Antitrust politics make for strange bedfellows

With help from Leah Nylen, Emily Birnbaum, Cristiano Lima and Julia Arciga

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— Odd couples: The House Judiciary Committee begins marking up its antitrust package this morning. Expect to see some unusual moments of bipartisanship.

— Hear ‘em out: From tech companies to unions, a diverse set of groups joined a last-minute flood to make it clear where they stand on the antitrust bills.

— Stop it now: European and American civil society groups are today calling for a ban on surveillance-based advertising — and urging the passage of a U.S. privacy law.

WELCOME TO WEDNESDAY! MORNING TECH IS HALFWAY THERE. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. Have you been following the antitrust trial over the Altria-Juul deal? Apparently Altria’s argument has been, more or less, “our e-cigarettes sucked,” and I think that’s an incredible defense.

Got a news tip? Are you canceling plans to watch the antitrust markup? Email [email protected]. 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.

SOME ODD ANTITRUST PAIRINGS — First, progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) raised eyebrows when she retweeted a clip of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson praising FTC Chair Lina Khan. Now, in another unlikely match-up, House Judiciary ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) both have serious (if different) reservations about several of the bills.

Jordan and former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows warned against the bills in a Fox op-ed: “Big Tech is out to get conservatives. But the answer is not to marry Big Tech to Big Government.” They were most opposed to the interoperability bill — aimed at making it easier for users to transfer data to other services — which they said would make communications more vulnerable to spying. But they didn’t mention the two least controversial bills that would increase merger filing fees, H.R. 3843 (117), and let state attorneys general pick where antitrust lawsuits occur, H.R. 3460 (117). Under pressure from GOP members to “put up or shut up,” Jordan may wind up supporting those two.

Meanwhile, Lofgren, a progressive, has no problem with those two bills, but “major concerns” about the rest of the package, according to a Democratic staffer. The San Jose Democrat, who has a close relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, supports the goals of the interoperability bill, H.R. 3849 (117), and H.R. 3816 (117), a bill from antitrust Chair Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) that would block companies from favoring their own products. But Lofgren believes the package would “unnecessarily rip apart these companies, not responsibly regulate them,” the staffer said.

— Long road ahead: Aides say they’re expecting a long and chaotic markup could go into the night as members deal with a bevy of amendments, ranging from technical changes and privacy-related fine-tuning to Republican tweaks to address conservative allegations of social media censorship.

And as lawmakers debate the bills today, MT will be watching for any other intraparty fault lines that might emerge during the markup. For more on the intraparty drama among Democrats, check out Leah and Cristiano’s story from this morning — and while you’re at it, get the scoop on the GOP divisions from Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Emily.

LAST-MINUTE ANTITRUST LOBBYING RAMPS UP — Tech lobbying groups have aggressively opposed the bills since the texts first leaked. But in the runup to today’s event, the tech companies themselves joined the fray.

— Slow it down: Both Amazon and Google issued statements: Amazon said lawmakers are “moving unnecessarily fast,” and Google added the bills need “more thoughtful consideration” before the markup.

— Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Facebook took a different line of attack, calling the bills “a poison pill for America’s tech industry” amid competition from Chinese tech companies. And the Chamber of Commerce, the U.S.’s biggest business lobby, warned of “dangerous consequences for America.”

— Think of the children: Apple released a white paper this morning, complete with illustrations of a sneaky cyber-criminal fox, on how side-loading of apps — AKA, avoiding the App Store — would reduce privacy (Apple’s privacy rules rely on apps going through its app review process) and bypass parental controls.

— Don’t forget the startups: The Center for American Entrepreneurship and the National Venture Capital Association — both of which have Facebook ties — oppose H.R. 3826 (117), introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), saying in statements that the bill would endanger the “startup ecosystem,” chill innovation and hamper job creation. A Tuesday letter from Apple, sent to House Judiciary leaders, specifically called out the interoperability bill, saying it “would hamper innovation,” Cristiano reports for Pros.

Not to be outdone, supporters of the antitrust package have rolled out a slate of new endorsements:

— The unions: The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is backing the legislation with a letter released this morning. And it’s not the union’s only move against tech giants: It unveiled a resolution Tuesday (set for vote Thursday) that said the group’s “highest priority” is helping Amazon workers achieve a union contract — just in time for Prime Day.

— Brick-and-mortar retailers: Grocers, wholesalers and distributors, hardware stores, booksellers and several small business organizations are backing the bill.

— Racial equity groups: Color of Change — one of the leaders of the coalition Stop Hate for Profit, which has led a Facebook advertising boycott — praised the legislation for “taking steps to make the marketplace fairer.” Rashad Robinson, the group’s president, told MT that while “we wish the commitment to racial equity were made explicit in the text, the tools outlined in this package are crucial to reining in the abuses of Big Tech.”

TRANSATLANTIC GROUPS CALL FOR BAN ON SURVEILLANCE-BASED ADS — In a letter today to U.S. and EU officials, more than 50 civil society groups from the U.S. and the EU called for the EU to include a surveillance-based advertising ban in its Digital Services Act and for the U.S. to enact a federal digital privacy law, arguing that consumers are no fans of corporate surveillance but can’t avoid it.

