The news was voluminous and continuous for the past few days, so here’s a recap of who took action when, and what might happen next.
Twitter: a permanent ban and a real-time attempt to shut down all possible account alternatives
Twitter has played a paramount role over the debate about how to moderate President Trump’s communications, given the president’s penchant for the platform and the nearly 90 million followers on his @realDonaldTrump account. In the past, Twitter has repeatedly warned the president, added labels related to electron integrity and misinformation, and outright blocked the occasional tweet.
This week, however, Twitter’s patience seemed to have been exhausted. Shortly after the riots at the Capitol on Wednesday, Twitter put in place a large banner warning its users about the president’s related tweet on the matter, blocking retweets of that specific message. A few hours later, the company instituted a 12-hour ban on the president’s personal account.
At first, it looked like the situation would return to normal, with Twitter offering Thursday morning that it would reinstate the president’s account after he removed tweets the company considered against its policies around inciting violence. The president posted a tweet later on Thursday with a video attachment that seemed to be relatively calmer than his recent fiery rhetoric, a video in which he also accepted the country’s election results for the first time.
Enormous pressure externally on its own platform as well as internal demands from employees kept the policy rapidly changing though. Late Friday night, the company announced that it decided to permanently ban the president from its platform, shutting down @realDonaldTrump. The company then played a game of whack-a-mole as it blocked the president’s access to affiliated Twitter handles like @TeamTrump (his official campaign account) as well as the official presidential account @POTUS and deleted individual tweets from the president. The company’s policies state that a blocked user may not attempt to use a different account to evade its ban.
Twitter has also taken other actions against some of the president’s affiliates and broader audience, blocking Michael Flynn, a bunch of other Trump supporters, and a variety of QAnon figures.
With a new president on the horizon, the official @POTUS account will be handed to the new Biden administration, although Twitter has reportedly been intending to reset the account’s followers to zero, unlike its transition of the account in 2016 from Obama to Trump.
As for Trump himself, a permanent ban from his most prominent platform begs the question: where will he take his braggadocio and invective next? So far, we haven’t seen the president move his activities to any social network alternatives, but after the past few years (and on Twitter, the last decade), it seems hard to believe the president will merely return to his golf course and quietly ride out to the horizon.
Snap: a quick lock after dampening the president’s audience for months
Snap locked the president’s account late Wednesday following the events on Capitol Hill, and seemed to be one of the most poised tech companies to rapidly react to the events taking place in DC. Snap’s lock prevents the president from posting new snaps to his followers on the platform, which currently number approximately two million. As far as TechCrunch knows, that lock remains in place, although the president’s official profile is still available to users.
Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the concomitant Black Lives Matter protests, the company had announced back in June that it would remove the president’s account from its curated “Discover” tab, limiting its distribution and discoverability.
The president has never really effectively used the Snap platform, and with an indefinite ban in place, it looks unlikely he will find a home there in the future.
Facebook / Instagram: A short-to-medium ban with open questions on how long “indefinite” means
Facebook, like Twitter, is one of the president’s most popular destinations for his supporters, and the platform is also a locus for many of the political right’s most popular personalities. It’s moderation actions have been heavily scrutinized by the press over the past few years, but the company has mostly avoided taking direct action against the president — until this week.
On Wednesday as rioters walked out of the halls of Congress, Facebook pulled down a video from President Trump that it considered was promoting violence. Later Wednesday evening, that policy eventually extended into a 24-hour ban of the president’s account, which currently has 33 million likes, or followers. The company argued that the president had violated its policies multiple times, automatically triggering the one-day suspension. At the same time, Facebook (and Instagram) took action to block a popular trending hashtag related to the Capitol riots.
On Thursday morning, Mark Zuckerberg, in a personal post on his own platform, announced an “indefinite” suspension for the president, with a minimum duration of two weeks. That timing would neatly extend the suspension through the inauguration of president-elect Biden, who is to assume the presidency at noon on January 20th.
What will happen after the inauguration? Right now, we don’t know. The president’s account is suspended but not deactivated, which means that the president cannot post new material to his page, but that the page remains visible to Facebook users. The company could remove the suspension once the transition of power is complete, or it may continue the ban longer-term. Given the president’s prominence on the platform and the heavy popularity of the social network among his supporters, Facebook is in a much more intense bind between banning content it deems offensive, and retaining users important to its bottom line.
