Morning Consult Tech: GOP Sens. Wicker, Graham and Blackburn Introduce Bill Targeting Section 230 Protections for Online Platforms



Top Stories

  • Republican Sens. Roger Wicker (Miss.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) introduced a bill to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by requiring online platforms to have an “objectively reasonable belief” that content up for removal has violated a specific policy in its content moderation guidelines, or risk losing their liability protections for moderation enforcement actions. The bill, which follows another measure from Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-S.D.) targeting Section 230, would also replace language in the existing statute that is seen as vague with more direct descriptions of the kind of content that online platforms can remove without fear of a lawsuit. (The Verge)
  • Apple Inc. filed counterclaims against Fortnite creator Epic Games Inc. for breach of contract and is seeking restitution for all of the payments the mobile game app collected when it established its own in-app payments system to bypass the App Store. Apple also alleges that Epic has earned over $600 million from working with the App Store and that the lawsuit challenging the store’s commission fees is “nothing more than a basic disagreement over money.” (CNBC)
  • Ashok Chandwaney, a Facebook Inc. software engineer, became the latest employee to quit over how the company enforces its policies against hate speech, saying in a letter posted on the company’s internal messaging board that “I can no longer stomach contributing to an organization that is profiting off hate in the U.S. and globally.” Facebook spokeswoman Liz Bourgeois said the company doesn’t “benefit from hate,” and instead has invested “billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and are in deep partnership with outside experts to review and update our policies.” (The Washington Post)
  • As students and teachers across the country went online for the first day of classes, many faced a mix of technical glitches and cyberattacks that disrupted their lessons: Blackboard, a popular online learning platform that had four times as many users on average compared to the year before by 8 a.m. Tuesday, said it experienced loading issues with one of its learning products, while in Hartford, Conn., the first day of school was postponed after a ransomware attack. (The Associated Press)

Correction: A previous version of this newsletter misspelled the first name of Sen. Brian Schatz.

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

09/09/2020
The Information’s 2020 WTF Summit
NEDAS Virtual Symposium
Center for Democracy and Technology’s virtual event with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks about Section 230 and Trump’s EO 12:00 pm
USTelecom virtual event on robocalls with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai 1:45 pm
09/10/2020
The Information’s 2020 WTF Summit
NEDAS Virtual Symposium
Financial Times’ virtual event on the future of work 8:00 am
Protocol’s virtual event on the state of the cloud 9:00 am
Brookings Institution webinar: “Advancing the transatlantic dialogue in the aftermath of Schrems II” 10:00 am
LeadershIP virtual panel event, “Innovation Policy and the Role of Standards, IP, and Antitrust,” with officials from the USPTO, DOJ and Commerce 1:00 pm
WSJ’s virtual event on the future of social media with executives from Facebook and Citizen 8:00 pm
09/14/2020
TechCrunch Disrupt – virtual
International Competition Network 2020 Virtual Annual Conference
DC Startup Week – virtual
FCC Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks 10:30 am
View full calendar


Watch the Webinar On Demand – The Gen Z Threat

Recently, Morning Consult hosted a webinar breaking down our latest report, Gen Z’s Most Loved Brands of 2020.

You can access a recording of the webinar here for insight into how the pandemic is transforming Gen Z’s relationship with brands, and how brands should adapt to meet the changing expectations of this generation of the future.

General

Peter Strzok Has a Warning About Russia—and Trump
Garrett M. Graff, Wired

In his new book out today, former FBI agent Peter Strzok eschewed the traditional complementary blurbs from famous friends for a different tack. The back cover of Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump relies instead on some very famous criticism: Trump calling Strzok a “fraud.”

Google, Apple, eBay to meet virtually with lawmakers for tech group’s annual fly-in
Alex Gangitano, The Hill

TechNet, a trade group consisting of tech executives, will hold its virtual fly-in this week to connect its members like Google, Apple, eBay, DoorDash and NASDAQ, with lawmakers. The fly-in will take place Wednesday through Friday and members are slated to meet virtually with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

US companies defy Trump’s demands to leave China
Tom Mitchell, Financial Times

Businesses ignore ‘decoupling’ threat as economy rebounds, says American Chamber of Commerce. 

