Happy Friday! 💃 Here's what everyone's been talking about this week...

Turns out Dorsey's Vipassana retreat was just training for being yelled at by Ted Cruz at the Senate hearing

On Wednesday, we were blessed with another hearing with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai as they testified to Congress on Section 230 -- a provision that says internet companies cannot be held liable for what their users post.

There were multiple hiccups: Ted Cruz shouting at Dorsey while he calmly sat and answered questions (guess that Vipassana retreat gave him lots of practice), Zuckerberg being delayed by connection issues, and laggy connections from the senators.

But the biggest problem was that only a handful of questions actually pertained to Section 230 at all. The majority of the hearing centred around allegations from Republicans about tech companies' anti-conservative bias. Democratic senators criticised the timing of the hearing, which took place 6 days before the U.S. election.

Sen. Brian Schatz called the hearing "a scar on this committee" and declined to question CEOs. "For the first time in my eight years in the United States Senate, I'm not going to use my time to ask any questions because this is nonsense," he said. Instead, he described how Republicans have politicised Section 230.

Section 230 has previously been called the “most important law protecting internet speech” by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Removing or changing it would have huge implications for all websites.


'Social commerce' is coming to the West 💸

Thanks to apps like WeChat, Kuaishou, and Pinduoduo, social commerce -- using networking sites to promote and sell products and services -- has surged in China in recent years. Now, it's heading to the West.

On Tuesday, TikTok announced that it is teaming up with Shopify to allow users to shop as they scroll through videos. The partnership is a game-changer for the creator economy. It’s a sign that social media is becoming less social and more product-oriented. As a result, we're beginning to see a shift away from spammy ads and a rise in authentic, informal commercials.

Shopify has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of this year's e-commerce surge. Previously, it has partnered with Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and also Amazon, Google, and Walmart’s marketplaces.


Yesterday, tech companies released their earnings reports 💰💰💰

  • Amazon tripled profits with $6.3 billion net income in Q3 2020, compared to $2.1 billion net income in Q3 2019. In a press release, Jeff Bezos said: "We’re seeing more customers than ever shopping early for their holiday gifts, which is just one of the signs that this is going to be an unprecedented holiday season”.

  • Alphabet revealed a 14% jump in revenue in comparison to last year, with $37.1 billion in ad revenue. Both YouTube and Cloud exceeded expectations. YouTube raked in $5.04 billion in revenue from advertising -- up from $3.8 billion the year before, while Cloud reported $3.44 billion -- up from $2.4 billion the year before.

  • Apple reported revenue of $64.7 billion, setting a new September quarter record. iPhone revenue fell 21% this quarter, which has mostly been put down to the fact that the iPhone 12 wasn't unveiled until October.

  • Facebook' revealed record revenue of $21.47 billion in Q3, despite the high-profile ad boycott. Revenue is anticipated to increase even further in the final quarter in the run-up to Christmas.

  • Twitter revealed the slowest growth in years. It added only 2 million Monetisable Daily Active Users (mDAU) in Q3, bringing its total to 188 million. For comparison, it added 20 million in Q2. Considering Twitter is one of the main platforms for political discourse, it's concerning that growth is stagnating with the election around the corner.


Other big stories this week

  • Spotify spent $100m for Joe Rogan to...broadcast conspiracy theories. Earlier this week, Joe Rogan hosted far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his podcast. Rogan said that kids are "getting polio from taking vaccines," and Jones said that Bill Gates is "trafficking vaccines". In a leaked email, Spotify said, “we are not going to ban specific individuals from being guests on other people’s shows, as the episode/show complies with our content policies.”

  • Social media managers are underpaid, understaffed, and overworked. Sites like Twitter and Facebook become the quickest, most convenient way to contact companies about customer service queries, and the people managing their profiles have become more important than crisis communicators and PR executives. Yet these employees are often underpaid, understaffed and overworked, relying on rote scripts that are often misconstrued...and they can result in huge blunders.

  • Netflix nudges up its prices. With no Hollywood movies in the cinema until next summer, Netflix has jumped on the opportunity to raise its prices. It has increased its standard plan by $1 to $14/month, and its premium plan by $2 to $18/month. Its basic plan will remain $9/month.


Have a great weekend! 🎃

Due to COVID restrictions, Halloween festivities have been cancelled in many parts of the world. But if you feel like this year hasn't been horrifying enough already, why not check out what Google and other Big Tech companies know about you for an extra spooky surprise?

Today's newsletter was written by Aimee Pearcy.

Get in touch at [email protected]

Otherwise, see you next Friday!