The Code Conference brings together key leaders from the tech and business worlds to talk about what comes next. The 2023 conference features X CEO Linda Yaccarino, GM CEO Mary Barra, and more.
I gave Clockwork’s manicure robot a try at the Code Conference. After I picked out a nail polish color, it took about 10 minutes to walk out with a fresh manicure.
Clockwork doesn’t file or shape your nails — it just paints one coat of polish, using AI to identify where to paint.
I don’t see this replacing the nail salon experience, but it could be helpful if you’re in a pinch and need something quick. So far, my polish is holding up pretty well. Clockwork is currently available at these locations and costs $10.
Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, was a late add to the agenda, and that meant two of the last sessions of the event were a kind of meta conversation about Twitter’s past and X’s future.
Catch clips of both interviews and some of my thoughts in our video recapping the interviews, and you can read more real-time thoughts in our storystream. If you want to watch the interviews yourself, virtual passes are available here right now.
Julia Boorstin asked her to confirm that X would start charging users to post, as Musk floated a week ago. Yaccarino was not so sure:
We’ll have a few more videos to share as we wrap things up, so check back in for some of the key moments. And if you want all the details, read back through our StoryStream below.
There was a recurring theme to Yaccarino’s answers: she keeps defending X from statements and choices by Elon Musk.
Harassment of Yoel Roth? Linked to Musk. Advertisers fleeing the platform because of chaotic moderation decisions before she was hired? Musk. A dispute with a well-regarded nonprofit combatting anti-Semitism? Musk.
She’s surprisingly good at diffusing these questions, but you’d think that X would want to talk about literally anything other problems caused by Musk.
She didn’t dispute that some members of the team had been fired, but she said X is expanding its work to combat platform manipulation and disinformation overall.
“It’s an issue we take very seriously,” she said. “And contrary to the comments that were made, there is a robust and growing team at X that is wrapping their arms around election integrity.”
Boorstin is trying to squeeze in a last couple of questions before they wrap up.
Yaccarino says in response to the dispute between Musk and the Anti-Defamation League.
I think the implication is that she wishes the ADL — a nonprofit focused on combating anti-Semitism — would stop criticizing X for its moderation problems and calling on advertisers to abandon the platform.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt “continues to question the progress as it relates to anti-Semitism,” Yaccarino says. “It is disappointing that there is not equal time given to all the progress.”
She mostly talked about the value of spirited debate, but did say this: “All I’m saying is that the the idea of the inability to have a debate or feedback, I haven’t experienced or I’ll say I haven’t experienced it yet.”
When Boorstin asked about how the plan would impact X usage, Yaccarino asked her to clarify.
“Did he say we were moving to it specifically, or did he say that’s the plan?” she asked
Boorstin pushed her on whether they’d discussed it first. “We talk about everything,” she said. But the exchange does not, exactly, have me convinced.
An actual question Linda Yaccarino has posed to the audience. Not me!
“Something like that,” Yaccarino said on stage. She pulled out her phone like she was going to double check the number, then got sidetracked by a long answer.
Later, she threw out as examples 540 million monthly active users and 225 million daily active users without quite committing to them being real figures.
She’s completely dodged Julia Boorstin’s question about if everyone will be charged to use X.
From an “operating cash flow perspective,” the company is “just about break even.” In early 2024, “we’ll be turning a profit.”
90 percent of the top 100 advertisers have returned to the platform. In the last 12 weeks, about 1,500 have returned.
Roth said his advice to her was to think about the risks of working with Musk and “what she might face.”
To Yaccarino, having safety concerns comes with the territory of being a CEO. “I feel great. I’m well protected,” she said. Yaccarino said she appreciated his concerns. “I think that’s just a human emotion when you get thrust into such a public spotlight.”
“There is no analog for the book that is being written right now,” she said onstage at Code. That sounds like a ridiculously lofty claim to me! She says that there have been over 100 products shipped since the acquisition.
The house is packed right now for Yaccarino’s interview, particularly after the surprise of Roth’s appearance. She opens the conversation with a response to Roth, saying that his Twitter was “operating on a different sets of rules ... ideologies that were creeping down the road of censorship.”
She doesn’t exactly engage with Roth’s assertion that X is doing less to stop harassment on the platform.
“It’s a new day at X,” Yaccarino said. “And I’ll leave it at that.”
