October 19, 2021

Excellent Pix

Unlimited Technology

House Judiciary mulls how to juice tech competition

Editor’s Note: Morning Tech is a free version of POLITICO Pro Technology’s morning newsletter, which is delivered to our subscribers each morning at 6 a.m. The POLITICO Pro platform combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.

— Feeling competitive: Lawmakers on the House Judiciary antitrust panel this morning will probe ways to revamp antitrust laws to spur competition in the labor market. Here’s who they’ll hear from.

— Black box: The House Science Committee, at the same time, will hear testimony from one of the researchers at the heart of the dispute between New York University and Facebook on how to boost digital platforms’ transparency.

— Do more: Lawmakers said Facebook’s decision to pause its plans for a kids-friendly Instagram project was the right move. But some want to see the project completely dropped.

IT’S TUESDAY, SEPT. 28. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the company’s attempted TikTok acquisition was the “strangest thing” he’s worked on. Tell me, MT friends, what’s the strangest thing you’ve worked on?

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 JUDICIARY TAKES ON COMPETITION IN THE LABOR MARKET — The panel will convene this morning for its fourth hearing on reviving competition, as lawmakers seek ways to modernize antitrust laws. They’ll hear from six witnesses, representing a range of antitrust viewpoints:

— The law professors: Eric Posner of the University of Chicago and Bruce Kobayashi of George Mason University. Posner is the author of a new book out this month, titled “How Antitrust Failed Workers,” which argues that existing antitrust laws have failed to protect workers from anticompetitive conduct that drives wages down. Kobayashi was director of the FTC’s Bureau of Economics during the Trump administration and has argued against broad antitrust rules that would prohibit the use of noncompete agreements in contracts.

— The economist: Brain Callaci, chief economist at the Open Markets Institute, an anti-monopoly group. He penned a piece Monday in The American Prospect that criticized companies like Amazon for outsourcing work to contractors, such as delivery drivers, exempting them from higher wages and certain workplace protections.

— The commissioner: Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson. She’s been critical of FTC Chair Lina Khan’s progressive antitrust agenda, such as her move to rescind Trump-era vertical merger review guidelines.

— The union workers: Dan Gross, a UPS feeder driver and a Teamsters member, and Nila Payton, a medical administrative assistant at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who is affiliated with SEIU. Gross told lawmakers in his written testimony that working standards are “under attack” by Amazon, which he described as “a company that uses its dominant presence in e-commerce to exert power over its contractors and its workers.” His comments echoed Callaci’s piece, citing anecdotal evidence of Amazon-contracted drivers being paid less than the market rate.

HOUSE SCIENCE PANEL TO DISCUSS SOCIAL MEDIA DATA ACCESS — Lawmakers on the House Science Committee’s oversight panel will hear from researchers this morning on how the government can assist in efforts to access social media data. They’ll also want to hear how effective online platforms are at combating the spread of disinformation and misinformation.

“Social media offers fertile ground for these falsehoods, and unfounded claims can spread across the globe in the blink of an eye,” committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) is expected to say, per prepared remarks. “Navigating the difficulties in extending access to data will not be easy, but failing to do so will have devastating consequences.”

— The backdrop: Access to social media data has been a hot topic on the Hill as far back as 2018’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which that data firm harvested unwitting Facebook users’ data. The issue has reared up again in recent months as part of a dispute between Facebook and NYU researchers, who were investigating the spread of misinformation through political ads on the platform. Facebook, citing privacy concerns, revoked the researchers’ access to the platform. Laura Edelson, one of the researchers, will testify before the panel this morning, where she is expected to outline suggestions for lawmakers on increasing platform transparency.

Lawmakers also want to hear about how researchers are studying the way content reaches users through proprietary algorithms. These algorithms are regarded by platforms as trade secrets, making their inner workings difficult for researchers to examine. Civil society groups have pushed for more accountability and transparency surrounding how and why algorithms make the decisions that they do.

Not at today’s hearing: social media platforms. Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, will emphasize the need for these companies to “have a seat at the table” in order to successfully combat misinformation. “We cannot expect them to go it alone, and we should likewise not expect to stop the spread of harmful misinformation without them,” he will say, per prepared remarks.

MT exclusive: Dozens of civil society groups, including Accountable Tech, the Anti-Defamation League, Common Sense Media and Fight for the Future, urged leaders of the House Science Committee in a letter dated Monday to take action against Facebook over its decision to revoke access to the NYU researchers.

“We urge Congress to demand that Facebook immediately restore the NYU researchers’ accounts and submit to a complete independent audit of its role in the Capitol insurrection” on Jan. 6., they wrote.

