Engadget Podcast: Why is the US trying to ban TikTok again?


Another week, another concerted effort to ban TikTok in the US – except this time, it could actually happen. In this episode, Cherlynn and Devindra chat with Engadget Senior Editor Karissa Bell around the latest TikTok drama. The House passed a bill that could ultimately ban the company if ByteDance doesn’t sell it off within six months. It may face a tougher fight in the Senate, but if it’s approved there President Biden has said he’s willing to sign it into law.

Is this a justified fight against the Chinese-owned social media company, or is it the sum of our political fears against all things China? (Maybe it’s a bit of both?) We discuss why this potential ban could be a huge civil rights violation, as well as the need for true data privacy laws in the US, which would apply to all social networks.


Listen below or subscribe on your podcast app of choice. If you’ve got suggestions or topics you’d like covered on the show, be sure to email us or drop a note in the comments! And be sure to check out our other podcast, Engadget News!

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Topics

  • U.S. House passes bill that would give Bytedance 6 months to sell TikTok – 0:47

  • Microsoft’s Surface and AI event preview – 17:04

  • Apple will allow EU users to download some apps from websites – 27:38

  • Five Tesla execs earned $2.5B over the last five years while the company paid no income tax – 34:53

  • Around Engadget – 44:57

  • Working on – 48:31

  • Pop culture picks – 50:17

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Transcript

What’s up internet and welcome back to the Engadget podcast.

I’m senior editor Devindra Hardwar.

I am Deputy Editor Cherlynn Lowe.

This week, all eyes are on TikTok, or I guess the entire government is aligned to get TikTok

out of the US or at least sold to another company. We’re going to be talking about everything happening around that. So the house just passed a bill that would give ByteDance six months to sell TikTok. If they don’t do that, TikTok will be banned from US app stores.

We’re going to bring on Chris Abell from Engadget to dive into all that. This is something we’ve been talking about for years, but it actually seems like it’s happening now. So that’s pretty wild. As always, folks, if you’re enjoying the show, please be sure to subscribe to us on iTunes

or your podcatcher of choice. Leave us a review on iTunes and drop us an email at podcastsengadget.com.

So let’s dive into the latest battle between the US government and TikTok. Joining us for this discussion is senior editor Chris Abell. Chris, how’s it going?

Well, another busy week for you, Chris. I feel like every time we talk to you, you’re like you’re just following like what the government is doing or what politicians are doing at the latest minute. I feel like this is such a great beat for you.

Yeah, so there was a new bill that kind of came out of nowhere.

Can you basically update us? What just happened this week between the house and the fight against TikTok?

It’s called the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled

Really rolls off the tongue. Yeah.

Yeah, they really nailed it with the name.

And basically, if it passes into law, it gives ByteDance,

It’s it’s weird how this happened so quickly.

the parent company of TikTok, six months to sell the app or else it will be banned in the United States.

Like do we have a sense of like what happened here? Because right now, the two sides of our government, right?

The I mean, the two sides of Congress just have been having a lot of trouble deciding on anything altogether.

Like there’s very little bipartisan legislation happening right now. But all of a sudden, Democrats and Republicans are like, yes, TikTok bad. Let’s ban TikTok for some reason. Chris, do you have a sense of like what’s going on and why this came on so quickly? Thank you.

Yeah, I mean, it’s gotten overwhelming support, which if you know this Congress,

that doesn’t happen very often.

Yeah, I think there’s been some interesting reporting about this.

I think it’s kind of taken a lot of people by surprise,

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

including TikTok themselves. And from what we know from some of the political outlets is, I think that there was sort of a, TikTok calls it a secret effort, but certainly a quiet effort to kind of craft a bill like this.

And I believe that there were officials from the Biden administration that also

kind of advised on writing the bill in a way that they thought might make it more able to stand up to potential legal challenges, stuff like that. But it kind of just came out of nowhere, was introduced last week, and it cleared committee in a unanimous vote two days later, and

then went to the House floor yesterday, and the vote was.

Can we can we talk about the the why of it Karissa?

Because I feel like you have a sense here. We’ve been hearing for years now and honestly since the Trump administration like since he wanted to just like ban TikTok

I mean, I think it’s all of the above.

because he was so mad at it for some reason. I’ve read that there are potential security concerns because this is a major social network that’s on hundreds of millions of phones in the US. People seem to be concerned that it is a company that is ultimately working at the behest of the Chinese government, right? Like that’s how every major Chinese company works. Is that the main thing? Are they worried about actual hacking already happening or is this all about fears of what could happen? Right.

On one level, a lot of it, I wanna say is, maybe not optics is the right word, but certainly, it’s a Chinese company as folks in Congress like to always say.

They think, a lot of them kind of push this idea that the Chinese Communist Party could have exercise sort of undue influence over TikTok and manipulate its algorithm or force them to give them user data. What we know is TikTok says, that’s never happened, even if they tried to do that, they wouldn’t do it, they wouldn’t comply with that kind of order.

Also tiktok status stored in the US now after the last fight,

It is, yes, there have also been cases, few particular cases where it was found

out that ByteDance employees were looking into the accounts of specific journalists, for example, that were doing some unflattering reporting. On the company and TikTok came out against that, they said that those employees got fired. They’ve tried to say that was kind of like a one off sort of thing. And then I think the kind of broader concern that a lot of national security officials have raised is TikTok gets a lot of data about its users, their location, what they’re looking at, all kinds of personal information that these apps collect. And they worry that if that data could somehow flow to China, to Chinese officials, that somehow they could use that in a nefarious way to advance their geopolitical aims. Well, it’s a much bigger problem than just TikTok.

I mean, we’ve talked about a lot of stuff before, especially when you’ve come on

Chris, so that everything the government is pointing to the tiktok is doing is something every single frickin social network is guilty of at this point in terms of tracking user data in terms of doing inappropriate things with user data, undo influence, like influencing kids and kids attitudes.

Like there were even Facebook’s own reporting found that they were negatively impacting teenagers, right? And by highlighting suicidal content and things like that. So what is the difference between what Facebook and Instagram and everybody else is doing and what tiktok is doing? Is it really just the, because it’s from China part of it that seems to be freaking people out, Karissa? That’s it.

