Tech Brief: Ajit Pai Turns Down NRA Award, Citing Agency Ethics Officials

Top Stories

  • Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai turned down an award from the National Rifle Association that he received at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, citing the advice of FCC ethics officials. Pai was awarded the Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award — a Kentucky handmade long gun — at CPAC for his successful efforts to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules. (Politico)
  • White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump plans to meet with leaders from the video game industry next week to discuss depictions of violence in games. Trump has repeatedly said that violent video games may be connected to young people committing acts of mass murder following the shooting at a Florida high school last month that killed 17 people. (Washington Examiner)
  • Toyota Motor Corp. plans to spend more than $2.8 billion to build automated-driving software as part of a new initiative called Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development. The new venture, which will bring together approximately 1,000 employees, will be 90 percent held by Toyota, with group suppliers Denso Corp. and Aisin Seiki Co. each taking 5 percent, and comes as firms such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and Tesla Inc. move forward with the development of self-driving and electric cars. (Reuters)
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is assembling a case to pursue criminal charges against the Russian hackers who stole and leaked private information designed to hurt Democrats in the 2016 presidential election, according to sources familiar with the matter. The possible new charges would reportedly rely on secret intelligence gathered by U.S. agencies such as the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, and would delve into the details and people behind the Russian intelligence operations that stole emails from both the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta. (NBC News)
  • The European Union announced new guidelines that would require internet companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. to remove terrorist and other illegal content from their platforms within one hour of it being flagged by local law enforcement or the EU’s police agency. The new rules come amid growing pressure from some European governments to hold tech companies legally liable for the content that appears on their platforms. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

FCC World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee meeting 12 p.m.
Colorado Regional Planning committees meeting 1 p.m.

A data-driven look at the future of mobility

An exclusive look at new survey research data that explores consumer receptivity to auto industry innovations, including electric and self-driving cars, energy sources, and even auto insurance.


Trump meeting video game makers next week to discuss violence
Steven Nelson, Washington Examiner

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday that President Trump will meet with leaders of the video game industry next week to discuss depictions of violence. “The president has met with a number of stakeholders. Next week he will also be meeting with members of the video game industry to see what they can do on that front,” Sanders said at the daily White House press briefing.

Secret Documents From Russia’s Election Trolls Leak
Ben Collins et al., The Daily Beast

The Kremlin-backed troll farm at the center of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election has quietly suffered a catastrophic security breach, The Daily Beast has confirmed, in a leak that spilled new details of its operations onto obscure corners of the internet.

SoftBank Bets Big on Food Delivery
Eliot Brown, The Wall Street Journal

SoftBank Group Corp., the Japanese conglomerate that has barreled into Silicon Valley with unprecedented sums of cash for startups, is now betting big on food delivery. The company’s $92 billion Vision Fund and other investors—including a Singapore sovereign-wealth fund and Sequoia Capital—have committed to invest $535 million in San Francisco-based food delivery service DoorDash Inc., a major infusion for the five-year-old company.

IBM urges lawmakers to crack down on internet platforms
Harper Neidig, The Hill

IBM is calling for lawmakers to crack down on internet platforms, arguing that companies like Google and Facebook face little regulation and enjoy broad legal immunity over what happens on their services. Christopher Padilla, IBM’s vice president for government affairs, argued in a blog post on Thursday that internet companies need to be held in check by the government in the same way firms in other industries are.

IG Begins Full Audit After FEMA CIO Allegedly Misleads Investigators
Aaron Boyd, Nextgov

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is suffering from several outstanding IT management issues and its CIO leadership is providing misleading information, according to a management alert from the agency’s inspector general. The agency has created an IT governance board, per the recommendation of the inspector general in 2015.

DHS postpones its proposal to end H-1B spouses’ work authorization
Stef W. Kight, Axios

The Department of Homeland Security has postponed proposing an end to the H-4 work visa, which lets H-1B workers’ spouses find employment in the United States, according to a court filing. They now plan to issue the proposal in June — instead of their original goal of February — after USCIS “reevaluated the rule and determined that significant revisions to the draft proposal were necessary.”

