Morning Consult Tech: DNI Says Both Iran and Russia Have Obtained U.S. Voter Registration Data for Election Interference Efforts

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  • Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said that both Iran and Russia have obtained U.S. voter registration data as a part of their plans to interfere in the November election, adding that the data can be used to “communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy.” Ratcliffe also said that Iran was behind an email campaign made to look like it came from the Proud Boys, which targeted voters with disinformation about voter fraud and told people to “Vote for Trump or else!” (CNN)
  • Customs and Border Protection approved a proposal from Google to use its Cloud product as a part of the CBP Innovation Team’s artificial intelligence projects, such as an effort to build a new “virtual” wall along the U.S.-Mexico border through surveillance towers and drones, according to obtained documents related to the contract. The new deal comes after Google faced employee unrest in 2018 for its contract related to the Pentagon’s Project Maven, which resulted in Google stepping away from the government project. (The Intercept)
  • Facebook Inc. paused its rollout of a new tool redirecting users who are looking at QAnon conspiracy theory content to informational sources debunking the group after a “glitch” made it so people were shown QAnon content instead, even when they searched for “unrelated terms.” (Bloomberg)
  • U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios said during his appearance at the WSJ Tech Live virtual conference that his office is working on new guidance for how agencies should approach the regulation of artificial intelligence, with a final version expected in the near future. The news comes after the White House released a January draft of principles for AI regulations and follows similar guidelines from other government agencies, including the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Defense Department. (The Wall Street Journal)

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New Report – Great Expectations: The Evolving Role of Companies in a Post-Election World

The 2020 election, already being termed “the most important presidential election in American history,” has significant potential to reshape how corporate America and brands interact with politics.

A new report from Morning Consult takes a deep-dive into Americans’ changing expectations around brands’ engagement with politics, and the issues consumers care most about as they relate to corporate social responsibility and political activism. Download the report.


Senate Judiciary to vote Thursday on forcing testimony from Twitter, Facebook CEOs
Cristiano Lima, Politico

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote Thursday on whether to issue subpoenas to the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook, a spokesperson for the committee said late Wednesday, escalating Republicans’ standoff with the social media companies over allegations of political bias.

Former Google CEO Calls Social Networks ‘Amplifiers for Idiots’
Gerrit De Vynck, Bloomberg

Former Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said the “excesses” of social media are likely to result in greater regulation of internet platforms in the coming years. Schmidt, who left the board of Google’s parent Alphabet Inc. in 2019 but is still one of its largest shareholders, said the antitrust lawsuit the U.S. government filed against the company on Tuesday was misplaced, but that more regulation may be in order for social networks in general.

Apple Lobbies for Lower Taxes to Boost U.S. Chip Production
Mark Gurman, Bloomberg

Apple Inc. has been lobbying the U.S. government on tax breaks to support domestic chip production, suggesting the iPhone maker is keen to move more of its supply chain to the U.S. In second- and third-quarter disclosure reports, the company said it lobbied officials from the Treasury Department, Congress and the White House on tax topics including “issues related to tax credits for domestic semiconductor production.”

Cruise, GM to seek U.S. approval for vehicle with no pedal or steering wheel
Jane Lanhee Lee et al., Reuters

Self-driving car maker Cruise said on Wednesday it and majority shareholder General Motors Co would seek U.S. regulatory approval in coming months to deploy a limited number of Cruise Origin vehicles without steering wheels or pedals. At the same time, it will withdraw an exemption petition filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in January 2018 seeking approval to deploy a limited number of autonomous vehicles without pedals or a steering wheel, based on the Chevrolet Bolt platform.

Uber, Lyft paid $85K to firm of NAACP leader who backs their ballot measure
Dara Kerr, CNET

Uber and Lyft have been refining their nearly $200 million effort to win a ballot measure campaign designed to keep gig workers classified as independent contractors in California. They’ve sent out mailers, emails, text messages and press releases and taken out ads. One of the many themes they’ve hit on is that “communities of color support Prop 22.”

Forget Antitrust Laws. To Limit Tech, Some Say a New Regulator Is Needed.
Steve Lohr, The New York Times

For decades, America’s antitrust laws — originally designed to curb the power of 19th-century corporate giants in railroads, oil and steel — have been hailed as “the Magna Carta of free enterprise” and have proved remarkably durable and adaptable.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Meet Amit Mehta, the judge for Google’s antitrust case
Tali Arbel, The Associated Press

The Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Google has a judge: Obama appointee Amit Mehta, who was assigned the case Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He went to elite U.S. universities, clerked for an appellate court judge and worked for both a D.C. law firm with high-profile clients and as a public defender attorney for low-income clients.

Top Investigator in Google Case Says There ‘Was Not a Rush’ to Sue
Cecilia Kang, The New York Times

Jeffrey A. Rosen, the deputy attorney general, wouldn’t normally oversee an antitrust investigation into Google. It would usually fall to the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division. But that official, Makan Delrahim, recused himself because the company is a former legal client.

Google’s Antitrust Fights Could Stretch Far Beyond Washington
Ben Brody and Christopher Yasiejko, Bloomberg

The U.S. monopoly case against Alphabet Inc.’s Google is likely to trigger an onslaught of private antitrust lawsuits riding on the allegations in the government’s complaint. The deluge of litigation has the potential to force the search giant to pay billions of dollars in settlements, according to legal experts.

Big Tech’s Professional Opponents Strike at Google
Adam Satariano and David McCabe, The New York Times

Months before the Justice Department filed a landmark antitrust suit against Google this week, the internet company’s adversaries hustled behind the scenes to lay the groundwork for a case. Nonprofits critical of corporate power warned lawmakers that Google illegally boxed out rivals.

