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— Identity revealed: The Facebook whistleblower has revealed her identity, ahead of her scheduled appearance before Congress on Tuesday.
— Every week they’re hustling: This week’s lineup of congressional hearings includes sessions on antitrust, privacy and broadband.
— State of play: The bipartisan infrastructure package and the partisan social spending bill are both still in limbo. We’ll catch you up.
IT’S MONDAY, OCT. 4. WELCOME BACK TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. As someone who thought it would be a good idea to start CeeDee Lamb this week, I hope you had a much better weekend than I did.
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REMEMBER THE NAME: FRANCES HAUGEN — That’s the Facebook whistleblower who shared a trove of internal documents with lawmakers and The Wall Street Journal and filed complaints against Facebook with federal regulators. She spoke out publicly for the first time in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired Sunday and an in-depth profile in the Journal published ahead of Tuesday morning’s hearing with the Senate Commerce consumer protection panel, where she will testify. Here’s what you need to know:
— Who is she? Haugen, 37, left Facebook in May after working there for nearly two years. She worked on the company’s civic integrity team as a product manager, working to combat election interference and misinformation. She previously worked as a product manager at Pinterest, Yelp and Google.
— Why leak? Haugen said the civic integrity team was dissolved after last year’s election. “It was the moment where I was like, ‘I don’t trust that they’re willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous,’” she said. Facebook told “60 Minutes” the work was instead distributed across various units.
“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” she said. “And Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests like making more money.”
Haugen earlier this year began systematically copying internal documents that she said contain evidence the company has lied to the public about the progress it’s made against hate speech, violence and misinformation. The root of the problem, she said, is an algorithm change in 2010 that prioritized user engagement. “It’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions,” she said. A 2019 internal report she copied said that major European political parties felt they had to take more extreme policy positions in order to “win in the marketplace of social media,” she said.
— What’s her motivation? “If people just hate Facebook more because of what I’ve done, then I’ve failed,” she told the Journal. “I believe in truth and reconciliation — we need to admit reality. The first step of that is documentation.”
— Facebook’s response: The company told “60 Minutes” and the Journal that its teams were working on balancing the right of free expression with the need to have a “safe and positive” platform. “We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is not true,” the statement read. “If any research had identified an exact solution to these complex challenges, the tech industry, governments and society would have solved them a long time ago,” it added.
— Keep in mind: At a hearing last week, lawmakers pressed Facebook global head of safety Antigone Davis to say that the company would not retaliate against the whistleblower. Davis declined to offer a blanket guarantee, saying only that “we’ve committed to not retaliating for this individual speaking to the Senate.”
ANOTHER BUSY WEEK ON THE HILL — The Facebook whistleblower hearing will likely stir up the most buzz in tech policy world this week, but here are a few others to keep on your radar:
— DOJ antitrust nomination: The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider a slate of nominees Wednesday, including Jonathan Kanter, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division. Kanter, a longtime Google critic who has represented some of the search giant’s toughest rivals, would complete the progressive antitrust trifecta that advocates have clamored for: Kanter at DOJ, Lina Khan at the FTC and Tim Wu at the White House.
The selection of these three suggests the importance Biden places on competition issues, as EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager pointed out last week. “It’s really, really interesting what is happening in the U.S. right now,” she told POLITICO’s Ryan Heath and Leah. “Both on competition, law enforcement — and the signals sent there with Lina’s appointment, with Kanter, with the executive order [which Wu helped put together]. That is like a dream come true to see a president take that kind of interest in so many different areas.”
— Enhancing data security: The Senate Commerce Committee will also convene Wednesday morning for the second hearing in its series on consumer privacy, focusing on data breaches. Lawmakers, former FTC officials and policy experts will discuss recent cybersecurity incidents and current commercial data security practices.
This hearing follows one the committee held last week on privacy enforcement, particularly at the FTC, and Democrats’ proposal to launch a $1 billion privacy and data security bureau within that agency. A third hearing is expected later this month on how the FTC can best implement the new bureau. (The FTC’s approach to privacy has also sparked a partisan fight at the agency, as Alex reported for Pros.)
