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What happens on Clubhouse, stays on Clubhouse

Written by Ralitsa Bobcheva, associate 
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
17 February 2021

Good morning,

We’re all accustomed to receiving Zoom and Teams meeting requests now, but when Elon Musk invited Russian president Vladimir Putin for a conversation on Clubhouse, it was the stuff of global news headlines. Even more surprisingly, Putin – self-confessed social media ghost that he is – is showing interest in participating. 
 
The exchange between Musk and Putin is only one example in a series of efforts by public figures – the likes of Ai Weiwei, Lindsay Lohan and Roger Stone – to spark debates on the new social media platform. In one recent example, Mark Zuckerberg appeared on a talk show-like chatgroup in the app to discuss the future of virtual reality (VR).
 
Clubhouse, the audio-only, iOS-only and – wait for it – invite-only social media app, is Silicon Valley’s latest unicorn start-up, and it has surged in popularity during the pandemic. 
 
Recent weeks have seen reports of thousands of Chinese users joining the app to discuss topics considered to be taboo in China. Lo and behold, the Chinese government banned the app in mainland China adding to its tight internet regulations. Some say the surge in Chinese users was an acknowledgement that a ban was inevitable and there was therefore a small window of opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. 
 
In Germany, in rooms known as ‘Mittag im Regierungsviertel’ (‘noon in the government district’) members of parliament and journalists have gathered to discuss political issues of the day, while discussing what they are having for lunch. But the growth of Clubhouse has been accompanied by rising complaints about misinformation and concerns that the app is a violation of the EU’s consumer protection law.
 
The app’s trajectory has been meteoric. Unlike other social media apps, Clubhouse does not create a recording of the live conversations that take place in its chatrooms and has no specific limitations on the choice of topic. Theoretically, what happens on Clubhouse, stays on Clubhouse. 
 
Clubhouse brands itself as a “space for authentic conversation and expression” and in many ways, it is precisely that. As the app gains popularity, however, it is surely set on a path marked by regulatory pitfalls, many of which its fellow tech giants have already encountered.

News

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has confirmed a phased return to schools for pupils in P1 to P3, as well as those in pre-school, from next week. Speaking at her daily Covid-19 briefing, Sturgeon also confirmed that other age groups will continue with remote learning until March 15th at the earliest.
 
US president Joe Biden plans to maintain relations with Saudi Arabia through King Salman bin Abdulaziz, rather than his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The move is an abrupt reversal in US policy from Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, whose son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner maintained close contact with the crown prince.
 
Clive Dix, who runs the body which identifies and buys vaccines on behalf of the UK government, has said that every adult in the UK could receive both doses of a coronavirus vaccine by August or September or “maybe sooner if we need to”. The head of the country’s vaccine taskforce added that he was confident there would not be any supply problems.
 
Meanwhile, law firms have reported that UK companies have begun consulting them on plans to introduce “no jab, no job” contracts for employees, as the government admitted businesses must make their own decisions on vaccination passports. (£)

Business and economy

MPs on Westminster’s Environmental Audit Committee are urging the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to ramp up green investment as part of the Covid-19 recovery. In a joint report, Conservative and Labour MPs criticise the government’s “ten point” climate change plan and set out guidelines for how Sunak can introduce more ambitious environmental measures.
 
Shaun Bailey, Conservative candidate for mayor of London, has announced plans to set up a bank to fund infrastructure projects in London. The London Infrastructure Bank would seek to raise £10bn in private funding over three years to spend on projects such as Crossrail, Bailey said.
 
The UK government has so far failed to open talks with EU countries on special arrangements for the creative industries hit by Brexit, a minister has admitted. The admission comes amid growing calls from the UK’s creative sector for the government to negotiate better access to work in the EU. (£)
 
The British Beer and Pub Association has said more than half of pubs do not have a big enough garden or outdoor area to reopen, following speculation that the government will permit pubs to welcome customers from April. The industry body is calling for permission to serve customers indoors as soon as non-essential shops are allowed to reopen, stating that only 40% could open if restrictions on indoor movement persist.

Columns of note

In The Guardian, Rebecca Lawrence captures her experience of being on both sides of a mental health section. She recalls that as a patient detained under the Mental Health Act, she felt more like being a criminal than a patient. The resulting distress may not be fully alleviated by removal of detention and recovery, Lawrence argues, and is an aspect that psychiatrists need to fully realise. 
 
In City AM, Nicolas Mackel returns to the extraordinary story of gaming retailer GameStop’s surging stock price. While some may not agree with the actions of the retail traders who used social media to skyrocket GameStop’s share price, Mackel argues that there is an important lesson from the experience which could be critical to our future.

Cartoon source: New Yorker

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed in the red yesterday, with the FTSE 100 ending the session down 0.11% at 6,748.86, and the FTSE 250 losing 0.01% to end at 21,416.37. Sterling was in a better position, last gaining 0.01% on the dollar to $1.3904, and advancing 0.22% against the euro to €1.1487.
 
In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2%, to close at 31,522.75, the S&P 500 lost 0.06%, to finish at 3,932.59 and the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.34%, to end at 14,047.50.
 
In company news:
 
Kanabo, an Israeli company that makes vaporised marijuana pods, saw its shares rise more than 292% to close at 18.5p yesterday on its trading debut on the London Stock Exchange.
 
BNY Mellon has announced that it will hold, transfer and issue cryptocurrencies on behalf of its asset management clients after cryptocurrency jumped past $48,000 for the first time yesterday.

What’s happening today?

Finals
British American Tobacco
Plus500
Rio Tinto

Interims
Transense

AGMs
Jp Morg.as
Kkv Sec Loan

UK economic announcements
(07:00) Producer Price Index 
(07:00) Retail Price Index
(07:00) Consumer Price Index

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US) 
(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)
(13:30) Retail Sales (US)
(14:15) Capacity Utilisation (US)
(14:45) Industrial Production (US)
(15:00) Business Inventories (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

A new podcast is launched somewhere in the world every 30 seconds.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

The House is in recess until 22 February

House of Lords 

The House is in recess until 22 February

Scottish Parliament 

Parliamentary Bureau Motions
First Minister’s Questions
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Scottish Liberal Democrat Party Debate: Education
Scottish Liberal Democrats Debate: Mental health
Business Motions
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Approval of SSIs (if required)
Decision Time

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