Eyes On U.S. — Something Broken In The Kingdom Of American Tech
PARIS — There’s a dual story about the U.S. tech scene circulating in the world’s media. The first is structural, about trendlines and economics as Silicon Valley’s all-powerful platforms and companies have seen their stocks tanking and announced large layoffs for the first time ever. The second storyline is about the big tech titans themselves.
No surprises, Twitter is still taking up extraordinary amounts of headline real estate. And it’s impossible to disentangle Twitter the company from its Very-Online new owner, as Elon Musk’s barrage of changes continue to cross new red-lines that could wind up threatening the viability of the company itself.
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France’s Alternatives Economiques holds no punches in comparing Musk to Donald Trump, saying that like the twice-impeached former president, Musk uses Twitter to “shock, provoke, and even manipulate markets and public opinion.”
On Tuesday, Dubai-based Al-Arabiya quotes one of Musk’s irreverent Tweets warning (or threatening) that the company “will do lots of dumb things.” Al-Arabiya declares: “He couldn’t have made a clearer statement.”
International observers note that the spate of firings at Twitter may come back to haunt the company. Musk, who has laid off roughly half the company’s workers, has, by all accounts, decimated the teams responsible for content moderation.
In the U.S., this might be causing problems with advertisers, but in Europe, it’s potentially a problem with governments — which impose much stricter regulations on hate speech, and requirements that companies remove it. Italy’s Il Fatto Quotidiano and France’s Le Monde contextualize Musk’s purchase of Twitter as a peculiarly American battle about the limits of free speech.
Another French daily, La Croix, also expressed its worries about "the shadow side" of Twitter
“Elon would like to present himself as the grand moderator of the most political content on social media in the name of free speech,” Il Fatto’s Luca Ciarrocca writes. “The risk though is that it won’t be necessary because if he continues like this all the users could wind up leaving.”
As the FT reports, this puts Twitter on a “collision course with Brussels,” which has the ability to fine the company up to 6% of its global revenue under the Digital Services Act.
The upheavals at Twitter are partially responsible for the precipitous decline in the stock price of another Musk company — Tesla. Investors in the electric vehicle manufacturer are concerned that Musk might have to unload significant numbers of Tesla shares in order to cover the debt incurred in the acquisition of Twitter, leading the stock price lower.
But falling tech stocks are more than an Elon Musk story. Where the world used to look at Silicon Valley in awe, publications are striking a different tone these days. France’s Le Figaro writes: “There’s something broken in the kingdom of American tech.”
That something increasingly now includes employee headcounts.
It seems that Silicon Valley is cracking right now.
From Facebook’s parent company Meta (11,000 jobs cut) to Amazon (10,000) to Twitter (3,700), U.S. tech companies are trimming their employees by the thousands. That’s a lot of newly unemployed programmers… But the one company that’s not laying anyone off en masse? Dutch payments darling Adyen, botes Business Insider Nederland — even though its main competitor Stripe is cutting 14% of its workforce.
German weekly Die Zeit sees a deja vu: “The wave of layoffs brings back uncomfortable memories of 2000, when the dot-com bubble burst. At that time, the prices of the Internet companies, that were so new at the time, increased highly before crashing violently,” the German weekly writes. “It seems that Silicon Valley is cracking right now. Google was hit by collateral damages after the cryptocurrency crisis. And crypto itself is also struggling to survive.”
Not all are ready to count out the American tech giants so quickly. Georges Nahon, writing in French business daily Les Echos, notes how many fields are now opening up to the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and the blockchain-backed web3.
“In Silicon Valley the next cycle has already started, driven by Generative AI which is already setting off a new gold rush with the creation of more than 100 start-ups in a very short time,” Nahon writes. “Any obituary of Silicon Valley has been written prematurely.”
📰 UP, FRONT PAGE AND CENTER
La Jornada’s Nov. 16 front page
Mexico City daily La Jornada was one of many international newspapers to feature former U.S. President Donald Trump on its front page Wednesday, following the announcement that Trump would be a candidate for the White House in 2024.
In an article titled “Trump: The Monster’s Back”, French-language Canadian daily Le Journal de Montréal compares Trump’s comeback plans to a zombie movie, writing: “Le Grand Orange was stabbed in the heart when he lost the House of Representatives back in 2018. He was gunned down when he lost the presidential election on Nov. 3, 2020. Now he’s tasted some midterms flamethrower. And still, who crawled out from his grave last Tuesday?”
😅 GOTT BLESS AMERICA
“That was one of the greatest football experiences I’ve ever had.” That’s how Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar quarterback Tom Brady described the NFL game between his team and the Seattle Seahawks, which was for the first time taking place on German soil. The game, which the Buccaneers won 21:16, saw 69,811 fans gather in Munich's Allianz Arena (more used to the other kind of football, i.e. soccer).
Berlin-based daily Die Welt reported that U.S. players and commentators alike were impressed with the German crowd’s energy and singing — including a rendition of “Sweet Caroline.”
It was also a streaming hit, with 5.8 million viewers on TV and online, the highest ratings for an NFL game played abroad to date. As German sports website Ran writes: Deutschland ist ein Football-Land!
🎤 IN BRIEF
Taylor Swift at MTV Europe Music Awards 2022
There is definitely bad blood between Taylor Swift fans and Ticketmaster, after the ticket giant canceled this week’s general public sale for the U.S. singer’s upcoming tour because of “historically unprecedented” demand.
The uproar is felt by Swifties around the world, with many taking to social media to bring the spotlight on Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s unique monopoly position in the U.S.
As for Europe, as Belgian media Moustique notes, Swift is not expected to tour there before fall 2023, which should leave local ticket providers ample time “to avoid a new fiasco”.