She’s speaking with CNBC senior media and tech correspondent Julia Boorstin.
There’s a lot to discuss — for one, the ongoing chaos of working with Elon Musk and transforming Twitter into X. But also, two events just today.
Twitter’s former trust and safety leader, Yoel Roth, was on stage less than an hour ago discussing how Musk sent harassment his way. Also today, Media Matters came out with a report about X placing NFL ads on accounts of white nationalists. That’s a big ding in Yaccarino’s promise that X is brand safe.
She’ll wrap up Code Conference 2023. See you then.
Verge EIC Nilay Patel asked whether the company is as “dependent on Nvidia as everybody else.” Adobe’s Still didn’t answer the question directly, but she suggested the company needs more than one GPU partner.
“I would say we’re certainly using a lot of GPU server capacity,” she says. Of course, “Nvidia’s a great partner,” she caveats.
Free and paid Adobe users get credits to use its generative AI tools, Still says, because they don’t want someone to have to pick between buying an add-on or just making stuff.
I’m hearing a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd. A photographer in the front row is shaking his head in disbelief.
Now, he’s adding a cat. (Sorry dog.)
In the first demo, the presenter is removing the out of focus dog at the front of this frame. He’s using Adobe’s generative fill to fill in the space where the dog left.
Yoel Roth said he said that to Elon Musk when he left the company. He’s rooting for CEO Linda Yaccarino, the current CEO of X — who will be speaking at Code in just a bit.
I asked him if there would ever be a platform that’s as culturally relevant as Twitter, now X. “I do hope somebody can capture that,” he said. “I hope they can do it better than Twitter.”
To CEO Linda Yaccarino: “Look at what your boss did to me,” he says, referring to Musk’s tweets opening him up to death threats. “I hope she is thinking about what those risks are and what she might face.
To Musk: “There are still people within Twitter who care about the platform, who care about making thoughtful, principled, data-backed decisions for Twitter’s users. Listen to them, give them space, don’t overrule them.”
Roth says he’s worried about the lawsuit trying to stop government agencies from working with platforms on moderation.
“It’s a chilling effect,” he said. Even with parts of the original ruling overturned, the communications haven’t started up again, he said. “The strategy works even when it loses in court.”
He sees a similar chilling effect happening across the tech landscape. “It’s what they’re doing to academics, folks working in government, to platforms themselves,” he says of people trying to stop content moderation.
At Code 2023, he noted that of all the VLOPs, TikTok hasn’t laid off members of its trust and safety team and that it continues to invest heavily in identifying inauthentic behavior. Not the answer I was expecting!
They started after Musk implied that Roth had advocated for sexualizing children — an obviously untrue statement.
Shortly afterward, his address was published online. “I had to sell my house. I had to move,” Roth said. “I bounced between a couple of different places for a few months and then lived in a temporary apartment for a while while I tried to figure out where to land next.”
Roth says there was “overwhelming pressure to change” the platform. “Maybe that pressure would prove to be positive in the long run. My experience was that it wasn’t,” Roth said.
He expected there to be constraints on what Twitter could strip away in terms of safety. But the company didn’t “behave rationally.” And so things have gotten worse.
Kara Swisher is interviewing him, ahead of X CEO Linda Yaccarino appearing at the end of the day.
Roth is a surprise addition — from what I can tell, Swisher added him into the schedule in the last 24 hours. Quick reminder: she doesn’t run this conference any more... but, you know, everyone still listens to Swisher.
Toner and Cotra both say they like this new method for slowing down AI development. Basically, companies have to “clearly state what capabilities [they’re] ready to deal with.”
If they’re not ready to handle something, they need to make sure their AI systems can’t do it. Cotra says what she likes about this method is it can “make you pause as long as you need to” to get AI safety right.
Platformer’s Casey Newton is moderating a conversation with Ajeya Cotra, senior program officer at Open Philanthropy, and Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
Roblox CEO David Baszucki thinks people will be dating in Roblox, but at Code 2023, Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd doesn’t sound like a fan of that idea. “Maybe that is how people will originally connect,” she said, but noted that “I will be much more sad for humanity than myself if people just stop really meeting in real life.”
It uses AI to identify bird species, take photos of them, and organize the photos on your phone.
He compares it to real life Pokemon Go, which... kind of rules. I’m all in on birds now.