Dow Today – Spotify Argues It Shouldn’t Censor Joe Rogan and Others
What is Spotify now?
Spotify has faced increasing pressure as high-profile artists have pulled their songs from the streaming platform to protest its hosting of Joe Rogan’s popular podcast, which has been criticized for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. Over the weekend, Spotify’s C.E.O., Daniel Ek, said that the service would add a “content advisory” to some podcasts and Rogan pledged to “balance things out.”
At root for Spotify is a question that confronts many tech giants in the streaming and social media age: Is it a platform or a media company?
The streaming service says it isn’t responsible for moderating content posted on its platform, much as social networks like Facebook have argued for years. But commentators like Peter Kafka of Recode note a key difference between Spotify and those companies: Spotify directly paid a reported $100 million for the exclusive rights to Rogan’s podcast, and the company has noted that his show has increased its ad revenue. To some, that puts an extra onus on Spotify to act like a media company and take responsibility for content.
What artists think: Last week, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell pulled their music from the platform. This weekend, the star podcaster Brené Brown, who signed an exclusive deal with Spotify in 2020, said that she would not release any more episodes “until further notice.” Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who also have an exclusive deal with Spotify, said that they expressed concerns about coronavirus misinformation on Spotify’s platform to the company last April.
What Rogan thinks: In a video statement posted late yesterday, Rogan said “I am going to do my best in the future to balance things out.” He agreed on the merits of putting a disclaimer on episodes that discuss the coronavirus. Rogan also thanked Spotify for its support: “I’m very sorry that this is happening to them.”
How Spotify is responding: Beyond adding the content advisory notice, the company is also directing listeners to a page with information about Covid and has published its content policy rules. But Ek wrote in a public letter that the company must balance “creator expression” with “the safety of our users,” adding that “it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor.” Other tech companies have said similar things when faced with their own platform dilemmas. It hasn’t necessarily settled their critics’ concerns.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
The West prepares sanctions to deter Russia from invading Ukraine. U.S. officials vowed to punish Moscow with wide-ranging sanctions on banks and other companies (and have already briefed Wall Street), while Britain will target Russian oligarchs. That said, several big investors, like BlackRock and Fidelity, aren’t selling their holdings in Russian debt, betting that diplomacy will defuse the crisis.
T-Mobile warns it will fire unvaccinated corporate employees. The wireless carrier told workers that if they aren’t fully vaccinated by April 2 and haven’t received an exemption on medical, religious or state law grounds, they “will be separated” from the company. The rule doesn’t apply to most workers at the company’s retail stores.
Evergrande confirms one of its properties was seized by a creditor. The troubled Chinese real estate developer said receivers had been appointed for a land tract in Hong Kong that was pledged as collateral for a loan from the investment firm Oaktree.
Goldman Sachs pays its chief $35 million. The hefty compensation for David Solomon brings him in line with a top rival, Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman, in the race to be the highest paid C.E.O. of a Wall Street bank.
One big thing (or is it 16 million?) to keep in mind about Tom Brady. Confusion arose over the weekend amid reports that the star N.F.L. quarterback had decided to retire, which were rebutted by Brady’s camp. Take note: Brady is under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers through next season, but would give up $16 million of his signing bonus if he retired now.
A bad start to the year for stock market bulls
With one day to go, January is shaping up to be the worst month for stocks since the beginning of the pandemic. As it stands, the S&P 500 is down 7 percent this month, making it the fourth-worst January since at least 1928, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. Futures suggest that stocks will open lower.
Investors remain nervous about what the Fed might do about inflation. Rob Arnott, the chairman of Research Affiliates, told DealBook that even if supply chain problems eased, the housing boom would keep inflation numbers running high for a while. Raphael Bostic, the president of the Atlanta Fed, told The Financial Times that “every option is on the table” for the central bank, including larger-than-expected interest rate increases.
But most Wall Street strategists think the market will turn around. Analysts at Goldman Sachs and UBS both predict that the market will end the year about 15 percent higher than where it closed last week. “I don’t think there is a very big risk for a recession right now,” James Paulsen, a strategist at Leuthold Group, told DealBook. “Then I don’t think it is a bull ender.”
And small investors bought the dip. In the first three weeks of the year, individuals with accounts at Bank of America have bought $2.3 billion more in stocks than they have sold, the bank said.
More market news:
“Does it make any sense? To sit inside all day in front of a machine, making money I don’t need so I can give it to someone I don’t know?”
— The hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman on the moral calculations of a billionaire.
