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— Getting together: Top administration officials are gathering today for the White House Competition Council’s inaugural meeting, as a part of President Joe Biden’s push to boost competition in the economy.
— The other big Texas law: Industry coalitions were quick to pan Texas’ social media law as unconstitutional after the governor signed it on Thursday, setting the stage for likely legal challenges.
— Covid app woes: States have had trouble persuading people to download Covid exposure notification apps.
IT’S FRIDAY, SEPT. 10. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. With the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States this weekend, take some time to read this reflection from the New York Times reporter who wrote the lead article about the events.
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.
LET THE COMPETITION BEGIN — Attorney General Merrick Garland, FTC Chair Lina Khan, acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will be among the Cabinet leaders and independent agency heads attending today’s White House Competition Council meeting.
— The background: Biden has installed numerous progressive antitrust advocates at top positions in his administration, such as Khan and Tim Wu, his competition adviser on the National Economic Council. He also issued an executive order in July aimed at sparking competition in a vast array of businesses.
The group, established as a part of the order, is the next step. The commission was created to make sure Cabinet agencies and independent agencies “are all working as effectively as possible toward the goal” of Biden’s order, as commission chair and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said this week. According to the order, the group is not supposed to discuss current or planned enforcement actions.
— Ahead of the gathering: Both the FTC and FCC announced actions this week to address some of the recommendations Biden included in his executive order. On Tuesday, the FCC announced it was seeking comment on whether agreements between internet service providers and landlords could limit competitive access to broadband. And the FTC said Wednesday it would vote on whether to rescind vertical merger guidelines at next week’s open meeting — policies Biden had suggested for agency review.
TEXAS TACKLES SOCIAL MEDIA LAW AFTER FLORIDA FUMBLES — Tech industry groups have slammed a new social media law in Texas, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed Thursday afternoon and is aimed at combating alleged online anti-conservative discrimination. It’s expected to take effect in about three months.
— What it does: The law takes aim at online platforms with at least 50 million monthly active users in the United States. It prohibits them from removing users or user content based on viewpoints and requires them to be more transparent about their content moderation policies, as well as institute an appeals process for those who have their content removed.
The law also provides a mechanism for users in Texas and the state attorney general to sue over alleged censorship. (One thing it doesn’t have: a carve-out for theme park operators.)
— Swift condemnation: Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, called the law “ill-advised and clearly unconstitutional.” His organization led a legal challenge with fellow tech trade group NetChoice against a similar law in Florida. A judge temporarily blocked that law, citing potential violations of the First Amendment.
Tech groups, including the Chamber of Progress and the Internet Association, warned that the new law would aid the spread of misinformation, hate speech and extremism online. But none of the groups mentioned filing a lawsuit against the law, although NetChoice President Steve DelBianco said he expected “the same outcome [in Florida] will almost certainly occur in Texas.” CCIA spokesperson Heather Greenfield told MT that the group is “exploring all legal options.”
— 2024 hopefuls? Both Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have been floated as potential 2024 contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, and laws like these tend to play well with the conservative base. Critics have called the laws more performative than substantive.
TURN ON TRACK CHANGES — Users’ privacy concerns and the lack of a national strategy have slowed widespread adoption of Covid-19 exposure notification apps, according to a report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office.
Exposure notification apps can speed up contact tracing efforts and help prevent people from unwittingly spreading Covid. As of June, almost half of U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia have an app for Covid, according to the report, all using the exposure notifications system built by Google and Apple.
— Privacy problems: The report found that users’ perception of these apps’ invasiveness has kept them from catching on. Officials told the GAO that users likely would not install such an app if it collected personal information, including location data. The report also dinged Congress for its failure to enact a federal privacy law, despite making a recommendation to do so in January 2019.
Another challenge: public mistrust of how big tech companies handle user data. The report cited highly publicized instances of companies misusing users’ personal data in the past, such as the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018.
— An interesting note: Despite calling for a national strategy, the report said it was unclear whether users would be more distrustful of a federal app than one run by a state government. That could be especially true in states like California and Colorado, which have passed their own privacy laws.
SEND IT VIA TEXT — The FCC should add texting capabilities to its new three-digit shortcode for the suicide prevention hotline, which would make it more accessible for young people, the House’s Colorado delegation said Thursday.
“By allowing a text-to-988 option in addition to voice call, the Commission can lower the bar to entry and improve access to crisis counseling and mental health services,” the seven lawmakers, led by Democrat Jason Crow and Republican Ken Buck, wrote in a letter to Rosenworcel. “This will save lives.”
The 988 number, which will go live next year, was created when Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act last year. The change is desperately needed after the pandemic “took a particularly devastating toll on the mental health of young people,” who tend to be more comfortable communicating via text, the letter said.
— More funding needed: Earlier this week, the White House included extra money for bolstering the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as part of its spending requests for Congress’ stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. The administration asked for $78 million for the Health and Human Services Department to meet an expected increase in demand after the shortcode goes into effect.
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 (so far): Rosenworcel, Buck, 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: https://bit.ly/915tech
John Branscome will join Facebook’s federal policy team, where he will focus on executive branch management, Emily reports for Pros. He is the top Democratic staffer on the Senate Commerce telecom subcommittee and previously was chief counsel of the internet subcommittee. … John Stephenson is ending more than seven years at Amazon, where he is director of global public policy planning and strategic initiatives for Amazon Web Services. He was director of the task force on communications and technology at the American Legislative Exchange Council and is a Hill alum. … Jen Hing is now senior federal affairs officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She previously was senior political/comms director for the House Appropriations Committee. … Jennifer Taylor Hodges will join Mozilla Corp. as head of U.S. policy. She was previously VP of U.S. government affairs at British Telecom.
Apple Watch software chief Kevin Lynch has been tapped to lead the company’s self-driving car project, Bloomberg reports. … Devin Ertel is joining Menlo Security as chief information security officer. He was previously head of security and IT at Guidebook and is a Federal Reserve alum. … Alicia Sandlin is joining insurance tech startup TrustLayer as director of strategic initiatives. She was previously at AIG.
First time for everything: Brazil appears to be the first nation to block internet companies from removing content that violates their rules, NYT reports.
New line of work: Amazon is getting into the (physical) TV business, ratcheting up its fight with Roku and Google. Bloomberg has more.
Hot or not: “Smart Glasses by Facebook and Ray-Ban Mix Cool With Creepy,” via WSJ.
She’s a fighter: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Thursday she was diagnosed with breast cancer this year and underwent successful treatment.
Prime and circumstance: “Amazon Dangles Free Bachelor’s Degrees as New Perk in Fight for US Workers,” WSJ reports.
Eyes watching emoji: “Epic intends to re-release Fortnite on iOS in Korea offering both Epic payment and Apple payment side-by-side in compliance with the new Korean law,” according to Fortnite’s Twitter account.
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.
ENJOY THE WEEKEND!