Shopify / PayPal: Ecommerce platforms won’t sell Trump official merchandise for the time being
It’s not just social networks that are blocking the president’s audience — ecommerce giants are also getting into moderating their platforms against the president. On Thursday, Shopify announced that it was removing the storefronts for both the Trump campaign and Trump’s personal brand.
That’s an evolution on policy for the company, which years ago said that it would not moderate its platform, but in recent years has removed some controversial stores, such as some right-wing shops in 2018.
PayPal meanwhile has been deactivating the accounts of some groups of Trump supporters this week, who were using the money-transfer fintech to coordinate payments to underwrite the rioters’ actions on Capitol Hill. PayPal has been increasingly banning some political accounts, banning a far-right activist in 2019 and also banning a spate of far-right organizations in the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville in 2017. These bans have so far not extended directly to the president himself from what TechCrunch can glean.
Given the president’s well-known personal brand and penchant for product tie-ins before becoming president, it’s a major open question about how these two platforms and others in ecommerce will respond to Trump once he leaves office in two weeks. Will the president go back to shilling steaks, water and cologne? And will he need an ecommerce venue to sell his wares online? Much will depend on Trump’s next goals and whether he stays focused on politics, or heads back to his more commercial pursuits.
Google removes Parler from the Google Play Store, while Apple mulls a removal as well
For supporters of Trump and others concerned about the moderation actions of Facebook and other platforms, Parler has taken the lead as an alternative social network for this audience. Right now, the app is number one in the App Store in the United States, ahead of encrypted and secure messaging app Signal, which is at number four and got a massive endorsement from Elon Musk this week.
Parler’s opportunism for growth around the riots on Capitol Hill though has run into a very real barrier: the two tech companies which run the two stores for mobile applications in the United States.
Google announced Friday evening that it would be removing the Parler app from its store, citing the social network’s lack of moderation and content filtering capabilities. The app’s page remains down as this article was going to press. That ban means that new users won’t be able to install the app from the Play Store, however, existing users who already have Parler installed will be able to continue using it.
Meanwhile, Buzzfeed reports that Apple has reportedly sent a 24-hour takedown notice to Parler’s developers, saying that it would mirror Google’s actions if the app didn’t immediately filter content that endangers safety. As of now, Parler remains available in the App Store, but if the timing is to be believed, the app could be taken down later this Saturday.
Given the complexities of content moderation, including the need to hire content moderators en masse, it seems highly unlikely that Parler could respond to these requests in any short period of time. What happens to the app and the president’s supporters long-term next is, right now, anyone’s guess.
Discord / Twitch / YouTube / Reddit / TikTok: All the socials don’t want to be social anymore with President Trump
Finally, let’s head over to the rest of the social networking world, where Trump is just as unpopular as he is at Facebook and Twitter HQ these days. Companies widely blocked the president from accessing their sites, and they also took action against affiliated groups.
Google-owned YouTube announced Thursday that it would start handing out “strikes” against channels — including President Trump’s — that post election misinformation. In the past, videos with election misinformation would have a warning label attached, but the channel itself didn’t face any consequences. In December, the company changed that policy to include the outright removal of videos purveying election misinformation.
This week’s latest policy change is an escalation from the company’s previous approach, and would result in lengthier and lengthier temporary suspensions for each additional strike that a channel receives. Those strikes could eventual result in a permanent ban for a YouTube channel if they happen within a set period of time. That’s precisely what happened with Steve Bannon’s channel, which was permanently banned Friday late afternoon for repeated violations of YouTube’s policies. Meanwhile, President Trump’s official channel has less than 3 million followers, and is currently still available for viewing on the platform.
Outside YouTube, Twitch followed a similar policy to Facebook, announcing Thursday morning that it would ban the president “indefinitely” and at least through the inauguration on January 20th. The president has a limited audience of just about 151,000 followers on the popular streaming platform, making it among the least important of the president’s social media accounts.
In terms of the president’s supporters, their groups are also being removed from popular tech platforms. On Friday, Reddit announced that it would ban the subreddit r/DonaldTrump, which had become one of a number of unofficial communities on the platform where the president’s most ardent supporters hung out. The social network had previously removed the controversial subreddit r/The_Donald back in June. Discord on Friday shut down a server related to that banned subreddit, citing the server’s “overt connection to an online forum used to incite violence.”