I mean, yes, there are people in Congress who actually care about

That’s it. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

the data access issue and they want to pass kind of comprehensive privacy legislation. But so far those efforts have gotten nowhere but kind of China bad, TikTok bad, has that sort of point of view has found a lot more support. [BLANK_AUDIO]

Tiktok itself has responded. The CEO, Shou Chu also put up a response video last week yesterday saying that it’s a violation of first amendment rights and things like that.

Like, so I was also saw reporting at the New York times that tiktok has sent influencers has basically paid for influencers to go to, to the Capitol and to, or to Congress and to protest and also to be very vocal about what’s happening here and to whip up their followers. Tiktok also did an a push update to users in the U S saying, Hey, call your Congressman about this thing that’s happening, which not a great look, but also, you know, who else did that?

Uber, Lyft, like so many other apps that we use and rely on have done this to like influence, you know, how politicians think of them too.

But again, it’s because, oh my God, this Chinese app sent a push

notification to everybody. What are we going to do about it? I, I’m just like, where do you come down this ultimately, Sherlin? Because I know you have thoughts about Tiktok overall.

Yeah, we talked a little bit about this before we got into this episode, the vincro, which is

I have less of the concerns around the data access thing in part because it’s hard to prove so far. I will say I look at other Chinese companies that have really grown in popularity recently, like Temu. Temu is the classic example, one of those companies that out of nowhere, they had Super Bowl ads

and then just had ridiculous press. They were spamming all your Instagram ads and they just really insidiously took over. And then you see people talking about Temu now because for me, I never wanted to use Temu. I was very much like, no, the way they’ve come up is way too suspicious. But then it is very weird.

That’s weird. It’s weird. Yo. Yeah. Yeah.

And then I heard about other people buying stuff from them. I’m starting to see people order stuff from them. I see packages in my lobby, that sort of stuff. And I’m realizing that people are just buying the…

They don’t really care so much that Temu is a Chinese company. They care that it’s cheap. And then you see all the online discussion over Amazon goods versus Temu goods and the same thing can cost a lot less on Temu.

But then you don’t consider the fact that Amazon is a bit more of a trusted company. You can refund more easily. That sort of stuff. Also that. So do I think Temu is out here to get your data? No.

And most importantly, it’s a U S company. So yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

But do you know what I think is happening? And this is me putting on my conspiracy theory hat. China is influencing America in a lot of ways that you might not be aware of. TikTok is one of the ways. TikTok, I’m less nervous about the data access and more about the ease with which they could push propaganda if they wanted to. They are on all our phones. They have control over all the algorithms. If they wanted to send one message, they could just tweak the algorithm and have everyone look at this one video.

They could. Sure. All of a sudden.

So that’s one thing. The other is competing against Amazon. They’re undermining the competition. If they did steal customers from Amazon, which I don’t think they’re going to, then they’re weakening one of your biggest companies. The other thing that’s linked to the propaganda issue here. Look at all the Chinese companies and names in your film industry. Look at all the movies that are made just because China threw some money at it and it’s like you have to hire this and that. Chinese actress, whatever.

There are more Chinese actors in Hollywood productions.

Tencent is in so many things. Don’t even talk about the gaming and mobile gaming industry. Look at Tencent’s name in all your films.

Things are set there. Yeah. I mean, sure, sure.

This is just the things that have crept up over the years that people aren’t really paying attention to that I feel is the larger issue here. And I feel a TikTok ban might not solve it, but it’s at least raising awareness. And I think that’s where the fear comes from.

But that’s so many things you’re pulling up so many things for

and you’re right. Like there’s a lot of like money from China going into Hollywood, going to all sorts of things and games and also real estate.

Oh, don’t even get me started.

That’s a whole thing. Like, yeah, there are so many things going on. We have also talked about the cybersecurity concerns around China

because openly the U S government is like, yeah, China is attacking us. Like the government’s attacking us. It’s been tied to groups hacking into companies and hacking into

like, I think even government offices after a certain point. So like there are those concerns there, but I’m talking specifically about social media. It sure seems like if we have all these concerns about what China

is doing and about what the power of TikTok is, it almost seems like the better solution would be like, like you were mentioning Chris, that the people talking about a, okay, an overall data

privacy bill that could protect kids no matter using which app they’re using and protect our data and maybe open up the transparency of algorithms to see how things are actually working. It feels like that would be where our energy is better spent, but that would not be good for YouTube or Facebook or everything, right? Like is from your sense, Chrissa, would that be more effective?

But is there a reason we’re not seeing that?

You. [silence] You can’t point to a country and say, like, “It’s this country’s fault,” right? That’s the ultimate thing. We have seen commentary from researchers and activists to—

I’m reading from our post here—in a letter to lawmakers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the EFF, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU, Fight for the Future,

and the Center for Democracy and Technology have all argued that the bill would “set an alarming global precedent for excessive government control over social media platforms,” and they likely invite copycat measures by other countries, “with significant consequences for free expression globally.” So that is the other thing, too. Like, listen, China already has the internet already restricted for a lot of its users, right? People can get access to the full breadth of the internet or Google or everything, but would other companies start to react to this, too? If we are starting to block TikTok, would people start to just block Facebook or Meta from some things as well? That could be a potential issue. But I feel like that’s an aside. That’s not the core potential harm here.

For me, it’s just like, it’s really weird. We just want to kill one app, man. Especially when there’s not one thing you can point to, to be like, “Hey, this app is actively harming us,” whereas Facebook, it self-proved it was actively harming us, and we did nothing to them, basically.

Meta has slapped fines on these companies, but that’s pretty much it. There’s no nationwide ban of anything. Anyway, this seems like it’s going to be an ongoing story. What is next for this to actually happen, Karissa?

