With help from Cristiano Lima, Leah Nylen and John Hendel
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.
— Debate highlights: The final presidential debate focused heavily on election interference — the topic that will remain front-and-center for Silicon Valley in the lead-up to Nov. 3.
— MT scoop: A new bipartisan bill set to be unveiled today aims to make it easier to detect predators on social media and on popular mobile apps.
— Social media and civil unrest: A majority of Americans fear that social media will be used to incite real-world violence in the (likely messy) aftermath of Election Day, according to new data from GQR and Accountable Tech — and five states are most at risk.
OVER AND OUT. IT’S FRIDAY; WELCOME TO MORNING TECH! I’m your host, Alexandra Levine.
Got a news tip? Write to Alexandra at [email protected], or follow along @Ali_Lev and @alexandra.levine. An event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. Anything else? Full team info below. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
THE FINAL DEBATE AND ‘THE LAPTOP FROM HELL’ — President Donald Trump’s reference to the notorious laptop from the disputed New York Post story on Joe Biden closed out a debate that hit on election interference by foreign adversaries and the candidates’ entanglements with China, Russia and Iran. (“Nothing was unethical,” Biden said with regards to his son Hunter’s business dealings while he was vice president.)
— Both candidates cast themselves as victims of Russian interference: “Russia is wanting to make sure that I do not get elected the next president of the United States, because they know I know them, and they know me,” Biden said. The president then argued that Russia wants Trump to lose because “there has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.” Trump accused Biden of taking money from Russia, and Biden accused Trump of taking money from China. Each denied the other’s claims. Now here we are.
— What’s next: Although tech got relatively little play in the final debate, it will figure prominently in the final twelve days of this election cycle — and the aftermath to follow.
MT SCOOP: INCOMING HOUSE BILL TARGETS PREDATORS ON SOCIAL MEDIA — A new bipartisan House bill slated to be introduced today would make it easier to spot predators on social media. Led by Reps. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), the Protecting our KIDS Act would expand the information registered sex offenders must provide the Justice Department to include key personal identifiers used on social networking platforms and mobile apps. It would also widen the pool of platforms covered under those requirements to include ones that don’t primarily cater to kids.
— An evolving threat: “With technology constantly evolving, Congress has an obligation to ensure the law keeps pace and covers all emerging digital platforms that could be exploited by sexual predators,” Kuster, co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, said in a statement to MT. Earlier this year Kuster and Gonzalez called on their House colleagues to move legislation to address the growing prevalence of child exploitative material online during the pandemic, which has also caused kids to shift more of their activities on-screen.
— It’s already drawing industry support: Match Group, the parent of dating apps like Tinder and OKCupid, is an early backer. “This bill provides much-needed tools to further the societal goal of keeping minors away from danger,” said Match Group CEO Shar Dubey. The company made a splash earlier this year by becoming the first major tech firm to support the EARN IT Act, a separate bill aimed at curtailing child abuse online. The new bill is also backed by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, an anti-sexual assault non-profit.
FTC DISCUSSES POTENTIAL ANTITRUST CASE AGAINST FACEBOOK — FTC staff have made a recommendation to the agency’s leaders on whether to file an antitrust complaint against Facebook, POLITICO’s antitrust reporter Leah Nylen reports in a new dispatch.
— Context: FTC staff have been investigating Facebook since June 2019, and attorneys general from multiple states have also opened antitrust probes against the social network — but it remains to be seen whether the AGs would be able to join a potential FTC case, Leah reports. The agency’s five commissioners met Thursday afternoon to deliberate. So what’s next? Read Leah’s story here.
FIRST IN MT: THERE’S A NEW GOOGLE LAWSUIT TRACKER IN TOWN — A coalition of nonprofits are debuting a new site today to track the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Google and any other cases that are filed. (As Leah has noted, state AGs say they are “weeks” away from finishing their probe, and investigations into Google’s control over the advertising technology market and its proposed Fitbit merger are still outstanding.) The tracker, launched by antimonopoly advocate American Economic Liberties Project, digital rights group Fight for the Future and The Revolving Door Project, among others, will seek to provide updates as the case(s) wind their way through the courts.
SO LONG, FAREWELL: ANTITRUST STAR MOVES ON — Lina Khan, whose 2017 Amazon critique helped launch an antitrust rethink on tech, is returning to Columbia Law School. Her last day with the House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee is today, sources told MT. Khan, who also did a stint with FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, joined the antitrust panel last year to help with its probe into major tech platforms and authored most of the report’s findings on Google. Antitrust panel chair Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) praised Khan’s “powerful intellect,” which offered “extraordinary” contributions to the report.
