Analysis | 'Make DMs Safe' campaign pressing tech giants on encryption grows post-Roe – The Washington Post

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A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.
with research by Aaron Schaffer
A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.
Happy Thursday! Sorry internet, but I’ve never had a negroni. Send your disappointment and news tips to:
Below: Inside the Google unit that’s building tools for Iranian protesters to access the internet, and Google approves Truth Social.
Over 50 abortion rights and privacy groups are upping the pressure on tech companies to make their messaging services more secure, citing growing concern that users’ private communications could be used to prosecute abortions post-Roe v. Wade.
The “Make DMs Safe” campaign calls on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other companies that control popular messaging apps to offer full encryption automatically to consumers, among other protections. 
Activist group Fight for the Future first launched the push in September but unveiled dozens of new backers Thursday. Much of the coalition has long urged Silicon Valley giants to boost privacy protections for consumers, but they say the Supreme Court decision revoking the federal right to abortion has raised the stakes for millions, particularly when it comes to safeguarding private and direct messages, or DMs.  
In an open letter and online petition, the groups call out a slew of major tech companies for declining to partially or fully offer encryption by default, and demand they do so by the end of the year. 
Nathalie Maréchal, policy director at the advocacy group Ranking Digital Rights, said many users “reasonably” assume messages that are labeled as private can’t be seized by law enforcement, but that’s often not the case. 
“I think most people don’t understand that if they communicate through, say, Facebook Messenger … that it’s not actually private,” said Maréchal, whose group signed onto the campaign.
Here’s a breakdown of what protections companies currently offer — and why advocates say it’s not enough: 
Twitter DMs should have end to end encryption like Signal, so no one can spy on or hack your messages
Google’s elite Jigsaw unit built a VPN tool called Outline, which has surged in popularity in Iran as protesters try to access the internet without government restrictions, Joseph Menn and Yasmeen Abutaleb report. U.S. officials are trying to prod tech companies into providing services — especially communications tools — as the Iranian government continues to crack down on protests, which began in September after a 22-year-old woman died in the custody of the country’s “morality police,” which detained her for showing too much hair. 
“The VPN, called Outline, is available on its own as an app or web download and in versions distributed by third parties such as nthLink, a company that receives U.S. government funding,” they write. “nthLink says monthly users in Iran of Outline have soared tenfold in two months, to 2.4 million unique devices in September.” Outline is a free VPN tool that lets users hide their tracks online better than most paid versions.
Jigsaw is run by Yasmin Green, who fled Iran with her parents when she was 3 years old. Google founder “Larry Page used to say all Google products ought to be like a toothbrush, where everybody uses it at least twice a day,” Green said in her first extended interview since she was promoted to lead Jigsaw in July. “We changed the metaphor to an air bag. People don’t need it often, but when they do, they absolutely need it to work.”
The app is now available to download in the Google Play Store, giving the app a key place to be distributed with less than a month until midterm elections, Bloomberg News’s Julia Love reports. Truth Social agreed to remove content that violates Google’s policies, Google told Bloomberg News.
Axios previously reported that Truth Social hadn’t been approved by Google because of incitements to violence and threats on the app. The outlet first reported that the app had been approved by Google.
Truth Social has faced business challenges beyond Google. The special-purpose acquisition company Digital World Acquisition Corp. has delayed a key vote on whether to extend a deadline for merging with Trump’s start-up. The company also faces investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors.
It comes as tech groups prepare to ask the Supreme Court to take up the law, which forbids firms from removing posts based on their users’ political ideology, Politico’s Rebecca Kern reports. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in September upheld the law.
Texas didn’t oppose the tech groups’ motion to stay the appeals court ruling so long as they didn’t ask for an extension of time to file their request to the Supreme Court, Kern reports.
“NetChoice and CCIA say the September ruling conflicts with a May ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which declared that a similar Florida law banning the removal of political candidates from social media platforms largely violated tech companies’ constitutional protections,” Kern writes. “In a 5-4 ruling in May, the Supreme Court had previously blocked the Texas law from going into effect in response to a previous emergency request by NetChoice and CCIA, based off an earlier 5th Circuit decision last spring.”
Apple to withhold latest employee perks from unionized store (Bloomberg News)
FCC poised to ban all U.S. sales of new Huawei and ZTE equipment (Axios)
Crypto group sues Janet Yellen, U.S. Treasury over Tornado Cash sanctions (Bloomberg News)
Microsoft says Sony bias on $69 billion deal swayed CMA (Bloomberg News)
Twitter reviews policies around permanent user bans (Financial Times)
TikTok parent ByteDance plans music-streaming expansion (Wall Street Journal)
I made $200,000 last year ghostwriting tweets for superstar VCs (Insider)
Today’s third @washingtonpost TikTok is about how your manager could spy on you with commonly used apps
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