[BLANK_AUDIO] [BLANK_AUDIO]

[silence] [silence] Also interesting that even Trump is saying now that he thinks it would be a bad idea to ban TikTok because it would embalm Meta and Facebook, and “Zucker schmuck” is, I believe, what he called him. That’s according to the posts on True Social, always with the names, always with the very, very smart-sounding, not third-grade name-calling names. But it does seem like that will be a much bigger fight, and yeah, we’ll be paying attention to it. I do wonder, you know, I’ve talked to influencers, I’ve talked to people who have managed to build basically a following on TikTok and earn money from it, just like people have on YouTube and stuff. It also seems really weird that the government could just be like, “Hey, this thing that you’ve kind of centered your life around and has been paying you, we don’t like it right now, so therefore, bye-bye to your livelihood.” To me, that’s also a potential problem. I don’t know. I feel like the president is not great. I want to point people to a lot of great reporting around this stuff. 404 Media, which I love, has a great editorial saying, “The US wants to ban TikTok for the sins of every social media company” by Jason Kobler. Great piece. Great, great piece. Worth reading. And I think that is true. Great headline.

And it really is that we are so mad at social media, what social media has done to us and how it’s influencing kids, but good God, it is happening everywhere.

And I think to a certain degree, TikTok has been better than meta and Facebook, than from hiding some of the actual harms it’s doing to people. So I don’t know. This is such a messy story. But you know what, listeners? Let us know what you think. Drop us an email at podcast@engadget.com. Chris Abell, where can people find you online these days?

They can find me still on Twitter or x, I guess now it’s called, Karissa BE.

I’m also a lot more active on threads and blue sky lately, same handle.

In other news, it looks like event season is whipping back up again. We got the news at Microsoft. Yeah, weirdly.

Microsoft is going to be holding a Surface and AI event on March 21st. At least that was the initial news.

Now I’m hearing from Microsoft. I’m hearing from like a couple different people that this may not be like a huge consumer PC event. This may be more enterprise focused. I believe it’s tied to their Ignite conference. But hey, Microsoft is doing a thing. They’re going to broadcast stuff. We’re going to hear more about their AI and Surface products. Maybe not as much as we expected. What do you think about this, Shrilin? Are you excited to hear what Microsoft has clicking at this point? Yes. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next time. I mean, listen, I’ve been testing Copilot for a bit, and I’ve not been super impressed. I’ve been paying for the Copilot Pro thing just to see how that is going. And some of my responses are a little faster. You know, some of the queries are a little faster. The image generation is better. But, man, it is not. It is not changing my life. It is not worth $20 a month. I spend $20 a month on things I use all the time, you know, and it kills me. All the streaming services I use and I don’t watch enough of. To me, that is more worth it than what I’m getting from Copilot.

And I think that’s the story we’re hearing from some companies, too.

I’m hearing from people at certain big companies that are trying to move over to Microsoft Teams and lean into Copilot stuff that people just don’t want to use it. It is this brand new thing, and it’s really hard to encourage people to do it. But companies will be paying per chair, you know, $20 to $30 per chair for people to use Copilot. I don’t know if that’s going to be worth it for a lot of people. That’s an office license. That’s what an office license used to cost monthly, you know.

You mean Gemini? [LAUGHTER] Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s what we all remember, yeah. It is — I think they’ve just been so desperate. This is what we’ve been talking about last year, right?

Like, Microsoft was so quick to bring Copilot everywhere, and Google’s like, “Oh, shit, oh, shit, oh, shit, Bart, Bart, Bart. Whip it like — get it faster.” Yeah.

Google has its own expertise. I think that much is clear because they have been working on this stuff forever, and we’ve talked about that.

Like, Google has been working on AI algorithms. Like, some part of ChatCPT is from Google’s own research. And, like, the idea of making it a product, that’s where a lot of people have been hesitant. That’s where Microsoft was just like, “Hey, look at what — yeah, look at what OpenAI has. We’re going all in on this.” Yeah.

To be clear, we talk about AI, like, it’s this new, Gen AI is relatively new, but AI’s been around, right?

So if you look at what Google has done in the past with this AI-based features like Smart Compose, Smart Reply, Suggestions, right?

Those are just kind of baked into its products for free. It didn’t charge you a per-seat AI fee to use Smart Reply because it knew probably that people won’t pay for these sorts of things.

Mm-hmm. I think — well, they also didn’t know how to productize it, too. So I feel like that’s been — that’s been, like, part of the thing.

So, you’ll see. True, um…

What do you think about Surface devices, by the way? Because we also talked about last summer — or last fall, when I came to New York for the Surface AI event,

where we didn’t get to see a new Surface Pro. We didn’t get to see a new Surface laptop, and I found a lot of that a little disappointing.

Are you at all ready for new Surfaces? Do you think Microsoft can make a big impact? Because the — we’ve been hearing that these will be the debut of the AI PC Surfaces,

which is also confusing on another level, but I’ll get into that. Are you excited about the new things, Sherlin?

I think it’s, I’m less excited and more curious as to what this means for Microsoft’s hardware direction moving forward and wonder if it’s why Pinos may have left because it looks like they’re just trying to be less consumer-focused and more, “We will shop with, um, we will shop directly to businesses now. We’ll make these Surface devices just for enterprises.”

And so if that’s the case, then like, yeah, that’s where my mindset rather than like, “AI PCs are the new thing.” I’m not really that keen on that.

I don’t know if that’s really the thing, but we did see something last fall that was interesting, is that the new Surface Go, the tiny little hybrid tablet — I think it was the Surface Grow 4 —

that one never got a consumer release, and they didn’t even talk about it during the event. It was just, like, quietly, “Hey, it has new hardware. It’s available for businesses.”

You could still buy it as a consumer, but they are marketing and gearing it towards businesses. I don’t know if the same thing’s going to be true about the Surface Pro, right?

The Surface Pro is like their flagship baby. That’s the thing proving that Microsoft could make a computer differently than Apple. And I think it’s the thing that also, design-wise, pushed a lot of the PC industry to try these hybrid tablets.

My thing is I just don’t think people want these things anymore, because the dream was Windows would eventually be upgraded to be better in a touchscreen tablet environment,

and they just never did that. You know, like, after Windows 8, we got Windows 10, and then I like Windows 10 quite a bit, but Windows 10 and Windows 11 have not done much to really optimize the touchscreen experience. They’re a little better, but they’re still, like, fundamentally, you’re using a keyboard and trackpad or mouse.