FIRST IN MT: ARE AMERICAN VOTERS PAYING ATTENTION TO TECH ISSUES? — A large swath of Americans are not following Washington’s hot-button debates around tech’s legal liability shield and antitrust, according to data out this morning from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and the advocacy group Accountable Tech. Their survey of 1,000 likely voters polled in the past week found that roughly 80 percent are not familiar with Section 230; 70 percent don’t know how social media algorithms work; 60 percent are out of the loop on anticompetition; and 50 percent aren’t aware of break up big tech rhetoric. So despite Washington’s escalating war on Silicon Valley, which is likely to continue no matter who wins the presidency, legislation and lawsuits on these major tech policy issues are not necessarily top-of-mind for voters.
Other highlights related to the 2020 race:
— On the potential for social media to sway the election: More than half of respondents said they were “not very” or “not at all” confident that social media companies would deter their platforms from being used to influence the November elections.
— On the potential for post-election danger: A majority expressed concern that social media would be used by certain groups to incite violence following the election — and more than 60 percent worried President Trump would do that. Check out the full report here.
— And a related footnote: “Five states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Oregon — have the highest risk of seeing increased militia activity around the elections: everything from demonstrations to violence,” NPR reports — and the chaos could originate online.
CAN THE PRESIDENT ‘SHUT DOWN’ THE INTERNET? — President Trump has set the internet ablaze many (many!) times since taking office, but could he decide on a whim to simply shut it down? A bipartisan duo of House lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday addressing that very question. And while prospects for a proposal introduced so late in Congress tend to be low, a Republican signing onto a bill to curb the Republican president’s powers is notable.
— The fine print: The Preventing Unwarranted Communications Shutdowns Act from Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) would restrict the president’s authority to cut off the internet and other communications networks — which a president can do under emergency authorities granted by the Communications Act.
— A long-shot, but not impossible: Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has raised alarm about the issue, warning that the law (first passed in 1934) is outdated. “The rate of internet shutdowns is increasing around the world,” she said Thursday, voicing support for the new bill. “It’s hard to imagine it happening here at home. But it could.” The new bipartisan bill would require the president to give advance notice of an internet shutdown to Congress and executive branch leaders, and to then receive approval from 60 percent of both the House and the Senate in order to proceed.
— Republicans show support: “Our Constitution and laws place checks on arbitrary and expansive executive power in other spheres, and the internet deserves the same protections,” Griffith said in a statement, a subtle check from a member of Trump’s own party. “This bill would create guardrails so that any internet shutdown would require the consent of the people through their elected representatives.” Other prominent Republicans including George W. Bush’s Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff also threw their weight behind the legislation.
FCC DINGS T-MOBILE FOR SUMMER OUTAGE — FCC Chair Ajit Pai on Thursday declared T-Mobile’s widespread network outage on June 15 a “failure” as the agency released its staff report on the incident. “Our staff investigation found that the company did not follow several established network reliability best practices that could have either prevented the outage or at least mitigated its impact,” the FCC chief said. FCC staff found that equipment failure and a software flaw contributed to the problems.
— One noteworthy stat: During the 12 hours of outage, at least 41 percent of all the calls on the carrier’s networks didn’t go through. That included more than 23,000 calls that didn’t reach 911.
— In response, T-Mobile issued a statement touting its commitment to customers and said that the carrier immediately “took the necessary steps to address the issues that created the service interruption.” Watch for a forthcoming FCC public notice reminding telecom companies of the best practices to avoid such hiccups.
Paul G. Haaga, Jr. was appointed the first individual trustee of Facebook’s independent Oversight Board. … Josh Hammer, Newsweek’s opinion editor and a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation, is joining the Internet Accountability Project, a conservative nonprofit advocating to rein in Big Tech, as the organization’s counsel and policy adviser.
ICYMI: Senate Judiciary voted Thursday to subpoena Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey to testify about allegations of anti-conservative bias, Cristiano reports.
I’ll see you in (Facebook) court: Facebook’s de facto Supreme Court — also known as its independent Oversight Board — has started letting Facebook and Instagram users appeal the social network’s content moderation decisions, POLITICO reports. Facebook can also refer cases.
Voter intimidation?: “A group of gig workers in California on Thursday sued Uber for up to $260 million in penalties alleging the company has violated their employment rights with aggressive in-app messaging urging them to support the company’s position on a November ballot measure,” WaPo reports.
Eyeballs watching emoji: “Sen. Bernie Sanders is hoping to be a part of Joe Biden’s potential administration and has expressed a particular interest in becoming Labor secretary,” POLITICO reports. If successful, that could have implications for tech workforce and gig economy issues.
Race for a cure: “Palantir is helping the federal government set up a system that will track the manufacture, distribution and administration of Covid-19 vaccines,” WSJ reports.
One winner of the DOJ-Google battle: Microsoft’s Bing. “The target of the U.S. government’s last major tech antitrust campaign could be the biggest beneficiary of its newest lawsuit,” 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).
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .