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Recode Daily: Twitter, YouTube and Facebook race to contain conspiracy content after the Parkland shooting



Plus, Coinbase is hiring a CFO, Uber rolls out a new ride-sharing service today, and don’t give up hope — The Enlightenment is working.

Social media has been a dark place since 17 people were killed at a Florida high school last week. Twitter is going out of its way to verify accounts of some of the most publicly outspoken student survivors of the Parkland shooting. YouTube and Facebook removed some of the conspiracy videos claiming that survivor David Hogg was a “crisis actor,” but in many cases, the videos had already been promoted in the “trending news” section of both services. Meanwhile, the father of an 18-year-old girl killed in the shooting made an impassioned plea to President Trump at the White House to act quickly to protect children in the country’s schools. [Kurt Wagner / Recode]

Coinbase is hiring a CFO in what would be a big move for the cryptocurrency platform’s growth plans — and often a sign that a business is eyeing an IPO. Other expected hires include vice presidents to handle communications and corporate development. Coinbase continues to fend off late-stage investors who want to buy existing shares, despite the company’s recent warning to knock it off. [Theodore Schleifer / Recode]

Uber is rolling out a cheaper version of its UberPool ride-sharing service. Called Express Pool, the service is now available in San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego and Denver and will launch today in Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Riders are required to walk a little to meet their driver — and then again to their destination after being dropped off; Uber thinks this will make shared rides more efficient. [Johana Bhuiyan / Recode]

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton is putting $50 million of his own money into the Signal encrypted messaging app, the security industry’s gold standard for surveillance-resistant communications. Acton also announced the launch of the tech nonprofit Signal Foundation, which will build and maintain Signal and potentially other privacy-focused apps. [Andy Greenberg / Wired]

Reporting mixed Q4 financial results yesterday, Pandora boasted a 63 percent bump in subscription revenue, bringing its yearly total to $97.7 million. The streaming-music pioneer also tallied 5.48 million subscribers, a 25 percent year-over-year increase. The company said it will invest $45 million into new growth initiatives like ad-tech, non-music content, device integration and marketing technology, as it continues to build out its “Premium Access” on-demand services to better compete with rivals like Spotify. And Roku posted a blowout 2017 holiday quarter yesterday, thanks largely to a big increase of its licensing and advertising revenue; a dip in hardware revenue spooked investors, sending Roku stock down 20 percent in after-hours trading. [Chloe Aiello / CNBC]


Recode Presents …

For the third year in a row, Recode’s Kara Swisher and Jason Del Rey are gathering some of the brightest e-commerce and retail minds for a night of live journalism at An Evening with Code Commerce, Tuesday, March 20 at The Venetian in Las Vegas. We’ve just announced three of the five speakers you’ll hear from at the three-hour event: Rent the Runway co-founder and CEO Jennifer Hyman, DoorDash founder and CEO Tony Xu and The Cheesecake Factory’s president David Gordon; look for one more Code Commerce speaker announcement next week. These events always sell out, so register today.


Top stories from Recode

Amazon is now worth more than 2.5 Walmarts.

It was worth just two Walmarts last month.

Priceline’s 2005 acquisition of Booking.com has been so transformational that the online travel company is changing its name to Booking Holdings.

Take a look at its stock price since.

Lauren Duca became an internet star overnight. Now, she says she’s “fireproof.”

On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, Duca said she owes her fame (or infamy) to one mega-viral Teen Vogue column and a 10-minute interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

This is cool

Don’t give up hope: The Enlightenment is working.


Lauren Duca became an internet star overnight. Now, she says she’s ‘fireproof.’



Duca owes her fame (or, in some corners of the internet, infamy) to one column and one 10-minute interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

Towards the end 2016, Lauren Duca was on Fox News for 10 minutes — but that was enough time to completely change her career.

Duca, a journalist/activist who had written a mega-viral essay for Teen Vogue titled “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America,” which she says is “still true” today. Written over a two-day coffee-and-wine bender, the article’s overnight popularity surpassed every expectation she had.

“I had thought, based on the numbers I’d been taught at HuffPost, that I had ‘gone viral’ before,” Duca said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “But my joke about this is it’s like an orgasm: When you know, you know. This was very different.”

