Briefing

Layoffs and Exec Changes at Snap Labs

(The Information)

Snap has replaced the executive who led the development of its Spectacles, Steve Horowitz, according to a person familiar with the matter. Meanwhile, around a dozen people in Snap’s hardware team, known as Snap Labs, were laid off. The change casts some doubt on the stability of Snap’s hardware efforts, which turned out a buzzy product last year in the camera-mounted glasses, Spectacles. Ultimately sales were minimal, and brought in around $5 million in revenue in the second quarter. But Snap is now working on a new hardware product, possibly a second version of the Spectacles. Mr. Horowitz will be succeeded by Mark Randall, who previously oversaw operations and logistics within the hardware division, Snap Labs. Mr. Horowitz has assumed a new role as vice president of technology, reporting to chief strategy officer Imran Khan. Mr. Horowitz previously reported to CEO Evan Spiegel. As for the layoffs, most were marketing employees. The rest of the group’s marketing division was folded under Snapchat’s VP of marketing Steve LaBella. –Tom


Facebook to Turn Over Ads to Congress

(The New York Times)

Bowing to growing political pressure, Facebook said it would turn over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to congressional investigators. The move comes after Facebook revealed that accounts linked to Russia had purchased ads on the site during last year’s presidential election. Today’s decision seemed inevitable as the company faced mounting calls to disclose all the questionable ads and not just a sample few. We reported yesterday on how Facebook’s lack of allies in the business world left it more vulnerable at a tense time. –Wendy


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China’s Communist Party Fake News

(South China Morning Post)

The Youth League of China’s Communist Party wants you to know that it doesn’t have a Twitter account. Two accounts claiming to represent the party’s youth wing were recently spotted on Twitter, which, like Facebook, is blocked in China. In light of recent revelations about fake news, social media and the U.S. election, who knows what’s real anymore. –Shai


Why Google Spent $1.1 Billion on HTC’s Phone Hardware Team

(The Information)

Google said last night it was hiring 2,000 engineers and licensing IP from the struggling Taiwan-based HTC, which manufactures the Pixel, Google’s smartphone. The deal was probably a no-brainer: HTC has long been a dead man walking, and it probably told Google it would need to shut down work on the Pixel if Google didn’t buy out the unit. As always, the big question around Google and hardware is whether it has the guts to do what Apple and Samsung do: pay billions of dollars a year in marketing to make people feel like they are buying something amazing. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good the Pixel is. –Amir