— Strengthening communications networks: The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s communications and technology panel will hold a hearing at noon Wednesday on strengthening communications networks. Lawmakers are expected to consider a dozen bills, touching on issues from broadband service to spectrum coordination. One bill would ask the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to create a grant program aimed at helping local governments deal with an expected increase in zoning and permitting applications related to deploying broadband infrastructure, while others would require the FCC to share broadband availability data with the Interior Department and include maternal health data in its broadband health maps.
THE BIG QUESTION MARK ON INFRASTRUCTURE — Democrats failed to reach a deal Friday, as progressives stood firm on their threat to vote down the bipartisan infrastructure bill if the much larger social spending bill wasn’t ready at the same time. Here’s where the parties stand after this weekend:
— The view from Democratic leadership: On Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats that they needed to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill “well before” Oct. 31, when a 30-day extension of highway funding is set to expire. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin reiterated that timeline on CNN’s “State of the Union,” calling Halloween “our new target date.”
— The view from 1600 Pennsylvania: White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond didn’t make the same commitment. “We don’t have a time frame on it,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “This is just about delivering and making sure that we deliver both bills to the American people because it meets their needs.” That echoes what Biden told reporters in a rare visit to Capitol Hill on Friday: “It doesn’t matter whether it’s six minutes, six days or six weeks. We’re going to get it done.” Biden also told House Democrats that the price tag would likely range from $1.9 trillion to $2.3 trillion. And to the disappointment of moderates, he stipulated that the infrastructure package wouldn’t go through without the social spending bill.
— The view from progressives: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said on “State of the Union” that a $1.5 trillion topline — the number that centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) wants — was “not going to happen” because it would be “too small to get our priorities in.” However, she said the final number could fall below $3.5 trillion, indicating at least some openness to a smaller price tag.
— The view from moderates: They’re not happy with the vote being delayed a second time. “Democratic leaders have made conflicting promises that could not all be kept — and have, at times, pretended that differences of opinion within our party did not exist, even when those disagreements were repeatedly made clear directly and publicly,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the other centrist senator opposed to the social spending package in its current form, said in a blistering statement on Saturday.
SAY NO TO ROBO-VOICEMAILS — Advocacy group Consumer Reports is delivering a petition to the FCC today, calling on the agency to deny a request from the Perdue for Senate campaign that would allow “ringless voicemail,” or direct-to-voicemail calls, which would “throw open the door” to similar tactics by telemarketers. The petition has received more than 88,000 digital signatures. Today is the deadline for comments on the campaign’s FCC petition.
Allie Caccamo is now an associate at Christoff & Co. working on tech policy strategy. She most recently was an account coordinator at Allison+Partners. … Elizabeth Rojas Levi is now SVP for communications at the Paley Center for Media. She most recently was head of global communications at Nokia Enterprise. … Rishi Banerjee is now regulatory and industry affairs manager at Amazon. He’s the former senior manager at the Global Food Safety Initiative at the Consumer Goods Forum.
Max Baker is joining the Clyde Group as a senior account executive for public affairs. He most recently has been digital director for Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) political operation. … Christina Mary Mason is joining DISH Network as a senior manager for government affairs. She was most recently vice president for government affairs at WISPA – Wireless Internet Services Provider’s Association. … The Future of Privacy Forum announced promotions: John Verdi as SVP of policy, Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna as VP of global privacy and Amelia Vance as VP of youth and education privacy.
Back in the spotlight: “Is Sheryl Sandberg’s Power Shrinking? Ten Years of Facebook Data Offers Clues.” WSJ has more.
Internal workings: Facebook has scrambled to contain the fallout over its internal research on Instagram’s effect on teens. The steps it’s taken have irked some of the company’s researchers, via NYT.
Going after No. 1: Apple isn’t known for making video games or consoles, but its App Store has made it a major player in the industry. Now, it’s drawing challenges from all sides, WSJ reports.
Pretty please: “Trump asks judge to force Twitter to restore his account,” via AP.
Hot take: “Give Amazon and Facebook a Seat at the United Nations,” via Bloomberg Opinion.
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SEE YOU TOMORROW!