With help from Alexandra S. Levine and John Hendel
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— Marathon markup: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up a slew of legislative proposals starting this morning, including a significant boost to the FTC’s privacy efforts.
— Can you tax it? New polling indicates that Americans support taxing tech companies for using their data — an effort that’s underway in New York.
— Combating polarization: As political partisanship increases, a new report is calling on lawmakers and tech companies to respond accordingly.
IT’S MONDAY, SEPT. 13. WELCOME BACK TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. Today’s big question: Has Section 230 gone mainstream? I’m curious if you can talk about it with non-tech policy folks without having to explain it or if there are common misconceptions when it’s brought up. Let me know!
Got a news tip? Email me at [email protected] and find me on Twitter @benjamindin. Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. Anything else? Team info below. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
HOUSE E&C DEMOCRATS SEEK BOOST FOR PRIVACY, BROADBAND EFFORTS — The committee will mark up its $486.5 billion portion of Democrats’ partisan social spending package this morning. Expect a marathon: The lawmakers will take up legislative proposals related to 16 topics, ranging from air pollution and drinking water to wireless connectivity, digital learning and the FTC’s privacy enforcement.
Here are the key tech and telecom bits for the markup:
— FTC privacy bureau: The committee’s Democrats are proposing a $1 billion funding boost to the agency to create a privacy bureau, a number that is more than three times the FTC’s entire annual budget. The bureau would be “dedicated to stopping unfair and deceptive acts and practices related to privacy violations, data security incidents, identity theft, and other data abuses,” according to the committee.
An amendment from Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs the consumer protection and commerce subcommittee, explicitly mentions “hiring and retaining technologists, user experience designers, and other experts.” In 2019, Schakowsky called it “shocking” that the FTC only had 40 full-time employees dedicated to privacy and data security, compared with about 500 at the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office.
Concerns have also been raised about agency staffers leaving for tech-related positions, which usually pay more.
— Remote learning: Democrats are also asking for $4 billion for the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, which was established as part of pandemic relief efforts to devote $7.17 billion to schools and libraries to boost internet connectivity. The FCC said in August that it received more than $5.1 billion in requests for the funding in the first application window, and a coalition representing schools and libraries called on lawmakers to replenish the fund.
It’s not clear, however, how this request will go down with President Joe Biden’s past comments that he doesn’t want to double-dip between the Democrats-only $3.5 trillion social spending package and the bipartisan infrastructure deal, which already allocates $65 billion for broadband efforts.
— Other noteworthy requests: Democrats want $10 billion in grants to upgrade 911 emergency dialing services, $10 billion for the Commerce Department to bolster critical supply chains and $10 million to form a 6G council. They also want to set aside 200 MHz of airwaves for sale to raise money for the Treasury.
— Expect GOP pushback, including to the FTC expansion: Republicans oppose the partisan spending plan and object to the price tag. “Democrats are abandoning what should be commonsense bipartisan legislation … in order to recklessly lump these issues into Speaker Pelosi’s grand socialist wish list,” a Republican committee aide told John, requesting anonymity to speak frankly ahead of the markup. “That includes providing the FTC with what is essentially a $1 billion war chest to advance their political agenda instead of passing actual legislation with real privacy protections for all Americans.”
— The legislative timeline: Democratic leaders want the reconciliation package to be fully assembled by Wednesday. Progressive lawmakers have threatened to tank the bipartisan infrastructure package if the partisan social spending package is not ready. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised moderate House Democrats an infrastructure vote by Sept. 27, so expect a flurry of legislative activity in the next two weeks.
MT SCOOP: SHOULD TECH COS COMPENSATE YOU FOR USING YOUR DATA? — Most Americans say yes. A majority of U.S. voters on both sides of the aisle would support a tax on tech companies that collect and profit off their personal data, according to newly released stats by progressive polling firm Data for Progress that were shared exclusively with MT. The findings come on the heels of the introduction of legislation in New York that would tax companies that monetize New Yorkers’ data.
— Prospects: Similar proposals have been floated in recent years in Washington state and Oregon. But New York state Sen. Andrew Gounardes and New York City’s Democratic nominee for mayor Eric Adams — who introduced the so-called Data Economy Labor Compensation and Accountability Act, NY S6727 (21R) — say the polling showing support across the political spectrum gives their bill a good shot at passing.
“We create billions and billions of dollars in value for companies that extract our personal data for their own profit without getting any compensation in return,” Gounardes said, adding that the new polling numbers signal how Americans, regardless of their political leaning, “agree that it’s time that we get paid for the value of our data.”
