Senate Judiciary Committee Pursues New Antitrust Legislation

Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working together on antitrust legislation similar to some of the measures the House Judiciary Committee approved last month. Grassley has yet to offer specific details of proposed legislation but Klobuchar, who is chair of the judiciary panel’s antitrust subcommittee, said a focus on tech companies that offer their own version of products sold by rivals dependent on their platforms is “at the heart of two of the House proposals.” Continue reading Senate Judiciary Committee Pursues New Antitrust Legislation

House Passes Two Bills in Effort to Foster Scientific Research

In a bipartisan vote, the House passed two bills this week designed to boost U.S. research and development programs. The bills are the House’s response to the Senate’s passage of the Endless Frontier Act that puts significant federal funds into emerging technologies with the aim of competing with China. Instead, the bills passed by the House double the amount of money over the next five years for research at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and provides a 7 percent increase for the Energy Department’s Office of Science. Continue reading House Passes Two Bills in Effort to Foster Scientific Research

Antitrust Law Authority Lina Khan Appointed Chair of the FTC

In a largely bipartisan vote, the Senate appointed antitrust law expert and Columbia Law School associate professor Lina Khan as chair of the Federal Trade Commission after earlier adding her to the agency. Senator Amy Klobuchar announced Khan’s appointment as FTC chair. At 32 years of age, Khan is the youngest person to ever join and lead the FTC. The legal scholar has also been a consistent critic of Big Tech, so her confirmation is evidence that lawmakers from both political parties agree that it is time to further evaluate the growing dominance of those companies. Continue reading Antitrust Law Authority Lina Khan Appointed Chair of the FTC

Senate Passes $250 Billion Bill to Foster Manufacturing, Tech

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill in a 63-32 vote this week that allocates $250 billion for technology R&D to counter foreign competition, primarily from China. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) intends to boost research investment, build semiconductor manufacturing capacity and focus on AI development. The National Science Foundation (NSF) will also play a more significant role. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) stated the bill is “about investing in that innovation economy of the future.” It still needs to pass the House. Continue reading Senate Passes $250 Billion Bill to Foster Manufacturing, Tech

Senate Judiciary Committee Grills Tech Execs on Algorithms

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s panel on Privacy, Technology and the Law pressed executives from Google’s YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter this week on how user content is shared via algorithms that can be misused. The top Republican on the panel, Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) stated that the use of such algorithms are “driving us into poisonous echo chambers.” Congress is currently considering the fate of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms from liability for what their users post. Continue reading Senate Judiciary Committee Grills Tech Execs on Algorithms

Senators Press Ad-Auctioneers for Personal Data Sales Info

Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) heads a bipartisan group of U.S. senators attempting to understand more about digital advertising auctions and their relationship to personalized ads. The group sent a letter to the largest companies that run these auctions, including AT&T, Index Exchange, Google, Magnite, OpenX Software, PubMatic, Twitter and Verizon Communications. The senators want the names of all foreign clients gaining access to user data through the auctions, citing concerns of national security. Continue reading Senators Press Ad-Auctioneers for Personal Data Sales Info

AT&T Resists Plan to Bring High-Speed Fiber to Rural Homes

AT&T expressed opposition to the proposal of subsidized fiber-to-the-home for everyone in the U.S., with the argument that rural communities don’t need anything faster than the existing service’s 10Mbps upload speeds. AT&T executive vice president of federal regulatory relations Joan Marsh defined “broadband for the 21st Century” as its VDSL (very high-speed digital subscriber line), a 14-year-old system that uses copper telephone wires for the last mile to the home. She noted the “significant additional cost” to deploy fiber to every home, saying there is “no compelling reason” to justify the expense. Continue reading AT&T Resists Plan to Bring High-Speed Fiber to Rural Homes

Countries Plan to Invest in New Chip Manufacturing Facilities

Due to a global semiconductor shortage, the United States, European Union countries and Japan are planning to spend billions of dollars to build chip fabrication plants (“fabs”). These countries also face the fact that more than two-thirds of the world’s chips are made in Taiwan. China is offering subsidies to its domestic chip industry, as industry-leaders Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Samsung Electronics plan to build U.S.-based fabs, potentially aided by significant U.S. government subsidies. Continue reading Countries Plan to Invest in New Chip Manufacturing Facilities

After SolarWinds Hack, Big Tech Debates Cloud Data Security

The SolarWinds hack invaded at least nine U.S. government agencies and 100+ corporations. Now, Microsoft is at odds with Dell Technologies and IBM on the best way to secure data. Microsoft president Brad Smith stated that “cloud migration is critical to improving security maturity,” but the other two companies opine that a hybrid cloud and on-premise data storage is preferable. Smith stated that all the breached accounts Microsoft identified involved on-premise systems and that a hybrid system is more vulnerable to attacks. Continue reading After SolarWinds Hack, Big Tech Debates Cloud Data Security

Senate Confirms Trump Nominee for FCC Nathan Simington

The Senate confirmed Nathan Simington as a new Republican FCC member in a 49-to-46 vote. The confirmation comes as FCC chair Ajit Pai prepares to exit his post in January. In the run-up to the vote, Simington vowed “regulatory stability” and an openness to reexamining Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. With Simington, the five-member FCC could be deadlocked at the beginning of 2021, with two Democrats and two Republicans, possibly limiting its ability to carry out president-elect Joe Biden’s agenda. Continue reading Senate Confirms Trump Nominee for FCC Nathan Simington

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

FCC Aims to Limit Section 230 Protections for Social Media

Affirming the FCC’s authority over social media companies, chair Ajit Pai has launched an official effort to “clarify” how Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act applies to them. “Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech — but they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters,” he said. President Trump has often called for social media companies to be stripped of Section 230 protections. Continue reading FCC Aims to Limit Section 230 Protections for Social Media

Proposed Legislation Would Weaken Shields for Social Media

The Justice Department sent Congress draft legislation to weaken Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, leaving Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms vulnerable to legal action for content posted by users. The proposed changes would create liability for platforms that allow “known criminal content” to remain once they are aware of it. President Trump claims that social media companies are biased against conservatives. The platforms have not been protected against some civil suits. Continue reading Proposed Legislation Would Weaken Shields for Social Media

Government Surveillance Bill Is Sidelined by Privacy Question

The House of Representatives, after closed-door negotiations, came to an agreement to bring an amendment to vote that would protect Americans from FBI and CIA surveillance of their web browsing history without a warrant. The amendment, introduced by Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), would be a “significant reform to Section 215 [of the USA Patriot Act] that protects Americans’ civil liberties,” said Lofgren. However, after full details of the proposal were released, debate over who would specifically be protected led to the amendment’s downfall. Continue reading Government Surveillance Bill Is Sidelined by Privacy Question

Federal Government Considers Plans For Broadband Access

Although millions of Americans are at home, the Senate did not include money for broadband infrastructure in the $3 trillion stimulus package under consideration. However, the current bill does include some funding to deploy mobile hot spots around the country. Proponents of accessible broadband will try to add that to any upcoming stimulus package. Meanwhile, the U.S. government, along with several Big Tech companies, is providing global access to 16 supercomputers to help researchers discover vaccines to combat the coronavirus. Continue reading Federal Government Considers Plans For Broadband Access

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