With help from John Hendel, Cristiano Lima, Mark Scott and Steven Overly
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— Regulating Facebook: As the social media giant’s oversight board takes on the Trump ban, pressure is building for Congress to take a bigger role in content moderation.
— Run the world: Democrats Jessica Rosenworcel and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter are now in charge at the FCC and FTC, respectively. But for how long?
— Broadband gets a boost: Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg told senators he supports “dig once” policies to expand internet service.
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FACEBOOK AND ITS CRITICS AGREE: IT’S TIME FOR MORE REGULATION — As news surfaced that Facebook’s oversight board will review former President Donald Trump’s indefinite suspension, the tech giant and its most outspoken critics arrived at a similar conclusion: It’s time for policymakers to play a bigger role on content regulation. In a blog post Thursday announcing the move, Facebook executive Nick Clegg lamented that it “would be better if these decisions were made according to frameworks agreed by democratically accountable lawmakers.”
— Same take, different reasons: After the announcement, the so-called Real Facebook Oversight Board — an unofficial collection of critics who have pledged to scrutinize the company’s content decisions — skewered the company’s “failure” to act against Trump sooner. But it offered a similar solution: “This case exposes the dangerous inadequacy of Facebook’s ability to police itself: it can’t. … This underlines the urgent necessity for democratic regulation now.”
— Reading between the lines: The board’s decision to pick up Trump’s case could take some of the political heat off Facebook for the ban, as could new regulation that sets standards around potentially harmful content — taking some of those calls out of the company’s hands. But Congress faces major hurdles to finding agreement on that front. And don’t hold your breath for Facebook and its critics to be on the same page on what those standards should look like, either.
— Deadline for a decision: Jamal Greene, a Columbia law school professor and co-chair of the Oversight Board, told MT there will be a decision within 90 days. “There’ll be a lot of attention paid to this case and it’s an important case,” he said, “so we’ll work as quickly as we can.
TRUMP IS OFF TWITTER BUT FIGHT OVER HIS ACCOUNT REMAINS — Twitter may have blocked Trump, but the Supreme Court is still set to consider today whether to hear a suit over his account. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued the former president for blocking his critics, and an appeals court ruled the move violated the First Amendment. The Justice Department asked the Supremes to weigh in last summer.
— What happens now? On Tuesday, DOJ asked the justices to vacate the appeals court’s ruling since the case is now moot with Trump out of office. In a response Thursday, Knight urged the court to simply reject DOJ’s petition and leave the lower court’s ruling in place. While the argument might seem procedural, the Supreme Court’s next move could impact other ongoing cases: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) are both facing lawsuits for blocking Twitter users.
SPEAKING OF TWITTER, MT’S QOTD: “It’s safe to say that you can expect that President [Joe] Biden is not going to be breaking news at 1AM on Twitter.” — White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield told The 19th*
TECH INDUSTRY’S WARNING TO BIDEN: Trade groups representing the country’s largest technology companies caution the Biden administration in a new letter that countries around the world are moving toward “digital protectionism.” Policies that impose digital services taxes, content moderation requirements and restrictions on the movement of data are an emerging threat to the industry’s global standing, they say, and could impede U.S. global competitiveness.
— The groups call on the Biden administration, in its first 180 days, to increase U.S. participation in multilateral trade talks and agreements — an approach the White House already favors. The groups specifically ask Biden to rebuff European taxes on tech companies, while collaborating with the continent on digital regulation and trade rules. They also want more direct engagement with China and India on digital trade, and an expansion of U.S. influence across Asia more broadly through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
AT FCC, ROSENWORCEL TAKES THE REINS: The new acting chair, whom Biden designated to take the lead on Thursday, will helm her first commision meeting on Feb. 17. And she’ll do so without a Democratic majority at the five-member agency, which is currently deadlocked 2-2 along partisan lines, likely keeping controversial topics off the agenda.
— But in telecom circles, agency observers are still speculating about whether Biden will pick Rosenworcel to be the permanent head. Although she has significant support from the Hill and education groups, other contenders still loom large. Geoffrey Starks, her junior Democratic colleague, has scored endorsements recently from Congressional Black Caucus members and civil rights advocacy groups. And many still eye telecom lawyer Anna Gomez, a former NTIA and FCC official who was on Biden’s transition, as a contender.