Pentagon’s review of controversial $10B contract was a sham, Amazon claims
Kate Cox, Ars Technica

Amazon is continuing to fight the Department of Defense over a $10 billion contract, as the Pentagon has completed its review of the deal and determined once again that it was correct to award the entire project to Microsoft. The DOD launched bidding for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project, a massive cloud-computing contract, in 2019.

Political Strategist and Tech Investor Bradley Tusk Forms SPAC
Kate Clark, The Information

Bradley Tusk, a former political strategist and founder of venture capital firm Tusk Ventures, has formed a special-purpose acquisition company focused on the leisure, gaming and hospitality sector. The blank check company, called IG Acquisition Corp., plans to raise $300 million to acquire a company with an enterprise value exceeding $750 million, according to an SEC filing.

The FTC Is Investigating Intuit Over TurboTax Practices
Justin Elliott, ProPublica

The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating Intuit and its marketing of TurboTax products, following ProPublica’s reporting that the Silicon Valley company deceived tax filers into paying when they could have filed for free. The FTC probe, run out of the commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, centers on whether Intuit violated the law against unfair and deceptive practices in commerce.

Uber promises 100% electric vehicles by 2040, commits $800 million to help drivers switch
Tina Bellon, Reuters

Uber Technologies Inc on Tuesday said every vehicle on its global ride-hailing platform will be electric by 2040, and it vowed to contribute $800 million through 2025 to help drivers switch to battery-powered vehicles, including discounts for vehicles bought or leased from partner automakers. Uber, which as of early February said it had 5 million drivers worldwide, said it formed partnerships with General Motors and the Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi alliance.

Apple to Hold Sept. 15 Online Launch Event to Reveal New Watch
Mark Gurman, Bloomberg

Apple Inc. said it will hold an online event Sept. 15, where the company is expected to unveil its latest Apple Watch. The event will be streamed from the company’s website starting at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt Pays $30.8 Million for Montecito Mansion
Katherine Clarke, The Wall Street Journal

Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google, and his wife Wendy Schmidt purchased a large estate in Montecito, Calif., for $30.8 million this summer, according to people familiar with the deal. The property had been on and off the market since 2012, when it first listed for $57.5 million, and had been listed by several different agencies, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Australia’s Investigating Apple and Google’s App Store Practices Now
Tegan Jones, Gizmodo Australia

Apple and Google have been copping quite a bit of flack over their app store practices lately, and Australia has come to join the party. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is going to examine the experiences that Australians have with these app stores – from consumers to developers.

What could happen if there is no TikTok deal
Dan Primack, Axios

President Trump’s deadline for a TikTok deal is one week from today, as certainty continues to drain from the voices of sources close to the process. The big question now is what happens if no deal is struck.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

China’s Huawei to share progress of Google Android OS rival amid U.S. tensions
David Kirton, Reuters

Huawei Technologies is expected to respond on Thursday to the latest salvo of U.S. technology restrictions against it and share its progress on developing a system that is seen as its best bet to replace Google’s Android mobile operating system. Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer business group, will deliver a keynote speech at its annual developers conference in Dongguan, in what is expected to mark the company’s first official response to the Trump administration’s efforts to bar its access to chips.

Taking 5G to work, in offices, and on the factory floor—will it help?
Jim Salter, Ars Technica

Hazy predictions start to coalesce around some concrete realities.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

McEnany demands Twitter ‘fact check’ widely-shared clip of her saying Obama ‘promised a vaccine’
J. Edward Moreno, The Hill

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany asked Twitter to fact check a misleading video circulating on the social media network where she argued the Trump administration is facilitating a coronavirus vaccine more effectively than the Obama administration did during the swine flu. “This is a blatant LIE,” McEnany responded to a tweet that mischaracterized statements she made on Fox News.