Lastly, TikTok announced on Thursday that it was limiting the spread of some information related to the Capitol riots, including redirecting hashtags and removing violent content as well as the president’s own video message to supporters. The president does not have a TikTok account, and therefore, most of the company’s actions are focused on his supporters and broader content surrounding the situation on Capitol Hill this week.
The 2009-founded startup has raised more than $290 million to date over its decade+ run but describes itself as just at the beginning of a journey to make a dent in the massive and growing market for temporary work, expecting demand to keep stepping up as more sectors and processes go digital in the coming years.
Jobandtalent says more than 80,000 workers have used its platform to secure temp gigs in the last year across the seven markets where it operates in Europe and LatAm (namely: Spain, U.K., Germany, France, Sweden, Mexico and Colombia); while 750+ employers are signed up to “recurrently manage a large part of their workforce”, as it puts it, including XPO, Ocado, Saint Gobain, Santander, Bayer, eBay, Huawei, Ceva Logistics and Carrefour.
It’s focused on competing with traditional staffing agencies such as Adecco and Randstad, though other similar startups are cropping up to cater to an ever more precarious temporary employment market. (Uber, for example, launched a shift-finder app experiment called Works, back in 2019, also targeting demand for on-demand labor — but doing so in partnership with staffing agencies in its case.)
Jobandtalent reports the number of workers looking for temp jobs on its platform doubling every year, while it’s grown revenue to €500 million and says it’s hit positive EBITDA.
The beefed up Series C funding will be put toward expanding into more markets and doubling down on growing its existing footprint, it said today.
“We will keep expanding through Europe and will consider some additional opportunities (the U.S. and some LatAm countries),” co-founder Juan Urdiales told us, noting that its main markets remain Spain and the U.K., while its main sectors are logistics, last mile, warehousing and transport.
The lead investor in the expansion tranche of its C round is new investor InfraVia, a French private equity firm, which is putting in €30 million — investing via a Growth Tech Fund it launched last year that’s focused on European B2B high-growth tech companies.
Existing Jobandtalent investors, including Atomico, Seek, DN Capital and Kibo Ventures also participated in the Series C top-up.
Urdiales said the reason it’s taken in another chunk of funding now is because of increased opportunity for growth as the coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate demand for temping. “The reason why we are raising more is because we are seeing a high potential now to grow even faster than expected,” he told us. “The pandemic has helped us with both workers and employers in terms of adoption of our platform.”
“Covid has accelerated the transformation of many industries. We have seen more adoption of new technologies in the last nine months than in the last five years. The staffing market is experiencing a huge transformation that will be accelerated in the upcoming years, moving from brick and mortar traditional structures to data driven platforms that will improve the experience of both workers and employers,” Urdiales went on in a statement.
“This market is really big and we are just in the beginning of our journey (even though we have been a lot of years in the market now),” he added via email, discussing whether an IPO is on the business’ roadmap in the next few years. “We think that if we continue growing at the pace that we are growing now, and we add some private investors to help us with our growth plans, we may stay private for longer.”
Jobandtalent has been through a number of pivots since kicking off more than a decade ago with the idea of using technology to streamline the messy and consummately human business of recruitment. It started out testing a number of approaches before settling on a linguistics algorithm to parse job ads and create alerts to loop in passive job seekers.
Then in 2016 it pivoted away from enterprise recruitment to focus on mobilizing hiring for SMEs — zeroing in on the growing opportunity for temp job-matching offered by the rise of gig work fuelled by smartphone apps. From there, it’s been honing tools to cater to the needs of employers that are managing large temporary workforces.
The flip side of the rapid growth of “flexible” platform-based labor — and Jobandtalent says it’s eyeing a pool of some 500 million temp workers globally — is something that gig platforms don’t usually like to talk about: Worker precariousness.
But that’s something this startup says it wants to help with too. A key part of the proposition Jobandtalent offers to workers is increased benefits versus what a temp might otherwise expect to get.
The average gig platform does not offer a full suite of workers’ rights and benefits, just as they don’t provide a contractual guarantee of future shifts, as they classify on-demand labor as “self-employed” — even as, simultaneously, they apply mobile technology to tightly manage this workforce (via data, algorithms and their own devices).
