With help from Samuel Stolton, Emily Birnbaum and Leah Nylen
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— For the record: The Senate Commerce Committee will vote this week on President Joe Biden’s nominees to the FCC and FTC. Here’s what they’re telling lawmakers ahead of the vote.
— Twitter shakeup: Jack Dorsey surprised tech watchers Monday when he stepped down as CEO from the company he founded.
— Don’t you forget about me: The U.K.’s expected decision to block the Facebook-Giphy deal this week is just the country’s latest post-Brexit move to establish itself as a major player on the global competition arena.
IT’S TUESDAY, NOV. 30. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH! I’m your host, Benjamin Din. My editor wishes you all a happy Hanukkah, and hopes you (unlike him) remembered to buy candles this year.
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ROSENWORCEL, BEDOYA RESPOND TO SENATE’S QUESTIONS — Ahead of Wednesday’s vote in the Senate Commerce Committee, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, who’s been re-nominated to another term as commissioner, and FTC nominee Alvaro Bedoya answered questions from lawmakers on topics ranging from broadband and spectrum use to social media use and antitrust. Here’s what they had to say:
— Rosenworcel’s remarks: The nominee told senators point-blank that she had no plans to regulate broadband rates — a concern prompted after she seemed open to the option as a way to increase broadband access in an interview with John at POLITICO’s recent Tech Summit. She added that the FCC needed to be “more forward-looking” in terms of its broadband speed benchmark, which is currently 25 Mbps upload and 3 Mbps download. Rosenworcel has pushed for download speeds of at least 100 Mbps and told lawmakers her views on that have not changed.
She threw her support behind revising a memorandum of understanding on spectrum coordination between her agency and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which has been in place since 1993. She also said a proposal for big tech companies to help pay for the deployment of high-speed broadband — which could line up with an idea floated by GOP Commissioner Brendan Carr — was “intriguing, though it would likely require a statutory change.”
— Bedoya’s POV: Bedoya took heat from GOP senators during his confirmation hearing for social media posts in which he criticized Immigration and Customs Enforcement and compared the 2016 Republican National Convention to a “white supremacist rally.” In his written responses to senators’ questions, Bedoya expressed “regret” over some of the things he shared and pledged to “set aside all of my personal political beliefs and work across the aisle to protect American consumers and businesses” if confirmed.
Former President Donald Trump’s restrictions on travel from several Muslim-majority countries was personal for Bedoya, he added. “My daughter and son have never met their living great-grandmother and dozens of other relatives as a result of the travel ban,” he said.
In response to a question about competition, Bedoya said he would “plan to make antitrust enforcement on Big Tech a top priority.”
DORSEY VS. THE WORLD — Dorsey stepped down as CEO of Twitter on Monday, the second time he’s done so since co-founding the company in 2006. The famously bearded tech exec has been unconventional among his peers, a fact he emphasized in his announcement.
— Letting go: Silicon Valley has long prized its tech founders, including Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook-turned-Meta who has spent his entire career at the company. But in contrast, Dorsey left his role as CEO in 2008, founded digital payments company Square in 2009 and returned as Twitter’s CEO in 2015.
“There’s a lot of talk about the importance of a company being ‘founder-led,’” Dorsey said in an email to staff that he later tweeted. “Ultimately I believe that’s severely limiting and a single point of failure. I’ve worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders.”
“There aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego,” he added. “I know we’ll prove this was the right move.”
— Having control: Dorsey’s tenure at Twitter was different from that of other tech CEOs in part because of the way the company was structured. Unlike most Silicon Valley companies, Twitter does not have a separate class of stock that would have given Dorsey outsize control over the company.
That allowed activist shareholders to launch a serious challenge to his leadership last year, saying that he wasn’t devoting enough attention to Twitter while also running Square. (Activist shareholder proposals at other tech companies have historically been easily swatted down, since it’s usually mathematically impossible for them to succeed.)
— Not holding back: Dorsey was also a memorable figure on Capitol Hill, where he frequently came off as the “bad boy” of Congress’ tech hearings. (At one point, he trolled lawmakers with mid-hearing tweets.) Now lawmakers in Washington will need to familiarize themselves with a new face whenever they want to drag Twitter back to the Hill.
In choosing Dorsey’s successor, Twitter’s board drew from a familiar tech-founder-stepping-down playbook and picked an internal candidate who might be less inclined to make splashy headlines. The board tapped Parag Agrawal, previously the company’s CTO — a choice reminiscent of Google’s Sundar Pichai and Amazon’s Andy Jassy.
— What’s next? The Twitter founder didn’t say. Dorsey is a known fan of bitcoin, and Square, where he remains CEO, has invested heavily in the cryptocurrency. (It’s not clear how Dorsey’s stance on “founder-led” companies translates to his role there.) As for Twitter, it may have a new CEO, but the storms that have consumed the company in Washington won’t end. More on that for Pros from Emily and Alex.