You know, they’re really old-school desktop things. It’s not like using iPadOS or something. Yeah.

Yeah. It’s, it’s, and it ties into that whole thing we, I think, talked about last week where Android apps are going away from the Windows ecosystem, you know? Yeah, duh. I don’t think this has worked.

You know, the thing everybody loved and used. Yeah. So, I don’t know. What we’re expecting eventually, it may be next week, it may be later on at the Microsoft Build event,

but we’re going to see new Surfaces with Intel chips that have the MPUs in them. That is what Intel and AMD are marketing as AI PCs right now. I want to be clear, this would not be the first quote-unquote “AI PC Surface” because the Surface Pro 9 with 5G that I reviewed last year had the Qualcomm chip, which had an MPU.

So, that’s where it got really confusing. So, that computer, well, Copilot didn’t exist back then. Or at least Copilot in, yeah. Now there’s also Copilot Key, which is replacing the right-side function key at the bottom of your keyboard.

Did it have a co-pilot key though? [silence]

Also, totally useless. But that was such a weird release because it was a slower chip. It was also running the Windows on ARM setup, so it was incompatible with a lot of older apps.

But it ran like Windows Studio FX because it had the MPU and the Intel-based Surface Pro 9 could not do that.

So anyway, I think I had a good headline when I reviewed the 5G was like “Pro in Name Only” because it was so slow and just didn’t work as well as an Intel computer.

So sure, these will be the first x86-based Surfaces with MPUs and they’ll have Windows Studio FX. They may work better with Adobe software and some other software that’s using this stuff.

I don’t think anybody has fully tapped into what an MPU can do either, so I don’t know how that’s going to excite people. But that’s the thing. I think people will be down for that. I want to ask our listeners actually, are you all still excited about Surfaces? Because I do remember when the first Surface came out, I reviewed that thing. It was a mess, but the vision of what Microsoft was selling was really interesting.

And now we are more than 10 years on. We are a ways into this whole family line. The Surface Pro kind of looks the same. It’s still pretty powerful for how thin it is.

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. [silence]

The Surface laptop is just a laptop. Are you excited at all about anything else Microsoft is doing? I think at the Surface laptop studio in the fall, which is their high-end one that can tilt the screen forward. I also don’t know if people are actually buying that because that machine had some problems. So Microsoft is just in a weird place. And yeah, I think we can see the writing on the wall, like why Panos may have decided to move over to Amazon.

Maybe also I would just wager like Microsoft is looking at this whole division where it has spent billions of dollars in design and R&D and everything.

And Surface has been making money, but not a ton. It took a while for it to start turning a profit. It’s not like a leading PC maker at this point. So I think Microsoft is just in a weird place. Are they just going to tread water with Surface for now?

Kind of like what they’re doing with Xbox? I guess we’ll see. [silence]

Yeah. I mean, I think the Surface tablet still has a place, but with the laptops, even though I really love the Surface laptops, I think they struggle to differentiate from everyone out there, like Dell and HP and so on.

For sure. I think the real challenge is like, listen, whenever I look over at the MacBook Air, like the MacBook Air M2, and I’m looking at the MacBook Air M3, I’m like,

“Oh, you beautiful, you beautiful beast. You’re so thin. You’re so fast. You don’t have a fan. You do everything.”

[laughs] It is. Gosh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

And there’s a reason I’ve been giving it high reviews. And then I look at the Surface and I’m like,

“It’s like the meme where you hear the Jurassic Park theme song and crummy music or something.” It’s just not as good. It’s not as good, even though the Surface hardware is still pretty impressive for what it is. The Windows experience is not as good, I’d say. So anyway, we will be following up with that.

And actually, I think we’re going to release the podcast maybe a little later next week so we can record after the Surface event. Just so we’re fully in the know with all this stuff. So stay tuned for more on this.

We also saw the news this week that Apple is going to allow iOS apps to be distributed on websites in the EU. That follows the stuff we were talking about last week where what additional app stores were going to be opened up and, yeah, third-party app stores. So hey, for some developers, they can link directly to apps from the web. Any thoughts on this, Cherlynn? I think I don’t think we fully know how it’s going to work. I’m going to read from our report here.

Yeah. “The web distribution option, which will be available this spring, will effectively let developers bypass the app ecosystem entirely for their own apps.

To be eligible, devs have to opt into new app store rules and pay for a fee for each user install after certain thresholds.”

So it’s not going through an app store. It’s going through something the developer wants.

Yeah. Right. Which is interesting. I like that they still have to agree to the rules and whatever because you need to assure the quality of the apps, and they should still go through some sort of review to make sure they’re not malware.

Yeah, this cannot be the Wild Wild West like Android is.

Exactly. Like Android sometimes. But I think it is interesting to me because we’ve always had issues running tests on iOS devices versus Android or Windows versus Apple.

And this opens up potentially a way to get a custom battery test in or a custom other sorts of screen testing features in.

I’m intrigued. I don’t know if it’ll come over to the US just yet. I don’t know if that’ll ever happen. I don’t even know what the holdup might be.

If only because it seems like EU has just way more aggressive regulations and the EU is just better at forcing these sorts of fairness things.

They’re better. I mean, we talked last week, the EU fined Apple $2 billion for what it did with music apps.

So, yeah, they are flexing some muscles there. And U.S. regulators are just like, “We can’t touch Apple. Apple 2 is too powerful.”

US regulators, I feel like they want to do to Apple and companies the size of Apple what the EU has been able to do, but they just can’t get their act together.

Oh, sure. They are just like spinning up, right? It’s basically after Lina Khan came on, basically.

Like the FTC is all of a sudden like, “Okay, we’re going to do stuff.” You know, but it’s like starting it’s like trying to get up to highway speed from zero. There’s a lot. There’s a lot. It requires a lot of effort.

I mean, they gotta go learn where Singapore is on the map before they come talk to us. That’s all I gotta say. [silence]

Well, you know, yeah, that goes into what we were talking about before around TikTok showing yes.

