britain’s brigade of angel investors continue to back early-stage businesses. Overall, venture capital investment hit a record €14.1bn in the UK in 2020.

But who were the most active UK angels in 2020?

Given that many angels do not publicly disclose their deals, it’s far harder to track angel investments than VC investments. So, to build this list, we contacted dozens of prominent angels to find out how many startups they backed last year.

Based on their input, here’s our list the 13 most prolific angels in the UK in 2020.


Harry Stebbings, the podcaster-turned-VC, is stepping down as a partner of Stride.VC, the London-based venture capital firm he co-founded with Fred Destin, formerly of Accel.

In a series of tweets, Destin said that Stebbings won’t be involved in Stride’s second fund (though he’ll remain a partner in fund one), and will instead be focusing on his podcast franchise “The Twenty Minute VC” and running his own micro fund, the aptly titled “20VC”.

“Harry’s 20VC podcast has remained his passion and been flying high, creating opportunities that are hard to ignore. My bud wants to lean even harder into the 20VC platform,” tweeted Destin.


Africa Rising

The venture capital scene in Africa has consistently grown, with an influx of capital from local and international investors reaching unprecedented heights in recent years. To understand how much growth has occurred, African startups raised a meagre $400 million in 2015 compared to the $2 billion that came into the continent in 2019, according to Africa-focused fund Partech Africa.


Tweet of the Week