Shortly afterwards, she went on Fox for an interview with Tucker Carlson, which devolved into interruptions, shouting and name-calling. The reactions online were swift and, Duca says, “scary for a solid half-hour.”

“First, you hear from the Pepes, the alt-right,” she said. “So, I was worried at first. Once Mediaite picked up the clip, then there was a conversation about it.”

“It’s so amazing, if you look at the clips, the way they’re titled — it’s this beautiful sketch of confirmation bias,” Duca added. “There’s ones where I ‘had a stroke on national television,’ and there’s others where I’m a ‘feminist hero.’ It just depends who makes the video.”

You can listen to Recode Media on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Duca said the “Gaslighting” article doubled her Twitter following, and then Carlson doubled it again. The ensuing fame (or infamy) of being a feminist online who was criticizing the Trump administration forced her to think carefully about everything she tweeted and posted.

“I’ve had to refine my views in a really public way this year, so it’s been hard,” Duca said. “There’s danger and there is risk and there are bad-faith efforts to take me down. That’s a level of stress, aside from the death and rape threats, so it’s crazy.”

“I’ve had to be really sure about everything I say and my ethics as a journalist and my political views and the way those things intersect,” she added. “I’m definitely both an activist and a journalist — what does that mean? And I’ve had to do it on a public stage. But I’m really proud and now, I’m fireproof. I’m unshakeable.”

Reflecting on the notorious TV interview now, more than a year later, Duca said she was initially shaken by the intensity of it all — but so were the people behind the scenes at Fox. After the cameras turned off, she made one last dramatic gesture.

“As much as Fox News seems like the enemy, these are all just people working their jobs,” she said. “They were all very uncomfortable. I was like, ‘OK, thank you,’ keeping my head down. And I got to the door and was like, ‘Happy holidays,’ ‘cause it was December 23. Then I was like, ‘I’m at Fox! MERRY CHRISTMAS!’ It was vaguely breakdown-level, like Bill-Murray-in-’Scrooged’-type of screaming.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers all of the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcastor wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Peter. Tune in next Thursday for another episode of Recode Media!


Rent the Runway, DoorDash and The Cheesecake Factory are coming to Code Commerce at Shoptalk



Jason Del Rey and Kara Swisher will be back in Las Vegas to host the March 20 evening event.

For the third year in a row, Kara Swisher and I are gathering some of the brightest e-commerce and retail minds for a night of live journalism at An Evening With Code Commerce during the Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas this March.

The three-hour event, slated for Tuesday, March 20 at The Venetian, will feature Recode’s signature brand of no-BS interviews, as well as a cocktail hour where you’ll get the chance to get to know 200 of your smartest peers.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce three of the five speakers you’ll hear from that evening:

For the last eight years, Rent the Runway co-founder and CEO Jennifer Hyman has built a business that has been trying to sell women on the idea that clothing rental can be an attractive alternative to the buy-and-ditch cycle that can result from the fast-fashion trend.

The company now sells a $159 monthly subscription that offers women a rotating closet of high-end workwear, as well as an $89 monthly subscription with some restrictions in exchange for a more accessible price point. We’ll talk with Hyman about what is and isn’t working with these new business models, and what the future holds for a company that has raised nearly $200 million from investors who eventually want to see a return.

We’ve also invited DoorDash co-founder and CEO Tony Xu and The Cheesecake Factory’s president David Gordon to join us for a discussion about the messy, but giant world of food delivery.

DoorDash is one of a handful of well-funded companies working to figure out how to bring food delivery to the masses profitably. It has tried to differentiate by partnering with more than half of the Top 100 U.S. restaurant chains, including The Cheesecake Factory, Wendy’s and Buffalo Wild Wings.

We’ll challenge Xu on his strategy to outlast big-name competitors like Amazon, Uber and GrubHub, and other upstarts like Postmates. We’ll also dive into the opportunities and challenges facing traditional sit-down restaurants that are trying to navigate this trend.

Look for one more Code Commerce speaker announcement next week. These events always sell out, so register today. See you in March.