We also saw the news that Airbnb is telling hosts to please stop filming their guests. And for the love of God, I wish this was more of a thing initially.

So I had remembered that Airbnb said it was blocking hosts from using cameras in houses. But it’s actually the current policies. They can use cameras in common rooms. I believe they have to like try to let people who are saying no.

But they can’t be in private areas like bedrooms and bathrooms. Now the new rules are saying no indoor cameras at all in rentals.

And also you have to alert people if you have outdoor cameras. Hosts can also use like decibel monitors to, you know, to see what’s going on with noise levels. But they cannot record audio. So that’s the other thing too. Good policies.

Yeah, I think it’s interesting because there’s a lot of anger or discussion around the internet over Airbnbs versus hotels.

Or a room or you’re saying like while somebody is still there.

And if you’re crossing with Airbnb, the idea that it used to be that it’s like people’s homes that they rent out that they don’t need.

But now with these sorts of rules, sure, and that’s not very comfortable for a lot of people, but sure, it doesn’t really matter to me what you’re getting into.

Transparency is key. And I think with this new rule, you’re getting even closer to hotel region for Airbnbs, which is that people who don’t feel comfortable listing their own homes that they would want to keep an eye on as Airbnbs are less incentivized now.

Look, if you’re going to do this, you need to have some level of trust. And if you don’t have that, then it’s going to be really hard for you to run this Airbnb business.

You really need to have a second home. This is kind of why I’ve been seeing people say, “Have a second home, that’s what you rent out as an Airbnb and that’s where you don’t have indoor cameras.”

And I just don’t understand if that logic is going to be any good.

So, I don’t know. If anyone out there is an Airbnb host, and this rule impacts you specifically, because I know I have an indoor camera at home.

I’m the sort of paranoid person that needs to be aware of like what’s going on in my home at any point. And so I would not be an Airbnb host anymore.

I have used it to spy on my partner when he’s been around, so he’s aware. I’ll take a screenshot and send it to him and be like, “Get off my couch now!”

Listen, yeah, I see you taking the last coffee.

This is a whole conversation we need to have as a society about how we deal with

indoor cameras. But how do you feel about Airbnbs versus hotels at this point children? Because I feel like it’s location dependent. I’ve been a lot of great Airbnbs. I’ve been a lot of bad Airbnbs. I’ve been also in a lot of good and bad hotels.

But I feel like the baseline for a hotel is at least better, because there are more views and there’s more stuff going on. There’s more regulation they have to follow. Whereas, it’s kind of like, I don’t know,

is Airbnb really paying close attention to this host? I don’t know what being a super host actually means.

I still feel like there’s more volatility there. Mm-hm.

I agree with you. I think I tend to go more with hotels than Airbnbs, but you’re right. It is location dependent because I have an upcoming trip to rural America and the only available hotels just don’t seem great.

They’re like, “Motels.” I don’t want to give it away too much, but this is a state that starts with the letter I and has a lot of farms and will be going to farm country.

What is rural America to you, Sherlin? Okay, okay. This will be the last we have seen of Sherlin Low.

Yeah, I will be disappearing and I’ll become a child of the corn.

It’s just gone. Well, we can find you easily, Sherlin, because there’s no elevation there. It’s just all flat land.

So we can see if you wander off, we can just look over.

Okay, excellent. There are no clips for me to fall off. Fantastic.

We’ll see you 100 miles away.

There’s nothing, there’s nothing. [LAUGH]

But yeah, in that situation, instead of looking for a hotel, because again, either the hotels are full up and then so therefore I had to look for Airbnbs or they’re just not kind of what I’m looking for.

Then I look at Airbnbs in nearby towns. It’s not ideal, I guess. And as an Airbnb guest, right? Let’s flip it. Do I feel like this new rule protects me? I guess. I don’t really have an issue with a camera in the place. As long as the host makes it clear, sure.

Yeah, I feel like it’s a problem. Like if you come out of the shower in a towel or something,

I’m the sort of person that would be like, “As long as you tell me where the cameras are, I will put blockage things in front of it so that I can see it.”

it’s easy to forget that you may be monitored, yeah. [LAUGH]

I don’t think they, I don’t know if they tell you where the camera,

Right. I think the rule is less around an outright ban and more around transparency. But then again, that’s harder to enforce, I guess.

like maybe a good host will be conscientious, yeah. In other news, we also saw this piece that apparently Tesla has paid no federal income.

Taxes over the last five years, but Tesla has managed to pay its executives $2.5 billion. Does that seem fair to you?

Over the last five years, let’s be clear. So that’s half a million gone.

Over the last five years, but still, also Tesla, yeah, gone.

Also Tesla received a rebate, a tax rebate of $1 million in that time.

What?! Of how much? How much? A million?

I don’t know. I think that’s a lot of money. I think that’s a lot of money. I think that’s a lot of money.

So, very, very small amount compared to the billions it’s been giving to executives.

I feel like just this headline, just this headline deck is enough to like really trigger anybody who’s not paying attention to like how broken our financial system is and

how broken our tax system is.

I also want to just shout out our homepage right now because, kudos to our team, every other Elon Musk-related article has a picture of his face and various expressions on it.

What a crock. [BLANK_AUDIO] In refund, yeah.

And it’s got me giggling. But yes, it’s paid executives $2.5 billion over five years and it received a million dollars in refunds.

That’s wild. It earned $4.4 billion during those five years and $2.5 of that amount went to his executives. That’s like half of your…

It’s okay, I mean, listen, Trillin, how will Elon Musk keep his like standing up as

he’s not the richest person in the world anymore. He’s now the second richest person, but he had a net worth of 207,

basically 208 billion at the start of March, according to Forbes. But Tesla’s not alone. Like they’re talking about several companies that have done this and

this is just like the Tesla’s one of 35 companies that paid less federal income

tax and they paid their top five executives during the past five years, according to this article by Sarah Fielding. Just, I don’t know, what are we doing over here? We don’t have enough money to give public schools or to feed kids, but these companies don’t have to pay taxes.

