Morning Consult Tech: Week in Review & What’s Ahead



Week in Review

Section 230

  • Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement the commission will move forward with a rule-making to “clarify ambiguities” in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, citing the “bipartisan support in Congress” for reform and noting that the agency has received clearance from the FCC’s general counsel to review the law. Pai added that social media companies do not have “a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas joined the chorus of conservative voices calling for a re-examination of Section 230, saying in a statement that it was time for the high court to weigh in because affording the statute’s “immunity beyond the natural reading of the text can have serious consequences.” Thomas agreed with fellow Supreme Court justices that picking up the current Section 230 case before the court —  Malwarebytes, Inc. v. Enigma Software — wasn’t the right avenue, but said it “behooves” the court to take up the issue when an appropriate case comes along.

Content moderation

  • After Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. slowed the spread of the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden, President Donald Trump called the decision “terrible” and incorrectly said they took down the article. Facebook moved to reduce distribution of the story while Twitter stopped users from including the story link in their posts altogether due to the apparent presence of hacked materials.
  • Afterward, Twitter changed its enforcement policy for content containing hacked materials, which will now prompt a warning label instead of removal unless the material is directly shared by people affiliated with the hack. The decision came the same day Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said the committee will vote this week on whether to subpoena Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey to testify about the company’s policies.
  • Facebook said it will remove any posts from both Facebook and Instagram that deny or distort the Holocaust after the company said it noticed a “well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people.” Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg also noted in a post that his own thinking on this policy has “evolved” after saying in 2018 that Holocaust denial posts would not necessarily be removed as long as they were not calling for harm or violence.
  • YouTube joined Facebook and Twitter in cracking down on content from far-right conspiracy group QAnon, expanding its hate and harassment policies to ban content that “threatens or harasses someone by suggesting they are complicit in one of these harmful conspiracies, such as QAnon or Pizzagate.”

Antitrust

  • European Union antitrust regulators are drafting a list of 20 large internet companies to target in Europe’s efforts to implement tighter regulations aimed at curbing the industry’s market power consolidation, according to people familiar with the discussions. Companies will be placed on the list based on a number of criteria, such as their market shares and total user numbers.
  • A group of state attorneys general, including those from Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and New York, are planning to announce that they will continue to pursue their own investigation into Google but that they may opt to join the Justice Department’s possible antitrust suit at a later date, according to four people familiar with the matter. Although it’s not clear how many states are expected to sign the statement, the sources said some of the attorneys general are thinking of staying out of the federal suit for now because of their discomfort with how the Justice Department has run its investigation, while others are cautious because the upcoming elections could shake up the agency and delay any action against Google.
  • European Union antitrust regulators are considering narrowing the scope of their investigation into Amazon.com Inc. in an effort to speed up the investigation, according to people familiar with the matter. The enforcers could split the inquiry into two separate ones, with one targeting the company’s role as both the operator of its marketplace and a seller on that marketplace and another focused on how Amazon determines who is included in its “Buy Box” features, one person said.

Telecommunications and wireless

  • White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has been pushing the Pentagon to move forward with plans for a national 5G wireless network, according to people familiar with the state of play, despite opposition from several key government officials and private-sector groups.
  • Apple Inc. unveiled its first line of 5G-capable smartphones, the iPhone 12, in the hopes that the product will spark a customer upgrade cycle ahead of the holiday shopping season. The unveiling coincided with Verizon Communications Inc.’s announcement that it would initiate its 5G network in the United States on Tuesday, following similar moves from T-Mobile US Inc. and AT&T Inc. last year, although access to 5G is not yet available in all parts of the country across carriers.

U.S.-China tech relations

  • The State Department has asked the Trump administration to add Ant Group Co., an affiliate of China-based Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., to a trade blacklist, according to two people familiar with the matter, as administration officials work to curb U.S. investor interest in the company’s upcoming initial public offering. It’s unclear when key government agencies would take up the State Department’s proposal.

Worker safety

  • Amazon warehouse workers said in a court filing that as the company approached Prime Day, it started to backpedal on its earlier promises to be easier on the workers during the coronavirus pandemic if they miss their productivity quotas and to not dock them for taking time to practice cleanliness, such as washing their hands. Rachael Lighty, an Amazon spokeswoman, confirmed the company has “reinstated a portion of our process” to provide “coaching” to workers who underperform in extreme cases, but that Amazon is still providing additional time to allow for social distancing, hand washing and cleaning of workstations.

What’s Ahead

  • The Senate is in session. The House is scheduled to be in a district work period until Nov. 16.
  • The FCC’s next open commission meeting is Oct. 27. Tentative agenda items include a vote on a proposal that could address three of the issues raised by a federal appeals court in October 2019 regarding the agency’s repeal of net neutrality rules.
  • The Senate Commerce Committee will consider the nomination of Nathan Simington to be the newest FCC commissioner on Nov. 10, a week after the presidential election.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

10/19/2020
WSJ Tech Live – virtual
EmTech 2020 – virtual
Tech Policy Institute’s annual conference – virtual
CyberScoop’s CyberTalks 2020 – virtual
Filecoin Liftoff Week – virtual
Cato Institute’s virtual event on information technology and military power 1:00 pm
NATOA webinar on digital inclusion and reaching the “unserved” and “underserved” 2:00 pm
CSIS Online Event: International Security in Cyberspace – New Models for Reducing Risk 3:30 pm
10/20/2020
WSJ Tech Live – virtual
EmTech 2020 – virtual
Tech Policy Institute’s annual conference – virtual
CyberScoop’s CyberTalks 2020 – virtual
Filecoin Liftoff Week – virtual
6G Symposium – virtual
Extra Crunch Live with Unusual Ventures’ Sarah Leary and John Vrionis – virtual 11:00 am
CNAS’s virtual fireside chat with Director of the Defense Digital Service Brett Goldstein 1:00 pm
CDT’s virtual report release event for “Challenging the Use of AI in Public Benefits Determinations” 1:00 pm
Forbes’ 2020 MORE EQUITY Pitch Competition – virtual 1:00 pm
10/21/2020
WSJ Tech Live – virtual
EmTech 2020 – virtual
Tech Policy Institute’s annual conference – virtual
CyberScoop’s CyberTalks 2020 – virtual
6G Symposium – virtual
Filecoin Liftoff Week – virtual
Aspen Tech Policy Hub COVID Challenge Grant Demo Day: Informing COVID Response & Communication through Tech 9:00 am
Cyberspace Solarium Commission Digital Event #11: Securing the U.S. High-Tech Supply Chain 12:00 pm
The Information’s live virtual conversation about SPACs and IPOs 12:00 pm
NTIA’s monthly BroadbandUSA webinar 2:00 pm
View full calendar


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