Kuroda Adds Gloom for Stocks Roiled by Tariff Talk: Markets Wrap
Robert Brand, Bloomberg

Headwinds mounted for global stocks on Friday, with Japan’s talk of an end to stimulus compounding investor concerns over a potential trade war and more hawkish Federal Reserve. The Stoxx Euro 600 Index dropped for a fourth day, with Germany’s DAX gauge reaching a six-month low, as carmakers slumped.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

NAFTA teams set to close telecom chapter as U.S. softens stance: sources
Julia Love and Anthony Esposito, Reuters

NAFTA negotiators paved the way for closing the telecommunications portion of the trade deal this weekend, as the United States has dropped a proposal to enshrine measures targeting Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s America Movil, sources said. Telecommunications are due to be discussed in Mexico City on Saturday as part of talks to rework the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, according to a schedule.

Broadcom’s Bid for Qualcomm Ignites Debate Within Administration
Kate O’Keeffe et al., The Wall Street Journal

Members of a U.S. national security panel are locked in a dispute over a hostile takeover bid for chip giant Qualcomm Inc., pitting officials in the departments of Justice and Defense against Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. In a meeting Tuesday, members of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., known as CFIUS, debated whether the panel has the right to weigh in on Singapore-based Broadcom Ltd.’s bid of $117 billion for Qualcomm before a deal is struck, according to people briefed on the matter.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

FCC chairman declines NRA gun award
Margaret Harding McGill, Politico

Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday turned down an NRA gun award he received at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, citing the advice of ethics officials at his agency. An executive from the National Rifle Association named Pai the Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award recipient at CPAC for his efforts to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

House Dems Seeks DOJ Documents on White House Communications About AT&T-Time Warner Deal
John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

Rep. Elijah Cummings is concerned that President Trump may have influenced the Justice Department to sue to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger and has teamed with a fellow House Democrat to ask the Republicans in power to compel Justice to produce documents relevant to its White House interactions. Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, has teamed with Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), ranking member of the Government Operations Subcommittee, to ask Oversight Committee chair Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to subpoena DOJ, triggered by a number of actions.

AT&T has good and bad news for users of its limit-ridden unlimited plans
Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

AT&T today raised the price of one unlimited smartphone data plan by $5 a month and lowered the price of another by $10, for single-line users. Instead of the entry-level unlimited plan costing $60 and the better plan costing $90, the single-line prices are now $65 and $80 a month (plus monthly taxes and fees and a one-time $30 activation fee for each line).

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Toyota venture to spend $2.8 billion to develop self-driving technology
Minami Funakoshi, Reuters

Toyota Motor Corp said a new venture would be investing more than $2.8 billion to develop automated-driving software – the latest salvo in an increasingly frenetic battle to be ahead in a sector hit by a slew of disruptive technologies. The Tokyo-based venture, which will bring together some 1,000 employees including new hires, will be 90 percent held by Toyota with group suppliers Denso Corp and Aisin Seiki Co each taking 5 percent.

Facebook, Google Get One Hour From EU to Scrub Terror Content
Natalia Drozdiak, The Wall Street Journal

The European Union on Thursday turned up the pressure on internet companies, including Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., unveiling sweeping guidelines for speedily scrubbing terrorist and other illegal content from their websites. The move comes amid pressure from some national governments to make such companies legally liable for the information that appears on their platforms.

Toyota Announces New Company Devoted to Self-Driving Cars
Sean McLain, The Wall Street Journal

Toyota Motor Corp. said it would spend nearly $3 billion to build software for autonomous cars, the latest sign that Japan’s biggest car maker is pushing to get the cars into the hands of consumers. Toyota, Denso Corp. and Aisin Seiki Co. will create a new Tokyo-based company, called Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, and they said they would invest ¥300 billion ($2.8 billion) in it.

Facebook to End News Feed Experiment in 6 Countries That Magnified Fake News
Sheera Frenkel, The New York Times

Facebook said it will end an experiment it ran in six countries in which it had separated news and other publishers from its main site, after independent news publishers said the changes had led to a rise in misinformation. Adam Mosseri, who heads Facebook’s News Feed, said the social network was stopping the experiment — which was known as Explore — after receiving negative feedback from people in the countries where the program was taking place.

