With help from Amanda Eisenberg, John Hendel, Mark Scott, Leah Nylen, Cristiano Lima and Daniel Lippman
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— Trump vs. Biden, night one: Election integrity got the last look at the first presidential debate, but tech policy issues were otherwise lost in the 90-minutes of fireworks, insults and conspiracy theories.
— Misinfo monitor: Covid-19 infection rates are once again climbing in New York, and Yiddish misinformation on WhatsApp is contributing to the spread in the city’s Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.
— Broadband land: FCC leaders will vote today on plans around auctioning 5G-friendly Pentagon spectrum and a proposal stirring anxieties from public safety officials worried about the future of their 4.9 GHz airwaves.
IT’S WEDNESDAY, AND (ALREADY!) THE LAST DAY OF SEPTEMBER. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Alexandra Levine.
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FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE EVADES TECH POLICY — Techlings were holding their breath for any substantial mention of tech, but the face-off hit only briefly on election integrity. And even then, the discussion focused solely on mail-in voting — leaving out any mention of the role that foreign actors from China, Russia and Iran are known to be playing already in this election, in some cases through social media. (2016 déjà vu?) Chris Wallace closed the evening raising questions about how each contender would react if the results are not immediately clear on the night of the election, a scenario Silicon Valley is already bracing for.
— Other tidbits: Without naming names, Joe Biden referenced Fortune 500 corporations that he said don’t pay taxes and took issue with billionaires becoming even bigger billionaires during the pandemic — claims we heard in Democratic debates earlier this cycle, largely in reference to powerhouses like Amazon (and their executives). You might’ve also seen the American Edge Project, a coalition Facebook is involved in, run a spot about the importance of American tech leadership in U.S. national security. But … that was about it.
— Let’s hope for more tech, and less crossfire, at the subsequent debates in October.
TIKTOK TAKES ON 2020 MISINFORMATION — Viral (and sometimes misleading) videos with a political bent now have a bottom banner directing TikTok users to authoritative information about the November elections. The notices launched in the app on Tuesday, and by the afternoon, they’d already been applied to posts suggesting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a “mini stroke” on live TV and that a Hasidic presidential candidate was running against Trump and Biden, to name a couple. The platform’s “2020 Elections Guide” includes voter registration and other resources broken down by state.
WHATSAPP, MEANWHILE, SEES YIDDISH COVID MISINFORMATION — With coronavirus cases on the rise again in the original U.S. hotspot, New York, Yiddish misinformation on WhatsApp is helping fuel the spread among Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Queens, my colleague Amanda Eisenberg writes in POLITICO’s Future Pulse. The rumors chiefly concern the community allegedly achieving herd immunity this past spring, with appeals that parents decline to test their kids as a condition for keeping yeshivas open. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has shut down in-person learning at four schools this year because of increased caseloads in the schools and surrounding community, along with a lack of mask compliance.
— The de Blasio administration has tried to fight the spread of misinformation by conducting robocalls in Yiddish and English, as well as counterprogramming on WhatsApp to inform people about the importance of continuing to wear masks in public. The Orthodox Jewish community, where Yiddish is the mother tongue, uses technology selectively. Many families don’t have TVs or use the internet — and often get conflicting information on WhatsApp from government skeptics and Jewish doctors and volunteer emergency medical services in the communities.
— POLITICO’s weekly Future Pulse dispatch explores the intersection between tech and health care. Sign up for the newsletter here.
ELSEWHERE AT FACEBOOK: NICK CLEGG ON CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA REDUX — The former deputy British prime minister, now Facebook’s joint head of policy and communications, sat down (virtually) with a group of journalists Tuesday to defend the social network’s track record on misinformation, political ads and other election-related issues now that we’re just over a month out from the November elections.
— The executive said definitively that a second Cambridge Analytica-style scandal, involving the misuse of people’s Facebook data, could not happen after the company improved its handling of such data use since 2018. (Editor’s note: Possible famous last words?) More here from Mark Scott, my colleague based in Europe.
— Other highlights: Would Facebook consider suspending political advertising ahead of the planned weeklong moratorium before Nov. 3? Clegg said no.
APPLE, EPIC ASK FOR BENCH TRIAL — At Monday’s hearing in Epic Games’ antitrust case against Apple, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said the companies should consider a jury trial for their dispute. “It’s going to cost a lot of money, time and effort,” she said, noting that any decision is likely to be appealed. “You might as well find out what people really think and want.” Late Tuesday, though, the companies agreed to let Gonzalez Rogers decide the case herself next July. A major factor that likely led to that decision: Since the pandemic began, courts have had difficulty seating juries — though Texas and Florida have held trials via Zoom — and criminal cases get precedence.