Zuckerberg: Facebook won’t target anti-vaccination posts like COVID misinformation
Orion Rummler, Axios

Mark Zuckerberg told “Axios on HBO” that Facebook currently doesn’t plan to take the same kind of strong action against anti-vaccination misinformation that it has for the coronavirus pandemic. Why it matters: “Anti-vaxx” movements could disrupt efforts to build public immunity against the coronavirus when a vaccine is developed.

Australian prime minister criticizes TikTok suicide video
Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press

Australian regulators have ruled out prosecuting TikTok over an apparent suicide video under tough new laws prohibiting some forms of violent online images, but the prime minister urged social media companies on Wednesday to take more responsibility for offensive content. The Chinese-owned social media platform says it is working to remove videos of a man apparently taking his own life with a gun and banning users who keep trying to spread the clips through the app.

In China, GitHub Is a Free Speech Zone for Covid Information
Yi-Ling Liu, Wired

As coronavirus news was increasingly trapped behind the Great Firewall, the programming platform became a refuge from censorship. It may not last long.

How Video Chat Fuels The American Deportation Machine
Gaby Del Valle, The Verge

Samuel’sSamuel’s journey to America took six months, and it wasn’t even where he wanted to go. After fleeing Cameroon for Ghana in January 2019, his plan was to stay put: go back to school, maybe get a job.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

U.S.-China Showdown Over Big Data to Leave Decades-Long Impact
Bloomberg News

TikTok, WeChat and Huawei Technologies Co. are just the beginning. What comes next has the potential to reshape the global economy for decades to come.President Donald Trump’s moves to prevent some of China’s biggest companies from accessing the private data of Americans — restrictions set to take effect this month — are part of a broader effort to create “clean networks” the Communist Party can’t touch.

Top U.S. federal election protection official says no sign of infrastructure hacks
Joseph Menn, Reuters

The official leading the effort to protect U.S. elections from foreign hacking said on Tuesday he had seen no signs of infiltration on computer systems used to record and tabulate votes. “The technical stuff on networks, we’re not seeing,” said Chris Krebs, director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). “It gives me a little bit of confidence.”

How the government is keeping hackers from disrupting coronavirus vaccine research
Shannon Vavra, CyberScoop

Six months ago, as professional sports were postponed indefinitely, schools were shuttering, Tom Hanks was the poster boy for COVID-19, and President Donald Trump addressed a nervous nation, people at the highest levels of the U.S. government became laser-focused on one idea: Coronavirus vaccine research needed to be defended from hacking attempts.

Online voting vendor Voatz urges Supreme Court to limit security research
Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica

The Supreme Court is considering whether to adopt a broad reading of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that critics say could criminalize some types of independent security research and create legal uncertainty for many security researchers. Voatz, an online voting vendor whose software was used by West Virginia for overseas military voters in the 2018 election, argues that this wouldn’t be a problem.

Two location-based marketing firms are combining to help marketers navigate the growing scrutiny over consumer tracking
Lauren Johnson, Business Insider Premium

Digital ad firm InMarket is acquiring NinthDecimal amid growing scrutiny over how companies track consumers. The companies are two of the bigger names in the location-based advertising space.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Bezos, antitrust, and the power of media patronage
Bradley Tusk, Fast Company

The modest, single-digit billionaire has to watch their wealth. Sure, $4 or $5 billion sounds like a lot, but the almighty dollar is fickle. A Gulfstream G550 is nice, but it’s a depreciating asset. 

The 5G lie: The network of the future is still slow
Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Washington Post

Unless you’ve been living under a rock — which in 2020 actually sounds soothing — you’ve probably heard there’s a new cellphone technology called 5G. Any iPhone or Galaxy owner knows the law of Gs: Every additional G makes downloads faster. 3G sent pictures. 4G streamed video.

Research Reports

Defense Science And Technology: Opportunities To Better Integrate Industry Independent Research And Development Into Dod Planning
U.S. Government Accountability Office

At their own discretion, defense contractors can conduct research and development projects of potential interest to DOD and may be reimbursed for some or all of this work. This kind of independent research and development in high-tech areas can help the U.S. military keep a technological edge.

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