Welcome to the FORWARD GC, a 4 minute newsletter with fresh takes on the legal news you need to start your day. Curated by friends at Lawtrades—a marketplace connecting GC’s to tech-enabled legal talent for overflow work.
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This week: The TikTok-White House legal saga veers into the strangest territory yet, and U.S. politicians go after Mark Zuckerberg. Plus: a new survey reveals nearly all GCs have dealt with changing roles in 2020.
It’s a busy time. Covid, holidays, NFL football, the election and so on. But do you think you could ever be busy enough to forget about an unprecedented legal maneuver you made against a powerful Chinese social media company?
For the White House, that answer appears to be yes.
The Trump administration has been acting like a bad Tinder match to TikTok: The last news on TikTok came earlier this fall when the White House gave the app’s parent company, ByteDance, until Nov. 12 to finalize a deal that would sell the app to American owners. Otherwise TikTok would be banned in the U.S. ByteDance wanted an extension of 30 days (which it claims was allowable under an earlier agreement) and repeatedly asked the White House but never got an answer.
The deadline came and went: And the White House took no action. On Nov. 13, the White House finally gave ByteDance a two-week extension.
But will the Trump administration finally listen to TikTok?: TikTok claims the White House not only failed to respond to its extension requests but also to questions about privacy and security needs. ByteDance had originally planned to sell part of TikTok to Oracle and Walmart -- with the approval of Trump --but the deal has not been finalized.
The 60 Minutes treatment
The new deadline for the sale of TikTok is November 27, the day after Thanksgiving (do you really think the White House is going to remember that one?). If no deal has been reached, the Trump administration’s Department of the Treasury may sue, further adding to this complicated situation.
In the year 2019, people used to have jobs that often involved going to an office and duties that were obvious from the title. That is not the case in 2020, especially for GCs.
GCs had to become more versatile: Even before the pandemic, GCs had a crazy amount of variation at their jobs, completing technical legal work while discussing high-level company plans with CEOs and board members. But a new survey indicates that GCs saw their roles expand even further.
From pandemic prep to diversity chiefs: The data, from FTI Consulting, is based on in-depth interviews with 31 GCs of Fortune 1000 companies. FTI found that 84% of GCs had essentially become chief health officers, tackling the challenge of assessing policies that strike a balance between business productivity and health. They were also shouldering some of the burden for ensuring better inclusion and diversity strategies at their companies.
GCs were sending out lots of legal work: Nearly all of the GCs surveyed said they were hiring outside firms and other services (like Lawtrades) for completing more legal work.
The main takeaway was that things have been pretty tough
Being overworked was a common theme. The respondents noted their roles had changed or intensified. For some it was new work from tackling health and safety; for others it was making Covid-19 related plans or preparing for an expected increase in litigation when the pandemic ends.
There was a silver lining in the survey. Perhaps because of the advent of a virtual workspace, the share of GCs who considered their company and their legal department to be tech savvy had increased by 16 percentage points compared to a year ago.
There was a new chapter in the neverending story of the federal government vs. Big Tech. And this time Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey felt the heat.
The main topic was content moderation: On Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Republican Senators like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley went particularly hard after Zuck’s Facebook and Dorsey’s Twitter. Hawley and Cruz accused both social networks of moderating posts by conservatives, including some of Donald Trump’s, more than posts by liberals -- an accusation that has not been proven.
Democrats largely talked about more moderation: They asked why Twitter and Facebook had not done enough to moderate harmful content. Sen. Richard Blumenthal suggested former Trump aide Steve Bannon’s FB account should’ve been banned after he posted that Dr. Anthony Fauci should be beheaded.
There was consensus about the social networks’ inconsistency: Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed how they are confused about how Twitter and Facebook make moderation decisions -- a sentiment that seemed to endure even as the two CEOs answered questions on Tuesday.
What about Section 230?
This law, which protects companies from speech concerns, is bound to change in the coming years. At the hearing, Dorsey said Twitter probably would not exist without 230’s protections. He said if the law is reformed lawmakers should focus on algorithms.
Dorsey believes users should have the option of turning off algorithms, which may help shelter them from coming across harmful content.
As we know from the federal government’s various actions against Big Tech, times are changing. And despite the recent efforts of Facebook and Twitter to modify their moderation techniques, criticism abounds from Democrats and Republicans.
What else we're forwarding
Amazon gets sued for antitrust violations in Europe: Yep, another antitrust lawsuit. The EU has accused Amazon of using data from other companies that use its platform to gain a competitive advantage over them.
Why young lawyers risk the biggest losses because of Covid: The pandemic and its WFH consequences have especially shrunk opportunities for young lawyers.
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Until next week,
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