And again, I want to say this is not just like, you know, $2.5 billion to top executives. This is like top five executives. I’m like, if $2.5 billion went into his top 20 executives over five years, that’s half a million for 20 people a year.

That’s also too many executives, yeah.

It’s too many executives. But I went with executives as a weird word because if they were like C-suite or like, you know, whatever, then I’m like, “Oh, okay, you mean the top few people.”

But executives could be like a marketing executive. I don’t think they mean that. But anyway, over like, it’s only for five people in five years.

That’s like… Anyway, hey, Devendra, if you had half a million dollars, do you think you would be set for life?

No, I would not be set for life. I would be in the process of starting to set myself up for life. But also, Trillin, now that I have two kids and just like dealing with life

stuff, I’m like, that would be a really helpful thing. That would get me back to New York, right? But also, my adult self would be like, I gotta invest a big chunk of that too to like start an engine for money for future kids and stuff. So no, no, that’s not being set for life, not at all.

Sure. I feel as if if I got a half a million, I would be set for life. But you’re right, I might not be. Maybe if I invested it wisely, I would be. But a half a million always feels…

[LAUGH] [BLANK_AUDIO] The way to be set for life is to have your money work for you, which is what rich people do. Sort of like not having to pay taxes, that’s also really helpful.

As you can see, that helps you keep your pile of cash, like Smaug the dragon. Yes, that’s what’s happening here. Just disgusting, just absolutely disgusting.

Jeez. Anyway. Yes, and keep your eyes open for these companies and what they’re doing, I guess. I don’t know what we can do about it other than as journalists cover it.

I’m very glad we talked about this stuff. [BLANK_AUDIO]

I mean, what we could do is like elect people who are like,

I think it’s a good idea to have a conversation with people. I think it’s a good idea to have a conversation with people.

we’re gonna tax the rich. We need to tax companies more because Tesla, by the way, Tesla and Elon Musk’s

companies have gotten billions of dollars of federal funding to federal assistance to make themselves possible. So they’re also government funded companies to a certain degree. Anyway, the Oscars were also this weekend, Trillin, did you get to check it out? [BLANK_AUDIO]

I did. I didn’t watch it live, but I watched it the night after on Hulu. And boy, oh boy, I was not expecting to cry. But I did. It’s very moving.

I think I really was… I don’t know if this is the first year they’re doing this where they would pull out like previous Oscar winners of that exact category and who had a connection maybe to each nominee to not only list them, name them, describe them, but then also hand out the award.

I was very moved with the, I think, Best Supporting Actress category where you had Jodie Foster was one of the nominees and you had… I can’t remember if it was Jamie Lee Curtis that was on stage. I think so.

Everyone was just saying something and it was like there was a personal thing. It felt meaningful and I don’t know why I just started to cry at that point. Maybe I was emotional.

It was very touching. Michelle Yeoh was for Best Actress, yeah. And Emma Stone won. And to be clear, I think Lily Gladstone was robbed. But…

I think Lily Gladstone was absolutely robbed, so yeah, yeah, yeah.

Yeah, but I think Emma Stone did great as well. I’m not saying anyone’s better than the other, but…

It’s a great performance in Poor Things.

I think Poor Things is a great movie. You can see it now on Disney Plus of all services.

Yeah, it’s on Hulu! Well, because Disney+ is on.

You can see that Hulu and Disney Plus, yeah.

But yeah, I do agree. I think the Lily Gladstone one was a better performance, but it was quiet and it was internal and that is not highlight as much.

Exactly. It was so subtle, layered, deep.

So the reason I bring up the Oscars, by the way, is that Apple TV Plus and Netflix, and I don’t think anybody else, any other streaming services were really nominated. But they were all kind of shut out because Oppenheimer just kick butt,

Took everything. And poor things.

like all the way down. Won Best Picture and Poor Things, won a lot of awards too. But what really killed me, not only was Lily Gladstone robbed, but

Killers of the Flower Moon, the movie she was in, the Martin Scorsese film,

Didn’t get it. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Not a single Oscar. Yeah. That’s wild.

did not gain anything, did not win any awards. And that is just truly sad to me.

That was a good movie, but I think this year’s competition was rough. I’m sorry. I keep cutting you off. Go on.

I think Poor Things, it’s a great movie. It’s rough, it is rough. No, it’s fine, it’s fine.

What did you think of Oppenheimer, Shulin? Did you…

I haven’t watched it yet.

[laughs] Oh, you’ve watched so many reality shows.

I’ve seen… I’ve seen so many… Yeah, Naked and Afraid. Oh, no, no, no. You’re talking about Private Party, the one, the dangly bits.

Did you watch the one where everybody is naked? I’m sure you’ve watched that. Naked in a… Oh, yeah, the other one. Yeah. Yeah.

Anyway, Naked Attraction, I think that’s what it is. Anyway, no, I was so proud of myself this year watching the Oscars because I actually have seen so many of the finalists and the movies that were in the running.

And no, Oppenheimer, the one that won everything I have yet to see. So yeah, that was very funny. I also haven’t seen, and this was a choice, I didn’t see the Korean one.

Thank you, past lives. I was like, poor things. No, no, no. It’s not my kind of thing. It’s very drama, romance heavy, and I’m not super into that. I know. Yeah.

Past Lives? Past Lives. Dude, you need… How did you not see Past Lives? I told you to see Past Lives, specifically. Hmm. I think, yeah, I think there are certain things that you would relate to in that,

I hear that. But I really wanted to watch Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest, and I never got around to watching them ahead of the Oscars, but they’re still on my list. But they did win a couple of awards too, so yeah.

It is… I’m very glad I got to see it last week. Yeah. And yeah, all great.

Zone of Interest is one of those movies where you can’t just watch it at home on your TV. Like, if you do, put on headphones or something, but that is…

Okay. Oh wow, okay. Okay, okay.

It is such a unique movie where you just have to kind of be there in the theater, because it is slow and steady, but also the environment and being oppressed by the sound

is all part of it. Tremendous films. Tremendous films all around. Shout out to Jonathan Glaser for being the only person who spoke up against the genocide happening in Gaza as well.

