With help from Emily Birnbaum, Leah Nylen, Sam Sabin and John Hendel
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— Completing the trifecta: Jonathan Kanter, President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the DOJ antitrust division, faces his confirmation hearing. MT will be watching for questions on recusals.
— Let’s network: As broadband demand surges, lawmakers will consider a dozen bills today that touch on key telecom issues, from broadband mapping to spectrum allocation.
— Coming up: Senators made it clear during Tuesday’s hearing that their fight with Facebook is just beginning.
IT’S WEDNESDAY, OCT. 6. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. The last two days have felt like two years. What are your top tabs for the rest of the week?
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WHAT TO WATCH AT KANTER’S HEARING — Don’t expect Kanter’s confirmation hearing today before the Senate Judiciary Committee to get too contentious. He’ll face questioning alongside a slate of judicial nominees, who are expected to get the bulk of the attention.
Kanter will likely focus on his years of experience pushing for more “vigorous” antitrust enforcement, particularly against the major tech companies, as he wrote in his questionnaire. Kanter has represented Microsoft, and has emphasized that he believes antitrust action against Microsoft in the 1990s changed the company’s behavior for the better.
— Who’s backing him: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) will introduce Kanter, saying his nomination comes “at a critical moment in antitrust,” when federal enforcers must take a tougher stand. “That requires leadership at the Antitrust Division with the experience, the legal skill, and the courage to take on some of the most powerful companies the world has ever seen,” she will say, per prepared remarks. “Jonathan possesses these qualities in spades.”
Progressive antitrust advocates hope Kanter will complete the “trifecta” of Tim Wu at the White House, Lina Khan at the FTC and now Kanter at the DOJ antitrust division. The Strategic Organizing Center, which represents major labor unions, supports his nomination, as does Mike Davis of the Internet Accountability Project, a conservative group funded partly by Oracle, one of Google’s rivals.
— Who’s against: Kanter has drawn significant opposition from tech’s lobbying apparatus, considering he’s made a career out of representing smaller tech companies against the giants. In addition to Microsoft, Kanter spent years representing “Big Tech” antagonists including News Corp., Yelp and Spotify, both during his years at the firm Paul Weiss and at his own practice.
NetChoice, the right-leaning tech industry group that counts Amazon, Facebook and Google as members, circulated a document to Hill offices calling on lawmakers to oppose Kanter’s nomination. The document accused Kanter of being a “progressive advocate” and representing “crony capitalism.” TechNet, another trade group, warned against “top-down regulatory overreach.”
— The recusal question: Questions about whether Kanter will have to recuse himself from some of the DOJ’s biggest tech fights, given his past clients, could come up at today’s hearing. The Justice Department hasn’t decided yet whether Kanter would need to stay out of cases like the Google antitrust suit or Apple probe.
That hasn’t stopped Google from trying to nudge DOJ ethics officials in that direction. In a court filing in the DOJ’s antitrust suit Tuesday, the search giant said Yelp — one of Kanter’s former clients — won’t hand over documents from Luther Lowe, Yelp’s senior vice president for public policy and the company’s chief advocate for antitrust enforcement against Google. Lowe is close to Kanter (and behind all those “Wu & Khan & Kanter” mugs) and documents featuring Kanter advocating for a case could make it harder for the DOJ to waive conflicts related to apparent conflicts of interest.
HOUSE E&C LOOKS TO STRENGTHEN NETWORKS — The House Energy and Commerce communications and technology panel will hold a legislative hearing today, covering a dozen bills that range from broadband to spectrum issues. Their goal: identifying ways to strengthen communications networks that would meet consumers’ needs.
— Bills, bills, bills: A good chunk of the bills under consideration are related to broadband efforts, even as the infrastructure and social spending bills are at an impasse in Congress. One noteworthy bill is the bipartisan Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act, H.R. 1218 (117), which would require the FCC to incorporate maternal health outcome data into its broadband health maps. It comes as the FCC is working to develop more granular and accurate maps to better target its broadband funding programs. (Check out the committee’s hearing memo for a full rundown on each bill.)
House E&C ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) will point to the broadband bills as evidence both sides have ideas on addressing the digital divide, but will criticize Democrats’ approach to the infrastructure and social spending packages, per her prepared remarks.
— Among the witnesses: John Fogle, a city council member in Loveland, Colo., who sits on the National League of Cities’ IT and communications committee; and Tim Donovan, senior vice president for legislative affairs at the Competitive Carriers Association.
Fogle, in his written testimony, emphasized the need for Congress to prioritize partnerships with municipal governments as it seeks to strengthen broadband networks nationwide. Local leaders have the most direct contact with broadband users, he said, and lawmakers should make it easier for municipalities to set up their own broadband programs. “Federal solutions should support and empower this leadership, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all edict, when considering what further improvements should be made.”
Donovan, in his written testimony, called for more spectrum access so carriers can expand their networks. “There is no replacement for the reallocation of additional spectrum bands for exclusive use by commercial licensees,” he wrote, in a nod to the Spectrum Innovation Act that lawmakers have proposed to reallocate military-use spectrum for commercial use. Federal agencies like the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration must take a “unified approach to spectrum management,” he added.
MORE TO COME ON FACEBOOK — Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Commerce consumer protection panel offered some clues as to what the next congressional salvos against Facebook might look like: holding additional hearings with whistleblower Frances Haugen, dragging CEO Mark Zuckerberg before Congress and making progress on legislation to further regulate social media.
