Over the last several days, the tech industry has been glued to X, and rewarded with you-saw-it-here-first treats such as Sam Altman scowling while holding up an OpenAI guest badge, Ilya Sutskever lamenting his own role in Altman’s ouster, Mira Murati signaling with a blue heart that she was on Team Sam, and Satya Nadella revealing Microsoft’s (now uncertain) hiring of Altman and Greg Brockman. On this occasion, X has been unavoidable and very, very useful.
The thing is, this is the first time X has felt that way in quite a while, and I don’t expect it to last. This drama is unique because of its wild unpredictability, its hypercaffeinated pace, and its impact—whatever that might turn out to be—on the development of the AI industry, which will affect us all in some way. X is still the tech industry’s platform of choice, but sadly/thankfully most tech stories aren’t quite this essential and exciting.
Of course, I speak as someone who has publicly renounced my usership of the former Twitter, so perhaps it’s natural for me to downplay the significance of its role. But this really is the first protracted “Just when I thought I was out” moment I’ve had in the nearly two months since I quit in disgust at Musk’s endorsement of the German far right—and even now, I still feel no reason to do anything more there than look at other people’s posts. There’s certainly been a lot of urgent news in that period, but so many expert commentators have now set up elsewhere that posts and discussions on Bluesky (I still can’t access Threads here in the EU) have been enough to satisfy my cravings. Again, that’s me. YMMV.
I wonder how many more shots at high-grade relevance X will have, given advertisers’ reactions to having their wares hawked alongside pro-Nazi posts, and to Musk’s latest foray into antisemitism. (It was possible a couple months ago to give him the benefit of the doubt on that front, at a stretch, but his description of an antisemitic trope about Jews stoking anti-white hatred as “the actual truth” settles the matter, even if he continues to deny that’s the case.)
X CEO Linda Yaccarino has now had to beg staff to “put your heads together to bring new revenue into the company.” President Biden, who strongly criticized Musk’s antisemitic post, has now joined Threads—the White House insists the move had been planned for weeks, but the timing remains conspicuous, and any potential shift of the political elite away from X is another reason for Yaccarino to worry. Neil Young, for what it’s worth, is now boycotting the platform.
Meanwhile, X has embarked on yet another pricey lawsuit against its critics, this time targeting Media Matters, the organization that informed advertisers about their Nazi proximity issue. As TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey points out, the suit actually confirms that X was running ads next to the posts of accounts it knew to “produce extreme, fringe content”—the X legal team’s own wording—and as legal commentator Ken “Popehat” White notes, advertisers have the constitutional right to steer clear of toxicity. “Elon Musk’s sullen yawp amounts to a claim that he has a right for companies to sponsor his speech, no matter what he says.” White wrote yesterday. “That’s nonsense, both legally and philosophically.”
It would take a truckload of tech-world drama to pull X out of a death spiral that Musk seems unconsciously intent on hastening. More news below, and do also check out our inaugural Fortune 50 AI Innovators list, which just went live.
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ON OUR FEED
“The understandable drama around Altman being sacked from OpenAI and now joining Microsoft shows us that we cannot rely on voluntary agreements brokered by visionary leaders.”
—EU lawmaker Brando Benifei argues that the OpenAI saga shows how AI regulations needs to be “sound, transparent and enforceable to protect our society.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Sharks are circling OpenAI on the hunt for AI talent, with Satya Nadella and Marc Benioff leading the feeding frenzy, by Rachyl Jones
OpenAI’s venture capital investors keeping legal action on the table if Sam Altman isn’t reinstated, sources say, by Jessica Mathews
OpenAI’s new CEO once labeled himself ‘super opinionated’—and likened working for Microsoft to selling his soul, by Chloe Taylor
Microsoft-Activision Blizzard deal criticism sparks U.K. overhaul of merger assessment regime, by Reuters
SEC alleges in new lawsuit that Kraken failed to register and commingled customers’ funds, by Leo Schwartz
Airbnb names Biden’s former chief of staff Ron Klain as chief legal officer, by the Associated Press
BEFORE YOU GO
SAG-AFTRA and AI. The tentative agreement that will probably end the actors’ strike has a lot to say about AI—one of the actors’ key concerns. But as The Verge reports, it’s not always entirely clear what the deal says on the subject.
The actor/director/producer/writer Justine Bateman—a former SAG-AFTRA board member and negotiator—has warned that vague language potentially creates loopholes for the studios, and an uncertain future for actors. Bateman: “The use of ‘digital doubles’ alone will reduce the number of available jobs, because bigger name actors will have the opportunity to double or triple-book themselves on multiple projects at once.” SAG-AFTRA lead negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland retorted that the contract was “the most that could be achieved with a 118-day strike.”