🌊 Blocked by (Rep.) James!

Plus: TikTok costs… how much?

March Madness is here. Are you ready to get hurt again?

We all know by now that the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are preposterously low. The number sounds like one your 6-year-old cousin made up: One in nine quintillion. You have a better chance of winning both the Powerball and Mega Millions in the same week. But come on…look at the bracket…this may be the year…so shiny…is that Western Kentucky I see holding the trophy? Let’s get hurt again.

In today's edition:

💰 How much TikTok will cost

🐊 New York gator gets evicted

🧐 Roca Votes on dating apps

And so much more!

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex


Social Media Speech Rights

In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) laid out rules for when public officials can block constituents on social media

  • The court considered two cases in which public officials blocked constituents who were critical of them

  • On Friday, SCOTUS ruled unanimously that public officials cannot block critics if the officials have the power to speak on behalf of the government and use their social media accounts to do so

  • The court said public officials still have the right to block people on private, non-official accounts

Dig Deeper

  • “For social-media activity to constitute state action, [a public official] must not only have state authority – he must also purport to use it [online],” Justice Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote

  • The decision comes years after a similar case was brought against former President Donald Trump for blocking people from his social media accounts

  • An appeals court found Trump’s social media blocks unconstitutional, but after Trump left office, SCOTUS tossed the case out, arguing that the case was moot, or no longer relevant


Do You Feel Safe Online?

The other day at team happy hour, Roca’s conversation turned to scams. We like to think we’re young and savvy — our team’s average age is 28! — but still most of us had opened emails in the last week from people pretending to be our banks, co-workers, or other people who we’d typically feel safe talking to about money

  • Those sketchy actors often get our information from data brokers, who find our info by tracking our online activity and then sell it to bad actors

  • That’s why many of us use VPNs to keep our digital lives safe. VPNs turn our online activity into untraceable codes to effectively eliminate bad actors from tracking our activity online

  • Like millions of people worldwide, we trust Surfshark to safeguard our online data and privacy. We love that it is just one account that we can use to guard unlimited devices

Dig Deeper


No Long Covid?

A study found that long Covid appears to be no different from the syndromes developed after contracting other types of viruses

  • The study, backed by Queensland, Australia’s third-most populous state, surveyed 5,112 adults who suffered respiratory illness and underwent PCR testing between May and June 2022

  • Researchers found that those who had Covid were no more likely than those who had the flu or other illnesses to develop long-term symptoms. They also found no differences in the types of long-term symptoms experienced by those with Covid or other illnesses

  • “We believe it is time to stop using terms like ‘long Covid.’ They wrongly imply there is something unique… about longer-term symptoms associated with [Covid],” Queensland’s chief health officer said

Dig Deeper

  • “This terminology can cause unnecessary fear, and in some cases, hypervigilance to longer symptoms that can impede recovery,” the health officer added

  • He acknowledged limitations, though, including the study’s correlational nature and the fact that a large percentage of participants were vaccinated against Covid, which could have artificially lowered “long Covid” symptoms against other illnesses participants weren’t vaccinated against


Willis Can Stay On

Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis will stay on Trump’s election interference case after a judge ruled that either she or a prosecutor she had a relationship with had to step down

  • In January, one of Trump’s co-defendants in the Georgia case alleged Willis had a romantic relationship with a prosecutor she had hired for the case, and that he had taken Willis on lavish vacations

  • Willis admitted to the relationship but denied having acted inappropriately

  • On Friday, a Georgia judge ruled that either Willis or the prosecutor had to leave the case. The prosecutor resigned, leaving Willis on it

Dig Deeper

  • The ruling – which acknowledged that Willis’ actions gave a “significant appearance of impropriety” – was a partial win for the defense, although it fell short of disqualifying Willis from the case, which could have seen the charges dropped


TikTok’s Record Revenue

ByteDance is on pace to surpass Meta’s as the world’s largest social media company by revenue after TikTok earned $16B in US revenue last year

  • ByteDance is a private company and therefore doesn’t publicly release financial data. According to the Financial Times, though, ByteDance’s revenue increased 40% last year to $120B, with a record $16B coming from TikTok’s US operations. ByteDance is now on pace to overtake Meta’s revenue, which grew 16% in 2022 to $135B

  • The earnings figures suggest TikTok may be worth as much as $150B, setting a steep price for investors hoping to purchase the app

Dig Deeper

  • Former Trump administration Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin has already announced he is assembling an investor group to buy TikTok, while US tech companies Microsoft and Oracle are also reportedly interested

  • China strongly opposes the app’s sale, though, and passed laws in 2020 that gave it the authority to block any such acquisition

Some Quick Stories for the Office

🇺🇸 Mike Pence said he would not endorse Donald Trump, calling Trump’s positions “at odds with the conservative agenda that we governed on during our four years”

💰 Prosecutors recommended a 40- to 50-year prison sentence for Sam Bankman-Fried, convicted of fraud and conspiracy amid FTX’s fall, with a possible 110-year maximum

💒 US marriage rates rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, with 2.1M marriages, after hitting a nearly 60-year low. Divorces rates fell to 2.4 per 1,000, continuing a long-term decline

🏡 The National Association of Realtors will pay $418M to settle class action lawsuits alleging it conspired to keep real estate commissions high

🇷🇺 Russian officials claimed Vladimir Putin won Russia’s presidential election with ~88% of the vote and record voter turnout of 74%

🏀 The NCAA’s March Madness brackets are set. The men’s four #1 seeds are Connecticut, North Carolina, Houston, and Purdue; the women’s are South Carolina, Iowa, USC and Texas


Weekly Debate

Most news companies repress ideas they don’t agree with. We are different. To prove it, we’re making this a place where people can have a free and open debate. Each week we lay out a debate on Monday and feature responses below, replies to those the following day, and so on.