Uber and Lyft think they can solve one of medicine’s biggest problems
Carolyn Y. Johnson, The Washington Post

Ride-sharing companies have plunged into the health-care business, seeing a big opportunity in ferrying the 3.6 million people who miss medical appointments each year to their doctors’ offices. On Thursday, Uber announced the public launch of Uber Health, a dashboard that will allow health-care providers to schedule rides for patients.

Twitter wants help measuring its ‘health’
Sara Ashley O’Brien, CNN

Is Twitter as much of a cesspool of bots, trolls and bullies as its critics say? The company wants to measure the overall health of conversations on its platform to decide.

Facebook is not getting any bigger in the United States
Kurt Wagner and Rani Molla, Recode

It’s starting to feel official: Facebook’s U.S. audience is as big as it’s going to get. Facebook is massive in this country.

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Joins Health Startup’s Board
Eric Newcomer, Bloomberg

Travis Kalanick has found his first known gig since the former Uber Technologies Inc. chief executive officer was ousted from the company he co-founded. Kalanick is joining the board of his friend’s medical office software company.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Mueller eyes charges against Russians who stole, spread Democrats’ emails
Ken Dilanian et al., NBC News

Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a case for criminal charges against Russians who carried out the hacking and leaking of private information designed to hurt Democrats in the 2016 election, multiple current and former government officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News. Much like the indictment Mueller filed last month charging a different group of Russians in a social media trolling and illegal-ad-buying scheme, the possible new charges are expected to rely heavily on secret intelligence gathered by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), several of the officials say.

Senate Intelligence Leaders Say House G.O.P. Leaked a Senator’s Texts
Nicholas Fandos, The New York Times

The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were behind the leak of private text messages between the Senate panel’s top Democrat and a Russian-connected lawyer, according to two congressional officials briefed on the matter. Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the committee’s Republican chairman, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat, were so perturbed by the leak that they demanded a rare meeting with Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month to inform him of their findings.

Trump NSA pick says response to Russian election interference has fallen short
Morgan Chalfant, The Hill

Trump NSA pick says response to Russian election interference has fallen short © Greg Nash President Trump’s choice to lead the National Security Agency (NSA) said Thursday that the United States’ response to Russian election interference has not been sufficient enough to change Moscow’s behavior. Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, nominated to lead both NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, was asked at his confirmation hearing whether he agreed with outgoing NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers’s statement that the response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election has not been strong enough.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Supreme Court Case That Could Give Tech Giants More Power
Lina M. Khan, The New York Times

Big tech platforms — Amazon, Facebook, Google — control a large and growing share of our commerce and communications, and the scope and degree of their dominance poses real hazards. A bipartisan consensus has formed around this idea.

Apple Is Going to Be the First Trillion-Dollar Company
Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg

During the dot-com-crazed 1990s, Cisco Systems Inc. became the world’s most valuable company. Widely expected to become the first company to hit a trillion-dollar capitalization, it made it barely halfway there.

Trump’s net neutrality blunder is alarming for US foreign policy
Martin Skladany, The Hill

It appears that no one with access to President Trump informed him that the death of net neutrality would reward the parent company of Saturday Night Live, Comcast. This is concerning because the United States needs advisors around President Trump who know and can inform the president when there is a comparatively harmless opportunity for him to hit back at his political opponents, so that he trusts his advisors when confronted with issues such as averting nuclear war with North Korea.

We Need Our Private Space
Mark R. Whittington, The Wall Street Journal

One of the more controversial aspects of President Trump’s new space policy is his plan to privatize the International Space Station. The savings, around $3 billion a year, would be plowed into a lunar exploration program.

Why aren’t we harnessing technology to end homelessness?
Joel John Roberts, Recode

Back in pre-iPhone and pre-internet days, the old solutions to addressing homelessness were building shelters and transitional housing. But in the last few years, the tools for addressing homelessness have become increasingly more sophisticated.

Research Reports

Russian Attempts to Influence U.S. Domestic Energy Markets by Exploiting Social Media
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

The purpose of this report is to provide the American people with the findings of the Committee’s investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. energy markets. First, the report discusses several factors driving the Kremlin’s desire to interfere with U.S. energy markets and influence domestic energy policy.