This is a whole Oscar ceremony. There was one award, I believe, best short film to a project called No More War, and they also didn’t say anything about that ongoing war. It’s also very weird. Yeah. Yeah. Just kind of a mess.

There were a lot of, there was one of the winners decided to dedicate their, I think their winning speech to awareness of the war in the Israel-Palestine conflict and all that stuff.

Yeah. So that’s why he was the only one.

He was the only one who really directly called it out.

Yeah, he had a prepared speech and everything, and it was also interesting to me. It wasn’t just that he was the only one, it was that his team also all agreed because everyone takes turns at the microphones when there’s a team going up to receive an award, and his team all, they all seem to agree that this was the message they want to put out, and that really made sense.

[silence] That’s… I mean, there is follow-up coverage to Shilin, because the person behind him was a big

financer, like a billionaire tied to Russia, and yeah, it’s a whole thing.

So that person probably did not want Jonathan Glaser to be having that whole speech.

That person probably shouldn’t have taken the stage. So there you go.

So yeah. [laughter] But apparently he paid for a big chunk of the movie, so that’s the whole thing. Yeah.

Hey, but there was a big highlight at the Oscars. I’m Just Ken was really awesome. And also it was right after Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt took the stage to I think do sort of a…

Yeah, but they had a little bit ahead of their introduction of their like, you know, tribute to stunt, the stunt industry. The two of them had a little like fake banter around like, oh, you know, we can put this Barbenheimer thing to rest finally right and then you know,

Barbenheimer did better. That’s what Emily Blunt said and then Gosling was like, oh yeah y’all just wrote on our hotels all summer so it was like, yes, exactly.

Yeah. They’re really previewing their movie coming up, and that just premiered at South By, by the way. It apparently is fantastic.

Fall Guy by David Leitch. So great. Fantastic. I’m very glad that worked out for him, because I think his last movie was Hobbs and Shaw, and that movie is not part of the Fast and Furious family to me.

I also wanted to just really quickly shout out American fiction and Jeffrey Wright and Rustin, Komen Domingo, all just, you know, didn’t get awards but I think, again, it was such a tough year to win anything everyone seemed really to bring their A game.

Yes. [silence] It’s such a tough year. Well, go catch up in your Oscar movies, everybody.

Anything you want to catch up us on that’s happening around in Gadget, Sherlin? [silence]

Yes, so this week we continue our anniversary coverage with Billy’s story about 20 years of Bluetooth audio. It is on our site called, it’s called from mono to mainstream. It’s really interesting I think, I, you know, think that Bluetooth is kind of a finicky platform sometimes but we have come a long way.

Such a long way. Come on.

Yeah. That’s a great headline, too, because what we remember is the crappy old single-ear Bluetooth

headsets, right? And now it’s just like you get full, pretty much uncompressed audio, or at least really

Yeah, and also like just all the other extra features I think like switching around having multiple connections all of that stuff. You know, I think, is part of the development here even if I wish it didn’t drop off so much sometimes, I think, you know, we have like come very far.

I also wanted to shout out this seemed to be budget phone week cheap phone week because we saw Moto announce new Moto G devices this week as well as Samsung brought a new mid range Galaxy A55.

And coincidentally at the same time Sam published a new budget Android phones guide so if you’re in the Android ecosystem you’re looking for something that’s less than $350. That’s a very helpful guide with some of our favorite pics in there as well. So those are just some good stories around gadget this week.

Coco, thank you so much. We did get some feedback from some listeners, too.

Last week we had asked, I was asking if anybody was actually using Android apps on Windows

now that that’s ending. We got a great email from Irwin from Illinois who tells us that he’s actually using something.

I’m going to quote his email here. He says, “I regularly use the Washington Post app to read the newspaper on my HP Spectre laptop. I enjoy the capability to view the print edition where the typography is superior to the web-based version. I make use of the touchscreen ability to easily enlarge the view and swipe around the page.” And he says, “Yes, I’ll still be able to read the paper using a browser, but the experience

is inferior.” End quote. That’s a pretty good one. I’ve not spent time…

Yeah, I can imagine it being good, too, because I think the New York Times had a Windows app

at some point, too. So the nice thing about Windows apps, especially for newspapers, is that they’re pretty clean. So it’s mostly the articles, mostly the formatting. That’s a good one. Thank you for that feedback, Irwin. And yeah, hopefully he’ll be able to find something else that can do that.

Yeah, that the other thing that this brings up to is that Android apps, you know, working on Windows isn’t just a problem of Microsoft but also the apps support of larger screens.

And so like when an app is designed to make better use of a larger screen, the way maybe this Washington Post app has say for an iPad or an Android tablet.

Yeah, then it works nice on a laptop touchscreen.

I think the problem does really come down to Microsoft. It’s a whole chicken and the egg thing. If Microsoft makes it easier for developers to make good looking, touchscreen capable

Windows apps, maybe more people will do that. And I think they’ve been trying to do that. And developers have been like, “I don’t know. Here. Here’s a really basic ass looking thing compared to a very easy, a very simple iPad app, which

looks and feels better as a touchscreen experience.”

I think, yeah, I was thinking more about like the Android app specific scenario but yes if Microsoft made Windows apps better to, you know, use.

Yeah. [silence] This is also why the Android apps are here because Microsoft was like, “We need more apps.

People aren’t making apps for us. So let’s just bring in Android apps.”

Except those are not great apps. Anyway, let’s move on to what we’re working on. And listen, I have had on my desk for the past month or two, the Alienware QDOLED 32

inch 4K monitor, which is a very beautiful gaming monitor.

It’s the first 4K QDOLED from Alienware. And actually one of the first of these monitors at this size, it’s also a 240 Hertz thing. So I’m working on a review of this. I’ve just been so busy and we’ve been going through so many changes.

I have not had time to focus on it. So working on a review of this thing, it is a very good monitor. So expect something positive soon. What are you working on, Joellen? [silence]

Yeah, digging into data I never really looked at before which is really interesting for me. We’re also I don’t know we can tease this. Davindra is continuing to work on the podcast and its most popular features maybe and hopefully bringing that to people again.