Mellanox Jumps 6% on Increased Q1 Outlook, CFO Transition




Shares of Mellanox Technologies, makers of chips that interconnect server computers, jumped by nearly 6% in late trading after it raised its quarterly revenue forecast only a month after offering it, citing growing demand for chips to upgrade connections of servers to 25 billion bits per second. The company also said its CFO will leave for a startup company.

Roku Drops 22%: ‘For Us It’s All Been Positive,’ Says CFO




Shares of Roku spent the entire after-hours session down 22%, but the company’s chief financial officer, Steve Louden, tells Barron’s he’s heard no complaints from Wall Street analysts, and that “For us it’s all been positive,” with things like “platform revenue” and accounts using Roku rising sharply.

Twitter is going out of its way to verify accounts of some of the most prominent students who survived the Parkland shooting



Social media has been a dark place since 17 people were killed last week.

Twitter has verified the accounts of some of the most publicly outspoken students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a shooter killed 17 people last week.

Survivors have taken to social media to make loud calls for gun control, which have been met with abuse and the spread of misinformation about the teenagers online. The recent move by Twitter to verify students is yet another example of how big the current discussion around gun regulation has become, and an example of how the company hopes to add credibility to users who are at the center of a debate riddled with misinformation.

Much of the discussion about what to do in the aftermath of the mass shooting has played out on Twitter and Facebook. A number of the students who have taken to the social networks to speak out against gun violence and push lawmakers to enact stricter gun regulations have been met with resistance from conservative groups trying to discredit their validity.

Conspiracy theories have started to widely circulate claiming that some of the most visible student activists are not actually students, but “crisis actors” meant to carry a message for liberals and other anti-gun lobbyists. (They are not.)

Twitter, for its part, says that it’s actively working to stop users from harassing Parkland students, and has started to add blue verification checkmarks to some of their accounts in the past 24 hours. A company spokesperson shared the following statement with Recode.

We are actively working on reports of targeted abuse and harassment of a number of survivors of the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Such behavior goes against everything we stand for at Twitter, and we are taking action on any content that violates our terms of service.

We are also using our anti-spam and anti-abuse tools to weed out malicious automation around these individuals and the topics they are raising. We have also verified a number of survivors’ Twitter accounts.

A Twitter spokesperson clarified that while the company’s terms of service do not explicitly prohibit anyone from sharing false information (or a conspiracy theory), the company is looking closely at accounts sharing this material to ensure that they aren’t violating any of Twitter’s other policies. For example, is it being shared in an attempt to be abusive? Is it being shared by a bot?

Twitter’s decision to verify Parkland students shows just how big this recent push for gun regulation has gotten. Twitter’s public verification program, which allows users to apply for a blue verification badge, has been on hold since last fall. That means Twitter proactively verified the students’ accounts on its own.

It’s easy to see why. Some students who survived the shooting have been on TV almost daily since. One of the most outspoken students, Emma González, now has more than 255,000 followers.


The meaning of Twitter’s blue verification check mark has evolved over the years. The company was criticized last fall for verifying members of the so-called alt-right, including the white supremacist who helped organize the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., back in August. Twitter’s verification has historically been seen as a stamp of approval rather than a simple identity verification, which is why people got upset.

After the backlash, Twitter updated its verification guidelines to more clearly explain that a check mark is intended to properly identify “accounts of public interest,” and to ensure that people aren’t following imposters. It’s not necessarily a company endorsement.

Twitter isn’t the only company dealing with abuse and misinformation following he Parkland shooting. YouTube has removed conspiracy theory videos that made it to the top of the site’s trending section. Facebook, too, appears to be removing user accounts that are spreading misinformation. A Facebook company spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment.


Another Cautionary A.I. Analysis




The ominous analysis illustrates potential dangers inherent in applying technology that literally takes on human characteristics, and what could go wrong. The Westworld-like doomsday scenario has prompted leading voices in technology to issue dire warnings.

Uber’s new ‘Express Pool’ is all about getting more riders to share rides



The new UberPool option requires riders to walk a little before and/or after their ride.

Uber is beginning to roll out a cheaper version of its ride-sharing UberPool service, called Express Pool. The service, which was being tested in Boston and San Francisco, is now available in Los Angeles, San Diego and Denver, and will launch in Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., tomorrow.