— Included with the letter: a new report from the Norwegian Consumer Council, which argues that online tracking by businesses facilitates systemic discrimination, funds disinformation and undermines competition. “Effective policy, regulation and enforcement to address the commercial surveillance that pervades our everyday lives are long overdue,” the report said.

U.S. recipients include President Joe Biden, via the Office of Science and Technology Policy; the chairs and ranking members of the Hill’s commerce panels; and FTC commissioners.

FIRST IN MT: HOME DEVICE CONNECTIVITY QUESTIONS REMAIN — Senate Judiciary antitrust chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is pushing Google and Amazon to say whether they will make Google Home and Amazon Echo speakers work with third-party devices that use the same connectivity standard, called Matter. Google and Amazon executives told lawmakers at a hearing last week they want more device-makers to make products compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, but Klobuchar said neither would say how long they will follow the Matter standard. The senator asked the companies to clarify whether all their products on the market use the standard and how long they will continue to use it.

ALSO FIRST IN MT: VOTERS BELIEVE SOCIAL MEDIA CEOS PROFIT FROM DISINFORMATION — Sixty-three percent of likely voters believe social media companies kept election conspiracies and lies on their platforms “because it kept people more hooked on their product,” according to polling out this morning from progressive firm Data for Progress. Even more — 66 percent — said they somewhat or strongly agreed that social media CEOs profited off of those conspiracies and lies. The survey of 1,175 likely voters was conducted online between June 11 to 14 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 points.

PARENTS PLEAD FOR SKYPE CHANGES TO COMBAT CHILD SEX ABUSE — Advocacy group ParentsTogether sent an open letter Tuesday to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — signed by more than 22,000 people — demanding changes to the company’s communications platform, Skype, to prevent the livestreaming of child sexual abuse. Microsoft did not respond to a request for a comment, but the BBC reported in May the company had recently used a Skype database to aid German authorities in busting a child pornography ring.

John Horrigan is now a senior fellow at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, where he will lead research on the FCC’s Lifeline program. He is an FCC and Pew Research Center alum. … Mark Naze is now chair of the Competitive Carriers Association board of directors. Maureen Moore has been appointed to the executive committee. … Sam Hall joins secure ID company CLEAR as chief product officer. He is a Grubhub and Amazon alum. … Doug Philippone, head of global defense at Palantir and a former Army Ranger, has co-founded Snowpoint Ventures, a venture capital firm.

The Utilities Technology Council has nominated Paul Lambert as chair, Dewey Day as vice chair and Kirt Mayson as secretary/treasurer. … Freedom Technologies Inc. announced new hires: Matthew Ivey as executive legislative counsel for national security and technology and legal associates Elena DeJaco and John Bush. Christian Kuzdak is promoted to law and policy adviser. …

The Library of Congress announced the members of its Copyright Public Modernization Committee: Amazon’s Wahaj Chaudhry, Warner Media’s Kathleen Rodriguez, Todd Carpenter, Susan Chertkof, Brewster Kahle, Roy Kaufman, Keith Kupferschmid, Melissa Levine, Pamela Malpas, Micah May, James Neal, Jeff Sedlik and Scott Weingart.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is rebranding as Fairplay. It’s also part of a new coalition — also including the Center for Digital Democracy, the Center for Humane Technology and Common Sense — advocating for a framework that protects young people’s best interests when designing online services.

Uber Eats will provide in-app transparency disclosures about the price discrepancy between ordering in-app and directly from restaurants. … Nokia will develop 5G base-station radios compatible with Ligado Networks‘ L-Band spectrum.

From our pals at POLITICO Influence: Earnin, which provides users advances on their paychecks in exchange for “tips,” has hired tech startup vet Ben LaRocco to grow out its D.C. office. LaRocco previously worked in government relations for e-scooter companies Superpedestrian and Lime, as well as Amazon and Procter & Gamble. … Chandler Smith Costello has joined public affairs firm Firehouse Strategies as SVP. She spent a decade on the Hill as comms director for Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) and former Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

Getting savvy: “How Big Tech created a data ‘treasure trove’ for police,” via AP.

That’s that: In China, academics’ LinkedIn accounts are being blocked. That’s the price of doing business, the company says. WSJ has more.

Thumbs down: Facebook’s algorithm is devaluing local reporting, Popular Information reports.

Antitrust woes: “Amazon Could Be Forced to Sell Logistics Business Under Bill,” via Bloomberg.

Expanding access: SpaceX’s Starlink could provide global coverage by September, per Reuters.

Still a problem: “Digital divide persists even as Americans with lower incomes make gains in tech adoption,” from Pew.

Under scrutiny: The FTC will review the Amazon-MGM deal, WSJ reports.

ICYMI: The U.S. has seized multiple Iranian news sites under unclear circumstances, AP reports.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected]), Heidi Vogt ([email protected]), John Hendel ([email protected]), Cristiano Lima ([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.


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