— Haugen’s return: The former Facebook employee said she was in contact with other congressional panels about national security concerns due to “Facebook’s consistent understaffing of the counter espionage information operations and counterterrorism teams.” She could also appear before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
— Starting from the top: “Mark Zuckerberg, you need to come before this committee,” panel Chair Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “You need to explain to Frances Haugen, to us, to the world, and to the parents of America what you are doing and why you did it.” Senate Commerce ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) told Emily that there was a “bipartisan consensus” on the committee on that point.
— Legislative momentum: Even lawmakers like Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who hasn’t been particularly vocal on the antitrust overhaul thus far, are expressing interest in tightening those laws to rein in tech companies. Klobuchar, who is leading the Senate’s effort to do just that, also said Congress has “not done anything to update our privacy laws,” blaming it on “lobbyists around every single corner of this building that have been hired by the tech industry.”
— Zuckerberg’s response: In a 1,300-word internal memo that he posted to his public Facebook profile in response to Haugen’s testimony, Zuckerberg didn’t address calls for him to testify. Instead, he repeated the defense Facebook has relied upon since this firestorm began: that the work the platform is doing on itself has been misrepresented. “At the most basic level, I think most of us just don’t recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted,” he wrote. He lamented the fact that Facebook’s research was being “taken out of context and used to construct a false narrative that we don’t care,” and warned that this rhetoric could cause companies to stop conducting internal research, “in case you find something that could be held against you.”
For a full rundown of Tuesday’s hearing, Alex has Pros covered.
SHOW ME THE STANDARDS — Witnesses testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee this morning during a hearing will push lawmakers to consider legislation establishing national cybersecurity standards for companies to combat the growing number of cyberattacks and data breaches. That’s a particularly thorny issue for tech companies like Facebook, where more than 530 million users had their stolen data posted online earlier this year.
“The absence of federal standards in this area means that businesses lack clear rules to follow; consumers lack consistent and reliable protections, and remain confused and distrustful; and the FTC turns somersaults and faces legal challenges as it tries to fill the gaps,” Jessica Rich, a former director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, will say, per prepared remarks.
— Tech backers: “The need to prioritize the establishment of enhanced, uniform data security solutions and policies has never been a higher priority,” TechNet CEO Linda Moore, who will not be at the hearing, said in a statement. The tech industry often advocates for cohesive federal standards on issues like cybersecurity, which are more uniform and usually more lenient than the rules imposed by individual states.
MT CORRECTION — Tuesday’s newsletter misstated a committee that Stacia Cardille served on and her full title when she left Twitter. She was on the Senate Homeland Security Committee and was Twitter’s senior director and associate general counsel.
April Jones is joining Apple as a senior government affairs policy counsel, according to an email obtained by Emily on Tuesday night. She was most recently deputy legislative director and counsel for Klobuchar on tech and telecom issues.
Connie LaRossa is now head of national security policy on Google’s federal policy team. She previously was a principal at Cornerstone Government Affairs. … Emily Emery has joined Aristocrat as VP for government relations, digital. She will advocate on digital and technology policy for the global gaming company. She is an MPA — The Association of Magazine Media, Twilio and Senate alum. … Alka Patel has left the DoD’s Joint AI Center as chief of responsible AI, FedScoop reports.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is launching the Special Competitive Studies Project to “make recommendations to strengthen America’s long‐term global competitiveness for a future where artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies reshape our national security, economy, and society,” according to a news release. The board will include: Robert Work, former deputy secretary of Defense and National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence co-chair; Nadia Schadlow, former deputy national security adviser for strategy; Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of Defense for policy; and Mac Thornberry, former House Armed Services Committee chair. Yll Bajraktari, former executive director of NSCAI, will be the SCSP’s CEO. … Jerry Sussman and Ted Chiodo are launching LangleyCyber, a cybersecurity firm. Sussman will be chief information security officer and previously was a senior technical intelligence officer with the CIA. Chiodo will be CEO and previously was COO at SKDK.
DLA Piper has launched its Artificial Intelligence Scorebox tool, aimed at helping organizations determine the readiness and maturity of their AI systems.
Trouble at the agency: “Staff Exits Complicate FTC Chief Lina Khan’s Agenda,” The Information reports.
Podcast OTD: Recode’s “Land of the Giants: The Apple Revolution” takes a look at how Steve Jobs and Tim Cook have made a mark on the company, as well as the current wave of employee activism.
Amazon alert: “Shady third-party sellers are running rampant online. It’s time for Congress to step in,” Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) wrote in Roll Call, advocating for the INFORM Consumers Act, S. 936 (117), that would crack down on fake goods online. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) introduced a House version of that bill Tuesday.
Paging antitrust enforcers: “We are worried that your agencies appear to be applying the law unequally to similarly situated respondents, raising serious concerns about the fairness of America’s antitrust enforcement regime,” the top Republicans of the Senate and House Judiciary committees, as well as their respective antitrust panels, wrote to the leaders of the FTC and DOJ antitrust division.
‘Lives are at stake’: Reddit needs to “remove dangerous medical misinformation,” specifically surrounding the use of ivermectin to treat Covid, Sens. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Klobuchar wrote to CEO Steve Huffman.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected]), Heidi Vogt ([email protected]), John Hendel ([email protected]), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected]), Leah Nylen ([email protected]), Emily Birnbaum ([email protected]), and Benjamin Din ([email protected]). Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
SEE YOU TOMORROW!