Recode Daily: Trump is turning his ire to tech companies

President Donald Trump sitting in a meeting and holding his head up with his hand.

The Trump administration is planning to investigate Google’s alleged connections to the Chinese government. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Plus: The Google walkout leader is walking out of Google for good.

Trump has focused his ire on Big Tech … namely Google. This week, the president tweeted that his administration would investigate Google based on unsupported speculation that the company is working with the Chinese government. Google said it does not work with the Chinese military in a statement to the Washington Post.

  • How did this happen? Trump’s comment came after venture capitalist and Trump adviser Peter Thiel interviewed with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Monday night and repeated a suggestion that Google should be investigated for treason.
  • Why it matters: Trump has threatened to regulate, penalize, and sue Google and other major tech firms before. This is also the week that Google, along with its Silicon Valley peers, will testify before Congress about antitrust and cryptocurrency concerns.
    [Tony Romm / Washington Post]

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As it turns out, Twitter doesn’t think Trump’s tweets are racist enough to take down. You know the tweets — the ones President Trump sent earlier this week attacking Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley (a.k.a. “the Squad”), telling them to ”go back” to their countries. Despite official Twitter policy, Gizmodo points out that Trump’s tweets about the lawmakers remain unflagged.

  • The background: Twitter announced last month that it would start down-ranking and flagging “public interest” tweets from world leaders that violate its terms of service.
  • What’s happening: Twitter’s rules state that tweets violate its policies if they use “racist and sexist tropes.” And somehow Twitter hasn’t applied its hateful conduct policy to Trump’s tweets about the Congress members.
    [Dell Cameron / Gizmodo]

Apple will pay for exclusive podcasts you can’t get from its rivals. Bloomberg reports that Apple, whose Podcasts app is how more than 50 percent of people stream podcasts, plans to fund exclusive podcasts whose distribution it will control. The move will give the company more power to compete with the likes of Spotify and Stitcher, which already offer podcasts you can only listen to on their platforms. Apple doesn’t currently make money off its Podcasts app because the service is free and it doesn’t run ads.

  • So why is it making this investment? Bloomberg observes that “growing the Podcasts app and adding exclusives could give some consumers another reason to stick to their iPhone or subscribe to complementary paid services like Apple Music” — which would help keep the company’s user base loyal. The company is also launching a video service called Apple TV+ that will feature original TV shows, documentaries, and films.
    [Lucas Shaw and Mark Gurman / Bloomberg]

The leader of the big Google walkout protest is leaving Google. And she says the company’s AI software and computing power are expanding in “unsettling ways.” Meredith Whittaker, who led Google’s Open Research department, warned in a post about her departure that Google “is gaining significant and largely unchecked power to impact our world (including in profoundly dangerous ways, such as accelerating the extraction of fossil fuels and the deployment of surveillance technology).” The company has also faced employee dissent over a contract it had with the Pentagon and reports of its plans to build a censored search engine for China.

  • In fact, four of the seven employees who organized the 20,000-person protest in November have left Google. The group that staged a walkout at Google in November did so after the company paid huge amounts to an executive accused of sexual harassment.
  • Bonus: Kara Swisher interviewed Whittaker on Recode Decode in April; listen to the podcast here or watch the live event here.
    [Mark Bergen and Joshua Brustein / Bloomberg]

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