This disconnect, between the level of gig worker rights and platform control, has led to a number of legal challenges in Europe — including in several of the markets where Jobandtalent operates (such as Spain, where Glovo continues to face legal challenges over its classification of delivery couriers, for example; and France and the U.K., where Uber has lost a number of employment tribunals over driver status).
EU lawmakers are also eyeing conditions for gig workers — considering whether legislation is needed to protect platform workers’ rights. While some platform giants, like Uber, have already felt politically pressured to offer a level of insurance in the region.
Jobandtalent’s promise is it’s pushing for more perks for temps — leveraging the scale of its platform to get workers a better deal, including by making precarious work more steady (by lining up the next gig) and therefore less uncertain.
“All of the workers have access to the same benefits,” said Urdiales via email when we ask about how Jobandtalent’s perks are structured. “There are benefits such as advance payroll, health insurance, training courses, etc (not all the benefits are available in all countries, it depends on the level of maturity of each country).”
“We want to give any worker that starts working through Jobandtalent access to those benefits and offer a high standard employment treatment, so they have a similar status to what a perm employee has,” he added.
In a press release trumpeting its investment in Jobandtalent, new investor, InfraVia also suggests the platform makes “temporary work a fulfilling professional step” — by defining “career plans” for temporary workers so they can “progress towards permanent and rewarding positions”.
However, when we asked Urdiales what data it has on temp-to-permanent switches that have been enabled by its platform he said this is “not a common thing”.
“Employers are not looking to add workers to their perm workforces, and Jobandtalent is precisely trying to solve that for the workers, trying to give constant employment in different work assignments at different companies so they can find more stability,” he told us, adding: “The market is moving even more into a more precarious temporary employment market, and we believe that in this context a platform like the one that we are offering makes even more sense”.
The other big carrot for workers to plug into Jobandtalent’s temp work marketplace is convenience: It takes a mobile app-based approach — offering a one-stop-shop for giggers to find their next shift, apply for the temp job (via in-app video interview), sign the contract and get paid, as well as access the touted benefits.
Its streamlining of admin around recruitment and payroll is also of course a key carrot for employers to get on board with Jobandtalent’s “workforce as a service” proposition — which claims an upgraded offer (such as a CRM that bakes in analytics for tracking workforce performance in real time) versus traditional temping agency processes, as well as lower costs and increased numbers of job offers.
Its worker-to-temp job matching tech is designed to take the (temp) recruitment strain for employer customers via a proprietary quality worker scoring algorithm which it calls a Worker Quality Score (WQS).
Urdiales told us the criteria that feeds this score include attrition rate, absenteeism rate — and “some productivity metrics of the workers that we place” — when we asked for details, having found no information about the WQS on its website.
Algorithmic scoring of workers can have obvious implications for worker agency.
Nor is it without legal risk in Europe where EU citizens have rights attached to their personal data, such as access rights, and also (under the GDPR) a right to human review of any purely automated decisions that have a legal or similarly substantial impact on them (and decisions impacting access to work would be likely to qualify).
In a recent judgement, for example, a court in Italy ruled that a reputation-ranking algorithm used by on-demand delivery platform Deliveroo had discriminated against workers because the code failed to distinguish between legally protected reasons for being absent from work (such as sickness or being on strike) and more trivial reasons for not turning up for a previously booked shift. (Deliveroo no longer uses the algorithm in question.)
Uber is also facing legal challenges in the Netherlands to its use of algorithms to automatically terminate drivers and to its use of data and algorithms to profile and manage drivers. While ride-hailing company Ola is facing a similar suit over its algorithmic management of gig workers. So EU courts are certainly going to be busy interrogating the intersection of app-driven algorithmic management and regional data and labor rights for the foreseeable future.
The European Commission has also proposed a sweeping reform of the regional rulebook for digital services, which includes a requirement for regulatory oversight of key decision-making algorithms with the aim of shrinking the risk of negative impacts such as bias and discrimination — although any new laws are likely still years out.
Asked whether Jobandtalent’s worker users are provided with their own WQS and given the chance to appeal substantial decreases in the score — including the opportunity to request a human review of any automated decisions — Urdiales said: “The platform gives them constant feedback based on the main metrics that they can affect (voluntary attrition, absenteeism, etc) with the aim to make them improve at work and consequently improve their ability to get more jobs in the future.”