With help from John Hendel, Caitlin Oprysko, Daniel Lippman and Sam Sabin
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— Senate Judiciary gets first dibs: The Judiciary Committee has announced a markup this week of a bill to regulate online marketplaces — the biggest sign yet of serious momentum for the Senate’s tech antitrust efforts.
— NTIA’s new leader has his day: The Senate will finally vote this afternoon on confirming Alan Davidson, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
— Blumenthal blasts TikTok for yet another dangerous video: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote to TikTok after a 12-year-old was seriously injured while recreating a “Whoosh Bottle Experiment” video.
HAPPY TUESDAY. It’s Rebecca Kern and I’m at the helm of Morning Tech this week. I’m on my sixth week with POLITICO, and am covering content moderation battles in Congress, misinformation and disinformation online, and general tech policy issues on Capitol Hill. Always looking for tips, events and scoops, so hit me up on Twitter at @Rebeccamkern or via email at [email protected].
Separately, we are so excited to welcome Maggie Miller on her first day as our newest cybersecurity reporter, focusing on national security. She comes from The Hill, where she covered tech policy for the last 2 1/2 years. Follow her on Twitter at @magmill95. Give her a big welcome!
SENATE GETS SERIOUS ON ANTITRUST: Supporters and critics of one of the Senate’s biggest tech antitrust bills will have little time to prep for the Judiciary Committee’s markup, now scheduled for Thursday.
The measure, introduced last October by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would prohibit big tech companies from unfairly using their own online marketplaces to overwhelm their rivals. It comes after years of accusations from smaller companies about Amazon’s abusive treatment of its vendors and Apple’s dominance of its App Store. The bill’s primetime placement this week means it could move quickly through the committee, as your host reports for Pros.
— S. 2992 has the backing of 10 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, including Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) as well as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). A similar measure, H.R. 3816 from Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee last June.
— But tech groups aren’t backing down. TechNet, a trade group that represents Apple, Google and Facebook, was quick to criticize the bill. “It is alarming to note that this law would only apply to our iconic American businesses, not to our foreign adversaries. This will only serve to strengthen countries looking to undermine America’s influence and global leadership,” Carl Holshouser, a senior vice president at TechNet, said in a statement.
— The big question: What will happen on the floor? The Senate’s 50-50 partisan split and the Democrats’ slim House majority still leave much up in the air about whether either chamber can pass its version of the antitrust bill before the midterm campaign season stalls most action in Congress. The House’s version of the bill has yet to get any time on the floor, amid criticism from several top Republicans.
DAVIDSON’S BIG DAY IN THE SENATE — The Senate is set to vote at 2:20 p.m. today on confirming Davidson to head the NTIA, a key Commerce Department telecom agency that’s poised to shape Biden’s legacy on broadband, data privacy and industry spats over 5G.
— The day has been long in coming ― and felt even longer for anyone who sat through Davidson’s hours-long cloture vote Monday evening. But Davidson, who previously worked at the Commerce Department as well as at Mozilla and Google, has largely dodged lawmakers’ barbs during his confirmation process (unlike at least one other Biden nominee).
He’s expected to sail through today, after prevailing 64-30 in Monday’s procedural vote.
— As NTIA’s leader, Davidson will oversee the spending of about $48 billion for deploying broadband to underserved populations and boosting digital equity, as called for in last year’s infrastructure bill. (The agency is seeking comment about how to implement the funds.)
He’ll also be the point person for helping settle spectrum turf wars, such as the skirmish between the FCC and FAA over whether the rollout of 5G wireless service will disrupt air travel, and helping define administration views on data privacy and other tech topics. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has said she wants the agency to spearhead a national spectrum strategy.
— The NTIA has lacked a Senate-confirmed administrator since mid-2019, when Trump-era leader David Redl abruptly resigned. Many progressives have urged Biden to pick up the pace on his tech agenda, including by filling these high-ranking agency jobs. The White House didn’t name Davidson as its NTIA pick until late October, and Republicans like Sen. Rick Scott of Florida foiled Democratic hopes to fast-track Davidson late last year. (Scott has blocked a mix of DOT and Commerce nominees as part of his probe of supply chain concerns.)
‘WHOOSH!’ MORE SENATE FLAK FOR TIKTOK — The video app is under fire from the Senate yet again after Blumenthal raised concerns about the “Whoosh Bottle Experiment,” a series of videos in which someone pours alcohol into a plastic bottle and sets it on fire to hear a “whoosh” sound.
He said TikTok had failed to remove “Whoosh Bottle” content until serious harm had occurred. “TikTok cannot wait for external pressure — and serious injuries — to act,” he added.
