The company’s latest move is symptomatic of a continued inability to protect and inform the users on its platform

In his book Envisioning Real Utopias, the American sociologist Erik Olin Wright laid the foundations for a reconstruction of the core values for socio-economic progress. One of Wright’s central themes throughout the book is that capitalism can impose limitations on democracy, countering Milton Friedman’s claim that capitalism is a “necessary, but not sufficient, condition for democracy.” Wright notes the following:

The key issue, then, is that the private decisions of owners of capitalist firms often have massive collective consequences both for the workers inside of the firm and for people not directly employed in the firm, and thus the exclusion…


The film has generated controversy due to its lead actor and Disney’s crediting of CCP government agencies

If social media mentions alone were a predictor of box office success, Disney’s live-action Mulan would take the top spot — particularly in a time when many movie theaters across the world are shut down due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

But that’s not what happened. After the film hit Disney+ last week, the hashtag #BoycottMulan started trending on Twitter. This was in response to an incident from the previous year in which the film’s lead star, Liu Yifei, had voiced support for the Hong Kong police at a time when Hong Kongers were protesting a suggested extradition policy that…


On freedom of expression, tolerance, and accountability

Last week, the publication of an open letter in Harper’s Magazine caused a bit of a stir. In it, the authors contended that, while there has been a necessary reckoning on racial and social justice, it has arrived in concert with the intensification of moral attitudes and ideological conformity. The letter’s signatories, which include writers from Margaret Atwood to Noam Chomsky, Malcolm Gladwell, and Steven Pinker, argue that the free exchange of information and ideas is slowly becoming more constrained, and that intolerance of opposing views is on the rise.

The authors give several examples of the spread of censoriousness…


Last week, Spotify signed a massive deal with Joe Rogan. The move to exclusive podcasting is concerning, and has wide-ranging implications, both for privacy and openness.

Earlier this month, Ben Thompson of Stratechery announced the launch of Dithering, a new podcast co-hosted with John Gruber, founder of Daring Fireball. The podcast operates on a subscription basis, costing $5/month or $50/year (less for existing Stratechery subscribers). In his article explaining the launch, Thompson highlighted that just because Dithering wasn’t free did not mean it wasn’t open. New episodes are sent via email over the open SMTP protocol, thus circumventing gatekeepers.

Many large consumer-facing platforms claim to endorse similar values, but there are different flavors of openness at play. Netflix show creators may get larger upfront payments, but…


The planemaker’s handling of disasters reveals a failure in leadership and a culture of concealment

On March 10th, 2019, a Boeing 737 MAX operated by Ethiopian Airlines took off from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi. Many passengers on the flight, which included medics, academics, volunteers, and peacekeepers, were heading to Kenya to attend a session hosted by the UN Environment Assembly on finding innovative solutions for environmental challenges. During the conference, participants would address a wide array of challenges, from eradicating poverty to managing natural resources, waste, and food security.

They never made it. Two minutes after takeoff, the pilots reported a “flight control” problem to the control tower, and the plane’s flight control…


Thoughts on the benefits of blogging, migrating articles, and how to share different types of content

Over the past few months, I have been writing articles on Medium with some degree of regularity. The simplicity is appealing. Writers earn money through its Partner Program, and the platform offers exposure to a wide array of topics and publications (shoutout to The Startup, OneZero, GEN, and Elemental). In addition, maintaining a blog can be a chore for writers whose only interest is creating content — the layout and promotion require frequent attention. In contrast, Medium handles the distribution by curating stories or granting authorship permissions to various publications.

There are caveats to this. Medium isn’t a repository for…


A competitive package signals a deeper shift in Disney’s direct-to-consumer services and the online streaming subscription model at large

Last week, The Verge reported that Disney’s upcoming bundle service, which includes Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu, will have a monthly subscription price of $12.99. The price point, made public by CEO Bob Iger during Disney’s investors call, is comparable to competitive services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and cheaper than other existing (or forthcoming) online alternatives. Iger called it “the most important product the company has launched in my tenure,” and expressed confidence in Disney’s direct-to-consumer strategy.

The traditional pay-TV industry has been in danger for a while now. An estimated 14,000 people cut the cord every day. Industry giants…


Company culture and cloud-based services are fueling the next wave of Microsoft’s growth

In mid-July, Microsoft reported in its FY19 Q4 earnings that its cloud services revenue was largely driven by 64% revenue growth for Azure, the company’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution. Although Azure’s growth fell over the fiscal year from 76% in Q1, the cloud services offering cemented Microsoft as a dominant player in the cloud infrastructure space, second only to AWS.

Last month alone, Microsoft reported $33.7 billion in revenue, placing it once again as the world’s most valuable listed company. This comes after a product pivot and thorough restructuring and stands in stark contrast with the Microsoft of…


Local and state officials are increasingly taking steps to regulate the new technology. Federal agencies are unlikely to follow

In May, San Francisco became the first city to ban the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement and other agencies in an 8-to-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors. The bill’s sponsor, Aaron Peskin, argued that city lawmakers should be responsible for regulating new technologies “precisely because they are headquartered here.” Momentum to place restrictions on facial recognition systems is picking up across the country. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently endorsed the decision by Somerville, MA to enact a similar ban, believing that facial recognition systems are a violation of citizen’s privacy, harmful to freedom of…


The pharmaceutical giant faces renewed pressure over the health impact of its core products

Written with Alexander Chen

In the year since Bayer bought agrochemical company Monsanto for $63 billion, its stock has fallen by nearly 40%. The company faces thousands of lawsuits over its glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, which has been accused of causing cancer to those exposed. Bayer lost three civil cases over the past year, most recently in May when a California jury awarded more than $2 billion to a couple who claims the weed killer led to them contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This follows announcements of mass layoffs at Bayer in the fall and successive impairments and write-downs of its consumer-health business.

The Monsanto brand has…

Karl Henrik Smith

Sales Enablement @Cloudflare. Author and founder @bestepsnet. Previously @cityinnovate, @CBScph. Optimistic about the Internet’s prospects.

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