Cy Vance Jr. is worried about cybersecurity
Today, Cyrus Vance Jr., whose third term as Manhattan district attorney ended last year, begins a new job as a partner at the law firm Baker McKenzie, leading its global cybersecurity practice. This comes as tensions between Russia and Ukraine raise the specter of ransomware attacks worldwide.
“This moment of intense interest in cybersecurity” heightened Vance’s already considerable concerns, he told DealBook’s Ephrat Livni. As Manhattan’s chief prosecutor for more than a decade, Vance, 67, saw how technological developments can create new threats. “Tension between countries can lead to attacks by state actors against individuals and to businesses in other jurisdictions,” he said. Now, “we have a much broader range of threat actors and sectors because we have high value, high dollar targets for ransomware,” he added.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security alerted law enforcement agencies to an increased risk of attacks by the Russian government or its proxies.
Britain’s national cybersecurity center said on Friday that businesses should bolster their defenses, expecting malicious activity tied to the tension in Ukraine.
“To say this is top of mind for our clients is an understatement,” said Colin Murray, the C.E.O. of Baker McKenzie North America. In a recent survey of business leaders by the firm, about 80 percent said cybersecurity risk was a primary concern. “When facing attacks to infrastructure, coordination with the government is critically important to catch the bad guys,” he said. “Cy has a tremendous amount of experience in that area. ”
For more on geopolitics and cybersecurity, read “The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon” in The New York Times Magazine.
Exclusive: Audrey Strauss reunites with former prosecutors at Fried Frank
For DealBook, The Times’s Benjamin Weiser is first to report a major move in the legal world.
Audrey Strauss, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who ascended to that post after the tumultuous 2020 firing of her predecessor, Geoffrey Berman, by President Donald Trump, is returning to private practice.
Straus, 74, is rejoining Fried Frank as a senior counsel in the firm’s white-collar practice, which she led from 1995 to 2012. She stepped down as U.S. attorney in October after Damian Williams, President Biden’s nominee, was sworn in.
With her return to Fried Frank, the firm has effectively recreated the Southern District’s recent front office: Berman arrived in December 2020 to lead its white-collar practice; and Ilan Graff, the deputy U.S. attorney under Strauss, joined the firm as a partner this month.
Strauss said in a statement that she was excited to be “rejoining my former partners and friends in the firm, as well as my recent colleagues from the U.S. attorney’s office.”
In January 2018, Berman, after being appointed by the Trump administration to lead the Southern District, named Strauss as his senior counsel, and she later became his deputy. Strauss, known for her understated style, was forced into the spotlight in June 2020 when Bill Barr, then the attorney general, sought to replace Berman with a Trump administration ally.
After Berman initially refused to step down, Trump ended up firing him, leaving Strauss as the acting U.S. attorney — only the second woman to lead the storied office in its more than 230-year history. The judges of the U.S. District Court later exercised a rarely used power to formally appoint her to the post, extending her tenure.
During her time as U.S. attorney, Strauss announced the indictments of high profile defendants like Ghislaine Maxwell, the former companion of Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of sex trafficking in December; and Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, who was charged with misusing funds. (Trump later pardoned Bannon.)
She also oversaw the continuing investigation of Rudy Giuliani over his dealings in Ukraine. Giuliani, himself once the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, has denied any wrongdoing.
THE SPEED READ
Citrix is reportedly near a deal to sell itself to the buyout arm of Elliott Management and Vista Equity Partners for about $13 billion. (Fintech Zoom)
“An Army of Faceless Suits Is Taking Over the $4 Trillion Hedge Fund World” (Bloomberg)
Why Apple won’t buy Peloton. (Bloomberg)
Democrats have long complained about “dark money” donations, but they benefited from it in 2020. (NYT)
China accused the U.S. of trying to “sabotage” the Winter Olympics by paying athletes to criticize Beijing and compete halfheartedly. (Reuters)
“Inside the campaign to pressure Justice Stephen Breyer to retire” (WaPo)
Best of the rest
Britain agreed to extradite Mike Lynch, the software mogul accused of defrauding HP in the sale of Autonomy, to the U.S. to face criminal charges there. (CNBC)
MacKenzie Scott sold Amazon stock last year that was potentially worth $8.5 billion. (Bloomberg)
A New York City rule about publishing salary ranges in job postings is a big advance in the movement for more transparency around pay. (Axios)
The latest craze TikTok has made popular: print books, which just had their best ever year for sales. (Fintech Zoom)
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