— FTC handover: Slaughter is now the agency’s acting chair, but Biden’s team may nominate another candidate to be its permanent leader. A former aide to newly installed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Slaughter supported the FTC’s recent case against Facebook and a study of social media and targeted advertising, announced in December. She has also emphasized how the FTC should focus its enforcement on cases where Black Americans or other minorities are experiencing the most harm.
— No acting FTC chair has ever gotten the permanent post leading the agency. In 2009, President Barack Obama left Republican Bill Kovacic in charge until he settled on Democrat Jon Leibowitz as his chair. While Trump designated Republican Maureen Ohlhausen as acting chair upon inauguration, he ultimately selected Joseph Simons for the permanent post. With Democrat Rohit Chopra headed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Biden will have two spots to fill — and may well use one to pick his own chair to make a stamp on the agency.
— New leadership at NTIA: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration named longtime agency staffer Evelyn Remaley as new acting chief, replacing Carolyn Roddy, a Trump official who left the acting position on Wednesday.
— Bookmark this page for coverage from across POLITICO’s newsroom on Biden’s first 100 days.
BUTTIGIEG EYES BROADBAND: ‘SO IMPORTANT’ — The former mayor and Biden’s nominee to head the Transportation Department gave a shoutout to broadband internet during his Senate Commerce nomination hearing on Thursday, which could help elevate the issue in a Biden infrastructure push. Buttigieg will be a leading figure on infrastructure matters if confirmed.
— Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who co-chairs the Broadband Caucus, used her questioning to probe the matter. While acknowledging that much of this would fall outside DOT, she advocated for “dig once” policies (For those less familiar, “dig once” policies promote laying broadband cable at the same time that roadwork projects take place).
— Buttigieg said “dig once” policies thrived in his own community of South Bend, Ind., and lauded the fiber broadband availability there. “Even if this is being driven by another department, I would welcome the opportunity to make sure DOT’s side of the equation is open to supporting that broadband deployment because it’s so important in so many communities,” Buttigieg said. More on Biden’s infrastructure prospects here.
— Jockeying to shape these broadband plans, meanwhile, is underway. Verizon is today launching an “Accelerating America” proposal, in which it calls for, among other things, an allocation of funding from Congress for a new program aimed to supplement the existing low-income subsidy FCC program Lifeline. It would grant recipients $20 to $50 in a new monthly benefit.
LISTEN UP: ‘THE FUTURE THIS WEEK’ BY POLITICO’S NANCY SCOLA — Want an easy way to catch up on tech news via your smart speaker? Join Nancy as she gives you three- to five-minute recaps of this week’s tech news, plus fresh insights. This week: a look at this week’s great Twitter transition — and what we’re learning about the role @POTUS will play in Biden’s policymaking.
Stephanie Moore, director of government affairs at Cisco, was elected as the chair of TechNet’s Federal Public Policy Committee and Leah Graham, senior manager of federal affairs at Uber, was elected vice chair.
Sorry, Speak: A federal judge in Seattle declined to grant a preliminary injunction that would force Amazon Web Services to keep hosting the social network popular with conservatives.
Parler and the riot: House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) has asked the FBI to probe Parler’s involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot, Cristiano reports.
Fintech monopolies: China’s central bank is cracking down on concentration in fintech and Ant Group’s AliPay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay could feel the pain, the South China Morning Post reports.
RIP Loon: The project, stratospheric balloons designed to bring Internet connectivity to rural and remote communities worldwide, is shutting down, its CEO announced.
Not just Lady Gaga: The new @POTUS is also a Chrissy Teigen fan, according to the Washington Post.
Bernie sits: Bundled up Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took the internet by storm in part thanks to an NYU grad student, Wired reports.
Girl with the pearl, in living color: A museum in the Netherlands undertook a 10-billion pixel scan of the famed Vermeer’s painting, according to Gizmodo.
Pretty fancy swag: Apple CEO Tim Cook gave Trump a nearly $6,000 Mac Pro, CNN reports.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected], @bkingdc), Heidi Vogt ([email protected], @HeidiVogt), Nancy Scola ([email protected], @nancyscola), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected], @Ali_Lev), and Leah Nylen ([email protected], @leah_nylen).