Biden Orders an Evaluation of Semiconductor Supply Chains

In response to a worrying shortage in chips, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to conduct a 100-day review of the supply chains for semiconductors for various products, large-capacity batteries for electric vehicles, pharmaceuticals, and rare-earth elements crucial to technology and defense. Biden is also seeking $37 billion in funding to “supercharge” chip manufacturing and urged a separate one-year review of supply chains of six “broader sectors” including food production and technology. Continue reading Biden Orders an Evaluation of Semiconductor Supply Chains

Court Decision Allows California to Enforce Net Neutrality Law

In 2018, former California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill making the state the first to enact a net neutrality law. The Trump administration sued to block it, and the Biden administration dropped that suit, but the telecom industry had filed a separate suit. Now, U.S. District Court judge John A. Mendez denied the telecom suit, allowing the state to enforce the 2018 law. State senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) called the decision “a huge victory for open access to the Internet, our democracy and our economy,” while some industry groups suggest federal legislation would be a preferred approach to a state-by-state model. Continue reading Court Decision Allows California to Enforce Net Neutrality Law

Section 230 Faces Bipartisan Scrutiny and Potential Updates

At the very end of his presidency, Donald Trump tried to strike down Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which essentially provides online platforms with immunity from liability based on third-party content. He failed, but Congress has received 20 proposals to update or change the section. On February 5, three Democratic senators introduced a bill to make social media firms accountable for enabling cyberstalking, harassment and discrimination. More recently, Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) plan to reintroduce the PACT Act, a proposal to jumpstart change. Continue reading Section 230 Faces Bipartisan Scrutiny and Potential Updates

White House Names Official to Lead Probe of Expansive Hack

In December, suspected Russian hackers compromised SolarWinds Corp., a small software vendor, leveraging it to infiltrate the U.S. departments of Commerce, State and Treasury, as well as numerous private companies. An in-depth investigation revealed that the hack’s scope was larger than first known, with about one-third of those hacked having no direct connection with SolarWinds. Now, the Biden administration has selected White House National Security Council senior official Anne Neuberger to lead the response. Continue reading White House Names Official to Lead Probe of Expansive Hack

Senator Klobuchar Calls for Tough New Antitrust Legislation

As incoming head of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) renewed her call to legislate major changes to U.S. trust laws. Specifically, the legislation would prevent companies that dominate in a sector from purchasing other companies unless they can prove the deals don’t “create an appreciable risk of materially lessening competition.” Klobuchar suggested such changes in Congress’ previous session and Republicans largely rebuffed them. Democrat control of the Senate could improve the odds of passage. Continue reading Senator Klobuchar Calls for Tough New Antitrust Legislation

Facebook Plans Changes to Groups, Controls for Advertisers

When Facebook launched Groups in 2019, it was intended to be, per chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, the “heart of the app.” This last August, however, its own data scientists warned about “blatant misinformation and calls to violence” in the site’s top “civic” Groups. Facebook was aware of the problems for years but accelerated plans to make actual changes after rioters broke into and vandalized the U.S. Capitol on January 6. The Groups in question, dedicated to politics, together reached “hundreds of millions of users.” Continue reading Facebook Plans Changes to Groups, Controls for Advertisers

Bipartisan Efforts Underway to Regulate Big Tech Companies

Senator Amy Klobuchar, once an avid supporter of Big Tech companies and now Senate antitrust panel leader, is expected to play a role in bipartisan efforts to impose regulations on those companies’ market power and data privacy policies. Facebook and Google face federal and state allegations of anticompetitive behavior and Amazon and Apple are under investigation for antitrust violations. President Biden and others in his administration have vowed to hold Big Tech accountable for users’ speech on their sites. Continue reading Bipartisan Efforts Underway to Regulate Big Tech Companies

CES: Economic Council Chief Discusses Biden’s Tech Goals

Consumer Technology Association president and chief executive Gary Shapiro held a conversation with the incoming Biden administration’s designated director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese. In that position, Deese will advise President-elect Joe Biden on domestic and international economic policy and coordinate the administration’s economic agenda. “Taking the vision and direction of the president and turning it into an action plan across all agencies is particularly important at times of economic crisis,” he said. Continue reading CES: Economic Council Chief Discusses Biden’s Tech Goals

Internet Platforms Say They’re Ready to Discuss Section 230

Facing a bipartisan push from Congress to change Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a liability shield against lawsuits for Internet platforms, tech companies have said they are now ready to discuss it. For 20+ years, Internet platforms have adamantly defended Section 230 but, in recent weeks, both Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey have voiced support for “updating” and/or “expanding” the law. Democrats and Republicans have threatened to repeal Section 230. Continue reading Internet Platforms Say They’re Ready to Discuss Section 230

Lawsuits Against Facebook Also Target Data Sharing via APIs

This week, the Federal Trade Commission and 46 state attorneys general filed lawsuits against Facebook for anticompetitive practices. But it is also looking at how Facebook leveraged user data to both lure and control third party developers, relying heavily on data sharing via application programming interfaces (APIs). MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy director Sinan Aral noted that the upcoming cases could set a precedent for any platform that shares data via an API and has conditions on that data sharing.

Continue reading Lawsuits Against Facebook Also Target Data Sharing via APIs

Biden Reiterates Commitment to Create Universal Broadband

President-elect Joe Biden and top Democratic allies in Congress, including James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), are focused on significantly increasing federal spending on broadband to improve Internet access and affordability, especially in rural areas. The effort is more urgent as the pandemic continues, and the first step towards this goal is part of the new coronavirus stimulus package. Biden already endorsed the relief bill, passed by the House, that includes $4 billion for Internet access to low-income Americans. Continue reading Biden Reiterates Commitment to Create Universal Broadband

Congress Is United in Passing Internet of Things Security Bill

Congress gave unanimous approval to the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act, a law covering all the bases for the security of the Internet of Things. The Act was written with advice from Symantec, Mozilla and BSA | The Software Alliance among others, which contributed a list of considerations including secure development, identity management, patching, and configuration management. The law is perceived as establishing a baseline for IoT devices and products. Manufacturers can choose to release products that do not comply. Continue reading Congress Is United in Passing Internet of Things Security Bill

Facebook, Twitter Chief Execs Support Section 230 Changes

At a Senate Judiciary Committee, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey reported that their companies made improvements in blocking misinformation during the 2020 presidential election, compared to their inability to stop Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Judiciary chair Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said both companies will face modifications to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects them from liability for user-posted content, and the two chief execs expressed cautious support for the idea. Continue reading Facebook, Twitter Chief Execs Support Section 230 Changes

Government Extends Deadline for ByteDance to Divest TikTok

Although ByteDance’s TikTok missed a Thursday deadline to complete its deal with Oracle and Walmart, the Commerce Department did not enforce the shutdown order, citing last month’s preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone. That suit was brought by three TikTok stars who charged that the government exceeded its authority by threatening the “robust exchange of informational materials.” President Trump initiated the effort to get TikTok to divest itself of its U.S. operations based on national security concerns. Now the deadline has been extended to November 27. Continue reading Government Extends Deadline for ByteDance to Divest TikTok

Big Tech Executives Defend Their Services in Senate Hearing

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter chief exec Jack Dorsey and Alphabet/Google chief exec Sundar Pichai faced a combative Senate Commerce Committee this week. Republicans want to update Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that shields Internet platforms from liability for user-generated content. They also claim the platforms censor conservative views. Democrats also want to look at Section 230 but are more focused on whether the platforms are guarding against disinformation as the presidential election looms. Continue reading Big Tech Executives Defend Their Services in Senate Hearing

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