GOP SENATORS: PENTAGON 5G INTERESTS ‘NOT THE WAY’ — No. 2 Senate Republican John Thune (S.D.) is pulling together a letter to President Donald Trump cautioning him about the recent request for information from the Pentagon that floated questions about novel spectrum sharing arrangements and government-owned 5G networks.
— “Nationalizing 5G and experimenting with untested models for 5G deployment is not the way the United States will win the 5G race,” according to a draft of the letter, dated today, obtained by John. “We recognize the need for secure communications networks for our military, however we are concerned that such a proposal threatens our national security,” it says. Thune is believed to have more than a dozen GOP signatories.
— Responses to the request for information, due Oct. 19, will be publicly posted, Pentagon official Frederick Moorefield said at a recent Commerce Department event.
AIRWAVES ON TAP AT TODAY’S FCC MEETING — As FCC commissioners vote this morning on a wide mix of items, watch for how and whether they’re responding to pushback on some of the initial draft proposals. Public safety groups panned Chair Ajit Pai’s initial order to reallocate some of their 4.9 GHz airwaves for commercial use, for instance. And the executive branch also recently sought some tweaks to Pai’s planned order, updating how the commission seeks input from the interagency group known as Team Telecom.
— Also of note: Commissioners will vote to pave the way for auctioning some 5G-friendly Pentagon airwaves next year as well as on proposals to bolster caller ID authentication technology and to open an inquiry into how to stop states and localities from spending consumers’ 911 fees on non-911 purposes.
— FCC stands by earlier broadband subsidy call: Commissioners adopted an order, released Tuesday, that rejected some state officials seeking a do-over of certain rules for the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which is set to dole out billions of broadband subsidies later this year. Although the order says FCC staff correctly determined the agency shouldn’t award subsidies to regions where states have already committed funding, Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel partially dissented, saying the FCC “should be encouraging states to work with us and not penalizing them for their efforts to bring broadband to communities that are struggling.”
David Urban, a Trump 2016 campaign alum, recently started as EVP for North American corporate affairs at ByteDance. Urban, who was most recently president of the American Continental Group, has represented TikTok parent-company ByteDance since the beginning of the year, as well as Oracle. TikTok confirmed Urban recently came on full-time with a portfolio including public affairs, corporate philanthropy and CSR matters for North America. The companies have been working to structure a deal that would pass government muster and allow TikTok to remain operational in the U.S.
Steve Hartell was promoted to vice president of U.S. public policy at Amazon, making him the company’s top lobbyist. … Alex Schultz is replacing Antonio Lucio as Facebook’s chief marketing officer (h/t Scott Nover). … The Keep GPS Working Coalition, launched in June “in response to a FCC order allowing Ligado Networks to operate a terrestrial wireless network that will threaten the reception capability of hundreds of millions of GPS devices,” added new members from the agriculture sector including the Agricultural Retailers Association, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council and USA Rice Federation.
Antitrust alarm bells: “House Judiciary’s long-awaited antitrust report on competition in the tech sector is slated to be released Monday,” Leah and Cristiano report. (Before then, on Thursday, the antitrust subcommittee will hold the final hearing of its yearlong probe.)
The pandemic’s toll on prison telecom: “The main lifeline prisoners now have to their loved ones is phone calls—but they come at a prohibitive cost,” POLITICO reports. “Coronavirus has made this burden worse… [making] an already unfair system even more punishing.”
2020 watch: “The six key races you haven’t heard of that may help decide how we secure our elections,” from POLITICO cybersecurity reporter, Eric Geller.
Trump administration goes big(ger) on national security: “The federal government is stepping up its scrutiny of past Chinese investments in U.S. tech start-ups,” WaPo reports, “sending a flurry of inquiries about deals that are at times years old.”
Techquity: Female founders of artificial intelligence startups — still a male-dominated field — “say they want to try to address concerns with the technology, rooting out what they see as its potential biases against marginalized communities,” WSJ reports.
Scooter scandal: “Bird Is Quietly Luring Contract Workers Into Debt Through a New Scooter Scheme,” Medium’s tech and science publication, OneZero, reports.
ICYMI: “A federal court dismissed a New Mexico lawsuit alleging that Alphabet’s Google knowingly spied on students and their families through its suite of cloud-based products for schools,” WSJ reports.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected], @bkingdc), Heidi Vogt ([email protected], @HeidiVogt), Nancy Scola ([email protected], @nancyscola), Steven Overly ([email protected], @stevenoverly), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected], @Ali_Lev), and Leah Nylen ([email protected], @leah_nylen).