Startup News Digest 8/30/19

The Big Story: Tech news from the G-7 summit. French President Emmanuel Macron announced during the G-7 summit that France and the United States reached “a very good agreement” to end a standoff on France’s new digital services tax on online platforms. In a press conference with President Trump, Macron said tech companies that pay the tax could deduct the amount after an international deal on taxing Internet companies is finalized next year. 

Despite the tax agreement, France was not able to get U.S. platforms to sign on to a charter against online hate speech. Macron said that the United States “for legal reasons was not able to formalize the agreement on this point." French officials were hopeful that they could convince large U.S. social media platforms to sign the "Charter for an Open, Free, and Safe Internet," although it was reported that President Trump pressured the platforms’ executives to not sign the pledge publicly—a claim the White House denied

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced plans during the summit to block online platforms that spread extremist content during times of crisis. Morrison linked the measure to the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand that killed 51 worshippers at two mosques earlier this year. The plan Morrison outlined would in part give Australia's eSafety commissioner the authority to shutter domains that host terrorist or extremist content.

Policy Roundup:

YouTube commits to preserving an open platform. In a quarterly note addressed to video creators, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said she believes “preserving an open platform is more important than ever” and committed to letting users upload anything they wanted to the site. Wojcicki’s letter came as the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a lawsuit from Prager University, a nonprofit that produces videos promoting conservative ideas, alleging that YouTube violated the organizations’s First Amendment rights when it limited access and demonetized dozens of its videos. 

Companies still waiting for approval to deal with Huawei. The Commerce Department said it has received over 130 applications from companies seeking licenses to sell products to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, although the Trump administration has not yet granted any of the companies licenses for sales. President Donald Trump said almost two months ago that some sales to the blacklisted telecoms firm would still be allowed.

Democrats want platforms to remain vigilant ahead of census. Democratic lawmakers are asking online platforms to take steps to prevent foreign interference efforts and domestic misinformation campaigns designed to impact the 2020 census. Lawmakers fear that nefarious actors will mirror tactics used during the 2016 presidential election to depress minority participation in the census.

Lawmaker still concerned about Facebook cryptocurrency. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement that she remains concerned about Facebook’s plans to launch its Libra cryptocurrency after meeting in Switzerland with government officials that Facebook said would regulate the digital currency. Waters said her concerns “remain with allowing a large tech company to create a privately controlled, alternative global currency.”

Lawsuit over captioning audiobooks. Seven of the largest publishers have filed a lawsuit against Audible, arguing that the company’s new AI-generated captions feature violates copyright law. The company debuted its new service, Audible Captions, last month, which adds captions to phones or tablets when a user is listening to an audiobook. The publishers allege that the service failed to secure the necessary permissions to caption the books, since audio and text reproductions have separate licenses.

Startup Roundup:

#StartupsEverywhere. Inglewood, California. The Los Angeles metropolitan area is home to more than 13 million people. It’s also home to Lemonlight, an Inglewood-based video production company that focuses on creating well-designed, affordable videos for companies across the U.S. and, soon, across the world. We recently spoke with Hope Horner, Lemonlight’s co-founder and CEO, about the startup’s work, her experiences in California, and her goals for the company moving forward.