Plus: Silicon Valley leaders are headed to D.C. again next week; Forbes reveals its Top 50 Women in Tech list; YouTube now has its own version of Stories; millennials aren’t killing watches after all.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg asked Facebook’s communications staff to research George Soros in the wake of his attacks on tech companies. Sandberg asked for information on the billionaire’s financial interests within days of a speech Soros delivered at the World Economic Forum, where he attacked Facebook and Google as a “menace” to society and called for the companies to be regulated. Facebook later hired an outside firm to conduct opposition research on Soros, leading to a campaign to feed reporters with information about the investor’s funding of groups critical of Facebook. Sandberg at first said she was unaware of the hiring of the firm, before later admitting their name had crossed her desk. In a statement, Facebook said that the company had already begun researching Mr. Soros when Ms. Sandberg made her request. [Nicholas Confessore and Matthew Rosenberg / The New York Times]
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General Motors President Dan Ammann is stepping down to take over as CEO of GM’s Cruise self-driving car unit; Cruise’s current head and co-founder, Kyle Vogt, will serve as unit president and chief technical officer. Ammann’s move to Cruise, which GM bought in 2016 to develop and commercialize autonomous cars, is the latest indication that the company views driverless vehicle development and the rollout of robotaxis as offering more long-term growth than its core automaking business. [David Welch / Bloomberg]
Google leaders worked around their privacy and security teams while planning a controversial China project, according to current and former employees. The privacy team planned to present a report to CEO Sundar Pichai that outlined how Project Dragonfly, the company’s initiative to build a censored search engine in China, would result in the company having to play a role in the Chinese goverment’s surveillance of its citizens. But when the meeting finally happened, the security team was not notified. More than 300 Google employees have signed a public letter condemning the potential search product. [Ryan Gallagher / The Intercept]
Top executives from Microsoft, Google, Qualcomm and Oracle will be among the tech companies represented at a Trump administration roundtable discussion next Thursday, Dec. 6, to discuss “bold, transformational ideas” that “can help ensure U.S. leadership in industries of the future.” The meeting will be part of a Washington tour for Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee a day earlier, on Wednesday, Dec. 5; that hearing is expected to cover Google’s handling of data privacy, the potential for political bias on its platform and the company’s exploration of a censored search engine for Chinese users. [John D. McKinnon and Douglas MacMillan / The Wall Street Journal]
White House adviser Ivanka Trump and Apple CEO Tim Cook visited a heavily Hispanic Idaho school district on Tuesday as part of the president’s daughter’s ongoing workforce development and STEM initiatives. Trump will also participate in a Business Roundtable panel discussion on innovation next Thursday, along with IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who is listed among the Top 50 Women in Tech by Forbes magazine. Among these accomplished women, Mary Lou Jepsen may have the career with the most twists and turns. As founder and CEO of her fourth startup, Openwater, Jepsen is working to disrupt the medical imaging industry with wearable devices with higher resolution at a much lower cost than MRI machines. She launched the One Laptop Per Child nonprofit while a professor at MIT, and led display teams at Google X and Facebook’s Oculus team. She’s also one of 16 women on the list with a PhD. [Allison Pecorin / ABC News]
YouTube began rolling out its own version of a Snapchat- and Instagram-like Stories feature, giving creators with more than 10,000 subscribers the chance to use the tool. YouTube Stories will appear for both subscribers and non-subscribers, and they’ll stick around for seven days on the mobile app. Some critics have said that instead of copying popular social media features, YouTube should focus on fixing its ongoing issues, including demonetization problems and advertising concerns. [Julia Alexander / The Verge]
Attention D.C.-area readers: Join newly minted Washington, D.C., resident Kara Swisher at the Studio Theatre next Tuesday, Dec. 4, as she records a live Recode Decode podcast with three veteran political journalists from NBC News: Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell and Hallie Jackson. Swisher will be asking these accomplished journalists how covering the Trump administration is different from previous presidents, what it’s like to be targeted by the president on Twitter and how they think the midterm elections are shaking up the status quo. There will be drinks, networking with other Recode fans, and the chance to meet Swisher herself. Click here for tickets and more information.
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Here’s why an app for finding bikini pics is Facebook’s latest headache. Documents from an old lawsuit are leaking out. What is in the documents? And how damaging might they be for Facebook? [Kurt Wagner]
The federal government is cracking down on DJ Khaled and Floyd Mayweather for telling fans to invest in cryptocurrencies. The SEC’s moves come at a time when there’s a lot of doomsaying about the cryptocurrency economy. [Theodore Schleifer]
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