SPEAKING OF PICHAI — The Google CEO will be in Washington this week for a meeting of the Business Roundtable. He’ll also meet with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to discuss a range of issues, including content moderation, privacy, cybersecurity and competition.
HO, HO, OH NO YOU DON’T — Supply chain shortages are disrupting holiday toy shopping plans, but Democrats in both chambers are pointing to another culprit: what they’re calling the “Cyber Grinch,” or bad actors using bots to buy up large amounts of popular toys to resell at higher prices. A group of lawmakers — Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), as well as Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) — introduced a bill Monday to crack down on the practice. “This bill seeks to stop Cyber Grinch greed from ruining kids’ holidays,” Blumenthal said.
BRITISH COMPETITION AUTHORITY STEPS IN — The U.S. and the EU have been in a rivalry over who is the tougher tech regulator, but the U.K. is making moves of its own. The country’s Competition and Markets Authority is poised to block Facebook’s acquisition of GIF-sharing platform Giphy in the coming days, according to a report from the Financial Times.
A decision on the acquisition will be published by a Wednesday deadline, a CMA spokesperson told MT. Should the authority require Facebook to unwind the deal, it would mark the first case in which a “Big Tech” merger has been blocked by the U.K. regulator.
A provisional decision from the CMA in August had cited concerns about the deal’s potential impact on competition between social media platforms, as well as the negative knock-on effects for the digital display advertising market. (The company did not respond to a request for comment, but said at the time it disagreed with those concerns, “which we do not believe to be supported by the evidence.”)
— Where are Brussels and Washington? In the EU, Facebook’s buyout of Giphy was never referred to the Commission’s competition regulators because the deal did not meet minimum revenue thresholds and thus fell outside their jurisdiction. Facebook has said the deal wasn’t reviewed in the U.S. because it qualified for an exemption, but declined to elaborate. (Bloomberg reported in August that it was because Giphy’s assets didn’t meet the reporting threshold.)
— Not the only moves: In addition to the Facebook-Giphy deal, the U.K. is conducting investigations into Google, Facebook and Apple. It’s also wrapping up a summit today, hosted by the CMA, with the leaders of the G-7 competition authorities, as they seek ways to cooperate on promoting competition in digital markets. Earlier this year, the CMA set up a unit dedicated to digital markets, which is now awaiting legislation that would grant it powers to regulate tech giants.
As part of the shakeup at Twitter HQ, Dorsey will remain a member of Twitter’s board until his term expires next year. Bret Taylor will succeed former Google CFO Patrick Pichette as independent chair of the board. Taylor is the president and COO of Salesforce.
Susan Epstein has joined Meta as associate general counsel for civil rights in technology. She has taught at Stanford University and the University of Chicago Law School, and is an SRI, ACLU and Apple alum. … Tejasi Thatte has joined NBCUniversal’s federal government affairs team. She was previously chief of staff to Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and a lobbyist for NCTA, the Internet & Television Association. … Aspasia Paroutsas, former FCC Office of Engineering and Technology chief of staff and Amazon Kuiper spectrum adviser, is joining Qualcomm as VP for federal regulatory affairs.
Keir Lamont has joined the Future of Privacy Forum as senior counsel for U.S. legislation. He was most recently a policy counsel at the Computer and Communications Industry Association. … Zaid A. Zaid is now head of U.S. public policy at Cloudflare. He most recently was head of North America for strategic response policy at Meta, and is an Obama White House counsel’s office alum. … Matthew Daniels is now assistant director for space security and special projects in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House. He most recently worked on space and artificial intelligence issues in the Office of Net Assessment at the Defense Department.
A CEO’s journey: How Agrawal ascended to the top spot at Twitter, via NYT.
Finding loopholes: “How Steve Bannon Has Exploited Google Ads to Monetize Extremism,” via ProPublica.
Reality check: “What Uber’s Spies Really Did,” NYT reports.
ICYMI: “Amazon ordered to hold new union election at Alabama facility,” via POLITICO’s Rebecca Rainey.
MT exclusive: In light of the global tax deal, tech industry groups — including ACT | The App Association, Chamber of Progress, CCIA, the Internet Association, NetChoice and TechNet — are calling on U.S. officials this morning to push their Canadian counterparts to stop Canada’s digital services tax from going into effect Jan. 1.
Tech weighs in: Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, IBM and Meta urged the Department of Homeland Security to implement rules to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In joint comments, the companies highlighted the importance of DACA employees and their experiences. In a separate filing, Microsoft and Princeton University also supported the proposed rule.
Helping hand: European telecom companies want the U.S. tech giants to help pay for developing telecom networks on the continent, Reuters reports.
SEE YOU TOMORROW!