— Who wins? The tax would affect companies inside and outside New York that use New Yorkers’ information — from tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to smaller data processors. The estimated $1 billion in revenue that would come from the state’s 2 percent sales tax on data would be infused back into digital infrastructure and digital literacy programs that help students and workers across the state, according to Gounardes.
“This is not just solely about trying to create another tax to raise revenue,” he told Alex, POLITICO’s data privacy reporter, in an interview. “This is actually about shifting the way we think about economic value — and how do we capture some value from the economy that we can then put back towards public good.”
— What’s next: The state legislature reconvenes in January, and Gounardes is angling to get this across the finish line during that next session.
PUSHING BACK ON POLITICAL POLARIZATION — Tech companies should double the number of human content moderators and stop outsourcing the task to third-party contractors, according to a report released today by the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.
That’s one of the 10 recommendations for the federal government and social media platforms made in the report, which examines the role social media has played in stoking political polarization and what those platforms can do to stop it.
— The takeaway: The report’s authors found that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were “not the original or main cause” of the polarization, but the use of the platforms intensified divisiveness in the U.S. Limiting polarization should now be “an urgent priority,” they said.
“Having failed to self-regulate sufficiently, the companies have created a need for Washington to intervene,” the report said. “Only by means of vastly more disclosure about how their algorithms rank, recommend, and remove content will the platforms be held accountable for the damage they now cause to the political system and society at large.”
Social media platforms have found themselves the targets of political ire, especially in the past year — first from Democrats over initial decisions to allow then-President Donald Trump to remain on their platforms as a political figure and then from Republicans over their takedowns of Trump’s accounts following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
— For the platforms: The companies should make adjustments to their algorithms that would systematically depolarize the platforms, according to the report. They should also engage more with civil society groups that work on identifying harmful content like disinformation as well as “diminish rewards for virality and performative politics.”
— For the government: The report urges Congress to investigate the role of social media in the Jan. 6 attack and require large platforms to share more data about their algorithms with researchers — a point of contention in recent weeks. (And on Friday, The New York Times reported Facebook had accidentally sent flawed data to misinformation researchers.) It also calls on Congress to task the FTC with collaborating with social media platforms to codify standards related to how platforms should respond to harmful content and establish enforceable consequences when they’re violated.
T-2 DAYS: MARK YOUR CALENDARS — POLITICO is hosting its first-ever tech summit Wednesday. The virtual event, titled “At a Digital Crossroads — Washington and Silicon Valley,” will explore the evolving relationship between the power corridors of Washington and the tech sector.
— What to expect: Members of Congress, federal officials, tech executives, tech policy experts and activists will discuss what the Biden administration’s agenda and tech legislation moving on the Hill mean for innovation, marketing competition, consumer privacy and content moderation. We’ll also cover the global tech race, particular between U.S. and China, as well as racial equity efforts in tech — both among policymakers and in the tech ecosystem.
— The speaker list: Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto, the CEOs of tech trade groups NetChoice, Chamber of Progress and the Internet Association, and more.
Register to attend and submit audience questions here.
Rafi Martina, a longtime tech adviser to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), is moving from the senator’s personal office to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, where he will work on emerging tech issues. … Madeline Broas is joining the public affairs team at SKDK. She was previously on the comms team for Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). … Pete Spiro is now chief of staff for Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.). He most recently was chief of staff for Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).
Jim Lanzone is joining Yahoo as CEO, after holding that role at Tinder and CBS Interactive, WSJ reports. … Anna Kain is now manager for federal affairs at Verizon. She most recently was assistant VP for government affairs at Synchrony.
Paul Lambert was elected chair of the Utilities Technology Council. Dewey Day was approved as vice chair, and Kirt Mayson as secretary/treasurer.
Your move: “After Court’s Apple App Store Ruling, All Eyes on How Gamers Respond,” The Information reports.
Collision course: “Facebook, Biden officials poised for clash as tech giant seeks approval for new global payments system,” via WaPo.
At risk: Hackers are going after school districts — leaving the personal data of children exposed. NBC News has more.
Incoming challenge: Epic Games said it would appeal the ruling in its antitrust suit against Apple, via Reuters.
Confuzzled: “A secretive Pentagon program that started on Trump’s last day in office just ended. The mystery has not.” WaPo has more.
Here for you: Salesforce has offered relocation help to employees concerned about access to reproductive healthcare in their state, following Texas’ abortion law going into effect.
Dodged a bullet: Tech companies are breathing a sigh of relief after Biden announced his vaccine mandate last week, Protocol reports.
SEE YOU TOMORROW!