With help from Leah Nylen
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— A message for Silicon Valley: In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden called for a collective fight against “an attack on democracy and on truth” — indicating that tech platforms’ content policies and algorithms will come under the new administration’s microscope.
— Industry’s warm welcome: Amazon, Google, Twitter and IBM are among the tech companies already aligning themselves with the Biden White House, offering resounding support for his day one executive actions around Covid-19 and immigration.
— A request from Google: The search giant is urging Texas to move the state’s antitrust challenge to California — a move that could slow the suit down and benefit Google in the long run.
WELCOME TO MORNING TECH… AND TO THE 46TH PRESIDENCY! I’m your host, Alexandra Levine.
Got a news tip? Write me at [email protected], and follow @Ali_Lev on Twitter and @alexandra.levine on Instagram. An event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. Anything else? Team info below. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
THE STAR OF THE INAUGURAL ADDRESS: TRUTH — The dangers of mis- and disinformation were top talkers in Biden’s first speech as president, foreshadowing what internet issues the new administration is likely to prioritize. “We must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured. … America has to be better than this,” Biden said after being sworn in on Wednesday.
“Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit,” he said, urging the country “to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”
— Listening between the lines: Expect the Biden-Harris team to pay close attention to the quality (or lack thereof) of information on social media, the platforms’ business models and algorithms, and the real-life violence that could stem from online extremism — which the president labeled a “common foe” of all Americans. In the coming weeks, the administration will bring on domestic extremism experts to support counterterrorism and homeland security efforts, my POLITICO colleagues report.
— And on a lighter note, this tweet du jour via Megan Murphy: “That ceremony was many things, but it was also a reminder that no one needs a one-hour work Zoom call. They fit in J-Lo, Lady Gaga, Garth Brooks plus all the other stuff in 30 minutes. Keep it tight folks.” (And speaking of Zoom, this photo du jour via Bloomberg’s Jennifer Epstein, of Biden administering the oath of office to political appointees through some 1,000 video tiles, is absolutely incredible.)
BIG TECH TO BIDEN: LET’S BE FRIENDS? — As Biden began signing executive orders from the Oval Office on Wednesday — on matters from pandemic response to immigration — leaders of the country’s most powerful tech companies were already giving him a virtual thumbs-up and offering to collaborate.
— Amazon: Company leadership swiftly contacted the Biden White House to lend its support in the so-far disjointed, behind-schedule mass distribution of coronavirus vaccines. Dave Clark, who runs worldwide operations, wrote in a letter Wednesday that Amazon’s size (and enormous employee base) will make it an invaluable resource. “We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccine efforts,” he said. “Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately.”
— Google: CEO Sundar Pichai publicly applauded Biden’s various actions on Wednesday, including on immigration reform, a policy area where Google has been outspoken and, more broadly, where Silicon Valley and Washington have found common ground. The tech world has been hopeful that the new administration’s rollback of Trump-era immigration policies — and its larger overhaul of the U.S. immigration system — will help boost innovation, the startup economy and the industry’s job pipeline. “We look forward to working with the new administration to help the US recover from the pandemic [and] grow our economy,” Pichai tweeted.
— IBM and Twitter: Both companies specifically praised the executive order that Biden signed Wednesday to preserve protections for recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. IBM declared its solidarity with so-called Dreamers, urging “a permanent, bipartisan solution in the near future.” Twitter stressed that “diversity makes the US, our company, and our world better,” and pledged to continue advocating “for policies that support and recognize the important contributions of immigrants.”
— Bookmark this page for coverage from across POLITICO’s newsroom on Biden’s first 100 days.
HELLOS AND GOODBYES — The new White House website is live. The official social media accounts have changed hands. these @POTUS posted his first tweet to his fast-growing following of more than 4 million. Here are other notable moves already underway as the 46th presidency begins.
— Hellos: Rob Flaherty, who was Biden’s digital director, is now the White House’s director of digital strategy. Prior to his work with Biden, Flaherty was the digital director for former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s 2020 presidential campaign; creative director at the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA; and a top digital staffer in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid for the White House.
Christopher Hoff joined the Biden administration Wednesday to steer negotiations with the European Commission for a new EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework. (That privacy pact governing international data transfers was struck down by Europe’s top court last July, threatening the operation of American businesses overseas.) The appointment sets the stage for privacy and data issues to be an early priority for the new administration and Congress. Hoff replaces James Sullivan as a deputy assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, and Wynn Coggins was named acting head of Commerce.
Gene Kimmelman, an Obama-era antitrust official and former head of think tank Public Knowledge, will join the Justice Department to help oversee antitrust enforcement until Biden’s picks are installed, POLITICO’s antitrust guru Leah Nylen reports.
— Goodbyes: Here’s Leah’s in-depth look-back at Eat Delrahim’s time as DOJ antitrust chief, for Pros. Michael Kratsios, who was the chief technology officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, also said farewell.
AND FINALLY, IN SOME NON-PRESIDENTIAL NEWS: GOOGLE WANTS OUT OF TEXAS — The search giant has asked a Texas federal court to transfer an antitrust suit focused on its advertising technology business — brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 11 other states — to California. Google said in a court filing that it already faces six antitrust suits in California federal court involving ad tech, and the majority of people and documents it needs to defend the suit are at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (Although the company has not said as much, moving the suit to California, located in the 9th Circuit, would be somewhat beneficial for Google because the process would take longer and there is stronger law in that circuit.)
— But Texas is unlikely to budge on Google’s request. The AG’s office specifically picked the court in Sherman, Texas, not because of its delightfully coincidental name (for any non-nerds in the room: Google is accused of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act), but for the court’s “rocket docket” reputation of hearing cases quickly. California also has less-favorable law (see the FTC’s recent defeat in Qualcomm). Google and the states are working to schedule a conference with Judge Sean Jordan for next week.
Abigail Wilson, former advocacy and public policy manager for the International Interior Design Association, has joined BSA | The Software Alliance as manager of state advocacy, based in Colorado. … Eric Meiring has joined Facebook as associate general counsel for litigation.
Pressure rises on Biden to shut tech out: “A Silicon Valley résumé is looking increasingly toxic in Washington — and that’s complicating President Joe Biden’s efforts to fill out his team to take on tech,” POLITICO’s Nancy Scola reports.
In profile: Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior Trump intelligence official who the internet (wrongly) thought was “Q,” the mythical figure behind the QAnon conspiracy theory, via POLITICO.
Workforce woes: “Google has locked out artificial intelligence researcher Margaret Mitchell from its corporate systems, making her the second outspoken critic at the company to be sidelined,” Bloomberg reports. “Mitchell was a vocal supporter of her colleague Timnit Gebru, who departed under acrimonious circumstances last month.”
The latest social media platform to indefinitely ban Trump: Twitch, per The Verge.
ICYMI: In a flurry of eleventh-hour pardons to dozens of people, former President Donald Trump pardoned ex-Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, who last spring filed for bankruptcy and pleaded guilty to taking confidential documents from the search giant as he left for a new gig at Uber. The pardon was “strongly supported” by Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel, a billionaire Trump ally in Silicon Valley.
Meanwhile, China did quite the opposite: China announced sanctions Wednesday on “anti-China politicians” from the Trump administration, who (along with their family members) are now banned from entering China and doing business there. Those individuals include former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, former national security adviser turned Trump critic John Bolton, and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Plus: “Twitter has locked the official account for the Chinese Embassy to the U.S. after a post that defended the Beijing government’s policies in the western region of Xinjiang, where critics say China is engaged in the forced sterilization of minority Uighur women,” Bloomberg reports.
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