VCs are nervous about a new proposed regulation that could make it harder for big tech companies to buy startups
Berber Jin, Business Insider Premium

Buried in the sprawling, 449-page Congressional report spearheaded by House Democrats about regulating big tech is a recommendation that is making the venture capital world very nervous. To make it harder for big tech companies to snuff out young, upstart competitors by buying them, lawmakers want tech companies to prove that such acquisitions are necessary.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

FCC’s top lawyer says agency can redefine Section 230 social media law
Marguerite Reardon, CNET

The Federal Communications Commission’s top lawyer explained in a blog post Wednesday why he thinks the agency has the legal authority to write regulation that reinterprets the law giving social media companies legal protection from content posted by their users. 

AT&T Pinched by Cord-Cutting and Closed Theaters
Drew FitzGerald, The Wall Street Journal

AT&T Inc.’s legacy television business continued to lose customers during the third quarter while its movie business was sapped by the pandemic and new media bets struggled to gain steam. The telecom and media giant said Thursday that 8.6 million customers had activated HBO Max, its Netflix-like streaming video service, by the end of September, trailing rivals like Disney+ and Hulu.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

How social media companies will handle post-U.S. election scenarios
Elizabeth Culliford, Reuters

In the run-up to the U.S. vote in November, social media companies like Facebook Inc and Twitter have announced new rules for various post-election scenarios. The companies, which have been criticized by social media researchers and lawmakers over the enforcement of their content policies, have laid out plans for how they will handle candidates claiming victory before results are certified or calls for election-related violence.

TikTok battles to stay ‘apolitical’ ahead of US election
Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan and Hannah Murphy, Financial Times

ByteDance-owned short-video platform faces its first big content moderation test. 

Facebook Dating launches in Europe after 9-month+ delay over privacy concerns
Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch

Facebook’s dating bolt-on to its eponymous social networking service has finally launched in Europe, more than nine months after an earlier launch plan was derailed at the last minute over privacy concerns.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Twitter Surveillance Startup Targets Communities Of Color For Police
Sam Biddle, The Intercept

New York startup Dataminr aggressively markets itself as a tool for public safety, giving institutions from local police to the Pentagon the ability to scan the entirety of Twitter using sophisticated machine-learning algorithms. But company insiders say their surveillance efforts were often nothing more than garden-variety racial profiling, powered not primarily by artificial intelligence but by a small army of human analysts conducting endless keyword searches.

Activists Turn Facial Recognition Tools Against the Police
Kashmir Hill, The New York Times

In early September, the City Council in Portland, Ore., met virtually to consider sweeping legislation outlawing the use of facial recognition technology. The bills would not only bar the police from using it to unmask protesters and individuals captured in surveillance imagery; they would also prevent companies and a variety of other organizations from using the software to identify an unknown person.

Alloy promised Democrats a data edge over Trump. The DNC didn’t buy it. Now what?
Issie Lapowsky, Protocol

Alloy was one of the most-hyped data firms of the 2020 election, and Reid Hoffman and Todd Park backed it with $35 million. But Democrats are still at war over what value it adds to the party.

Does Palantir See Too Much?
Michael Steinberger, The New York Times Magazine

The tech giant helps governments and law enforcement decipher vast amounts of data — to mysterious and, some say, dangerous ends.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Private Sector – Not Government – Should Lead on 5G Development
Karen Kerrigan, Morning Consult

For America’s entrepreneurs, next-generation networks like 5G will generate new tools and opportunities to compete and scale their businesses in innovative ways. Vastly higher internet speeds and seamless communication will completely revolutionize the business-to-customer experience. In the COVID-19 economy, these tools and resources are needed by small businesses more than ever — to operate safely, remotely and competitively – indeed, to survive.

United States v. Google
Ben Thompson, Stratechery

So it finally happened: the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging anticompetitive behavior under Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. And, as far as I can tell, everyone is disappointed in the DOJ’s case. 

With the Google Lawsuit, the Long Antitrust Winter Is Over
Tim Wu, The New York Times

The true significance of the federal antitrust lawsuit filed against Google on Tuesday cannot be captured by any narrow debate about legal doctrine or what the case will mean for the company. This is a big case, filed during an important time, and it merits a commensurately broad understanding.

The Irony of the Google Antitrust Suit
Franklin Foer, The Atlantic

Attorney General Bill Barr’s rush to file an antitrust suit against Google two weeks before the end of an election seems suspicious. At the very least, the suit reflects President Donald Trump’s stated desire to punish imagined enemies in tech companies for their imagined biases against the right.

Section 230 isn’t just a shield, it’s a sword—and it’s time to start wielding it against QAnon
Maelle Gavet, Fast Company

Over the past several months, the conspiracy theory known as QAnon, which posits that politicians and A-list celebrities are engaging in child abuse and a “deep state” effort to undermine President Trump, has gone from being a curiosity to an increasingly dangerous force in American politics and society. And the group has flourished thanks to social media platforms.

Research Reports

Building a Trusted ICT Supply Chain
Sen. Angus King and Rep. Mike Gallagher, Cyberspace Solarium Commission

In its March 2020 report, the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission called on the U.S. government to take steps to reduce critical dependencies on untrusted information and communications technologies (ICTs). In addition to recommendations to improve intelligence and information sharing around supply chain risks, core to the Commission’s recommended approach is the creation of an ICT industrial base strategy “to ensure more trusted supply chains and the availability of critical information and communications technologies.”

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