— TikTok says: “We understand that this school science experiment can be done safely with proper precautions, but videos without visible safety measures will be removed from our platform,” a spokesperson told POLITICO. “We also work to add caution labels to videos performed in a controlled setting, though they are ineligible for recommendation into people’s ‘For You’ feeds.”
— Blumenthal asked TikTok to meet with him, as well as with Connecticut school officials and parents, to explain the steps it is taking to remove dangerous videos. TikTok has previously taken criticism for hosting other videos that could inspire destructive behavior in children, such as clips in which students vandalize school bathrooms.
COMCAST HIRES LOBBYIST AS SOHN WAITS IN LIMBO — Comcast has added a lobbyist with deep ties to Arizona, a state whose senior senator may hold the key to confirming Gigi Sohn for an open seat at the FCC.
The cable, broadband and broadcasting giant hired Kirk Adams of Consilium Consulting last week to lobby on FCC nominations, according to a disclosure filing. The registration filing was amended later that day to say Adams would be lobbying on telecommunications policy, as Caitlin Oprysko reported for POLITICO Influence.
— The hire came days after Biden renominated Sohn, who has faced opposition from Republicans, hesitancy from some Democrats and questions from broadcasters about her stances on issues like copyright and net neutrality. One Democrat who has yet to take a position on Sohn is Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Commerce Committee member and a moderate Democrat who has typically aligned with Republicans and internet service providers like Comcast on net neutrality.
The committee expects to hold a vote on nominees the week of Jan. 24, possibly including Sohn, a committee spokesperson told POLITICO.
— Additionally, Larry Puccio, the former chief of staff to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), has signed telecom giant Comcast and the nonprofit formed by Andrew Yang as clients. Puccio and fellow West Virginia lobbyist Angel Moore will lobby for Comcast on telecom issues like broadband deployment and adoption, according to a newly filed disclosure. Comcast is the first major corporate client for Puccio and Moore at the federal level.
FIRST IN MT: GROWING MERGERS HARM JOB GROWTH — The dramatic increase in mergers in the past year threatens to lead to mass layoffs and could drive down wages in communities around the U.S., according to a new report from the American Economic Liberties Project, an anti-monopoly group.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department are facing an influx of new mergers to review, with companies reporting 4,130 mergers to the two agencies in 2021— more than double the number from the previous year.
Moxie Marlinspike, the CEO of messaging app Signal, announced Monday that he’s resigning from his post and Brian Acton, who is on the Signal Foundation board, will be the interim CEO. …. Maneesha Mithal has joined Wilson Sonsini’s privacy and cybersecurity practice as a partner, according to our friends at Playbook. She previously spent more than 20 years at the FTC, most recently as associate director of the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.
Global software company SAP has joined BSA | The Software Alliance and Julie White, SAP SE’s chief marketing and solution officer, will join BSA’s board of directors. … Jennifer Christie joined e-commerce startup Bolt as its chief people officer. She previously worked as Twitter’s chief HR officer.
CTIA, the wireless industry association, announced the promotions of: Kara Graves to vice president of regulatory affairs, Sarah Versaggi to vice president of government affairs, Michael Mullinix to assistant vice president of regulatory affairs, Michael Donnellan to president of accounting and finance, and Chris Lesser to assistant vice president of accounting and finance. … The International Association of Privacy Professionals announced the hiring of Mark Thompson as the director of research and insights and Katharina Koerner as a senior fellow of privacy engineering. … T-Mobile announced it has acquired rideshare advertising network Octopus Interactive.
Trump may get back online: A year after expulsion of former President Donald Trump from social media sites following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, his own social media site— Truth Social — is expected to launch within months, The Washington Post reports.
Intel removes Xinjiang references: Intel has removed references to the Chinese Xinjiang region from an open letter to suppliers last months, after pushback from China, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Feds ill-prepared to track virtual currency: Federal agencies may lack complete data to report the illicit use of virtual currencies, the Government Accountability Office says.
Covid test misinformation spreads: As the widely transmissible Omicron variant has spread in the U.S., so too has misinformation about Covid-19 tests on social media, The New York Times reports.
Water, technology and environmental racism: A report from the AI Now Institute and the Center for Interdisciplinary Environmental Justice examines how the three intersect as technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning expand in the world of water management.
Meta mandates boosters: Meta has mandated that all of its employees receive Covid-19 vaccine boosters, and has delayed its full office reopenings until late March, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Carlson joins Gettr: Fox News host Tucker Carlson has joined Gettr, an alternative social media company that caters to Trump supporters.
Uber and Visa launch restaurant grants: Uber and Visa announced $1 million in grants for small- to medium-sized restaurants in 10 U.S. cities.
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Senate Judiciary sets a date for its antitrust showdown Source link Senate Judiciary sets a date for its antitrust showdown