The idea is that Express Pool, which requires riders to walk a little to meet their driver — and then again to their destination after being dropped off — will make shared rides more efficient. If it works, it should both increase the number of rides that drivers can give and also make those shared trips faster for passengers.

The new service tests a thesis Uber has long had: Lower prices means higher utilization, and higher utilization means more money — both for drivers and for Uber. Also that road congestion is bad and the solution is to share more rides.

Those are the same theories that sparked the creation of the original UberPool service, which requires a little less walking. But the hope is that this will make it easier to match more passengers and therefore lose less money on each shared ride.

Uber Express Pool screenshot of the app.
Uber
Uber Express Pool screenshot of the app.

How does it work for riders?

After selecting Express Pool, riders will wait to be matched with another passenger. Then they walk to the pickup point, join any passengers they’ve been matched with along the way, and get dropped off in the vicinity of their destination and walk the rest of the way there.

None of those points are fixed, and even if you take the same trip every day, there’s no guarantee that the pickup or drop-off locations will be the same, because it depends on who you’re matched with.

Because the company expects utilization to go up, and because you have to do a little bit more work, rides will be up to 30 percent cheaper than regular UberPool rides.

How does it work for drivers?

It should work roughly the same as UberPool, with one exception. Before dropping off the rider, drivers will be notified that the passenger will walk to their destination.

However, some drivers who have already tried Express Pool in Boston and San Francisco have complained that passengers either don’t understand that it’s not a door-to-door service, or they still insist on being picked up or dropped off in front of their location.

“It’s much more effort, many of the intersections Uber chooses as a good Express pickup location are very dangerous, and there is no good spot to safely pull over and pick up the passenger,” Thad, a Boston driver who has been working on the Uber platform since September 2017, told Recode. “It’s more effort, more headache, more potential for complications and a bad rating over things the driver has no control of.”

Drivers are still being pay per-mile and per-minute in addition to a base fare, as well as a fee they receive per pickup — so it’s entirely decoupled from what riders pay. Uber also recently rolled out ratings protection so drivers could not be penalized for things out of their control — such as traffic or bad navigation.

What’s the upside for Uber?

Higher utilization is good for Uber, period. Uber’s network will be more efficient if the supply of drivers on Uber’s platform are giving more rides. The company also expects that it will help decrease how much is spent on subsidizing these rides.

When calculating the upfront price of rides, Uber takes into account things like the expected time and distance, as well as the likelihood that a rider will be matched with another passenger on shared rides.

If the company predicts that you will be matched with a rider, for example, it may charge you $4, with the expectation that the total fare will be $8. That doesn’t always happen, however, which causes the company to lose money on those rides. With the new Express Pool service — for which Uber has built a completely new back end that determines a shared route with you and other passengers — the company expects to be able to predict whether you get a match with more certainty.

It stands to reason that since it’s not door-to-door, it should be easier to determine routes that work for multiple passengers.

Lastly, this could be a big opportunity for self-driving cars. Driverless cars don’t have to stop, so this will further increase utilization. Think about it: With Express Pool, Uber driverless cars will be able to continuously pick up multiple passengers quickly and efficiently without splitting the profits with the driver.

Is Uber trying to replace public transit?

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi recently said he wanted the company to run city bus systems, but there are obvious downsides to depending on a private company to provide a public utility. Some could argue that Express Pool is the company’s first official attempt at getting into micro-transit.

Though many people compare services like Express Pool to buses, it works a lot more like existing on-demand shuttle services like Via or even Chariot — except Chariot operates fixed routes based on demand along those routes. With ExpressPool, everything is dynamic, from routes to passengers to prices.

The logical next step for Uber ExpressPool is to use more SUVs and other vehicles that could fit more passengers, the way that Via does. But it’s unlikely that this service could replace bus systems anytime soon, because it’s hard to see how privately owned vehicles will be able to meet the demands of public transit, and profitably at that.

The bigger opportunity is in filling the gaps of transit systems, according to Sarah Kaufman, the assistant director for technology programming at the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation.

“If cities start to see these services as better fits for low-ridership bus routes, especially late at night, passengers will benefit from more direct service and lower costs for transportation managers,” Kaufman told Recode.