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Recode Daily: “Hey Facebook” — The social media giant is building a voice assistant

Plus: Susan Wojcicki has one of the toughest jobs in Silicon Valley, and Apple and Google are blocking TikTok in India.

Facebook sign. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Facebook is building a voice assistant to rival similar assistants from Amazon, Apple, and Google. Facebook is also talking to companies in the smart-speaker supply chain, according to a story from CNBC. A personal assistant makes sense for Facebook, especially given its recent push into in-home hardware. Last fall, when the company launched its video-chat device for the home, Portal came equipped with Amazon’s Alexa instead of a native Facebook assistant. When we asked why, a Facebook executive said: “We looked at [our own assistant], and really our vision is that … the assistant is not the platform.” Apparently those feelings have changed.
[Salvador Rodriguez / CNBC]

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Susan Wojcicki has one of the toughest jobs in Silicon Valley. As the CEO of YouTube, she is ultimately responsible for what content is allowed, and what content is removed, on a platform where people upload the nastiest types of videos you could ever imagine. And have you ever read the comments? 2019 has already been a tough year, full of controversy for YouTube. “One way I think about some of the decisions is putting myself in the future and thinking: in five or 10 years, what will they say?” Wojcicki told the New York Times in a profile that’s worth your time. “If someone were to look back on the decisions that we’re making, would they feel we were on the right side of history? Would I feel proud?”
[Daisuke Wakabayashi / New York Times]

U.S. lawmakers will get their first look at the Mueller report on Thursday after Attorney General William Barr holds a press conference at 9:30 am ET. Someone who won’t be surprised about what the report contains? President Trump. The White House has reportedly been briefed on many of the report’s findings ahead of Thursday’s presser. “The talks have aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings,” the New York Times wrote. Some aren’t happy that President Trump is getting early access: Rep. Jerry Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted Wednesday that he was “deeply troubled” by the briefings.
[Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos, and Katie Benner / The New York Times]

Apple and Google are blocking TikTok, a popular Chinese video app, from their respective app stores in India at the Indian government’s request. India demanded the apps be removed because of “concerns the video-sharing mobile app exposed children to troubling content, including pornography,” according to Bloomberg. TikTok, once called, lets users share short-form video and is incredibly popular with young people. India has been on the forefront when it comes to policing technology platforms. The Indian government proposed rules late last year that would require platforms like Facebook and Google to track what people share on their respective platforms. Critics say the rules would be detrimental to encryption and free speech.
[Mark Bergen and Saritha Rai / Bloomberg]

More tech IPOs are on the way: Both Pinterest and Zoom are expected to list their stock publicly for the first time on Thursday, and the two companies may actually end up with similar valuations. But it’s Pinterest, which has way more brand recognition than Zoom, a corporate video conferencing service, that will garner most of the attention, writes Recode’s Teddy Schleifer. “The stock market is about perception as well as fundamentals. And our perceptions are driven by companies that we actually know, like Pinterest.” Lyft, another tech unicorn that went public late last month, has already seen its stock drop by more than 26 percent.
[Teddy Schleifer / Recode]

AirPods are everywhere these days — and they’re making human interaction a little, er, awkward. Workers in the service industry, like coffee shop baristas or hair stylists, are finding it can be uncomfortable to interact with patrons who don’t take their earphones out of their ears. It can be hard to tell, for example, if someone is listening to your conversation or just listening to their music. “The idea that they’re always in your ears has really changed the way I’ve interacted,” a barista told BuzzFeed News. “It’s kind of a reminder of how people view service workers. I think there’s a good percentage of people who don’t see me as a full person.”
[Alex Kantrowitz / BuzzFeed]

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