Uh-huh. I mean, the most popular one of the things is the stream that we’ve been talking about

for a long time. So we’ll see. We shall see. [silence]

[laughs] You’re working on recovering from a root canal. So… [silence]

It is… Listen, whatever they give you, Joellen, if they ask, do you want the… You’re going to take the anesthesia.

Some dentists even ask, do you want to just go to sleep? I don’t know if they fully do that anymore, but the local anesthesia is pretty good now.

Everybody send Joellen your well wishes and everybody around Joellen finally gets a break for a day.

You know? Do we have any pop culture picks for the week, Joellen?

I have been okay so yesterday the Love is Blind finale which is a reunion that dropped and I watched it and was actually one of the best reunions they’ve ever done so if you have been sort of casually skirting around this, you know, I think it’s worth looking at.

I also watched the Oscars and I do think it’s a very heartwarming thing even if it’s like not, you know, an actual like pop culture thing it’s like an award ceremony is a weird thing to recommend, I got a lot of like joy and emotions out of it so I think it might be worth it.

I will say the in memoriam section was too hard for me to actually watch and listen to because my, the song they chose was Conte Partiro and it’s a song that I sang with a friend before they got killed last year.

So finally what I have been watching and it’s a lot more light hearted. I think you’ll be proud of me Devendra. I finally started watching Schitt’s Creek.

I mean, I don’t even think I’ve recommended this, but it’s a good show.

It is a really interesting show and okay so maybe we’ve never talked about it on this podcast before if we haven’t, here is what it is. It’s basically about this really rich family that fell from grace basically they they lost all their money because their business manager conned them and then they had to move into this town called Schitt’s Creek, because the dad once I bought the town as a joke, as a gift for his son.

And so they have to deal with that understanding how to live life as non rich people not to even, I don’t think they’re actually poor in this situation, they do have help from the strangers in this town.

But yeah, it’s fun to watch them kind of grow, and it’s like, Dan and Eugene. Is it Levi? Levy? Levy. Dan and Eugene Levy co-wrote this co-produced this their father and son team, they’re both really good in this series.

Levy, yeah. [silence] Yeah, that’s sweet.

They’re really good. I love Dan Levy a lot. Very, very good work and fun to watch. It’s one of those shows that after you get to know the characters you just put it on in the background and I understand why they did a clean sweep of the Emmys in 2020 so that makes a lot of sense.

Gotcha, gotcha. I’m glad you’re watching that. It’s a good feel good show.

The characters grow and it’s smarter than your typical sitcom at that level.

Very cool. Good rec there, Joellen. I want to recommend something that I think our listeners would like.

And also, I think you’d appreciate it, Joellen. It’s The Gentleman on Netflix.

Guy Ritchie has brought not quite the— he’s not like remade The Gentleman film, which is five years old at this point. That one started Matthew McConaughey. It’s not like rebooting that movie, but it is like a sort of taking the world of The Gentleman and just putting it into a TV show format.

It stars Theo James as a son of a— I know you love him.

I know from— he was in— what was it?

White Lotus, but also Divergent.

And actually, and The Inbetweeners, I think you should watch The Chrelane because Theo

And the in betweeners. Sorry.

James is basically doing his James Bond tryout right now. Like, it is very much what he’s doing here.

Well, he did that in Divergent. He also wasn’t How It Ends, which I also watched because of him. So yes.

Yeah. Yep, yep. I know, like, you’re fully sold on him.

I think he’s not— he’s actually one of the weaker parts of the show, but the show itself is overall fun. I am a Guy Ritchie fan from way back. I love Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. I love Snatch. I watched that DVD so much it broke in my player in college.

Like, if you were near me in college and we were just watching movies, I would, like,

corral people into my room just to watch movies with me. So that was one we watched all the time.

So this feels like Guy Ritchie going back home and doing, like, the fun kooky gangster stuff that he was always so good at.

And it is just, like, a really easy watch. Cool people doing cool stuff in London. That’s always fun. Also has the Guy Ritchie trope of, like, very strong, cool brunettes, which I think, yeah,

that’s always fun. I think you’d appreciate that, Cherlynn.

It’s a lot. I will say it is a lot but but yeah, I can take it. It comes in waves, I think.

Like, it’s just a really fun show. It is well-written. I think the acting— like, if it’s well-acted, it may get a little tiresome because it’s, like, eight episodes of, like, this Guy Ritchie energy. But also, I like that Guy Ritchie energy. That’s just me personally. Yeah.

It comes in waves. Like, sometimes it’s really manic and crazy, and sometimes it’s, like, very chill.

And it’s, like, cool British people doing— having tea and doing cool crime stuff.

What was that? What was that Brad Pitt movie he did?

Yeah. Snatch? Not Fight Club, but, yeah, Snatch is perfect.

But snatch okay I saw that recently.

Snatch is such a good movie. But anyway, that was me in my early 20s, in late teens, actually, loving Snatch and Guy

It was a lot. Yeah. No. Yeah.

Ritchie stuff. So yeah, The Gentleman is good.

Like, by against all odds, this sort of, like, redo of a movie that not many people liked and I thought was okay is doing really well on Netflix. So check that out.

I think it’s a ton of fun. @Dvydra on Twitter, Mastodon, Blue Sky, all over the place, and I have podcasts about

Well, that’s it for the episode this week everyone. Thank you as always for listening. Our theme music is by game composer Dale North. Our outro music is by our former managing editor Terrence O’Brien. The podcast is produced by Ben Elman. You can find the Vindra online at

movies at the Filmcast at thefilmcast.com. I’ll also be hosting TWIT this week, so check that out at twit.tv.

If you want to send me your favorite things Singapore is known for you can send them to me on x at Cherlynn Low or email me chir@engadget.com hit me up on threads at Cherlynn’s Instagram.

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Credits
Hosts: Cherlynn Low and Devindra Hardawar
Guest: Karissa Bell
Producer: Ben Ellman
Music: Dale North and Terrence O’Brien

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