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

Week in Review

Big Tech antitrust

  • The Justice Department, with the support from 11 state attorneys general, filed its long-awaited federal antitrust complaint against Google, with a focus on the company’s search services and search advertising businesses. Google has called the case, which focuses heavily on the Alphabet Inc. unit’s exclusionary contracts with browser and mobile phone carriers, “deeply flawed,” while Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen told reporters that this lawsuit is a “milestone, but not a stopping point” for the department’s investigations into Big Tech’s power.
  • Bipartisan leaders at the Federal Trade Commission met Thursday to discuss the next steps in their antitrust investigation into Facebook Inc., according to three people familiar with the matter, in a sign that the probe could be coming to an end soon. The FTC’s investigation has focused on Facebook’s market power in the social networking space and the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, the people said.
  • Seven other state attorneys general — representing New York, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah — could also file a separate antitrust complaint against Google, New York Attorney General Letitia James said. The states said their own investigation is ongoing and parts of it are expected to conclude in “the coming weeks.”

Cybersecurity and election interference

  • 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!”
  • The Justice Department charged six Russian military officers in a global hacking scheme that targeted France’s elections, the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea and several countries, including Ukraine, Georgia and the United States, in an effort to help the Russian government undermine computer networks worldwide.

Content moderation

  • Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas compelling Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Jack Dorsey to testify before the panel about their handling of the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden.
  • Zuckerberg told employees at an all-hands meeting earlier this month that the company has been making a slew of content policy changes — including cracking down on Holocaust denial, QAnon’s conspiracy theories and right-wing extremist groups — in preparation for next month’s U.S. presidential election and that he doesn’t expect the company to “adopt a lot more policies that are restricting of a lot more content” following the event, according to an obtained audio recording of the meeting. Zuckerberg also said that the new measures don’t “reflect a shift in our underlying philosophy or strong support of free expression.”
  • Twitter removed a tweet by Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, for violating its rules against sharing misleading COVID-19 information. The tweet, which falsely claimed masks don’t work to slow the spread of the coronavirus, directly contradicted guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about wearing a mask in public.
  • Facebook 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.”

Trump administration

  • Senior Trump administration officials, including those in the Pentagon, said they’re concerned that the White House is pressuring to push through a no-bid contract for Rivada Networks to lease 350 megahertz of the Defense Department’s mid-band spectrum for a 5G network. Karl Rove, a Fox News commentator who lobbies for Rivada, has been encouraging President Donald Trump to pursue the contract, according to sources familiar with the matter, though Rove told CNN that the company would turn down a no-bid contract if it were offered.
  • 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.

California’s Assembly Bill 5

  • California’s court of appeals ordered Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. to start classifying their drivers as employees, rather than independent contractors, within the next 30 days — affirming a preliminary injunction from state Attorney General Xavier Becerra alleging that the ride-hailing companies were violating California’s new state employment law. However, the ruling wouldn’t go into effect until after California votes on Proposition 22, a ballot measure that would exempt gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft from that state law.

What’s Ahead

  • The Senate is in session. The House is scheduled to be in a district work period until Nov. 16.
  • The Federal Communications Commission’s next open commission meeting is Tuesday. 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 CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google will testify Wednesday before the Senate Commerce Committee about their content moderation policies and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
  • Senate Commerce will also 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)

AEI virtual event on the House’s Big Tech antitrust report 1:00 pm
FCBA Privacy and Data Security Committee and American Bar Association’s Communications Law Forum annual Privacy & Data Security Symposium CLE 1:00 pm
VHA Innovation Experience – virtual
CCA’s 2020 annual convention – virtual
Future of Privacy Forum’s virtual conference on privacy in the pandemic
New America’s virtual event on U.S. and China’s tech connections with Sen. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) 10:00 am
FCC October Open Commission Meeting 10:30 am
TechCrunch’s Extra Crunch Live with GV’s M.G. Siegler – virtual 11:00 am
Politico’s virtual event on Gen Z’s voting power 1:00 pm
2020 Forbes CIO Next Virtual Series – Episode 1 2:00 pm
AT&T virtual forum on ethical use of algorithms 3:00 pm
VHA Innovation Experience – virtual
Future of Privacy Forum’s virtual conference on privacy and the pandemic
Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force Meeting – virtual 9:30 am
Senate Commerce hearing with the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google 10:00 am
The Wall Street Journal’s artificial intelligence executive forum 10:55 am
Silicon Flatirons’ virtual event on the digital divide 11:00 am
WifiForward virtual event on “Solving America’s Connection Crisis” feat. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai 11:00 am
Politico’s virtual event on space 1:00 pm
View full calendar

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