Read this week’s Roca Votes Wrap below and let us know: Is the dating market dominance of Match Group — the company behind 40+ dating apps including Tinder, Hinge and Match.com — concerning?

Reply to this email with thoughts and vote below!

What does Roca think?

Have you ever used a dating app?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

💰 Bad beat: A Baltimore man serving as a middle school treasurer reportedly stole $29,000 from student-raised funds from a chocolate bar sale, spending it on gambling sites

🐑 Average Montana hobby: An 80-year-old Montana man faces prison time for trying to breed giant sheep hybrids to sell to hunters. He called his cloned sheep the “Montana Mountain King”

🍻 “What do you think this is… Ireland?” Scotland police seized a “beer bike” over traffic offenses. The pedal-powered bar lets passengers sightsee while enjoying alcoholic beverages

⚽️ No Turkish delight: As a Turkish soccer club was celebrating its victory, opposing fans stormed the pitch to attack them. Many of the players (like the one above) fought back

🌿 The Green House: VP Kamala Harris held a roundtable discussion on marijuana reform with rapper Fat Joe and others, discussing ways to ease marijuana penalties

🐊 Farewell, Albert: A New York man kept “Albert,” a 34-year-old, 750-pound alligator, in his home’s in-ground pool, where he allegedly let people, including children, swim with it

Dating Apps Love Monopoly

We founded RocaNews because we wanted news companies to give us just the facts – not tell us what to think. That inspires us to do the “Roca Votes” story each weekend, where we summarize a controversial topic and see how Roca Nation feels about it.

The way couples meet has changed dramatically in recent years.

A half century ago, it was mainly through friends and family, jobs, churches, bars, or school. Then in the 1990s, online dating gained traction. Today it’s how most US couples meet.

Our question is: Is that a good thing?

Harvard students created the first computer dating service in 1965: “Operation Match,” which would match single people based on questionnaires they completed. The service reported 66,000 users in 1966; questionnaires cost $3.

The rapid adoption of the internet and personal computers in the 1990s led to more couples meeting online. Then in 1995, Match.com launched – and dating hasn’t been the same since.

Match.com attracted 100,000 users in its first six months. eHarmony, OKCupid, and Plenty of Fish followed Match.com’s success, eventually getting millions of users of their own.

Online dating’s next evolution came in the 2010s with the advent of Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble. These apps gamified the dating experience with features like “swiping” and profile boosts.

Tinder and Bumble co-founder Chris Gulczynski explains, "At the heart of gamification is human psychology and the little payoffs of innate human psychology that we can catch at.”

Today, Match Group dominates the matchmaking industry: It owns Tinder, Hinge, Match.com, Meetic, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, The League, and 40+ other dating apps. Studies have found it controls ~60% of the dating market and accounts for as much as 70% of US dating app downloads. No entity in history has had such matchmaking power.

Match can claim credit for millions of happy relationships: A 2023 Pew Research report found that “one-in-ten partnered adults – meaning those who are married, living with a partner or in a committed romantic relationship – met their current significant other through a dating site or app”

Additionally, roughly four in ten adults say dating apps have made the search for a long-term partner “easier,” compared to 22% who say they’ve made it harder.

Yet despite the prevalence of dating apps, the US and other countries have unprecedented rates of singleness.

63% of American men between 18 and 29 are currently single, up from 51% in 2019. For women, the share is lower, with 34% of women in the same demographic identifying as single. Women both date older men and are more likely to consider themselves in a relationship than men, who tend to prefer casual flings.

Yet while dating apps dominate, could the tides be turning?

Studies have found that around one in five young single people who are actively looking for a partner have stopped using dating apps. And this Valentine’s Day, six dating app users filed a class-action lawsuit against Match Group, accusing it of making its apps addictive to encourage compulsive use.

That leads us to today’s debate of the week: Is Match Group’s dating market dominance concerning?

Reply to this email to let us know what you think!

💰 Treasure Hunt

Congratulations to Roca Reader Justin for being the first to correctly guess last week’s Treasure Hunt location of 2609 Ayers Street, Corpus Christi Texas — the site of the original Whataburger!

Clue 1: It takes two hands: A reference to founders goal to make a burger that takes two hands to hold

Clue 2: A quarter for the first: First item sold was a .25 cent burger

Clue 3: Not a question - it’s family: While the name may sound like a question, it is actually a family name

Cue 4: Orange and white stripes overhead: A reference to the iconic roof of the chain

Clue 5: 900 + 14 = 3B: Today there 900 locations across its 14-state footprint and sales of more than $3 billion annual

Bonus clue: A must-eat-at when campaigning in Texas, apparently: Self explanatory!

Quick note: We’re working on some bigger prizes and we’ll be back with the Treasure Hunt soon!

Final Thoughts

Happy Monday Roca! We hope you enjoyed your Saint Patrick’s Day festivities and that you’re not nursing too strong of a hangover today…

We’re curious to hear your thoughts on dating apps and Match Group. Love them? Hate them? Love to hate them? Reply to this email and let us know!

— Max, Max, Alex and Jen