GAUGING REACTIONS ON THE HILL — After months of criticism from lawmakers, civil society groups and parents, Facebook has paused its “Instagram Kids” project, but some lawmakers are pushing the social media giant to go further.

“Facebook has completely forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project,” Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Reps. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) said in a statement. The four said they planned to reintroduce the Kids Internet Design and Safety Act, aimed at combating manipulative marketing tactics and design features meant to keep young users online longer. And it’s not just Democrats: Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said in a tweet that the company “need[s] to abolish the program completely.”

— Surprise announcement: The unexpected announcement on Monday from Instagram head Adam Mosseri followed a Wall Street Journal investigation that found Facebook’s own internal research suggested Instagram has a negative impact on the mental health of teenage girls. (Facebook disputed those characterizations in a blog post Sunday.)

Mosseri said on NBC’s “Today” show that the company would use the pause to get more feedback on the platform. “I still firmly believe that it’s a good thing to build a version of Instagram that’s designed to be safe for tweens, but we want to take the time to talk to parents and researchers and safety experts and get to more consensus about how to move forward,” he said. In a separate blog post, Mosseri said the company stood “by the need to develop this experience,” saying that kids were already online and needed to have “age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them.” He added that the proposed kids platform was intended for tweens between 10 and 12.

More: “Inside Instagram’s Failed Campaign to Win Over Critics of Kids’ App,” via The Information

— Facebook watch: Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, is slated to appear before the Senate Commerce consumer protection panel on Thursday, in a session focused on protecting children’s safety online.

TODAY: ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY — FCC acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and GOP Commissioner Brendan Carr are headed to Baton Rouge, La., today to survey recovery efforts following Hurricane Ida. The officials will meet with government and industry representatives, as they learn about Louisiana’s progress in recovering from the hurricane and how the agency can better respond to natural disasters in the future. The visit comes just days before the FCC’s open meeting on Thursday, where commissioners will consider a proposal to bolster communications network resiliency.

Rebecca MacKinnon is the Wikimedia Foundation’s first VP for global advocacy. She was most recently the founding director of New America’s Ranking Digital Rights program and is a CNN alum. … Elizabeth Banker is joining Chamber of Progress as VP of legal advocacy. Banker, a Yahoo, Twitter and Internet Association alum, will focus on defending the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. … Sanford Williams is now deputy managing director in the FCC’s Office of Managing Director. He was previously director of the agency’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities. Joy Ragsdale is replacing Williams after serving as field counsel in the agency’s Enforcement Bureau.

Rob Duhart Jr. is joining Walmart Global Tech as deputy CISO leading e-commerce and M&A security. He most recently was global head of federated privacy, safety and security at Google, and is a DOD, FBI and DOE alum. … Will Boyington is now senior manager of public policy comms at Blue Origin. He previously was comms director of the National Space Council, and is a Dan Newhouse and House Oversight alum. … Ann O’Hanlon, who spent five years as chief of staff and campaign manager for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), is the new Washington-based chief of staff at Change Research, a Silicon Valley polling firm. … Eric Bagwell is joining Intel as IP policy program director. He previously was a senior adviser for Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.).

InterDigital announced new promotions: Rob Stien will be EVP, chief communications and public policy officer, and. Blair Watters will be VP for government relations and standards policy. … TDS Telecom announced a slate of promotions: Mark Barber, SVP of network operations, is now COO. He is replaced by Shane West, who was SVP of sales, marketing and customer operations. Julie Maiers has been promoted from VP of marketing and product development to West’s previous role.

The FCC announced the application filing window for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program will be from Oct. 29 to Jan. 14. … Spotify is partnering with National Voter Registration Day and HeadCount to encourage listeners to get registered to vote as part of its Play Your Part campaign.

Learn something new: “Covert Postal Service unit probed Jan. 6 social media,” POLITICO’s Betsy Woodruff Swan reports.

Wild story: “Goldman Sachs, Ozy Media and a $40 Million Conference Call Gone Wrong,” via NYT.

ICYMI: Following a POLITICO report, Clearview AI has dropped its subpoenas of its critics. Alex reports for Pros.

Move along: The U.K.’s competition watchdog has cleared Facebook’s acquisition of Kustomer, Bloomberg reports.

Drop it like it’s hot: “Google lowers its cloud marketplace revenue share to 3% from 20%,” via CNBC.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected]), Heidi Vogt ([email protected]), John Hendel ([email protected]), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected]), Leah Nylen ([email protected]), Emily Birnbaum ([email protected]), and Benjamin Din ([email protected]). Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.

SEE YOU TOMORROW!

Source News